Oh Han, put me into hyper drive, the way you used to do…

What you see, is what you get.

All the real fans who give a toss will have seen Star Wars The Force Awakens by now. And to those who haven’t seen it, by your very actions, it’s obvious that you’re not really arsed, but I still have to do this


I’ve already discussed sexism in Hollywood, and we’ve all seen what a terrible mess it is. Injustice doesn’t come into it, it’s horrendous, but ageism, oh my goodness, now there’s a can of worms, there’s a bargepole no-one will touch. Why, because it’s sticking up, in luminous yellow and undulating like the Alarm Meanies in Yellow Submarine. It’s the huge pink elephant in the room. These Hollywood big shots, these movie moguls, these polyester patriarchs (cashmere I know) just look what they did to Han Solo in Star Wars, The Force Awakens? It was like Euthanasia. Ageism at work. Why the hell didn’t they make him grow old a little more gracefully? Okay then, disgracefully. Beforehand, I had one of those dreaded sneaking suspicions. I sort of knew it was going to happen, I had the inkling, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit. Why? Well, because he’s over fifty, and if you’re over fifty in the movie business…At least, please, let him grow old I said to myself fretfully, don’t cull him, don’t cull any of them just because they’re getting on a bit. Oh, wait, you did? My worst fears were realised. I guess I’m too late, and even if I’d have got there in time, I still wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it.

Here’s a guy who has been flying the Millennium Falcon for about fifty years now, lovingly, O.C.D-ishly, manically, lustily even, and then, some snotty nosed kid comes on board, who has never seen its innards, and suddenly starts telling Han how to fly it. Okay, he’s been away a while, but this man knows EVERYTHING there is to know about the Millennium Falcon. He’s an EXPERT. He would have made love to it, if it would have been physically possible. He would have married it and had its babies. So they better not start telling me he’s forgotten how to fly it, or what buttons to press, ‘cos he’s always known how and where to press her buttons.

Just because he’s mature, does that mean he’s not quite up to scratch ? His mental faculties are not at optimum, is that what they’re telling me? That does not ring true with Han, simply because this is a man who has full control of his faculties.

Even though, every pirate and business associate in the universe, are all swarming after him, for debts and favours, in a DELUGE, he’s roguish enough to swindle them and avoid them which makes him competent mentally, in fact, makes him sharper than you’re average guy. He has game and if you’ve got game, you’ve got guile, and if you have guile…you have NOT FORGOTTEN HOW TO FLY THE MILLENNIUM FALCON!

In Star Wars, Episode VI, Return Of The Jedi, Lando Calrissian ‘borrows’ The Falcon for a Saturday night date, (yes I know, not really, but how cool would that have been) and he assures Han that ‘it won’t get a scratch’ and ‘no snogging in the back seat.’ Han replies, in what was to end up, a classic quote from the movie, ‘I got your promise now, not a scratch.’

Now does that sound like a man who, thirty years on, or so, would then allow the Millennium Falcon to get into such a state of disrepair? I don’t care if, during his mid life crisis, he forgot about his ‘oneitis’ (which, by definition, cannot be forgotten really). I don’t care if he bought a red sports car, an electric guitar, a leather jacket and a 18 year old Miss Corellia Coast beauty pageant winner, he would not abandon and neglect his beloved ship. (The Star Wars land, Corellia, is forest and jungle terrain but ‘Corellia Coast’ has such a nice ring about it).

Nowadays, they kill you off before you get your first liver spot.

Are people so afraid of death that we can’t have old people on the silver screen, for a long time, with lots of lines, having meaningful and important roles, that last through to the end of the movie?

So if Han would have lived, perhaps he would have smelled of wee and start wearing purple, who knows.

Come on, let’s give the up and coming stars of tomorrow a chance. We’ve had our day. It’s a young man’s game. It’s not like the forties any more, where twenty year olds would happily be played by fifty year olds. I’m sure that trend will come round again someday.

Until then, the desert is a great training ground, making brilliant pilots at such a young age.

Luke needed many months of training by the great Jedi master Yoda, before he got up to Rey’s standard and she’s barely out of her teens. It’s not like the old days, when skills got learned over time. Luke didn’t know how to spit in a bucket when he left Tatooine. People need a bit of green in them, so we can see the difference later on (I think it’s called growth) but Rey is successfully playing the Jedi Mind Tricks now. And yet it took Luke, what, five years of serious intense training with Yoda, on the Dagobah System, to achieve the same results?

Apparently, it’s fine to be an amazing pilot and learned mechanic, even though you’ve been barely irking out a living as a desert scavenger and can barely afford to eat. Nice to see that hunger and homelessness doesn’t get in the way of self teaching quantum physics, engineering and propulsion, and of course, don’t forget, what took Han Solo many, many years, learning the ins and outs of The Millennium Falcon, took Rey just a few seconds.

No-one likes a smart arse.

Even if she’s a girl.

So, if you’re over fifty, you will either be patronized, humiliated, killed off, given a couple of lines and forgotten about for the rest of the movie. Or, if your name is Mark Hamill, and you’re obviously over fifty, you won’t appear until the last five minutes of the movie. But I’m sure you’ll be in the second one, as you’re bearded and wiser now and a new Obi Won Kenobi. Get used to it.

I hope in the next movie, we are going to see General Leia kicking someone up the arse, telling someone they stink, to their face, and that they are a little too short for a storm trooper, and start swinging off ropes in the Death Star. I was genuinely disturbed by the fact that Leia implied that she had been sitting home night after night waiting for Han to come home to her. He says I know that you missed me, I know about the pain of missing me and that’s why I did it. I was surprised this powerful intelligent confident woman was waiting at home, pining for a man, to turn up, who gleefully enjoys ‘stirring anxiety.’ Of course, Han is a P.U.A, naturally. And then I saw that Han had gone from playfully misogynistic to seriously misogynistic.

Is Chewie going to go off on a big revenge thing or is he going to be resigned to an old Chewie home, which would be consistent with getting rid of the old, and bringing in the new.

I was woefully mistaken in my hopes that we would see some swashbuckling action from Han, in the whole three movie franchise adventure…instead of what actually happened.

What a fool I was.

As I say, it’s a young man’s game. Look at this doddering old man who can’t even start up his own ship. Let’s all laugh at him. Let’s look at the fact that he’s seventy odd and his memory is going. Let’s put that across, so we can then do a spot of euthanasia. Then everyone will think, well, we had to do that really. We had to put him down. It wasn’t fair on him.

Now, all these spring chickens in this movie, will happily attract other spring chickens to the cinema, as they have lots of spare cash and can make the film companies lots of dosh.

Don’t get me wrong, the new up and coming young actors in it are great, and you can see that they have a wonderful future ahead of them. Rey, Finn and Kylo are going to be wonderful in this new saga and will end up as iconic as Han, Leia and Luke. A new generation.

Harrison Ford as Han, is an iconic figure with so much mileage, but they have decided to kill off their golden goose. Han has been slaughtered and euthanised by Kylo. Let’s waste him, in favour of the young ‘uns. Youth is the thing.

Your grandparents are only good for one thing. Presents.

It would have been better if Han would have retired and played golf instead of being impaled like that. He may have made the finals of the desert golf championships on Tatooine. He does look a bit like Severiano Ballesteros, who was supposed to be the Han Solo of the golf word, but he is obviously more like Jimmy Connors, who was well known as the Han Solo of the tennis world in the early 80’s.

There’s another point. Han, at his age, and in his experience, would not still have two bit Chav gangsters coming after him, at this stage in the game. At his age, he’s have more seasoned rivals, more like himself and more in line with his level of experience and skill, which would have been gained by the time he was seventy. He would not still be in dealings with some teenaged gang on a street corner in Mos Eisley.

We keep banging our heads against a brick wall in our lives, sometimes…often, but we learn from our mistakes, even though we keep making them, but..surely Han would have moved on… in some way, somehow…It just doesn’t ring true.

There’s nothing wrong with Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, so why are they saying he’s forgotten how to fly his beloved Millennium Falcon and this child has to tell him how to do it? Humiliating in the extreme. Listen Rey, you’re a nice kid and all, and somewhere along the line, you’re going to defeat ultimate evil, and stop the destruction of the universe, but don’t teach your granny to suck eggs okay?

It doesn’t ring true. I know, I keep saying it. This guy has social skills. The only thing they keep, of the original Han, is his contrariness, which unfortunately, now that he’s getting on a bit, just comes across as ‘Grumpy Old Man’. They should have put him in a smoking jacket, a silver fox, puffing on Eldorian cigars and drinking sand cider. He married a Princess for Goodness Sake. He married Princess Leia. He would have come up in the world in some small way. He’s been conning the inhabitants of this mythology for a very long time and gained a great deal of experience. By the time he’s seventy or so, he’d be a dab hand. He’d have written a ‘How To Win Friends and Influence Jakku.’ manual, at the very least. I think he would have even run for president. He’d have gone up, on the democratic end, against Arnie of the Star Wars Universe, and probably won.

It would have been nice to see him moving on. Everyone changes and matures with age, even if it’s just into more alternative chaos, or denial that you’re no longer an 25 year old smuggling space cowboy. We all evolve into something, even if we’re losers, or in denial, or won’t/can’t grow up? (This is resonating with me)  But we all evolve with time. We have to. He’d have changed, a little. Was Lucas pandering to his fans? Or rather J.J Abrams? That was exactly the case, he has said that, in a round about way, I can see where he was coming from, but, I was upset that Han has not moved on, has not ‘progressed’, has remained frozen, as if he was still back in carbonite, in 1984 in Jabba’s Hutt‘s Palace.

And he would not be in the same garb,  we all love that garb, it’s the sexiest garb ever, but he’s older, we’re older. I’m not ready to grow up either but we all like consistency. He would not be wearing the exact same clothes. What if Marilyn Monroe had lived until she was 90, would she still be wearing that iconic white dress, from the Seven Year Itch, the one she wore while standing above the Subway air vent on Lexington Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Street in New York City?

No…and only when she was alone in her bedroom, with a few sherries under her belt.

I admit at first, I liked the idea of Han in his black and white space cowboy stuff, because it appealed to my safe sense of nostalgia. How lovely and warm and fuzzy but fashions and trends change, even in space. Would you be wearing the exact same clothes twenty years on, even in space?

Even men don’t do that.

We all know people who stand still, but not like this.

It just doesn’t ring true to his character that he would let his beloved ship gather dust bunnies like that. It also doesn’t ring true that he would owe all these space gangsters money and favours and they would be still be trying to kill him? He’d have come up with strategies by now. He’d have evolved, surely? Had people to take care of more pedestrian business. Unless, we are really trying to say that he’s a  loser, who doesn’t learn from his mistakes, or hone his game? That he was in his dotage and he doesn’t know how to turn ‘her’ on any more. And we’re not saying that, are we?

HAN: Yes, I pressed all the right buttons in my youth but it’s all slippers and afternoon game shows from now on.

You can’t please all of the people all of the time I guess.

But you can still pull a lever and press a button. You can still turn on the Millennium, can’t you, Han?

Okay, so we have encountered extreme ageism in this new saga, so far, but that’s okay, Ageism won’t cause a riot yet will it? It’s not yet politically incorrect to be ageist. It’s not going to get people’s backs up. So, we can let it go and no-one but no-one, will be character assassinated for ageism. So ageism will exist…in your face.

Apart from that, I genuinely liked everything else about the film, especially the fact that this new up and coming young Jedi is a girl. How non sexist! Oh, how forward thinking.

As Geena Davies might say, thanks for the tokenism boys, but will it actually be sustainable? Will it go anywhere? Will it be nothing more but the false girl power of yesteryear, a lip service, an opium of the masses, just to sedate the ladies for a short time? Oh look, a girl is going to be a Jedi! Well then, that should keep us satisfied for the next twenty blockbusters and for the next twenty years. Phew. Good to get them off our backs. Not that they were ever really seriously on them.

Now, after a nice quick patronizing pat on the head, we can sit back and relax girls. Surely we should be happy now. Something to be grateful for. Forget the revolution. Rey is the next Luke Skywalker!

All is well with the world.

Or is it?

Some of us might have thought thought sexism was a problem, and it is.

They way the older, iconic stars were treated in The Force Awakens upset and offends me, and it feels isolating, like no-one else can see it, but it was expected and that’s what is really disturbing.

But, I guess, we ain’t seen nothing yet.


Whatever Happened To…Bernard Sumner

bernard sumner
The fact that I look like Stan Laurel in this photo, is neither here nor there.

I’m going to say one thing about Bernard Sumner, if I don’t say anything else, and that’s…I like him. He seems like a likeable guy. I could be wrong, but I just read his autobiography, Chapter and Verse, and not only was it informative and insightful, regarding his years in Joy Division and New Order, but Bernard comes across as…a very down to earth, reasonable person. The kind of guy you could have a pint with, down your local, and end up thinking, ‘Oh, that was a really nice evening. We had an intelligent, amiable night, we talked about intelligent, amiable things, in a very civilised way.

‘Life shapes you, and what life does to you, shapes your art.’

– Bernard Sumner- Chapter and Verse.

I may have completely got the wrong end of the stick…according to, perhaps one other former band member, ahem, who I won’t mention…well, not yet. In fact I’m afraid to speak his name. We’ve gone into old school nineties horror here. Just like you don’t say ‘Candy Man’ three times while looking into a mirror, you also don’t say ‘Hooky’ three times into a mirror, not even a cracked one. Oops, I said his name, but only once, I will mention it again later, but you see, in his defence, he thinks differently and he sees things differently. There are always two sides to every story and I will address that, in time.

In the first section of the book, Bernard talks about his upbringing and mostly he has favourable memories of growing up in Salford and remembers it as a happy time. He has many poignant and thoughtful insights about growing up and his sometimes troubled relationship with his mother. Chapter and Verse is also a fast paced, well written account of Bernard’s musical journey from the seedlings of Joy Division to the full bloom of New Order.

Joy Division were formed in 1976, one of the very many bands to be inspired by a performance of The Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester on 4 June 1976. Makes you think about the mathematical impossibilities, considering all the people who were supposed to be there, which would actually total 1,000+ by verbal accounts, That appearance spawned a generation of legendary bands, which is strange, because there were only around forty people there. Fortunately for Bernard, he was one of them, along with Tony Wilson and Paul Morley.

‘Punk and The Pistols blew a sneering path through the middle of all that puffed up musical pomposity.’

– Bernard Sumner, ‘Chapter and Verse.

Joy Division were originally named Warsaw, loosely named, after Bernard heard ‘Warszawa‘, a beautifully haunting instrumental album cut from David Bowie’s ‘Low’ album, (1977) co written by Brian Eno (had a huge effect on me too) The band consisted of singer Ian Curtis, guitarist and keyboardist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris.

‘I was relieved to get a call from someone, (after placing an ad for a new band member) who wasn’t a weirdo,  or a mad hippie.’

‘He’s a drummer (Steve Morris) and drummers are odd people. They like hitting things for a living.’

Bernard Sumner- Chapter and Verse.

Tony Wilson signed Joy Division to his Factory Records label and they released Unknown Pleasures in 1979. The producer of the album was heroin addict, and Sméagol impersonator, Martin Hamnet, a musical and creative genius (think Mancunian Trevor Horn)  with some social interaction issues. As the band’s popularity grew, Curtis, who suffered from similar problems, including the obligatory interpersonal issues and epilepsy, found it increasingly challenging to perform live. The album was a success, but on the eve of the bands U.S tour, in May 1980, Ian Curtis committed suicide.

‘He said he felt as if he was pulled inexorably into a great big whirlpool. I didn’t know what he meant by that.’

Bernard Sumner. ‘Chapter and Verse.’

Ian married young and had a wife and a baby. When success came, and all that went with it, including late night parties and social opportunities, he embarked on an affair. He had never thought it through, but by then, it was too late, it became impossible for him to make a decision. Damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. There was no way out. And so he chose what seemed to be the only way out.

The album Closer was released in July 1980, it would be the second and last Joy Division album. A song from the album, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart‘ was released as a single shortly after Curtis’ death.

In the empty but restless void of bereavement, New Order was born. It seemed Bernard was the next natural vocalist for the newly named band. He could never fill Ian’s shoes, but then, he never wanted to. He went where he was gently nudged. But where he was gently nudged, seemed to work very well.

Steve Morris’ girlfriend also joined the band, Gillian Gilbert, playing keyboards and guitar.

Movement‘ the first album from New Order was released in the winter of 1981. At the time, it received a lukewarm reception, but has since, received much more favourable reviews. Like men and wine, it has aged better with time, and in 2008, the album was re-released in a Collector’s Edition with a bonus disc.

Their fifth single release as New Order was Blue Monday, 1983, which became the biggest selling twelve inch single of all time.

Power, Corruption and Lies‘ was New Order’s second album, released in the Spring of 1983, and unlike their first New Order release, was much more positively received. Mainly because it was seen as an album which cut New Order’s umbilical cord to Joy Division’s past. No more tied to the apron strings of Curtis’ legacy, New Order was finally able to run wild and free.

The band went on to release eight more albums and many compilations.

It was around this time, Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton put their heads together and opened their  brain child, The Hacienda. It was financed by Factory Records, Tony and …er… revenue from New Order’s success, much to the bands surprise. For the basis of their ambitious dreams, Tony and Rob chose an innocuous warehouse on Whitworth Street West on the south side of the Rochdale Canal. The nightclub was active between 1982 and 1997, celebrating the upcoming trend of acid house and rave music. One of the first artists to perform there was Madonna. She faced a bored, restless, and typically hard to please, northern crowd.

While indulging Tony’s latest fantasy, albeit a guileless and genuine attempt to put Manchester on the map, the coffers of New Order and Factory Records, began to haemorrhage money.

Not that Bernard didn’t enjoy the spoils…

‘I started drinking far too much before gigs. Afterwards, I felt relieved I’d got through it and would drink even more.’

Bernard Sumner- Chapter and Verse.

This wasn’t just during gig time, the nightclub was open from Thursday through Saturday and Bernard and other band members were a permanent fixture at the bar, enjoying every square inch of it, but his Halcyon days in the Hacienda, were about to come to a timely end.

‘I’d been burning the candle at both ends for so long, the flame had finally reached the middle.’

Bernard Sumner – Chapter and Verse.

By the nineties, gang related violence, and a drugs related death, put an end to The Hacienda. When local magistrates and police visited the club in 1997 (I believe it was on a Saturday night when these middle aged, tea-total pillars of the community came round, and, witnessed (through their mini bus/car windows), a near-fatal assault, on an eighteen year old. They saw him being bludgeoned from behind, before being pushed into the path of an on-coming car.

It spelt the end of The Hacienda. It was a combination of the violence, oh, and maybe, just maybe, the dwindling finances, the security services who were unable, or unwilling, to maintain order, the rampant drug use, but mostly, mostly, the inability for anyone to pick up the nightly bar tab.

Peter Hook went on to own the name and trademark, ‘The Hacienda.’

In 1989, Bernard joined up with Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr to form Electronic. Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys provided vocals to  a couple of  tracks on their debut album.

‘Bernard got him (Marr) in the divorce.’

Peter Hook. (A humorous and entertaining interview that puts Hooky in a good light…finally.

In 2007, Bernard formed Bad Lieutenant with Phil Cunningham. They released one album and two singles. Bad Lieutenant sound like New Order on amitriptyline. A more mellow, relaxed, laid back version of New Order, which is what you need, and, sometimes want, in your more mature and responsible years. I’m not sure that’s selling it. Hey, but this is good for the ears, whatever age, or rebellious persuasion. Bad Lieutenant calmly and coldly suffocates mid life crisis, with a well placed, well upholstered pillow.

Runaway is a lovely example.

Now Bernard has quite a bit to say about his former band member Peter Hook, and visa versa. It’s the age old story, creative peeps get together, they create ‘art’ together. When they get together, there is a certain chemical fusion and things are good, things gel, for a while, but then something goes wrong. Bonding creatively, through the good times and the bad,and, living in each others pockets in a very short and intense amount of time, well, it takes its toll. After all that, perhaps it’s not so strange when creative harmony suddenly becomes creative differences.

Hate is a soup which takes time to stew.

I can’t say too much about it, because I haven’t seen the other side yet. It’s important to get the other side of the story, as we said before. Peter Hook has written two books about his experiences in the music industry, Unknown Pleasures. Inside Joy Division and, The Hacienda: How Not to Run A Club. I haven’t read either but I will and perhaps review and be able to provide a neutralising and balancing effect to what I’m about to say now.

(When Peter Hook came out of Rehab)

‘Out of nowhere, Hooky launched into this unprovoked , finger jabbing diatribe against me, accusing me  of f****** up his past, intending to f*** up his future and telling me that I was responsible for everything that has ever gone wrong with New Order.’

-Bernard Sumner, Chapter and Verse.

In the book, whether deliberately or inadvertently, Hook comes across as an alcohol dependent,  angry and unreasonable man.

In this new frame of mind, or perhaps old, Hooky announces publicly, without informing the other band members, that New Order has split up.

‘I’ve neither the desire for, neither the intention, of being drawn into a public slanging  match with him but it’s difficult sometimes, especially with some of the more outlandish claims and slurs, calling me highly offensive names in the press. He still seems determined to perpetuate this imagined rivalry.’

Bernard Sumner- Chapter and Verse

Imagined rivalry? You see, that suggests to me, that it is not altogether imagined. If one person is disgruntled then it’s already a reality for one person and the other person is simply choosing not to acknowledge that reality. I think what we have here is simply two very different styles of communication. Hooky is, by nature,  more upfront and confrontational, Sumner is more introverted and sensitive.

When he’s not making music, Bernard enjoys taking to the sea in a shallow boating vessel. Yachting helps him relax and connect with nature. We’re talking about a family man here. Relaxed, content and finally at peace with himself.

Bernard comes across as an imaginative, intelligent, down to earth, live- and-let-live individual, with a fair amount of integrity and creative talent. I can’t speak for Candy Man right now, but I will, because, as I keep saying, there are always two sides to every story, and when we properly analyse each side, it will help keep the gossip mongers away and help prevent character assassination. Maybe.

‘They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.’

Psalm 64:3

I think these two like each other, they just don’t want to admit it. They went through so much and not just the shock and bereavement of Ian’s suicide. They made great music together. They need to give it up and shake hands. When creative types work together, it can be absolute HELL, but it’s the nature of the beast. Life is short and these guys aren’t getting any younger.

And the fans, well, they hate the fact that they’re having a go at each other and the vitriol doesn’t seem to dilute, even over many years. In fact it just gets seems to grow stronger.

‘I’m looking after myself better. I’ve given up getting f***** up all the time and, as Jimmy  Cliff sang, I can see clearly now the rain has gone. Shit does happen in life, but you can get over it. Don’t let it defeat you. And with that, I think we’ll leave my story there.’

Bernard Sumner – Chapter and Verse.