Sunday, May 17, 2020

"O, For A Muse Of Fire"

Astrid Kirchherr, the photographer whose shots of the savage young Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) helped to turn them into WorldClassSuperFabs and all that, has died at the age of eighty one. The Be-Atles chronicler and biographer Mark Lewisohn confirmed the news on Twitter, posting: 'Intelligent, inspirational, innovative, daring, artistic, awake, aware, beautiful, smart, loving and uplifting friend to many. Her gift to The Be-Atles was immeasurable.'
Astrid was born in Hamburg in 1938 and spent the war evacuated to the Baltic coast where she remembered seeing dead bodies on the shore after the ships Cap Arcona and the SS Deutschland had been bombed and sunk. Back in Hamburg following the war, Kirchherr enrolled in the Meisterschule für Mode, Textil, Grafik und Werbung as she wished to study fashion design. But, she demonstrated a remarkable talent for photography and Reinhard Wolf, the school's photographic tutor, convinced her to switch courses, promising that he would hire her as his assistant when she graduated. Kirchherr worked for Wolf as his assistant from 1959 until 1963. She stumbled across her most famous muses on a visit to the Hamburg club where they were performing in a residency. 'My whole life changed in a couple of minutes,' she later said.
In the late 1950s, Kirchherr and her art school friends were involved in the European existentialist movement whose followers were later nicknamed 'Exis' by The Be-Atles. In 1995, she told BBC Radio Merseyside: 'Our philosophy then, because we were only kids, was wearing black clothes and going around looking moody. We got inspired by all the French artists and writers because that was the closest we could get. England was so far away and America was out of the question. So France was the nearest. We got all the information from France and we tried to dress like the French existentialists. We wanted to be free, to be different and tried to be cool, as we call it now.'
Kirchherr, along with her friends Klaus Voormann and Jürgen Vollmer had all attended the Meisterschule and shared the same ideas about fashion, culture and music. Voormann became Astrid's boyfriend for a time and moved into the Kirchherr home. In 1960, after Kirchherr had had an argument with Voormann, he wandered down to The Reeperbahn and heard music coming from the Kaiserkeller club. Entering the joint, Voormann watched a mesmerising performance by a five-piece English rock and/or roll group and later asked Kirchherr and Vollmer to come with him for a return visit. The trio had never been particularly interested in rock and/or roll previously, preferring jazz. Kirchherr later said: 'It was like a merry-go-round in my head, they looked absolutely astonishing. My whole life changed in a couple of minutes. All I wanted was to be with them and to know them.' The Exis became The Be-Atles first hardcore fans.
Kirchherr said that she and her friends felt guilty about being German given the country's recent history. Meeting The Be-Atles was something special for them. Kirchherr took the first  - subsequently famous - photographs of The Be-Atles as a group at the city's fairground in 1960, when the bassist, Stuart Sutcliffe and the drummer, Pete Best, were still members. She dated Sutcliffe and cut his hair into the 'moptop' style which became a key look for the early Be-Atles. Kirchherr is often credited with 'inventing' The Be-Atles' hairstyle although she disagreed, saying: 'All that rubbish people said, that I created [it]. Lots of German boys had that hairstyle. Stuart had it for a long while and the others copied it. I suppose the most important thing I contributed to them was friendship.'
She and Sutcliffe soon became engaged, but he died in April 1962 from a brain haemorrhage aged just twenty one, alongside her in an ambulance. She and The Be-Atles remained friends - she went on holiday with them to Tenerife and Paris in 1963 just after their first UK number one single - and took further acclaimed photographs of the band behind the scenes on the film A Hard Day’s Night. The Be-Atles met Kirchherr again in Hamburg in 1966 when they were touring Germany and Kirchherr gave Lennon the letters he had written to Sutcliffe during 1961 and 1962. Lennon said it was 'the best present I've had in years.' She also photographed George Harrison for the back cover of his 1968 solo LP, Wonderwall Music.
Her half-in-shadow portraits of the band would, subsequently, be copied by Robert Freeman - at The Be-Atles insistence - for the cover of With The Be-Atles.
Although, for many years she lost control of the copyright to many of her most celebrated photos, Astrid's best work can now be seen in the book When We Was Fab.
Her first marriage, to the Liverpudlian musician Gibson Kemp, had a Be-Atles connection - he was the replacement for Ringo Starr in Rory Storm & The Hurricanes and, later, played with Voormann in the never-legendary Gibson, Paddy & Klaus. Later in life she worked as a stylist and interior designer and opened a photography store in Hamburg. Although Kirchherr shot very few photographs after 1968, her work has been exhibited in Hamburg, London, Liverpool, New York City, Washington, Tokyo, Vienna and at the Rock and/or Roll Hall of Fame. She published three limited-edition books of photographs. Sheryl Lee played Kirchherr in the 1994 film Backbeat, a biopic about The Be-Atles' Hamburg days on which Astrid was one of the movie's advisors. She was later married and divorced a second time.
Phil May, frontman of riotous R&B band The Pretty Things - acclaimed peers of The Rolling Stones - has died aged seventy five. He died in hospital in King's Lynn from complications following hip surgery after a cycling accident earlier in the week. The Pretty Things' 1968 LP SF Sorrow, based on a short story by May about the life of protagonist Sebastian Sorrow, is credited as one of the first rock operas. The band have been cited as an influence by a wide range of artists from Pete Townshend and David Bowie to Jimi Hendrix and Kasabian. Born in Dartford, May formed The Pretty Things in 1963 with guitarist Dick Taylor, who had recently left the nascent Rolling Stones whilst studying at Sidcup Art College. The band's line-up coalesced with John Stax, Brian Pendleton and Viv Andrews, with May as frontman.
The group became a key part of the London R&B scene who were in thrall to US blues players but were also bringing in new elements of pop and rock and/or roll. They had an early top ten hit in 1964's 'Don't Bring Me Down' and other moderately successful singles including 'Rosalyn', 'Honey I Need, 'Midnight To Six Man' and 'Cry To Me' and became known for their drug-taking and raucous on-stage behaviour. May was bisexual, wore his hair long and marked himself out as a countercultural figure. He remembered in a Gruniad Morning Star interview in 2018: 'By the time The Pretty Things hit the TV screens, I was used to being abused and spat at and getting into punch-ups, because it had happened when we were art students. We'd done our apprenticeship at being outsiders.' In 1969, the band appeared in What's Good for the Goose, a bizarre sex comedy starring Norman Wisdom. During the late 1960s, the group made extra money by recording for music library company DeWolfe. Some of these songs ended up in low-budget films including The Haunted House Of Horror (1969) and a couple of softcore porn films. Not intended for official release, these songs were later compiled on a number of records and released under the alias Electric Banana.
The band earned their most enduring fame for their 1968 LP SF Sorrow. Although not a huge seller at the time, it is regarded as the first rock opera LP ahead of similar experiments like The Who's Tommy. May later admitted that his usage of LSD had a major impact on the LP, saying 'It was like a sharpening of the imagination for me. I don't think SF Sorrow would have been impossible without it, but there's a lot of acid [in] the imagery.' The record was released in the US by Motown offshoot Rare Earth, making them the Motown organisation's first UK signing. It subsequently became an influential cult favourite. The band were revered by artists as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith and The Ramones. David Bowie covered two of their songs on Pin Ups. The Pretty Things were one of the first acts signed by Swan Song Records, the label created by Led Zeppelin and Peter Grant became their manager. While there were spells of inactivity, the band never split up, enjoying a fifty five-year career. They played their final concert in 2018, with guest appearances by David Gilmour and Van Morrison. May also released a solo LP as Phil May & The Fallen Angels in 1976, which had a fraught gestation - half the LP was written and performed with band members from Fleetwood Mac and Humble Pie, who later quit, leaving May to finish it with a fresh set of personnel. In 2014, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema and took a break from touring. He recovered and the following year the band released their most recent CD, The Sweet Pretty Things (Are in Bed Now, of Course ...).​ A CD of new material is slated for release this year. Phil is survived by his son Paris, daughter Sorrel and partner Colin Graham.
It is said, dear blog reader, that every picture tells a story (not-least by Rod Stewart if not anyone who has actually made a halfway decent record since the late 1970s). The following dozen-or-so images do tell the story of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's - entirely government-suggested - morning being 'A Lert' and getting both his weekly exercise quota and the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House shopping done on Friday 15 May. All of which was, in fact, done to a soundtrack on this blogger's MP3 player of The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them).
Number One: This blogger got a number twelve bus - paying contactless, as advised by Stagecoach - to the Shields Road Post Office to pay the rent. The staff are always dead friendly and there is seldom a queue (that morning being no different). A canny start to the day, then.
Number Two: This blogger usually saves his shopping at Morrisons till on the way back home. But, wonder-of-wonders there was no queue on Friday morning at around 9.30am (well, there was about three people in total waiitng for enter). Thus, twenty eight knicker was dropped into their coffers and much shopping was actioned therein. As the Godlike genius of Eddie Izzard once said: 'We will do well here.'
Number Three: A bus into town followed and thence to Lloyds to pay in some cash to cover next month's Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House direct debits and standing orders. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping, please note, did manage to avoid going into Warhammer (despite it being 'open as usual', just in case you weren't aware of the fact). Mainly, he should stress, because he didn't want to be confronted by an angry Roy Hodgson. (This blogger's fine old mucker Mick The Mod Snowden at least will understand this last allusion. For everyone else, get thee to Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson's Athletico Mince podcast. Instantly. If not sooner.)
Number Four: Round the corner to Poundland. And, there was a queue to get in here. This blogger. Keith Telly Topping firmly believes that the lad on the door was only doing it 'for a laugh' to brighten up his otherwise dull day.
Number Five: A short walk to Marks & Spencer. Because those M&S cocktail sausages are more addictive than crack. And, equally as expensive. They reckon.
Number Six: To the Haymarket Halifax. To get some of the money this blogger paid into Lloyds earlier in the day back out again. Because, takeaways which this blogger really deserve don't pay for themselves, you know.
Number Seven: So, this was Northumberland Street on a 'busy' Friday morning around 10.30am dear blog reader. There was, admittedly, a smallish queue to get into Barclay's, but everywhere else ...
Number Eight: McDonald's are still pure dead sorry that they're closed (one imagines Poor Ronald is in floods of clownish tears at the very thought of the lost billions). But, as noted some weeks ago on this blog, all of the lights inside the Northumberland Street store are still on full-blaze. Their electricity bill when all of this is over is going to be a sight to see, dear blog reader. Do not, therefore, be at all surprised if the price of a Big Mac goes up exponentially when they reopen after all of the lockdown malarkey is over.
Number Nine: Sometimes, dear blog reader, messages can get mixed. Case in point; Yeah ... but not very fast, you're not.
Number Ten: Proof that there is at least one Greggs open in the wide, wide world (well, on Welbeck Road if that counts as Planet Earth - debatable, this blogger is aware). Tragically, they had no stotties left in store by the time this blogger rocked up to the gaff (and, believe him, Keith Telly Topping did check).
Number Eleven: And so, back to the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House. Where, dear blog reader, this blogger really deserved these items - and lots of other stuff besides. But, especially the bottle of Malibu.
Now, you may be aware of the current 'Penguin Classics Cover Generator thing that's doing the rounds on social media, dear blog reader. Something which allows authors to reimagine their own works as though they were part of this august range. If you not, you can find it here. This blogger certainly enjoyed fiddling about with this for one or two of his own tomes. I don't know whether this one would have sold more if it had looked like this, but it would certainly have been a conversation-starter at dinner parties.
Or, on a similarly World ClassSuperFabbish theme ...
Early last week, this blogger had an out of the blue - and very pleasant - telephone call from a lady from the local housing office who had, seemingly, been tasked with ringing up everyone in social housing in the general North Tyneside area to make sure that they were, you know, all right. All whilst doing so, from her home, with her three year old daughter screaming her head off in the background. This blogger assured her that yer actual Keith Telly Topping was and, indeed, still is very much alive, currently working from home, very happy about his current daily commute and getting out to purchase the weekly shopping (and, pay the rent, importantly) when required. This blogger was also jolly happy to discover that he is actually in the third group of people to call (apparently, it goes, 'One: vulnerable and at risk,' "Two: over seventies,' 'Three: everybody else). That cheered this blogger up no end!
This blogger has, in fact, really struggled with work at times this week - for the first time since lockdown began. Keith Telly Topping doesn't normally mind grafting on the 11.30am to 8pm shift which he does about one week in four. But, for some reason, on a couple of days this week it felt like this blogger had simply hit a brick wall around lunch time and, the final three hours or so of each day were like wading through treacle ...
... Or, something even worse.
Still, that said, the day ended in a most satisfyingly worthwhile way ...
You all pretty much know how much this blogger deserved that, dear blog reader, yes?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Awopboppaloobopalopbamboom

Little Richard, who has died at the age of eighty seven, was the self-styled 'king and queen' of rock and/or roll. Off-stage, he set the benchmark for a wild and debauched lifestyle. He was the devout believer in God who, nevertheless, indulged freely in the lurid temptations of fame. On-stage, he was a one-man tornado, the manic piano playing and outrageous voice appealing across the racial divides of segregated America and making him a genuine superstar in Great Britain and Europe. He lit the beacon of a revolution in music in the late 1950s and inspired a legion who took it forward. 'Mick Jagger used to watch my act,' he would boast. 'Where do you think he got that walk?' Jagger never denied the claim. The Be-Atles, Elton John and Elvis Presley all cited him a massive influence. If there had been no Little Richard, a key part of DNA would have been missing from acts as diverse as Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix - all of whom idolised him. The singer was inducted into the Rock and/or Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. An electric performer, a flamboyant persona, a shrieking vocalist, an all-round Goddamn force of nature, popular music hadn't seen the like of Little Richard before he emerged from New Orleans. With the likes of Chuck Berry and Elvis, he was one of the handful of US acts who concocted the primordial soup of blues, R&B and gospel which led to the evolution of rock and/or roll. Standing at his piano with his bouffant hair and letting rip with full-throated voice on songs like 'Tutti Frutti', 'Long Tall Sally', 'Rip It Up', 'Lucille', 'Ready Teddy', 'The Girl Can't Help It' and 'Good Golly Miss Molly', he was a rush of fresh air after a strait-laced post-war age. Little Richard, to put it bluntly, was rock and roll.
Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Georgia, in December 1932. His mother was a devout Baptist with eleven other children. She had meant to call him Ricardo but somehow a spelling error  occurred. His father was a preacher, albeit one who ran a nightclub and sold moonshine during prohibition. Richard's early musical influence was the Pentecostal Church. He loved the wild dancing and the speaking in tongues. As a child he put on his mother's lipstick and dress to entertain his sisters - a crime for which his father tied him to the bed and made hideous use of his belt. 'I was born in the slums. My daddy sold bootleg whiskey,' he told Rolling Stain magazine in 1970. The singer left home in his teens after disagreements with his father who didn't support his music. 'My daddy wanted seven boys and I had spoiled it, because I was gay,' Richard later said. He was the butt of homophobic jokes at school and walked with a limp due to a birth defect. He began singing rhythm and blues, which his parents saw as 'the devil's music.' He adopted on-stage his childhood nickname - Little Richard - despite being five feet ten inches without the heels or magnificent bouffant hair. In October 1947, Sister Rosetta Tharpe overheard then then fourteen-year-old Penniman singing her songs before a performance at the Macon City Auditorium. She invited him to open her show. Afterwards, Tharpe paid him, inspiring him to become a professional performer. In 1949, he began performing in Doctor Nubillo's Travelling show. Penniman was inspired to wear turbans and capes in his career by Nubillo, who also 'carried a black stick and Sexhibited something he called "the devil's child" - the dried-up body of a baby with claw feet like a bird and horns on its head.' Nubillo told Penniman that he was going 'to be famous' but that he would have to 'go where the grass is greener.' Richard stated that he was inspired to play the piano after he heard Ike Turner's intro on Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats 1951 rhythm and blues hit 'Rocket 88'.
He became a drag act - often forced by the police to wash the make-up off his face - and spent time in prison when a gas station attendant saw sexual activity in the back of a car. At eighteen, he was spotted in a talent competition which led to a recording contract with RCA Victor. The resulting single - a ballad called 'Every Hour' - sold well and improved his relationship with his father, who put it on his nightclub jukebox. But a year later, his father was shot dead outside a local bar. 'My best friend Frank shot him,' the singer later claimed. 'He was out of jail in a week. We never quite found out what really happened.' Richard returned home and worked washing dishes in a Greyhound bus station cafe. It was no place for a peacock. 'Can you imagine beautiful hands like these messing with pots of rice and beans?'
The way out was music. He developed a wild piano style in the manner of Esquerita, a gay New Orleans performer he'd met at the bus station. Richard began hitting the keys hard, often breaking the strings. In 1955, he auditioned for a Los Angeles-based label, Speciality Records. Richard was vocally powerful but somehow rather flat. The producer, Bumps Blackwell, abandoned the studio and, in a moment of rock and/or roll history, suggested a trip to a Dew Drop Inn. Richard spotted a piano and, more importantly, an audience. He leaped up on-stage and crashed out a new number: 'Tutti Frutti'. It began with the introduction of a brand new word into the English language: 'Awopboppaloobopalopbamboom!' It was a series of explosive yelps that 'capture the lightning bolts of love.' It speaks of the joys of sex with an accuracy that proper words simply cannot express.  It was, in the words of Charles Shaar Murray in Oz magazine, 'magnificent fuck music.' Richard delivered it fully charged with electricity. It was a demand to join the party which could not be refused. But the rest of the lyrics were filthy. A songwriter, Dorothy LaBostrie, was scrambled to write with a cleaner version - stripped of the original's explicit descriptions of anal sex. By this time, their studio booking was running out. 'In fifteen minutes, we did two cuts,' said Blackwell. 'It's been history ever since.' 'Tutti Frutti' sold more than a million records in the US. His next release, 'Long Tall Sally', did even better. In the next two years, Richard recorded eighteen hit singles, including 'Good Golly Miss Molly', 'Slippin' & Slidin', 'Rip It Up', 'Jenny Jenny', 'Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!', 'Keep A-Knockin' and 'Lucille'.
He began touring with his band, The Upsetters. Richard was outrageously camp and tremendously popular. His lyrics were suggestive and the concerts often ended with black and white youths dancing together. In the segregated parts of America, this was dangerous stuff. Now rich, he bought a mansion in Hollywood. He was openly gay but also had relationships with women. He even married Ernestine Harvin, a fellow Evangelical and later adopted a son, Danny. Richard blew thousands on drugs, booze and wild sex parties. Even by rock star standards, his thirst for depravity was enormous. But it jarred with the Old Testament morality of his upbringing. He would, allegedly, take his Bible along to orgies and later condemn his own 'Satanic' behaviour during this period. In 1957, Richard - literally - saw the light. During a concert in Sydney, he saw a fireball in the sky above him. He took it as an instruction from God to repent his wicked, sinful ways. It was actually the Sputnik satellite returning to Earth but Richard threw his diamond rings into the water from Sydney Harbour Bridge, gave up sin and popular music and pledged himself to The Lord .A few days later, his original return flight to America crashed into the sea. It was a sign, he said, that God was watching.
He signed up to Bible college in Alabama, but was soon asked to leave following allegations he had exposed himself to another student. Within a couple of years, he was back on tour. A gospel LP in 1961 was followed by forays into Soul. The notorious promoter Don Arden convinced him to come to Europe where his popularity was, if anything, even higher than in the US. Richard sang gospel with a backing band that included sixteen year old organist protégé Billy Preston, to a somewhat lukewarm reception. Then he would let it rip. The crowds loved the old hits. Brian Epstein persuaded Richard and his management to let a young band from Liverpool support him. The first show for which The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might have heard of them) opened for Richard was at New Brighton's Tower Ballroom in October 1962. The following month they, along with Swedish singer Jerry Williams and his band The Violents, opened for Penniman in a residency at the Star-Club in Hamburg. During this time, Richard advised the group on how to perform his songs - of which they did dozens in their act - and taught Paul McCartney the secret of his distinctive screaming vocalisations.
In Autumn 1963, Richard was called by a promoter looking to rescue a package tour of the UK featuring The Everly Brothers, Bo Diddley and The Rolling Stones. Penniman agreed and helped to save the tour from financial disaster. At one of the shows - probably on 28 October at the East Ham Granada - was attended by sixteen year old David Jones of Bromley, a huge fan of Richard. Many years later, David would recall a moment during up-coming South London five-piece The Rolling Stones' set when someone in the audience told them to get their hair cut' and Mick Jagger replied 'what, and look like you?' (although Bowie believed, incorrectly, that the show had been at the Brixton Odeon). 'Little Richard drove the whole house into a complete frenzy,' said Jagger. 'There is no single phrase to describe his hold on the audience.'
At the end of that tour, Penniman was given his own television special for Granada Television titled Its Little Richard. The special became a ratings hit and after sixty thousand fan letters, was rebroadcast twice. In 1964, now openly re-embracing rock and/or roll, Richard released 'Bama Lama Bama Loo' on Specialty Records. Due to his UK exposure, the song reached the top twenty. Later in the year, he signed with Vee-Jay Records, then on its dying legs, to release his 'comeback' LP, Little Richard Is Back. Due to the arrival of The Be-Atles and other British bands as well as the rise of soul labels such as Motown and Stax and the popularity of James Brown, Penniman's new releases were not well promoted or well received by radio stations but his finances took a huge boost with the number of cover versions of his old hits by British groups - most notably The Beatles' versions of 'Long Tall Sally' and 'Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!' In November 1964, a young Jimi Hendrix joined Penniman's Upsetters. A few moths later, Penniman took Hendrix and Billy Preston to a New York studio where they recorded the Don Covay soul ballad, 'I Don't Know What You've Got (But It's Got Me)', which became his biggest US hit in five years.
'I want to do with my guitar what he does with his voice,' said Hendrix. But Hendrix had his own brand of stage theatrics and, inevitably, the two clashed. Richard wasn't writing new hits. Instead, he was drinking heavily and spending one thousand dollars a day on cocaine. Religious leaders, disappointed at the abandonment of his ministry, told American radio stations to ignore his records. He concentrated, instead, on flamboyant live performance, slipping down the bill as his protégés eclipsed him. But, as John Lennon complained to Rolling Stain, it was risky going on stage after Little Richard, as Lennon did when The Plastic Ono Band played the 1969 Toronto Pop Festival. 'I threw up for hours before I went on,' claimed Lennon. 'I could hardly sing any of the numbers.' In the 1970s, Richard recorded a bewildering range of styles including blues and funk. He had little commercial success. He was held at gunpoint over drug debts and saw his brother die from cocaine abuse. Deeply shocked, Richard turned back to religion. He spent the next seven years selling bibles. In 1984, he checked into a hotel on Sunset Boulevard and stayed for twenty two years. He recorded the odd gospel LP, officiated at celebrity weddings and was re-baptised as a Seventh Day Adventist. Richard felt his musical influence was never acknowledged as it should have been and blamed the deep racial prejudice in America at the height of his career. But he was proud of his impact in crossing divides. 'I've always thought that rock 'n' roll brought the races together,' the singer once said. 'Although I was black, the fans didn't care. I used to feel good about that.'
Richard's glory days were over but, in those two years at his peak, he recorded a catalogue of era-defining tracks that helped redefine social attitudes and change the course of musical history. He was an electric live performer - with an energy and command of the stage which was often imitated but never bettered. He was a pivotal musical figure in the late 1950s. Elvis called him 'the greatest', his androgyny inspired the likes of David Bowie and the diamond-studded outfits - not to mention much of his piano playing style and stage antics - were snapped up by Elton John.
Ray Charles introduced him at a concert in 1988 as 'a man that started a kind of music that set the pace for a lot of what's happening today.' Bo Diddley called Richard 'one of a kind' and 'a show business genius' who 'influenced so many.' Richard'[s contemporaries, including Presley, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and, moist infamously, Pat Boone, all recorded covers of his songs. Taken by his music and style and personally covering four of Little Richard's tunes on his own two breakthrough LPs in 1956, Presley told Little Richard in 1969 that his music was an inspiration to him. Boone noted in 1984, 'no one person has been more imitated than Little Richard.' R&B pioneer Johnny Otis once stated that 'Little Richard is twice as valid artistically and important historically as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones put together.'
Little Richard said that he had started singing because he wanted to stand out from his siblings. 'I was the biggest head of all and I still have the biggest head,' he told the BBC in 2008. 'I did what I did, because I wanted attention. When I started banging on the piano and screaming and singing, I got attention.' His music was embraced by both black and white fans at a time when parts of the US were still deeply - and legally - segregated and concerts had a rope up the centre of the auditorium to divide people by colour.
Richard Penniman came to popular music when it was dominated by gentle crooners. Little Richard was the flamboyant pioneer of a new and far more exciting path.
'One of a kind' doesn't even begin to describe Little Richard. They broke the mould when they made him. He was, like the heroine of 'Long Tall Sally', 'built for speed.' And he did, indeed, both rip it up and 'ball tonite.' In every sense of the word.
Sometimes, dear blog reader, the Gruniad Morning Star and their fellow Middle Class hippy Communists at the Independent feature headlines which are attempting to write a cheque the accompanying stories can't possibly cash. But, every now and then, you get something like Brian May Taken To Hospital After Tearing Buttock Muscles While Gardening in one media organ and Brian May Hospitalised After 'Ripping His Buttocks To Shreds' In Gardening Accident in the other. This blogger would, he is forced to confess, love to have been in A&E when the large-hair'd pompous-rocker turned up after his alleged gardening mishap: 'Is it Covid-Nineteen, sir?' 'No, nurse, I appear to have broken my arse ...'
Speaking of perfectly astonishing headlines, the BBC News website's Coronavirus: Dorset Knob-Eating Contest Held Online Amid Lockdown takes the majority of this week's prizes. For lack of context if nothing else.
Meanwhile, isn't it nice to discover - from, what this blogger is sure is an entirely authoritative source - that whilst, in this country, you can't go to a restaurant, you can't go to a pub and you can't party in the streets to celebrate the seventy fifth anniversary of VE Day without getting pinched by The Bobbies, in Switzerland, foof can be freely purchased at a foof shop of your choice? Good on the Swissies, this blogger reckons.
The whole 'name twelve LPs that were influential on you but don't say why' thing that has been doing the rounds on Facebook, dear blog reader ... This blogger wasn't, actually, nominated by anyone to take part in this but he figured it was only a matter of time. Keith Telly Topping normally avoids these sort of things like The Plague but he was feeling a bit Asperger's-esque that particular morning in the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House. Note: There's actually twelve, cos Keith Telly Topping can be somewhat contrary like that. Also, he limited his very self to stuff that he bought at the time or, within a couple of years of release otherwise this list would be full of records which came out when this blogger was but four years old. It remains, mostly, white-boys-with-guitars, this blogger does concede. And, he's actually okay with such a happenstance. If you're wondering, the Val Doonican LP isn't irony - it looms jolly large in this blogger's legend.
This blogger - for reasons which seem entirely justified at the time - takes photographs of some of the takeaway meals which are delivered to the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House and posts them on Facebook and on this very blog. Usually with a note to the effect that this blogger has really deserved this/them.
Others, it would seem, choose to write poetry - really bad poetry, at that - about their takeaways and have them published in the local paper (in this particular case, the Derby Telegraph). Which is a necessary difference, this blogger feels. Oh, and by the way .... Cheesy chips? You're sick, Anne. Seriously, you need professional help.
So, dear blog reader, you may be wondering what's been going down at the Stately Telly Topping Plague House during the month of lockdown we've had since the most recent - none obituary-stuffed - bloggerisationisms update in early April? Keith Telly Topping will say one thing about this whole 'stay at home' malarkey - this little chap was the only living soul that this blogger spoke to in the previous forty eight hours (shouting obscenities when Michael Gove came on the TV doesn't really count). It is, however, this blogger's sad duty to report to you all that Sydney the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House spider expired soon after this photograph was taken. And, before anyone asks, no this blogger did not give him my shoe; instead, he was found brown bread in the sink, on his back, legs up, looking very poorly indeed. This blogger would love to be able tell you all, dear blog readers, that he died, peacefully, of old age, in his spider-bed surrounded by his large and loving family. Sadly, this blogger believes, it was actually suicide and he hurled himself from the lip of the sink to his porcelain doom below. This blogger cannot speculate on his reasons for (stately telly) topping himself thus but, Keith Telly Topping has to be honest, there are days when he feels like that too.
A couple of weeks later, dear blog reader, this blogger only went and killed a wasp which had somehow got itself trapped here in the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House. And, this blogger felt genuinely awful about it. That was the first living thing Keith Telly Topping had killed in, ooo, weeks. This blogger tried to usher the wasp out of an open window using a takeaway menu. He spent ten minutes trying to coax it out of the window which was mere inches - inches - away from it. But, the bloody idiot simply wouldn't budge. So, this blogger got his Thomson Local and, well, splat. Murder. Or, possibly, waspslaughter. This blogger will leave it up to the members of the jury on that particular regard. Let it be noted, however, that Keith Telly Topping hates killing things. He used to put spiders he found in the bath outside. Then he found out they were 'house spiders' and the cold kills then so now he just leaves them be - unless, as in the case of Sydney, above, they take matters into their own hands. But, this blogger draws the line at wasps, he has to be honest. Bees are useful, wasps are the skinheads of the insect world.
It is odd the way that attitudes are changing, generally, in the world in all sorts of ways. Whilst on a dinner break at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House one day, this blogger happened to glance out of the window and saw the local post delivery driver sitting in his van enjoying what this blogger is sure was a jolly well-earned apple. Just a few weeks ago, Keith Telly Topping's likely first thought would've been 'look at that lazy bugger, skiving on the job' followed by this blogger opening the window and bellowing 'Get some work doen, y'slacker!' But, now, it was more a case of 'ah, look at that Essential Worker having a nice - and well-deserved - break. Good on ya, matey, you're doin' a grand job delivering them letters.' Thus, lockdown teaches us tolerance and empathy. Sometimes.
The plan on one particular Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago was for this blogger to get the bus into town - as this blogger does most Saturdays - do a quick bit of food shopping, get some cash out of the bank, pay the rent at the Post Office, stop off at Morrisons on the way back and then be home, quickly, without having interacted (physically or emotionally) with too many individuals. That was the plan. And, it - mostly - worked, except for the town part. What happened was that this blogger got on the eighteen at about quarter-to-ten and, although he could've used his debit card to pay for a Day Rider (four English pounds and thirty pence), he had a fiver in his pocket so he thought he'd use that. The driver - lovely chap - said 'I'm a bit low on change, mate, just get on and pay on the next bus.' Okay. But, then this blogger's mind got working - which is always a dangerous thing, needless to say. 'I can get near-enough everything I need in Byker,' this blogger thought to his very self. Thus, got off the bus, paid the rent at Shields Road Post Office and got some cash out, walked down to Morrisons where there was a short queue and Keith Telly Topping was in-and-out in quarter-of-an-hour. Then there was the part he hadn't planned on, this blogger walked all the way up Shields Road to the Poundland opposite ASDA and then, he got the free bus home. Thus, saving his very self a deep-sea-diver in travel costs, having gotten some much-needed exercise without having come even remotely close to being in contact with anyone in the process and did it in, probably, less time than he would have if he'd gone into town in the first place as originally planned. This blogger says he managed to get 'more or less' everything he needed, that was except for some tins of Heinz spaghetti and sausages (something of a necessity at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House) which, for some reason, seem to be rarer than Faberge Eggs in Newcastle. This blogger has but three observations to make about the trip in general which the following images will, hopefully, illustrate for you all, dear blog reader. Firstly this was Shields Road at eleven o'clock on a Saturday morning in April. Jesus, even The Raby was empty. Things must be bad.
Secondly, that was probably the first occasion this blogger has ever seen a travel company telling their passengers not to travel with them and to, effectively, get-the-fek home.
And thirdly, the fact that this blogger saved his very self five notes in travel costs meant that he treated himself to a nice bottle of something fizzy and non-alcoholic. And some ladies underwear. But, perhaps Keith Telly Topping has said too much ...
Some great and marvellously excellent news in these dark and troubled times occurred just one week later, however. The conversations went something like this. Morrisons: 'No chance. Have you any idea how rare those thing are?' ASDA: 'You have t'be jokin', Bonny Lad. We're just a shop, not a shop made of gold." ALDI: 'Not us, Squire, we don't sell those.' But, good old reliable Poundland: 'Certainly, sir, how many tins would you like?' The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House was, on that day, a House of Joy.
On Bank Holiday Monday. dear blog reader, the people next door to the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House were having what seemed to be a really very nice indeed barbecue in their back garden. It appeared to be just them, though, so this blogger had no intention of snitching them up to The Filth like a dirty stinkin' Copper's Nark. However, this blogger was more than a bit cheesed off that they didn't have the decency to apologise for the smell of cooked sausages which were wafting through the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House's kitchen window whilst this blogger was trying to dry his washing. Then, they started playing music. Loudly. Really bad music too - Now That's What I Call All The Crap Of The 1980s, Volume One by the sound of it. This blogger knew he should have shopped them to The Law when he had the chance ...
At the same time, you may be wondering dear blog reader, what was yer actual Keith Telly Topping up to in his own culinary matters? Well, the answer is both unsurprising and, indeed, fairly obvious. Deserve This? Really. Oh, aye.
At the same time, the announcement that Greggs have apparently u-turned on their decision to reopen some of their local stores - 'over sausage roll rush fears', apparently - had destroyed this blogger's hopes of having his first stottie in six weeks. Oh, the inherent tragedy of it all. First world problem, admittedly, dear blogger, but this is a severe stottie withdrawal speaking ...
After another - not especially stressful but still quite heavy - day home working from the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House yer actual Keith Telly Topping was, at 4.30 that particular evening, pure dead Hank Marvin, so he was and in desperate need of some sustenance. But, as The Bee Gees once said, tragedy; it was a Tuesday and the local takeaway was closed that particular evening. Oh no, what am us t'do? Relax, dear blog reader, it was Cheeseboyyyga time.
This blogger took a pleasant stroll down to ALDI nice and early on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning thus combining two of the things which you can't get pinched by The Fuzz for these days. And he was absolutely delighted to discover there was no queue to get in; as a consequence, this blogger was in, around, paid for and out the gaff inside ten minutes. Top marks to ALDI. Also, top marks to Keith Telly Topping's MP3 player which had, seemingly, just discovered the concept of 'irony', kicking off that day's allegedly 'random' selection of tunes-to-shop-by with 'It's The End Of The World As We Know It (& I Feel Fine)'. Followed by Electronic's 'Get The Message'! Sarky bloody electronic device, that it is ...
On the following Monday, the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House playlist was, predominantly, The Faces - Five Guys Walk Into A Bar. The following day, the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House playlist was Lindisfarne - The Charisma Years. This blogger appeared to have, a bit like Sam Tyler, found his very self stuck in 1973. Some would argue, of course, he never left in the first place ...
So, dear blog reader, you're probably wondering at this juncture ...
Good question, as it goes. Killing Eve.
The Blacklist.
Mark Kermode's Secrets Of Cinema.
Would I Lie To You?
World War Weird.
Doctor Who.
The 2005 Second Test at Edgbaston.
The Match Of The Day Podcast.
The BBC's Coronavirus Daily Update.
The West Wing.
The Goodies.
Africa.
Another somewhat unexpected consequence of pan-continental lockdown has seen occasional - and significant - leaps in the usual daily traffic that From The North has received. On a good day, somewhere between three and four thousand page hits are a decent average for this blog. As you can see, dear blog reader, we've had a few very 'good days' of late. Particularly the weekend of 25 to 26 April. So, if you're knew in church, you are very welcome.
Walkers - who haven't been nabbed by The Bobbies for being out-of-doors in an untoward manner - have been urged to 'keep off the grass' as Lichfield RUFC 'carries out pitch preparation work' ahead of new rugby season. Whenever that happens.
A woman has been extremely arrested after an elderly man died and three others were injured during a knife attack in a village Co-Op in South Wales.
Another candidate for From The North's Headline of the Week award is: City Official Resigns After Drinking Beer & Throwing Cat During Zoom Meeting.
Or, indeed, from the same website - Mandatory - Motorcycling Monkey Tries to Steal Kid, Most Unlikely Biker Gang Initiation Yet.
A Florida man reportedly stabbed his roommate 'in attempt to release Satan,' before turning the knife on himself.
Onto a slightly more serious matter, dear blog reader. 27 April marked the seventh anniversary of the death of this blogger's late mother. The following day marked the twenty ninth anniversary of the death of his father in 1991. As a consequence around this time each year Keith Telly Topping can - and usually does - get rather melancholy and introspective during a period of quiet reflection. And, this year was no different. Except that this blogger was trying his best to be slightly less melancholy and introspective than unusual since these are strange and troubled times generally. And if Keith Telly Topping started getting more melancholy and introspective, he likely wouldn't get out of bed.
Finally, dear blog reader, here's Angelo Badalamenti's 'Twin Peaks Theme' as performed by The Cats & Friends Choir. All four minutes and fifty four excruciating second of it. This is what the Internet was invented for ... Probably.
Meanwhile, the Government recommends, dear blog reader, that you all get yer asses back to The Gaft forthwith (if not sooner). But, you should most definitely avoid using public transport to get there. For obvious reasons ...
And always remember the Prime Minister's - in no way whatsoever confusing - advice on how to survive The Pestilence ...