Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A Look Inside the book Gary Numan, An Annotated Scrapbook

Here's a low-resolution preview of a very few of the 300+ pages you will find inside my lovely big book, Gary Numan, An Annotated Scrapbook 

FOUR new books about Gary Numan

It was the biggest arts mystery for decades why there were so few books about Gary Numan, a pop artist of genuine stature who has an on-going career of almost four decades, so I rolled up my sleeves and duly added a couple of books to the marketplace - Gary Numan, An Annotated Scrapbook and Understanding Gary Numan. I'm now delighted to report that there are four more new books about or by Gary Numan.
First up is Remind Me To Smile by Martin Downham. This is a memoir of growing up during the seventies and eighties and puts Numan in context with the life and arts of the period for a young British boy.

It's available here:


The second book is by Gary Choppen, who has long been known and admired as a pillar of the Gary Numan fan community. His book is called Numan and M.E. Memories of a Numanoid and is available here:


The two other books are by Gary Numan himself but alas, priced out of most and my range. From his on-line store at  http://www.garynuman.co.uk/store/ you can order a 48-page book of photographs of his Splinter concert tour.

The other book contains a children's story he has written and is included in a collection called  Stories for Ways and Means

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Gary Numan, An Annotated Scrapbook (now on sale!)

My lovely big book about Gary Numan's Machine Music phase is now out on sale. There are only 400 copies printed. It's more than 300 pages thick and is properly printed (i.e. not digitally printed) on the finest paper and costs £60. It is orderable through bookshops in every country in the world, except Canada for some strange reason. It's on Amazon here, and they DO have it in stock despite what they say (and don't buy them through Amazon re-sellers because they DONT have them in stock despite what they say):


Alternatively, you can buy copies direct from me for £55, but I don't take paypal or credit cards, so drop me a line for payment details.


The blurb:

Gary Numan was one of the first pop artists to place equal emphasis on image and sound, a true Warholian artist who advanced on Andy’s light and sound experiments with The Velvet Underground, by bringing a real grandeur to live performances, and by changing the music of the world with a single finger.
This book collects together articles from England, America, Japan, Spain, Italy and Germany, to give a clear picture of the first years of fame of the modest young Englishman, and which show, for example, that Numan's 1979 album Replicas is the missing link between the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the film Blade Runner.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Dave King - editor

Dave King has died. He edited major BBC films by Ken Russell, Tony Palmer and Jack Gold, and the Rex Harrison Don Quixote, but more important than that he was a lovely lovely man. I got to know him when I was writing my book Talking About Ken Russell. We met several times in London and in Brussels, where attended a conference about Ken Russell. He was the most fascinating and friendly and generous of men. He gave me copies of his entire clippings collection of Ken Russell, hundreds of items from the time when Ken’s Dance of the Seven Veils became the most controversial film in the world, and he sent me DVDs and postcards and he also sponsored the book. I was and am humbled by his generosity and good spirit. I miss him dearly. My love to his family and his friends.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

The return of real film and real cinema in 2016

The best arts news of the year for me is the opening of a new 65mm processing facility in London. This means the return of real films made with real film. And by real film I mean the pinnacle process of film art - 70mm, the format of 2001, A Space Odyssey and Lawrence of Arabia. Films shot in 65mm (the additional 5mm are to add 6-channels of sound) exhibit a huge difference in the depth of the image compared with 35mm and the cheap digital formats. Digital is essentially a flat image. There is very little true depth to a digital image even when shot with the best lenses. When you see a film shot on 70mm film and projected on a curved screen in a real 70mm cinema, such as Karlsrhue in Southern Germany, the effect is astonishing. The image becomes so deep that you feel as though you could walk into it. It's real 3D without the need with glasses. When it comes to the art of cinema, 70mm is the real thing. Since 1958, everything made on anything less than 70mm is just a gimmick, snake oil peddled by hucksters.


Saturday, 12 November 2016

Making Sense of Donald Trump and America

I've been watching the on-going car crash that is America. The best articles I've found to explain the inevitable rise of Donald Trump are this one in The Washington Post:


and this one:


And I don't disagree with a word of what Trump himself said in Minneapolis: "Our failed establishment has brought us nothing but poverty at home, and disaster overseas. We are tired of economic and foreign policies that have BLED THIS COUNTRY DRY. It is time for REAL CHANGE that puts the people back in charge. This election will decide who runs this country: the Corrupt Political Class – or YOU, the American People. That’s the choice. She’s with THEM – I’m with YOU. This is our last chance."

The smoke was blown away and the mirrors were smashed when austerity bit only the victims of the bankers' crimes. Though I disagree with many of Trump's throwaway thoughts and words (let's wait until we judge his actions) I'm glad that a free-speaking man triumphed over a ventrilquist's doll (strings pulled by too many corporate paymasters in the States and the Middle East), though Clinton herself has admirable qualities.
I hope that Trump restores and extends the right to free speech for all American citizens, not that America has ever had anything remotely like free speech. I remember having that discussion with a group of Americans on my first visit to the States in the 1980s, and I shut them up and won the day for England when I said (jokingly) "I'm a communist." I'm not a communist, never was and never will be, but in the States you couldn't even say those words without getting into trouble, and the Americans I was with were too scared to say it even in jest.
In Britain a Nobel-prize winning scientist was sacked for saying that a woman looked attractive on a photograph - a victim of aggressive feminism that had overreached itself to the point of insanity. I think the best symbol of the way the democrats lost the election is the celebrities wearing silly silly 'nasty women' T-shirts and caps. These played their part in rousing long-forgotten Christian men and women to say 'enough in enough'. I admire women who are wise, fun, strong, honest, glorious, true, supportive, leading, thinking, bold and visionary. I'll never admire a woman who is nasty. I mean, I'm sure those shirts and that message were fun for their peers and girlfriends, but imagine how it went day, say in the Amish communities. Good guys think of others before themselves.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

The great Glenda Jackson in truly dreadful production of King Lear

I didn't think I'd ever get the chance to see Glenda Jackson in a theatre production. I was thrilled to learn she was returning to the stage to play King Lear, and duly bought a good ticket the moment they went on sale. Her Elizabeth 1st (on television) is so multi-faceted and strong it makes all the actresses who've performed it in her imperious wake look like am-dram school girls. I knew she had it in her to make a fine King Lear. She can convey a falling majesty and madness and a dirty humour and a sad old age. So I was disappointed that she chose to play it very much within herself (understandably at the age of 80). She needed to produce more power and poetry than she did, and she failed to connect with the supporting players. But for that I can't blame her. They were miscast. And she was let down by a production that was truly dreadful.
The set was a white bed sheet pinned to a frame. That's it. That's the whole set for the whole three-and-a-half-hour play. A truly dreadful all-been-done-before-many-many-many-times idea. Pathetic actually. An Emperor's New Clothes for the designer who hasn't got a clue. The costumes were mostly jeans and trainers.
The entire play was miscast. I couldn't believe in a single one of them. I did try fair and hard to suspend disbelief and make the necessary London Allowances for the P.C. and Celebrity, but there's only so much suspension of disbelief that one can do.
Every actor had a different accent, even those who were meant to be brothers and sisters (one of the actors changed his accent in every scene he was in). I didn''t believe that the brothers were brothers, that the sisters were sisters. I didn't believe they were married to or courted by the men they were married to. I didn't believe that any of the men held positions of rank or power. I didn't believe that the actor doing the eye-gouging had the nastiness within him to do the eye-gouging. I knew that the one Irish-accented actor in the play (and he suffered from cloth-in-mouth enunciation) would be the one to pull out a gun (IRA you see!). I didn't believe in a single action in the play.
The problem with using easy sub-Brechtian distancing devises to rob a play of its context is that it robs each line of its poetry, and each speech of its meaning, and each scene of rhythm, and the whole play of its strength - unless the new concept is truly eye-wateringly bold, brilliant AND apt (and it never is, though some of Ken Russell's opera productions got close).
Needless to say, that when you have a young actor in gym shorts playing jump a rope whilst holding forth on a long soliloquy, then the music of the words is lost, and the subtlety of the words and the scene within the context of the play and the events is lost. It was crap.
This truly was a bad bad production, every scene of which told me that the director, Deborah Warner, has no understanding of history, none of drama, and no understanding of music. No scene worked.
Of the non-Glenda cast, Rhys Ifans was impressive as The Fool, but he was beaten by having to wear a silly Superman costume that he couldn't escape from. He ended his turn slumped in a supermarket trolley. I remember Johnny Vegas doing that in a circus tent at the Edinburgh Festival in 1986, a boring old idea then, but Vegas's comedy show had more insight and more profundity than Warner's King Lear.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

John Carpenter - An Old Man Chewing Gum

Yesterday I spent eighty minutes watching an old man chew gum. But before you feel too sorry for me, I'll say that the old man was John Carpenter, and I was on the front row in the middle, nine feet from him, at his final concert in London. John Carpenter and his films and music have given me so much pleasure across so many decades that I could forgive him anything. He could have walked on stage, waved once and walked off, and that would still have been a good night. It isn't every day you get to see a real artist in the flesh. It was a very good night indeed, but maybe next time, if there is a next time, he'll forget the bubblegum and just kick ass.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Alfredo Bini, ospite inatteso

The Cambridge Film Festival is underway. Yesterday I saw the best Italian documentary of the year, Alfredo Bini, an Unexpected Guest. Bini was Pasolini's producer. He stepped in and saved the writer's career in cinema after a bad first week on Accattone, and thereafter created the space and the conditions (and the financing) for all of Pasolini's films through to and including Oedipus Rex. He even rolled up his sleeves and beat off a gang of fascist teenagers when they fought with Pasolini at the Venice Film Festival (we see film of Bini collecting Pasolini's prize and apologising for the absent roughed-up director). Bini deserves our admiration but he is not the star of this film. Bini's name is in the title and his is the name on the lips of the impressive cast, which includes Bertolucci, Claudia Cardinale and Ugo Gregoretti, but the star is an angel in human form called Giuseppe Simonelli, a large, handsome, earthy-poetic man who could be played in a film by Gerard Depardieu. After a declaration by Bernardo Bertolucci that the art of cinema is the art of raising money, the film begins at a multi-storey hotel on a roadside a long way from Rome. The owner of the hotel is Simonelli. He tells of the day he met Alfredo Bini. He didn't know who Bini was. All he knew was that he was an impoverished old man. Bini asked could he stay at the hotel for a couple of days, and asked how much would it cost him to stay? He stayed as Simonelli's guest for ten years. Simonelli built a house for him, and created the space and the conditions (and the financing) for the fallen artist to recover his dignity and to live and die in peace. This is a beautiful and important film. Travel far and wide to see it.

The best account of Bini's life in English is his obituary by John Francis Lane published in The Guardian.


A few years back I published John's autobiography. It tells of him freeing repressed England and growing up (and down and dirty before finding love) in Rome through its great years of cinema. A friend of Fellini and Antonioni, he's in almost all of the masterpieces from that never to be repeated time, and he knew Pasolini of course.

The book is called 'To Each His Own Dolce Vita'.

Monday, 17 October 2016

'Friends' by Gary Numan

With Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature this week, there has been a lot of talk about the literary content of song lyrics. Here's some lyrics beyond Dylan's imagination, and an analysis of them from the hardback edition of my book, Understanding Gary Numan. The lyrics are the song Friends, on the Tubeway Army album. I'm not sure if this extract made it into the second paperback edition. It may have done, but if it didn't here it is. And if you like this, buy the book (the paperback version makes a perfect £5 gift).

(lyrics by Gary Numan)

See the strange boy keeping to the shadows
He’s a very good friend of mine
I’ve seen you running from the ladies
Don’t tell me you’re not that kind
I’ve got the time if you’ve got the money
Mister you’ll be pleased you’ll see
We’ll meet by the tubeway as the screamer cries eleven
And you can have your way with me
You’re gonna make me feel so cold

See my one love talking to the pretty boy
I never did like her taste
My skin is rubber on a skeletal body
I’m physically going to waste
Feel my eyes and the tongue of a killer
I’m a humanoid logic machine
Don’t touch me with your painted little fingers
‘Cos I know where they’ve been
You’re not gonna put those scabs on me

I must hide from a thousand grinning faces
All sucking from my crazy mind
Take a ride out in my imagery of ages
And heaven knows what you will find
I’ve not time for the chitter-chatter ladies
I’m so busy trying to break this wall
Hear my words ‘cos emotion now is leaving
You see I’m really not a human at all
And I don’t think I wanna stay

It’s not the easiest of songs to analyse, because there are discrepancies in what is written on the lyric sheets and what is sung on the recordings. As written, it’s the song of an android prostitute in the form of a teenage boy who has developed growing feelings of shame after falling in love, or else feels suicidal after seeing a woman he loves talking with another boy. I’ll identify the sung-written differences later. In any case, Friends is a most important song in that it collects together ideas and images and a title that will advance into Are ‘Friends’ Electric?. Both are songs about lost love and loneliness in a seedy city landscape, and both feature a male robot prostitute. The main difference is that Friends is written from the point of view of the prostitute, the robot, hence the lack of commas. It’s a gloriously original, rhythmic and image-packed lyric.
In the first stanza, a boy is soliciting for sex from a seedy man he knows is out looking for it. The boy’s use of the adjective ‘strange’ and the clause ‘very good friend’ to describe another boy, a fellow prostitute, are used to put the would-be client at ease. They’re saying, ‘I know what you want and you can trust me’. These sentiments are sophisticated and human and so they add to the drama when it’s revealed that the boy isn’t ‘a human at all’. Human-like androids didn’t become common currency in the public imagination until after the slow rise of Blade Runner released four years later, but which didn’t really enter the general public consciousness until at least a decade after that (the film was dismissed by the critics and largely ignored by the public on its release). I haven’t read enough science-fiction novels to know how common a character is a boy-like robot with sophisticated human feelings who solicits gay sex in an attempt to shake away the hurt of lost love is, but it wasn’t very common in popular music in 1978, i.e. it was absolutely unique and quite beyond the imagination of the critics of the day who, to a man, failed to hail this as a fine work by an original voice. It’s punk poetry that makes John Cooper Clarke seem as cosy and as commonplace as Pam Ayres.
Back to the first stanza. I do like the evocative noun ‘screamer’, which suggests a frightening alarm, probably a siren call that marks the start of a curfew (it’s unlikely to be a call to prayer). This, particularly with the ‘tubeway’ locale, is suggestive of the siren call that marks the very literal end of the day for the humans in arcadia in H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and the start of the day for the underground mutants, the Morlocks who harvest them, though Numan’s future shock locale and harvesting are both bolder and more subtle than Wells’.
The three verses all end with a sort-of Shakespearean aside written and sung with a different rhythm, and conveying, in the first stanza, a thought and an emotion that is different to that sung in the rest of the verse. This adds to the drama and the complexity of the protagonist and it tells us that he is putting on an act. That line, You’re gonna make me feel so cold, is telling us that this sex act with a stranger is an attempt to strip away the boy’s ‘warmth’, i.e. his humanity, which is confirmed in the last two lines of the song. On the non-androidal level, i.e. the song’s metaphorical or human level, it could be a call to a welcome suicide. Or, like Dekkard in the first-run finale of the yet-to-be-made Blade Runner, it is simply a running away.
The second stanza is less focused and less impressive than the first but it starts marvellously. In echo of the first verse it begins with the narrator telling us to “See”. He seems to have left the client, because no one would try to pick someone up by telling them they are “physically going to waste”, though he follows that up with a strange complaint ‘Feel my eyes’ (he actually sings ‘See my eyes’ and then he boasts about having the “tongue of a killer”, which sounds grand and poetic but the imagery doesn’t make sense, unless he is attempting to offer up a vision of Gene Simmons-like sex accessory. So he is addressing someone else, probably us, the listeners of the song. He shows us the woman he is in love with. In the first two lines of the verse he sings about her to us. In the final three lines, he sings to her, scoffing at her painted fingers (he actually sings pretty little fingers on the record) unless he is actually breaking down in front of us, in adolescent tantrum, and singing to himself.
His one love is talking to the pretty boy. By announcing, in reference to the pretty boy, that he never did like his woman’s taste in men, he infers that he is bisexual with a preference for more masculine men. By making it clear that the woman has had multiple sex partners, the suggestion is that she too is a prostitute. She may or may not also be a machine. Lines three and four, ‘My skin is rubber on a skeletal body’, are images of ill health most commonly associated with heroin addicts. The reveal that the boy may actually really be a machine comes to the fore a couple of lines later with the reference to himself as a ‘humanoid’. The phrase ‘humanoid logic machine’ is weak and very much of the period. ‘Logic’ being a go-to word in the then thin thesaurus of robot and machine imagery, though it’s use here does take the song into previously uncharted territory as it dawns on the listener that this really is a seedy sex song by and about a teenage robot.
The third and final verse is a metaphysical monologue that impressively expands the scope of the narrative outward and inwards at the same whilst concentrating its focus on the protagonist. The thousand grinning faces are in his head, as is the ‘imagery of ages’. Take a ride out in my imagery of ages is a beautifully evocative and original way of avoiding the cliché peddled by lesser songwriters, ‘a trip down memory lane’. By addressing it to a listener who can look through them, it suggests they are in a sort of computer memory bank, either deposited there at his creation to make him ‘human’, unless this boy robot has been peddling his wares for a long time and lived the horrors and the feelings he is trying to wipe away.
After two verses in which he told us to look, he ends with telling us to listen, and he shows us the image of himself trying to break down a (mental) wall. (Pink Floyd will write a great double album on that theme at about this time, the image was clearly in the air in 1978). He tells us that his emotion now is leaving. This disconnected way of speaking, the dropped pronoun and the impersonal third person is a Numan hall- mark. It’s suggestive of a man-machine and a man outside of himself talking about himself. His confession that he is really not a human at all is prefaced with a plaintive, You see, which, depending on how the song is sung, could be a warmly human appeal for sympathy, as it is in the masterpiece that grew from these images and phrases. In Are ‘Friends’ Electric?, he will sing in his most ordinarily human voice: “You see, this means everything to me... and now I’ve no one to love”.
The two Friends songs have the same finale except that the protagonist in the more famous song isn’t fleeing the city or ending his life. He’s trapped in an eternity of loneliness. On the Tubeway Army album, Gary Numan performs Friends in an up-tempo full-scowling guitar screeching thrash metal- ish punk style that conveys the loneliness and hurt, albeit filtered through a cold confident personality that doesn’t really chime with the lyric, because it loses all the pathos. On the album it is a chugga-chugga punk song to pogo too, not to listen to. There was an earlier recording of the song, a demo version released later on the album, The Plan. The demo version has a different title - Do Your Best - and, in the published lyrics, one line has been changed. The change comes in the aside at the end of the second verse and now reads ‘You’re gonna give your love to me’. These two changes make a big difference to the narrative and to the character of the narrator. They remove the ambiguity as to who the second verse is addressed, the boy is still speaking to the ‘Mister’ he’s trying to pull. The last line of both verses now starts with the word ‘You’ so we know that they are addressed to the same person. The painted fingers (though back then he still sang ‘pretty little fingers’) now belong not to the ‘one love’ woman but to ‘Mister’ (soon to be portrayed by Numan in imagery for Replicas).
The assertive, positive, demand from the boy to this man ‘You’re gonna give your love to me’, replaces the teenage whining rant that ‘she’s not going to touch me because she’s touched him and he and/or she is diseased’. And that completely alters the tone of the song and fits better with the assertive way that it is sung.
In fact, there are three more changes to the lyric in that second verse, all of them important. He sings: “Her skin is rubber ... You’ll be physically going to waste ... See the eyes of a killer.” These are all now clearly descriptions of the woman and are not descriptions of himself. And actually, I think that’s also what he sings on the Tubeway Army version.
From these changes emerges the subtext of a boy being dropped by his girlfriends and rejected by his friends, i.e. it is another in the line of protest songs about Mean Street, the band who dropped him. In street talk, the phrase, ‘Do Your Best’, is another way of saying ‘Do Your Worst’, i.e. I don’t give a fuck what you do. I have no thoughts about you, you stir no human emotions in me at all.’ The demo version has one more change in the lyric. The last word of the first verse is not “cold” as printed. Numan sings: “You’re going to make me feel so old”. i.e. it’s a loss of gay virginity song, doubtless inspired by the shock of St. Joy’s advances. So, in effect, it’s a song about a boy soliciting a man to fuck him to prove to his ex-girlfriend and his ex-friends that he doesn’t care about them at all (I’m of the queasy old-fashioned generation that sees that as a lose-lose).
Numan didn’t play Friends in concert under his own name until his November 1994 concerts, during which he dropped the Shakespearean asides at the end of the first two verses. Three years later, he revived Friends again for his November tour (he tends to tour cold Britain in cold weather), dropping the final aside and completely transforming the song in a way that we hadn’t seen since the Touring Principle re-writing of Bombers. He’d performed the rewriting first on the first night of Channel 5 television, and gave long notice that a whole new transformation of sound was afoot. Numan slowed the song by more than fifty percent, added a completely different rhythm section and rhythmic style, one that sounded like an electronic fusion of African jungle drumming and Brazilian samba and, over the top of that, in a high synth string sound that used to be his forté, he played a slow repeating ringing, lilting seven note air. Three more years later (he is a man of habit), that seven-note air became the vocal line for the stunning title track of Pure, the album which reestablished him as an ongoing music force. Thus from one chugga-chugga punk song, albeit one with extraordinary lyrics, was born two full cornerstones of Gary Numan Art.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Understanding Gary Numan (The Expanded Hardback Edition)

I'm very pleased to be able to say that the revised hardback edition of my book 'Understanding Gary Numan' is now available.
In the section at the back of the new edition I now write about seventeen Gary Numan songs, from That's Too Bad to This Wreckage.
The book is orderable through bookshops everywhere (or at least it will be by the end of the week), and it is in stock at Amazon (despite what they say).
The first edition of the paperback sold out and is no more. The second edition of the paperback is now on sale. I don't intend to do any more revisions. The new editions of the book are not limited.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Gary Numan, A Machine Quartet Scrapbook

I'm adding the final touches to the lovely big illustrated book about Gary Numan that will be published very soon. It's an annotated scrapbook, full of fine things from England, America, Japan, Italy, France and Germany. Here's a double-page as a preview, feel free to share:

From the book, Gary Numan, A Machine Quartet Scrapbook

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Gary Numan Book

Partly in a successful effort to prove that I can produce books that don't cost huge amounts of money, I'm pleased to be able to say that you can buy a tiny thin paperback by me called 'Understanding Gary Numan'. It's on Amazon UK and Amazon USA. It should be orderable through bookshops and it is on kindle.
If you can't bear the thought of owning a book by Paul Sutton that doesn't cost a ridiculous amount of money, then take comfort in the fact that a very expensive (£55-£60, because it is printed in Britain) hardback book, Gary Numan, A Machine Quartet Scrapbook (1978-1981) will be published in late October 2016.
The paperback, 'Understanding Gary Numan', contains a 13,000 essay by me that gives a couple of hopefully good and interesting hours of reading. Or, and I've already used this joke more than once, if you read as quickly as I do it gives the reader four hours of reading. The essay is NOT in the scrapbook. The only place to read it is in the paperback or on kindle. It covers the Machine Music phase of Numan's career, from the Tubeway Army LP to Telekon; I take a close look at the early press attacks, and I write analytically about the first two John Peel Sessions, the Old Grey Whistle Test Appearance (Numan's first on television), his first Top of the Pops appearance (when he truly did give David Bowie and Roxy Music a beating), and several important songs, including Listen to the Sirens, Me I Disconnect From You, I Nearly Married a Human 2, Are 'Friends' Electric? and I Die You Die, with emphasis on the song's world premiere on the Kenny Everett Television Show.


The Lemon Popsicle Book

I've joined forces with Britain's Lemon Popsicle expert, Roy Mitchell, to produce a lavish and unfortunately prohibitively expensive book about Golan and Globus's finest twenty hours, The Lemon Popsicle films, or Eis Am Stiel films if you live in Germany.


It's available on Amazon and should be orderable through bookshops. If you do buy it on-line, don't fall for the trap and pay even more for it by buying it through the Amazon subsidiary shops that have in stock but at a mark up. Amazon have it in stock themselves even if they claim it is 'currently out of stock'. Just add it to your basket, and enjoy it when it arrives.
There will hopefully be a paperback version later in the year, but the paperback will be printed digitally and will still cost about £30 or so, because Buffalo Books is probably the only publishing company in Britain that doesn't subsidise slave labour in China. All of their books are printed in Britain and the States.
Actually, if you want to save a bit of money on the book, you can buy them direct from me about about £42, which will include courier delivery.

The Cambridge Arts Cinema is trying to become ITV

I don't often go to the Cambridge Arts Cinema because you have to buy a seat in advance if you want a good seat, you can't just turn up and get a good seat, your seats are allocated to you as if you are naughty children. And if you try to book on-line you are charged an additional fee for the privilege of buying a ticket. In fact, I stopped using their on-line booking service shortly after they tried to stop being a cinema and become a Junk Food Emporium instead. At that point, they were also trying to become Ryanair. When you went on-line to book a ticket to see a film, you were repeatedly bombarded during the booking process (which you were paying a premium to use) with junk food add-ons. "Okay, so you've chosen a ticket and you've agreed to sit only in this seat, now that will be £11.50 for the seat, plus a quid of whatever it is because you are booking online, plus £39.99 for two cokes, a packet of sugary sweets and two large tubs of popcorn." You'd tell the system that you only wanted a ticket to see the film, and they would respond with something like, "Okay, so you only want the ticket and two large cokes". You would say you don't want the cokes, and then they would offer alcoholic drinks with 'special discounted offers'. So I stopped trying to book tickets on line.
I live a couple of miles from the cinema, so I would drop by now and then to see if there was anything showing that I'd like. There are three screens, but the one genuinely good screen seems to be reserved only for showing Marvel Comics films, or James Bond films, or computer-generated cartoons from Disney.
The real film revivals were always confined to Screen 3 - the add-on screen which they built instead of a disabled lavatory. The screen isn't much bigger than the one I have at home, and the sound system isn't good.
So I don't often go to the Arts Cinema to see films. In fact, I saw more films in Germany last year than I saw in Cambridge, and I love cinema and I live in Cambridge. I used to go the cinema two or three times a week.
A couple of weeks ago, I dropped by the Arts and saw that they had a poster up for the film about Gary Numan - called Android in La La Land (not a good title and it wasn't a good poster). Because it was an interesting subject I knew it would be playing in the crap screen, and that proved to be the case. It was a one-off screening in the afternoon, but you could turn up and take any seat you wanted! and the director was doing a Question and Answer session afterwards. I wanted to hear what he said, and I wanted to see the film, so I paid the £11.50 for a ticket.
I arrived a few minutes before the film was scheduled to start. The attendance was good, about a 100 people more than who had paid to see the film that was playing in Screen One (note to the manager, why don't you have special events in Screen One?). The lights dimmed and we were treated with noisy adverts for 20 minutes or so. Now, if you want to take up 20 minutes of my time by showing me adverts, don't charge me £11.50 for a ticket to see a film. In fact, don't charge me at all to see a film. At that point, I decided not to pay £23 to the Arts Cinema to see forty minutes of adverts and the new Woody Allen and Pedro Almodovar films that were playing in the cinema that week.
Then, and this is the killer - It's a film about a musician. It starts with the musician's music. The music is very good and very original and, of course, the filmmakers want to make an impact, so they have the music burst forth with all its glory at the start of the film.
But the cinema played the film at a lower volume than they played the adverts!!!
At that moment I knew that The Cambridge Arts Cinema has become ITV. The chav channel of choice.
Instead of drawing lessons from low-quality organisations such as Ryanair and ITV they should concentrate on being a place that takes pride in film and cinema.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Talking about Ken Russell - new expanded edition

The new expanded and unlimited edition of my big book about Ken Russell is now available from Amazon and orderable through your local book shop. ISBN - 9780993177040.  It is in colour and hardback and is actually thicker than the first edition, containing as it does another 40,000 words of exclusive material. It hasn't been printed using the traditional offset printing process, so the printing quality isn't as good as the first colour edition, but it weighs in at less than half the price, i.e. £45 or $65, for hundreds of exclusive interviews with Ken Russell and his colleagues, and the fruits of my ten-plus years of research.
Highlights of the additional material include Charles Haid, talking about the making of Altered States, and very fine pieces by Lindsay Kemp on Savage Messiah and Valentino. And I also include a full account of the making of The Debussy Film.
As a thank you to the good folk who bought the first editions of the book, either the version in colour or the version in black-and-white, I'll send you a 58-page pdf containing the new material free of charge, for you to print out and tuck into your book, if you send hot mail a photograph to camerajournal as proof of your purchase.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon USA:


Here's a link to the book on Amazon UK:


It is in stock despite what they are saying. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Alex Jawdokimov exhibition

Alex Jawdokimov is at the new exhibition of his birch tree paintings in Stroud in Gloucestershire this weekend. I'll be there from about 11am. You may remember Alex as Isadora Duncan's husband in Ken Russell's great film. Alex is one of the people I chat with on the BFIs newly released DVD. A fuller version of our conversation of course can be found in my book, Talking About Ken Russell.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

French Dressing T-shirt

An amazing sight today in my local DVD shop in Cambridge. They're selling T-shirts advertising Ken Russell's first feature film, French Dressing. Now you don't have to go to Gormleigh-on-sea to belong. I'll be wearing mine all summer (sleeping in it too).

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Orson Welles documentary killed by musak

The very splendid Simon Callow is touring England doing readings from the third volume of his biography of Orson Welles, which is making its way to the top of my reading list. I was within a couple of hours of going to his reading in Norwich this week but couldn’t sensibly afford the £17.50 train fare on top of the £19.50 for a ticket to attend the reading, so I consoled myself by watching Magician, the new documentary about Welles. Callow appears in it, of course, as do many of the good folk you want to see in a documentary about Welles (Bogdanovich, et alia), and there is a fair shake of footage from Leslie Megahey’s peerless film about Welles (in fact, about three quarters of the interview footage of Welles is from BBC documentaries), but the film itself is poor. It’s so skimpy it’s like a trailer to a film about Welles. There is no imagination at all in the selection of clips. Guess which clips they showed from The Third Man? Correct. From Citizen Kane? Correct. And can you guess which clips they showed from Touch of Evil? Of course you can. And I’ll say it here that if you really want to watch the greatest tracking shot in cinema you won’t find it in a film by Orson Welles. You’ll have to watch The Music Lovers by Ken Russell. Anyone can track with a camera when you are shooting in black-and-white and all you are tracking around is mute objects. For the mighty tracking shot introduction to a performance of the Piano Concerto in The Music Lovers, Ken Russell brings in a small army of talking walking people for his Panavision camera crew and sound recordist team to follow, frame, and listen to. But getting back to the Welles documentary, the biggest failing of Magician, and it is a terminal one, is that the wholly unimaginative choice of film clips extends to the choice of soundtrack music, and to its appalling use. For the most part it comprises of badly performed musak versions of the blandest most obvious Classic FM favourites. Then the director really puts his boot through the bottom of the bucket. I would have hoped that someone on the production team tried to stop him from playing the musak over the dialogue and over the clips of Welles’s films. But they failed. Perhaps the conversation went something like this:

Sensible person on the production crew: “The musak is too loud. It’s covering up the words, and when you use it over the top of the great Cathedral shots in F for Fake it looks like Welles has lost his talent and his mind.”

The Director: “No. When people pay top dollar to see a documentary about Orson Welles, what they are really paying for is badly played musak. Classical favourites in funkily naff new arrangements.”

"Don’t they want to listen to what the experts are saying? and what Welles is saying?”

“No. They want to hear Musak. They’ve paid for the Musak."

“No one pays for musak."

“They do when they a buy a ticket to this film. Ask anyone to name the five most overused pieces of classical music in film history, music for people who know nothing about music, and I’ll bet you that the five most popular pieces are in my film. That’s called Marketing. That’s why I’m the director and that’s why you have been employed to turn the musak up like I’ve told you to. I mean, it’s a common complaint these days. You hear it all the time. People coming out of the cinema complaining that they couldn’t hear the musak because the actors are talking over it. I admit it says ‘Welles’ on the poster. But what I’m really selling here is Musak.” 

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Humphrey Burton on Yehudi Menuhin

I've had a couple of lovely musical days. I spent yesterday evening with Humphrey Burton at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where began the centenary celebrations of his friend, Yehudi Menuhin, one of the great men of the 20th Century. And I'm pleased to learn that Humphrey's definitive book has been reissued by Faber. It is stunningly good:


Today I did the last of the interviews for the revised and permanent edition of my own book, Talking about Ken Russell. Inspired by lovely long chats I've been having with Lindsay Kemp, I talked with Michael Garrett, whom you will remember playing the piano in Women in Love when Eleanor Bron scatters the corn and dances an entertainment. I'm delighted that Michael is still writing, recording and performing:


Friday, 1 January 2016

Talking About Ken Russell - First Edition sells out in February 2016

The first edition of Talking About Ken Russell, limited to 500 copies is about to sell out. The final copies of that edition will have all been sold during February 2016, so if you were wanting to get the first edition don't wait around for too long. (email me at camerajournal@hotmail.com if you want a discount).
On the upside, the second edition will be published soon afterwards. I'm currently making the changes. There will be less photographs but more text. Anyone who bought the first edition of the book (either colour or B&W) can email me and get the additional pages in pdf when the book comes out so they can print them out and tuck them into their rare and splendid copy.