BUSHELL ON THE BLOG
Sept 12. Out now! My brand-new Harry Tyler novel, Harder Than The Rest. You can buy it now direct from the publishers, for a limited period, for just £5.99. It’s the story of a fictional East End rock band who operate as a front for a violent gang of drug-running thieves. ‘What if the Krays had guitars’, says the blurb, except the action is set in the early 90s. It’s the fourth book in the Harry Tyler pulp fiction series which began with The Face in 2001. Caffeine Nights are also running a FREE eBook promo on Amazon for the book until Wednesday.
I’m talking TV with historian and archaeologist Neil Oliver in today’s Sunday Express Review.
Sept 11. God bless New York. That great city and its people are in most of our thoughts today, the anniversary of 9/11. But the truth of what happened on that Black Tuesday 20years ago is still willfully obscured; al-Qaeda’s diabolical atrocity wasn’t an attack on the West in general. Suicide pilot Abdulaziz al-Omari, who flew a hi-jacked American Airlines plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre, made it clear beforehand that the apocalyptic horror was meant as “a message to all infidels and to America to leave the Arabian Peninsula and stop supporting the cowardly Jews in Palestine”. In other words: get off of our land, and stop backing Israel. How did the US respond? Behind all the blood and bluster of the war on terror, just weeks after 9/11, George W. Bush came out in support of a Palestinian State, and within two years all U.S. troops were withdrawn from Saudi…
Jeff Bozos is among a bunch of super-rich shrinking violets investing in a Silicon Valley start-up called Altos Labs, a rejuvenation company. That’s right, they want to live forever and they’re spending a fortune on the anti-ageing industry. Well, it’s pocket change to them, but a king’s ransom to the rest of us. So many questions spring to mind. If everyone lives forever, where the hell are we all going to live? What the hell would we do for eternity? And surely if you crave immortality that much, you’d just study June Brown or Charlie Harper to see how they manage it? Elon Musk joked “If it doesn’t work, he’s gonna sue death.” It gets darker though. Imagine being eternal and getting banged up in solitary for life…
Sept 10. Today’s reviews: The Stranglers’ Dark Matter, their strongest album for decades, plus Common, Andrea Bocelli & Manic Street Preachers only in the Express, Mirror and online…
I popped up in a question on BBC1’s Unbeatable today. Apparently, out of six non-politicians who ran for election in the UK, only Esther Rantzen got more votes than I did. I stood for an English Parliament and Bill of Rights. Maybe I should run again. I kid of course, but somebody should. We’ve got Boris’s Blue Labour in power and no opposition whatsoever…
Sept 7. I’m not sure what’s worse, the waste or the stupidity. In breaking his election pledges to hike up taxes to eye-watering levels, Johnson is proving to be the least Conservative Tory Prime Minister of my lifetime. The left thought they’d lost, but here’s good old Boris doing their job for them. Not only is he wearing Starmer’s suit, he’s sporting Corbyn’s string vest and Breton cap as well. The billions he’s raising won’t “get social care done”; they’ll just be flushed down the bottomless pit of the NHS. So keen is Johnson to be all things to all men he is not even instructing wasteful NHS management to get their house in order first. Still, imagine how many more diversity managers they’ll be able to hire at £75K-a-year with all that filthy lucre…
Sept 6. RIP Michael K Williams whose incredible performances as Omar Little in The Wire helped make the show a modern classic.
Sept 5. And the legends keep coming... I'm chatting to Fleetwood Mac's Mick Fleetwood about the legacy of the late great Peter Green in today's Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with the force of nature that is agent turned author Melanie Blake.
Sept 3. The new Iron Maiden album, vintage Small Faces and records from Sheryl Crow and veteran country producer David 'Fergie' Ferguson - all come under my critical hammer in today's Daily Express and Daily Mirror.
Aug 30. If you want to know why Lee 'Scratch' Perry was so revered, listen to the Congos' album, The Heart Of The Congos, or any of the songs he produced or co-wrote with Bob Marley. Perry, who died yesterday aged 85, was the ultimate reggae star. Marley called him a genius. And as is frequency the case, that genius was tinged with madness. There was nothing field labourer's son Rainford Hugh Perry wouldn't use as an instrument. He played with pots and pans, power tools and even a mic'ed up garden rake. Keith Richards dubbed him the Dali of music. Powered by dope and white rum, the Jamaican star once burned down his own Black Ark studio, to symbolise, he said, the end of old school reggae. At 26, Perry started work as a talent scout for Studio One and went on to make records of his own, like 1965's Chicken Shack (hence the nickname) as well as producing Long Shot (Kick The Bucket) for the Pioneers. Perry worked with the greats of Jamaican music, and also The Clash - he produced their brilliant 1977 single Complete Control, as well as co-writing Punky Reggae Party with Bob Marley. And then he invented dub... Twice-married Lee found contentment with his second wife, Swiss businesswoman Mireille, a former dominatrix, who made a pilgrimage to the site of his toasted studio. He spent his last years in a village near Zurich and worked until the end.
Aug 29. I’m talking to another 1960s pop legend today – Paul Jones of Manfred Mann and the Manfreds. Read all about it in the Sunday Express Review.
Aug 27. Today’s album reviews – two neglected Beach Boys classics, Brian Setzer, Jo O’Meara and Dean Friedman, only in the Daily Express and Daily Mirror.
Aug 25. Last night’s Rancid Sounds is now on Mixcloud, featuring The Clockworks, Suzi Moon, the Chords UK, the Velveteers, Bishops Green, Willow, The Stranglers, Lee Perry & The Soulettes, Lion’s Law, Surf Curse, Neville & Sugary Staple, Gimp Fist, Prince Buster, NOi!se, Dee Snider and, what’s this, only the immortal Harry Champion! If there’s a next time, I’ll play the Touts.
Aug 24 STOP PRESS So sad to hear we’ve lost Charlie Watts. The rock behind the Stones, Charlie was one of the great British rock drummers yet he was always a jazz man at heart. Young Charlie was playing a banjo until he heard Chico Hamilton play the drums on ‘Walking Shoes’. He removed the neck from his banjo and started playing the skin with a pair of brushes… his lorry driver Dad bought him a set of drums. Charlie was recruited to the fledgling Stones by Brian Jones back at the Ealing Jazz Club where he drummed for Alexis Korner – so much UK rock history in one man. Some people said he looked bored on stage. Charlie replied, “I give the impression of being bored, but I’m not really… I’ve just got an incredibly boring face.”
Aug 24. My new Rancid Sounds show goes out at 11pm tonight on 2nd City Radio.
Aug 23. More sad news. RIP Brian Travers of UB40. A great musician and a down-to-earth bloke.
Aug 22. Bombs, Bowie and Breaking Glass… Hazel O’Connor tells me about her incredible life only in today’s Sunday Express Review, and I’m talking TV with BBC radio veteran Liz Kershaw…
April 21. I stood in for Leah McCaffrey on her country show last night while she was off rustling cattle in Texas, or some other Homecare establishment. I’m not sure what I stood in exactly but this morning my boots stink like a cattle market... Anyway, I shuffled old legends like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Kitty Wells with young whippersnappers Luke Combs, Greta Gaines and Rayleigh Keegan. And yes, after some intense lobbying, I did slip in the Alaska Cowboys. You can hear it here.
Yesterday’s album reviews, now online.
Aug 20. Today’s album reviews: Jake Bugg, Lorde, Connie Smith and Yngwie Malmsteen. Read all about ’em in the usual places...
I’m standing in for Leah McCaffrey on her country show tonight at 11pm on 2nd City Radio. Might sneak in a bit of Luke Combs…
Aug 18. RIP Sean Lock. I didn’t know him well but Bradley Walsh introduced us years ago. Sean was a sharp comic with a skewered way of looking at the world, and his sitcom, 15 Storeys High, was underappreciated. He’s 15 Storeys Higher now, in comedy heaven. So sad to lose him at such a young age. Condolences to his loved ones.
Aug 17. Here we go. The Jolly Boys of the Taliban are playing a smarter game than the West, mucking about in bumper cars and promising they won’t send women back to the kitchen. They’ve won, they’ve beaten the Great Satan of the USA and now they’re playing to the gallery. Biden in contrast looks like a sleepwalking disaster.
Aug 15. I’m talking to Ricky Butcher soap star Sid Owen about his Rags To Ricky life-story in today’s Sunday Express.
Aug 14. I’m back on Colin Edmonds’ Behind The Scenes podcast today, this time talking about my chaotic radio and newspaper experiences, the jokes I regret, a little bit of politics, and why I’m thinking about making a rather big change...
Aug 13. Today’s reviews – the Killers’ Pressure Machine, the Vegas band’s biggest gamble yet, plus albums from D:ream, the Cold Stares and Nina Simone. All in today’s Express and Mirror.
Another fine mess… Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has echoes of the fall of Saigon. What a humiliating fiasco. The West has pulled out and the Taliban are inevitably resurging. They’ve taken Kandahar and Herat – once regarded as the Florence of the East. It can’t be long until Kabul falls too. Joe, an Afghan cameraman I worked with in LA a few years ago, accurately predicted how this strategic defeat would play out. The Taliban knew we’d quit. They were happily biding their time. The Afghan people have a long memory. They’ve been taking on powerful invaders for more than a century – the British Empire, the Soviet Empire, and now the Yanks and their coalition. They all came, and they all failed. It has taken the Septics two decades to work out that this war was unwinnable. Now we’re betraying the Afghan people, leaving them to a reactionary medieval theocracy that will strip away all the liberal ideas that had gained ground among the young. Try being a feminist in Kabul now. All of those advances in education and women’s rights will be flushed down the khazi of history; and Afghanistan will become a haven for Jihadi terrorists. It’s beyond tragic. It has cost the lives of 454 British troops, 2,312 Americans, 47,000-plus Afghan civilians, around 70,000 Afghan soldiers and police, and some 51,000 opposition fighters. And for what? Nobody has ever convincingly explained why we invaded in 2001 in the first place. The financial price tag for this deranged adventurism comes in at around $2 trillion for the Yanks and £22billion for the UK.
Aug 12. Such a shame to hear that Una Stubbs has died. And hard to believe she was 84 – she was the voice of rebel youth on brilliant BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part created by Johnny Speight and starring Warren Mitchell as working-class Tory, Alf Garnett. She played Rita, Alf’s socialist daughter, who along with her “Scouse git” husband Mike, stood up to her father and confronted his less than enlightened views. Una, the daughter of a factory worker father and a mother who worked in a film studio’s cutting room, went on to play Aunt Sally in Worzel Gummidge. I remember her too as a team captain on Give Us A Clue. She played many roles brilliantly, including Mrs Hudson in Sherlock, but she’ll always be Rita to me.
Aug 8. Andy Summers of the Police tells me about his new short story collection in today’s Sunday Express Review and I’m talking telly with Merrill Osmond. Pop legends? We’ve got ’em!
Aug 6. Tito Jackson heads this week's album reviews, along with Brian May, Babs Streisand and Will Young, in today’s Daily Express and Daily Mirror.
Aug 5. The Bank Of England warns that inflation could hit a ten year high this year. Why do people seem surprised? The government’s Magic Money Tree was always going to bear bitter fruit. Money loses value if the supply outstrips real output. That’s basic economic fact. It’s the price we pay for them mismanaging our finances. For now, the cost is rising prices and another knee in the nuts for savers. If it stops at negative interest rates a few months down the line we will have had a lucky escape. You don’t need me to tell you where hyper-inflation takes us.
Aug 4. Here is last night’s Sounds Of Glory, kicking off with Elvis Costello and The Jam.
Aug 3. My latest Sounds Of Glory show goes live tonight at 11pm on 2nd City Radio, featuring among others, Penetration, U Roy, The Clash, Oasis, the Stimulators – because hard-fast still rules – Rancid, Green Day, Los Santos London, the Pistols, Creedence, Bowie, Marching Metal and Napoleon 14th (!)
Aug 1. Oi, Max, NO! Leave Stacey/Ruby/Rainie/Vanessa/Linda/etc alone! I’m chatting to Max ‘love rat’ Branning star Jake Wood ahead of his spooky new play 2:22 in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with Tom Thorne creator Mark Billingham.
July 30. Prince’s lost album, Welcome 2 America, and new releases from Dee Snider, Kyle Falconer & Parmalee are all reviewed in today’s Express and Mirror.
As climate change hysteria goes into overdrive again, environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg’s tweets offer a more measured view. Lomborg says we’re badly informed if we’re only guided by scary clips on the TV news but don’t look at the overall statistics: “And stats show that deaths from climate-related weather disasters are trending down, not up. 100 years ago, climate-related disasters killed half a million every year. Today, the number is less than 20,000… Breathless climate reporting misleads us and panic makes us less likely to tackle climate smartly.”
July 28. R.I.P. Dusty Hill, the brilliant ZZ Top bass-player who wrote ZZ's classic song Tush in ten minutes during a soundcheck. Dusty once told me that he had two ancestors die at the Alamo, and that Richard Pryor was one of his biggest influences. This was in Vegas, where he also taught me to play Texas Hold ’Em, and where ZZ Top electrified the 10,000-strong Cow Palace crowd, turning it into a raucous, rocking, boogie-driven party. He was a great character, a superb musician and a true star. My thoughts are with his family and friends.
The latest Vive Le Rock is the loudest yet, with Motorhead, Girlschool, Tank and many more gentle, subdued lunatics from the late 70s and early 80s. They even speak to me…
July 27. German record label Contra interviewed me today for Instagram. Here is the unedited transcript with fuller answers. Q. You’re the singer in THE GONADS, you wrote for numerous magazines and newspapers, published a few books, but looking back when you were a kid, what was your childhood dream, e.g. to become an astronaut, policeman, porn star?
A. When I was little, I wanted to be a fireman, like my Dad – but he didn’t want either me or my brother to follow him into the service. I was a big fan of DC and Marvel too and when I was slightly older, I wanted to write comic books. We did some cartoons in Pink Tent, the comedy zine I did with mates at school, but I didn’t have any actual strips published until I created Super Yob and Neville Staple: Specials Agent for Street Sounds. If I had been a porn star, I would have wanted to be called Buck Naked like George Costanza, or Big Dan Glibitz…
Q. Favourite all-time bands? A. That's an evil question. My tastes are wider than Solomon Burke. I love everyone from the Ramones to Miles Davis. I could do you a list but it’d be too long for Instagram.
Q. Favourite ‘new’ bands these days? A. The Interrupters. The Drowns. The Snuts. Rival Sons. The Bar Stool Preachers. Lion’s Law. Buster Shuffle. Shenseea. Laura Mvula. Donkey Laugh. The Clockworks. The Graveltones. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard…
Q Another talent of you beside writing or being on stage? A. I’m lethal at Quasar and table football. I’m not boasting. I’m undefeated in both crucial disciplines. The IOC need to get on it.
Q) Top 3 shows of your life vs the top 3 disappointing shows you’ve seen. A. Another tough one. Off the top of my head – The Clash, The Jam, Sham and Subway Sect at the Rainbow, Finsbury Park, 1977. Motorhead in Berlin, 1980. And the Cockney Rejects, Prisoners’ Rights benefit, the Bridgehouse, Canning Town, 1980. But as soon as I say that I think, hold on, what about the Jam playing the Marquee as John’s Boys, what about Hanoi Rocks in Bombay or the Exploited in West Berlin before the Wall came down… You’re sparking a huge internal debate here.
I’ve supressed the memories of the most disappointing ones, but I think Doll By Doll at the Tidal Basin – the band got chased out by the locals. The Stone Roses at Reading Festival (1985?). The Mo-Dettes, the Cuckoo Club, Orange County, I was with the band, the promoter tried to rip them off, they never played and the locals turned on us in the bar… read all about it in Sounds Of Glory Volume 2.
Q) Your biggest weakness? A. Besides supporting Charlton AFC? Biddenden Strong Kentish Cider. And, when I’m flush, Nuits St Georges.
Q) Top 3 people you would like to punch in the face? A. What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?
Q Choose: Would you like to be 10% more intelligent or 20% better looking? A. More intelligent for sure. How could I be any better looking than I am?
Q) You can sit in a fictional bar drinking beer with 3 historic characters. Who is drinking with you?
There is a lot to be said for Nell Gwyn, Mae West and Raquel Welch... But historical figures: Churchill, Orwell and Shakespeare… Although Max Miller, Spike Milligan and Joan Rivers would be more fun. The bar would have to be the Winchester Club.
Q) Name 3 records to live on a lonely island? A. If it’s a Caribbean island, you’d want to chill so Culture’s Two Sevens Clash; Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue. And for when the mood demands it The Sex Pistols: Never Mind The Bollocks.
July 26. An account on Twitter called Sounds Clips is worth following. They’ve just tweeted my piece on the tragic death of Malcolm Owen of The Ruts from a heroin overdose from 41 years ago. R.I.P. Malcolm.
Virus-free. July 25. I’m chatting to Motown legend Tito Jackson about the blues & the remarkable rise of the Jackson Five in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking TV with Suede’s bass-player turned novelist Mat Osman.
July 24. I’m playing the Welling Beer Festival with my band tonight – less than a mile from where I grew up. So expect Charlton Boys to be in the mix. You can boo if you like… I won’t hear you. My right ear has gone now and the left one’s not much better, but hey, it never stopped Beethoven, did it? This is a free show for charity so please part with your spare coppers. (And spare cockles if you’re minted.) Cheers.
July 23. This week’s album reviews are: David Crosby, Willow, Dublin’s Inhaler & Rodney Crowell – in today’s Mirror and Express as usual.
We should think carefully about the vaccine passports. Although on the surface they might seem like a sensible way to protect the vulnerable, moves like this threaten our civil liberties, and once we accept them as a temporary measure, they will inevitably become permanent. Do we really want civil servants and politicians telling us we can’t go to nightclubs, football games or theatres without showing our papers? Britain used to be a place where people could live freely, talk freely, shop freely, buy or sell what they like, be drunk or sober – to live however they choose within the law. Now we are told what we can say, what we can laugh at, and, in an over-regulated gestapo khazi of a future, where we can or can’t go. No. It’s not us and it mustn’t be us. As Boris Johnson himself once said ID cards irrevocably threaten our liberty. I liked the old Boris, this new one is useless.
July 18. I’m talking to rock legend Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden about his new speaking tour in today’s Sunday Express Review – if you go, do ask him about the times he nearly killed me (twice). I’m also talking telly with comedian and Uncle star Nick Helm.
Oh, what a shame. Tom O’Connor has gone. Although he’s remembered best for Name That Tune, Scouse Tom was one of the first British observational comedians and a fine story-teller with impeccable timing. I miss warm, down-to-earth comedians like Tom O’Connor even more than I miss foreign holidays and Party Sevens.
July 16. This week’s album reviews: Gary Kemp, U-Roy, Barenaked Ladies, Ida Mae in today’s Express and the Mirror. I’m particularly pleased to have smuggled in U-Roy.
July 15. So sorry to hear we’ve lost Andy ‘The Viking’ Fordham, a genuinely lovely man. Andy was a darts world champion, a publican, and – not many people know this – he was also the once whippet-thin roadie for Charlton band The Blood. RIP Andy. Sincere condolences to his family.
July 11. I’m chatting to Roy Stride of Scouting For Girls (the nicest man in pop) in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with Wet Wet Wet’s Graeme Clark.
July 9. Some cracking albums out this week, including the Rolling Stones live on Copacabana beach, Little Steven, a Madness re-issue and Gary Crowley’s second Lost Eighties comp. You can read my reviews in the usual places.
July 7. Here’s last night’s Sounds Of Glory, now on mixcloud.
July 6. My latest Sounds of Glory show goes off like Branson’s rocket tonight at 11pm, featuring Squeeze, Bad Manners, The Cure, Social Distortion, Millie Small & many more – hear it on 2nd City Radio, if you like.
July 4. I’m talking to funny, super-talented Joan Armatrading on her new album, her incredible career, her love of classic BBC radio comedies and more... read all about it in the Sunday Express, or online here.
July 2. This week's album reviews are: Laura Mvula, Bobby Gillespie & Jehnny Beth, Goo Goo Dolls and the late Ska legend Rico; in today’s Express and Mirror.
Jun 27. I’m getting an earful from Anne Robinson in today’s Sunday Express, and talking TV with magician Richard Jones…
June 26. I’m a long way away from George Galloway politically, but he is a superb orator and a master mischief-maker. His intervention in the Batley & Spen by-election will stop Labour winning – not that they’ve been doing much to help themselves. Yet the Tories look just as wobbly. Under Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party have dumped their core values as casually as Bojo (and Hancock) ditched wives. They have become the party of big state and big spend, the party of control and caution, the party of inflation and hypocrisy, and above all the party of the oh-so-superior metropolitan elite ever desperate to stay on-message on issues that only a tiny minority of a minority give a toss about. No wonder Starmer can’t lay a glove on them.
It gets worse by the week. Punitive taxes on beefburgers are the latest ‘Conservative’ cause, dished up with a government curb on TV ads for jam – the sort of controlling (but completely ineffective) Nanny State nonsense that you’d associate with Gordon Brown’s Labour Party. Whatever happened to encouraging exercise and self-control? Boris proves time after time that his self-professed libertarianism was hot air. He doesn’t actually believe in anything except the Boris brand. Johnson’s crackpot “gender-neutral and feminine” agenda will cost the earth and achieve very little. Nonsense like “net zero” and other errors of judgement (printing money, endless authoritarian lockdowns) will lead inevitably to rising taxes and economic decline. All the possible advantages of Brexit will be foolishly squandered, while we are cowed into silence by fear of being “cancelled”. The list of opinions we can’t express in public gets longer by the week. There was an absolutely huge freedom demo in London today against the lockdown, but don’t expect to see it reported in the press. Where is the effective opposition in Parliament? Where is the candidate who can save us from Boris’s endless bungles before the next slate of Big Brother measures knock the country for six? John Lennon once said “there is an inch of difference between Labour and the Tories but it’s in that inch we live.” It’s not an inch any more, though. It’s not even a millimetre. Maybe Jimmy Pursey was right all along, “Conservatives and Communists – they’re all the bleedin’ same”.
June 25. When I spoke to Anne Robinson a few days ago she slagged off Matt Hancock for his television performances, adding that if she tutored him “he’d have women throwing their knickers at him”. Is Anne blessed with second sight? Today it emerges that a woman has been throwing her smalls at him – Matt appears to be over the side with Gina Coladangelo, a woman who is not his wife and who he hired last year at our expense. Poor Gina. She’s fucking Hopeless…
This week’s album reviews: UB40, Motörhead, Toto & Jack Savoretti; in today’s Mirror and Daily Express.
June 24. Stone me, today's Sun doesn't mention Russia's tantrum in the Black Sea until page 21. Who's editing it now, a Church News trainee? No wonder the paper's circulation has gone down like the Belgrano.
June 23. So sorry to hear that Alan Lewis has died. He was my first editor at Sounds and turned it into the UK's best-selling rock weekly. Ex-mod Alan was founder-editor of Black Music & Kerrang! And later edited NME, No1, Vox & Record Collector. He was a lovely, funny man, always good company, and as veterans of the White Lion will recall he loved sixties soul and lager in equal measure. I’ll save the Butlins story for another time. RIP Big Al.
June 23. Here as promised is last night’s new Sounds Of Glory show on Mixcloud featuring The Clash, Leatherface, Golden Earing, The Zombies, IDestroy, The Jam, Ramones, The Gonads, Love Affair, The Take, The Interrupters, The Specials, Seaside Rebels, Graveltones, Leah McCaffrey, The Adverts, Street Dogs, Rancid, Be Bop Deluxe and the Grand Old Raspberry, Ian Dury… More soon.
June 22. Years ago, the late Lynne Perry – aka Ivy Tilsley – came on my old ITV show and told me an intimate story about her love life on camera. ITV deemed it too rude and cut it from the show, even though it went out after midnight. This month I told a sensitively cleaned up version of the same story on a podcast and they also edited it out. So now I’m saving it for the live shows next year, but the funny thing is, these days I’m pretty sure people will probably say, “I’ve heard worse on Love Island” or even “Who hasn’t done that?” If you come to the show, don’t forget to ask!
Sounds Of Glory is back on 2nd City Radio live at 11pm tonight. I’ll post a link tomorrow.
June 20. My chat with UB40’s Rob Campbell and Jimmy Brown is in today’s Sunday Express Review, and also online https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/music/1451617/ub40-albums-reggae-influences-pop-music
June 14. This blog is still on life support but I will be back with some book news shortly.
June 13. I’m chatting to Stax soul legend Steve Cropper in today’s Sunday Express, and talking TV with the great Neville Staple.
June 8. It started with Benny Hill and has now reached its zenith with the Queen. The cancer of cancel culture, which has been gnawing away at the very fabric of Britain since the 1980s, arrived at its logical conclusion this week when graduate students of Magdalen College, Oxford, removed a 1952 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II from a common room. The picture’s crime? It “represents recent colonial history” and was therefore too distressing for the over-educated middle-class berks to abide. This latest eruption of juvenile indignation at least took the spotlight away from Ollie Robertson who has been suspended from duty as England pace bowler for the ‘offence’ of tweeting dumb teenage jokes when he was a dumb teenager nearly a decade ago. Who didn’t say or do anything daft when they were a teenager? When I was 18, I used to stand on a street corner in Woolwich selling the Socialist Worker…
The great irony is that, in the name of liberalism, the strongly illiberal forces of ‘progress’ are driving us down the rabbit hole into an Orwellian world where historic thoughtcrime can wreck careers, and where many adults practice double-think, censoring their own views rather than risk the fury of the mob. Or their own children…
Cancel culture has its roots in the no-platform movement of the 70s and 80s. Initially far-Left students targeted the extreme Right, but rapidly broadened to include conservative thinkers such as Roger Scruton and John Vincent and even some social democrats. Cecil Rhodes and Sir Winston Churchill – the man who took on real Nazis – were recent targets. This year a Scottish student was banned from her own campus just for saying the words “Rule Britannia”.
Marxists are of course the driving force behind the cancellers and statue-topplers, which is perhaps why there have been no calls so far to remove Karl Marx from Highgate cemetery. Yet there could be. Marx described Mexicans as “lazy”, made anti-Semitic remarks and had a son with his maid; Engels used the n-word in a disparaging way while revolutionary pin-up Che Guevara once wrote “the negro is indolent and lazy”. WRP leader Gerry Healy was a bigger abuser than Weinstein. Let he who is without sin, etc.
Besides, who hasn’t got colonial history? Empires have existed in every millennium; everywhere from Ghana to Japan. The Moghuls, from what’s now Uzbekistan, colonised most of south Asia in the 16th century. Perhaps someone should remind Matthew Katzman – the privileged son of a wealthy US lawyer and the prime mover behind the Queen’s portrait row – that his own country’s imperial mistakes dwarf Britain’s…and that our Queen happily presides over a multi-racial Commonwealth. The war on yesterday is simply a way of building for revolutionary change tomorrow. The sort that historically ends so well for everyone…maybe Katzman could take a look at the plight of the Uighurs in China. The best way, and yes, the old-fashioned British way, to counter beliefs you don’t share is to argue against them through the medium of vigorous, civilised debate. Freedom of speech includes the right to say the wrong thing and change your mind. At its worst cancel culture leads to tyranny and at its best timidity. It’s time to stop beating ourselves up and celebrate instead the greatest diversity of them all – opinion.
This blog is closed for a while. See you on the other side.
May 16. I’m chatting to gobby comic Kerry Godliman in today’s Sunday Express Review, and talking telly with Denise Van Outen.
May 15. Today I’m squirming in the interview chair under the withering gaze of author Colin Edmonds for his Behind The Scenes podcast. Ozzy, Neville Staple, Freddie Starr and Rod Hull are just some of the names cropping up along the way.
May 14. This week’s album reviews: Paul Weller, Gary Moore live, Natalie Bergman and Michael Ball – in today’s Daily Express and Daily Mirror.
A great gag in today’s Ally Ross column. Passing on the news that Davina McCall calls her Jack and Danny “Kevin”, Ally asks simply, “Spacey or Bacon?”
Prince Harry has told a US podcast that his royal life was “a mixture between The Truman Show and being in a zoo”. The Truman Show starred Jim Carrey as a man who is oblivious to the fact his entire life is a TV show. Lucky Harry has escaped that living hell and is now able to share every aspect of his life, along with every aspect of his past, and every ounce of random, self-pitying whining with absolutely no one at all… except for several million global Netflix viewers, an army of podcast listeners, a platoon of lightweight TV interviewers and umpteen magazine tie-ins.
May 13. I’m 66 today – yes, the third ‘6’ is silent. I’m also officially a pensioner, with a crocked knee and an arthritic wrist to prove it. 66 is clickety-click in bingo; it’s also exactly how I walk up the stairs.
May 11. I was sorry to hear about the death of John Kay, one of the great news reporters and a genuinely lovely man – hard-working, but always positive and helpful. He also had eclectic tastes in music – we had many conversations about Captain Beefheart back in the day (especially the classic sixties albums). John’s list of “belters” – news scoops – was probably second to none, but sadly his exposé of how poorly equipped British troops were being “sent to their death” against roadside bombs in the Iraq War led to him being arrested and charged with ‘making corrupt payments to a public official’ during Operation Elveden. Even though the story was true and very much in the public interest, he was put through hell. John was acquitted six years ago but never fully got over the ordeal, largely because gutless News Corporation management hung his source out to dry.
May 9. I’m chatting to Joe Pasquale, madcap comedian magician turned serious actor, in today’s Sunday Express Review.
May 8. The boy done well. Boris gets away with a lot through sheer force of personality. Voters like him. They also know the Tories stand for aspiration. Blair knew how important that was but today’s Labour Party just don’t get it. Working class voters want their children to have a decent education, jobs and housing. They don’t want them to have the same life they had; they want them to have a shot at a better one. Boris talks the talk, but can he deliver? I’d like to think so, but I suspect the government’s free-spending, big state approach will end in tears.
If you’re in Central London today, look out for the Rolling Thunder protestors led by Johnny Mercer. The old soldiers are taking to the streets again to protest against the shameful witch-hunt being waged against our ex-servicemen. Toot your support.
May 7. This week’s albums reviews: Van Morrison, Rag n’ Bone Man, Royal Blood and the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones, in today’s Daily Mirror and Daily Express.
Labour just lost Hartlepool to the Tories. The seat had been solidly red for half a century. Will it ever be again? Back in 1935, George Dangerfield published a book called The Strange Death Of Liberal England. We’re now living through the less strange death of Labour Britain. The party I once belonged to have made themselves unelectable. They patronise the working class and actively dislike England – their leaders recoil from patriotism like Dracula from a clove of garlic. They can’t represent the moderate majority when they speak the language of militant minorities – the statue-demolishers, “trans-rights” extremists, and the urban liberal elite. And it’s their own fault. When Emily Thornberry mocked the English flag, when Sir Keir took the knee, when Labour kept schtum on grooming gangs, when they back trendy teachers more obsessed with woke virtue-signalling than actually teaching children basic literacy, they are dumping on the views of the people they claim to represent. How the hell did they think that crap was going to play? They are the architects of their own demise.
May 5. Good to see the collapse of the trial of two British paras, Soldier A and Soldier C yesterday. The judge threw out the case. But why was it ever allowed to come to court? The Tories keep promising to stop the malicious prosecutions of our veterans and yet the shameful pursuit of these old men goes on. The blame can be laid on the 1998 peace process, when, on the brink of victory and under pressure from the Yanks, the Blair government capitulated. Terrorists got amnesty, British troops did not. It’s what happens when you lose a war.
May 2. My chat with Rag ’n’ Bone Man Rory Graham is in today’s Sunday Express Review, and I’m talking telly with Pete Cunnah from D:Ream.