Yes! It’s finally hit the shelves of Smashwords as a FREE (free!) e-book! On Brandon Hill is the FIRST EVER comprehensive history of post-war Bristolian culture, spanning the years 1945 to 2020 (or thereabouts) and covering all the major art forms for which the city is famous – music, TV, animation, street art – as well as its less celebrated contributions to film, theatre, literature, fine art etc. Continue reading “On Brandon Hill: Popular Culture in Bristol since WW2”
My second book first came out in 2017 and, while those of you lucky enough to get a hard copy would have enjoyed the plethora of pictures therein, downloaders had to make do with a text-only version. Until now! Finally, I have bowed to pressure and added the photos you’ve all been missing. And it still won’t cost you a penny!
In Extremadura is a radical deconstruction of the Brit Abroad genre (see, for example, A Year In Provence) (on second thoughts, don’t!) Spanish/South American travelogue, potted history and treatise on the nature of mortality rolled into one, it includes predictable digressions on cinema (Orson Welles, Luis Bunuel) literature (Javier Cercas, Tintin) peregrination, wild swimming in Scotland, celebrity speed freaks and the death of David Bowie. Continue reading “In Extremadura, now ILLUSTRATED!”
In case you don’t know who Illeana Douglas is, she will be the first to admit, albeit reluctantly, that she is best known as That Cape Fear Girl, the one who gets her cheek bitten off by Robert De Niro in the 1991 Scorsese pic. I know this – that Douglas accepts the tag of Cape Fear Girl, not that she gets her cheek bitten off – because I’ve just finished reading her memoir, I Blame Dennis Hopper, and a jolly good read it is too. What’s it like, people ask her, having your cheek bitten off by Robert De Niro, “like I’m going to offer up some amazing insight, something profound (he covers himself in soot ashes then incants the words of Stanislavski) or mystical (he only works at sunrise, with his body facing east).”
I have a new project, a book (an entire book!) about Radio On, a film only I and a couple of other people actually like, and about the A4, which is a road. Yes, a book about an obscure(ish) film, and the road from London to Bristol (or Bristol to London) on which much of the film’s inaction takes place. But actually (inactually) much of the early scenes in Radio On were filmed on or under the Westway, the A40, which doesn’t go to Bristol, but does enable me to talk about David Bowie, J.G. Ballard and Hawkwind.
So, it’s about time for another blog, or post, or whatever the hell they’re called. In the absence of anything else to write about – like a pandemic, or a new American president, say – I’m stuck with nothing better than a rather feeble stab at referencing a film I’ve never seen and write about my favourite transport-related films, or three of them at least….
Reading Andy Sharp’s brilliant, bonkers The English Heretic Collection, I discovered – among the more predictable meditations on J.G Ballard, Witchfinder General and the numerous secret army bases dotted around England – this pearl of wisdom regarding the opening credits of everyone’s favourite Home Guard sitcom:
“They are on manoeuvre towards their ultimate fate. Corporal Jones, stumbling, looking over his shoulder for some imaginary Hun; neurasthenic from his experiences in the trenches. Jones’ much-loved catchphrase Don’t Panic! isn’t comedy gold, but a projection of the PTSD that riddles the minefield of his memories. He’s clearly triggered by the slightest emergency.”Continue reading “Dad’s Army: English Heretics”
Jake Thackray divides opinion. There are those who, with some justification, regard him as a male chauvinist (partly true) and as a poor, Anglophone substitute for Georges Brassens, the great French chanteur (undoubtedly true, but also irrelevant if you don’t speak French and you want to get the jokes). But the jokes aren’t even funny, Jake’s detractors cry. And he’s a male chauvinist. But the rest of us – at least, that portion of the public who are aware of his former existence – see in Jake Thackray the classic tortured genius wrapped in comedian’s clothing, the Frank Zappa of folk, the Fool who dares to tell it like it is (men are dirty bastards; women talk too much; don’t be a sheep and follow the herd). Of course, a lot of people think there’s no place for humour in music and pour scorn on those – like Zappa – who wear their brilliance lightly. So let’s look at the fool, warts and all. But first a Tim Buckley song:Continue reading “Look at the Fool: Jake Thackray, the Frank Zappa of Folk”
Starring Ned Beatty: these are not words you generally see trailing a film, largely because Ned Beatty isn’t, on his own, a reason for most people to go see a film, unless you are me. And even I would baulk at watching The Killer Inside Me again, Ned or no Ned. Continue reading “Southern Man: Five Films Starring Ned Beatty”
I know you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but there I was watching the David Bowie Five Years doc from 2013 on BBC4 the other night and I found myself thinking (for the umpteenth time in my life) what’s all the fuss about? I mean, this was by common consent Bowie’s purple patch, from 1975 to 1980 or thereabouts, when he recorded a clutch of albums (Young Americans, Station To Station, Low, Heroes, Lodger and Scary Monsters) that even I concede are pretty humungus, yet all the documentary served to do was remind me of the myriad reasons why Bowie and his followers annoy me, while pointedly ignoring his cocaine-fuelled flirtation with fascism. Continue reading “David Bowie, The Man Who Fooled The Earth”