Thursday, June 28, 2007

What we really really don't want

Meanwhile, the world needs a Spice Girls reunion like it needs an outbreak of scrofula. This is almost as bad as The Police reforming. Almost.
"For us it's about celebrating the past, enjoying each other and it's about our fans. It was kind of now or never." - Geri Halliwell, today.
Hmmm, never would have been preferable.

Shirley, you can't be serious?

Gordon has only been PM for five minutes and already he's doing weird things. Like asking Shirley Williams to advise on the issue of nuclear proliferation. This is the same Shirley Williams who was a complete embarrassment on Question Time last week, especially on the question about Salman Rushdie's knighthood. In short, she depicted herself as a liberal who isn't prepared to defend the notion of free speech if it upsets a certain faction of Muslims. A pathetic, feeble response, characteristic of the Liberal Democrats who are wetter than a turbot's water tank. Why would we care what her views are on nuclear proliferation? I think we can probably guess anyway.

Big shoes to fill

I can’t believe you’ve gone. After all the rumours, the hearsay, the “will you, won’t you go?” conversations, we now have to get used to you not being around. The country is a different and, I would argue, poorer place for you moving on. I suppose we took your excellence for granted, grew blasé about having you around, thought you would always be there. But it was not to be. You’ve moved on now, never to return and we just have to get used to it. You’ve get a big job to do in foreign lands and, although we wish you every success, we will also miss you enormously. Oh, your place will be filled, for sure, but how does one replace the irreplaceable? You were a one off, a preternaturally gifted individual, a once in a generation phenomenon. We will probably never see your like again.

Thierry Henry, we will never forget you.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hell is 177,499 other people in a muddy field.

I was just trying to think of something worse than paying £145 for the pleasure of spending a whole weekend camping in a bog in Somerset surrounded by thousands of people caked in mud and who knows what else.

But I couldn't, so I stopped.
Why would anyone do this?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sometimes the BBC is worth every penny of the licence fee.

The BBC has many critics. And deservedly so at times. But every now and then it comes up with something that more than justifies the price of the licence fee, and tonight's Question Time could well be such an occasion. Just look at this panel and tell me it's not going to be priceless: both of the Hitchens brothers in one place on national television. Should be lots of fun. Oh, and Boris Johnson is usually good value, too.

Anyone who missed the show but wants to see it can watch the whole thing here on the BBC website (although it will only be up for a few days). Otherwise the entire show is on YouTube in seven parts. Below is part 1, parts 2-7 are linked underneath.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm not condoning sectarian violence, BUT....

It wasn't me. I promise.

But what savagery. He was kicked, you know. In both ankles.

Friday, June 01, 2007

It was forty years ago today, etc, etc, etc, etc.

As everywhere seems to be reminding us, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles is 40 this weekend. Cue a barrage of nostalgic reverence and weepy eyed baby-boomer self-congratulation about "their" music and "their" era. It was the same ten years ago at the 30th anniversary and fifteen years ago at the 25th anniversary and twenty years ago at the... you get my point.

Let's be clear: I love The Beatles, and it would be absurd to deny the relevance of Sgt. Pepper in the canon of popular music's history. The iconic cover, the musical experimentation, the spirit of the age, the Summer of Love, flowers in your hair, make love not war, blah, blah, blah, etcetera, etcetera, yes, yes, yes. The fact is, for all the praise and significance heaped upon it, it really isn't a very strong album, either by general standards or The Beatles' own. They themselves bettered it before (Revolver) and after (The White Album, Abbey Road) and there have been hundreds of better albums made since, too, so I've never understood why Pepper continues to be showered with accolades and spoken about in such worshipful tones, much like that other incredibly over-rated album from the era, Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys.

To my mind, there is only one gold standard Beatles number on the album: A Day In The Life. And that only came about by fortunate accident, given that it was one unfinished Lennon piece intercut with an unfinished McCartney piece and spliced together by producer George Martin. What else do we have? The hideous music hall whimsy that is When I'm Sixty Four (McCartney at his most twee). The cod-Eastern sitar dirge of Within You Without You (light the joss sticks, maaaan). With A Little Help From My Friends: another relentlessly chirpy McCartney composition, thrown over to Ringo Starr much like one throws scraps of old meat to the family dog. Lovely Rita: Macca again with a another oompah-oompah music hall tune and a eulogy to a fucking traffic warden. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds sounds like Lennon knocked it out in about two minutes, ditto Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite! - the lyrics to which were pinched from a Victorian-era carnival poster, as was the tune, which is largely circus music. Well, sorry, but circuses only make me think of one thing: gypsies.

Sgt. Pepper was The Beatles at their most indulgent. Yes, they were pushing boundaries for popular music by breaking away from the traditional guitar-drums-bass formula and yes, the production and recording techniques employed were revolutionary in their time. For this, Pepper deserves recognition. But the songs simply weren't up to much in the first place; it really sounds like they were just going through the motions.

I'll be celebrating the album's 40th anniversary by listening to Abbey Road instead.