Friday, 23 January 2009


We’re now just a couple of weeks away from 3rd February, the day that marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly.

To commemorate the greatest loss that rock and roll has ever suffered, the Proud Gallery in London is staging an exhibition of photographs of the great man, running from 29th January through into April.

And amongst the pictures on display are some of those taken on Buddy’s 1958 British tour by Harry Hammond, as featured in my book, Halfway to Paradise. As a bonus, here’s one that I’m particularly fond of, but which didn’t make it into the book (© V&A Images):

Since I wasn’t actually born when Buddy died, I came to his work rather late, and did so via the pop music of 1975. That year both Mud and Showaddywaddy had hits with his songs (Oh Boy and Heartbeat respectively). Intrigued, I went back to the source and discovered the most wondrous collection of songs I’d ever heard. I still remember hearing Peggy Sue for the first time and being blown away by the sudden break into falsetto, as though his exuberance could only be expressed through the most extraordinary vocal contortions.

I have yet to hear a better body of work in popular music than those 100 or so tracks that Buddy laid down in a tragically short period. The sheer range of his material, his restless curiosity about what could be done in a recording studio, continues to fascinate me, and I continue to wonder what else he might have achieved had he not died at the age of twenty-two.

There haven’t been very many individuals working in rock who can genuinely be considered as great artists, judged by the same standards that apply elsewhere. Elvis, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie come to mind, but not many more. Despite the brevity of his career, Buddy Holly is in the same category.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


Heard on Radio Five Live on the BBC this evening: ‘Welcome to the first Five Live Sport of the Obama era. We’re coming to you live from Washington and Old Trafford…’

Over-egging the pudding? Just a tad.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Proff Reading

What’s wrong with publishers these days? Don’t they employ copy-editors anymore?

I’ve just been trying to read Griff Rhys Jones’s childhood memoir Semi-Detached. But I couldn’t manage it.

I started halfway through, because I wanted to read about Jones’s musical tastes as a teenager in the late-1960s, and on consecutive pages there is a reference to Alexis Korner as ‘Alexis Corner’, and a description of Joe Cocker – surely one of Sheffield’s most famous sons – as a ‘Nottinghamshire groaner’. And then, on the next page, he says that the part of north London where I happen to live, Chalk Farm, is in ‘central London’.

At which point I stopped reading. It was getting too irritating.

I don’t blame the author. Mistakes happen. But publishers are supposed to check this sort of thing. I’ve got the Penguin re-print, but I assume the same errors are in the Michael Joseph hardback edition. And they really ought to know better. It’s all cost-cutting, I guess.

So, while I’m on the subject, I ought to thank the various copy-editors I’ve encountered over the past few years, who have (I hope) prevented similar mistakes on my part from making it into print: Jon Butler, Merlin Cox, Elizabeth Imlay and Vicki Vrint. And, in particular, thanks to Clare Collinson, who helped on Halfway to Paradise and Magic Gardens, and who has been the best copy-editor I’ve ever worked with.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

This Bear is Mischievous

It’s difficult to know quite what to think about the news that there’s to be an authorized sequel to the Winnie-the-Pooh books. On the one hand, we’ve survived for eighty years with just the two books of stories, and those of us who love them continue to return on a regular and frequent basis to the texts.

Then again, does it make any difference? There already exists a massive collection of unofficial spin-off works, taking Pooh into everything from Latin to leather, and the word ‘official’ in this context is frankly meaningless – neither AA Milne nor Christopher Robin Milne is any position to authorize anything, and no one else’s word is worth tuppence.

But, on the other hand, there is the fact that the man chosen for this task is David Benedictus. And I’ve had a fondness for him for some time. Apart from anything else, one of his early novels has perhaps the greatest cover illustration of the 1960s:

There’s a new angle for Pooh in there somewhere, surely?