Target Practice



A ‘target’ should be something to aim at, something that requires skill to hit. Whether that’s an archer, a doctor or a teacher, the target itself only serves as a point in space. If the arrow misses, the archer practices harder, if the patient dies then the hospital scores low and if the kid fails the exam, the school loses funding.

Now having targets to hit isn’t a bad thing in itself, we all require some kind of goal, some aim and purpose to our lives but over the past thirty years, targets have become less of a motivating force than a malignant cancer, spreading throughout society and destroying institutions and people.

Literally in some cases. ‘Target culture’ is the reason why hospitals manipulate death rates, why the police fiddle crime stats, why schools fail millions of pupils unable to pass exams. Of course the people who set these targets are seldom those who have to achieve them. No, the politicians only target is getting re-elected or securing a juicy job for life in the Lords, or the EU or the UN or as a ‘consultant’ to one of the national assets they’ve flogged off to their pals in the city.

By linking targets to funding, corners are cut, lies are told, distortions are made, as long as the graphs show a positive curve, then who really cares about the young, the old, the sick, the lonely, the vulnerable, the scared, the poor, the uneducated, the unskilled, the dying?

Councils and government departments play the numbers games and blame each other for cuts to basic social care needs, they play the targets game to suit their own agendas, they use numbers and words and graphs and photos to obscure the truth. The victims unfortunately rarely get to see the retractions and apologies once the real story eventually comes to light.

Tit for Tat?

jewish kids

I wonder what the Hebrew word is for ‘disproportionate?’

With the Israeli’s now pounding Gaza in ‘retaliation’ for the murder of three Jewish schoolboys, the cycle of death continues and the usual media reporting obfuscations are trotted out.

‘Tit for tat.’

Tit for tat violence suggests equanimity. You have a sling, I’ve got am atom bomb! The Palestinians live in a permanent state of apartheid oppression but this isn’t ‘occupation’ it’s ‘co-habitation.’

Hamas will be described as ‘fanatical’ or as a ‘terror group’ but the Israeli hard liners are never described as such. They can bomb, shoot, maim, kill civilians at will but it will be presented as ‘targeted’ and ‘retaliatory.’

The death of three Jewish teenagers is tragic but it has to be placed in the wider context of young Palestinian deaths. Tit for tat y’see?

A few years ago I tried to draw a footy analogy like this:

The Story Of Little Ali and Big Ben

Little Ali is sat in his seat. The same seat his family’s occupied at the match for generations. It’s not a great seat, the view’s not brilliant but he likes it, he feels comfortable here. One day, he’s sat awaiting the team to run out on the pitch when a big fellar called Ben comes over and pushes him off his seat. Ben tells Ali his family used to sit here many, many seasons ago and that the club’s original owners promised it to him in an old contract.

Ali refuses to budge at first but Ben pulls out a metal bar and twats him with it. Some of the other fans sat around begin to shout at Ben but Ben then threatens them and they go quiet again. Ali complains to the stewards but they ignore him. When some fans attempt to intervene, the police come over and tell them to back off. Ben pushes Ali off the seat and he is forced to watch the game in another seat, with an obstructed view.

This goes on for a few seasons then Ben, not content with his own seat, gets his brother, Sam to sit on Ali’s seat. Ali has to now watch the match sat on the edge of an uncomfortable seat and Sam takes up more and more room. Eventually Ali’s had enough of this and throws a punch at Sam. Ben sees this and takes out a hammer. He breaks Ali’s arms and legs with the hammer and Ali screams in agony but no-one comes to help him.

The police witness Ben’s attack but tell the tannoy announcer to ‘tell Ali to stop punching Ben.’ The club directors then write to Ali telling him he’s lucky to have the hard edge of a seat in the first place and that as Ben sponsors the director’s expenses, he can do what he likes with the seat Ali used to sit in and the one he shares with Sam.

After countless beatings, Ali becomes so enraged he tries to stab Sam but Sam and Ben then break his neck and snap his spine. The tannoy announcer denounces Ali as a hooligan and the police lock him up for a few seasons. The club then offer Ben more seats in return for extra sponsorship and Ali has to watch the game from his hospital bed.

OK, so it’s a shite analogy but you get the picture. When the PLO were demonised as ‘terrorists’ the Israeli’s wanted to remove Arafat at all costs, and no doubt poisoned him. As with Gadaffi, Saddam and other secular Arab leaders who were assassinated, the Israeli war by proxy undertaken by their NATO pals, has only opened up centuries of inter-ethnic, sectarian and tribal wounds.

The likes of Hamas, The Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS have filled a void that the ‘axis of evil’ dictators used to fill. ISIS have replaced Al Queda as the ‘biggest threat to world peace’ since er, the commies, the Nazis, the French, the Turks, the Mongols and the Goths.

Ofcourse the Zionists always play the anti-semitism card each and every time they commit an outrage, whether that’s blanket bombing civilians in Gaza or assassinating Iranian scientists in the name of ‘self defence’ – well, maybe these disgusting acts of bullying and aggression are actually a blemish on the 6 million slaughtered by the fascists. Maybe, those who perished in the death camps would be ashamed of such slaughter being defended in their names.

The dead kids of Israel and Palestine will never get to see a resolution to the conflict. They will never realise their nation’s desire for self-determination and peace.


We all have dancehalls in our minds, populated by the ghosts of records reverberating around the empty walls. If you were brought up in the 70s and 80s, as I was, you probably lived through the golden age of youth club discos. Even in a relatively small town like Runcorn, we had the choice of at least one disco to attend most nights; Monday; The Boys Club, Tuesday; Grangeway, Wednesday; Wickston Drive, Thursday; Parochial Hall, Friday; Beechwood, Saturday; the RNA, Sunday; St. Eddy’s. And that was just the old town, the scousers had as many of their own.

Discos were essential places for teenage evolution and from the age of 14 to 18, until we were ‘legal’ the youth clubs kept us off the streets and away from trouble, some of the time at least. When the popular Boys Club (Boysy) burned down a few years ago, I kept hearing the muffled thud of Boysy floor fillers – everything from Spizz Energi’s ‘Soldier Soldier’ through The Special’s ‘Too Much Too Young’ to Lipps Inc’s ‘Funky Town’ – as I passed the rubble.

This series collects some of my personal favourites, records that aren’t maybe the best or the most indicative of their time, yet retain an evocative charm, recalling friends, fights and floozies. I’ll begin with a record that was actually recorded eight years before it became a hit, thanks to the kind of lads and girls who came to epitomise the perverse, unique nature of British youth culture; the ‘soulies.’


R. Dean Taylor – There’s A Ghost In My House (Motown)

Haunted Dancehalls all have ghosts. This is where it all started. ‘Northern’ Soul was the sound of our estate, the sound of many council estates across the north west (and beyond) during the mid 70s. Released in 1966, a bog standard Holland-Dozier-Holland production, only Taylor’s skin colour and his name on the credits marked the single out as anything out of the ordinary.

The single and it’s equally boss B-side, ‘Let’s Go Somewhere’ released as a single a year earlier weren’t hits in the States but ‘Ghost’ got to no 3 in the charts over here in 74. This success was entirely due to the song being picked up on the northern soul scene and now it ranks among one of the most recognisable of all Motown hits.
Northern Soul was really just part of the mod continuum and its rejection of ‘hippie’ music as R&B transmuted into ‘psychedelia.’ The die-hards, the pill heads, the dancers, the black music obsessives kept the faith with the 4/4 Detroit stomp at places like The Twisted Wheel and The Golden Torch. By the time Wigan Casino opened, ‘northern’ had become a youth cult, fuelled no doubt as much by amphetamines and all nighters as much as an appreciation for obscure 7 inch singles by singers no-one had ever heard of.

In this context, ‘There’s A Ghost In My House’ is a cheesy pop tune, all be it, one with a great hook and lyric. Clap! Clap! The b-side is more of a traditional northern stomper with its message of inter-racial tolerance seen from the ‘white male’ side for once. This record along with The Velvelettes ‘Needle In A Haystack’ and Martha & The Vandellas ‘Jimmy Mack’ were our pre-teen introduction to the strange, strange world of northern soul.
My older cousins were all soulies, our Deb pulling down her Bay City Roller and David Cassidy posters and making the weekly pilgrimage to the Casino along with thousands of others from all the country. Her box of 7 inches contained many of the typical imprints of the scene; Jayboy, Ric-Tic, Bell, Stateside and Tamla/Motown ofcourse. I didn’t really get it. I was still more impressed by ELO’s ‘Out Of The Blue’ spaceship than the Mothership Connection.

Still, I tried to understand by standing outside the RNA and Grangeway Youthy with Doney as the hard lads from the estate with their long leathers and flares walked in and performed their athletic drops and kicks and spins. I practiced back drops myself with little success but northern was really only a passing trend for most of us. By 76, the punks had replaced ‘soulies’ as the coolest kids to emulate.

Those who kept the faith during the punk years were now regarded as dinosaurs but only a few years later, with the mod revival in full swing and the likes of Dexys covering northern standards, the dances returned to the parquet floors, all be it with tight pants replacing Oxford and Birmingham bags.

I too, joined those either returning to their soul roots or finally understanding the genuine passion and maverick lifestyles that underpinned the movement. Kent and Charlie compilations were invaluable to those of us who couldn’t afford to join the expert collectors.

Northern’s second wind, gathered momentum in the 90s as the original Casino, Torch, Mecca and Wheel heads found themselves with grown up kids and a network of old mates and DJs who were still keeping the flame burning. Still, it was a sub-cultural Masonic sect, totally living by its own laws, disinterested and even hostile to mainstream interest and suspicious of outsiders. Richard Searling’s show on Jazz FM provided perhaps the only mainstream, non-web based outlet for soul heads across the country and indeed the world.

Now you can’t move for northern soul films, video clips, dancers and fashions on display as the scene finally receives the cultural recognition it always deserved. In our world the likes of Searling, Ian Levine and Colin Curtis are as important to the evolution of dance music as yer Mancusos, Sianos and Levans.
Soulies were once derided by the music industry and the media, as anachronistic fanatics and fools, even though these critics worshipped ‘rockers’ spewing the same old tired chords and cliches. The British working class have always been patronised by ‘clever’ posh kids who fail to understand the appeal of the dancefloor because their collective funk gene has been removed from successive generations of selective in-breeding.

From northern soul to happy hardcore, the drugs and the djs have kept the dancefloors of obscure towns rocking to a very different beat than the trendy inner city sanctums of the self-elected taste makers. Long may it continue.

Peace In Our Time


Whilst David Peace was in Liverpool recently, promoting his epic book on Bill Shankly, ‘Red Or Dead’ I bumped into him (OK, hustled him) outside The Quarter to answer a few questions. He graciously responded with the following answers, many of which are not as long as my convoluted questions. Thanks to David for replying so quickly.


Like many people I came to your work via the Damned United which I thought was outstanding. I don’t really get enthusiastic about authors, especially British authors but I loved your take on a very specific era of British working class culture and heightening it into a Greek epic. Although the book was dark in its portrayal of Clough as a human being, do you feel the film of the book was played for laughs instead of delving into the psychosis of an obsessive man and a footballing culture that now appears utterly alien?

Thanks, Phil. Originally, the people who produced the film pitched it to me as being a homage to Lindsay Anderson and This Sporting Life, in particular; black and white, very dark and very gritty etc. I was excited because I felt that was very much in keeping with the book. But that isn’t the finished film and that was initially very disappointing. But that said, I think it is a bit churlish if writers moan about the films made of their books; they could always have not sold the film rights. And I have to say, the film brought people to my books who might not otherwise have read them. And so when people tell me they read GB84 after seeing the film of The Damned Utd then that makes me think more kindly of the film.


Similarly with Red Riding Trilogy and the TV adaptation, the tone was a lot darker but again I didn’t feel the production captured the ‘horror’ (in its truest sense) of the books. Were you included in any of the production meetings and were you happy with the final result?

Well, I was much more involved with the Red Riding films; Tony Grisoni, the scriptwriter, talked to me a lot about his scripts and my books. Similarly, Andrew Eaton, the producer, involved me as much as was possible given that I live in Tokyo. And I do think they are great films and with some tremendous performances from an outstanding cast. And for example, and to be honest with you, 1974 is a book I have lot of problems with now; I think the violence in the book is gratuitous and overdone. But I think the film has a great deal more empathy and sympathy for the characters and, especially, the victims. So I actually prefer the film to the book. The great shame is that 1977 was never made. It was the best of the scripts and by far the darkest and I think it would have a cast a long shadow over the other three films. But, for various reasons, Channel 4 decided to fund only three films. But, hopefully, 1977 will one day be made as a stand-alone film.


You grew up in the urban north at the same time as I did and one aspect of the culture of that time that I feel is always overlooked was the sexual depravity that got glossed over as ‘dirty old men’ instead of paedophilia and a popular culture saturated in titillation whether that was On The Busses, Benny Hill, Man About The House, even the Two Ronnies. The idea was that young teenage girls were attracted to fat middle aged men, even if they looked like Reg Varney. There was also the myth of the nympho housewife and although these stereotypes seem rather twee and comic, nevertheless it gave rise to men like Fred West and Peter Sutcliffe. Do you agree that rather than being a ‘laddish’ decade the 70s were actually deeply disturbing?

Absolutely; one thing I tried to capture and detail in the Red Riding books was the casual and ingrained misogyny – along with the corruption, racism and violence – of that time and place. To me, it is all part of the nature of power and the way it is always abused. And so the recent revelations – about men like Savile, for example – are not really revelations to most of us who grew up in that time and place.


As a trade union activist during the miner’s strike, I couldn’t finish GB84 because I found it too upsetting. It got me angrier and angrier as I read it and found myself remembering the entire black propaganda machinations of the state (the BBC and the newspapers) being turned on the miners during that time. If anything made me realise that there were indeed (in the words of the queen) ‘dark forces at work of which we understand little) it was the way the miners were defeated. Yet even today after Hillsborough, after Savile, after the Hacking scandal, after Bloody Sunday enquiry and numerous historical cases of kids homes, young offending centres, churches and proven links between the police, the secret service, the politicians and the media the ‘establishment’ still call you a conspiratorial writer. You said on Newsnight that the miner’s strike was ‘unfinished business’ so you obviously feel that there’s’ still a lot to come out.

I know exactly what you mean about GB84, Phil. As I researched it and wrote it, I just felt angrier and angrier about what had gone on during the Strike. I mean, coming from a traditional Labour and Trade Union household, and living in Wakefield at the time, I supported the miners, wore my Cole Not Dole sticker and played in bands at benefits etc. But I don’t think, at the time, I fully comprehended the sheer scale of the forces ranged against the miners and also the sacrifices that families made. And so there was anger and there was also guilt, on my part, for not comprehending and doing more at the time. And it is still unfinished business because there still has to be a reckoning. And I hope the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, inspired by the Hillsborough campaigns, will bring about that reckoning. And if people are interested in knowing more about the campaign and want to support it, have a look at their website:


I don’t think that all the documents relating to Hillsborough will ever be released, especially the ones that will point the finger at Thatcher and the Tory government. Now the IPCC enquiry s finding ‘new’ documents that the panel hadn’t seen but even now, I still think there are files that will have either been destroyed or locked away. I also predicted that Bettison would be the fall guy and that no -one in real positions of power would ever have to answer for what they did and said. He’s now being linked to all manner of covert police cover ups and dirty deals which makes me think he’ll spill the beans at some point (or be paid to keep quiet). Do you think that Bettison himself is worthy of a book?

You are absolutely right, Phil. And I’ve heard there are a number of books now being written about Hillsborough and Bettison. But I’d rather have a trial than a book and, as you say, I hope the prospect of prison might make the man finally blow the whole thing wide-open. But even trials and prison sentences can never be any kind of compensation or vindication for what the families have suffered. It is unforgivable.

You obviously spend a lot of time researching your subjects then applying a psychological motivation for the characters whether that’s ego, greed, sexual gratification or ‘evil’ (if evil can ever be defined but sadistic delight in inflicting pain on others whether that’s Sutcliffe or Thatcher). How do you approach each book, do you gather your information and research and then give yourself a set amount of time to write it?

Generally, it takes about a year to research each book and then a year to write it.


You seem to be very far away from the ‘Young British Writer’ set (although most of these ‘young’ writers are now well into their 40s) both geographically and stylistically. Comparisons have been made with James Ellroy and I can see elements of his style in your work but I think your choice of subject matter is way more grim than his vast global conspiracies – I have a theory (another theory) that NO ONE is clever enough to conspire at that level but basic self-interest, greed and incompetence, maintaining the status quo is at the heart of every law and war. I think you are more in the tradition of Kelman than Ellroy, would you say that’s fair?

Yes, I agree with you. 1974 was particularly influenced by Ellroy but, and particularly with Red or Dead, James Kelman is much more of influence these days. Not only in terms of his style but also the way in which he refuses to compromise his beliefs. I also agree with you on the nature of conspiracy; the conspiracy is capitalism, and all its structures and webs, the compromises and crimes it forces most of us to collude and participate in, not men in raincoats, smoking cigarettes in the shadows.


With Red or Dead you return to both football and iconic managers of the 70s. Were you nervous about returning to this area or did you feel that with Shankly, there was enough scope to tell a more optimistic and positive story of one man’s obsession with the game.

Yes, I didn’t want to write The Damned Utd, II. And I did feel, for a long time, that while I had tried to highlight the corruption and crime in society, I had not really offered any alternative. For me, Bill Shankly does represent a different way of thinking, a better way of living. And so that was my hope for the book. Particularly thinking of kids like my own, who are 13 and 16, and who have gone through their entire school lives never once hearing the word Socialism.


I met Shankly with my dad once outside Anfield and he did possess this messianic aura. Grown men felt blessed to be in his company and there was a kind of Puritan work ethic that drove men like Shankly, Busby and Stein. With the retirement of Ferguson who was perhaps the last of that breed, the British game now seems to be controlled by dull pragmatists and technicians. At board level, old school spivs like Louis Edwards, Ken Bates, Ron Noades, Doug Ellis and Peter Swales have been replaced by global franchise gangsters for whom each club is merely an entry in a portfolio. Yet football has never belonged to the fans, footballers and manager shave always been expendable and chairmen and administrators have always been incompetent and corrupt. Gazprom United will no doubt rule world football soon but is this necessarily a bad thing?

One thing that struck me, again and again, researching and writing Red or Dead was, as you say, that football has never belonged to the supporters, the players or the managers. The clubs have always been owned by the men with the brass. But what also struck me was the way in which men like Shankly, Stein and Busby – coming from backgrounds that were much harder and poorer than most of us (not all of us) will ever know – through their sheer bloody-mindedness and hard work, their sacrifices and struggles, taking on the owners and the directors, created clubs in their own and the supporters’ image. And even in times as dark as these, I still do find that inspirational.
Thank you, Phil. Great questions. Sincerely, David

Just Cook Will Yer?


What is it with today’s chefs? They don’t seem to be content with merely rustling up tasty meals these days, no they want to be philosophers, artists, campaigners and politicians. Jamie Oliver is perhaps the most arrogant and obvious example of this new wave of chefs on a mission.
Ever since his ‘crusade’ to replace turkey twizzlers with organic carrots as part of school dinners, Jamie (he only needs one name) – the nation’s favourite Mockney – now sees himself as some kind of mealy mouthed messiah. For someone who has based his entire career upon being a pretend prole, all dropped H’s and lavvly jabbly and geezer this and fellar that, he don’t arf talk some ‘potato blight’ . In fact his whole shtick reminds me of another posh boy pretending to be a Cockney on the make; Bish, bash, bosh! Loads-a-moneyyyyyy!

It’s all a pretence of course as Jamie’s very far away from the humble Essex pub landlord’s son he cracks on to be. But that doesn’t stop Jamie from having a pop at poor people, oh no. Jamie’s ‘spent a lot of time in poor communities. ’ Apparently, in these poor communities that Jamie’s spent so much time in, mums feed their offspring ‘cheese and chips from Styrofoam containers’ whilst watching a ‘massive fucking tv.’
This kind of ‘modern day poverty’ just doesn’t add up to Jamie. That’s to say, it isn’t poverty at all, not like old skool poverty; kids dying of rickets, no fancy tellys and take away food, just the workhouse, jellied eels, gin and er, TB. Blimey Guv, aint you never seen Oliver? Poverty looks so glamorous and fun!

But Jamie’s ‘not judgemental.’ Nah, tarring every ‘modern poor person’ with the same plasma screen poverty brush isn’t being prejudiced because it’s based on FACT. Poor people eat shit and watch shit. They eat ‘convenience food’ unlike the middle classes who zap a M&S ready meal and swig a bottle of 12 quid rioja after a hard day’s graft in the…..wherever it is middle class people work these days.

Now Jamie has many supporters in high places. People who don’t see him as a self-publicising , greedy, narcissist with delusions of grandeur but a genuine ‘guy’ who’s only concern is the health of our children. He is courted by politicians and populists desperate for some of that cheeky, down-to-earth Jamie magic to rub off on their grey pragmatism.

Yet perhaps what Jamie and his culinary cabal don’t fully understand is that the poor are not a lumpen mass of couch potatoes shovelling cheesy chips into their mushes whilst watching Jeremy Kyle on 43 inch 3D tellies bought from a 3000% interest loan from Easydebt. No, that’s some of them, we agree on that, just as some posh people go out to ‘dinner’ every night to avoid cooking their own fucking tea and go to the theatre to watch state subsidised orchestras whilst living off tax free legacies from their slave owning ancestors.

Is that judgemental? Of course it is but I AM judgemental and I AM prejudiced. I’m prejudiced against people like Jamie Oliver, who should take the advice of the star of reality TV show, The Adelphi Hotel’s head waiter when confronted with another puff pastry potentate “just cook will yer?”

Power, Corruption & Lies


In any other universe, a story that the SAS were involved in the death of the world’s most famous princess would at least make the front page of most tabloid papers, reliant as they are such sensationalist stories, whether true or not.

However, in Britain’s secretive, castrated media, any story that casts doubt upon the accepted establishment narrative is either suppressed or dismissed as the wild imaginings of ‘conspiracy cranks.’ Now there ARE plenty of conspiracy theory cranks out there such as our own Kenny Kicker (it’s all a Mossad Plot lad!) but that’s not to say that there aren’t any conspiracies to withhold the truth of certain events from the public.

Such events that would spell deep, deep shit for the establishment. I dunno, maybe the army colluding with loyalist paramilitaries to murder Irish republicans, or the police and the government, the secret service and the police colluding to break strikes or cover up the death of 96 football fans or the highest legal powers, the prime minister, the press secretary and the armed forces using bogus intelligence to remove legitimate rulers in order to secure oil and ‘re-structuring’ contracts.

Sshh! That’s just tittle tattle, the militant ramblings of unpatriotic naysayers determined to do Britain down.

If you were cynical you’d wonder why this story from one of our beloved SAS ‘heroes’ wasn’t treated with the same respect and sycophancy shown to other men from this crack regiment. Men like, I dunno, SAS man, Danny Nightingale, who was recently court martialled for the second time after illegally importing guns and ammunition into the country. The media lead the cheerleading campaign for the charges against Nightingale to be dropped even though he was clearly guilty yet pretended he’d ‘forgotten’ how these ‘gifts’ from tribal elders ended up stashed in his Cheshire home. Wonder if they’d do the same for say, an alleged drug dealer who somehow managed to import guns and bullets into the country, for his own personal use ofcourse.

Now a seven page letter written by the parents of the estranged wife of a chief prosecution witnesses against Nightingale, another SAS man known only as ‘Soldier N’ has come to light. In it, the family state that ‘Soldier N’ claims that the SAS were involved in the death of Diana in 1997. Of course the usual suspects were wheeled out to rubbish the claims. People like Andy ‘Bravo Two Zero’ McNab who has made a fortune from selling SAS tales to infatuated blood lovers. People like former SAS man, Col Tim ‘Battle Cry’ Collins, a man who obviously sees himself as some kind of modern day Patton and makes a nice living giving ‘motivational speeches’ to white collar whoppers across the country. Solider N is bad for their business, so no self-interest there.

The Met is now investigating these claims despite all this hysterical rubbishing of the story. Although the palace is keeping shtum (so noble of them) the BBC and ITV, Sky and Channel 4, the tabloid press, the broadsheets are now being whipped into action to propagandise on behalf of Diana’s son and the Modern Royal Project. The last thing the puppet masters need right now is something spoiling their succession plans and so, the story is dropped, dismissed and those plastic grins are plastered on news presenters faces as they quiz Nick Witchell and other ‘royal correspondents’ about William’s interview on American TV where he sensationally claims that he changes nappies.

THIS is news! Only the ever dependable Diana obsessed Express carried the SAS story on their front page, the other tabloids preferring the much more important story of a Masterchef presenter in a fracas with a man who groped his girlfriend. Hold the front page! The broadsheets and ‘serious’ papers too refuse to explore these claims in any depth because there is still one final taboo in our beloved ‘free press,’ the royals and their shadowy ‘advisors’ must be beyond scrutiny. You start digging too deep in that cesspit and bad things start to happen.

I sound like a conspiracy nut myself but you know what, one day, there will be a reckoning. One day the truth will finally emerge about how the British establishment managed to enrich themselves for a thousand years by murder, corruption, threats and cover ups and then we will ask ‘why didn’t anyone expose this?’

Power, Corruption & Lies. Hey, that’d make a great title for an LP.

LIlly Timid


Maybe Paul O’Grady has been living in his lovely Kent farmhouse for too long. In his prime time BBC1 programme ‘Working Britain’ the former Miss Lilly Savage fell into the trap that most self-declared ‘prole and proud’ presenters seem to get snagged by, that of sentimentality.
O’Grady traced his family roots back to the ‘hard working and proud’ heyday of Ye Olde Working Class employed in the shipyards and the mines, on the busses and the soap factories. “What happned to these once proud and hard working people(that’s PROUD AND HARD WORKING OK? Just ion case you missed it)?” Paul asked.

Why that Maggie Facha did away with em. That’s what! In BBC terms, even to hint at anything this POLITICAL is anathema. After all the hagiographies paid to The Iron Lady upon her demise, the BBC, desperately currying favour with her devil spawn now in power, are doing everything they can to cheerlead for GBPLC. ‘I Love My Country!’ That’s more like it, Tony Hall. Have a licence fee increase and a knighthood. Keep up the good work.

New BBC Head Honcho, Hall is himself a Wirral lad like O’Grady, all be it one from the rather wealthier side of the peninsula. Perhaps that’s why this series, which seems to have been in gestation for years, has now finally been broadcast. O’Grady now seems to occupy a space in our TV schedules somewhere between Rolf Harris (pre-Yew Tree allegations) and Graham Norton. He’s camp and kind to animals, so who could object to such a ‘National Treasure’? All these once outspoken and maverick talents (Jonathan Ross, Johnny Vaughan, Graham Norton et al) who began life on Channel 4 eventually become castrated puppets of ‘Aunty’ as soon as they get used to the wage packet. Have a late night chat show, a Radio 2 weekend slot and a light entertainment ligature to hang your pride with.

It came as no surprise therefore, that O’Grady’s first programme entitled ‘Work’ was little more than a puerile opportunity for Paul to dress up as a bus conductor (like his beloved Aunty Chrissie) and a miner (not like his beloved Aunty Chrissie) and swap ‘banter’ with REAL WORKING CLASS FOLK. The mines eh? Such hard work but so noble! Bus conductors eh? So glamorous and respected. Bleurgh!

Maybe O’Grady really does believe that all ‘working class’ people need to be happy is ‘work.’ Maybe he really does believe that ‘pride’ and ‘hard work’ are now no longer supposed virtues of the proletariat, maybe he sincerely believes that, after a chat with a handful of Glasgow call centre workers, that the young regard themselves as ’classless,’ maybe he feels guilty for having a posh house and an Aga when he returns to Birkenhead and sees the devastation wrought by Tory ideology.

In this ‘chavs and rioters’ versus ‘strikers and social campaigners’ revisionist narrative, O’Grady is following in the footsteps of other class traitors who denounce the young as amoral, materialistic and thuggish whilst pardoning the crimes of the ruling classes (including the BBC) who propagandise on behalf of the establishment. If Pauls’ so proud of being working class then why does he hob nob with Tory maggots like Cilla Black (she’s on next week folks!)?

Class is and always has been fluid never as static as O’Grady claims and class vices and virtues are not uniformly spread amongst everyone. Some working class people are utter scumbags and some are saints. Some smell and some dress better than anyone else in the country. Class is in the guts, not the head or the pockets.

To align yourselves with the working class is easy, but at a time when those at the bottom of the economic pecking order (those horrible ‘chavs’ and ‘benefit scroungers’ ) are being demonised and punished by the most revolting, right wing government in modern history , this programme is about as threatening as a flutter from Lilly Savage’s false eyelashes.

Adult Content


One abiding memory I have of childhood is being sat on the back seat of whatever lousy car me dad had bought, en route to North Wales for our annual summer holiday, sharing the cramped back seat with my two younger brothers, my younger sister and me nan.

Passing through those old, coast road towns like Connah’s Quay, Flint and Gronant, with my mum and dad and nan’s ciggy smoke filling the tiny space inside the car and Glen Campbell’s greatest hits blaring from the cassette player, me and our Claire would cheerily sing along to every word of Galveston, Wichita Lineman, Where’s The Playground Suzy and By The Time I Get To Phoenix.

These Jimmy Webb compositions are still ingrained in my subconscious, not only because of their beautiful melodies and orchestral sweep or the haunting, strong yet tender voice of Campbell but for the impossibly sophisticated lyrical stories of relationships breaking apart.

Webb was not yet 24 by the time he had written all of these heart rending epics. likewise The Beatles were still in their mid 20s when McCartney wrote ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘She’s Leaving Home,’ Lennon ‘In My Life’ and ‘A Day In The Life.’

These songs had such humanity and empathy for the lonely, the elderly, those touched by loss and failure, love and pity, it’s hard to square them with the young pop stars who escaped their whirlwind world of screaming adulation to place themselves in the shoes of others far less fortunate.

As with most things in pop music we should probably blame or praise (depending on your point of view) Bob Dylan. Dylan fused together the older tradition of folk protest with rock rebellion and, rather than rely on simply singing standards or seeking the assistance of Tin Pan Alley producers, did it all on his own.

After Bob, everyone had to up their game and not only the Beatles and British beat bands; The Who, The Kinks and The Stones but The Beach Boys, and the Motown artists still reliant on the Holland Dozier Holland formula. The Isleys, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and The Four Tops began to forge far meatier and substantial songs by the mid 60s.

If rock n’ roll was all about sex then these songs were more about getting, having and holding (or dropping) just as country and the blues were tales of economic or emotional woe. The largely Jewish Broadway tradition also filtered through with the suave orchestration, lush melodies and lyrical brilliance of Leiber and Stoller, Goffin and King, Phil Spector, Bacharach and David, Simon & Garfunkel.

If Hal David’s lyrics were deceptively simple they raised Bacharach’s silky not to say gloopy symphonies above mere pastiche. ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose’ is maybe the greatest song about the myth of the American Dream ever written despite the happy go lucky skippy dippy melody and Dionne Warwick’s sterile vocal.

My favourite lyrics in pop are still these from Jagger’s ‘Satisfaction.’

“When I’m watching my tv
And that man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be
But he can’t be a man cause he doesn’t smoke
The same cigarettes as me’

An entire culture of advertising, consumerism, male insecurities and the mass media is dissected in those five short lines. It speaks more of the 60s than an entire volume of academic narrative. The whole song is a discourse upon the false Gods offered up capitalism; sex, knowledge, material goods. It’s all surface, all message, all spin and spunk and even though Jagger realises this, still, he’s seduced by it.

Of course when I was growing up and heard ‘Satisfaction’ these lyrics went totally over my head as they probably did with most people of Jagger’s own age or older. My dad always claimed he went off The Beatles once they went ‘weird.’ Yet both Sergeant Pepper and Abbey Road were both Coast Road favourites along with The Beach Boys Greatest Hits, 10cc’s ‘How Dare You’ and 100cc, Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ and er, Neil Sedaka’s ‘The Tra La Days Are Over.’

Speaking of Sedaka, his rather paunchy MOR image belied his past as (Oh) Carole King’s former beau. Carole was no wilting violet when it came to her men.

‘It’s Too Late’s’ brutal admission that something inside Carole had died and she just couldn’t hide it or fake it with lover and writing partner Bernie Goffin must have killed him. This 1971 song is just one of many from the era that transcended the usual hippie and pop clichés. Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ LP of the same year also brought into sharp focus the juvenile parameters imposed by Motown’s Berry Gordy. Marvin was a man, an adult, an ARTIST, not a kid to palmed off with coy duets and conveyor belt ballads.

In ‘Awopbopalubopabopbamboo’ published in 69, Nik Cohn bemoans the rise of ‘solemn’ pop, pop that take itself far too seriously, pop that wants to educate and inform, pop that pretends to be poetry or worse, philosophy. His Gods are Elvis and Little Richard and PJ Porby, the young, dumb and full of cum entertainers who shake their hips, rattle their gold and roll their eyes and make young girls scream with nubile arousal.

The Beatles are belittled as victims of this LSD fuelled pseudo-spiritual slide into pomposity and decadence. He’s right too. The Bealtes best LPs are still Rubber Soul and Revolver. The Beatles may well have been a wiser band post 66 but they were undoubtedly a worse band.

Now, aged 47, I’m old enough to appreciate what Jimmy Webb was writing about when he was 25 years younger than I am now. I admire his ability to spin such tales of adult regret, love lost and dreams shattered. His lyrics occupy a space that makes small town British boys think of vast prairies, Laurel Canyon love nests, rural dustbowl towns and Texan motels where grown up people do grown up things.

But y’know what, now I can relate to these feelings and these emotions, I prefer the twee, ‘Neandethal’ thump of The Who or The Temptations, the childish blow job whine of ‘Please Please Me’ and the cars and girls cheap Cali thrills of ‘I Get Around’.

Maybe adult songs are meant to be heard by children and childish songs by adults. Life’s complicated enough to be reminded of it, after all.

I said a-one for the money!

Between The Rock & A Hard Place


I visited Gibraltar for the first time earlier this year with my wife and her gay cousin who lives just up the coast in La Duquesa. He has lived with his Spanish boyfriend on the Costa del Sol for the past five years in a succession of seasonal holiday jobs and was scouting out the Gibraltar branch of British Home Stores as a potential employer. Like many British nationals living close to ‘the rock’ he felt that a job on this colonial outpost would provide better pay and working conditions than a Spanish alternative, given the severe economic conditions now affecting all areas of his adopted homeland.

As we approached Gibraltar, we ended up in a huge traffic tail-back thanks to the border being closed for an Easyjet flight. I didn’t even know Gibraltar had an airport or that Easyjet flew there. It would’ve saved us a few bob in petrol for the hire car if we had’ve known. This temporary closure caused absolute chaos as the main roundabout become clogged with car and lorries, vans and bikes all trying to cut each other up. In the end we parked about a mile away in La Linea and walked through the checkpoint.

Outside gangs of South American immigrants exchanged boxes of duty free ciggies with EC passport carrying Spanish nationals who could legally cross into Gibraltar and purchase these items to sell on the mainland. I always thought ciggies were cheaper in Spain but as a non-smoker maybe I’m out of touch with import and export duties these days.

This is just one of the many anomalies of this last European outpost of the maritime British empire. The canny Victorian imperialists allowed the French, Belgians, Portuguese and Spanish to claim vast tracts of South America, Africa and the far east. The British (India apart) concentrated on strategic outposts that controlled the flow of raw materials to and from ports. Places like Cape Town, The Falklands, Hong Kong, Suez, Bombay, Shanghai and Gibraltar. Before road, rail and plane travel, control of the seas was vital for the greedy men at the heart of the human and material cargoes being transferred from country to country.

As you enter Gibraltar, the surreal contrast between the poverty of the surrounding Spanish town of La Linea and indeed the squalid tenements and flats of the outskirts of Gibraltar with the luxury of the harbour area comes as a shock. Military emblems and a karaoke theme park atmosphere dominate the colony. High above on the rock itself, monkeys scrabble around looking for food from tourists whilst below them, billions are being made mostly by offshore banking and gambling companies relying on the special tax perks of basing themselves in a semi-autonomous zone.

The main shopping street is however, even more bizarre. As Paul went to do a bit of research in the small, quaint BHS store, we mooched about the various shops, a mixture of high end jewellery and accessories shops, tourist tat and numerous tobacconists. The High Street stores were also represented but the general atmosphere was akin to early closing day in a small market town…circa 1983.

However, we did find a great tapas bar in a back street and suddenly we were transported into Andalucía once again. The weird mixture of the local dialect, part English, part Spanish mixed together, sometime in once voice, sometimes another was unsettling, as was the gangs of non-drinking arabs sat outside British boozers.

There is an almost David Lynchian aspect to Gibraltar that makes you feel as if somewhere on this rock, dark cabals are at work under the veneer of twee, polite rusticity. An episode of The Prisoner could easily be set here. Yet despite, the bizarre conflict between a romanticised military past and an uncertain political future, Gibraltar has become emblematic of the failure of the European project.

Spain, now desperate to raise tax revenue and improve its economy, is sick of watching valuable tax revenue flow out through the digital cyberworld of modern monetary transactions. The British meanwhile, also in a deep economic hole are desperate to preserve the colony’s status to shore up their own ‘business friendly’ policies. All this underlines how blurred the lines are between abstract ideals of ‘free trade’ and the hard headed reality of share dividends and exchequers altering the rules and laws of finance and citizenship when it suits their own selfish needs.

Back in the real world, Paul got the job and is happily employed by good old trustworthy stalwart of all that is Great and British, BHS and we returned to depressed old Merseyside dreaming of tapas bars and chiringuitos. Whatever happens to the future of Gibraltar and its inhabitants and workers, the cosy post-colonial days of back scratching and special arrangements are well and truly over as the global economy becomes ever more cut throat.

Physician Heal Thyself!


So, former city banker and new Archbishop of Canterbury. The Most Rev Justin Welby has decided the Church of England should put some of its vast fortune into supporting credit unions as a way of challenging the high interest legal loan sharks of the instant cash industry.
This brings us once again to the issue of religion and politics, faith and ethics. This square never seems to be circled because, as with all human inventions, such concepts are abstract and open to interpretation.
Wonga seems to be the chief target of both political and ethical attacks yet the company is only symptomatic of a much wider industry that legally targets those who are desperate for cash before their next ‘pay day’ or ‘giro day.’ It’s the same bunch who target poor people with cheap furniture that they can pay off ‘bit by bit’ for EVER!

You know the names; QuickQuid, PoundsToPockets, KwickCash, FancyAPayDay, Cashsorted, Quickloansnocreditcheck – all internet based that allow you to chose your amount and period with little or nothing in the way of pesky bureaucracy and underwriters.

They target people like Mick, who left prison a year ago and had no money to refurbish his flat.

“I opened up a bank account but the bank wouldn’t lend me money because of my past credit rating, so my mate told to get onto Experion, who offer a free thirty day trial and point you to other loan companies. I only wanted a few grand to get my flat carpeted and buy some furniture but the only ones who Experion put me onto were like Wonga and Amigo Loans. Even the names are a joke; Amigo, it’s like they’re bandits robbing you. In the end I looked at the interest rate which something like three million % and decided to forget it. It took me another year to get the bank to loan me a thousand pounds, but on a card and I was working so fuck knows how those on benefits get on.”

Yet despite portraying itself as some beacon of ethical investment, the Church of England has enjoyed supporting some very dodgy organisations in the past.

In his 2012-2013 report, the chair of the church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) boasts about his progress with regards to some pretty nasty bedfellows. Quite apart from tutting at the likes of Murdoch’s dead schoolkid hacking News International, Palestinian occupying Veolia Environment and bauxite mining, land rapists, Vedanta Resources, the best bit is this hilarious comment on Barclays bank.
“In June 2012, it was announced that Barclays Bank had been fined approximately £290million for seeking to manipulate Libor, the London inter-bank lending rate, which underpins trillions of pounds of loans and financial contracts.

This was thje latest in a series of scandals associated with the bank, which, like many of its peers, had lost sight of its fundamental role in society and its wider obligations….however, ethical conduct can’t simply be enforced. We will know that barcalys has truly transformed when it inspires its staff to make sustainable profits through serving its customers and fulfilling its fundamental role in society. We were delighted that the new chief executive of Barclays, Anthony Jenkins, shared a platform at St Paul’s cathedral on 12th June with the Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss ‘Good Banks’.

So, in this world of moral relativism, Wonga is a wrong un but Barclays is bona fide. Just as religious texts and dogma can lead to schism, civil war and murder, so The Church of England’s ‘ethical investment’ policy can be read in many different ways.

Maybe it’s just a matter of scale. Wonga is an easy target. Barclays on the other hand has a ‘fundamental role is society to play’ that is just seems to have lost sight of. Maybe this role just fell down the back of the settee. Still, everything’s OK, the two new kids on the block have shared a platform together, old school tie Masonic hypocrisy? How cynical!

But some people are taking a stand. Newcastle player, Papiss Cisse is facing the sack for refusing to wear his Wonga sponsored club shirt on ethical grounds. Now, some say that the muslim player is himself guilty of double standards as he didn’t take the same decision when Newcastle were sponsored by Dicky Branson’s cuddly ‘Virgin Money’ but Dick’s no loan shark, he’s legit, he’s got the planes and trains to prove it.

The Church of England is every much a part of the incestuous cabal of aristocrats, financiers and industrialists who form the inner temple of the British establishment. The church itself was created in order for King Henry VIII to rob the Pope and shag Anne Boleyn. It has protected and supported thieves, murderers, torturers, enslavers and tyrants all through its 400 year history and has the blood of millions upon its virginal cassocks.

Justin Welby may like to pretend that the Anglican church stands apart from the city and the toffs who have always sought to do their ‘fundamental duty to society’ by enriching themselves and their shareholders fortunes at the expense of the common citizen but in reality, it’ll take more than tokenistic attacks on the ethical sitting duck payday loan providers to persuade us that ethics is fundamental to the church’s wider obligation to society.