Tales from an author

Archive for the month “May, 2016”

Nostalgia in the form of Vinyl LPs


The last few years have seen a resurgence of interest in vinyl records, as opposed to Compact Discs. I do not have enough technical music knowledge to comment on the relative sound quality produced by the two formats, beyond a belief in the idea that music can sound warmer on vinyl, compared to a clinical sound from a CD. I was recently reunited with a lot of my old vinyl LPs, which I had put in storage, and have been enjoying listening to them, with a sense of nostalgia.

I bought my first LP in 1979, as a teenager, and continued to acquire music in this format until 1992, at which point I upgraded from a record player to a CD player. I abruptly stopped buying records, and within a few years most record companies seemed to abandon vinyl. We were told that CDs were better, due to clearer sound and durability, as they did not scratch, jump, or hiss. I liked the idea of durability, and the convenience of playing a typical 35 to 45 minute album without having to get up and turn the record over half way through – indeed the capacity of CDs could provide over an hour of uninterrupted music. Another advantage of CDs was the facility to skip an unfavoured song, and go straight to the start of the next track, without fiddling with the stylus on a record player. On the other hand, CDs came in small packaging which lacked the impact of the covers for 12 inch records. LPs and their sleeves are better to hold look at, and hold. I wonder why CDs do not get sold in LP-sized packaging – presumably it is cheaper for record companies to distribute, and shops to sell, music in small packages.

Recent listening to old LPs has prompted me to produce a list (I like lists) of 10 old favourites.

The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

For some reason I did not acquire this one until 1984, five years after I first became a fan of the Beatles. Over the years, my mind has hopped in assessing the relative merits of Revolver, Sgt Pepper, and Abbey Road, but Revolver has generally been my favourite Beatles album. Indeed it is the only record I have felt inspired to review on Amazon – perhaps I should do more reviews. In the piece, posted in 2012, among other things, he said he said: “I cannot give the Revolver album anything other than five stars. It is acclaimed (by the experts?) as perhaps the Beatles second-best album, behind Sgt Pepper. The overall quality of songs is better on Revolver, with great variety, building into a showcase of the brilliance of the Beatles. Besides Paul’s majestic Eleanor Rigby, and the novelty of Ringo singing Yellow Submarine, there is an amazing trio from John – I’m Only Sleeping, She Said She Said, and Tomorrow Never Knows. George offers a couple of great songs in Taxman and I Want to Tell You. The studio experimentation of Sgt Pepper began a few months earlier in the Revolver sessions. The flaw is the brevity of Revolver, at just under 35 minutes. This may have been standard for the time, but Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, released the previous year, clocked in at 51 minutes”. Four years after the review, I should add that a notable part of the appeal of Revolver is the way in which it displays an eclectic mix of styles, but also has a unity, powered the guitar and drums sound common to the uptempo numbers, and dreamy lyrics, that flow from Eleanor Rigby to Tomorrow Never Knows. The album title is a clever reflection of the way in which records revolve. There is also the original cover, with the psychedelic collage by Klaus Voorman on the front, and a photo of the band on the back – both in stark black and white. Revolver still sounds, and feels, modern – 50 years after it was recorded.

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

The Velvet Underground were managed at one point by Andy Warhol, who (supposedly) produced their debut album, and (definitely) contributed the front cover banana design. The Velvets sold few records during their creative peak, but have built a legendary reputation, as innovators who influenced countless other artists. The band. led originally by Lou Reed and John Cale, went through several changes of line-up, with the mysterious Nico (a German actress turned singer) being a guest vocalist on their debut album. By the time of their fifth and final studio album, Squeeze – released in 1973 – none of the original Velvet Underground remained in the band. The debut album contains some of their greatest songs, including I’m Waiting for the Man, Heroin, Femme Fatale, I’ll Be Your Mirror, and Venus in Furs. I believe in the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame, a concept introduced by Andy Warhol. As an alternative, fleeting moments of recognition may occur across several years. I modelled the front cover design of my book Fifteen Minutes of Fame on the cover of the Velvets’ LP, without breaching copyright – using a public domain banana, designed by Telrunya, inspired by Warhol. Fame has not come my way, in case any readers think that is where we are leading. It was more like fifteen seconds of fantasy. The number of books I have sold so far is only a tiny fraction of the amount of records sold by the Velvet Underground, whose seminal banana album leapt to number 171 in the USA’s LP chart during 1967. The album originally only had Andy Warhol’s name as the only wording on the front cover – the title of the album started to appear after it was released on CD in 1986. I have a 1987 pressing of the LP, without the album title on the sleeve.

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

One of the most famous albums ever made, and among the biggest sellers – worldwide sales have been estimated at 45,000,000 – this made it to the list just ahead of Wish You Were Here and The Wall. Back in the days when late I started buying albums, there were quite a lot of imports from the USA and Canada for sale. I recollect hearing that record shops would bring these in as cheaper alternatives to British pressings, although the quality of the vinyl was slightly inferior. I remember acquiring a Canadian version of The Dark Side of the Moon, which was virtually the same as the British version, from an independent record seller with a stall at a market in Basingstoke. Besides the striking design on the gatefold cover, there were big posters inside. In the space of 43 minutes, Pink Floyd tell a story that moves from birth to death, via a lot of experiences, including the fear of madness – prompted by the mental breakdown of former band member Syd Barrett. There is also a quite a bit of people talking to themselves. For me the highlights of the album are two long songs, Time plus Us and Them.

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks (1975)

How many times has the question been asked, which is the best Dylan album, Highway 61 Revisited or Blonde on Blonde? For a long time I thought the answer was Highway 61, but then I discovered Blood on the Tracks. A decade on from his supposed peak, Dylan released the greatest record of his career. Blood on the Tracks is a thematic collection of songs about failed relationships, thwarted love, and disillusion (with an allusion to Watergate on Idiot Wind?). Tangled up in Blue plus Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts are extended narratives about flawed, but engaging, characters. The unfocussed photo of Dylan on the front cover adds to the mystique. I guess that the picture on the back cover represents fractured relationships. The album was recorded in 1974, and released the following year – with the copyright date showing as 1974 on the cover. The inner sleeve is plain blood red paper.

Patti Smith – Horses (1975)

One of the most famous rock debut albums, in which Patti Smith takes us to a land where poetry merges with the spirit of punk rock. Having discovered Patti’s music a few years after the release, I bought the album in 1980, at Paignton in Devon, during a family holiday. Opening with a radical re-working of Van Morrison’s Gloria, Patti weaves tales of lesbianism, alien abduction, love and death, with references to Arthur Rimbaud plus Jimi Hendrix. The record was produced by John Cale. The front cover has a black and white photo of Smith, sporting an androgynous look, taken by Robert Mapplethorpe. The top right-hand corner of the picture has a triangle of light, deliberately captured by the photographer, but since lost in CD packaging. In 1996, fully 21 years after the release of Horses, I saw Patti Smith give a concert, in London, during which she performed three songs from the album – Free Money, Redondo Beach, and Gloria.

Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)

Bruce is my favourite artist, and this is the first of his albums that I bought, back in 1980. I still remember the shopping trip to Croydon, along with my brother, and three of our cousins, after research in the Yellow Pages informed us of the names and locations of the town’s several record shops. I bought the Bruce record at the town’s Virgin shop, and listened to it on an almost daily basis for several weeks. As an uncertain teenager, I drew comfort and inspiration from the album’s story of a life in which struggle is combined with optimism. Thirty six years later, it is still my favourite album. The lyrics are amazingly evocative, bringing a direct sense of the lives of the characters Bruce writes about. Extensive cross-referencing of key words across the 10 songs gives the album a great unity. This is reinforced by the musical backing, which sounds very similar throughout the album. Bruce spent an enormous amount of time in the final selection from dozens of songs recorded during the sessions. This coincided with a lot of thought about the sequencing of the album. He was influenced by what his manager and producer, Jon Landau, called the four corners approach – with the strongest four songs being used as the first and last tracks one the two sides of the record. The pressing of the LP that I own says it was made in Holland – I think CBS meant the Netherlands says Mr Pedantic. Besides the timing of each track appearing on the label, there is a second figure, showing the length of the instrumental introductions. I have not seen this on any other record – and presume it was for the benefit of radio stations, where DJs might talk over the start of a song.

Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978)

Long afterwards I can still recall walking home from the centre of Fleet, my hometown, on a cold day in early 1979, with lots of snow on the ground. I had just bought Blondie’s Parallel Lines LP, this being the start of a record collection, which grew rapidly in the next few years. I was attracted to the album by the hit singles, Hanging on the Telephone, Picture This, and Heart of Glass – the latter of which was at number one when I bought the album.  Sunday Girl soon followed as a single, and was another number one. Blondie were fronted by Debbie Harry, singer and adorable illusion, who was joined by five blokes. The black and white lines on the cover design were mirrored on the inner sleeve, which contained lyrics, and a poem. Then there was a second inner sleeve, which was plain white. I remember that whenever I put the record away, this had to be done in a certain order. The label of side 1 of the record would show through the transparent part of the inner sleeve. This side 1 would then be aligned with the side lyrics on the inner sleeve. I did not realise I had OCD until many years later, but here was a clue from a 14 year old. Ever since then, I have been meticulous about putting the record into the inner sleeve of any LP in the right order, and then following suit when inserting the inner sleeve into the outer sleeve. There was also a clear method of ordering of LPs in a record rack, alphabetically by artist, and then chronologically within artist by release date. I used to say I would be able to find a particular album in the dark during a power cut, even although I would not be able to play it. Strangely I have not got around to organising CDs logically – perhaps I just do not feel so much affection for them.

Elvis Costello – Imperial Bedroom (1982)

For many years, Elvis Costello – lyricist of genius – was among my favourite artists, and I bought all of his albums through to the mid-1990s, following which I kind of lost track of things as he increasingly moved into various genres besides rock. For me Imperial Bedroom is Elvis’ finest work, as a consistently strong collection of songs about difficult personal relationships. The cover features a painting inspired by Picasso. The inner sleeve features most of the lyrics, rather awkwardly set out without any gaps between the songs. A few of the words are printed on the label for side two of the record, and can be matched up with the rest of the lyrics by moving the disc to align them in a gap in the inner sleeve. I do not know why the record company did that – or whether my explanation of the strange format makes enough sense. An earlier album by Elvis was entitled Almost Blue but the song of that name did not appear until the Imperial Bedroom LP. Then the song Imperial Bedroom was absent from the album of that name, was released as a B side of a single, and later as a bonus track on a CD reissue of the album. I could not recall where I bought Imperial Bedroom, but a sticker inside the cover says it was Woolworth – I bought a lot of records at Woolworth in Fleet in my youth. In the compilation of this list, Imperial Bedroom narrowly edges out Spike, an album including several songs that I saw Elvis perform at the Albert Hall shortly after its release in 1989.

Pretenders – The Singles (1987)

Over the years I have bought many greatest hits / best of albums, and this one remains among the most notable. Having followed the Pretenders from the early days of their career, I already owned most of the songs on this album when it was released, but it still seemed a worthwhile purchase. Here are the 15 singles released by the Pretenders between 1979 and 1986, plus the guest appearance by their singer, Chrissie Hynde, on a version of I Got You Babe by UB40. At 57 minutes long, it is a collection of depth. The Pretenders consistently released great singles, with Brass in Pocket being their biggest hit, but my favourites are the haunting Kid and the enigmatic Hymn to Her. The packaging of the LP is simple, but attractive, with the black and white blocks logo of the band featuring on the cover, inner sleeve, and record label.

Lou Reed – New York (1989)

After many suggestions, across the 1970s and 1980s, that Lou Reed might have a new album to rank alongside the brilliance of his work with the Velvet Underground, this finally happened in the last year of the latter decade. New York is a celebration of Reed’s home city, and a lament for the way in which its people had suffered the effects of the Reagan presidency. The album includes the brilliant ecological protest The Last Great American Whale, plus the rawness of Romeo Had Juliette and Dirty Blvd. The latter is one of two songs on the album to include the original phrase Statue of bigotry. A few months after the album was released, I saw Lou give a show at the London Palladium (a venue that looks better on television than it really is). He started by playing most of the songs from New York, before going back to earlier material, including Rock and Roll plus Sweet Jane, from the Velvet Underground days, and Walk on the Wild Side. Reed, who died in 2013, was a great role model, with the gift of self-parody (too often under-rated). The back cover of the New York album had a note from Reed, advising “It’s meant to be listened to in one 58 minute (14 songs!) listening, as though it were a book or a movie”. I have listened to the album many times, and think it will soon be time to spin this again.


#Toryelectionfraud – a quick summary of the most important points


During recent weeks numerous police forces around England have been investigating the Conservative Party over alleged fraud, on the basis of allegations that campaigning expenses at the 2015 General Election were not declared in line with the law. Expensive campaigning in 26 marginal constituencies, won by the Conservatives, was not declared as an expense in those constituencies, being instead reported as part of their national campaign. Much of the evidence that has come to light stems from an in-depth investigation by Channel 4 News. Some national newpapers have taken up the story. The BBC news, under the pro-Tory editorship of Laura Kuenssberg, has largely tried to ignore a developing scandal of probable electoral fraud, which happened last year on a scale not seen since the Rotten Boroughs of the nineteenth century.

There has been lively debate, and sharing of information, on Twitter, with tens of thousands of Tweets posted using the hashtag #Toryelectionfraud.

The purpose of this Blog post is to provide a summary of developments, with links to the significant online information. I intend to return with updates at intervals, but here is a quick starter.

People’s Electoral Commission campaign by the Daily Mirror – webpage has images of Tory MP expenses and a timeline of events in the investigation so many of us are joining

Tory boasts about their long-term plan to win marginals in 2015, with a £300,000 central budget

February 29 2016 Daily Mirror details of 24 Conservative MPs exceeding expenses limits

Summary from Channel 4, on April 20, of their investigation to that point. At the end of the webpage there is a link to another piece with more detail.

Electoral Commission statement, April 28

Alison Hernandez, Tory Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, being investigated by police for her role as agent at 2015 election, refuses to stand down

On May 6, the day after polling for local, mayoral, and PCC elections, BBC “break”?? news of multiple police investigations into Conservative expenses

Multiple police investigations, summary by Mark Pack May 9. The number has since grown to 19 police forces investigating 28 MPs.

The David Cameron letters – Canary May 13

May 13 Lib Dems want police to investigate 2015 letter from David Cameron targeted at marginal Torbay, Devon, but not declared as local spend.

A similar letter from Cameron was used by Conservatives in Southampton Itchen, a marginal they gained from Labour.  I twice asked Royston Smith, now Conservative MP for the constituency, if this was declared as local spend, but he did not reply. His election agent has previously blocked me on Twitter. It appears the cost was not declared locally, and I have forwarded Smith’s expenses return to Hampshire Police, asking them to investigate.

In 2015 Royston Smith was investigated by the police for passing confidential information held by the Conservatives about voters to UKIP, as part of an apparent joint effort between the parties to defeat Labour in Southampton Itchen

Andrew Neil mentions developments, and Conservatives argue on their own website about dubious legality, May13 onwards

Summary from New Statesman May 17

David Cameron admits Conservative Party may have made “misdeclarations” in their expenses. He also says “IN THE END I’M RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING” May 22

Scottish National Party report the Conservative Party to the Metropolitan Police, May 22

Tories challenge investigation of their expenses in Thanet May 24

The David Cameron letters – Zelo Street May 25

The best source on Twitter is Eoin

Another tireless Twitter campaigner is Rachael, linking the expenses issue to Tory MPs cutting disability benefits, with some imaginative graphics




The Beatles in Wonderland

A couple of years ago, I wrote An Enchanted Garden, a short story transferring the opening of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) into a contemporary adult tale. My story included many references to lyrics by the Beatles, with the modern-day Alice listening to their music on her Ipod, as events began in the garden of Strawberry Fields Forever, a National Trust home located in my imagination. Recent work, expanding the story into a novel, set me thinking about the way in which the Beatles were influenced by Carroll’s two Alice books, with the original being followed by Through the Looking-Glass, And What Alice Found There (1871).

Beatles Paperback Writer


My starting point was a thought that four songs by the Beatles showed clear influences from Alice.

1 I Am the Walrus (1967) draws upon Carroll’s tale of the Walrus and the Carpenter. The eggman could be Humpty Dumpty, although John Lennon recalled a strange practice enjoyed by Eric Burden involving eggs.

2 The Long and Winding Road (1969) has the lyric “the wild and windy night has left a pool of tears”, echoing the Pool of Tears episode in Alice.

3 Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds (1967) tells the tale of a girl in a surreal land. In contrast to speculation that the song was influenced by LSD, Lennon explained that the title came from a painting that his son, Julian, brought home from nursery school. When Lennon expanded the contents of the picture into a song, he added elements from Carroll, explaining “It was Alice in the boat. She is buying an egg and it turns into Humpty Dumpty. The woman serving in the shop turns into a sheep and the next minute they are rowing in a rowing boat somewhere and I was visualising that”. This is the Wool and Water episode of Looking Glass. The song also includes “newspaper taxis” plus “a train in a station with plasticine porters with looking glass ties”. This follows the Looking-Glass Insects chapter, where Alice goes on a train journey, sharing a carriage with a man dressed as a newspaper, a goat, and….a beetle. Lennon’s Lucy would be mentioned again, in I Am the Walrus, recorded a few months later.

4 Cry Baby Cry (1968) draws on the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence, but there are elements from the Pig and Pepper chapter in Alice, with a duchess and a crying baby. The song has the Duchess of Kirkaldy arriving late for tea, suggesting the Tea Party in Alice. John’s Cry Baby Cry ends with the Can You Take Me Back fragment from Paul McCartney, and it couId be that this expresses a wish to move from Wonderland back to reality. Conversely Paul might hope to move away from reality, and back into a nursery rhyme tale?

Three of these four songs (the exception being Paul’s The Long and Winding Road) were predominantly written by John Lennon.

In the old days, I would have pursued this line of thought through books about the Beatles. Nowadays a look around the Internet, following the lines suggested by Google, makes the search for information a lot quicker. One of the best pieces I found was John in Wonderland by Edgar O Cruz, who suggests songs that were – or may have been – influenced by Carroll, which are in turn added to my list:

5 Do You Want to Know a Secret (1963) was inspired by the Wishing Well song in the Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which seems to me a bit out of place here, lacking a direct flow from Carroll. As far as I can tell, the Alice books only include the word secret once, in the Queen Alice chapter of Through the Looking Glass.

6 I’ll Get You (1963) is another song that Cruz only links to Carroll in general terms. On the other hand, McCartney made a direct connection in later years, saying “To me and John, though I can’t really speak for him, words like ‘imagine’ and ‘picture’ were from Lewis Carroll.  This idea of asking your listener to imagine, ‘Come with me if you will…’, ‘Enter please into my…’, ‘Picture yourself in a boat…’ It drew you in.  It was a good little trick, that.  Both of us loved Lewis Carroll and the Alice books and were fascinated by his surreal world so this was a nice song to write”.

7 Yellow Submarine (1966) does not have any direct lyrical origin in Carroll, but the song evokes a fantasy land for children. The song would in turn feature in an animated Beatles film of the same title, released in 1968. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds was another song featured in the film.

8 Strawberry Fields Forever (1967) has lyrics in which Cruz hears an echo of Carroll. He says “The theme of loss in Strawberry Fields Forever is similar to the book’s ‘going down’ device” as Alice slips through the Rabbit Hole. The Beatles’ lyric “It doesn’t matter much to me” follows “It didn’t much matter which way she put it” in Alice.

9 Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite (1967) is a song in the tradition of Carroll’s poems. Lennon copied the lyrics from an 1843 poster advertising a circus – having bought this from an antique shop when the Beatles were filming a promotional film for Strawberry Fields Forever.

10 Magical Mystery Tour (1967) is the title song of a Beatles fantasy film, which was influenced by Carroll, and featured I Am the Walrus.

11 Glass Onion (1968) is a surreal story, which includes references to five previous songs by the Beatles, two of which we have already encountered here – Fixing a Hole, Strawberry Fields Forever, I Am the Walrus, Fool on the Hill, and Lady Madonna.

12 Helter Skelter (1968) features the lyric “Will you, won’t you want me to make you” which Paul appears to have adapted from The Lobster Quadrille’s “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you join the dance?”. I also think that the “I’m coming down fast” part of the song could echo Alice falling down the Rabbit Hole.

13 Across the Universe (1968) includes the phrase “pool of sorrows”, suggested by the “pool of tears” cried by Alice, which would feature a year later in The Long and Winding Road.

Further searching brought suggestions of other songs, in a piece on a Blog called Of Buckley and the Beatles. The White Queen’s repetitive use of the word “better” in the Looking Glass book may have influenced Paul in two songs:

14 Getting Better (1967) from the Sgt Pepper album.

15 Hey Jude (1968) the song that Paul wrote for John’s son Julian.

There is one song missing from my original thoughts, and the suggestions above, that clearly develops the theme.

16 Come Together (1969) includes reference to “walrus gumboot”. I had overlooked this, until being reminded by the Wikipedia page for I Am the Walrus that there is a Walrus reference in a Beatles song after Glass Onion.

Next I thought of another song with a lyric that might derive from Carroll, and found a possible link

17 Nowhere Man (1965) is about somebody “making all his nowhere plans for nobody”. There is a character called Nobody in the Lion and the Unicorn episode of the second Alice novel. Nowhere Man was later used in the Yellow Submarine film.

This is turn led to my considering The Fool on the Hill, another tale of a loner, and somebody I imagined as akin to the Mad Hatter in Alice. A Google search led to Alice Through the Magnifying Glass: the Psychedelic Journey of Carroll’s Creations, on a Blog called George’s Journal. The man who wrote this piece suggests echoes of Carroll in various songs and films. In terms of the Beatles, George sees the cinematic Yellow Submarine as significant. George also refers to songs which “could all be said to be lyrically and stylistically Carroll-esque”, which I in turn add to this list, with some additional comments:

18 Penny Lane (1967) presenting a surreal version of English life, was recorded during the Sgt Pepper sessions, and released as a Double A side single with Strawberry Fields Forever.

19 Fool on the Hill (1967) fits for the reason set out above, and featured in the Magical Mystery Tour film.

20 Happiness is a Warm Gun (1968) is one I am not sure about in the Carroll context. Indeed I have trouble thinking about this song in any context, given that Lennon was shot dead 12 years after it was released.

21 Piggies (1968) was one I had thought about, given the number of animals that appear in the Alice books, including the pig baby.

22 Octopus’s Garden (1969) could fit as a song about a place somewhere near the beach in the first Alice book. It also serves as a sequel to Yellow Submarine, an earlier song sung by Ringo.

23 Mean Mr Mustard (1969) is another one at a tangent, apart from it featuring Her Majesty the Queen, possibly related to a monarch in Wonderland.

24 Polythene Pam (1969) could just about fit as the sequel to Mean Mr Mustard, within the Abbey Road Medley, while being one of the many titles by the Beatles to feature a female name – two years on from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.

I was surprised that the number of songs reached two dozen, but there were still more occurring to me, and I found that somebody had already suggested one of them.

25 Within You Without You (1967) is mentioned in the book Alice’s Adventures: Lewis Carroll in Popular Culture by Will Brooker (2004). Brooker suggests similarities between the sitar soundtrack by Ravi Shankar to a BBC television  production of Alice, broadcast at the end of 1966, and Within You Without You, a song by George Harrison, who learnt Indian music from Shankar, recorded a few weeks later. I think that the song’s philosophical lyrics echo the cryptic phrases of the caterpillar in Alice.

 With my mind expanded – by knowledge and not narcotics – the mental journey took me to five other songs, which I think were influenced by Carroll:

26 Tomorrow Never Knows (1966) has lyrics that Lennon drew from a book about psychedelic meditation, but the opening “turn off you mind, relax and float downstream” may also owe something to the Alice in a boat image subsequently used in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

27 It’s All Too Much (1967) is one of the great neglected Beatles songs, recorded just after work was completed on Sgt Pepper, but not released until the Yellow Submarine album arrived in 1969, the year after the relevant film. George Harrison goes on a LSD trip, singing about “floating down the stream of time”, birthday cake, and getting “home for tea”. It could be that he is joining Alice at a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

28 Dear Prudence (1968) is a song about Prudence, sister of the actress Mia Farrow, both of whom the Beatles met while meditating in India. The lyrics feature “a little child” and “a daisy chain”, suggesting Alice with her sister at the start of the first book.

29 Golden Slumbers (1969) features lyrics that Paul borrowed from a lullaby of the same title, written by Thomas Dekker in around 1600. There may, however, be an echo of the “golden afternoon” and “dream-child” in the poem that precedes the narrative of the first Alice book. Paul’s song also has a similar musical and lyrical feel to his Alice-inspired The Long and Winding Road.

It’s getting very near the end, and we move to the grand finale. I should also highlight a SPOILER ALERT for anybody who has not read the Alice books.

30 A Day in the Life (1967) is my favourite Beatles song. Despite much searching, I cannot find anybody directly linking this to the Alice books, which means that the remainder of this paragraph can be proclaimed as “It’s my own invention”. Lennon and McCartney’s amazing climax to the Sgt Pepper album extends the dream atmosphere of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Indeed Paul’s verse has a character who “noticed I was late”, just like the White Rabbit, and “went into a dream” which is the very basis of the two novels. When Lennon sings in A Day in the Life that “I read the news today” he echoes the “newspaper taxis” earlier in the album, and the “four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” may have expanded from the one hole leading to Wonderland.

Having started with the idea that four songs by the Beatles were directly influenced by Carroll and the Alice novels, a journey through Wonderland has led, admittedly with a few tangents, to a massive 30 tracks to consider – enough to match the wonderful diversity of the White Album.


Why NOT Trust the CONservatives?

Another extract from my critical history of the Tories – covering a decade of Dodgy Dave as leader of the Nasty Party

 We Are All in This Together 2005-2015

The Labour Party defeated the Conservatives in a third successive General Election on May 5 2005, obtaining a majority of 66. Labour won 356 seats, the Conservatives 198, the Liberal Democrats 62, and the others 30. The day after the Election, Michael Howard announced his decision to stand down as Conservative Leader. Following a review of the rules for Leadership elections, which did not lead to any changes, a contest began in October. Two ballots led to David Cameron and David Davis advancing, while Liam Fox and Kenneth Clarke were eliminated. The vote among party members saw Cameron defeat Davis by 68 per cent to 32 per cent. Cameron – educated at Eton and caught smoking cannabis there – had only been an MP since 2001. He struggled to establish a strong image as Leader of the Conservatives, being criticised by many for his relative inexperience, and faced difficulty uniting the party. A veneer of socially-conscious Conservatism alienated the right, despite Cameron’s clear Eurosceptism.

Tony Blair stepped down as Prime Minister in 2007, and was replaced by Gordon Brown, the new Labour Leader, who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer for the 10 years of Blair’s premiership. At the same time John Prescott ceased to be Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, but Harriet Harman, who replaced him in that role, was not accorded the additional position of Deputy Prime Minister by Brown. The premiership of Brown was undermined by the onset of an international banking crisis in 2007, which developed into a global recession, and the biggest crisis of capitalism since the depression of the 1930s. With the Labour government struggling to deal with a budget crisis, as vast amounts of public money were used to rescue private sector banks, Cameron and the Conservatives gained ground. In June 2009 the Conservatives won the European Union election, with 25 seats, while UKIP took 13 seats, Labour 13, the Liberal Democrats 11, and the others 10. The Conservatives now resumed their link with the Ulster Unionists, running a joint campaign in the Northern Ireland section of this election.

Public confidence in the British political system was severely reduced by the scandal of MPs making excessive, and often illegal, claims for expenses. A campaign by the Daily Telegraph, during 2009, highlighted failings by both Conservative and Labour MPs. After requests under the Freedom of Information Act had been blocked, due to lengthy resistance by MPs, the Telegraph leaked information. The newspaper largely used the expenses detail against the Labour Party, and in favour of the Conservatives. Being outside the public sector, the Daily Telegraph was exempt from Freedom of Information, and did not have to disclose how much, and to whom, it paid for the leaked detail. It subsequently transpired that the Telegraph bought the information for £150,000 from John Wick, a supporter of the Conservative Party, with former links to the security services. The deal was agreed by Will Lewis, the editor of the Telegraph, who moved the following year to News International.

The electoral pact between the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists led to an embarrassing rejection, as Sylvia, Lady Hermon, the only sitting Ulster Unionist MP, resigned from the party in March 2010. The reluctant Unionist alliance failed to win any seats at the subsequent General Election, and the pact was soon discontinued. That General Election, held on May 6 2010, led to a hung Parliament, with the Conservatives having 307 seats, Labour 258, the Liberal Democrats 57, and the others 28. The Conservative Party had failed to win a majority for a fourth successive General Election, which represented their worst sequence of results since the six successive defeats between 1847 and 1868. After several days of negotiations between parties, Gordon Brown and the Labour government departed from office, being replaced by a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition. David Cameron became the Prime Minister, while Nick Clegg was his Deputy – a Con-Dem double act. Cameron, aged 43, was the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool, a Tory who took office in 1812.

The government quickly set about massive public spending cuts, with the Conservatives using a budget deficit as an excuse to attack public services. Cameron and the government told people “we are all in this together”, but the continuing problems of recession, aggravated by austerity, had a disproportionate impact on people with lower incomes, while the Conservatives rewarded rich people with massive tax cuts. The policy was overseen by George Osborne, a complacent Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had inherited a multi-million pound fortune. Unemployment increased to almost 2,700,000 by the end of 2011 – the highest figure since 1994.


A messy compromise between the Conservatives, who opposed electoral reform, and the Liberal Democrats, who had long been in favour of some reform, led to a referendum on the generally unsatisfactory Alternative Vote, in May 2011. The electorate rejected AV by 68 per cent to 32 per cent, a result which damaged the cause of electoral reform. Later that year the Coalition carried legislation to set a fixed term of five years for Parliament – unless there was a vote of no confidence in the government, or a majority vote of two thirds of MPs in favour of an early election. It appeared that the main motive was a wish by the Coalition government to bind the two parties making up the alliance, with a law that would force them to remain together, in power, for five years.

The Coalition government’s policies had an adverse effect on both the National Health Service and Sure Start. The Health and Adult Social Care Act 2012 led to major reorganisation of the National Health Service, with the Conservatives undermining the service through fragmentation and privatisation. Dozens of the Conservative MPs who voted for the legislation benefitted financially, through links to private health companies, which won contracts as parts of the NHS were sold off. The Welfare Reform Act 2012 unfairly disadvantaged many benefit claimants, particularly with the introduction of an under-occupancy penalty, generally known as the Bedroom Tax. Major cuts to Legal Aid were also imposed. In the light of these events, the Conservatives were regularly reminded of the “nasty party” tag by the Labour Party, led by Ed Miliband, who replaced Gordon Brown in 2010.

The Conservative Party, along with their friends in UKIP, whipped up hysteria about immigration, undermining Britain’s multi-cultural society. Internal argument among Conservatives over Britain’s role in the European Union continued to influence the party leadership. At the start of 2013, David Cameron announced that a referendum on British membership of the EU would be held if the Conservatives won the next General Election. The death of Margaret Thatcher, in April 2013, led to widespread re-assessment of her legacy. While Conservatives lauded Thatcher as a saviour of Britain, many people saw that Thatcher had encouraged a form of capitalism that was in crisis, sold off important public assets, and divided the nation. A lasting effect of Thatcher’s policies was a drop in the level of support for the Conservatives, who only gained a majority in one out of the five General Elections between 1992 and 2010. In the Summer of 2013, the Coalition government’s plan for armed intervention in the civil war in Syria was defeated in a vote by the House of Commons, as the Labour Party led the argument against this course. Cameron, who misjudged the situation, had to pledge that the government accepted the will of Parliament.

In May 2014 the Conservatives were reduced to third place in the European Union election, with 19 seats. UKIP won the election with 24 seats ahead of Labour, who took 20 seats. The Liberal Democrats were left with a single MEP, while the other parties won 9 seats. After a protracted and damaging trial, Andy Coulson, formerly director of communications for David Cameron, was convicted of previously organising phone-hacking at the News of the World – part of the News International group – and sent to prison in July 2014. Cameron’s judgment in appointing Coulson, who had already been under suspicion, was questioned. July brought another scandal, with credible allegations that Conservative MPs were active in a paedophile ring, during the Thatcher administration, prompting Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to announce an inquiry into historic allegations of child abuse. The chair of the enquiry, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, had to step down a few days after her appointment, due to public pressure, as her brother, Michael Havers, had been Attorney General in the Thatcher government.  Following this May blundered again, appointing Dame Fiona Woolf, who also resigned as chair, due to her friendship with Leon Brittan, who was accused of suppressing a dossier about paedophile MPs in 1984, when he was Home Secretary.

    An independence referendum was held in Scotland, on the initiative of the Scottish National Party administration. In the weeks leading up to polling in September 2014, the Conservatives were worried that the outcome would be a vote for independence. With the Tories and Liberal Democrats unpopular in Scotland, the government was reduced to leaving much of the detailed campaigning against independence to the Labour Party, with Gordon Brown taking centre-stage. The referendum rejected independence, at this point, by a margin of 55 per cent to 45 per cent. The government committed British forces to take part in air strikes against the Islamic State terrorists in Iraq, having received backing from the House of Commons in September. Meanwhile British military activity in Afghanistan reached an end, 13 years after this action, led by the USA, was started under Tony Blair’s government.

During the Autumn two sitting Conservative MPs, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, defected to UKIP, and were returned to Parliament for the latter party at By-Elections. Nigel Farage, the reckless UKIP Leader, fanned fruitless speculation about other MPs defecting from the Conservative Party – which he had once been a member of. Many people were concerned about the openly racist, xenophobic, sexist, and homophobic comments regularly made by prominent members of UKIP. Besides a cynical approach to Europe, UKIP had an extreme outlook, bordering on Fascism. In 2006 Cameron said “UKIP is sort of a bunch of fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists”. After ruling out a Conservative pact with UKIP across several years, Cameron changed his mind in Autumn 2014. There was growing support among members of the Conservative Party and UKIP for the idea that, in the event of another hung Parliament, the right wing parties should work together. In late 2014, and the early part of 2015, Liberal Democrat members of the government, anticipating the forthcoming General Election, sought to distance themselves from the Conservatives. There was clear evidence that the Coalition was failing to deal effectively with the budget deficit, and national debt. The Coalition reorganisation of the NHS had left it in crisis, and the Labour Party’s rescue plan was growing in popularity.

After 13 years out of power, as Labour won three successive General Elections, the Conservatives sought to re-create Thatcherism. Cameron was portrayed by supporters as a modern Conservative, in touch with ordinary people. The reality of Cameron’s premiership was continuation of old themes, which had motivated the Conservative Party since its foundation in 1830. For nearly two centuries, the Conservative Party has been run by the wealthy and powerful, with the party focussed on keeping those people wealthy and powerful. The rich benefitted in a limited recovery from capitalist crisis after 2010 but, for most people, Britain was a poorer place, both morally and financially, under the Conservatives.

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