Archive for November, 2008

Oh, Aye, Almost Forgot…

Posted in Grave News on November 30, 2008 by Johnnie


Happy St Andrew’s Day.  As if anyone else is celebrating…

Oh, for crying out LOUD, Rick!

Posted in Music on November 30, 2008 by Johnnie

How utterly, fist-down-the-throat mortifying. Now we know why the RDS wasn’t good enough for him. We’ve been stood up, messed around, taken for fools. Well, next time, Rick, we’re gonna change the rules.  A big raspberry to you, Astley.  And anyway – I preferred Jason Donovan and The Reynolds Girls to you.  Back to hairdressing and floorsweeping with you…

Thanks to Yer Man for digging this up – he’s like a one-man Time Team discovering the dregs of Cheggers Plays Pop.

Pointless Nostalgia: The Wonder of Woolies

Posted in Grave News, Pointless Nostalgia on November 27, 2008 by Johnnie


The shops are still open today but it looks like it’s finally curtains for Woolworth’s. From its origins in New York from 1878, F.W. Woolworth has been a fixture of the British high street for longer than most of our grandparents can remember. It is a genuine institution, a retail mainstay, as much a part of the fabric of British society as Coronation Street, red telephone boxes and cricket.  But that could all be going down the pan as yesterday the company went into administration, with 815 branches still open, a gigantic £385m debt hanging over their heads and 30,000 staff who aren’t feeling too optimistic about their prospects.

The old tag-line,  ‘that’s the Wonder of Woolies’, still nestles snugly in the recesses of my memory. It doesn’t mean that my shopping experiences were wonderful, it’s just that Woolies was always there and my childhood, teenage and 20s are full of Woolies-related memories.  I bought my first record in Woolworth’s in Saltcoats in 1978 – it was ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush, and it’s still one of my favourite songs. Also in that branch in 1985, I hid the 12″ of ‘Never Understand’ by the Jesus and Mary Chain in the easy listening section because I couldn’t afford it at the time; however, I was spotted by the world’s crappest store detective, who promptly put it back – sadly, it wasn’t there the following Saturday when I actually had the necessaries.  When I was in a particularly dreadful bedroom band in the mid-1980s, I borrowed an atrocious Winfield (Woolworth’s brand name) organ for a recording session – it sounded like a mouth organ filled with fluttering moths being blown by a hairdryer. I also wrote the “seminal” song ‘Werewolf In Woolworth’s’ about my (allegedly) lycanthropic Classics teacher, who then turned out not to be a werewolf after all.

My last (and probably last ever) experience of Woolies came when I lived in Chiswick, west London, during the 1990s. Not only did I have a severe crush on one of the managers there, I used to regularly buy their marked down, ex-chart singles. The classics I bought: ‘How Do You Do’ by Roxette, ‘Humpin’ Around’ by Bobby Brown and ‘Suicide Blonde’ by INXS. The things you buy when you think you’re getting a bargain.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed someone comes up with a rescue package – but, sadly, even if they do, the likelihood of the 1970s‘ off-shoot chain, Woolco, reopening are remarkably slim.

Roger and Out

Posted in Grave News on November 27, 2008 by Johnnie

I’m absolutely sure there wasn’t a single chortle around the offices of the Irish Independent when a syndicated piece from The (London) Times appeared in yesterday’s edition.  The article, a disturbing and enlightening illustration of the different ways in which Austrian and British justice systems deal with cases of incest, was written by one Roger Boyes.

Regurgitate, S’il Vous Plaît

Posted in Favourite Publications on November 26, 2008 by Johnnie

rsvp21It’s not fair, I want to be a social diarist with RSVP.  I wish I had been the lucky hack assigned to go chez  “Ireland’s Favourite Couple” Gerald Kean and Lisa Murphy for a spontaneous Christmas dinner in October.  Just look at the lovely people I could have wished “Merry (somewhat early) Christmas” and “Recession? What Recession?” to and helped saw up a nice, peeved-looking suckling pig: Colette Fitzpatrick, Dylan McGrath, Bill “Not a Syrup” Cullen and Jackie Lavin, Pippa O’Connor and the great Don Baker.  And a couple of other people who were probably trying to work out why they were there. What a feast there was too: the aforementioned suckling pig (lovingly carved up by “Ireland’s best loved and best dressed couple” Gerald and Lisa on page 36), fresh Alaskan king crab, ravioli and truffles, roast goose with plum sauce and stuffing, as well as Christmas pudding, mince pies and an Irish cheese board. How on earth did they have room for After Eights after that lot?  We get a lovely view of Gerald and Lisa’s beautiful, frog-green dining room curtains (think ’80s debutante’s ballgown), we find out why it’s been a great year for Pippa O’Connor (nothing to do with falling off a horse, apparently) but, sadly, there’s no news as to how there was zero press coverage of Lisa Murphy’s recent fall in the Zavvi store in Dundrum during a Shayne Ward PA, or whether that really is a parting in Bill Cullen’s hair or simply where he folds it up to put it in his bedside drawer. It’s all in your (agrammatical, badly-spelled and poorly punctuated) RSVP magazine this month. I’ve got mine.

Something Wicked This Way Comes…

Posted in Grave News, Music on November 25, 2008 by Johnnie

duke-special-2008Duke Special haunts Dublin’s Olympia theatre tonight… so, apologies to all his fans (and I know they are legion), but I’ve got to say, the guy terrifies me rigid. I know it’s terribly unfair to seem judgmental about someone’s looks but, seriously, the man wants to be scary to those who have the power to resist.  Those eyes, lined to look like the walking dead from some nightmarish MR James passage; the hair, a cross between a gorgon’s half-starved serpents and a clump of crabgrass after a dose of Weedol; the clothes, like some sinister travelling fairground magician, summoning lost souls to be damned to benign theatrical whimsy for all eternity; and then there’s the music….

Anyone who spent the 1970s or ’80s watching the ITV children’s TV series Rainbow will be familiar with the music of Rod, Jane and Freddy – simplistic, jollified, sub-vaudevillian singalongs, specifically written with the extremely young in mind.  There is a split hair of a difference between their musical “style” and that of Mr ‘Special’.  Both induce winces of the sort only a London taxi’s brakes, the trailing of a nail down a blackboard and the notion of having your testicles slowly crushed between two bricks can conjur to mind. The only thing that makes Rod, Jane and Freddy relatively acceptable is that they never once, by virtue of being on Rainbow, asked to be taken seriously.  I’d expect someone like Duke Special to turn up on a Phoenix Nights Halloween karaoke contest, not at the Olympia theatre, packed to the uppers with paying customers.

What worries me more is that grown ups will actually play this music to their children. Have they forgotten, or perhaps never actually read, Grimm’s fairytales?  How are they going to cope with the subsequent night terrors?  How will they cope with their little ones’ spectral visions?  Cackling apparitions of George and Zippy bopping along, while the shadowy, beckoning, dandified vagrant whinnies sinister melodies from the corner of their room, like the Pied Piper of the dark side?  Brrrrrr…..

Bill Cullen: Is It A Syrup?

Posted in Grave News, TV on November 21, 2008 by Johnnie

CullentoupeeornottoupeeIt’s one of those things I took for granted when The Apprentice started.  I assumed from the outset that Bill Cullen wore a toupée, that everyone would have known this and that it was no big deal. However, after mentioning this publicly today, both Una and Dan seemed shocked at the suggestion.  People have since suggested his hair looks a little “Donald Trump”, or that it’s a “dye job” (even if the sides are very much ‘greying’ in colour) but it seems it’s only me who thinks he actually washes it, not with shampoo, but with his vest and his socks.  I saw this photo on the cover of Business Plus magazine this morning and I’m still looking at it to see where that hairline actually begins – much like I did when I met Adam Ant in 1990.  And you know, I was absolutely right, back then – not to say that I am now, of course…