13 May 2022

He is obstinate, in love and rather more than a little mad

SATURDAY 28TH NOVEMBER [1936]

I am bewildered, no, I am convinced. The battle for the throne has begun. On Wednesday evening (I know all that follows to be true; not six people in the Kingdom are so informed), Mr [Stanley] Baldwin spent 1 hr 40 minutes at Buckingham Palace with the King [Edward VIII] and gave him information that the govt would resign, and that the press could no longer be restrained from attacking the King, if he did not abandon all idea of marrying Mrs [Wallis] Simpson. Mr Baldwin hoped and thought to frighten the monarch; but he is obstinate, in love and rather more than a little mad, and he refused point-blank and asked for time to consult his friends. "Who are they?' Mr Baldwin demanded... the audience was not acrimonious but polite, sad, even affectionate, I am told... 'Lord Beaverbrook,' the King retorted. The Prime Minister gasped and departed. On Thursday Beaverbrook arrived back from America and spent the evening with the King... yesterday morning the Cabinet again met, an emergency meeting, and the situation in Spain was given out as the pretext.... The PM told the Cabinet of the King's determination. I hope he mentioned my suggestion to make her Duchess of Lancaster, and in ten years, when the country is used to her, she could be declared Queen. The King saw Beaverbrook Wednesday, and last night Beaverbrook went to see Wallis, and thus our dinner party chez elle was postponed. Now no one knows what will happen but the atmosphere vibrates with nerves and the storm may break any monarch. 

- Henry 'Chips' Channon, in The Diaries 1918-38, Simon Heffer (ed.), London, 2021, p.597

12 May 2022

It's got a name but I prefer to call it nameless

Thursday music corner: Terry Hall (b. 1959) first came to prominence leading The Specials from 1977 until 1981, departing on a high when their single Ghost Town topped the UK charts. He went on to form Fun Boy Three (six UK top 40 singles from 1981 to 1983, including It Ain't What You Do (It's The Way That You Do It), with Bananarama) and The Colourfield (one UK top 20 hit, Thinking Of You, in 1985), and collaborate with a wide range of artists. His 1994 solo album Home was produced by Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds, and the ebullient, joyful Sense, co-written by Hall and Broudie, was the second single released from it. 

In 2019 Hall told Uncut magazine that he was comfortable growing older

I’ve wanted to be 60 since I was about 27, because at that point everything I liked was being performed by 60-year-olds like Andy Williams, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra,” he says. “I love how they’d carry on doing what they do. You have to shut everything out to do that. I feel blessed to have reached that stage. A lot of people think that 60 is part of the downward spiral, which it is if you allow it to be, but you can fight it and say, no it isn’t, it’s just part of this story.

“It means I got my Freedom Pass from Transport For London,” he adds with a grin. “I bloody love travelling around London on buses, and I plan to fully abuse this pass as much as I can. I bloody love being 60… I’ve always thought I’d make my best music in the years between 60 and 70.

08 May 2022

Cindy Sherman meets Cate Blanchett

Did either of you grow up thinking that you had very malleable faces?

SHERMAN I didn’t.

BLANCHETT No. I used to do this thing with my sister where she would dress me up, stand me in front of the mirror and give me a name. Then I’d have to figure out that person. My favorite one — we kept saying we were going to make a movie about him — his name was Piggy Trucker. He was a little short guy, a bit like an Australian Wally Shawn [the actor and playwright Wallace Shawn], and he drove a pig truck. [I was] probably about 7, 8 years old.

SHERMAN It was playing dress-up. My mother would go to the local thrift store and for 10 cents buy these old prom dresses from the ’40s or ’50s. There was also, I think it was my great-grandmother’s clothes that were left in the basement. I discovered them, and it was like, wow. It looked like old lady clothes, but also the pinafore type of things. When I was 10 or 12, I would put them on, stuff socks to hang down to the waist to look like old lady [breasts], and walk around the block.

- Melena Ryzik, 'Cate Blanchett and Cindy Sherman: Secrets of the Camera Chameleons', New York Times, 4 May 2022

05 May 2022

I know your secret delight in vice

Thursday music corner: The Triffids were a Western Australian alternative rock group formed in 1978, named for the terrifying science-fiction alien plant species in John Wyndham's 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids. Featuring David McComb as lead vocalist, the band were active until 1989. Of the band's five studio albums released between 1983 and 1989, Born Sandy Devotional (1986) and Calenture (1987) are both regarded as Australian classics. After a 1996 heart transplant and long-term illness, McComb died in 1999 aged 36.

Blinder By The Hour is a sweeping, romantically macabre track from the band's fourth album Calenture; the album title refers to a form of insanity suffered by mariners on long voyages. Bury Me Deep In Love and Trick Of The Light were both successful singles from the album, the former being used to soundtrack a wedding scene in the TV soap Neighbours in which Harold Bishop and Madge Mitchell were wed. 

28 April 2022

I don't want to know what they're saying about me

Thursday music corner: Ezra Furman is a 35-year-old Chicago-born singer-songwriter who has been releasing music since 2007, originally under the imprimatur of Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, and since 2012 in a solo capacity. Furman often appears on the BBC 6Music digital radio station as a host and DJ, filling in for evening DJ Marc Riley. As of 2021 Furman was also studying in Massachusetts to become a rabbi.

Trans Mantra features on the soundtrack to series 3 of the Gillian Anderson-starring British TV series Sex Education, and is one of the many Furman tracks that feature on the series' critically-acclaimed soundtracks