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The Young Mod's Forgotten Story - Part 3

It’s the 15th December, 1981. I’m on the train from Orpington to Victoria with a £4.50 ticket in my pocket to see The Jam at Hammersmith Palais. I’ve been buzzing since it came though the post. I’ve got that feeling, something's shifting. I’m adrift, looking for a place to be.
There's been no album this year. Three singles. In February That's Entertainment - an acoustic beat poem; a stream of consciousness lovesong for suburban kids as if Weller’s writing a Terry and Julie for our generation. ‘Getting a cab and travelling on buses, reading the graffiti about slashed seat affairs’. The summer saw Brixton, Toxteth and St Pauls on fire. Not to be outdone, it even kicked off in Orpington High Street, which pretty much made it the usual Saturday night. The riots played out with Ghost Town on Top of The Pops. In June Funeral Pyre was released with its jagged edges and Weller’s lyrical directness, but it sounds like Buckler’s drum kit’s being kicked down a flight of stairs: not th…

BOOK NEWS: Off The Record - a charity anthology

Today sees the Amazon launch of the kindle version of Off The Record: thirty-eight short stories based on classic song titles. The collection sees writers from both sides of the Atlantic coming together to produce an anthology of contemporary short stories, with all proceeds being donated to two Children's Literacy charities. In the UK it's the National Literacy Trust and in the US, Children's Literacy Initiative.
My contribution to the anthology is A New England.  The story offers a young policeman's perspective on the anti-BNP march, which took to the streets of Welling, south London in 1993, and which exposed the then government's clampdown on growing anti-fascist protests in the shadow of Stephen Lawrence's murder.
Off The Record is a snapshot of the indie e-book nation at the end of a year which has seen the medium cement its place in the market. Edited by Luca Veste, writer and blogger in chief at Guilty Conscience, it's a powerchord of punk-in-publi…

INTERVIEW: Mike Hodges - 'Watching The Wheels Come Off'

MIKE HODGES is best known as a film director, most notably, of the classic British crime movie Get Carter, which he adapted memorably for the screen from Ted Lewis’s Brit-noir novel Jack’s Return Home. He has written and directed widely for film, television, radio and theatre. His first novel, Watching The Wheels Come Off is a biting and bleakly satirical take on rampant self-interest and the culture it spawns, set in a fictional English seaside town. Here Hodges speaks about his own take on the novel and his inspiration for the story. He gives a no-holds barred perspective on the current state of politics and society and the attitudes of British publishers.
I began by asking him what was it about the ideas behind Watching the Wheels Come Off that prompted him to put pen to paper for his first novel?
“I’d been waiting for the finances to come together on a film adaptation of Thomas Mann’s Mario and the Magician. As usual it was taking longer than expected: five years. Previously I’d b…

I never met John Peel... but he did send me a postcard

Tomorrow night, Pete Townsend delivers the inaugural Peel lecture under the title: Can John Peelism survive the Internet?
There's something disconcerting about Peel being suffixed to anything so conformist as an ism. Almost a 'Yes, we're all individuals' moment. But if time really has changed how we view music and culture to such an extent that those of us who value the individual, the leftfield or just plain odd need an ism to unite us, then it might as well be Peelism.
*
You could call it downsizing, but that would imply an element of choice. Renting the box-room in a house in Elmstead Avenue, Wembley, October 1991 was entirely a financial necessity. By the time I’d wedged in a single bed and flimsily built wardrobe, that was it. Metropolitan and Jubilee Line trains clattered down the tracks at the bottom of the garden from around five in the morning to the last at gone midnight. There were few silent hours, even the small ones.
I’d spent the best part of the previous …

BOOK NEWS: Frank's Wild Years

Looking ahead to the March 2012 launch of Frank's Wild Years, here's a sneak preview of the book cover. An understated little number in matt black, it's the latest in a long line of great Caffeine Nights covers designed by the estimable Mr Mark (Wills) Williams.
For further information about the book, the launch and a newly installed author profile, visit the Caffeine Nights website.


THE CHORDS: I Remember You, Don't Think I Don't Now

 The first time I saw The Chords I was a 16 year old mod at Orpington Civic Hall in August 1981. The Chords were everything I thought a band should be - young, vital, fast and with something to say. Within a month, they’d split. Tagged Jam wannabes by a music press that cooled quickly on the mod revivalist tag once art school boys went west and did the make-up and Dorothy Perkins look, the Chords dropped into the world of occasional appearances on compilation CDs. The band's main writer, Chris Pope, toured with his own outfit trading on a sprinkling of old Chords songs and newly written material.
Cut to a murky night in Sheffield last year. I’m 200 miles from London and the reformed Chords are in town at the Leadmill. Judging by the Omo glow of newly purchased white Fred Perrys in the crowd, I’m not the only one here taking a trip down mod memory lane.  And when the Killermeters, the evening’s other survivors from my (revival) generation take the stage for t…

BOOK NEWS: Frank's Wild Years

As some of you will be aware, publisher Caffeine Nights autumn publications have been re-scheduled for spring 2012. This means that we won't be seeing Frank's Wild Years until next year. As with any delay, there's an upside: this one mainly in allowing more preparation to go into the marketing campaign and getting review copies out in good time.
The unexpected haitus has also given me an opportunity to contribute shorter fiction to a couple of exciting projects: the Off the Record e-book collection put together by Guilty Conscience blogmeister Mr Luca Veste, and the redoubtable Mr Paul Brazill'sBrit Grit 2.

As well as the short stuff, I'm taking a saunter down Turnpike Lane N8 and into the scuzzy underworld of conspiracy with DI Mark Lomax on a re-write of my novel The Paradise Man. I'll also beworking through a stack of research and new interviews and bringing together the threads of the Ted Lewis biography.

Finding ways to make a living as a freelance writer wi…

TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY – From Page to Screen


In John Le Carré’s classic cold war novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and its faithful 1979 BBC adaptation, George Smiley has a classic ‘tell’. In moments of reflection, the man charged with hunting for the Soviet agent buried deep inside the British secret intelligence service, cleans his glasses with “the fat end of his tie”, a character tic inferring that somehow within the multiple layers of his intellect, Smiley has access to a deeper tier of perception than those around him. Le Carré writes and Sir Alec Guinness, the first and until now the definitive Smiley, played these moments perfectly. George Smiley is the elder MI6 functionary, discarded and redundant, whose depth of experience and weary disaffection betrays little, if any, of the workings beneath.
“From the outset of this meeting Smiley had assumed for the main a Buddha-like inscrutability…”
Some way through watching the relentlessly bleak Tomas Alfredson directed cinema adaptation, I realised that Gary Oldman’s George …

DEXYS: New Album

After exchanging e-mails with Jamming! fanzine’s Tony Fletcher last week and possibly timed to coincide with a final disappearance into an early 80s vortex, I learned this week, somewhat behind the news, that Dexy’s Midnight Runners are back in the studio. The band, under the moniker Dexys, confirmed on Twitter.com/dexysofficial that they’re rehearsing and recording a new album – their first since 1985’s Don’t Stand Me Down.

The band posted a message which said: ‘Dexys new album. Can't really say why, because it's hard to put down to any one thing, but it's working – it's early days, but so far so good.’They hope to have the album ready for release in 2012.
A snippet – the first minute of a sweet piece of Celtic soul titled ‘Now’ has recently been posted on youtube. The current line-up includes singer Kevin Rowland and original bassist Pete Williams along with former Merton Parkas and Style Council keyboardist Mick Talbot and guitarist Neil Hubbard. Merton Mick is also …

TOP FIVE BASSLINES OF ALL TIME, EVER, IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE WORLD…this week

Back in the day when I was editing Article Magazine, we used to run Top 5s as a useful back page filler. As time went on, mainly we invited guest interviewees to contribute, and it's an impossible ask, but here's one I dropped in early on, Top 5 basslines:

1.Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury & The Blockheads (Norman Watt-Roy) like a bubbling bass fountain of bassiness.


2.Guns of Brixton – The Clash (Paul Simonon) much sampled, nicked and Simmo gets to sing it too.



3.I’ll Take You There – The Staple Singers (David Hood) Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, tight as it gets.


4.Ceremony – New Order (Peter Hook) from the ashes of Joy Division, etc, etc…but what a way to announce your entrance.



5.Babylon’s Burning – The Ruts (John ‘Segs’ Jennings) a bassline so urgent it makes your teeth ache.


Of course, you may feel differently...

CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP: Character Hints

There comes a point in the fiction writing process when, if you’re on the right track, your characters begin to take on their own lives. It is as if they demand a hand in their own destiny. Of course you can’t just leave them to it – there’s a God complex to satisfy for one thing, to say nothing of a slavish devotion to the twists and turns of the plot you’ve sweated over. But whose plot is it anyway, yours or theirs? The deeper your understanding of key characters, and the further into their lives and motivations you immerse yourself, the more likely the plot will develop to accommodate them, and be more convincing as a result.
As we meet John Le Carré’scerebral, yet unassuming spymaster George Smiley, the physical description hints at a far deeper representation of character.
“His overcoat, which had a hint of widowhood about it, was of that black, loose weave which is designed to retain moisture. Either the sleeves were too long or his arms too short for, as with Roach, when he wore…

FLASH FICTION: Sunday Lunch

Linda turns both plates a few degrees clockwise for one final inspection before serving: prime Scottish beef at two o’clock, seared, slow roasted to perfection, still pink and melt in the mouth tender; twelve freshly minted garden peas arranged like tiny green apostles; opposite these, buttered baby carrots, pan-fried and fanned; a light and golden Yorkshire pudding; four crisp roast potatoes; a swirl of rich, dark jus. ‘Oh Heston,’ she whispers and steadies herself against the worktop.
‘You gonna be much bloody longer?’
For a moment, she had forgotten. ‘Just a sec, Phil.’
Linda wipes a jus smear from the plate’s border, carries it to the table and places it in front of him. She sits, closes her eyes and says a private grace. Oh Lord, for what he is about to receive, make Phil truly thankful. Let him like the food, let him appreciate my work, let him… She opens her eyes and is chilled to the marrow.
Ketchup, HP sauce, English mustard, whole grain mustard, horseradish. The plate is a Pol…