It’s been a pretty shitty week for celebrity deaths, as it goes.
For not only did we lose Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode and Ray Liotta, a fine actor best know for his starring role in Goodfellas – one of the greatest gangster movies ever made – we also lost Cathal Coughlan.
Cathal is best known for a) having an often mis-pronounced name, and b) being the lead singer of both Microdisney and Fatima Mansions.
Microdisney’s Crooked Mile album, whilst disliked by their hard-core fans as being a bit too light and accessible, is a keystone record in my musical development. When my old buddy Richie first played me The Smiths, Billy Bragg and The Chesterfields, said Microdisney album was also popped onto the turntable.
I see what the die-hard fans mean, because I find their earlier stuff impenetrable, and by comparison the songs on Crooked Mile a near-perfect mix of pop sensibilities and challenging lyrics.
Having just discovered them, I was sad when Microdisney split up, but delighted when one day, watching the much missed SNUB TV, this popped up:
As I said on Twitter when I read of his passing, nobody did righteous fury and anger better than Cathal, and here’s a prime example, a record I *coughs* acquired on white label back when I was a DJ at college, and which has never left my collection since. Whoever nicked all my Smiths albums and 12″s (amongst other things) didn’t know what they left behind; with it’s description handwritten in pencil it’s priceless to me:
And it shouldn’t be forgotten that Fatima Mansions had a top ten hit (in the same way as Billy Bragg had a #1, riding on the coat-tails of Wet Wet Wet), acting as the flip on the double A-side of the Manics cover of the M.A.S.H. theme tune, with their irreverently fucked-up version of a record which massively outstayed its welcome in the #1 slot:
I had hoped I’d last slightly longer than the second weekend of the year without having a rant, but events this week haven’t exactly worked out that way.
Let’s start with the events in America this week. I don’t think there can be many of us who weren’t shocked at the scenes from Washington DC, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an effort to overthrow the legitimate result of the Presidential election in November, as it was being verified.
Shocked, yes, but surprised? Honestly, not really. This has been building up since before the election. You’ll doubtless recall this exchange in one of the Presidential debates, when Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists and militia groups, specifically The Proud Boys. This was his response:
No criticism of them, just “Stand back and stand by.”
Post-election, when he wasn’t playing golf, attempting to get the election result overturned by the Courts (and having each of the 60 attempts thrown out on the grounds that no evidence had been submitted to support his claims), or watching Rudy Giuliani’s paint-job run at a particularly hot press conference (presumably the heat coming from a nearby sex shop), he was sending out further dog-whistles via his now-suspended Twitter account:
Twitter was a fascinating place to be on Wednesday/Thursday, not only watching the whole thing as it happened, not for the righteous outrage and indignation that bubbled and boiled, but for the concerted effort from many to identify those who had participated in the storming of the buildings and to pass that information on to the law enforcement agencies (presumably not the same ones who assisted the mob with access to the building, that is).
At the same time, many right-wingers tried to claim the attack was totally spontaneous and not pre-planned and that Trump had nothing to do with it. Oh yeh? Then how comes they’d printed up their own merchandise?
And that’s not even the cheap, unofficial shite you usually find spread out on the pavements when you leave a gig (ah…gigs…remember them?). No, that is your bona fide, 100% authentic mail-order MAGA merch, right there.
And this one even turned up with what, in the hands of your average honest-as-the- day-is-long electrician is merely a bunch of cable ties, but in this scenario can only have been brought for one purpose: to restrain and tether people:
Spontaneous, my arse.
Luckily, identifying many of them did not prove too arduous a task since, for as one would perhaps expect from such a baying mob, many of them wunt too cleverest.
If I was running a course on how to start a revolution, then Day 1 Lesson 1 of Revolutionary School would go something like this:
1. Keep your identity secret when trying to over-throw the government, at least until you have gained power.
But no. For a start, as devout Trump-followers, and thus by definition the hard-of-thinking, most of them were also Covid-deniers, and so refused to wear face masks.
If that wasn’t dumb enough, many decided to take pictures of themselves in various poses within the Capitol Building, and then post the snaps on their own social media, which were of course, open to the public to view.
And have a look at this one man tribute to the film Deliverance:
This one is so smart that he’s wearing his work lanyard. Needless to say, his now former employers were none too impressed:
It would appear that this knuckle-dragger was part of The Proud Boys, the group that Trump told to “Stand back and stand by.” Here’s a group shot of some of the leading lights taken on the day:
I mean, if I’d paid good money to see a Village People tribute act, and this is what waltzed out on stage, I think I might suggest storming the parapets too. Just saying.
Incidentally, is it just me or doesn’t the name The Proud Boys sound just a little bit….camp? Like a dance troupe of buff but exceedingly gay male strippers, dripping in baby oil? No? Just me then.
And then there’s this chap, who provided perhaps one of the most famous images from the day:
Now I don’t know about you, but I think that Robbie Savage should be free to do whatever he likes with his down-time. In fact, anything that keeps him away from “commentating” or football punditry in general is to be encouraged and is absolutely fine by me.
He may have less than two weeks to go until he has to begrudgingly hand over power to Biden, but there has to be consequences to Trump for his part in all of this. Hopefully he’ll end up wearing a boiler suit the same colour as his skin, but I can see a scenario where he gets off scot-free, and it’s one floated by Television’s Richard Osman on The Late Leg a few weeks ago. And it runs like this: Vice President Mike Pence relieves Trump of his duties for the final stage of his presidency, and in that time issues a pardon to him, in the same way as we have seen Trump issue pardons to all of his imprisoned cohorts over the past few weeks.
Thankfully, Pence – presumably with one eye on the next election – does appear to be distancing himself from Trump over the past couple of days, so maybe I’m being a little pessimistic.
What’s absolutely stark here is the difference between Trump’s handling of the BLM protests – call in the National Guard and the armed forces, shoot them – and his refusal to do the same when his buddies were doing the same when democracy itself was under threat. Hmm. I wonder white that might be….
Anyway, time for a tune, and I’ll start off by making the same joke as I did when I last posted this tune back in 2017: I wish it had the letters “Im” at the start of the song title, and then this would be perfect:
But it doesn’t, so it’s not.
See, the problem with most of the songs I have about uprisings or revolutions is this: they’re generally performed from the perspective of those rising up, with whom we, the listener, have empathy. So, not especially appropriate to post now.
And then I thought of this, a record more angry than any other, which builds and builds into a furious explosion about the antics when in power of Romanian leader Nicolae Ceaușescu. I’m not going to draw too many parallels, but….this is magnificent in it’s fury and outraged anger, which should, frankly, be our default position right now:
What all of this does bring into question is the matter of freedom of speech, and the platforms afforded to those who invoke it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that – finally – various social media providers, such as Twitter, Facebook and their ilk have decided to ban Trump, The Proud Boys, QAnon and many others from their platforms in the wake of this week’s events.
However, it happened far too late. This should have been done years ago, in which case we may not have even had Trump as President. But the revenue streams brought to those providers were too great to resist, and so these people have been allowed a place to spew their bile in the name of balance.
Nowhere is this more obvious than with the BBC. The problem the BBC has is that, publicly funded body as it is, it is obliged to appear impartial. So for every view point that they wish to give some airtime to, they have to provide an equivalent amount of airtime to somebody who wishes to present a counter argument.
It’s the reason why, say, during a by-election, they may focus on the main parties, but then have to list all of the other candidates from other parties, standing in the same constituency.
The problem is that where one position is sound, knowledgeable and appropriately given a platform, but where the opposite position is half-baked and usually wrong, both voices have to be allowed to be heard, no matter how ill-informed or – and I hate to use this term, but it has entered the common vernacular – Fake News it may be.
(NB: as a general rule of thumb, when somebody uses the phrase “Fake News” as an argument against something they disagree with, you can immediately discount them from the conversation, because they are clearly an idiot. It’s like when online arguments liken someone’s stance to Hitler.)
This topic reared its ugly head this week when YouTube removed from its platform all of the content from Talk Radio, on the grounds that many of the clips were promoting Covid as a hoax, or anti-lockdown/mask propaganda. The BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Newsnight, invited voices from either side of the fence on to the show to discuss the topic. This is how it went:
Twitter, as you would expect, was ablaze after that was broadcast. Many of those in my liberal bubble were bemoaning that Young had been given a platform at all, whilst you only have to read the comments on YouTube under that clip to see that many thought Young came out the better in that exchange, even though it was proven in that clip that his own position had changed from one previously expressed.
Here’s what I think: I don’t like or agree with what the likes of Young, Hartley-Brewer, Burchill and (God help us) Hopkins say, but if you refuse them the platform to talk their horse-shit, then this will only serve to feed the bottom-feeders, who simply seem incapable of rational thought and blindly seek out conspiracy theories.
Moreover, it adds fuel to the fire for those who claim they have been “cancelled”.
If “cancelled” isn’t the new word of the year according to the Oxford English Dictionary, then I’ll buy a hat and eat it*. It means ‘to be ignored’, or, more specifically, ‘to be prevented from airing your views’.
So the way forward is surely to allow these dunderheads one shot to present their argument and whatever evidence they have to support it. And then, to meticulously dissect everything they say so that their position is exposed as flawed. You then no longer have to invite them on to your show, or give them column inches, because their views have been discredited. End of story.
“We’ve listened to you once. You said nothing of any substance. We’re not listening to you again. Good bye”.
Take Suzanne Moore. I can’t profess that I followed her story all that closely, but I gather she is a former Guardian journalist, who was sacked quit her job because her views on trans matters did not chime with those of her employers.
The reason she came to my attention was because she was suddenly appeared everywhere, complaining that she had been “cancelled”.
Which she hadn’t been, because if she had, then I’d never have heard of her.
What had actually happened was that one platform listened, published, gave voice to her views, decided they thought she was talking utter codswallop, and decided not to be associated with her anymore.
And that’s what The Mail Online is there for: to hoover up all of the dislodged, jilted rhetoric, and publish it all in one place where we all know that everything that appears on its pages is bullshit, and that anyone who ever reads it or comments on it can be safely ignored.
I had a similar conversation with somebody at work recently. We get on very well, and often enjoy a good laugh and a conversation with each other. But in one conversation towards the end of last year, Trump’s name came up. I can’t remember precisely how, or why, the orange coloured one made an appearance, but he did and I made a disparaging comment about him. My colleague chastised me:
“Oi!”, he said (he literally did, I didn’t think anyone outside of The Beano said “Oi!” anymore). “Don’t go slagging Trump off!”
The schoolboy within me wanted to snigger at the proximity of the words ‘Trump’ and ‘off’, but I resisted. Composing myself, I retorted:
“What, you’re a fan are you?”
“Yes I am,” came the proud, chest-puffing reply.
“You’ll be telling me you think Brexit’s a good idea next”, I quipped, a comment which was met with a stony silence.
And so he was added to the list of people I know that there’s just no point in discussing politics with.
Here’s Stewart Lee, to further illustrate my point:
On the matter of Covid, the Government has finally introduced some rules about people coming into the country. They come into force next week; basically anyone arriving on our shores now has to provide documentation to prove that they had a Covid test within 72 hours of travelling, and that the test was negative.
This is good news, right? Of course it is.
But it’s January 2021.Why wasn’t this done in March 2020? The UK is an island, and therefore is almost uniquely placed (apart from other islands) to control who comes in to our country, and thereby potentially reduce the risk of further Covid-carriers coming into the country.
I haven’t seen it yet, but if it hasn’t been already appeared then it’s only a matter of time before it is posited that EU Regulations prevented us from doing this earlier. And that, dear reader, is horse shit.
We’ve always had control of our borders, we have just chosen not to enforce it because it was too costly.
When the mutant strain of Covid was identified in the UK in December, several EU countries – but, crucially, not all of them – decided that they would not allow flights from the UK to land in their territories. Not all of the EU, some/most of them. A perfect illustration, if you will, that we had control of our borders when we were in the EU, and that anyone who says that we didn’t is flat out lying to you.
In unrelated news, here’s a picture of Nigel Farage having a pint.
Often, finding an appropriate picture is difficult. But go to Google Images, type in the words “Nigel Farage pint” and see how many results you get.
He’s quite determined that you accept his image as an ordinary man who likes a pint, isn’t he? Odd that, isn’t it?
Anyway, Brexit. I seem to have stumbled upon it, so I may as well finish off with it.
It’s happened now, hasn’t it? And contrary to everything I thought would happen, Boris managed to get a deal with the EU. And, much as I didn’t want to leave, getting a deal with the EU is much better than not getting a deal with the EU, and us crashing out with No Deal and having to trade under WTO terms. So I’m sort of happy – happy that the worst case scenario isn’t going to happen, but still angry that the next “best” thing is.
The problem is that to get a deal with the EU, Boris pretty much had to agree to all of their stipulations, and give up ours. He didn’t negotiate a great deal, as promised, he capitulated rather than be branded the PM who forced us into a No Deal/WTO situation.
“We hold all the cards…”….”We’re not planning for No Deal because we’re going to get a good deal….”…”The deal is oven ready”…blah blah blah. Such was the rhetoric before and after the referendum and now them chickens are coming home to roost.
Chickens is probably not the best analogy here, maybe fish is more appropriate.
For this week, our proud UK fishermen have found that to export their daily catch to the EU is not as easy as promised. Indeed, many of them are finding that by the time they have completed all of the documentation required to allow them to export to the EU, then them fish ain’t as fresh as promised and nobody wants to buy them.
The flip side of this is that I have read many examples of companies within the EU who have seen the amount of red tape and bureaucracy now required to export goods to the UK, weighed that up against the amount of profit they will make, and decided: nah. Actually, they probably gave a Gallic shrug. They can export elsewhere and make more money with less form-filling in.
Still, as long as (Remainer) Liz Truss is opening those pork markets:
But then there’s the cheese problem:
What this fails to acknowledge is that many of those cheesy products she refers to had EU Protected Status. This meant that you could not, for example, make Stilton Cheese – the King of all Cheeses – and call it Stilton Cheese unless you were making it in the home of the Stilton Cheese, Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire (not Cambridgeshire where the village of Stilton is. Long story, which I’ll explain sometime. Maybe.)
Now, we are no longer in the EU, and so those EU Protected Status tags have been removed from our yummy products, meaning that anyone, anywhere can now make mouldy old delicious cheese and call it Stilton. And so now, they no longer need to import it from us.
The flipside is that we can now produce our equivalent of EU products, such as Brie. Hurrah! And then you taste Lymeswold and think…it’s not as good, is it?
Too late! Brie producers in the EU have no intention or need to sell to the UK, because their protected status market is too good, and the paperwork to do so is too time-consuming.
And nobody wants to buy our Brie-replicant, because they have a deal with France which means they can buy as much of the authentic runniness as they like, complete with its valuable EU protected status.
We’re nine days in, and already our supply and demand chains are being throttled by the deal Boris signed off.
It’s not Boris’ fault though. This was always and forever how it was going to be.
And we’re now signed into this for the long-haul: various aspects of the Trade Agreement will be reviewed every five years, at which point they may be removed but, on the balance of probabilities, will be extended. Meaning we’re just as tied in as we were before, only now we have no say whatsoever, no voice at the table, and with more red tape and bureaucracy – the very things Brexit was supposed to bring us escape from.
Well done, 52%. Give yourselves a pat on the back, you fricking legends.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when they have to announce that the Covid vaccine can no longer be imported. Which will be down to those pesky EU rules (which we’ve agreed to).
The other good thing, of course, is that for the past nine days, £350 million pounds per day has been pumped back into the NHS, just as was promised in the referendum. Right? No……?
Anyway, what I mean to say is this: everything is just fine. No need to worry.
I spent the weekend up visiting my folks to mark my Dad’s birthday on Saturday. As I’ve mentioned on these pages before, although I probably – no, undoubtedly – would never have admitted it at the time, his record collection has proved to be a massive influence on my own musical tastes over the years.
Pretty much every country record I’ve ever posted here, and in particular most of the stuff I’ve posted recently in my Sunday Morning thread, I first heard via my Dad’s record collection. But there’s another chap, non-country, who my Dad loves, who I previously wrote about here: one Lonnie Donegan.
There was a fairly decent documentary on ITV, of all places, the other week which if you didn’t catch I’d urge you to see if it’s still available on their On Demand service. I mean, you can tell it was an ITV production because they felt the need to have it presented by one of the actors from Downton Abbey, but he makes a pretty good fist of it, including interviews with both the remaining Beatles (including one with Ringo Starr which he manages to get through whilst preventing Starr from waffling on about peace and love), Roger Daltrey and, surprisingly, Jack White. Now if that’s not a recommendation…
White explains how many of Donegan’s songs were American folk songs, and, as proof if proof were needed, today’s selection was first recorded back in 1924, and in between then and Donegan recording it in 1957, such luminaries as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, to name just two, cut versions of it too.
In 1992, to mark the 40th anniversary of their first publication, the NME released a three-CD compilation album, “Ruby Trax” where they invited current bands featuring on their pages to record a cover version of a record which had reached Number One in the UK charts during those 40 years.
Ruby Trax is probably best know for having spawned this, by the Manic Street Preachers, a balls-out rock version of “Suicide is Painless (Theme from M*A*S*H*)”, which became the bands first Top 10 hit:
The song was released as a double ‘A’ side in the UK, with Fatima Mansions’ frankly rather weird version of Bryan Adams chart-clogger “(Everything I Do) I Do it for You” on t’other side:
If you’re hearing that for the first time, you’ll not be overly surprised to learn that was the only time that Fatima Mansions came even close to bothering the UK Top 10 (although they did release a few belters, which I’ll deal with some other time).
But elsewhere on the Ruby Trax album, was this version of “Cumberland Gap”, provided by stalwarts of this section The Wedding Present:
And, just to make this all nice and circular, it was Wedding Present main man David Gedge’s birthday on Saturday, the same day as my Dad’s. Coincidence? Well, yes, obviously. What are you suggesting….?