Category Archives: Celebs

Protest punk bridges the generation gap and highlights 2017 legacy challenge

Forty years after the release of God Save The Queen and seven days before a General Election, protest punk rock is alive and well in East Hull.

Or is it? I’ve still got that single. Asked my mum to pick it up while she was in town. Remember when Boots sold records? And I saw the Sex Pistols on the tour which followed.

Memories fade, but I’m sure I’d have remembered if Johnny Rotten had said: “Okay guys, let’s huddle round the microphone. I’ll croon. Sid ­– you do the ‘bom, bom’, Paul – you’re on the ‘oohs’ and Steve, can you manage the ‘ahs’? And we’ll all click our fingers!”

A capella? A ca-bleeding-pella? No, the punk of The King Blues is more polished, tuneful and melodic than the raw stuff that rocked the world in 1977. They bring out an electro acoustic guitar, a ukulele and even have a guy whistling at one point.

And that audience! There are teenagers, and couples nearly as old as me. They all know the words, and they don’t pull any punches. For some it would have been a tough choice between The King Blues, supported by Counting Coins, at the Freedom Centre or a not-quite-head-to-head debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn live on TV.

The abiding thought here was that if the Prime Minister really is too fragile to take on her main adversary face-to-face, these guys would chew her up and spit her out before the end of the sound check.

Some of the material was beautifully brutal – ferocious messages wrapped in a soft, snuggly blanket. A razor blade in the raspberry mousse. Trojan tunes, appropriately enough being played just down the road from Hull KR’s place on the eve of the appearances there by Paul Heaton and Billy Bragg, expert practitioners of this sort of thing from 30 years ago.

The King Blues combine punk played with power, tip-toeing and tub-thumping ska, spoken word with bark and bite, and a sense of humour to bring the house down. When the hair-trigger fire alarm forced the band to ditch the smoke machine, they pulled a young, volunteer vaper out of the crowd and gave him the job of sitting centre stage, exhaling at every chorus. Not an easy task when the human smoke machine was trying to sing along as well.

Counting Coins were Counting Coins. High energy from permanently pumped-up front man Harry, the tightest musicianship starring spectacular, soaring trumpet, and signs of greater accessibility in the band’s new material.

They’ll be back soon as the festival season gather pace, but what next for the Freedom Centre? It was a coup to get the Coins there, never mind a crew of the calibre of London-based King Blues, and it happened only because the Hull 2017 team pitched in with the Back To Ours programme.

Such initiatives are essential and, in the legacy sense, arguably worth more in the long term than a Radio One Big Weekend. One young fan said it was the first time he could remember being able to see established bands, with proper equipment and tech, playing within walking distance of his home just down the road. And all for a fiver.

The challenge is to do it again, but the couple of hundred people who formed this Freedom Centre audience would soon dwindle if the absence of subsidies pushed up the ticket price. There’s an opportunity here for Sesh or for Springboard to spread their wings. It all costs money, but the benefits of culture are innumerable and immense. Community groups and corporates can get together to make it happen.

Many thanks to @louiseaeardly for the pix.



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Filed under Beer, Business, By Phil Ascough, Celebs, Drama, Election, Hull, Literature, Media, Music, Uncategorized

Will football’s front men ever learn the lessons from Big’s Ron’s big mouth?

There are a few differences between the off-air comments of Ron Atkinson all those years ago and the “banter” that led to the suspension of Andy Gray and Richard Keys by Sky Sports.
Big Ron didn’t actually use any profanities and his partner in the commentary box made a brave effort to avert disaster by warning of the possible consequences.
We’re not talking here about the 2004 incident which led to Atkinson’s departure from ITV and The Guardian. We’re looking at the episode that occurred on 1 July 1990 during the epic World Cup tie between England and Cameroon.
Along with millions of football fans around the world you may have missed it. After all it was another off-air comment, except in the relatively tiny community of Bermuda.
But for those of us watching live coverage of the game it was one of those “did he really say that?” moments. Fortunately we were recording the match so we double-checked later.
Sure enough as the players sat and strolled on the pitch in readiness for extra time with the score locked at 2-2, Atkinson and Brian Moore chatted about the action so far.
We know this because the resources of the Bermuda Broadcasting Company didn’t stretch to a studio or to hiring the services of “experts” on a sofa. They just aired the live feed sent to them by ITV and trusted such experienced commentators to do their jobs.
Atkinson turned his attention to Benjamin Massing, the Cameroon defender who was having a pretty tough time, whose challenge on Gary Lineker had brought the penalty award that kept England in the game and who would repeat the offence in extra time to give Lineker the chance to score the winner, again from the penalty spot.
The reprimand that followed from ITV was apparently for Atkinson’s suggestion that Massing didn’t have a brain. The pundit also described the defender as a camel, a comment which appears not to have been brought to the attention of ITV.
Finally, following a warning from the ever-professional Moore, Atkinson asked if he could be in trouble if Massing’s mother was watching at home “up a tree in Cameroon.”
ITV claimed not to have heard the comment because it was off-air, yet a many of Bermuda’s 60,000 and 60 per cent black population picked it up loud and clear.
So ITV blamed the Bermuda station for a lack of professionalism in putting the live feed straight to air. Bermuda blamed ITV for hiring unprofessional broadcasters.
A few Bermuda residents complained to the local newspaper, where we reviewed the tape and sought a response from ITV. Always eager to pick up a bit of extra cash I also touted it round the English newspapers with mixed, and in one case remarkable, results.
As I recall the Mirror used it, as did the Express and we got a front page slot in the Yorkshire Post that paid about a tenner – Atkinson was manager of Sheffield Wednesday at the time.
The Sun though rejected the story and claimed, some may say bizarrely, that they weren’t sure it was true. We told them we had the whole thing on tape but they still declined. Sitting in our island paradise some 3,500 miles away from the UK we weren’t regular readers of The Sun and it would be some time before we would learn that their star columnist for the World Cup was… Ron Atkinson.
Maybe Atkinson was dissuaded from expanding on his opinion of Massing by the steadying influence of Moore. And maybe the revered broadcaster would have kept his sidekick on the straight and narrow 14 years later, but sadly he had passed away by the time Atkinson, having failed once again to recognise the perils of those off-air moments, described Marcel Desailly and black footballers generally in particularly obscene and offensive terms.
And maybe Andy Gray would not have been so readily caught out had he been in the company of someone like Moore, or John Motson, or Barry Davies, or Clive Tyldesley, or Martin Tyler.
Some might say they are past their sell-by date, uninspiring, irritating, arrogant but they are all professionals who harbour a real passion for the game with far more respect, even off-air, than that demonstrated by the “lads’ night out” approach of Keys and Gray.
With the old guard’s experience comes deep knowledge of their specialist subject, substance over style. You wouldn’t catch them struggling to remember the name of the first female assistant referee to officiate in the English leagues. They’re also pretty solid on the offside law, unlike many of their more recent counterparts, many of whom moved into the media from careers as players and managers.
Is the controversy tough on Sky Sports? Have they made a significant contribution to the presence of women in the media? Or is that just eye candy?
It could actually be doing them a favour. Over the last couple of years there have been signs that the Sky presentation format is becoming a bit tired, along with the people who front the show.
It’s something Sky has in common with Match of the Day, and the current scenario presents them with an opportunity to make a change.
I’m not saying here that Keys and Gray should necessarily be sacked for what they said, although short-term suspension seems a bit of a let-off given that such a punishment would be appropriate for offensive comments about any match officials made by any member of the “football family” and the sexist nature of these rants is clearly an aggravating factor.
But as further evidence that Sky’s star men are out of touch with the real world and consider themselves bigger than their audience it does at the very least move them nearer to the exit door. Time to ease them out and get Gabby Logan in.


Filed under By Phil Ascough, Celebs, Football, Media, Uncategorized, World Cup

Whatever happened to the heroes?

A couple of years go me and a mate were chuffed to bits to be invited to one of football’s great occasions. More exclusive than the Cup Final or an England match, after all there are 80,000 tickets up for grabs for them. And more front-line than the look behind the scenes a few years previously at Sky Sports and Match of the Day, for they only report the news while we were in a place that was making it.
We were in the offices of the FA, at that time tucked into a corner of Soho Square. The occasion was the draw for the Third Round of the FA Cup. Some people we’d chatted to on the Sunday morning train to London really couldn’t understand our excitement, but they’d never joined a crowd huddled round a transistor radio in the playground in the days when the only live coverage of the draw was by the BBC on a Monday lunchtime.
So we were buzzing. Looking forward to meeting Sir Trevor Brooking, and then gobsmacked by his football knowledge – he actually knew Hull City had been denied three points the previous day by Cardiff City’s late equaliser at the KC!
As a kid I’d watched Kevin Beattie and Sammy Nelson play; now I was going to watch them do the Cup draw!
And that’s when it started to go a bit pear shaped. As we arrived they were doing a rehearsal… “Oldham Athletic will play Hull City.”
“Nah. Boring. Don’t want that in the real draw,” I said.
Our hosts from the sponsors led us to a hospitality suite, gestured to a table the size of the six-yard box, groaning under the weight of a buffet that would sustain us through our night on the town, and then nodding at the plasma screen in the corner: “And you can enjoy a drink while you watch the draw on there – obviously we can’t have all these people in the studio.”
Gutted, but they were right. Especially when the boring rehearsal of “Oldham Athletic will play Hull City” was replaced by the real-life, three-week round-trip of “Plymouth Argyle will play Hull City” and prompted an expletive of disappointment.
But we had our pictures taken with Sir Trev and the Cup – the real one, not one of those imitations they take round the fan gigs – the Cup, not Sir Trev, although he was real as well – and went to the pub to talk about football, and in particular the magic of the FA Cup.
Three years on, the conversation today would have been somewhat different. Ever innovative with their penalties to settle Cup Finals, turning a blind eye to weakened teams and giving the Premier League Champions a year off, the FA came up with Noel Gallagher and Sergio Pizzorno to pull the balls out of the velvet bag.
Now while I wouldn’t throw money at their stuff I don’t have any huge objection to Oasis or Kasabian as tunesmiths or musicians, and I can’t say they did a particularly bad job of retrieving the balls and revealing the numbers – except when Gallagher could only manage “What a draw!” instead of letting us all know he’d just sent Liverpool to Man United.
But have we really run out of FA Cup heroes to do the draw? Or were they just busy? Maybe Dave Beasant was at home watching telly, rehearsing a few moves of his own ready to bid for stardom in next year’s Strictly Come Dancing, while Ronnie Radford rooted round his garden for the sort of bushtucker ingredients that might get him into “I’m a Celebrity…”
The reality of this show can only be that FA Cup heroes are now considered too boring by a governing body struggling for new ideas to put a shine on their biggest tournament. And that can only lead one way in a nation now so desperate for a lift that it pushes celebrities into every corner of every life.
Maybe for the Fourth Round draw we’ll get Ant and Dec, Paul Merton and Ian Hislop or Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell.
And maybe when celebs have taken everyone else’s jobs me and my mate will get invited down to the FA again and asked to do the draw because Rolf Harris is reading the news, that kid off Harry Potter has just got the Blue Peter gig and Vanessa Feltz is auditioning for the brand new series of pro-celebrity bus driver.
There is of course another option. Just complete the sell-out by offering favoured customers of the sponsors the chance to do the draw, or by wheeling out their chief exec and his beaming offspring, or by charging people a few quid for their opportunity to make the Cup draw. It works with match-day mascots and would be simple to organise. They pay their money, they are given a shiny new FA Cup football kit and they make the draw – maybe even from their front room or another location of their choice.
The only tricky bit is how to price this once-in-a-lifetime experience. But however you place a value on the magic of the FA Cup, it’s falling all the time.


Filed under By Phil Ascough, Celebs, FA Cup, Football, Hull, Uncategorized