The Brexit Fiasco

Well, even the most hardened Brexiteers are now looking crest-fallen.  Their only alternative to accepting a weak and woolly Brexit is to bring down their own Government, cause a General Election – and still almost certainly be left with a disaster of a Brexit on their hands.

The problem is, and has always been, that Brexit will be a disaster.  Even if we simply left but remained in the Single Market and Customs Union we would have been weakened economically and, just as importantly, as a strategic power.  There is a saying that there are two types of European Country – ones that have realised they are small countries, and those that haven’t realised it yet.  And Britain is definitely still in the second camp.  We no longer have an Empire, we belong to a Commonwealth which largely despises us for our Colonial past, and hangs together more through loyalty to the present Queen than anything else.  There are simply three main economic power blocks in the World today – America, China and Europe.  And our only real hope in the future is to remain part of Europe.  Stay in and change things from within.  Even if we leave with nothing (which is still unlikely) we will have to obey all the EU rules if we want to trade with them at all.

But, it looks as if there will be an almighty fudge.  This is the only way out of the mess we have driven ourselves into.  We will technically leave in March next year, champagne corks will pop, Mrs. May will be toasted.  But, nothing will change – and nothing will have been decided -YET.  Everything will be postponed and decided in the (at the moment) 21 month transition period, where there will be NO transition at all until yet more compromises are squeezed out of the very sour lemon that is all that will be left of our negotiating team.  We will undoubtedly have to remain in the (or some sort of) customs union.  And we may even have to continue accepting European free movement – possibly with some face-saving conditions.

The whole thing has been a fiasco, from start to finish.  And whatever finally emerges will be worse than what we had and have so needlessly have thrown away.

 

 

The Serena Controversy

I am really quite amazed that there is any controversy at all.  I did not watch the whole match but the incident has been replayed almost constantly on 24 hour news, and also the rather petulant press conference after the match.  Let me firstly say that the Williams sisters, and Serena in particular have been incredible role models, overcoming prejudice and achieving so much in the sport; in fact they have been so dominant for over two decades that by their longevity alone they are wonderful.

But the debate has centred on Serena’s argument that she was treated badly because of sexism by the umpire in particular and by the whole tennis establishment in general.

Now, let me also say that, sadly, Serena lost her temper and abused first her racquet and then the umpire, even stating that he would never umpire another match of hers.  I am not sure if even she has the power to order that, however – it was a poor performance on this occasion.  She had done incredibly well after having a difficult pregnancy and birth only a year before to have got to the final, when women 20 years younger than her were swept aside by her brilliant tennis.  But yesterday was not a good day for her.  She was already losing, and her outburst was punished according to the rules.

Now, you could argue that the umpire was inconsistent (but not in this match – as the Japanese girl did not behave badly) – but as we know too well, referees are often inconsistent, even in the same match.  But not on this occasion.  Had Serena just accepted the point deductions, firstly for her coach attempting to advise her (he has admitted this) and then for smashing her racquet this would have all been forgotten.  But her verbal abuse and later press conference sadly made the situation far worse. Her accusations of sexism are quite ridiculous.  Many men have behaved badly and argued with the umpire and most have been punished for it.  Incidentally this all started with McEnroe and Connors who bullied umpires in order to unsettle their opponents.  It seems a particularly American lack of Sportsmanship.

In all sports the referee or umpire should be respected and any dissension should be punished.  I am also appalled in football to see players surrounding and shouting at the ref.  Send them all off – men or women, makes no difference.  I am amazed at the furore this sad incident has stirred up, with many women joining in and saying it was sexism.  None of them has even acknowledged how badly Serena behaved on this occasion; she has not apologised to the referee or to the tournament or to the public.  If we want to have a sensible discussion about institutional sexism let us at least be grown up about it and stop defending the indefensible.  This trivial storm in a teacup does nothing to promote women’s equality and in fact diminishes the real struggle many poor women face; after all Serena is incredible well-paid, even for coming second occasionally.  We should all be concentrating on real sexism, in the workplace and how it applies to women who don’t happen to be multi-millionaires.

 

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Billy Bragg continued – Five years later and Billy brought out a new LP; William Bloke.  I am sure that musicians suffer, just like authors from writer’s block, or maybe it is a lack of confidence, a fear that you will never match up to your former glories, or maybe just life – marriage, kids, etc: get in the way.  And also the money from previous hits must help and soften the desire to put out another record.  Joni once said that “No-one ever asked Van Gogh to paint another ‘Starry Night’.  Maybe not the best example; but we do expect a lot of our current musical heroes, we simply expect them to keep coming up with brilliant tunes and great lyrics.  Some have managed it, but most fail – or not exactly, but they and we realise that their best was behind them.  Anyway, the record; it is okay, though not his best, he sounds a bit tired, no joie de vivre, no excitement, no anger in his voice.  But some good songs – ‘From Red to Blue’, ‘The Space Race Is Over’ and ‘Northern Industrial Town’.

Then a break of 6 years until 2002’s England, Half English. Well this is much more like it.  Billy is playing with his touring band ‘The Blokes’ and this is a far more upbeat album.  Much more like some of his earlier ones, the songs are good too.  The whole point of the record was to say that English now means multi-cultural, black, brown and white all mixed up but with English values.  Impossible to define but after all the anti-immigrant shit swilling around, a pleasant and refreshing change.  A few very good songs, rolling along ‘St. Monday’ and ‘Another Kind of Judy’ – the sublime ‘Sometimes I see the Point’, and the heavy political ‘NPWA’ (No Power Without Accountability). We almost thought we had the old Billy back – but he had other ideas, or rather other paths to tread.   He collaborated with American band Wilco to write and sing songs based on some lost lyrics of Woody Guthrie.  The result Mermaid Avenue was quite interesting.  But, it didn’t feel like a Billy Bragg record, a few songs are good – ‘Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key’ and ‘Ingrid Bergman’. Then another gap until 2008 and Mr Love and Justice; not a great record really.  The songs are okay I suppose, but something seems missing.  It may just be that an old man getting angry isn’t half as attractive as a young one, and Billy was at least fifty by now.  Best songs – ‘The Beach is Free’ and ‘Sing Their Souls Back Home’.

The last Billy record I bought was 2013’s Tooth and Nail.  But this really isn’t a Billy Bragg album at all.  It is a very competent Americana one, and worst of all sung in an American accent.  Well, the songs are okay – as sad country songs, but I want Billy to sound like Billy Bragg.  Still a few good lines ‘If you continue chasing rainbows, you’re bound to end up getting wet’.  I am not sure if I will buy any more – unless the critics declare he is back to his old self again.   But just to finish off  – the icing on the cake, is a brilliant compilation album; Must I paint You A Picture’ – all the best of his early records.  Makes me smile every time I hear it.

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Where The Hell Are We?

We are living in an age of almost limitless information, there is 24 hour news on several competing channels, there is the internet with it’s plethora of established and new Media, all giving us tons of information.  And yet, I am sure I am not alone in feeling that the more I hear the less I know.  And it isn’t only the Media, the internet, social media – which are full of confusing and conflicting information.  We simply cannot understand what is happening; our leaders (laughable mostly, almost cartoon characters) bleat out one thing one day and another tomorrow.  We are lost in an overwhelming tide of conflicting slogans, denunciations and conciliatory gestures.  At least in the old Cold War, we knew who the enemy was (hahaha).  Now we have dire warnings of recrimination against Russia (now no longer Red but a dirty smudgy greyish blue – but who cares) if they support Assad in reclaiming hic own country from rebel forces we have paid for and trained and supported.  And yet only a few weeks ago Trump was cuddling up to Putin and saying he could do business with him.  Our own Prime Minister drags up the Salisbury poisoning whenever she is becoming bogged down in Brexit bad news, making accusations which have never been tested in any court (and unlikely to be too) insisting that Putin himself must have given the orders to murder at least Mr. Skripal (maybe his daughter was collateral damage, or maybe she was actually the target – who knows).  And six months – yes, that long, after the attempted murder – two suspects are named and unbelievably they are just beginning to de-contaminate the actual house the Skripals were living in.

And Brexit is just as confusing.  Rumours abound and every comment, loose or guarded, uttered or overheard is seized upon.  Are Mrs. Mays red lines really fixed or are they already being smudged?  Are the EU really united?  Does M. Barnier really think the UK proposals are dead in the water, or a basis for negotiating – who knows?  And back home; is Boris really plotting to overthrow Madame? Will Rees-Mogg send in the 48 signatures?  Will his group really vote against any Brexit deal?  Will Labour actually come down off the fence and stand up for the Remain voters? Who knows? And even if we find out, will any of it make any sense, or indeed any difference?

And so the show goes on.  Trump now makes us laugh with his nonsensical tweets.  We watch with fascination the soap opera of Boris and May….but maybe we should really be trying to understand just where the hell we are now.

 

 

The Reproduction Of Art

Almost all Art today is reproduced and we are happy to receive it that way.  We have perfected (almost) the experience of the original into that of the multiple.  But it wasn’t always that way.  Art itself – paintings especially were reserved for the rich; but there was plenty of Art in churches, and a few statues in large towns.  But many people drew and painted for their own joy; you didn’t need too much money really.  And when printed books became available it wasn’t long before illustrations appeared – but it was really the invention of photography which enabled Art to be reproduced.  Though I have found that there is nothing quite like seeing the originals to take your breath away.  And surprisingly the thing which affects me most is the size.  We are used to seeing books of reproduction, or computer images of a standard size.  The Seurat of ‘Les Baigneuses’ in the National Gallery is massive.  It takes up a whole wall and is amazing.  Likewise in the Orangerie in Paris, Monet’s Waterlillies is in two purpose built oval rooms and extends right round the walls, the observer sitting in the middle and surrounded by huge waterlilies, which on closer inspection are broad brush strokes of vivid colour which somehow coalesces into recognisable form as you retreat.  No reproductions can begin to do them justice.  Likewise sculpture is almost un-reproducible, there is nothing like Michelangelo’s ‘David’, all copies look just like that.  And the strange rounded figures of Henry Moore look quite silly in photographs but are imposing in reality.

Cinema took off in the early Twentieth Century, and suddenly stories could be shown, much like on the Stage at first.  But Cinema has taken on a life of its own, with it’s images ever more wondrous (and for me, with CGI, ever more pointless).  And even here now this is reproduced on DVD (itself a dying format) and able to be streamed onto your very own screen shortly after being released.

Music became reproduced in the last Century too.  And of course, this is how I mostly hear Music.  Though there is really nothing like hearing music live; we are lucky here in SW France, as there is plenty of excellent live music.  And now we have Spotify and other services streaming anything you like onto your phone and right into your very own headphones.  An Alladin’s lamp indeed.  Although I cannot quite accept it, and still like to own at least a first generation reproduction and spend an inordinate amount of money on CDs.  I like to see them on the (many) shelves, in Alphabetical order; I sometimes run my fingers over their serried ranks, almost hearing snatches of them as my fingers drift past.

What the future will hold as computer technology increases is almost unfathomable.  Real 3D reproductions may be available, with ‘real’ actors in our sitting rooms maybe, or immersing us in the very landscape of the painting, or us being and actor in a film – who knows?  But there will still be nothing quite like the real thing; though whether we will still be able to tell the difference is another thing.

 

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Billy Bragg – erupted on the scene in 1983, much like an over-ripe boil, full of anger and slashing raw guitar chords and brilliant lyrics and an even rawer East London accent.  A hang-over from the punk-era but mixed with left-wing politics and folk songs, Billy was a real breath of fresh air in a smoother than smooth music industry easing itself comfortably into it’s third decade of dross.  I caught up with Billy in 1987 when I bought Back to Basics, a compilation of his first three albums and EPs.  You can feel the transition from just electric guitar strumming to more complex arrangements – but the words are just as hard hitting, whether bewailing the Political situation or his early army training or singing about teenage love affairs in a totally un-romantic way.  The record is naïve and very basic and yet still relevant.  Why is nobody shouting about the obscenity of the Tories today?  He had a very minor hit with ‘A New England’ which was then picked up by Kirsty MaColl who had a top ten hit with it.

But Billy was never about fame and fortune; simply making enough money to survive and get his message home was enough; in a way he was far more genuinely a punk than any of those who had come a decade earlier.  Anyway, these early songs are quite brilliant, if often very short.  Stand-out tracks – ‘Tank Park Salute’, ‘St. Swithin’s Day’ and ‘A Lover Sings’ and ‘Between the Wars’. But the album leaves me a bit cold, the struggle against Thatcherism seems s long time ago, and we lost that battle.  In some ways this record seems older than even the Beatles, almost early 20th Century.  Still, a remarkable achievement to even get these songs recorded.   Billy was releasing singles and Eps and short albums during the early eighties – my next record was another collection of these called Reaching to the Converted.  Another great collection of songs; which are now beginning to be filled out with more instruments and subtler melodies – no longer shouting but singing.  The lyrics continue to amaze “How can you lay there and think of England when you don’t even know who is in the team” or “My concrete is more impressionable when it’s wet” He really was a working-class hero and poet.  Best songs ‘Shirley’, ‘Sulk’, the spoken ‘Walk Away Renee’ and ‘Accident Waiting to Happen’.   The Interntionale followed in 1990, an un-apologetically left-wing album, as if we had dared to forget Billy’s credentials.  Again an interesting record, great songs sung with much gusto.   The slim album is filled out with some live tracks and rarities. But at over 60 minutes it gets a bit tiring, not his best album really.  That was the following year’s Don’t Try This At Home, a real triumph. From opener ‘Accident Waiting To Happen’ it just rolls along; a great variety of songs – the sad admission of ‘Moving The Goalposts’, to the brimming joy of ‘Sexuality’ (Just because you’re gay – I won’t turn you away; if you hang around I’m sure we can find some common ground). The mysterious ‘Cindy of a Thousand Lives’ and a great rendition of ‘Dolphins’.  Not a bad song on the record, great production (at last), varied instrumentation and brilliant tunes; Billy had grown up with this record.

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History Is Important

There is a saying that those who ignore History are condemned to repeat it.  I m not sure of that, but we must neither ignore nor forget History.  Many of the things we take for granted today were hard fought for and opposed by the forces of reaction.  The Conservative Party is so named because they aspire to conserve things, or so they say.  But they are actually ideologically fixated on destroying most of the progress of the last Century.  Put at it’s most basic, Conservatives believe in the freedom of the individual to pursue Wealth and Happiness unhindered by consideration for how their actions may affect others.  Socialism is basically the understanding that we are stronger together than pitted against each other, that collective freedoms are more important than individual ones, that by helping those less fortunate than ourselves we are all enriched.

And here History is important.  Votes for Women and votes for 18year olds were opposed by the Tories.  The Old Age Pension was opposed by the Tories.  The creation of the NHS was opposed by the Tories.  The Welfare State was opposed by the Tories. The legalisation of homosexuality was opposed by many Tories.  Same Sex Marriage is still unpopular among many grass-root Tories.  And now the EU is opposed by most Tories.  The policy of Austerity introduced by Cameron and Osborne has hurt poor people while the rich have almost doubled their wealth since the financial crash of 2008.

And History is really important in the realm of War.  Harold Wilson refused Kennedy’s request for British Troops to help them in Vietnam.  To our eternal shame Tony Blair colluded with Bush to get us involved in Iraq, although he needed the votes of the Tories to get it through Parliament.  It was Ed Milliband who opposed Cameron’s attempt to attack Assad in Syria, which caused Obama to think again and stopped America too.

Of course, Labour has not always been on the right side of History, but more often than not they have been.  Yes, we opposed the sale of Council Houses – and just look how successful that has been with poorer people now having to wait years for council accommodation and being subjected to the tender mercies of the private rented sector.  Yes, Labour opposed the Privatisation of the Utilities and Railways – and just look at what a success they have been with huge price increases and bumper dividends for investors.

The Tories have far more money, and a mostly right-wing Media which will do almost anything to stop an even watered-down version of Socialism ever winning an election again.  Just ask yourself, which side of History do you want to be on?

By The Light Of The Silvery Moon

Or – Lessons for Young Lovers

1968

They walk together hand in hand by the pale light of a silvery moon.

He had anxiously waited and waited until almost the last dance before plucking up enough courage to ask her.  The band played a slow number and he held her hands; she moved in closer and they were soon pressed together.  He could feel the softness of her breasts through his shirt. He was fifteen, she a year older. The music stopped and before the lights went up in the youth club hall they had drifted outside and were heading for the small park.

The trees are silent sentries guarding the pathway.  The moon struggles to free itself from a hazy shawl of clouds. She half trots ahead and pulls him to her, her back against a large tree trunk. She stares intensely into his eyes and leans her face in sideways.  They kiss, gently at first but then harder, he leans against her and she takes his hand and places it on her chest.

He is terrified.

“It’s okay” she whispers, “You can put your hand in under my blouse.”

He slips his hand between two buttons and tentatively touches her. He had seen pictures of breasts behind the bike shed but never touched one before. She was the first girl he had really kissed.  “Here, let me help you” as she undoes her blouse and pulls the straps of her tiny bra down. His hand slides over her body, feeling the soft yet firm flesh. They kiss again, harder this time – her lips grinding in to his.  She reaches down and touches him through his jeans.

Shock.  The thrill and the shock of it.  Nobody had ever touched him there before.  But he is scared.  Scared of touching her; but wanting to all the same.  Scared of what they might do next.  So scared and yet so excited.  Suddenly he realises he should be getting back home. “Ten O’Clock” his mother had said “and not a minute later.”  He glances at his wristwatch.  Ten to.

“I have to go now,” he stumbles an apology. “I have to be in by ten.”

And he runs like the wind all the way home, elated and relieved.  He had forgotten to ask her out again.  All he knows is her name – Janet.  But he had held her tiny breasts in his bare hands.  He had felt her breathing, he had kissed, really kissed a girl and she had touched him there.

But the next time he sees her at youth club, he avoids her eyes.  He slouches off, hands deep in his pockets, too scared to dare to be alone with her again.

 

 

1998

They giggle as they creep into their father’s study.  Mum and Dad are out, and the babysitter is in the lounge watching TV and eating the cake and lemonade they left her.   In the dark and by the faint light of a silvery moon they sit side by side in Daddy’s office chair.  Megan reaches over and switches the computer on.  She knows the icon for the internet because her father had let her do some research for a project at school.  Megan is thirteen and her sister eleven and just started at the big school.  And in the playground joshing and giggling she had heard an older girl talk about sex.  “Oh yeah, sex” a couple of the others nodded in agreement.  But really none of them knew much at all, even her big sister was quite vague on the details.  Somehow the sex-education lessons a year earlier had all seemed a touch remote; the line drawings just a bit too complicated, the Latin names almost incomprehensible.

The screen lights up, and Megan turns to her sister Rebecca. “What shall I type in?”

“I dunno.  ‘Sex’ I suppose.”  They click on the first website that appears.  And suddenly the screen is full of naked grown-ups, with big breasts and men with huge ‘you-know-whats’.  “Oh my God, switch it off quick.”  Rebecca gasps out loud, hands in front of her disbelieving eyes. But somehow they are transfixed, unable to move as the images flicker on the screen and only after a few minutes does Megan break the silence and switch off the computer.

“What’s all this noise?” asks 17 year old Julie, the babysitter, switching on the light as the girls shriek in horror.  The screen has already thankfully gone blank. “Come on you two rascals, I thought you had gone to bed.”

“We did, but I forgot something” Megan lies.

“What in here? In your Dad’s study?”  queries Julie. “Come on, up to bed the pair of you.  If your Mum and Dad come home early we’ll all get into trouble.”

Later in their bedroom Megan calls out.  “Rebecca. Are you awake?”

“Of course I am Megan.  How can I sleep after seeing all that stuff.  How disgusting. I mean, it’s just revolting, isn’t it?”

“Well, I suppose so – but then all grown-ups must be doing that, even Mummy and Daddy.  And at least you know what Sex means now Becky.”

“Well, I don’t want to ever grow up, if I have to do that.” Indignantly from Rebecca.

“No….I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?” Megan replies.

As the moon shines its silvery light through the gap in their curtains, Megan sighs contentedly and turns over. “Night-night Becky”

“Night-night Megan.”

 

 

2018

By the light of a silvery moon Sir Cheriton Cholmondley-Brown creeps quietly forward, dressed in faded tweed plus-fours and deerstalker hat.  “Scrotum” he mutters, “hand me the shotgun. Did you fill it with pellets as I ordered?”

“Ah yes, Master Cherry – I’se done that orl-ready.”

“Well hand me the blessed thing now.”  Old Scrotum, the wrinkled retainer, passes the blunderbuss to his lord and master as onward they creep down to the trees by the lake.

 

Meanwhile his wife Felicity, fragrant, fragile and flowerlike, feathery, frothy and flighty as thrupence, is talking to her sixteen year-old daughter Jenny.  “and where is your twin sister Gwenny at this time of night?”

“Really Mummy, you are so old-fashioned.  She is just walking in the park with the Major’s son, Raiph.  It is such a lovely moon-lit night they decided to wander down through the trees by the lake.”

“Oh, I suppose so.” mutters Felicity, her mind wandering back to her student days in Paris; moules et frites, mouton cadet and dark moustachioed men in striped shirts and berets, smoking Sobranie and sweeping her off her feet.  No such action nowadays, of course.  Sir Cheriton is permanently sozzled and about as useful as a chocolate soldier in bed.  Still…she had her memories.  Ah, such sweet memories.

 

“Look” whispers Sir Cherry “just there in that clearing, something moving.”

“I can’t see nothing not nowhere.”

“Over there, see.  It must be a small deer, I can just see the white tuft of his rear moving around.”

“Oh yes.” Scrotum replies. ”But that be no deer Sir.   That be a human bum a bouncin’.  He be havin it away all right.  A bit of old rumpy-pumpy, oh yes…give it some for me, my son.”

“Shhh..you fool.” As Sir Cherry whacks him with the wooden stock of the shotgun.  “In my wood?  By God’s tiffin and turban, the filthy buggers, I’ll give ‘em rumpy-pumpy.  How dare they?  If I can’t get it up, I don’t see why anyone else should.”

“Oh let ‘em be master – they’s only ‘aving a bit of fun.  Wish I still could.”

“Shhhh…pass me my hip flask – I need to steady myself as I take aim.”  And swigging down a mixture of un-distilled rum and prune juice he lifts the gun and lets go with both barrels.  But at that very moment Scrotum trips on a branch and the gun twitches high in the air.

 

“My God, what was that?” cries Raiph, rearing up suddenly.

“Whatever it was, give it to me again Raiphy baby, that was wonderful.”

 

“Damn…missed the buggers.” Sir Cheriton scowls. Sorely disappointed, he wearily trudges home, Scrotum whistling merrily behind him.

 

“Been Out Darling?” Felicity greets him.

“Yes, just scaring off a couple of damn…er…foxes – sneaky things, foxes, always doing something they shouldn’t.  But I’ll get the buggers yet.”

“Ah, here’s Gwenny.” Felicity says as her daughter waltzes in, a big smile on her face.  “Had a nice walk with young Raiph”

“Yes, Mummy – we saw lots of pretty flowers and then it suddenly got dark so I came home like a good girl.”

“Ha…I don‘t know what you see in that stupid boy, he hasn’t a clue about anything, you know” Sir Cheriton scoffs a couple of curried quails eggs hoping to clear a slight blockage in his nether regions, and raises a small tankard of gin to his lips “Daft as a brush that boy is.”

“Oh, I don’t know Daddy – I reckon I could teach him a thing or two.” says Gwenny.

“I think you probably already have.” smirks her sister Jenny.

 

 

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BOWIE – STARMAN

Heathen came out in 2002, and what a great album it was; almost as good as his early 70’s.  But different of course.  It almost seems an older man’s record – and of course Bowie was in his 50’s by now – though still startlingly good-looking.  A slower album, but not fey or poppy.  Of his later records it is my favourite.  Best songs ‘Sunday’, ‘Slip Away’ and ‘Everyone Says Hi’.

A year later came Reality.  Again a very competent if hardly exciting album. Bowie seemed to be slipping into elder statesman of rock mode – he still had the gift of great song-writing, he could still sing, the records were immaculately produced – and yet, they were no longer exciting.  Still – not bad for 35 or so years at the top.  Best songs ‘Bring me the Disco King’ and ‘ The Luckiest Guy’.  Bowie then embarked on a massive tour – really a greatest hits, without actually many Ziggy songs really.  Towards the end of the tour he suffered heart problems and was hospitalised.  He never finished the tour.  A live album came out which I bought, and is very good, even if he does sound a bit restrained, a bit safe.

Then nothing.  Absolutely nothing for years.  Rumours were that he was ill or had aids or had simply stopped writing songs and that was the end of it.  He did appear in a couple of cameo roles and seemed to be concentrating on his art.  But ten years later with absolutely no publicity we were stunned – a new album was released.  In March 2013 The Next Day came out, with the same photo as Heroes on the cover.   The record was a huge hit and yet David did absolutely no interviews or live shows – which simply added to his mystique.  I quite like the record, although it took a while to grow on me – it almost seemed he was trying too hard.  Best songs – the single “Where are we now”, the very poppy “Valentine’s Day” and the last two slower tracks.  Then again silence.

For almost three years not a word from Bowie or his record company.  Then the exciting news that a new album and single were about to be released, followed by the devastating news of his death a day or so later.   And the record, aptly named Blackstar was his parting gift to us.  Another and a final album.  And there is a finality about this record, maybe because of our understanding that it was made just before his death.  It is truly elegiac, with clues dropped like little pieces of confetti all over it.  The centrepiece of the record is ‘Lazarus’ – a song about resurrection and life beginning anew.  The video was truly disturbing with Bowie as ‘button-eyes’ and filmed in dusky black and white.  There are truly few careers in popular music that are really important and long-lasting; I am sure that Bowie will be one of those who are studied and played and enjoyed many years after his passing.  It has been a pleasure to have been let in to his life.

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Let It Be – The Film

Sunday 26th August

I have been watching the Beatles films on DVD; not really  very exciting bucket list but there you go.  And the last one, which like the album, came out posthumously.  The film was made in 1969 but by the time it was released they had acrimoniously split; the film and the album were contractual obligations – and they made a bit of money too of course.  Paul, who saw himself after Brian died, as the leader of the band, wanted them to rehearse new songs for a live performance.  The idea was that it would all be filmed and shown in cinemas all over the world.  Well, the live performance ended up being a short gig on the roof of the Saville Row Apple headquarters, before being halted by the Police. Incidentally my office at the time was just a few streets away – but I had no idea it was happening and missed the whole thing.

The rehearsals seem pretty unhappy, and the first two thirds of the film are pretty dire, squabbling, and half-finished scraps of songs.  But the concert was brilliant.  I watched it three times and you suddenly realise that actually they could have blown everyone away a a live group, even though they finished touring two years earlier in America.

The tapes of the songs were handed to Phil Spector by John, much to Paul’s annoyance and the record was actually okay.  Anyway, all in all a quite sad way to end; although that live performance – especially with John’s quip at the end “And I hope we passed the audition” will live on forever

The Beatles in Let It Be (1970)