Time to Chuck in the Towel


It comes to all of us at the end. Whether it’s because the state tells you that you’re too old for employment, or when your body isn’t able to carry on – even when your mind thinks it can. Some of us are lucky enough to be in a job which allows us to choose the timing of our retirement. For most of us, the decision is out of our hands.

If you’re a journalist or even a photo editor, you can probably work until your eyes or your liver can take it no more. For some of us, the age of 46 is probably as good an age as any at which to retire; others will go on until they snuff it at their desks/the bar/toilet cubicle. Lots of us can’t wait to go, but there are those who wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if not go to work.

If you’re a high court judge you can go on and on until you’re deaf, frail and incontinent. Come to think of it I dunno why I don’t apply. Even politicians seem to go on for as long as they please, though if you stay on too long you risk become a figure of fun as did Michael Foot, Ted Kennedy, or Nicolas Sarkozy.

Boxers are often guilty of staying in the game past their sell-by date. Surrounded by spongers and yes-men, not enough are told not to fight again. Who’d ever tell Mike Tyson “don’t go into the ring again, Champ, or you’ll get a whopping” ? Not me, that’s for sure. Left with cowards and scroungers, Champ decides to have ‘one last fight’ and more often than not suffers the inevitable clobbering.

While we’re on sportsmen, there are those who have the foresight to plan ahead for that time when they no longer compete. Some become successful TV pundits:- John McEnroe, Richie Benaud, Gary Lineker or Michael Johnson spring to mind; Some become fvcking awful ones: Colin Montgomery, Michael Vaughan, Willie Carson. Then there are some who are so desperate to become TV stars they’ll appear on anything, anywhere to further their career: Tessa Sanderson, Matthew Pinsent, Kriss Akabusi but fail even to become children’s entertainers.

Some leave sport altogether and are quite happy to work in the real world, like one of my boyhood heroes, cricketer (and Ashes winner) Chris Old who works in Sainsbury’s supermarket. Not very glamorous but he’s happy.

For some, of course, the end doesn’t come when you want it to. One day, you’re part of office life, getting the tea for everyone and chipping into the Derby sweepstake, the next minute the guvnor calls you in and tells you that the Bell has Tolled for you. Yer outta here. You are surplus to requirements and you are to be replaced with a younger, sleeker (cheaper) version. It’s a horrible and humiliating way to go. And many can’t take it.

Rio Ferdinand is convinced he has still got what it takes to be an international footballer. His boss, or rather, his former boss, or rather the new bloke in the office who doesn’t want to be Rio’s boss disagrees. The new England manager didn’t pick Ferdinand for his squad to compete [sic] in the upcoming European Championship (singular: There is only one Championship being competed for and therefore is spelled Championship. Not Championships. Ok?)

I digress again.

So not only wasn’t he picked for the original squad, but when the bloke who’d replaced him in the team dropped out through injury Rio wasn’t picked then either. In fact it’s probably safe to say that if all 18 original players dropped out, having succumbed to a virulent strain of Green Monkeys Disease, Rio still wouldn’t get selected. He is not wanted. His time has come.

Rio is fuming, He thinks he should play. His agent thinks he should play (shock) and has told the world’s media (well, T’BBCSalford who are the only ones listening) that it’s a disgrace that his man has not been selected. At 34 years of age, Ferdinand knows this will be the last ChampionshiP he had a chance to be selected for. Whether it’s the pulling on of the England shirt again , running out onto the big stage for one last time, or falling asleep half way though the either half (it’d become his party trick), Rio wanted one last chance to show the world what he could do. Sadly, it was never to be.

A combination of his regular attacks of narcolepsy during corner kicks, and the fact that his playing partner is on a charge of racially abusing Rio’s brother means that manager Roy Hodgson was never gonna select both. When a sleepy black bloke is up against a violent, racist, white bloke it seems that whitey will win the day. Thank Allah that John Terry’s court case has been delayed until after the tournament, eh ? What a stroke of luck.

Whatever the reasons behind it, Rio has just got to get on with his young life, and find a new direction in which to channel his…er…talents. Cricketer and legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar has been sworn into the Indian Parliament, making him the first to enter parliament while still playing. Sachin is a humble, personable, brilliant sportsman, regarded as a God in his own country. Rio differs from Tendulkar in just four ways. Though all is not lost for Ferdinand in that respect. If the British Labour party can have Oona King, Diane Abbott and Paul Boateng as MPs, Rio may yet be able to find himself as the least self-serving and most appealing black representative the party has had for many a year.

So having said all that, who was it who couldn’t find it in themselves to gather Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney, Grace Jones and Shirley Bassey together and say “I’m sorry guys, but you can’t sing any more”? One suspects it should have been to Gary Barlow, but you can’t blame him for crumbling in the face of legends. I speak of, of course, of last night’s Jubilee bash. Possibly one of the most diverse concerts I have ever witnessed, both in content and quality. To hear Alfie Moon (no, neither had I before) and Willi.i.am (ditto) knock out a decent tune, only for the joyous atmosphere to be punctuated by the excruciating wailing of these four (and I’m being very kind to Elton John) aged, has-beens. 12 hours later, my toes have only just started uncurling after McCartney’s performance. One presumes he got the gig purely because Lennon and Harrison are dead, but that is surely no excuse for what he gave us last night. He sounded better at Live Aid – and his microphones failed on that occasion.

If Ringo isn’t busy flashing ‘V’ signs, perhaps he could climb off Barbara for a second and tell his old mate that enough is enough. Obviously the irony of Ringo criticising someone else’s musical talent won’t be lost, even on the purple-haired former unidexter-shagger, but someone’s gotta do it.

As for Cliff, Grace and Shirley: Surely they’re talented enough to realise how bad they have become ? Surely, Shirley. It was woeful. You have all been decent at what you do, but now you’re not. Honest. Cliff sounded like me, pissed in a bar on a mic at about 11.30, dancing on the bar and singing Old Shep. Shirley looked and sounded like me. And the hoola-hooping Grace Jones needs sectioning.

And finally, please don’t think this is age-based criticism. It’s talent-based. You had it once, now you haven’t. Simples. You only have to think back to Englebert last week. THAT’S how bad you lot were last night. Everyone’s different, with different bodies and talents. Tom Jones is very old (he knew Elvis, in case he hasn’t mentioned it) but he can still belt out a number like he could 40 years ago. He even remembered his Welsh accent, which some will find nice. So I’m afraid McCartney has got to be told that it’s all over. Although he might try to make the England squad. He’s got a better chance than Rio.

Everybody talk about Pop Muzik


I’ve always had an odd taste in music. I was pretty much ‘down wiv da kids’ all the way up until the early 80s, but then The Jam broke up, punk was long gone, and the ska and reggae revivals had pretty much had their day. So I started going back in time to discover sounds new to my ears, but old hat to everyone else.

I can probably trace this first spark of curiosity to when I first saw the John Landis movie The Blues Brothers. I was captivated by the music of all these people I’d vaguely heard of but never actually heard nor seen: “Ah, so that’s what James Brown looks like ? He’s the man !” ” Jesus – I now see what all the fuss about Aretha Franklin‘s all about.” “Do love that John Lee Hooker. What a cool dude.” ” WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT ????  “Oh- that’s a Cab Calloway. Wonderful stuff.”

It was but a few short steps from hearing that stuff for the first time to discovering Buddy Holly, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley (and any other old popular acts which will boost me up the Google rankings).

I was in my element and I loved it. For the next 20-odd years all I ever did was listen to old stuff (ok, ok, of course I kept tabs on Status Quo and Chas n Dave, but a man’s gotta keep up with the times, ain’t he ?). I was experimenting with music in the way young kids in the 60s dabbled in The Doors, The Rolling Stones and hallucinogenic drugs. It was the same music for me, just 15 years later and with tea & peanut M&Ms.

In the early 21st century I left my shaded safe haven of Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell albums, into bright new world of singer-songwriters like Nora Jones, William Elliott Whitmore, Diana Krall, Jack Johnson and the like. You know, the singers that sound exactly like  Joplin, Dylan, Cash and Mitchell. At least I was consistent. Like a Japanese soldier, I emerged into the light, not asking “Is the war over yet?” more like “has Kurt Cobain stopped wailing shite yet?”.

And as luck would have it, he had.

In this way I (thankfully) missed New Romantics, Rap, Housey Housey, Hiphop, Britpop or anything else masquerading as entertainment.  When most were listening to the Gallagher Brothers, I was more than likely listening to the Everly Brothers or even the Doobies. When the naive easily-led young fools of the world were discovering The Smiths, I was genning up on The Temptations. I didn’t think anything could be as abhorrent or sounds as bad as Soft Cell or Morrissey – until I accidentally overheard Oasis and Eminem.

So (and this is where we get to the bit where I disclose why I’ve been wasting your time with all this self-opinionated rubbish) it was with some surprise that I stumbled across this (by way of a Viz magazine tweet) today and found myself wondering: why the hell haven seen this before ? I have never listened to Depeche Mode back-to-back before, but I sure had at least one second-take at this one. If I’d had known back in 1982 that this existed I’m sure I would have hit paue on my tape deck on which Songs for Swinging Lovers was playing (or was that 12 Gold Bars ?)

So in case you missed it (and, as I say, I could have saved us all a lot of time) I give you: Deepche Mode. Performing (miming to) See You.   Holding chickens.

I dunno what the hell they were thinking, but from being a song I couldn’t stand to hear, this video is now strangely alluring.    Chickens.

Handlebar’s Water Music


(The story so far: Mike has had a stroke at the tender age of 48, and many tests ensue)

I’d had enough of this falling over shit. My Doctor had had enough of me moaning about this “I’m dizzy” bollocks. It was time for my MRI scan. What was going on up there in that alleged brain of mine ? Why did my head keep exploding, which resulted in me sitting on my arse, blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.

I washed and shaved early, trying out the Honda handlebar moustache for the for the first time. Shoehorned my ample frame into one of the few pair of trousers which I both own and still fit me. Thank Allah that my appointment came when it did – any later and they may have had to grease me up to slide me into that scanner.

The literature which the hospital had sent along with the appointment told me to leave all metal bits n pieces behind. Phones, watches, keys, belt buckles (haven’t needed one of those for a while) plates in my head and piercings in my nipples, none of these would be allowed within a UNISON picket line of the MRI scanner.

When the day came, we (I was ably accompanied by The Incumbent) arrived at the hospital, took advantage of the Costa Coffee in the foyer, then headed off for the MRI dept. We entered, gave my name and, virtually free of metallic objects, sat in the waiting room. The silence was broken after just a few minutes.

“Mr Bealing?”
“Er…yes, here” I even put my hand up like a boy at the back of the class.
The nurse looked me up and down. “Those trousers got a metal button?”
“Er, yes. yes I think they have” I replied (well after all, I had paid over fifteen quid for them at Sainsbury’s. No rubbish here, mate).
“Well they’ll have to come off. You can’t wear them in the scanner. Come with me you can change in there [points to room up the corridor], then you can come back, give your trousers to your wife (sic) and wait to be called.”

I went white. A cold sweat came over me. Although I was still able, unaided, to have put my Sainsbury’s trousers on, wearing underpants underneath them had become a bit of a luxury. My burgeoning waistline and arseline leave no room for boxer shorts. Jockeys or Y-fronts are a distant memory and so I had arrived at my local hospital a la Commando. Sans trolleys. Born Free. Without knickers.

The thought of the nurse handing me a gown to get into and me having to walk back to the waiting room with my bare arse hanging out for my fellow patients’ entertainment and enjoyment filled me with fear and dread. I shared my fears with The Incumbent who nearly imploded with laughter. I wasn’t laughing.

I followed the nurse to the changing room and was relieved to see a pair of sky blue cotton drawstring trousers hanging there. They were huge, fortunately, and I managed to slide into them. Indeed so big were they that the drawstring didn’t pull tight enough to hold them up. I had to clench wads of material with one hand, and keep my thighs and buttocks together to ensure they stayed up at a decent level, sparing my blushes.

I rolled up my own, now discarded strides under my arm and left the room to return to the missus in the waiting area. On the way I noticed a handily-placed WC and thought this would be a good opportunity to get rid of the tepid Primo Latte which Costa had provided me with earlier. I was due to be in the scanner for 90 minutes and I didn’t want to be caught short while I was in there. In my half-clenched, bent-over state I shuffled my way over to have a pee, carefully ensuring my arse didn’t take a peek out the back of my slacks.

There is a type of cotton (cheap chinos are made of it) which, no matter how hard, how vigorous or how many times you shake your willy after urinating, will soak up every little speck, each and every drop of pee it can and show the evidence of this so-called “willy drip” to one and all in the form of a huge dark patch around your goolie region.

I have to tell you now that these hospital trousers were made of this very same material. And I wasn’t wearing pants.

There is nothing one can do about it. 2 tiny drips had hit the cotton and were now joined together and were spreading, leaving a dark blue patch the size of a CD in the general area of my penis. Can you imagine how mortified I was ? I left the loo. Picture the scene of me, hunched up, buttocks and knees together, one hand holding the flystring of my newly-acquired blue leg ware, the other holding a perfectly good pair of Sainsburys drills in front of a big blotch of wee. With my new face fuzz I must have looked like a balding, fat Fu Manchu with a bladder complaint. Oh happy days.

As luck would have it, I was called in to be scanned way before the patch dried. I had to pass my old trousers to the still-giggling Incumbent and resorted to hiding my moist nether regions with the front tails of my shirt. I entered the scanning room.

The nurse greeted me and said the scan would be in three stages.
“And Once in Evening Dress ?” I offered, trying to be witty. And titter came there none.
“No. Head, neck and then blood flow” she informed me sternly.
“Oh, ok then”.

She then explained that I’d be in the scanner for well over an hour and it’s a really boring experience, when you “must MUST” keep your neck and head still throughout. She went on that also, as brilliant as this technology is, it’s really very noisy as the scan goes through its phases, so she popped a pair of headphones on me which act as both ear mufflers and through which they would talk to me and play music throughout the procedure- to give me something to take my mind off it.
“Is there any music you don’t want us to play ?” she asked.
“Rap or anything by Morrissey” I replied, quick as a flash (it’s a knee-jerk reaction).
A blank look came across her face. “I don’t think we’ve got anything like that anyway” she said. “What about anything you’d really like to hear?” she asked.

Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks or Old Shep by Elvis” I quipped. But by the stoney look I received, my joke had, again, fallen on deaf ears. “Classical will do” I told her. Christ, she was a tough crowd.

I climbed onto the machine bed, and lay back onto the head rest. She brought down a plastic grid over my face, and put wedges either side to prevent movement. I knew how Hannibal Lecter felt at that airport. As the bench slid half way into the machine, I lay head and shoulders inside, torso and legs al fresco. I half expected to hear John Mills or Hardy Kruger to shout “Fire One” and I’d shoot off out of the scanner, in the general direction of Orpington.

Nursey explained she needed to inject me with some chemical or other (thankfully my words not hers) in order to track my blood flow. As I lay there, wedged into in my cage I felt her pull a tourniquet around my bicep, then grab my hand in readiness for the injection.

It then dawned on me, as a chirpy Strauss waltz drifted across the airwaves, that if she was leaning down to spot a nice bulging vein in the back of my hand, her head would be a matter of inches away from my urine-soaked winkle.

“Now you might feel a little prick” she announced.

Did I ever.

We’re Putting the Band Back Together


Some Bands Should Never Reform

Do you remember Madstock ? Were you there in Finsbury Park in 1992 when those Nutty Boys took north London by storm with their reunion concert? I was. Bloody marvellous it was too. Madness were supported by Ian Dury who went through the card with hit after hit after hit. The crowd went mad, and I had a little drinky in celebration of my luck.

Morissey, who was also on the card, nearly went through the back of the stage as the Madness fans at the front booed him off, aided and abetted by (mainly) plastic pint pots of lager which they threw at the singer before he made a tactical retreat and exited stage left. I could never work out why anyone would put Madness and Morrissey on the same bill. Perhaps the Smith mistook the skinheads who followed the Magnificent Seven to hold the same long-alleged racist views as he ? I suspect it took him about four seconds to realise draping yourself in the Union flag, and using neo-fascist imagary as a backdrop probably wasn’t the way to endear him to this crowd. He was lucky to get out alive. And we were lucky the set was cut short.

(Morrissey, in his defence, would say he was as racist as the next man. Especially if the next man was Eric Clapton.)

However, when Suggs and co finally took to the stage this drunken, sun-blushed crowd really went beserk. I’d like to report that the band had lost nothing of their lustre, their fun and their sharpness. The fact that I can’t is due to the fact I could here nothing whatsoever over the screaming of the fans around me. I’ve never been in a crowd which exploded in quite such a magnificent, if violent manner, as this news item from the time tells us:

According to the UK’s Health Protection Agency: “One of the most bizarre investigations conducted by British Geological Survey using its seismic network, was in connection with an earthquake reported to be felt strongly in North London in August 1992 when three blocks of flats (8-9-storeys) were evacuated following minor damage that included cracked windows and a cracked balcony. Our seismic network showed that there had not been an earthquake or an explosion, and we were able to deduce that the cause was resonance set up by dancers at a Madness rock concert in nearby Finsbury Park.

There’s something about reunion concerts. Led Zepplin‘s 2007 reunion bash was hailed as something akin to the Second Coming (though not in my house). When The Eagles took to the stage once more in 1994, they sold out huge venues all over the world (that tour is still going on I think). Elvis’s 1968 Comeback Special is rightly lauded as something of a TV milestone. A studio filled with transfixed teenagers, squeal with delight as The King sweats his way through set after set, with big dance numbers, a fantastic unplugged session, and a hit list to die for.

Francis Albert Sinatra, of course, liked a comeback or two.

However, not all comebacks are eagerly awaited, or even successful, come to that. I have reported on these pages (see Because William Shatner) that bands such as Duran Duran who want to relive their youth really should gen up on the words to their hits before going on the road again.

Every few months or so you see a news item that such-and-such are reforming. There are perennial rumours that The Jam are getting back together, and I hear a terrifying account that Mick Hucknall is to lead a re-constituted Faces, Ronnie Wood-and-all.

But among all these rumours and speculation, one piece of news is sure to warm the cockles of any true music fan. After what seems like months out of the picture, Chas and Dave are reforming! Yes, I know, great isn’t it? Anyone who witnessed C&D’s gig at The Blackheath Halls 18 months ago will know that it was like watching Jean Michel Jarre in a vest, such was its enormity. If songsters such as Bono and Jagger only took the time in between numbers to discuss with the audience the growing of beetroot and radishes in their allotment then perhaps their careers may well take off.

March next year sees the comeback gig at the O2, (ok Indigo at the O2), and I for one will be there (I’ll be the fat bloke standing next to Howard). People of south east London are advised to keep their animals indoors, give granny her pills and nail down any breakables: There’s an earthquake a-coming.

Crowd Trouble


I was always a big fan of Ann Margret. Who wasn’t ? Many long, happy hours growing up were spent admiring her undoubted talents in movies like The Cincinnati Kid, Viva Las Vegas and Carnal Knowledge. I once had on a loop the scene from Tommy when she swims around in baked beans. Movie magic. This woman had everything: she was beautiful, fit as a butcher’s dog, had the stars of Hollywood and Rock n Roll drooling after her, and was the pin-up of boys and men the world over.

But I wonder, when she was jumping up and down with (and on) Elvis Presley, sipping champers at the top table, or removing Heinz 57 from her navel, if this Swedish sex-kitten ever dreamt she would end up performing on stage with dreadful jock-popsters The Bay City Rollers. Her career was clearly on the slide and she must have thought things couldn’t have gotten any worse.

Then she saw the audience.

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The Man Who Fell to Earth


Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage
Is a man I can’t but help disparage
He’s the leading Nazi,
For the UK Independence Party

Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage
“Send the Polish back through Dover and Harwich”
That’s his manifesto
Deporting Nige would be the best, though.

Try, try, try assassinate him
(Him and Nick Griffin)
Shoot down planes and lacerate him,
Dead: No-one would miss him

Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage
Don’t believe in gay or lesbian marriage
Flew in a two-seater
To try to be a Labour-beater

Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage,
Got embedded in his undercarriage
Crashed, the Eurosceptic,
And lets just hope his wounds go septic

 

cameronradvert

Why, why, why can’t we deport him?
Him we should banish
Strip, bind, gag and just export him
And hand him over to Spanish

Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage
It’s quite obvious that he’s a cabbage
UKIP’s vote got littler
Now fuck off, Nige, you pseudo-Hitler.

Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage
Is a man we really should disparage
He really is quite nasty
Fuck the UK Independence Party

pic by
http://idontwanttoberude.com/
http://www.kosmopolito.org/

Words © The Sharp Single, with apologies to Sammy Cahn, (but none at all to N.Farage)

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