My Pop Life #18 : Kalamazoo – Glen Miller

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Kalamazoo   –   Glenn Miller

…hi-ya Mr Jackson, everything’s OK-A-L-A-M-A-Zee-O O Oh Oh, what a gal, a real pipparoo…

I’ve never really felt confident around jazz music, always imagining that there’s something there which I’m not getting.  I’ve tried playing it on my chosen instrument – the alto saxophone – and my suspicions were confirmed.  It’s hard.  I feel more comfortable around older jazz from the 20s and 30s maybe because it’s got better tunes, or is more danceable, or just less intellectual generally, but maybe that’s partly been the point of jazz anyway – only a select few will get it.   I diligently bought jazz LPs though from the age of about 20 onwards : Mingus, Ellington, Coltrane and Getz have been with me ever since.

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Back in the day I used to make people mixtapes which actually were 90-minute tapes – C90s by Memorex or TDK…

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My Pop Life #232 : C’mon – Man

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C’mon   –   Man

it’s better than doin’ nothing
it’s better than sittin’ round thinking of yourself
Get up !  c’mon
Get up…c’mon 

*

The summer of 1973.  I’m thinking right now it was the most carefree moment of my entire life.  Just turned 16.  Just finished my ‘O’ Levels.  Hardest exams ever, but they were done.  Free.  In a band.  Happy.  Just happy to smoke dope, drink beer, listen to music, chat to friends.  My family was Ok, by which I mean no crisis for the moment, but I didn’t spend much time there anymore.  My friends and family were in Lewes, 25 miles away.  Sixth form coming up – a long way off, with no exams for two whole years.  A-levels were the distant horizon.  Let’s face it, my recollections are fuzzy, and so are the photographs….

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No information about this – maybe 16, maybe 17 in Hailsham, East Sussex. Youth.

Then it was summer holidays.  I had tickets to Reading Festival, as advertised in Melody Maker with some of my favourite groups –  Rod Stewart & The Faces (who I’d seen the year before My Pop Life #128), The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Status Quo among others.

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Before that treat were lazy hazy days in East Sussex and a holiday up in Scotland with Simon Korner’s family.  They’d rented a cottage on The Isle of Arran…in a little village called Lochranza on the north coast.   Simon and I decided to hitch-hike up from Lewes.  Would we make the last ferry from Ardrossan in Ayrshire?  Would we even get there?

Simon had emerged as a close friend earlier that year when I’d stayed with his family in St Henry’s Road while Mum was in hospital.  Nerves they called it.  I wrote a little bit about it in My Pop Life #64 ‘Fresh Garbage’.

I think it was 1973 when Simon became my best friend.  We both had other friends of course.  He had Mathew Ford, Chris Clark and Patrick Freyne, one of the year above boys.  I had Conrad Ryle and Martin Cooper in particular, and soon, Andy Holmes.  But I think Simon and I liked each other kind of unreservedly already.

Simon and I hitched up in late July and got to the ferry terminal in Ardrossan at about 10pm.  The ferry was not there, but the gangplank was, so we unrolled out sleeping bags and slept on it.  Woken at dawn by seagulls and the sun, and caught the ferry across to the island. Arran.  It’s one of those places that looks spectacular from every angle.

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The crossing of the Firth of Clyde was an hour, and breakfast was available on board.  We were scruffy and unwashed of course, but that was the fashion in 1973 for teenage boys.  Maybe it still is.  The town of Brodick welcomed us and upon perusing our handy map (no phones then kids) found the road out north to Lochranza and stuck out our thumbs.  A yellow ex-GPO transit van pulled over after about 30 minutes, they were going our way, perfect.

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Two fellas up front, Simon and I were in the back of the van with our rucksacks amid a heap of random rubbish, a mattress, papers, and a football which I sat on against the side of the van.  It was an hour’s journey more or less.  As we started a long gentle downhill road from Sannox to Lochranza they sped up somewhat – they could see nothing ahead for a mile – and then, remembering that we couldn’t see out of the windows really, apart from glimpses through the front window – something extraordinary happened.

I felt the side of the van disappear behind me as the doors I was leaning on opened and I started to fall, ever so slowly backwards out of the van and into the air towards the road.  I distinctly remember thinking, because I had the time to do so, that it felt like I was doing some kind of James Bond stunt in slow motion and perhaps if

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I hit the ground with a thump and instantaneously went into fast forward backward somersaults once twice thrice four times before the absurd circus act stopped abruptly and all was still.  I was on my back at the side of the road, head facing downhill legs up.  I dare not move in case of pain. I would lie there for a while until I felt braver.  There was grass on my right, road on my left where my hand was.  I moved my fingers one at a time, then my wrist, my arm, twitched my shoulder. The right hand and arm.  The feet, one at a time.  Nothing was broken.

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I could hear a voice behind me shouting my name.  I didn’t move yet.  Simon got there first and then the two ashen-faced scotsmen.  They helped me stand up, checked that all was in working order.  My trousers were ripped right across my arse.  That was about it.  Everyone was shaken, disbelieving.  It was a kind of miracle that I didn’t land on my head because to quote Johnny Moped “Crack afore the skull, blow the skull open, OK?” * The van reversed back up the hill and I got into the front seat.  By the time we got to Lochranza I felt lucky, indestructible, magic.  The fellas dropped us off and – according to Simon because I do not recall this – we both ran up the fell opposite the house because we were the first there.

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The others arrived – Shirley, Joe, Jess and Shirley’s friend Noreen Ford and it was decided to call a nurse the next day because there appeared to be some of the road left in my buttocks.   She was a cheery young woman who cleaned it up and put a dressing on the rather sore area.  I should note that I didn’t fancy her.  She came every day for about four days as I recall.  She would arrive in uniform then briskly announce her task “Good morning Ralph, I’ve come to change the dressing on your bem”  You have to read it in a Scottish Accent!  At some point around here Martin Cooper arrived.  He was a proper carrot-top redhead with pale skin and blue eyes.  We’d become friends via the school football team, and subsequent visits to The Goldstone Ground in Brighton to see The Albion.  Martin wasn’t like the rest of my friends – he didn’t take drugs, or grow his hair, or play records.  He and I would become political allies in the 6th form when we became Head and Deputy Head Boy.   I wrote about him a bit in My Pop Life #70 : The Stylistics.  Simon had long fair hair and brown eyes, I was bushy-haired with grey/green/blue eyes and slightly darker skinned than both which is odd, perhaps.  Simon tells me that he felt slightly challenged by Coops’ presence now, as if competing for my brotherly love.

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Goat Fell in the mist and the ferry to Claonaig leaving Lochranza

Coops and I it was who made the journey to Goat Fell, hitching back up that same road to Brodick Castle then walking through the grounds and up the rocky path.  It was a stiff climb but stunning at the top.  Highest point of the island, which is all peaks.  We shared a mighty joke at the top when we noticed a man walking up the path, no sweat, perfect clothes, not a hair out of place. When he reached the summit – we were on the east side by now looking at southern Scotland – he stopped and gazed at the horizon with strange purpose then pfffft opened a can of Tizer as if he was in some cheesy advert.  Fuck me it was hilarious.  We had to duck behind a boulder to laugh hysterically.

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Lochranza, Isle of Arran

Other days we went onto the beach.  Clear water, so much clearer than the English Channel in Sussex.  We took the ferry north to Claonaig one day on the Mull of Kintyre then took it back to Lochranza.  I suspect we smoked some dope and read books too.  Simon was reading Sons and Lovers by D.H Lawrence.  I cannot remember what I was reading but I was into Dostoyevsky at the time.  It was all bliss.  We talked about the incident, and Simon felt that the van had been going about 50 mph, which would account for my absurd rolling backwards down the hill.  I don’t remember any aches or bruises – apart from the obvious – but maybe time heals.  Ot maybe I just bounced.  The trousers – kind of blue flares with a black stripe pattern – were ruined and binned.  I must have had a pair of jeans with me. Or borrowed some?

Scotland is so beautiful.  It was my first time back since I was one year old.

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Dad and me, 1958.  Scotland

And I have been back many times since, especially to the West Coast, which is where I suspect I am in the photo above.  My Dad had just finished at Cambridge University and we went on holiday with his friend Tony Inglis and his wife.  I don’t remember it obviously but it is nice to have this picture of us enjoying ourselves.   Jenny and I have been to Iona & Mull, the Kintyre peninsula, Fort William, Arisaig and Skye together on three separate occasions, (twice with cats!).  I’ve been to Edinburgh many times (3 – Ed.) as a fledgling actor (see My Pop Life #140 Carly Simon), visited Shetland when Mark Williams did a gig up there, worked in Glasgow a few times on TV shows, went to Aviemore and Inverness one year.  It is a beautiful part of the world.  I’ve always fancied the Hebrides, especially since my university buddy Lewis actually came from Lewis.  Not Lewes.  Another story.

Bright clear air, bleak moorland, heather everywhere, wild flowers, rocky outcrops, sheep, water close by, streams and rivers. Mist.  Nurses who dress your bem.  It’s all good. But all good things must come to pass and thus the day came to say farewell to Korners Coopers and Fords and hitch-hike south to Reading and the Festival.  I cannot remember this journey at all.  It is quite possible that Martin Cooper hitched south with me, because I have a vague memory of us camping together in Newbury on the side of the road near a nuclear power plant?  Perhaps we even went to Reading together?  All assistance gratefully received, and apologies to Martin if indeed it was he, for it would have been a dry run for aour giant intrepid hitchhiking escapade behind the Iron Curtain to years later to Budapest (see My Pop Life #70 The Stylistics)

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I’d been to Reading the previous year which was something of a vintage line-up (see My Pop Life #103) and particularly dug the Welsh band Man who’d played Saturday afternoon.  Lovely groovy guitar work, intermeshing riffs with a tone a little like Joe Walsh my guitar hero, but a vibe all their own.  I’d come back from Reading 72 and bought the LP Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day the following spring.  Rumours that it referred to wanking, which was big news in 1973 (he flexes like a whore, falls wanking to the floor – Bowie’s Time) could not be verified.  The 1st track on side two Bananas was certainly about dope though :

I like to eat bananas cos they got no bones I like marijuana cos it gets me stoned

The LP had a quite splendid gatefold-out map of Wales as a cartoon to enjoy while listening and smoking :

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I can’t remember who else liked this record but I’ll plump for Tat, who played guitar in Rough Justice, the band I was playing in.  It has a certain sound which takes me right back to those carefree days of 1972/3 – it’s certainly of its time in that respect.  They have riffage in abundance and twin lead attack like Wishbone Ash or Blue Öyster Cult, they have a terrific organist on top like Osibisa or Greenslade (my discovery of Reading 73), a warmth to the vibe like Jo Walsh or Spirit, a sense of humour like Gentle Giant or Status Quo.  They weren’t trying to be American blues or country.  Just a good band.

reading-73-rod-2Reading 73 wasn’t as good as 72 but had its highlights.  Rod Stewart & The Faces were going through the motions a bit.  Ronnie Lane had left and we had Tetsu on bass like the year before… thus I’ve never seen Ronnie Lane with the Faces.  What was good about early Reading Festivals was the open-minded spirit that meant you could see The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and French bands like Magma or Italian bands alongside folk, rock or even >gasp< R’n’B or jazz – George Melly’s Feetwarmers or Johnny Otis.  And even country which would become the sound of the early seventies. The Eagles didn’t play Reading but they were huge.  We watched the mighty Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen with hoedown fiddles and harmonica and accordion along with the slide guitars and speeded up bluegrass country rock.  Quite tremendous.  Then there was the beer-can throwing vibe in 1973, a practice which I believe has continued to this day.  Some slightly heavy scenes too.  But we – whoever we were – just got stoned & enjoyed the music .  It was the year of feeling carefree and not worrying, of being giggly and stoned and untouchable, miraculously unbreakable, free.

Rory Gallagher was amazing by contrast playing the Irish blues.  He could play.  *Reading-1973-Rory-Gallagher-1swas

The police walked around a bit busting people for dope.  Pretty shit really but you could see them coming for miles off because they weren’t blending in very well.

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Sunday afternoon was a treat – in retrospect at least because I hadn’t heard of these people – because we got Tim Hardin (If I Was A Carpenter, Reason To Believe), Lesley Duncan and…

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John Martyn with Danny Thompson, soon to be a hero on the University and drink circuit (see My Pop Life #153 Small Hours).    And of course we had Genesis again.  They did more or less the same set as the previous summer, ie Supper’s Ready, The Knife, Hogweed, Musical Box – but with different sets and costumes.  Peter Gabriel had gone full theatrical.  In fact I recall that the set opened with him suspended from a rig 25 feet above the stage inside a pyramid with his head poking out the top.  Having just written and remembered that I cannot find any evidence of it on the internet.  But I saw it readers.

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Gabriel at Reading 1973

I found their songs kind of indigestible though frankly and although I enjoyed the costumes and the undoubted musicianship of Tony Banks, Steve Hackett and Phil Collins the only song of theirs which I almost liked is called Firth of Fifth from the LP Selling England By The Pound which they’d recorded a few days earlier, but revealed none of in the live set.  It was released in October with a single I Know What I Like In Your Wardrobe.  Whatever…

Look at these guys*Geordies-campfire-R73-800reading-73-blanket-guyReading-1973-Audience-1swas

 

That was me that was.  Reading Festival, August 1973. 16 years old. Stoned, drunk, skinny and couldn’t care less.  Precious moments.

 

*all photographs taken by kind permissions – credit to Vin Miles, Steve Austin, Stan Was, Gareth Tynan, Peter Kelly from the website http://ukrockfestivals.com/reading-73.html

 

My Pop Life #231 : Dancing Queen – ABBA

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Dancing Queen – ABBA

You can dance, you can jive
Having the time of your life
Ooh, see that girl, watch that scene
Digging the dancing queen

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My favourite memory of my younger sister Becky was her practising ‘majorettes’ routines in our front room in East Sussex to Dancing Queen, when she must have been around 7 years old.   It was her joy.  Her enthusiasm and excellence got her on the front page of a local paper which I cannot reproduce for you here, but:

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Becky standing on the right in majorette’s costume 1979. Mum in front of her

On June 18th 1986 I had reached 29 years old and panicked – I hadn’t written a play yet!   I actually envisioned my life at that point as a shape – literally – a kind of warped triangle with a steep slope up to the top (30 years old) and a gentle declining slope going back down to the base (death around 75?).  So at 29 I was a few steps away from my peak.  I should explain – I thought of my peak as a physical thing, like an athlete or a footballer.  The decline was gentle and should include other peaks within it of course, of wisdom, happiness, success blah blah.  But thirty 30 thirty was a Big Deal.  Be honest, it was for you too wasn’t it?  The end of fucking about.  The start of being responsible for your own life and its trajectory.  The start of the end of blaming your parents for your life.   Proper grown-up, middle-class white western privilege style.  I had an old typewriter and sat down and punched out a play,  vomited up the family history based around an Easter weekend from hell.  It was, to all intents and purposes, my family’s version of Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night.   Which was my favourite play when I was 29.  Steal from the best !!

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Christmas 1980 perhaps – Mumtaz, Becky, Andrew, me, Paul and Mum – but who is taking it? Alan!

In the play, Easter visitors to the family home are Mumtaz and I who are having problems, and brother Paul, who will announce to the single parent that he is gay.  Mother is having both a nervous breakdown and a bad reaction to new tablets at the time of the visit.  Rebecca is a seven-year old Dancing Queen and Andrew is present via a series of letters which my character reads aloud.   I cannot remember how this happened but I seem to recall slimming the thing down from three hours to two and presenting it as a radio play at one point.  So the slender version was some how sent to The National Theatre Studio under the wing of Peter Gill and got a week’s rehearsal for a rehearsed reading.  This was exciting !  I think I thought that I’d made it. Ha.  I cannot remember anyone in the cast except Stephanie Fayerman who played Mum.  She was extraordinary and instinctively knew how to play the part I’d written.  Without comment.  Deeply sympathetic yet unsentimental.

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Drive Away The Darkness is set in the house on the left

Gill and Nicholas Wright summoned me into a room after the reading was done and asked me “what I wanted to do with it?”  I wasn’t entirely sure why they were asking me that, so I answered, truthfully : “Get it produced?”   They smiled somewhat condescendingly “no, we meant what do you want to do with the material?”   I didn’t know what they were talking about.    “Go away and have a think about it”.   No clues, no notes, no help was offered.  I wondered what the point of it all was.  Encouragement ?  There isn’t a course for playwriting that I was aware of, and I had no idea what they thought was wrong with it as it was.  Maybe – in retrospect – they wanted the structure to be clever.  Flashbacks.  These kinds of things go in and out of fashion, but there are no flashbacks in Pinter (ooh, yes there are – Betrayal!) , and Shakespeare’s plays all start at the beginning and go forward in time.  Most plays do this to be fair.   I don’t know.  Anyway, I don’t think I was a better playwright at the end of that week than I was before.  It was a famous Missed Opportunity.

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teenage rampage!

But the flame had been lit, and the following year I applied to Joint Stock Theatre Company with my friend Paulette Randall for their annual playwriting job, based on a workshop which we would do with six actors and a designer.  I got lucky and we got the gig.  The result was Sanctuary, a hip-hop musical about homeless teenagers which toured the UK in 1987 (see My Pop Life #86).

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Rebecca and her looky-likey Martine ‘matinee’ McCutcheon

I digress somewhat.  My sister Rebecca who opened my first play as a seven-year old has had a long eventful fecund life, three marriages, three children all from the second, and a wonderful sense of humour.  I wrote about her 40th birthday and her children Mollie and Ellie in My Pop Life #120 and again went back to that party for a different angle in My Pop Life #161.  Since I wrote those chapters things have changed – Becky fell out with some finality with mother, who had been abusing her for years, both mentally and physically.  We’ve all taken it in turns to make a final break with mother – she is very difficult and as well as being mentally ill is also not a very nice woman.  It’s difficult to find the line sometimes, but we have all found it in our own way and drawn it distinctively around ourselves for protection.  I don’t hate my mother but she wants to hurt us, and does so consistently.  She isn’t stupid, she knows where our weak points are and pokes them until she can see blood.  It’s just what she’s like.  She has a gift for seeing people all the way through but she abuses it.  Becky held out longer than any of us.  We’ve all supported her though, even though the four of us – me, Paul, Andrew and Becky – are in different corners of the earth – we have a family What’s App group for sentient adults which Jenny is included on where we share the news both triumphant and tragic.

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Alan, Mum, Becky early 80s

Early last year Mum started to fall over in her bungalow back on the estate in Hailsham where we all moved in 1971.  She has a garden on three sides and it is quiet, best place she’s lived in I think.  She has a small dog called Trisha and walks with a Zimmer frame, support workers and health visitors come in every day.  She fell over and hurt herself and went into hospital.  I was in England to officiate at my niece’s wedding in Hampshire but I had time to visit her in hospital, with Andrew (who was frankly shocked at seeing her in that condition).  I’d done it so many times I didn’t realise it was new to him.  Above the bed it said “Bedbound”. Now all this time, Becky is having nothing to do with her.  Tired of the abuse and needs to get on with her own life, to heal, to stop going back for more abuse and pain.  So Andrew steps up and does the admin – talking to the hospital, the social workers, the carers, with Becky giving him a bit of help without having to speak to anyone.  Mum is taken to a Nursing Home which she hates.  I call her there on her birthday and she is in a rage of self-pity and pleads with me to get her out “I’m surrounded by dying people”.    Within weeks she is home but not because of anything I did.  Paul and I go to see her in August at home, reunited with the dog.  As visits go it is up there with the best.  No hallucinations, no abuse, no paranoia just a few reminiscences and a chat and a laugh.  Becky still isn’t speaking to her.

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Mum and Trish, August 2019 aged 84

Cut to 22nd November 2019.  Two months ago.  Becky has a row with live-in boyfriend Lee, goes outside and gets into her car and drives.  Even though she hasn’t spoken to mother for over two years, she finds herself driving across Hailsham to Town Farm Estate where she went to primary school and where mother now lives.  As she parks the car and walks towards the house she can hear a beeping noise than sees smoke pouring out of a window.  The place is on fire.  The door isn’t locked so she runs in and grabs Mother who is screaming “I’m not leaving!” and gets her outside somehow, grabbing the zimmer frame as she goes, calls 999 and waits for the Fire Brigade while mother continues to abuse her and the neighbour comes out and Mum goes to wait in there.  She’s never spoken to the neighbour until this point.  The Fireman asks where is Heather (mum) going to live – by this time Becky’s best friend Jan has turned up who is herself a miracle social worker and she intervenes, Becky has just had a stroke she can’t look after her mother.  Jan and Becky leave and Mum gets taken to a nursing home because the kitchen is destroyed.

What are the chances of Becky arriving at that very moment?

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Debbie, Mark, Bex & Peter, Andrew, Paul and Colin 1987?

There are stranger things happening than you or I know about.

I called mum a few days later to see how she was.  We spoke for a bit about Jenny’s sister Dee who died suddenly last summer after an operation which knocked us all for six.  At which point my mum said “You care more about Jenny and those black people than you do about me“.   Pretty soon after that the phone got cut off and I decided not to call back.  Andrew is still in loco parentis there, fielding the admin.

*

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Thinking back to that period of time after I left home, really anywhere between 1976 to 1981 it’s ABBA who dominate the musical landscape.  Mum and Becky shared a mutual love for I Have A Dream, Chiquita, Lay All Your Love On Me, The Winner Takes It All, Thank You For The Music.   No wonder I started my play with ABBA.   Watching them live on Youtube is strange though.  They are so antiseptic and stiff.  Amazing music, arrangements, melodies, chord changes.  Great pop music.  If you listen to the albums (rather than the greatest LP of all time ABBA Gold), you’ll hear hit after hit after hit.  Every song is a hit.  Benny on the keys, Bjorn on the guitar, a songwriting hit factory to match Lennon & McCartney. I’ve had a weird relationship with Dancing Queen.  I think it was so ubiquitous in the 1980s/90s, being wheeled out at every party disco club and rave that I got sick of it.  Jenny loves it – she was one of the DJs who wheeled it out in fact!  Then the band decided to play it for a party and I got to play the violin parts on my keyboard – quite a good sample as it goes – but I got the chance to crawl inside the song and examine its mechanics.  What a joy.  The harmonies.  The clever way it loops back into the verse each time, the chorus chords which flip over depending on which part of the song you’re in.   But that was just an introduction.  Recently I re-discovered it as a piano piece – got the chords, and started to learn it properly.  And have completely fallen in love with what is probably the finest pop song every written and recorded.  The way it all fits together so effortlessly but the wonderful architecture that makes that possible is just incredibly impressive.  Listen to the counter melody beneath “having the time of your life” for a glorious thrill that is unmatched in popular music…

Took a while, but I got there in the end.

E                           C#7                 F#m                                   B7
You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life
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See that girl, watch that scene, digging the dancing queen

My Pop Life #230 : That’s The Way Love Goes – Merle Haggard

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That’s The Way Love Goes – Merle Haggard

I’ve been throwing horseshoes over my left shoulder
I’ve spent most all my life searching for that four-leafed clover
Yet you ran with me chasing my rainbows
Honey, I love you too and that’s the way love goes

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My wife tells me I was born under a lucky star.  Because I met her, I assume is the backstory to that fantasy?  Well, yes, but there’s more.  I literally was born under Balthazar, a star in Gemini near the constellation of Orion. Does this have meaning?  What is luck anyway?

“The more I practice the luckier I get” is a quote attributed to golfer Arnold Palmer who also gave his name to a non-alcoholic drink of iced tea & lemonade combined.

Back in schooldays a few of us liked to study the geegees form in the Daily Mirror.  What are geegees?  They’re horses bred for racing.  I cannot tell you why they are called GGs.  Gee up horsey!   Anyway there are horse races pretty much every day in Britain and Ireland, either flat racing or over the jumps. I probably got this habit from Pete Smurthwaite, whose family I lived with twice due to my dysfunctional family situation which repeated itself on an almost continual basis from the age of seven til right now.  I have discussed this before in these pages, but the key entry for Pete and his family involved Jimi Hendrix in My Pop Life #84 All Along The Watchtower.   We also did other stuff – played bridge for example as a pair, played football, got stoned, analysed the politics of the day.  The horse racing was another challenge, and we had a system.  All gamblers have a system.  In other words, no gambler really relies on luck, perhaps because, like Arnold Palmer, they don’t really believe in it.

 

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The chairman of my beloved Seagulls, aka Brighton & Hove Albion has a family that has been with the club since the 1970s – been on the board of the club I mean.  Tony Bloom made his fortune as a professional gambler – poker mainly as a player, then he was in at the birth of online gambling.  I’ve never met Tony but I have been told, indeed it is an open secret, that his system is all based on numbers and probabilities.  I cannot reveal his poker system because I don’t know it, but I do know that he doesn’t sign a new player for the football team, spending his own money, without studying the form, the figures, the numbers.  Albion fans could argue that this has failed as often as it has succeeded – for every Trossard there’s an Andone, for every Maupay a Locadia.  But I have a short memory as far as football is concerned.  My brain doesn’t have room for previous football matches in it.  So I live totally in the present with the Albion.

I can’t remember exactly what our system was for the horses but it relied on the figures and numbers that the Daily Mirror supplied of that horse’s form – where had it finished in the last ten races? Was it ever a beaten favourite? Who was the jockey? Does it perform in the rain?  Points were awarded.  Bets were laid.  I can only imagine that betting shops in East Sussex weren’t too bothered about schoolkids gambling.  I know Phil Wheatley – who famously walked out of a French lesson announcing that he was going for a shit – looked older than us and would often be the layer of bets.  But not always.  I can remember the betting shop I frequented in Hailsham at that time – I was about 15-16.  They took my money.

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Traditionally, bookies or betting shops are situated near to scuzzy pubs & frequented by hollow-eyed alcoholics

And yes, I was lucky.  I won.  Not every bet.  But when I checked my weekly outgoings & incomings, winnings and losings, I was up.

This scared me.  I was dabbling really, messing about.  I felt that a lifetime of gambling would be a spiral down (despite what I now know about Tony Bloom I still feel a little bit Presbyterian about it).  So I stopped.  Just like that.  I had other things to think about – music, girls, football.  But it is a little like feeling the inner voice and realising that you are a small step from addiction.  And that wouldn’t be lucky, would it?   Jenny’s parents like to gamble, and she grew up with horse-racing too.  She has also been tempted by the habit and applied massive amounts of self-control (which she has a Phd in) to walk away.

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The paddock is on the right, the racetrack far left. In the distance is the sea

I went to the dogs in Hove one night for Mark Williams’ birthday (?), and then the races on Brighton Downs, just a short walk from our house in Kemptown.  We went to the paddock before the first race and watched the horses walk around in a slow circle.  I remembered the words of Trevor Cooper, an actor who had been to Edinburgh Festival with me twice in the early 80s, my formative years, himself a student of horse form :  “Bet on the horse that takes a shit.  It means he won’t stop for one on the way round.”

We were with Rula Lenska that day and it was Ladies Day AND Amanda Blanch‘s birthday., Mandy and Lucy were down.   Fizz fizz pop.  I can’t remember winning anything at all.  Maybe I wasn’t even there.  Didn’t matter.

The one time Jenny and I flirted most seriously with Being Lucky Punk was our First Visit To Las Vegas Together.  We’d moved to Los Angeles after Alien 3 and settled in West Hollywood, King’s Road near the Beverly Center.  Of course Las Vegas was a mere four hours by car – but at the time that seemed to us a long drive .  Across the desert in the white Lincoln Continental to The Luxor Hotel, later immortalised in Frank Ocean‘s song Pyramids.  On the strip.

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Any excuse to post a photograph of my Lincoln Continental 

People don’t go to Las Vegas to visit the zoo.  There are shows, of course, there are shows I wish I’d seen, of course… namely Elvis Presley in 1968, or 1970, or 1971.  And Count Basie with Frank Sinatra in 1966.

People go to Vegas to gamble.  I remember vividly my first visit to that glittering city of sin in the desert, in 1976 when I was a youth of 19 in my gap year.  I’ll write about that on another occasion, but that trip would be filed under LUCKY in the columns of my life, since I could have died that weekend.

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Luxor Hotel and Casino on the Strip, Las Vegas

So Jenny and I parked up, checked in and had some food downstairs.  Then, couldn’t delay any longer, time to gamble.  We’d discussed it over dinner. We had a system.  I shall reveal it to you now because what the hell.  First we would only play roulette. Second we would only have one bet per table and move on.  Third, we would always bet fifteen dollars divided into three $5 bets.  Cheap you say? It adds up is all.

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And 4th – these $5 bets would always be exactly the same – on the line between 9 & 12, 17 & 18, and 33 & 36. Payout is 17 to 1.

Most hotels had the same kind of chips as I recall which meant that you could move from casino to casino without constantly going to a cashier.  The Luxor Casino Cashier took some cash and handed us chips, small plastic counters, worth absolutely nothing outside this environment.  We sighed and dived in.  The first place we gambled was the Luxor casino.  One bet per table, as described above.  There were six tables.  We got lucky.  On the third table the little white ball span into the number 33, and since we had half of five dollars on that number we got 17 times five.  Is it $85?  And then on the final table in Luxor we landed on number 9.  Another $85, which meant we were eighty dollars UP on the first casino.   It was a good start and we left and walked a short way down the road into the warm night and the next place.

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The Excalibur.  There were more than six tables here, and we were once again successful twice, although I should add that we did get offered some free cocktails and yes, we drank them. We walked down to the MGM.  The Waldorf AstoriaPark MGM. The Flamingo. Caesar’s Palace.  And we’d been lucky.  Or else it was a good system.  By now we were over 3000 dollars UP on the night and it was just after 10pm.  We were light-headed and happy, gliding through the warm evening air loaded down with cash and chips.  Where next?  Far too early to go to bed….

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, The Strip

Winning is, in the end, a Mirage (unless you go home)

We walked past the Pirates Of The Caribbean exhibit and found ourselves at The Mirage Casino.  We went in.  We lost at the first table and the second.  On the third we made a fatal error and changed the system.  We stayed on that third table and played two more rounds.  I cannot remember much after that.  We were drunk.  At least I was.  Somehow it all went weird. We carried on.  It wasn’t shiny any more.  It was grubby and sordid.  It stopped glittering and winking and we could see the dirt and the dust.   Some croupiers had a look of pity in their eyes as we gambled that $3000 away.  Methodically.  It slipped rather miserably through our fingers.  We tried other numbers.  Red. Odd.  What about 27?  We couldn’t go home until it was all gone.  That happened around 1am.   Tails between our legs, we took a taxi back, stunned, trying to understand what had happened.  Jenny wanted to go downstairs and carry on, win back everything we had lost.  She found a credit card.  They take credit cards in Las Vegas funnily enough.  She was keen.  I didn’t think it was such a good idea.

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Roger Griffith & Jo Melville in our living room in King’s Road, W. Hollywood

About a year later we travelled to Las Vegas again to see our friends Jo and Roger who were touring the USA in a play.  To my shame I cannot remember the play. We must have gambled a bit on that trip too, then gone upstairs.  In the middle of the night I woke up with a strange feeling, turned over and Jenny was gone. I knew where she was.  It was 3.30am as I pulled my jeans on and a pair of shoes and went along to the lift.  In the casino I saw Jenny’s back standing at a roulette table.  I approached her gently as she laid some chips on the green baize. The big wheel span & the little white ball went against the spin then jumped and bobbled into number 24.  The chips were scraped in by the croupier.  Jenny felt me and turned around.  “What the hell are you doing?” I said.  “Come on”.  Roger had been there with her and already slunk back upstairs, so she accepted defeat and came back to the room.  I took the room key card off her and placed it under my pillow.  “You are gambling away our mortgage” I said.  And went to sleep.

We haven’t gambled since then really.  Are we lucky though? I feel lucky every day to be honest, even when I’m depressed.  I can’t look at the world and feel any other way.  I am lucky, lucky star or no.  I land on my feet.  It’s all a matter of perspective really isn’t it.  Choice.  Half-full or half-empty.  Grateful or bitter.  Richard E Grant said to me about ten years ago when he was doing a show in the West End “I don’t want to grow old in bitterness” which was a quote he’d got from Roddy MacDowall – the original chimp in Planet of the Apes.  I think its a key idea.  To smell the roses a little more as you grow older.  To stop comparing yourself to others, stop regretting the past, the decisions, the things that you could have changed.  It is what it is.  You have to forgive yourself for being you in the end.

None of this would be possible without my boo.  I’ve written about her a whole lot, but it’s the truth.  She ran with me, chasing my rainbows, and now I’m running with her, chasing hers.  That’s the way love goes.

 

 

The song was written by Lefty Frizzell and first came out in 1971.  For me it is inextricably tied to the moment when I embraced country music in the late 80s/early 90s under the guidance of Ken Cranham.  Saw some great gigs and bought some incredible music. Went to Nashville in 1988 (see My Pop Life #83 Country Boy) and remembered I’d bought cowboy boots when I was 18 in Santa Fe.  The guy in the shop said I should buy a pair half a size too small and they’d expand into my footshape.  They did that, then split along the sole.  Bought a few more pairs since that day though.  I never cared much about looking cool.  Not true of course, but I always walked the line of derision and mockery.  Ponced around the LSE in 1976 like a cowboy until punk’s sulphate urgency gripped me.  But I’ve always loved country music and style, and simultaneously felt I knew nothing about it.  Ken Burns Country doc fixed that.

Merle Haggard was in San Quentin when according to Legend he saw Johnny Cash playing to the prisoners and it turned his life around.  From Bakersfield, California he became a huge country star who championed the working man and whose songs are like the man himself  – unsentimental perhaps, but truthful and honest. Proper country music.  I bought this song as a 45 rpm single in Ernest Tubb’s Record Store in Nashville in 1988.  It has a warmth and generosity to the production, and an incredible quality to the vocal that really moves me.  And the guitar solo is pretty good too.   Merle has written and sung a ton of great songs.  This is my favourite.

My Pop Life #229 : Wish Tower – Glen Richardson

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Wish Tower  –  Glen Richardson

Morning came in seven flavours I tried every one

Stuffed my bags with chocolate fags and ran off home to mum

Had my little tryst with sunny Aberystwyth

But I missed the haunts of my youth

Kept all my daydreams as proof

Stuffed behind the station ticket booth

Careful of that melancholy morning.  I awoke today too early with a misty dream just out of reach and the opening lines of this song tiptoeing across my mind. I turned around and my cat Boy stood on me so I turned back and we made solace for a moment. Then he left for a warm spot but the song stayed.  I tried to remember the rest of it. I tried to go back to sleep.  Neither being successful I was left with one option. Get up, make a cup of tea, feed Boy (and Roxy who didn’t come down) and put on the headphones and listen to the song.  Tears sprang to my eyes as they usually do when I hear it, but this morning more than usual.

*

The opening is curious until you reach the chorus but it resembles a trippy haunted memory of Eastbourne Pier and the bingo caller shouting over the plinks plonks and wooden planks of the penny arcade machines.  Childhood memories.  Chocolate fags were sweet cigarettes made of sugar for children to pretend they were smoking. Although the chocolate ones were perhaps more cigar-like. The sweet cigarettes were white.  Then we’re quickly off to Wales, the coastal town of Aberystwyth where the writer Glen studied music for 3 years.  Clearly one of the student activities was trying to find rhymes for the town name which Glen manages here with winning aplomb.  But home calls him back.  East Sussex.  The haunts of my youth.  The melancholia of autumn, halloween and the past in one short sweet line.  The final two lines of the first verse are just breathtaking though and they lift my heart while simultaneously bringing water to mine eyn.  His daydreams are stuffed behind the station ticket booth.  Glen lived in Polegate and takes the train to Eastbourne eventually, a lost town by the sea where Debussy composed La Mer and where I and my brothers would climb Beachy Head with my dad in the years after he’d left the house where we lived with mum in Selmeston,  not far from Polegate.

Which is where we find Glen in verse two – happily back home.

 

Sunny lazy Monday mornings back where I belong

Loves and hates and middle eights for some unfinished song

Look who’s in the garden ripping up a carton

Dragged out from our rubbish box

No stars for you Mr Fox

Nipping down the Co-Op in your socks

 

It’s like a dream from a memory, songwriting happiness in rural sunny England in the 1970s. The almost embarrassing recall of nipping down the Co-op (a supermarket) in your socks is so specific so domestic and so relaxed and loose that we get a clue as to why this life is hymned as the glowing holy grail but there’s something drifting too, the D major chord that can’t escape its root, the fading backing vocals that accompany Mr Fox. Where are we going?

One way to Eastbourne when you’re off-season

Wished on the Wish Tower but I’m still around

Left all my stardust down at the Congress

Went back to fetch it but look what I found

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The Wish Tower is an old fort on the beach which now has a cafe and gardens around it, local denizens walk slowly with walking sticks and take their seats in the autumn sunlight.  What did Glen wish for ?  Success probably because he’s still around.  The reference to Hoagy Carmichael’s Star Dust always pricks my eyes because it is simply my favourite song – discussed earlier in these memoirs at My Pop Life #100 in the version by Nat King Cole.  The Congress Theatre is where you’ll get the annual pantomime with fading stars from television, faces you’ll know and love.  A certain type of show business that contains its own inbuilt melancholia – but they’ll also host touring theatre and the occasional pop or rock show.  Provincial English Theatre par excellence.  I remember shooting a scene from a pop video in there one autumn with Mark Williams, Zoe Thorne and a Welsh band The Crocketts. For another time.  But look what I found ?  Every great song has to have a mysterious line :

And though she feels as if she’s in a play, she is anyway

Glen has the same relationship with Sir Paul as I do – frankly, adoration – which is one reason why we clicked early on in the Brighton Beach Boys days in 2002 – learning those sibling Wilson harmonies in Steve & Rory’s flat in Viaduct Road – In My Room, Surfer Girl, Help Me Rhonda.  Glen calls him Saint Paul.  If you’re going to be influenced by someone, you could do worse.

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Stephen Wrigley and Glen Richardson in electric dreams

Of course my feeling for this song is coloured completely by my relationship to Glen, and to my memories of Eastbourne and what it means to me :  Slightly genteel, full of white-haired conservatives and a few scallywags, a faintly useless record shop, and a whole bunch of businesses which seemed rather sad and neglected, as if shrugging at the lack of interest from the people walking by. Some foreign students, happy, weird happy people. My dad in a flat near the seafront.  Crazy golf.  Queens Tennis club (never been). The best bit of Eastbourne of course is the walk up to Beachy Head.

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Walking to Beachy Head.  The Wish Tower is the fort this side of the pier.

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Magnificent.   A wave-cut platform full of hermit crabs, tidal pools and other treasure where The Downs meets The Sea and falls into it.  A large piece of chalk.  And of course, where you go to commit suicide. Setting for my film New Year’s Day – (press the back button below three times for that story, not so much melancholic as downright tragic!)

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Wedding Day swoon

By the time I’d met Glen he was with Christine who had seen him perform (with Steve and Rory and others) at the Gardner Arts Centre at Sussex University with a 30 -piece orchestra playing the music of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  Glen was singing, and since he has the voice of an angel, she swooned immediately.  The rest is herstory.  A few years after we met they were married but I’ll save that for another post and another song.  But Glen’s mum was often at our early gigs with Glen’s sister, they travelled in from Polegate to Brighton.  A sweet little cherub with her own head of white hair and a twinkly smile.  She fell ill once and we travelled in to see her in hospital and sang her a five-part harmony Surfer Girl (Glen may correct me here in the precise details).  She died earlier this year after some illness, just before I went to England to conduct the marriage of my god-daughter Kimberley to her beau Kazim.  I didn’t make the funeral but I called Glen from the wedding venue as we waited for the rehearsal to start the day before and we had a surreal and delightful chat as he handled both his children Daisy and Stan in the back garden of his Hollingbury house overlooking the Downs and a bee threatened their peaceful afternoon.  I miss him.

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Glen Richardson is happy

Glen passed me a CD of 16 songs sometime back in 2009 if I recall correctly.  The band was thriving, by then we were performing Pet Sounds & Sgt Pepper every year in the Brighton Festival.  Then we decided to arrange Abbey Road for concerts, and needed a new first half.  That first year (2011) I talked the band and Glen (just about) into performing his album of self-composed songs which was then called Pop Dreams.  Brilliant gems of songwriting in the mould of Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello or Randy Newman with sparse instrumentation which exposed the songs themselves as the little jewels that they are.  I particularly liked All Sewn Up, Underground and A Country Walk but they are all really good.  I started giving the CD to friends of mine urging them to listen – see what you think of this> because I couldn’t believe that someone as talented as him hadn’t been signed, hadn’t been produced, didn’t have a deal.  Even if not as a singer (incredible though he is) as a songwriter.  In fact Brighton was full of people like this at that point (and maybe always has been and always will be).  Stars and Sons.  Butterfly McQueen. Electric Soft Parade !  To name but three.  So we started to rehearse Pop Dreams. I would be on backing vocals mainly because there’s only one keyboard part, and very little woodwind.  Then I got a job.  It was spring 2011 and Bryan Singer was directing Jack The Giant Slayer under a giant beanstalk somewhere in Surrey out of Longcross Studios and I was to assist in disguise.

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Ian McShane, Chris Fairbank, unknown, me : Jack The Giant Slayer

It meant that I would miss the crucial rehearsals right before showtime which was May 28th in St George’s Church.  So disappointing.  I didn’t even know if I would be able to do the gig at all such are the demands and vagaries of filming.  So I pulled out of Pop Dreams and let them get on with it.  I wasn’t exactly a critical member of the band instrumentally for this show, but there is a nebulous chemistry among us all and it would change when people were missing.  I was told that my presence was missed and all I heard back was of friction and disagreements as Glen felt people weren’t learning his songs quickly or thoroughly enough.  He was under pressure in retrospect. How do you learn a song ?  You listen to it and then work it out at home. Nothing I could do.

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Rehearsal : Tom on drums, Rory guitar, Steve bass, Adrian guitar, Glen on keys

I made the May 25th rehearsal three days before the weekend of gigs – on Sunday it was Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper which still needs rehearsal even if you know it !  On the day in fact I was free and watched Pop Dreams from the back of the church.  I loved those songs and the band played them really well, but I just wish I’d been up there singing the backing vocals which were largely missing.

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Then I joined them for Abbey Road in the 2nd half.  Later on Glen confessed that he’d found the entire experience an ordeal and he was a) glad it was over and b) would never do it again.  Which was a shame because I had a fantasy that the Brighton Beach Boys could have an original outlet with Glen songs.  It wasn’t to be.  The following year we played other songs from 1969 cleverly titled “The 1969 Show” as our warm up for Abbey Road.  Anyway here’s the third and final verse of Wish Tower.

Mother writes a letter to the local government

Says we won’t be beaten and I wonder what she meant

Wonder where my dad’s gone, please don’t look so sad son

Maybe he’s lost in the rain

Won’t be the same here again

Must be off now I’m gonna miss the train

*

So touching, so direct, so sad – the memory of the death of his father, which could be from years earlier but is the final shattering verse before the final haunting chorus.  I cannot hear this verse without the tears coming which is extraordinary because I never met Glen’s father, and mine is still alive (as is my dear mother).  But his facility with the melody, his delivery of the lyric, and the lyric itself :

Won’t be the same here again

is quietly devastating.  And the final line is just so English, as a reaction to expressing emotion.  As the current Halloween season draws to its climax on Thursday here in New York City, over two months have now passed since my wife Jenny’s beloved older sister Dee died.  We are still in shock and the season is perfect for our sadness which is a heartbeat away from whatever mood we are in.  We feel so close to her but she has gone and it won’t be the same here again.

My Pop Life #228 : God Give Me Strength – Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach

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God Give Me Strength – Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach

Now I have nothing
So God give me strength
Because I’m weak in her wake
And if I’m strong I might still break
And I don’t have anything to share
That I won’t throw away into the air
That song is sung out
This bell is rung out…

*

New Year’s Day   :   Drowning The Baby

*

this is verbatim the diary I wrote between January 1996 – July 31st 1998

Part Three

Easter Monday 1998

Spoke to Don McPherson today who said all the right things.  Separate the personal from the professional. It’s a marathon not a mile. Twat him in the face.  Things like that.  Park your revenge and then pick it up at a later date.  Don is famous (to me at least) for banging Steve Woolley’s head onto the floor of the restaurant in Groucho as he held his ears, something of which Don is “not proud”. I understand nevertheless.  I decide to rewrite the beginning as a hotel fire at Gatwick, and do so today.  Suri calls me and while we talk Jenny places a post-it note on the TV which reads ‘The Naked Clown’.  She is a genius.  Very hard for her that I am still involved in this cocksucker of a film.  But I am.  Don reminds me that my hurt can be redoubled if I get branded as a troublemaker – ‘he wanted his wife in the film’ etc.  He advises me to pick up the piece of shit from the floor, place it into my mouth and chew slowly, while pretending that it tastes nice.  Unfortunately he is right.  I park my revenge and take my cuddly toy out of the car, putting it where my body should be.  I’m so cute.

Wednesday April 15th 1998

Great day yesterday. For me.  Pleased with my handling of these amateur ego merchants.  I travel to London late Monday, meet Brian & Emma & Pete in the Giraffe Kennington where Guinness is still being served at 12.30am, Emma fiddling with the best. this means she was playing the violin in a public house  We retire for a bottle of wine and I end up sleeping at Pete’s after smoking 15 skunk/temple ball joints. 3 hours sleep. Up & at ’em.  A five minute walk to the office.  Slimmed down staff – plenty of desk space.  Uneasy atmosphere.  I wear my Alien 3 shirt “All other considerations secondary. Crew Expendable”.  yes I can be a cunt tha knows  I fiddle with the new beginning – fire in a hotel.  Some people seem to want the lone gunman scenario.  This will be where I part company with the film I predict.  We’ll see : it’s complicated now – David Thompson wants a draft tonight where the middle has been altered.  Granada want one where the beginning is changed.  Because of my late involvement last week on script matters I cannot do the BBC one in time, and in fact it seems that Suri has already written it !  When I leave the office at 1.30 ‘NYD by Ralph Brown’ is given to me – but I didn’t write it. This is the one I’m taking in to the office today. Actually bits of it aren’t bad – but other bits are execrable. even the temple ball skunk couldn’t quite conceal that The fact that it had been done at all is the most disappointing of course. Steve eventually arrives looking sheepish and tired.  Charles pulls him aside to ask “what is going on?” and they mutter darkly to each other for ten minutes.  Eventually I suggest that we go for a cigarette.  In the Giggling Sausage Steve updates me on the charade.  There are two scripts now – mine, and Suri’s. Granada have all but closed us down. Rumour has it that Pippa is to be sacked.  yes that’s how it reads in the diary – no editing here folks ! The BBC don’t mind the avalanche but can’t decide either way.  I say my piece: ‘This is wrong.  You and Suri have produced a draft – for what reason? You can’t just leave me out – you’re wrong – I nearly left you this last weekend.  Start producing the film. You’re in charge at the moment, start behaving like you are.’  And all that. Steve says – read this draft, then have a think, then read it again then we’ll all get together like we used to and thrash it out. let’s get back to killing this baby properly!  Are you hiring another writer I ask baldly?  Categorically not says Steven, you know the characters better than anyone. No I say.  Why would you hire someone when You and Suri will write it instead.  He is sheepish again.  What a bunch of amateur arse.  I then explain why the lone gunman is so pathetic as an opening.  I then leave the office and get stoned with Pete.  Meeting my new literary agent today to see what she’s like.

STOP PRESS Version of the script going to the BBC with lone gunman opening as I write this. Charlie in the office was foolish enough to let me know.

Monday April somethingth 1998

What a week that was. I read their draft (Suri’s notes, Steve’s writing) on the train – some good things, and my stuff remained largely untouched, especially the big scenes. I called Cameron to let him know that I hadn’t written the draft winging its way to him. (Cameron McCracken who is on board as a producer/financier expert). Then had a great meeting with Jessica Sykes at ICM and we went through the history, the betrayals, the backstabbing, the draft going out with my name on that I didn’t write.  “They can’t match my writing” I realised. We talked for an hour and a half with no interruptions – a good start to our relationship. She advised me to stay cool and Not Take My Name Off, as then I probably wouldn’t get paid.  And I deserve to be paid, gunman or no. Oh yes, I deserve to be paid.

I should explain here that nobody gets paid until the first day of principal photography which is when the first tranche of money gets released.  See My Pop Life #143, #144, #145 which document with unerring and occasionally amusing clarity my experience as a writer on another film called Red Light Runners. I didn’t get paid for that one, and neither did anyone else.  It was both less and more of a car crash than New Year’s Day. 

 

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Pager

That night I stayed at Wembley to celebrate Mrs Jules 56th birthday.  Next morning Suri pages me to call immediately. I let him stew for an hour then it’s “call me back on my mobile, I’ll be outside on the pavement” and all sorts of bollocks.  When we finally talk Suri is full of apology, chagrin, pleading : “I was wrong and you were right, we’ve got to get the flavour and integrity of your script back, it’s slipping away and I need you to help me to fix it”.  Laughing quietly to myself I arrange to be in the office the next day (Friday) to discuss the script.  Steve also pages me and leaves a message at home, which I do not return. Next day I go into the office late – about 2pm – and we huddle in a corner, me, Steve and Suri – and they try to launch into the script – and I say hold it – I just want to say two things.  One – remember the Pardoner’s Tale which was in all of the early drafts of the screenplay, an English class at school with Mr Diamond discussing Chaucer’s story where we’d cut from the chalk cliff to a piece of chalk in his hand writing the word ‘Death’ on the blackboard – three chaps decide to go and Kill Death, find a pot of Gold, decide to wait until dark before moving it, meanwhile send one to find food, he poisons it but the other two kill him and eat the food afterwards. So they all die.  Suri was secretly smiling at this. And number two I said, said I ~ I will be credited on all office paperwork as Writer/Co-Producer as it says in my contract.  “I don’t want the chain of command to be confused” says Steve.  “If anyone asks me a producery question, I’ll tell them to ask you, OK?”   So that was that.  Point made I then pulled out my gear, my papers, tobacco and grass and rolled a phat one.  Charles wandered over “Is that a Camberwell Carrot?”  This is a no smoking office and building so I lit up and inhaled deeply.

 

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Camberwell Carrot

Then on with the script.  The lone gunman idea was discussed for an hour.  My position was that I wouldn’t be writing that. Suri agreed and that was that. Other areas were discussed as we waited for Granada to phone and give us the go-ahead for another week.  Madness.  We talk about a ‘Don’t Look Now’ beginning where Shelley senses the avalanche. Great idea but will we miss the skiing? I think we will. Another joint.  Suri shares it. We get the OK from Granada – not quite a green light, that has to wait until Tuesday. Budget now £2.16million. Lots more cutting and pasting arguments to come.

Saturday drive to Shrewsbury in Mark Williams’ brand new Alfa Romeo, see the Albion lose 2-1 you’re Welsh and you know you are Sunday go to Wilf’s 1st birthday at Steyning then drive to London for a 6pm meeting with Clear Eye (on a Sunday?). We work for an hour then I leave him to tidy up the remains of the gunman from the script and go to Paulette’s to see A Respectable Trade on the TV, directed by Suri, starring Warren Clarke, Emma Fielding, Ariyon Bakare, Hugh Quarshie, me and Jenny Jules my wife. Jeez. Staying at Pete Sullivan’s tonight as we have a script meeting at 6.30am in the morning. This is to clear up any further disagreements the three of us have..then its the BBC Thursday to see if they’ll give us their quids. In the meantime we have to assume they won’t and cut scenes. Fuck me.

Wednesday night April 1998

Two very early morning starts and all day meetings on the script.  Knackered.  Jenny flew to New York today. Got to finish this draft today.  Timbuktu is currently in.  it’s a scene where our heroes go to Timbuktu for an ice cream  Saw video of the boys and the kids from the beginning.  Jill Hagger didn’t get the make-up job, Elaine Smith from Respectable Trade did.  Finished latest draft last night at 8pm and today took the day off – completely shattered. Green light still not there. The possibility looms of a postponement until the autumn/summer.

Tuesday April 28th

Had a meeting booked with Pippa at Granada today at 11am. Awoke at twenty to eleven, called Steve and said I wouldn’t be coming in. It’s a lovely sunny spring day in Brighton and I’m going out. Hurrah!

Wednesday May 6th

Cancelled two more meetings as the promised green light failed once again to materialise and some energy evaporated from the project.  Tuesday casting in North Acton for Sgt Bristow and Mr & Mrs James – Sharon D. Clarke and Burt Caesar came in, who we hope will do it.  Another Wednesday rolled around and Suri, Mark, Urvashi (Suri’s PA) and Robin the location manager met me at Cuckmere Haven visitor’s centre to see the meanders, the sea, the cliffs.  There is already a problem with Lewes County Council regarding shooting on Seaford Head due to the nature of the script – suicide, drugs etc.  We are not to identify the area in any shot, so after negotiating, reframing and sweet talking it seems we can use the area !  Placing a monument – a bell – on the cliff-top helps, as does painting out the cottages.

 

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Paul Bhattacharjee

Tragically the actor Paul Bhattacharjee jumped from these cliffs in July 2013 after being declared bankrupt, a haunting legacy for all those who knew him, which included me and previous girlfriend Rita. I can’t write about Seaford Head, suicide and NOT mention Paul.  RIP. 

James Wilby meets Suri & I for lunch in the Golden Galleon and is immediately offered the part of Robin (Steven’s father, an MP) which is great as he is my first choice.  Then to Brighton and a saunter down the Palace Pier (where we can’t film for the above same reasons – strange that Brighton is worried about a film which portrays drugs!!) then under the pier, down to the West Pier then the Pavilion then back to Frances’ house for a cuppa.  We are all frustrated by a phone call from Steve which indicates that the light is indeed green but there are more cuts to be made. Steve needs to stop being so flexible.  We need a stand from now on, from everyone,  no more cuts!

Monday May 12th 1998

And so it came to pass that Granada asked if we could cut another £100,000 from the budget and it was not good, and we did not confer, yet Steven Cleary took it upon himself to say unto them “No”, for verily many cuts of this nature had already been suffered and we were upon the bone.  And thus the green light failed to materialise and the office was closed down and the weekend was spent calling people and telling them the news and many tears were shed.  But strangely the writer did not share their grief for he had been mighty unhappy with the project as constituted and did distrust Granada as Executives but even so he could see that it was a shame. And it meant that the months of debt would continue even unto the autumn or whenever the film was to be reconstituted with a certain Simon Channing Williams.

 

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Simon Channing Williams

(Simon’s company Thin Man Films produced all of Mike Leigh’s films and had an office on Greek Street. A great producer and a decent guy.  Simon did eventually produce NYD.  He sadly passed away in April 2009)

It also meant that the emasculated version of the script would not be filmed and there was a chance to do the thing properly, and even, breathe it if you dare, with the wife of the writer back in her rightful position as Veronica so help me God. And the possibilities were good.  But the producer had not called the writer, no even unto the morning of the sixth day after the event for he was mighty depressed, yea, even unto the telephone. The director had made the writer aware of much of what had transpired, and the writer vowed to keep this relationship open and sweet, regardless of his personal feelings for the director, for verily it is good to separate the personal feelings from the professional.

May 12th 1998 Monday

Met Suri & Urvashi in “the office” and we left carrying boxes and vowing softly through our humiliation Never To Return. Lunched at NFT where Steve arrived late and without 2 million pounds. Walked back to Granada and up to Pippa’s office. She thinks that we can still put a deal together by asking everyone for another 20 grand each. Since we have now stopped  and would have to re-start at the beginning of pre-production this is not really very likely. The putative budget is back at 2.3 million, Steven said he wanted to explore other avenues meaning the substantial Channing Williams one and Pippa had to agree. She kept mentioning the script being “not quite there” which got right up my nose.  predictably  She is especially concerned that the 2 boys don’t jump off the cliff at the end “because they want to commit suicide”.  No, they jump because they said they would.  Pippa also slags off Lynda LaPlante’s KillerNet because of her supposed inability to “get down to the level of teenagers”.  I leap on this angrily. I have never considered teenagers to be “down” on any level below me or anyone else.  They are on the same level as us.  When I was a teenager I thought that and I still do. Extraordinary.

May 13th 1998 Tuesday

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Filofax

Leave the house at 11.30 in a cab, realise I have forgotten Filofax (it’s the 90s kids!) and Suri calls as I re-enter house to change meeting to 2.30.  I mow the lawn. Suri arrives at Groucho with birdshit on his hat but not on his head. Everyone proclaims this to be Good Luck and he then brandishes a green lighter he found in the pub the night before. Round to Greek Street and up to Simon Channing Williams’ office where he sports a splendid moustache but no beard.  Steve explains – Granada have already spent £75,000 on the film but that is included in our new budget which stands at £2.3 million.  Simon reaches for the calculator – “Let’s call it £2.4” Suri and I are immediately sold, Steve and Simon fiddle with figures for 5 minutes (Simon has a different Sales Agent with a higher quote) and they decide that if we get a UK sale from somewhere – C4 or the BBC – then Thin Man and David will fund the film completely. “You know I’ve always loved this script” says Simon.  The sun is still shining.

Wednesday May 20th 1998

Suri called yesterday and Jenny picked up “Hello Jenny it’s Suri” “RALPH PHONE!” heh heh how rude we all thought.  Anyway today’s brilliant idea was how about a cable car crash? I said No Suri we have discussed this A MILLION FUCKING TIMES YOU PEA-BRAINED MORON it’s an avalanche it’s an Act of God there are no repercussions no investigations no negligence actions no blame NUFFINK JUST GRIEF BABY PURE FUCKING SORROW got that?  Really got it now or SHALL I SHOUT IT INTO YOUR DIM LITTLE ORIFICE YOU SPINELESS EXCUSE FOR A CRUSTACEAN? FOR FUCK’S SAKE I AM WORKING WITH PYGMY SHREWS WITH NO DICKS GOD HELP ME ! !  There will be no script meetings until Simon Channing Williams has made a decision on THE MONEY.  FUCK THIS MOVIE.  I HATE IT SO MUCH.

clearly a touchy time for me then.  The diary of a fourteen year old bipolar wanker. To be fair to Suri and Steve, they’re trying to squeeze a story into a budget. I was in the luxurious position in some ways of purely telling a story. The idea to me of the avalanche being expensive wasn’t important.  I’d been through the alternatives and they all produced very different films. As I had explained. to be fair to me, many many times. 

Booked a hotel in Aix-en-Provence today for the 1998 World Cup having scored 4 tickets for England v Tunisia.  Hoorah.

Friday 22 May 1998

Pete informs me that Aix is the capital of the French fascists.  Marvellous !  No meeting yesterday – waited until we’d heard from SCW and… it’s a yes… Now we have to extricate gently from Granada.  Steve & Charlie have gone into a huddle to discuss the best “deal”. Arse to that let’s get this creaky cranky fucked up marriage-busting turd of a show on the knobbing ROAD!  Suri tells me he cannot call me at home anymore because of the abuse he receives from Jenny – ‘cocksucker’ being the latest overheard remark. diddums He can call my pager instead.

Wednesday 27th May 1998

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A Voyage To Lilliput

shit this is going to get worse isn’t it

Suri arrives with Muttley or so he calls Urvashi this morning. It is an indication of something that he has to have an assistant for a meeting between him Steve & myself. An indication that he is a twat, for example. He gets very heated with Steve over the possibility that Granada might need “another month” to put the deal together. We all say No to that, but the problem is that they own it, and they could become difficult and delay us again. Pippa will not allow us to use any of the other co-producers – Newmarket Films, British Screen, the French at Canal+ or even the BBC as she started the dialogue there. (or at least continued it). So a face-saving moment is underway.

Meantime script notes are produced by Naked Clownface and we argue over point one and point two for about an hour when Suri or rather Muttley has to take his car off the meter.  So we arrange to meet again on Friday, when I plan to SMASH.  I see out of the corner kick of my eye that Suri’s notes are far-reaching & radical and I just want to rip them up and stuff them down his throat as the contents are just what the last person who read the script told him. “Steven’s character is under-developed” gets a whole section to itself.  I am so furious in the meeting that I do not speak for ages just tap my feet and smoke and Muttley takes notes. I finally realise what we are trying to solve on points one & two and suggest that Both Boys want to commit suicide, or rather, don’t really know one way or the other….in other words, what I wrote three years ago.

I’m a fucking righteous prick by this point clearly

I am totally at the end of my patience with this procedure and the small people nibbling at my ankles are about to get stepped on. I only have to flex my bicep to release my arm from their puny ropes – just wait til I get angry you midget cloud! I will smite thee and all thy progeny! There will be wailing and gnashing and grinding and blood.

June 5th Saturday 1998

Took a week off.  Meeting produced further irritation and no promised SMASH unfortunately but it was pretty tense and irritable and I told Suri I was offended by his notes. Steve was saying stuff like “well we have to discuss this” and I was “sure, let’s but I disagree” and basically it was crap.  Agreed to do another draft but have no intention of doing so until we have more news…

World Cup tickets confirmed, we’re off in a week, driving down to Marseilles for England v Tunisia….the World Cup now dominates all thinking and feeding and drinking habits and I am strangely nervy and jumpy today thinking about it.  Can’t wait.

Wednesday July 31st 1998

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The World Cup came and went – a separate diary – in fact I did put in a new draft just before we left, it was a tweak no more, dialogue for Veronica, Geraldine & Robin and now it all seems so far away from me, small insignificant people scrabbling in blancmange, specks, dust. Finally it doesn’t matter.

Surely this is a blatant lie.  ‘It doesn’t matter’.  Jeez.  What are you saying>?  Lies

In three more days Rebecca my sister will marry John, and I will drive her as requested to the Registry Office.

Suri and I had dinner on Monday.  He wanted to know how we could resolve it. I said we couldn’t, short of offering Jenny the part, which I knew wasn’t going to happen. He said “Ralph, look, I know Jenny and I will never be friends again, but me and you – we’re all right aren’t we?”

I think I was gobsmacked frankly. I finally understood my mis-reading of the man we had considered to be our friend, who had slept at our house, who we had both worked with, the man I had given the gift of my first precious screenplay. 

“We’re all right though aren’t we?”  

He wanted to know how we could proceed as friends.  I explained in short, easy-to-understand sentences why this was not going to happen. Why we were not going to have a friendship going forward of any kind. It was civilized (Groucho Club, upstairs) and low-key – in other words, no disagreement occurred, no voice was raised, no anger or frustration erupted. I drank white wine, gin, vodka, water and in a low serious voice outlined my year so far. I was completely honest, and announced that I would have no more to do with the project New Year’s Day unless asked, but added an important coda that I felt, as the writer, that I would be asked regularly for my opinion.  But even so I felt released dear reader, unshackled from the lead weight that has been dragging me down down down and I let it go.  It sank.  So did Suri.  He claimed that my friendship was important to him.  The feeling was not reciprocated. We parted.

I shall probably never see New Year’s Day, the film that I wrote.

I feel cleansed and free.

I can’t hold on to her
God give me strength
When the phone doesn’t ring
And I’m lost in imagining
Everything that kind of love is worth
As I tumble back down to the earth
That song is sung out
This bell is rung out
She was the light that I’d bless
She took my last chance of happiness
So God give me strength
God if she’d grant me her indulgence and decline
I might as well
Wipe her from my memory
Fracture the spell
As she becomes my enemy
Maybe I was washed out
Like a lip-print on his shirt
See, I’m only human
I want him to hurt
I want him
I want him to hurt

*

Well thanks for bearing with me readers as I dug over the rank soil of this awful era.  I am so glad that I kept a diary for I had erased almost all of this from my memory.  When I was house-clearing in Brighton last month (August 2019) I found some papers and this was among them.  It contained some of the greatest professional and personal pain I have experienced as an adult, much of which has been directed back at myself for trusting the wrong people with my precious writing.  But a mistake is an opportunity for learning, because life goes on.  I will gather my forces and rise.

The song for this chapter is from a magnificent album that was released in September 1998 just after this blog ends.  It is a pinnacle release for both Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach who collaborated on the songs, on the words, on the music.  Beautifully written, orchestrated and sung, it was that October when we scored tickets to see the show at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.  Lulu Norman took my ticket because I never made it due to work commitments. It wasn’t because New Year’s Day was finally shooting.  On the Isle of Wight.  That would be the following spring.

God Give Me Strength. Elvis Costello’s finest vocal performance :

My Pop Life #227 : Paranoid Android – Radiohead

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Paranoid Android – Radiohead

Please, could you stop the noise
I’m trying to get some rest
From all the unborn chicken voices
In my head

*

New Year’s Day   :   Drowning The Baby

*

this is verbatim the diary I wrote between January 1996 – July 31st 1998

Part Two

March 25th 1998 contd

We travel up after the workshop to London together.  I meet Jenny at Beverley and Paulette’s and tell her my news.  There is chaos and weeping and anger and fury. I am grateful that two of my oldest friends who understand from all sides are there to help us through this incredibly difficult time. I have a calm fury, a murderous shine to my eyes, Jenny’s are black. I resolve to insist that Suri meet Jenny for lunch face to face.  He will not get away with this.

[However he is directing my screenplay, my baby, and I have at the very least a morbid fascination about the bubbles and the exact time of death. So on the train journey I remain tight-lipped and decide Not To Undermine Not To Punch In Face Not to Kill quietly in Notting Hill side street Not To Disagree Violently because I sense that if I champion certain things strongly in an aggressive sulky moralistic way Suri is quite likely to do quite the opposite.  If I become visibly his enemy in face, my opinions will rebound against me. I have to keep my lip zipped (as far as Suri is concerned) for one year.  Any honesty, any real honesty at this point will not help me (I probably cannot be really honest with Shekhar either). A long game is preferred now, a painful steep learning curve called “How To Make A Film” (I will choose and re-choose to stay with my baby wounded and twisted and mis-shapen though it is I will not abandon it entirely I will choose the difficult path the learning curve that curls up and over my head in a perfect arc toward my shoulder blades where it embeds itself firmly in my back, sharp and piercing and drawing blood but not killing me) so I will be at Production Meetings, castings etc I will take Mark Stevenson production designer round Lewes to original locations so that he can double them in Surrey I will hold the baby’s head underwater for as long as I fucking can!  At the time of writing it is not dead yet.]

I go to the Production Office next day and have an hour or two with Charles Steel our associate producer.  Suri is talking to Mark. He thinks Marianne will be offered the part and that Jenny will not even be seen.  Well he should fucking know !!  I tell him that he must call Jenny ASAP and meet her for lunch and make out that my marriage is on the line.  It actually was a month ago because Jenny of course was way ahead of it all and smelled it out and knew deep in her bones.  Her bag was ready and packed until she could see that my pain was equal to hers that I was on her side that I was losing too.  In fact I want Jenny to tell him what we both need to tell him but for reasons explained above, I cannot.  My learning curve bends again and I feel nauseous at the extent of human selfishness.

Over the weekend Jenny and I are immersed in pain.  Lightened somewhat by seeing Thomas Jules Stock perform in front of 12000 screaming teenage girls at Wembley Arena, supporting Backstreet Boys.  He is fantastic, and Jenny and I both secretly claim authorship and feel proud. All the family come and feel the buzz.  On Tuesday night we see Lyndon David Hall on Jools Holland and meet Spiritualized properly (at the Royal Albert Hall after a fantastic gig of Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space), and Wednesday is dinner at Noel Greig’s with Mala from Delhi who works with the Street Theatre Movement in India, and all of these social events smooth the rough edges of our days – good people – good music – good conversation and love.  The love seems to have disappeared from NYD.

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       The Magic Circle in Lewes behind the castle – holy ground for me                –   a ‘cathedral of the imagination’ for Cleary.  Well exactly.

On Tuesday Mark Stevenson came to Lewes and I made him fall in love with it. He loved the space – Hamsey in particular, the castle, the Downs, the schools. We got on tremendously well but I am seeing bubbles all day as we are down to 2 weeks shooting in Lewes now in The Schedule.  The soul of the film starts to leave me, there is a funeral every day and the thought of jumping off chalk appeals as it must.  NYD is a story about a teenage suicide pact which is set partly on the chalk cliffs where the South Downs meet the sea, famously at Beachy Head near Eastbourne.  

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But the baby stubbornly refuses to die.

Evening Same Day

What’s that?
(I may be paranoid, but not an android)
What’s that?
(I may be paranoid, but not an android)

Another great betrayal is at hand.  Weakness and the centre & accountants bullying are leading to the internal collapse of this film.  Not green lit yet, with few outstanding candidates for the lead boys on offer, now a location panic resulting from Granada insisting on a five day shoot in Lewes (!) and the production team squeezing two weeks out of them – not enough time to shoot the exteriors so it would be mix and match. I would rather it wasn’t in Lewes than be a bastardization of my town, and so would Suri clearly.  He and Mark are planning a jaunt to – yes – The Isle of Wight – next Wednesday to see if it can work there!  Well readers what a turnabout we have here then. Writer provides director with vehicle for his ego. Cuckoo pushes eggs out.  Small man flexes. It is ugly this loss of love this appropriation this betrayal.  I explain to Frances Tempest (costume designer and neighbour) on the train that Suri asked me to set the script on the IOW three years ago – we visited the island and I came back and decided to set it in Lewes. why didn’t I see the signs why didn’t I see the signs  I am reminded about conversations about bonfire night and the cliffs, the castle and the river.

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This sucks.  This is like Wimbledon moving to Dublin. (this was proposed before the club was moved as a franchise to Milton Keynes in a hugely controversial relocation). Location matters. NYD is SET IN LEWES.  If this fact is overlooked and altered in the next week then we have a war my friends.  A war. My benevolent neutrality must be sought for the soul of this movie to fly.

When I am king
You will be first against the wall
With your opinion
Which is of no consequence at all

Jenny has a meeting with Suri tomorrow.  I must ask her to tape it. I am incredulous at these events and must only wonder at the state of mankind for these things to be possible. To be defended. If I had written dots instead of words I would be revered now, but the director in this case, not content with taking the credit for my movie, wants to shit on me from a grat ehight at the same time, piss down my back and tell me it’s raining, and for that, revenge will be administered. And I will leave this fiasco to its doom.

Note: Suri called to cancel the meeting with Jenny this morning as I left to fly to Shetland.  We expected that he would.

Tuesday March 30th midnight

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After a peaceful empty sane weekend in Shetland with Mark Williams, Flora Avery and Simon Day I return to life in my life – Paulette’s birthday which we miss because of prior invitation to Catherine Wearing’s to see the final episode of Our Mutual Friend which I pronounce to be the best one.  McGann is excellent, as is David Bradley, Tim Spall, Pam Ferris, Peter Vaughan, Anna Friel and Ken Cranham.  The Jules’ family dog was put down today at 18 years of age (good innings!) so the idea is to give Mandy some support but we don’t get in until 2.15 and she is asleep and unhappy.  Jenny and I are a bit up our arses to be honest.

Ambition makes you look pretty ugly
Kicking, squealing, Gucci little piggy

Back in the office next day I meet Steve and Suri in “sorry we haven’t called you” mode.  We have lunch in The Giggling Sausage on Great Suffolk Street. There seems to be co-production money from France, the U.S. and the BBC, but how much we will find out this afternoon.  Green light expected in the next “29 hours”.  Steve and I have a private conversation after Suri has left and the Isle of Wight is laid to rest – just between us (oh no it wasn’t – just between us).  The fact of its contemplation by Suri though is enough for me, but I shall not let him know anything while he is making the film.  One day he will find out how I feel. As far as he is concerned my position is this :  “if you don’t shoot in Lewes that leaves the town for me, for my film projects, it remains virgin film territory”.  And indeed, that is partly my position.

“we’re going to make a great film” Suri says to me. “Once you have discharged your duty to Jenny I will be able to have a proper conversation with you” I reply.  It’s something he understandably doesn’t want to do.  But he will have to meet her.  This has all been handled very badly and people must own their lives and choices.  One thing is certain, Jenny has insisted (quite correctly) He will Never be Invited to my House Again.

We now have an Art Director, a Production Supervisor, Runner, Location Manager and Director’s assistant alongside the already employed Production Accountant, Production Manager, Costume Designer and Producer’s Assistant.

I tell Charles Steel that my title is not Writer but Writer/Co-Producer.

Every step of the way.

Bubbles

Oxygen

Please god, let me start soon on whatever will be next, then next, then next.

Friday April 3rd

Great drunken Brighton evening last night at the Zap Club the launch of Surf 107FM with free beer and Malibu all night.  Hungover today. Went into the office a couple of times this week.  Had a short chat with Steve Cleary – he is mental on the money raising side – no green light yet – the BBC (David Thompson) can’t decide how much money to put in which is holding everything up.  Designers can’t work, crew can’t do proper breakdowns of the script and schedule and every department’s budget is way over the top.  Current budget = £2.4million.  I reckon it will need nearer £4million but we’ll never get that.  Therefore more horrible decisions to be made – more cuts and slices and chops.  Dead baby food. Suri never calls me now. Avoids me in fact.  Has no interest in my opinion, or is scared of it.  Collaboration over.  Cunt. Hate him now more than I can say.  Give us your screenplay and Fuck Off. Well, we have at least one more draft to go and we’ll see what happens there – I know already how Suri wants it to go ie here are the script changes, now go and write them. I haven’t been party to any of these meetings, discussions or conversations.  Every time I changed the script or storyline over the last three years I phoned Suri to run it by him. That’s the kind of fellow I am. I am sick to my guts that I have made this basic error of judgement regarding the character of this disloyal weak unimpressive swine.  Jenny goes to meet him at six today in Browns, St Martin’s Lane.  The sword of justice and the shield of honesty are her weapons.  Watch out Krishnamma!!!

Sunday 5th April 1998

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Suri called just as Jenny was leaving to cancel the meeting again. Asked me how I was because I’d answered the phone (pre-mobile days pop fans). Said I’d been better. He asked why. Long story I said, we’ll talk about it one day. He then talked to Jen, cancelling, leaving us in this unresolved limbo for another weekend, then we spoke again. Asked me about the long story.

You don’t remember
You don’t remember
Why don’t you remember my name?
Off with his head, man
Off with his head, man
Why don’t you remember my name?
I guess he does

I gave him some of it, diluted:  I don’t feel welcome, I feel you want to make the film all on your own, where is the collaboration, I gave you this film as a gift and you don’t want me around anymore. He said Frances Tempest had talked to him, and he wished I hadn’t been party to the information about “location”. What do you expect me to do, I said, I have an opinion.  It’s just an opinion, that’s all it is. I was silenced, neutralised over the Veronica issue – no you weren’t he said, you took yourself out of the debate by writing “no comment” on the fax to Jane Deitch against that character.  A subtle rewriting of history occurs whereby it is all my fault. I hang in there though. because i have decided to be a limpet and stick with my baby and protect it where i can because i can and i will not walk away and hand it over to this cunt  We discuss the end, Katrin Cartlidge, the jump, Shelley.  I decide not to go to Paris to see Thomas sing with Backstreet Boys, so they can’t have another production meeting behind my back.  No more of that. I also decide to forego skiing with Michael this year for the same reason.  This is too important.

Tonight we went to see Kundun at the Duke of York’s in Brighton.  That’s how to make a movie…

Monday April 6th 1998

Jenny finally met Suri tonight.  For probably the last time.  Haven’t spoken to her properly about it – she was drunk with Doraly but said “it was horrible” and I believe her. A fundamental moment for us all.  Steven and Suri have a production meeting tomorrow at 7.00am.  Doubt I’ll be at that then.  Or the one scheduled for 6.00am on Wednesday. At some point in the next 12 hours Granada will, or will not greenlight the project.  At which point I will pierce my face, symbolically and actually.

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Good Friday

Good friday arrived, the sky darkened on time
‘Till he almost began to negotiate
She held his head like a baby and said “it’s okay if you cry”
What shall we do, what shall we do with all this useless beauty?

All this useless beauty

Well well.  It wasn’t greenlit I finally discovered on Thursday afternoon.  In between times I developed an eerie cool about it all as a result of Jenny’s blood-letting with Suri. Apparently she ended the meeting saying that he was weak, disloyal, a coward (to which he replied Fuck You) and that he wasn’t her friend.  She then walked off. I achieved a strange serenity regarding the project. Cool.  Suri called Tuesday to say he had a tape for me to watch of possible Jakes and Stevens and that the Jenny meeting had been constructive (!) what a fucking coward he was what a fucking jerk Steve Cleary also called for a chat. I spoke on Wednesday to them both after learning that they had been ensconced in script meetings together at 6.00am and that I wasn’t to be invited in to the office until Thursday late afternoon.  I arrive to see office workers leaving for a break.

Steve & Suri tell me that we don’t have a greenlight, that Pippa Cross’ job may be on the line at Granada, and that a scenario for saving the shoot is as follows : cut back to six weeks, lose the avalanche and the trip to France, replace with another tragedy. This is the opening sequence, more or less, of the screenplay. Their favourite was the mad gunman scenario – Dunblane or Hungerford.  I react coolly to this – we haven’t done the research, the film doesn’t discuss this.  Cleary “We are now in the crucible of production and we must redouble our efforts to get this film made”.  Suri “We must get this film made now, we can’t lay all these people off They’ve been working on the film for weeks (!!)”  A 6-week shoot based at Bray Studios with 4 days on location in Sussex including Beachy Head, Brighton and maybe some river. The gunman will make it more powerful – that’s why Jake wants to commit suicide !  I listen, and now and again suggest another way of doing the avalanche – radio, darkness, all sorts.  Steve & Suri keep looking at each other.  We go to the pub. I leave after half an hour to meet Jen.  More tomorrow on my plan….

Easter Sunday

Rain down, rain down
Come on, rain down on me
From a great height
From a great height, height
Rain down, rain down
Come on, rain down on me
From a great height
From a great height, height

My plan is making me ill.  Or am I just ill? A Psychosomatic flu has enveloped me – I can’t think straight, ache all over, tired, very very hot as if the raging fury cannot be contained by my mere body. I feel like I am exploding within all day.  Temptation is not to write anything at all and sink this version of the project with all hands on deck.  I would not contemplate this had I been included in the process up to this point, I would have proper relationships with all the crew and would do whatever I could to save the project.  Bit I feel left out. Overlooked. Uninvited. Excluded. Ariyon called last night and talked to Jen, let it slip that Andrew Lee Potts had been offered the part of Jake.  I haven’t even been informed of this.  What is their problem?  Are they really so scared of me that they can’t tell me when the lead character has been cast? Unbefuckinglievable.  I leave a message for Clear Eye to tell him that I cannot proceed until we have had a face to face meeting.  I actually want to hole this thing below the waterline because it doesn’t feel like mine anymore. How childish is that?  Catherine supports this point of view – it’s already a bastardization, kill it off.  Then I spoke to Stuart Orme on the phone (he directed me in Ivanhoe and other TV shows, a father figure to me in the industry)  and he said is that what you really want to do?  It will sour forever and be difficult to get off the ground again. But I don’t want to change the beginning and I cannot continue to work like this. Steve needs to know what a bully Suri has become.  Fuck it all I’m going back to sleep.  Feel like crap.

Radiohead.okcomputer.albumart

Radiohead released OK Computer in June 1997 just after Jenny and I had filmed A Respectable Trade.  It was a dystopian soundtrack for the ugliness which was to come, twisted lyrics reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails over stunning music that had veered unmistakably into prog, especially on this song, a three-part nightmare in technicolour and black & white interference. They were still students, morose angry bitter students and we loved them for it –  they weren’t students obviously and neither were we but the bond there was tight.  Fuck the world it’s all shit.  The key song was Fitter, Happier. The disgust expressed throughout the LP seemed to be the only honest reaction to how the world had become so lacking in compassion, so full of dishonesty corruption and greed. The album was a perfect soundtrack to my struggle.  Exit Music was actually written for a film – Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, and Paranoid Android is just what is says on the tin.  thanks for reading

That’s it, sir, you’re leaving (Rain down)
The crackle of pigskin (Rain down)
The dust and the screaming (Come on, rain down)
The yuppies networking (On me)
The panic, the vomit (From a great height)
The panic, the vomit (From a great height)
God loves his children
God loves his children, yeah

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