January 14, 2017
by Paul

Exceptional BBC documentary on the making of “Life on Mars” and “Hunky Dory”

Exploring ‘Life on Mars’” is an exceptional BBC radio documentary which is available on iPlayer for another 25 days.

Ostensibly it is about how “Life on Mars” came about, but, in fact, it is broader than that – it is basically about the making of “Hunky Dory” – my favourite Bowie album. It really is a corker of a documentary – with input from Ken Scott, the co-producer of “Hunky Dory”, Dana Gillespie, Rick Wakeman, who played piano on ‘Life on Mars’ etc. And there are some exceptional archive recordings. To hear Mick Ronson counting in “Song for Bob Dylan” in his Hull accept, was a golden moment!

I really recommend listening to this little beauty.


January 5, 2017
by Paul

The Fleming museum – a major item ticked off my bucket list

I ticked off a major item from my bucket list yesterday – I visited the Fleming museum in London.

I only found out it was there a few months ago. I was walking along Praed Street and noticed the blue plaque. To be honest I thought Sir Alexander Fleming, a Scot, had discovered penicillin in Edinburgh. I had no idea he did so just near Paddington Station in London.

So I was given a dispensation from retail therapy with my girls and toddled along. I had to follow a lot of arrows, going through the corridors of St Mary’s Hospital Paddington. Then I arrived at the museum reception to be greeted by two lovely ladies who were most charming.

One showed me to the actual small room, overlooking Praed Street, where Sir Alexander worked for many years and discovered pencillin. I was overwhelmed with emotion at seeing the actual place where the discovery took place – a discovery that has saved my life many times and that of my family and friends. Just think when you last had earache and the doctor prescribed anti-biotics for it. Well, before 1928 and the discovery of penicillin, hospitals were chocked full of people who died of ear infections and other infections which, nowadays we take for granted and get cleared up with anti-biotics.

It was a moment to be very humble and very grateful.

December 25, 2016
by Paul

RIP Rick Parfitt

I’m so sorry to hear the news of Rick Parfitt’s passing. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

I read somewhere that his simple ambition was to be a rock star, and he certainly achieved that in spades. With his flowing blonde hair, typically covering his face as in the above photo, denim and great guitar playing, he was the archetypal rocker.

As a tribute to the great rocker I pick out “Mystery Song” here. It has a superb Parfitt lick at the start – which was reputedly honed overnight in the studio after his colleagues spiked his tea!

December 23, 2016
by Paul

Now this is how you do four-part harmony!

Every Christmas I go through Sky Catch-up and download a load of stuff to watch over the break.

I downloaded “The Andy Williams Christmas Show” from Sky Arts. OK, it’s a bit tacky. But this rendition of “Winter Wonderland” by the Williams Brothers is absolutely spot on – it really is an exquisite example of four-part harmony. Andy Williams’ second tenor tends to clinch it:

December 18, 2016
by Paul

Fantastic 1969 Pick of the Pops

This Pick of the Pops edition (particularly the first half featuring 1969) is possibly the best Pick of the Pops I have ever heard.

It includes this cluster of superb tracks:

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River
Fleetwood Mac, sounding more like “Free” – Oh Well
Jethro Tull – Sweet Dream
Harry J All Stars – Liquidator
Beatles’ double A side – Something and Come Together
Jimmy Cliff – Wonderful world, beautiful people
Melting Pot – Blue Mink
Stevie Wonder – Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday
Kenny Rogers and the First Edition – Ruby, Don’t take your love to town

The show has the slight drawback of having The Archies and Sugar, Sugar at number one, but we put up with that one for a long time in the sixties! Week after week on Top of the Pops, the BBC would show that stupid cartoon .

Paul Gambaccini is surpassing himself with his flawless, brilliant presentation of Pick of the Pops these days. And, as he pointed out, despite Sugar, Sugar’s annoying, saccharin nature, The Archies do have the remarkable distinction of being “Britain’s biggest One Hit Wonders”.

December 9, 2016
by Paul

Christmas…don’t get me started

I wore a very red tie to a little gathering this week.

It is a very, very red tie that I reserve for Christmas.

Someone accused me of supporting “Old Labour”. Well, I am great fan of Harold Wilson. And I am normally more comfortable chatting with Labour types than Conservative types. But there it ends.

“I’m wearing red for Christmas” said I.

“Why’s that?” said my “old Labour”-accuser.

“Well, it signifies Christ’s blood, doesn’t it?”, I asked.

“Doesn’t it signify the holly berries, from “The Holly and the Ivy?”, they asked.

At that I left it. I don’t like to make a scene.

Of course, the tart reply comes to one ten minutes after the event:

“Ah, but what do the holly berries signify“?

Christmas. It’s got “Christ” in it. That’s a bit of a clue.

By all means, celebrate the end of the year, or Winterval, if you don’t believe, and by all means call it “Christmas” if you like. But you can’t deny the whole connection of the festival with Jesus Christ. That would be plain silly.

November 25, 2016
by Paul

Last weekend – big push for Sarah Olney in Richmond Park


Yesterday I spent all day at Richmond Park. In the morning I was delivering Gazette newspapers in New Malden. Then in the afternoon I joined our very hard-working clerical team in the Kingston office. I bumped into LDV colleague, Mary Reid, who has a crucial top secret role at the Kingston office, which she fulfils every evening. I could tell you what this role involves, but I’d have to eat you afterwards.

It was great to see the streets teeming with orange diamond posters and busy LibDem volunteers. Continue Reading →

November 24, 2016
by Paul

Even George Osborne’s Brexit black hole warning wasn’t high enough

George Osborne got a lot of stick back in June, when he warned that a Brexit vote would leave a “£30 billion black hole in (the) public finances”. Indeed, his warning resulted in his entire career being shunted into a siding. Crestfallen, he went off to Vietnam to let off steam with an M60 machine gun. Continue Reading →

November 24, 2016
by Paul

Book review – Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero by Chris Matthews

Books and films about the last second of President John F Kennedy’s life have been plentiful. “Jack Kennedy – Elusive hero” by Chris Matthews is a very engaging book which focusses on the great politician’s life before that last second.

Chris Matthews is a very well-known US TV broadcaster. He prefaces this book in a personal context – explaining his great admiration for JFK. The book does an excellent job in answering the key question which John F Kennedy himself described as the pivotal one for biographies: “What was he like?” Continue Reading →

November 23, 2016
by Paul

Postcard from India – monumental bank note upheaval

cow-mini-market in Goa by Paul Walter
Paul Walter is now back at home. As is often the case, this postcard arrived after the sender returned to Blighty!

We’ve had an enrapturing holiday in Goa, India. The welcome from the Goan people was wonderful. The beauty of the place was breathtaking.

By coincidence, we arrived just a couple days after a major monetary change by the government. To wrong-foot terrorists and criminals, there has been a monumentally huge exercise called “demonetisation”, going on across this, the second most populous nation in the world. All the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes have been withdrawn from circulation at two hours’ notice.

In the Times of India, Santosh Desai wrote: “86% of the currency in circulation becomes illegal virtually overnight”. That relates to an estimated $210 billion worth of money notes. $210 billion! That is a mind-boggling figure. Continue Reading →

November 10, 2016
by Paul

Great Henry Mancini track on Pick of the Pops

Well done BBC Radio 2, Pick of the Pops and Paul Gambaccini!

Last Saturday’s Pick of the Pops 1964 half was a real corker. Often the programme throws up great tracks which aren’t played much these days.

Henry Mancini’s “How soon?” was really fantastic to hear. Yes, a bit schmaltzy and MOR (Middle of the road), but it hit the spot with me….

The Great Gambo said it was the theme from the TV series “The Richard Boon show”, which is in the second box below and looks like a laugh a minute…

November 6, 2016
by Paul

We need to stop the drift towards self-destruction

It is more in sorrow than anger that I review the events of the last few days.

And if you want sorrow rather than anger done beautifully, then watch this wonderful piece of James O’Brien’s LBC show. He patiently asks why the caller asked for British law administered in Britain by British judges but is now angry about British law administered in Britain by British judges. Continue Reading →

November 3, 2016
by Paul

Phew! Thank goodness for the High Court ruling

Today’s High Court ruling is quite a relief.

Up until now, the government’s approach to Article 50 has been rather like that of a load of drunks in a speeding train carriage, intent on pulling the emergency cord to jump off the train in the middle of nowhere.

To embark on Article 50 without parliamentary consensus, and with a confused government position, would have been disastrous for this country’s interests.

The High Court ruling is based on the key constitutional principle that parliament only decides UK domestic law. By invoking Article 50 via royal prerogative, the government would have been ending all the rights for British citizens inherent in the 1972 European Communities Act.

That is not pedantic hair-splitting. It is big stuff. The sort of stuff which, in the past, led to a king losing his head and the country being riven by a bloody civil war.

But it really is key not to see this in terms of a parliamentary attempt to thwart the will of the people as expressed on June 23rd. I believe that decision will be respected by parliament.

The majority voted to leave the EU. But there was no detail in that advisory referendum as to the when and the how. That is where parliament comes in, to use its skills as our representatives to put the UK on the road to getting the best deal and the best route forward.

And thank goodness for that. The government have given confused and dangerous signals about how it intends to proceed with Brexit.

Parliament needs to be involved to ensure that when we get off the EU train, we have a platform to step out onto.