Thursday, November 30, 2023

Remembering Shane.

Shane & Van.

Tonight, I feel that I should say a few words about the passing of Shane MacGowan who died today. Although I knew he had been ill for a long time it was still a shock to hear that he has gone. It has been a sad year for Irish music with Shane’s close friend and collaborator Sinead O’Connor also dying this year. They were both rebels against the authority and hypocrisy of the establishment, as well as being brilliant singer-songwriters. On the news and on social media people have seemed to focus on Shane’s ‘notoriety’, alcoholism, and lifestyle. I would rather he was remembered for being one of the greatest songwriters of his generation which is how his friend Nick Cave described him. Shane wrote the best Christmas song of all time in my opinion which is Fairy Tale Of New York (See video below). 

Shane & Bruce.

It is totally different to any other Christmas song because it tells the truth about what Christmas is really like for many people, poverty, loneliness and broken relationships. Many people only know Shane from that song, but he has left a legacy of dozens of great songs. His fans included the likes of Johnny Depp, Christy Moore and Bruce Springsteen. Van Morrison invited Shane to sing with him at the Brit Awards in 1994. He singlehandedly created a new genre of music by combining punk rock with Irish folk music, added poetic meaningful lyrics and made something totally unique. He was a genius. His huge influence can be seen in such acts as Flogging Molly, The Dropkick Murphys, The Mary Wallopers, Fontaines D.C., Lankum, Damian Dempsey, Lisa O'Neill and many more. When people complain about his ‘lifestyle’ they forget that it was his lifestyle that was the source of his inspiration. He wrote about the denizens of the dark streets of London with an eye as sharp as Charles Dickens. It was what he witnessed and wrote about. You could criticise other great writers like Dylan Thomas or Brendan Behan for the same reason, but I know they couldn’t have achieved such great art without their chosen lifestyle. 

Johnny & Shane.

I think I only saw Shane three times. The best times were at Glastonbury in the 80s when
The Pogues were at their peak. The sheer exuberance of their music was something to behold, and the audiences used to go wild. Live performance was definitely their forte. I’m sure many music fans have been looking back today with happy memories of seeing The Pogues. I’d also like to pay a tribute to Shane’s wife Victoria Mary Clarke. Shane was a lucky man to have found such a devoted wife who looked after him to the end. Despite what the critics may say Shane had a life that was well lived. He won’t be forgotten.

Shane & Sinead.

R.I.P. Shane MacGowan

Monday, November 27, 2023

Under The Sky by Pete Sinfield.

You know how in my last blog piece a few days ago I said I had started dealing in books again, and I said that it was only a hobby, but I might find some nice books on my travels. Well, I never thought that would come true so quickly, and I didn’t even have to leave the house. It seems like serendipity to me, or synchronicity, what ever you want to call it. Anyway, it happened by chance in a most happy beneficial way. A few months ago, a very good friend of mine kindly gave me a copy of a signed limited-edition book of lyrics by Kate Bush called How To Be Invisible. It is a wonderful book that I wouldn’t dream of selling. Anyway, last Thursday morning I started reading it. 

Kate had written a very interesting introduction and in the last paragraph she said, “When I was about sixteen, I bought a book of lyrics and poems by Pete Sinfield. He was the lyricist for the progressive rock band King Crimson. It was fascinating and not like the other books of poetry I had. It wasn’t that there was anything missing from the written lyrics, but there was definitely something different about them. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on……..This information piqued my interest. “Hmm, I wonder if that book is still available”, I thought to myself. So, I looked online. It is the only book Pete Sinfield published and called Under The Sky. I was disappointed to find out that it had been out of print since the 1970s. There were no copies available from Amazon or any other online bookshops I could find. 

Then I looked on eBay and was shocked to find just one copy for sale for £450!. I didn’t give up though, and wondered if the Oxfam book shop might have a copy……and they did! . Not only that, but it was also signed by Pete himself. Best of all it was priced at less than a tenth of the unsigned one on eBay. I couldn’t believe my luck, clicked ‘Buy Now’ and it was mine. It arrived in the post today, and I am well chuffed with it. The dust jacket is quite creased and has some marks on it, but you have to expect that in a book that is half a century old. The inside of the book is fine and has Pete’s signature under a photo of himself. It also has beautiful illustrations by a lady called Julia Fryer. It contains all of the lyrics that Pete wrote for King Crimson up to 1972. 

My favourite of his songs is I Talk To The Wind. (See video below) They are all here, In The Court Of The Crimson King, The Wake Of Posiedon, 20th Century Schizoid Man and many others. I might sell it at some time in the future, but for the time being it is a keeper. Thank you very much to my friend for the Kate Bush book which led me to learning about her influence Pete Sinfield which in turn led me to find this rare and wonderful book. Things do happen in mysterious ways, which proves to me that everything is connected.


Thursday, November 23, 2023

Murky Waters.

You know a couple of weeks ago I said I was gingerly dipping my toe back into the murky waters of second-hand book dealing. I hadn’t really bothered with book hunting or selling ever since lockdown. Well, I managed to sell my signed copies of Being Boycie by John Challis and my You Made Me Late Again by Pam Ayres. I didn’t get much for them because there was only one bid on each in the auction, but at least they sold which was a start. I posted them off yesterday and put three more books for sale to replace them. In Warminster a few days ago I found a beautiful copy of an American biography of Marty Robbins which I put in the auction. I’m not sure if there will be any interest in it, but it is the kind of book I might read myself if it doesn’t sell. 

I also put up for sale a signed copy of an autobiography of Paula Radcliffe. If you haven’t heard of her, she was the golden girl of British athletics a while ago and holder of the world record for the women’s marathon. The third book I put up for sale is a signed memoir by Kenneth Branagh the famous actor and writer. I have high hopes of getting a few quid for that one. Anyway, we shall see how it goes. I know from past experience that I won’t make much money from it, but that’s not the point. I love books, and you never know what I might find on my travels. It is just a hobby and is something to do on dark winter evenings. Also, it gives me something to talk about on my blog page when I can’t think of anything else. The sun is shining here at the moment for a change, so I might go out for a walk in a minute or potter about in my wee garden which could do with a tidy up. See you later.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

It Was Sixty Years Ago Today.

These days sometimes I can barely remember what I did yesterday, but I can still vividly remember the events of sixty years ago today, November 22 1963. I had just turned twelve years old and was in my first year at the Kings School, Peterborough. My main interests at the time were pop music and sports, especially football. That week
Gerry & The Pacemakers were number 1 in the charts with You’ll Never Walk Alone. The Beatles were number 2 with She Loves You. Other great songs in the charts that week were by The Searchers, The Ronettes, Roy Orbison, Billy J Kramer, Chuck Berry, The Crystals, and Trini Lopez. Peter, Paul & Mary had just entered the charts with Blowing In The Wind written by an almost unknown in Britain singer called Bob Dylan. School had finished for the week, it was a Friday, so I was looking forward my team Peterborough playing Brentford the next day. We had only got a TV in our house in 1960, and colour TV was still five years away, so my memories of that fateful evening are in black and white. In Britain in those days you had a choice of only two channels BBC or ITV. We were gathered around the telly in the living room watching the Tonight programme on BBC presented by Cliff Michelmore and then switched to ITV to watch a popular quiz show called Take Your Pick hosted by Michael Miles. Towards the end of the show the transmission was interrupted by a NEWSFLASH which said that news was coming in that President Kennedy had been shot and injured in Dallas Texas. It was a huge shock. We switched back to BBC to see if there was any more news. On the screen was just a globe going round and round… and then a voice said, “It has just been announced that the President has died”. It was chilling news. I think all scheduled programmes apart from News were cancelled for the rest of the evening. 

My dad had been on the afternoon/evening shift at Perkins, and when he got home he was really upset about the news. My parents were Irish and catholic, so as you can imagine with President Kennedy’s background being of Irish descent and being the first catholic President he was extremely popular in our household. Being so young and having such an attractive wife as Jackie Kennedy also added to his charisma. Just a few months earlier he had made a very successful state visit to Ireland which my parents had followed with great interest. Later that evening we heard that Lee Harvey Oswald had been arrested for the slaying of JFK. First thing the next morning I ran up to Wrights the newsagents on Oundle Road and bought the Daily Mirror which was the popular newspaper for working class Labour Party supporting people like us. The Headline on the front page just said KENNEDY ASSASSINATED. The whole paper, even the back page was covered in the almost unbelievable news. Two famous writers, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis both died on the same day, but that news barely got a mention in the papers. 

That Saturday evening the BBC showed the first episode of Doctor Who which was to be extremely popular with young viewers especially when The Daleks were introduced. That show is still going sixty years later. Another interesting fact is that Lee Harvey Oswald was paraded before the press in a midnight press conference. A young British disc jockey called John Ravenscroft who was working on a Dallas radio station bluffed his way into the press conference by claiming to be a newspaper reporter from England. Apparently, he can be seen in the TV pictures, but I have never spotted him. He later returned to England, got a job on pirate radio, changed his name to John Peel and became one of the most influential figures in British music. Another person who used his connections to the local police to attend that press conference was a local strip club owner who also had connections to mobsters named Jack Ruby, who the following day filmed live on television shot Lee Harvey Oswald.

There were many other events in the 1960s and 70s that have stayed in my mind to this day. Cassius Clay against all the odds beating Sonny Liston to become World Heavyweight Champion and changing his name to Muhammad Ali, England winning the World Cup, the killings of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon, the deaths at the Munich Olympics, and the death of Elvis Presley to name but a few. However, no news has ever shocked me more than the tragic event that shook the world on November 22 1963.

Walter Cronkite reports on John F. Kennedy's assassination.

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