‘Mean Old Man’ – new Jerry Lee Lewis single!

 

Turning 74 the end of next month, Jerry Lee Lewis has just released a new single ‘Mean Old Man’, written by Kris Kristofferson who’s provided Jerry with #1 hits in the past. The single is available for download from ITunes and Amazon USA. It can also be heard on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e22vFxBcEvI

This is taken from his upcoming CD to be released hopefully later this year. His last CD ‘Last Man Standing’ released three years ago was his biggest selling album of all time, earning a gold disk for over half-a-million copies sold in USA alone, and hitting #1, #4, #8 and #26 spots the week of its release on four Billboard charts (Indie, Country, Rock, Pop).

There are high hopes for the new album, which is described as Country orientated. The new single does not feature Jerry’s piano and is best described as New Country.

Was it all a sham?

Some people who lived in the former Socialist countries are nostalgic for at least some things that kind of society gave them, others say the whole thing was a ‘sham’ and not Socialist at all. As a former Communist, I most definitely side with the former.

As with all things in this world involving humans, the Socialism achieved was imperfect, you could even say distorted. But Socialism it most certainly was. The vast majority of the means of production, distribution and exchange were publicly owned, though the State monopolies prevalent in most Socialist countries, and also introduced into capitalist countries like Britain after the Second World War, were not always the most efficient form of public ownership. Cooperatives and small scale publicly owned enterprises competing in a Socialist market place worked much more efficiently in Yugoslavia, for instance. But some nationalized industries were far more efficient than their privatized versions which followed. Just look at the appalling state of the railways in UK since de-nationalization for instance, not least the London Underground system.

The former Socialist countries also provided the basic necessities for the people, and gave them security from cradle to the grave. They abolished unemployment, they created good education and health services, they provided cheap subsidized accommodation (even if sometimes overcrowded) for people, and subsidized basic foodstuffs (even if there were eternal queues for many items). They all had excellent and cheap public transport networks, and guaranteed pensions for the elderly.

All this amounts to a Socialist, caring society in my book, as opposed to the uncaring capitalist free market society where in some countries they check your credit rating or health insurance policy before picking you up off the floor, putting you in an ambulance and rushing you to hospital. Or where millions are thrown on to the dole and made to feel useless, and where pensions depend on the casino mentality of the stock exchanges. Capitalism is a cruel, uncaring and ultimately doomed system, which trundles from one economic crisis to the next one, with only the arms industry and constant wars saving it from complete collapse. Being based on the exploitation of labor and maximum short-term profits, it encourages unemployment, low wages in many countries of the underdeveloped world, and living on credit in the developed world. All this creates an extremely unstable system.

To understand why the former Socialist countries had an imperfect, distorted form of Socialism which could not progress to the ultimate self-governing society of Communism, we have to examine the two opposing concepts of ‘democracy’.

The Soviet Union and its allies expounded ‘Socialist democracy’, while the Western countries dismissed this as mere dictatorship, and expounded multi-party democracy – what the Soviet bloc termed ‘bourgeois democracy’.

The difference was fundamental. In theory, Socialist democracy involved the people directly in taking control of society, led by the working-class and its vanguard political party, the Marxist-Leninist (or Communist) Party. The one-party State, or one-party dominated coalition, was designed to eliminate class distinctions (or put another way, to crush all classes opposed to Socialism) in order to create a classless society where everyone worked and enjoyed the fruits of their labor free from exploitation. Socialist democracy meant the masses taking direct control thru the Party, the democratic organizations, the soviets, etc. Ultimately, so the theory went, the self-governing classless society would emerge, the State would wither away, and the Communist utopia would be achieved.

Capitalist or bourgeois democracy had no such high-minded ideals. It gave no pretence of trying to create a self-governing society, or giving the people real day-to-day power. Instead it offered a choice of mainly capitalist political parties to the electorate, who nominated candidates to represent them. The ordinary person had little to do but put a cross on a ballot paper every few years. They were not encouraged, in most capitalist countries, to join the political parties en masse, much less to take control of society themselves. Socialist, Communist and other political parties were allowed, but were marginalized largely because most of the media was spouting anti-Socialist, capitalist propaganda. The Labour Party in Britain had a Marxist-sounding policy on paper, waved and sung The Red Flag, but even its most leftwing government, that of Clement Attlee in the immediate post-War years, still left the Monarchy, the class system and most of the private enterprise capitalist system intact. To its credit it took into public ownership some of the commanding heights of the economy, the utility companies and transport. And it created the National Health Service. All Socialist ventures. Unfortunately successive Conservative and Labour governments have privatized nearly everything, and even the NHS is not what it once was as private medicine/medical insurance is encouraged and NHS wards and whole hospitals closed. The area lotteries created by the crazy financial system of competing health boards actually increases public wastage of money, as each health authority tries to push as many of its costs on to other health authorities even if it involves more overall expense. For instance, I used to collect my medication from the hospital pharmacy on my three monthly visits. Now I have to get some thru my GP, involving that surgery and the chemist, whilst other medication now has to be delivered by courier at enormous expense and inconvenience from miles away. So the cost of providing my medication has increased tremendously, but it is now spread over several health authorities, each one pretending it is saving money. This is neither Socialism nor capitalism, just appalling short-sightedness and bad management.

But back to Socialst democracy versus bourgeois democracy. We can all see that Socialist democracy did not in practice work out. For whatever reason, the masses never joined the Party and the other political organizations in sufficient numbers, or if they did, they did not become active on a day-to-day basis. So it was all too easy for careerists, criminal elements and other opportunists to take advantage of this public apathy and take over control of the State. I have talked to a member of one of these former ruling Parties, and she told me quite bluntly that she only joined to further her career prospects. She had no Socialist principles at all, only herself and her immediate family mattered. Thus the ruling parties in the Socialist countries became corrupted. There’s an old saying – all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Of course not all members of the ruling parties in the Socialist countries were just opportunists. There were many ordinary people believing in Socialism, and many idealist Communists and Socialists trying to build a better society. While they may not have been outnumbered, they were certainly out-maneuvered by the opportunists, who gained control spurred on by their own selfish interests.

Awarding Party members special privileges and perks backfired, and in fact doomed the whole Socialist experiment. Lenin, Trotsky and others should have nipped it in the bud in the early years of Soviet power, as the Krondstadt rebellion demanded. Encouraging Party membership by offering ‘perks’ and ‘privileges’ was appealing to the baser human instincts rather than altruism, so naturally attracted selfish opportunists, careerists and criminal elements into the Party and other political organizations where they soon seized control. Thank goodness millions of true Socialists and Communists remained to at least insure the basic Socialist framework of society remained intact, but they were not powerful or numerous enough to weed out the corrupt elements and annul the special privileges awarded to Party members and State bureaucrats, which was the fatal flaw in the whole system. Had there been a level playing field for everyone, the inefficiencies of the five-year plans and vast State monopolies would have been dealt with, but the ruling clique were shielded from the deficiencies of the highly centralized system. The bureaucrat ordering gold bathplugs and trimmings for his or her luxury bath in their luxury apartment and enjoying the best food from special shops and restaurants, was not even aware let alone concerned about the shortage of bathplugs elsewhere, the overcrowded accommodation or the food shortages in shops resulting in huge queues for most commodities. All this could have been solved by breaking down the State monopolies into smaller, competing units and cooperatives – this system worked very well in Socialist Yugoslavia.

It naturally created public cynicism and distrust when they saw Party members getting luxury homes, access to luxury goods and imports from the West, while they lived in grotty apartments and had to queue for hours for basic foodstuffs.

So a new ruling-class or ruling clique emerged in the Socialist countries. Even genuine Socialists and Communists were corrupted by the perks of Party membership and the State bureaucracy. After all, they were active in the Party, trying to build a better society, with some considerable success as I outlined above, so felt they were due some reward.

This was, however, a grave mistake. It was also far too optimistic to expect the broad mass of the people to become political animals overnight and take control of society, attending endless meetings, and being eternally vigilant to stop careerists and opportunists taking over. Society was nowhere near mature enough for this sort of self-governing society, the so-called Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat. It required boundless personal commitment, political astuteness and awareness, discipline, responsibility and self-denial from millions upon millions of people on a day-to-day basis. Thus the whole idea was doomed from the start. Human nature, being what it is, would be bound to produce a very distorted form of Socialism which, while providing the basic needs, stability and security for the population, would reserve the luxuries of life for the ruling elite, a new ruling-class of bureaucrats and politicians.

To sum up, Socialism wasn’t a sham, it was just imperfect or distorted. And Socialist democracy wasn’t a sham either – it failed because the masses were not politically mature and committed enough to make it work. So it then BECAME a sham. There is a difference. Once the opportunists had gained control of the Party and the other State organizations, then they ruled with an iron fist from above, and it was very difficult for the masses to wrest power back from them. The only way to do this successfully was from WITHIN the Party and the mass organizations, not by demonstrating in the streets which just brought in the tanks. Some did work inside the Party, and the film ‘Goodbye Lenin’ about a woman who used such methods in the old GDR (East Germany) shows that if millions had done this the one-party or national coalition system could have been made to work. But the lesson we have learnt from the 20th Century experments, is that society is nowhere near mature enough to make such a system work, and may never be. It is just too dangerous, and far too easy for self-interest groups to gain control.

So as well as plurality and competition in the economic public sector thru cooperatives and competing publicly owned enterprises, there must also be plurality and competition in the political sphere. Free elections with rival parties putting up rival candidates. This could be within a Socialist Constitution of course, so that whatever party is elected is unable to introduce a capitalist system, but can administer its own brand of Socialism, which could be as different as the old Stalinist Albanian and cooperative Yugoslav brands. To re-introduce a capitalist private enterprise economy any winning political party would have to first overthrow the Socialist Constitution in a national referendum, usually requiring a substantial majority of the ELIGIBLE electorate (not just those bothering to vote). 66% of the electorate is normally required to approve such a major change. This is to achieve stability, thus the US Constitution enshrines free enterprise, the unwritten British constitution enshrines the Monarchy, etc. Socialists would now have an uphill struggle to get a Socialist Constitution in place anywhere as they have been dismantled in most countries. Tragic, as many of these Socialist states were not just imposed from above, but arose from groundswell opinion. For instance the Communists swept to power in free elections in post-War Czechoslovakia, and the Socialist Unity Party (a merger of the Social Democrat and Communist Parties) won 50% of the vote in free elections held in October 1946 in the then Soviet zone of Germany (apart from the then united Berlin which still had separate Communist and Social Democratic Parties). This 50% of the vote is far more than most Western parties achieve in elections to form a majority government, many of which are elected on a minority vote because of the many political parties competing and dividing the opposition.

Vietnam also had a popular uprising which supported Ho Chi-Minh the Communist independence leader in his crusade against first French and then US imperialism. Many Cubans who have not gone into exile in Florida support the Socialist system there initiated by Fidel Castro in the 1959 revolution overthrowing the fascist US-backed Batista regime.

It would be necessary to get approval from two-thirds of the electorate in order to enshrine Socialism in any national constitution, so leftists would first have to win power in a general election and put true Socialism into practice, an efficient brand of Socialism which worked far better than the insecurities, instablity and constant wars of capitalism.

No it wasn’t all a sham. It was a human attempt at building a better society, which was as imperfect as the humans involved in their millions. But if we have learnt from the mistakes of the past, we will not repeat them, and will do a better job next time. 

At least Socialism was trying to build a better society – capitalism, based on the market place and pure greed, makes not even the slightest pretence of doing so. At the first crisis, it creates another war killing thousands if not millions to boost the arms industry, create full employment and put it on its feet again. If that’s the kind of world you want, you’re welcome to it. I’m soon out of it!

 

 

In transition

This is a difficult time for me. Many friends have fallen ill over the past 12 months, several been hospitalized, some with life-threatening situations. One has actually died.

The Friday before last my uncle rang to say that my mother’s sister, Olive, was very ill in hospital. I informed the rest of the family, and my mother and I visited her twice last week, and other cousins also visited. Then we learnt via my mobile phone on the way back from an organized day-trip to Hastings last Friday that my aunt had died a short while before.

Meanwhile Brian, an old friend of my partner George (now on the Other Side) and myself is also very ill in hospital. Neither Brian nor my aunt really able to recognize visitors. Brian, if he survives the current illness, will probably have to go into a permanent care home.

Brian’s partner, Noel, died a few years ago, and the rented maisonette they lived in together for about 40 years was previously occupied by Noel and his father before him. The flat is crammed full of stuff. Three rooms upstairs and the landing can’t be negotiated for all the stuff piled there. Among the stuff are some very valuable family heirlooms and things. Paintings by Dawes, the famous animal painter and Noel’s uncle, pre-war comics in mint condition, a program for the Festival of Britain, artefacts made by POWs in the last war, ornaments, etc. Most of this stuff rightfully belong to Noel’s family since they’ve been trusted to his keeping and been in his family for decades.

I need to keep in close contact with Brian’s friend in Hastings, then inform Noel’s family if Brian’s not coming back to the flat. It would be tragic if the landlord cleared the flat, and priceless treasures and family photos, etc. were thrown on a skip or sold to benefit the landlord. Brian may have a sister living, but we don’t know where she is, and finding her current address (if she’s still alive) will be very difficult.

Of course Brian may make another miraculous recovery, as he has done several times over the past 20 years after apparently being on his deathbed. My theory being that George and others on the Other Side aren’t ready to cope with Brian’s arrival yet, so keep putting it off! After being told Brian was wasting away, very confused and not recognizing people, I’ve just been told he was talking about me and my mother, and had just got up out of bed to go to the day room in the hospital to watch TV.

At any rate, this seems an appropriate time to reflect on the lives of my aunt and Brian, who only met once, briefly, at George’s funeral.

Olive went to college, then went to work for a theatrical agency in Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s theaterland, where she met many famous actors/actresses, etc. of the day. She talked about this with me some years ago, the last time I met her before she got ill. Strangely enough Noel’s sister (who passed away before Noel) was also named Olive, and also worked in Shaftesbury Avenue between the Wars, so about the same time as my Aunt Olive. Noel’s sister Olive ran a hairdressing business, mainly used by the theater actors and actresses.

My earliest recollections of my aunt was soon after the War, when sugar and sweets were still on ration. My aunt used to save cubes of sugar she was given for her tea at work and give them to me, as my aunt didn’t take sugar. She had a very high-powered job as PA to the Chairman of Esso UK in their Victoria offices in London.

In the 1950s or early 1960s she met Peter, whom she later married. My mother was first to move from London to Welwyn Garden City, when I was 16 and my brother 4 years younger. I hated the place, and still do. But my maternal grandparents and then Olive and Peter followed us out there. I moved back to London as soon as I could, after commuting to work there for 6 years. My mother is now back in London also.

For many years Olive lived at various addresses in South London, but at one time was a member of the Mountview Theater group, an amateur dramatic society in Hornsey, North London. I vaguely remember going to see her as the nurse in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. She and my mother were life and soul of the family get-togethers at Christmas, before my grandparents died. However some of the songs they sung to entertain us would nowadays be considered very un-pc, but they greatly amused us as kids.

Olive was always very good at remembering all her nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays, until recent years when she apparently got very confused. They had no children of their own.

Brian has led a very colorful life, and for many years hung around with George, close platonic friends sharing many hard times together. After I met George we visited Brian and Noel several times a year, and often stayed over in their maisonnette. We spent some Christmases and New Year’s Eves with Brian and Noel. I fondly remember those years, and I also visited and stayed over after George died.  

So suddenly everything is changing again. I had to make a big adjustment when George died,, and Hastings will never be the same again if Brian doesn’t return to their flat crammed full of stuff. It seems like a home-away-from-home to me as they lived there far far longer than I’ve lived in any of my homes.

Olive’s death leaves just my mother, aged 94, and her brother Len, who’ll be 85 later this year. An elder brother, Fred, died some years ago. Two cousins have also died, and many of George’s family.

You get to the stage of life when you have more friends and relatives on the Other Side than you have here on Earth. That is why, when it is our time to join them, we are usually not reluctant to go and hopefully renew old acquaintances. At the moment, my mother and others need me here as long as I’m permitted to stay.

At times like these, when friends and relations die or are seriously ill, our thoughts turn to our own mortality and questions about the afterlife, if there is one. Despite all the evidence that there is an afterlife, including many very significant messages from my partner, my father, maternal grandmother and others, we at times have lingering doubts. Few people have the privilege of seeing their loved ones materialize before them after death, and though it does happen spontaneously and at physical seances, even then people will say it is imagination, hallucination or some sort of trickery.

However, the evidence for survival of death is overwhelming when you study it. And I hold on to the many personal evidential messages I’ve received directly and thru mediums and other methods. Some of these are so remarkable, such as telling me where George hid things away in the flat, that it is impossible they are merely ‘coincidence’, ‘imagination’ or anything but communication with those who have passed over to the Other Side.

On Another Planet

Not a blog about aliens, but about Jerry Lee Lewis, and how other popular music has passed me by as though I were living on Mars. Many people identify the past decades by the pop hits of the day, or the styles of music/fashions. So we have the rock’n’roll era, the Merseybeat era of the middle Sixties, the Flower Children/Hippie era of the late 1960s, the punk era, New Romantics, the Boy Bands, etc. I’m not an expert on most of these, because I completely missed most of them.

For me the decades are identified by Jerry Lee Lewis and HIS music. So we have the rock’n’roll era when his huge million sellers and popularity were about to knock Elvis off his throne, until the hoo-ha erupted over Jerry’s marriage to his young cousin, causing radio stations and TV in America to pull his records and live appearances off the air. He did, however, manage Top Thirty hits in the UK where the scandal over his marriage broke in 1958, ‘High School Confidential’ hitting #12 in the UK pop charts in 1959, ‘Loving Up a Storm’ made #28, then Jerry stormed back into the Top Ten at #10 with the 1961 hit ‘What’d I Say’.

A decade of playing mainly small clubs, with no big American hits, followed the 1958 fall from grace. In 1963 he left Sun Records of Memphis and signed with Smash-Mercury, and should have hit big with ‘I’m On Fire’ a brilliant single, but The Beatles had taken Britain and USA by storm, so denying Jerry another hit. But around this time he recorded some fantastic ‘live’ albums, which captured Jerry Lee at his wildest. ‘The Greatest Live Show On Earth’ recorded in Birmingham, Alabama and ‘Live At The Star-Club, Hamburg’ backed by the Nashville Teens. The latter album is probably the wildest rock’n’roll album ever recorded by anybody, and both have become classics.

Smash-Mercury experimented with various albums and different styles of music for Jerry in the 1960s. So apart from the live albums (more of which followed – Greatest Live Show On Earth Part II recorded in Fort Worth, Texas and an album recorded at The International Hotel, Las Vegas) they released the ‘Country Songs For City Folks’ and ‘Soul My Way’ albums, as well as the great rock’n’roll albums ‘Return of Rock’ and ‘Memphis Beat’. Some tracks on the more experimental albums featured  Jerry without his famous piano.

Although ‘Country Songs for City Folks’ didn’t provide a hit, they pointed to the direction Jerry would take two years later, and that album helped launch the career of Welsh Jerry Lee fan/singer, Tom Jones. After listening to the album, Jones recorded ‘Green Green Grass of Home’ and ‘Detroit City’, with arrangements very similar to Jerry’s versions of those songs on that album.

Then in 1968 Jerry recorded another Country album and the single ‘Another Place, Another Time’ hit the Country Top Ten, reaching #4 on the Billboard chart. His next single, ‘What’s Made Milwaukee Famous’, hit #1 on the Cashbox Country chart and #2 on Billboard, and the Top Ten hits continued thruout the 1970s and into the 1980s. During that time Jerry became one of the biggest Country Music artists. In 1969 Billboard voted him Country Music artist of the year, and Cashbox voted him male Country vocalist of the year.

His success was phenomenal. Four singles reached the Top Ten in 1968, including two which hit number 1 on either Cashbox or Billboard, but 1969 saw him hit the Top Ten with six singles, some recorded years before at Sun records who now released the tracks to cash in on his new found success. With both number 1 and Top Ten hits in each of the years 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972, Jerry continued to have Top Ten Country hits right thru the 70s, his last one being ‘Thirtynine and Holding’ in 1981on Elektra, which reached #4 on the Billboard charts. After a short spell with MCA, Jerry had no regular recording label, along with many other older Country artists, so the hits dried up.

In 1971 and 1972 Jerry performed the amazing feat of achieving four #1 hits with two consecutive singles. Both sides of ‘Would You Take Another Chance On Me’/’Me & Bobby McGhee’ and the follow-up ‘Think About It Darling’/’Chantilly Lace’ reaching #1 spot. This also marked Jerry’s return to recording rock’n’roll, and ‘Chantilly Lace’ hit the UK Top 40. ‘Me & Bobby McGhee’ and ‘Chantilly Lace’ also hit Billboard’s Top 50  pop charts in the U.S.., as did ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-dee-o-dee’ in 1973.

The 1970s saw Jerry riding high in the Country charts, with no less than twentyfive Top Twenty hits, and more followed in the early 1980s. He made many TV appearances, and recorded ‘The Jerry Lee Lewis Show’ in 1971 with many guests, following the formula of ‘The Many Sounds of Jerry Lee’, a 5-part TV show made in 1969, featuring both rock’n’roll and Country. Unfortunately these TV shows got very limited airing, and were not screened outside North America.

So for me the 1950s was the decade Jerry rose to fame, and notoriety, and achieved many million-sellers. This was also the period of wild live shows, with Jerry dressed in brightly colored velvet or leopard-skin trimmed suits, and with long blond hair, or hair with blond highlights. All very outrageous and ahead of their time.

Jerry was also one of the first male pop stars to sport long hair, which can be seen hanging down round his face in British TV shows from 1964 such as the Granada TV spectacular and Ready, Steady, Go! However with so many British groups wearing their hair long, Jerry decided it was no longer cool and has worn it much shorter ever since.

The 1960s were the decade of wild, wild shows, culminating in Jerry’s return to the charts as a hit-making Country artist. The 1970s saw a return to rock’n’roll, with albums like ‘The Session’ recorded in London with guest musicians, and continued success in the Country charts. Also many tragedies in Jerry’s personal life, and an increased reliance on drugs, which produced some erratic behavior.

The 1980s saw Jerry nearly die when his stomach ruptured in 1981, but he recovered against all the odds and returned to the wild lifestyle. Two wives died in the 1980s, and he married for the sixth time. His appearances on stage in this decade usually saw him wearing shades to protect his eyes from the bright lights, no doubt as a result of the drugs he was taking. 1989 saw the release of the biopic ‘Great Balls of Fire’ based on Myra Gale’s book of the same title, starring Dennis Quaid playing Jerry Lee. Actually ‘biopic’ is a bit of misnomer since, after briefly covering his childhood, it only really concentrates on about two or three years of his life, up until his marriage to Myra. Dennis Quaid replaced the original intended star, Mickey Rourke who probably would have made a much better job of it. Everyone agrees Quaid overacted and turned Jerry into a goofy, two-dimensional, cartoon-like character. But Jerry recorded the soundtrack, re-recording many of his old hits and other titles, and did a brilliant job. The resulting soundtrack album included an extended version of ‘Great Balls of Fire’ with an extra piano solo building up to a great climax. Jerry often plays this exciting ‘movie’ version of his big hit in live performances.

Then in the early 1990s Jerry suddenly put on a lot of weight. A new album was released, in CD format, ‘Young Blood’, and a rock’n’roll single complete with video ‘Goosebumps’. These made no impact on the charts, and were rather badly produced, although with re-mastering they would be fine.

In the first decade of the 21st century his marriage to Kerrie finally broke up, and Jerry had his biggest selling album ever with ‘Last Man Standing’ featuring duets with the likes of Rod Stewart, Ringo Starr, three of the Rolling Stones and many Country and Blues artists including Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Buddy Guy. The album sold over half-a-million copies in the United States and was awarded a gold disk. The album shot straight into 4 Billboard charts the week of its release in September 2006, hitting #1 Indie, #4 Country, #8 Rock and #26 Pop, indicating the wide variety of musical styles on the album.

Jerry has now put down over 30 tracks for a new album to be released possibly later this year.

So I identify the decades by Jerry Lee’s career – 1960s being the decade he left Sun for Smash-Mercury, and the following decade being when he left Mercury Records for Elektra. 1980s when he left Elektra for MCA, then was without a regular record label. 1990s saw the Sire release of ‘Young Blood’, and the 00s saw the Artists First hit album of duets and Jerry appearing on all the big U.S. chat shows.

So the various eras of popular music have completely passed me by. I know little or nothing about New Romantics, GlamRock, punk, rap, hip-hop, disco, grunge rock, boy bands, and the rest. I am more familiar with the old rock’n’roll artists of the 1950s like Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry (all still alive and kicking), and traditional Country stars like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams, etc.

I briefly got into some early New Country in the 1990s and discovered artists like Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patti Loveless, The Mavericks, Vince Gill, etc., but now New Country has just become too pop orientated. It is summed up by the George Strait/Alan Jackson recording ‘Murder On Music Row’ which describes how traditional Country Music was killed off by the Nashville music industry in order to win worldwide fans and big bucks.

In actual fact, it was Jerry Lee’s cousin, top Country hit-maker Mickey Gilley (with 17 #1 hits to his name) who opened the door to New Country when John Travolta starred in the ‘Urban Cowboy’ movie filmed at Gilley’s club in Pasadena, Houston, Texas. Dressing in cowboy clothes and riding the mechanical bull became a worldwide craze, and the film itself included much music which could in no way be described as traditional Country. New Country then followed close on the heels of the movie, with the only Country and Western thing about much of the music and its stars being that they wore cowboy hats. Older, more traditional Country stars were largely denied record labels let alone hits. To get a recording contract you had to be young, good looking and look cute in a cowboy hat. Now Nashville’s output is just a dirge of middle-of-the-road pop.

But older artists like Jerry Lee are still out there performing and recording, and with the astounding success of ‘Last Man Standing’, which also produced a DVD/TV program called ‘Last Man Standing Live’ including duets with Tom Jones, Nora Jones, Solomon Burke, John Fogerty (Creedance Clearwater Revival vocalist) and some of the artists on the duets album, the first decade of the 21st Century has marked Jerry’s new-found success and third era of chart hits in America, and his first gold record for many decades.

Ban The Bomb For Evermore!

Yesterday, August 6th, was Hiroshima Day, and Sunday August 9th will be Nagasaki Day, when peace lovers remember the thousands of innocent men, women and children murdered by the United States military both on those terrible two days in 1945 and in the decades since from cancers caused by the nuclear fallout.

The lie has been spread that it was only these terrible weapons which ended the War in the Far East. Even if true, that was no justification, because there CAN be no justification under ANY circumstances whatsoever for dropping nuclear bombs on innocent men, women and children. No justification for burning little babies and children alive, and causing terrible deformities and cancers in those not yet even born.

However, since the Japanese considered it an honor to die for their Emperor and their country, hence the kamikazi pilots, it would have been about as effective as nuclear bombing Al Quaida and creating thousands more martyrs with many more lining up to fill their shoes. We can see in Afghanistan that for every Taliban killed, hundreds more are recruited to take their place. Killing suicide bombers and others considering it an honor to be a dead martyr is counter-productive, and will just win even more recruits to the cause.

No, what persuaded the Japanese to end hostilities was when the United States backed down and allowed Emperor Hirohito to remain on the throne, instead of trying him for war crimes. This could have been achieved without the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The reason these atomic bombs were dropped on those Japanese cities was precisely because the War was ending, and the Americans wished to demonstrate the power of the weapon and what it could do to innocent civilians, mainly to scare ‘Uncle Joe’, their wartime ‘ally’ Joseph Stalin. It was an early attempt to forestall the spread of Communism after the War, which failed completely of course.

Since Soviet forces had liberated most of Central and Eastern Europe from Fascism, they were in de facto occupation, and there was little the Western allies could do but agree that these countries belonged in the Soviet sphere of influence. Having lost nearly 20,000,000 people in the Nazi invasion of the USSR, the Soviets were not going to allow this to happen again, and wanted a buffer zone of friendly Socialist states between them and the West, and in particular, between them and West Germany.

In the Far East, Mao Ze-dong’s People’s Liberation Army soon took over all China and Tibet (except Formosa/Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau), whilst North Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia also eventually became Communist states. And the possession of the atomic bomb by America (who then shared the secrets with Britain in return for the latter’s slavish lapdog support for U.S. wars and foreign adventures ever since) just spurred the Soviet Union, with the aid of its spies and undercover agents, to acquire The Bomb.

I was reading an article yesterday, which stated that The Bomb since the Second World War has become military totally useless, because any country using it would be a pariah. World public opinion just will never stand for another Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Whilst it could be argued that they were just bigger versions of Allied conventional bombing/shelling of German cities like Hamburg, Dresden and Berlin, this doesn’t wash with those of us who know that ALL targeting/bombing of civilians, whether with nuclear or conventional weapons, is totally illegal and a war crime. And nuclear weapons not only cause much greater damage and kill more people instantaneously, but the nuclear fallout kills and causes cancers and deformities for decades, also affecting generations yet unborn.

If so-called ‘nuclear deterrence’ prevented war, then every country in the world which did not possess nuclear weapons (i.e. the vast majority) would have been invaded. An old CND slogan pointed out that well over 100 countries need no nuclear bomb, so why do we? Only as an expensive and dangerous status symbol, and a permanent ticket to the UN Security Council, which should be abolished. The UN General Assembly is the democratic forum for UN decisions/resolutions, and nobody should have the right of veto. Certainly not nuclear terrorist states!

If the nuclear deterrent worked Argentina would never have dared try to reclaim the Malvinas/Falklands from Britain, Nasser wouldn’t have dared nationalize the Suez Canal, North Vietnam and North Korea would have lost their wars against nuclear armed USA, Afghanistan would not have defeated the Soviets and now be causing so many losses for the UK and USA, similarly with Iraq which has cost many American, British and Iraqi lives.

President Obama has stated that it is his intention to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and he has already made a start by reducing the remaining stockpiles in agreement with Russia. Targeting civilians is not only illegal and wicked, but it encourages others to do the same for political/religious objectives. How can USA and UK condemn terrorists for targeting innocent civilians with bombs, when they are doing exactly the same only on a much bigger scale – aiming nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert at civilian centers of population?

Far from being a ‘deterrent’, the nearest we came to nuclear war was when nuclear weapons CAUSED the crisis. In the early 1960s the Soviet Union was surrounded by U.S. and other Western nuclear missiles in Polaris submarines patrolling the seas around it, and based in Alaska, Turkey and Western European countries. So in 1962, after its ally Cuba and its leader Fidel Castro was the victim of several failed American attempts at invasion (Bay of Pigs fiasco) and assassination, Kruschev agreed to let Cuba have a few nuclear weapons to ‘deter’ a future attack. This is what caused the Cuba Missile Crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. It would NOT have occurred had it not been for nuclear weapons.  The Cuba Crisis just demonstrated how dangerous nuclear weapons are, and how they can CAUSE wars and crises, rather than deter them.

So nuclear weapons cannot deter war or invasions, certainly cannot deter terrorist atrocities like 9/11, cannot win or even be used in wars (Vietnam being a typical case), but can only cause wars and crises such as the Cuba Missile Crisis, and crank up tensions in places like the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. They also cost billions of dollars and make nuclear arms companies rich, impoverish the economy (the nuclear arms race broke the Soviet economy, and now the West is in trouble) and leave a lot of dangerous plutonium and nuclear waste which could get in the hands of terrorists.

It is now high time nuclear weapons were banned worldwide, by international agreement. As long as the major nuclear powers cling on to these militarily useless and totally illegal weapons of mass destruction, the more other countries will seek these ‘status symbols’ and the danger of nuclear war in unstable situations will increase.

Of course, if ‘nuclear deterrence’ really worked, then the USA could have given every country in the world The Bomb, and we’d have everlasting peace (even if none of us could sleep peacefully at night worrying if some madman somewhere was going to release Armageddon, intentionally or accidentally).

High time to rid the world of these obscene weapons of mass destruction, and for all of us to remember the millions of innocent civilians who have been murdered by conventional and atomic bombs in wars and terrorist attacks in the last 100 years or so.

President Obama is our best hope yet of pushing the world to honor the Nuclear Non-Ploriferation Treaty and rid the world of nuclear weapons completely.

In the words of the old ‘anthem’ of CND, ‘The H-Bomb’s Thunder’ by John Brunner: BAN THE BOMB FOR EVERMORE!

 

Of no marital status

Every adult in this country with a partner now has the option of either marriage or a civil partnership. But spare a thought for my generation of gay men and women, now in our 60s and 70s or older. If our partners have died then we have no status whatsoever.

I was with my partner for 21 years till his death in 1991, my friend Tom was with his partner for even longer, Frank was with his partner for about 40 years, so was Brian. All our partners have now died, mostly from old age afflictions like heart attacks and strokes. None of us has any marital/widowhood status whatsoever, our long partnerships are completely unrecognized by gays and straights alike, and we are all lucky not to have been disinherited, denied visiting rights to our partners if they ended up in intensive care in hospital, barred from their funerals, and perhaps thrown out of our homes during our bereavement.

Thank goodness none of these things happened to any of us, and now it needn’t happen to anyone because there is the option of marriage or civil partnerships. But still, those of us whose partners died before civil partnership became an option, or who were too old, ill or set in their ways to contemplate it, are now treated like sad outcasts by both gay and straight communities.

We see gay couples all around us getting civil partnerships and therefore legal status and universal recognition for their same-sex partners. They get ceremonies, and probably wedding gifts as well. When their partners die, they will become widows or widowers, probably with a pension and certainly with an inheritance and right to the home and its contents whether rented or owned. 

I hesitate every time I have to fill in a form of any sort, official or unofficial, and it comes to marital status. I am not single, was never married, never had the opportunity of a civil partnership, obviously was not divorced and in the eyes of the law cannot be widowed. But I AM widowed, very much so. To tick ‘single’ would be a denial of my 21 years spent shared with my wonderful life-partner. So, legally recognized or not, I always tick ‘widowed’ with an explanation if necessary as to why I ticked that box.

There should be some retrospective recognition of long-standing gay partnerships where one of the partners died before civil partnerships became possible, or who died soon afterwards. We should be able to claim the legal status of widows/widowers, and to be able to say, like other gay couples today, that yes, we were married and lived with our partners ’till death did us part’.

All the friends mentioned above did this, often nursing our partners thru ill health. Yet we are looked upon as sad old men who couldn’t find a partner. We should be able to retrospectively register our partnership and obtain a certificate to that effect.

It may seem a small thing and of not much practical value, but it would give final recognition to partnerships which had lasted for many years. I’d like my partner’s name included in family trees that relatives have drawn up, but with no official document I can’t claim any legal status for him. And I most definitely want to be identified as his widower, as it is very unlikely I will ever have another live-in life-partner at my age, and I don’t really feel I want one nor do I seek one.

My deceased partner and I are still in touch with each other, and our love lives beyond the grave. Yet for me, and others like me, in the eyes of society our partners either didn’t exist, or were never more than friends, lodgers or flat/house sharers. Why should we be left out now marriage/civil partnership is available to every other adult couple?

Indeed, all gay partnerships in the past, which lasted many years, should be recognized as civil partnerships in all but name. A common law marriage may be, but a ‘marriage’ nevertheless, even if both partners are long since dead. All this nonsense of calling them ‘friends’ or ‘lovers’ should cease; by sticking with each other for many years they proved they were much more than that, and were as devoted to each other as any husband and wife.