BUSHELL ON THE BLOG
Jan 20. Watching the documentary Rush: Time Stand Still reminded me what a technically superb drummer Neil Ellwood Peart was – both intricate and explosive. Even his fills were detailed. Dave Grohl called him “another species of drummer”. Canadian Peart, who died aged 67 earlier this month, was the main lyric writer for the wildly complex geek-friendly rock band. His huge futuristic drum kit was likened to an industrial plant. Rush had elements of conceptual prog rock, metal, and a tendency to quote from classical composers. Peart’s lyrics added to the unorthodox mix. A follower of Ayn Rand, he scandalised the NME back in 1978 by telling them Britain had been “ruined” by socialism. Later he claimed he’d become a “bleeding heart libertarian”. Farmer’s son, Neil was inspired to drum by Keith Moon. Ginger Baker, Gene Krupa and John Bonham were major influences too. He joined Rush in 1974. Gene Simmons of Kiss joked that Neil, Geddy Lee (born Gary Weinrib) and Alex Lifeson were the ugliest band in rock, “too ugly to get laid”. Never orthodox, Peart preferred to travel to gigs on his BMW R1200GS than on Rush’s luxury tour bus – he wrote books about his road trips. Travel was his way of coping with the loss of his 19-year-old daughter Selena and common-law wife Jacquelyn in the late 90s. He married rock photographer Carrie Nuttall in 2000 and is survived by her and their daughter Olivia. In 2015 Neil retired after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was a hugely talented, free-thinking musician who despised the over-commercialisation of the music industry. He told Rolling Stone that rock was “about being your own hero... I set out to never betray the values that 16-year-old had, to never sell out, to never bow to the man. A compromise is what I can never accept.”
Jan 19. I’m talking to Penn Jillette and 1970s Liverpool soul sensations The Real Thing in today’s Sunday Express. Here’s one story deemed too rude for the printed page. Penn dated Debbie Harry for three years in the 80s and told me that he’d invented a sexual device for her pleasure. He called it the Jill-Jet and swears it was extremely effective, although those weren’t quite the words he used... Talking of things we couldn’t print, last year I asked Gavin & Stacey star Larry Lamb how he relaxed and he immediately replied “I have one off the wrist”. Lovely.
Jan 18. It looks like the belated book launch party for my Mod and 2-Tone books will now be happening in Shoreditch, East London at the end of February. Please get in touch if you’d like to come. We’ll have copies of my novels available on the night too.
Equity’s response to Laurence Fox’s entertaining appearance on Question Time is entirely predictable. As “liberal progressives” they can’t tolerate anyone with different views. Denounce him! Purge him! Hate-hate-hate!
Jan 16. Half a million? That’s how much the House of Commons's Commission reckons it would cost if the Great Bell of Big Ben bonged to celebrate leaving the EU at 11pm on January 31. £500K! It didn’t cost that on New Year’s Eve. It’s £14,200 usually. Ah but the contractors say they’d have to reinstate a floor underneath Big Ben that was removed this month, and then reinstall the temporary equipment needed to make the bell sound. Yeah, yeah. I know a couple of scaffolders who’d sort it for a grand, cash in hand, no questions asked. If not, we have the bells recorded don’t we? So why not just hire a PA and crank up the volume? It’d give us the symbolism and embody the spirit of can-do Blighty.
Jan 14. Labour’s potential leaders look about as inspiring as Norwich City. It’s like trying to choose between arsenic and strychnine. I grew up in a Labour household in south east London and was a member of the party up until 1986, so it saddens me to see them committing electoral suicide. Their useless candidates include Lady Nugee, who famously sneered at the English flag, a continuity Corbyn drone and a knighted millionaire lawyer who tried his best to overturn the referendum result. Labour isn’t the party of Clement Atlee and Harold Wilson any more. They’ve been replaced by a strange breed of “woke” middle class liberals and bourgeois Marxists who care more about fashionable fringe issues than everyday challenges. Their narrow orthodoxies and blinkered views – on everything from family and law and order to gender identity, via defence, border controls and knife crime – are more likely to lose the votes of concerned citizens than convert them. You rarely hear them talk about homes and jobs, and they seem to have no understanding of aspiration. In contrast Old Labour spoke to the British working class and addressed their problems. Old Labour was patriotic. Old Labour supported grammar schools as a means of undermining the class system, and law and order as a means of punishing predators. They were conservative with a small c – unlike the Tories who don’t seek to conserve much at all. They would have been horrified to see British soldiers being hounded through the courts. (What’s happened to Boris’s promise to stop that?). Corbynistas would say Old Labour failed as we still live in a capitalist country. But firstly when they had the reins of power, Labour created the NHS, established the Open University, nationalised the railways etc, and secondly history has shown time after time that command economies don’t work. You have to ride the tiger of the free market while taming its excesses. If Labour can’t speak for the working class, someone else will... but I don’t think a new party will come from “the far right”. The far right barely exists in the UK, except in the fevered imagination of the far Left who behave more like fascists than any other organised grouping in the country. It was bizarre last year to see trade unionist Eddie Dempsey of the RMT get “no-platformed” by Oxford graduate Owen Jones for daring to make the leftwing case for Brexit. Dagenham-born fire-fighter Paul Embery was suspended from the FBU executive council for the same reason. Embery supports the Blue Labour tendency that essentially stands for all the things that once made the Labour Party successful. Britain needs a credible opposition that stands up for the man and woman on the street, a Democratic People’s Party that can offer stability, freedom and progress; a party genuinely for the many and not the right-on few. Sir Keir won’t deliver that.
Just one thought on Megxit: did no one ever explain to Meghan the difference between royalty and celebrity? I wish her and Harry well but can you honestly see it lasting?
Jan 13. R.I.P. philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, one of the brightest and bravest conservative thinkers of our age. It took (and takes) real guts to speak freely in the face of mob intolerance. Here’s the interview I did with the great man on my old GBH radio show.
Jan 12. Gwyneth “Pepper Potts” Paltrow has produced a candle called This Smells Like My Vagina. Sadly I have no way of knowing if it does, but many of Gwyn’s off-screen activities seem to revolve around her fanny. When she isn’t steam-cleaning it, she’s poking jade eggs up there. It’s what they do in California. But would the media be quite so enthusiastic if Ozzy Osbourne marketed a candle called This Smells Like My Cock? At least it’d be the right shape.
Jan 1st 2020. Happy New Year!! I’m sorry the rate of blog entries here has plummeted like Holly Willoughby’s cleavage of late; work is pretty hectic, but I will keep you up to date with book news, readings etc as often as I can. As always, thanks for reading and all the best for the Roaring Twenties!
Random irritations: 1) constant “Remain” propaganda on social media predicting post-Brexit doom and gloom but oddly never mentioning the stagnant German economy or the French transport strike, now in its fifth week. The Yellow Vests’ protests have been going on all year. Chomeur en avant! 2) “Veganuary” propaganda, the only vegan I know really well bangs on about their superior diet but is constantly ill. They need to take supplements to supply the nutrients missing from their grub, small but vital things like Vitamins B12, A & C, iron and zinc. 3) Climate change hypocrisy – the BBC just devoted a whole edition of Radio 4’s Today programme to Greta Thunberg, and to make it they flew to Stockholm. That’s right, flew, by air, in a passenger jet. The idea of taking a ferry presumably didn’t occur to these over-privileged numb nuts.
Rock music ages constantly. It may be the soundtrack of teenage rebellion, but nowadays its leading practitioners look more like the cast of The Last Of The Summer Wine. Paul McCartney, 77, and Aerosmith with Steve Tyler, 71, headline Glastonbury this year, while the biggest UK arena tour is an 80s classical package including Jimmy Somerville, Belinda Carlisle, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, Carol Decker and the Royal Philharmonic Concert orchestra. Rock’n’roll! Um, no. But big business all the same. This last decade has belonged to K-Pop, EDM, and acts like Kanye, Kendrick, Arianne, Adele and Beyoncé. I admit, I was more interested in urchins like Missing Andy, the chippy Essex boys who turned out minor masterpieces like Dave, Scum and Made In England. At the protest end of popular music, Louise Distras has emerged as the most significant new artist in the UK. Check out Dreams From The Factory Floor and watch out for her new album which is even better. Globally, the Arctic Monkeys’ fifth album, 2013’s AM, was the Sheffield boys’ best yet, with Alex Turner’s slippery lyrics married to everything from g-funk to heavy rock riffs with a side order of John Cooper Clarke.
In actual rock, Rival Sons got better and better ending the decade with the blistering Led Zep influenced Feral Dogs, and heavy blues based rock enjoyed a live revival around bands like the Graveltones. In what now must be fourth generation Ska, the genuinely exciting Interrupters burst onto the California scene with their magnificent anthem Take Back The Power. They tour Britain next month with support from London’s Buster Shuffle who have echoes of Madness and Chas & Dave and go down well with audiences from Madrid to Mexico City. There’s an obvious punk/2-Tone influence in the Bar Stool Preachers too (check out One Fool Down). Beach Slang are probably the best youngish pop-punk combo around. While older punk names like Penetration and Stiff Little Fingers continue to produce excellent new work.
Street punk has had new lease of life with audiences all over the globe and plenty of young up-and-coming bands abound; but for my money the best albums of the decade came from those relative oldies Argy Bargy – who sounded like an angrier Jam on Hopes, Dreams, Lies & Schemes – the even older guard Cockney Rejects (East End Babylon) and Cock Sparrer (Forever), and the sprightly youth, cough, who constitute the Old Firm Casuals (Holger Danske). The London/Poland combo Booze & Glory may be controversial but songs like Only Fools Get Caught, Carry On and Blood From A Stone put them streets ahead of most rivals. In Germany, Stomper 98 had actual hits. French band Lion’s Law continue to impress. And Oi bands continue pop up everywhere from Brazil to Japan. Too many self-styled punks are obsessed with some imaginary “purity” but there’s no purity in obscurity. Raw rock ’n’ roll with a message of backstreet rebellion, freedom, protest and working class patriotism has to be carried into the heart of the charts if it aspires to mean a light. Gawd knows we need it.