So many celebrity deaths in recent years, but this one has really hit me on a very personal level. On the surface, the Monkees might have been a manufactured band with a daft TV show, but their music had a very profound impact on me as a child.
When my sister and I were little, we were given our dad’s old record player when he got a new one. It was one of those old-fashioned boxy turntables with a built-in speaker, and one of the very first records we had to play on it was a Monkees greatest hits album.
We must have driven our parents mad with how much we played it – it ended up much loved and completely scratched to death (we weren’t very good at looking after our vinyl at such young ages!).
Indeed, listening to ‘A Little Bit Me A Little Bit You’ on YouTube this afternoon, my brain still anticipated the point in the song where our record always used to skip. The fact that my subconscious does that more than thirty years later says a lot about the impact that record had on me!
With that battered old slice of vinyl, Mickey, Mike, Peter and Davey instilled in this music mad little girl a love of pure melody, harmony and perfect pop that remains to this day, and for that I am profoundly grateful.
Peter Tork, you will be missed.
Rock ‘n’ roll got a little less rock ‘n’ roll yesterday with the passing of the one remaining member of Mötorhead’s classic lineup, guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke. Guitarist for the band’s first six albums, he was responsible for the killer riffs that defined the band’s sound – most famously the driving, ferocious riffing that is the foundation of the all-time, stone-cold classic ‘Ace of Spades’
There’s no point in trying to intellectualise a band like Mötorhead, and why bother? Their blast volume music crossed the punk/metal divide with ease, and the classic line-up of Lemmy, Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor and Fast Eddie created a rock ‘n’ roll legend the likes of which we will never see again.
So turn the volume up and enjoy their simultaneously silly and kick ass version of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates ‘Please Don’t Touch’, recorded with the queens of eighties metal, Girlschool (a collaboration amusingly titled Head Girl), and let us hope the three of them are creating a noisy racket in a rehearsal room somewhere in rock ‘n’ roll heaven right now…
RIP ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke (1950-2018)
“To all who pass that they may see, Rock ‘N’ Roll was a part of me”
– Nik Cohn
There is no easy way to say this…our mighty, noble friend Lemmy passed away today after a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer. He had learnt of the disease on December 26th, and was at home, sitting in front of his favorite video game from The Rainbow which had recently made its way down the street, with his family.
We cannot begin to express our shock and sadness, there aren’t words.
We will say more in the coming days, but for now, please…play Motörhead loud, play Hawkwind loud, play Lemmy’s music LOUD.
Have a drink or few.
Celebrate the LIFE this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself.
HE WOULD WANT EXACTLY THAT.
Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister
Born to lose, lived to win.
For anyone who grew up on metal or punk, Motörhead were one of the ultimate, all-time legendary bands. And their frontman Lemmy was one of the ultimate, all-time legendary rock ‘n’ rollers. They simply don’t make ’em like him any more. Personally, I always thought he was immortal. I’ve always had this image of the aftermath of whatever apocalypse destroys us all: Lemmy and Keith Richards sauntering out of the smoke and debris and cockroaches with a couple of crates of bourbon, a guitar and a bass…
“No-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away – until the clock he would up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.” – ‘Reaper Man’
They say you should never meet your heroes. Many years ago, I met one of mine, and he was lovely. Terry Pratchett’s wonderful books have been a part of my life for more than twenty-five years, read and re-read with genuine pleasure. The world was a brighter place with him in it. I only met him the once, but he was every bit as friendly and kind to his fans as you might expect. My signed copy of Witches Abroad is one of my most treasured books.
When he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, we all knew it would happen some time – but the announcement of his death at the age of 66 today just seems so brutally unfair and far, far too soon. Like so many fans, the world over, I shall miss him terribly. I shall miss the delight of reading a new Discworld novel, that razor-sharp sense of humour, that fascination with humanity in all its forms, and, of course, all those dreadful puns. He will be missed beyond measure.
Oook (said sadly).
Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
– as teacher John Keating in ‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989)
Advice for us all, however old we might be. And his life was extraordinary.
Robin McLaurin Williams: 1951-2014.
Rest In Peace, Genie.
Aw, damn. That’s the end of an era then – no more Ramones. Tommy Ramone, the last remaining original member and founder of the first generation punk legends has left the building, aged only 62 (some reports say 65). Admittedly, that’s a fairly good innings for a Ramone – of the classic, original line-up, vocalist Joey died in 2001 aged only 49, with bassist Dee Dee dying the following year at the age of 50 and guitarist Johnny following in 2004 at 55.
Born Erdélyi Tamás in Budapest, Tommy Ramone moved with his family to New York in the mid-1950s, where he met the three young men who were to become Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee Ramone. Originally the band’s manager, he ended up as their drummer because, as Dee Dee later put it, “nobody else wanted to”. Never the world’s most technical or complex drummer (which, quite frankly, didn’t matter one bit), Tommy provided a solid backbeat to the band’s first three classic albums, Ramones (1976), Leave Home (1977) and Rocket To Russia (1977), as well as handling co-production duties.
He left the band in 1978, ostensibly worn out after constant touring but really because the tensions within the band had become too much for him, although he continued in a management and production role with the band for some time after. He continued to play music and produce various bands until he was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. He died yesterday, at home in Queens, New York – and the classic line-up of the Ramones was finally reunited in rock ‘n’roll heaven….
The Ramones were one of those bands who had an enduring and powerful influence above and beyond their (lack of) commercial success. Never big sellers in their native America (their self-titled debut only went gold earlier this year!), but that debut album had a huge and lasting pivotal impact on the early British punk scene before being picked up by cult American bands such as Social Distortion, Bad Brains, Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, Ministry and Bad Religion. They’ve been cited as an influence by everyone from Evan Dando, Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder to Green Day, Lemmy and Kirk Hammett – and the list goes on and on and on.
It’s easy to hear why they were (and still are) just so damn influential – particularly on those legendary first three albums. Their deceptively simple yet distintive and immediate sound is impossible to resist – or to replicate, although many have tried. It’s that unlikely and irresitable melding of 70s rock, 50s rock ‘n’ roll, girl groups, surf music, bubblegum pop, and classic protopunk bands like The Stooges and The New York Dolls that made them so utterly wonderful. For me, they were unique, one of the definitive punk bands with a sound and an attitude that still makes me smile every time I hear them. It is genuinely sad that they are all gone now – this really is the end of a great musical era.
RIP Tommy, Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny.
Gabba gabba hey!
Here are a few words of wisdom from the pen of a very wise woman:
If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.
Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
The writer of these words, Maya Angelou, who has died at the age of 86, was most certainly an amazing person (and, incidentally, she was quite right about “trying to be normal” – there’s no such thing…). Best known as a writer, academic, award-winning poet* and civil rights activist who worked with both Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, she was, at various times and amongst other things, also a successful actress, singer and dancer. Described by her family as “a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace”, Maya Angelou was certainly a woman who lived her life with passion, compassion, humour and not a little style. She will be missed.
Some people are born to be troublemakers – in the best possible sense of that word. The veteran Labour politican Tony Benn, who died yesterday at the age of 88, was certainly one such. The kind of trouble he made was the kind of trouble many more of us should make in this life: he was prepared to stand up and say what needed to be said, usually in no uncertain terms, and often much to the discomfort of the government of the day (and even his own party, at times).
While reading the many tributes that have been made to this principled man in the immediate aftermath of his death, I was reminded of the role he played in paying tribute to someone else, another determined and impassioned individual who stood up for what they believed in – the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, who is remembered by an unusual memorial plaque in the House of Commons (see text below). I first encountered the story of this once secret plaque and Benn’s part in it from the MP and ex-Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, who told it at a Climate Rush event commemorating the suffragettes in 2010, and it has intrigued me ever since:
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
EMILY WILDING DAVISON
IN THIS BROOM CUPBOARD EMILY WILDING DAVISON HID HERSELF, ILLEGALLY, DURING THE NIGHT OF THE 1911 CENSUS.
SHE WAS A BRAVE SUFFRAGETTE CAMPAIGNING FOR VOTES FOR WOMEN AT A TIME WHEN PARLIAMENT DENIED THEM THAT RIGHT.
IN THIS WAY SHE WAS ABLE TO RECORD HER ADDRESS, ON THE NIGHT OF THE CENSUS, AS BEING “THE HOUSE OF COMMONS”, THUS MAKING HER CLAIM TO THE SAME POLITICAL RIGHTS AS MEN.
EMILY WILDING DAVISON DIED IN JUNE 1913 FROM INJURIES SUSTAINED WHEN SHE THREW HERSELF UNDER THE KING’S HORSE AT THE DERBY TO DRAW PUBLIC ATTENTION TO THE INJUSTICE SUFFERED BY WOMEN.
BY SUCH MEANS WAS DEMOCRACY WON FOR THE PEOPLE OF BRITAIN.
Notice placed here by Tony Benn MP.
“I must tell you, Mr Speaker, that I am going to put a plaque in the House. I shall have it made myself and screwed on the door of the broom cupboard in the Crypt.”
It’s a great story, but it’s more than that. It says a great deal about the kind of person Tony Benn was. A tenacious and principled man who was happy to speak his mind, as the very fact that he was so determined to commemorate this event (even secretly) – and that he considered it to be important enough to memorialise – shows. Like many from across the political spectrum, I have long admired the principled stance he maintained all the way through his political life – and this memorial to Emily Wilding Davison is but one example of the way his democratic and socialist principles were so important to him.
I never met the man himself, but I saw and heard him speak at countless rallies and he was always fascinating. I suspect we might not always have agreed on everything had we ever met, but, quite frankly, that really doesn’t matter. The accounts I have read over the last twenty four hours from those who did meet him all point to a man who was fascinated by people and who would always find time to speak to those who buttonholed him – and, unlike most modern politicians, who would really listen to and absorb what he was being told, whether he agreed or not.
Tony Benn was the kind of politician you just don’t see any more. Writing in The Guardian yesterday, Gary Younge points out exactly what it was that made Benn the kind of politican we should see more of:
He advocated for the weak against the strong, the poor against the rich and labour against capital. He believed that we were more effective as human beings when we worked together collectively than when we worked against each other as individuals. Such principles have long been threatened with extinction in British politics. Benn did a great deal to keep them alive.
And it’s now our job to continue to keep these principles alive in the face of the current political climate…
No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
Nelson Mandela 1918-2013
A remarkable, inspirational life well lived.
Rest In Peace.
I was really saddened to hear today that Adam Yauch, better known as MCA of the Beastie Boys, has lost his fight with cancer. I’ve long been a fan, and I’m old enough to remember the exhilarating rush of the bratty, adolescent, punky white-boy hip hop on their controversial 1986 debut album Licensed To Ill – all the boys in my class at school secretly coveted the VW badge chains the Beasties wore in their videos!
Most critics saw the early Beasties as a bit of a joke, but after the release of their astonishing and hugely influential second album Paul’s Boutique in 1989, a fair few of those critics were forced to eat their words.
And since then, the Beasties haven’t stopped creating amazing, era-defining music – I DJ’d for a while at uni in the mid 1990s, and vividly recall the chaotic dancefloor reaction every time I dropped ‘Sabotage’, the massive lead-off single from the 1994 album Ill Communication…
And it wasn’t just the music. MCA, who was a practicing Buddhist, and the other Beasties took a principled and cultured approach to what they did, involving themselves in activism for social justice causes as well as creative projects including film production and distribution.
After a life like that, it is sad to think that a man who inspired so many, who produced some of the most memorable and groundbreaking music of the last 25 years, and who tried to live his life as he believed to be right should die at the stupidly young age of 47, leaving his wife and daughter behind.
He fought for his right to party – and inspired several generations in the process. That’s a pretty cool legacy.
RIP MCA – you will not be forgotten.