Thursday, November 1, 2012

PC's Famous Cure for the Common Cold (and Flu)!

Before I let you into my big secret, my really big secret, perhaps we should first discuss the issue.
So, they can put a man on the moon; they’ve managed to successfully transplant hearts, lungs, kidneys, eyes… well everything really as proven with Billy Bob. On top of which they’ve even managed to not only clone a sheep but also give her a name, Dolly, as well. You’d have to imagine that they cloned quite a few smaller animals along the way on their development process, would you? But humans? I wouldn’t have thought so but on second thoughts it’s always dangerous looking too closely into the mirror.
Anyway, as I was saying, they have achieved all of the above and yet they still haven’t managed to discover a cure for the common cold (or flu)!
I mean, come on… can you really believe such a thing?
No, of course we can’t.
Somewhere out there, there must be large warehouses stocked to the ceilings with boxes of MFC (magic flu cures) and lots of other great ideas/inventions and they’re all going to stay out of our reach, just so we can all serve the name of commerce.
But let’s get back to our flu and cold cure. Just visit any of your local chemists and check the shelves positively laden down with their stash of their winter cold and flu remedies and you’ll realise exactly the commerce at stake which is ultimately depending on no successful cures being discovered.
Personally whenever I visit a chemist and try to discover the name of their best remedy I’m usually advised by a shop assistant - how on earth do they manage to avoid the flu so successfully, particularly after a non-stop stream of flu victims? - that the treatments are all pretty much as good as each other. “Perhaps you should try our own in-house brand?” seems to becoming the popular retort. I discovered 127 OTC (Over The Counter) brands of medication claiming to help tackle all our winter ailments. I imagine when we do get down to it they’re all pretty much created from the same basic ingredients; namely: Paracetamol, caffeine and Phenylephrine, with the caffeine dropped from the “Night” comforters.
It used to be when a new brand hit the market they would be launched and promoted as being capable of working wonders and they’d immediately become the brand everyone was desperate for. For some reason or other all new bands seem to enjoy a certain degree of immediate success. I suppose that could be due to SWT (sugared water theory) where once you feel your ailment is being treated you automatically start to feel better.  With Contact 400 for instance I could actually feel myself feeling better as the numerous (well at least 400 we have to assume) little particles of wonderments worked their way into my ailing system and reciprocated their magic as delayed-action time-bombs continued to be effective long after the time of the initial administration. That was of course until the time arrived for the next dose. You’d have to think thought that if any of the cures were totally 100% effective then sales would suffer. They just needed to be effective enough to give you some respite but, at the same time, not being so effective that you didn’t long for more comfort.
Since then every autumn had given birth to the latest in an ever growing line of miracle cures.
One alternate route to the above 127 OTCs is the evergreen herbal choice. There are clearly a growing number of NDTYSs (no damage to your system) remedies. Let’s see there Enchinacea (a root extract); aconite which works on the principle that if you can drop a couple of these white micro tablets just as the cold or flu starts to raise its ugly head in its gestation period then the resultant increase in body temperature and energy might just beat the little germs into submission. However this seems to me to be similar to saying that if you have a good goal-keeper then you’ll be able to beat Manchester United, which, as we know, just isn’t true. Then there are the expensive Wellness tablets which are billed as: a Herbal Defense Complex. It’s recommended that you take these particular capsules of goodness when you’re feeling good the theory being they’ll build up your defence. Some swear by the Wellness approach, it’s just I’m not exactly sure which swear words they use.    
If you’re like me you’ll start off with the herbal route and when that doesn’t help and desperation clicks in you’ll switch to one (if not several) of the 127 OTCs when you’re happy to pump every legal chemical at your disposal into your system to try and rid your body of the dreaded winter nuisance.      
Some people are still actually even committed to the power of positive thinking.
One old fashioned approach I’m aware of is a hot whiskey mixed with sugar and several cloves. It is recommended you stir the solution furiously and drink it at as hot a temperature as you can bear to. Apparently this approach helps sweat the germs out of you. It has also been discovered that a few of the above drinks will temporarily numb you from your flu, however when you wake up you just might discover you’ve not one, but two ailments to deal with
People already infected with flu do unwittingly help spread the germs via door-handles, sinks, door-bells and knockers, shower and bath taps, railings, bannisters and other common hand-assistants. These germs spread a lot quicker and more effectively than we’ll realise. Just sneeze into an open newspaper and see first-hand from the pebble-dashed pattern just how effective their harvest of germs are; even if you have the manners to raise your hand to your mouth the little buggers still manager to get everywhere.
So what should/can we do to avoid and heal the feared flu and cold?
Well we should wash our hands a lot. We should be cautious about what we touch in public places; mainly toilets, stairwells, lifts, escalators, restaurant tables and chairs, trains and train stations, aeroplanes and airports etc etc., Other forms of protections? I do wonder how far away we are from wearing the face masks, currently popular about the streets and public transportation systems in Tokyo.
“Yes, yes, yes,” you groan, “but what exactly is your cure PC?”
How do you get rid of a cold so common no-one has bothered finding a cure for?
Okay, I’ll tell you.
My magic cure is TIME!
The best cure for the common cold and flu is TIME. The secret to the revolutionary cure is to take the time you need; to allow your body the time it takes to naturally fight off the flue or cold and make your body better again.
And you know what? If you don’t subject your body to various OTCs and cures and leave it to its own devices then my theory is your body, the wonderful creation that is the human body, will fight off all those wee flu bugs all the more quickly.
Of course you can help your body during this process by resting; eating good food; drinking a lot of water and inhaling from a bowl steaming hot water, with a few drops of eucalyptus, while under a towel.
Of course if none of the above works within the statutory three days we recommend you visit your GP asap.
This time while suffering from flu and undergoing my TIME cure...
I read:
Neil Young   I feel he’s saving a lot for Volume Two.
Pete Townsend - Who I Am.  A classic book against which all future 1960s pop autobiographies will be judged. A major achievement.   

And saw:

Manchester United at Chelsea (3 – 2) - the Red and Yellow cards tell the story.
The Imposter – a classic!
Barbara - excellent!
Ruby Sparks – loved it, strongly recommended.
Skyfall – all the chasing along the roof tops seems (to me) to be set in the same location as Taken 2.
Taken 2 – (see above) Liam outbonds Bond!
Liberal Arts - enjoyable in a good way.
The Good Wife 3rd Series - by far the best series yet.
Boardwalk 2nd Series – loving it.
Rookie Blue 2nd Series
Hatfield & McCoys (mini-series) knowing the end didn’t ruin the journey.
Blue Blood 2nd series... it's getting better all the time…

… talking of which…


Top Ten Best Covers of Beatle Songs:


01. Golden Slumbers     Jackson Browne & Jennifer Warnes

02. Blackbird                 Crosby, Stills & Nash

03. With A Little Help From My Friends  - Joe Cocker

04. While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Eric Clapton (Concert for George)

05. Ticket to Ride           The Carpenters

06. Day Tripper              Otis Redding

07. Here Comes The Sun – Richie Havens

08. Eleanor Rigby          Ray Charles

09. Something               Frank Sinatra

10. Got To Get You Into My Life – Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers                     

I really wanted to include the song Isn’t it a Pity, a life affirming version by Billy Preston from the truly spiritually uplifting Concert for George DVD but then I remembered that although it was written by George during the Beatle years it didn’t see the (recorded) light of day until his majestic All Things Must Pass album, but both the song and the entire concert footage are well worth checking out. In my humble opinion it is by far the best live concert footage DVD ever released.

So until the next time,





Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just Like Arthur Brown Predicted...

…or, another way of putting it: why would you ever need to start your record collection on three separate occasions?
But let’s start at the beginning…
Let’s see now, this would have been in the scorching hot summer of 1976 where it was so hot we were building body high pyramids from used Fanta and Coke cans in our small office in Dryden Chambers just off Oxford Street. Dryden Chambers was a Victorian apartment block, one unit of which then served as Asgard’s offices, where, allegedly, some long passed member of royalty housed a mistress or two. All by-the-by of course but at that time I was living in a two floor apartment (flat as it was then, although it wasn’t really a ‘flat’ because it was on two floors) in Dulwich in South London and had two members (and their girlfriends) from Fruupp, the band I was managing at the time, crashing with me.   
Now as I remember it one member of the band, liked to sit in on Fruupp’s gig free nights, sip from a can of larger, chain smoke and eat (very daintily it has to be said) from a non-stop supply of potato crisps and whisper sweet nothings to his girlfriend; but more about all of that later.
On one such night I retired to my wee room in the eaves of the roof space before the rest of them and it was so hot I had great difficulty falling asleep.  39,333 sheep later I eventually dozed off only to be woken up in the early hours by this noise on the roof above me.
My first thought was, “Wow, the hot weather has broken at last, and if the noise on the roof is anything to go by it’s absolutely bucketing down.”
I tried to get back to sleep secure in the thought that now with the weather breaking at least it would start to get cooler and sleep would come easier and deeper. However if anything it actually felt warmer, a lot warmer.
The noise on the roof grew louder and louder to the point that I started to think that the rafters must surely buckle under the incessant pressure. Eventually the rain on the roof sounded so heavy and potentially dangerous that I had to get up and take a look. I was thinking that I couldn’t remember ever hearing so heavy a rain fall before. I opened the curtains, slid up the window and stuck my head out.
Aided by the street lights, the first thing I noticed was that the footpath and street were still bone dry.  Yet I could still hear the rain beating down incessantly on the slates just above me. 
I looked to my right and saw a shower of violent flames.
I thought: Shit the next door’s house is on fire, and I turned, immediately jumped into to a pair of trousers and quickly opened my bedroom door, which led straight into the lounge.        
For my troubles I was welcomed with a wave of livid flames which would have been a lot more destructive to my person if I hadn’t already closed the bedroom window, thereby avoiding a backdraft. I slammed the door shut as quickly as I could, realising immediately, from the smell, that I had singed my eyebrows, although for some strange reason or other my moustache remained intact.
I ran to the window, opened it wide but quickly closed it again as my survival instincts kicked in and I sealed the bottom of my bedroom door using a towel I dampened with a full bottle of orangeade.
I returned to the window, opened it again, stuck my head out and considered my options.
In the circumstances I was surprised at how clear my mind was and as I went through various routes of escape I could hear the ever growing feverous flames wreaking havoc on most of my worldly processions (my vinyl collection and my book collection) proudly and carefully stacked on shelves in the room the other side of my bedroom door.
I reasoned, quite logically I felt, that if I jumped the three floors to the ground I would most likely break both my legs, maybe even do myself a lot more damage but there was at least a chance I would survive. Climbing, or trying to climb, up onto the eaves of the roof above me could result in a 50/50 chance of not reaching it but by such a point I’d already too far committed to be able to safely return to my room, On top of which even if I did make it onto the roof so furious were the flames I’d probably be burned alive.
I took great comfort from the fact that at no point thus far had my short life flashed through my mind. I’d often read that’s what happens to you just before you die but I often considered 100% proof of such a theory somewhat flawed.
“Help.” I shouted.
Well when I say, ‘I shouted,’ I really mean that I said it quite feebly, I mean it sounded very wimpish and more of a question than a request in that did I really need help?
This time I didn’t shout, I screamed no doubt now spurred on by the sound of the mass destruction taking place a few feet away in my sitting room.
“Help, somebody help me, yeah.” I screamed, realising I’d inadvertently quoted Stevie Winwood.
Then I thought that the word, ‘Help’ just might sound too desperate; might just scare off potential rescuers in the quiet suburbia of Dulwich in the south-east of London.
“Hello?” I shouted, trying a new tact. “Is anyone there? Hello?”
A short time later – it could have been two seconds, could have been thirty seconds I didn’t know really – someone ran out of a house just across the road.
The thing that amazed me about living in London in the mid-seventies was just how much everyone kept to themselves. I’d been in that accommodation for at least a year at that point and I hadn’t a clue who my next door neighbours were, let alone who the people from as far away as the other side of the road were. Whereas back in Magherafelt in Northern Ireland, where I’d spent all of my pre-London seventeen years, everyone knew everything about everyone including, but not limited to, their shoe size and the size of their weekly wage packet.
The man on the street below me seemed more distressed than I felt I was. I suppose it was a bit like the situation where the look of shock and horror on relatives’ faces when you come around after an accident, can be more damaging to you than the accident itself.
“What can I do? What can I…”
“Do you have a ladder?” I shouted down through the increasing volume of the crackling flames.
“Can you bang on a few doors to see who has?” I shouted, trying to kick start him into action.
“Oh,” I screamed after him as an afterthought, “could you please ring my doorbell to make sure my flatmates are awake?”
Which he did and he also banged loudly on the door, just in case the electricity was off, I assumed. 
As I’ve already mentioned one of the weird things throughout all of this for me was that I was still going through my logical thought process. I started to think if the man on the ground did manage to find a ladder would it be long enough to reach up to my window ledge. Then, if the ladder wasn’t long enough was he going to go and knock on some more doors and find a longer one.
Someone else ran out onto the street.
“I rang the fire brigade,” she called up. “Don’t worry you’ll be okay?”
I was talking great comfort in her words until she continued with: 
“Why don’t you jump?”
“No thanks,” I replied as if she’d just invited me over for a cup of tea. “I think I can afford to wait a wee bit longer,” I continued just in case she felt I was being a bit ungrateful.
The cavalry - with my best friend Vince McCusker playing the part of Randolph Scott - arrived at this point.
Well that is to say Vince’s head, with no other cavalry in sight popped out of the bay window below me. Vince was the lead guitarist and main writer for Fruupp the Belfast band I was managing at the time and he was living in the room below my room.
His eyes displayed the panic missing from his voice, “Jeez man, don’t worry, we’ll get you down.”
“The flames from the living room are just about to burst into my bedroom,” I shouted, hoping I was fully betraying my state of terror.
His head disappeared.
Okay, I thought, perhaps the panic was too evident in my voice and I scared him off.
I heard his window slide shut but before I gave up on him I heard the bottom section slide open. He then proceeded to climb out onto his window sill, stood up as he supported himself with one arm in the closed section of his window frame. (*1)
“Okay Paul,” he started, his voice now sounding very serious, “what I need you to do is to come out of your window feet first, face to the window.”
“But I’ll never be able to climb in over the top of your window.”
“No you won’t but if you lower yourself down as far as you can, keeping grip of your window ledge at all times, then I’ll get in a position directly below you and I’ll tell you when to let go and then you’ll slide down over the top of the roof of my slated bay window (*2) and as you’re sliding past my window I’ll catch you and pull you in.”
Right, sounds like a good idea. NOT!
I strained in vain to hear the sounds of the proper cavalry, the fire brigade, coming to my rescue but all I could hear was the fire starting to devour the door to my bedroom. Smoke was billowing in through my scorched towel.
“Come on Paul,” Vince pleaded, “we gotta do it, you’ll be okay.”
          I consciously forced myself not to be receptive to any flashing images of my youth. I thought of my mum and my dad though.
I went through all my alternatives: broken legs; broken neck; broken back; burned alive; waiting for the bright red fire brigade with its huge ladders
Then I thought, ‘It just doesn’t matter what I want to do, I just can’t do what he’s asking me to do.’ I felt it was just physically impossible for me to even attempt Vince’s suggested great escape.
As I was thinking this I found myself, in spite of myself, putting my feet out through the window. I then turned around so that my legs were on the outside and my torso was on the inside stomach resting on the ledge of my window, with my head and hands reaching for the floor of my bedroom.
At this point the flames had very sneakily started to break into my room. A quick flash here and a quick flash there, just like an advance party checking that everything was set up okay for them and would be receptive to a full break-through.
I gingerly pushed the remainder of my body out of the window gripping the window ledge with all my might as if my life depended on it, and depend upon it my life did.
So far, so good, as my father has a habit of saying when asked how things were going. Yes, so far, so good for me as well.
By now my knees had reached and were temporarily resting in the rain guttering and so I knew the lower part of my legs and my feet were now visible to Vince.
At this point, and I kid you not, I wanted Vince to be, not Randolph Scott, but Burt Lancaster, as the trapeze catcher (for Tony Curtis) in Trapeze the movie where Mr Lancaster apparently did all his own stunts.
“Okay man, let go,” Vince pleaded.
I tried and tried and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t hear the sound of a fire engine in the distance. I did hear some shouts of encouragement from the gathering crowd in the street.
I twisted my head to the left and then to the right and I still couldn’t see anyone arriving with a ladder, long or short.
The flames were now flowing freely in my room just inches above my head.
“Come on Paul,” Vince encouraged confidently.
“Okay, I’m letting go.”
I thought it would take ages for me to let go of the wooden window frame, if indeed I ever did, but I felt my fingers involuntarily releasing their vice like grip and my body started to slide slowly over the slates until my waist reached the rain guttering.
I came to a halt.
The flames were now streaming furiously out my window above me hungry for fresh oxygen.       
“Push yourself Paul,” Vince coaxed calmly, as I felt his free arm loosely around my ankles. “Come on man, you can do it.”
The palms of my hand were resting on the slate top of Vince’s bay window and with a mind of their own they pushed but slipped back up over the slates as they tried desperately to get a grip.
Slowly, very slowly, my body started to move again, to slide down in the general direction of Vince, and more worryingly, in the particular direction of the hard pathway two and a half floors below.
I felt one of the brackets supporting the guttering cut into my chest, tearing the skin as I slid over it.
Surprisingly it hurt not even a little. Once my head reached the guttering I clawed furiously at it if only to save the skin on my face from also been ripped open.
“Come on Paul, I’ve got you, you’ve got to let go.”
And I did.
For about one and one half seconds I was in free fall and then I felt Vince’s arm catch me under my arms and he pulled and tugged at me aggressively until we both fell head first through his window and into his room.
I passed out.
I came to some minutes later as I was being whisked out of the burning building. One of the neighbours from across the road kindly brought us into their house for tea and sympathy and dressed the wound on my chest. I seem to remember they even put us up for the rest of the night.
The next day I walked around my flat seeing and smelling the exact extent of the damage a fire and three fire brigades can do. I looked out the window and got the shivers as I realised just how much Vince risked his own life in order to save mine.
The fire officer advised us that a cigarette had slipped down between the cushions of a sofa in the living room and a few hours later the house was ablaze.
I’d lost a collection of LPs (including all the Beatles’ albums purchased on release day) and books, all of my clothes and a roof to sleep under but I remember walking around for the next few weeks ecstatic, if still slightly in a daze, but thankful, very thankful to the bravery of Vince McCusker, that I was able to walk around at all, if you know what I mean.
I’ve lost a book and LP collection twice, once in the above fire and one a few years later when my flat was raided and absolutely everything was stolen. What really hurts though is not the actual loss of your records but every now and again you’ll remember a favourite album and you’ll be as keen as a junkie for a fix of that particular music and you’ll search through your new collection-in-the-works and you’ll discover you won’t have re-bought it yet and that’ll make you want to listen to it all the more. Quite likely though those are also the occasions when you’ll be forced to remember what happened to your previous precious copies. Just last week in fact I tried unsuccessfully to put my hands on Little Willie Ramble the classic Demick & Armstrong album.  
*1.  These actual details I didn’t discover until sometime later but I felt it was better to include them at this point.
*2. Vince didn’t actually use the words, ‘top of the roof of my slated bay window’ because it was right there between us separating me from safety, but I felt it helped the narrative here.

And now time for a new feature: A top 10 for each blog and this edition’s top 10 is:


My All Time Top Ten Irish Groups.

01.  Them.

02.  Taste

03.  The Undertones

04.  The Interns

05.  The Hothouse Flowers

06.  The Gentry

07.  Cheese

08.  Grannies Intentions

09.  Skid Row

10.  Blues by Five



This time I’ve seen:

The Titanic Exhibition at the Titanic Centre, Belfast. Extremely well put together, informative, exciting, moving, powerful. It’s a major credit to the team who created the exhibition; it’s up there with anything I have seen on my travels. The iconic centre is most certainly a crowd pleaser and a top of the list of ‘must-visit’ on trips to Belfast. Now when’s anyone going to get around to doing the same with the Maritime Centre the home of Them; the best ever Irish group. (see Top 10 above)


And seen and heard:

The Waterboys at the Iveagh Gardens, Dublin.  An amazing concert at the perfect outdoor venue. It’s really incredible when the audience and band join together in celebration of a body of work. The feelgood factor during the Waterboys’ performance in the gardens was truly sky high. The Waterboys are one of the few acts who have successfully sussed that indoor and outdoor shows are entirely different.


And listened to:

Dexy’s – One Day I’m Going to soar. Great album, beautiful engaging string arrangements and Kevin is not just back on form, he’s on the form of his life; easily worthy of an Olympic Gold.

Abraxas  -  Santana. The best thing about McDaid’s Wine bar in Ramelton is not just the craic provided by the legendary host and raconteur, Mr James McDaid, but also that he has an amazing sound system and every now and then he’ll surprise you with a classic album like this. I hadn’t heard Abraxas for ages and I couldn’t believe how incredible it still sounds!


And read:

Live by Night by Denis Lehanne – he’s just like a jazz musician playing pop music – effortlessly brilliant.

The Vanishing Point by Val McDermid - more twists than a Curly Wurly.  

Stella Days by Michael Doorley.  It took me ages to track this down and I eventually found a great copy with a first edition book but (I assume) a second edition jacket, because it’s got a movie announcement star plonked on the front and post-release reviews on the rear  (all these things matter to book collectors.) Anyway loved the book and still trying to find out where the movie’s is playing. I’m a major fan of the work of Martin Sheen and that’s how I first heard of the book.

The Man Who Wrote the Teddy Bear’s Picnic by JJ Kennedy. It really should have been named after one (anyone) of his father’s other 47 classic hits. For instance Red Sails in the Sunset – a brilliant song and a wonderful title for such a book. Jimmy Kennedy is still one of Ulster’s all-time great songwriters.  Personally speaking I would have loved a bit more insight into his wonderful craftsman-like approach to songwriting. Hopefully someone will get around to such a volume one day soon.

I Am The Secret Footballer – who could it be other than Phil Neville? Of course  there are a few little spoilers to this theory in the book but they could be red herrings! However on the other hand I always remember the Evening Standard had this thing where when someone really famous did something noteworthy like bite of the head of a chicken they would run a front-page headline: “Ozzie bites head off a chicken!” But should it have been a minor celebrity who performed the dastardly deed then the banner would run: “Soap Star bites the head off a chicken.” The point being that Ozzie sells papers but the minor celebrity won’t, so if they hide the story behind “Soap Star” then people will buy the paper to see who said ckicken biting soap star is. Unfortunately the periosn who parted with their hard earned cash will always be disappointed by the lack of status of the revealed soap star. I wonder if someone applied this theory to this book title in that “Secret Footballer” will generate more attention than the name of the footballer would have done.    

The Lost Library by A.M. Dean.  The perfect summer read, a chunky book and great entertainment altogether.


And watched:

Eli Stone Series I & II - writing-wise they really hit their stride in series II

The Good Mother – great TV Drama.

The Good Cop – incredible promising start to a series.


And was heartened by:

the incredible, unselfish, unrewarded work the Ramelton Tidy Town gang continue to do.


And missed:

Ben And Jerry’s fabulous Chunk Monkey Ice Cream.


Until the next time,





Monday, June 18, 2012

The Beatles, Elvis, Albert & Me

“Tell me this, Paul, did you ever meet the Beatles?” is a question I’m infrequently asked.
And, given that I’m such a Beatle fanatic, (I once had a business card which proudly proclaimed: Author, Agent & Beatle Fan) and the fact that I work in the music business, I have to accept that it’s a fair question and a simple one.
The answer however is not quite so simple. Here, let me explain.
Sadly (for me) I’ve never ever met the Beatles as the Beatles; even sadder to say that I never ever saw them perform live.
I did manage to witness all of them performing in concert as solo artists and I also managed to meet three of them post Beatles.
Monaco of all places was where I met Ringo Starr. I was at one of those award ceremonies where you win an award for turning up; equally, and in other words, you don’t get the award if you don’t show up. I was there with Tanita Tikaram, an artist I was managing at the time, and we were hanging around at the run-thought waiting for her turn when Mr Starr approached us, introduced himself, and said he was going to be in big trouble with one of his daughters if he didn’t manage to get a photograph of himself and Tanita together. He handed me his camera and very politely asked me if I’d take the photograph. Tanita, like myself, is a major Beatles fan and was tickled pink by the request.
I also met Ringo at another concert, this time at The Royal Albert Hall when he went out of his way to re-organise the seats around him to accommodate the daughter of a friend of mine who was wheel chair bound. He was incredibly charming, thoughtful and discreet.  
Talking about amazing drummers, Jim Keltner introduced me to George Harrison backstage at an Elvis Costello concert at the Royal Albert Hall. At that point Jim was recording with George during the day, and performing with Elvis, at his six night stint at the RAH, in the evenings. You’re so in awe when you meet a person you greatly admire, that’s it’s all over in a flash.  But I do remember that night very clearly because George was extremely gracious to a few of us and Jake Riveria, Elvis’s manager, asked him if the reason there was a verse on the Awaiting On You All recording on his All Things Must Pass album that wasn’t on the accompanying lyric sheet was because of the content, he hadn’t been allowed to include it. The lyric in question was:  “And while the Pope owns 51% of General Motors and the stock exchange is the only thing he’s qualified to quote us.” George’s diplomatic replied was: “I couldn’t possibly comment.”
John Lennon I never met, but I did see him perform live at the Twickenham studios; he was there to sing and play guitar with some of the Rolling Stones for their famous Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus TV special. I don’t remember much of the performances apart from the audience (including myself) being dressing in these funny cloaks and hats.
Richard Odgen was a publicist for Fruupp - my second management client, but first in a professional, full-time capacity. Years later, many years later, Richard became the manager for Paul McCartney. He rang me up saying that he was keen to put Paul together with some great young writers and inquired who were the great new writers around at that stage.
“Elvis Costello,” I replied without a moment’s hesitation, “Paul McCartney has just got to write with Elvis Costello. It’ll be perfect.”
It took a few telephone conversations of persuasion but Richard took my recommendation and we set up for Mr McCartney and Mr Costello to meet up in 1987 and the resultant co-writes were: the very Beatlish My Brave Face; You Want Her Too, Don’t Be Carless Love and That Day is Done, all of which made it onto Paul’s Flowers In The Dirt album and Veronica, Pads, Paws and Claws on Elvis’ Spike album plus So Like Candy & Playboy to A Man on Elvis’ Mighty Like A Rose album.
A couple of years later I received another call from Richard Odgen. This time he was looking somewhere cool for Paul to play in London, a small club where the former Beatle could do a secret, no pressure, fun gig.  I recommended The Mean Fiddler in Harlesden and several weeks later on May 10th 1991 Mr McCartney gave a legendary performance to an ecstatic audience, which included myself
When it came time for the MPL Christmas lunches that year I was invited by Richard and being the gent he is, he sat me beside Neil Aspinal who proved to be an excellent story teller and extremely generous with his Beatle tales.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this I got to meet my final Beatle. Again it was backstage at the Royal Albert Hall and again at an Elvis Costello concert. Once again Mr Richard Odgen was the link and on this occasion he introduced me to Paul McCartney.
The former Beatle was very friendly and charming.
“And what is it you do?” he asked.
“I’m an agent,” I replied proudly.
“Now that is a good thing to be,” he replied before being distracted by Richard introducing him to someone else.
And the ex-Beatle wasn’t wrong, was he? I mean, just think of all the great people you get to meet backstage at the Royal Albert Hall.
Recommended viewing:
A Concert for George performed at The Royal Albert Hall featuring Paul, Ringo, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Jeff Lyne, Tom Petty and a host of stars in the best ever music DVD.

This time I’ve read:

Murder One by Robert Dugoni - very enjoyable and a very quick read.
Vendetta by John Follain – compulsive reading.
Adventures of A Waterboy by Mike Scott  - excellent volume, beautifully written, I really didn’t want to finish it, but I couldn’t stop reading it. A must read for all.

And seen:

Elvis Costello & Imposters with the Spectacular Spinning Songbook at… yes you’ve guessed it, The Royal Albert Hall, which is where we came in so…  

…until the next time,



Friday, May 18, 2012

What A Difference a Decade Makes

       On the 17th March 2002, following six months of very enjoyable research, I started work on THE LAST DANCE. It was originally entitled THE PLAYBOYS but, as is often the case with my books, during the writing process, THE LAST DANCE suggested itself as the title and it stuck. The main reason for the title change happened when it became clear to me that although The Playboys Showband from Castlemartin was a big part of the story it wasn’t solely a story about the showband. The story was also about the ever changing Ireland during the late 1950s and the early 1960s. And even more importantly it was about Martin McCelland, the lead singer in The Playboys, trying really hard to get it together with his best mate from childhood, the stunning Hanna Hutchinson. As well as the above we also learn about their lives and Martin’s mother Kathleen McCelland; his and Hanna’s other childhood friend, Sean MacGee; Jim Mitchell the owner of Dreamland the local ballroom on the shores of Lough Neagh, and the mystery of what had happened to The Playboys and Martin. So, all told, THE LAST DANCE as a title worked perfectly for me. The first draft took about 9 months to complete.
       I was reasonably happy with it; I liked the story a lot but I wasn’t 100% convinced I’d captured it as successfully as I wanted to. I did a bit more work on it (but not really if you know what I mean) and sent it to my then current publishers. Although they specialised in crime novels, they offered to publish it. They even went as far as preparing a jacket and putting it on the schedule.
       However when I received the proof copy back from them I was disappointed with the editing. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t exactly disappointed in their work; I was more frustrated by my original work. I still loved the idea but I figured I just wasn’t telling the story properly.
       By this pointed I’d completed work on my next Christy Kennedy Mystery, The Justice Factory, and so I suggested to the publishers that they slot that title into the schedule instead of THE LAST DANCE, which was returned to gathering dust on the shelf.
       I thought no more about it for ages and a few books (years) later I signed a new publishing deal, this time with Brandon Books. I’d a few conversations with Brandon’s Steve MacDonogh, about my showband book. He was very keen on the idea and we agreed I’d give it to him when I’d done some more work on it. In the meantime he published two more DI Kennedy titles and encouraged me to start a new series featuring Inspector Starrett, set in Donegal, and he’d published the first two titles in that series.
       Then Steve very sadly passed away in the autumn of 2010 after a very short illness.
I decided not to start another novel until the future of Brandon was resolved. I was up in Donegal for a break and I just love to have some writing work to do to start of each and every morning, so, I dusted down THE LAST DANCE and got stuck back into it as a serious project.
       It was still a story I was very keen to tell having been a manager (I was 15 years old at the time) of a wee group from the South of County Derry called the Blues by Five. The Blues by Five used to play relief to the legendary Irish showbands. During the writing I realised that I might just be unique in the fact that not only was I around in the 1960s but I could remember the times vividly.
       Within a few months the story that I’d wanted to tell had started to emerge and I kept on at it until I was comfortable enough with it that I was prepared to show it to someone.
       I’d met Edwin Higel from New Island a few times over the years. I always got on well with him, enjoyed his company and his honest no-nonsense style and so I sent him the fully reworked and edited version of THE LAST DANCE. He enjoyed it enough to pass it on to Eoin Purcell, his new commissioning editor. Eoin also enjoyed the book and they offered to publish it. I did some more work on the manuscript with input from Eoin and the New Island’s editor, Justin Cornfield. New Island came up with the perfect jacket and here we are nearly ten years to the day after I first started work on the story and it is ready to hit the shelves and primed for those vital e-world clicks.

This time I’ve seen:

Elvis Costello & The Imposters with the Spectacular Spinning Wheel show @ Birmingahm Symphony Hall. Unbelievable! The spinning wheel format means that Elvis and the gang need to have 150 songs (at the very least) ready and available to play at the spin of the wheel. But the really big thing is they just don’t wing their way through the tunes selected by members of the audience, they’re as tight and soulful on every single tune as you’d ever wish them to be.

And read:

Here Comes Everybody by James Fernley – well written insider account of the turmoil that lead to the classic Fairy Tale of New York.
Backstage Past by Barry Fey - warts (big warts) and all story of the early days of the concert promoters scene in USA. Mr Fey, concert promoter for The Who, Springsteen, The Rolling Stones and U2, is not scared of calling it as he sees it and spilling the beans. I imagine there will be a pile of very expensive lawyers sifting through these pages as thoroughly as a colour blind prospector. Conflict of Interest by Adam Mitzner –a great read.
Calico Joe by John Grisham – intriguing story and possibly a great future movie.
A Natural Woman by Carole King - beautifully written, honest and enlightening biography. The Jury Master by Robert Dugoni – another story, which in the right hands will be a brilliant movie.

And heard:

...that Mark Zuckerberg is now supposedly one of the richest men in the world. I suppose it all depends on your yardstick. In my book the richest man or woman in the world is someone who could write God Only Knows; If I Fell; Love Minus Zero/No Limits; Goin’ Back or Astral Weeks.

Until the next time...



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Take a Van in a Band

Van Morrison returned to the joyous showband sound for His Band & The Street Choir album (1971). As a teenager he’d played saxophone with the Monachs Showband before going on to form THEM – Belfast’s best ever group.
Van’s change in direction might have had something to do with the fact that following the intensity of the sound scape of his ground breaking and critically acclaimed album Astral Weeks (1968) and the jazzy overtones of his third album Moondance (1970), it was time for something lighter, maybe even entertaining. It’s also worth remembering at this stage in his career he was, so to speak, still on the bread line, and trying to support his young family. Perhaps, as I say, he also felt it was time to have some fun because by the time he recorded his fourth solo album, His Band & The Street Choir, he had totally immersed himself in the rich, joyful, playful, infectious and (sometime just downright) funny sound of the Irish Showbands.
The change certainly worked big time because, led by the infectious US top 10 hit single, Domino, the album not only received glowing reviews but it was a major commercial success
Several of the tracks from His Band & The Street Choir – namely Domino; Blue Money; Virgo Clowns; Sweet Jannie and Call Me Up In Dreamland would all have been floor-fillers in the legendary Irish Ballrooms. In my new novel – THE LAST DANCE – I named one of the pivotal venues, the Dreamland Ballroom, located on the shore of Lough Neagh, in homage to Call Me Up In Dreamland. In Cleaning Windows from his Beautiful Vision (1982) album Van sings about, “blowing saxophone at the weekend” perhaps referencing his days in the aforementioned Monachs Showband. Mechanical Bliss, which only appears as the B-side of Van’s single Joyous Sound (1977), would have been an absolute perfect song to show off the zany qualities of The Dixies’ comedic and hyper Joe McCarthy.
The first time I ever saw Van perform life was at the Rainbow Theatre, London on Monday 23rd July and Tuesday 24th July 1973). I can remember thinking, “Feck, if he only hasn’t gone and formed his own bleedin’ showband.” Van was accompanied on stage for those two inspired, and yes, even transcendental, career-making performances by eleven musicians. He’d augmented the traditional showband line-up of: vocals; guitar; bass; drums; organ and brass section with a five piece string section. Recordings from these two concerts were (in part) used for Van’s live album, It’s Too Late To Stop Now (1974). Throughout the album we can hear Van using the showband lead-singer cliché (in a good way) of talking to, and encouraging, his fellow musicians during the song In my humble opinion It’s Too Late to Stop Now is still one of the best live albums ever released. Sadly the album seemed to signal that Mr Morrison, in his incessant need to push himself musically, had, for the time being at least, drawn a line under allowing his showband influences to shine through.

Van Morrison’s Top 10 Showband Influenced Songs.

1. Domino - His Band & The Street Choir
2. Jackie Wilson Said - St Dominic’s Preview
3. Call Me Up In Dreamland - His Band & The Street Choir
4. Red Wood Tree - St Dominic’s Preview
5. Cleaning Windows - Beautiful Vision
6. Wild Night - Tupelo Honey
7. Bright Side of The Road - Into The Music
8. These Dreams of You - Moondance
9. Full Force Gale - Into The Music
10. I Will Be There - St Dominic’s Preview.

Then of course he also wrote the song, which if he’d penned half a century earlier would most definitely have been on every showband’s set list as the last dance. I’m talking about Have I Told You Lately That I Love You from Van’s Avalon Sunset CD (2007). Talking of last dances, did I tell you lately that my new novel is called THE LAST DANCE and is set in Ireland in the late 1950s and early 1960s against a backdrop of the world of Irish showbands and in particular The Playboys Showband from Castlemartin?

This time

I’ve seen:
Detroit 187 – another excellent series which, for some reason or other, didn’t make the second round.

And heard:
The Waterboys at the Sage Gateshead – a force of power and beauty and soul.
Henry McCullough & Band at the Bridge Bar in Ramelton and man is he in fine fettle.
The Commitments at the 02 London – a soul revue, on St Patrick’s Night that worked big time.
Alan Bennett at Cecil Sharp House - the national treasure generously shares his treasures.

And read:
The Big Miss by Hank Haney – an insightful and rewarding read.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce - a book which proves that a lot of the times the journey is more rewarding than the destination.

Until the next time…



Friday, March 16, 2012

Take A Man in a Van

Take a man in a van. (Please note a late 1950s Commer seems to work best). Add 7 to 8 musicians; various musical instruments - selected carefully to suit personal taste; an assortment of equipment, and (here comes the important bit) a Binson Echo Unit, which is the key ingredient in the mix. Instruments and equipment all need to be packed carefully and tightly in the rear of the vehicle. Next add some cushions, a few makeshift seats and a keen sense of humour (both good and bad are recommended). Pepper the above mixture with benlang and flavour with several bottles of lemonade, Jacobs’ biscuits, Tayto Crisps and chocolate bars. Leave to stew for 4 hours (or 120 miles whichever is the quicker) and you’ll have yourself a prize winning Irish Showband. Before you deliver you should garnish with a neon light proudly spelling out the band’s name atop the van. The above mix serves 2000 people four or possibly even five nights a week.

The Irish Showbands - with their high musicianmanship and ability to perform note-perfect the current hits from England and America - were a genuine phenomenon. They were so named in the late 1950s when the Clipper Carlton became the first band of travelling musicians to dump their seats and their music stands and start to move around the stage putting on a show. At one point in the early 1960’s at the peak of the showband phenomenon, there were as many as 760 such bands criss-crossing the length and breadth of the land, putting on shows for the new generation.

The perfect timing of this phenomenally successful trend could have had something to do with the fact that it was started by the first post-Second World War generation – encouraged perhaps by the new infectious sounds they were hearing on the wireless. Equally, the dancing craze might have lifted off because the teenagers who came of age after WW2 sensed that The Troubles were just around the corner. Anyway it didn’t really matter what the reason was; no, not even in the slightest. This particular generation just wanted to get out of their houses, let their hair down and dance. They worked hard, were paid little and so they needed to enjoy themselves. And enjoy themselves they did!

The All Time Top 10 Irish Showbands.

1. The Freshmen
2. The Dixies
3. The Clipper Carlton
4. The Drifters
5. The Royal
6. The Sounds
7. The Miami
8. The Capitol
9. The Breakaways
10. The Mighty Avons

The All Time Top 10 Irish Showband Singles.

1. The Hucklebuck - Brendan Boyer & The Royal
2. And God Created Woman - The Freshmen
3. Together Again - Brendan O’Brien & The Dixies
4. Walking The Streets in The Rain - Butch Moore & The Capitol
5. Pretty Brown Eyes - Joe Dolan & The Drifters
6. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore - Brendan O’Brien & The Dixies
7. Every Step Of The Way - Dickie Rock & The Miami
8. The Haunted House - The Wittnessess
9. Tribute to Jim Reeves - Larry Cunningham & The Mighty Avons
10. Buck’s Polka - Clem Quinn & The Miami

The All Time Top 10 Irish Showband Guitarists

1. Rory Gallagher (Fontana)
2. Henry McCullough (Walter Lewis)
3. Tiger Taylor (Billy Brown)
4. Clem Quinn (Miami)
5. Jim Conlon (Royal)
6. Barney Skillen (Clippers)
7. Victor McCullough (Walter Lewis)
8. Steve Lynch (Dixies)
9. Brendan Quinn (Breakaways)
10 Arty McGlynn (Plattermen)

The All Time Top 10 Irish Showband Singers.

1. Billy Brown
2. Brendan O’Brien
3. Brendan Boyer
4. Joe Dolan
5. Brendan Quinn
6. Derrick Mehaffey
7. Cahir O’Doherty
8. Dickie Rock
9. Martin Dean
10. Red Hurley

I hear you ask who is this guy Martin Dean in the All Time Top 10 Irish Showband singers’ list at number nine?

Funny you should ask that.

He was the lead singer with the Playboys Showband from Castlemartin. The Playboys sadly didn’t quite make the All-Time Top 10 Showbands’ list - they were number 11 in fact. The very same Martin Dean (we’re discussing both his professional and romantic life here) and his band the Playboys Showband from Castlemartin and the story about why history hasn’t been particularly kind to them is the subject of my new novel, which is called THE LAST DANCE and is published by New Island in May.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention that it’s a work of total fiction?

All the best until the next time,



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Executioner Rarely Sings a Sad Song

For a long time now I’ve been preoccupied about how murderers murder. How thieves steal and how people who commit crimes, commit crimes. But perhaps the question I should have been asking myself is not how, but why a certain percentage of society does these things.
I mean why would someone feel superior to the degree that they would hurt someone, steal from someone or, top of the list, go as far as taking someone’s life? And perhaps it’s even because this certain percentage of people feels inferior rather than superior that they carry out these malevolent deeds.
You’re at school and growing up with your mates and you’re all getting on fine and then one day one of your mates figures that it is okay/acceptable/permissible to break into someone’s locker and steal either, food, money, books or personal possessions. Why is this so?
Why is this so when it’s sometimes not even the kids who have less pocket money or those who are falling behind in their studies who develop a preference for the crooked way to get by? No, sometimes it’s the smartest or the better off kids who make a unilateral decision to take rather than to earn.
Again, you’re young, you ask your parents for a bike (for bike substitute any one of a number of things, such as skate board, computer games, iPhone, anything that rates medium to high on the covet scale) and your parents, for whatever reason, refuse. So the next day you’re out and about and you see the kid from across the street with the said item; is the only thing in your mind the genesis of a plan to steal the item in question? Or are you the type of person who immediately starts to plan taking on odd jobs and saving furiously until you can afford your own?
Why are some people programmed one way and not the other? Or, again, maybe the question should be: how are some people programmed one way and not the other? Is crime as a result of lack of respect for the victim or (even) the criminal suffering from a lack of respect for themselves?
I have often been confronted, as I imagine every crime writer must, by the question: What would be a valid believable motive for someone committing murder? Or even, going down a little further down this road: what can I come up as a believable motive for murder?
And you sit and you think, and you think some more about it, yet I’ve rarely ever been able to put myself in a mind-set where I actually believed: okay, if I had been subjected to those set of circumstances I could actually have committed a murder. Of course I’m excluding all circumstances of self-defence in my flights of imagination.
One of the reasons I write crime novels is to try and get a handle on crime and criminals and (mainly) the impact and mechanics of taking a life. I have come to the conclusion that there is little chance of understanding the process.
From Norman Mailer’s masterpiece, The Executioner’s Song, we learned that Gary Gilmour ran around Utah, leaving literally a trail of blood behind him as he popped his gun at people dropping them without even the slightest apparent thought of remorse. And then closer to home there’s the Rothbury tragedy in 2010 where an ex-convict indiscriminately shoots people as he drives around the picturesque village on his rampage.
Both of these murderers seemed, to a large degree, to be preoccupied by a legend; their own legend in fact. But did they really both believe that behaving as they did would benefit themselves in their lives?
The bottom line in both cases was that, pure and simply speaking, both their lives were going to be over, come to a wretched premature ending. It could be argued that heaven or hell wasn’t really going to come into it for either of them because when they died that was most certainly the very end of the line for them. When you die you hit the big full stop; you cease to be and, like the proverbial dead parrot, you’re over, kaput, lacking in life and no longer in a position to either take pleasure from, or benefit from your actions. Had they already concluded that when it gets down to it and they were standing on the bridge of their own death, that the lives they had lead would have made no difference whatsoever in the big scheme of things?
So, is the answer punishment? Well obviously not. That system clearly doesn’t work apart from maybe even adding to the buzz. Don’t get me wrong I’m not for one minute suggesting that we do away with trials, punishment and prisons but it seems to me the people who are prepared to commit the crimes we talk about would also appear to be the same people who genuinely feel they can get away with their choice of crimes and so… the problem we have to address is not how people commit crimes but, as we mentioned at the top, more why they commit them.

And now the bit before I go…

This time I’ve seen:

We Bought A Zoo
J Edgar.
Margin Call
The above four plus The Way (with Martin Sheen) definitely deserve to take all the Oscars.
Jack and Bobby DVD - amazing US TV series, once again I found myself asking the question why, oh why, was it pulled after only one season? Maybe it’s more a case of everyone is out of step apart from our William.

and read:

Michael Lewis – Moneyball
Michael Lewis – Boomerang
Michael Lewis – Liar’s Poker

And heard:

Nick Lowe – an absolute tower of strength – at the Stables, Waverdon.

Until the next time,