What did people around Thatcher think about race relations?


So what did Thatcher and the people around her think about race related issues in the 70s and 80s?

One of her key advisers, Alfred Sherman, had views on ethnic minority issues that would be regarded as slightly beyond the pale in our more inclusive times.   One such was that immigration had been from cultures that were alien to English values including “sex, honesty, public display and respect for the law”.

A recurring theme from Sherman was that waves of immigrants from ‘alien cultures’ had resulted in a loss of control of what it meant to be British.  If this sounds familiar, it’s because Margaret Thatcher similarly remarked in 1978 on TV that many Britons “fear rather being swamped by an alien culture”.

Churchill
Winston Churchill

Behind Thatcher, on the Tory backbenches, views on immigration and race relations were a touch reactionary.  In one debate on immigration in the House of Commons on 5th July, 1976 –  some rum comments were made.

Winston Churchill’s grandson, who shared the same name but not the same glittering career as the war leader, thought the tolerance and generosity of the British people was being tested to the limit.

We can not fail to recognise the deep bitterness that exists among ordinary people who one day were living in Lancashire and woke up the next day in New Delhi Calcutta or Kingston, Jamaica.

During the 1976 debate, Churchill pointed out that a West Indian had told him at his MP’s surgery that he would remove his daughter from a school, which was 75% immigrant, because she had no chance of a ‘proper English education’.  Churchill added, “that man was as black as your coat, Mr Deputy Speaker”.

John Stokes, MP for Halesowen and Stourbridge claimed that a petition to the Home Office might be replied to in six weeks but an “immigrant leader” who wanted to see the Prime Minister would get an audience in two days.

He went on to claim that a vast gap existed between what he called the pro-immigrant camp – made up of race relations people, intellectuals, the media and do-gooders – and “the ordinary people who look to us in the House of Commons for protection”.

They do not want a multi-racial society.  They do not believe that integration will work.

And in case anybody thought that by immigration, the Commons debate might be referring to all those who entered the UK, George Rodgers – MP for Chorley – put them on the right track.

The difficulties revolve around the colour of people’s skins.  We should bear that in mind and recognise the problem, not avoid it.

And so it went on with Nicholas Winterton, MP for Macclesfield, even demanding that the then Labour government apologise to Enoch Powell for the comments they had made after his notorious 1968 anti-immigration ‘rivers of blood’ speech.

Three years later, the 1979 Conservative Manifesto would include proposals for toughening up of immigration policy directly under its promises on fighting crime.  It acknowledged that the ethnic minorities had made a valuable contribution to the life of the nation.

But firm immigration control for the future is essential if we are to achieve good community relations.

Neville Staple biography reviewed in the Huffington Post


Screen Shot 2018-03-16 at 22.42.18In 2011, the paperback of my biography of Neville Staple was published by Aurum Press. I’d spent countless hours with Neville and also many of his close friends to write Original Rude Boy.

This had involved popping up to Coventry and sitting with Nev in his living room reliving the glory days of 2Tone but also discussing his youth and friendships. I found that Neville was very passionate about his family, especially those in Jamaica he had been forced to leave behind as a child – including his own mother.

I think it’s fair to say that Neville has a Jamaican soul. Though he’s also a Coventry lad and has led a life in music that has taken him all over the world. But he has never forgotten his roots and crucially those people who were always there in the good times and the bad. In that respect, one would have to single out Trevor and Rex, childhood buddies who went on to tour with The Specials – officially as roadies but a bit more than that.

Together with Neville, Trevor and Rex brought a black British street-wise sense to The Specials. This was something Bernie Rhodes understood was essential during his short time managing the band. This trio gave The Specials a flavour that set it apart from other 2Tone offerings.

Though of course, one cannot ignore the towering genius of Jerry Dammers. He had recognised in the old ska sound from Jamaica something that could speak to young people at the end of the 70s. They were tough times. Unemployment was high, poverty was increasing and hope was giving way to frustration and despair.

Jerry’s interpretation of ska with Neville’s ability to “toast” about the realities of everyday life in the decaying auto city that was Coventry was an incredible combination. Hope I helped to capture this in the book. Speaking to Huffington Post journalist Salvatore Bono, Neville said some kind words about yours truly.

He knows how to talk to people, knew how to talk to me. And I want to do a follow up about the touring with the Specials and stuff we left out before – and he’s the man because he knows what I’m like.

You can read the full review HERE on the HuffPo.

Record Mirror front covers from the late 70s


I’ve just decorated my bedroom as a shrine to the coolest 80s pop stars and here’s a budget idea to do the same to yours.  Basically, I got some of the best Record Mirror front covers off e-bay and then had them framed.  Around 1978 to 1981, the magazine had some very stylised front covers with artistic images of stars instead of photos.  I don’t know what the reason was – cost, whatever.  But framed – they look amazing – here they are!

Siouxsie Sioux during Hong Kong Garden phase
Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders
Our man in The Clash

How punk rescued Top of the Pops in 1976


BBC Four (or BBC Fortysomething as I call it) ran an excellent series of programmes back to back on Friday night about Top of the Pops in 1976 – the year, which I’m sure you’ll recall, it really sank to all time lows.

TOTP
Sexist and the songs were cover versions!

TOTP in the 60s focused on music and giving youth a voice. It bounced in to the early 1970s with the amazingness of glam – particularly Marc Bolan. And there were the great opening credits to the grinding rock of Led Zeppelin. But then it all ran out of steam. Every Thursday, aged 12 and 13, me and my sister tuned in listlessly to TOTP hoping something would be played to excite our jaded senses.

What I thought the BBC Four programme evidenced brilliantly – and Paul Morley is a god for saying it – was how crap the crop of DJs on Radio 1/TOTP looked by the mid-70s. These smug arbiters of pop taste were annoying the hell out of all of us. Ex-Radio Luxembourg presenters still convinced today they were right not to play punk records – citing the level of record sales.

But as we all know, record sales were contingent on DJs giving songs airtime. I mean, Dave Lee Travis happily plugged his Convoy GB record, which I certainly didn’t want to hear at the time.  And that was the problem – these guys loved their novelty hits while ignoring a musical revolution right in front of their noses.

Tony Blackburn rocked up on the BBC4 prog to say that he still detested punk. I recall Generation X appearing on one edition of TOTP hosted by Blackburn and when the camera went back to him, he looked as if somebody had just taken a dump on his face.

The BBC carried on turning TOTP in to a variety show for all the family until the knocking of punk at the front door became so loud they had to be let in.  I mean, to give you an idea how awful 1976 was on TOTP – just think about Disco Duck, Brotherhood of Man and Showaddywaddy and consider that while that was being played at TV Centre to people still in flares, the Sex Pistols were gigging but a few miles away in central London.

As Toyah said on the programme, and I never thought I’d quote her, punk injected new life in to TOTP.  Far from overthrowing it, they gave the format a whole new lease of life.  Seeing Siouxsie Sioux playing Hong Kong Garden on the show is as electric now as it was when she appeared.  And yet, there was David ‘Diddy’ Hamilton on the BBC4 programme still saying that punk was horrible.

NME at its most pretentious – 1981


NME
We read it – but did we understand it?

We’d all taken to the streets and rioted in 1981 – or so you might have believed reading the NME.  In fact most of us were in the boozer saying ‘you heard where there’s a riot this weekend then?’ with no intention of actually going and observing.

Truth is, we’d all gone a bit narcissistic and poncy by the end of 1981 – eye liner, big fringes (Human League or Spandau) and even though the economy was shot to pieces, people pretended to be decadently rich….on the cheap.  Or as Ian Penman of the NME put it…

“This was a year when our narcissism was indiscreet; it moved out from beyond our keyholes and openly solicited us with its gaze.”

Yeah, just like I was saying.  Ah, the NME was going through a bit of a wordy, pseudo-philosophical, deliberate purple prose phase.  And none of us could be spared the ramblings of their scribblers.  In the normal three page article on some cultural aspect, it would take at least five or six paragraphs before you had the faintest clue what was being written about.  Almost as if the subject of the article was a total drag.

So Penman continues with this…writing at the end of 1981 in his wrap of the year:

“Nineteen hundred and eighty one divided into two clearly separated but separately ill-defined worlds, both lost in narcissism. The only dangerous intimacies took place in the scenery between these two worlds – but we shall take stock of these later.  For the time being – two views.  Or, if they are indeed narcissistic in nature – two sets of views.”

OK – anybody understand what that actually means!!!   And he then went on to analyse the Adam Ant video of Stand and Deliver.

“Adam stops brandishing his highwayman’s pistol in favour of a hand mirror; this is the point at which we cease to be unmentionable scared.  From anyone else it would be sexually hilarious, this switch from gun to gaze, but with Adam the threat is nothing more than a double entendre with no real punchline.”

Etc…

Happy Days – political divisions between the actors


Happy-days
Happy Days – for some

Here’s a piece of complete trivia about those involved in the TV series Happy Days.  In case you’re too young to remember, Happy Days was a sitcom set in 1950s America. It was shamelessly nostalgic, bubblegum entertainment.

Since then, the cast have led very different lives and held markedly different political views. And the moral is: Being a liberal/Democrat in California ensures you a happy and productive media career whereas being a red in tooth and claw registered Republican, may not work out so well.

Scott Baio is definitely the latter.  He has posted some pretty horrible stuff on his Twitter including a misogynist cheap shot at Michelle Obama that even our very own Daily Mail picked up on last year.  Click here to read the story.  Baio’s anti-Obama comment led to him claiming that he was receiving death threats and needed FBI protection.

This wasn’t the only Twitter meltdown that Baio inflicted on himself in 2010 – he then penned this anti-tax tweet that was picked up and led to an online feud between him and a website called Jezebel dot com.

In complete contrast, Henry Winkler and Ron Howard took up their old roles as the Fonz and Richie Cunningham to encourage people to vote for Obama during the last presidential election.  Whereas Baio’s career can hardly be described as stellar since he stopped playing Chachi, Ron Howard has become a globally renowned director.  Winkler hasn’t done too badly either.

Lorimar Productions – the force behind 70s TV


Lorimar is to blame for a big part of your youthful TV viewing if you were growing up in the 1970s.  It was eventually swallowed up in to Time Warner where its logo lived on for a while longer till it eventually disappeared completely.

This production company, born in 1969 and bought by Warner in the mid-80s, brought you The Waltons, Dallas, Knots Landing and the controversial movie Cruising (1980) and Being There (1979).  Lorimar’s logo always popped up at the end of your regular viewing but changed over time till eventually Time Warner made it very slick and charmless.

Here’s the history of a logo: