Beat it!

It has been revealed that Michael Jackson is working as PCSO Supervisor whilst in London for his series of record breaking concerts at the O2 Arena. Jacko, who became a Police Community Support Officer in March and was promoted to supervisor only last week, is working from the Isle of Dogs and responsible for eight staff.

‘I just want to give something back,’ said Jacko as he filled out a Admin 171 for an off road bike that had been tearing around scrubland.  ‘I love being out here, among the ordinary people, where the city winks a sleepless eye. Well, at least until midnight. I’m doing this for the children of the world.’

Jackson is contracted to work until the end of the year but says he may stay on beyond this. ‘I’m finding it so rewarding. I have several tea stops on my beat and even go into Noble’s Amusements for some time on the dance off machine.’

Jackson is to appear as a PCSO in a series of billboard advertisements in the capital, mimicking General Kitchener’s ‘Your country needs you!’ pose under the slogan, ‘Be careful of what you do ’cause the lie becomes the truth!’

PCSO supervisor
Jacko posing for his ‘know your PCSO’ picture. ‘I’ve adapted the uniform and given it some of my trademark stardust,’ he said.

With the Beatles

John and fan

Two Beatles links which kept me busy last night. The first has an obsessive attention to detail – in a totally pointless and somehow melancholy way – that I can’t help but admire. An attempt to dive back inside four years of the 1960s; time travel for the mind. The second opens up a whole new window on their lives during a period that has now been packaged and presented so many times. But the images on this second site are a million miles away from the polished studio photographs and carefully designed album covers.

If you see Sid tell him (we’re about to get ripped off again)

Gordon Brown is pledging his affinity with rural, carrot-crunching masturbators the length and breadth of Great Britain by promising ultra-fast broadband for every home. Hurrah! Soon, if big Gordon gets his way, you’ll be able to crack one off to crotchless panty-wearing cheerleaders even deep in the boggy bowels of rural Cornwall, download handy-cam-shandy gonzo porn when atop the very peak of Cumbria’s Scafell Pike and live stream triple-X web cams, without the off-putting pauses, pixelization and crashes that spoil your rhythm, direct to the middle of the lonely purple heather-carpeted North Yorkshire moors. The Prime Minister has stated his belief that fast broadband is as vital to our happiness, well-being and prosperity as electricity and water. And he’s right, access to redtube and the BBC iPlayer is fundamental to the Human Rights of this country. During these dark days of recession and financial despair we owe it to ourselves to wallow in porn and velvety repeats of ‘My Family’. Our Gordon is promising lightening fast cyber scuzz for everyone. At last, a Prime Minister who understands the needs of his people.

 

The plan is to get 50mbs capability piped into the homes of the nation by 2017, investing heavily in Fibre to the Cabinet technology. This will mean that so-called ‘Not Spots’ that are presently denied the pleasures of illegal file sharing and HD quality pornography through poor network capacity will be brought into the 21st Century and be gobbling gigabytes of illicit downloads before you can type ‘MILF money shot’ into the Google search bar. The speeds will be tremendous. No more irksome, frustrating waits for that Dutch hardcore to buffer, your access to big breasted Heidi in Amsterdam will be immediate and smoother than her shaved lady bits. The upgrades in hardware will be achieved with a 50p per month tax on all landlines, raising somewhere in the region of £170,000,000 per year. The Porn Tax. But it will be worth it, believe me. Those lactating ebony babes will arrive faster than ever. The Latino teens (certified 18) will be performing some girl on girl on your dual CCFL back-lit LCD 17” laptop screen within nanoseconds. It’s going to be seamless. But it’s not just about porn. Watching that Anthea Turner explosion clip on Youtube will be crisper. Scamsters in Nigeria will have quicker access than ever to your personal banking details. Those spam emails for Viagra and pipe lengthening, girth enhancing pills will be dropping into you inbox faster than you ever thought possible. And it’s all thanks to Gordon Brown.

 

But what is the taxpayer going to get in return for this massive forced investment? Who is going to profit? Who is going to get fat? The taxpayer buys the cables, the taxpayer creates the infrastructure, the taxpayer shovels money into the project and then some corporate branded internet service provider charges the taxpayer for using the network. Eh? In simple terms the taxpayers’ money is a ‘top up’ to private investment but still it buys the taxpayer nothing. It secures the taxpayer nothing. The taxpayer ends up with a stake in nothing. Because Nationalization is bad. Do you understand? Bad. Because to be seen to be progressive and all that it’s vital that we just throw our tax money away without return. We’re progressive, we believe in the free market. I mean, look how well the banking world has conducted itself. It’s the sensible way forward. So the taxpayer will still have to stump up more cash to use the service. Meaning that we pay twice. Sounds reasonable for New Labour’s vision of Britain. Where everything costs more than it should through layered taxation and the scurried vision of private/public partnerships. A vision that shackled us to the monstrous debt of Private Finance Initiatives. That saw National Insurance contributions increase at the same time that prescription charges went up (still, I get a warm glow when I think of how my money is helping fund the needle exchange and the methadone programmes, don’t you?). This is the sort of forward thinking free enterprise I associate with the Golden Age of Thatcherism, when Maggie was selling us back the major utilities and heavy industry that we already owned. British Gas, British Telecom, the National Grid, British Nuclear, British Steel, council homes. Build it and they will come – and then make you pay for what you funded in the first place. A cracking idea. Because there is nothing more reliable than the immutable complacency of the British taxpayer. And you’ve got to admire the sort of innovative thought that manages to get someone to pay twice for the same thing and still end up owning nothing and then take credit for having done us all a favour. I love it.

 

Anyway, it looks like Angelika’s bonk booth in Prague is finally buffered. I’d better go before I lose my connection.

Sam-Fox1

My Kind of Criminal Damage

Graffiti artist Banksy has caused a media storm today with his latest exhibition in Bristol. Banksy goes to great lengths to conceal his identity. The reason for this is because Banksy is already famous in another guise. Banksy is in fact shamed TV presenter Michael Barrymore. You can see it in the humour of such works as his hitchhiking Charles Manson. Straight out of the ‘Strike it lucky’ manual. Awight?

Lee Mavers

It’s easy to take a cynical view of The La’s singer/songwriter Lee Mavers – especially if your ideal of success in the music industry is chimp-legged Robbie Williams, smarming up to the masses to pick their pockets, hawking out musical flem into the willing faces of the musically illiterate, and your only measurement of musical success is in terms of chart placings, sales and money earned, together with the column inches dedicated to so-called news of the latest actress/model that your reported to be fettling between the sheets of ‘The News of the World’ and ‘Hello’. Lee Mavers: A wasted talent. A spent force. A musical footnote. A mythical charlatan.

But that is, perhaps, to miss the point of what Mavers is about. Music. Fundamentally – music. Not business, not industry. Music.

To the uninitiated: the La’s were a Liverpool group formed in the 1980s, who signed a recording contract in 1986, then through various personnel changes recorded and re-recorded, and recorded again, their first album under three different producers and in several different studios, together with trying out the acoustic potential of the occasional kitchen and cattle shed. Some singles were released, including the now ubiquitous ‘There She Goes’, but mainstream success eluded them. As did a release date for the first album. Still not happy with the results, the eponymous album was released from the final recordings produced by U2 collaborator Steve Lillywhite and against the wishes of the group late in 1990. The La’s – and especially Mavers – were withering in the criticism of the album at the time, a stance that’s never altered. ‘Our album is crap.’

After the album’s release the La’s continued stutteringly. There were some hit and miss live appearances. Thoughts on the future of the band were kept alive by varying stories surrounding their activities – they were recording the next album in their own 8-track studio in Liverpool, they were back in yet another recording studio giving the first album another crack to get it right, new material was being laid down via the Beatles’ mixing desk from Abbey Road. And so on. Curly ginger John Power left the band to form Cast and start his own story after a couple more years and more elaborate tales of Lee Mavers’ perfectionism. Mavers carried on with new and ever varying band members before slipping into obscurity and from there into Syd Barrett-like cult status. No further new releases from the band or Mavers.

You listen to the album not sure what to expect on the back of the stories, but when you get down to it then it’s difficult to see what Mavers was so upset about. Apart from ‘Freedom Song’ – which I’ve never liked – the collection of songs is solid. The obvious set-piece is ‘There she goes’, but ‘Son of a gun’ and ‘Timeless Melody’ are equally statuesque, the rest pull the experience together and absolutely nothing disappoints. In some ways the 60s based music is anachronistic but in so many other ways it is ahead of its time (especially considered in the light of Britpop and beyond). If you’re into the sound of layered harmonies, chiming guitars, rockabilly drums then the album is a classic. Given the music that surrounded it at the time – drum machines and programmed synths, looping lifts from 70s disco and a sampled soul melody – the album today now sounds fresher than ever. The La’s, like the Stone Roses, were part of a renaissance which would later spawn Oasis and Britpop.

So what was Mavers’ problem?

A little more digging into alternative recordings and mixes gives food for thought. Compare the earlier version of ‘I.O.U.’ with the one that appears on the Lillywhite version (both available on the 2001 CD re-issue of the album). There is no comparison. It’s like a recording on vitamin ‘C’, friendly bacteria, and a 12-month fitness regime, lifted, brighter, better. And those granite-like Pete Townsend guitar chords on the end of the verses, Keith Moon (or in this case, Chris Sharrock) cymbals splashing over them like breakers on the shore. The vocals have more impact and the melody hits harder. A seemingly better song, but the same song. And Mavers wasn’t happy with this one either – mixed from the ‘missing’ Mike Hedges [1] sessions .

This re-evaluation is backed up by other recordings. ‘Over’, with Mavers sounding (intentionally or not) unbelievably like John Lennon (in the same way that Northern Soul legend J.J. Barnes sounds like Marvin Gaye on ‘Sad day coming’). This track was recorded in one take in a barn in Liverpool. A shocking lo-fi production, but the moments shine through. The sound you heard when you listened to songs as a child is there. That magic. And a Mavers approved release. For that reason?

So is it the quality of the songs rather than the production that shines through to make ‘The La’s’ a classic inspite of itself?

Consider this and then maybe you get to thinking that Mavers had a point. But he’s taken this point to an extreme and for nearly twenty years and seems unable to let go.

The refusal of ‘There she goes’ to disappear but continually return in several inferior cover versions, adverts, films and TV programmes, raises the perennial question, ‘Whatever happened to the La’s, and what is the songs writer Lee Mavers doing now?’

The La’s story was revived in 2003 with Matt Macefield’s ‘In Search of the La’s: a secret Liverpool’ (ISBN 1-900924-63-3). The book both gives and takes away from the La’s and the Lee Mavers’ legend. The sense of discovery in the book is palpable – conversations with former La’s band members and associates in various Liverpool pubs, old and half-forgotten articles from music magazines, the elusive search for what Mavers and his music was and is all about. Culminating in the bitter/sweet sight of Mavers – still enthusiastic, with his kids, his guitars, and a home-built, eclectic studio, with the tantalising sight of completed reels of recordings. And then just as you get a glimpse of him and hear his Scouse tones tell the story, Mavers disappears again. Up his own arse or into his own future? Take your pick.

There have been stirrings which gave hope of a second album of new material. Perhaps doubled with a Mavers-sanctioned re-recording of the first album. A series of live show in the summer of 2005 with John Power promised much. I saw them at the Leadmill. Aficionados flooding the place. Big expectations. Mavers looking no different that when he’d last been glimpsed a decade before. The songs faultless. The drummer stood up with the longest cigarette in the world.

But nothing happened.

In 2006 the band’s old BBC sessions were released. They came at the songs from a different angle. A better version of ‘Son of a gun’ than on the original album. In 2008 as many available recordings from labyrinth of sessions from 1986 to 1990 bundled together with Steve Lillywhite’s original offering. The same songs, fresh perspectives. Worth having. But no new tracks.

Recent news has Mavers recording again. This time with Babyshambles bassist Drew McConnell. A second album brooding. We’ll see.

For me, Lee Mavers remains an attractive enigma. Living in a semi in Huyton on Merseyside – the suburb of Liverpool where he was born and grew up – clean from the hard drugs that dogged his mid-1990s, a family, still writing, royalties rolling in (primarily from ‘There She Goes’) meaning that he?s free to walk his own path, no one sure how much is getting recorded, but rumours of new material filtering through. ‘Human Race’, the song that’s better than ‘There she goes’. ‘Raindance’ and others. Perfecting what he wants to do, what he needs to be.
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1] The second recording sessions for the debut album, c.1988/89, down in Devon at Hedges’ house, a keynote to the session being the use of a mixing desk from Abbey Road studio 2 in the 1960s, used by the Beatles. Hedges was at the time working for Devon and Cornwall Police. He would, like Mavers, subsequently turn his back on the music industry and become Chief Constable of South Yorkshire. It’s rumoured that he produced tracks for Pulp in Sheffield during 2003.



Domestic tip

Having accidentally run out of toilet roll this morning, I’m now considering the merits of using Tesco’s Value kitchen roll as a full time alternative. OK, there are no puppies on the roll and it doesn’t come in subtle pastel shades. However, it seems to offer the following advantages: (1) It’s cheaper. (2) It has no real difference in softness. (3) Judicious folding means you can get a fair bit of mileage out of one square. (4) It’s thickness almost guarantees that I’m not going to subject myself to my usual sudden autounerotic fisting.

Watch this space. Before long perfect housewife Anthea Turner will be singing its praises. You heard it here first.

* * * * * * *

On the subject of Anthea Turner…

Panem et circenses

We have more TV channels than ever and yet have less to actually watch that is in anyway interesting. Television is now a constant cycle of reality competitions and adverts. With the odd shite soap opera thrown into the mix. Nothing else. Ever. Every time I switch on ITV or BBC I’m confronted by a pack of kids dancing to some 1980s Michael Jackson hit while juggling kitchen knives, or a roller-skating would-be opera singer belting out an aria from Samson & Delilah as he goes over a ramp, or some Granny cranking out Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ on a Stylophone, or the bloke who played Arthur Fowler trying to break the world Hula Hoop record while balancing a bucket of jellied eels on his head and singing a selection of songs from Oliver! One ends, another begins. There’s no break. The X Factor. Strictly Come Dancing. Britain’s Got Talent. Dancing on ice. For the past few weeks the media have been slavering hornily over Britain’s got talent hopeful Susan Boyle. A forty-eight year old virgin from Scotland with wild hair and a big voice. SuBo – as the press have dubbed her – looks to be a bit wobbly on the personality front. The newspapers describe her issues generically as ‘learning difficulties’. She may have, she may not. It’s all part of the mystique. She failed to win the final and now she’s broken down under the pressure. Apparently. Interviews, TV appearances and the obligatory demands for her celebrity hymen from Mick Hucknall have all taken their toll. The press are gleefully reporting that SuBo’s been admitted to the Priory after a screaming match with the police in some West End hotel. The story’s writing itself. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Surely it’s only a matter of time before Max Clifford steps into the fray like a knight in shining armour and really stirs things up and generates some serious cash for all concerned. Not for SuBo’s singing mind you, no that’ll be a nice cherry on top once the notoriety’s kicked in. A secondary cash cow to be milked post the salacious tales about her freak outs and the shag and tell stories. Bloody hell, I had some graft on that night! It was like trying to snap a leather belt! says Justin, 21, from boy band Gonad of his first night between the sweaty sheets with SuBo. With this in mind, and with television at such a low ebb, don’t you feel that we need more people with fragile personalities and psychological problems put before the cameras for our amusement? There’s some TV mileage in it. I want to see youngsters with ADHD spinning plates live on The X Factor and then screaming obscenities aggressively at Simon Cowell when they smash, Downes kids playing the spoons along to ‘Rock DJ’ bringing tears to the Bambi-like eyes of love-cheat Amanda Holden. Well, uze certainly rocked my DJ! sobs the Brummie bed-hopper and former Blind Date contestant. It would create a moral chiaroscuro. An ethical hinterland of light and shade. We could cry at their plucky courage as they overcome adversity to bring their talent to the world or laugh ourselves incontinent at their latest freak show antics. It’s a winner whichever way you look at it. We could turn them into stars. Like SuBo. Then let’s see what happens when the pressures applied. Let’s turn that screw until they splinter. Splash them on the front pages. Besiege them with Paparazzi. Make their private lives intolerable by snooping and probing and never letting them rest. You wanted this and we gave it to you, now it’s time to earn your corn. So fucking dance, you weirdo freak! The public demand to know everything! Give us dirt, now! With any luck, SuBo will crack before our eyes. While singing live on TV before the shivering nation. Now that would be good entertainment. Breaking into a four-letter rant midway through the bridge of ‘Bright Eyes’. Feckin’ heil! Gi’ me sam bastard bass, yiz cants! Do you think they have webcams in the Priory? I bet SuBo’s singing even now. And swearing. And slapping herself around the head a bit like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. We made SuBo, we have a right to see it. Pay per view anyone? Would you watch?

 

This week Big Brother 10 starts. Entertainment for shift workers and insomniacs. So that they can peep voyeuristically at someone else sleep. And fart. And scratch their arse. And occasionally have an argument about shredded wheat and pubes on the soap. The reality format is cheap entertainment. In every sense. No scripts needed, loads of flashing lights, a few explosions, a bit of thumbs up/thumbs down texting-in by the viewer, throw in some rib-tickling humiliation of a few extreme personalities by some endearing chuckle-tastic celebrity like former smack-rat Davina McCall or the hilarious Ant and Dec, stir in a huge dollop of hype and watch the advertising revenue roll in. It’s TV that makes itself without effort or creativity. But, that said, I’m worried about the future of ITV3, Dave and UK Gold. I mean, where will the much-loved repeats of tomorrow come from? Can you see yourself sitting down decades from hence to watch old editions of Fame Academy? Will anyone buy the box set of Celebrity Love Island in ten years time?

 

Anyway, I’m off. I’m going to run a search on Google and Youtube. SuBo, Priory, Webcam, cherry-pop. You never know your luck.