Here’s Johnny

I remember it quite vividly: it was 1985, and I was sitting in the only pub of a tiny coastal village on the North Sea, nursing a small beer and staring out the window, enjoying the sunset. The pub had one of those small CRT TVs sitting on the bar, and because I was the only customer, the bar keeper asked whether he could turn it on, switching the channel to a clip show showing the latest music videos (remember those? Big thing in the eighties, especially for countries who didn’t get MTV yet [when they were still playing music]), of course presented by a person with big hair. Between the usual Michael Jackson, Madonna and A-Ha there was suddenly the most enormous big band sound filling the pub and an amazingly catchy tune made both the barkeeper and me look up and check out the clip. On the small screen where 4 obviously British chaps with a large big band doing their thing, miming away with vim and vigour and 3 minutes and 24 seconds later they were gone. I couldn’t quite understand the presenter afterwards, but I caught the word ‘idlewild’, though I didn’t know whether this was the band’s name or the song title. A few days later I tried to find the record at my various local record shops (all of them history), but nobody had heard of the track and that was that. Over the years I tried to find the record from time to time, but all I could find was stuff from the Scottish band ‘Idlewild’ which was definitely not what I was looking for. But just a few days ago, I stumbled over a link on youtube, and there they were: the same video as in 1985, with the same 4 chaps with their funny eighties pop star hairdos and the big band sound. Have a look:


Weren’t they glorious? Isn’t the song amazing?

They were called ‘Here’s Johnny’, from Liverpool and unfortunately dropped by their record company after only a few singles, not even having a single album under their belt (or a wikipedia entry – how sad is that).  There is an comment under an (excellent quality) soundcloud entry of the song by Colin McKay, their songwriter:

That’s me . . . Still can’t believe nobody bought it!

True. Nevertheless, I now bought the 12″ off ebay, and while my little contribution unfortunately will not find its way into Colin’s pockets, I can blast the song now, 31 years later, through the house while I dance through the living room like a complete idiot, yelling ‘I start to shake, I start to tremble’ .

Mission accomplished, Colin.


The Hansard. Britain’s funniest website?

From yesterday’s debate in the commons on NHS funding:

Mr Speaker: Emulating Strangford brevity, perhaps, I call Mr Greg Mulholland.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): Thank you, Mr Speaker. On 22 June, the Life Sciences Minister said in a written answer:

“The decision on the interim funding of Vimizim…will be made by NHS England by the end of June 2015.

”The families involved, and also families affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy and tuberous sclerosis, were then told that there would be a decision on 30 June and 1 July—

Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman will resume his seat. It is a discourtesy to the House to be long-winded, especially when exhorted not to be. The hon. Gentleman has got


Order. Do not argue the toss with the Chair, Mr Mulholland. Don’t shake your head, mate. I am telling you what the position is: you were too long.


Leave, that is fine—we can manage without you.


You were too long and you need to learn. That is the end of it. I call Mr Peter Bone.”


HC Deb 7 FJuly 2015, cols 178-79

Death and Self-Gratification


Long time, no write.

The problem with modern social media for me is that you can fire off whatever you want to say in a matter of seconds while on the train, behind the wheel, on the sofa or in bed within a couple of seconds, while writing a blog post not only requires a much more complicated app on my mobile phone, but also infinitely (well, at least to me) more time.  I am sure a mathematician would be able to prove this.

Today, nevertheless, it was time to get the old MacBook out, sit down and type something. Because, you know, death and masturbation. If the combination of these two subjects shocks or upsets you or inflicts any sort of conflicts within your religious beliefs, I am incredibly sorry but not able to do anything about it, though I would suggest that you stop reading, as both subjects will surface within a few paragraphs again.

A long, long time ago, in a time we old people call the mid-nineties, I was working in a laboratory at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, trying to prove that certain things happened to skin cells when you threw cytostatic drugs at them. Turned out, they do. To find solace from the daily routine of looking after your cell cultures and doing despicable things with very toxic drugs to them (turns out cell cultures don’t yet know about the concept of ‘Weekend’) I would visit a well known establishment called ‘The Barking Spider Tavern‘ that was just about near enough from my humble abode that I would find my home even in a mild state of inebriation. The amazing thing about the Barking Spider Tavern was not only their dedication to a good glass of beer (only place I knew you could get a bottle of Dortmunder Export in Ohio) but also to live music. There would be live music every night, but once every few weeks a chap called Gary Hall would hog the stage, just him with his acoustic guitar and the odd local who would provide backup vocals. As a German, I don’t really get Americana. To stand in front of a small crowd, singing songs about horses and trucks and that girl who dumped you invariably in a truck or on a horse never really resonated with me, but then I never had a horse or a truck. But this Gary chap was different: for one thing, he could really sing, he could really play guitar, and his repertoire was not limited to Horses, Trucks and ex-girlfriends. On the contrary, he was not only a good singer, he actually had a sense of humor, and his set would be sprinkled with laugh out loud funny songs. One of them, always played after midnight to protect the innocent, would be a merry little ditty about a chap who – after being separated from his girlfriend – would happily self – indulge in – to quote the song – ‘beating the meat’. This was delivered in such a joyous, happy way that even the grumpiest punter would happily sing along to ‘The Jackoff Song’ -that was its name – and so these evenings are still etched in my amygdala as the most joyous of my time in Cleveland, Ohio. After visiting the Barking Spider during a recent trip to Cleveland I was cock-a-hoop to find that Gary was still around and asked him via his facebook account about this particular track and – being the nice chap he is – he was kind enough to answer a few questions. Turns out that the song was actually by Ohio folk legend and song writer Tim Wallace who died last year of lymphoma in a hospice.

Which brings us to the ‘death’ part of this post. Tim Wallace’s death was not the usual ‘peaceful, surrounded by his family’ sort of thing, au contraire: for the two weeks preceding his death he was surrounded by a never ending procession of friends and musician who turned his last weeks on the planet into ‘Timstock’.  The photoseries on Cleveland’s Plain Dealer website just shows the exit from this mortal coil doesn’t necessarily have to be a solemn affair:

“The Friday before St. Patrick’s Day, Wallace seemed on the precipice of death,[…].  But when fellow musicians came to his bedside, bringing booze, guitars, banjos, songs and especially laughter and more than a few tears, the lifelong musician rallied. The “Timstock” parties lasted daily until midnight until this Saturday, when doctors and staff members at the hospice said he had taken the inevitable turn for the worse.”

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all go like this? Surrounded by our friends, singing and listening to music to the end. While I am not yet planning any hospice related activities yet, I am acutely aware that very few of my friends can sing and even fewer can play an instrument. I might have to incentivise this, otherwise it’s just going to be me and a ghettoblaster with 5 hours of Matt Bianco tracks, and I am moderately sure that there will be inhouse rules against this sort of thing.

So here we are. Death and Masturbation. I bet you didn’t believe this would turn out to be such a nice post, ay?

Incidentally, you can order or download some of Gary’s albums via Wildcat Recordings‘ website here.

He also as a pretty cool youtube presence, a facebook page and a reverbnation site.

If you happen to be in the midwest, there will be a Tim Wallace tribute concert (which apparently will feature a rendition of the ‘The Jackoff Song’), so don’t miss it.