BUSHELL ON THE BLOG
Not that the last twelve months were perfect. Minor irritations ranged from Victoria Beckham's OBE to Roland Duchatelet's disastrous regime at The Valley. The worst thing was our treatment of ex-soldiers. It's scandalous that Sgt Alexander Blackman is still behind bars, and even worse that two retired British Paras face prosecution for shooting Joe McCann dead in 1972. McCann was the commander of the IRA's third battalion in Belfast. He was involved in numerous killings including the murder of a Royal Green Jackets squaddie who was lured into an ambush. He also took part in an assassination attempt on Ulster Unionist MP John Taylor who was shot five times. How can it be right that our boys face incarceration when terrorists were given amnesty? The decision to charge these brave men 44 years after the event was taken by the head of the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland, Barra McGrory, a lawyer whose bread was once buttered by his work for Sinn Fein. We have Tony Blair and his "comfort letters" to thank for this shameful witch-hunt. The IRA declared war on Britain. The Paras did their duty; they also did the world a favour.
Dec 24. How gutting to hear that Rick Parfitt has died. As well as being a brilliant songwriter, penning many of Status Quo's most cherished hits, Rick was a lovely down-to-earth bloke. Of course he caned it. Rick like to start on whisky and wine chasers about mid-day before waking himself up for a gig with copious lines of Charlie. At his worst, he was blowing £1500 a week on cocaine – which averages out at about three and a half grams a day. On a memorable Top of the Pops in 1983 Rick was so wasted he fell off the stage, taking Quo's drummer (Pete Kircher from memory) with him. To paraphrase an old joke, they'll have to bury him because if they tried cremation they'd level half of Malaga.
Dec 18. The older you get the more people you know and love die, that's a fact of life. But I've been shocked lately by the number of folk my age and older who aren't aware of basic things like probate, power of attorney and the importance of leaving a will. The way some parasitical banks and solicitors rip off the public in the process is an absolute disgrace. I'm going to look into all this and hope to do something about it early in the New Year.
Another under-reported scandal is Theresa May's plan to stop, or radically reduce, compensation payments for minor soft tissues injuries, including whiplash, that result from road traffic accidents (RTAs). May's government also plan to move all personal injury claims under £5K to the small claims court. So if through no fault of your own you end up with facial scars, or a fractured rib or even lose part of a finger, that will be treated on a par with someone claiming for a faulty dishwasher. In the vast majority of cases the court won't order solicitors' cost to be paid by the losing party, so poorer claimants will have to deal with the process without legal help. The result will be to penalise the victims of RTAs and safeguard the government's wealthy pals in the insurance companies and big business. The public's rights to compensation for injuries caused by negligence will be seriously undermined.
Dec 17. Quick reminder: my band the Gonads play London's 100 Club on Wednesday (21st) with the Cockney Rejects. We'll be playing our 'pure punk for row people' set – all of our greatest flops from the early 80s (except for 'Tucker's Ruckers' – we're not suicidal.) Tickets from here.
Dec 16. It was Micky Fitz's funeral yesterday in Hither Green, south London. A flock of old punk and Oi faces, some now as leathery as Theresa May's trousers, joined The Business singer's nearest and dearest for a moving farewell. Even in the sadness there were laughs as Mick's (and my) former guitarist and song-writer partner Steve Kent reminded the departed from the pulpit that it was still his round. The service included readings, anecdotes and Social Distortion's 'When The Angels Sing' which allowed time for our own memories to surface. In my case I recalled the day I smuggled Mick into the video for 'Let It Be', the chart-topping charity single I put together back in the eighties, and the way he used to drink bitter when he was buying but lager when anyone else was – he preferred lager but bitter was 2p cheaper... Not that I'm suggesting he was tight. There are plenty of others happy to do that... I'm not sure that the verger was too impressed by the strains of 'Drinking & Driving' at the end, though, but it made the congregation grin. (As I type now I've just remembered getting a Tory MP to attack the song, generating the band some handy promotional shock-horror outrage.) As a nice touch, Mick's DM boots were left atop the coffin. Mourners had come from all over the world, over-flowing into an upstairs gallery which was standing room only at the back. Many were musicians, either contemporaries or from later generations inspired by The Business. With their hugely influential album The Truth, The Whole Truth & Nothing But The Truth the south east London band effectively established the template for modern streetpunk. They were also the first 'casual' band, their hardcore following included hooligan elements from many London clubs united in a love of their terrace anthems. Fitzy came from a time when music was outspoken, sometimes dangerously so, when young working class rebels used rock as an escape route from the dole and when Oi connected with huge numbers of disaffected youth around the globe. God bless you, Micky. I'll miss you mate and so will they.
Dec 14. I recorded a new Rancid Sounds podcast today looking back at some of the highlights of 2016 with a "Puke Box Jury" consisting of various punk reprobates. Bands including the Spitfires, Skurvi, Headline Maniac, the Muffwigs, Louise Distras and Kicker fight it out for the top slot. Watch this space for a link when it's up and running.
Dec 10. R.I.P. A.A. Gill, a peerless television critic. Gill was sharp, funny, and hugely bright; engaging company too. The Sunday Times will struggle to replace him.
Dec 9. Labour plummeted to fourth place in the Sleaford & North Hykeham by-election. In 1997, the year Blair was elected, they notched up more than a third of the vote there. Yesterday all they could manage was a feeble ten per cent, down 7.1% on last year's less than impressive result. UKIP came second, with the Liberal Democrats (who are still neither) in third place. In fairness, at least they beat the Loony candidate and kept hold of their deposit. But it's clear that Corbyn's stumbling, decaying Labour Party are rapidly becoming the political equivalent of The Walking Dead. Insulated in their bubble of dismal group-think the unappealing zombies have lost touch with everyday folk and have no coherent strategy for recovery. It'd take more than Negan and Lucille to hammer some sense into them.
A London shop called Really British is under attack; not for selling touristy tat but for the far bigger 'crime' of calling itself British and stocking harmless goods emblazoned with the Union flag. Apparently this is "racist". No-one seems to mind the nearby Muswell Hill restaurant that calls itself Real Greek. And few would raise an eyebrow to a shop in Dublin flogging leprechauns, shillelaghs and Craic Head t-shirts. It's only the British flag that upsets these self-loathing nitwits. Middle class and semi-educated, they seem to think we should all hang our heads in collective shame at the very thought of who we are and what we have achieved as a people. And the Left wonders why Labour is on the ropes... It makes you want to pop up to North London and pick up a novelty solar-powered queen toy and a brace of Union Jack pin-cushions.
Dec 3. Even though I knew it was coming, it's hard to get my head around the death of Micky Fitz. I'd known Mick and his band the Business for 36 years, half a life-time. We'd gone to the same school, although he was a few years below me, we drank in the same pub, the Lord Northbrook in Lee, we shared the same idea of what Oi should be – working class punk with brains and great tunes, which thanks to Steve Kent the band had in abundance. I used to call them "pop-oi" because they had a better grasp of melody than most. Those early songs like 'Out In The Cold' and 'Product' had an intelligence that belied their image. They were one of the bands who played Southall on the night of the riot and were wrongly tarnished by the press as 'racist' in the wave of hysterical media coverage that followed it.
In fact, the Business's sympathies were firmly aligned with working class causes. Mick's song 'National Insurance Blacklist' targeted the secretive list of 'subversive' trade unionists used by employers in the building trade to keep those they perceived as troublemakers off their sites, while 'Real Enemy' suggested that working class people should fight those in power rather than each other. See also 'Work Or Riot'. The Business were quick to play an Oi Against Racism tour in 1981. They covered the Crass anthem 'Do They Owe Us A Living', and they also recorded Garry Johnson's seminal poem 'Suburban Rebels' which made all of our feelings clear on the middle class poser Left: 'They're the sons and daughters of well-off bankers/Tom Robinson's army of trendy wankers/Who wear flared jeans and anoraks/With yellow streaks all down their backs... Oi oi oi, the chosen few/This is what we think of you: suburban rebels playing at Reds/You would-be urban terrorists/You don't scare us with your badges and banners/You know fuck-all about heavy manners'.
The other thing the Business had going for them is they didn't align themselves to any one team. Fitzy was West Ham, but their following encompassed all London clubs, the supporters united by class and attitude. They were a band of the terraces and for the terraces. The last time I had a drink with Mick, before his operation last year, he reminded me of the time the band had played the Bridge House in Canning Town, East London, for the first time. "Swallow and an ICF firm were outside the venue waiting for our coach to arrive from South London. They'd heard a mob of Millwall were coming over and they weren't having it. There was a proper big turn-out, they were tooled up and they weren't in the mood for talking. As far as they were concerned the night's gig was off." He took a sip of Pepsi and went on with a smile: "The coach pulled up, and me and Lol Pryor were the first two off of it. Swallow couldn't understand it. He knew us both from football. 'What the fuck are you two doing on this coach?' he asked, incredulously. "It's my band," I replied. "They'd heard The Business and their following were all Millwall. I explained that a few of the boys were, but we had Chelsea, Charlton, Arsenal and of course West Ham on the firm too... " The gig went ahead with no trouble.
There are many Micky Fitz stories I could tell, and I will, when I get round to finishing the book I'm slowly writing about Oi. But for now I suggest those who knew Mick raise a glass to his memory and send our love to the family he left behind. R.I.P. mate.
Nov 28. Paul Nuttall's election as UKIP leader should send shivers up the spine of any Labour MP who still has one. Nuttall, a working class boy from Bootle, will connect with disillusioned Labour voters right across the North of England. He'll worry the Tories too. They're making such a dismal pig's ear of delivering Brexit, they'll drive millions away. Nut 'em all Paul, nut 'em all.
Nov 27. Castro's death has brought out the worst in the British Left, as Corbyn and co race to big up Fidel as "a champion of social justice". Yeah, right. Castro's regime executed opponents by the thousand and imprisoned untold thousands more. He and Batista were two peas in a poisonous pod. The man the Trumphobic BBC call an icon was a brutal dictator who opposed free speech, quashed dissent and persecuted gays, lining his own pockets in the process. His revolution was a disastrous failure, the Cuban people were impoverished for decades and he was only kept in power by Soviet aid. No wonder millions fled. In the 1960s, "champion of social justice" Castro urged Khrushchev to make a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the USA and spark World War III. Yet "for all his faults... " Corbyn tweets. Ha. It's a tragic echo of the crusty old reactionaries who used to say that for all Mussolini's faults "at least he made the trains run on time". The Left loved Castro for one reason: he embodied their hatred of the USA. His legacy should serve as a reminder that the autocratic far Left are just as barbarous as the hated far Right.
Castro's Cuba could only be seen as "socialist" by those who are either ignorant of the meaning of the word or wilfully blind to the reality of the regime. That these include significant sections of the current British Labour Party, particularly its leadership, should concern anyone who cares about freedom. Fidel's authoritarianism, his Stalinism, his fear of dissent were the polar opposite of the rich libertarian seam which had run through the Cuban labour traditions since the 19th century – all of them ruthlessly crushed under the Bonapartist boot.
John Major pops up banging on about the "tyranny of the majority", in other words democracy. He, like Blair, won't accept that they've lost the argument on Brexit. They are part of an international elite whose opinions matter more than ours. And they're worried, because voters all over the world are seeing through them.
Nov 24. Jo Cox's killer should hang. Why is that not even an option for discussion?
This budget is a disaster. Hammond will run up sky-high levels of debt while squeezing the elderly and social care. But what else would you expect from a government with no vision or guts? "Tough" Theresa is wimping out on every pledge she made, from Hinckley Point to grammar schools. She's not the Iron Lady, she's Grey May. She's Continuity Cameron. If Labour were a serious opposition they'd have her on the ropes. But the former people's party is led by people who think wolf-whistling is a bigger problem than jobs and "trans rights" a bigger issue than immigration. The liberal elite are so out-of-touch with working class opinion, none of them seemed even slightly shocked when Hillary wrote off millions of her fellow citizens as "deplorable" (echoing Thornberry's contempt for a builder's England flag). Oddly they like to speak in terms of unity, but they are the biggest them and us merchants in the business.
I'd have more time for May if she'd stood up to the House of Lords. This corrupt, unelected and increasingly meaningless institution should be scrapped as soon as possible and replaced by a second chamber elected by proportional representation. The new Lords would be free of the stench of cronyism and almost certainly less stocked with unrepresentative Lib Dims.
Nov 23. It's easy to understand why the BBC prefers Obama to Trump. Barrack was cool, their dream statesman; he spoke like he had walked straight out of the West Wing. Yet for all his image and undoubted brains, you only have to look at the mess he left behind in the Middle East to see that Obama was a disaster. Ironically, last week he was warning about the dangers of nationalism. Patriotism and trade tariffs cause wars he said, which is a bit rich given the endless conflicts inflicted on the world by the globalisers.
Nov 12. Good to see English reggae legends Steel Pulse on Akala's frustratingly bitty BBC4 documentary Roots, Reggae, Rebellion last night. I met the Brummie boys way back in 1978. They were the most radical band I ever interviewed for Sounds, far more genuinely political than the Clash (who I loved). Nowadays, the Handsworth revolutionaries are looking for the last bit of funding for their documentary film Dreadtown, so if they floated your boat back then, why not pledge here.
Nov 11. English poet John Maxwell Edmonds said it best in the epitaph he wrote in 1944 commemorating those who fell in the Battle of Kohima: 'When you go home, tell them of us and say/For their tomorrow, we gave our today'. On Remembrance Day, please remember to give - here's the link.
So Trump beat the Frump... I genuinely didn't see that coming. The figures seem to suggest that it was more a case of Hillary losing than The Donald winning, however. His share of the vote was up just half a percent on what Mitt Romney achieved for the Republican Party in 2012, whereas Clinton's share was down more than 3% on Obama's. Now her hardcore supporters are rioting; in other words they are protesting against democracy. On at least one demo they were burning the US flag – yeah, that's the way to win back working class voters, you dummies. Clinton lost for a number of reasons but the most significant is the yawning chasm between the US political establishment, which Hillary embodied, and Joe Public who have put up with falling wages, rising unemployment, rotten jobs and rocketing inequality for way too long. That's why industrial towns with a tradition of trade union membership and of supporting the Democrats swung to Trump. The big question surely now is how quickly will he let them down. Will Donald re-open the mines, revive manufacturing industries and axe all those green restrictions on oil and petrol? Will he erect tariff walls to keep out cheap foreign goods and crack down on illegal immigration as he promised... in short come up with a genuine New Deal for the working class he claimed to champion? Or will he cave in to "orthodox", i.e. failed neo-liberal policies? I have no crystal ball, but I strongly suspect that although the future may be orange it won't be that bright.
Theresa May is another one whose "tough" image will surely be burst like a punctured condom sooner than pundits expect. The only people May ever stood up to as Home Secretary were the Old Bill who she left cut, weakened, hamstrung and demoralised (only the prison service is in a worst state). She failed on immigration and swerved the referendum. Speak to most coppers today and May's name is mud. They suspect, as I do, that the Tories' ultimate goal is to privatise policing entirely.
Book news: A few people have been asking about my rock memoirs, so here’s a quick update. Riff-Raff, Rebels & Rock Gods is no longer available, and The Power & The Glory has virtually sold out its first edition. Rather than re-publish them, I have rationalised the contents.
Sounds of Glory Volume One is about the great hard rock and metal bands of the late 70s and early 80s: Iron Maiden, Ozzy, Thin Lizzy, Rose Tattoo, Motörhead, ZZ Top, Def Leppard, Gary Moore, UFO, Twisted Sister, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow etc
Sounds Of Glory Volume Two covers Punk and Ska: The Specials, The Jam, The Sex Pistols, Madness, Blondie, the Cockney Rejects, The Selecter, The Ruts, Squeeze, Angelic Upstarts, Bad Manners, Steve Ignorant, Judge Dread, The Exploited etc
Both will be published as physical paperbacks in the first week of November – volume one is available for pre-order on Kindle right now.
I’ve held back a lot of great bands for follow-up volumes (The Clash, The Beat, Ian Dury, the Skids etc for one; Saxon, Venom, Waysted etc for another) should there be any demand for them. Cheers, GB
This blog is closed for a few weeks while I finish my latest book and work on other projects. Toodle pip.
Oct 13. Just popping back to warn you that Don Letts's documentary The Story of Skinhead is disappointing. A shame. I like Don and he seemed sincere in wanting to tell "the real story" of the world's most misunderstood youth cult. But he loses it when he gets to the 1980s relying on the same old recycled media myths about the Southall riots, viz that Oi bands deliberately chose to play the Middlesex town in order to provoke its large Asian population into rioting. Well why on earth would they have done that? Don could have asked any of the bands on the bill that night. He could have asked the paying fans. I'm still in touch with more than twenty of them. Instead we see the same old footage. Don tells me, on film, that the bands should not have played an Asian area. But the bands, coming primarily from inner city London, had always played multi-racial areas (Peckham, Hackney etc) without racial conflict – the trouble at gigs up to that point (Ladbroke Grove, Southgate) had been entirely football/territory related...
I could name most of the musicians on the bill that night, and many of the audience and tell you precisely what their politics were. Had the bands deliberately set out to provoke street fights and chaos, they would not have booked a West London gig on a night that West Ham were playing at home in East London. Thousands of gigs on, mostly trouble free, and the media's interpretation of Oi still boils down to the flawed press cuttings about this one... and the demonstrably false idea that Oi was just for skinheads (it never was) and all skins were Nazis (they never ever were – although many jumped on the bandwagon after the Mail etc misreported that night).
That they are able to illustrate that claim with footage of young skins making sieg heil gestures is misleading. Far-right skins were the story, so that was the kind of shot the news crews went for. (TV history is shaped by the footage available, that then gets recycled, hence the "line" repeats...) There were thousands of left-wing skins at ANL and RAR events at the time but they weren't filmed because they weren't "the story". As a consequence the narrative established by post-Southall news coverage had a negative effect all over the world.
The bottom line is no-one died at Southall (unlike say, in the US hip hop scene, or at Altamont). No Oi bands were involved in the neo-Nazi Blood & Honour scene which was launched years later in 1987. Back in 1981 Oi bands hit back at the smears by doing anti-racist gigs... another fact that is rarely reported. And if you're going to make a show about skinhead politics then surely there should have been some mention of the Redskins, the Blaggers ITA and Red Action's Oi shows – if only for balance? Don is sniffy about the music not being Jamaican but the biggest skinhead act of all time were the rock band Slade (even if their image was contrived and they quickly ditched it). Besides it's beyond patronising to write off a scene as diverse and long-running as Oi, which stretches from the sublime (Cock Sparrer, Blitz, the Business, the Cockney Rejects) to the ridiculous (Barney Rubble, Splodge, The Toy Dolls etc) via ranting poets and novelists in such an off-hand fashion. Viewers should have been told about the wealth of protest songs that came out of streetpunk, such as National Insurance Blacklist, Work Or Riot, Two Million Voices and Jobs Not Jails (that slogan taken from a socialist skinhead protest march in Sheffield in the summer of 1981). They should have been told about Nellie The Elephant and Two Pints Of Lager & A Packet Of Crisps. They should have learned how Oi influenced bands all over the world, including Rancid and the Dropkick Murphys. But it's no surprise that they weren't. Oi has been maligned and written off for more than three decades, yet it still survives, with bands all over the world from the Indonesia and Malaysia to the States via Russia, China, Australia and Scandinavia.
People who love the scene know full well that there is a difference between skinheads and boneheads. The scruffy boneheads of later years were as distinct from the original skins in their fashion, their music and their views, as Mods were from beatniks. It's a crying shame that extremist politics polluted street music. But it's worth pointing out that the 2-Tone bands suffered far more from far-Right violence than the Oi bands did, largely because the Oi bands fought back. And why does no-one ask if Malcolm McLaren's use of swastikas "to shock" years earlier might have attracted the extreme right into punk in the first place? There was a lot of questionable imagery floating around in the 1970s... starting with Bowie's flirtation with fascism. Southall wasn't a conspiracy, it was a cock-up, a comedy of errors. I've said this so many times I don't think there is anything to be gained now by me ever discussing it in public anywhere else again.
Oct 8. Surely Trump has blown his chances of becoming US President now? His talk of grabbing women by the pussy and boasts about trying to pull the beautiful but married Nancy O'Dell make him sound like a complete Chump. Hillary was understandably horrified. Trump is just like Bill. Trump should go now, and let the Republicans field a serious contender. It's tragic that most TV commentators and "satirists" here and there seem to believe that lying, duplicitous Hillary Clinton will be any better.
Oct 7. We're still not sure what happened in Brussels between Steven Woolfe and the wonderfully named Mike Hookem but it's surprising that it's the lead item on the BBC news for two days running. Is nothing else happening in the world? Haiti was looking pretty horrific the last time I looked; Aleppo is still a hell-hole, Mosul isn't much better. Is it fanciful to think the MEPs' alleged fight is getting pushed so hard because the Beeb believe it will damage UKIP? I heard one reporter gloat that it reflects the party's "irreconcilable split", which suggests he feels the other ones aren't. That wet, pro-EU Tories aren't plotting against May, that the Labour Party isn't staring into the abyss. It's getting so bad there's even talk of wooing back David Miliband. I'm not in favour of politicians brawling, but if that's what happened it won't have been the first time – remember Eric Joyce – and it won't be the last. The story I'd like to see expanded on is the "socialist" stormtrooper who spat in Diane James's face. Who was he? What does he believe? Why is that kind of behaviour allowed to pass almost without comment? Or is it the "kinder, gentler politics" Corbyn promised us?
UKIP are split of course, as I've said before, between libertarians and those who seem to be making up policies as they go along, but isn't the most damaging thing for the party Nigel Farage's association with Donald Trump? If Nige were true to his beliefs, he'd be backing Gary Johnson.
Oct 6. I can't be alone in not buying Theresa May's tough Tory image. She may walk the walk, but the talk she's talking is the same big government cobblers. On one hand the Conservatives talk about freedom, on the other they're threatening to "name and shame" restaurants that serve big puddings – the kind of Nanny State nonsense you'd associate with Gordon Brown. May is wedded to economic intervention. She won't cut taxes or stop borrowing; she won't rein in state spending. May voted against Brexit. When the alleged "new Maggie" was Home Secretary immigration shot up to a third of a million. I think it's a con. We're being sold a pup. The long delay on triggering Article 50 is all about buying them time to water down the referendum vote. Brexit is being spun as a vote for bigotry. It wasn't. It was a vote for independence, for sovereignty. The Tories don't own Brexit and I sincerely doubt that they'll deliver it.
Sept 29. The Labour Party continues to resemble a slow-motion car crash. We've had Diane Abbott writing off everyone who voted to leave the EU as "racist", all 17million of us, and Shami Chakrabarti saying "Don't leave me here with Essex Man" – political shorthand for hard-working people who want to get on in life, the people Blair knew Labour had to speak to. You won't find many Essex Men left in the Labour Party, Shami. It's all Hampstead Man and Oxbridge Woman now...
In his big speech, Jeremy Corbyn attacked the idea of "harking back" to failed policies; an odd choice of words for someone whose clothes hark back decades (he can't have a shirt younger than his supporters) and whose recycled policies reek of wretched failure. Corbyn stands for old-fashioned state socialism, the triumph of bureaucracy over freedom and uniformity of failure over aspiration and self-improvement.
I enjoyed Ed Miliband's speech at the Labour conference: "Hot dogs, pies, bacon rolls."
Sept 28. I've just had an email warning me "your package is about to expire". Looks like someone has hacked my medical records again.
I'm seriously considering releasing a single called Let's Frack. Who's with me?
Sept 27. So, Sam Allardyce. They think it's all over... Maybe he'll net a six-figure transfer to FIFA.
Isn't it odd that the people who support the persecution of British soldiers over alleged war crimes against the Taliban etc are the same people who want a clean slate for terrorists?
Sept 26. Richard Littlejohn has written a piece in today's Mail bemoaning the predominance of leftwing protest songs in popular culture. It has always been a paradox that one of the planet's most ruthlessly capitalist global businesses should profit from so many would-be revolutionary artists. Even so, Littlejohn isn't entirely accurate. There are whole rafts of pop and rock songs that take an anti or non socialist point of view. Specifically anti-Communist songs include Red Is A Mean, Mean Colour by Cockney Rebel and The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again where Townshend, a former member of the Young Communist League, has a pop at Stalin's purges – 'And the men who spurred us on/Sit in judgement of all wrong/They decide and the shotgun sings the song'. Then there is Bowie's All The Young Dudes: 'I never got it off on that revolution stuff/What a drag, too many snags... ' (The coked-out Thin White Duke is also on record as saying: "Britain needs a fascist leader".) Lennon may have changed his mind later but the Beatles' song Revolution included the lines 'If you're talking about destruction/Don't you know that you can count me out' and 'If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/You're not going to make it with anyone anyhow'. And how about George Harrison's heartfelt protest against punitive levels of income tax Tax Man? The Strawbs' song Part Of The Union was a satirical dig at what the band saw as abuses of trade union power. Red London by punk band Sham 69 specifically targeted the far-Left: 'London streets are turning red, there's no democracy', adding 'free yourself from this, individuals rule'. More recently, we've seen the emergence of British folk singer Frank Turner who defines himself as a classical liberal, a position close to modern libertarians, and has received death threats from people who classify themselves as leftwing for his pains
In the USA, the non-Com tradition stretches from Hank Williams's Stalin-bashing No No Joe to Toby Keith's Courtesy Of The Red White & Blue (The Angry American). Rush were inspired by Ayn Rand, Trump supporter Ted Nugent has a long history of aggravating the Left, and Lynard Skynard's Sweet Home Alabama would surely not go down too well at a Momentum rally. Nor presumably would Madonna's Material Girl, The Band's The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down or Guns N' Roses whose One In A Million would probably get a standing ovation at a BNP disco. In hip hop, wealth, success and material excess are revered. Wu-Tang Clan's C.R.E.A.M. stands for Cash Rules Everything Around Me. 50 Cent's I Get Money is devoted to the pretty green. And there are numerous other examples. If Rich cares to pop round for a light ale I'd be happy to bring him up to speed.
Salford University is to spend £60,000 on a climbing wall made from a huge sculpture of Friedrich Engels, co-author of The Communist Manifesto. Surely a giant bust of Rosa Luxemburg would present more of a challenge? Either way, they'll probably veto my suggestion of also building Uncle Joe's Kulak Death Ride; reality is a terrible affront to students and an imposition on their safe places.
Bruce Springsteen picked his five favourite Bruce Springsteen songs on US TV last night: Born To Run, The Rising, Thunder Road, Nebraska, and a tie between Racing In The Street and the magnificent Jungleland. Hold on Boss, what about Badlands and Atlantic City? What about The River, I'm On Fire and Dancing In The Dark? I demand a rethink.
Sept 23. I took in the London International Tattoo Convention today with my old pal Bev Elliot (the punk queen of Soho). The industry has certainly changed since Tattoo Jock and Jackie Ringo did my first ones in the mid-70s. It's huge now, a worldwide big business, with artists so good you wouldn't be surprised if their surname were Rembrandt. Tobacco Dock was full of expert tattooists from all over the world. There were rum bars and merch stalls; stunning women abounded. The appeal of tattooing today is completely cross class. In the bar we got chatting to a pleasant, well-spoken, impeccably right-on chap in his early 60s whose upper torso was covered in ink, apart from his left forearm. I asked what he did for a living. Turned out he was a former BBC Radio 4 producer.
Sept 22. Yesterday an exasperated Hillary Clinton asked "Why aren't I 50 points ahead?" in the polls in the US President race. It's a puzzle isn't it Hills, seeing as the chattering class is entirely on your side. Could it be anything to do with how you've performed in power? Syria, Libya, Iraq, Benghazi, the private email farrago, the lies you told about Bosnia... You're dull, you're hard to like, you're the political establishment and working class Yanks haven't had a pay rise for a generation... but apart from that... Yeah, apart from that there's the small matter of America's burgeoning national debt which you will only add to.
Former Egghead and arrogant bighead CJ de Mooi was collared at Heathrow airport yesterday on a European arrest warrant for an alleged killing in Amsterdam 28 years ago. The charges arise from claims in his own autobiography. Prosecutors seem confident that those CJ initials stand for Certain Jail.
Will tattoos hold you back in life? I don't know, shall we ask David Beckham, Iron Maiden and Ben Affleck? Or Helen Mirren and Brad Pitt?
Sept 21. Who will win Labour's leadership election? Theresa May.
Sept 20. If Channel 4 lose all four Bake Off star names will they have paid £75million for a tent?
Oh no, Brad and Angelina have split. This is bad news for the Lib Dem conference but on the other hand it's a great time to post Jennifer Aniston GIFs.
Sept 19. My old friend Antonella Lazzeri spent the night in a haunted jail for today’s Sun. That must have been terrifying. For the ghosts.
Sept 18. There is a story in today’s paper about a SAS groupie unkindly known as “The Horse” because so many troops have enjoyed a ride. There must be a motto for this. Who Dares Whinnies?
Sept 16. Random irritations: George Osborne’s attempted return, the least welcome come-back since herpes. Our obsession with pointless, expensive public inquiries. Kid-gloves punishments for idiots who text when they drive. The new London Bridge station lay-out turning the once simple task of disembarking the train and crossing the river into what feels like a five mile hike. The posh white eco-toffs who disrupted family holidays and business flights getting off with conditional discharges. I suppose sentencing them to breaking rocks in the hot sun would only have inflated their own romantic/ridiculous rebel self-image.
With Diane James as new UKIP leader, women are now at the helm of five British political parties. All of the main ones then except Labour and the Lib-Dims who haven’t even got a female MP. So much for the ‘progressive’ left.
Sept 14. I was coerced into taking my youngest to a special tenth anniversary screening of High School Musical tonight. I was expecting the dullest couple of hours since I last watched Charlton play. I was wrong. The Electric Cinema in Notting Hill was a joy, and the made-for-TV film delivered in a kid-pleasing Disney does Grease way. You can see why it’s an international phenomenon. It’s upbeat, it’s fun, it celebrates teenage innocence... a little bit different from my formative years, fermenting dissent, marching to Aldermaston and playing Manic Depression as loudly and often as possible.
Sept 13. How many more plastic fivers will TV news bods try and destroy? Seriously, nobody gives a monkey’s toss.
Text of the Day: Don’t panic, Bake Off can’t leave the BBC until Theresa May triggers Arctic Roll 50.
Sept 12. Hard on the heels of Jeremy Corbyn wanting to curb after-work drinking, Owen Smith said yesterday that he’s keen on ignoring the Brexit vote, adopting the Euro and joining Schengen. Way to win over the working class, chaps... This leadership clash has all the must-see thrill of Sunderland’s performance against Everton.
Can we have a moratorium on people claiming not to understand what “Brexit means Brexit” means? It’s obvious what May wants it to mean: that the British people’s vote to leave the EU will be honoured and Britain will leave the EU. The question is why say it and not do it? Why are we waiting?
Sept 11. A day we'll always remember New York and its tough resilient people. Like Londoners, they have a spirit that can't be crushed.
Kell 'Special K' Brook gave it his best shot last night but he was never going to stop Golovkin. He's a smart, plucky boxer but Brook isn't a middleweight and he just wasn't strong enough to topple the Triple G. The miner's son from Kazakhstan has an iron chin. This was Golovkin's 17th world title bout and his 17th win. Pound for pound, he is the best in the world right now. It's hard to see who can beat him, but it's surely time for Billie Joe Saunders to have a go.
This week's random irritations: the Labour Party calling it completely wrong on grammar schools – a tremendous tool for social mobility, and consequently for working class kids (the ones they're supposed to stand for). The continued use of the ridiculous and insulting term "honour killing" for misogynist murders. The curse of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. The kid glove sentence dished out to Anjem Choudary; he's tending fruit trees inside according to today's Daily Star Sunday. He should be hanging from one.
Sept 8. R.I.P. Prince Buster. The Jamaican Ska legend who gave the world 'Madness' and 'One Step Beyond' has sadly died today aged 78. Born in Orange Street, Kingston, Cecil Bustamente Campbell earned his nickname in the boxing ring – he was trained by Sid Brown, the middleweight champion of Jamaica – but became a champ in another field, the music business first as a producer and then a performer. Prince Buster had his first British hit in 1965 with 'Al Capone', the song resurrected by the Specials on their debut single 'Gangsters'. (TV twerps always claim Bob Marley was the first reggae star to reach Britain, Buster did it ten years before – he was on Ready Steady Go in '64, as was Millie Small). My old mate, the former bouncer (and wrestler) Alex Hughes acquired his stage name from his song 'Judge Dread'. Madness took their name from a Prince Buster single too and eulogised him on their debut 45, 'The Prince' – 'Buster he sold the heat, with a rocksteady beat... ' If there's a message from Prince Buster's passing it can be found in another of his splendid songs: 'Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think... '
Sept 4. Demonstrate outside Parliament for Brexit tomorrow. Say NO to a second referendum and YES to triggering Article 50. Details here.
Sept 1. Will the Corbyn debacle mean the end of the Labour Party? It doesn't seem possible but it certainly is. The Whigs – currently featured in ITV's series Victoria – were once the dominant force in British government. They passed the Great Reform Act of 1832 and abolished slavery throughout the Empire. Yet millions of modern voters know nothing about them. Today's Labour Party looks in danger of consigning itself to history's dustbin too. Bizarrely the leadership contest is between life-long 'Marxist' Jeremy Corbyn and Sgt Bilko lookalike Owen Smith, formerly a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, who claims to be just as far-Left as Hezbollah-loving Jezza but in some indefinable way more voter-friendly. The old reformist Labour Party, the electable one that was more wedded to Methodism than Marxism, has not got a horse in the race. The comrades have forgotten that Labour's most successful Prime Minister was the moderate Clement Atlee, a former major in the South Lancashire regiment whose 1945 government created the welfare state, built houses and created jobs for our war-time servicemen, and made free healthcare a right. The Corbynistas would no doubt piddle on Atlee's grave for commissioning Britain's A bomb and helping to create NATO.
Corbyn will win of course. He'll face open revolt from his MPs, who his followers are already plotting to deselect, and he will lead Labour to a crushing electoral defeat. Out of that disaster we can probably expect a complete realignment on the Left. Labour/Momentum will morph into a new far-Left alliance. Corbyn's rallies are already infiltrated by the extra-Parliamentary Left, failed Trotskyist factions like the SWP, the Socialist Party and the Alliance for Workers' Liberty (although of course Antonio Gramsci's followers have proved more effective). He's also appealing to more (many more) who would naturally have voted Green. This new Red/Green movement seems mostly middle class, over-reliant on teachers, students, social workers and other public employees and thoroughly wedded to policies that are either unpopular or unworkable. This development would in turn, I'd imagine, result in the birth of a new centre-Left coalition involving the bulk of the Parliamentary Labour Party and elements of the Lib Dims. If they're sensible they will heed working class concerns and rejects the effete liberalism that currently passes as left-wing thought (don't punish crime, do punish enterprise, don't control borders, do control thoughts, don't heed the electorate on Brexit etc). This split would have happened already if it wasn't for the fate of the SDP. There was a time when many commentators believed that David Owen, Woy Jenkins and co were the future of politics. Few remember the SDP now. They've gone the way of the Sinclair C5 and the Amstrad Emailer. In politics, as in life, nothing lasts forever.
If Labour and/or its future spin-offs fail to reconnect with the working class, they'll leave the door dangerously open for a rightwing populist party wedding old Labour economics to nationalist, anti-immigrant rhetoric to colonise their electorate. All it needs is one bright, charismatic leader. Mosley's British Union of Fascists once packed out Olympia and won 25per cent of the vote in many wards. It took the war to derail their momentum. There isn't a Mosley out there now but there could be.
Elsewhere Theresa May's Tories will dominant domestic politics for this rest of this decade, but given her baffling passion for state intervention and equality audits, I'd expect to see a new libertarian force emerge, dedicated to low tax, small government and the free market. This could involve elements of UKIP unhappy with the confusing path their party is treading. A near-libertarian approach worked for Hong Kong and has done for the US economy in the past (although worryingly both Clinton and Trump have bought in to poisonous protectionist nonsense that will kill growth and grow the deficit). If British libertarians are sensible they'll take a more intelligent approach to immigration than a knee-jerk blanket ban. They might look and learn from Singapore's experience. Maybe they'll call themselves Radical Whigs...
July 27. This blog is closed now until September. Cheerio.
July 23. I've just finished mastering the first ever Gonads Ska & skinhead reggae compilation. It's called All The Loon Stompers and we're all proud of it. Years ago, when the late great king of rude reggae Judge Dread first heard our 'Oi Mate' track, he told me "If the Gonads had sounded like this in 1980, you'd be bigger than Bad Manners". After listening to All The Loon Stompers I finally believe him. Thanks to all the splendid Ska and reggae stars who were guests on these songs, including Dave Barker of Dave & Ansell Collins fame, Jennie Bellestar, Nick 'King Hammond' Welsh, and the Skarettes; and also to my old song-writing buddy Clyde Ward, Liberty Hayes, Jack from P45, and rockabilly rebel Stief A'Billy. Big thanks also to Lars Frederiksen for suggesting the title. The 16-track album is due out in September.
July 22. The latest issue of Street Sounds is finally on sale. It's a Mod special featuring the Purple Hearts, the Spitfires and a host of new Mod bands, but it still has plenty of room for a Rebellion New Band Stage guide, a Punk & Disorderly over-view, an Aussie special including Rust and Sharpies and much more. Available in the best independent record shops, or fromhere.
Danny Baker will claim that 1966 to 1976 was Britain's rock and pop heyday on BBC4 tonight. It's a tough case to argue against what with the tail end of Mod, glam rock, heavy metal, the birth of punk and the Beatles going psychedelic on us. But let's try, because the next ten years, '76 to '86, were just as rich and varied. Off the top of my head, we had: The Jam, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Madness, punk rock, Adam Ant, the Smiths, 2-Tone, Oi!, Motorhead, New Order, new Mod, Def Leppard conquering the States, the Clash conquering the world, New Romantics, synth-pop nitwits and UFO in the charts, along with brilliant new metal bands like Iron Maiden. But '86 to '96 wasn't too shabby either: Oasis, Blur, the Stone Roses, Nirvana, Pulp, Manic Street Preachers, Guns N Roses, Radiohead (if you like that sort of thing) etc etc. Isn't the greatest decade always going to be whenever you were 15? P.S. What odds Danny won't mention Englebert?
July 21. If Owen Smith is "just as radical" as Jeremy Corbyn, why is he standing against him?
July 20. I've been taking my daughter to and from Peckham every day this week. There hasn't been a night yet when our journey hasn't been disrupted. We've had signal failures, cancellations and yesterday a sink hole, so I fully understand why support for renationalising the railways is growing. Botched rail privatisation has been an abysmal failure. And yet despite the comparative success of Transport for London I'm never convinced that public ownership and bureaucracy are the answer to any problem. Have we really forgotten how poxy the rolling stock was under British Rail?
Despite her tough talk, five will get you ten that Theresa May will turn out to be another paper tiger. On May's watch as Home Secretary, immigration rocketed up to 330,000 a year. Now her successor Amber Rudd suggests the government should completely scrap their targets for cutting immigration to more manageable figures. Hmm. If May sells voters out on this, and on the clear popular mandate to deliver Brexit – and she's doing all she can to delay triggering Article 50 – then the only beneficiaries will be the far Right because the squabbling Labour Party have their heads completely up their own backsides. Sore loser Labour MPs, including Owen Smith, are still pushing for a second EU referendum. Cowardly Corbyn abandoned his life-long opposition to Brussels with apparent ease. While Hilary Benn said last month that free movement was non-negotiable (to which the only sensible reply would be: hey Hils feel free to fuck off anytime you like.) On the ground, Labour activists continue to advocate failed Stalinist solutions: big state, high taxes, zero choice, suppressing free speech. They're so stuck in the 50s it's a wonder they're not campaigning for brown ale, spam and pigeon lofts. Where do they stand on fracking, driverless cars, biotech breakthroughs, the urgent need for new roads and houses and a new runway in the south east of England? If anyone knows they're not saying. Meanwhile, under the dubious guise of "the New Maggie", May is busy moving Tory tanks onto the Blairite middle ground. Don't expect her to do anything genuinely radical like scrapping HS2, dumping our disastrous "green" energy policies, or bringing in a flat tax system.
July 12. My ever ebullient webmistress says that whatever we think of the issues involved, British politics haven't been this exciting since Spitting Image was just a twinkle in Fluck & Law's eye. She's right. It's like we're living in House Of Cards. I trust May about as far as I could throw Eric Pickles so let's see how long it takes her to try and sell us down the river. UKIP have never looked more of a threat – to the Tories or the party formerly known as Labour.
STOP PRESS. The 6pm News reports that a brick has been chucked through the window of Angela Eagle's constituency office. This must be the kinder, gentler politics Jezza was banging on about last year. Ruth Davidson described Corbyn as a cross "between Norma Desmond and comical Ali" earlier today. I suspect Owen Smith, who's likely to join the Labour leadership race soon, will make the Labour leader look charismatic. Shame there's no-one of David Owen's calibre in the offing.
PS Ruth Davidson on the Tories: "We're already enjoying a post-coital cigarette having withdrawn our enormous Johnson... (pause)... Sorry, that's not even my speech, that's a text from Stephen Crabb".
July 11. Andrea Leadsom has been manoeuvred out of the Tory leadership race, handling the mantle of next British Prime Minister to Theresa May. We're witnessing a cleverly engineered establishment coup to reclaim the Party from its Brexit wing. To quell rebellions, grey May is being dressed up as the heir to Thatcher – just as John Mayor was, laughably, in 1990. Anyone who buys this line will be disappointed, but not as gutted as Labour moderates who were crying out for a strong champion to challenge Corbyn and look likely to be lumbered with hectoring lightweight Eagle, of Britain's Got Talons but no talent fame. Hilariously Angela's big press conference today was as deserted as Jezza's parliamentary fan club AGM.
July 9. The spin machine is heavily at work over Andrea Leadsom's motherhood quote. The media coverage suggests that Leadsom cynically raised the issue to have a pop at childless Theresa May. The Times political reporter Rachel Sylvester said as much herself earlier today. Yet the audio tape released by The Times has Sylvester asking Leadsom: "Does your family inform your politics? Do you think motherhood – I thought it was very interesting during the debates you several times said, 'as a mum'. Do you feel like a mum in politics?" She clearly raised the issue herself. As ever, truth is twisted to create fake outrage...
July 8. I haven't got a dog in the Tory leadership fight (or Labour's come to that), but it seems incredible that Theresa May is being rolled out as "the new Thatcher" when the woman is so gutless she spent the entire Referendum campaign cowering in her fox hole. May is the Continuity Cameron candidate, the More-Of-This-Crap choice. She is not an "Iron Lady", or if she is it's one that's consumed with rust. I've known ironing ladies with more backbone. It remains to be seen if the even less inspiring Angela Eagle will take on Comrade Corbyn, but she's hardly leadership material. Even Labour MPs know her as "the lesser of two Eagles". The odds on Labour splitting into two different parties, a social democratic one and an old school Marxist one, are shortening. But could either relate to modern voters?
Whoever the next Prime Minister is must invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty immediately (the petition is here), make Brexit as efficient and friendly as possible, start negotiating trade deals with the world, make a sharp decision about Heathrow expansion and get shot of that politicised clown Mark Carney.
July 6. The Chilcot enquiry took seven years, cost £10m and comes in at a staggering 2.6m words. I'll sum it up in seven words for nothing: Blair lied, untold thousands died, disaster ensued.
No weapons of mass destruction were ever targeted at London by Saddam Hussein; no WMD were even discovered in Iraq. Saddam had eff all to do with 9/11, but Bush and Blair steamed straight in without exhausting other options and without a long-term plan. We won the war but lost the peace. The Allies had not thought through how to stabilise the country, and as a consequence the Middle East is a far more dangerous place than it was. (It's estimated that more than half of Islamic State's top commanders are ex Iraq military). British forces were deployed, with a loss of 173 servicemen and six servicewomen; they were shockingly ill-equipped. Many of these pointless casualties were due to US military incompetence. We accept deaths of our forces in a just cause, but Iraq wasn't just needless it was counter-productive too. And yet Blair still won't accept he did anything wrong. It's a disgrace that this bare-faced conman is still taken seriously by anyone.
July 3. Len McCluskey just called Corbyn a "man of steel" on BBC News. Surely a bloke as sharp as Red Len would know that Stalin means man of steel in Russian? And surely anyone not blinded by dogma would see that Corbyn is actually a man of straw who can neither lead nor inspire, an inflexible buffoon with the oratorical skills of a shop window dummy.
July 2. How sad to hear that Caroline Aherne has died aged just 52. She was one of the funniest, sharpest comedians I’ve ever worked with. Caroline was hugely bright, with a wicked wit – as guests on the Mrs Merton Show quickly discovered. Everyone recalls her famous question to Debbie McGee: “What was it that first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” But other celebs got it just as tough on the spoof BBC chat-show. As Merton, Caroline asked feminist Germaine Greer: “You were a right old slapper in the 70s weren’t you?” And bravely reminded boxer Chris Eubank that he’d lost his last two fights. When he went quiet she said: “Oh Come on Chris, it’s a chat show... You’re going to punch me aren’t you?!” Her loaded questions included “Does your wife like Supermarket Sweep, Dale Winton?”, “Were you breast-fed Carol Thatcher?” and “George Best, was it playing all that football that made you so thirsty?”
Only Mrs Merton would have dared to tell Barbara Windsor: “That’s what I love about you Barbara, you're one of us... You're like a big film star, but you’re still common as muck!” Caroline Aherne was proud of being just that. A working class girl from a Manchester council estate, her humour was based on observing everyday life. She still ate chips and gravy when I knew her, and loved watching shows like Trisha and Jeremy Kyle. When Caroline invited me on the Mrs Merton show, I expected to get monstered but she gave me the kid gloves treatment and afterwards we drank a lot and talked about punk, comedy and New Order. Her sitcom, The Royle Family, co-written with Craig Cash was inspired by her own loving but bickering family. Dad Bert was an alcoholic, mum Maureen an Irish immigrant. She liked a drink, too much as she later acknowledged, and hated fame. She first quit TV in 2001 but was always drawn back, most recently as the voice of Googlebox. Caroline started her career as a character comedian, a nun called Sister Mary Immaculate. Not everything she wrote was a success – we fell out when I panned her Mrs Merton & Malcolm sitcom. But she had a rare wit and a brilliant way with words. She will be sorely missed.
Caroline on me: “Garry Bushell: incisive wit or bearded buffoon, no-one dares say.”
July 1. Post-Brexit, our major parties are in disarray. In a move straight out of House Of Cards, Michael Gove has stabbed Boris in the back and forced the Tories’ most electable and charismatic candidate out of their leadership race. As a disastrous result, the frontrunner to lead the Conservative Party is now Theresa May – a “reluctant” Remainer who bottled the Brexit debate and is strongly associated with their Blairite (i.e. non-Conservative) wing. Meanwhile Labour MPs are seeking to oust Corbyn, the stealth Brexiteer, and replace him with some pygmy from the Remain camp. It seems the political establishment are out to subvert the democratic will of the people and overturn the Referendum result. Gove can’t possibly become Tory leader, which makes Andrea Leadsom the common sense candidate (what a shame Dan Hannan isn’t in the running). I can’t see a decent down-to-earth Labour hopeful. Anna (The) Eagle, another Remainer, was appalling during the TV debates. The party seems intent on self-destruction. Where have all the grown-ups gone?