The Andy Warhol Diaries & A Space Age Love Song

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Posthumously published at the tail end of the 1980s, The Andy Warhol Diaries has just been adapted into a six-part TV docuseries by Netflix.

Directed by Andrew Rossi, it’s been picking up some rave reviews, Ireland’s Sunday Independent touting it as ‘a brilliant and penetrating portrait of a genius whose influence is still felt and who predicted so much of modern life’, while for Edge Media Network it was ‘a monumental event’.

I wouldn’t go that far. A big problem with it is that Warhol didn’t start on his diaries until November 1976, by which point he was extolling ‘Business Art’ rather than Pop Art. ‘Being good at business is the best art,’ he claimed. Whether or not he was being serious is hard to tell but as his aphorisms go, this was maybe the dumbest.

In the 1960s, Pop Art Andy was shooting esoteric underground movies with titles like Blow Job and promoting The Velvet Underground, while surrounded by drag queens, speed freaks and mad, bad and dangerous to know hangers-on and hustlers. In the 1970s and 1980s, Business Art Andy was making MTV friendly videos for The Cars and Curiosity Killed The Cat, and if any art collector fancied a portrait, then he was more than happy to immortalise their mugs on canvas, as long as the price was right. He even agreed to appear on The Love Boat and delivered the kind of performance that would have made Tommy Wisseau blush.

You can’t blame him for dropping most of his mid-’60s entourage. After being shot by the maddest, baddest and definitely most dangerous to know of his hangers-on, Valerie Solanas, things were never going to be the same again.

Andy is seen here publicly denying that the incident changed his life, but you’d have to be truly gullible to believe him. Wildly insecure, Warhol saw himself as ugly and a freak, and the heavy scarring and puncture marks on his torso must have horrified him. And served as a daily reminder of the downside of his days walking on the wild side.

Jed Johnson, a much younger man who Paul Morrissey had hired to work at the Factory due to his striking good looks, became Warhol’s live-in carer as he recovered and the pair became involved romantically even though Andy still liked to pretend to the world that he was asexual in line with his public ‘I want to be a machine’ persona.

Shy but a social butterfly, he was drawn to the sex, drugs, and disco world of Studio 54. Jed judged that he was wasting his time there with ‘the most ridiculous people’ and during this time, the older man comes across as more voyeuristic than visionary.

The two grew apart and Jed eventually dumped him. Not one to heed the commonplace advice that going on the rebound is never going to mend a broken heart, Andy immediately decided to woo Jon Gould, a preppy New Englander who worked as a bigwig exec at Paramount. Like Jed he was a twin with a twin brother called Jay. The odds on that? Pretty damned high I would guess.

Episode two ends with archive footage from New York’s 1981 Hogmanay bash, this celebration and the end credits soundtracked in a completely on the nose fashion by a synthpop/guitar track that, as my toes tapped, I soon identified as A Flock of Seagulls, a band most famous nowadays for being namechecked by Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules in Pulp Fiction and for the utter ridiculousness of the singer’s hairstyle.

For a brief period, the Liverpool band must have been credible enough. They’d hoped to pick up a deal with local independent Zoo Records but instead, former Be-Bop Deluxe frontman Bill Nelson released their debut 45 on his own Cocteau label, producing it into bargain. He also took John Peel along to see them play in a Yorkshire boozer and the DJ was impressed enough to offer them a session on his show.

Nowadays, some even consider them the least cool band of the 1980s (which would be a real feat given that Kajagoogoo, Level 42 and The Thompson Twins were all on the go at the time). In his book Mad World, Jonathan Bernstein put the boot in: ‘In my U.K. homeland, they were seen as a joke act, like a band formed by a bunch of oafish characters in a British soap opera.’ This, their fifth single, is about as ’80s as a rah-rah skirted Molly Ringwald attempting to solve a Rubik’s Cube, a bunch of bangles dangling against her Swatch watch as she does so. Space Age Love Song is also a delicious slice of sincere and optimistic pop. Paul Reynold’s nimble guitar work is dazzling and you’ve got to love those synthy laser gunshot whooshes which accompany the whole song.

Released in Britain forty years ago come May, here it is:

More on The Andy Warhol Diaries soon.

McCafferty, Your Tea’s Oot – Just A Boy’s Game


In the current climate of British television, it’s almost impossible to imagine something like Just a Boy’s Game being shown today.

Positive role models? Not remotely. There is no diversity to be seen, and there’s a massive gender imbalance. This is a man’s world and a working-class man’s world at that. Any female characters who appear are far from strong women: one has been spent decades in a loveless marriage with a bitter man; another puts up with a reckless and feckless chancer. Then there’s a hopeless alcoholic nicknamed Clatty Bella – and if you’re wondering what clatty means, in Scotland it’s someone with very poor personal hygiene. Oh, and don’t expect any uplifting message either.

Made by BBC London (rather than BBC Scotland) in 1979 and part of the Play For Today strand, Just a Boy’s Game is set in the grey streets of Greenock and is a night, day and night in the lives of Jake McQuillen (Frankie Miller) and Dancer Dunnichy (Ken Hutchison). Dancer’s a wisecracking wastrel, an ageing likely lad, while Jake’s more a likely to get into a fight kinda lad. Unlike a later fictional Scottish hardman, Francis Begbie, Jake isn’t one to start fights. He has mellowed to some extent with age, but he still has his reputation and is never going to back down from trouble if it rears its head. And it certainly does here. Repeatedly.

A crane operator at a local shipyard, you sense a disaffection gnaws away at Jake from the moment he rises till he falls into sleep at the end of a night usually with the aid of some booze. He no longer has any relationship with his mother, and he suspects his granda, an infamous local hard man in his younger days, killed his father. Bizarrely, this is who he chooses to live with, together with his kindly grandmother. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with him.

Just a Boy’s Game starts outside local bar The Voyager where The Cuban Heels (a band with strong Greenock roots) are belting out a punkish version of Paint It Black. The pessimism of the song is appropriate. This, as you’ve likely guessed, is a dark drama.

A scuffle starts over an argument between Dancer and a narky young woman, who bumps into him (played by Elaine Collins, the future Mrs Peter Capaldi), Jake taking on the girl’s boyfriend. This is nothing compared to what follows. A fierce fight breaks out and escalates rapidly, with a fair percentage of the bar becoming caught up in the chaos. One young man wields a razor blade and soon glasses are being thrown at the gantry and punches and kicks being swapped. 999 is dialled, but the police are in no rush to quell the aggro. Jake watches on impassively. He’s witnessed this a hundred times before.

The next morning he sees his granda cough blood into a metal bucket. The morose auld fucker (Hector Nicol) is dying and most viewers might think the sooner the better and good luck to whoever is tasked with delivering his eulogy. He’s nasty to the core and even in his last few days, he’s determined to belittle Jake and boss around his long-suffering wife.

Dancer, meanwhile, has declared the day a holiday. This entails a trip to the offy for a bottle of VAT 69 and some Eldorado (a cheapo fortified wine that is still popular in Inverclyde – until recently they even sponsored Port Glasgow Juniors FC), followed by a climb up the giddying heights of Jake’s crane cabin, clutching his carry-out bag. ‘How d’you get on wi’ the seagulls?’ Dancer asks, looking as if he’s suffering from altitude sickness. Either that or a shocking hangover.

Next up, is a rainy visit to the aforementioned Clatty Bella’s tip of a house, where they can’t even dry off as Bella’s son has taken the house’s single towel with him to go swimming. The bevvy flows, and before too long Dancer leads her into the bedroom to ‘make sweet music.’ Hopefully sweeter than her impromptu pub singer rendition of I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

Suitably refreshed, Jake and Dancer head across town to pick up their pal Tanza (Gregor Fisher) from the garage where he works. All the while stalked by some local wannabe hard cases, the trio visit an old snooker hall where Jake’s Granda was once a regular. A man comically miscues a shot after over-reaching across the table. ‘Ah needed a rest for that shot,’ he observes.

‘Aye,’ Tanza tells him. ‘You should have had a week in bed, ya diddy.’

‘Who are you?’ the bemused man asks.

With his liking for cowboy film references, Tanza jokes: ‘I’m the man that shot Liberty Vallance. I hope you didnae know him.’

A few minutes later, Jake, Dancer and Tanza will face their own High Noon, as they slip out the back door of the club into a container terminal to be greeted by a wild bunch of tooled up neds, eager to establish their own tough guy credentials. Especially their leader Dunky McCafferty.

It would be hard to see the violence here as being glamourised. The fight ends with one man running into a thick steel cable hawser at the level of his throat.

Ken Hutchison, then best known for a role as a thug in Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs and starring as Heathcliff in a 1978 BBC adaptation of Wuthering Heights, is first class as Dancer, albeit the jaws of any Emily Brontë fans tuning in to see him in another Heathcliff type role must have dropped as the play progressed.

A binge drinker (or maybe borderline alcoholic), Dancer is as irresponsible as a child but he does possess a decent line in banter and a rogueish charm. He’s perfectly cast. The revelation here, though, is Frankie Miller as Jake.

With the success of top ten British single Darlin‘ fresh in the memory, the idea of branching out with a lead role in a gritty Play for Today strand was unexpected.

‘Frankie had that wonderful Glaswegian gallusness,’ McDougall explained recently in an online interview. As an example of this, he mentioned the first day of shooting when Miller indicated the camera to Mackenzie and advised him: ‘Just fucking point it at me.’

This attitude helps explain why he was confident enough to let the camera linger on him.

McDougall is Scotland’s greatest ever TV dramatist, and with the ongoing homogenisation of television, I don’t expect to be changing that opinion any time soon.

Martin Scorsese went as far as calling Just A Boys’ Game the Scottish equivalent of Mean Streets and later Mean Streets’ co-star Harvey Keital flew over to Scotland to appear in McDougall’s Down Where the Buffalo Roam.

Mackenzie went on to make The Long Good Friday (1980) and collaborated with McDougall again, this time on his adaptation of Jimmy Boyle’s A Sense of Freedom (1981). After that, McDougall continued writing for TV, film and theatre. Shoot For The Sun (1986), examined the heroin problem in Edinburgh before Trainspotting got round to it and more recently he penned a modern interpretation of Whisky Galore! with Gregor Fisher taking on a leading role.

Miller never acted again, turning down a number of offers as he wanted to concentrate again on his music. Few would deny the power of his voice, indeed, Otis Redding’s widow Zelma has been one of many to shower him with compliments over the years, once observing: ‘That little ol’ white boy, Frankie, has the blackest voice since Otis.’

Sadly in 1994, Miller suffered a brain haemorrhage while in New York and since then he has been unable to perform.

Too Old To Die Young (Soundtrack Sundays)

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Too Old To Die Young Soundtrack

If you ever happen to switch on your TV and come across a movie that you don’t know which has moody, damaged characters who say very little, hypnotic scenes with colourful palettes with red to the fore and plenty of visceral ultraviolence, chances are it’s been directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.

The chances are also that you will experience a strong reaction to what you’re seeing.

‘Polarization, to me, is the key,’ Refn explained in a recent interview. ‘That’s the definition of success.’ He also claimed that creativity is not about being likable, which is good to hear in an age where many virtue signalling filmmakers seem keener on providing an inspirational message that promotes social justice and diversity than telling a fascinating story. Not that social justice or diversity are bad obviously. But characters behaving horrendously do tend to make for better drama. And there are plenty of characters behaving horrendously here.


In Too Old To Die Young, dialogue is sparse and the pace slow. Frustratingly slow at times. I watched Refn’s Pusher trilogy recently and it was striking how fast moving it was in comparison. And that characters spoke as near as dammit naturalistically. Another big difference was the lack of a Cliff Martinez score. And of the scores he’s composed for Refn: Drive, Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon being the first three, this is very probably the best.

Here, though, I want to feature some existing tracks used in the series.
In the final episode, one of the main characters decides that it would be good to dance to Goldfrapp’s Ooh La La. On her own, for the complete length of the song.

Ooh La La is certainly a great synth glam stomp to shake your stuff to. Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky is sampled, and there’s a strong echo of Canned Heat’s On The Road Again. Some early Giorgio Moroder and T.Rex have been thrown into the mix too, and I reckon I can detect a trace of Elvis in places and even an echo of Suicide in the keyboards. And I adore those disco angel vocals from Alison Goldfrapp.

Here’s the song live from Later… with Jools Holland:

Refn’s latest work is a sometimes brilliant and sometimes exasperating ten part series that explores the seedy underworld of crime in LA, and which occasionally takes up the story in Mexico with a drug cartel bigwig called Jesus (Augusto Aguilera). I’m sure Nicolas Windup Refn took a great delight in giving a brutal killer with a (dead) mummy fixation that particular name.

And believe me, you won’t have a friend in this Jesus.

If there’s a central character, though, it would be LAPD sheriff Martin Jones (played by Miles Teller), who is in a relationship with a seventeen year old high school senior, Janey (Nell Tiger Free). Janey has a brilliant mind, and according to creepy father Theo (William Baldwin), she’s a ten in the looks department too. Oh, and as this is California, having sex with Martin is illegal due to Janey’s age, although this doesn’t overly concern Theo.

Outwith his police work, Martin is also forced to carry out hits for Damian, a Jamaican American gangster, who loves vintage ska. Martin later comes into the sphere of Diana DeYoung (Jena Malone) a victim’s advocate, who feeds former FBI agent Viggo Larsen (John Hawkes), information about paedophiles that she has learnt about through her law work.

Viggo acts on this by killing the names he is given. Martin discovers this and luckily for Diana and Viggo, he believes that if a child abuser is killed, it’s a victim-less crime.

Does Martin believe in Homicide? Yes, he does. Absolutely. Does Theo like dad dancing to 999’s Homicide at a party for Janey’s eighteenth birthday? Yes, he does.

Produced by Martin Rushent (Buzzcocks, Human League), the sixth single by 999 was released by United Artists in October 1978 in Britain. Here it is live on The Old Grey Whistle Test, just as the craze in Britain for tight pink trousers apparently reached its peak:

Sadly, Homicide isn’t a part of the soundtrack album. Neither is Prince Buster’s ska classic Ten Commandments (okay, the lyrics are far from classic). Barry Manilow’s Mandy didn’t make the cut either – hurrah, but a nostalgic dirge called Elvis and Marilyn did – boo.

The Leather Nun are included, so hurrah again.

The Leather Nun were one of those acts whose name suggested that mainstream success was never very high on their agenda. The Sound of Young Sweden in the late 1970s/early 1980s, the band specialized in causing offence, especially with their live shows, where they were often accompanied by strippers with live adult movies being projected.

TOTDY utilises F.F.A, which doesn’t stand for Fast Filmic Action. If Grace Jones had teamed up with Bowie’s Lodger era band, they just might have come up with something not unlike this.

That’s Jesus with the whip, incidentally, in the video below and the brunette in the red leather trousers is Yaritza (Cristina Rodlo). Death follows Yaritza around to the extent that she proclaims herself ‘The High Priestess of Death’.

Maybe death is only following her around due to her cartel connections. But this theory doesn’t somehow seem to have occurred to her.

Here is a clip of F.F.A as it was used in episode 8. I didn’t mention the slow pace, didn’t I?

If you’re coming to Refn for the first time, then I’d recommend that you try Drive first. This series does resemble Drive in many ways, although Miles Teller is marginally less magnetic as Ryan Gosling and Jena Malone is nowhere near as good an actor as Carey Mulligan. But if you like Drive, you at least have a chance of enjoying Too Old To Die Young. If you dislike Drive, then watching this series will be a waste of thirteen hours of your life.

Nicolas Winding Refn could do with ditching the idea of letting himself be influenced by tarot readings from Alejandro Jodorowsky, but there is much to enjoy in the series from a psychedelic shooting rampage to a surreal skit on the crucifixion of Jesus (no, not the cartel Jesus) through to Monkee Puppet, a real cheeky little monkey who believes that ‘peace is only for hippies’.



Peter Cook Revolver

So far this year, I’ve featured a couple of performances from The Rich Kids and Rezillos from 1978’s new music show Revolver. And today’s post features two more.

I’m not sure about regional variations but on STV, Revolver aired on Saturday nights at eleven o’clock. 45 minutes later it was followed by a quick religious spot called Late Call, which usually consisted of some Church of Scotland Minister telling you about his friend Jesus. Then the channel would shut down for the night.

Many including myself have very fond memories of the show; even back then the idea of Peter Cook playing the part of an old school ballroom manager fallen on hard times and forced to book new bands that he despised like The Jam and X–Ray Spex was infinitely preferable to the unfunny, narcissistic (and worse) DJs on Top Of The Pops or the earnestness of Bob Harris on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

The audience certainly seemed to enjoy themselves as you can see here. This is I Don’t Need to Tell Her by The Lurkers:

Revolver is sometimes remembered as a punk and new wave show but there was also a smattering of just about every genre of music that was popular in the late 70s at some point during its eight episodes: reggae, disco, power/pop, rock’n’roll and heavy rock. Nick Lowe made an appearance the same night that The Rezillos were on. As did Elvis Costello, The Motors, Matumbi and an act called Brent Ford (geddit?) and the Nylons that I have very little recollection of – some of the band wore nylons over their faces like robbers and they played high octane cover versions of sixties classics.

Kate Bush turned up on the pilot of Revolver to sing Them Heavy People. XTC appeared on that show too and in later weeks there were Siouxsie and The Banshees, Ian Dury and The Blockheads, Buzzcocks, Boomtown Rats, The Jam, Rich Kids and Eddie and The Hotrods and more but some folk still hated the show and ratings were never that high.

‘I enjoy pop shows as well as the next person, but I can honestly say this is the biggest load of garbage seen in years,’ one Evening Times reader complained. ‘Top of the Pops has nothing to fear from this awful show.’

Revolver only lasted for a single series which is a pity. From the final show this is The Only Ones with Another Girl Another Planet, one of the greatest songs ever recorded and featuring former Beatstalker Alan Mair on bass, a man who will be releasing a debut solo album this year which I’m looking forward to hearing.

The Lurkers play live tonight at The Wunderbar in Midsomer Norton. Here’s their official site.

And here’s the Facebook page of The Only Ones. Alan Mair can be found on Facebook too.

A Former Dreamboy & A Former Dancing Pig Discuss Punk, Doctor Who & Independence

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Ian Rankin - Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

Good to see What Presence! The Rock Photography of Harry Papadopoulos being discussed this week by former Dancing Pig, Ian Rankin and former Dreamboy, Craig Ferguson, on prime time American chat show, The Late Late Show.

If you missed my review of the book and exhibition of the same name, click here.

And for more on Harry Papadopoulos and the music of the punk/new wave and post-punk era, here’s a series of discussions organised by Glasgow’s Street Level Gallery during the first staging of the show:

27th Jan 2012: Introduced and hosted by David Belcher.

10th Feb 2012: Introduced by Ken McCluskey and hosted by Billy Sloan.

24th Feb 2012: Introduced by Malcolm Dickson and hosted by John Cavanagh.

Doctor Who and The Dreamboys



The idea of writing about Doctor Who in my first blog isn’t something I would ever have imagined doing until last week when Peter Capaldi, who unlike me, is a lifelong fan of the show, was confirmed to be replacing Matt Smith in the lead role. 

I first became aware of the new Doctor back in the late 70s and early 80s when he sang and played guitar in a Glasgow new wave outfit called The Dreamboys, who for a while could also count in their ranks as drummer Craig Ferguson, currently one of America’s most popular chat show hosts.

Nowadays Peter tends to downplay the idea of him ever having any chance of making a success of his musical career when he discusses his days as a Dreamboy and jokes about them being the only Glasgow band of the era not to be invited to do a John Peel session but back then I’d guess he took the band idea very seriously; they certainly gigged across Glasgow on a very regular basis and several fanzine writers tipped them for big things including a guy called Daniel Easson, who edited a very fine fanzine that he ran from the south side of the city called Fumes.

Unfortunately my copy of #4 from April 1980 doesn’t score too highly in the legibility stakes, especially the photos, but I’ve reproduced a page anyway, with a review of a show The Dreamboys played in March 1980 in a Glasgow venue called the Doune Castle, a hastily arranged gig where the lads replaced another local act Newspeak – who I was actually hoping to see that night – after they were forced into cancelling owing to their drummer catching glandular fever.

Obviously the situation wasn’t ideal and some of those there to see Newspeak left before or during The Dreamboy’s set (but not me, honestly!) which must have pissed off the future Malcolm Tucker, who didn’t, though, explode into a potty mouthed tirade at those joining in the exodus.

Gradually many of the audience were won over and the cheering increased as the set progressed, or at least I seem to remember that being the case but it was a long time ago.

If only I had a Tardis style time machine to take me back to that night.

‘If you have not seen them yet get to the next gig,’ the Fumes reviewer concludes, ‘and in particular look out for ‘cowboys’ ‘peggie sue’ and iggy pops ‘passenger’… you should not be disappointed…….’

As for Newspeak, if anybody’s wondering what happened to them, I’ll have to inform you that like Capaldi’s group, they also failed to make any kind of significant breakthrough. Come to think of it Peelie never invited them in for a session either.

I’m told, however, that a combo that the guitarist later joined are still proving pretty popular and that the former bassist is currently putting together a new music label which is currently gaining more than a little media attention.

So well done to Andrew Innes for his part in Primal Scream’s recent More Light album and good luck to Alan McGee with his new 359 Music label.