Archive for November, 2008

Author Has ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ Moment

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

It is an established fact that at least once during every ordinary lifetime, a person will have a This Is Spinal Tap moment. I’ve just had mine. Merrily scanning through the sebaceous veils of the internet for blogs mentioning any of my books [an innocent, if marginally meretricious pastime], I came upon the Spanish-language blog of a certain Carlos Zaldivar from Mexico City [hi, Carlos, and thanks] which mentioned that Judas Priest’s new album, Nostradamus [2008], was based on Mario Reading’s book, Nostradamus: The Good News [2007], and that there was an interview with Japanese TV to prove it. Carlos even provided the link  http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=3tc8QuvLvsU wherewith I could bask in some - now regrettably rare - instant gratification [sorry folks - it looks like the clip has been pulled off youtube since I wrote the blog - you'll have to take my word for the contents!]. How could I resist? I went to the clip, and there was Rob Halford - ’the Pope of Judas Priest’ according to Carlos - talking to Masahito’s Rock City, on Japanese TV. And yes, Rob had bought my book two days before, and found it mesmerising. Good on ya’, Rob. Overlaying the interview, in which Rob sported a sort of Buddhist hairtsyle [somewhat similar to my own inadvertent Buddhist monk look] and a marginally inappropriate pair of This Is Spinal Tap dark glasses [he was in a TV studio, for pity's sake], was some surprisingly mellifluous heavy metal music, illustrating, or so I suppose, what Rob so tellingly calls ‘the metal of Nostradamus’s life’. Actually, all joking apart, what Rob said about my book was really rather sweet, and I’m the last person to slag off a fan [there are so few of them that even alienating one could prove terminal]. So I declare here and now that Judas Priest are rock gods, and that I shall dart off to their next concert if provided with a set of free tickets for me and my entourage….

Leonard Cohen & The Lessons Of Professionalism

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

I went to Leonard Cohen’s concert at the Bournemouth International Centre last night and learned a lot about writing. This may sound like a paradox, but it isn’t. I should say first off that the concert was magnificent - three hours of fantastic entertainment, slickly presented, with the seventy-four-year-old Cohen giving splendid value for money to a capacity audience. But why should this teach us anything about writing? Well I’ll tell you. The Cohen concert was not in the least about ego, but all about entertainment. Which is exactly what the best writing should be. Interleaved within the entertainment, however, was the occasional heady moment of enlightenment - neither proscriptive in tone, nor self-consciously intended - in large part due to Cohen’s skilful and witty lyrics, his poet’s sensibility, and his exuberant modesty. But it could all have gone so differently. My wife went to a Bob Dylan concert one time in Mexico City, in which Dylan so obviously didn’t want to sing, and so obviously didn’t want to relate in any way to his audience, that it still baffles my wife as to why he ever turned up in the first place - the concert felt more like an insult than a celebration. Which is a shame, as Dylan is a great artist. With Cohen you felt that not at all. The concert was structured around what his fans might want - they, after all, were paying what in many cases might amount to a couple of hundred pounds for an on-the-face-of-it £55 or £65 ticket. And Cohen knew they wanted the old stuff as well as the new. So he sang Suzanne, and So Long, Marianne, and Bird On The Wire, but he sang them as if he still meant them - which says something about his original intention in writing them. And he sang them as they were originally sung, with a first class combo behind him, and two great video screens on either side of the stage so that those at the back of the auditorium would get their money’s worth too. And if one reckons that he must have sung those songs anything up to fifty times in the months running up to Tuesday’s concert, I say “Good on you, Leonard!” May you be an example to all the supercilious little egomaniacs out there busy slapping their creative meat in a useless attempt at tenderisation…….