Archive for the ‘tony wilson’ Tag

Autosuggestion (Day 56)

kitchen garden kenwood london

london seen from kenwood

A day of two halves (which is more than you can say about the England-Germany match in the evening). First half was located in the walled Kitchen Garden of Kenwood House overlooking the city on a cold but azure day. I began reading about Sylvia Beach and the story of her Shakespeare & Co. bookshop in Paris. She has been on my radar for a good while as a potential publishing casestudy – she’s central to the Ulysses story as its bold and generous publisher and being as it’s my favourite book in the world, a natural for me. I was at the current (not entirely related) iteration of the store last Saturday afternoon when I picked up Beach’s account of its history under her direction.

The weird thing is that as I broached the book, written in the late 50s and published by the University of Nebraska, it emerged that Shakespeare and Company was opened without fanfare on this very day in 1919. I take it as a good sign.

I’ve already done research on Gertrude Stein, looking at her contribution to visual arts in particular, and on publisher Robert McAlmon but haven’t quite been able to pin down who the right subject is among the Lost Generation.

The low yellow light in my office du jour and the perfect blue sky was a delight and I stayed as long as my scarf, gloves and hat allowed. I concluded with a read of Ginsberg’s major poem Kaddish which I also picked up at Shakespeare & Co. last weekend and started reading on the quay just below the Beat Hotel.

shakespeare and company bookshop paris

On my return to the warmth of home I immersed myself in the world of Joy Division and Factory Records, watching the rest of Grant Gee’s excellent documentary, made with the style and care that characterised the best of Joy Division and the Factory phenomenon. I’m finding Tony Wilson an increasingly difficult subject as the disparity between his surface and his catalytic achievements which spring from his deep passions stretches your sympathy at times, as well as skewing a lot of what is recorded about him.

Tomorrow I’ll start having my first pass at drafting the chapter and see where that takes me. Unknown Pleasures will accompany this first assault…

To the centre of the city where all roads meet, waiting for you
To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank, searching for you
I was moving through the silence without motion, waiting for you
In a room with a window in the corner I found truth

Deep Joy (Day 55)

record cover Joy Division Unknown Pleasures Peter Saville tattoo

New week, new chapter. After a lot of focus on the Literature/Ginsberg chapter last week, I felt the need to strike out into new territory so dived into the 24 Hour Party world of Tony Wilson and Factory Records. Where myth begins and reality ends needs a good deal of attention, and in clarifying that I hope to reaffirm that for all the ‘prat’s, ‘cunt’s, ‘wanker’s that were lobbed his way, his enthusiasm, energy and commitment to the music, creativity and city were a significant contribution. I put together the chapter outline around the principle of Being Your True Self whether that’s as an individual creative, a city or an emerging talent from the regions.

Tidying up loose ends from last week I spend some time corresponding with some friends of Ginsberg in New York and his very helpful estate. I rounded off the emailing session by venturing into new realms and contacting a music impresario from Northern Ireland whom I want to interview for this new chapter. All being well, an interviews trip to Belfast will be needed next month.

At lunchtime I sat down to watch Grant Gee’s (no relation) film about Joy Division to get me in the mood. I had a chat with Grant in a lift last week in Copenhagen where he was pitching a film about Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. He’s also made a documentary about WG Sebald which I’d love to catch (I couldn’t make the screening they did in Aldeburgh on its release much though I would have loved to – Rings of Saturn sits on the Shelf of Honour). I hope to catch up with Grant in the next few weeks at his South coast base (when I’ll also visit Oisin Lunny, who I had the pleasure of meeting on the Subterranean Homesick Blues morning). So the film got me suitably fired up, reminding me of the one time I saw Joy Division live at the Lyceum (a few hundred yards from the Subterranean Homesick Blues cul de sac).

So I got back to the typewriter-substitute, whacked on Atmosphere, and began sketching out the new chapter. One thing I learnt during the afternoon that I hadn’t known was that the band themselves found the source image for the cover of Unknown Pleasures and gave it to Pete Saville to work with. They got it from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy of all places. It now deserves a place in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Creative Alchemy.

Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy source image for Unknown Pleasures Peter Saville

 

record cover Joy Division Unknown Pleasures Peter Saville

M&S (Day 50)

FAC 501 1/2

FAC 501 1/2

Some web research in the morning (a surprisingly minor part of my activity so far) starting with the transcript of an exchange between Brian Eno, who I was considering as a candidate for the Music chapter, and Grayson Perry which touches on the subject of sharing, so I can use it a little bit in the Jeremy Deller case-study. Then some video including a reading by Hettie Jones in memory of Ginsberg with a spirited performance of a powerful Ginsberg poem/song on death, punctuated with the word “bone” [Broken Bone Blues].

Felt a sudden need for a haircut (as one does) so headed up to Drury Lane to lose the fro. Stopped by Forbidden Planet on the way over to my interview to pick up some comics for Enfant Terrible No. 2 who has recently become really taken by them (so fond memories of child&teenagehood triggered). A quick pitstop at Fopp to pick up some electric blues and jazz as compensation for not finding the Nick Lowe LP I was after. Then over to the Union Club in Greek Street to meet my interviewee for the afternoon.

union club greek street london

I found myself in the same warm red room as I had been in four weeks to the day earlier for the cast&crew party for HealthFreaks (of which Episode 4 went out shortly after this interview). The open fire and picture-lined walls gave it a womb-like coziness on a dreary November day.

With the room to ourselves bar the occasional crashing through of a waitress, I interviewed Mike McCarthy about his time working with Joan Littlewood at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. He also lived with Joan and Gerry Raffles in Blackheath during that time in the mid-70s. He worked mainly with the local kids on the wasteland in front of the theatre, arriving as a fresh-faced Northern drama school graduate and leaving as a producer, moving off into the world with his stage adaptation of Planet of the Apes (damn him all to hell for having such a great idea).

Rounded off the day after hours with a phone interview with Steven Lock in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. He kindly approached me through this blog to offer an interview about Tony Wilson whom he produced at Granada in the 80s. I met Steven and his producer wife in Dublin a few years ago – when doing a speaking gig and when trying to set up a pan-Ireland talent development operation respectively. He gave a really good sense of what working with Wilson was wike (Ws weally wock). Steven’s own recent story is equally fascinating – he has set up an agricultural service (Grassometer) in the wake of filming a load of Irish farmers for a TV series and has hooked up with one of Apple’s original designers (Jerry Manock) to deliver the service via app (it’s to do with measuring grass volumes) – just the kind of chain of connections When Sparks Fly revels in, brought about by spotting an opportunity, seizing subsequent funding opportunities, and reaching out to fellow talent.

TRSE 01

TRSE 01

Broken bones O Lord
I’ll give my house away
Broken bones O God
It was never mine anyway
Broken bones O Buddha
Take my skull today
Or take back my skull someday

 

50 people who buggered up Britain (and 25 who saved it)

A free hairstyle

A free hairstyle

An up-tight hairdo

An up-tight hairdo

Having given the Daily Mail a hard time recently with my Fear & Death analysis of its content and my highlighting how at odds it was with its own readership over The Sex Education Show / Sexperience, I’ve decided to take some inspiration from the rotten rag in the form of its political sketchwriter and theatre critic Quentin Letts and his new book Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain. I haven’t actually read it but I have read a review which got me thinking about my own list – I’ve only just started really and could definitely use some help so feel free to join in. The timeframe is the last 5 decades. I thought I’d also counter Mail miserableness by adding a list of 20 inspirational figures in Britain from those same 50 years who helped counter-balance the malign influences. I’m hoping to have the full 50 (+ 20) in place by the New Year so do chuck some ideas into the pot… [names added post 2008 have the date added in square brackets]

Buggered up Britain:

1 Ashley Cole – stands out as the most unpleasant character in the Premiership and that’s no easy feat

2 Rupert Murdoch – brought vulgar anti-culture and arrogant anti-democracy to the country in equal measure – I vowed many years ago to throw a big party the day he shuffles off his awful coil and you’re all invited

3 Viscount Rothermere, co-founder of the Daily Mail which published his editorial on 15th January 1934 entitled ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’

4 Ian Paisley – spent his whole toxic life saying No!

5 Doctor Richard Beeching – killed our (relatively green) railways

6 Lord MacAlpine – the Tory treasurer whose family’s firm vandalised Battersea Powerstation, ripped its roof off in the service of…

7 Margaret Thatcher – brought so much misery into Britain in such a short time – I’ll leave this one to Elvis Costello:

I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child’s
face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
coming down on that child’s lips?

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.

When England was the whore of the world
Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn’t
haunted by every tiny detail
‘Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
all she thought of was betrayal.

Notice the link to MacAlpine via Tarmacadam. Notice the link to Murdoch via lively celebrations of the passing of a big bugger.

8 Simon Cowell – for spreading the corrosive myth of instant fame

9 Oswald Mosley – married to one of the Mitford whores in Goebbel’s drawing room with Hitler present as one of only 6 guests – nuff said (do we detect a residual anger in my tone? give me another 50 years and I may start getting over the Nazis …but I doubt it)

10 Stock Aitken Waterman – for devaluing music, torturing us with the likes of Rick Astley and Jason Donovan

11 Howard Shipman – undermined trust in GPs and the NHS in a rather extravagant way

12 The Queen Mother – epitomised how anachronistic royalty and aristocracy are, and how unhealthy reverence of royalty can be. [This choice inspired by Adam D’s suggestion – House of Windsor]

13 Michael Gove – for not understanding the modern world and setting UK education back years when it was already well behind the curve [2016]

14 Victoria Beckham – “She succeeded in her desire to be ’more famous than Persil Automatic’ and is as about as interesting as a box of it. I think she has created such a one-dimensional aspiration for the young. Success can now be measured by vacuity and the meaningless.” [Practical Psychologist] Her husband by contrast captures some positive values such as leadership, commitment to a passion/skill-set and rehabilitation.

15 Reggie & Ronnie Kray – for the misguided hero-worship they have subsequently inspired and inspiring Guy Richie innit [courtesy of Practical Psychologist]

16 Steve McClaren – humiliated himself and England simultaneously under that umbrella with his stupid fucking biros and spiral-bound notepads. Saw him once in a hotel in Manchester (with Anthony Lilley) and there was no question who was the centre of the group… not him, but El Tel.

17 Paul Dacre – Mail supremo who reckons (vis-a-vis the Max Mosley case, son of #9 of course) distinguishing between ‘a sick Nazi orgy’ and ‘people having sex in military-style uniform’ is “almost surreally pedantic logic”

18 Melissa Jacobs – the mad bint who screwed up England’s World Cup 2018 bid for the sake of some Mail on Sunday pieces of silver [16.v.10]

19 Rebekah Wade (now Brooks, for a while at least) – sups with the devil, not with a long spoon, not even a short one, with a tongue in his mouth and up his other orifice from which much the same stuff dribbles [2010]

20 Edward VIII – a proven traitor and Nazi-sympathiser [2012]

21 George Osborne – for knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing (as well as being a hypocrite) (and for having a Patrician haircut) [2016]

22 Philip Green – the Unacceptable Face of Capitalism in every sense (have you seen those chins and haircut? there’s a limit to what  a tan can hide) [25/7/16]

23 Jeremy Corbyn – the self-righteous non-leader/stooge who destroyed the Labour Party – reminiscent of…

Roger McGough – The Leader

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I’m the leader
I’m the leader

OK what shall we do?

24 Nicola Sturgeon – the epitome of Bad Faith

25 Boris & Dave : I’m taking the liberty of yoking them together in a double act by way of some small revenge: they deserve each other. Boris Johnson – for proving to be the bumbling idiot he always looked (despite an at times charming surface) & David Cameron – for sacrificing the United Kingdom (a rather good union at the end of the day) on the pyre of the EU Referendum for the sake of some of his Tories, the self-same Tories who undermined the crucial Voting Reform Referendum during the 2010 Coalition.

Counterbalanced the buggers:

1 David Hockney – picked up where Picasso left off

2 Bob Marley – brought some Jamaican colour to the grey London of 77

3 Joe Strummer – with The Clash helped British musicians discover the honest energy of DIY

4 Tommy Cooper – just makes me laugh (could equally have been Eric Morecambe in this slot)

5 Francis Bacon – one of the two greats of 20th century art (alongside Picasso)

6 Hannah Billig, the Angel of Cable Street – too busy looking after people to collect her MBE (she asked them to post it)

7 John Peel [courtesy of Adam D “…fades in quietly” ]

8 Tony Hart: “We’re sorry we can’t return your pictures” [courtesy of Adam D] what nobler calling than bringing art and inspiration to children

9 Tony Wilson – for bringing together shining talent in a bold, rounded way – Martin Hannett, Pete Saville, Ian Curtis et al – and showing how to champion your hometown

10 James Bond – [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words…] “overcame the stereotype of the sexually repressed Brit who liked a cold shower before having his bare bottom spanked by a tart” – those Pan edition covers certainly captured my young imagination

11 Michael Young – for the Open University and other progressive policy [courtesy of Practical Psychologist and in memory of Naomi Sargant, first Head of Education at Channel 4, appointed by Jeremy Isaacs in a more adventurous, imaginative age]

12 John Betjeman [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words…] “he saw what we were doing to our land and tried to stop it”

13 Joe Orton – for reviving the Comedy of Manners and finding humour in the black stuff

14 Lennon & McCartney – for taking pop music up a gear or three. PP’s view below: “we led the world in something for the first time in a long time”

15 Geoff Hurst – for scoring that goal

16 Jonny Wilkinson – for scoring that try and creating a Perfect Moment

17 Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger – for bringing Technicolor British Romanticism to the big screen

18 Rabbi Hugo Gryn – for his efforts in uniting the faiths and demonstrating how to survive to do good, a true Mensch

19 Steve Redgrave – for being a model of commitment, plus his work on dyslexia & education

20 Humph (Humphrey Lyttelton) – for combining the quintessence of Englishness with jazz

21 Peter Gabriel – a multifaceted, visionary musician who is a great collaborator [1/3/16]

22 Danny Boyle – created something of once-in-a-lifetime specialness in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, making us reflect in a fresh way on what Britishness actually is [2012]

23 David Bowie – kept things fresh for a long time [2016]

24 John Martyn – brought true soul to Britain, the world is a much lesser place without him [2016]

25 Nicholas Winton – who saved 669 children from the Nazis (including Alf Dubs who is trying to follow his example these days) and kept pretty quiet about it most of his life, finally receiving full recognition in the late 80s

 

Bubbling under:

Tony Benn – doing his best to show what politicians could be like {courtesy of Scanner, Adam D and Overthewire} [I’m not sure about this one, keep wavering]

LIST UPDATED AND COMPLETED 22/1/17

Known Pleasures

Control

Walked down the road last night to the Phoenix Cinema to a preview screening of Anton Corbijn’s new film Control about Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Corbijn came to England from the backwaters of the Netherlands in the late 70s as a photographer and spent his first 14 days here tracking down the band Joy Division to take their picture. He went on to direct videos for them and others of that generation like U2. He re-mortgaged his house to finance this film so it’s a real labour of love from a person with a first-hand perspective of the characters and events.

One of the characters showed up after the screening for a Q&A chaired by journalist and producer Paul Morley (who also has a first-hand perspective of the post-punk scene in Manchester – including having stood Joy Division up for an early recording session) – the character in question was the bassist Pete Hook.

Unlike today, as Hooky explained, not much of that classic era was recorded for posterity. People didn’t have the cash to film stuff so there’s hardly any footage from the early years after Warsaw evolved into Joy Division or when Joy Division disappeared off the scene for a while for a Robert Johnson-like moment and reappeared transformed with magical qualities.

The band didn’t even have the facilities to record the songs they composed in a matter of hours at Wednesday (2 hours) and Sunday (3 hours) rehearsals. Those great songs only existed in the heads of those four individuals until they got into the studio together, where laying them down was to a large degree an act of memory.

Morley pointed out the key role played by legendary producer Martin Hannett – not just in adding depth to the music but recording it in a timeless way so that Unknown Pleasures shows none of the aging signs of many other records of that era.

The scene that best captured the brilliance of Joy Division for me was the recording of Isolation with Hannett sitting at the mixing desk, fag in mouth and mad hair a go go, with Curtis behind him, alone in the glass booth, singing with sweet intensity.

I also liked the sequence where Curtis crosses the line from his epileptic dancing – which I saw for myself at the Lyceum in London when Joy Division supported fellow Mancs the Buzzcocks in around 1978/9, frankly an embarrassing spectacle at the time – from his epileptic dancing into an on-stage seizure as if brought on by his own intensity.

I know to use the word ‘seizure’ not ‘fit’ because I made a film for the British Epilepsy Association at a location in the very same high street as the Phoenix – entitled The Right Stuff. It was a drama and I had to accurately recreate a seizure with an actress from Byker Grove (who strangely enough I later came across working at the ticket office of the Phoenix when her thesp work was thin on the ground). My title graphics – like Corbijn’s – took their cue from the idea of electrical disruption.

In the same high street I bought, only last year, the copy of Atmosphere whose Pete Saville designed cover Hooky signed for me last night.

When asked which scene was most poignant for him Pete Hook said it was the one in the pub after Ian’s wake – he said it was the most true-to-life scene in the film. All the friends sitting around the table in shock, sorrow, anger and a discordant medley of emotions was very resonant for me too as it had strong echoes of the pub me, Stuart, Carol and co. visited in Southgate after the funeral of our friend Steve. Should we have spotted something? How come he was so up on the phone just hours before, making plans for the not too distant future? Hooky said: We should have known, just looking at the lyrics alone – but you choose not to, don’t you?

Now I’m a huge fan of Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People and, for all the love that’s gone into this and the very impressive performances (the cast play many of the tracks), it’s not in the same class. This is mainly down to the script which hardly has a scene longer than a half-dozen lines of dialogue, which precludes it having much depth. The romance between Ian and Annik, for example, hasn’t much fire – although I liked the detail that when Debbie Curtis finds her rival’s phone number it’s scribbled on the gatefold sleeve of Siouxsie and the Banshee’s Join Hands. Icon is the great track on that top record and the Icon award is what Pete had just picked up at the Diesel music or some such awards before this cinema session. In the audience had been Debbie Curtis, Paddy Considine (24 Hour Party People), Sam Riley (Control) and various other real and fictitious characters from the Joy Division story. According to Hooky, something of a headfuck (he’s a Shameless curser). But a reflection of the dynamic where a largely unrecorded-at-the-time story is gradually pieced together as people work out what went down, an amalgamation of individual perspectives. Pete mentioned how interesting he’d found it watching the recent Joy Division documentary as he heard Bernard and Steve’s interviews – they’d never spoken toegther in that way. It was clear from the emotion in the auditorium last night that Ian’s suicide cast a long shadow.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Steve Simmons, with whom I shared some great adventures

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