Just let me hear some more of that Rock’n’Roll music

Monday 20th March

I first heard Chuck Berry songs without realizing they were Chuck Berry songs.  No-one did.  No-one even thought about who wrote the songs; they were just songs.  It wasn’t until I started buying Beatles albums and reading, (devouring) the cover information that I kept seeing this name Berry as a songwriter.  And then it clicked, Chuck Berry.  I had probably heard Chuck himself in the late 50’s along with little Richard and Jerry Lee and Bill Haley, and Elvis of course.  But I wasn’t excited by rock and roll; it was my parent’s music.  But the Beatles and the Stones were excited, and sang them with that little touch of English sensibility for us, the next generation.

Chuck Berry did not invent Rock and Roll.  Nobody did.  It emerged out of Big Band Swing and Blues and Country.  It was also made possible by the inclusion of drum-kits and rhythm into the Dance bands of the late Forties, and the invention (thankyou Les Paul) of the electric guitar.  But also the expansion of radio stations in America and the invention of the tape machine.  At last, live performances could be recorded and duplicated and new sounds and music be heard by millions.

But Chuck Berry was one of the first to write his own songs.  And what songs…who else could have written “Roll Over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news” or “Memphis Tennessee” or “Johnny B. Goode.”

I don’t have a single Chuck Berry album, just a few songs scattered here and there on compilations, but he will live on forever in cover versions by Elvis, the Stones and The Beatles and even ELO. “Just let me hear some more of that rock and roll music, any old way you use it” and “Go Johnny go, Johnny be good.”

And now that I am in my Sixties more and more we listen to Chuck Berry songs, sixty years after they were written as Geoff and Rob still sing them on a Friday night at the Gambetta.  And we all sing along…”Go Johnny, Go Go Go. ”

Image result for images of Chuck berry

What do we think of it so far?

Sunday 19th March

The Populist Revolution of 2016 has resulted in a decision for the U.K. to leave the EU and in America the election of Donald Trump.  David Cameron was forced to resign and against expectations Theresa May was not even elected, but assumed the position of Prime Minister.  Jeremy Corbyn was blamed by many media commentators and Labour M.P.s of not campaigning strongly enough on the Remain side, even though Cameron and Osborne who campaigned vigorously and rammed project Fear down everyone’s throats were equally unsuccessful.  Mrs. May came in and sacked Osborne, the architect of Austerity and it was ‘all change’ as we set sail for Brexitland.

In America, though we all laughed at Donald Trump (and still do), he was elected President despite losing the popular vote by 4% (incidentally the same margin as Remain lost by and have been branded as bad losers ever since)  – but that folks, is Democracy…the will of the people.  As President he has continued in much the same way, tweeting his random thoughts and passing executive orders only to be rescinded by (so-called) judges.

But, here is the surprising thing – barely anything has actually changed.  Not yet anyway.  Brexit has still not been even activated, let alone negotiated on or a deal – or even the shape, the faintest mirage of a deal has emerged from the mist.  Jeremy Corbyn is still leader of Labour who are still languishing in the polls.  True, the SNP are threatening another referendum, but that hasn’t happened yet either.  Northern Ireland is in yet another Political Crisis, and even Wales is making waves about a possible referendum….but, so far we are in never-never land.  Nothing has really happened yet.  All the predictions of chaos are just that, still predictions.   So, despite one’s instinctive distrust of Populism – the sky hasn’t fallen in………….yet.

S – is for Rod Stewart – Rod the Mod

Saturday 18th March

Rod Stewart.  Phew.  Everyone, well every young man in the early Seventies wanted to be Rod Stewart.  He had the looks, he had the voice, he had the girls – and he had the songs and was Top of the Pops; in fact he had the number one single (Maggie May) and Album (Every Picture Tells A Story) in both the U.K. and U.S.A. – a feat rarely duplicated.

Rod had been a singer in a couple of bands (The Dimensions and Steampacket) in the early 60’s and no-one had heard of him.  He was part of that movement in Britain that was fascinated by the Blues singers of America, and the emerging R’n’B and Soul scenes; in fact Rod modelled his voice on that of Sam Cooke in the early days.  But he always had that incredible raspy sound that seems to ooze sex.  Success however eluded him; he had a single with Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’ which flopped.  He played with the Brian Augur Trinity and Shotgun Express before joining the Jeff Beck group where he met guitarist Ronnie Wood.  The Beck group had some success but fortune was to take another turn when in 1969 Stevie Marriott, lead singer with The Small Faces, left – and Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart stepped into the breach and the band became the Faces.

But Rod had already signed a solo album deal with Mercury Records and had to fulfill this alongside recording with the Faces; he got round this by basically having the Faces as his session players on his solo albums.  The Faces were a riot, often completely drunk but amazing on stage and Rod’s singing just got better and better – they were the must-see band.  Both Rod’s and the Faces albums were getting better and better, and there were at least two every year; how they fitted in massive tours and writing and recording all those albums I have no idea but somehow they did.  In 1971 Rod released ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’, his most accomplished album to date and maybe his Masterpiece.  An American DJ apparently flipped the first single ‘Reason to Believe’ and started playing the ‘B’ side ‘Maggie May’.  The rest is History.  Rod with his spiky hair and great rock vocals went from strength to strength and was the biggest hit all over the world.  What could possibly go wrong?  Fame.  Venues started billing the Faces as ‘Rod Stewart’ in bold and ‘The Faces’ in small type.  The band began to split up, Ronnie Wood left to join the Stones, and the Faces were no more….Rod eventually left for America…

Southern Illinois University

Is this the end of Populism?

Friday 17th March

It was as if the world had gone slightly mad, 2016 was certainly a scary year, what with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.  And there was a fear that this contagion, this sudden rise of Populism would sweep across Europe bringing chaos and rampant Nationalism in its wake.  2017 is a big year for European elections too; Holland, Denmark and of course France and Germany are all going to the polls.  And just as we had the outlandish, larger than life figure of Farage here in England, not to mention the parody of all-American excess Donald Trump, in Holland they had the foppish yet charismatic Gert Wilders and in France, the ever-present threat of Marine Le Pen.  In both Denmark and Germany the far-right were also gaining momentum with their simple solutions – anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, make the country great again, take back control.  Oh, if it were that simple….

We live in an inter-connected world.  As a young man, when I left home to go to London, barely 80 miles away – that was a huge move; now our children and grandchildren are leaving England and settling in far-off places, Hong Kong, America and Africa.  And likewise, our own country has been a destination for immigrants for generations; there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ English person now, skin colour and accent mean nothing, in fact it still sometimes brings you up short when you see a person of obviously Asian descent talking in a broad Bradford accent.  Immigration, like Globalisation is a fact of life – we live in a multi-cultural world, there is no going back to some mythical time when there weren’t any foreigners; that time never really existed.

And we have just had the results of the Dutch election and thankfully it is the status quo, no real change, no sudden surge for Gert Wilders and his policies of racism.  Common-sense has returned, at least for a while.  Maybe it was something to do with the unnecessary row with Turkey, or just possibly we are all waking up and seeing what a lunatic Donald Trump is and what a mess he is making in America, and thinking “Hang on a minute, we cannot have these, maybe charismatic, but ridiculous easy-solution merchants running the show”.

Anyway, let’s keep our fingers crossed for the French Presidential elections due in a month’s time….it may not be the end of Populism, but it may be the beginning of the end.


The girls had to seek out the Music they loved, they had to discover it, they had to remember it, they had to wait for it to be played on the radio, or later on Top of the Pops, or Ready Steady Go, or Juke Box Jury (only three half-hour tv programmes in a whole week in the early sixties).  They heard it so rarely that it was precious, they had to stop and check themselves,

‘What was that I just heard – that was amazing’.

And so it became the thing they most wanted, and they went to any lengths to get it.  To hear their favourite song was a rarity, a treat, often an accident they just stumbled upon, or by word of mouth, someone would tell them it was on a juke box in some coffee bar in Ipswich, or a friend’s brother might have a copy and he would let them have a listen.

And then as the movement gathered pace and it became more available with the advent of portable radios, and Pirate stations and then Radio 1, and Dansette record players, and Juke Boxes, and record shops springing up everywhere it was all changing so fast that each new release was a new world to discover.  And they were like sponges that just kept absorbing more and more of the stuff.  They moved from The Beatles and the Seekers and Gerry and the Pacemakers to the Animals and the Kinks and The Stones, interspersed with Cilla and Dusty and then all the stuff from America, the Beach Boys, the Supremes, Otis and Aretha and all that Detroit sound.  And they never imagined it would ever end.

9) – Dying all around us

June’s mother died when the girls were sixteen and fourteen.  It wasn’t a big surprise to anyone; she had been poorly for a few years by then, and had been in a home for the last two.  She and Julie and would visit her, and what started out religiously as weekly visits became, through a sense of futility and boredom, at best a monthly routine by the end.  She would hardly notice thy were there really.  It was dementia, though it wasn’t called that then.  ‘A bit doo-lally’ was the closest to a real diagnosis in those days, it had been coming on for a few years and maybe before Julie and June got married even.

June had never been that close to her mother, she was always living in the past, or her supposed and largely invented past. She had always been a bit of a snob too. or, like so many of the English, she imagined she was something she had never really been.  She lived inside this myth that her family had once been something, and she had somehow married beneath her.  June’s father had owned a Grocer’s shop, well rented it, they all discovered, after he died.  And though they lived in a largish house on the outskirts of Ipswich, they never had that much money to spare.

It was a genteel sort of poverty, a quiet existence, where they tried desperately to keep up appearances.  It was always, ‘What will the neighbours think?’ or ‘Keep your voice down, the neighbours will hear.’  They lived in a detached house with a three-foot wide gap between them and the Chenerys, so that argument was a bit weak, but it was what it said about June’s mother that told you everything.  She was always so conscious of how she was seen by everyone else, rather than how she might feel about anything herself.  June’s dad died when she was eleven and she didn’t really remember him too clearly. He was always in the shop, especially all day Saturday, and on Sundays they had Sunday school in the mornings and then after lunch the family would all sit around and listen to the Wireless.  Julie and June had to be quiet then, ‘Little girls should be seen, and not heard.’  She learned early on to hate Sunday afternoons.

June must have been a bit of a rebel really as she was only sixteen when she started seeing Ted Wasp.  He was a year older than her, and went to a different school.  She met him at ‘The Galleon’, which was a greasy café where they all used to hang out.  They had swing music playing on an old speaker, with a wire running all the way round the walls from a radio behind the counter.  No-one really knew why some places just become the place to hang out, but they were too young to go into pubs, and there was nowhere else for miles around.  There was always a row of motorbikes outside too, and a few leather-clad blokes would be sitting at the back, and this was years before Teddy Boys or Rockers or anything like that.  June had to be back home by nine, so her friend Wendy and she would try to get there by seven, before it used to fill up.  They would sit over two cups of milky coffee; their bright red lipstick making kisses on the rim, and smoke cigarette after cigarette, trying to look all sophisticated and catch some fella’s eye.  And the one June caught was Ted Wasp, by far the best-looking boy in the place.

*  * *

The funeral was in Ipswich and Phil and June decided to leave the girls at home, ‘It would only upset them.’ Phil said, and they hadn’t seen their Nana in years.  Jane did cry when June told them, but she didn’t remember any reaction from Harriet at all.  They went in the Bentley, her sister and June in the back and Phil driving with Ted in the front passenger seat.  Ted had a suit on, the same one he was married in; that must have been all of seventeen years ago.  June was surprised it still fit him, he wasn’t fat by any means, but he had filled out a bit since then.  Julie told her as they sat in the back that she had moved the buttons on the jacket over and unpicked the waistband and re-sewed it with a bit of extra black material in the back, no-one would notice if he kept his jacket on.

It reminded June of the change in their fortunes, if she wanted some money for clothes she only had to ask Phil for it.  He might moan a bit, but he never refused; especially if she was buying something for the girls at the same time.  Poor Julie had to manage on Ted’s money, she even used to go fruit picking every summer to make ends meet; she had three growing boys to feed and clothe.  June felt quite sorry for her, though Julie never seemed to be jealous of her, what with the Bentley, the house and the pool and everything.  ‘Maybe she was just a happier person than me’, June mused, ‘maybe she had found contentment with Ted and the boys, or maybe she just didn’t have the imagination to want anything else.’

June did feel a bit guilty sitting there with her sister as they wound their way through the heavy traffic in Ipswich on their way to the church.  She kept looking at Ted’s neck, the very neck she used to love stroking, with those short little blonde hairs growing there, and she remember quite clearly thinking that this couldn’t go on forever.  Ted and her couldn’t carry on like this for ever.  Could they?  She couldn’t imagine them doing it when they were old, and she couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing him either.  Surely it would all have to resolve itself before then.  She kept telling myself, ‘just wait till the girls have grown up and are off your hands; then you will have to resolve it, one way or the other.’  She just couldn’t bear thinking about the other way.


Wednesday 15th March

We used to play a game called consequences: I can’t remember too much about it really, except that unusual things would happen from a seemingly normal situation.  The thing was that you could only react to the latest bit of information, you had no foresight – or hindsight of course.  Anyway we are now entering into the new game of consequences, unforeseen of course by the blinkered vision of our so-called leaders and betters.  And a direct result of an arrogance and intolerance that has surfaced in our body politic; where once consensus and a gradual thoughtful approach was the order of the day, now it is a headlong rush into conviction and a confidence borne only of idealism and an ostrich-like approach to the bleeding obvious.

Mrs. May has become a prisoner, if she weren’t always a secret convert, of the mad Brexiteers in the Tory Party.  And in the name of the 52% she has totally ignored the wishes of the 48%, and shown herself to be as arrogant as the previous female occupant of No. 10 Downing Street.  Firstly she tried to trigger Article 50 using Royal Prerogative (that is, her own power supposedly devolved from the Monarch), this was proved to be a nonsense by court after court – and still she plugged on, eventually being dragged to the Commons with a ‘plan’ with almost no detail at all.  And even now she is attempting to bulldoze all sensible suggestions into submission.  She has already thrown away her best card, negotiating to remain in the Single Market, and yet is prepared to hold hostage millions of Europeans living here, and us Brits abroad too.   And she sacked Heseltine for his temerity in voting for Parliament to have a say on the final deal; sheer arrogance.

And her claim to negotiate on behalf of all the devolved Governments of the United Kingdom had also been exposed as nonsense; she has completely ignored the Scottish Government’s detailed proposals for finding a compromise to allow Scotland to remain in the Single Market.  Her arrogance is astounding; only she knows what the British public voted for, only she will decide on how we leave the EU.  Well, come-uppance has arrived.  Nicola Sturgeon will have a referendum, and this time I think she will win.  Exactly what will happen then I really do not know, but I suspect that Northern Ireland may indeed also try for a referendum to partially unite Ireland, maybe under some joint sovereignty.  And if, as I suspect it all goes wrong is her arrogance so complete that she will really want to crash out of the EU with no deal at all?   Watch this space….

It’s the kids we should worry about

Tuesday 14th March

We are okay, well most of us anyway.  Us older retired especially mostly have our own homes; there is always our health to worry about, but we all know we won’t live forever.  And besides we have mostly had a good life, the best music ever, an ever-improving standard of living, the opportunity of cheap travel, generous pensions and a free NHS to look after us.  Our kids, well mine anyway, are all doing okay too, they have their own houses, bought a few years ago with cheap mortgages and all in quite good and steady jobs.  But what of the next generation, what will they face as they reach their twenties?  Will University even be an option unless their parents can stump up some money, we had it free remember (okay, so I never went but if I had I would have had a grant and no fees and no loan to repay either).  Will there be jobs too; some estimates say that up to half the current jobs could disappear in twenty years with advances in computer technology.  It is now commonplace for many to have to retrain and take on a new career, but just what will the jobs of the future be like?  Will everyone effectively be self-employed and on short contracts, or waiting for their mobile to tell them they have a shift or even a couple of hours of work today?

And housing, the biggest crisis facing the young, what will the housing situation be then.  The proportion of people owning their own homes has slipped under 50% again, and the only real buyers in the market are those trading up or buy-to-let landlords.  The Bank of England policy of ridiculously low interest rates has simply inflated the price of houses – mortgages are cheap to repay so why not borrow more.  And soon I predict those interest rates will start to rise – watch America first.  And the private rental market is extortionate too, many landlords are simply raking it in, and conditions for many are desperate.  Short-term lets and the constant threat of increasing rents, families having to move time and time again are reminiscent of Victorian England where the poor shifted from pillar to post chasing jobs and cheap housing.

And of course, John Major’s dream of wealth cascading down through the generations only really applies to the wealthy.  Many, especially those living away from the hothouse of London have little to leave the next generations.  And even if my family aren’t too badly off, and I and my kids will I am sure do our best to help the grandchildren – I am a Socialist, and it is those less fortunate than my own immediate family that I also worry about.  The divisions and inequalities in society are widening  and looking back in forty years I am sure they will remember these as the good old days, before Brexit, before Trump, before the sell-off of the NHS, before the complete breakdown of society.

Another Year, Another Birthday

Monday 13th March

Where once one looked forward to birthdays with anticipatory pleasure, now there is a degree of…well, what exactly?  Not trepidation exactly, but more a feeling of resignation.  Okay, it is your birthday and you cannot avoid it; merely not celebrating the thing won’t make it any less real; and strangely it seems to give other people more pleasure than oneself.  And you are expected to laugh and be jolly and everyone says ‘Have a Great Day’ and so on.  And it isn’t that you don’t, you do go with the flow, relax and enjoy yourself, but at the back of your mind as you look at yourself in the mirror there is no getting away with it – you are not only another year older, but looking it too.  And although we have known this simple fact for a long time; the years ahead are diminishing rapidly while those gone pile up behind you, never to be regained.

So, another year and another birthday.  And I had a nice day, though not work-free by any means.  The Café stops for nobody, and we were open as usual.  I also managed to paint one more half of the eight sets of French windows in the house.  In the evening we had an Indian evening in the Café.  Maggie and Jane did the cooking and I served the wine.  We did quite well, a full house and lots of wine shifted.  But in a funny way it was a strange way to spend your birthday.  Not that I didn’t have a good time, but we seem far too busy to even have a quiet meal together these days.  We are actually batting away invites for drinks or dinner, oh what it is to be popular…

Anyway, the day itself has passed and only 363 until next year, when it will be another year and another birthday.

Well-trailed News

Sunday 12th March

There is a strapline on 24 hour news running horizontally along the bottom, or sometimes even flashing ‘Breaking News’, as if some cataclysmic event had just occurred and the news editors hadn’t had time to compose a rational report or to blurt the incredible news direct into the newsreader’s earpiece, which is supposed to be of such significance that it simply cannot wait until a regular news bulletin.  In fact the whole concept of twenty-four news is a bit of a nonsense.   Now if they worked their way around the globe, and featured the news from New Zealand, Australia and Japan and so on around the clock it might make more sense.  But our news is now almost exclusively about Britain, or to be more precise Westminster, and Washington in America.  Europe is occasionally mentioned, but usually in connection with how it might affect us.  Famine, War and Earthquakes flurry up on the news bulletins every so often, like flotsam washed ashore – curious objects from foreign parts for us to observe and tut-tut and thank Thatcher we don’t live in such ridiculous places.

And so much of this strap-line news is not even news, it is simply well-trailed stories fed regularly to the reporters basking in the carp-pool; a friendly hand from Government tosses sound-bites and previews of speeches and Parliamentary gossip well ahead of any real event.  And so, we hear that Mrs. May will trigger Article 50, maybe as soon as Tuesday.  This is assuming, and again it is pretty much a foregone conclusion, that she will get Parliamentary approval and the Lords will also tow the line.  But is this really news.  Even when she does trigger the darned thing it will be old news, as we have been told about it, ad infinitum, since the heady days following the referendum itself.  But I suppose for some viewers each mention becomes an occasion itself, as if like Groundhog day she is constantly going to, expecting to, hoping to, planning to, and will one day, maybe Tuesday – actually trigger it.  Which of course will be massive news; how incredible – she has actually done what she has told us she was going to do almost every day since last June.  This is the nature of news today.  It is trailed well in advance, media drip-fed, and the breaking news tantalizingly drip-dropped into our consciousness.

Oh well, it was inevitable from the early hours of Friday 24th June as I watched the Sunderland result, I knew it was over.  That dream of co-operation and the blurring of Nationalism has gone.  What will replace it – well now, that indeed may be news.  But even here we may have two years of ‘Breaking News’ until the shape if the final deal is revealed.  And as Noel says; ‘Deal or No Deal’ it will be presented as such a wonderful thing, and detractors will simply be undemocratic and going against the public will, and deal or no deal, we are going to make it work….hahaha

I used to Vote Labour

Saturday 11th March

I used to vote Labour, in fact I have almost always voted Labour (once in a local election I tried to vote tactically for the Liberals and they lost anyway) and I will always vote Labour (I hope).  One of the sad facts of life is that often people start off when they are poor voting Labour and then as they become wealthier they start voting Tory – oh well.  I haven’t, and I can never see myself voting Tory. I hate what they stand for – privilege, the wealthy, private rather than collective solutions.

The Labour party is languishing in the polls, and has been for ages.  I suspect that come what may, and whichever leader we have we will be hammered at the next election.  But then Labour were hammered in 1983 just after the Falklands – and I suspect that the same effect is happening now.  Okay, so we haven’t just won a war, but actually Brexit is being portrayed almost as a war by most of the press, and people who voted Brexit see her as their champion.  Mrs. May is going into battle against those wretched Europeans, just as Mrs. Thatcher did before her, and she is going to win…

And of course, even if she loses it will be portrayed as a victory, or some sort of glorious defeat.  The wicked stubborn Europeans will be blamed, and hardly anyone will admit what a terrible mistake it has all been.  And I will still vote Labour, because I cannot vote for anyone else.  I still believe in the values of the Labour party, so to vote for anything else would be a betrayal.  I voted Labour in all the Thatcher years, we knew then that we would lose, but Democracy is not all about winning, it is about participating.  They said in 1983 after Michael Foot and the SDP defections that Labour would never get back into Government.  They also said in 2001 after William Hague that the Tories would never regain power.  We may be in for twenty years of Tory rule, but I suspect somewhat less.  And I will still vote Labour.  I used to vote Labour, we hear people say when interviewed at by-elections, and then they look guilty and say they are thinking of voting UKIP or Tory.  Well, let them – I used to vote Labour and will continue to do so.