The mind of Chris Sievey was clearly a treasure trove – indeed, a veritable Aladdin’s Cave – of bright and shiny ideas, many of which, thankfully, came to fruition. Most notably in the effervescent forms of The Freshies and Frank Sidebottom.
The Freshies were a brilliantly eccentric power pop/ new wave band who cheekily surfed the Manchester pre-punk, punk, and post-punk scenes, and came painfully close to success with a bouquet of great singles such as ‘I’m In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk’ and ‘I Can’t Get ‘Bouncing Babies’ By The Teardrop Explodes.’
Sievey’s later creation, Frank Sidebottom, was a surreal half-man/ half-puppet version of George Formby whose anarchic performances enlivened kids television shows and late night TV alike in the ‘90s, and whose live shows seemed to have garnered an strangely obsessive fan base. When Chris Sievey died in 2010, however, he left behind a hell of a musical legacy that showed the he was more than just a novelty act.
Out Of His Head was written by Sievey’s friend the journalist Mick Middles and is as intoxicating and sobering as Sievey’s life seems to have been. The book’s timeline spans more than a quarter of a century and includes cameos from Sievey’s family and friends as well as the likes of Mark E Smith, Steve Coogan, Jon Ronson, Caroline Aherne, Chris Evans, Mark Radcliffe, and, er, Bros.
Frank Sidebottom – Out Of His Head is a fascinating and bittersweet read, and is very highly recommended.
Graham Wynd kicks off #Noirvember with a look at Supernatural Noir and says:
‘I didn’t even know how much I missed Roman Dalton, his werewolf detective, until I started reading through the stories again. Netflix ought to swoop in and bag those stories for a new series.’
‘If you like reading Brazill–and who doesn’t–, you should give this short story collection a twirl because it’s Brazill and there are zombies. Oh yeah, get it because it’s going for a little over a buck.’
Dee Arr at Amazon.com says:
‘This is crime noir with a bite (my apologies to all vampire and werewolf fans), and the combination of Mr. Brazill’s talents hooked me. Riveted, I finished the rest of the book in one sitting, never noticing the day arrive while my coffee grew colder.’
And I’m over at Toe Six Press sharing the Supernatural Noir playlist:
‘Supernatural Noir is collection of my short stories that I consider to be both supernatural and, er, noir. And of course, there’s music all over the place!
Drunk On The Moon by Tom Waits
It started with a song. Tom Waits’ Drunk On The Moon, to be precise. A neon soaked torch song with more than a twist of noir. A song of the city at night, sung by a man who sounded like a wolf- and not just Howlin’ Wolf. And once upon a time, there was a magazine named Dark Valentine who were looking for cross genre short stories. So, I wrote a yarn about a werewolf private eye. And I called it Drunk On The Moon.’
Well, I’ve certainly lifted plenty of story and book titles from songs over the years. Small Time Crimes, my new collection, has more than a few yarns with titles nicked from songs I like.
I suspect most people would think that the title Chelsea Girls was pilfered from the 1967 Andy Warhol film and perhaps, indirectly, that’s true. It is, in fact, named after art rockers Simple Minds’ second single. I liked their first single, ‘Life In A Day and ‘Chelsea Girls’ too. I saw them live around the same time -1979 – at Middlesbrough Rock Garden and always associate the gig with beer and marmite.
In The Devil’s Name
The shadow of the shadow of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band hangs over this yarn. SAHB recorded a song about the Scottish witch Isobel Goudie and the pub in the story is called The Swampsnake. SAHB were one of my favourite bands in pre-punk times.
Life After Life
‘Lord Let us pray for life after life,’ sang Sniffin’ Glue founder Mark Perry in a cod reggae song. It was actually one of my least favourite of their singles but I bought it at the time and still like it.
New Dawn Fades
In rain soaked Leeds in September 1979, I saw Joy Division as part of the Leeds Futurama Festival- along with The Fall, Public Image and many more top turns. And JD made an impression for sure. Their first album Unknown Pleasures certainly did. This was before synthesisers softened their sound. They were still hard edged as well as mournful. They still had punk energy.
Band On The Run
Wings were ‘the band The Beatle’s COULD have been’ according to Alan Partridge. I certainly liked them more than The Fab Four as a kid. The cover of Band On The Run was well talked about at school in 1973, spotting the celebrities, most of whom are probably dead now.
The Friend Catcher
Before Nick Cave turned into the Goth Billy Joel, he was in The Birthday Party, an essential band that mashed up The Stooges with Pere Ubu and more. The Friend Catcher is a spooky ditty that always reminded me of The Child Catcher in Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang.
I suspect Willy Nelson sounded old and nostalgic even when he was a child and this is for sure a fitting title for a story about growing old.
Right Place, Wrong Time
This LP was always in the 50p section of the second-hand record shop where I worked but it was years later when I actually listened to it. See what I did then?
Sheila Take A Bow
Morrissey’s tribute to Shelagh Delaney, writer of A Taste Of Honey, Charlie Bubbles and more. Mozza pilfered many of her lines for his songs over the years of course, so it was the least he could do, really. From a time when The Smiths were more than just a soppy student band.
Small Town Creed
The Kane Gang, a bunch of working class lads from the north east of England in love with the sound of Detroit. Back in the ‘80s they had a couple of big hits in the UK but are mostly forgotten these days, sadly.
One of The Jam’s best tunes with a typically great bass line.
Life On Mars
My older brother Eric gave me Bowie’s Hunky Dory in the early ‘70s and I remember not being able to make head nor tail of the lyrics but bloody well trying! It’s all about our insignificant little lives, isn’t it?
Train In Vain
I saw The Clash in 1978 when the front doors were literally pulled off Middlesboro Town Hall. This song is smooth sounding aim at the American charts but it still has its appeal. They were always a conventional rock band, after all.
Seven Minutes To Midnight
Melodrama from Pete Wylie, the only one of The Crucial Three that I could bare to have a pint with. All sound a fury signifying quite a lot.
Flash fiction is sharp and spikey, as were The Fall, and as is this song from my favourite Fall period.
Getting Away With It
The Smiths meets New Order meets … The Pet Shop Boys? Much ridiculed at the time, I think, it was a top 20 hit in the UK and still stands up. And don’t we all like to think we’re getting away with it?
I made a You Tube playlist here
(This post first appeared at Toe Six Press)
‘David: I enjoyed one of your latest books, “Last Year’s Man” which displays the wit in your writing. So, what makes Brits funnier than Americans? Kidding. A bit of a safer question, what is it that makes the English so damn funny?
Paul: I think the Brits revel in our own ridiculousness, we know that life and people are absurd. After all, there are two types of people in the world and they are both preposterous. The most preposterous are the ones that don’t know they are, of course.’
Rear the rest of the interview over at DO SOME DAMAGE.