I’m Hank Marvin


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The A Cappella Fella


I first saw the Flying Pickets at the Woolwich Tramshed in about 1982. They were supporting Lenny Henry and stole the show. Lenny did his funny voices and squawks, his Trevor McDonut skit, occasionally inviting the audience to shout “yeah!” at the top of their voices – you know, the same act as he does today. “The Pickets” went through their short card, performing every number with wit, charm and precision – Lenny’s act differed in just three ways.

A year or so later I met them in again in a photographic studio where they were being snapped for a spread in a newspaper, having made number 1 in the charts with “Only You”. Three things I remember very clearly: They all seemed very old indeed (probably in their late 30s), the lead singer was a rough-looking welshman, and they were all, to a man, very very charming indeed.  One of the more unlikely hits to come out of the post-punk confusion that was the early 80s and named after the National Union of Mineworkers (that’ll cheer you lot up) they had a couple of hit singles and a few albums and gathered a considerable following having introduced the country to a cappella – singing without the accompaniment of instruments (not to be confused with The Smiths who sang without the accompaniment of tune).

Well, the rough-looking Welsh lead singer died today. Brian Hibbard was 65 and had become a familiar face on tv , having made himself a very decent character actor. But I shall remember him as that rather scary looking bloke who, along with his weird-looking old mates, tramped into our studio one afternoon and got themselves photographed while singing “When You’re Young and in Love”.

Great sound. Nice blokes.

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.

US Education Policy


There are ways of forming and indeed selling your education policy, Michael Gove has his way: Tax the shit out of parents and their families, allow colleges to charge what they like for courses then force the legislation through parliament, aided and abetted by your toadies in the Liberal Democratic Party, running roughshod over the demonstrations, arguments and pleas from the vast majority of the public.

Or you could take a leaf from The President of the United States: Reduce the tax on student loans, then sell your strategy to the people like this :

Now I’ve never won an election for anything, but I reckon there are those out there  (oh, I dunno, Miliband, Cameron, Sarkozy) who might not be able to pull this off.

By the way, James Murdoch doesn’t recall seeing this.

Kaputt


It wasn’t 100 years ago today….

No this isn’t another sodding Titanic Special ( as this isn’t the BBC and there’s only so many commemorations/celebrations of a national tragedy which one can really stomach.)

No, it wasn’t 100 years ago on this very day,just nearly:  April 21st 1918 that Baron Manfred Von Richthofen – that’s The Red Baron to you – was shot down over Armiens during the first world war. There’s all sorts of controversy and mystery surrounding the exact details of his death, with many differing (you might say Anton Differing) accounts who actually fired the shots which brought The Baron down. But you could do worse than examine what the student’s friend, Wikipedia, has to say on the matter.

At the time, the Baron had been pursuing (at very low altitude) a Sopwith Camel piloted by a novice Canadian pilot, Lieutenant Wilfrid “Wop” May of No. 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force. In turn, the Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by a school friend (and flight commander) of May’s, Canadian Captain Arthur “Roy” Brown, who had to dive steeply at very high speed to intervene, and then had to climb steeply to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen turned to avoid this attack, and then resumed his pursuit of May…. [then after he crashed to the ground] eye witness, Sergeant Ted Smout of the Australian Medical Corps, reported that Richthofen’s last word was “kaputt

So one thing seems clear, the 1st World War was full of heroes, derring-do, inappropriate nicknames and racial stereotypes. The Kraut was shot down by The Wop and uttered that he was “Kaputt” just before he snuffed if after a wizard prang. If it had been reported he’d said “Gott in Himmel” it couldn’t have been more Corking! It’s like reading a copy of The Battle Picture Library.

As kids in the UK we were brought up on this stuff – mini comic books depicting our brave boys struggle against the nasty nazis. Of course it was all pretty much concerned with WWII as the lines of good vrs evil are slightly more blurred in the first world war than in the second. Us Brits were (and some of us still are) obsessed with the fight against the Nazis and the 1939-45 affair, knowing few details of, or caring far far less about the 1914-18 conflict (the great British hero and eccentric Col A.D.Wintle, of course thought there was only one war against Germany: 1914-1945 which included a 21 year pause in the middle “while the Germans regrouped”). The Nazis are a much easier target than Kaiser Bill’s army, and as the second war is so much closer in time, we’ve tended to concentrate on that, rather than The Red Baron & Co.

There are always exceptions, of course. There are times when the whys and wherefores, the whos and the whats get mixed up. But the important thing is that no-one goes overboard and try to ignite bad feeling and relive old fights. So imagine my surprise when I discovered this little gem by the American group The Royal Guardsman. I was familiar with the song, of course, but certainly not with this performance, complete with cartoon German accents, nazi saluting and goose-stepping. Forgive and forget, they say, but I know neither if The Red Baron back in 1918 was an exponent of the straight-arm salute or the funny walk, nor whether The Royal Guardsmen should be forgiven, or simply forgotten.

MovemberGrid

In Chambers, Balding Out, Bernie In.


Qualifying Session: Trouble with the fuel pump in the McLaren Pit

This’ll shock you: I’m not an expert on Bahrain Politics. Every morning for the past week the BBC has been reporting on the protests in the Bahrain capital of Manama ahead of this weekend’s F1 Grand Prix. The Beeb, who coincidentally last season lost it’s right to exclusively cover F1, has devoted extensive coverage (or as extensive a coverage as the Bahrain govt will allow) of the protests against the shocking human rights violations, and against the Formula 1 juggernaut staging a show at this time.

Amazingly, and what really amazed me, the Crown Prince of Bahrain thinks the race should go ahead. As does Bernie Ecclestone. The BBC actually bothered to broadcast that interview. Hold that front page. Bernie, sounding more and more like Porky Pig as he’s asked to justify racing during the start of a revolution may as well have said “Erbederbederbederbe th th th that’s all folks”. This race means a lot of cash for Bernie and F1 and he wasn’t about to start giving coherent answers to pertinent questions just to satisfy news outlets.

Mountains to climb: Bernie Ecclestone (bottom left hand corner)

Instead he went down the “never mix sport with politics” line. A line he conveniently forgot a few years ago when he was bunging Tony Blair a million quid. It’ll be tough for Bernie to regain and rebuild his reputation after this one (what am I saying ?? WHAT reputation ?) especially after the F1 road show moves on in the next few weeks to the Burmese, North Korean and the ever-popular 1930s Germany Grand Prix(s). [subs: please fill in here the plural of Prix]

True to form, the British Government have been Chocolate Teapotting this one. Not a word has come from Cameron or the Tory govt (I think we can forget the Con-Dems now, as they’re even lagging behind UKIP in the polls) about not traveling to Bahrain, or propping up an evil society (and how could they, indeed? ). So the Democracy movement in Manama is left to fend for itself. Protestors on the streets of the capital, petrol bombs thrown at tanks and armoured cars. I woke this morning to hear on the radio to reports of columns of tanks forming on the city streets, which at first I mis-heard as “the re-formation of Manama Armour ” Thanks god I was mistaken. No-one needs to hear their version of Venus again.

Manama Armour: Terrifying

It fills me with nostalgia seeing wave after wave of F1 drivers lined up in front of the cameras  to trot out lines such as “sport is the most important thing” (Felipe Massa) . Similar stuff was script-written for the rebel cricket tours of South Africa in the 1980s and 90s when the cream of English cricket disgustingly ignored the plight of black and coloured South Africans under the apartheid regime and took part in a series of matches which many saw as an endorsement of the racist system and administration. The players were exiled from the sport thereafter, but many (or even most) have been reinstated to some of the highest positions the game can offer. It’s not something the sport should be proud of.

"This has nothing to do with the huge wads of cash on offer". Mike Gatting, future English Head of Selectors David Graveney and John Embury before the 1990 Rebel Tour to Suth Africa.

I don’t expect for one minute they will down-tools and come out on the side of the trodden masses. I suspect the Bernie’s hierarchy (or lowerarchy in his case) has the morals and conscience of the Dwayne Chambers Fan Club. Chambers looks like he’s going to win his case against the British Olympic Committee‘s by-law ruling that the drug-taking sprinter should be barred from competing at the Stratford Sports Day this summer. He and the other cheat (that we know of), cyclist David Millar look likely to be allowed to race alongside others who took the rather naive route of hard work, good diet and hard training to achieve their goals. Well Done the Olympic Movement !! Do you have anything else up your sleeve which may make these games less attractive to watch ?

In completely unrelated news, Caster Semenya has qualified to represent South Africa by two balls to none (Duckworth-Lewis method).

Now the good news: Claire Balding is to leave the BBC, probably to go a work for the Channel 4 Racing team, where her anticipated teaming up with John McCririck seems likely to be the first X-Rated horse racing coverage on British TV. I’m having nightmares about it already. Balding will leave after the BBC (yes, I am having a go at them again) shed their responsibility of covering the Grand National and therefore just about their entire racing coverage. No great shakes, you might think. But for me it means La Balding won’t be popping her fat head and chin up during coverage of any of the remaining sport which the state broadcaster clings on to.

Balding (left) the new female to McCririck ?

Rapidly fashioning herself as a poor man’s Steve Ryder, Claire will now doubtless be employed to take the piss out the teeth of competitors at the Paralympics, which only Channel 4 have the rights to. Imagine ie: Balding, McCririck and Hopeless Deley. What a missed opportunity.

Finally, the cheering yet astounding news that Fabrice Muamba may play soccer again. In an interview to be published in tomorrow’s Sun on Sunday (let me know how it reads, will you ?)  describes how, even though they are baffled by what happened to him and his heart, doctors have not ruled out the possibility of the 24 year old Bolton FC footballer playing the game again. The popular midfielder “died” on the pitch for 78 minutes last month (please, no Charlton jokes here) yet the chances are he will play again. Truly amazing and inspiring.

My doctor told me this week that there’s no chance of playing cricket all the time I’m still taking Warfarin.  The chances of nicking myself and spurting blood all over my short and square legs is too much of a risk to take. So that rules out another season for me. He did, however reckon I’ll be able to play golf, “no problem at all”. Which will be a first for me.

Now back to Ted Kravitz in the Pit Lane.

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.