Crap Journalism


For the past couple of weeks, the Guardian have been running an accumulating feature on the 100 greatest UK no. 1 singles. The list has been chosen by three people, which immediately reduces it to something selected upon very limited tastes. I’ve been following it with mild curiosity as to what they’ve chosen, and in what order, and personally I wouldn’t agree with many of either.

But my principal attitude is, so what? This is your choice. If you think that ‘Bridge over Troubled Waters’ is only the 45th best no. 1 of all time (and I admit I did boggle a bit at that one) you can do so. It doesn’t change my opinion about the song and its value, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the only one I’m interested in.

I’m not registered to Comment at the Guardian and haven’t been for several years, and if I still were, I wouldn’t bother over something as unimportant as this. However, I do have to break ranks with myself in response to this comment, put up today by Ben Beaumont-Thomas, the paper’s Music Editor, in respect of their no 19 choice, ‘Old Town Road’ by Little Nass X.

“I know a lot of the anti-pop/pro-1960s comment brigade will be outraged at this choice. It was unanimously chosen by the music editor (me), deputy music editor and chief music critic who compiled the top 100 – so here’s our reasoning. We all feel it’s:

a) a brilliant tune with a massive anthemic melody that will be hollered in karaoke bars for years; a truly classic pop song that really does go toe to toe with the best of the last 70-odd years.
b) one of the most brilliant pop cultural moments of the last few years – the styling, the wit, the way he toyed with country tropes and indeed exposed latent prejudices in them.

Owen ably articulates its charms in more detail above. 

My feeling is that if you’re tired of Old Town Road (remix feat Billy Ray Cyrus), you’re tired of life. That said, I’m very happy for people to comment about why they don’t like it! As long as it’s not bland abuse.” No links, you’ll have to find it yourself if you’re interested enough.

Now I’ve never heard the record, and I have no interest in hearing it, though I could experience the song at the click of a mouse. It could be good, it could be bad, it could be somewhere in between for all I know, and all I care. I am not interested in having an opinion on it.

But I do have an opinion on Mr Beaumont-Thomas’s comment. For one thing, he not only demeans himself by his snotty reference to the anti-pop/pro 60s comment brigade, he’s lost his argument already by claiming that people who are pro 60s music are anti pop: my dear sir, just what the hell do you think we were all listening to?

However, it’s the start of his final paragraph that demands a response, one that I can’t make without re-registering and which wouldn’t stay up more than five seconds if I did. Let me highlight it: ‘My feeling is that if you’re tired of Old Town Road (remix feat Billy Ray Cyrus), you’re tired of life.’

Once more, Mr Beaumont-Thomas, and with the greatest of all possible respect, you can like this record and I will say nothing because I don’t care. You can dislike any record that I love and I will say nothing because I don’t care. Your opinions are what they are: opinions, and when it comes to music we all have them and none of them are right or wrong.

But if you think you can tell me that disagreeing with your opinion calls into question my very existence, then I would respectfully invite you to fuck yourself anally with a rusty chainsaw. Because not in this universe or any other in the vastest multiverse do you get to tell me what to like or dislike.

Get that? I doubt you’ll ever see this, but I wanted to tell you exactly where you’re full of self-centred shit.

You’re welcome.

Pesky Pasko, R.I.P.


A very long time ago, when I was nudging my parents into buying more American comics than they wanted to and far fewer than I wanted, there were familiar names I would see in the letter columns of DC titles, especially those edited by Julius Schwartz, who would herald their every missive. These got their comments into so many comics because they were not just prolific but wrote intelligent letters, mixing praise and criticism honestly and cleverly.

I remember the names amd the nicknames: ‘Our Favourite Guy’, Guy H. Lillian III, ‘Castro’ Mike Friedrich, Martin ‘Pesky’ Pasko.

Friedrich and Pasko went on to write for DC, and Lillian to intern there one summer but decide the busiinesswas not for him.

To be truthful, I never particularly found either Friedrich or Pasko’s work too  exciting, though there were some moments from Pasko’s career that amused me, especially the one where he managed to work Monty Python’s ‘Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!’ into a Metal Man script, causing me to explode with laughter. And his transformative Dr Fate story, drawn by Walt Simonson, for First Issue Special 8 is still probably my favourite comic book of the Seventies.

And now he’s gone, of natural causes, aged 65. All those years ago, all those letters, and he was only a year older than me, and it feels a very personal loss, even though I never knew him. He was the one with the same name as me, which shouldn’t matter but does.

And plainly all the writers who canme out of fandom with him are devastated by the loss. No doubt he’s already giving Julius Schwartz grief over some loose plotting in a Justice League comic written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky. Thanks, Martin.

Two deaths


Announced today, two more who have left us. One male, aged 87, a public figure, a shaper of the world we know. One 86, female, known to more people than she have ever wished but to far fewer that she deserved. One is Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard, rock’n’roll pioneer, flambuoyant, colourful, influential in more than just music. The other is Rennie Williams. You probably don’t know her name, just as I didn’t until a few minutes ago, for which I am ashamed. Rennie Williams was a schoolteacher in Aberfan in 1966. She was in the school the day of the disaster, she got the surviving children out. I mean no disrespect to Little Richard when I point out the discrepancy between the responses their passing will bring. Bow your heads to her, for she leaves the greater gap in the world.

Bite yer legs


I know we used to hate Leeds United, and we still do, but I have to mark the loss of another to this bloody COVID-19. The hard man of Leeds – and to stand out in that team of hard men, you had to be HARD – Norman Hunter has died aged 76.

He may have been a bastard – and he was their bastard, not ours – but Norman Hunter is unforgettable, and long after all of us who were fans during his prime have passed on and only old clips on YouTube remain, he will still be a legend.

Re-Blog: Nathan Anderson, from Facebook


I agree with every word, but he says it better than I could.

Before you start blaming individuals who in your own opinion are not obeying the rules have a read of this…

As this crisis deepens and the death toll mounts, a narrative is going to emerge that will be very seductive to many of us. It will all be the fault of “the people.”
The people who failed to practice social distancing. The people who hoarded. The people who didn’t listen to the government. The people who didn’t listen to the science. The people. Those selfish people. Look at them in their parks. The government will start trotting this out. Right wing media will push it hard. Police forces have already begun assigning blame to “the people”.
Many of us will feel the tug of this seductive reasoning. Our brains will be tempted to lash out at “the people.”
When we do, we must remember some things: –
The government had 3 months to prepare. This was a train coming down the tracks. At first we were told the plan was herd immunity. Then it wasn’t.
As the first few people started to die, Boris Johnson boasting of shaking the hands of hospitalised coronavirus patients. This was a week before the lockdown.
Why weren’t we in lockdown like other European countries, some asked. Trust us, they said.
Then we got the lockdown order. What did they say? The initial government advice was only “essential workers could travel to work”. A day later this was changed to “essential travel for work.” See the difference?
They told us to practice social distancing as MPs crowded around each other in the House of Commons.
They said only the old and immuno-comprised were at risk. Then healthy twenty-somethings started dying.
They said the NHS could cope, then they started building field hospitals in stadiums.
They said the NHS had the protective equipment it needed, then we logged on to social media.
They said we were in it together, then they got tested before the front-line workers.
They said there was no such thing as society and it was survival of the fittest, then said we needed to show solidarity.
They clapped when they voted against a pay-rise for NHS nurses in 2017, then they clapped for the NHS.
They spent a decade telling us cuts were needed to save the economy, then they said the only way to save the economy was to spend trillions.
They spent a decade insisting £94 was enough to live on, then admitted it wasn’t. – They got us to vote for Brexit by rubbishing “experts,” then told us to trust experts.
They told us retail workers were low skilled, then said they were key workers.
They said homelessness was sad but inevitable, then they order it ended overnight.
So yes, “the people” ended up a little fucking confused. Because our so-called leaders have utterly failed to lead. They don’t know what they stand for; they couldn’t believe the world could change so quickly; they resisted “alarmist” when the only proper response was to be alarmed; they had no idea how to use the power of the state, having spent a decade dismantling it; they were arrogant and complacent, wallowing in privilege.
The fundamental duty of government is to keep us safe. That’s what we pay them to do. They have failed.
As the death toll mounts, remember that our leaders are to blame, not “the people,” and we must resist the temptation to blame each other.

Author Nathan Williams

Please feel free to copy and share”

One, two, three…


Stirling Moss, Tim Brooke-Taylor and now Peter Bonetti, all in the same day,  as awful a cull at once as any we experienced in 2016.

Though he was a truly great goalkeeper, Peter Bonetti was doomed to be remembered, by those of us who were not Chelsea fans in 1970, for coming into the England team for the quarter-final of the World Cup against West Germany. After conceding only one goal in his first six appearances for England, Bonetti conceded three, as England slipped from a seemingly impregnable 2-0 lead. He never played for England again.

It’s unfair to him, but that is the memory. It can haunt him no longer.

So it’s true then…


I’ve spent the last ten minutes or so trying to find out if it was true that Tim Brooke-Taylor had died, aged 79, and it’s true: this morning, at home, of coronavirus. So that makes today a double-header, with the loss of the legendary Stirling Moss.

I don’t feel the same loss with Moss, partly because motor-racing has never really been my thing, but mainly because, for all his lifelong fame, Stirling Moss belonged to my Dad and his generation. Dad’s preference was for motorbike racing, but he would also watch the Grand Prixs.

But Tim Brooke-Taylor was of my time and my generation. Obviously, the world knows him for his role in The Goodies, and I spent many years watching their programmes with great joy and laughter, though they haven’t worn anything like as well as Monty Python, having always had more of a pantomime aspect and, with only three writers as opposed to six, less variety in what they did.

Instead, I remember Tim Brooke-Taylor for two long-standing BBC Radio comedy series. The first of these was the righteously celebrated I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, in which all three future Goodies appeared, along with John Cleese, David Hatch and Jo Kendall: quick-fire, absurdist comedy, excrutiating (in all senses) puns and an anarchic desire to reduce everything to the unexpected. I still adore the sketch where a spoof of Brer Rabbit was disrupted by Animal Equity demnding equal parts for overlooked animals so that it turned out to the story of Brer Bandicoot (“It was a lovely day. The grass was waving. (yoo-hoo!), the sun was raging (ooh, I am cross!)”

And who could ever forget Tim as Lady Constance de Coverlet, whose entrances got the same level of audience applause as did Bluebottle in The Goon Show.

But the other one, which I admit to enjoying even more because I got to hear all of it, from the start, instead of discovering it when it was already travelling at top speed, was the now mostly forgotten Hello Cheeky, which paired Broke-Taylor with the unlikely combination of John Junkin and Barry Cryer.

Hello Cheeky was, like ISIRTA, a sketch show, if you can call it a sketch when so many items didn’t even run a minute long. It just crammed the jokes in at what was a breakneck speed for 1973 and after, so fast that if you didn’t laugh at one, two more that had you howling before you notice, and if you didn’t laugh at one it was probably only because you were laughing so hard at the three before it that you simply didn’t hear it.

Anything went on Hello Cheeky. I used to be able to recite a large section of a spoof on Agatha Christie, featuring Hercule Parrot, and I can still remember dozens of lines from random sections. It started: “My name is Scarf, Inspector Scarf. I thought I’d get a gag in early. This case started when I was sitting at my desk in the Yard. Next year they’ve promised me an office. There was a knock on the barbed wire and my sergeant entered with bleeding knuckles…”

Ah me. Though he went onto lots of things that didn’t interest me, like humdrum sitcoms that hadn’t a hundredth of the wit of a line from Hello Cheeky, he still did these, and I thank him for the raucous laughter he could reduce me to so easily, even on The Goodies, which may well bore me know but which I devoured then. Be at ease: the mark you made will not be forgotten.

 

Bill Withers: Ain’t No Sunshine


They’re talking about him in the context of ‘Lean on Me’, his only British hit and a fine song, but Bill Withers, who has left us aged 81, also wrote ‘Ain’t no Sunshine’, which gave Michael Jackson one of his earliest hit singles over here, but his original was infinitely superior (not that Jackson’s fans will ever agree).

But Withers was a veteran, with a deep voice and one in which a wealth of experience lay, audible in every syllable. Jackson sung a song, but Withers felt it, in every dark second of the loss it portrayed.

By one more degree we who are left move deeper into that dark for which there is no sunshine.

Felicitations: Farewell Julie Felix


Two deaths in a day brings back uncomfortable reminders of 2016, when the gifted seemed to be dying in batches. As well as Albert Uderzo, I now learn that we have lost the gentle and lovely Julie Felix, at the age if 81.

Julie’s chart career cnsisted of two singles, only one of which, a cover of a Paul Simon song from Bridge over Troubled Water got as high as no. 19. But I never associated her with pop, nor did she. The lady sang folk, with long dark hair, a flashing smile and an acoustic guitar. I saw more of her, perhaps, in those last days before I finally started listening to the radio, on TV shows like David Frost and her own BBC series.

And Ed Stewart would regularly play ‘Goin’ to the Zoo’, her most well-known song, on Junior Choice at weekends.

To be truthful, I know and remember very little of her music, but I remember her so well from those last days of musical ignorance. She was pretty and bright and you enjoyed her songs because she was full of a joyful energy of which there’s been a dearth for oh so very long, and now it’s a world with no Julie Felix in it and that brngs me nothing but sorrow.

Ave Albert


It’s just been announced that Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix and Obelix with the late Rene Goscinny, has died at the age of 92. He’d long since passed the reins on Asterix to other hands, for good or ill. No matter that the strip was never as fiunny or sharp again after Goscinny, Uderzo had the absolute right to continue their creation, and his art never lost the confidence and seemingly effortless grace he brought to the Gauls. Quite simply, he was a genius and once again the world is colder and darker place without him.

I’m trying to think of a way to work a “These Romans are crazy” line in, but i can’t. It is us who are crazy, but no amount of tapping a finger against your head will make it funny.