Tom Russell at the 100 Club

There’s a Mexican dead on a power line
He’s deader than yesterday’s communion wine

That’s a good opening for a song by any standards. It’s from Stealing Electricity by Tom Russell. He sang it last week at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, calling his audience ‘bastards’ many times over, as is his wont. Somewhere, I have a weird recital of the lyrics by the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. They include one of my favourite couplets from any song:   Continue reading

Money to burn

I don’t know where I was on 23 August 1994. But I managed to miss an event then, and have managed to go on missing it for the past 23 years. Until a month ago, when I finally read about it. Two musicians, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, best known as the band KLF, set fire to a million pounds in £5 notes on the island of Jura. Burnt them. Destroyed them utterly.   [read more]

Teenage idols

Like any teenager, I had heroes. I’m not talking about pin-ups: that was something different. (Marianne Faithfull and Sandie Shaw, since you ask.) I mean proper male heroes: a sporting hero, a musical hero and a celluloid hero. One of the curiosities of my life is that – thanks to a series of staggering coincidences – by the time I was 20, I had met and talked to each of my teenage idols.   [read more]

You say you want a revolution

Did you say that? John Lennon didn’t when he wrote the song: that’s why his lyrics say ‘you’ and not ‘I’. Most people in Britain didn’t say it, at least in the context of a political revolution. These thoughts and many others occurred, along with a thousand memories, when I went to the V&A last Sunday to see You Say You Want A Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. I may now forget my reason for going upstairs at home, but I remember almost everything this exhibition was celebrating as if it were yesterday.   [read more]

The Red Army Choir

A piece from the vaults, summer 1999, marginally amended

Well that’s three thousand words knocked off today, so I think I deserve a drink. Off to Villeneuve-sur-Lot for une pression underneath the arches. In fact, it isn’t underneath the arches, partly because there isn’t a bar there and partly because I find I am subject to the Lightning Seeds at full volume. I register with relief that the song is not Three Pints Down My Shirt. An England football anthem played publicly in rural France would be beyond satire.   [read more]