BUSHELL ON THE BLOG
Aug 16. If you can’t be at the launch for my new book All Or Nothing on Sunday, you can still get signed copies via the shop page. There will be other events later this year when Hell Bent is published.
Aug 13. I’m taking part in this friendly public discussion of Punk and Brexit with Brian Denny from Trade Unionists Against The EU in Fitzrovia on August 30th. #LoveEuropeHateEuro-Federalism
Aug 3. Joe Longthorne, who has lost his long battle with cancer, was Britain’s greatest singing impressionist. I dubbed him “the Human Jukebox” because of his mastery of mimicry. On stage he was sensational, going from Bassey to Bowie via Sinatra and Dean Martin, throwing in hilarious snatches of Steptoe & Son along the way. Longthorne was the spirit of showbiz decanted into a suit. Off stage he was a lovely funny down-to-earth man, as friendly as a puppy. Eccentric though. Hull-born Joe was the only star I ever met who had a shire horse in his living room. When he invited my wife and I to see his show on Blackpool’s North Pier he promised us “the Royal Box”, which was odd as the theatre didn’t have one. Joe led us up to the roof, over a tiny wooden boardwalk, down a trap door to the lighting desk where he’d laid on a bottle of champagne. It was the best seat in the house.
Joe, from a Romany family, got his TV break on the ITV talent show Search For A Star before landing his own Joe Longthorne Show. When fad-crazy TV bosses shut the door on his career – along with many great 80s entertainers – Joe continued to pack out live shows. I championed him in my newspaper column, calling on ITV to give him his own An Audience With. House-hold name supporters included Chris Evans Noel Edmonds but the door to a TV return stayed frustratingly locked. Joe was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1989 and battled cancer for the rest of his life. He almost died during his 2006 bone marrow transplant and was given the last rites by a priest. In 2012 Joe was awarded an MBE for his charity work. He was fighter, buoyed by the love of his fans, his husband and his family.
July 27. I’m a big fan of protest singer Louise Distras. There’s no doubting her talent and passion, or the quality of her songs, but her politics seem wobblier than a plate load of jelly in a force nine gale. For example, Louise just tweeted: ‘As a half English, half Greek Cypriot woman on tour in Germany, eating Turkish kebabs, playing an Italian guitar, and driving a French car...I just wanna say, fuck Brexit! That is all.’ Hmm, well I’ve just eaten a chow mien washed down with Tsingtao beer without concluding that Xi Jinping would be the best person to run the British economy. Where do you start when faced with this level of political illiteracy? It would only make sense if Leave advocates wanted to stop trading with the world, when clearly most want to expand global trade. And if you take the patronising view that Leave voters were all mouth-foaming bigots. That’s a hell of a lot of people to libel, Lou. It’s perfectly possible, and indeed eminently sensible, to love Europe’s people, its cuisine and its culture without buying in to the EU’s inefficient, heavy-handed system of government. The European Union isn’t Europe, and the arguments against it aren’t all “right wing” (see Labour Leave for a start). Too many people naively buy into the dream of a European state without considering the horrible realities of corruption, bureaucracy, high unemployment, high costs, unbalanced books, those troublesome Euro-related problems and the lower economic growth the EU has created. The Common Agricultural Policy has been a disaster since its inception, and still isn’t fixed. It genuinely puzzles me that apparently sensible people can regard clowns like Juncker as “progressive” figures. I’d suggest Louise does a little research into the thoughts of Tony Benn and Bob Crow on the subject; those socialist stalwarts must be spinning in their tins to see so many “left-wingers” side with the Remain-heavy British Establishment on the EU. She might also look into the roots of “Europe A Nation”, a policy first advocated by Sir Oswald Mosley (even if the EU’s actual architect, Altiero Spinelli, was an arch Eurocommunist). In the meantime, I’m happy relaxing in Florida watching American TV, driving a Japanese car and sampling Mexican beers while thinking the world would be a better place with a lot less state and a lot more freedom and tolerance.
July 13. I have paperback copies of All Or Nothing in stock, so you can now order it directly from the shop page (delivery is likely to be mid-August). Let me know if you’d like it personalised. I’ll be doing the first reading/Q&A session on August 18th in the London borough of Bexley. Places are limited. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be included in the draw for tickets. The event will be hosted by Mod DJ Paul Hallam. This blog returns next month possibly with news of other books I have in the pipeline. Toodle pip!
June 12. Terrible news – someone squirted battery acid in Jo Brand’s face today and you couldn’t tell... apologies for that horrible joke. I was just riffing on Jo’s own bad-taste quip about idiots throwing milkshakes at politicians like Nigel Farage. She said on a Radio 4 panel show: “I’m kind of thinking: ‘Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?’” There are already calls for her to be fired from the BBC (who don’t employ her, they hire her for comedy shows) and for the cops to be involved. Do behave. The media will no doubt twist her gag, saying ‘Brand calls for battery acid to be thrown at politicians’, if they haven’t done already, just as Godfrey Bloom’s throwaway slut remark was distorted out of all proportion by po-faced pillocks. But calling for someone to lose their livelihood (or worse, get nicked) for making jokes you don’t like is the snowflake way. I’m no fan of Brand and it was a rotten gag, but we’re not forced to laugh at it and we’re not forced to suffer her act either. Freedom of speech should be paramount. The fact that Jo qualified her quip in her next breath with the words, “It’s purely a fantasy, but I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do, sorry”, is not even being reported. The real scandal here is that almost all the comedians employed by the BBC subscribe to same narrow, dated, right-on views... and that good people continue to lose their jobs for making bad jokes in this country (although not leftwing people obviously, unless they’re working class).
June 3. Thanks for your messages about All Or Nothing. The paperback version of the new book should be available via Amazon any day now; in the meantime it’s best to buy it direct from Caffeine Nights. I haven’t abandoned Harry Tyler, I’ve started working on book four in The Face series (and I’m thinking about book five). If all goes to plan, the fourth instalment, Harder Than The Rest, should be published towards the end of next year. Before that, Hell Bent is out this October... but more about that later.
June 2. I’m talking to New Order’s Stephen Morris about his new memoir Record Play Pause and the early days of Joy Division in today’s Sunday Express. I’m also chatting to Ruby Wax about her How To Be Human tour.
May 30. Here is what John Cleese actually said about England then and now: “In some ways, I found it calmer, more polite, more humorous, less tabloid and less money-orientated”. Racist? Hardly. He might have added: “Back then we were tolerant of the idea of other people having different views and being able to express them without being instantly and brainlessly demonised.” The importance of free speech is being devalued before our eyes. As for his views on London, if Cleese was referring to the way this great city is becoming homogenised then who could sit back in Starbucks or Pret a Manger and possibly argue?
May 29. My latest Rancid Sounds is a special edition celebrating some of the best new bands we’ve championed since the show’s humble beginnings as a podcast recorded in what looked like a greenhouse inside Arthur Daley’s lock-up in Shoreditch more than a decade ago. Here it is on Spreaker.
May 27. Out today: my new crime novel, All Or Nothing, set in 1960s London, the first of a trilogy, written with Craig Brackenridge. £6.99 plus p&p from here.
The Brexit Party looks to have topped the Euro elections in every region of England except London. Hilariously, BBC news is trying to spin the results as a victory for Remain. Let them. Like the deluded folk inside the Westminster bubble, our mediocre media class are busy building their own funeral pyre. We’re too close to events to know whether the Conservative and Labour parties can ever recover from their duplicity, but I suspect not. In my teens I read George Dangerfield’s classic political study, The Strange Death Of Liberal England. Few would be too surprised if the Brexit mess didn’t result in The Strange Death of Tory England too. And Labour will surely be split asunder too. The genie of independence is out of the bottle now. It’s not going back in. Next stop Peterborough...
May 10. R.I.P. Freddie Starr. Hilarious. Dangerous. Self-destructive... Freddie was all of that, but at his peak he was also a bona fide comedy genius. I knew him pretty well in the 90s. He wasn’t a particularly nice bloke as his wives and children discovered. Other acts suffered too, but never hamsters, that Sun story was fake news decades ahead of the curve. But for millions Starr was a source of huge joy and that’s how he should be remembered.
I appeared on a couple of Freddie’s TV shows and a comedy video, and interviewed him a few times. In the mid-90s he told me a shocking story about how, when Fred was a young boy, his own father Richard told him to jump off a kitchen table and he’d catch him. Freddie jumped. His dad didn’t catch him. “Never trust anyone in your life,” said his father, a Scouse bricklayer and occasional unlicenced boxer. Freddie was taken into care when he was six to save him from his father’s temper. This doesn’t excuse his behaviour in adult life, but it helps explain it. The abuse left him with a severe stammer and inner demons he controlled with Valium when he wasn’t snorting Charlie. Frederick Leslie Fowell was born in 1943 in Liverpool’s Old Swan area. His mum Hilda (née Fiehnen) was a German-Jewish immigrant who lost most of her family in the Nazi death camps. Freddie was in a rock band to start with before going solo. His memorable moments include his Mick Jagger impression at his first Royal Variety show, those perilous live interviews with Des O’Connor and of course his 1996 An Audience With which re-launched his career and traumatised me for decades.
I’VE known Danny Baker for years. He’s never been remotely racist. As soon as he realised how his tweet could be misinterpreted he deleted it and apologised. What more could he have done? The villains here are the gutless BBC suits who sacked this brilliant broadcaster without a fair hearing.
April 23. Happy St George’s Day! St George he was for England and before he killed the dragon, he drank a pint of English ale out of an English flagon. Cheers. Let me know if hear anyone celebrate – or even mention – England’s saint’s day on television. I won’t hold my breath.
April 22. Here’s a short tape of highlights from series one of my first Bushell On The Box TV series (from 1996) with some extracts from the DVD that eventually followed.
April 19. Exactly one week ago thousands of protestors descended on London. Most of them were army veterans on motorbikes. They had turned out in force in support of ‘Soldier F’, the ex-paratrooper who faces murder charges over the Bloody Sunday shootings of 47 years ago. The police figure of 22,000 doesn’t account for the 3,000 other Rolling Thunder bikers who couldn’t advance into the centre of town. When these disciplined demonstrators, many wearing the maroon berets of the Parachute Regiment, reached Westminster they turned their backs on the House of Commons...to symbolise the way our gutless politicians have metaphorically turned their backs on old soldiers like them. I was in Berlin at the time but I’m reliably told there wasn’t a word about this orderly but striking demo on the TV news. Other peaceful protests on this issue have similarly been ignored. Soldier F is one of 17 former members of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment who were investigated over the violence which left 13 people dead in Londonderry in 1972. The Paras were blamed, yet Lord Widgery’s inquiry heard that Martin McGuinness, the IRA’s commanding officer in the Bogside, admitted that he had personally fired the shot from Rossville Flats that started the carnage. Widgery cleared the Paras but it seems that once again the past is being rewritten. It would of course suit the establishment if Soldier F became a sacrificial goat and spent the rest of his life behind bars while inconvenient truths were swept under the carpet. This plan would go tits up if the demonstrations were properly reported because the vast majority of the public would side with the veterans. How can it be fair that our old soldiers are getting hung out to dry while hundreds of proven terrorists enjoy the full fruits of liberty? It isn’t justice. It’s politics.
April 14. R.I.P. Paul Raymond. The guitarist and keyboardist with much-loved London rock band UFO suffered a fatal heart attack yesterday just days after the band’s 50th anniversary tour ended. He was 73. Paul’s other half Sandra posted this message on Facebook: ‘With a desperate and broken heart, fully in tears and pains that feel like they will kill me I have to tell you that my most beautiful and beloved darling Paul Raymond has passed away today. The doctors were trying to reanimate him and with success at first but then his system shut down again and there was nothing more they could do for him.’ Paul was born in St Albans and joined UFO in 1976. He played on gems like Lights Out, Obsession, the classic 1979 double album Strangers In The Night and 1980’s No Place to Run (produced by George Martin – yes, that one). He quit in 1980 to join the Michael Schenker Group and later Pete Way’s Waysted, but rejoined UFO in 1985. His own Paul Raymond Project kept going over the years but never matched the impact of MSG. I didn’t know Paul as well as I knew Phil and Pete but he was a superb musician, cutting his teeth in jazz clubs, and he loved the anarchic humour of Spike Milligan and the Goons. Before UFO he was most notably a member of blues band Savoy Brown. My condolences to Sandra.
MARCH 15. How can you tell if a politician is lying? Their lips are moving. That old joke has become a grim reality. How can any of us ever trust a word our ‘leaders’ say again after this last week in Westminster? It’s worse than just a shambles – we’re witnessing a revolt by the establishment against the people. All major parties promised they would respect the result of the 2016 Referendum. Instead they have deliberately undermined it. If that vote was a revolution then we’re living through the counter-revolution as Britain’s ‘liberal’ elite demonstrate their contempt for democracy on behalf of the ruling class – corporations, banks, the civil service, the BBC, most of the mass media, most of the judiciary and both Houses of Parliament. MPs haven’t just treated the electorate with contempt, though. As well as throwing out ‘No Deal’ this week, they also blocked the Norway option for Britain to join the European Free Trade Association which effectively means it’s Hotel California time. We’ll never leave (I take no pleasure in reminding you that I predicted this in 2016). The Norway route would have liberated us from most EU laws, and the tentacles of the European Court of Justice; it would have allowed the UK to trade within the internal market and also to make our own trade deals with the rest of the world. If May had gone down that route to begin with we wouldn’t be in this mess now. She is the worst Prime Minister in living memory, which is saying something. As we have clearly been disenfranchised by these scheming, condescending twerps, we urgently need a radical new party to represent those of us who believe in home rule and democracy. I suspect most people are sick of being patronised by these creeps. In the meantime you could always sign this petition.
*IF you’re as disgusted as I am about the prosecution of Soldier F you should sign this petition too.
Feb 24. Just a quick heads up, my TV column is published in today’s Sunday Express as well as the Daily Star Sunday. Twice the exposure, double the joy. I hope to be back here soon with cast-iron book news, so please watch this space.
Feb 22. Sorry to hear that Peter Tork has pegged it. He was the bass-player with the Monkees, the only manufactured band I ever cherished. Tork was the oldest of the four, but when he auditioned the first thing the producers asked him was “Do you mind playing the dummy?” The TV series was inspired by the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night and York was picked as the Ringo Starr style loveable nitwit of the outfit (who were quickly nicknamed “the Prefab Four”). Peter was a talented all-round musician and played keyboards and guitar as well as bass. The Monkees’ TV series won an Emmy, and the band’s string of high-quality hits speak for themselves: ‘I’m A Believer’, ‘Daydream Believer’, ‘Last Train To Clarksville’, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’... pure bliss. Some claim the latter bears an unduly similarity to my own band’s ‘SE7 Dole Day’ suggesting that the Monkees might have travelled through time to pinch the tune, but I couldn’t possibly comment. In all, Tork, Nesmith, Jones and Dolenz sold a staggering 75million records worldwide. Pick the bones out of that.
Feb 21. Why have our new political alliance chosen to call themselves the Independent Group? It’s an odd name for people who actively want to derail British independence. The Brexit car-crash and the curse of anti-Semitism show why a new party is needed, but this bunch of obscure Blairites and the Tory defectors set to follow won’t deliver the radical, free-thinking solutions the country needs.
Feb 13. The best radio show of all time is Desert Island Discs, according to a Radio Times “panel of industry experts”. Really? It’s a terrific format but doesn’t your enjoyment of that show vary from guest to guest? For me the greatest ever radio programme would be a toss-up between Hancock’s Half Hour and Round The Horne, although you could make a solid case for The Goons being the Beeb’s most influential comedy. I loved radio comedies as a kid, wonderful shows like I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again and The Clitheroe Kid. Vintage radio could transport you to other worlds (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy), introduce you to cracking new bands (the John Peel show) and leave you in stitches (all of the above).
Some brilliant folk have been stranded on Desert Island Discs of course. But how on earth do they pick their eight favourite tracks? Mine change every day. At the moment Springsteen’s Jungleland would get in, another day it’d probably be Badlands, Thunder Road or The Promised Land. The Clash would have to be there of course, but would it be Complete Control, White Man In Hammersmith Palais or London Calling? And how could you choose between Marvin Gaye, Smokey, Dylan, Bowie, the Stones, the Beatles, Floyd, the Kinks, The Jam, The Who, and the Damned? It wouldn’t be true to my youth without Elvis, Johnny Cash, Slade, Desmond Dekker, Judge Dread and Marty Robbins? It’d be totally wrong to leave out Rose Tattoo, Cock Sparrer, Madness, Maiden, Lizzy, Sabbath, UFO and the Rejects. Or Chas & Dave. Or Lionel Bart. Or Max Romeo. Or The Four Tops. Or Buddy Holly or Chuck Berry... And it’d be bonkers to blank Teenage Kicks or Walrus of Love Barry White... see what I mean? If they caught me on an off-day I might do a Danny Baker and pack it with ditties like Charlie Drake’s Mr Custer, Tommy Cooper’s Don’t Jump Off The Roof Dad, Pluto Shervington’s Dat or even Lee Marvin’s Wand’rin Star. My reputation would be in tatters. The Beeb won’t ever ask me, as I am officially a non-person to them for the heinous crime of questioning the licence fee, and I’m actually glad of that. I couldn’t choose. And if you’re honest, you couldn’t either.