Saturday, April 10, 2010

Waveney campaign blog gets underway

Righty-ho, I've started that blog about my NOTA Protest Vote Party campaign here in sunny Waveney.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Book review: 65 - My Life So Far by Jonathan King

Having failed to get a review published in any of the periodicals to which I contribute, here's my honest appraisal of 65 - My Life So Far, the autobiography of music mogul and self-styled vile pervert Jonathan King.


Show business autobiographies are usually more telling in what they omit rather than what they include. One major personality signed a friend's copy of his memoirs with “Try and believe at least some of it”. Very few who tell their life story in a book, ghosted or otherwise, present a balanced and fair picture of the subject, perhaps unsurprising in a business fuelled by ego. Bob Monkhouse's excellent Crying With Laughter is one of the very rare exceptions.

As, oddly, is 65: My Life So Far by Jonathan King, the pop world's equivalent of a disgraced bishop. King is a pariah. His records (and those of Gary Glitter) are noticeably absent from the airwaves, while those of convicted murderer Phil Spector are not. Meanwhile there's an unspoken ban on him appearing on television or radio.

So, he says, he has nothing to lose by telling the truth. However, truth is problematic, as any historian knows. An individual will remember an event one way, another individual will remember it another way. Neither version is contradictory, but there is conflict. So when King says we're getting the truth, what we're getting is King's truth. However, when read with this caveat in mind, there's a lot of value in 65 My Life So Far.

King is excellent when talking about other people and events that he witnessed as a pop personality, which account for 430-odd pages of the 583 on offer (It could be cut by about a third without losing much, and, at this length, the absence of an index is almost a criminal act in itself). Propelled into the charts while still a Cambridge undergraduate, he soon transferred to the business side of music and was on the inside track from the 1960s to the 1990s, ultimately running the Brit awards and the Eurovision Song Contest. It's tempting to assume at times that he's building up his part (he invented this, established that, saved the other from disaster, etc), but the cuttings support his claims. Moreover, he avoided drink and drugs, so his memory of it is unfogged.

He adds credence to the rumours about John Lennon's alleged bisexuality, but that's far less interesting than the stories of wheeling and dealing to get hits made and into the charts. It's also good to read more about Decca chairman Sir Edward Lewis, one of the most fascinating if underwritten figures of the music industry, who regarded King almost as an adopted son.

Perhaps the most telling story in this part of 65: My Life So Far is King's recollection of watching the Apollo 11 moonshot on TV. While others marvelled at the scientific achievement, King's main concern was, rather egotistically, with the copy of his song Everyone's Gone to the Moon that had, through various connections, been placed on the rocket. As Neil Armstrong said “A giant step for mankind”, King was to be found shouting “Enough of these platitudes for God's sake. Play my fucking record!” at the screen.

The last 150 pages deal with King's life since his arrest in 2000. The trial is covered in depth, with some details that contemporary press reports omitted to mention. One of his accusers claimed that he had been 15 when King made an advance on him, pinpointing it at the time of a particular record of King's. King denied ever meeting the lad, but also proved that the record in question had been made 4 years later, when the accuser was 19. Even if a reader isn't persuaded by King's protestations of innocence, as he hopes they might be, there's enough here to bring into question the ethics of those who brought King to book. The apparent pincer movement of police and media, with Max Clifford looming large; and the willingness to move minor details like dates around worked against him, he suggests. It may be that a trial free of these influences would have reached the same conclusions, but nobody will ever have the chance to know.

The relative values at work in the King case are interesting. King is an outcast, while Bill Wyman – who had a well-documented sexual relationship with an underage girl – is welcomed as a guest on The One Show. Is it because Wyman was a Rolling Stone, the epitome of supposed bad boy rock and roll hedonist cool, while King was a naff pop troubadour? Maybe his worst offences were merely those of making daft records and looking a bit too pleased with himself for a bit too long.


With the campaign fund getting to a point where my candidature will be a reality, there's something I feel I should confess, lest any of my opponents get wind of it and try to make political capital out of it. I have a criminal record. One evening in January this year, waiting on the platform at Liverpool Street station for the 9pm train back to the east coast after an all-day consultation with various friends and associates in various central London licensed premises, I was apprehended as drunk and disorderly.

Drunk I most certainly was. The first pint had been despatched by 11.45am, and I had left the last pub at 7.30pm to ensure I caught my last train home. For fear of being thought to boast about my capacity and to avoid any trouble from the anti-binge-drinking lobby, I won't reveal my conservative estimate of how much of my body mass was composed of the products of Messrs Greene King, Timothy Taylor and Fuller, Smith and Turner. However, "lapping against the back teeth" would not be far off the mark.

Disorderly? I was fully aware of how plastered I was, and so, on arrival at Liverpool Street around 8pm (my Oyster card usage shows me to have passed through Holborn tube at 7.51pm), I decided to head straight for the platform that I, as a railway bore, knew my train would leave from, and wait there, keeping well out of everybody's way. I sat on some ducting at the far end of the platform and rummaged in my bag for something to attempt to read.

At 8.05pm, I found myself surrounded by three British Transport Police officers in stab-proof vests, telling me to leave the station, as I was not fit to travel. In a sober frame of mind, I would have found this utterly illogical and baffling, but I would have had the wherewithal to challenge the assertion. Think about it. I'm not fit to travel, but I'm fit to wander around the streets of the city of London. Were they just trying to get rid of me so I'd be some other bugger's problem? In any case, leaving the station was my fervent wish, but only on the 9pm train, upon which I was planning to fall asleep and wake at my terminus station with a thumping headache and a vague worry that I'd made a tit of myself. Unfortunately, I was not in a sober frame of mind, so I told them to leave me alone. They didn't. So then, as I recall it, they tried to manhandle me out of position, a manoeuvre that involved twisting my right arm up my back. In the words of Gerard Hoffnung's bricklayer, it was at this point that I lost my presence of mind. Due to unfortunate occurrences last year, my right arm does not respond well to being forced anywhere. I turned the air blue, and found myself face first on the floor, handcuffed and being told I was being arrested. At this point, I burst out laughing. "What's so funny, sir?" asked the chief plod. "This," I replied, "It's hilarious. It's special". From then on, I became unbearable, taunting them from my prone position, asking if they'd joined the BTP because they couldn't get into the proper police. I was carried over the road to Bishopsgate police station. As we passed the front door, I asked if they were planning to take me up the tradesmen's entrance. Once inside, I asked if they could add numerous other heinous offences to the charge sheet just for fun.

From there, it was off with the tie, shoes, etc and into an overheated cell. All this was achieved by 9pm. Shamefully, it took them until after 1am and a shedload of me being tiresome through the grille before they rang my wife and assured her that I wasn't dead in a ditch somewhere. As I said on the last time I reminded them that they had to do this one thing, making me suffer was fair game, but making a blameless woman have a sleepless night was not. In the morning, I was released and told to report to Horseferry Road Magistrates Court the following week at 10am. I paid through the nose for a walk-up ticket to Lowestoft, my ticket for the previous night having been a pre-booked cheapo.

I spent the next week fretting about fine tariffs and the like, and, at the advice of a friend who has recently qualified as a lawyer (who, amusingly enough, had been drinking with me for much of the day in question), working up a statement of mitigation and completing my means form. I'm eternally indebted to Queen Margot & Let's Look Sideways for putting me up the night before I was due in front of the beak. The BTP and the CPS cocked up and nearly failed to have my case papers at the court in time. Had I not asked to see the charge sheet before going in to plead (I was going to plead guilty all along, but I wanted to know exactly what I was being asked to own up to) there's every chance the papers wouldn't have arrived and I'd have walked. The relevant documents were faxed over hurriedly ("Fax it up?" "Well, it doesn't help, your worship") and I was called in after a few hours of waiting around. The magistrate thought I should have been offered a caution, and said that he'd refer it up if I was willing to wait. As I had research work to do that afternoon and I didn't have any desire to dally in the court any longer than I had to, I said that I'd rather just get on with it. He looked at my means form. It's been a lean year, and I'd brought the bank statements to prove it. Sentence was passed. £100 fine plus £15 'victim surcharge' (why don't they just call it a £115 fine?) plus £50 costs. The night in the cells wiped out the £115, leaving me to pay just the £50. I paid up and went to the pub next door for a pint of Shepherd Neame Masterbrew and some lunch. Never has a session bitter tasted sweeter. When I rang my mum to tell her the result, she asked "Where are you now?". When I replied "In the pub next door", it was as though I'd confessed to every unsolved murder in the book. "Go straight home now," she ordered in a quivering voice. As I was booked on another 9pm cheap ticket, and I had interviews to do between now and then, I said that I couldn't, and that I was merely having something to eat and a very weak beer to wash it down. I didn't think this was the moment to remind her that until an hour before I had been the only member of our family who hadn't so much as a parking ticket to their name.

This is the bit that interests me most. The magistrate thought that it was potentially an offence warranting nothing more than a caution. Failing that, an £80 on-the-spot penalty might have been appropriate. So why did the BTP take it to court? Could it be that I was well-dressed and that, with fines being pegged to earnings, they thought I'd be good for more than £80? They don't benefit directly, but a larger fine would surely count for something in the mass of meaningless performance statistics that measure the effectiveness of our law enforcers? How were they to know that I'm a cash-strapped freelance who nonetheless has at least one nice suit?

You've had my side. Here, for reference, is the official version. I've obscured the name of the arresting officer to save him the embarrassment of being exposed as someone who can't spell the word 'twat', so let's call him PC Charles Penrose.

"JUST GET THE FUCK" should obviously read "JUST GET TO FUCK". Other minor details omitted by PC Penrose include what I shouted as they carried me up the stairs from the station onto Bishopsgate, which was "PUT ME DOWN, I CAN WALK, YOU FUCKERS". There's also the small matter of me being identified as "a male...who has been on the platform for some considerable time drinking alcohol". Firstly, I'd been on the platform no more than 5 minutes when PC Penrose and chums rolled up (My Oyster card proves this beyond doubt). Secondly, I had not been drinking alcohol at any point since arriving at the station. Thirdly, nobody from National Express approached me at any point. And if we're really quibbling, the suit was black pinstripe not grey, and I am really, truly not of slim build. PC Penrose - You carried me. You know how heavy I am.

So, people of Waveney, your protest candidate on 6 May is a drunken criminal. Judge me on my record.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Tanned, fit, rested & ready: Barfe for Waveney 2010

Well, it's looking like a goer. In only a few short hours, friends on Facebook, Twitter and Cook'd and Bomb'd have pledged donations to my election deposit fund to the tune of £344.22. With another donor pledging the final £100 when we reach £400, my candidature as the Protest Vote Party's man in Waveney for the 2010 General Election seems assured. Policy fans will notice a change of party name. This is because a law was passed in 2005, banning the use of the phrase "None of the Above" anywhere on a ballot paper. So, we (party leader Russ Swan and I, plus any other candidates who join the happy coalition before 4pm on Tuesday 20 April) are now the PVP. We will be offering a sane, rational alternative for anyone disillusioned with the big two and the slightly smaller third one. We like foreigners, we like democracy, we like representatives who represent, we don't like corruption and we don't like the clueless legislating on the complex. I will, in due course, be setting up a separate campaign blog.

Digital Economy Bill = Tesco Value politics

So, one of the most controversial and problematic pieces of legislation of the last 20 years was shunted through Parliament in 2 hours last night, without proper scrutiny and leaving 47 good parliamentarians with the distinct feeling they'd been shafted. History will be kind to you. Even David Amess. The 189 who voted in favour of the Digital Economy Bill (see below for who voted and how) might find that their decision will bite them on the arse come 6 May. I'm going to give my own MP a copy of Where Have All The Good Times Gone? with an inscription explaining that it will tell him why the record industry can't be trusted or believed, and expressing a fervent wish that he will soon have plenty of reading time to take it all in.

The site-blocking clause is particularly dangerous. It gives the Government power to block any site that contains inconvenient opinions on the basis that it also contains infringing material. If no-one in the UK can see the site, how can they tell if the Government's telling the truth or not? Also, one man's infringement is another man's fair use. As a result, Digital Britain isn't much better than Digital China.

If there's any consolation from this it's that this misguided law will be subject to another law, that of unintended consequences. The Digital Economy Bill was pushed through by people with no technical knowledge or ability whatsoever. Putting the case for the gubmint, Stephen Timms responded to a question about IP addresses in a way that made quite clear that he did not know what they were. The technical know-how is overwhelmingly on the side of those who opposed this bill. They can and, I suspect, will work out ways to make this law unworkable and unenforceable. They will prove this law to be an ass. I have the feeling that, before too long, the record companies and the politicians involved will wish they'd never bothered with the Digital Economy Bill.

Meanwhile, there could well be an alternative to the paper spoiling I outlined the other day. Fellow hack Russ Swan is getting together a coalition of protest candidates under the None of the Above Party banner. If I can scrape together the £500 for the deposit, I'm happy to be his man in Waveney. Pledges of financial support gratefully received. No donations yet, just an indication of willingness and amount.


Afriyie, Adam
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Bain, Mr. William
Baird, Vera
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Bradshaw, rh Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Creagh, Mary
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Doran, Mr. Frank
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, rh Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, rh Paul
Goodman, Helen
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Havard, Mr. Dai
Hayes, Mr. John
Healey, rh John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hosie, Stewart
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khan, rh Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mann, John
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonnell, John
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Morden, Jessica
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, rh Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Pearson, Ian
Pope, Mr. Greg
Prentice, Bridget
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Robertson, John
Ruddock, Joan
Salter, Martin
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, rh Angela E. (Basildon)
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin

Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Ussher, Kitty
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:
Lyn Brown and
Kerry McCarthy


Abbott, Ms Diane
Amess, Mr. David
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Breed, Mr. Colin
Burgon, Colin
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Cash, Mr. William
Challen, Colin
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Corbyn, Jeremy
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davis, rh Mr. David
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Drew, Mr. David
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Featherstone, Lynne
Foster, Mr. Don
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Grogan, Mr. John
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harris, Dr. Evan
Hoey, Kate
Howarth, David
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hughes, Simon
Jones, Lynne
Joyce, Eric
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Lazarowicz, Mark
Love, Mr. Andrew
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Öpik, Lembit
Paisley, rh Rev. Ian
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Price, Adam
Reed, Mr. Andy
Russell, Bob
Simpson, Alan
Thurso, John
Todd, Mr. Mark
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Watson, Mr. Tom

Tellers for the Noes:
John Hemming and
Mr. John Leech

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sammy at the BBC

After a bit of digging, I've found that the 'Maria' clip comes from Meet Sammy Davis Jr part 2, which was made the year after the show that BBC4's repeating tonight. So, here, from The A-Z of LE, transmitted as part of Lime Grove Day in 1991, is the clip in question. The bongo player is Juan Mendoza, and on first viewing, I thought that the shot had been achieved using overlay or inlay techniques, but the shadow cast on Sammy's arm at 0:50 clinches it. Mendoza is physically sitting in front of the camera, which is mounted on a camera crane being moved backwards and forwards. I'd love to know who the senior cameraman on this was. Someone like ELS904 will have a shrewd idea.


So, 6 May it is. Which way will you be voting? For the first time in my life, I am, very seriously, considering spoiling my paper. There's just nothing on offer for me. The party of which I was once a member has spent the last 13 years reducing freedom and privacy, as well as raping the economy. The Conservatives would shit on everybody who hasn't been shat on by Labour, and I can't abide the thought of the least worthy Tory leader of the last 15 years being in the right place at the right time to become PM. I think I'd rather countenance Iain Duncan-Smith running the country than David Cameron. Yes, that bad.

What about the Liberal Democrats? My constituency is a two-horse race and, with the best will in the world, they aren't going to make up the ground they'd need. If it were closer, they'd have my cross, just to revive that February 1974 vibe. As for the rest, they can all fuck right off. UKIP are headcases - we should be sunk to the nuts in Europe, not waiting around for the USA's sloppy seconds. BNP? No thanks. Despite being blond and white, I quite like people who aren't.

I can't allow myself not to show up at the ballot box. I might be powerfully disillusioned, but I still hold to the view that this shit is important. I couldn't enjoy the TV coverage (as I always do) if I hadn't made some effort to be a part of the democratic process. Back in the students' union election days, there was always a candidate called RON. This stood for 're-open nominations'. If I were to spoil my paper (almost certainly by writing "They're all shite" across it in purple fountain pen) on 6 May, it would be a de facto vote for RON. If you're thinking of not voting, go along and write "They're all shite" on your paper.

Monday, April 05, 2010

No one-eyed little black Jew jokes

Tomorrow night (Tuesday), BBC4, 11pm, Meet Sammy Davis Jr - original tx: 5 May 1963. A one-off special produced by Dennis Main Wilson. I'm not sure, but I think it's the source of the clip in The A-Z of LE from Lime Grove Day, with Sammy singing 'Maria' from West Side Story accompanied only by a bongo player. The bongo player remains close to the camera throughout, while Sammy gets nearer and further. For years I'd assumed it was inlay or overlay, but someone on Bernie Newnham's excellent Tech Ops site, possibly Bernie himself, mentioned that one of the types of camera crane used at the BBC had a bucket seat at the camera end, so it's possible that the bongo player was physically on the crane. Watch tomorrow and see what you think.

Some great background on the show from the producer here.