Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Jam: Made In Britain

BBC 6 Music’s documentary The Jam: Made in Britain tells the story pretty much as you’d expect. You could do without some of the celeb contributions – yeah, we know Noel … without The Jam, no Smiths; without the Smiths, no Roses … etc. Jonathon Ross’s rent-a-links tend to grate, but the band themselves contribute fully and there are interesting insights, particularly from Weller and Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, who produced the band through that astonishing run of singles and albums that took them from post-punk outcasts to (nod to the late John Weller) ‘The best fucking band in the world’.

I’m a sucker for a well put together music doc, even if the story is one that’s well told and a bit frayed at the edges. What makes it worthwhile, and this is no exception, is that odd flash of detail or insight that opens up or illuminates the music in a new way. Weller’s lack of confidence in his own writing during the recording of All Mod Cons is remarkable: he wanted to bin Down In A Tubestation and English Rose. And it’s there you realise the extent of Coppersmith-Heaven’s contribution, not only in the creation of the band's soundscape, but in driving Weller to greater things.

Sometimes you hear songs that are part of the fabric of your past coming at you slightly out of context; it can give them a fresh perspective. It happens here frequently - Away From The Numbers, Strange Town... And there are the clips that remind you of what a potent force The Jam were live. I’ve written plenty on that elsewhere on Electric Lullaby, but for a sense of what they were about and why they inspired such a dedicated following, The Jam: Made In Britain rates as a pretty good listen.


Having listened to the final part of the programme, it's evident that this is an old documentary re-broadcast. The story comes to a halt around eight years ago with a lingering sense of disappointment from all members of the band that they'd been in some way hard done by. Weller talks about the let down of the court case - Bruce and Rick took him to court in the mid-nineties and at the time of recording, the falling-out comes across as something of a betrayal of what the band stood for.

In leaving the story there, The Jam: Made in Britain misses an opportunity to bring things a little more up to date. You wonder, would a 90-second re-edit would have been so hard to drop in? And what might it have said? I guess it would have dealt with the emergence of Bruce and Rick in the slightly unsettling guise of tribute to themselves: 'From The Jam'. It would certainly have paid greater tribute to John Weller who died in 2009. It might have made mention of the way in which Weller pulls a song like Eton Rifles into his solo live set and re-invests it with new fire and passion. And you like to think it would have covered the fact the Paul and Bruce put the past behind them to record and play live again in 2010.

Thanks to Loz Harvey for the shout.
The Jam: Made in Britain is available on the BBC iplayer until: part 1 –24 January; part 2 – 25 January; part 3 – 25 January; part 4 - 26 January.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Book News Update: Frank's Wild Years

You wait a month for a blogpost and then land two in 24 hours. This one's an update, an informerical, a do-list, a coming soon, and just to keep in the mix a 'note-to-self' that we are just short of two months from the off. Frank's Wild Years is published on 19th March

To go alongside what appears to be a busy spring for Brit crime publishers Caffeine Nights - quite simply the hippest indie on the block - comes a serious update for the website and it's right... Here. (If the screen moves a bit sharpish, there's a pause button at the foot of the page.)

Having booked in a spring and summer tour of northern Waterstones, starting with a launch evening and reading at Sheffield branch on 21st March, I'll be filling in the gaps over the next few weeks. Heading south, London bound. So if anyone knows of any bookshops, potential readings, reader groups, arts festivals, book clubs, whist drives, or any other Polly Cox's party that might fancy a reading and a chat about crime fiction, Brit-noir or the merits of old Stanley Baker movies, feel free to get in touch.

So far, this is how we roll, all Waterstones unless otherwise stated:

Book launch - Sheffield, Orchard Square 21st March (evening)
Grimsby - 24th March
Hull - 31st March
Cleethorpes Library - 12th April (evening with Nick Quantrill)
York - 14th April
Harrogate - 28th April
Doncaster - 12th May
Leeds - 19th May
Bradford - 2nd June
Sheffield - 6th June

Meanwhile, Frank's Wild Years is available for pre-order on Amazon.  

Saturday, 14 January 2012

How the Humber Changed Our World

On BBC East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire at 3.05pm, Sunday afternoon, 15 January – and hopefully on the BBC iplayer afterwards – a new programme charts the influence of the mighty Humber on the region and Britain’s industrial heritage.

Through tragedy, adventure and hardship, How the Humber Changed Our World brings memories of local people to light. It looks at how the Humber ports and the fishing industry defined the lives of generations of families on both sides of the river.
The production team contacted us last year as we went to press on Distant Water and we were pleased to point them in the direction of some of the people we'd spoken to for our heritage projects. I’ll be joining BBC Radio Humberside at Grimsby’s Fishing Heritage Centre on Monday morning from 9am as part of a follow-up discussion to talk about the programme, the docks, the river, the fishing industry and what the future might hold.

I may also slip in a plug for The Women They Left Behind and Distant Water. When we were researching and writing the books, we felt strongly that we had a responsibility to give working people an opportunity to make sense of their own experiences and in doing so, give them a voice. In bringing their memories together, we were able to create a greater understanding of Grimsby, the Humber and its history, as well as telling the story of the industry which, for 150 years, was the measure of the Grimsby’s success. How the Humber Changed Our World carries the story to our TV screens.

Distant Water and The Women They Left Behind are available from Amazon and local bookshops.