Sunday, November 05, 2006


We are sorry to report the passing away of our dear friend and colleague Tony Tyler. What follows is a small tribute to him, a series of posts reflecting different parts of his life and times, his talents, his range, his intelligence, his humour - all of which we will miss greatly. [Pictures from the wake at The Royal Oak in Pett by Anna Chen]

To begin, two fine obituaries from colleagues Charles Shaar Murray and Chris Salewicz, in 'The Independent and The Guardian respectively:

James Edward Anthony Tyler, writer and editor: born Bristol 31 October 1943; twice married; died Hastings, East Sussex 28 October 2006.

In his time on the New Musical Express, Tony Tyler was one of those rare, inspirational editors who can see every element of a story in a one-sentence description, and commission it on the spot: lengthy lunches discussing the piece held no interest for such a meteoric, extraordinarily intelligent and encouraging mind. Besides, only half of his teeming brain was focused on the job, as Tyler feverishly moonlighted at home on The Tolkien Companion, published in 1976 under the name of J.E.A. Tyler, which intermittently funded him for the rest of his life.

Always hilariously funny in his writing, as a human being and in his editorial roles on the increasingly surreal NME in the mid-1970s, he arrived with a romantic past. "He was the only journalist on the music press who had carried a weapon in war," said Michael Watts, a rival editor on Melody Maker. Tyler used to love telling the story of how he had been wounded in the shoulder by a bullet from an ancient musket whilst serving in the Army in Aden: half-cut, he was carrying a beer-case and didn't realise he had been shot until another private noticed blood.

He had enlisted in the Royal Tank Regiment via a circuitous route. His father, from an upper-middle-class family, had been a fighter ace in the First World War. The experience had turned him into an alcoholic. Giving up drink, he married his nurse, who was much younger than him. Their only child, James Edward Anthony Tyler, was born on Hallowe'en night in 1943 in Bristol, during a thunderstorm punctuated by a German air-raid.

Tony Tyler grew up in Liverpool, where he attended Liverpool College, at the age of 16 turning on prefects attempting another of their habitual beatings, and leaving before he could be expelled: he had one O-level, in English Literature. His mother died the next year. He became a police cadet, but quit when told his stammer was so extreme he would never be able to give evidence in court. (When people asked him later what cured his debilitating stutter, Tyler would reply, "Acid.") He found more stimulating employment as a trainee reporter on a Merseyside paper.

But Tyler had decided to become a beatnik. His best friend Tim Craig (later the father of the actor Daniel Craig) was a merchant seaman. Tyler stowed away on his Hamburg-bound ship, aware that the Beatles - whom he vaguely knew - were resident in the German port. Tyler's Bohemianism resulted only in starvation; Gerry Marsden (of Gerry and the Pacemakers) bought him the occasional meal.

After he was hospitalised with pneumonia, Tyler was sent home in 1962 by the British consulate. Noting the healthy demeanour of squaddies, he decided to enlist - after first failing in his attempt to join the French Foreign Legion. A guitarist since he was 13 - he once played in a skiffle-group with Richard Stilgoe - he was promoted to the regimental band.

When his father died in 1966, Tyler came into an inheritance, which he quickly burnt through. First buying himself and two friends out of the Army, he purchased an AC Cobra off the stand at the motor show, totalling it on his way home. Taking a job in a London musical instrument shop, he found himself playing Hammond organ in a soul group based in Italy, the Patrick Samson Set; they had a No 1 there with a cover of "A Whiter Shade of Pale".

Back in London in 1969, after writing an article for a competition run by Beat Instrumental, a music trade paper, he was offered the job of editor. Soon he became publicist for EG Management, who cared for the careers of T. Rex, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

He was brought into the NME in 1972 by the editor Alan Smith, who was re-launching the pop paper; Tyler's zest, hilarious verve and formidable energy made him a pivot of an editorial team that included Nick Logan, who succeeded Smith in 1973 and went on to found The Face, Charles Shaar Murray, Nick Kent and Ian MacDonald. With MacDonald, he formed a double act that informed the paper's humour. It was Tyler, who adored to debunk pomposity, who, when confronted with Bryan Ferry's latest sartorial extravagance, came up with the headline "How Gauche Can a Gaucho Get?"

In 1975, his first book was published, The Beatles: an illustrated record, an astute and amusing analysis of every recorded song by the group, a collaboration with Roy Carr, another NME editor. The next year Tyler, by now NME assistant editor, advertised for "hip young gunslingers" (his own phrase) and hired Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons. Two years later, when he learned he had both The Tolkien Companion and The Beatles in the New York Times Top Ten, he decided to give up journalism and be a full-time writer. His guide to J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth was issued in new editions as The New Tolkien Companion (1979) and, again revised and updated, as The Complete Tolkien Companion (2002).

In 1982, Tyler married, as his second wife, Kate Phillips, an NME staff writer: at the time of his death they had been together for 31 years, with one of the happiest marriages any of his friends knew. He and Kate bought a house overlooking the sea outside Hastings.

Fascinated early on by the very notion of computers, Tony Tyler plunged into that emerging world, trying to bring the same sense of NME absurdity to Big K, a computer magazine he started in 1983, but which folded. He celebrated his new fascination with technology with I Hate Rock & Roll (1984). He began to write columns for the magazines MacUser and MacWorld. These were only intended to fund his efforts to be a fiction writer. He completed several novels, none of which was published. "They were so intelligent," said his agent Julian Alexander, "with incredible flights of fancy, that I don't think they were easily understood."

Tyler, who viewed life as a cosmic joke, was wryly philosophical about the failure to place these books with publishers. As he was when confronted with his cancer, diagnosed only 11 days before he died. "Shit happens, but I'm completely cool with this," he said, phoning his friends to come and visit him. He was annoyed, he said, that he would never get to see Casino Royale, starring his godson Daniel.

"I want you to know, for when your time comes," Tyler told his wife, her sister and mother two days before he died, his curiosity about the mysteries of life and death undiminished, "that this isn't really too bad. It's quite dealable with."

Chris Salewicz

Tony Tyler

NME talent spotter, Tolkien expert and computer pundit

Charles Shaar Murray

Wednesday November 1, 2006

If some of the New Musical Express's prominent writers were the faces of the 1970s paper, and editor Nick Logan and the late assistant editor Ian MacDonald functioned as its brain, then Tony Tyler, who has died of cancer aged 62, was its heart and soul. Features editor and later assistant editor during the early 70s, Tony, "the looming boomer", 6ft 5in in height with a resonant, drawling baritone, contributed irreverence and absurdist humour to the forging of the NME's identity.

Article continues




He was also an author who once had two radically different books, The Tolkien Companion (1976) and The Beatles: an Illustrated Record (1975) - the latter a collaboration with his NME colleague Roy Carr - appearing simultaneously in the New York Times best-seller lists. A gadget freak, he became the founding editor of Britain's first computer-gaming magazine, one of the earliest adopters of the Apple Macintosh and the liveliest, wittiest pundit in Macintosh journalism.

TT, as he was almost universally known, led a rich existence. During a spell in the army, he was the last British soldier to be wounded by a musket-ball. As a teenage stowaway to Hamburg, he was in an all-night card-game with a drunken, speeding pre-Beatlemania John Lennon. While working for a London musical instrument dealer in 1966, he accompanied a rented Hammond organ to the Royal Albert Hall, where he was backstage to see Bob Dylan, paralysed with stage fright, virtually thrown on stage for his legendary appearance with the Band. The same year, feeling that his Gibson Les Paul guitar deserved to be played by a better musician, he sold it to Peter Green, who had just replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall's Blues Breakers and later founded Fleetwood Mac. Green sold it to the young Irish guitarist Gary Moore, who used it until last year. During his final week, TT was amused to learn that his old guitar was informally valued at $2m. His greatest triumph as a musician was to enjoy an Italian number-one hit the summer of 1967 as organist with the band who cut the Italian-language cover of Procol Harum's song A Whiter Shade Of Pale.

He was also godfather, albeit informally, to Daniel Craig, the new James Bond: TT had known the actor's father, Tim Craig, since they were seven years old. Since Ian Fleming was, along with PG Wodehouse and JRR Tolkien, one of Tyler's favourite authors, it was a major disappointment to TT to realise that he would not live long enough to see his godson play 007. "I'll never go to the cinema again," he said, "and I won't be around when the DVD comes out."

TT was born in Bristol, but raised around Liverpool. He attended Liverpool College but left at 16 with a single A-level. His adored mother died of cancer at the age of 39 when TT was 17, and his father, a veteran of the first world war Royal Flying Corps, not long after.

Feeling cast adrift, he signed up as a police cadet, but was told that his chronic stammer would prevent him from giving effective evidence in court. After stowing away to Hamburg on a merchant navy vessel, he hung out with soon-to-be-famous Liverpool bands such as the Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers, before contracting pneumonia and being shipped home by the British embassy. After recovering, he joined the Royal Tank regiment and was wounded in action in Aden. Because of his size, the army built him a bespoke bed, which dutifully followed him from posting to posting, but never caught up.

Back in civilian life, he sold instruments by day and played guitar and organ in groups at night, until an Italian band kidnapped him for several years on the European club circuit. On his return to London, he met and married an American student and moved to San Francisco, where he had a job as a piano salesman for 18 months, despite never selling a single piano.

Returning to London, he briefly edited the magazine Beat Instrumental before becoming a publicist for Emerson, Lake and Palmer - "I make no apologies," he later said, "though I would if I thought apology was sufficient " - but, finding both public relations and ELP uncongenial, he took the opportunity to join NME, then just about to start the radical rethink that transformed it from pop-picking chart fluff to a salon for gadflies. At the NME, Tyler demonstrated a keen eye for talent both musical and journalistic: an early champion of Roxy Music and Dr Feelgood, he was instrumental in the hiring of such writers as Nick Kent, Neil Spencer, Tony Parsons, Julie Burchill, Paul Morley, Vivien Goldman, Paul DuNoyer and Kate Phillips, with whom he fell in love and who subsequently became his second wife.

In addition to his NME duties, he wrote (as JEA Tyler) his Tolkien Companion, a massive concordance of all the people, places and things in The Lord of the Rings and its associated texts. The success of this and the Beatles book, co-written with Roy Carr, enabled him to leave the NME and retreat, with Kate, to a remote riverside cottage, which he soon filled with early personal computers. He became besotted with all things Macintosh, and his witty, anarchic punditry for magazines such as MacUser and Computer Shopper helped to keep him in fine wines and electronic keyboards for the remainder of his life.

His third book - a hilariously splenetic rant called I Hate Rock And Roll (1984) - was rather less successful, but remains a cult classic.

Outside his professional achievements, he will be remembered as a formidable autodidact who became expert on ancient and military history; as a right-wing libertarian who preferred to be surrounded by liberals and lefties "because most people who share my views are staggeringly unpleasant"; as a gourmet, oenophile and chef; as a genial host with unquenchable joie de vivre, determined to make sure everybody had fun; and as a man who remained urbane even on his deathbed. His last words, addressed to his 86-year-old mother-in-law, were: "I just want you to know, for when it's your turn, that this [dying] isn't actually so bad."

He is survived by Kate.

· James Edward Anthony Tyler, journalist, born October 31 1943; died October 28 2006


Roxy Music/ Manchester Free Trade Hall

Tony Tyler, NME, 3rd November 1973

THERE'S NOW not much doubt that when Roxy Music and the delicate Eno parted ways, Roxy lost a talented poseur but gained a gifted musician. Curiously enough, this exchange - seemingly to the advantage of the Roxettes - is not totally so: Eddie Jobson's kills on keyboards and (especially) violin are substantial. But, although he tries hard to compensate visually for the breathtaking presence of Mr. E., his more lightweight aura ( this isn't meant unkindly; Eno had years of a decadence apprenticeship) robs the stage lefthand comer of the lurid posturings so much a part of the earlier Roxy image. That being said, Jobson played really well when The Roxies took the boards at Manchester's Free Trade Hall on Sunday.

I've never really seen the band go down as well as they did with any audience, and it can only be a measure of the new stature they've attained since Bryan Ferry re-grouped his shell-shocked battalions around him after the Eno departure. On they came, dead on time, and several things were instantly obvious. Firstly, as Bob Edmands reported last week, the band have ditched the articulated rhinestone look in favour of a more individual approach to haute couture. The trash element - an important part of Roxy's earlier breakthrough is now Out Of Favour with Mr. F.; suitings and clothings ranged from Ferry's own Lower Deck Lothario Look (a cruise ship white tux ensemble) to Jobson's March Hare tailcoat. Both Phil Manzanera and the current stand-in bassist sported soft leathers, garnished with slightly effeminate studs, while the Great Paul Thompson (as Ferry introduced him) favoured his suede-'n-cloth look as of yore. Andy Mackay appeared in a baritone sax and a distinguished suit of broadcloth with a string tie that gave him an undeniable air of fried chicken emporiums.

Throughout the set - which began well and built to a tremendous climax, Ferry showed how much he now firmly believes in his own talent and charisma. He can now stagger Strandily between mike and piano, catching the spot just in time to wheeze out his next phrase. He's now an undoubted visual attraction -with one exceptional circumstance: when Ferry occupies stage right, as he must for his piano work, the rest of the visuals seem strangely empty without another real posturer to grab the retina the way Eno succeeded in doing. Ferry is now The Man in Roxy; both Manzanera and Mackay are too accomplished as musicians to unwind sufficiently. Thompson? It's not in his nature. Jobson? Trying, but he's too new and still an unknown.

Nonetheless, Jobson was, for me, the surprise of the night. His approach to electronics is more technical and less individualistic than Eno's (his mutation of the Phil Manzanera power smashes during "Ladytron" were feeble and left Manzanera somewhat out on his own with an empty chord ringing embarrassingly in his sideboard-smothered ears). But Jobson's violin work, used too sparingly until the encore, added a new force to Roxy's musical approach. His solo on "ReMake, Re-Model" exactly paralleled Manzanera's own in spirit and I foresee a formidable musical partnership between the two. Jobson's piano work, too, enabled El Ferry to cavort more than before (no doubt another reason for Ed's inclusion) -- but, then again, almost everybody in that band gets to play keyboards at one time or another. Even Andy Mackay whose sax suffered from dumpy sound - played organ on a new "Psalm", a reverent bolero type number that displayed instant powers of attraction with the Mancunians.

Sound quality throughout was grim, several different varieties of feedback dominating much of the set. The onstage footlight monitors were (I later learned) also on the blink, so there was an imbalance between Ferry's voice, which needs - and got - all the help it can get, and the potential thunder of this new, beefed-up Roxy. All too often the band merged into a noisy porridge and I feel a re-think of sound techniques is essential if the band are successfully to conclude that transition from effeminate glitzkriegers to A Band In Their Own Right. But it was quite an immaculate gig, all found. The older numbers were joyously received and the newer tunes politely listened to. Towards the end, Emerson Lake and Palmerama took over with row upon row of misbegotten youth swaying to the hypnotic sighs of Mr. F. and raising their hands in sincere salutation. Some even rushed the stage. I suppose it was easily predictable, now I come to think of it.

See our previous posting about Tony's classic cult book
'I hate Rock and Roll'

Friday, November 03, 2006


Tony was an earlier enthusiast for Apple Macs and began writing a regular column for MacUser magazine. His first column appeared in Issue 2 and he was still at it 22 years later. His last column, written for the magazine's October 2006 issue is reproduced below with the kind permisson of the publishers.

Shutdown: Talking shock

Forget bugged employees and exploding laptops - the real shocker is Woz giving a talk to business students. Or is it?

Which of the following recent news items concerning the IT world do you find the most disturbing?

HP chairman Patricia Dunn gets caught bugging her fellow directors in order to find out which of them is leaking to the IT press. Makes usual statement of semi-contrition and resigns.

Across the world, laptop batteries are catching fire, with consequently huge crash programme recall operations by major manufacturers.

A recent report (by think-tank Reform) claims that the 'iPod Generation' - 20- to 35-year-olds - will be caught in a fiscal trap composed of huge tuition fees and ever-higher income tax and as a result will never, ever get rich.

On 23 October at the Saïd Biz Centre at Oxford University, Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, will give a short talk on the company's history.

Let's take these shock-horrors in order. In my opinion, Ms Dunn is a cruelly wronged woman. What could be more natural, if you fear one of your colleagues is sabotaging your company, than to slip a little something extra into his mobile phone? It might even be said to be caring in the best sense. There's no suggestion she did it for her own profit. J Edgar Hoover, that great American icon, bugged President Roosevelt. President Nixon bugged himself. We are, therefore, dealing with a fine old US tradition. Ms Dunn should be reinstated forthwith.

The brouhaha about exploding laptop batteries has also been overstated. Everything in the modern world catches fire from time to time - planes, cars, houses - and the procedures for dealing with conflagrations are well established. In any case, it's not claimed the things go off like hand grenades. Apparently, they smoulder gently, giving off an acrid smoke until some joker says, 'Hey, your computer's on fire!' whereupon it's simplicity itself to park the laptop in the nearest sinkful of water and wait for the fumes to disperse. The only real danger I can see is if the phenomenon takes place, say, on a tube train. It only takes one person to yell: 'Watch out! Suicide Photoshopper!' and within a few seconds, you may find yourself riddled with bullets, courtesy of a Metropolitan Police hit squad.

The fiscal nightmare awaiting the iPod Generation is only a nightmare if you happen to be in that age group and just starting university. I'm neither and, according to the MacUser Readership Profile, neither are you. So we can afford to laugh lightly and uncaringly at this one, especially as we're the ones who benefit. The reason these callow freshmen are to be taxed and fee'd until their eyes water is to pay for our pensions. The reason the Government desperately wants to pay us our pensions is that we are the largest voting group. The fact that there's no money for this is why the iPod Generation are going to be smitten hip and thigh. Seems all right to me.

Last, we come to Steve Wozniak among the dreaming spires. At the beginning, I thought this was a cruel joke. The only time I ever heard Woz speak it was something on the lines of 'Wow, that's, like, really far out, man. Totally outasite, you know?' However, I gather he must have improved since then, as his website says he's available for 'selected keynote presentation, panel and open Q&A appearances'. He also has a book out (iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon). He no longer lives in the desert changing his shirt once a fortnight, but is a big wheel in the Southern California charity circuit. He has also, according to his website, 'given away 14 laptops and never asked for one of them back.'

But how does this gifted, saintly person get to be a breadhead's ideal after-dinner speaker? From their point of view (not mine), he's done just about everything wrong. Left Apple at the wrong moment and for the wrong reasons. Gives stuff away...

Personally I think that this is an exceptionally cunning booking. If, at vast cost, the SBC procured the Other Steve to lecture the boys and girls, they would learn absolutely nothing about how he did it. But by engaging Woz, the schedulers are employing a man whose business autobiography could fairly be entitled 'How I Blew It'. Blowing It is the big fear among suits. As such, they'll learn more, in an inverse sense, from Woz, than from all the raging success stories on the planet. They'll deduce that genius and loyalty aren't enough: you have to be a dedicated a**hole to get really rich.

Since this is what they think already, I predict he'll get a big hand. Now, that I find depressing.


Priory Tree, Lewes. Photo: John May. For more Lewes pictures see Lewes Light

One of Tony's other great loves was the works of Tolkien. He was the author of the best-selling book 'The Tolkien Companion' (revised and updated twice as 'The New Tolkien Companion' (1979) and 'The Complete Tolkien Companion' (2002). Featured below is the piece he was kind enough to write for Tree News, the magazine I edited for five years. Having settled the commission on the phone, I had cause to call him some 30 minutes later about some second-thoughts I'd had about the piece and he told me he'd already filed the copy - the fastest turnaround I'd ever come across. Sure enough, there was the copy which, barring a couple of tweaks, went in unedited.

‘A lovely morning dawned on us... Leaves are out: the white-grey of the quince, the grey-green of young apple, the full green of hawthorn, the tassels of flower even on the sluggard poplar.’
- Letter to Christopher Tolkein, 18th April 1944 (‘The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien’ [Unwin, 1981] )

All his long life J. R. R. Tolkien was in love with trees. It has been said that the leading character in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is not one of the many elvish, mortal, dwarven or hobbit personalities, but its landscape; its mountains, rivers and particularly its trees. They grace nearly all his descriptive passages, and in several places play a major part in the tale itself.

There are the gentle ‘ English’ woodlands of the Shire, where the adventure begins; the deep, scented pine woods that surround the enchanted valley of Rivendell, the ancient and beautiful holly trees that mark the borders of a vanished elf-kingdom, and the Golden Wood of Lothlorien, where the silver-barked golden-flowered forest giants are of a genus (mallorn) unknown elsewhere in Middle-earth— these trees are so tall and strong that the Elves build their houses in them.

In fact, trees of one kind or another are nearly everywhere in the Ring landscape, and when they are not, it is because something terrible has happened there— like the Brown Lands, or the desolation before the Black Gate of Mordor. These are evil deserts, shunned by all life.

Tolkien’s view of trees was by no means confined to a benign sentimentality. In Middle-earth, you hug some trees at your peril. There are enormous, dark, coniferous forests where evil creatures thrive while ‘the trees strive one against another and their branches rot and wither.’

There is the
Old Forest, where the hobbits have their first real adventure, a terrifying encounter with sentient, malevolent and limb-lithe trees, ‘ageing no quicker than the hills, the fathers of the fathers of trees, remembering times when they were lords... But none were more dangerous than the Great Willow.’

Most memorably, there is Fangorn, as old as the Old Forest and far greater, though, as Elrond of Rivendell reveals, in the deep past the two were parts of a single immense primaeval wood. ‘Time was when a squirrel could go from tree to tree from what is now the Shire to Dunland west of Isengard’ (i.e. over a thousand miles).

Fangorn is the last abode in Middle-earth of creatures called Ents, and to explain Ents we must invoke Tolkien’s own cosmogony, his ‘alternative Book of Genesis’.

Middle-earth is not really an imaginary world. As Tolkien was always at pains to stress, it is our world in an imaginary time, and comes fully furnished with creation myths, ancient history and legends— an enormous mass of material which represents his life’s work.

In this myth cycle, the world (Arda) is created by The One (God), but in all matters of detail is embellished, shaped and added to by delegated angelic powers (Valar). Yavanna is the name of the Vala who peoples the earth with growing things, including trees, at the beginning of Time before either Elves or Men have appeared. But her foresight tells her that her creations will be in danger--mainly from things that go on two legs, armed with axes--and so she obtains, as a dispensation from God, the power to send spirits to dwell in, and with, the trees, to act as their shepherds and defenders.

These giant creatures (something like the Green Man of English myth) are the Ents. Treebeard is their chieftain and, at the time of the Ring adventure, the oldest of all living things. At Treebeard’s instigation, the Forest of Fangorn itself— or a good part of it— arises in anger (at centuries of axe-abuse) and marches to war, like Birnam Wood in ‘MacBeth’ but in a far more terrifying manner: an entire goblin army is annihilated by the vengeful trees, while the Ents overthrow the citadel of their master, the wizard Saruman.

But the War of the Ring is fought, not only to defeat the eponymous evil Lord, but to restore the rightful King of Gondor to his throne. As a reader gradually discovers, the history of Gondor is very ancient, the kingdom having been founded three thousand years earlier by survivors from Nümenor (Atlantis).

The symbol of this ancient and high royal line is a White Tree, itself a descendant of the White Tree of the Valar in
Paradise. It is therefore the holiest of trees (cf. The Glastonbury Thorn) in the world and its recent death was thought to presage the fall of the kingdom. Luckily, after all is done and the victory won, the restored King of Gondor finds a surviving sapling growing in a high mountain-pasture--the symbol of a direct continuity with the deepest past, and the best of all omens for the future.

The most poignant tree-moment of all in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ occurs near its end, when the hobbits ride home to the Shire--to find it horribly vandalised in their absence by Saruman’s agents. When Sam, in many ways the most heroic of all the hobbits, discovers that a particularly beloved tree in the field behind his home has been wantonly cut down, he bursts into tears.

Later, of course, after much labour, most of the damage is put right and the fallen ‘Party Tree’ is replaced by a single Mallorn, the only one in the world ‘West of the Mountains and East of the Sea’. So the trees win— this time.

But despite the heroism of its protagonists, and the success of their quest, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is, at bottom, a sorrowful book; and when one of the characters asks Gandalf that, even if they should win the victory, ‘may it not so end that much that was fair and wonderful may pass for ever out of Middle-earth?’, the wizard has no words of comfort for him.

Tolkien himself was far from sanguine about the ability of trees to defend themselves against ill-wishers. Writing in 1962 to his elderly aunt Jane Neave, he recalled ‘a great tree--a huge poplar with vast limbs--visible through my window even as I lay in bed. I loved it, and was anxious about it. It had been savagely mutilated some years before, but had gallantly grown new limbs... and now a foolish neighbour was agitating to have it felled. Every tree has its enemy, few have an advocate.’

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Man held as terrorism suspect over punk song
Reuters: April 5, 2006

British anti-terrorism detectives escorted a man from a plane after a taxi driver had earlier become suspicious when he started singing along to a track by punk band The Clash, police said Wednesday.

Detectives halted the London-bound flight at Durham Tees Valley Airport in northern England and Harraj Mann, 24, was taken off.

The taxi driver had become worried on the way to the airport because Mann had been singing along to The Clash's 1979 anthem "London Calling," which features the lyrics "Now war is declared -- and battle come down" while other lines warn of a "meltdown expected."

Mann told British newspapers the taxi had been fitted with a music system which allowed him to plug in his MP3 player and he had been playing The Clash, Procol Harum, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to the driver.

"He didn't like Led Zeppelin or The Clash but I don't think there was any need to tell the police," Mann told the Daily Mirror.

A Durham police spokeswoman said Mann had been released after questioning -- but had missed his flight.

"The report was made with the best of intentions and we wouldn't want to discourage people from contacting us with genuine concerns," she said.

Interesting comments on this story in an article in The Nation Joe Strummer: Terrorist ? by Antonino D'Ambrosio, a writer and filmmaker based in New York, the author of Let Fury Have the Hour: The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer and the upcoming Politics in the Drums (Nation Books), which is the basis of a documentary project with Tim Robbins.

Find out about Dick Rude's excellent documentary of the US tour of Joe and the Mescaleros here: Let's Rock Again

Other links:
Strummersite: (not active yet)
Strummer News:
Punk magazine:
The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music:
The Joe Strummer Resource:
Radio Clash (Italian site):

Hear Chris Salewicz talk at length about his new bioography of Joe Strummer
on our new audio blog:


One year after his death, to celebrate his life and legacy, STOPSMILING compiled a 42-page tribute to the Good Doctor in our 22nd issue titled “Long Live the High Priest of Gonzo: An Oral History of Hunter S. Thompson”. This oral history from a dozen acquaintances and loved ones represents Thompson in every stage of his professional career, and hints at the work still needed to be done to preserve the legacy of one of the great writers of the 20th century. Included in the issue: Ralph Steadman (artist and co-founder of gonzo journalism), Douglas Brinkley (writer and historian), Anita Thompson (spouse of HST), P.J. O’Rourke (author and journalist), Bob Braudis (Sheriff of Pitkin County), David Rosenthal (editor and publisher, Simon & Schuster), David Felton (former editor, Rolling Stone), Craig Vetter (writer, Playboy), John A. Walsh (executive editor of ESPN), Wayne Ewing (director of Breakfast with Hunter), Tom Benton (artist and printmaker), Joe Petro III (artist and printmaker) Also included: A pull-out poster of Ralph Steadman artwork, and reproductions of HST's personal faxes to Ed Bradley, James Carville and Keith Richards.

'Hunter telephoned me on Feb. 19, the night before his death. He sounded scared.
It wasn't always easy to understand what he said, particularly over the phone,
he mumbled, yet when there was something he really wanted you to understand, you did. He'd been working on a story about the World Trade Center attacks
and had stumbled across what he felt was hard evidence showing the towers had been brought down not by the airplanes that flew into them but by explosive charges set off in their foundations. Now he thought someone was out to stop him publishing it: "They're gonna make it look like suicide," he said. "I know how these bastards think."

This is the opening paragraph of an essay by Paul William Roberts entitled 'Alexander Pope in a prose convertible' published by the
Toronto Globe and Mail You can access the whole article by registering with the newspaper and paying a small fee.

It was just as well that I did because otherwise I might also have been lending support to another 9/11 conspiracy story on the net; this one is posted up on Total 9/11 Info

If you do read the whole article, you will discover that the writer continues:
'That's how I imagine a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson should begin. He was indeed working on such a story, but it wasn't what killed him. he exercised his own option to do that.'

It would be interesting to know how much of the story he completed and what he did have to say on the subject.

Hear HST's last answerphone messages to Ralph Steadman on our all-new audioblog:

Previous Postings: 9/11
Truth and Lies
9/11 Revisted

Previous Postings: Hunter S. Thompson
Remembering Hunter S. Thompson by Lee Torrey
The Archaeology of New Journalism

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Searching for an artist to illustrate 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.'

An unpublished drawing of Hunter and Ralph as voodoo dolls intended for the never-published Rolling Stone issue on the Ali-Foreman fight, described as 'the biggest fucked-up story in the history of journalism.'

Hunter and Ralph in the desert during the filming of 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.'

Hunter and Ralph at Owl Farm celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first publication of 'Fear and Loathing'

All images courtesy of the artists and Heinemann. (Thanks to Cassie Chadderton). They feature in the black& white photo sections in 'The Joke's Over' Ralph Steadman's brilliant memoir of his life and times with Hunter S. Thompson.

To hear a lengthy interview with Ralph go to our new audio site here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


We are pleased and excited to announce the launch of the first major spin-off from the main Generalist site - an audio extension in fact.

THE GENERALIST AUDIO SITE will carry original longform, largely unedited interviews with some of the most interesting people around + plus some fascinating archive and oral history tapes from way back when.

We are launching with fascinating interviews with the gonzo artist Ralph Steadman about his new book on Hunter S. Thompson called 'The Joke's Over' and with journalist Chris Salewicz about his major biography on Joe Strummer.

All material on this site will be free to the user and we hope to develop an enthusiastic global audience.

First archive interview, coming soon, will be with Douglas Adams, author of 'The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.'


Monday, October 09, 2006


(Left): The Healthy Tree of Knowledge in 2005 before the tree was poisoned (Photo:Julia Harris); (Right bottom): After the poisoning (Photo: ABC); (Right top) The dead tree.

Australian Tree of Knowledge Poisoned:
The Tree of Knowledge - a 150 year old, ten metre Ghost Gum located opposite the hotel in the centre of the Central West Queensland town of Barcaldine - symbolises an important time in Australia's political development as it was the meeting place for shearers during their unsuccessful strike of 1891. This strike, in conjunction with the maritime strike of 1890, played a crucial role in the historical connection between unions and what eventually became the Australian Labor Party. The tree was included in the National Heritage List in December 2005. This October 3rd it was pronounced dead, some five months after vandals poured 30 litres of toxic chemicals around the roots. Its trunk will be used as a permanent monument on the site.

Hurricane Katrina’s winds and water, but mostly her salty flood waters, may end up killing 70 per cent of New Orleans urban forest. More than 50,000 trees were lost on public grounds, including some 2,000 magnolias, and a quarter of a million trees lost citywide. The city's oaks may still succumb as many were submerged in water for weeks. They tend to die a slower death than other trees. Jean Fahr, executive director of the New Orleans nonprofit Parkway Partners Program, said “We’ve never seen such a loss in the history of the United States,’’ By comparison, the southern Florida area struck by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 lost 45 percent of its tree canopy. “Magnolias took it the worst because they couldn’t handle the salt water,’’ Fahr said. Full story in: The Advocate

Muslim hardliners chopped up a 100-year-old banyan tree in Jakarta to halt a rumour about its special powers from spreading, officials in the Indonesian city. "Surely, no one can believe that a tree is more powerful than a human," Zainal Arifin, the leader of the Muslim group that admits to attacking the tree, was quoted as saying by news website. "We did this to propagate Islam." The sprawling tree's branches were hacked away Sunday, leaving just its trunk, said Sarwo Handayani, head of the city's park agency. She said it was too early to say if the tree will survive. Earlier, rumours had spread that cutting down the tree would bring bad luck because it was spared during a tree-felling drive to make way for a new bus lane in central Jakarta, Handayani said. She said the rumours gained strength after unidentified people left offerings at the tree's base. Handayani dismissed the rumours of supernatural involvement as nonsense, saying officials did not fell the tree because the bus lane could be routed around it. "This was an outrageous act," she said of the damage to the tree, adding that the city had reported it to police on Monday as an act of vandalism. Arifin said the fact that nothing supernatural happened to the Muslims who attacked the tree proves that it has no mystical powers. Source: Indonesian group attacks century-old tree 'to propagate Islam' (October 3, 2006 /The Associated Press)


The Town Clerk of Lewes Town Council will be writing a letter this week to Greene King deploring their actions in using the town's 'armourial bearings' to badge their new commercial beer 'Lewes Arms.'
They will be threatening legal action. The text of the letter will be made public later this week.

The Borough Council of Lewes was awarded its armorial bearings by Royal Prerogative in 1634 and the rights to 'bear those arms' has been inherited by Lewes Town Council. Under this Prerogative, the Council cannot grant anyone the right to use it - let alone a commercial company, who are using it as a brand identity.

The members of the Town Council 'are of one mind on this issue,' the Town Clerk Steve Brigden told The Generalist. 'We want to carry this issue as far as we can.'

LEWES ARMS NEWS: Press Reactions

see more photos of Lewes at Lewes Light

New readers to this 'thread' are recommended to read this previous posting first:
State of the Nation: Think About Your Local
This triggered off the two stories below:

VIVA LEWES: Issue 40

Beer Wars: In August, Harveys Best won the real ale organisation CAMRA’s Best Bitter Award, and came second in the Best Beer award. This, in the eyes of the people who know these things, makes it the best bitter of its type and the second best beer of any type in the country. It is the sort of beer that landlords should by dying to sell. Yet Greene King, who own the licence for the Lewes Arms, are reportedly planning to stop serving it in that pub, having already banned it from the Black Horse and the Royal Oak. And banned is the appropriate word: pubs are allowed guest ales, as long as they are NOT Harveys.

There is a petition going round, trying to persuade Greene King to change their mind. Locals are already planning where they are going to drink instead of the Arms. I was in there on Friday night, and it was one of the main topics of conversation among the clientele, who go there largely to chat. The pub, of course, has long had a no-music, no-mobile phones and no-fruit machine policy to aid the art of conversation. The Harveys Best, of course, plays its part in the tongue-loosening: estimates vary but it is reported to outsell the GK beers in the pub
by at least 3-1.

Greene King, of course, are no strangers to bullying marketing tactics. Originally a small local brewery in Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk (established in 1799), in recent years the company has started growing into a corporate monster, gobbling up its competitors, first in East Anglia, and increasingly all over the country. The company now owns 2000 pubs, and the Hungry Horse Hotel chain. They have recently bought up breweries such as Belhaven, Morland, Ridley’s and Ruddles. The premises of one of these formerly proud institutions remains open (Belhaven); the others have all been sold and their best beers incorporated (often much to their detriment) into the Greene King empire.

“Ruddles County used to be a world class beer,” says Peter Coppard, of CAMRA, “since Greene King destroyed it I wouldn’t cross the road to buy a pint.” “Greene King are rapidly becoming a national concern,” he continues, “which should be of national concern.” Harveys may be losing sales through Greene King’s aggressive marketing tactics, but Coppard stresses that the company is unlikely to be an immediate takeover target. “But a lot of other breweries are a bit shaky,” he says, suggesting a further increase in the Greene Kingdom in the near future. “This is of great concern to CAMRA. All these mergers constitute a reduction in choice for the consumer and a reduction of jobs in the beer industry.”

So is this something we should be getting het up about at a time when our country is involved in two wars and the global economy is starving half the third world to death? Well, yes, actually. Harveys in the Lewes Arms (and the pub has always kept an excellent pint) is one of Lewes’ institutions. And if Greene King stop serving it there, the nature of the pub is likely to change for good. And thus the nature of the town. “You can’t really blame the company for not wanting to serve one of its rival’s beers, to the detriment of its own,” says Coppard. “But the sad thing is that we’ve seen other pubs in Lewes suffer from Harveys being taken away, and it’s a shame for the Lewes Arms, which is likely to see the same thing happen. Harveys drinkers are likely to vote with their feet, and move to other pubs, where they do serve the local bitter. I suggest that Harveys and Greene King do a pub swap, so that the locals can stay in the place which is so suited to their needs.” Sounds like a good idea to us. But which pub?

Saturday, October 07, 2006


The renegade maverick Kinky Friedman is running for Governor of Texas. Here are a couple of reasons why he suggests Texans should vote for him. 30 days to go the election at time of writing. Read all about it here
Thanks to ML

Why the hell not? Texas politics stinks.

The parties sell themselves to big donors, lobbyists control the legislature's agenda, and the top fundraising groups in the state are being indicted for money laundering. Corruption and big money have such a chokehold that the two major parties blew $100 million in the last governor's race to elect a candidate to a job that pays $100,000 a year. And for all that money spent, less than 30% of us bothered to show up at the polls.

Why? Because it's hard to stand in line at the ballot box when neither candidate promises anything more than politics as usual. Texans are the most independent people in America, and if we're going to be inspired, the inspiration will come from someone unafraid to deal in new ideas and honest answers, an independent leader who lets the people call the plays instead of dancing to the tune of the money men.

That kind of leader is never going to look or sound like a politician. He won't steer by image polls, speak in hollow phrases approved by focus groups, or show up in hand-tailored suits.

You'll know him when you see him—true Texas leaders are unmistakable. After all, the last independent governor of Texas was Sam Houston. The next will be Kinky Friedman.

Renewable Energy

It's time for Texas to reclaim bragging rights as an energy icon. As governor, Kinky will accomplish that by encouraging investment and innovation in new methods of electricity generation and new fuels like biodiesel.

Think these are fringe technologies? Think again. Wind power plants, solar power arrays, and landfill gas capture systems are already in operation across Texas in cities from Fort Stockton to Fort Worth. Texas has been called "the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy," and firms from TXU to Kyocera are already clamoring for a piece of the action.

  • Texas is #1 in renewable energy. Developing our state's staggering potential in wind, solar, and biofuels will lead to a more independent Texas and help every Texan's bottom line.
  • Biodiesel—it's good enough for Willie Nelson's tour bus, and the city of Denton is using it to fuel their entire fleet of diesel trucks. Biodiesel is fuel you can grow. That's good for farmers, good for the air, good for the Texas energy industry and good for Texans. With biodiesel, everybody wins but OPEC.



Award Winning Journalist Anthony Lapp�s Near-Future Scenario Inspired by His Personal Iraq Experience; Features Actual Battlefield Audio

New York, NY - The year is 2011, and Jimmy Burns, a young anti-corporate blogger has just seen his Williamsburg apartment blown to bits by yet another terrorist attack on New York City. He’s recorded the gruesome scene on his videoblog camera-footage Burns beams live to a freaked-out world and that makes him an overnight media sensation. Exploited by his own network (Global News:”Your home for 24-hour terror coverage”), enraged by the terrorists, and determined to tell the American people the truth, Burns takes off for Iraq to get the real story of a war that’s been raging for more than eight years. SHOOTING WAR is written by Anthony Lapp�, illustrated by Dan Goldman, and debuts on May 15, 2006 on SMITH (

Inspired by Lapp�’s own experiences shooting an award-winning documentary and blogging about the Iraq war, SHOOTING WAR is a fictional story about the future of citizen journalism. SHOOTING WAR is a first of its kind: a serialized online graphic novel about the war, presented with Flash animation flourishes, using actual sounds recorded in Iraq-and offered exclusively on SMITH. A new chapter will appear each Monday, for eight weeks, along with a Flash animated trailer created by NY new media shop Indelible ( with music by DJ Spooky.

SHOOTING WAR is a commentary about where we’re headed in Iraq and the larger war on terror as well as the role of bloggers in telling the stories of the future,” says Lapp�. “This is my first foray into graphic fiction, so teaming up with a slamming artist, brimming with street cred like Dan Goldman, and a magazine that’s so forward-thinking gives me the confidence it’s the right time, team, and place for this tale that’s been brewing in my mind since the day I left Iraq.”

SMITH editor Larry Smith is thrilled to present SHOOTING WAR on SMITH (, the magazine he launched online this past January to much critical acclaim. “SMITH magazine is the perfect home for SHOOTING WAR,” he says. “SMITH is all about the next wave of personal storytelling, using and celebrating the technology tools that have made new forms of telling stories so exciting. SHOOTING WAR embodies our ethos, but ultimately, what drew me to the project was the power of this narrative. It’s dark, smart, sexy, and violent with much to please both the comics fan and those not yet hip to the medium.”

“Anthony’s created a slipstream near-future where the whole world is now the Third World and our foreign policy karma’s come home to roost,” says Goldman. “We’re talking reverberations and repercussions…if a picture is worth a thousand words, SHOOTING WAR will speak volumes.”

SHOOTING WAR creator and writer Anthony Lapp� is Executive Editor of, the Web site for the Guerrilla News Network. He is the co-author of their book True Lies (Plume) and the producer of their award-winning Showtime documentary about Iraq, BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire’s Edge. He has written for The New York Times, the Huffington Post, New York, Vice, and Salon, and has been a news producer for MTV and Fuse. He is a frequent guest on Air America and other radio stations across the country.

SHOOTING WAR artist Dan Goldman ( is a writer/artist/designer and the co-author of the first political-fiction graphic novel, Everyman: Be the People. He is a founding member of the online comics studio ACT-I-VATE ( and co-creator of the upcoming comics series The 718.

SHOOTING WAR publisher SMITH magazine ( is an online magazine that celebrates a new age of storytelling fueled by the rise of personal media. SMITH is edited by Larry Smith, formerly of Men’s Journal, ESPN magazine, Yahoo Internet Life, P.O.V., EGG, and Might magazine.

Thanks to Flo


Thanks to Peter Culshaw

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
2006 World Drug Report:

The total number of drug users in the world is now estimated at some 200 million people, equivalent to about 5 per cent of the global population age 15-64.

Cannabis remains by far the most widely used drug (some 162 million people), followed by amphetamine-type stimulants [ATS] (some 35 million people), which include amphetamines
(used by 25 million people) and ecstasy (almost 10 million people). The number of opiate abusers is estimated at some 16 million people, of which 11 million are heroin abusers. Some 13 million people are cocaine users.

UNODC relies on the perception of the trends in individual countries by national experts. A global analysis of these perceptions suggests that the strongest increase over the last decade was for cannabis use and ATS, and at lower levels for opiates and cocaine.

About 28 per cent of the world’s adult population is estimated to use tobacco,which exceeds by far, the number of people using illicit drugs (4 per cent for cannabis and 1 per cent for ATS, cocaine and opiates combined).

Cannabis remains by far the most commonly used drug in the world. Cannabis herb and resin remain the most widely trafficked drugs worldwide, accounting for the majority of all seizures.

An estimated 162 million people used cannabis in 2004, equivalent to some 4 per cent of the global population age 15-64.

In relative terms, cannabis use is most prevalent in Oceania, followed by North America and Africa.While Asia has the lowest prevalence expressed as part of the population, in absolute terms it is the region that is home to some 52 million cannabis users, more than a third of the estimated total.

In the United States, the annual prevalence of cannabis use among the general population remained essentially stable in 2004. Cannabis use among secondary school students in the United States, however, continued to decline. Between 1997 and 2005 cannabis use among high school students fell by some 20 percent.

Since the late 1990s, cannabis use increased by more than 10 per cent at the global level. Though an estimated 162 million people use cannabis annually and it is produced in some 176 countries around the world, many basic facts about the supply and demand for this drug remain obscure.

The world’s biggest drug market is growing and uncharted

It is exceedingly difficult to document where some 4 per cent of the world’s adult population are securing their supplies. Cannabis can be grown in virtually any country, and is increasingly grown indoors in the developed nations. Unlike other illicit drugs, users can, and do, cultivate their own supply, and so production is diffuse.

The circumstances around cannabis consumption are no better understood. In most markets, cannabis is cheap. Consequently, the precise amounts bought and consumed remain vague to all parties concerned.

Cannabis is everywhere: There is no region in the world where cannabis is not the dominant illicit drug, and few regions where cannabis use is not growing. It is everywhere, and spreading.

[Edited highlights from the Executive Summary]


Check our more Mose at The Mose Allison Website

So I’m in the noisy chaos of The Ship in London's Wardour Street – a legendary bar – with Alex and Sam, when I suddenly remember that I’d seen a thing in the paper that Mose Allison was appearing at Pizza Express just round the corner, so I rushed round there only to discover that it was all sold out. Not a surprise. Later, back at the bar, we got hungry and I suggested why don’t we have a pizza anyway. So there we are at Pizza Express, after several pints and a Peroni, just finished our meal, when I turned my head and there was Mose Allison. I just knew it was him. He’s a small-framed white-haired,white-bearded guy wearing a bomber jacket and chewing gum. He didn’t look like his pictures but he just had that attitude thing, standing in the corner of the restaurant, not looking at anyone, chewing gum. Always difficult situations to judge correctly but what the hell, I just stood up, went over to him and said: Are you Mister Mose Allison. He glanced up at me briefly and grunted. I said: I have always really liked your stuff man. I couldn’t get a ticket for tonight but I just wanted to come over and say hello. He said: Maybe someone won’t turn up. I said: Anyway, great to meet you and shook his hand. He had nice hands, cool to the touch and a firm but delicate shake. For a pianist to shake your hand like that, I thought, was a trusting gesture, being as they are the tools of the trade. That was it. I returned to my seat. That night I dreamed about all the other people who had shaken hands with Mose Allison.Later I discovered he’ll be 79 years old this up-coming November 11th.

I was a latecomer to Mose’s music and I’m still exploring. I can recommend ‘Mose Allison Sings and Plays’ on Atco. The most exciting thing I’ve got in the Vinyl Vaults so far is a Prestige Two-Album set which I bought from Rick’s, simply called ‘Mose Allison.' Interestingly this contains some sleevenotes written by Pete Townshend. In them he describes how he first encountered Mose’s music in November 1963 and swore he was black: ‘The man’s voice was heaven. So cool, so decisively hip, uncomplicated and spaced away from the mainstream of gravel voiced Delta bluesmen.’

He writes: ‘From that day as I walked down city streets I imagined myself to be Mose. Singing, “Everybody’s talkin’ bout the…seventh son, in this whole wide world there is only one…an’ I’m the one.” The thing was I wasn’t the one. I was a fairly lame individual with a big nose, a beatle fringe and still had time to learn a few Jimmy Reed tunes, but Moses was MY MAN. I felt him to be the epitome of restrained screaming POWER. He might not understand that himself, but his voice was so right that I felt it was the voice of a gentle giant. The man, the musician, with the strength to change the world, but the humility and the character to stand alone, live his own life and wait his natural time.’


[Unfortunately missed the BBC2 documentary ‘Mose Allison: Ever Since I Stole the Blues’. Hope you had better luck.]]


Rogue’s Gallery (Pirate Songs, Sea Songs & Chanteys. 43 songs by 36 artists including Nick Cave, Lou Reed and Martin Carthy. From an idea by Johnny Depp. A Hal Wilmer Production. Wonderful [Anti label]

World 2006 ( excellent double-disc compilation by Charlie Gillett, a man of great taste. [Korova]

‘Live At The Wetlands’ - Robert Randolph & The Family Band (Led by Randolph on his 13-string steel guitar, backed by a band who know how to funk and strut and groove. The Wetlands club in New York was closing down and this is one of the last nights. Full on. [Dare Records/Warner Bros]

Granny Takes A Trip/Conversations Dead Man – a cool retro compilation celebrating a time and a place – the boutique ‘Granny Takes A Trip’ at World’s End in the early 60’s. Forever associated with the graphic work of Nigel Weymouth and Michael English, aka Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. [Sony]

‘Till The Sun Turns Black’ – Ray Lamontaigne. If you loved ‘Trouble’ you’ll dig this. Produced by the legendary Ethan Johns, it cushions Ray’s breathy voice with a range of warm analog-sounding environments – and some great horns.[ RCA]

Modern Times – Bob Dylan. Reluctant as I was to listen to this record, it captured me on the third or fourth time through. This is Dylan’s best band since The Band. Some beautiful playing and the songs just get stronger as the album draws you in. He is still the Man. [Columbia]

Careless Love – Madeleine Peyroux. Most of you will have already copped this. I was just round someone’s house late at night and this young Billie Holiday type of voice came out of the speakers. I was hooked. [Rounder] Her new album ‘Half The Perfect World’ is out this month.

‘Five Star Rock ‘N’ Roll’ - The 101ers featuring Joe Strummer. [Made in Heaven/ A Paris label] A mix of studio tracks from 1975/1976 recorded at: the BBC Studios, Maida Vale; Jacksons Studios; Pathway Studios. Brilliant.

Monday, October 02, 2006


JG Ballard. Photo: Paul Murphy.
From the excellent Ballardian website

'I dislike the middle-class world held together by dinner-party culture, which has no understanding of what is going on in this country. The real England is this world of retail parks, where there is no sense of civic duty; where it's impossible to borrow a library book or to say a prayer; where if you knelt in the street you would be arrested for causing a public mischief. Where there are no art galleries, just consumerism. I won't say I'm pleased about that. But I think there is a sort of honesty and cleanness about where we are as human beings - the take-away, the CCTV camera, the dual carriageway, they are the world we live in. That's the world that needs a new John Betjeman to celebrate it. But sadly, none will appear. Because English snobbery looks down on this world. We still have this image of England as rose pergolas, Gothic quadrangles, Georgia rectories. But that isn't England. Its a mental stage set. As someone says in the book, if you can smell traffic - if you're near a motorway - that's the real England.'

J.G. Ballard being interviewed by Mick Brown
for The Telegraph magazine (2nd Sept 2006) about his new book 'Kingdom Come'


Beer Pumps, Lewes Arms. Photo: John May
See other images of the town at Lewes Light

Life in this overworked and stressed-out Britain of ours is made bearable by one’s local. At least that’s my and many other people’s experience.

The public house is, as its name suggests, our modern-day longhouse – a place where one can escape daily cares and speak freely to friends and colleagues, whilst pouring whatever your poison is down one’s throat until things don’t seem too bad at all. A place where one can get some sense of community, of being part of something bigger than oneself.

Naturally, this last bastion of free speech and free thinking is under threat. The ‘free houses’ have in the last two decades or so, been gobbled up by industrial chains whose only interest is the bottom line. In a criminal wave of refurbishment, establishments that have survived centuries largely unchanged have been vandalised and turned into modern-day gin palaces, ersatz heritage destinations - history with the soul sucked out of its bones.

Now it’s the turn of our local, the Lewes Arms, from which beer has been sold since 1720-odd. Taken over sometime back by Greene King – the Suffolk-based brewers – there has been a steady pressure to change many of the elements that make the pub what it is. Now they want to take away the Harveys. This is getting serious.

The Lewes Arms is, by any measure, a successful pub. A motley collection of small rooms, with no music or mobile phones, its full of people, dogs, children and conversation. Chess games in one corner, toads in the games room, crosswords at the bar. There are an endless series of meetings and events in the upstairs function room, including the annual pantomime (held in February !!), jazz and folk clubs, reader’s groups, exhibitions, public meetings, cribbage sessions and more. The pub has a calendar of strange and wonderful competitions including dwyle flunking (don’t ask), spaniel racing, pea-throwing and sundry other delights.

The most popular drink is Harvey’s Bitter, brewed in the town, a beer whose quality was recognised this year when it won the Silver Award at CAMRA’s 2006 Champion Beer of Britain competition. It also won the Gold Award in the Best Bitter category.

Word around the bar is that some 80% or more of the drink sold in the bar is Harveys but Greene-King want to get rid of it. Commercial logic would suggest that if Harvey’s only sold a few pints a week that would be fair enough. But the majority of drinkers in the bar come there for the Harveys and, as a result, make it a successful pub financially.

So what can Greene King’s motive be for banning the home brew? Surely, even if it is another brewer’s product, if its making money for you, what’s the problem. GK are introducing their own ale, called the ‘Lewes Arms’ but they must be delusional if they expect seasoned Harvey’s drinkers to swap over to a lesser brew.

Friends from Cambridge are advising that the Greene King strategy is to get rid of the locals then move in, tart the place up and get a completely new clientele who have no allegiance to the auld brew. They have seen it happen with their ancient locals. Before you know it, they say, there’ll be men wearing crombies at the door and they’ll be serving blue cocktails.

So it may come as a surprise or not, that the trade magazine The Publican is running a national campaign called Proud of Pubs, whose main sponsor is Greene King. More than 1 in 10 MPs from across the parties in the House of Commons, have signed up to a motion backing the trade and the campaign.

In fact Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King, told his audience of licensees and MPs at the campaign’s launch in Parliament, that the motion was “a great start” in the battle to put pubs on the front foot and highlight their positive contribution to the nation. “It’s about time society started standing up for pubs, and recognising them as one of our nation’s greatest assets.”

This point was underlined by Fiona Hope, marketing director of Greene King, who said: “The pub and the pint are great institutions that play a positive role in millions of people’s lives.’ The campaign’s website urges readers to pledge allegiance to their local by filling in and submitting a small form. By pledging allegiance in this way, says Fiona Hope, it ‘gives pub-goers a communal voice in support of great pubs and great beer.’

The Lewes Arms already has a communal voice and its saying: ‘So why is Greene King proposing to remove Harveys from the Lewes Arms’. It is an important community pub, full of life and laughter, which serves a great beer that everybody likes – Harveys.

It is clear that, if they continue to insist with this misguided strategy, then a substantial number of our little community will be scattered to the winds and the welcoming arms of other establishments around the town. Does this matter? It matters if you believe all the values that Greene King say they aspire to.

Fiona again: “We want to show the wider world that it’s not just the pub industry that values pubs and beers. It’s the millions of people who visit pubs for great company, quality food and excellent beer. People who care about their local.”

We are some of the people who care about our local and hope to hold Greene King to the high values that they claim to espouse. They can demonstrate this by leaving the Lewes Arms and its Harvey’s alone.

To take the argument one step further. There is another national campaign called Local Works, backed by more than 80 national organisations – including the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) – which is a lobbying for the introduction of a Sustainable Communities Bill.

‘If the bill becomes law, writes Daniel Pearce in The Publican, it will set up a process where local communities will have more decision-making power over local issues and the government will be required to help reverse ‘Ghost Town Britain.’

Roy Bailey, who is leading the campaign, says such a bill will put pressure on pub companies to do more to ensure local beers find their way into local pubs.

SIBA director Nick Stafford told The Publican : “There’s already a consensus that the pub is the hub of the community. What better support can the pub get from its local brewer? It’s got to be a priority for every brewer to help its local pub by providing it with quality beer, at a reasonable price.” Harveys is already doing this and should be allowed to continue.

We are familiar with the concept of ‘food miles’ so now we should be talking about ‘beer miles.’ Local beer in local pubs means less lorries and tankers on the road and less damaging greenhouse gases.

Incidentally, has Greene King got an environmental policy. Perhaps it could use its considerable energy and expertise to commit to making the lighting in all its pubs energy efficient and ensure that beer is delivered the shortest distance from source to mouth. The corporate colour is Green but one suspects the company is a long way from fulfilling its social obligation in this regard.

It summary, it seems that Greene King, like many other large corporates, has a public face which claims to be supporting the very values that they are actually intent on destroying.

Recent reviews of the Lewes Arms from

Beware!! It is strongly rumoured down here in Lewes that Greene King are trying to remove Harvey's from the six remaining former Beard's pubs which they own. This, the Wellington in Seaford and the Red Lion in Bromley are three of them - I don't know which the other three are. There has been a petition going in the Lewes Arms. If one of these pubs is your local and you want Harvey's to remain, you may wish to do the same.


The "own brew beer" is almost certainly a beer from the Greene King portfolio rebadged for this pub, but I do not know which one. It is rumoured that the Harvey's in this pub (and other former Beard's pubs) is under threat again. Greene King should realise that if they can't get Harvey's here, many people will go elsewhere to get it. Not only is it damn good beer, local people are fiercely loyal to their home-town brewery.


This is the sort of pub you dream about having as your local. After many years of dreaming, it now is. Despite being a Greene King tied house, it still serves Harvey's Best although this winter there is, alas, no Old. Nice atmosphere (even in the front bar - we don't bite, you know!). Come on a Sunday afternoon and you may well get press-ganged into one of the crazy competitions they occasionally hold, such as pea-throwing or paper aeroplanes. A real community pub.


This is a fabulous pub. It is everything a pub should be - very friendly punters, good beer, a relaxing place to be. It has three separate rooms, including an intimate front bar. A great place to play chess as well! Although it is a Greene King pub, Harvey's is still served from its days as a Beards house because the regulars prefer it! I thoroughly recommend this pub for the great beer and people.