Friday, 27 January 2017

One for the ladies, Dick?

I just love Dick Clark's intro "this is a song, I guess, written for women..." I always admire a chap who is unafraid to flaunt his politically incorrect credentials, although I suspect that if he made a remark like that now, what was to become one of the longest careers in showbiz would have been terminated very quickly.

The song is actually brilliant, and you don't have to be a woman to realise that.

Despite the forgetfulness that comes with being 55 years and 2 months old, I have incredible recall when it comes to the music. I can remember when I first heard this one - it was in 1979, on Mike Allen's excellent Saturday night show 'The American Dream', back in the days when Capital Radio was broadcasting on medium wave. He played the show out with it, and it really grabbed me. This is Doo-Wop at its very best.

At the risk of drifting into Dick Clark territory, I assumed that the Passions were a black group (the management at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem made the same mistake with Buddy Holly and the Crickets in August 1957, which is how they came to be the first white act to play there).

Just to emphasize the sheer greatness of this song, and its importance in Rock n Roll history, before it was given to the Passions, the original demo was recorded by none other than Carole King and Paul Simon.

Paul Simon himself performed on a number of early RnR tracks, but under an assumed name. I know exactly where to find him, of course, and perhaps I will share one or two of his early, and largely unknown, gems in a future post.


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Ilya Yashin: A True Human Rights Defender.

Its not every day that I get to meet and interview a chap like Ilya Yashin.

Ilya is a prominent Russian politician, who just happens to be a major opponent of Vladimir Putin.

After Boris Nemtsov was so brutally murdered outside the walls of the Kremlin, in 2015, it was Ilya who picked up the torch, and has been a thorn in the side of the Russian dictator ever since.

Of course, he has paid for this, with the occasional spell behind bars, and worse, and has been declared by Amnesty International to be a 'Prisoner of Conscience'.

Nice to see that there are, even in Russia, still men who are prepared to stand for freedom and democracy.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Look out, Mr Putin; Rock n Roll is coming to Moscow!

The Evil Empire, aka the Soviet Union, really hated western popular culture.

There was a real fear in the Kremlin that if Russian youth (note: 'Russian' - the Kremlin didn't care less about any of the other 'Soviet Republics') were exposed to western culture than they might realise that they were living in a socio-economic hell-hole.

In the 1950s there was a particular fear about Rock 'n' Roll. The Politburo really did not get this at all. The idea that working class people could really lead a cultural revolution really spooked the geriatrics in charge in the Kremlin.

The  official line was that Rock 'n' Roll was an American plan to subvert the minds of the youth - and God forbid that black people could be involved!

Tommy Steele (right) with actor Richard Todd  (left)
It all started to go wrong for the Evil Empire when a young chap named Tommy Steele turned up in Russia. One of Britain's greatest recording stars of the 1950s, (and a major showbiz star to this day), he defied the KGB and managed to be photographed in Red Square.

Russians have their own take on everything.

Their church, which professes to be Christian, but which is in the hands of the security services, does not even recognise other churches as being Christian.

I remember, after 9/11, attending a lunch at the Russian Orthodox Church in Gunnersbury, West London, presided over by a priest who was later demoted after being exposed as a sexual predator, and being shocked by the statement by said priest that "Russians should not pray for the victims as they (the victims) were not Orthodox". 

Actually, a number of victims of the 9/11 attacks were members of the Orthodox Church.

But back to the music.

I am therefore delighted to learn that there is, currently, a terrific Rock 'n' Roll station broadcasting out of Moscow. are playing great R'n'R, with a mix of western classics and Russian and other European versions.

To be truthful, there is no original R'n'R coming out of Russia, nor is there likely to be in the forseeable future (although Russia is particularly strong on Neo-Nazi skinhead music).

Otherwise, Russian popular music is about 50 shades below Dire. It's awful. It has not one single saving grace.

If you don't believe me, then listen to this garbage:

The perpetrator of this atrocity is Alla Pugacheva, (pictured right) one of Russia's most popular singers. I tried to watch this, and lost interest after 10 seconds. 'Nuff said.'

This, believe it or not, is about as good as Russian popular music gets.

But have the balance just right... R'n'R, Rockabilly, DooWop, R'n'B... great tracks, some cover versions and some original, from all across Europe and beyond. This is serious R'n'R, and the chaps at 101 should be commended for this.

Perhaps, like before, proper western culture will awaken the proles to their fate...

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Deja Vu for the residents of Brussels....

 You see some strange things in Brussels - and how many times have I used that line?

I recently came across this interesting scene nearby St Katherine's, the old fish market.

As soon as I started to take photographs I was accosted by security guards demanding that I stop, as "taking photographs is not allowed - it is forbidden!"

"Forbidden by whom?" I asked.

"Forbidden by my boss", came the reply.

"Didn't he die in a bunker in Berlin in 1945?" I asked.

My sense of humour, combined with my total lack of respect for authority have often gotten me into trouble, and this was looking like becoming one of those moments. So I took my pics and faded into the background.

Although I really cannot say it for sure, I believe this was, in fact, a film set. Belgians, however, are very sensitive about Nazi imagery. Its a guilt thing.

Little history lesson: During WW2, a young Catholic politician, Leon Degrelle, realised that the only way Belgium could survive the occupation was to make itself useful to the Germans. He founded what was to become the Waloonian Division of the Waffen SS (although in reality it was no more than a single battalion), and went on to achieve great things on the Russian front.

Adolf Hitler once said of him "if I had a son, I would want him to be like Leon."  

I know a bit about this, as many years I wrote a paper on the subject.

So, this leads us to the real reason for Belgian's extreme sensitivity over this chapter in their history.

After the war Degrelle was given sanctuary by Franco in Spain. He was Europe's most wanted man for a while, but he actually offered to give himself up to the Allied authorities, albeit with one condition. He would only surrender himself if he was guaranteed a fair and open trial in Brussels.

Degrelle knew he was on safe ground as the last thing that the Belgian royal family wanted was an open debate on collaboration, and one being led by the man who knew exactly where the bodies were buried. That simply would not be allowed to happen.

It is worth mentioning that fact even today, whilst I can write this in London with impunity, to publish it in Belgium could cause me serious problems.