hot hits

poem in a white ribbed vest

hot hits

one lazy day in the softcore
summer holiday 70s,
he comes home clutching
a handful of hit parade LPs,
salvaged from a council
compulsory purchase order.

someone’s home’s suddenly
swept from under them
by multiple forms
and modernity,
seized for the sake
of the new shopping centre.
the wrecking ball of progress
smashes through their lives
and will not be denied.

mantelpiece photos,
odd bricks of lego,
and seaside souvenirs,
they leave with their memories,
and a new colour TV;
and he idly scavenges
from what’s left behind.

the scantily clad
album cover girls
pose seductively
in hot pants and
white leather boots,
or draped suggestively
over motorbikes.

bored to death with glamour,
pouting at you from the past,
their crushed velvet
deep cleavage world,
acceptable sex objects
for middle-aged married men,
their faces empty
as if their souls
had been erased
by key lights and pan-stik.

 

NB I…

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your mother

NB I am reposting poems about my Dad for napowrimo this year, partly because I’ve not had time to write new ones and partly because I can no longer work out how to use Classic Editor in my WordPress blog. Been disenfranchised by new tech. I can’t make this the same face as the poem because it limits what you can do. I can’t switch to html easily like before. Useless update.

poem in a white ribbed vest

ironing in the semi-detached,

saturday afternoons that have already

blended into night time in November,

do you remember,

as you throw things away out of drawers,

your mother maybe in an apron

(not as I recall her, shrunken, beaten,

white-haired, drinking ginger wine

out of a flask, in an old people’s home)

but young, trodden on by circumstance,

arriving at dawn in strange halls of big houses,

or in rain, shivering outside doors?

NB I am reposting poems about my Dad for napowrimo this year, partly because I’ve not had time to write new ones and partly because I can no longer work out how to use Classic Editor in my WordPress blog. Been disenfranchised by new tech. I can’t make this the same face as the poem because it limits what you can do. I can’t switch to html easily like before. Useless update.

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seasonal

NB I am reposting poems about my Dad for napowrimo this year, partly because he died during Lockdown One in 2020, partly because I’ve not had time to write new ones and partly because I can no longer work out how to use Classic Editor in my WordPress blog. Been disenfranchised by new tech. It’s been no easy task to make this the same face as the poem because it limits what you can do. I can’t switch to html easily like before. Useless update.

poem in a white ribbed vest

father whitewashing the sides

of the house summer after summer

so that looking back

they all seem sadly,

intrinsically, the same.

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lamentations

NB I am reposting poems about my Dad for napowrimo this year, partly because I’ve not had time to write new ones and partly because I can no longer work out how to use Classic Editor in my WordPress blog. Been disenfranchised by new tech. I can’t make this the same face as the poem because it limits what you can do. I can’t switch to html easily like before. Useless update.

poem in a white ribbed vest

me and dadmy dad is dying and I don’t believe it.
we waste so much time at war,
engaged in battle on a million fronts:
the utter absence of truth,
the preponderance of lies.
I’m so angry it eats me up
and I completely fail to see
till he’s too weak to argue any more,
that he’s wasting away before my eyes.

corona means I can’t hold him,
this shrunken, helpless, incontinent,
trembling bundle of bones.
and I discover too late
that I love him despite
our horrible history, the long list
of grievances I keep in my head.

I can’t bear to see him suffer
and so I find all of a sudden
that I can let go of the past,
the cruelty, the hair-trigger temper,
the dark years of dictatorship
lived tentatively on the foothills
of his volcanic wrath.

my heart breaks
and compassion
is like a wound
that starts…

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blast from the past

poem in a white ribbed vest

a couple of stanzas from a longer poem I had published in my school magazine as a teenager way back when. parents never even mentioned it, not even to tell me off for touching on our deeply unhappy home life. typical.

 

mum and dad are fighting

drive each other nuts

don’t know why they married

hate each other’s guts

 

perhaps they’ll stay together

for someone else’s sake

but as far as they’re concerned

love was a mistake

NB I am reposting poems about my Dad for napowrimo this year, partly because I’ve not had time to write new ones and partly because I can no longer work out how to use Classic Editor in my WordPress blog. Been disenfranchised by new tech. I can’t make this the same face as the poem because it limits what you can do. I can’t switch to html easily like before. Useless…

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31 upland road no.2

poem in a white ribbed vest

Fiat_2300_estate_ca_1968
you endure bad black
and white sunday night TV,
impenetrable action adventures,
feigning immersion
in someone else’s bleak
unimaginable past,
to postpone the wrench
of home-going.

while the row incubates,
a bickering beginning
simmering like the anglo indian
curry, fragrant, on the stove.
then rages, sulks and headaches
precipitate a door-slamming
leave-taking.

you are bundled into the back
of the beloved fiat 2300 estate –
a beautiful mushroom machine
sleek and stylish,
straight out of a 1960s
monaco heist movie.

ill will and intransigence
reign supreme
and rain down a plague
of prejudice and hate.
the recriminations rise
like bubbles to the surface
and the argument sweeps over you,
a storm you cannot outrun.
and the top 40 radio show
is never turned on.

Photo of Fiat 2300 Familiare from Charles.

NB I am reposting poems about my Dad for napowrimo this year, partly because I’ve not had time…

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31 upland road no.1

NB I am reposting poems about my Dad for napowrimo this year, partly because I’ve not had time to write new ones and partly because I can no longer work out how to use Classic Editor in my WordPress blog. Been disenfranchised by new tech. I can’t make this the same face as the poem because it limits what you can do. I can’t switch to html easily like before. Useless update.

poem in a white ribbed vest

peckham_rye_park_restoration_3_

31 upland road,
a hop and a skip,
from peckham rye park,
where tiny hooped fences
guard the grass to be kept off
and the dogs, let off the leash,
explode into action,
speeding bullets shot from a gun
in an invisible holster
on your aunt’s hip,
rebounding just as fast
as if on elastic.

a parma violetlooroll
grandmother,
all bustle and bluff
and big-bosomed hellos,
clutching you with kindness
in a hard soft embrace.
her house is dogs-barking
excitement, a cheerful chaos
and cacophony, unruly,
disordered but for
loo rolls stashed discreetly
beneath crocheted flamenco dancers.

parma_violets2a welcome world away
from that finger along the mantel
evening check for dust,
when we all held our breath
in unison, existing
in the shadow of a volcano
that might erupt at any second.

NB I am reposting poems about my Dad for napowrimo this year, partly because I’ve not had time…

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choleric

poem in a white ribbed vest

spenby

a persistent mildew of misery
settles in the skeleton
of the suburban semi-detached,
malignancy lingers like an unquiet spirit.
the echoes of endless arguments
reverberate within its walls
and all its experiences are tarnished
by a sediment of discontent,
the sour lees of sorrow.

all at the mercy of the man’s moods,
wound tight as the springs
of the stainless steel chest expander,
its teal blue handles shaped for fingers,
that he works with a vengeance
in the bedroom each morning,
gearing up with gritted teeth
to unleash the fury of the day.


NB I am reposting poems about my Dad for napowrimo this year, partly because I’ve not had time to write new ones and partly because I can no longer work out how to use Classic Editor in my WordPress blog. Been disenfranchised by new tech.

Photo of Spenby chest expander from ebay.

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cul de sac

poem in a white ribbed vest

6 parkside 2

the thirties semi
seems stranded somehow
at the dead end
of the dead end street,
frozen in an over-exposed
polaroid, for ever
a bleached-out
black and white
in the unforgotten past.

he double-glazed
against exposure,
central-heated
against winter,
laid carpet wall to wall,
incrementally, year on year,
on the chill bare boards.

she still never forgave
the babies blue with cold,
comfortless in their cots,
the tyranny that ran, like
a fault-line in the walls,
undetectable from the outside

but for the stunned timidity
of the children, standing silently
in the corners of the neighbours’ memories,
only their eyes eloquent,
faintly distressed,
and the wife they realise
they no longer see.

even with mod cons,
the sad house remained
a collection of negatives
feeding on fear yet
drawing the girls like a vacuum.

wherever they went,
school, college, work,
the other continents,
they boomeranged back,
subtly dwindling
on each return,

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sentinel

Reblogging poems about my Dad after his death in May 2020. Lockdown rules meant I couldn’t see him for the last 12 days of his life.

poem in a white ribbed vest

lighthouse

a sour old man smell

to the interior,

distilled resentment

and stale urine.

the house is triple glazed

against all invaders,

fresh air, friends and the future.

the curtains never drawn

but heaters on full blast.

 

he shivers, feels the cold,

not to mention

the years of holding

everyone at bay,

never letting anyone in.

 

he dwells on grievances,

the grist of them sustains him,

nurtured by decades of distrust,

trodden into the very fabric of his soul.

his paranoia a corrosive acid

that has eaten through to the bone.

 

he’s isolated, keeper

of a lighthouse,

long decommissioned,

its lonely beacon obsolete.

he stands guard at the window

and watches all the neighbours come and go,

their cars and kids and trips away

as if his own personal TV show.

 

Photo of lighthouse at St Joseph’s, Michigan by Belinda.

NB I am reposting poems about my…

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What the fuck has happened to my wordpress blog?

Anyone else find this block business a total waste of time?

I can’t use my normal fonts – it won’t accept my html codes any more!

And I can’t even see where to add tags such as #block crap #editing impossible … #where are my tags

‘Truly, truly trust your heart’: another arcadian adventure in Kinkdom with Dave Davies

Oh, sweeter times when we all got on.

bashfulbadgers blog

‘In a sheltered place where I viewed the world’: Dave values his alternative perspective.

At the satsang in September 2012, when asked for the setlist as a souvenir, Dave Davies promises innocently, ‘I’ll give it to you after’ before realising what he’s said and following it up with a smile and a saucy wink.

In that instant, I can visualise him so well at sixteen, descending a grand staircase before striding across a hotel foyer in thigh-length leather boots to snog a gorgeous redheaded teenage fan and fervently vow ‘I’ll see you later.’

Even without his stunning looks, he could effortlessly capture a young girl’s heart with just a dash of the charm and confidence he seemed to hold in abundance. That charm is still captivating today in the now 65-year-old rocker, whose interest in the spiritual side of life stretches back some 40 years.

At one point on the…

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John Inverdale infected with chronic case of foot in mouth disease

 

tennis team

The BBC tennis team

FAILURE TO CONTAIN the highly contagious and pernicious new strain of a debilitating verbal virus has led to its global spread throughout the sports and media world.

I’m saddened to report that many of the top tennis players have now (obviously) been afflicted with the strange virus first detected at the French Open in 2015, causing sufferers to repeat the word ‘obviously’ multiple times in every spoken statement. The condition has since spread like wildfire among the tennis and media community.

Symptoms and source

Recent Queens finalist South African Kevin Anderson exhibited classic early symptoms of the disease in post-match interviews. Prognosis is not good. Those affected also seem to become less and less coherent over time.

mark petchey

Patient Zero, Mark Petchey

Patient Zero has been identified as commentator Mark Petchey. It is not known where he contracted it but the TV personality may obviously have been incubating it for some time before becoming infectious.

It is thought that he transmitted it to Andy Murray some time during their coaching association; and the tennis number one’s condition in this regard has deteriorated progressively, even while his game has improved.

‘In terms of’ strain

A particularly virulent strain has now attacked those sufferers already susceptible, with the unfortunate Petchey still the worst affected. His immune system appears to have collapsed and, as well as the ubiquitous ‘obviously’, ‘in terms of’ has completely taken over his speech. I believe that those of, shall we say, decidedly average, intelligence mistakenly assume slotting in ‘in terms of’ makes them sound cleverer. Poor Mark is almost unable to speak a sentence without using this expression in the most excruciatingly inappropriate way, such as ‘in terms of running around your backhand to hit your forehand’ and ‘in terms of getting your first serve in’. In terms of favourites, one of mine is ‘in terms of  both women playing well at the same time’.

sam

Sam Smith infected

In terms of the original virus, obviously, close proximity and prolonged exposure to an infected person are believed to be high risk factors. Patient Zero is thought to have communicated the virus to his colleague Sam Smith during the Grand Slam in Paris as early as 2015, where conditions were particularly conducive to its spread. And it now appears to be reaching epidemic proportions. Wimbledon champion Murray remains among the worst hit, with ‘obviously’ now creeping into virtually every other sentence; and Jo Konta has regrettably also now begun to develop symptoms.

andy murray

Andy Murray one of the worst affected

The virus is also sometimes accompanied by the compulsion to insert other unnecessary words and phrases into speech at frequent intervals, such as ‘basically’, ‘actually’, ‘to be honest’, ‘at the end of the day’ and ‘for me’ (Marion Bartoli was severely afflicted by this strain, another that could be traced back to Petchey, who should by all rights be in isolation).

Foot-in-mouth disease

inverdale

John Inverdale made no sense to start with

Individuals who already make little sense seem to be the most at risk. John Inverdale, long stricken by a chronic case of foot-in-mouth disease, prone to use ‘actually’ three times in every sentence, has proved this to be the case by succumbing to the virus in record time.

The completely clueless bozo unhappily couples this with a compulsive garrulousness that only serves to further reveal the depth of his ignorance. This inability to shut up has one upside, however, in that he makes his fellow commentator John Lloyd seem like a tennis Einstein in contrast.

Amazingly, as if it wasn’t bad enough that he’s always on the BBC, ITV4 is also still allowing the veteran broadcaster to work despite the advanced stage of his infection and his evident deterioration in terms of commentary, obviously. But perhaps that’s because he has made a living out of talking arrant nonsense, such as ‘That was a tame error from Venus there’ (should really have been, ‘in terms of errors, that was a tame one, obviously’) and wrongly identifying matches as ‘games’ and the BBC is no longer capable of distinguishing sense from rubbish.

Inverdale the everyman

Inverdale’s classic approach seems to be to rehash old debates at length, often preambled with ‘Obviously, we always bang on about this … [whatever tired old subject] but I don’t have the imagination to think of an original question so I’m going to go on flogging a dead horse in my attempt to be entirely predictable at all times.’

adrian crop

Inverdale has never heard of Adrian Mannarino

He will always be more concerned with the amount of prize money up for grabs and the number of racquets that get smashed than anything relating to the match and is prepared to go on about such subjects at tedious and repetitive length, often drawing pointless and inappropriate analogies with other sports.

Inverdale also patronisingly assumes that everyone watching is as stupid as he is. That, because he hasn’t heard of a player, no one watching on TV will have either.

He will address a co-commentator thus, ‘For people watching at home, John/Mark/Fabrice, obviously a lot of them didn’t know much about Adrian Mannarino until today …’. So, remember, for his ‘Now you may not have come across So-and-so before’; ‘Probably a lot of people watching won’t recognise this name’; and ‘Those of you watching at home may be unfamiliar with’, read ‘I have no idea who this person is and so I’m fairly confident you won’t know him either.’

Inveraction

Hearing him commentate is depressingly akin to overhearing some average bloke down your local club who’s had a few, with extremely limited knowledge of a subject, holding forth at length to someone who’s just that fraction drunker and dimmer.

I wonder if they operate a short-straw system to decide who will be paired with him for a match?

john lloyd

Chris Evert and John Lloyd many moons ago

It can be amusing listening to other commentators interacting with the Inverdale version of banter. He will voice some asinine inquiry, ostensibly seeking enlightenment from his colleague. No matter how idiotic or irrelevant this may be, John Lloyd will still gamely attempt to answer it. It could go:

Inverdale: ‘So, John, do you think it’s harder to defeat a player wearing a baseball cap the right way round or is it more difficult to beat someone wearing one backwards?’

Lloyd: ‘Well, I haven’t really considered that before and I suppose it might depend on where the sun is at the time.’

Or he will quote some pointless statistic he’s dredged up and request their opinion:

Inverdale: ‘Do you happen to know how many players with more than four vowels in terms of their name have reached this stage of the tournament in the last 25 years?’

Lloyd: ‘No I don’t know how many, John. It’s interesting that you should bring that up.’

Often, the fascinating fact is something he’s read in the ATP Media Guide or, as he calls it, the ‘player guidebook’.

If he’s with Peter Fleming, the American just bluntly tells him to ask something more sensible. And has been known to tell Mark Petchey to shut up when at the absolute end of his tether. Or he ignores the question altogether, refusing to dignify it with a response, particularly if the irrelevant waffle is going on during the point.

Petchey is also a fan of statistics but is rendered absurdly sycophantic alongside ex-players like Fabrice Santoro. In terms of his approach, obviously, he tends to research some obscure facts about said player and then serve them up as trivia questions to his long-suffering co-host.

fabrice

Fabrice Santoro has remained immune

Petchey: ‘Do you happen to know who hit a double-handed backhand lob over Pete Sampras’s head at 3.30 pm on Centre Court the first Wednesday of Wimbledon in 2001?’

Santoro: ‘No, Mark. Surprise me.’

Petchey: ‘It was you, Fabrice.’

Obviously.

His match tactics also perhaps reveal why he won so few matches, as he’s been heard to say, ‘Sometimes it’s a good idea to lose the first set, just to get the crowd on your side.’ Mark must have been very popular with the spectators, that’s all I can say.

Spread and treatment

The failure to quarantine victims of the virus has contributed to its dissemination. Away from tennis, broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire has completely succumbed to the ‘in terms of’ strain (‘in terms of did you start imagining it your way?’; ‘in terms of the way you help women’; ‘in terms of Jamie’); and is believed to have communicated this to her alternative host Joanna Gosling, who is bravely struggling with the condition. It is rife within the national broadcasting corporation. A news reporter called Carletta came up with ‘In terms of what’s happening on the ground …’.

Medical experts have been working on a cure for some time but are hindered by the fact that those affected can no longer distinguish sense from waffle and thus refuse to believe they have the condition.

saschamischa

The Zverev or Zerev (as per Petch) brothers

There is no known cure although certain figures have remained immune, including Peter Fleming, Jim Courier and Fabrice Santoro. It is not clear whether they benefit from natural resistance or have been inoculated against verbal flannel in general at some point in the past.

I am indebted to my sister for the following examples taken down during a single match commentated by Patient Zero.

 

  1. In terms of Zverev (always pronounced ‘Zerev’ by the Petchster)
  2. In terms of tennis
  3. In terms of his serve
  4. In terms of which match they got to see first
  5. In terms of fashion
  6. In terms of winning grand slams
  7. In terms of the weather
  8. In terms of the feel
  9. In terms of shot selection
  10. In terms of physicality
  11. In terms of putting what he has …
  12. In terms of fluctuations
  13. In terms of his backhand
  14. In terms of where he’s hitting the ball
  15. In terms of the way that they play

 

tongue
Sascha ‘Zerev’, as Petchster insists on calling the German Wunderkind

And at that point she gave up. I think she may have run out of paper.

But we continued to note down a few choice examples, such as ‘that counts, in terms of you haven’t struck the ball yet’, ‘a decision in terms of closing the roof’; ‘in terms of points won against the first serves’; ‘in terms of break points on offer’.

I have to say that Sam Smith’s commentary, on the other hand, is imaginative and informative. She will often have spoken to players and their families/coaches and gleaned some insight to share with the viewer. I loved her describing one player’s game as ‘a box of faulty fireworks’; and Carla Suarez Navarro as ‘feeding on the scraps’ from opponent Simona Halep. She has a nice turn of phrase.

Links here to previous tennis blogs on the Masters and Olympic tennis.

 

 

‘I wish my life was a non-stop Hollywood movie show’: connecting the careers of Ray Davies and the man cast as him in Kinks movie

picbkray

‘There are stars in every city’: Ray plays the harmonica

Only connect’ said E.M. Forster; and there are connections galore to be discovered between the careers of Ray Davies and the young actor slated to play him in the upcoming Kinks movie.

I became a fan of the mild-mannered, sweet-natured Johnny Flynn’s folk music after checking him out when he was cast as Ray. 

Here is my blog on the initial casting announcement, exploring Flynn’s suitability, in case you missed it.

You Really Got Me, the planned band biopic, is still listed in the catch-all category of ‘in development’ on IMDb so I’ve no real notion what stage it has reached. I’ve a sneaking suspicion this might be a step backwards and that at one point it had reached ‘pre-production’. Whatever, it has been at a hiatus for rather a long time, perhaps to be expected with such a momentous undertaking, while other projects involving the actors have come to fruition. We can only hope it is making steady progress behind the scenes.

johnny-flynn

‘And make out a smile, though I wear a frown’: Johnny Flynn

Whatever, Flynn seems to me a good fit for Ray. I first thought this was some pretentious art school graduate – his band is called ‘The Sussex Wit’ and songs include ‘Churlish May’ (a song disproving my sister’s theory that folk songs never just say ‘May’ but always ‘the month of May’) and ‘Barnacled Warship’ but this half-brother to Ripper Street’s Jerome Flynn is in fact quite down to earth.

Here is a first link between the two. Both artists’ bands feature their younger siblings. Johnny’s sister Lillie is part of The Sussex Wit although I haven’t heard any reports of big bust-ups à la The Kinks. The Flynn clan seems a lot more civilised than the Davies in that respect. She also plays the flute and the keyboards. But Lillie’s angelic harmonies could also be paralleled with those of another family member, Ray’s first wife Rasa and her contribution to seminal Kinks track ‘Waterloo Sunset’.

lillie-and-johnny

Lillie and bro at Sunny Afternoon: ‘I love to live so pleasantly’

Of Flynn’s music, I initially really liked only a couple of tracks, liltingly captivating ‘The Water’ and ‘Bottom of the Sea Blues’ but I did like them a lot. On repeat listening, others grew on me, like ‘Brown Trout Blues’, ‘Wayne Rooney’ and the end of ‘Gypsy Hymn’ is magical and uplifting (but only from about 2.15 in, the beginning is a bit unbearable).

Flynn himself is supremely likeable, a gifted songwriter, engaging performer and talented actor. You have to hand it to someone who effortlessly manages to transcend the dodgy material and daft premise in the time-travel children’s adventure Crusade in Jeans. (Yes, it is every bit as daft as it sounds – Emily Watson, what were you thinking?) 

And it’s also hard not to warm to someone who commands attention by shyly delivering corny cheese jokes to an enraptured US audience, as he does in this footage, almost as if he’s whispering them across the table to a dinner partner in a favourite restaurant. He has the whole room eating (the cheese jokes) out of the palm of his hand. 

crusade

‘Time has come for a new crusade’: time travelling

The young Davies may not have had the same posh accent as Flynn but I think he did boast a similar self-effacing charm, at least in interviews and often in live performance. He’s always possessed the ability to laugh at himself and recognise his own shortcomings, as illustrated by the sometimes painful self-awareness evident in his lyrics.

He is similarly entrancing in this set for the BBC, blessed with an undeniable charisma and watchability. You can’t take your eyes off him (except perhaps to look at Dave, equally mesmerising) and strain your ears to catch his (almost sotto voce) patter between songs although the audience present don’t seem that bothered in a too-cool-for-school way typical of the Beeb.

Talking of art school, Ray attended this himself in the early 60s, namely Hornsey College of Art, so has always been something of a l’uomo universale, although I don’t think he lasted long as a student.

He penned the hilarious ‘Art School Babe’ in 1998, lampooning his younger self’s attempts to woo such a hippy chick in the 60s.

But there was one chick in particular. She was in the sculpture
department. She was a complete goddess. She was like one of these
continental film stars.’

The lyrics run thus:

juliette

‘When all that you live on is lipgloss and cigarettes’: Juliette Greco

‘My art school babe with your palette-knives and brushes,
painted face, Egyptian eye-brows and bright red lips
Pale white make-up, tight black skirts like Juliette Greco
And there’s me quoting pretentious chat up lines
from Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre.’

You may recall that Jarvis Cocker also had experience of a sculpture student, this at another London art school, Central St Martin’s, remembered in ‘Common People’:

jarvis

‘Smoke some fags and play some pool’: Jarvis Cocker

She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge
She studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s College.

That’s where I caught her eye.
She told me that her Dad was loaded
I said in that case I’ll have a rum and coca-cola.’

I’ve remarked on the similarities between Ray and the Pulp frontman before. It’s easy to identify with the figures in such confessional but self-deprecatory songwriting. Their lyrics often betray a wryly honest and darkly humorous outlook on life, appealing to the misfits among us (and referencing a well-known brand of fizzy drink).

A selection of Cocker’s lyrics and poems have been published in book form in Mother, Brother, Lover but on a brief browse they don’t represent his talent in that regard all that well.

Johnny Flynn (also reputed to write poems) actually went one better and married his art school babe, Beatrice Minns, confiding:

johnny-from-village-voice

‘This is where I’m rooted’: Johnny al fresco

It’s funny because she always took the piss out of me for being kind of folky. She was an art student and real highbrow, and the worlds I was part of seemed really crass to her.’

But, although with pretensions to be working class, Johnny won a music scholarship to Winchester College, where he sang in the chapel choir, and perhaps his success in fitting in there meant he was more likely to win the fair art school maiden than the secondary modern schoolboy from Muswell Hill.

Both singers suffered anxiety in early fatherhood when touring tore them away from their spouses and newborns.

Ray had married 17-year-old Rasa Dicpetri rather hurriedly in November 1964 after she became pregnant, or so the story goes. Ironically, she had not been a particular fan of The Kinks when a friend persuaded her to bunk off school and hitchhike to a show in a Sheffield club. Rasa’s chum knew drummer Mick Avory, ensuring them entrance through the stage door at Esquire and entry into a different world from any the Bradford schoolgirl had ever known.

red-jackets

‘His clothes are loud, but never square’: huntsmen

She recalls that ‘everyone was very excited, shouting and screaming’ and that the band were clad in stage costumes of red hunting jackets and frilly white shirts. Ray would appear to have been smitten and renewed contact with Rasa when she travelled to London to visit her sister.

In Jon Savage’s official biography of the group, she reports,

‘I didn’t feel the pressure because to me it was very exciting, like a whirlwind.’

However, it would seem awfully strange to try to return to normality once ‘You Really Got Me’ hit no. 1 and the teenage Lithuanian immigrant ended up being expelled from convent school due to her association with the band, following a near-riot in a park where she had arranged to meet her new squeeze.

raypointing

‘Holiday in Waikiki’: ‘I sailed to Hawaii in the USA’

This was a difficult time for Ray, with the onus of trying to write hits, front the band, keep Mick and Dave from killing each other, satisfy fans and tour Australia, Europe and the US. On top of that, he confesses that being married freaked him out a little.

Fatherhood would only add to the pressure on the young man, who resolved to improve matters for his family, moving Rasa and the baby, born in May 1965, out of a small flat whose front door had just fallen off its hinges.

Ray’s alter ego in X-Ray (autobiography he calls ‘the tormented rantings of a sex-crazed rock’n’roller’), R.D., recalls,

‘from the day Louisa was born until the day we had to take off for America, it was a crazy, thoughtless time …. I promised that when I returned … I’d find us a house to live in with more space and in better shape.’

The accounts of that time make it sound as if everything was happening so quickly that it almost seems speeded up like in one of those old-time film reels, and totally chaotic. Everyone was getting swept up in the momentum of the group’s meteoric rise.

Ray was extremely reluctant to embark on a stateside tour but by then was just one of the cogs in the ‘money go round’ and had to play his part.

rasa-and-baby

‘When I look up from my pillow I dream you are there with me’: the young parents

Attempts to procure Rasa a visa to fly out to join him initially failed due to her Russian parentage but these obstacles were eventually overcome. However, it’s hard to believe Ray was that glad to see her, considering what he’d been getting up to on tour. Let’s just say that matrimony didn’t seem to instil in him any strong compulsion to keep it in his pants. Rasa was still suffering the after-effects of the traumatic childbirth. R.D. remarks, ‘It was like she had been mauled by a butcher … Her stitches had hardly healed.’ Although overjoyed to be reunited with her, Ray’s elation was tempered by his spouse’s gentle evasion of physical intimacy.

This enforced separation from wife and firstborn daughter Louisa precipitated a profound depression and in the end a breakdown of sorts. He penned the touchingly aching ‘I Go to Sleep’ (probably more famously covered by one-time fan and short-time squeeze Chrissie Hynde with The Pretenders, mother of Ray’s admirably activist daughter Natalie) during this period, pining for his wife and child. ‘Sitting in My Hotel’ also recounts the self-imposed isolation the alienated homesick musician underwent abroad (when not busy getting his end away, one presumes).

ray-and-natalie

‘I’m not going to take it all lying down’: Natalie fights for the environment

In a poignant parallel, Flynn recalls experiencing panic attacks on a US tour after his son was born:

When Gabriel arrived there was a couple of weeks of confused bliss, then I had to go on tour. I was pressured to do it; we hadn’t toured the album in America and risked losing our record deal.’

This could be a good way into the character of Ray, faced with a similar career imperative at a similar turning point in his life.

johnny-and-gabriel

Johnny and son Gabriel: ‘I remember you well from before you were born’

Often driving through the night, Flynn’s memory of the 8,000-mile tour is of

Not sleeping, driving shitloads. I’d just had a kid and was really worried about missing that time with him. I started having quite severe panic attacks.’

He identifies these as

a welling up of big changes that needed working out: having a child, getting married. I think lots of people go through similar things around these junctures in life.’

The birth of his son and death of his father Eric also prompted a preoccupation with ageing, often discerned in Kinks lyrics too, in songs from ‘Autumn Almanac’ on. Flynn declares:

I always looked forward to being older and being able to better inhabit my thoughts.’

Hm, just wait till you’ve tried it – you might change your mind.

ray-piano

‘Everybody’s in showbiz’: Ray on cover of Radio Times

In addition to his incredible musical pedigree, having written some of the best-loved songs of the 60s and 70s, Ray writes books (Americana being his latest publishing venture) and musical theatre (Come Dancing was another success) and, like Johnny, has not been averse to a bit of acting either, starring in a BBC TV play, The Long Distance Piano Player, in 1970.

He appeared in the less than successful Absolute Beginners in 1986, alongside such luminaries as the late great David Bowie and James Fox, as well in as a weird type of TV stage show drama called Starmaker, a curiosity worth checking out on YouTube just for the strangeness factor if you’re a dedicated follower.

The lead Kink is a dream of a role for Johnny, given name Joe, who’s already appeared as a musician in the film Lotus Eaters. Its IMDb synopsis reads:

A group of young Londoners struggle to find meaning in their lives while masking their discontent with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.’

And here is Johnny singing the rather sweet ‘Papa Was a Rodeo’ to the fabulously beautiful Antonia Campbell-Hughes.

In Song One in 2014 he also plays a musician, this time opposite Anne Hathaway.

johnny-flynn

Flynn has also starred in an ill-fated sitcom, Brotherhood, shown on Comedy Central to general opprobrium. It only scores 3.9 on IMDb.

brotherhood

‘And always by your brother’s side’: the cast of sitcom Brotherhood.

I didn’t think it was nearly as bad as all that and found some episodes quite amusing. You can check them out on YouTube if you’re so inclined. The setup seems similar to the US’s Two and a Half Men, although I have never watched this so can’t confirm.

Johnny plays inveterate philanderer Toby, a charming child-man with absolutely no sense of responsibility and a rampant desire to bed all available women. He is as camp as Ray Davies in drag. At Christmas. Or even Ray Davies dressed up as Father Christmas.

ray as santa

‘Don’t give my brother a Steve Austin outfit’: Ray likes to dress up.

His acting career may have perhaps surpassed Ray’s but the latter has undoubtedly enjoyed more success in the music business, not only in the charts but even in turning the early days of The Kinks into theatre. His recent musical purporting to tell the story of the band, Sunny Afternoon, is reviewed here. The production is touring the UK as I write and you could do a lot worse than seek it out if you want a rip-roaring slice of 60s entertainment.

In another parallel, both Davies and Flynn have penned themes for TV sitcoms, Ray for Till Death Do Us Part and Johnny for The Detectorists.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5NaTh6X3nw&t=7s]

Postscript

Incidentally, Ray had long ago composed a song (currently familiar from TV adverts for a bathroom supplier) on the subject of Queen Victoria. The period drama recently shown on ITV of a Sunday night about the monarch is notable for also starring Tom Hughes as the queen’s paramour Albert. He is making an admirable job of it and I had picked him to play Mick Avory in the movie. But I fear the part would have to be bumped up from ‘also ran’ status to satisfy the actor now. And Johnny Flynn is now also playing another famous musician in Stardust, the controversial movie about David Bowie’s early days.

Post Postscript

And so, having just seen Beast, featuring the elfin Jessie Buckley being bewitched by the ‘hauntingly handsome’ (TVChoice review) Johnny Flynn, I find myself won back over. She is captivating and sympathetic, like she could be the love child of Michael Hutchence and Laura Ingalls. He is winning and enigmatic, earthy, with grubby fingernails – just the type we all wish we’d met on Jersey when young and virginal.

Notes

Johnny Flynn quotes from here and here. And Ray and Rasa quotes from X-Ray and Jon Savage’s The Kinks: The Official Biography. Kinks lyrics as ever from kindakinks.net.

Further reading

Here’s first blog on movie casting. And further thoughts.

And the third. Last one here.

And all Kinks blogs thus far are listed here.

And here is a poem about Jarvis and Pulp.

‘He stuns you by degrees’*: Benedict Benjamin at The Harrison

benedictfolk

Benedict Benjamin takes the stage like a slightly awkward sixth former surprised to be receiving a prize at Speech Day. But he interacts with the audience in the easy, charming and affable manner of one accustomed to the spotlight. His polite soft-spokenness itself commands attention, particularly in the intimate setting of the basement of the Harrison Pub on a Wednesday night.

The songs similarly start in a quietly unassuming manner and you might anticipate some mildly toe-tapping pleasant folk fare, his voice pretty but a little brittle like an overnight frost glittering on a morning field. But then it unexpectedly swells into a potent, full-bodied instrument that soars and swoops like a flock of starlings involved in their mysterious manoeuvres in the sky. The sound is lush and spacious, captivating and other, with choruses that swirl round your head in triumphant crescendos. You’re swept up as by a wave crashing on a beach, transported to another realm, carried away on the tide.

 

 

The first time I experienced this beguiling effect was when Benjamin supported the North Carolina folk duo Mandolin Orange at the Borderline. It was like witnessing a nightclub act in a David Lynch movie, deep scarlet velvet curtains and all, at times as if he were channelling Roy Orbison or Bobby Vinton in some beautiful and haunting homage, conjuring up adolescent sweethearts clinging to each other for the last dance at some long ago school hop (‘I Would Like to See You Tonight’, ‘Coward’).

Melodies edged with melancholy showcase lyrics that demonstrate an honest and mature self-awareness, rather like those of a young (and old) Ray Davies, someone who’s recognised and come to reluctant terms with their own weaknesses and foibles.

There is a dividing line

Cutting through the will and the design

There is who I’d like to be and who I am

I’m the sum of choices made

I’m the sum of errors and mistakes

There is who I’d like to be and who I am

 (from ‘Thin Skin’)

Benjamin characterises these resonant, passionate, confessional songs as ‘depressing’ but in fact their very intensity renders them strangely uplifting and cathartic. The refrains of ‘Thin Skin’, ‘Change Your Mind’, ‘Had What You Had’, ‘My Feet Have No Need for the Ground’ entwine themselves into your memory like cats around your ankles and you find yourself humming them for days after.

Like a dead or dying star

Still present in the night

There’s a love inside my heart

That will not yield its light

 […]

Like a song or symphony

Whose melody remains

long after the singer’s tongue

has sung its last refrain

(from ‘Love That’s Left Behind’)

 

Setlist as far as I knew it

Move on Those Tired Feet

Change Your Mind

Thin Skin

[Illegible note – may have been

I Would Like to See You]

Feet Have No Need

How Weak and Unguarded

Coward

Had What You Had

Love Left Behind

Encores

Hardest Thing

Something in My Blood

The venue in Harrison Street, just off Gray’s Inn Road, was an ideal fit for this once a fortnight event, and I couldn’t really recommend it more. Three (or even four) acts and it’s all free – what’s not to like? It’s worth getting there an hour or so early to enjoy a vegan stew in the bar beforehand too. Find out more here.benedict

Benedict Benjamin’s album Night Songs is on CD now.

He is supporting Slow Dancer and Jack Robert Hardman at the Lock Tavern, Chalk Farm Road on Wednesday 25 May.

Here’s a poem about ‘Waterloo Sunset’, a song tinged with a similar sense of pathos.

 

*From Emily Dickinson.

You know what rhymes with happy? A jaded armchair viewer on the sappy Christmas movies blighting the TV schedules this holiday season

nicollette

Nicollette, Nicollette …

The spirit of comatose reporter Nicollette Sheridan leaves her body, and tries to prevent a real-estate development in a small town.

Yes, this is the genuine plot of an actual movie, namely The Christmas Spirit from 2013.

Oh, Nicollette, Nicollette, I love you but this is just too far for me to follow. And way too much for me to swallow.

But they are all over the schedules like blowflies on a decomposing corpse, only mostly they’re far less fun. Yes, you know what I’m talking about – the sappy xmas with a capital X movies that have been on TV since about the middle of October and will no doubt continue to at least mid-February.

Enough already, we cry, as we reach for the remote, desperate to escape the cloying sentiment, sugary enough to induce cavities the size of the Grand Canyon in even the most ardent and dedicated flosser.

As if the excesses of the festival that celebrates conspicuous consumption aren’t about to drive any sane and sober individual to drink, with neighbourhood lights displays becoming ever more over the top and internet deal emails swamping every inbox, normal TV has been taken over by those determined to shove Christmas down our throats whether we like it or not.

aliciaohno

Alicia Witt to agent: not another xmas movie!

Not only are these ‘feelgood’ festive films on Five every afternoon but now they are loitering on all the other free channels like bored teenagers outside McDonalds, spoiling for a fight. So thank you CBS Drama, True Entertainment and Movie Mix for piling in this yuletide with your own rubbish romcoms and dreary dramas on a holiday theme. Here’s my previous blog on the phenomenon but I can’t help with tips on how to avoid them, especially if you live in a house with someone who still believes in the magic of the season or harbours delusions that one day they’ll come across a good Christmas movie.

Here are some synopses from the TV guide (TV Choice magazine) to whet your appetite. The plots seem to get more and more far-fetched, revolving around the lead, usually female, finally finding true love, and increasingly feature angels, miracles or vaguely Christmas stuff magically coming to life and, rather more prosaically, but perhaps slightly more appositely, a disproportionate number of DEPARTMENT STORES and EXECUTIVES.

A Snow Globe Christmas

TV EXECUTIVE Alicia Witt wakes up in another world where she has a family, and must decide which life she wants to lead. [Alicia Witt crops up a lot, especially considering she couldn’t act her way out of a seasonal hamper.]

Angels and Ornaments

A Christmas tree ornament of a carol singer comes to life and tries to help his owner find romance. [Let me say that again.] A Christmas tree ornament of a carol singer comes to life and tries to help his owner find romance.

snowglobe

A picture’s worth 1,000 words.

The Perfect Holiday

A girl turns to a DEPARTMENT STORE Santa for help in finding a new husband for her single mum.

A Perfect Christmas

Advertising executive Claire Coffee meets a DEPARTMENT STORE mannequin that has come to life, and finds it has become her perfect man.

All I Want for Christmas

A self-centred woman [probably an EXECUTIVE] meets one of Santa’s helpers, who gives her a pin which enables her to hear people’s thoughts.

A Bride for Christmas

After Arielle Kebbel calls off her third engagement she swears off love – until professional singleton Andrew Walker comes along, with a bet that he can convince a woman to marry him before Christmas.

barrysanta

Barry Watson and Melissa Joan Hart: how do we live this down?

Holiday Help

Single mum Alicia Witt is broke and desperate to get a job so she can make her daughter’s Christmas a happy one. With the help of an angel, she gets a position at a DEPARTMENT STORE where she also meets the love of her life.

The Santa Suit

A greedy EXECUTIVE is magically turned into a Santa Claus impersonator, and gains some much-needed Christmas spirit as a result.

Even Barry Watson and Melissa Joan Hart have been sucked into the seasonal soup, starring in 2014’s Santa Con, in which Watson’s con man character is ordered by his parole officer to take a minimum-wage job as, wouldn’t you know it, a DEPARTMENT STORE Santa during the holidays … . You can guess that romance and a change of heart is in STORE here. I haven’t seen this one yet. Maybe it’s okay. But somehow I doubt it.

Blog also available on blogspot here.

 

Celluloid villains and heroes: casting news on the Kinks movie

mickonright

Dave, Pete, Ray and Mick pensive in the park.

So it’s time to take another gander at progress on the much heralded biopic of the great British band The Kinks.

I’m happy to report that, after wondering in my last blog on the Sunny Afternoon musical if the project had temporarily stalled, things seem to be moving in the right direction again. It hadn’t derailed but just diverted into a siding for a spell. Let’s face it, it was never going to rocket along at express train pace.

The fascinating story of the duelling brothers whose musical collaboration resulted in such classic hits as You Really Got Me, Waterloo Sunset, Lola, Sunny Afternoon and Dead End Street is brimming over with about as much conflict as any screenwriter could wish for.

It’s ideal source material for a drama, replete with bad romances, band brawls, breakdowns, break-ups, comebacks, familial tragedies, feuds, groupies, paternity suits, schoolgirl pregnancies, sibling rivalry, royalty disputes, suicide attempts, transsexuals, US bans.

It would have to be the ‘long-term passion project’ that it has been dubbed, requiring as it does the cooperation of both Ray and Dave Davies in order to succeed. I can only imagine the patience and perseverance this entails, balancing competing demands from all sides.

Ray, hair similar

Ray, hair similar

With Ray based in Highgate, close to where the brothers grew up in Muswell Hill and Dave now domiciled in New York, physical distance is catapulted into the mix, just to complicate matters further. Though perhaps that’s sometimes a good thing – easier to put any problems down to transatlantic miscommunication rather than inbuilt aversion and ingrained enmity. After all, Ray says the story is ‘about two lads who didn’t really fit together’, observing that ‘I never really had a relationship with my brother in a normal way.’

You Really Got Me is in the catch-all early phase of pre-production, according to IMDb. Major casting decisions have been made, for better or worse.

johnnyflynn

to Johnny Flynn’s barnet.

The leads are already on board – Johnny Flynn as Ray and George MacKay as Dave.  Both British, Johnny has about nine years on George but both look young enough to play the Davies when success first struck.

Johnny (given name Joe) Flynn boasts an interesting musical pedigree. He fronts a folk group called Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit.

Here is a clip of them performing ‘The Water’, quite appositely, for Radio Kink FM.

Their songs carry titles like Barnacled Warship and Churlish May, very drama school, but also the more down to earth Wayne Rooney.

I think Flynn has something indefinable of Ray about him that means I can see him in the role; and his talking voice sounds a bit like Ray when he was pretending to be posher, like in this interview on an Australian tour.

A brief clip from Hit Scene.

His grandfather Eric Flynn went to RADA, where he met first wife Fern, and took the lead in many West End musicals. Sons Daniel and Jerome from his first marriage followed their parents’ footsteps into drama.

So Johnny is a younger half-sibling to Ripper Street and Game of Thrones star Jerome Flynn, who back in the mists of time also enjoyed chart fortune as one-half of duo Robson & Jerome, alongside small-screen stalwart Robson Green.

The pair from the TV show Soldier, Soldier scored a trio of number ones with covers of ‘Unchained Melody’ (top selling single of 1995, in the days when you had to physically purchase something for it to count), ‘I Believe’ and ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ after being persuaded to sign a recording contract by then little-known Simon Cowell (before he evolved into the savvy music mogul inextricably linked with The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent). The duo also scored two number one albums with their covers of classic hits.

Johnny is currently starring in Hangmen, a play that recently transferred from the Royal Court to Wyndham’s Theatre.

georgemackay

George MacKay.

MacKay was born into a bit of a theatrical family too, his mother a costume designer and father a stage/lighting designer. When only ten, young George landed the part of Curly, one of the Lost Boys, in Peter Pan.

The actor most recently featured on the small screen in an adaptation of The Outsider. Personally, I found him distinctly underwhelming in the role of Lewis Aldridge, one that I’d had natural sympathy for in the novel. He seemed to be sleepwalking through the part as if lobotomised, and his failure to change his frankly rather moronic expression irritated me so much that I couldn’t face the second part.

georgemaguire

George Maguire.

His face reminds me a little of a Wallace and Gromit clay animation figure and I submit that he is not nearly attractive enough to play Dave, whose features were all clearly defined. Fans from the 60s all confirm that Dave was the heartthrob of the group.

MacKay singing, but only a little, in Sunshine on Leith

However, the director of Sunshine Dexter Fletcher seems almost to be describing the youthful Dave Davies when he talks about MacKay, insisting:

He does have that ‘men want to be him, girls want to be with him’ potential. He’s cool, he’s funny, he’s sexy, he’s sensitive, he’s intelligent and he’s good-looking.

I can’t see it myself though I’m quite impressed that MacKay is dating Saoirse Ronan.

lincoln county

No caption necessary.

George Maguire from the musical bears more superficial resemblance to the youngest Kink and is certainly sexier. Remember, both Maguire and John Dagleish, who played Ray in Sunny Afternoon, deservedly picked up Olivier Awards for their roles.

The only other casting news is that director Julien Temple’s daughter (with producer Amanda Temple) Juno is to play Ray’s ex-wife Rasa. This is a little perturbing to me, not the choice per se, as I’m sure she’ll be fine (and if anything she’s more attractive than Rasa), but because I would have thought that casting the rest of the band would take priority. Juno has enjoyed parts in major features such as Notes on a Scandal and Atonement.

Rasa seemed to have been assigned quite a pivotal role in the musical so this may go for the film too. Ray’s stance on the marriage has mellowed since the publication of his biography X-Ray (reviewed here), in which his alter ego seems to view his younger incarnation as a gullible sap possibly hoodwinked into the whole thing by people on the make. He calls it ‘only part of a series of events happening to me that were completely out of my control’.

rayandrasa

Ray and Rasa.

juno

Juno Temple.

Daughter of Lithuanian refugees, Rasa Dicpetri met Ray as a fan of the band and still a pupil at a Roman Catholic girls’ school in Bradford.  The two became romantically entangled although Ray was enjoying a smorgasbord of, well, let’s just call it ‘other sex stuff’ with groupies and other girlfriends, according to the aforesaid bio. And he may even have ‘played away’ (I’m veering into tabloid territory) with Marianne Faithfull but it’s all artfully smudged by our unreliable narrator(s) so that the full picture is obscured. When Rasa fell pregnant (neither brother seems to have been that au fait with contraception), the pair got hitched fairly swiftly. I get the feeling that Rasa’s parents pretty much insisted on it. And that Ray didn’t really have time to object. Or a leg to stand on.

tom-hughes

Tom Hughes in Ticking.

Dave had got his first love Sue Sheehan pregnant while both were still at school and the couple were separated by parental intervention, although Dave came to know his daughter Tracey years later.

I still favour Tom Hughes (currently starring in Ticking at Trafalgar Studios) for Mick Avory and Matthew Goode (most recently in The Good Wife stateside and Downton Abbey over here) for Pete Quaife (see previous blog on subject) and pray their roles get beefed up a bit from the minor back-up ones they were parcelled out in the musical.

Hats off to producer Jeremy Thomas and director Julien Temple for keeping the project on track. And here are details of all my blogs on The Kinks so far.

I had to publish this on blogger instead of wordpress because the latter’s always being updated beyond the capacity of my antique PC. The blogger version is here.

‘Long ago in my life story’: the Sunny Afternoon musical takes us all for a stroll down an incident-strewn memory lane with The Kinks

new kinks

‘We’ll have a picnic on the grass’: The Kinks in the Lola period, about when the show’s narrative ends.

And the award goes to … here’s how Sunny Afternoon fared in the Olivier Awards – it picked up Mastercard Best New Musical; Best Actor in a Musical (John Dagleish); Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical (George Maguire); while the Autograph Sound Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music went to Ray Davies. Not a bad haul at all.

‘UTTERLY JOYOUS’

‘A BLAZING TRIUMPH’

‘AN IRRESISTIBLY ENJOYABLE AND TOUCHING SHOW’

So run some of the plaudits promoting ‘the hit new musical’ about The Kinks. I’d also heard positive reports from fans and thought it was about time I verified whether Sunny Afternoon was actually as good as I’d been told.

Chances are, you know more Kinks songs than you think you do. Which is what most of the audience seemed to be saying at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End as the show progressed.

And this rambunctiously feelgood musical, loosely based on the genesis and early success of the London group, is just what is needed to reinvigorate interest in one of the most underrated and under-appreciated bands around.[1]

The badger had fallen out of love with The Kinks after the most scintillating and deeply fulfilling rock’n’rollercoaster of a honeymoon due to a brush with the dark side in the form of a Davies’ solicitor.[2] This bruising encounter precipitated a hasty retreat to the sett for a prolonged spell of wound-licking. But this incredible show from Ray Davies tempted me back into the wild outdoors of the wider Kinkdom and was just what I needed to reignite my passion.

I couldn’t help but half envy those folk exclaiming ‘Oh, I didn’t know that was by the Kinks!’, a position I had found myself in four years previously, after seeing the duo of inspiring BBC4 documentaries on the two captivating and talented brothers. The uninitiated have so many more utterly brilliant songs to discover.

sunny poster

‘And everybody’s in show biz’: poster for the show.

Written by Joe Penhall from Ray’s original story, the narrative fairly rollicks along and is crammed full of incident, both comic and tragic. Pivotal events feature, like the improvised replacement of the upper-crust singer at the debs’ balls after an unfortunate accident with a mike; the untimely death of fun-loving Davies sister Rene, who sadly succumbed to a heart condition on Ray’s 13th birthday after giving him his first guitar earlier that same day;[3] the mutilation of the little green amp; the infamous Cardiff gig when Mick responded to intense provocation from Dave by assaulting him with a drum pedal, memorably cutting his head open and instigating a police manhunt;[4] the battle to regain publishing rights; the fact that they became the only English band to get banned from the US (for three years at the height of their fame); and Ray’s rather romanticised relationship with Rasa.

The musical just touches on the infighting and power struggle ever so lightly, like a butterfly barely grazing a blossom. This is no time to air grievances and grind axes but instead to titillate spectators with a soupçon of the never-ending emotional mini-drama that was life in The Kinks.

If the dialogue is at times a tad sentimental and the events sometimes played for a cheap laugh, it generally works. And you just cannot fault the songs. They are amazing. And these versions, available on a CD, pretty damn worthwhile too.

Imaginatively staged, the autobiographical nature of much of the material means it effortlessly helps to progress and illustrate this necessarily simplified and distilled history of the band. Ray has skilfully divided the songs between cast members (a multitalented lot, they all sing, dance, play instruments, the beautiful sisters with their fantastic legs, even the policeman from Call the Midwife). So to the song selection.

chrissie

‘Please tell my mother and all my ex-lovers’: The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, one-time squeeze of Ray Davies, is the mother of his daughter Natalie.

Some of it is a subtle reminder from Ray, like the tiniest nudge with the very tip of his elbow or the subtlest conspiratorial blink of one eyelid, that ‘I wrote that too, in case you didn’t know’. As with I Go to Sleep, Stop Your Sobbing and Days, which charted for The Pretenders and Kirsty MacColl. We didn’t get David Watts though, memorably covered by The Jam; and inspired by one of the more notorious episodes in the band’s history, when Ray playfully offered to trade his inebriated younger brother to an army major in return for a country property.

As well as the hits like You Really Got Me, Dead End Street, Waterloo Sunset, Dedicated Follower, Well-respected Man, Sunny Afternoon and Lola, we are also treated to the less well-known but very welcome This Strange Effect, This Time Tomorrow, Sitting in My Hotel, A Long Way from Home, Too Much on My Mind and Money Go Round. Not to mention I’m Not Like Everybody Else, that anthem for all wilful misfits everywhere, featured in hit US show The Sopranos. It was originally the B side of no. 1 smash Sunny Afternoon back in 1966. I was surprised but pleased to hear the achingly beautiful Set Me Free as well, because I gather it had been unpopular with the band when released as an early single.

I would have also loved Get Back in the Line and Celluloid Heroes. Maybe they’ll feature in the next musical, along with Apeman and Autumn Almanac. 1980s ‘comeback’ hit Come Dancing had already cropped up in a previous, equally agreeable Ray Davies production at the Stratford East Theatre.

Characterisation-wise, it’s light on the pithy one-liners that Mick Avory was famous for – the down-to-earth drummer was adroit at summing things up, delivering humorous deliberations in his trademark deadpan manner. And Pete Quaife the peacekeeper comes across as a bit of a whiner, à la Pike from Dad’s Army. Ray affectionately lampoons himself as the archetypical tortured artist, incapable of expressing himself except through song. While he’s someone who’s seen to suffer for his art’s sake, Dave is pictured as just enjoying the spoils. Ray tries to please everyone whereas Dave focuses more determinedly on pleasing himself.

Maybe the Dave is a little one-dimensional, portrayed as an out-and-out hedonist[5] but the actor George Maguire is young and good-looking with a great haircut and tons of energy that he throws into the part. He inhabits ‘Dave the Rave’ with impressive verve and vitality. Dave’s talking voice is hard to imitate; it has an odd soft, high quality to it that the actor’s unable to replicate, unsurprisingly.

John Dagleish, although blessed with a terrific singing voice – his vocals are impeccable – looks a little long in the tooth despite his relative youth (his face has a certain comfortably lived-in quality) to play the young Ray; and he’s not nearly as cute. But his portrayal has garnered him an Olivier nomination for Best Actor in a Musical, to which news he reacted: ‘It’s amazing. I’m massively, massively overwhelmed … I’m over the moon. It hasn’t sunk in yet.’

sunny cast

‘Now I’m grown up and playing in a band’: the stage version of The Kinks.

It would appear that The Kinks frontman didn’t make many demands about this stage version of himself, allowing the actor a free hand: ‘Ray took the pressure off quite early. He said he didn’t want an impersonation.’[6]

One minor criticism I have is that Dagleish has a tendency to deliver his lines in a plaintive and nasal tone, making him sound distressingly like Rodney whingeing about one of Del Boy’s ill-fated get-rich-quick schemes in Only Fools and Horses. This may actually be a deliberate ploy to glean every ounce of humour out of the situation. But it’s not how I see Ray, even if he sees himself like that.

But these are nitpicking concerns really, when the production just bowls you over with its sheer zest for life and the tremendous gusto of the performers. It’s impossible not to get carried away.

If you even like just one Kinks song, I recommend you see Sunny Afternoon; and prepare to be blown away and converted to Kinks fandom. Your life may never be the same.

Transferring from a successful run at Hampstead Theatre in the first instance, the musical’s stint at the Harold Pinter has already been extended once and now it’s playing through till 24 October 2015. For more information and tickets see official website.

Of course enough stuff happened to The Kinks to fill a few more play scripts. The planned Julien Temple film You Really Got Me has yet to materialise, [7] though and may have drifted into the doldrums.

youngrayshirtless

‘Where did my chest go?’: the very cute young Ray.

Whether it will ever come to pass, who knows? How can we expect the Davies boys to ever play nicely? The same with the much-hyped reunion – one minute it’s definitely on the cards; the next it’s a completely ridiculous notion and fans may as well howl at the moon.

Dave and Ray continue to dance around each other like two punch-drunk boxers squaring up for a fight neither really relishes. Somehow it’s in their contract; everything devolves into this eternally adversarial stalemate. Would we really have it any other way? The truly astonishing thing is that they lasted in a band together from 1963 to 1996 without committing fratricide.

I wonder if Sunny Afternoon represents the older sibling cutting his losses from the stalled film negotiations, determined to derive something positive from the experience in the meantime? In which case, it’s a happy by-product. Ever resourceful, Ray is adept at channelling his energies and efforts, diverting them from the original scheme into this worthy consolation prize of a side project.

As you get older, you yearn to tell your story, to present your version of events for posterity. Ray has at least told some of the tale here, in a wholeheartedly engaging and entertaining manner. The film, calling for collaboration, was always going to be a more unstable edifice, at the moment just a precarious barely standing façade, but it’s still listed on IMDB as in development. Fingers crossed.

Here are all other bashfulbadgersblogs on Kinks themes.

The footnotes

[1] Although there is a huge caucus of fantastically dedicated fans already in the know.

[2] The nocturnal rambler had ill-advisedly trespassed into too personal a realm, it would seem.

[3] A very touching episode that undoubtedly had a profound effect on the teenage Ray, but we didn’t need to be hit over the head with it quite so many times.

[4] Covered in previous blogs about the volatile relationships between band members.

[5] When in actuality Dave was quite a complicated young man, battling his own demons and regrets, while, and maybe partly by, capitalising on his fame, sex appeal and undeniable charisma.

[6] See more at digital spy. It’s been nominated for five awards in total.

[7] Previous bashful blogs here and here address casting decisions.

‘I used to think why aren’t people paying attention to my music?’ Hmm, not something Shakey Graves can ruefully wonder any more

pickathon copy

‘I am as I came; and I’ll still be the same’: no more a one-man band but still as authentic as all get out.

I used to be conflicted about Shakey Graves. I was one of those people not paying attention. There was a time not that long ago when I’d watch a fraction of one of his performances on YouTube and regretfully reflect ‘So cute but what an awful racket’[1] before switching to something else.

Now I like to think I’ve seen the light and am more inclined to consider the Austin musician a total genius, even a truly original talent. Or perhaps he’s worked some nefarious voodoo magic on me through the ether? Enabling me to appreciate more than his range of nifty headgear.

Certain numbers are still admittedly an acquired taste, not to be advocated to the dilettante (I still class ‘willow garden’, ‘late july’, ‘daisy chains’, perhaps ‘dusty lion’ in this category) but pay dividends for the more hardcore enthusiast after a few listens.

Indeed, some of the tracks I used to find unbearable I now find myself playing over and over. I learnt the lesson that sometimes it’s better to just listen, without the distraction of visuals. When I listened to the ‘original’ tracks from roll the bones, it sparked an instant infatuation; and it allowed me to appreciate the live versions spun off from them so much better.

shakey and boo

‘Come skin your knees with us’: Shakey and his boy Boo.

Early favourites were ‘to cure what ails’, ‘chinatown’, ‘once in a while’ and ‘halloween’. But pretty soon I expanded my playlist to include multiple others. The guy is nothing if not prolific, turning out exquisitely crafted songs at an impressive rate. Where do all these lilting melodies and bewitching licks come from?[2] I can now safely recommend a bevy of outstanding tunes from the Graves canon.[3]

I find it hard to categorise his music, maybe because I’m British, but that seems to me a positive thing. Indie-folk, alt-folk, anti-folk, roots-rock, country-blues, alt-Americana, hobo-bluegrass,[4] other random compound adjectives. Who cares what you call it when it sounds this good?

The version of ‘city in a bottle’ with horns from the roll the bones album just makes you want to jump up, dance and sing and celebrate life. In fact, that whole album is a tour de force reminding me how inspirational and mind-altering music can be. When I’d just about given up on listening to new stuff in favour of artists from the past I’d shamefully only recently discovered, like the magnificent Gene Clark.

Every now and then a song sounds like Jason Walton might have performed it at the Dew Drop Inn in the 1930s/70s; and yet at the same time completely contemporary.

Must-hear-every-day song at the moment is the intense and heartfelt ballad ‘hardwired’ from the new album and the war came.[5] But it might be about to be superseded by the compelling, atmospheric and yet still so much fun ‘wild card’, performed here at Stetson Center Stage, with the multi-talented Chris Boosahda.

Because the Graves (given name Alejandro Rose-Garcia) catalogue also features quirkily poetic and charmingly conversational lyrics referencing drugs, a lot of stuff I frankly don’t understand, extolling the virtues of driving under the influence,[6] passing on life lessons, travelogues, fantasy, imagined tragic blues scenarios, sex; lyrics that are never anything but thought-provoking, displaying a gift for observation, humour and turn of phrase:

You can hang my foreskin from the rafters

What’s a dagger without a cloak?

Seems like I don’t get to wear my bare feet at all

If I lived in a white home you could see the coffee rings on everything

I’ve become a cold case
Bruised and black
Laying on a table with my eyes rolled back
A husband for dear Doe, Jane

Some are drawn from real-life, as he recounts a NY encounter with a hooker (going by the evocatively suggestive moniker of Quick [or maybe Kwik] Monique the Freak) on public transport while his boots languished in a state of disrepair (‘city in a bottle’).

shakeydrink copy

‘If I booze it I might lose it’: well here goes nothing.

Or recalls his delighted discovery of indecently young moonshine brashly boasting of its immaturity: ‘the first time I ever went to New York City and we had pulled over to get some booze in a liquor store’. They found this commercial moonshine with the irresistible slogan ‘less than 30 days old!’.

We just got such a kick out of it that we decided to write a fake country song while we were driving to keep ourselves entertained.

This later developed into ‘georgia moon’, ‘a love song to moonshine and drunk-driving’.

Maybe it’s just as well he didn’t play this one at his high school showcase (discussed later), with its rather dubious logic that the ideal antidote for fatigue and adverse weather conditions while driving is adding alcohol to the mix. Not sure what Judge Judy would have to say about that but I’m pretty sure her honour wouldn’t approve. But I think she’d agree it’s a beautiful song, even if she might not applaud the sentiment, more likely to appeal to the schoolkids, not to mention other folks bent on a good time.[7]

Doing 85 going north on 81
Won’t see my baby till the rising of the sun
Tennessee keeps warnin’ me if I booze it I might lose it
But shine on Georgia moon
Shine on

Yeah well it’s hard to see the road
Through this rain and all the fog
Well this Appalachian driving has me tired as a dog
But this mason full of moonshine, is gonna keep me mighty strong
So shine on Georgia moon
Shine on

So no wonder Graves has amassed a legion of fans and is in constant demand on the festival scene with sell-out gigs all over the shop. Not to mention an appearance on Conan to his credit.

But naturally this success, which has been a short time coming, arrives bound up with the burden of expectation, which this artist seems acutely aware of:

It gets a little stressful – just having people’s expectations is always something that’s sort of dreadful, I suppose.

He has been honing his craft, both in songwriting and performance, conceding in interview that in earlier days he’d anticipated more immediate recognition before realising he hadn’t actually put in enough work. It’s telling of his character that he was initially arrogant enough to expect everything to come dead easy; and then honest, mature and self-aware enough to acknowledge his misplaced certainty.

shakey from austin chronicle

‘Won’t be long till I belong’: his time has come.

I wasn’t able to consistently convey what it is I do to people in a live space, where it would be spotty and I’d have a lot of excuses like [adopts slightly aggressive and aggrieved tone] “Well, you should listen to the recording’ or whatever, you know.”

Well, the sinuous hipped one can certainly consistently deliver live now. He is never less than captivating as a performer, lithe and animated. Sometimes he mumbles or hums his way shyly into the melodies of his songs. He tells stories and jokes of dubious quality, engages easily with the crowd, welcomes special guests (the fiddler at Louisville was my favourite), is all awestruck, humble and gratified to provoke such a wildly enthusiastic reception, yelping delightedly: ‘Thank y’all for comin’ out!’

He’s been feted for offering different versions of his songs live so that each show is essentially new. I know how tedious it can be when you see someone replicate the same set, same versions, same segues, introductions, jokes at successive gigs so that they all seem interchangeable.[8]

And I can imagine this can get boring for the artist too especially one who plays as regularly as Shakey does. So I’m prepared for some rambunctious roustabout to become a maudlin introspection and vice versa. And for almost anything to happen.

In this interview with the less-than-ideal role model, some high school students listen to a song about sex and amphetamines, ‘tomorrow’,[9] and ask a po-faced question about identity and composition and Shakey just runs with it till they run out of tape. He has said elsewhere: ‘I like to sit down and really stew in it.’

This lot are studying Jean-Luc Godard so is it any wonder they come over un peu pretentious? One quotes Godard’s assertion that there is ‘clear continuity between all forms of expression’, before asking ‘What continuity do you see between your music and your acting?’

Rose-Garcia gamely takes this on, discoursing at length in a considered manner the nature of said continuities but the gist of his response is that there are ‘tons’.

Something else to his credit is his fealty to his home town: ‘I made a conscious decision to try and work in Austin’. This would seem to have paid off in spades with the town choosing to celebrate an annual Shakey Graves Day in honour of its illustrious son.

He talks of the delights of recording an album at home too:

It’s fun to walk into an actual studio but it’s also really great to like not take your bathrobe off all day long and be up at 3.30 in the morning with your friends … I am so happy that my house is a recording studio.

Songs to check out if you haven’t already, include, in no particular order –

wild card, hardwired, to cure what ails, parliament, good police, chinatown, once in a while, halloween, georgia moon, donor blues, passionate kisses, lonely hill, city in a bottle, christopher columbus, family tree, proper fence, bully’s lament, tomorrow, doe, jane, word of mouth, built to roam, dearly departed, business lunch, rotten ol’ me, coat of arms, only son, the perfect parts, pansy waltz, call it heaven, house of winston as well as covers like i’m on fire, dead end street, darkness on the edge of town, lovefool, somebody to love …

One thing continues to baffle me – how come someone whose fingernails look a little on the grubby side and who works up such a healthy sweat manages to keep his white vests so pristine? Mine would be a disgrace.

Here are poems inspired by Shakey and his version of ‘i’m on fire’. And a new poem about ‘love, patiently’, off Nobody’s Fool.

And I have to report (not without a certain slightly disgruntled chopped-liveredness) that this blog by one of my close relations got the following Shakey seal of approval – ‘you tell your sister that she wrote probably the most in depth analysis of my sonic intention that I’ve ever seen’.

The footnotes

[1] Perhaps in retrospect a few of the clips did display that hint of self-indulgence that often creeps in when someone’s absurdly gifted.  The recorded versions helped me reevaluate and appreciate the songs.

[2] A fair amount from consuming magic mushrooms apparently, according to this interview in Glide. Would they’d done the same for me.

[3] I managed to buy two albums at a recent gig but wish he would release a lot of his other material in a physical format.

[4] Okay, I made that one up.

[5] Although this becomes a more light-hearted honky tonk lament at live shows.

[6] I’ve grown out of that now myself.

[7] I’ve recently renounced good times after my traumatic American experience and would settle for a good night’s sleep without having to take a couple handfuls of drugs, washed down with anything that might possibly amplify their effect.

[8] Much as I love Ray Davies, every show on the last tour was basically the same.

[9] Well, I’m being a little facetious. I guess it’s more about not wanting to plan for the future. I never did either so let that be a lesson to you.

Images from Facebook, YouTube and Austin Chronicle. Quotes from various interviews.

 

‘Well, the road’s been rocky along the way’: Walking in the rain in the footsteps of The Kinks on the Little North London Kinks Tour

Thought I’d reblog Kinks tour blogs in case anyone doing them to commemorate 50th anniversary of ‘You Really Got Me’.

bashfulbadgers blog

You know how it is, you get a stupid idea in your head and, even though circumstances conspire to reveal its foolhardiness, it’s lodged there and you can’t help carrying it through.

That’s the way it was when we hatched a plan rather late in the day to try to fit in a fraction of the Kinks Little North London Tour one December afternoon last week. Having unexpectedly managed to get last-minute £10 tickets for a sold-out play at the Royal Court (the excellent The Westbridge), we wanted to get some value for money out of our overpriced one-day travelcards.

Our trusty, ancient A-Z is falling apart and one of the relevant pages, p.28, is loose so could come with us but its facing page, 29, is still attached to a small sheaf of others. I’m pathologically incapable of damaging any book, even one in so sorry a state…

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