Quote Of The Week

‘You have to believe in yourself even when others don’t, or you won’t achieve anything.’

Billy Idol Dancing With Myself

Whatever Happened To Barry Manilow?

Gorgeous Barry

I’m a Barry Manilow fan. There, I’ve said it. Do you want to make something of it? Would you like to take it outside?

I’m defensive, it’s true but ONLY Barry Manilow fans know what it’s like to be a Barry Manilow fan. For instance, if you were really into him in the eighties, you may as well have put a target on your front and back and said ‘I like Barry Manilow’ and you’d have been like a porcupine within seconds and no mistake. I was nearly beaten up for liking him at school and was sometimes actually physically attacked at his concerts at age 13 and 14 by other fans for accidentally getting in the way of their view of Barry. ‘Move bitch!’ Whack. So, physical violence was being offered whichever way I turned. Ah, those were the days.

It’s fine and dandy to be a Manilow fan these days, for the most part. Where I came from and the time I came from, it never was. We all know what it’s like to be hated, bullied and ridiculed because of the music/bands/singers we’re into but it really was a different ball game when it came to Barry. It was seriously UNCOOL to be into him or his music in the British northern town I came from. So uncool as to be offensive. So uncool as to evoke physical violence. Now, if Barry can evoke such polarization, he must be seriously cool. Who wants to be lukewarm?

In the ‘backlash-seventies’ eighties, it was hell to be into Barry Manilow. At a time when drainpipe trousers were in, it seemed as if Barry was still wearing flares, but people were still wearing flares in 82. I think I may have been, but it wasn’t a choice, it wasn’t voluntary flare wearing by any stretch. To my shame, I do have my shallow moments, and I do remember wincing at his pink flares back then, but by about 1984, no more flares. He was flare free.

Being into him now, is no big deal, because he’s seventy something and people have gotten tired of criticizing him, or perhaps gotten too old to care. He should have been accepted decades ago when he was a relatively young man. When I say young, I mean forty, when he’d been in the music business for twenty years already. and famous for about ten. He came to fame and fortune late, at around thirty. He remembers the moment when he got famous. It was when Mandy went to No. 1 in the charts, which would have been around 1974. He’d already paid his dues by then. He wasn’t an overnight success. He was seasoned even then. The Americans accepted him a bit more, not just because he was home grown but because they appreciated him! He also did well in Japan (but who doesn’t) and other European countries. In Britain, he was something of a cult. He was loved, or loathed and there was no in between. The loathers were obsessed, they protested far too much. It’s like that whole thing going on with online trolls. If you don’t like it then don’t watch the video etc. but people still watch and comment. The critics were usually white, middle class males. The hatred and jealousy back then was palpable and distressing for people who really liked his music.

When I was fifteen, I discovered punk music and Bowie, but it didn’t lessen my liking for Barry’s music. I went to one of his concerts with a blue, green and pink buzz cut, eyes like a raccoon on speed and a P.V.C mini with chains and studs. I swear he stared at me for the longest time when the lights went up. He was trying to work out what I was. Then, he smiled at me. My finest moment.

I was so fed up of people telling me that I couldn’t be into Barry, Bowie and The Sex Pistols at the same time. I didn’t know what to say or how to explain it but I felt lonely and isolated because no-one else felt it was possible to be into two different genres at the same time. It’s almost like we’re not multi dimensional, or we haven’t got an imagination, or we’re just one trick ponies. ‘I’m a metal head and I will always be a metal head’ scenario. Actually, I do know people like that (metal heads who are only ever going to be metal heads) and good luck to them but where did this thing come from where people have to be one dimensional, either just into this, or just into that? It’s not good to mix the labels up. It confuses people. It was nice when John Lydon said he liked Barry. Well, not liked him exactly but respected him for being authentic. He never tries to be anything he’s not, said John. It could be seen as a back handed compliment to some, but Lydon’s like that. That seems to be a quality that is being more valued in in this current climate. It’s become so refreshing to see authenticity, that sometimes it’s become a quality that is valued before others, despite the nature of the beast. How many fascist dictators have been ‘authentic’, probably all of them. They don’t beat about the bush about what they want or what they are, yet, that doesn’t lessen their evil much.

Back to the point, I never needed or wanted John’s respect or admiration or even acceptance and visa versa. I didn’t like the prejudice on either side, as Barry demonstrated by once making a joke about punks. He said, ‘I can’t imagine running my fingers through some girls green hair.’ Well, that hurt me a little because I had green hair at the time, but it all worked out well in the end because Barry didn’t like girls that much. I liked Rotten and his music, yet I liked Barry. However it was nice that the Prince Of Punk finally acknowledged one of the best songwriters of our time.

Now, I have the perfect come back, for the ‘you can’t be into this music and that music at the same time, it’s just not possible!’ I say, ‘I recognise and appreciate a good songwriter/musician when I see one and that pans across genres.’ But as luck would have it, I’ve never been asked that age old question since I’ve had a good answer to it. Or maybe it’s because people aren’t as antagonistic in middle age. When you’re a teenager, people are always trying to rub you up the wrong way. Or maybe it just feels like that, or maybe it’s because youngsters are overly sensitive, or because they’re young.

I’m not going to make this post a springboard for all of Barry’s singles, albums, records, music awards, specials, concerts and life time achievements. That would be boring. I mean if you’re not a fan, it wouldn’t mean anything. Even though I’ve just spent ten minutes uselessly fawning about him. And that’s ten minutes you will never get back.

And you don’t want to turn it into twenty minutes more because he has so many singles, albums, recordings to get through…and you would think I’m being sycophantic, but I will say this, unless you’ve investigated an artist fully, listened to at least two of their albums, and not their ‘Greatest Hits’, you’re not really in a position to have an full bodied and unbiased opinion regarding them. And who in their right mind is going to listen to two albums of every singer/band they come across? I mean there really isn’t the time. When people are asked to name Barry’s records, they can only mention five or so, the usual suspects, they usually can’t get it up to ten, yet Barry has recorded/written/and composed hundreds of songs.

Barry got me through so much early teenage angst, probably stopped me from committing suicide and The Sex Pistols definitely stopped me from going bat crazy and committing suicide. I love all these things out there that stop people from committing suicide. What does that mean, when a person’s creative works stops another person from committing suicide? That must mean there is something beautiful, hopeful and miraculous in their works?

Well, for me, punk music AND Barry Manilow were incredibly instrumental in my life and inspired me in my creative life beyond anything I thought was possible. Music has its uses and it doesn’t have to be uniform. We don’t know the value of our creative input. We think it blows away in the wind, but it really doesn’t, can’t. Music, words, painting, dancing, performing…we don’t know the effect it has. It has a domino effect that is far reaching. And before we start judging others on their musical preferences, perhaps we should take a look at how peoples music choices make them feel and how it helps their life, gives them joy, happiness, inspiration, makes them want to live, gives them hope. I’m not going to list Barry’s musical accomplishments or give endless links, because if you want him, you will find him. Maybe you’ll check him out with a fresh eye, or say, it’s not for me. Don’t curb your enthusiasm, just curb your prejudices.

Sometimes we believe our own creative works means nothing to other people. How dare we? How presumptuous. Our ego tell us, in a weird ‘about turn’ that we are worthless, that no-one will want to read, or be interested in what we write, or make, paint, or create. We apply that UNCOOLNESS in our lives every day. So when you wake up and write things that you think are uncool and no-one else will want to read, or dress in a certain way, or you feel like a freak, or a misfit and nothing you say seems to come out right. Don’t apologise any more, for anything you write, paint, create, for the way you dress or the awkward way you interact with people… no more sorry, okay?

And what’s this got to do with Barry Manilow?

He made me feel I belonged. It’s the Ugly Duckling Scenario and he’s been there, and it’s in so many of the songs he wrote/writes. Like Bowie, Barry was writing songs about alienation, as well as the love songs he is well known for. He has recorded songs about estranged father and son relationships, suicidal housewives, prostitution, pimps, showgirls, murder, infidelity, celebrity meltdown, and just general meltdown. He even wrote a song about a conspiracy theory.  Bermuda Triangle. Not many musicians can say they’ve done that, not even Weird Al Yankovic.

Even when Barry does write love songs, he usually likes to have a fly in the ointment, something to shake it up. One of his anthems to Geekdom and Alienation is All The Time, an ode to the underdog, to ‘losers’ the world over. We listened, we empathised, we gained comfort.

All The Time

So, I haven’t actually answered the question. Whatever Happened To Barry Manilow?

Barry was earning a living writing music well before he was famous. He wrote scores for musical plays in the sixties and wrote jingles for commercials in the seventies for acne creams and band aids and  home insurance. Instant glamour. He has also written commercials for Japanese companies.

He worked with Bette Midler at the Continental Baths in the early seventies. That’s when he got his big break, when she let him do a solo spot on one of her tours.

Whatever Happened To Barry Manilow? Nothing. He’s still here. He is still going strong. Still talented. Still wowing audiences. Still making music. He has concert dates, in London, booked as far in the future as Sept 2018, so… this is a guy who is not slowing down any time soon. Maybe we should take a leaf from his book. Optimism, enthusiasm and a lack of presumption. This boy’s gonna go far.


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.

Johnny Rotten Delivers


One of first things I said when I grasped John Lydon’s newest autobiography firmly in my hands is, ‘Oh, what a tome it is!’ The print isn’t very large either and those words, small little beggers, packed tightly in like sardines.

Reading this book Anger Is An Energy – My Life Uncensored became a never ending pleasure, and there are not many of those around, unless you count the sado masochistic Simpsons Tapped Out game, although fortunately, playing it affords a little more pleasure than pain of late.

Yes, so, as I was saying, it was never ending. It was bottomless, like a large Costa’s coffee or a Kate Moss look a like, just no arse in it.

So the first conclusion I came to was, here is a man who likes to give you your money’s worth, a bit like Ken Dodd.

Now, a long time ago, I read John Lydon’s  first autobiography, ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.’ but what with the getting old bit, and the occasional glass of wine thrown in, and all the things in my head, my recollections of it are a little bit hazy, but I do remember it as a cracking good read. What I also remember, is the sexy sandwich incident, which frankly makes me feel quite queasy, but like all unpalatable things, quite literally in this case, it’s indelibly imprinted in my mind. You see, if Glen… cough, I mean the person who allegedly is eating the sandwich, is consensual, i.e knows exactly what’s in it and wants to eat it, then that’s fine, but it wasn’t above board and that’s just bullying that is. Not cool, not clever, just sly and creepy and no-one likes a creep, except him or herself. Is that the only thing I can take away from that book, the sexy sandwich bit? Oh Good God, no, but yes, it was a good read and if you haven’t read it and you want to know about the sexy sandwich bit, (my words) then you’ll just have to acquire a copy. I’m not going to get into the in’s and out’s of it…

This guy, John Lydon is not pretty vacant, but he could be a witty vagrant. He’s got so many things in his head. He could join my ‘Things In My Head’ brigade. Although I can’t image him wanting to join any club. Maybe I’ll make little badges, like ‘Blue Peter’ badges and send them out. Not elitist or anything, as that would defeat the object. I don’t go in for all that ‘I don’t want to belong to any club who will accept me as a member’ nonsense.  That’s just a very succinct example of self loathing. There’s enough people in life who will quite happily hate your guts already, don’t add to it by hating yourself. Some balance is needed.

Anyway, I’m perversely getting off the point here. John Lydon has a least another ten autobiographies in him. In some rather bizarre fantasy of mine, I see him writing a novel based on his life experiences, but to protect the innocent and not betray a confidence, he presents the truth as fiction, and people would then read between the lines. A great way of getting round court cases and people who might sue and other consequences to the bald truth. He would present the truth but be protected from it, and protect others, as it’s a ‘work of fiction’.

For instance,  there were a few potential little revelations in John’s book regarding Nancy’s death. Oh, he didn’t say anything untoward, just inferred things regarding circumstances, ‘cos understandably, he doesn’t want to accuse, slander or libel parties…or die horribly and violently. There was talk about people owing serious amounts of money to drug dealers. If they can’t get the money from you, they’ll destroy you. Puts me in mind of another former drug addict, the lovely Danniella Westbrook. I think her drug of choice was cocaine, but in her autobiography, The Other Side Of Nowhere, she talks about how cocaine almost destroyed her.

She has publicly talked about how she owed £5,000, to drug dealers.  Not a large amount of money in the business world, but a devastating amount in a drug baron’s world. As John says in his book, these people cannot be seen to be humiliated, they have to uphold a certain reputation.  It’s all mafia style stuff really. It’s about slavedom, selling your soul. Your soul is theirs. But the fact remains, you do owe them money and they will take what you owe any way they want, need, feel they have to.

Danniella Westbrook has talked about how she was gang raped when she couldn’t repay her drug debt, as a warning to others, part payment, partly to get something back, whatever, the reasons why they did it, lust, revenge, warning, perhaps a culmination of all three, who knows…it’s horrible, but unfortunately, from the moment you owe them money, your arse belongs to them, make no mistake.

Anyway, I will waffle no more. For people have places to go and people to see and you’ll never get this five minutes back. Or maybe ten if you’re a slow reader. This book of John’s contains heaps of new information. He doesn’t rehash old stuff from his first. There’s a very, very small section where he repeats a little about his early childhood, but that’s good in itself, like the beginning of an serial episode, that might remind people what happened in the last one. I just see this as a continuation, a way of connecting and knowing we’re still talking about the same person.

He introduced me to the Calypsonian, Lord Kitchener and that wonderful record Dr. Kitch. Once I’d found him, I came across similar artists like The Mighty Sparrow and The Roaring Lion and then there’s Judge Dread, who parodies these older artists. Lord Kitchener and his ilk are, to my unschooled ears, a blend of Kid Creole and The Coconuts with Benny Hill on vocals. It’s Carry On Calypso. It’s reggae on speed with double entrendres.

Calypso, for me,  has a hint of  New Orleans jazz, which in turn reminds me of The Smoking Time Jazz Club, who perform on the streets of New Orleans, direct to the people, during the day. In the evening, if you’re lucky enough to be in New Orleans amongst this wonderful music, you can check them out at the Spotted Cat. I must have danced to their version of West End Blues, many, many times. In my bedroom. Not in New Orleans but I was there in spirit, you understand.

I love the bit in the book where Lydon talks about the band ‘Faust’ and their album ‘The Faust Tapes’ Not many prepubescent or teenage British working class kid in 1973 could afford to buy an album. So we all bought singles instead but this band Faust decided to make an album and sell it for 48p, the same price as a single. I was three at the time but I reckon I would have bought it had I been a little older. I just have this image of all these joyful teenagers going to buy it, finally feeling like they’ve beaten the system. Or, not even that, just that feeling of ‘I’ve been given a break for a change.’ Hey, 48p was still a lot of money in those days.

Now that to me is politics in action. That’s creating social change. Granted, it’s a small change, but it’s a change in action.

The irony of it was, the album was classed as a single, due to its selling price and not allowed to enter the album chart. Okay, granted, the cynics say it was a marketing idea to boost the sales of a fairly unknown band, but, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours and then everyone’s happy. It introduces a sense of community spirit.

Billy Bragg did something similar in the eighties, and I believe is still trying to uphold that. Once you get into all that though, you have to sustain it and people expect more from you.
it’s like ‘Oh, you not on the side of the working people no more Bill?’ Just cos he might want to charge the going rate for something so he can pay his rent/mortgage, send his kids to school or whatever. The problem is, once you set a precedent people won’t cut you any slack. They want your balls on a platter.

Don’t let that put you off being kind and considerate and altruistic. There are so many rewards from that. You won’t necessarily see them straight away and you might not want them, you’re not in this for rewards, but all I’m saying is, just being nice, once in a while, is never ever a thankless task.

I bought an album of Billy Bragg’s in the eighties. It was called ‘Brewing Up With Billy Bragg‘ ‘Pay No More Than £3.99’ was printed on the cover, so no funny stuff.  That made me feel so snugly and warm as an perpetually cold and undernourished 16 year old loser. Oh, the after glow. You get the feeling that someone, somewhere is doing something to actually change your life for the better. You feel cared for in some small way and yet they’re not related to you and there is no salacious motive involved. Again, it’s a small thing, but when strangers  do things like that for other strangers, that has reverberations and it’s a manifesto.

Unfortunately, most manifesto’s don’t deliver their idealistic promises but an out to lunch band like Faust, Billy Bragg and others can make teenagers who are hungry for music, in fact in every sense of the word, feel a little less alone, or at least a little less isolated.

Who said keep politics out of music? There’s politics right there and it’s helping ordinary people for all the right reasons. Some people say that it threatens the music business and it may very well, which makes sense for these things to be done occasionally, as a novelty, to help both parties, the seller and the buyer.

After looking up some of these bands for the post, I noticed that Faust, Billy Bragg and John Lydon all have something in common. Richard Branson. During the time of their fixed price promotions, Faust and Billy Bragg were both being managed by Virgin records and of course, The Sex Pistols were under Virgin for a time.

This is what John does, he puts even more things in your head and then inspires you to branch off on your own into all this delicious research. Anger Is An Energy essentially promotes discussion, about music, about politics, about human nature, about lots of things, whilst also being a fully entertaining and very informative read, definitely a thumbs up.