Poker Face


In the Public Interest? Coming down hard on “celebrity culture”

This began life as a reply comment to the blog of my favourite writer, Amy Madden  specifically


I didn’t want to talk about specific cases currently under discussion in the US. I don’t follow that sort of news on principle and this was an attempt to  explain.

I want to say something about public censure and demonizing of “famous people” for misdemeanors that would barely make three lines in a local community newspaper for anyone else.
Famous People are still people.

They can still be just as mean, judgy, spiteful, violent, perverted, drunken, obnoxious, dirty, selfish, dishonest and unfaithful as that neighbour we are always moaning about. That guy who we are sure is beating his wife, judging from the constant shouting from their apartment.
Do we expect that guy’s boss to sack him? No.
Do we expect that guy will have his professional credentials stripped, invalidated, removed from him because of any or all of his anti-social behaviours? No, unless he is abusing a position of public trust.
Do we even call the police on him?   Maybe we do, it depends on context, and what the problem is, but mostly people would rather turn up the stereo in the hope that the shouting goes away. Some people fight as a matter of course anyway and wouldn’t thank you for involving the authorities. If no definite laws have been broken and no bones, then what happened is nobody’s business but theirs. No it doesnt matter if it is Brad and Angelina fighting. It’s still none of our damn business.
Maybe fame and celebrity is a sort of a handicap in some ways?  Sure these people may have more money than we do, but nobody becomes Mother Theresa just because they’re famous. Even Mother Theresa was not “all that” apparently.

Just because a person is well known is not carte blanche for people to take their photo when they are walking down the street, or for their body mass index to be discussed on TV as some form of sickening entertainment. If you wouldn’t like that done to you, why are you condoning it happening to other people? That’s discriminatory. We should not look at people whom we consider “famous” as if they have asked to be so minutely scrutinized. We have not democratically elected them to public office, their behaviour is not our concern. They do not represent us. We only need to scrutinise the people whom we have elected as our representatives in that way.

Actors, musicians, film-makers and so on may be “in the Public eye” but they are private individuals who just happen to be in jobs that get their names known. There is no vow that they take to  never get drunk or swear or hit people. They carry on being whatever they were before, whether nice or nasty. They didn’t ask permission to be your kid’s role model and they don’t owe your kid their good behaviour. Better that you teach your kid that heroes always have feet of clay and get them focusing on being the best that they can be and not looking for validation from the life and demeanour of some big breasted reality starlet.
There seems to be some confusion about the phrase “In the Public Interest”
It does NOT mean “Things that are of interest to the public”

Celebrities may very well be of interest to the public, but detailed knowledge of their private lives actually goes against the meaning of “In the Public Interest” because it infringes their privacy .. and a violation of personal privacy goes against the interests of us all. If you think it is OK for you to ogle stolen photos of a naked actress, is it not equally ok for your neighbour to ogle stolen photos of your mother, your sister, your wife, your daughter?- hint. None of that is OK

Things that are in the public interest, concerning the private life of individuals, are limited to, for example, a social worker abusing a position of trust, a politician fucking a spy. People’s personal lives should not be in the papers. I appreciate that hitting ones wife isnt legal, but it’s between the man, his wife, the police & the judicial system to decide outcomes. It’s STILL none of YOUR damn business.
The media is bursting with stories that have no place there, & they are not improved by extended speculative comment & half-assed extremist opinions spun out to fill the dragging hours of current affairs coverage or the pull out supplement with diagrams on pages 7 – 25.

Nothing much is ever that newsworthy.

Inflating trivia & the sad personal lives of individuals in that way devalues the impact of real news, for example world events and real stories that are in the public interest like items about healthcare, minimum wage and unions. We have become a planet full of voracious, prurient trivia-nauts, sucking up flawed human beings, picking over their bones and spitting them out, calling them evil, telling them to kill themselves, even after they have served jail time and supposedly reformed. We are unforgiving & trained to see nothing but the monster that has been presented to us as a sacrificial offering. Meanwhile, other people are doing far worse things unseen (do you know about Rotherham?) because the media would rather run a celebrity trivia story than do any actual work. The truth is not profitable.

Celebrity crimes could be as diverse as being an unrepentant racist, or being a bad actress who has put on too much weight. There is no finesse to our hate, no shades & degrees of meaning. A man who killed another man because he is a trigger happy racist seems to be better liked in some quarters than a pop star who puts out a sexy provocative video. We need to have a word with ourselves about how we feed our head, & about who is doing that & why…

And Here Is The News….

I’ve been spending time watching a few of the documentaries on 911 on You Tube. Not the conspiracy type ones, I hasten to add.

I wasn’t in New York that day, thank goodness, but I, like everyone else it seems, was watching intently as the horror unfolded. I saw the raw footage as it went out live. I saw people standing with fire at their backs and a lethal fall ahead of them, images that never made it to the later bulletins, and I was left confused, wondering if I had imagined those images.

Having grown up in the UK where we were very accustomed to extremely graphic, uncensored images going out on the news and in newspapers throughout my childhood, from IRA atrocities, Black September, Baader-Meinhoff and from Vietnam etc, it puzzled me that the later news about 911, specifically the footage shown, seemed to be missing that human element. This wasn’t about buildings after all, surely? It was about people; thousands of people who had been murdered and yet the things I was seeing were all telling me to condemn an “attack on America, on the WTC, on the Pentagon” not on these innocent people who seemed to be portrayed as  somehow just unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Real Estate, and an unreal situation.

Have we become so frightened of the truth that we prefer our news media to shovel sand over the blood so that we do not have to deal with it? What is the point of news if it doesn’t address the core of the event? I appreciate that victim’s families are a consideration, but is it really true to say that the contents of the later bulletin is going to significantly add to what they’re going through or is that the news media seeing themselves and how they are perceived as more important than what has actually happened?

People who say that a thing is too horrible to watch again are actually shrugging off the horror and putting their own discomfort ahead of the truth.

We need to see the truth, and we need to see and deal with it often. I ask myself if the Kennedy assassination were to occur now, would the Zapruder film have even made it into the public domain?

How about the Hindenburg disaster, or the horror of the German concentration camps? These things now seem to fall into the class of some sort of “horror fetish”, a created thing; the “pornification” of actual events, and not general knowledge, unpleasant but necessary, which we all should be dealing with and assimilating if we ever are going to learn to not make so many mistakes again.

This seems to be the way things are going at the moment. I resent being made to feel a little dirty in that I wish to review what actually happened on 911 or any of those other things, and at the same time I resent the newspapers being filled with detail on the private lives of celebrities and with minor local news where it gives an opportunity to take a lazy swipe at the poor, immigrants, the unemployed and so on. THAT is not what should be in our papers.

Too many people now are jaded by the news and switch off because it does not engage them. Issues are not dealt with. It horrifies me that my own daughter can say negative things about feminism and the feminist movement in a world where reproductive rights and equality are being taken away from women, where rape culture is so prevalent we barely even realize it is all around us, and tacitly condoned by the mass media in a way that would have caused outrage in 1979. Issues that affect human beings are not optional. We need to stop living in a bubble of only nice things. I fully appreciate that many people will turn around and say

“What’s the point of me watching that, or knowing the detail of that? I cannot do a thing about changing it and it makes me feel depressed. I can only concern myself with those things that directly affect me”

Yes, it is a great defence, and perfectly valid… until the day that events suddenly catch up with you and you find yourself floundering in the middle of it all, without the necessary information or understanding to make the best choices to help you survive or to process what is happening to you. We live our lives now like a flock of wildebeest on the plains, a prey animal just hoping not to fall behind the rest, but with no strategy to save ourselves

I read that the family of  one man recently murdered chose to watch the video of their son’s death and I have to say that those people have my utmost support in their decision. It must have been an incredibly hard thing to do, and I am sure there will be many times in the future when they wish they had made a different decision, but I hope there are just as many moments when they feel their own strength and use it to go forward

Everyday, it seems, we become more and more apathetic about the quality of information we feed our heads with.

What we hear as “news” is governed by what the people financing the TV station or newspaper want us to hear. It is the choice of advertisers, billionaires, propagandists, consortia and extremists what we, the people, are programmed to consider to be of interest to us.
Perhaps if we got more offended by a news channel devoting time to the opinions of a lunatic fringe, interspersed with celebrity gossip, and demanded facts and truth about what is really going on in the world, we might not find ourselves feeling so hopeless and impotent in the face of world events in the first place and better able to cope with doing our small bit, in whatever way, to try to fix these immense fuck-up situations that we have allowed to get so far out of control

Oh, and by the way, everyone has nipples, get over it.



The Face of 69-Alan Merrill : Album Review. Something for Every Taste…


Buy it here >

Kicking off with the title track. It’s an autobiographical cheeky-chappie number with the obvious double-entendre right out there. It has a very comedic British feel, although the story it tells is one of an early failure to make a career breakthrough.
Hard Road, which follows it, is an amazing rock song, much less cheerful about the tough life in the music business, but absolutely a hard rocking anthem, one of Merrill’s best

Hang on Sloopy, a cover of the popular old McCoys/Rick Derringer hit. This version is fantastic. Alan was part of Rick Derringer’s band in the early 1980s. On top of being a world-class songwriter, Alan Merrill is blessed with one of the top five voices in rock music in my opinion. Everything he sings is immediately better for his voice being there and there are a number of songs on this album that he did not write, but in every case, the version he provides stands on a par with, or higher than the original
Lesson Learned is another cautionary tale about the lure of fame with a thumping great bass-line provided by the excellent ex Brian Connolly’s Sweet and latterday Slade bass player Dave Glover. Great rock song with some great creepy audio effects giving a slightly ominous gravitas

White Heat is a lovely thing, a little reminiscent of mid 80s Robert Palmer, it has a similar hard rocking but melodic, sophisticated sheen.
The late-era Arrows Merrill-Taylor song Love Express is up next, it pulls no punches, the double-entendres are even less subtle here. Backed by Rick Derringer and his band it is transformed into a relentless unstoppable groove.

Alan ‘s version of Two out of Three Ain’t Bad, a Jim Steinman number, and a big hit for Meatloaf, is so tender and touching, a quality I don’t feel the original hit has to the same degree. Merrill played guitar for Meatloaf in the mid/late 80s and this inclusion reflects that period of his career.
Alan’s solo version of the Larry Williams classic song “Slow Down” rocks as hard as any version of this I have heard. I’ve heard him do this live, and it’s fantastic

Walk Away Renée, Pretty Ballerina and Desireé were songs originally written and performed by the “baroque’n’roll” New York band The Left Banke which Merrill came close to joining in the late 1960s, before he went to Japan. Alan provides really excellent versions of all of these, I have not heard The Left Banke originals.

Alan follows these with a completely unexpected cover of the beautiful “You” a Radiohead song, originally from Pablo Honey and fully orchestrated with strings. It’s a refreshing delight and really shows the range and versatility of that great voice stepping right out of the usual full tilt boogie and into a much more ethereal space.

Long Shot is a huge but moving power ballad of a man taking a chance on love, going against the voice of his experience.
Miles Away is a much more gentle, spacious tune about love and separation
Always another Train, another late-era Arrows composition with a driving Stones-y feel features an amazing line-up of people including Mick Taylor, Steve Winwood and (astonishingly) the heart-throb actor Oliver Tobias on backing vocals

Breathe on Me is a Ron Wood song, and joining Alan is the vocal talent of Antonique Smith in a breathtakingly beautiful duet that I’ve had to repeat over and over. The blend of voices is just that good.

Everytime She Comes Around is simply a catchy cheerful tune that gets right in your head, it has massive potential as a song for other bands to cover.

Theo, Alan’s tribute to Theo Van Gogh is next. It’s a slow-jam straightforward 12 bar blues; simply, but perfectly constructed, and one of my favourite songs. The words are less important than the feel, and this has plenty of feel- with blues harmonica and lots of opportunity to sing along. Great fun!
Rock On You is an upbeat pop song again perfect for singing along, another I’d like to see other bands picking up on

Only 19 is a stand alone acoustic ballad written to highlight the tragedy of anorexia and other eating disorders in young girls under societal pressure to conform to an impossible ideal. It’s a subject I’m sure he knows a lot about, having been once married to a top model and also has had a modeling career himself. Such a sad song, it has moved me to tears more than once.

Overall, this large collection has enormous depth and variety. It’s great value, and leaves me once again a little stunned that this wonderful artist is not as well known as he should be. I notice I haven’t even got around to mentioning here that he wrote “I Love Rock n Roll” and recorded it with his band The Arrows, back in 1975. This guy is a national treasure, and an international one as well. Buy his albums. There is literally something for everyone’s taste here.

Album Review: Snakes and Ladders – Alan Merrill


Snakes and Ladders – Alan Merrill (2012) < Buy it here

Snakes and Ladders is the third in the “Collections Series” by this versatile, extraordinary artist.
I feel the arrangement of the earlier tracks intentionally serves to tell Alan Merrill’s story. He has been in the music business since the mid 1960s and has lived quite an interesting and unusual life. His lyrics can sometimes reflect ideas and situations that some people might find themselves less than easy with, but this isn’t about making people feel comfortable, this is a candid view of a real life, honestly told.

The title track “Snakes and Ladders” speaks of Merrill’s rollercoaster career, sometimes up, sometimes down and sometimes switching back on itself; the easy going country style making it seem like he is dealing with all of life’s hard knocks with humour and good grace, but you can still feel the pain.

Moving on to the song “Me You” which tells of the agony of an unrequited, almost obsessional passion for a woman, who is playing with his emotions. It’s so easy to relate, we have all been in a similar situation I’m sure and recognize the sickening heartbreak of it. This is one of my favourite Alan Merrill songs, because it is so honest and humble, but what an amazing rock song! It’s empowering to anyone who is disappointed in love

“Restless Soul” is a sophisticated ballad that represents a sense of mortality, and the acceptance of change and loss and how he has to keep on moving on.. . Its such a beautiful song and coming after a country song and a rock song it really provides a mellow zone before the insane rocked out frenzy of “TNTeenager”

“TNTeenager” is a tour-de-force of crazy sparkly rock’n’roll, watching a girl dancing, celebrating the sexual energy of youth with great humour and a recognition that it’s a look and dont touch situation. It is as powerful a song as Merrill’s much better known composition “I Love Rock’n’Roll” (that he wrote for his “British” band The Arrows, back in 1975 and which has become one of the top rock songs of all time via famous covers by Joan Jett, Britney Spears and others.)

“Monitor” is a song written when Alan was young and it was recorded by his Japanese band Vodka Collins on their Tokyo-New York album, a classic in Japan. Monitor is a chunky slice of 1970s Glam, and like the song that follows it, “Fire In A Wax Museum”it has a great tune. The second is a more recent composition but shares that same strutting Bolanesque feel.

“Lost In Lust” is a glorious great shout of a rock song. Basic premise. Alan likes girls. You may have worked that out already.
“Cat’s Eye Moon” which follows it is another pounding slab of neo-Glam. Then on to”Radio”, an upbeat simple slice of happy-go-lucky pop rock as is “No Speed Limit” Between these two is the beautiful “Illusion”
The haunting “Cold Cold September” is one of the greatest songs anyone has ever written. This one deserves to be world famous too.

“Rain Chasing Dreams” expands on the Snakes and Ladders theme of the illusory nature of perceived success, and contains the lyric “Love is lost and won by the heart, buy the gun” which appeals to me as an observation. Then comes “Freewheeler” a poetic reflection of the sinister side of city life. “Wait For It” is a wonderful song. I’d love to hear a few other acts take that on. This and the next two “Somebody Special” and “Dead End Zone” have a lot of cover potential
“Everyday All Night Stand” goes way back to Alan’s first album, Merrill 1 in 1971. A lovely jangly rock’n’roll road song; and another personal favourite (Buy Merrill 1, it’s amazing)

“Phoenix and The Renegade” is a class apart, a Spartan, Gene Clark inspired jewel of a song, acoustic, personal and heartbreaking.

The strength and depth of Merrill’s songwriting is so evident throughout this album (and his others) that you find yourself surprised that his name is as little known as it is. This is the man who wrote “I Love Rock’n’Roll”, so why isn’t his catalog being raided constantly by every singer out there?
All his very commercial mainstream style songs each have a unique feature that makes them memorable above the general background hum of popular music, and all his stand-out exceptional masterpieces represent so much potential for more chart-busting smash covers to happen. People really need to wake up to Alan Merrill and dig a little deeper. I hope they will be as blown-away as I was by this phenomenal talent.

Propaganda watch : Breastfeeding

On the subject of breastfeeding, as it seems to be in the news today (why?): Before I got on the internet in Y2K it had honestly never once occurred to me in my life that anyone might conceivably have a problem with anyone breastfeeding their baby.

I breastfed my baby for three years between 1994 and 1997 and I’d do it on demand, whenever, wherever, in the street, in the pub, in a restaurant, in a store, and also at home in front of my parents & friends and friends of friends.

You know NOT ONCE in all of that time did I EVER meet with a negative attitude about it from anyone, no weirdness, no staring, no averted gazes either. On the contrary, people would come up and chat, acting like I was an old friend and not a stranger. Old men, young men, old women, young women, children… all seemed to find me 100% more approachable. Some old boys would come up and say how awesome it was, and it reminded them of how their own mothers were openly breastfeeding way back in the 1920s and 30s and it wasn’t a big deal.. When there was no “Scientific Formula” alternative people just accepted breastfeeding as a normal part of life. This is what these older folks were telling me. Quite the opposite of what we are now being led to believe how women used to hide away. It blows my mind that young women now are worrying if it is ok to whip out a tit to feed their babies. It is OK… The sort of asshat who is going to give you a hard time about it is really not worth the least amount of consideration, I say again … ANY ONE WHO HAS A PROBLEM WITH IT IS THE ONE WITH A PROBLEM.

Like I said I never had a single problem from anyone. and I wonder how much of the modern day weirdness about breastfeeding has been whipped up by the media, funded by big business and…., it seems almost too obvious, the producers of these chemical alternatives. Kerching!!!

Oh, and I am NOT an exhibitionist,. I’ve never even owned a bikini or a sleeveless shirt, or a boob tube, or shorts. I prefer to keep covered up, but for this one exceptional circumstance that means you do have to show a bit more skin than usual


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