Tag Archives: Paul McCartney

I can only dream of sleep… and reality often seems more surreal than dreams…

I have not had a single full night’s sleep since June last year.

That’s over a year ago.

The calcium and the kidneys are to blame.

Last night, I woke up from a three-hour sleep on the floor. It was 11.43pm. I went to bed to sleep ‘properly’ after that.

I slept for two hours. Woke up. Then went back to sleep and woke up every hour – extremely dehydrated – until 7.40am this morning. That’s my new normal.

I’m still slightly woozy-headed. Brain meandering.

Until last June, I never really remembered any dreams. Only rarely. Now, because I wake up every hour throughout the night, I sometimes do. 

Just before I woke up for the final time this morning, I was dreaming that I was skateboarding with Paul McCartney round the corridors of some university student accommodation building.

Paul McCartney had slowed down to talk to someone who had picked up his business card amid the detritus of a street market.

I only ever fleetingly encountered Paul McCartney twice – once when, for some forgotten reason, I was giving comedian Charlie Chuck a lift down to the Brighton Pavilion where he was booked to perform at a birthday birthday or Christmas show thrown by McCartney for staff of his London-based company MPL (McCartney Paul & Linda).

Neither Chuck nor I knew exactly where the Pavilion was in Brighton (this was before the time of GPS smartphones and Google Maps).

We decided to ask the first random person in the street walking past our car. It turned out to be Paul McCartney, ambling along, alone, on his way to the venue. This was well after the shooting of John Lennon in New York, but McCartney was clearly very relaxed walking alone in the street.

The other time was when he performed on the TV show The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross, on which I was a researcher. The shows were transmitted live from Wandsworth in studios owned by Keith Ewart, a former Swinging Sixties photographer who tended to wander round the place with a pet bird – I think it was usually a parrot – on his shoulder. 

Since I started remembering my dreams, reality often seems more surreal than dreams.

It turned out that Paul McCartney’s manager, who was there in Wandsworth that night, was Richard Ogden who, as a younger man, had interviewed me for a job when he was head of some division of United Artists in London. I remember he wore no shoes and had his feet up on his desk. It was a different era. I was just about to leave college.

I did not get the job. 

Later I heard that, a few months AFTER the interview, Richard Ogden heard from acquaintances what I was like and said he would have given me the job if he’d known.

I have always done bad job interviews because I make a bad first impression. Most jobs I got through word-of-mouth or, a couple of times, because I had failed an interview about six months previously and they couldn’t be bothered advertising/interviewing when that or a similar job became vacant again.

I never re-introduced myself to Richard Ogden that night in Wandsworth.

Years ago – it must have been 1995 – I was also interviewed by newspaper legend David Montgomery for a job on the not-yet launched Live TV channel, a tabloid-style British TV station owned by Mirror Group newspapers which ran from 1995-1998. They were looking not just for people but for programme ideas which would ‘hold’ viewers.

I don’t think he was particularly interested in me but he briefly perked-up when I suggested they could run live coverage of a sex-change operation over a whole week with reports before, during and after the op.

This never made it to the screen and I never got the job, but it was clear I was at least thinking in the right area as the programmes they did transmit included Topless Darts, the weather forecast read in Norwegian by a girl dressed in a bikini, Tiffany’s Big City Tips in which presenter Tiffany Banister discussed the financial news while stripping to her underwear… and Britain’s Bounciest Weather in which a dwarf bounced on a trampoline while giving the forecast. If he was forecasting about Northern Scotland, he bounced higher on the map. 

There was a lot of weather on the channel.

Live TV failed, but David Montgomery did not. In 2012, he formed a newspaper group called Local World which was sold in 2015 for £167 million.

Now (among other things) he owns the former Johnson Press Group of around 200 UK newspapers. This was valued in pre-internet days (the 1990s) at over £2 billion.

He bought it in 2018 for £10.2 million.

In 2005, The Scotsman alone had been bought by Johnston Press for £160 million.

Times change.

Whereas most newspaper groups have been trying to fight the online world by centralising newsrooms and resources, Montgomery claims he wants to make his papers more specifically local and less filled with generic material. He is also chairman of Local TV, the second largest local TV company with nine UK licences.

It will be interesting to see what happens because, basically, no-one knows what is happening in any business at the moment – not just as a result of the internet but as a result of the still as-yet not-really-finally finished Covid pandemic.

Who knows what the future holds? Life seems to get increasingly like an OTT movie script.

I’m still slightly woozy-headed. Brain meandering.

I have not had a single full night’s sleep since June last year.

I can only dream of sleep.

(Photo by Johannes Plenio via UnSplash)

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I was brought up in Aberdeen and Campbeltown in 1950s Scotland…

I was born on the west coast of Scotland – in Campbeltown, Argyll, near the end of the Kintyre peninsula, AKA – as Paul McCartney would later eulogise it – the Mull of Kintyre

Scots singer Andy Stewart had much earlier sung about Campbeltown Loch.

At the time, as well as having an unfathomably high number of whisky distilleries, Campbeltown was a very active fishing port. My father used to service the echo sounders on the fishing boats.

Radar spots incoming aircraft and suchlike. Echo sounders do much the same but vertically, with fish.

A fishing boat would use its echo sounder to project an acoustic beam down under the surface of the sea and, when the beam hit the seabed, it bounced back and you could see any shoals of fish which interrupted the beam.

My father worked for a company called Kelvin Hughes, who made the echo sounders.

When I was three, my father got a similar job with Kelvin Hughes in Aberdeen, in north east Scotland. It was a bigger depot in a bigger town. A city, indeed.

“Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man,” is a quote either from the Greek philosopher Aristotle or the Jesuit writer St. Ignatius Loyola. Neither copyright nor political correctness held much sway back then.

Anyway, I lived in Aberdeen from the age of 3 to 8, in the 1950s.

I remember idyllic summer days in Duthie Park and Hazlehead Park… and happy warm afternoons on the sandy beach, playing among the sand dunes. It must, in reality, have been like combining the sands of the Sahara with winds from the Arctic. 

When we first came down to England, I remember being horrified by the beach at Brighton: not a sandy beach, more some bizarre vision from a horror movie where the grains of sand have all been replaced by hard egg-sized grey stone pebbles.

This is not a beach! I remember thinking. This is just a load of stones!

I was also surprised by the uniform blackness of Central London. This was before the cleaning of buildings with (I think) high-pressure water jets. The whole of Whitehall, I remember, was just flat, featureless black buildings, caked in a century and more of soot. Aberdeen, by contrast, was/is ‘The Granite City’ – uniformly light grey stone but, when the light hits it at the correct angle, the stones sparkle.

London also had no decent ice cream: a feature of key importance to me both then and now. At that time, ice cream in London was mostly oblongs of fairly solid yellow ‘stuff’ compared to the glories of the delicious softer white Italian ice cream in Scotland.

No-one seems to have a definitive explanation of why there are so many Italians – and, in particular, Italian ice cream vendors – in Scotland. Explanations vary from Italians on Scottish POW Camps in World War II who went native after the War ended and married local girls… to an inexplicable influx of Italian coal miners in the 19th century. I only repeat what I have read.

I vividly remember playing in the living room of our first rented flat in Aberdeen, beside the wonderful warm flames of an open coal fire while a storm raged outside. My mother was in the room. I was playing on a patterned rectangular carpet with the gaps between the edges of the carpet and the walls filled-in by hard brown lino – fitted carpets were an unimaginable and thought-unnecessary luxury back then. I was racing small metal Dinky cars round the band at the edge of the old and randomly threadbare Persian-design carpet.

It felt so warm and lovely and safe in the room with the raging fire while the storm outside loudly battered and spattered rain against the window panes. And my mother was with me.

I went to Aberdeen Grammar School when I was a kid. This was a state school and it had a Primary School section for under-11s, but you had to be interviewed to be accepted, presumably to get a better class of person. I must have slipped through.

My mother had heard that one of the things they sometimes did during the interview was to ask you to tie up your own shoelaces. This was not something I could do. Frankly, I’m still not too good at it. Fortunately, it was snowing the day I had my interview, so my mother dressed me in Wellington boots, thus circumventing the problem.

I do remember one question I was asked.

I was shown a cartoon drawing and the grown-up asked me what was wrong with it.

The cartoon showed a man in a hat holding an umbrella in the rain. But he was holding it upside down with the handle in the air and the curved protective canopy at the bottom. 

I have a vague memory that I may have thought the grown-ups there were stupid, but I did point out the umbrella was upside down and got accepted into the school.

Weather was an important factor in Aberdeen.

We lived on the ground floor of a three-storey roughcast council block on the Mastrick council estate.

Modern Google Streetview of a similar – but not the actual – council block on the Mastrick estate

It was cold cold cold in Aberdeen. In the winter, my mother used to make the beds and do the housework in her overcoat.

She used to get up before my father and I did and make the coal fire in the living room. She used to start with tightly rolled-up newspaper pages which, once rolled-up, were folded into a figure-of-eight. These and small sticks of wood were put below and among the lumps of coal. The rolled-up newspaper ‘sticks’ were lit with a match and burned relatively slowly because they were rolled-up tight and, when they went on fire, they set the wood on fire which started the coal burning.

At least, that’s the way I remember it. 

The bedrooms, as I remember it, had no lit fires, which is why she had to wear an overcoat when making the beds in the morning.

I remember making an ice cream shop man (probably Italian) very happy one afternoon by buying (well, my mother bought for me) a cone of ice cream. I was his first and possibly only customer of the day.

My father had been in the British Navy based in Malta during the Second World War and always told us that, in very hot weather, the Maltese drank lots of hot tea on the principle that, if you made yourself feel as hot inside as the weather was outside, you felt the extreme heat less.

As a reverse of this he said, in cold weather, you should eat cold ice cream because, if you feel as cold inside as you are outside, you will feel the extremity of the cold weather less.

Rain, snow, sleet and high winds were, of course, not uncommon in Aberdeen.

I remember once, coming back from school one afternoon, being on a bus which got stuck on a hill on an icy road in a snowstorm. I think it was maybe not uncommon then.

The Mastrick council estate was built on a hill with lots of open areas between the buildings, so the wind tended to build up.

The main road, a few minutes walk away from our council flat was The Lang Stracht (literally The Long Straight) and I remember it in a snow storm once. Or, at least, I think I do. I may have got confused by seeing a YouTube video a few years ago of a snowstorm on the Lang Stracht.

Either it reminded me of a genuinely-remembered snowstorm on the Lang Stracht; or it made me think I remembered one but hadn’t.

Mental reality, like any memory, is flexible.

All the above could be a whole load of mis-remembered bollocks.

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A story about Paul McCartney and Ian Dury which may or may not be true

(This blog was also published in the Huffington Post)

I have only encountered Paul McCartney twice very very briefly.

Once was when he appeared on Channel 4’s The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross. I did not handle the music on the show and we barely chatted, but he seemed very accessible and extremely amiable.

The second time was when comedian Charlie Chuck and I drove to Brighton where Paul McCartney was throwing a Christmas party at the Dome for the staff of his MPL company and Charlie was performing. For some reason, we could not find the entrance to the Dome and Charlie said, “We’ll ask the next person we see in the street.”

We stopped beside someone – a pair of legs – in a side street, I rolled down the window, asked, “Could you help us…?” and, surreally, Paul McCartney’s face came down and looked through the window. He had been ambling along to his party at the Dome on foot, alone, untroubled by anyone, untroubled by ego.

I have never heard anything but good things about him which was why I was surprised this week to hear someone I know, with connections in the music business, say to me:

“I never liked Paul McCartney.”

“Why?” I asked my chum.

“No reason at all,” came the reply. “Never liked him. Never heard anything bad about him, but never liked him.”

He then told me this story.

I cannot guarantee it is a true story. But it is an interesting story.

My chum has a friend in the music business who was a friend of the late rock icon Ian Dury.

Paul McCartney and Ian Dury had never met but, it seems, McCartney was a big admirer of Dury’s work.

Two or three months before Ian Dury died, he got a phone call. The voice on the other end of the phone said:

“Hello, Ian, it’s Paul McCartney.”

Ian Dury’s reaction was along the lines of: “Yeah. Fuck off. Good one. It’s a pretty good imitation.”

The conversation went on for a bit, but Ian Dury never believed it was the real Paul McCartney.

A few days later, though, there was a knock on his door – it might have been a ring – and, sure enough, Paul McCartney is standing there

At this point, Ian Dury is very ill with the bowel cancer which will kill him in just a few weeks time.

Paul McCartney comes in, the two of them have a very pleasant conversation and Paul hands Ian a sheet of paper, saying: “I wanted to give you this list. These are consultants and therapists who helped Linda towards the end and made her life much much better. They may be able to help you too.”

Ian said something appreciative but, in passing, mumbled something about the cost.

“Oh, that’s no problem,” Paul McCartney told him: “They get paid by vouchers.”

When he left, he handed Ian Dury an envelope saying:

“These are some vouchers.”

After he had gone, Ian Dury opened the envelope.

Inside was a cheque for half a million pounds.

A few weeks later, he received another half million pounds.

I have no idea if this story is true or not. But it comes from someone who knew Ian Dury well, so I suspect it is.

My chum told me:

“I didn’t used to like Paul McCartney. No reason. I just didn’t like him. Now I do. I respect him a lot.”

Here he is on The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross:

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How to pretend in a blog that you are successful in showbusiness by targeted, relentless b***sh****ng…

Three things have always held me back from a glittering and financially wildly successful career in showbiz: I’m not gay, I’m not Jewish and I’m shit at schmoozing.

Ooh – and I’m spectacularly lacking in any discernible performing talent of any kind.

However, I can bullshit quite well after many years of turning occasional sows’ ears of TV schedules into silk purses in on-air channel trailers.

Someone bemoaning the naivety of North Korean government propaganda in the 1980s once said to me: “You can only do good propaganda if you do NOT believe in what you’re saying. The trouble we have here is that these people believe what they’re saying.”

So, with that in mind, let me tell you all about my glamour-filled afternoon in London’s showbizzy Soho district yesterday.

After lunch, I went to St Martin’s College of Art in Charing Cross Road, forever immortalised in Pulp’s Top Ten hit Common People – “She came from Greece, she had a thirst for knowledge… She studied sculpture at St Martin’s College”.

(See what I did there? It might have sounded irrelevant, but you get tiny amounts of reflected glory from selective name-dropping. Unless that name is Gary Glitter)

The comedian Charmian Hughes was already at the photo studio in St Martin’s, getting publicity shots taken for her upcoming Brighton Festival and Edinburgh Fringe show The Ten Charmandments.

(Always mention quality show names in passing and, again, you will get some slight reflected glory. Never mention inept productions unless it’s the current IKEA TV ad and even then only if you’re trying to capitalise on shitloads of previous hits on your blog.)

I was at St Martin’s to get photos taken of myself for use as publicity at the Edinburgh Fringe. As far as I know, up there in August, I will be directing one show, producing another and chairing two debates.

(Always self-promote, however crass it seems. All publicity is good publicity, unless it involves Gary Glitter.)

Director Mel Brooks once told me (name-drop) during a very brief encounter:

“Always open your mouth when you do it – a publicity shot. It makes you look happier, more extrovert, more full of confidence and that’s half the job!”

A female comedienne, who had better remain nameless (never annoy the Talent) once told me:

“Don’t allow the photographer to take shots of you from a level lower than your chin because a shot taken looking upwards at your face will accentuate any double chins, jowls and flabby bits.”

And I learned a lot once by going to a photo shoot with the very lovely Isla St Clair (name-drop) who was a revelation (give credit where credit is due), offering the camera a continually changing range of angles and expressions for the photographer to choose from.

I am not a natural and I tried my best at St Martin’s, though I seem to have trouble doing that old Hollywood standby – looking over my shoulder at the camera. My neck – like my good self, perhaps – seems to be either too thick or too stiff.

(Self-deprecation can be appealing in the UK, though don’t try it in the US – they see it as lack of self-confidence.)

I hate photos of myself. I may be turning into a luvvie, but I have always realised one thing – I am very definitely not photogenic. (Again, use self-deprecation sparingly if you have a US audience)

Towards the end of the photo session, I started jumping in the air, something The Beatles (name-drop) did much more successfully on a beach at Weston-super-Mare in 1963. My legs are not as good as the 21 year old Paul McCartney’s. (name-drop combined with self-deprecation)

At the very end of the session, I was pouring water into my mouth. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But it turned out not to be. Don’t ask.

After that, I went off to Leicester Square to have tea with stand-up comedian, qualified psychotherapist and occasional PR/marketing guru Shelley Cooper. She told me she has accidentally developed a new on-stage confidence and I advised her to adopt a new approach to performing her comedy. I told her:

“Don’t think of writing comedy material. Instead, think of what really, genuinely gets up your nose, go on stage and rant about it and, through personality, natural comic tendencies and experience, the comedy element will add itself in.”

(That’s more than a bit pompous and a therefore a bit iffy, but the pro factor of being seen to give advice to a psychotherapist probably just-about outweighs the negative factors.)

As I left Shelley outside the Prince Charles Cinema, she turned left, I turned right and almost immediately I bumped into John Park, editor of Fringe Report – he is the man who did not design the Baghdad metro system. I always think he did, but he didn’t. It’s a long story. I still lament the passing of his monthly Fringe Report parties. Fringe Report also gave me an award for being ‘Best Awards Founder’ – basically an award for being the best awarder of awards – something which has always endeared them and him to me. (True, but beware of too-blatant crawling to John Park)

John P told me he has written a play about love called Wild Elusive Butterfly which the Wireless Theatre Company will be recording in the next couple of months for internet streaming and download.

(Always plug something which sounds like it may be very good in the hope of some reflected glory.)

“Is it all singing, all dancing and with a dolphin in it?” I asked John P.

“You know?” he asked me. “Someone mentioned it?”

“Eh?”

“We have a porpoise,” John told me.

“You have a purpose?”

“We have a porpoise – in the play. You know the story of Freddie the Dolphin?”

“I don’t.”

“There was a court case where a man was accused of assaulting a dolphin because he…”

“Ah!,” I said with genuine enthusiasm. “The dolphin-wanking case! I loved it.”

In 1991, animal-rights campaigner Alan Cooper was accused in Newcastle of “outraging public decency” with local aquatic celebrity Freddie The Dolphin by masturbating the dolphin’s penis with his armpit.

“In court,” explained John, “one of the Defence Counsel’s angles was that a dolphin’s penis is a means of communication.”

“I heard it’s not uncommon,” I said. “All round Britain, dolphins are swimming up to people and sticking their penises in the swimmers’ armpits to have a wank. People are too embarrassed to complain or even mention it and you can hardly prosecute a dolphin for sexual harassment. I think that the…”

“Anyway,” said John, “it was a great line and I felt had to have it in the play. A dolphin’s penis is a means of communication. A great line. Although, in my play, it’s a porpoise. I think they may be different.”

“Everyone needs a purpose,” I said.

“I think I have to be going,” said John, looking at his watch.

(When in doubt, make up dialogue, but keep it close to what was actually said and try to add in a dash of self-deprecating humour, if possible. Unless you are trying to impress people in the US.)

Glamour? Glitz? Showbiz sparkle?

I live it every day, luv.

While we were walking through Soho, Shelley Cooper said to me: “That was Suggs.”

“What?”

“On that corner, back there. That was Suggs of Madness talking to Boy George’s ex-boyfriend.”

“Did he recognise me?”

“It’s unlikely,” Shelley said.

“I suppose so,” I agreed.

By the way, the dolphin man was found innocent after several expert witnesses were called.

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