Monday, April 27, 2009

I paid £50 not to see Bob Dylan

There are some stars who just don’t get bad reviews. Paul McCartney’s concerts will always get the same slavish treatment as his divorce hearings. The Stones can play Honky Honk Woman like a pub band and still be lauded as iconic.

That’s probably why Andy Gill let him off lightly in the Independent and Bloomberg’s Mark Beech cut him a little slack after his piss-take of a performance at the O2 on Saturday night. Only Andrew Perry in the Telegraph seemed to see the concert I saw. That is, before I joined the other poor souls who voted with their feet totally hacked off after booking a ground-floor seat only to find they could neither see or hear him properly.

They couldn’t hear because his voice, so past it, it was rendered a grumble, didn’t take advantage of the arena’s sound system and couldn’t see because the wave of dew-eyed superannuated hippies who rose to their feet to greet his arrival, stayed upright throughout and the hapless hundreds from row B backwards were denied the convenience of the big screens that usually flank the stage.

Why? Because, venue staff assured me as I left, burbling Bob, Pop’s Poet Laureate couldn’t be doing with it.

Fine, I suppose: if you’re a true pop icon who’s always played by his own rules, we can expect no more.

Just don’t charge £50 a ticket and make us work harder than the band for the privilege. And don’t let nostalgia say it’s anything other than what it was.

Glad that’s off my chest. Now, what’s the chance of a refund?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

No stop press at Press Gazette

Yet again, Press Gazette has been saved from closure, this time after being bought Progressive Media. It’s website opened for business again yesterday and it looks like we’ll be getting another edition for May.

Editor Dominic Ponsford said the deal was “a positive sign for all journalists working on titles going through dramatic change”.

I’d say that was an understatement.

I was, for different reasons, a little sad to learn that The Ecologist will stop printing from July and spare the carbon footprint by publishing exclusively online. It’s innovative, leads by example and the decision is completely in keeping with a magazine that has done shedloads to raise awareness of some of the most serious issues facing mankind.

All I can say is that it’s come a long way since its early days in small first floor office in Tavistock High Street when it tried to make an editor out of a local newspaper reporter who knew so little about the environment he arrived early for the interview and kept his car engine running for 20 minutes to keep warm while he sat in a car park reading a back copy and trying to convince himself that the Baldwin Effect was nothing to do with Coronation Street.

Luckily, I didn’t get the job.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

To print or not to print

What would you do if the chairman of the local bench was up in his own court for shoplifting, threatened to pull his firm’s advertising if you ran a word of it and your staff urged caution because his wife had heart problems? Oh, and he was a pillar of the local community, did shedloads for charity and was a big golfing buddy of your chairman.

Yep – the poor sod gets 100pt Ariel Bold across the front page, a decent turn inside on his wife’s sudden heart attack and a cross-ref to a leader on how we expect our betters to set an example.

Obvious, yes? But not to the journalists of the future, apparently. The scenario is one used in media workshops run by the Independent Schools Careers Office to make candidates think about the dilemmas they could be facing in the real world.

Over two days last week, 40 of the 70-odd candidates from schools such as Eton and Cheltenham, said they’d either not publish it at all, or tuck it away inside so as not to sensationalise. A few said the decision was purely commercial, but most sympathised with his position and didn’t want to upset his wife.

Where does this come from? It’s not as if these extremely bright youngsters, all destined for our top universities, don’t read newspapers.

Could it be that these papers simply give a more caring impression than some of us may imagine?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Law and order, an appreciation

Last week saw the end of Law and Order, not the glossy NBC one on at the moment but the G F Newman four-parter I first watched on a black and white portable in 1979. If you’re unlucky enough to have missed it, it was the seediest of tales about a small-time villain framed for robbery by a bent cop.

It told the story through the eyes of the villain, the copper, the lawyer and, eventually, the prisoner “banged up” for a stretch because “he was well overdue”.

It was full of “nonces” and “slags” saying things like “leave it out,” and “do me a favour” and the worst swearing was the occasional “bladdy hell.”

But what made it so special was that it just rang true. Not the institutionalised corruption (heaven forbid) but the sheer vagaries of a justice system itself well overdue for a clean-up.

I spent days on end in courts in those days and absolutely recognised the judge who wouldn’t hear a word said against the police, the brief who met DCs in pubs to “do a bit of business”, the hapless families who packed the public galleries, the juries who got it all wrong and the prisoners who emerged with tales unbecoming of a modern penal institution.

Newman's tale was both entertainment and nostalgia for the days when the first seeds of a healthy cynicism were sown. Whether fact ever really mirrored fiction, I didn't know. But that didn't matter quite as much as the moment the elderly court reporter I'd spent years siting next to felt compelled to write to the local paper to voice his frustration at having to sit through "allegation after baseless allegation of police curruption made by criminal elements".