Wednesday 28 September 2011

Countdown To The Nineteen-Hour Assassination Of David Cameron


On the 19th hour…
David Cameron sells off what’s left of the BBC
to a scrap-dealer in Oildrum Lane who melts it down
& recasts it into a million miniature commemorative figurines
of Margaret Thatcher with a Hitler moustache

On the 18th hour…
David Cameron dissolves Parliament &
compels all MP’s to re-stand through ‘X-Factor’

On the 17th hour…
David Cameron deletes the word ‘Socialism’
from Dictionaries and Wikipedia.
The Labour Party protest they already did this
during their last period in government

On the 16th hour…
David Cameron censors books, TV & MP3’s by banning
the ‘F’-word (fairness) & the ‘C’-word (compassion)

On the 15th hour…
David Cameron combines the Conservative Party Conference
with the Glastonbury Festival where 64 moderate MP’s are
found dead on portaloos. Cameron claims there’s no conspiracy.
Morrissey says 64 MP’s is not enough & nothing compared
to the atrocity committed in abattoirs every day.
He becomes a national hero

On the 14th hour…
David Cameron bans burkas as an affront to women,
bans low-slung pants that show the arse-crack
as an affront to decency,
bans tattoos and facial piercing as an affront to taste,
bans hoodies as an affront to law & order,
& bans JLS as an affront to music

On the 13th hour…
David Cameron rests,
looks at all he’s done & pronounces it good

On the 12th hour…
David Cameron introduces the public flogging of
welfare scroungers televised live during the Lottery-show,
& available for catch-up viewing on YouTube

On the 11th hour…
David Cameron legalises fox-hunting,
also the hunting with hounds of the undeserving poor,
single teenage Mums & asylum-seekers

On the 10th hour…
David Cameron withdraws Britain from the EU
& declares it the 53rd State of the USA

On the 9th hour…
David Cameron releases all schools from local &
national government control, while making it
compulsory to teach ‘Intelligent Design’, ‘Creationism’,
the myth of Global Warming, & sexual abstinence
before (during & after) marriage

On the 8th hour…
David Cameron appoints Simon Cowell Minister of Culture,
Spongebob Squarepants as First Sea Lord,
Tony Blair as Archbishop of Canterbury,
Peter Sutcliffe as Minister for Population Control,
Wayne Rooney as Education Minister
& puts Nick Griffin in charge of social diversity
and community cohesion

On the 7th hour…
David Cameron re-launches royalty as a pre-bookable option,
terms include a 20-minute coronation, trooping the colour,
changing of the guard, & waving from the balcony.
All major credit cards accepted.
The Windsors (nee Saxe-Coburgs) seek asylum in Saudi Arabia.
The first 18-years of monarchy are immediately block-booked
by Japanese, Russian, Iranian, Texan & Indian interests

On the 6th hour…
David Cameron replaces Pounds Sterling with KFC,
Macdonald & Starbucks tokens, then makes the Bank of England
a wholly-owned subsidiary of Disney Corp

On the 5th hour…
David Cameron declares he’s saved the NHS
by transferring all UK Passport-holder medical needs
to the voluntary sector so releasing hospitals
to fee-paying foreign clients

On the 4th hour…
during Question Time, David Cameron rams his arm up
Vince Cable’s ass, raises him into the air, &,
brandishing him like a grotesque trophy,
screams ‘it’s a puppet, it’s a puppet’

On the 3rd hour…
David Cameron legalises gay marriage
& marries Nick Clegg in a final desperate attempt
to hold the coalition together

On the 2nd hour…
David Cameron sells what’s left of Britain to foreign oligarchs
& conglomerates on a buy-one-get-one-free basis

On the final hour…
with no hope, & nothing left to lose

Chemical Brothers: Live In Leeds (1999)

Gig Review of:
and others at READING NORTH /
Temple Newsam Park, Leeds

Hey Boys. Hey Girls. Think the unsayable. Say the unthinkable. I’m watching the original guitar-torturing junkie intensity of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under The Bridge”, but prefer All Saints dance-friendly chart-blandout version. It must go back to those wretched Cock-Sox promo-snaps, because I can never take the Chili Peppers as seriously as some sections of the music press seem to think I should. Isn’t all that sweaty bare-chested mouths-like-catflaps Rock-power just a little too retro? and St Shaznay’s even got a better nude midriff – no contest. But for those who still insist on guitars, Dandy Warhols sharp art-cool New York (out of Portland) irony catches the zeitgeist better, and as dins go, their crisp detonations of Pop-culture shrapnel is a whole bunch more fun too. But for serious techno-retro there’s Add N to X in the Radio One Evening Sessions Tent, radioactive with history. If Roland VK-7’s, Moogs and Korgs mean anything to you, then these electro-primitives are a revelation. A solid wall of electronic noise stripped back to its Kraftwerkian origins – and sometimes even, shit, Hawkwind’s theramin too, inventing or reinventing something as totally unique as it is sonically stunning, with just the conventional drumkit to point and define its shapes. While outside in the unforgiving glare of daylight Apollo 440 jump like Van Halen and dance in syncopated style like Madonna into the Groovy. Too klepto-opportunist to be genuinely cool, they filch a Sci-Fi movie-score here (‘Lost In Space’) while ransacking Pop’s storehouse for Gene Krupa, Prince and Elvis there, then – with a near-blasphemous cheek, they half-inch Status Quo with a wit and energy verging on unhealthy Rockist tendencies.

It’s round-about now I start hallucinating about some monstrous temporal quantum anomaly swallowing this stage and dumping it back in time into... say, the middle of the Woodstock Festival! What would all those tripped-out Hippies make of this? Apollo 440 are white and English, yet come coded in the language of 1980’s black Rap and Hip-Hop. To Woodstock’s children there’d be no tunes, and hey – they don’t even play their own instruments! But while the nineties seldom tolerate anything as boring as song-structures, the technology to do all this cyber-techno pillaging has never before – until now, been possible. With the Chemical Brothers, there’s no human stage-presence either. Just two charisma-free digital-Anti-Stars lost behind massively awesome “Block Rocking Beats” of spectacle – BIGGER, LONGER, UNCUT and loud enough to suck your eyeballs into the back of your head. It starts with “Music: Response”, two barely visible micro-figures waving, silhouetted against exploding deluges of image-storming video dementia. And it intensifies, punctuated by mangled “Out Of Control” Bernie Sumner’s shredded vocal samples. Fuck sensitivity. I want NOISE!!! Hippies once talked-up Electric Music For The Mind And Body, Mixed-Media Total Psychedelic Experience, but lacked a prosthetic god immortalised in machinery capable of achieving it. Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons’ mutual chemistry creates what they were incapable of. Would the Woodstock flower-punks be clued-up enough to recognise that? Probably not. This is an evolutionary thing. Unlike most guitar-Pop, Chemical Brothers unique chipped-up interactions may no longer be precisely cutting edge, but more importantly, their stuff could only exist now. While with “Sunshine Underground” they even move inexorably from near-ambient waves of phased colour into a transcendental... say the unthinkable – well, beauty, as its insistently repetitive ego-loss mantra gains momentum. Hey Boy. Hey Girl, this is still the century’s final and most complete All-Over sensory Mind-Movie.

Billy Fury DVD 'Wondrous Places'


DVD Review of:
(2007 – Odeon Entertainment ODNM007)

The tragedy – if tragedy it is, is not only that Billy Fury died so early, at just forty-two. It’s that he’d started out as a songwriter. It was as a songwriter that he first approached impresario Larry Parnes at the Birkenhead ‘Essoldo Theatre’ on 1st September 1958, hoping to interest him in some potential songs for bill-topper Marty Wilde. And his “Maybe Tomorrow” is a powerful piece of early Brit-Rock writing. But, like Leo Sayer or Gene Pitney who also both started out writing hits for other artists, as the former Ronald Wycherley’s career took off he became increasingly reliant on other people’s songs, and allowed his own songwriting skills to atrophy. So that when the music scene shifted and his career became stranded out of time, unlike Neil Sedaka or Marty Wilde who retained the ability to fall back on writing for others, Billy was left reviving antiquated hits such as Bobby Vee’s “Devil Or Angel” or Bobby Rydell’s “Forget Him”. What remains of his recorded legacy is nevertheless a powerful presence that resonates down the decades through the artful poses of ABC’s Martin Fry, Bryan Ferry or Morrissey.

This DVD tells the tale, from Fury’s beginning, as part of the Formby Sniffle Group (sic), made up of the crew of the Mersey tug-boat on which he worked as a deckhand. His brother Albie tells how Billy wrote “Collette” after they’d watched a French movie together – ‘it wasn’t a naughty one’ he insists in his broad Liverpool accent. And how he wrote lyrics on the back of household bills, or on the inside of cigarette packs. He tried out some material at Percy F Philip’s two-track studio-booth at 38 Kensington – where the Beatles also recorded demos, and toyed with the stage-name ‘Stene Wade’. Instead, he took “Maybe Tomorrow”, and another song – “Just Because”, to the ‘Essoldo’ ‘Rock Extravaganza’, where fan-reaction convinced Mr Parnes-shillings-&-pence that his potential lay more centre-stage. Once signed by Parnes’ agency he set out from his Dingle home with his guitar in a pillow-slip, because he had no guitar-case. Parnes put him on a £20 weekly wage, later raised to £50 when the hits started. The moody wistful “Maybe Tomorrow” was used as the theme-song for Ted Willis’ ‘Television Playhouse’ ARTV-play ‘Strictly For Sparrows’, which helped elevate it into the chart (no.18 in March 1959). Later, Decca A&R-man Dick Rowe moved him away from Parnes’ stifling influence, and towards the power-ballad covers he delivered in the kind of heavy-lidded sleepy-eyed sensuality that took him yet higher in the charts. To Paul Gambaccini his breakthrough version of Goffin/King’s “Halfway To Paradise” surpasses Tony Orlando’s American original hands down (and peaked at no.3 in May 1961). Drummer Clem Cattini of the Tornadoes, and John Leyton add tour memories, as Billy was banned from performing in Dublin’s ‘Theatre Royal’ due to his ‘objectionably’ wild highly-sexed stage-movements.

He wrote two more hits – “Colette”, dual-tracked into a kind of Everly Brothers harmony-style (no.9 in April 1960), and “That’s Love” (no.19 in June 1960), which was also included as part of one of the most enduring and sought-after UK rock albums – ‘The Sound Of Fury’ (issued April 1960 as Decca LF 1329). A ten-inch ten-tracks mono LP recorded in a single day, it placed on vinyl the closest to authentic rockabilly Britain had thus far produced, featuring Joe Brown on session-guitar, a production job from Jack Good contriving a kind of virtual low-tech ‘Sun’ sessions sound, and every song a Billy Fury original, some of them written under his curious alias ‘Wilbur Wilberforce’ (an impressive total that stacks up pretty well against the eight Lennon-McCartney originals on the Beatles first album). Yet beneath the Rocker – ‘a cross between James Dean and Elvis Presley’ according to Vince Eager, there was always a genuine sense of vulnerability. Fury was essentially a quiet reserved guy. ‘When I go on stage, it is an act’ he admits in the rare interview-footage he only reluctantly subjected himself too. Long-time partner Lee Alkin Middleton (later partner to Kenny Everett) agrees that on stage he was acting the part of ‘Billy Fury’ – ‘he oozed sex on stage’ but ‘every pose was practised, every angle was practised’, and he was a totally different, more private person off-stage.

At the peak of his British popularity he played American dates, renewing his association with Jack Good. Billy had first made his initial impact on Good’s Saturday evening ITV ‘Oh Boy’ show which sent shock-waves through staid British television, but by then – later in both of their careers, Good had graduated to producing the US coast-to-coast ‘Shindig’ show. Now, Billy guested on ‘Shindig’ too. But visiting Elvis on the set of the ‘Girls Girls Girls’ movie, as ‘New Musical Express’ journalist Chris Hutchins, who was also there, relates the incident, much to Elvis’ bemused reaction, Billy found himself too scared and intimidated to even talk to Presley. Perhaps there had been some initial intention of interesting Elvis in recording some of Billy’s songs – and wouldn’t it have been a revelation to hear the one-time King of Rock ‘n’ Roll singing a composition by the young UK pretender to that throne? But if so it worked out in reverse. Instead, Billy took a song from the movie soundtrack, and charted with his own version of “Because Of Love”. Then went on to star in a low-budget musical of his own – ‘Play It Cool’ (March 1962) as ‘Billy Universe’, the first feature film directed by a tyro Michael Winner. By March 1963, as the Beatles were making their first assaults on the world, the glossy ‘Billy Fury Monthly no.1’ appeared on the newsstands and survived for forty-two issues. His mother Jean speaks movingly about how he bought them a new parental home – called after his 1960 hit ‘Wondrous Place’. No ‘Graceland’ perhaps, but a powerful expression of his show-biz status.

Meanwhile, Billy’s own increasingly infrequent compositions were to be found tucked away on neglected ‘b’-sides, as late as “What Do You Think You’re Doing Of” on the flip of “Like I’ve Never Been Gone” (no.3 in February 1963). The play-in to his next hit “When Will You Say I Love You” (no.3 in May 1963) consists of a vast quasi-classical piano-concerto opening, setting the mood for Fury’s dark vocals which are fully equal to its gravitas, acting out the drama of unrequited love with all the theatricality that Shadow Morton would bring to the Shangri-Las, or Jim Steinman to Meatloaf, yet never for a moment tainted by their excessive bombast. Its levels of romantic angst are spelled out verse-by-verse like the frames of the ‘Love-Stories-in-Pictures’ magazine to which he’d become a regular pin-up cover-star. There’s no knowing post-modern self-awareness, no irony, no hint of a tongue anywhere near the cheek. To all intents and purposes Billy Fury means every word he sings, and at least for the 2:25-minute duration of the song you’re allowed no scintilla of doubt that the hurt and tortured anguish he feels is anything less than real. Within the narrow confines of the 45rpm teen-Pop single, it’s an amazing piece of work.

As the Pop landscape shifted and reconfigured around him, with the old star-hierarchy crashing out of visibility, Billy merely moved onto a new level of popularity. There’s a passing nod towards Mersey Beat – perhaps specifically at Billy J Kramer, in the guitar motif of “Do You Really Love Me Too (Fool’s Errand)” (no.13 in January 1964), but largely he continued in a parallel continuum, as a balladeer. There was even a new movie, ‘I’ve Gotta Horse’ (July 1965), during the filming of which he had a brief affair with co-star Amanda Barrie. But by decade’s end his worsening health, and the onset of yet more extreme Rock fashions, eclipsed him out of visibility. Plagued by chronic ill-health since an attack of childhood rheumatic fever had left him with weak heart valves, a situation complicated by tax problems inherited from his earlier career-mismanagement, he seemed as content to retreat into the semi-retirement of his farm in Wales and his passion for bird-watching, as he ever had been assuming the guise of ‘Billy Fury’ and being a star. Like the Who he’d never scored a no.1, but with a run of 281-weeks with some twenty charting titles, he didn’t really need one. And there were to be sporadic reappearances – a cameo in the ‘That’ll Be The Day’ (April 1973) movie in which – as ‘Stormy Tempest’, he virtually re-played his earlier self. Bringing it all a kind of full-circle. There was the first of a series of big-selling hits-compilations in 1983, followed by a sixty-three-track ‘40th Anniversary Anthology’ 2CD (Deram 844-874-2) set in 1998. What might have been more appropriate would have been a new album of his own songs? But whatever potential he’d once had as a songwriter, had long since passed. In memory, the Billy Fury story must be told in monochrome. He may have guested on the launch edition of the Mod extravaganza ‘Ready Steady Go’, but he performs the high drama of his hits, collar turned up, shoulders hunched inwards concentrating the energy, most perfectly against the elaborate sets of ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’, introduced by the precise enunciation of Brian Mathews. As such, he was seldom bettered.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Book Review of 'HOT DOG DAYS' by George Cairncross

Book Review of:
POEMS 1965-2005’
(Fiasco Publications, 31 Belle Vue Street, Filey,
North Yorkshire YO14 9HU, £3.50p)

Filey is a Pop Art sort of place. Dark skies. Relentlessly bright spiral-displays of postcards. Gaunt hotels. Warm fish ‘n’ chips. Where oldsters retire to. Where blue plastic buckets-&-spades sway suspended from shop awnings in salt North Sea breeze. And George Cairncross. A kind of Renè Magritte double-take in a Gents Outfitters-cum-Militaria, catering to day-tripper needs. His flat above exploding with pin-up collages, the tang of spirit-duplicator fluid, and poems punched out on a typewriter that perforates ‘o’s into neat round holes. His magazine ‘Bogg’ began irreverent, oft daft, always fun. Not quite how it wound up, guided by other hands, across the Atlantic. In the 1970’s it was a ‘Beano’ among poetry journals. Which is why it worked. Why it reaped contributors and held them with unique gravity. Each issue a party. A raucous disreputable gathering of mates and in-mates, yet ever-welcoming to anyone open to it. A Punk ethic before its time, a DIY everyone-can-do-it that nevertheless sucks in and nurtures fine poets. That’s quite something. George was ‘Bogg’. He was also much more. He splurged out absurdist samizdat novels circulated for the asking. Sure, he could be found between Corgi paperback covers (‘It’s World That Makes The Love Go Round’, 1968), and infiltrates the likes of ‘Gargoyle’ (USA), ‘Next Wave Poets’ and everywhere beyond too. But he’s always an unmistakeably distinctive voice. From page one in, from the first 1965 poem, it’s George Cairncross. Could be no-one else. An aspect more important for a poet than just about anything else. Sometimes you think Adrian Henri, or maybe Roger McGough in ‘the bedsprings sing like a thousand canaries on the mantelpiece disguised as sparrows’. Or maybe wider Mersey-wise references. The economical contractions of ‘silverswept streets’ or ‘smokedust’ sky, added to the Beat phrasing of ‘the mad, bad tumbledown streets of the dawntime city’. But no. Playful humour, wistfully accessible, yes. Words that work live. With punch-lines. But off into his own tangent. I remember these poems. They seem so simple. Yet work like precision ordnance. Try replicating it. You can’t. I know. I’ve tried, and failed. Few, if any, fail here. “I Have Declared War On The Government” is a repeating riff, each verse a Peter Blake assemblage populated by image-snatches from things you knew but never knew you knew. “One Of These Days” starts out hearing the sounds of revolution in the suburbs, and ends up mere short stabbing lines later, sitting in the park, half-fearful, half-exuberant, awaiting its detonation. Elsewhere the revolution is frittered away ‘somewhere between The Black Horse and The Stalwart Grenadier’, in pub-nights spent ‘arguing anarchism with a bunch of Marxists, and not really caring anyway’. But caring, despite it. His poems come furnished with fruit machines and MenMags. Bert Weedon and John Wayne. Jazz and the City Varieties. A flowered bra that swings on the bedrail, like a field of unplucked marigolds. A nightingale dropping acid in Berkeley Square. Simple is the hardest thing. Piling on complex densities of allusion and literary effects is easier. Strip it back to its conversational hub, it works better. He near-stumbles with the sixtiesish ‘flickering fogbeams of my mind’, but retrieves it with the jingle ‘superfine sunshine shines forever’. He sees Aphrodite in a sports car, and discovers she’s just a girl from Birmingham. His Lit-heroes Kelly & Sheets are, of course, a malapropically-reconfigured version of ‘Old-Time Romantics’ Shelley & Keats. Whatever happened to them? like an out-dated Music Hall double-act they’re lost where ‘stanzas are dying of blank verse’ and ‘empty words with vacant signs cannot hide in the mist’. By way of contrast, he sketches himself as the grubby frayed poet with nothing to give ‘but the rainbows in my pen’. Glancing to uncertain posterity he offers up a spoof-prayer to a god who some say is dead, but he says was never alive, a prayer to not forget your old mate George. Give him a fighting chance. Or at least a five-yard start to the pier-head. Yet the final poem finds him the last poet, survivor of the swinging sixties cast up in 2005, obsolete typewriter forgotten in the corner, under a layer of dust. Nothing left to say. There’s plenty said here.