Recommended Read: Frank Sidebottom-Out Of His Head by Mick Middles

The mind of Chris Sievey was clearly a treasure trove – indeed, a veritable Aladdin’s Cave – of bright and shiny ideas, many of which, thankfully, came to fruition. Most notably in the effervescent forms of The Freshies and Frank Sidebottom.

The Freshies were a brilliantly eccentric power pop/ new wave band who cheekily surfed the Manchester pre-punk, punk, and post-punk scenes, and came painfully close to success with a bouquet of great singles such as ‘I’m In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk’ and ‘I Can’t Get ‘Bouncing Babies’ By The Teardrop Explodes.’

Sievey’s later creation, Frank Sidebottom, was a surreal half-man/ half-puppet version of George Formby whose anarchic performances enlivened kids television shows and late night TV alike in the ‘90s, and whose live shows seemed to have garnered an strangely obsessive fan base. When Chris Sievey died in 2010, however, he left behind a hell of a musical legacy that showed the he was more than just a novelty act.

Out Of His Head was written by Sievey’s friend the journalist Mick Middles and is as intoxicating and sobering as Sievey’s life seems to have been. The book’s timeline spans more than a quarter of a century and includes cameos from Sievey’s family and friends as well as the likes of Mark E Smith, Steve Coogan, Jon Ronson, Caroline Aherne, Chris Evans, Mark Radcliffe, and, er, Bros.

Frank Sidebottom – Out Of His Head is a fascinating and bittersweet read, and is very highly recommended.

out of his head

Elton Motello vs Plastic Bertrand

jet boy jet girl

Elton Motello was the pseudonym of singer- songwriter Alan Ward who released the single ‘Jet Boy, Jet Girl’ on the Belgian record label Pinball in 1977.

plastic_bertrand_ca_plane_pour_moi

The exact same backing track was simultaneously used by the Belgian performer Plastic Bertrand – which was a pseudonym of musician, songwriter, producer, editor and television presenter Roger François Jouret – on his mega-hit single ‘Ça plane pour moi.’ Bizarrely the actual vocals on that particular recording were performed by the co-composer Lou Deprijck, so I’m a tad confused at to what ‘Bertrand’ himself actually did! Anyway, have a listen to both and see which one tickles your fancy!

 

Gerry and The Holograms

Gerry meet the disisidents

Manchester post-punk band Gerry and The HologramsCP Lee and John Scott – released their debut single Meet The Dissidents on Absurd Records in 1979.

The ‘theme song’ – ‘Gerry and The Holograms‘ – clearly served as a blueprint for New Order‘s mega-hit Blue Monday, though neither band seems to have admitted to this!

Later the same year, they released their second single, ‘The Emperor’s New Music‘, which was literally unplayable. The record was actually a badly pressed Slaughter and The Dogs record that was glued to its sleeve.

They became one of Frank Zappa’s favourite bands. They eventually released an LP in 2017.

A Drink with Shane MacGowan

 

a drink with shane

‘A Drink with Shane MacGowan was a new form of chat show hosted by the notorious Pogues frontman, and commissioned in the 1990s by Channel 4 arts supremo Waldemar Januszczak. However, they never broadcast this anarchic debut featuring live music, lively discussion between actors, writers, and musicians, pizza, and a fair few drinks…

Featuring in this episode: Johnny Depp, Traci Lords, Joe Gores, Chris Penn, Sy Richardson, Del Zamora, and music from Los Lobos, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Homewreckers.’

Poetry: My Theology by Ian Copestick

As I walk the streets, my aches
Remind me that I’m passing middle age
The wear and tear the body
takes
This skin, bone and muscle cage
That we work so hard to preserve
Yet still we yearn to transcend
We know there must be more than this Earth
And simple death can’t be the end
I guess I’d say I’m an agnostic
With just a touch of the nihilist
If you see me praying, I’ve lost it
Or I’m completely pissed
Bio: Ian Lewis Copestick is a 46 year old writer from Stoke on Trent England.
Although he started writing poetry in 2001, he only started sending them out for publication 8 months ago. In this time he has had over 100 poems and 5 short stories published. He is featured in print anthologies by Alien Buddha Press and Horror Sleaze Trash.
His first book Detritus Of The Drunken Night is out now!
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Ten Crime Books To Help Cure Your Hangover by Paul D. Brazill

Imagine it’s a gloomy Monday morning. Outside your window, dark malignant clouds fill the sky. The residue of the weekend’s fun and frolics is draining away like dishwater down a plug hole. And work – the ultimate four letter word- is hanging over you like a hawk ready to strike its prey.

You want to turn over and smooch with Morpheus but you know you can’t. So what can haul you out of the pit and into the world as effectively as a hair of the devil dog that bit you?

Well, here are ten shots of crime writing medicine that will work as more than a little eye opener.

1. Deadfolk by Charlie Williams.

Royston Blake is god. Well, in his own mind he is. The head bouncer at Hopper’s Wine Bar is the king of Mangel, a dead end town somewhere in the north of England. In the first of a cracking series of books, Royston is dragged by his lapels into a series of wickedly funny and increasingly violent scrapes. This book will change your life in a way Paolo Coelho never will.

2. One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night by Christopher Brookmyre.

Die Hard An On Oil Rig. Like the pitch? In OFDITMOTN, a school reunion is held on an oil rig that has been converted into a luxury hotel. But when an inept bunch of terrorist mercenaries gate crash the party only Scotland’s answer to Bill Hicks can save the day. Yes, really.

3. The Mexican Tree Duck by James Crumley.

The eponymous tree duck is Private Eye C.W. Sughrue’s Rara Avis and it’s part of a wild ride that is cluttered with multi-coloured characters and vivid, lurid even, scenes. You have bikers and obese twins and ‘Nam and stolen fish and booze. And a tank. This is a book for someone who, like C.W. Sughrue, thinks that ‘life is a joke, so make it a funny one.’

4. Top 10 by Alan Moore, Gene Ha & Zander Cannon.

Like Ed McBain’s 87th precent novels, the graphic novel Top 10 details the work and day-to-day lives of the police force at one particular police station, in this case the 10th Precinct Police Station in Neopolis, a city in which everyone, from the police and criminals to civilians, children and pets, have super-powers.

One story involves the suspicious death of the member of a boy-band called Sidekix, whose hit single was Holy Broken Hearts, and other pop-culture in –jokes abound, including a clothing store called The Phonebooth and Deadfellas, a story about vampire gangsters.

5&6. The Big O /Crime Always Pays by Declan Burke

The Big O and its follow up Crime Always Pays actually are that oxymoron

‘screwball noir’. These novels are like two cracking, fast paced, clever and very droll road movies with a top drawer cast that includes a narcoleptic called Sleeps and a one eyed wolf. Twists and turns, spicy dialogue and scenes which really make you ‘LOL’, as the young people say.

7. On Broadway by Damon Runyon.

You know you’ve made it as a writer when your name is used as an adjective: Runyonesque. Damon Runyon is probably best known for the film adaptations of his stories such as Guys and Dolls and The Lemon Drop Kid. He created his own world with a number of pithy short stories set amongst the low lifes of New York’s Broadway during the 1930. These yarns, sometimes shaggy dog stories, are peppered with gaudy, fast talking characters and smart punch lines. The language and the style is Runyon’s own. Much copied –think of the film Some Like It Hot – and never bettered.

8. Musical Chairs by Kinky Friedman.

Kinky Friedman is his own number one fan. The country/ protest singer is also the hero of Friedman’s novels and the cast of these novels is Friedman’s cronies, The Greenwich Village Irregulars. But what could have been an elaborate in – joke is actually a series of very funny and entertaining mystery romps. In Musical Chairs Kinky riffs on Agatha Christie as the members of his old band, The Texas Jewboys, get bumped off one by one. Cracking live act, too.

9. BLUE HEAVEN by Joe Keenan

Gilbert Selwyn is selfish, feckless, greedy and, more pointedly, openly gay, so it comes as a bit of a surprise to all and sundry when he decides to get married and especially when the person he is going to marry is Moira Finch, a person who, to all intents and purposes, he had previously loathed. What their friends don’t know, however, is that the marriage of inconvenience is a plot hatched by the money grabbing ‘couple’ in order to score a payday on the wedding gifts.

Although you may not find anything as hum drum as a kitchen sink in this romp, you will stumble across the Mafia, cross dressing, blackmail and even a John Woo style shoot out.

10. Old Dogs by Donna Moore.

Donna Moore’s smashing caper yarn has an absurdly colourful cast of self- interested characters chasing a McGuffin, a pair of rare ornamental Tibetan dogs. There are laughs aplenty and great farcical moments in this sweary Ealing Comedy as the characters collide with and crash into each other in their attempts to get their grasping and grubby paws their treasure. Murder, mayhem and mischief abounds.

(This post first appeared at the Mulholland Books’ blog)

Personal Hell: Accept your fate with Emilio Estevez by Ken Price

 

Ken Price

The Hero’s Journey is for squares and Young Adult authors who sit in Starbucks clicking refresh on YA title generators. ‘Storm of Ravens?’ ‘Crown of Flames?’ ‘Road of Knaves?’ Hmmm.

Consider the punk’s journey: Born guilty, gets drunk, no future, accepts his fate, coaches a hockey team. The end. May I present to you the unsung bastard of Hollywood: Emilio Estevez.

In Estevez’ key roles he plays a character in trouble but, more than that, sulkily going along with it.

His characters begin the movie in trouble like he was born in trouble. Being already in trouble is the status quo.

They sense an injustice but they are too immersed in it to see it from the outside or articulate it. Unlike a Tom Cruise or a Matt Damon character who might leap out of an explosion and outrun the bad guys to redemption, Emilio Estevez characters don’t see the point of going trough all the trouble. They are content to ball their fists in their pockets and schlep their way down the road, resigned to the unfairness of their predicament.

Repo Man

 

In Repo Man (1984) he’s a disaffected punk. His problems precede him and before he knows it, he’s a repo man before he can do anything about it. It’s existential, as with all his roles.

Otto: I ain’t gonna be no repo man. No way.

Marlene: It’s too late. You already are.

The Breakfast ClubThe Breakfast Club (1985) begins with all the characters already in trouble with authority. Estevez’ character Andrew Clark in particular is ironically in trouble for obeying authority — his father. Apparently there is no way for him to not be in trouble. He voluntarily shows up to weekend detention because he accepts his fate. Sure he did something wrong, what’s the big deal?

Allison Reynolds: You have problems.

 

Andrew Clark: Oh I have problems?

 

Allison Reynolds: You do everything everyone tells you to do and that’s a problem.
The Mighty Ducks

In The Mighty Ducks (1992) – you know it – he’s already in trouble with the law and he sulkily accepts his fate. His punishment is a foregone conclusion. He still resents it, like it’s not particularly fair, but of course he has broken the law and rules are rules. He must live out his punishment because of course he does. What else is he going to do?

Lewis: Rink’s got to be around here someplace.

Gordon Bombay: Look for a sign that says ‘Personal Hell’.

Stay with me here. In Albert Camus’ The Stranger, the main character Meursault is a kind of watcher of life as he goes through it. There is a sense that he is observing life, even his own actions, from behind a screen. And he is ultimately persecuted for it. He doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral and people judge him for it. Then in a fit of heatstroke he kills a man who flashes a knife at him. The deed is done and he accepts his fate. His lack of emotion is brought up as evidence of guilt.

And of course he’s guilty. But in a sense he’s also a victim of circumstance. He just kind of accepts it.

Also remember The Myth of Sisyphus, which Camus also wrote about. Sisyphus, the cruel Greek king, is condemned as a punishment to roll a boulder up a mountain for eternity. And he accepts his fate. He just goes through with it.

The OutsidersLike Meursault and Sisyphus, Estevez’ characters are guilty of crimes, but are also victims of circumstance, which is why there’s a surly sense of injustice they can’t articulate – just as in Albert Camus’ The Stranger, aka The Outsider and holeeeee shiiitt there’s a movie called The Outsiders (1983) and wouldn’t ya fuckin’ know? Emilio Estevez is in it.

He plays Two-Bit, the elder greaser for whom the kids at school are his audience. He sees he is doomed and because of that, life is funny. He is a young man who will spend his life without options. So he plays up the tragic humour. He is born guilty and he accepts his fate. (The Outsiders was also a pretty kickass Young Adult novel by S. E. Hinton, for that matter. One where the characters sure got the shit end of the sorting hat.)

Emilio Estevez, take a bow.

Bio: Ken Price has been a punk, a journalist, a care worker with the homeless, a horse track betting teller, and a pawn broker. His favourite thing to pawn was gold teeth. You can find him on twitter here @ninjakenprice.