BUSHELL ON THE BLOG
May 20. Many people are confused about the Referendum. I get the feeling we’re meant to be. The debate is being conducted in a fog of fear-mongering. And our Prime Minister is the worst offender. Cameron has excelled himself with a succession of ludicrous lies, bogus claims and deliberate half-truths. I’d have had more respect for him if he’d campaigned openly and honestly for full political union and all it entails. But the Remain camp realise that telling the truth would lose them the vote, so cue the scares and horror stories. (At this point I should add that I don’t think Boris has done a decent job either, or even that he’s entirely sincere). So let’s try and consider the facts in simple language:
If we leave the EU, we will leap clear of the chronic financial problems plaguing the Eurozone. If we leave the EU, we will be able to control who enters the UK and why we let them in. If we leave the EU, we will avoid being sucked into Europe-A-Nation as it moves towards ever greater centralisation (which it was always designed to do) and we will start making our own laws again.
If we remain, the opposite is true – we will be obliged to keep propping up the Eurozone; we’ll be forced to take in thousands more unskilled migrants putting yet more demands on the struggling NHS, our schools and the housing market, and pushing down wages; and Britain as we know it will cease to exist.
All of the Remain camp’s scares are short-term. They won’t consider the long-term gains that independence would afford us. For starters, our net contribution to the EU is £8.5billion a year. That’s a hell of a lot of money that could be better spent on Britain’s infrastructure.
It’s claimed Brexit will mean we’ll have problems trading with our current partners. That’s totally illogical. We wouldn’t stop buying French wine and cheese, or German cars and vehicle parts; and they wouldn’t stop buying our beef, lamb, cheddar etc. As a matter of fact, we currently export more goods and services to non-EU countries than we do to EU countries (to the tune of £26billion a year). Here’s another fact: the EU’s share of global output has been on the slide for three decades. It’s easy to understand why. The EU is by nature anti-business and pro-corporations. No wonder the CBI love it so. (The same people who wanted us to ditch the pound and sign up for the euro, remember?) Leaving its grasp would liberate smaller businesses by freeing them from the pointless over-regulation dreamt up by bureaucrats with zero business experience. It would mean a bonfire of red tape.
The only mildly positive case for Remain is a sentimental one. Isn’t it lovely that we can be in this political marriage? the Europhiles sigh; that we can co-operate with our friends. It reminds me of that old Prudential ad, where the divvy husband says “We want to be together”. But we’re perfectly capable of co-operating with our pals without letting them tell us how to spend our money and who we should let in our door. And besides, if this is a marriage it’s one that a) we were conned into with false promises and b) one that we have clearly out-grown. Let’s not be swayed by scares and threats or soppy sentiment. Let’s do the right thing for us for a change. And Vote Leave.
May 12. Memo to Peter Kosminsky and chums: so much for "evisceration"…
May 10. Vote Leave and we'll get World War III, an increasingly desperate Cameron claims. Followed no doubt by asteroid strikes, Martian invasion, Godzilla re-awakening and a plague of Susan Boyles. Our useless self-serving PM had the cheek to invoke "the serried rows of white headstones in Commonwealth war cemeteries" as the reason we should remain in the EU. What percentage of these dead heroes would have wanted Britain to be subsumed into a German-dominated expansionist super-state, one that makes our laws, decides our rights, tells us who could settle here and determines how we spend our money? It was only three months ago that Cameron claimed he was "open-minded" about the referendum and quite prepared to lead us out if he failed to win "full-on treaty change". If he really believes that a vote to leave is a vote for the nuclear apocalypse why was he so "relaxed" about it in February and why on earth would he have allowed us to make that choice? Cameron's lying scare campaign is hysterical and laughable, yet I suspect it's also effective. It's a shocking betrayal of democracy by a loathsome, shallow and gutless Prime Minister.
May 9. Peter Kosminsky tore into John Whittingdale at the Baftas last night, defending the BBC from government plans to "eviscerate" it. The Wolf Hall director claimed the evil Tories want to tear the guts out of our publically-funded Corporation and turn it into a North Korean style state broadcaster. How the luvvies loved it. They seem to view the BBC as the BBC view the EU, or as many see the NHS; as if the ideals that underpin these institutions matter more than the rancid reality. They judge the Beeb by its noble intentions, to educate, inform and entertain, rather than the lumbering monster it has become, riddled with group-think, bloated bureaucracy, massive waste and unjustified management layers. No-one wants politicians meddling in broadcasting. But that doesn't mean we can't look critically at a body that carelessly blows our dough on unmerited managerial salaries and the Salford relocation, that carelessly loses its biggest earner, that covered up Savile and hushed-up grooming scandals. If you want to talk about North Korea, Peter, consider the one-sided propaganda pumped out by the BBC in favour of the EU, uncontrolled mass immigration and all the spurious rainbow shades of political correctness. It's simply not true that the BBC is above bias. It's certainly not true that it's a unique source of quality drama – that's never been less true – or of comedy or anything else. Why should we made to pay to featherbed right-on propaganda and failure?
May 6. Well what a dull election. All day long we were told that Labour had done abysmally, with their voting share down around 6% on average across the country. Even Corbyn said that Labour had "hung on". How inspiring. In Scotland, tough Tartan Tory Ruth Davidson battered them into third place, and in Wales and across the north, UKIP were nipping gamely at their feet. The party's best result was in London, where we returned a Labour Mayor. Yes, a self-made council estate kid from a lousy Tooting comprehensive smashed wet public school-boy Zac Goldsmith out of the park – the kind of result Londoners like. Except of course Sadiq Khan is also the capital's first Muslim mayor, something Goldsmith shamefully played up. Rather than offer us vision, Zac served up fear. His attempts to smear Khan with tenuous links to Islamists backfired massively, not least in his own party. Sayeeda Warsi was among the many Muslim Tories who were outraged. Of course, as part of the green movement, Goldsmith is used to using unsubstantiated fears as a propaganda weapon. Quite why he'd want to run my home town escapes me though. He hates cars, hates supermarkets and hates cities. As Brendan O'Neill observed, making Zac mayor would have been like asking a nun to run a brothel. Where is London's equivalent of Ruth Davidson? In reality there was very little between Goldsmith and Khan. So it came down to which candidate we most warmed to. Neither of the them had any real political vision for the capital. But then neither did future Prime Minster Boris who got in simply by not being Red Ken and who should be remembered as the berk who closed fire stations and cop shops rather than the lovable clown who got stuck on a zip wire.
PS. Talking of clowns, Ken has just been on talking about Hitler again. This could become modern TV's version of the Yes/No interlude. Quizmaster: "Mr Livingstone you have sixty seconds to speak without mentioning the Third Reich starting… now!" Ken: "Well you see, the thing about Adolf is…" GONG! Oh and George Galloway is on one per cent of the vote. He's tying with the Cannabis party. And they'd have beaten him too, if only they weren't too stoned to get out of bed and vote.
May 3. So that's it. The US election race will be between Trump and Clinton – unless she's indicted or he's shot. The irony is both are equally toxic and both would be disasters for different reasons. Hillary would up taxes by trillions, Trump's policies would incite trade wars. Both candidates plan on expanding the power, scope and size of government while flushing free trade down the gurgler. Neither has the vision or the guts to liberate the US economy and unleash the entrepreneurial revolution America is crying out for. Whoever wins, and my money is still on dull and insipid Hills, the rest of the world loses.
May 2. I watched the Dixie Chicks deliver a two-hour set that was tighter than Tom Daley's trunks at London's O2 Arena last night. Surprises included a passionate cover of Nothing Compares 2 U in memory of Prince, their filmed version of Motorhead's Ace Of Spades and a belting version of Beyoncé's latest smash Daddy Lessons. Of course their own hits, Wide Open Spaces and The Long Way Around went down like the Belgrano too. Modern country isn't really my thing, so I wasn't expecting to see more than 19,000 paying customers here or to hear the Texan trio and their band playing red-hot bluegrass. Highlights? Martie's virtuoso fiddle-playing, Natalie's strong, distinctive vocals, their mini acoustic set and their cheeky pop at Trump and Clinton. The bad girls of country never sounded so good.
April 29. Jeremy Corbyn has suspended Red Ken to try and shut down the growing row about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Criticising Israel is not the same as being anti Jewish of course, but there is little doubt that when many on the left attack Zionism they actually mean Jews. Livingstone was defending a Muslim Labour MP who had called for all Jewish people to be deported from the Middle East, a suggestion that had it been made by Katie Hopkins about Bulgarians would have been roundly condemned as racist. Bradford West MP Naz (tsk, one letter out) Shah wants to "relocate" all Israelis to the USA. Modern leftwing anti-Semitism, and the suggestion that Zionism and Nazism are two sides of the same coin, largely derives from Gerry Healy's Workers Revolutionary Party who famously took backhanders worth more than £1million from various Arab despots including Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein in the late 70s/early 80s. The PLO also pitched in. In return Healy's mob supplied intelligence to the Libyan government and pumped out the Israel-bashing line in their daily paper, Newsline. This intelligence included passing on information on "the activities, names and positions held in finance, politics, the business, the communications media and elsewhere" by "Zionists" (according to Marxist sources, no distinction was made between Zionists and Jews). It is no secret to suggest that Livingstone was a WRP fellow-traveller. He wrote for their paper and his best mate was the prominent Healyite Ted Knight with whom Ken produced the Labour Herald which in turn was printed by the comrades. The far Left position then, as now, was to call for the creation of a Palestinian state to replace Israel – even though the latter remains the only democracy in the region, and the only Middle Eastern state that permits sexual and religious freedom. I'd be amazed if Hamas-loving Corbyn and McDonnell didn't also privately subscribe to this view. Manny Shinwell must be spinning in his tin.
The book Livingstone quotes as his source, Zionism In The Age of Dictators, is not a scholarly work. It is propaganda written by an American Trot. Some members of the Nazi party wanted to merely boot German Jews out of the country, Hitler was not one of them.
April 26. The demise of British Home Stores stinks to high heaven. Sir Philip Green took more than £1billion out of BHS over 15 years. When he flogged the company for £1quid last year, it allowed him to walk away from a staff pension liability of £571million. He sold BHS to a former bankrupt in a deal brokered by a convicted fraudster. Green might argue that what he did was lawful. But was it moral? The collapse hangs his 11,000 staff and 20,000 pension members out to dry. The very least Green should do is dig deep and bail out his former employees.
Finally there is justice for the 96 football fans who died at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium in 1989. A new inquest has found that the victims were unlawfully killed, and that consequently the libelled Liverpool fans were "framed" by the South Yorkshire police in an attempt to cover up their own mistakes. The cops fed lies to the press which the Sun and the Mirror both shamefully reproduced without checking (although the Mirror's coverage seems to have been forgotten, or at least over-shadowed by the Sun's stark and shockingly wrong headline 'The Truth'). The first lie was that LFC fans forced their way through a large gate in the Hillsborough ground. The truth? A police officer had ordered the gate to be opened to relieve pressure on the turnstiles, and that led to the crush in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace. This first lie was compounded by others – the Scousers were drunk, uninjured fans stole from the dead…etc. Reality was deliberately buried under prejudice and propaganda and remained so for 27 years. Now the courts have finally established what really happened. Now their families and friends of the 96, and Liverpool, have all been vindicated. How about the Heysel 39?
Beyoncé has just released Lemonade which pretty much consists of her yelling at husband Jay Z for an entire album. Seems he's too keen on 'Single Ladies'. Although by the sound of it, it could just be based on Bill and Hillary's marriage.
April 24. The Power & The Glory, the follow-up to my Riff-Raff, Rebels & Rock Gods collection, is now available for pre-order. This second volume of memories (largely) from the golden days of Sounds includes Slade, Thin Lizzy, The Ruts, The Jam, Blondie, Bad Manners, Def Leppard, Motorhead, Madness, the Sex Pistols, Secret Affair, Squeeze, Infa Riot, Lars Frederiksen, John Cooper Clarke, Steve Ignorant, The Blood, Crisis, the Eurythmics, Engelbert, Pete Way, Gary Moore, the Butlin's Festival of the Sixties and an apology to Judas Priest. All for £7.90 - HERE.
April 23. Happy St George's Day. One more dragon to slay. Vote Leave!
April 22. Prince's death is another huge loss for popular music. The little guy was a giant talent. I saw him live in Paris thirty years ago and was blown away by his charisma and songs. Just in terms of hit singles, Prince's legacy is enormous: Little Red Corvette, Purple Rain, When Doves Cry, 1999, Let's Go Crazy, Kiss…these are classic and enduring anthems. And his early albums were just as strong. I tweeted an R.I.P. yesterday and got an unkind response that Prince was "weird". So what if he was? What genius isn't? That's what sets them apart.
So Obama flies into the UK to tell us how to vote in the Referendum. Why should we listen to him? The Pres wants to sink this country permanently into a corrupt supranational body that the US themselves would never tolerate. Ask the Yanks: would you rather your laws were made by Americans or unelected foreign judges? Should entry to the United States be determined by your own politicians or by foreign ones? You don't need me to tell you what the answers would be. On paper Barrack Obama is brilliant; his rhetoric is first class. But in reality the guy has proved an absolute disaster. Under Obama, US debt has rocketed up to an eye-watering $18trillion (£13trillion). He's widely disliked at home, and his catastrophic foreign policy has left us with a Jihadist caliphate in the Middle East. Iraq, Libya, Syria…the catalogue of failure has destabilised the whole region and threatens to tip Europe into chaos. So much for the "leader of the free world". I reckon most of us will listen to his patronising advice and tell him where to poke it.
Here's another thing, why do we assume that the US government has Britain's best interests at heart? They're our allies when it suits them but look at the history. The Septics have been successfully undermining British power and influence since the First World War. I love the USA, its culture and its people. But its politicians don't give a monkey's toss for us or for our long term interests.
April 21. So sad to lose Victoria Wood, a warm and witty observational comedian who was also a fine playwright and musician. Victoria's humour was pickled in working class life and served up without bile. She could be gently subversive but Wood was never cruel. She didn't sneer. People genuinely loved her. 62 is too young to lose that talent.
If you're at a loose end in London tomorrow, my band are performing downstairs at the Hope & Anchor. They've got Twelfth Night upstairs. It's easy to confuse the two; foolery shines everywhere.
April 18. Today's EU scare story. Leave and George Osborne reckons the economy will shrink by 6% by 2030. 2030? This is a bloke who can't get his predictions right year on year! Under his economic stewardship national debt has shot up like John Whittingdale at a bondage club. Why would we trust a word he says? Geo's claims that we'd face EU tariffs are absurd, the only European states who aren't in a free trade deal with Brussels are Russia and Belarus. Besides I'd rather Osborne told what he got up to in the past with Natalie Rowe…
Rolling Stone recently published an all-time Top 40 punk list. I'd agree with their Top 3 (Ramones by the Ramones, The Clash by the Clash and Never Mind The Bollocks), but it seems perverse to leave out the Damned (there's no Damned Damned Damned or Machine Gun Etiquette) while including The Slits, Television and Devo. They've got bands here that are pre-punk, post-punk, Nirvana's grunge classic Nevermind and even Pere Ubo. Yet bizarrely they can find no room for The Crack by the Ruts, the Cockney Rejects' hugely influential Greatest Hits Volume One or the gothic majesty of Siouxsie's Juju… When you find the Gang Of Four's student funk in a punk Top 5 while while The Jam languish at 24 you can pretty much dismiss the whole enterprise as laughable cobblers. PS. If pre-punk bands like the Stooges and the New York Dolls count because of their influence, why not T. Rex, the Kinks or Third World War?
April 17. John Whittingdale gets more interesting by the week. Today's Mail On Sunday reveals that as well as Mistress Kate, the Culture Secretary once dated Page 3 girl and erotic actress Stephanie Hudson. Political power is clearly more of an aphrodisiac than generally thought. In a related story I'm currently reconsidering my vow never again to stand for Parliament…
April 14. Jeremy Corbyn has come out for the Remain camp. Didn't take him long to sell out, did it? Corbyn has spent decades opposing the European Union so why the change of heart? Jezza's argument was strangely subdued. It was almost as if he was trying to convince himself, or at least to find a way to keep the peace with the majority of his MPs. In his first major speech of the referendum campaign, Corbs set out his vision of a socialist EU. He might as well have waxed poetically about a Marxist Mars or the People's Republic of Pluto. Nothing about the nature of the European Union suggests that it can be reformed, let alone somehow transformed into a cuddly workers' state. Like Communism, the EU is the god that failed; a great idea on paper that has morphed into an anti-democratic nightmare. That's why the Remain case has to rely on scare stories: leave and we'll lose millions of jobs, trade will plummet, prices will rocket up, the Thames will flood, aliens will invade, Godzilla will awaken in Upper Dicker, the BBC will stop making decent comedies... oh wait, that happened years ago.
Jezza warned that British exit would result in a "bonfire" of workers' rights, but as his old comrades in No2EU could have reminded him the European project is all about eroding workers' real rights and real wages. The only things heading for the bonfire are liberty, self-determination and our own identity as a free and sovereign people. Corbyn has not only betrayed England, he has betrayed the legacy of the English working men who founded the trade union movement and the Britons of all backgrounds who fought against unelected authority for the right to vote and to make our own laws. That distant rumbling sound we can all hear is just Bob Crow and Tony Benn turning in their graves.
It's true that the John Whittingdale "scandal" isn't much of a story – single adult man once dated a single adult woman who hadn't told him she was a professional dominatrix. But it's also true that had the politician in question been Simon Danczuk the papers would have been all over it like a rash. Both sides of this argument share the assumption that having Mistress Kate as a girlfriend is somehow "shameful". What's wrong with being a dominatrix? You might say it's a grey area, although it's probably more black and blue. But as I see it, she's an adult, she can do what she likes within the law and I look forward very much to seeing the "classy brunette" on the next run of Celebrity Big Brother. Especially if she brings her spanking paddle.
April 11. Trevor Phillips says his Channel 4 show What British Muslims Really Think will "shock people". Which people, Trev? The ones who don't watch the news? The ones who think EastEnders is a documentary?? It turns out that a large number of British Muslims sympathise with terrorists, some support the imposition of Sharia law, some want their own state within a state, many are not keen on gender equality etc. Well I never, strike a light, blow me down... You'd have to live life with your head up your arse to be surprised by any of this. The Rushdie fatwah, 9/11, 7/7, Lee Rigby and Rotherham must have somehow passed you by...
Well-meaning liberals like Trevor Phillips are ironically the root of many of our problems, not just in Britain but right across Europe. When the Bradford headmaster Ray Honeyford argued three decades ago that children born here should learn British values, such as racial and religious tolerance, and that integration was the key to progress he was rounded derided as "racist" and forced out of his job. The multiculturalists created the situation that now shocks Trevor so. When reality doesn't fit their ideology they simply ignore it – as with the grooming gangs, and the sex attacks on women in Germany and Sweden. Rather than admit there's a problem and tackle it head on, they simply refuse to acknowledge it turning their fire instead on anyone who dares to mention it (who will then be denounced as "Islamophobic" or worse). Yet by closing down discussion liberals do a disservice to the many Muslims who are just as horrified by this sickness as the rest of us.
Strangely Trev does not appear to have carried out an equally broad poll of non-Muslims about the same subjects; he seems to believe that everyone else in Britain shares the views of the great and good about gender equality, gay marriage, transsexuals etc. I would suggest that this is probably not the case and that quite a few Christians, Sikhs, paganists, Rastafarians and humanists aren't entirely chuffed with the liberal agenda either. There isn't any compulsion under the law that we all have to agree with the Guardian... yet.
April 8. Who's that prat in the Panama hat? Cameron! Cameron! Well there's a turn-up for the books, or perhaps off the books. Our slippery and evasive Prime Minister has proved to be evasive and slippery over his family's tax affairs, specifically his late father's off-shore investments. It took three whole days before Cameron finally and reluctantly owned up about the shares he'd had himself in a tax haven fund. They were worth "something like £30,000", he said – "something like", as if 30 large was just a bit of back-pocket spending money. He actually sold them for £31,500 just before becoming PM. I wonder what Jimmy Carr thinks of all this... Remember how Cameron monstered Carr for his own entirely legal tax avoidance, calling it "morally wrong". Hey Mr Pot, Mr Kettle has a word for you and I'm pretty sure it's "hypocrite". It is doubly sweet that this story broke in the same week that the Panama Prat issued a one-sided, pro-EU pamphlet, full of half-truths and false claims, costing tax payers £9.3million. How very democratic. How very fair and honest. And yet how odd that a man so keen to avoid transparency should turn out to be so entirely see-through...
Sycophants claim that Cameron is a great moderate and moderniser. He isn't. He is completely shallow and self-serving. But we can get rid of him folks, all it takes is for all of us to Vote Leave this June. We can even get our country back.
Labour's financial affairs are just as flaky, of course. Remember Cherie's flat, and Red Ken funnelling close on £240,000 through tax avoidance schemes... they're all at it. But because we live in a left-liberal culture it never seems to damage them. I see that Corbyn has even been booked for Glastonbury – one crusty old icon of fake radicalism welcoming another. But why should rock music dress to the left? Media commentators rarely remind us that a Labour government waged war on the pirate radio stations, that Labour councils were at the forefront of banning punk gigs, and that sky-high Labour taxes drove some of our most successful rock stars out of the country...
Questions about tax that no-one seems to ask: Why is our tax system so ridiculously complicated? It makes Finnegans Wake look like Enid Blyton. How many millions are carelessly wasted by our government every ruddy year? And wouldn't there be a damn sight less evasion and avoidance if we all paid a flat tax of 15per cent?
April 6. Sorry to hear that Merle Haggard has died, aged 79. He was one of the old school country legends, a hard-living blue collar boy made good who before finding fame spent his teens in the US equivalent of borstal and then almost three years banged up in San Quentin. Haggard was probably best known here for his hippy-bashing anthem 'Okie From Muskogee' but many of his songs were about working class life: hits like 'Mama Tried', 'Fightin' Side Of Me', 'Workin' Man's Blues' and 'The Roots Of My Raising'. I was always partial to 'I Think I'll Just Stay Here & Drink'. And I think I'll do that tonight, in Merle's honour. Cheers.
April 1. Why won't the Government save our steel industry? The Chinese caused this crisis by dumping their unwanted steel in Europe. So why won't Cameron fight back with anti-dumping duties like the Yanks do – they've hit them with a 256% import tariff – and keep Port Talbot alive? The dogmatic answer appears to be that failing industries shouldn't be propped up by government. Except 1) China has deformed the world market and 2) Steel isn't "just another commodity". It's one of our most vital industries, the backbone of British manufacturing and a strategic national asset. If Port Talbot is allowed to fall, like the Redcar steelworks last September, that's more than 7,000 jobs we'll never get back. It's part of the fabric of the nation lost forever. George Osborne's "special relationship" with China looks increasingly like the one Faustus had with the Devil. The cost is way too high.
I don't expect much from this useless government. Cameron is a shallow, short-term thinker who believes in very little except his own advancement. Osborne's woeful budget exposed his inherent slipperiness, and the referendum has revealed that most of the Cabinet are two-faced rats who put their careers above the interests of the country. (So no surprises there). But Labour also contributed to the British Steel crisis. They let Indian firm Tata snap it up in 2007, and then hamstrung the industry with dumb green taxes the following year. They allowed steel to go the way of nuclear generating, airports, energy supply and the railways. Even the Stock Market is now facing a German take-over. Do any of our politicians ever stop to think if foreign control of so many vital national assets is entirely sensible?
March 31.Sorry to hear that Ronnie Corbett has died. You don't need me to remind you how wonderful The Two Ronnies were – tomorrow's papers will be full of their greatest gags. And Ronnie C, who I met a few times, was a gentleman. My condolences to his family, and to Rob Brydon who has just lost half of his act.
Radio callers are rightly complaining that Corbett was never knighted. The honours system has long been devalued by awards for rats, rascals, cronies and c... reeps (Savile, Mugabe, Cyril Smith). But they could make amends for snubbing Ronnie (and Tommy Cooper, Eric Morecambe and Benny Hill) by knighting Doddy at the earliest opportunity. Or how about a peerage? Lord Dodd of Knotty Ash has a nice ring to it.
A couple of blog readers have asked if I can recommend any recent crime novels. Absolutely. Ghostman by Roger Hobbs grips like a judo black belt from the off. Stephen Leather's 2008 thriller The Chinaman is terrific too, as is Mark Billingham's Tom Thorne series.
March 29. I spent an enjoyable morning in Kent chatting about my Facedown novel. The main character Harry Tyler was based on a couple of real-life undercover cops I knew, and in all three books I have tried to make him as funny, shrewd and when necessary as slippery as they were. The first crime writer I fell in love with was Raymond Chandler, whose prose felt close to poetry. I was hooked just from the opening page of Farewell My Lovely. Chandler's plots weren't always as perfect (while making The Big Sleep movie Harry Hawks sent him a telegram asking 'Who killed the chauffeur?' and got the reply 'No idea!') but Ray could craft sentences as beautiful as any Alexandros sculpture.
I didn't read Mickey Spillane till I was in my twenties, when I picked up One Lonely Night at JFK on the way back from a weekend in New York with the Specials. I'd intended to read a couple of chapters and then have a kip, but I couldn't put the book down. Literary critics hated Spillane, and he'd just shrug and say "people eat more salted peanuts than they do caviar". I loved his hard-boiled style and two-fisted attack, and it was no surprise to learn that Frank Miller did too. Spillane's black and white worldview worked better then than now though; that's the difference between Jack Regan and Vic Mackey too, I suppose.
When I wrote the first Harry Tyler novel The Face, I wanted it to be pure pulp fiction and tried to mirror Spillane's pace with a sprinkling of Chandler's descriptive prowess (not that I'm comparing myself to those giants for one minute). It's not for me to say whether I managed it, but when a reader reviewed Facedown as "fists-up, pants-down lads' noir" I was thrilled because that was exactly the feel I was aiming for. There are many great modern crime writers, but pulp fiction is a different skill. The late Texan author James Crumley was the last writer I'm aware of who really got it right. If you know of others please tell me.
March 28. I'm not convinced that the Belgian football hooligans at the anti-ISIS rally in Brussels were "far right" as reported by today's papers. They wore no badges, professed no political allegiances and the biggest banner on display said simply 'Casuals Against Terrorism'. The media has a knee-jerk tendency to dismiss any anti-Islamist feeling as "far right", especially when it involves the sort of people protesting at Place de la Bourse – young working class males. Besides there must come a time when even TV commentators realise that flowers and candles are never going to stop ISIS. Appeasement has failed, as it always does. As Angry Anderson once observed "Don't turn the other cheek, unless you want it beaten / Fight violence with violence cos that's the only way to win'.
March 27. The follow-up to my Sounds era memoir Riff-Raff, Rebels & Rock Gods is about six weeks away now. Volume 2 is called The Power & The Glory and it features everyone from Slade and Lizzy to the Ruts, Blondie, and the great Butlin's Festival of the Sixties... I'll post more details as soon as I get a publication date.
March 25. This month 29 years ago I had my first and only Number One, after I came up with the idea for the Ferry Aid hit Let It Be. With the help of Pete Waterman, my team, and a host of stars – including Paul McCartney who wrote the original, and the late Michael Jackson who owned the publishing – we made the charity single happen. Jacko couldn't have been more helpful. "Go ahead," he said from LA. "Make a fortune." And we did, raising a £1million+ for the survivors of the Zeebrugge ferry disaster and the families of those who were less lucky. Sadly the nearest my own band have ever come to chart success was when Labello Blanco wanted to release our song 'Lottery' nine years later. The version they heard and loved was a Ska ditty, the version the producer delivered to them (for reasons no-one has ever discovered) was a bizarre Cotton-Eye Joe style re-mix. They dropped the project immediately...
March 21. Apparently IDS's rebellion has ruined George Osborne's chances of ever becoming Prime Minister – and for that relief, much thanks. I'm not entirely sure how he's clung on to his job as Chancellor. His budget was such a dead dog even The Supervet couldn't revive it.
March 20. Someone just claimed I don't "get" Stewart Lee. On the contrary, I get him entirely. I just don't value what he does that highly. Stu has created a version of himself that echoes Tony Hancock's old sitcom character. The TV Lee is both a bitter loser and a jealous snob. Through this creation, Lee attempts to deconstruct comedy – over and over again. Several critics and many audience members have taken the act at face value, accusing him of contempt and walking out. This is a perennial problem when you work or write in character. The early Bushell On The Box was a construct just as much as 'Gal Gonad' is, but when people don't realise that it causes all sorts of problems. My issue with Stewart Lee is that he's exhausted the character. Does comedy need any more deconstructing? We've had so much irony, elitism and pretension inflicted on us in its name over the last two decades that the real revolutionary act would surely be to aim straight for belly-laughs.
March 17. George Osborne's budget felt like it was being beamed in from the other side of Alice's looking glass. The Chancellor constructed a make-believe world of fantasy economics, unveiling plans full of pretend cuts and imaginary spending limits based on some alternative reality where the economy always grows by the same amount each year. There is no boom or bust in George's world, just as there wasn't any in Gordon Brown's, the past master of fake-economics... until there was. I particularly like the way Geo suddenly finds billions down the back of the Number 11 sofa (as he did in the previous budget) and then loses it (this budget). Most commentators must know that his predictions won't come true just as well as he does, but they go along with the farce all the same. The one thing we know for sure is that Georgie boy has hiked up taxes again, to a projected tax to GDP (gross domestic product) level of 37.5% - which brings us back to Brown again... so much for Conservatism.
The sugar tax is grabbing the headlines. It's a con of course. It's been tried and it's failed elsewhere, and is essentially just another tax on the poor. But it's dressed up in flawed Nanny State logic so it'll get a good press. First they came for the cigarettes but I did not speak out because I don't smoke cigarettes. Then they came for the Coca Cola but I did not speak out because I don't drink Coke... They'll come for our doughnuts next... any small pleasure that makes life marginally less miserable is fair game for these bums.
*R.I.P. Paul Daniels. Middlesbrough-born Daniels was the face of British TV magic throughout the 1980s, simultaneously wowing millions with his skill, and pissing them off with his patter – something he acknowledged and later played up to on a famous lager advert: "Buy a pint of Heineken or we'll keep running this commercial... " Paul is probably walking through the locked Pearly Gates as I write, pulling rabbits out of St Peter's halo. For his next trick he'll saw Mother Theresa in half. They'll like him... not a lot, but they'll like him.
*Happy St Patrick's Day! The special day when plastic Paddies the whole world over get plastered enough to actually enjoy Irish cuisine. Mmm, crubeens and potato bread, don't mind if I do...
March 14. I have a lot of time for ex Sex Pistol Paul Cook but his piece in The Spectator saying that punks should vote to remain in the European Union makes little sense. The drummer has two points. 1) He says there's a lot he doesn't like about the EU but coming out "would be like going back to Little England". Why, Paul? The Leave case isn't about going back but jogging on. We'd be escaping an out-dated, top-heavy, economically stagnant mess in order to trade freely with the whole world – that's the polar opposite of "Little England". 2) Paul also says that he's "quite at home" in Paris, Berlin and Brussels and so he feels European. Well I felt pretty cosy in St Petersburg, Florida, and the Black Forest without concluding that I must therefore be an American or a German. There's a huge difference between loving European culture (good) and being ruled and regulated by unelected Brussels bureaucrats (awful). Brexit is a horrible word. This campaign is actually about freedom, self-determination and economic prosperity. It's our once in a generation chance to claim our country and our democracy back.
The latest issue of Street Sounds is out tomorrow, with features on Skamouth, Alan McGee, the excellent new Musicians Against Homelessness campaign and my first encounter with Twisted Sister...
March 13. Jimmy Jones reminds me that Keith Emerson was a huge fan of his and used to bring his previous band, The Nice, to see the Cockney comic perform in South London pubs in the late '60s. It was Keith's idea for Jones to open his own room at Gullivers nightclub in Down Street, Mayfair. Jimmy recalls: "The band took me up to meet the owner and at their suggestion he turned it into the Kinnell Room. I appeared there Monday to Fridays. I never went on until half-past-twelve, one o'clock in the morning; but it caught on. There was a buzz about the place and we'd get a lot of people in there. There were people in the entertainment business, celebrities and sportsmen and a lot of rich Americans who were in London at the time. There was one section of the room that was always kept in the dark and which would be patrolled by some very tough looking men. It turned out that this section of the room was reserved for Royalty, and it was kept dark so they couldn't be photographed drinking or doing anything else indiscreet. Sometimes I wouldn't be able to go on until 2am because the club had got the word that a royal guest was coming in and the show would be held up for them. Princess Margaret saw me a lot; she liked a tipple I can tell you. Philip came in, and so did Prince Charles. In fact, the only one who never came in was Her Majesty the Queen. I don't know why. It can't have been my language – it wasn't any worse than Philip's!"
March 12. Sad to hear that Keith Emerson has died in strange circumstances. Santa Monica police confirmed that Keith, 71, was found at home with a single gunshot wound to his head last night. They could not confirm suicide. ELP weren't my cup of tea, but Emerson was a terrific showman. Stabbing his Hammond organ with knives was I suppose the keyboardist's equivalent of Jimi setting his Fender on fire. And it took some bottle to perform with a 70-piece orchestra, and then slot in a piano concerto seven numbers in. Reasons to like ELP: 1) Fanfare for the Common Man. 2) Jerusalem 3) They were one of the reasons punk happened.
March 10. Random political irritations: the crushing negativity of the IN campaign. The casual use of the oxymoron "reformed EU". Energy prices and the utter uselessness of the Competition & Marketing Authority. Andrew bloody Marr. Turkey exploiting the migrant crisis... How long have we got?
Why are the BBC remaking old sitcoms instead of creating new ones? All they need to do is sack their entire comedy department and hire a few people with a sense of humour.
I've stopped doing my podcasts at Litopia following a fundamental disagreement over direction. Apologies to all who have uploaded songs in the last few days. I hope to announce a new home for the shows later this month so normal service should be resumed shortly.
March 9. Why wouldn't the Queen back Brexit? She's old enough to remember when we made our own laws and weren't governed by lying weasels.
March 8. My latest Hungry & Hunted podcast is finally up with studio guests Skurvi, the Rebelles and Soren Sulo Karlsson; plus tasty tracks from the likes of SisteRay, Dirt Royal, the Poly-Esters, Voodoo Kills, Underclass UK and many more. Hear it here.
AC/DC are rescheduling the rest of their US dates after singer Brian Johnson was advised by doctors to stop touring immediately "or risk total hearing loss". Brian, formerly of Geordie, has been screaming his lungs out with this terrific band since 1980. It's a terrible shame, and a further reason to get behind a rock-led campaign to alert gig-goers to the dangers of prolonged unprotected exposure to loud and heavy music.
March 4. Love Europe, hate the EU. Here's a great piece by Brendan O'Neill setting out the left-wing case for Brexit.
So now penis size is a vital qualification in the US presidential race. Stand aside guys, I think Hillary has got this one covered. The world won't thank Marco Rubio for inflicting visions of Trump's other tower on us, however tiny it might be. But when it comes to US presidents surely there is a strong case to be made that Lyndon Johnson was by far the biggest cock?
March 3. I spent yesterday at Hearing Dogs For The Deaf. It's a terrific charity. Hearing Dogs train clever canines – labradors, spaniels and poodles – to alert deaf folk to sounds they can't hear, like alarm clocks and door-bells. The trainers and staff are fabulous, dedicated people; it was a privilege to watch them work. My own hearing has been deteriorating for years, mostly due to years on the road with the likes of Motorhead, Maiden and noisy punk combos. A band-led campaign to alert gig-goers to the dangers of ear-bleedin' rackets is long over-due. In the meantime Hearing Dogs For The Deaf is a cause worth supporting and promoting. You can sponsor a puppy for £3 a month.
March 2. Jeremy Corbyn says that EastEnders is his favourite TV soap. Miserable, wretched, far-fetched and living in the past... that's Jezza's Labour Party. EastEnders is no better.
These Continental politicians and bureaucrats trying to threaten or scare us into staying in the EU really don't understand the British at all. Please carry on, chaps.
Feb 26. I recorded my latest Hungry & Hunted new music podcast today with guests Skurvi, Soren Karlsson and the Rebelles – the all-female punk harmony vocal trio of Tracie Hunter (daughter of the immortal Ian), Elizabeth Westwood of Westworld fame, and blues singer Phoebe White. The show features tough and tasty tunes from The Lamplighters, Dirt Royal, Maninblack, Sisteray, the Poly-Esters, Voodoo Kills, Underclass UK, Hard Left, Wolf Bites Boy, Blackmail Snaps, Psykbrit and Soren. It should be online in about a fortnight. Yeah, we're shaking up music biz complacency at glacial speed.
Feb 25. Do you think tonight's TV show, The Great British Sex Survey, will include "the Boris" – that's where you say you want to pull out when really you intend to stay in for as long as possible. (But at least you get to throw your hat in the ring... I have no idea what that means).
Feb 24. I'll write about the BRITS elsewhere but weren't they gutless? All the energy, sexual charge and danger was imported, thanks to Rihanna, Lorde and Bjork. Representing Britain? Coldplay and Little Mix. When did we become so safe and dull?
Feb 22 Will the Brexit debate really boil down to Boris and Dave tearing chunks out of each other? Where's the Labour Party in this? Well the "honest and authentic" Jeremy Corbyn has made it very clear that he thinks the EU has completely let down the working class. Jezza correctly states that Brussels has failed to end austerity, deliver stronger workers' right, halt blue collar job erosion and stop the privatisation of public services. And so his remedy is... to stay in. D'oh! Except we know this isn't what he really thinks because Corbyn has made his principled opposition to the EU clear many times in the past. He's only with the Remain camp as a spurious short-term tactic. Very honest and authentic, very new politics...
Feb 21. David Cameron keeps banging on about staying in "a reformed EU". But where are his "fundamental political reforms"? What are they? He doesn't say because he knows there aren't any and his "special status deal" won't stand up for five minutes. Shameron warns that voting for Brexit would be a "leap in the dark". The opposite is true. Leaving the EU would be a leap into the light of independence and home rule; staying in this decaying mess would be the leap in the dark. The idea of building 'Europe a Nation' is a dated recipe for disaster. The EU is badly ruled, over-regulated, and beset with economic stagnation; it's a declining bureaucratic empire that costs a packet and has lumbered itself (and consequently us) with a monumental migration mess. The EU is old-fashioned, corrupt and wrong, "a vast, stinking cesspit" as Cameron's former strategy adviser wrote. The forward-thinking alternative is to build a better tomorrow for ourselves as a free, democratic people.
Shams tries to sell himself as a "One Nation Conservative". What he doesn't make clear is that one nation is Europe. When it comes to Britain he's a No-nation Conservative and a shameless liar. Oh but he has no agenda, he says, because he won't be standing for re-election. Remember that when he's on the Brussels payroll.
Feb 18. I'm very sad to report that my good friend André Schlesinger of New York bands The Press and Maninblack has died. Feeling ill, André had gone to hospital on 3rd Feb where he was found to have a hole in his heart valve. An infection had set in. Medics were in the process of transferring him to another hospital for emergency surgery when he went into cardiac arrest. It took ten minutes to revive him. As a result, André suffered extensive brain and organ damage, and had several strokes. He was on life support but passed away less than a week later on the 11th. André formed The Press, New York's first Oi! band, in his teens, inspired he said, by my band The Gonads. Starting in 1984, the Press didn't only duplicate the sound of the first wave of English Oi bands they absolutely captured the spirit. Working class kids faced the same problems whether they grew up in Canning Town or Queens. You either had no job or a shit job, the dole, low wages or a bag full of swag. As André wrote in It's Not What I Want: 'Five days a week, I'm working 9 – 5, it's never enough to pay the bills but it's enough to keep me alive.' The Press wrote great sing-along rebel anthems, with melody, guts and with plenty to say. Best was Schlesinger's 21 Guitar Salute which was later recorded by another great US band The Dropkick Murphys. And while by 1984 the scene in England had become depressingly conservative and copycat, The Press were experimenting with Ska (Try) and the more Modish drive of ASAP.
Their emblems were English: the Fred Perry logo, the crossed hammers. But they were bright enough to reject the dumb-ass media image of skinheads as bigoted boneheads and hitched their banner proudly to Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. (With its roots in bluebeat, mod and South London, how could the true skinhead spirit be anything other than non-racist?) The Press's stance was truly international. Andre's stance – even more amazingly – was international socialist: "Don't wait for tomorrow, revolution now!" he wrote, echoing England's Redskins. It's Not What I Want started out not as a song but as a picket sign. My younger self would have heartily approved. Other US Oi! and Oi!-influenced bands were to go on and make a bigger splash, but The Press were the first; they got it, they took it, they made it their own.
André was also a private investigator and vodka enthusiast. He formed Maninblack to develop a 21st century Oi sound incorporating synthesisers, which can be heard on songs like Unfuck'nbelievable and Read Between The Lines. I'll play his final single 2015 on my next podcast. A compilation album, The Complete Press ~ 1984-1994 featuring all the Press's studio recorded songs including some unreleased tracks is available from Insurgence Records.
Feb 14. Happy Valentine's Day! Today is named after the real St Valentine who was beheaded back in the third century AD, probably because he was caught over-charging for chocolates and roses.
Feb 13. I'm unveiling my new one man stand-up show this summer. It will be called Bushell On The Rampage. More details to follow.
Random irritations: Cameron's Brexit scaremongering. Osborne targeting pensions – he's so New Labour at heart. The piss-poor quality of the leading London mayoral candidates; Kahn and Goldsmith are like two black holes colliding, their gravitational waves officially register as low ebb.
Feb 12. Sad to see a newspaper close, even one as dreary as the Independent, but I suspect this will be the fate of any paper which fails to build a strong digital platform. I'll miss their daily cartoon and Mark Steel's sarcastic grit.
Feb 8. Lord Powell reckons Thatcher would accept Camera's paltry EU package. That's how desperate the stay campaign is getting, they're bringing out the dead! Okay Charlie pal, I'll see your Thatcher and raise you Drake, Wellington, Napoleon and Alfred the Great who are all firmly in the leave camp. We'll have Watt Tyler too, it's about time the peasants of Europe revolted.
The Sun once polled the dead via a medium (it was my idea, I'm almost ashamed to say and Stalin was backing Kinnock), but I never expected serious political debate to go down this route. For the record Lord Powell is way off, Maggie would have hand-bagged Tusk and told Merkel to poke it.
I've just seen a Walking Dead themed Valentine's card online... because nothing says true love like being stalked by brainless zombies who want to eat you alive: Violets are blue, roses are red, sleeping with you is like bedding the dead...
Feb 6. Well I hate to say I told you but there is no getting away from it – Cameron's big EU renegotiation turned out to be the two-bob charade I long predicted it would be. When the Prime Minster promised us "fundamental far-reaching change" he might as well have promised a free unicorn for every child under ten. He knew full well that there was never the remotest possibility that he could achieve "reform" or "treaty change" just as he now knows that the slim pickings he is trying to hype up as a brave new deal don't mean a light. Issues like the free movement of people within the EU have always been non-negotiable, and any apparent gains such as his "emergency brake" will be challenged and over-turned the moment the referendum result is in. There is no treaty change, no "repatriation" of power to Parliament and not the slightest chance of the UK being able to control our own borders, make our own laws or run our own economy.
Cameron's credibility should now be stretched as thin as Alexa Chung's legs. The bloke is clearly as honest as a 1950s spiv playing Chase The Lady in a Soho side street. With a conman's chutzpah, Shameron is muzzling his ministers and crushing debate. The Tory whips are working over-time. And where are the opposition? Shamefully Corbyn is still ducking the issue, and the Tory big beasts look remarkably cowed. Most are too gutless to quit the Cabinet and make a fight of it. Boris could make a difference but despite his bluster, Johnson is a rank opportunist. He'll eventually go with whatever side looks likely to win. (Although of course Bo-Jo may be shrewd enough to realise that even if we vote to leave, the EU will just make us have another referendum... and another... until we give them the answer they want... they have done that before more than once).
The Establishment case that EU membership is the only sensible option will be pushed down our throats relentlessly for the next few months – and we all know whose side the "impartial" BBC will take. In reality of course continued membership is a recipe for disaster and accelerated national decline. We all know British voters were hoodwinked into joining the EU's forerunner, and that the 'common market' always had the end goal of becoming Europe A Nation. But look at that Promised Land now. Disregard the political theory and behold the reality of the EU. What we see is a dismal failure. It is bureaucracy, joblessness, uncontrolled migration and endless red-tape. The EU is expensive, inefficient, undemocratic and corrupt. It can't deliver economically and socially Merkel and co have loaded the gun for European suicide. The only sensible course of action is to leave. The best hope for us all us is the Grassroots Out campaign.
Feb 5. Someone just told me that Michael Caine had died. Not so. We haven't lost Maurice Micklewhite but Maurice White who in his own way was just as much a giant of pop culture. Memphis-born Maurice founded Earth Wind & Fire in 1969. He was their drummer, singer and song-writer, responsible for co-writing monster songs like September and Let's Groove. Funk and disco were never my thing, but it was hard to resist EW&F's glorious exuberance. Live they were sensational, joyfully infectious. Their giant hits included Boogie Wonderland, After The Love Has Gone and their Beatles cover Got To Get You Into My Life; Maurice White's musical legacy will live on for decades. R.I.P. Shining Star. (And stay well, Alfie.)
Feb 4. Who speaks for England? asks today's Daily Mail. I'm not sure, but the way things are going probably Jeremy Kyle. What is more tragic: the lack of a single politician with an ounce of backbone or overwhelming public apathy? We are going to hell in a handcart here folks and no-one wants to do anything but moan about it. In his poem The Secret People, Gilbert K. Chesterton wrote of 'The people of England that never have spoken yet'. If we wait much longer to find our voice, there won't be an England left.
My old punk poet pal Garry Johnson has just published a mischievous autobiography called Punk Rock Stories & Tabloid Tales. In it, he admits to scamming millions out of the tabloids with a supply of made-up stories that lasted for more than fifteen years. He was a bit like Frank Abagnale in Catch Me If You Can only instead of pretending to be a pilot, Johnson impersonated a journalist. It's a disturbing book, and a funny one, that would have benefited strongly from having an editor and a proof-reader. It would be churlish to complain about my many mentions as they are largely friendly but I'd like to publicly refute the claim that I regularly stole Jane Moore's by-lines in the late 80s – that was Nick Ferrari. And it certainly isn't true that the Currant Bun gave me the tin-tack in 2001 because I knew Dave Courtney (although that was the way Courtney spun it). I was sacked because the Daily Star serialised my novel The Face, and the only person to blame for that was the Sun's useless short-lived editor at the time, a man so insignificant he doesn't even merit a name check.
Jan 31. R.I.P. Sir Terry Wogan, a brilliant broadcaster and naturally funny man whose gentle mockery made Eurovision almost watchable. I witnessed his consummate professionalism up close on a number of TV show and had the good fortunate to be a guest on his BBC1 chatshow in the late 80s. Even when the soothing fog of alcohol had descended (which became more frequent towards the end – and possibly why I got booked), El Tel always held it together. The stand-out Wogan show moments were of course Georgie Best turning up three sheets to the wind in 1990 and the following year when Terry asked David Icke about reports that he had claimed to be "the son of God" a year later. Icke took the audience laughter as approval. "They are laughing at you," Wogan told him. "Not with you."
R.I.P. also Frank Finlay, a fine actor remembered mostly for Bouquet Of Barbed Wire but a stunning Iago. He should have been knighted too.
Is 'Cameron enters son for top private school' really a newspaper splash? It is dog-bites-man stuff. Privileged toff sends child to public school. That's not a story. Toff sends kid to local comp, that's a story. (Alleged socialists who sent their kids to private schools include Vanessa Redgrave, Diane Abbott and Ruth Kelly. They hate selective education unless it suits them, which is why Corbyn's pal Seamus Milne sent his kids to grammar schools. One rule for them and another one for us... )
Jan 27. I'll review the Mad World Of Donald Trump elsewhere, but isn't it odd that TV only singles out populist 'right-wing' politicians for this kind of drubbing? We had Bonkers Brown in Number Ten yet we call Trump crazy. Trump is all wind and piss of course; all bluster and swagger with few concrete policies. When he is asked about the cost of his economic ideas the silence is deafening, which is understandable as the cost his proposed tariffs against China would probably be global slump and World War III. He lacks the nous to make entirely logical policies, such as securing national borders, sound sane and sensible. Trump won't become President, however; Hillary will. What sets apart the Donald – and in their different ways smart libertarian Rand Paul and crusty New York socialist Bernie Sanders – is that he is not part of the US political establishment. He appeals to the angry and disaffected, the everyday working and middle class folk who the system is screwing. Clinton on the other hand is a continuation of the status quo: trade deficits, uncontrolled illegal immigration and a neo-con foreign policy as practised by Bush and continued by Obama; all that New World Order bull that our mainstream politicians have also signed up for irrespective of party. That's why Hillary should worry us far more than Trump. The Republicans' most electable candidate is Marco Rubio, but he's trailing in third and has a mountain to climb. The Grand Old Party looks nearly as fragmented as Syria. Their problem is they can't win with Donald Trump, but they can't win without his supporters.
Donald Trump says he is against U.S. jobs being exported. David Letterman playfully but effectively exposed his hypocrisy when the Donald came on the Late Show to plug his menswear line. Trump's shirts, Letterman noted, were manufactured in Bangladesh, the ties were from China. America first indeed.
Jan 24. What was the hottest new track of 2015? My song of the year show is up now and in the mix are choice offerings from The Spitfires, The Featherz, Iron Chin, Loaded 44, the Graveltones, Amphetameanies, All The King's Men, Alias Kid, the Cundeez, Christine 'Sugary' Staple, the Ming City Rockers and many more... with foul-mouthed and bolshy judges Jonny Wah Wah Taylor and Wattsie Watts calling the shots. Hear the battle play out here.
I recorded another podcast on Friday with Dave Ruffy and Segs from Ruts DC talking about the hefty Ruts biography Love In Vain. The lousy bums still owe me financial compensation for extreme emotional stress caused by an outrageous 3am raid on my hotel bedroom in 1979... I'll let you know when it's posted.
Jan 23. Here's a pukka January sale. I'm selling copies of my last Harry Tyler novel Facedown for just £4.99 plus p&p while stocks last. Facedown has been dubbed "fists-up, pants-down lads' noir", "violent, sleazy and wickedly funny" and "Mickey Spillane meets Micky Flanagan"... (they missed the tender romance completely then, cough). It concludes the Harry Tyler trilogy but can be read as a stand-alone book. You can order it direct from here.
Jan 19. More rotten news. Mott the Hoople drummer Dale 'Buffin' Griffin and Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey have died, both 67. Buffin passed away on Sunday in his sleep after a long battle with Alzheimer's. He was a founder member of Mott and one of the nicest blokes in rock. Glenn Frey 'succumbed to complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and pneumonia', according to a band statement. R.I.P. both.
Jan 15. Wikipedia has just turned 15. Hurrah! What an achievement! Although I'm not entirely sure we should believe that as I read it on Wikipedia.
Jan 14. R.I.P. Alan Rickman, a fine actor and a council estate kid made good. Rickman was 69, Bowie was 69... and there was me thinking my wife asking if I fancied "joining the 69 club tonight" was a good thing...
Jan 13. Should England sports teams have an English national anthem? Of course! I've been advocating it since the 1990s and finally MPs have caught up. When Wales and Scotland have their own anthems why should England use the British one? The same is also true of parliaments...
The obvious first choice for an English national anthem is Jerusalem, with I Vow To Thee My Country a close second. But if we want a song that's a little livelier, how about England Belongs To Me by Cock Sparrer, Spirit of England by Jeniera & The Blades or the Gonads' own Line In The Sand: England is in trouble, a nation under threat/They don't care what you believe, they want you to forget/You've been pushed around for far too long/You've been pushed so far, but no further/Yes, there'll always be an England, but it's up to us to make a stand/ Yeah, there'll always be an England, but it's time to draw a line in the sand...
Stock markets around the world are collapsing, much like the credibility of the Schengen agreement and voter confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. Isn't it odd that Labour's dismal leader is willing for his party to debate Trident but not Britain's membership of that corrupt racket the European Union?
Jan 11. David Bowie once sang 'My Death', a cover of Jacques Brel's 'La Morte', but nothing quite prepares you for the shock of it. As I write, the radio is wall-to-wall Bowie - a vast improvement - and TV is going to town about the demise of this giant of English pop. Many extravagant claims will be made, but the proof of David Bowie's genius lives on in his songs. I don't really care too much about who he shagged or what he snorted, it's the music that matters. Classic numbers like 'Heroes' and 'Sound & Vision' still touch the heart. Bowie had the rare ability to marry intelligent lyrics with magnificent tunes. His legacy stretches from the perfect pop of 'Let's Dance' and 'China Girl' to the golden years (sorry) of the early 70s when he churned out anthem after teenage anthem: 'Rock 'n' Roll Suicide', 'Five Years', 'Starman', 'Ziggy Stardust', 'Quicksand', 'Drive-In Saturday', 'The Supermen', 'The Man Who Sold The World', 'Changes', 'Oh You Pretty Things'... how long have you got? He was so gifted he even gave away arguably his greatest song 'All The Young Dudes', which became Mott The Hoople's greatest hit. I won't go on. More than enough commentators will have something to say. But the former David Jones was part of my youth and I'll miss him. Once again, Planet Earth is blue, and there's nothing I can do.
Jan 7. Hundreds of German women have reported being sexually assaulted and robbed by gangs of men in Cologne on Old Year's Night. The cops describe the assailants as migrants of North African or Arab appearance. Ironically the attacks happened while Angela 'Mutter' Merkel was on German TV urging unity and tolerance. About a thousand men had ganged up between Cologne's railway station and cathedral, where the NYE fireworks were about to begin. At midnight, they started to harass and grope groups of young women who were out celebrating. Some were stripped and assaulted, many were robbed. One was raped. Many of the women described their ordeal as "running the gauntlet". Yet shockingly there was a four day delay between the attacks happening and the news breaking. German authorities tried to cover it up. The Cologne cops initially reported that the festivities had been "relaxed". We had same denial of reality here in Rotherham and Rochdale. The truth was suppressed in case the plebs drew the 'wrong' conclusion, that mass immigration (Germany admitted 1.1m asylum seekers last year) might not be in the best interests of the German people. Those who questioned it were described by Merkel in her NYE address as "cold" and full of "hatred".
It won't be long before liberals assure us that the attackers weren't to blame, it was all just a "cultural misunderstanding" - this was the line used to defend the Libyan cadets who sexually assaulted four women and raped a man in Cambridge last year. A cultural misunderstanding! "Yes, m'lud. In Libya it's perfectly normal for cadets to rape weaker fellows and only a small-minded fascist would suggest there was anything wrong with them bringing their home customs here. Now bend over and take it like a man... " One of the Cologne wrong'uns is said to have taunted the cops, saying: "I am a Syrian, you have to treat me nicely - Mrs Merkel invited me!" Now the truth is out, and feminists are rightly up in arms, which is bad news for old Mutter-dressed-as-Sham. Merkel can't dismiss the sisterhood as fascists. If she had any sense, she'd deport any 'asylum-seeker' found guilty, although I suspect German laws are as useless as ours are in that respect. If she had any decency she'd resign. She hasn't and she won't. (Why are the asylum-seekers all men, by the way? Don't women and children need asylum too?). Ironically the attempted cover-up will only feed the German far-Right, making the liberal politicians' favourite bogeyman a reality. As a consequence, many innocent law-abiding hard-working migrants are likely to suffer.
Conspiracy theorists are having a field day with all this. But why has the European Union embraced destructive levels of mass immigration so enthusiastically? Liberal economists would probably argue that the EU needs to import labour because of their plummeting population growth. But there must be more to it than that. Our leaders aren't entirely stupid so it seems likely that for some at least the hidden agenda is the destruction of the things they hate about the West (patriotism, Christianity, free enterprise, free speech, the class system, the family etc). New Labour deliberately opened the floodgates here thinking they could bury the Tories and the old order with millions of grateful immigrant votes. Of course politicians can no more control the outcome of such a mass exodus than they could lasso a hurricane and the consequences are likely to be catastrophic. It's like the fall of Rome all over again.
The long-term solution is not porous borders but peaceful, prosperous homelands. But how confident can we be that Western leaders obsessed with short term goals can deliver a safe Syria? The best response came from CIA agent Quinn on Homeland. Asked by his superiors if US strategy in Syria was working, Quinn snapped: "'What strategy? Tell me what the strategy is and I'll tell you if it's working." No one answered. "Right there is the problem," Quinn said, explaining that Islamic State has a strategy which includes beheadings, crucifixions, and the revival of slavery, and it all derives from "their fucking book, the only book they ever read... They're gathering right now in Raqqah by the tens of thousands, hidden in the civilian population, cleaning their weapons and they know exactly why they're there." Asked why, Quinn replied: "They're there for one reason and one reason only: to die for the Caliphate and usher in a world without infidels. That's their strategy and it's been that way since the seventh century. So do you really think that a few special forces teams are going to put a dent in that?" Asked what he would do, Quinn said: "Put 200,000 soldiers on the ground and an equal number of doctors and elementary school teachers." Told that couldn't be done, he offered another alternative: "Hit reset - pound Raqqah into a parking lot."
JAN 1st 2016. Happy New Year. I'm still working on the new book so this blog won't be back properly for a while. But you can find my awards of the year here. 2015 was an odd year for music. Pop's big sellers were pretty dreary. Sam Smith's Spectre song was a soul-sapping dirge and even Adele can't seem to knock out a tune any more. At least Lunchmoney Lewis made us smile. My favourite album release was Penetration's Resolution, which seems a nostalgic choice but it's powerful, tuneful, provocative - and Pauline's voice is still a joy to hear. I also rate the Graveltones album Love Lies Dying, merciless blues rock that hits like Anthony Joshua moving in for the finish. The gig of the year was the Bar Stool Preachers at Rebellion, a great young band full of energy and tunes with a charismatic frontman in Tom McFaull. There are other promising groups out there: the new Manchester bands like All The Kings Men, The Backhanders and Alias Kid and various young adrenalin-pumping r&b combos such as the Ming City Rockers and Eight Rounds Rapid. I've been happy to play them all on my podcast, The Hungry & The Hunted, and will continue to seek out exciting sounds this year.
We'll hear a lot about punk in 2016 as it's being touted as the 40th anniversary of the scene (even though the Pistols played their first gig in 1975). The Isle of Wight fest has a punk theme, while Rebellion will be perversely celebrating with a job-lot of Yank bands; some very good but I'm not sure what it's got to with London 1976. I suspect most people with a view on what punk was have bought into a vision that has nothing like the reality of it. I still remember the joy of buying New Rose by the Damned on the day it came out that October from a little record shop in Shepherds Bush and rushing home (86 MacKay House) to play it, the thrill of watching the needle drop on the vinyl and hearing that aural assault of pure rock 'n' roll energy. Punk was exciting, it was energising. It wasn't about separateness. All those great bands, the Buzzcocks, The Adverts, X-Ray Spex etc infiltrated the charts with glee - and without ever losing their identity or integrity; it was a world away from tuneless crusties skulking in the shadows and regurgitating old hippy ideas. Give me Gen X on the Marc Bolan show over Discharge or Crass any day. These early bands were the poison IN the machine.
Original punk wasn't about independent labels. The Pistols and the Clash weren't shy about signing to CBS, EMI, A&M and so on. Why not? Orwell signed to Secker & Warburg after all without ever compromising his ideals. They were using the system to popularise their message - "I use the best, I use the rest". I love that whole DIY (small business) ethic but don't buy the argument that as a consequence you have to be anti other businesses, or that indie labels are something morally superior because in my experience they're not. Even the holier-than-thou Rough Trade weren't in it to lose money. Original punk didn't have a left-wing agenda either - punk happened under a Labour government, Labour councils tried to ban it and, before RAR, much of the far-Left were just as hostile and suspicious of it as the far-Right.
Too much of the "punk scene" today is retro and narrow-minded. Too many people who call themselves punk are little Hitlers who want to tell us what we can think, what we can say, what we can eat (Anyone remember being lectured about vegan burgers at the Vortex, the Roxy or the Bridgehouse? Me neither.) Punk wasn't like this. It was a laugh. It was FUN. We enjoyed it, even when the gigs were scary. Punk was and remains a way of thinking, not a way of dressing. That's why it had such a radical effect on everything from art to the mass media via fashion and film making. Punk's real message was: Think for yourself! Challenge everything! Tear up the rules! And never trust a hippy...
A collection of forty of my song lyrics has just been published. When I was asked to put it together, I hesitated. Some of these lyrics are decades ago and the humour has dated. The song 'Pink Tent' for example was obviously the work of a pubescent boy obsessed with the opposite sex, so Simon Danczuk would probably enjoy it. The words to 'I Lost My Love To A UK Sub' probably won't mean so much to you if you're unfamiliar with Charlie Harper's back catalogue. 'Hitler Was An 'Omo' was written to wind up pin-headed Nazis, not to offend gays. And of course 'England's Glory' isn't all my work as it includes quotes from Shelley and Shakespeare. Some songs have taken different forms over the years and in these cases I've chosen the version I like best. I've included one of the numbers I wrote as Prole, one I haven't yet recorded and more than a few old favourites. The collection ranges from 'Whelks' (1976) and 'The Joys Of Oi' (1982) to 'Oblivion' and 'Dogging In Dartford' (2014). As always my desire was to "have a laugh and have a say", although I suspect with the Gonads the laughs usually had the upper hand. Cheers.