Siouxsie Sioux Versus The Beatles

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Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to attend an interview given by Jenny Boyd, author of “It’s Not Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Formerly married (twice) to Mick Fleetwood, and the sister of Patty Boyd (whose ex-husbands include George Harrison and Eric Clapton), Jenny’s writing reads like a Who’s Who of rock. It was Clapton who first inspired her to write the book, when he was “drinking fiercely”, and appeared unable to handle his musical talent. When asked by Jenny if he drank because his “gift” was too much for him, Clapton replied “Yes. It’s like staring into the face of God.” Intrigued as to the extent such talent could influence a musician’s behaviour, Jenny embarked on researching her book, originally her psychology PhD dissertation.

The book is a fascinating insight into the lives and minds of some of the most talented musicians of our time, and something I recommend anyone, who is even remotely interested in music, should read. However, what I want to share with you today is Jenny’s recollection of the time she spent in India, alongside her sister, Donovan (for whom Jenny was the inspiration for his number 5 UK hit “Jennifer Juniper”) and the Beatles, for transcendental meditation sessions with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in 1968.

Jenny recalled watching the Beatles sitting on the roof of their bungalow in India, writing the White Album – something she describes as “creativity at its peak”. She also detailed how Mia Farrow’s sister, Prudence, fell into a drug-induced “psychotic trance” which went on for days. Members of the group tried a number of things to bring her out of the trance, including Jenny playing the flute, and John Lennon playing the guitar and singing to her. The latter is how “Dear Prudence” came to be written.

Although I have heard the original, I must confess that my initial exposure to this song was in 1983, through Siouxsie and the Banshees, and remains my favourite version. Knowing the background to how the song came about, I think Siouxsie Sioux, Budgie and co. captured the essence of the song beautifully. What do you think?

Beyond Gregory’s Girl

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For a generation of women, John Gordon Sinclair will always be remembered as the gawky teenager, who starred in Bill Forsyth’s 1981 coming-of-age film “Gregory’s Girl”. This was illustrated in the Q&A section of John’s appearance at Whitstable’s first literary festival (WhitLit) on Sunday evening, when he was asked if he could write something for those “who loved him in Gregory’s Girl, but don’t like reading crime fiction.” For once, it wasn’t me stuck in an Eighties’ timewarp, and as a big fan of crime fiction, I found John’s appearance not only entertaining, but it gave a revealing insight into his transition from actor to writer.

I refer to John Gordon Sinclair as an actor at my peril. John joked at the outset of his WhitLit debut that he finds the term “mildly insulting”, preferring to consider himself “more as an electrician with an imagination” (his first job in Glasgow was as an electrician). As an audience, we were left in no doubt that acting is something John does to pay the bills, and something he will stop as soon as it is financially viable for him to do so. Writing is his passion, and he feels that “as a writer, you’re the one in charge [which is] a very satisfying position to be in.” John describes his approach to writing as “trying to describe the film that I’ve got running in my head”. This extends to him acting out the roles of his characters in front of a mirror in the shed at the bottom of his garden (his “Roald Dahl” shed), where he does all writing. In an attempt to normalise this part of John’s creative process, he explains that he doesn’t feel so mad when doing so, since discovering that Charles Dickens used to do a similar thing (although not in a garden shed!). However, he does concede that he hopes none of his neighbours happen to walk past during his characterisation performances.

John cites Dickens as one of his influential writers, alongside American crime fiction writer, Elmore Leonard. When writing his first novel, “Seventy Times Seven”, two of John’s characters meet in a correctional centre in Alabama. Whilst researching such facilities, he discovered that one was named Elmore Correctional Centre, so there was no doubt in his mind that this would be where his characters meet. In his second and current novel, “Blood Whispers” John again pays homage to Leonard by naming his DCI Mark Hammond, after a sergeant in one of Leonard’s books. Despite his love of Elmore Leonard’s books, John feels that quite a few of them fall short in their emotional engagement of the reader. “If it’s a crime thriller, I want to be thrilled and see some crime…I want to be manipulated when I read a book or go to the cinema.” Returning to his own writing, John continues “If you shed a tear, that’s the best thing in the world for me”.

As an author, John Gordon Sinclair is as yet undiscovered by me, but as a fan of crime fiction, one I am now keen to explore. This evening, I will begin my newly-purchased copy of “Blood Whispers”, (inscribed by the author, of course!). If Mr. Sinclair is anywhere near as engaging in his writing as he is in person, I know I am in for a crime-thrilling treat.

737334_10203282281129396_751213627579749299_oAbove: Me meeting John Gordon Sinclair after his WhitLit appearance – 11th May 2014

Revision of Eurovision

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Listening to Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 show this morning being broadcast from Copenhagen, in preparation for tomorrow’s Eurovision Song Contest, I was reminded of past entries, about which I thought I had completely forgotten. One of my favourite UK entries was in 1982, when Bardo sang “One Step Further”. They were beaten to the prime position by Germany’s Nicole, singing “A Little Peace”, another song that was etched in my memory. However, it wasn’t until this morning that I was reminded of Sweden’s 1984 entry, The Herreys singing “Diggiloo Diggiley” and Norway’s Bobby Socks singing “Let It Swing” in 1985. Catchy, cheesey pop at its very best!

Even those songs I knew I had stashed in my memory held a little surprise for me. No one was more shocked than I, when I sang along word-for-word to Johnny Logan’s 1980 winning entry, “What’s Another Year?” The more I listened to Ken’s show this morning, the more I realised how much I had absorbed from the Eurovision of my youth. Most of it is Eighties-based, although I can’t write about my Eurovision favourites without mentioning Brotherhood of Man. I may have only been 5, when they won the contest with “Save All Your Kisses For Me” in 1976, but I remember learning and practising the dance routine to the song, with my Auntie Sharon (who will probably disown me now!).

Another Eurovision dance routine I used to know off by heart was the routine to “Making Your Mind Up” by Bucks Fizz, the UK’s 1981 winning entry. This one was ‘performed’ with friends rather than family members though. I’m sure we weren’t the only kids singing and dancing, pretending to be Cheryl, Mike, Bobby and Jay, or maybe living in a remote, rural community meant that we were more likely to make our own entertainment. Whatever the reason, it was a time when Eurovision was still fun, and we still stood a chance of winning. Yes, the Scandanavian countries would vote for each other; yes, we could always rely on Malta for douze points, but a good performance and a good song would still find its way to the top of the scoreboard. Now that the competition is heavily dominated by an Eastern European mutual appreciation society, a return to that scenario is unlikely.

Despite our chances of winning being as likely as Russia giving Ukraine top marks (no reflection of the quality of Molly’s rendition of “Children of The Universe”), I will make a long-overdue return to watching Eurovision tomorrow evening. My enthusiasm for the contest has been re-ignited by this morning’s blast from the past, and with promises of a bearded lady and a Greek rap entry, what’s not to like???

Hair I Go Again

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When my hairdresser asked me to model a Brazilian for him, to say I was shocked is an understatement! As visions of paper knickers and waxing whizzed through my mind, he went on to explain that a Brazilian blow dry was a method of enhancing the keratin bonds in the hair, a long-term solution to frizz, which makes hair smoother and more manageable. As my hair is naturally suited to the Eighties (big, curly with lots of frizz), I took about a nano second to agree to his offer.

The whole process took about three hours, during which small sections of hair are painstakingly covered in the conditioning treatment – no mean feat when your head possesses an abundance of hair-filled follicles – drying, flat-ironing, shampooing and blow-drying. This allowed us plenty of time to discuss the styles of the Eighties, to which my hair is so well-suited. Back in the day, my hair would be blow-dried upside down, with plenty of mousse run through it (to give even more volume to hair that was already as wide as my shoulders), then sprayed into place with half a gallon of VO5 gel spray. If my hair was going to move, it did so as a whole – a sort of curly, hairy helmet! However, whilst my hair was great for styles in the mid to late Eighties, the early part of the decade caused me a lot of distress and hair envy.

First, there was the ‘Lady Di’ haircut, which I would have been hard-pushed to achieve even with today’s serums, styling products and GHDs. Back in 1981, it was an impossibility. That didn’t stop my 10 year old self insisting that was the only style I wanted, giving my poor hairdresser at the time a nervous breakdown, and causing her to lie that I looked “just like Lady Diana”, when my hairdo was more akin to that of Prince Charles’ wavy comb-over. The natural curl in my hair meant that a lot of the hairstyles of the early Eighties were beyond my grasp. The New Romantic one-sided fringe became one big kiss-curl when I attempted it. The only way forward was to go short, and embrace the curls on top. Think of Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore, and you won’t be far from my early 80’s hairstyle.

Although I may have been limited in my options for hairstyle, the choices of hair colour were seemingly endless. My early experiments with hair colour were based around the “Wash In, Wash Out” sachets (mahogany, plum, chestnut) and the pungent-smelling aerosol colour sprays. I remember using the latter on my first “Wear What You Like” day at secondary school, when I showed up with lots of tiny green plaits! I soon progressed to more permanent colour, although there wasn’t much permanent about the way I used to change my mind and my hair colour. One week my hair would be jet black, the next a brassy blonde. How I have any hair left, let alone such thick hair, is a miracle. Which brings me back to today’s challenge to tame my unruly bush (my hairdresser’s phrase, not mine!).

It would appear that for the first time in my life, I have hair that doesn’t make me want to cry tears of frustration. It dried in half the time it would normally take, it’s frizz-free and shiny – in fact, it feels as if I’ve got someone else’s hair on my head! So from now on, unless the David Coverdale circa 1986 comes back into fashion, it’s the Brazilian for me.