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Obadiah Horseflesh (Pangbourne)

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The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
by Roger Lewis
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars The Loon Show, 29 Mar. 2015
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Every five years or so I re-read Roger Lewis' masterpiece of a biography, not just for his idiosyncratic and perspicacious take on the life and work of Peter Sellers, but for the possibilities of how biographies can be approached as artworks in themselves. Yes, Lewis has been criticized for his tone - twisting any generous gesture by Sellers into something suspicious or motivated by evil intent, painting an ugly, hysterical, distorted portrait &c. - but what is overlooked is the fact that Lewis himself is playing a role; that of an equally hysterical obsessive. Like the Gryphon's description of the Mock Turtle's continual weeping, "It's all his fancy, that". If you wish, you can tune it out, like a tinnitus-sufferer learns to mix out the constant fuzz and screech that assails his or her shell-likes. What can't be ignored is Lewis' absolute brilliance when it comes to the real heart of the book - to whit, his critiques of Sellers' performances. Here, Lewis is unsurpassable, tying together all the threads - biographical, cultural, sociological, psychological. After reading such passages you are compelled to track down and watch those films and, in doing so, you see them with a freshness and clarity.

The other aspect about 'The Life & Death Of Peter Sellers' is that, after reading it, almost any other biography will seem pedestrian, workmanlike, a labour, a dull unrewarding slog from predictable A to inevitable B.

The Bobo [1967] [DVD]
The Bobo [1967] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter Sellers
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £11.08

1.0 out of 5 stars The Boo-Boo, 29 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: The Bobo [1967] [DVD] (DVD)
Being a vast fan of Sellers, I am fully aware of the nose-holdingly bad critical reputation that this film has but, with a couple of shekels to spare and a sickbag to hand, I thought it high-time that curiosity be satisfied (I've only been avoiding this film for 40 years). Well, curiosity may have been satisfied but I certainly was not. This film is from the period when Sellers wrongheadedly decided to be a suave romantic lead - basically, the signal for Sellers fans is to bail out whenever he starts divesting himself of his clobber and starts displaying his gorilla's granny's boobies.

The film begins rather promisingly with Kenneth Griffith giving the kind of comic turn that Sellers used to excel at - the sexually-frustrated weed. And Britt Ekland's performance as the spoilt and avaricious tease is accomplished. However, the plot is predictable, the plotting plodding, and Sellers is flat and dull. (Sorry. I was really hoping that this might be a rare find - an undiscovered jewel - like some of his other, off-the-beaten-track films like 'The Optimists' or 'I Love You, Alice B. Toklas' but no, it stinks.)

A word about the quality of the film transfer on this DVD (this is the 2004 release from Orbit Media Ltd): Weak. For a film shot in Rome, you would expect vibrant colour, scintillations a-plenty for the old retinas, but this print of 'The Bobo' makes it look as though it were filmed on a wet weekend in Macclesfield. If the washed-out tones, slightly blurred appearance and couple of jarring glitches are anything to go by, I'd say this was transferred from some VHS tape rather than from an actual print.

I haven't mentioned the word 'funny'. It's not. Griffith and Ekland aside, it's a long yawn. My curiosity didn't exactly kill the cat but it most definitely bored her.

Fun Starts Here: Out-takes from a Rock Memoir
Fun Starts Here: Out-takes from a Rock Memoir
by Lol Creme
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars POP ART BRUTES, 29 Oct. 2014
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It's hard to believe now (late 2014) but back in October 1981 'The Fun Starts Here' was banned by a significant number of book chains; W.H. Smiths, John Menzies and Hammick's were amongst the stores refusing to stock it. Your humble correspondent, finding it liber non grata in the small (minded) town he was living in, had to hop on a train to Reading to obtain it. What was it about this book that sorely offended stockists? The answer, my friend, was flowing from the pen. Godley & Creme's illustrated story of British rock'n'roll circa 1957-1980 is, to misquote Nigel Tufnel, "One lewder": It's a scabrous, satirical, merciless laying-bare of the madness and ecstasy, the hypocrisy and egomania, of Da Biz. No turn is unstoned - not even the authors.

Their unforgettable images - a trouserless manager on all fours securing the 'best deal for his client', a teddy boy teen-dreamer strumming willy guitar in his bedroom mirror, a marijuana-mashed groupie having her knackered knockers autographed by the likes of Jimi, Macca, G & C themselves and 'Eric' who exhorts her to 'Keep on suckin'', a satin tour-jacketed, stack-heeled, perm-haired, middle-aged rock star in his mansion's mirrored toilet defecating gold discs into the bowl ("Success Hasn't Changed Me At All") - make the political cartoons of Gerald Scarfe, by comparison, as savage as a pastel watercolour of daffodils.

It's an uneven book - a couple of the stories are self-indulgently long-winded, shaggy-dog pointless, or not particularly funny - but genius was never a guarantor of quality control and these minor, infrequent lapses do not overly detract from the overall mesmerising brilliance of invention, inspiration and artistic execution. Although art schools were the breeding ground for the most imaginative of British rock musicians - Townshend, Ferry, Eno, Lennon, Mercury, Ray Davies, Keith Richards, McLaren, Uncle Syd Barrett and all - Lol and Kev were rare in applying their visual skills in their musical careers and to such a unique and devastating effect.

The fact that a book of drawings should result in its being barred from gracing the shelves of bookshops says much about the power of art and also the feebleness of self-appointed moral guardians and status quo-maintaining tastemakers.

Nearly 35 years after its publication, a lot of 'The Fun Starts Here''s bite has been softened, but this is the case with satire ('Brass Eye' too, for example, has lost much of its capacity to shock and outrage, as have the Derek & Clive records). However, the sardonic - not cynical - outlook and eye-poppingly inspired draughtsmanship (G & C were blessed with a sniper's eye and surgeon's hand for the detail and accuracy of their creations) remain a pretty much undiminished source of wonder and delight.

Philip Larkin Reads the Less Deceived
Philip Larkin Reads the Less Deceived
Price: £6.44

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Let Down, 29 Oct. 2014
His voice a stammering Eeyore, Philip Larkin read his poems beautifully. Alive to his texts, he could turn from sarcasm to sorrow, delight to despair, upon the proverbial 6d. So why am I seeming peevish in only awarding this CD of his readings of his 1958 collection of verse a mere three stars? Well, the reason is entirely due to the sound quality. Rather than being mastered from the original tape reels, this album is a transfer from a vinyl disc, and a scratched one at that. The audio is muffled, very occasionally to the point of incomprehension (can it really be such an expensive and daunting task to clean up the fidelity?), but worse is the moments where the stylus skips across the record, thus losing parts of poems.

Here are the spoilt sections, the missing words appearing here in parentheses:

"Some ruin-bibber, [randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict,] counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?"
(Church Going)

"Latest face, so effortless
Your great arrival at my eyes,
No one standing near could guess
Your beauty [had no home till then;]
Precious vagrant, recognise
My look, and do not turn again."
(Latest Face)

A disappointment. Since the albums of 'The Whitsun Weddings' and 'High Windows' seem to be unavailable on CD at this time (2014), I would recommend Larkin's 1980 recording 'The Sunday Sessions' (Faber & Faber) - a well-recorded selection of very good readings.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Going To A Logo, 21 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Harvest (Apparel)
Groovy, maaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

Most people wouldn't realise what this t-shirt represents (which may or may not be a good thing) but for me it's a nice, subtle nod to Kevin Ayers, Syd Barrett, Wire, Roy Harper, Kate Bush etc as well a damn brilliant logo in itself.

Brilliant stuff.

Rotten to the Core [DVD]
Rotten to the Core [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anton Rodgers
Price: £4.90

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This Fruit's Passed Its Sell-By Date, 21 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Rotten to the Core [DVD] (DVD)
This is a somewhat dissatisfying film, with the Boulting Brothers' previously-high standards in scripting and directing slipping badly.

Once you get the thought into your head that this was to be a follow-on of sorts from 'Two-Way Stretch' and 'The Wrong Arm Of The Law' (and there are enough indications; 'Jelly Knight' was one of Sellers' stooges in 'Two-Way Stretch', for example), it's nigh-impossible to shake out the idea of Peter Sellers in the Anton Rodgers role and Lionel Jeffries taking Ian Bannen's. Consequently, no matter how good Rodgers and Bannen play their characters, one is constantly wondering how Sellers and Jeffries would have interpreted them - and this mind game is extremely distracting!

Despite the presence of great comedy character actors - Thorley Walters and Kenneth Griffith are always quality performers, Avis Bunnage is pretty fab and Eric Sykes steals every scene - the script is sorely lacking in character, comic invention, wit and pace. The Boulting Brothers' satiric claws - so sharp in 'I'm All Right, Jack' and 'Heaven's Above' - are here blunt and ineffectual, I'm sorry to report.

It's a pleasant 90 minutes - something to help pass a rainy afternoon - but no more than that.

Atom Heart Mother T-shirt Pink Floyd 1970 Music Tee Cow
Atom Heart Mother T-shirt Pink Floyd 1970 Music Tee Cow
Offered by DickyTicker
Price: £10.99 - £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Udderly brilliant!, 20 Oct. 2014
You see, the problem with other versions of this design is that it's ruined by having the band name and album title on it as well - which is exactly NOT what 'Atom Heart Mother' is about.
This version is just divine. Plus the fact you can choose your own shirt colour is an unexpected bonus.
Note: The cow depicted on the t-shirt is not the same as the one on the Pink Floyd album cover. The original sleeve is a photograph whereas the image on the t-shirt is a painting (and very well-rendered it is, too).
Therefore, this tee serves a variety of functions: 1) It celebrates a particularly bonkers old record. 2) If you can't stick the Floyd, then it's a damn good celebration of cows. 3) It's very warm and therefore perfect for the Friesian weather (sorry).

Everyday Robots
Everyday Robots
Price: £4.99

13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars LOUSY, DROWSY, 30 May 2014
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This review is from: Everyday Robots (Audio CD)
What is happening here? Not a lot, by the sound of it.
A couple of years back, some scribe in the Guardian or Independent called Damon Albarn the new David Bowie on account of his shape-shifting, slippery nature (musically speaking); his creative itchiness from standing in the same place too long. Well, yeah, I can go along with that. But has he now decided to be the new Brian Eno? And, if so, why has he plumped for the ambient, less-is-less option over the fidgety, funny, interesting Eno of 'Before And After Science' and all those supremely daft and profoundly human records preceding it?
Why is every song on this record so muted, insipid and similarly paced? Why is there a dearth of rhythmic variation? Why is there not one single memorable melody? Is it beneath him to write a catchy pop song - or is it beyond him?
I've played this CD a dozen or more times and can't for the life of me remember anything of substance. The record begins, there's some mumbling and humming of machines for about 40 minutes or so and then it stops, making no impression whatsoever.
Speaking of impressions, there was an impressionist comedian in the 1970s called Mike Yarwood and, after his various sketches where he'd impersonate the prime minister of the day and various icons, he would end the show by saying behind his big bow tie, "And this is me" and launch into some rotten ballad that would send the entire nation out to put the kettle on. Maybe Damon Albarn is like that to some extent; take off his coat of many colours, wipe away his disguises, and you have the invisible man.
Albarn isn't some idiot-savant, a blowhard, a chancer. Rather, he's always struck me as a thoughtful, sensitive, imaginative, humorous chap with bags of ideas. It's just that, on this outing, his bag's got a hole in it.
There's a common delusion that Pop stars are over the hill at 40 and, to gain some measure of respect and integrity, they had best cool their boots and shift gear with more sedate, mature, respectable-sounding records. Well, yes, that's an option, I suppose (I doubt whether Mark E. Smith has considered it, bless him), but you needn't bore your audience to pieces in the process.
When I bought 'Everyday Robots', I also bagged 'Blood & Brambles' by Mikey Georgeson & The Civilised Scene and 'Godot Woz Ere' by Yellowjack, albums made by people roughly the same age as Damon Albarn. Their songs are, in their respective ways, tuneful, buoyant, adventurous, witty, intelligent, melodic, groovy, emotional - in fact, everything that 'Everyday Robots' isn't. It might be pertinent to add that Georgeson's and Yellowjack's albums were most likely produced on shoestring budgets simply for the sheer joy of creation. 'Everyday Robots', by contrast, sounds like the semi-detached tinkerings of a rich bored man with nothing much on his mind.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 26, 2015 2:51 AM GMT

Godot Woz Ere [Explicit]
Godot Woz Ere [Explicit]
Price: £7.49

5.0 out of 5 stars CRACKERJACK!, 30 May 2014
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If The Who in their 1975 prime made an album employing the lyrics of Ian Dury and John Cooper Clarke, this would be the result. I absolutely love this record! There was a review of Zappa's 'Fillmore East, June 1971' album in OZ Magazine which stated simply, "It rips, it snorts. I like it lots" and that summation could equally apply here. The drums bash, the guitars slash, and the singer is absolutely superb - alert and alive and turn-on-a-sixpence responsive to all the emotional twists and turns of the lyrics. He's laid-back and lovable on the folkish 'Going Slowhere', a song that could have fallen out of Ronnie Lane's back pocket in 1973. 'Next' is a tongue-in-cheek account of an aging roué recalling his litany of lovers. It's hilarious stuff - like Sid James or Robin Askwith fronting Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers.
Although Yellowjack proudly show their musical roots - it's all no-frills rock'n'roll, no click tracks (it's so brilliant to hear the drummer going out of time for once; when's the last time you heard THAT on a record?) - their subject matter has a modern currency. 'The Gnomes Of Bromley' is a satirical attack on the rise of Ukip. And opening track 'We're Back' is an extremely funny song about bands reforming and going for the nostalgia vote (you know who they are!) and the performance is an absolute powerhouse.
It's sad in a way that these songs will never get the airplay or attention they deserve. If Billy Bragg, Paul Weller or Noel Gallagher had made this record, the music press would be dancing naked in the streets, screaming "MASTERPIECE! ROCK HAS BEEN SAVED!" from lamp-posts and rooftops across the land. But this is just another obscure band - like other brilliant bands such as Thumpermonkey Lives!, Mikey Georgeson or The Display Team - who do their stuff and disappear.
Maybe Yellowjack will be discovered in 20 years time and hailed as the greatest cult band of the 2010s. That would be ironic: Would they be stretchered on to the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury in 2034 to wheeze, "We're back!"?
Who cares about that? For me, this is a passionate, powerful, warm-hearted, funny, sharp, intelligent collection. And it rocks like a Doonican chair!

Mind Games
Mind Games
Price: £16.02

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mindless, 30 May 2014
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This review is from: Mind Games (Audio CD)
Saucy Jack's compositional powers declined considerably and quickly after his 'White Album' highpoint (for my money, if you peeled off all his songs from that record you'd have The Best John Lennon Album Ever). Blame the lack of a musical collaborator, a strong producer, blame drugs or success or complacency - blame any or all of those aspects but the cancer that ate away his songwriting gifts was his self-obsession, the misguided belief that his Life was his Art (or vice-versa). Granted, 'John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band' was an incendiary, harrowing work, a cry from the heart. It was uneasy listening, sure, but the unfortunate result was a glut of glummy strummies pouring their hearts out and mistaking outpourings of grief for Entertainment. In his quest for recognition as A Serious Artist, Lennon sacrificed fun and creativity.
'Mind Games' was his attempt at regaining critical and commercial favour after the appalling 'Some Time In New York City' but it is unconvincing, weighed down with too many droopy introspective ballads about Yoko and an inability to invent middle-eights - 'I Know (I Know)' is the only song to have one, and it's like sunbeams bursting through a cloudscape when it happens.
In its favour, the album had 'Tight A$' (a welcome Chuck Berry-lite rocker which unfortunately outstays its welcome after a couple of minutes), a beautiful-sounding rolling ballad called 'You Are Here' (making good use of Something Different, a female chorus who mar other songs with their twee harmonies), 'Meat City' (a rough rocking exhilarating mess of scratchy ugly fuzzy guitars and 1950s echo effects on the vocals) and, most crucially, a tough sonic presentation. Lennon's preference was always for mono and meshing instruments together as one.
The 2002 reissue has three extra tracks - Johnny demoing three songs in early gestation - which are of passing interest but the actual album has had a severe audio overhaul. It has been been cleaned up, buffed to a pristine sheen, and consequently a lot of the original album's charms have been blanded out to oblivion. 'Meat City' was a thoroughly riotous racket in its original mix but here it seems studied and careful and considered and so completely WRONG! Even more unforgivably, the actual ending of 'Meat City' - with the drums clattering to a stop and Jock asking "Who is that? Who IS that? And why are they doing those strange... things?" - has been edited out. ARGH!!! Who did that? Who DID that? And why do they do such stupid things?
The 2010 'Signature' reissue reinstates the ending but, unfortunately, the mastering is still as sterile and lifeless as the 2002 edition. Blast!
If you're really eager to hear Lennon half-stepping on less than formidable form but in the way he wanted you to hear it, trawl your charity shops or the Used & New sections here for either the original vinyl album or a 20th Century premastered CD. No, it's not a perfect record but nothing, and no-one, is.

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