You know what it’s like when you write a daily blog and you screw yourself?
Just me then.
Almost a fortnight ago, I had a chat with comedy writer Mark Kelly – he writes for one of the UK’s most successful comedians. We had a chat about his new book Dates Still Available. I was going to post a blog when the book was available online. Which is now.
But, a couple of days before I met Mark for our meal, I had had a drink with comedy presence Tony Green. Mark had a good story about Tony which included an allegedly racist act, blood pouring from another comedian’s mouth and the Arts Council sending a totally OTT act abroad to promote the UK’s image.
I used that part of our chat in my blog on 4th July.
And so today’s blog is lacking in nudity and blood. Which are always online crowd-pleasers.
Mark is from Birkenhead near Liverpool and used to perform comedy as Mr Nasty. Which he is not. Quite the opposite. His new book is a collection of comic poetry, song lyrics and short satirical pieces.
“Why?” I asked him a fortnight ago. “Why publish it? Who is going to buy a poetry book nowadays?”
“Poetry books do have a very limited appeal,” he admitted. “I can’t remember the figures, but I did see the sales figures for the Top Ten poetry books one month last year and they were tiny. If you wanted to rig the poetry charts, it would be pretty easy to do.”
“I think you should,” I told him. “You could become the international bestseller.”
“I could be like Brian Epstein (manager of The Beatles),” he told me. “When I was growing up in Liverpool, there was always a rumour that Brian Epstein ‘bought’ Love Me Do into the charts. No-one actually knows the truth, but there was a rumour that, above the NEMS offices, there were thousands of copies of Love Me Do.”
“I suppose,” I said, “that, being brought up in Liverpool when you were, you had to end up a poet or a comedian or a rock star and you managed two out of three. Well, at one time, you even almost joined the Nashvile Teens band!”
“When I was in my teens,” Mark said, “I was the youngest member – by far the youngest member – of a group called The Merseyside Poetry Circus. It was funded by the Arts Council and the basic idea was, if you couldn’t afford Roger McGough, you got us.”
Poetry was trendy back then. Especially poetry from Liverpool. Even I, in my youth, bought the Penguin Modern Poets book The Mersey Sound, with poems from Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten.
Mark told me: “All three, at different times, were in a group called Grimms, which was members of The Scaffold, The Liverpool Scene and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. They did poems, songs, sketches. Roger McGough would do stuff with Andy Roberts, a guitarist from The Liverpool Scene.”
“I vaguely remember Grimms,” I said.
“Grimms was an acronym,” said Mark. “It was GRIMMS – John Gorman, Andy Roberts, Neil Innes, Roger McGough, Mike McGear (Paul McCartney’s brother) and Viv Stanshall. They made three albums, one of which – Sleepers – is particularly good.”
The Grimms’ track The Womble Bashers of Walthamstow is on YouTube.
“Did you stop being a poet and start being a comedian because there was more money in it?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve never stopped being a poet,” said Mark. “I’ve always done a lot of different things. My act on the comedy circuit in the 1980s and 1990s and early 2000s was a mix of stand-up, songs and comic poetry.”
“I feel I should take a picture of you eating,” I said.
“Is that going to go on some weird eating fetish website?” asked Mark.
“I remember I once knew a BBC special effects man,” I reminisced to Mark, “who had previously worked on Hammer horror films and his then-girlfriend told me he didn’t like her eating in front of other people. I have no idea why.”
“There are three sections to my book,” said Mark, trying to get me back on subject. “The first is pretty much straightforward comic poetry – performance poetry which I have done and will do live and it tends to rhyme and tends to be funny.
“The second part of the book are five lyrics which go with Erik Satie type piano pieces written by my oldest friend Sally Morgan.”
“The psychic?” I asked.
“No” replied Mark. “There are three Sally Morgans. There’s the psychic Sally Morgan; there’s the ex-Parliamentary aide to Tony Blair – now Baroness Sally Morgan; and there’s my oldest friend Sally Morgan who is an exceptional musician. She lives on the border of France and Spain.”
“He was brought up near the Kent marshes,” I told Mark. “Lots of Napoleonic prisoners of war were buried there. As a small kid, he would see some of them occasionally dug up.”
Mark looked at me.
“The BBC special effects man,” I said.
“The third section of my book,” said Mark, “is a re-worked dictionary with primarily funny satiric definitions of contemporary words. The idea comes from Ambrose Bierce, a 19th century American satirist who wrote The Devil’s Dictionary.”
Mark’s book is very funny. I recommend it.
Dates Still Available.
You can buy it online now. You might consider it as an investment.
The thin 1968 paperback of The Mersey Sounds is currently selling on Amazon at prices ranging from £55.20 to £128.16.