RIP Billy McNeill

Celtic and Scotland legend Billy McNeill sadly has passed away. It wasn’t a shock as he’d been ill for some time but this absolute giant of a man will be best remembered not just to be the first Scottish and British player to get his hands on the European Cup, but for being one of the very best players Scotland ever will produce.

I’m a Partick Thistle supporter but to not admire the man and there’s fans of many a Scottish club, Rangers included, who think the same. A giant who’ll be missed.

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Scott Walker RIP

Back in the long hot summer of 1995 I went down to Glastonbury for a weekend of fun and games, with a couple of friends, Denise and Joe who were driving down. We were travelling in a battered old car which groaned with our stuff but spirits were high as we left Leicester to hit the M69 to head to the South West. As we approached Coventry Joe stuck on the one tape we had for the trip which was a copy of the Best of Scott Walker and as he stuck it in, and pressed play the first chinks of sunrise broke as this played.

It was the sign it was going to be a good weekend.

By this point in the mid 90’s, Walker had gained an appreciation among the Indie kids who weren’t having the dull boot heel of Britpop kicking them in the head, though folks like myself grew up with Walker’s music. Basically if you grew up in the 70’s and your family had taste you’d normally head one Walker tune all the time. Mine was Jackie.

But the king was this one.

No Regrets was my drunken pulling song along with Blondie’s Atomic for years in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Those were the days.

What I’m basically saying is that Scott Walker is dead but his music won’t die. Walker has been with me musically for more or less my entire life. His music was there during some amazingly memorable times and still will because just listen to the man sing on songs like this…

I mean, just fuck, listen to it! If that song doesn’t move you a bit then you have no soul.

But the sun won’t shine anymore for him and it’s only fitting to close this with this performance of a Jacques Brel song…

Keith Flint RIP

Keith Flint of The Prodigy took his own life at the age of 49 and it is an utter tragedy for so, so many reasons. If one assumes he was suffering from depression then he’s another victim of how men especially find it hard to nearly impossible to speak about something that can be crippling or worse. 49 is no age these days and Flint had decades ahead of him.

And it can’t be said often enough that The Prodigy emerged from a scene in the early 90’s where rave bands were ten a penny and novelty dance tunes were chart fodder, which brings me my first encounter with the band in the form of Charly.

In these early days Flint was a dancer. Basically he was there to dance to LIam Howlett’s tunes as The Prodigy was purely a vehicle for Howlett back then but then came Music For A Jilted Generation and fuck me, it was like an entirely different band.

I first saw them sometime in 93/4 at the Astoria in London and it was clear the band wasn’t just actually becoming a band, but Flint was developing a presence onstage, and not just that the band were getting harder. Sometimes even moving away from the rave sound which by the mid 90s was becoming increasingly commercialised and well, shite.

Then Firestarter came out in 96 at the height of Britpop when British bands were supposed to be inspired by The Kinks and writing songs about going to the seaside or getting drunk, The Prodigy turned out something that sounded nothing like any other mainstream band at the time.

Sure, others had blended dance with Punk before, Sheep on Drugs for example, but nobody really made a success of it til Keith Flint decided to have a serious makeover which ended up scaring the shite out of people’s mid-90’s complacency when the video first appeared on Top of the Pops.

Summer 96 saw The Prodigy tear up the Phoenix festival, but it was 1997 at Glastonbury when they landed fully formed as something extraordinary.

It was Friday night. It’d been raining so hard in the run-up that stages were sinking into the mud. Conditions were miserable. Everywhere had this sucking, sticky mud that clung to everything, and if you stayed still for too long you either locked into place or sank. People were fucked off and waiting for something to kick the festival’s arse into gear. A lot has been said about Radiohead’s set on the Saturday over the years, but without the Prodigy kicking off the Friday night  and giving people a spark, then the crowd wouldn’t have been so up for it. We’d have given in.

By now at the scabby dogend of Britpop bands were dropping off fast, but The Prodigy sailed through the storms, not to mention controversies like the argument with the Beastie Boys about Smack My Bitch Up.

After 98 I sort of took the Prodigy for granted. Subsequent albums never hit the heights of Fat of the Land, and a decent headliner spot in Reading in 2002 was the last time I saw them live, and now I’ll never see them again and that is nothing compared to the tragedy of Flint leaving us at such a relatively young age.

Life is Golden

The other week during an especially tedious corporate team building/training exercise we did a thing where you”re to give away one of six things that mean the most to you. Everyone else picked ‘friends’ or’ family’. I picked time because if you don’t have, or indeed, make the time, then you can’t appreciate that which you hold the closest to you because you don’t realise as you live life that you don’t actually have much time. In an ideal world it should be down to oneself to decide what time they decide to waste, but the mundaneness of modern life enforces one to devalue time to the point where you never consider it, or worse, wish it away, to simply exist.

I say this as a friends back in Bristol passed away this weekend from cancer. I’ll not go into to much details as I’m unsure how much he’d, or his family, would like details splashed on the face of the internet, but needless to say it takes something reminding one of their mortality to appreciate time because for him his time is done, and we can only remember the times we all had drinking while watching the football, or talking bollocks in drunken nights down the Cat and Wheel, the local where a small community grew organically over the years.

Now that community which has been scattered over the last few years comes together to mourn and remember as we take the time to give one of our own their dues. It’s sad it takes an untimely death to remember how precious time is but while people remember you by taking the time to do so then there’s a part of you that never really dies. Instead you live on in the fractured bits of memory we all have of people never to fully fade out of existence.

In the end, once time has ran out for us all, this remembrance is all that’ll remain of us and that’s good because if you can get through life having an impact for the better on one person at least then you’ve lived a decent life and that’s all we want to do at the end of the day.

RIP Jeremy Hardy

The comedian Jeremy Hardy has sadly died far too young thanks to fucking cancer. This is a tragedy all round because there’s a lack of actual left wing comics (as opposed to people who’ll sell out at the first sniff of megastardom) and there’s a real lack of leftish comics who aren’t just painfully woke, or are just treating comedy as a stepping stone to something else like presenting or the panel show circuit before the DVD, the tour and the BBC One special.

Hardy dabbled with the mainstream in things like this great Top of the Pops he presented with Jack Dee.

Or being on the very first episode of Mock the Week.

For me it was his stand up that set him aside from others with his performances at Glastonbury being special highlights but a special talent is gone, and he can’t be replaced. Hardy’s socialism was never the elitist kind or the type that ignores opinion from others who may not agree with him hence why people of all persuasions are mourning him today.

At a time when we needed his particular left voice we no longer have it. He’ll be missed a lot.

Ron Smith RIP

If you throw out names of 2000AD artists over the year, specifically Judge Dredd, you can’t avoid the name of Ron Smith who has sadly passed away.

Other names like Brian Bolland, MIke McMahon or Carlos Esquerra over the years got the critical and fan love, but Smith never got the credit he deserved from certain parts of fandom. Fans loved his work though, and for me his finest Dredd stories are the Otto Sump ones where he indulges himself in drawing some glorious grotesques in one of the best storylines of the 80’s.

Personally I loved the Satanus story just because it looked great, and Judge Dredd always works when you throw him against a fantastic monster, and Satanus was a great monster.

With Smith’s passing another of the grand old greats of British comics goes with him along with a style of his own. He can’t be replaced and will be greatly missed.

RIP Nicolas Roeg

Nicolas Roeg, probably the best director the UK produced post WW2, has passed away and with him goes a type of film-maker that we’ll never see today. Roeg’s films were too arty and audiences today are too dumb or impatient and frankly, someone like Roeg would never be allowed to develop as he did.

Roeg made some of my favourite films, from the still bizarre Performance featuring a clearly fucked up Mick Jagger, through to the amazing Walkabout (and yes, Jenny Agutter is imprinted on my brain) and the weird, dreamy documentary Glastonbury Fayre, the story of the 1971 festival.

If he’d just made those thee films alone he’d be still a director of importance, but he then went on to direct Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth, the criminally underrated Bad Timing as well as Insignificance, and The Witches.All of these films are astonishing but The Man Who Fell to Earth and Don’t Look Now  are works of sheer genius.

On top of that how many directors have a pop song about them? J.J Abrams eat your heart out!

With Roeg’s passing an era is over. His work remains and as a body of work it is remarkable but there’s going to be nothing else to add to it and that’s the tragedy when we lose unique creative people like Roeg. He’ll be missed greatly.