Charles Shaar Murray panellises for the benefit of the indispensable Resonance FM —

Charles Shaar Murray, Resonance FM, benefit panel, Jude Rogers, Andrew Mueller, David Stubbs, Slaughtered Lamb, Neil DennyNever miss an opportunity to pose, dressed in black, before a blazing bloodred neon pentagram. Especially when it’s for the fundraisy benefit of an institution as wunderbar as London’s Resonance FM 104.4 indie-arts radio thang (which, let it not be forgotten, hosts — among much other fab stuffage — Anna Chen‘s Madam Miaow’s Culture Lounge, held at The Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell. And most especially not when it enables one to participate in a discussion on the past, present and future of rock journalism with the likes of David Stubbs, Jude Rogers and Andrew Mueller, hosted by the mega-urbane Neil Denny of the Little Atoms show.

Which is what I did last week — and this is what it sounded like. Wit rather than wittering, and wisdom ta rass, dreadee.

The only thing that pissed me off about an otherwise fabulous evening is that I forgot to grab this golden opportunity to plug my Hothouse writing course and hardsell the last few available places …

Jewish Book Week: Old Punk Prepares Reminiscences, Rants And Anecdotes

CSM HamHigh

A little while back, I was delighted to receive — and eagerly accept — an offer to join a panel chaired by my old friend and eternally ageless sistren Vivien Goldman on The Jewish Roots Of Punk as part of Jewish Book Week, taking place on Saturday March 1 at 9pm, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG. Also on board will be Geoff Travis, Daniel Miller and Toby Mott, so a good time should be had by all, awreddy. (Incidentally, the event immediately before us will feature Mark Lewisohn talking about his rather impressive new Beatles book Tune In, the first volume of the massive eventual trilogy All These Years.)

We haven’t (yet) done anything as grownup and efficient as pre-planning an agenda, but I assume that we may be talking about what it  means to be Jewish, what it means to be punk and how these two states of being might conceivably intersect. I also assume that, old and dignified as we all now are, there will be little or no spitting, kicking over of microphones, shaking up beer cans and popping them in the general direction of the audience or, for that matter, mass chanting of Hava Nagila.

Nevertheless, whilst engaging in preliminary thinkage concerning Malcolm McLaren, Joey Ramone and many more (not to mention Bob Dylan and Marc Bolan, though I suspect someone will), I was reminded of a favourite adage of my late sainted father: “If I ever find out that the Worldwide Jewish Conspiracy really exists, I’ll be furious … because I was never invited to join.”

Incidentally, the above ridiculously flattering portrait may seem like an outtake from my failed audition to become the next Dr Who (damn you, Peter Capaldi!) , but it was in fact taken by Nigel Sutton on behalf of that august periodical The Ham And High on the occasion of my being Cover Boy t’other week.

It only remains to animadvert that while the next session of my Hothouse Project: Journalism As Craft And Art course (commencing February 20) is filling up nicely, we still have a few places left … so don’t be shy. I’ll be gentle with you … maybe.

Two schtoopid ways to lose £80 —

Elvis Bowie

…  both of which concern smoking, and neither even involves the cost of buying the dyam tings in the first place.

This morning, I stepped out onto the front porch for the second cigarette of the day. Because smoke tends to drift indoors when the door isn’t fully and firmly shut, thereby prompting protests from my emphatically non-smoking sweetie, I have been attempting to train myself to close said door behind me on these occasions. And so I did.

It was only when smokage had been completed that two awful realisations struck, more or less simultaneously. Realisation the first: because, somehow, my keys (which normally reside permanently in the front-right pocket of my jeans) had gotten tangled in their ring, I had simply dumped them on the coffee table and not reinstalled them in their proper trousery location.  Hence: locked door … no keys. I blame it entirely on the after-effects of celebrating the shared birthday of two one-time jewels in the crown of was once RCA Records — David Bowie, now 67 and Elvis Presley who, were he still amongst us, would’ve been 79. Or maybe I’d been prematurely celebrating Jimmy Page’s 70th. Or mourning Phil Everly  – the only people as divinely ordained by the universe to sing together as The Everly Brothers were Lennon & McCartney and Sam & Dave.

Wha’evah …

Realisation the second: since aforementioned sweetie was away on an outtatown visit, I couldn’t simply buzz the door, get called an absent-minded idiot and then readmitted to the premises to continue the designated activities of the day.

In other words … I was oudoors, in jeans, slippers (no socks), T-shirt and a lightweight jumper, sans keys, phone, wallet or even cigarettes. Total assets: £15 in cash, a Zippo about to run out of fuel, a copy of Bill Bryson’s A Short History Of Nearly Everything … and, of course, my wit, charm and personality. None of which were, in this eventuality, of the slightest bit of use.

Fortunately, my Lovely Upstairs Neighbour was hand with a mobile on which to call a locksmith, and to provide cups of coffee, offers of a sandwich and even to pick up extra cigs from up the road. Just as fortunately, the weather was only mildly inclement as opposed to full-on Biblical.

Locksmith duly arrived on a Vespa after a shivery hour, did summat arcane to door which obediently swung open, waited patiently while I added socks, shoes, jacket, hat, wallet, phone and keys to the Tout Ensemble, escorted me to the nearest cashpoint, accepted £80 in notes and scribbled me out a receipt.

I reflected, in a philosophical kinda way, that a friend of mine had recently been separated from an identical sum in a different variety of cigarette-related incident: fined by a representative of his local council for being spotted ditching a ciggy-butt in a gutter. At least, in his case, he hadn’t had to freeze on a doorstep for an hour. Many years ago, I’d committed a similar offence  outside San Diego airport and had an Actual Proper Gun pointed at me by an off-duty cop cunningly disguised as an overweight middle-aged  woman. ‘Pick that up!’ she ordered in a scarily Clint Eastwoodesque tone of voice.

There were several hundred ciggy butts at my feet. ‘How can I tell which one’s mine?’ I asked.

She made the gun do the clicky thing. My American compadre elbowed me in the ribs, hissing ‘Shut the fuck up!’ out of the corner of his mouth. I bent down, picked up the nearest butt from the carpet of similar items, walked a few yards and dropped it in a bin. Off-Duty Cop Lady grudgingly nodded, holstered her piece and waddled away. It was very scary, but on the other hand it didn’t cost me £80.

So what should you do with £80 rather than give it to a locksmith or a representative of your local council? Easy-peasy. Add it to the sum you’ve been saving up to buy yourself a place on the upcoming session of The Hothouse Project!

Charles Shaar Murray’s New Year Message

5801_10151800295393012_1187020312_nGood morning, good evening … and Happy New Year, one and all. Even Tories and Republicans, in the hope that a sudden attack of conscience and common sense will show them the error of their ways …

My sweetie and I were planning a gala gathering for New Year’s Eve, but managed to lose eight of our ten guests, for a dizzying variety of excellent reasons. Some dropped out because of health issues (an occupational hazard when you’re as old as I am and move in a social circle which includes so many of my contemporaries and near-contemporaries); some because of economic issues (our designated Boxing Day guest missed out because his benefits were abruptly cut and he literally didn’t have tube fare); some because of family issues … undsoweiter.

So: 2013, we hardly knew ye. Hail and farewell to Nelson Mandela and Mick Farren; Lou Reed and Gypie Mayo; John Fortune and James Gandolfini; Peter O’Toole and David Frost and … well, let’s just say I cried no discernible tears for Margaret Thatcher. I shed enough over the effects of her policies while she was in office (and those policies’ longterm effects through Blair, Brown and beyond), so I was all dried out.

Praise be: Wilko Johnson is still with us. Yay, go WIlk!

What I’d like to see in 2014: the worldwide application of Ice-T’s invocation ‘Get together! Open your mind! Get wise! Get your brain in gear!’ I’d love to see more and more people, all over this beautiful-but-allowing-its-potential-to-be-pissed-away planet, realise what their political, economic and religious ‘masters’ are doing to them … and somehow find a way to do something constructive about it.

Face it – there is NO EARTHLY FUCKING REASON for poverty, disease, hunger or oppression (let alone Simon Cowell) to last another nanosecond … unless we can somehow be persuaded that these things are somehow in our best interests. Which they aren’t, nu?

So: be nice to your neighbour. Persuade said neighbour to be nice to his (or her) neighbour. And make it spread.

I’m an ancient fuck now, but I was just old enough to be a hippie, and just young enough to be a punk. I believe that the world can be changed for the better, if We The People can overcome artificially instilled fear/hatred of each other in order to work together long enough to see off the robber barons who hate us all and the (not necessarily rubber) bullets they’ll use to protect their trickle-up economics.

From my ridiculously brave, brilliant and beautiful beloved – see above pic – and my grizzled old self … peace be upon all y’all. (And a special shout-out to those of my friends who’ve dived into the fire to drag me out of imminent disaster … and to those who would’ve if they could’ve.)

Here’s to an infnitely better tomorrow … against all the odds.

Oh yeah — and it would be lovely to see a bunch of y’all on the spring 2014 Hothouse Project course, where I pass on my accumulated journalistic wisdom and tell a few stories.