Felix Dennis, without whom — a requiem

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This just in: Felix Dennis has left the building, departed this plane of existence, passed away. Another man done gone, less than a year after Mick Farren split. (Felix and I both wrote introductions of sorts to Micky’s best-of collection Elvis Died For Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine.) You’ll be seeing summaries of his extraordinary life and career all over mainstream media any second now, but since I pretty much owe what I laughingly refer to as ‘my career’ to Felix, let’s just stick with the personal stuff …

I first met him in 1970 at Richard Neville’s basement at the preliminary editorial meeting for what eventually became the OZ Schoolkids Issue. As the magazine’s business manager and in-house ‘freak with a briefcase’, I was struck by the clash of his pinstripe suit with his Louis XIV hair and wildman beard … and his near-hysterical piratical guffaw.

He was both the most practical and the most hedonistic of the OZ triumvirate: simultaneously brusque and compassionate. When I decided to relocate to London on New Years Day of 1972, it was Felix who put me up, rent-free, in the spare room of his then dwelling at 44 Wandsworth Bridge Road, allowing me unlimited access to his fridge, his library and his record collection, and there I stayed until Felix moved out several months later. By then I was able to roll a decent spliff and I’ve still never flatshared with anyone who had so many girlfriends – or such noisy ones. All he asked in return was that I always made sure there was an untouched pint of milk in the fridge: he needed it for the ulcer he already had in his mid-20s.

Without OZ I might never have found a first home in print: without Felix’s generosity I’ve no idea how I’d have gained my first foothold in London. Many years later I worked for him again, at MacUser, and more recently he helped me out of a massive jam, even though we’d seen very little of each other for decades. ‘We’re not close friends,’ he explained, ‘but we’re old friends.’

He was booked to appear alongside R Crumb and former OZ lawyer Geoffrey Robertson at a panel about the OZ trial which I’ll be hosting on July 14 as part of The British Library’s Comics Unmasked season, but last week we heard that he was unwell and not able to appear. Guess he wasn’t kidding … Felix, if you changed your mind about doing the gig, just saying so would’ve been enough. I therefore intend to dedicate the event to him.

For now: in his honour — a poem. Hail and farewell, Felix …

We only meet at funerals
Fewer of us each time
More and more passengers disembark
As we approach the end of the line

Fewer and fewer chairs required
At each gathering of the clan
How long before we can count ourselves
On the fingers of one hand?

Some of us split long ago
Some of us hang on
Some keep an empty glass on the table
For those already gone

Some of us got famous
Some of us got rich
Some of us just got all fucked up
Ain’t that a bitch?

Some of us remember
When it wasn’t all just for show
Some of us still light a candle
For the dreams of long ago

Some left the party early
But no matter how many are dead
A spliff still burns in the ashtray
For revolutions in the head

CROSSTOWN LIGHTNIN’ RIDE AGAIN Sunday 6 April Oval Tavern, Croydon

… and this Sunday coming (April 6), Buffalo Bill Smith, Marc Jefferies, The Great Pete Miles and yr correspondent are bringing our own brand of funky rocking strickly-dread blues-an’-t’ing ancient and modern to The Oval Tavern 131 Oval Road Croydon CR0 6BR Tel: 020 8686 6023. We hit at 8:30pm. Come early and get ’em in while we get it on …

Chalkie Davies Goes Click At Snap, bringing crackle to pop …

Best rock photograoher Charles Shaar Murray with best music journalist Charles Shaar Murray

Chalkie Davies Snap Gallery

To Piccadilly Arcade’s Snap Gallery (Jaysus, what a gallery queen I’m becoming in my old age) with the ever-delightful Anna Chen to enjoy an emotional and long-overdue reunion with dear friend and former NME colleague, ace photog Chalkie Davies, now long since resident in New York. We were there to check out his mini-exhibition Chalkie Davies Goes Click, a tantalising teaser/prequel for a way more grand and elaborate show to held next year at the National Museum of Wales and featuring 33 classic shots from his days (months, years …) at the NME, including unforgettable images of Blondie, The Clash, Bowie/Ronson, The ‘Oo (well, Pete Townshend’s smashed Rickenbacker), John Lydon, Elvis Costello, Phil Lynott, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Sid’n Nancy, David Byrne and many, many more.

We ended up not in a Soho doorway but in one of our favourite West End eateries, The Canton, for major catch-ups and anecdotage, much of which cannot enter the public domain as long as all three of us remain alive.

Chalkie’s exhibition runs until April 26, so ankle along … hey! Ya never know … Jah Chalk might even be there in person …

Chalkie Davies Anna Chen photograph Pete Townshend's smashed guitar

Hothouse Spring 2014 is GO – we have lift-off!

541398_10152227691108012_967829795_n This is just a quick word to announce that the first session of the first Hothouse Project course of 2014, “Journalism as Craft and Art” kicked off with the proverbial BANG. Another intriguing bunch of students showed, and it looks like the next seven weeks will generate fun and enlightenment for all concerned … me included, of course.

And, equally needless to say, I can’t wait for the first batch of homework to arrive.

(Yep, there’s homework … I’m’a work ’em like DAWGS.)