Sunday, 30 December 2012

A short conversation with Ira Middleton

It is a typical wintry day in mid-July. Ira Middleton and I are sheltering from the blizzard conditions among the genteel clientèle of The Brady Rooms in Royal Mayfair. In accordance with the hotel’s stringent dress code we have both donned quilted dressing gowns. On an adjacent table, a pair of elderly twin sisters are celebrating their 90th birthday. The flimsy white satin nighties that shrink-wrap their gaunt, bony frames leave very little to the imagination.

 “I once met the lead singer from the death metal band Septic Entrails at a convention centre in Detroit...” says Ira. He takes a sip of camomile tea from a dainty bone china cup.

“...I asked him whether he perceived the history of rock and roll as a conversation, predominantly between England and the U.S., regarding colonial Africa.”

 “What was his response?”

“Distinctly noncommittal. He called me ‘a whining, bleeding ass faggot.’” 

It is at this point that we are interrupted by a waiter, voicing concerns about the level of audible profanity peppering our conversation. Ira spends the next five minutes explaining to him that he is presently engaged in the telling of a story in which a certain coarse vernacular is a vital element as a means of conveying both veracity and colour. At the end of his explanation the waiter apologises profusely and leaves the room. We are later informed by hotel management  that this presumptuous member of staff he has been dismissed as a direct result of his inability to distinguish between anecdotal swearing and casual abuse.

Middleton, who made his name on the wrong side of the tracks, is no stranger to uncouth language. In 1974, three years before punk broke, he had word “Effete” tattooed across his back in lavender-scented ink. In 2007 he was banned from the institutional radio programme - Desert Island Discs - for selecting the first eight tracks from the NWA album - Straight Outta Compton - in sequential order.

“They un-marooned me! My luxury item was a Glock and an unlimited supply of ammunition. It dates back to when I used to be in a gang called The Cripes, who were an English, home counties chapter of The Crips. We were pale, public school types  who wore striped blazers and penned sonnets that expressed a mild disdain for society. It all came to an abrupt end when I was given 4 weeks worth of detention for writing disrespectful letters to a policemen. The beak bumped 2 months off my sentence because I wrote my correspondence in exemplary Latin.” 

Upon his release, Middleton renounced the thug life, and his incipient status as an OG, to work with endangered species:

“There’s a Britpop group called Queen Cauliflower who signed to EMI in 1994. Recently the company accountants realised that, due to a contractual anomaly, the Universal Music Group could reap a substantial return on its tax bill if the band split up. As it turned out Queen Cauliflower didn’t want to split up, but felt under tremendous pressure to do so. I arranged for them to be flown to the Galapagos Islands where they now enjoy protected species status. Essentially they have same rights, with regard to hunting, as giant tortoises.”

I ask him whether there is any truth in the rumour that he has joined Take That.

“I formally joined the group in February. They’ve entered an interesting conceptual phrase of their existence. I had a long chat with Gary Barlow. He feels that over the past few years their fanbase has become more open to experimentation. Their latest piece is a three hour song cycle inspired by the foundation of The World Wildlife Fund  I’m on board for one album and a world tour, in which I play the narrator. I recite spoken word passages between the songs. Originally Jason Orange was going to do it but they thought that I would bring more gravitas to the part.”

“2013 will be a good year for you then.”

 “Things are going to get real in 2013. I can’t go into specifics at present.”

As I get up to leave, we bump fists in a gesture of enduring solidarity. 

The following day I take delivery of a picnic hamper. The gift card reads: “Raise ‘em up. R U Still Down? Ira.”

When I open the basket I find that it contains six miniature bottles of champagne. Nestled in some straw at the bottom are several small cans of ‘Premium Boneless Vagina’ which, I learn from the label, has been processed in the Philippines on behalf of Maldon Comestibles Ltd. 

I donate it to a local food bank .

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The So Solid Crew no longer have enough members to command a tank in battle

In 2001 The So Solid Crew were a imperviable hip-hop combo, riding high in the UK singles charts on the success of their song 21 seconds. They were also part of a well-established lineage of rap groups who chose to bolster their income by a registering as a ‘crew,’ thereby making themselves available, on an ad hoc basis, as pilots of a variety of ocean going vessels and commercial aircraft.  

This morning I was saddened to read that So Solid membership has fallen during the intervening decade, from a respectable peak of eight (source: Wikipedia) to just three. That’s barely enough bodies to pilot a Boeing a 747 on short and medium haul flights, and certainly nowhere near enough to adequately man a 17th century pirate ship, without having to draw upon the assistance of un-vetted tertiary members, of the kind who might conceivably form an entourage or posse. This must be a bitter irony for the remaining core members who, despite their rise to fame through a network of pirate radio stations, now lack the manpower to effectively stage a campaign of plunder and terror on the high seas.  

The decline of the So Solid Crew also casts some doubt over their claims toward an extraordinary state of solidity, with its implication of an unusually high melting point and general immutability to the effects of weathering over time. Clearly some form of attrition or evaporation has occurred since 2001 to account for their greatly diminished mass and the corresponding lapse in their ability to keep things real. By comparison So Solid’s 1980s counterparts - The Rock Steady Crew - boasts a roll-call of past and present members that must surely number in the low triple figures, amply justifying their chosen moniker.

Non-haterz have presented the counter-argument that, in this modern age of computer assisted technology, a leaner crew of specialists is a more efficient prospect. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the So Solid Crew could competently pilot the Space Shuttle on a mission, were it still operational.

Regrettably this hypothesis does not stand up to close scrutiny, in the same way that the lyrics to 21 Seconds do: The 2 Live Crew boasted six members; more than enough to effectively command a modern tank in battle, giving them a clear tactical advantage over the So Solid Crew in a theoretical ground assault, where the latter would be forced to rely upon static artillery. In addition, the aforementioned doubts over So Solid’s claims toward invulnerability must surely call into question whether the three remaining members would be able to withstand a barrage of depleted uranium shells of the kind routinely deployed on the modern battlefield.

We must also take into consideration scenarios that might require So Solid to operate a vehicle over an extended period, during which shift work would be a necessity in order to meet the stringent demands of health and safety legislation.  When this is taken into account their continuing status as a crew seems hopelessly compromised.   

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The sexual desert of Owen Lars

Nerds who live their parents and fluent Klingon speakers may recall Owen Lars as a minor character in the film Star Wars: A New Hope. He lived on the desert planet of Tatooine with his wife, Beru. Although the couple had no children of their own, they raised a young boy called Luke Skywalker, and did their best to shield him from the attentions of his abusive father, who had suffered a midlife crisis and reinvented himself as malevolent cyborg-wizard called Darth Vader.

Owen and Beru eked out a meagre existence as moisture farmers beneath the burning glare of Tatooine’s twin suns. The fiery desert heat was a stark contrast to their passion for each other which had long since cooled. During the few scenes that the pair share on screen  there is no evidence to suggest that their relationship is anything other than a world-weary drudge, shaped by a need to scrape together the bare necessities for survival on this hostile world of gangsters and Freudian sand monsters. Neither one playfully slaps the other’s arse or makes a flirtatious allusion to saucy bedroom proclivities. I have often wondered whether Owen is aware of the irony of his situation: That a man whose business is the farming moisture can no longer cause wetness to surge from his wife’s vagina.

Owen and Beru met their deaths off camera at the hands of Imperial Stormtroopers. One catches a brief glimpse of a charred body lying in the sand outside their homestead, smouldering in a way that the couple were never able to smoulder for one another.