Archive for the Dearly Departed Category

Ciao, Twitter

Posted in Dearly Departed, Disasters, Geeks, New Stuff, Words on July 5, 2010 by Johnnie

After too many tweet nothings, I have departed Twitter.  I won’t be missed.  And I get another portion of my life back into the bargain. Continue reading


Fred Wedlock 1942-2010

Posted in Dearly Departed, Grave News, Music, Pointless Nostalgia on March 5, 2010 by Johnnie

It’s with much sadness that I note the passing of Fred Wedlock, the Bristol teacher-turned- folk singer and humourist.  For me and many other pop pickers of my generation, he’ll always be remembered as the man who made ‘The Oldest Swinger In Town’ famous, taking it to number 6 in the UK charts in 1981.  Although Fred wasn’t the original writer of the song, he rewrote much of it and made it his own – and it would be almost impossible to enjoy without his magnificent Bristol twang. 

He was also responsible for umpteen albums of West Country wit and humour (whether he was an integral part of the scene or not, I just love the term ‘scrumpy & western’), including Frollicks and Out of Wedlock

But ‘The Oldest Swinger In Town’ has made him a legend of my record collection.  It’s a song whose lyrics get more painfully funny with every passing year and a one I’ve quoted from extensively, particularly in an article I wrote for U Magazine about age-gap couples.  God rest you, Fred, I will miss you. Continue reading

Is This The Most Miserable Advert Ever?

Posted in Dearly Departed, Grave News on July 29, 2009 by Johnnie

Death and Misery

There really is no way back from this one.  It’s an advert for the Alzheimer’s treatment drug Remynil XL – which, when taken once daily, apparently stops the elderly from dissolving right before your eyes.  Frankly, this photo makes me want to take an overdose of them.  Continue reading

Poe Little Puddy Tat

Posted in Books, Dearly Departed, Grave News on April 23, 2009 by Johnnie

“I had walled the monster up within the tomb!”


I couldn’t help but shudder at the story of Richard Parsons, a funeral director from Ugborough, near Plymouth in Devon, whose builders uncovered a 400-year-old mummified cat in the wall of his cottage’s bathroom.   It immediately evokes the terrifying climactic twist of Edgar Allan Poe’s tale, The Black Cat, in which the narrator’s murderous deed is betrayed by his once-beloved ‘moggy’. Cheerfully, there was no human body within this particular cavity to go with the cat. Continue reading

Lux Interior 1946-2009

Posted in Dearly Departed, Music on February 8, 2009 by Johnnie

luxivy_128_loresThe wider world may not be recording February 4th 2009 as ‘the other day the music died’, but it lost a true original with the sad death of Lux Interior.  As a performer, innovator, macabre showman and fetishist extraordinaire, the man who was born Erick Lee Purkhiser taught us that ridicule really is nothing to be scared of, after 35 years of fronting a band who, although widely known and loved by all sensible people, never quite got their universal dues.

I’ll never forget the night I first “discovered” The Cramps.  It was winter 1983, and I was staying up watching late-night TV in my uncle’s holiday home in Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran – a house reputed to be haunted, according to the lazy-arsed builders who, the previous summer, had taken their time about completing its refurbishment.  However implausible the stories they’d left behind, they made for a spooky night, regardless.

My viewing entertainment that night was one of those music all-nighters they used to show before MTV and its ilk began. There was the usual glut of big stars premiering their expensive promo videos, live performances and trivia.  But the only truly memorable item was the item on The Cramps; a profile, interview and wonderful footage from The Peppermint Lounge.  It was a period of musical awakening for the young teenage me; I’d only just seen The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle on TV, become devoted to The Damned and local heroes Orange Juice, had my life newly taken over by Manchester’s The Smiths and The Fall and now here were some American gorehounds who were about to take my musical sphere on to a whole new level.

I ‘got’ The Cramps immediately.  As a fourteen-year-old, I was obsessed by the idea of forming a band and this was my new reason to try.  Of course I was young and stupid and without a note in my head, but bands like Sex Pistols, The Fall and The Cramps, showed me that anyone with the requisite passion, creativity and something to say could, and probably should, form a band.  The programme’s interview section, where Lux and his wife and fellow Cramps founder, Poison Ivy spoke of their passion for rock’n’roll and old horror films (another obsession of mine) was a revelation to me.  Before I saw them, I didn’t know it was possible to play rock’n’roll without a bassist and still make it rock.  Albums like Songs The Lord Taught Us, Psychedelic Jungle, Smell Of Female and A Date With Elvis partially defined this era of my life and became, for better or worse, part of every creative thing I did.

25 years later, I love them every bit as much.  A world without Lux Interior and The Cramps in it is hard to take.  Of course, there remain lots of terrible copycats (even here in Dublin, we’re not immune from bloated wannabes) but we still, and always will, have the songs The Cramps taught us.

Tony Hart 1925 – 2009

Posted in Dearly Departed, TV on January 23, 2009 by Johnnie

tony-hart1Another founding stone of my love for television passed away last weekend.  Tony Hart, gentleman, artist and one of the most pristine, softly-spoken examples to children’s TV presenters the world over, has left us at the age of 83.

I first fell under the spell of this wonderful man in the 1970s, on the slightly bizarre children’s arts programme, Vision On; it was some years before I realised that the reason the programme was presented in near-silence, and contained comedy mime routines by future Doctor Who, Sylvester McCoy, was that it was intended for the deaf.  The beauty of it, as with most experimental and educational shows of the ’60s and ’70s, was that is was always fascinating to all children, irrespective of their hearing.  Its most iconic item was The Gallery, a slow pan around a wall of selections from the flood of artwork sent in by young viewers every week; it was memorably soundtracked by the beautiful and quirky dittie, Left Bank Two, which was later to become a retro-lounge classic.

After Vision On ended in 1977, Tony returned the following year with Take Hart.  In this, he necessarily did far more talking, especially with the introduction of Plasticine stop-animation character Morph and, my favourite,  the anxious, manic janitor, Mr Bennett (whom I found particularly funny, for some reason, leading me to find anyone called “Mr Bennett” hilarious ever since).

Like Rolf Harris, Tony Hart had the innate ability to demystify the practice of art and thus make it accessible to people like me, who had no natural talent, but simply a love of holding a pencil and drawing for its own sake.  In one of his last interviews, he told The Times: “Time and again I have been told: ‘I can’t draw.’  My answer has always been the same: ‘If you can write, you can draw’.”

In fact, I still treasure my copy of his book, “You Can Draw”, a step-by-step guide to the basics, which helped me live out my unfulfillable ambition to be a cartoonist: my efforts, “Lamb Amirstan” and “Flobby Blobby People”, are classics only in the confines of my boxes of rubbish in the attic – so, yes, my namesake can rest easy in his grave too.

Tony Hart brought art into the lives and living rooms of millions of children like me; to all of us who grew up sketching, painting, cutting and pasting under his gentle guidance, he will be fondly remembered always.

Oliver Postgate 1925 – 2008

Posted in Dearly Departed, TV on December 11, 2008 by Johnnie

the-clangersI’ve known and loved Oliver Postgate all of my life.  He’s been in my living room since I can remember and, thanks to Nick Jr Classics, his Clangers are still there too, beaming whistles and soup slurps from their little hollow planet.  If my mum ever looked for someone to blame for my overtly fertile early imagination, I always pointed her in Mr Postgate’s direction, albeit while urging her to show some respect and affection.

British do-gooders so often wring their hands about what nonsense fills children’s heads from hours spent in front of the TV, to the point of telling them to drastically reduce their viewing.  Recent targets have included Teletubbies and In The Night Garden, programmes which came under intense scrutiny, not because children would actually go mad watching them, but because adults don’t understand them.  For crying out loud, the TV is the best place to start a child’s imaginative journey.  No matter what we think about the wonder of books, nothing gets playground chat going like something wonderful, spellbinding and adventurous on TV. Cheerfully, such do-gooders were in still short supply during the 1950s and 1960s, or we’d never have had series like The Prisoner,  Doctor Who or The Magic Roundabout.  Or, indeed, anything by Oliver Postgate.

Take The Clangers, for instance; telling the uninitiated about about a planet of pink, whistling, cave-dwelling, knitted mice who recycle interplanetary junk and eat blue string pudding and green soup taken from wells by the Soup Dragon, does sound like the workings of a cheesy Wotsit ‘n’ vimto-inspired hallucinatory dream.  Except it wasn’t, it was wonderful; and, here in 2008, it still looks and sounds wonderful.

My first knowing introduction to Postgate was via Noggin The Nog, the cod-Norse mythological saga with the vaguely forbidding voiceover and sinister bassoon music, courtesy of Vernon Elliot, whose music also soundtracked The Clangers. Noggin The Nog still provides food for my imagination; even the idea of watching it as a three-year-old, taking my first exploratory steps into the limitless possibilities of the imagination, is inspiring.  I want my own children to experience the same sense of wonder I did in front of Noggin; maybe Santa can track down a DVD for me – not for my own pleasure, you understand.

Newer generations have been charmed by Postgate’s later work, chiefly Bagpuss and the ’70s revival of his first animation from the ’50s, Ivor The Engine; but, for me, Noggin and The Clangers were what my very young childhood was all about.  Thanks for the memories, Oliver Postgate.  Rest in peace, and assured that some lifelong fans want to pass on your life’s work to the next generation of fertile imaginations.