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Kevin Cryan
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #20: 22.10.06 at 17:34 »
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To a page wholly devoted to reviewing books by the two "Wizards of Oz" - Robert Hughes (Things I Didn't Know) and Clive - Tim Adams has contributed a very perceptive 4000 word piece on North Face of Soho which is published in today’s edition of Observer Review.
 
He winds it up by saying:
 
Quote:
Clive James, as the New Yorker once had it, is a great bunch of guys;North Face of Soho introduces us to yet another Clive,while you guess that the man himself slips slightly further from view.

 
That fairly accurately sums up how I felt when I put the book down.  
 
Kevin Cryan
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #21: 22.10.06 at 18:12 »
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Writing about North Face of Soho in today’s edition of the Telegraph, Selina Hastings says:
 
Quote:
One of the most rewarding aspects of this exuberant work is the writer's willingness to reveal the backstage mechanics of his professional life. Not only are we given the glamorous lunches with fashionable literati such as Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes and Martin Amis, but James shows, as it were, the engine-room in action. He takes the trouble to analyse exactly what it requires to be a television critic or write a book review, explains the necessity of precisely measuring the syllables in a line of poetry. With a shift of gear we witness the distressing experience of sharing a green room with the Sex Pistols ('the little shits were genuine, you could say that for them'). And he shows us, too, how not to conduct an interview, quoting his first experience, on television with the lyricist Johnny Mercer, which was such a disaster it had to be scrapped. 'I made the beginner's classic mistake', says James, 'of including the answer in the question. This left my puzzled guest with little to say beyond "yes" and "no".

 
Those parts of the book which tells us about Clive's learning how to get things done certainly had me riveted.    
 
Kevin Cryan
« Last Edit: 22.10.06 at 18:20 by Kevin Cryan » IP logged
Keith Busby
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #22: 22.10.06 at 18:28 »
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There's a review of North Face in yesterday's (i.e., Saturday's) Irish Times which mentions that the Atkin-James albums have recently been the object of "a miniature revival".  Shocked  
 
http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/weekend/2006/1021/1160606840617.html
 
You may need to register.
 
Greetings from Sunset Blvd., LA, a few yards from where O. J. Simpson didn't murder Nicole.
 
Keith
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #23: 06.11.06 at 15:14 »
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Here's a weird one:
 
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,14934-2430217.html
 
'So nothing, then, along the lines of: "Here I am in the heart of medialand. What's this? The Observer wants me to write genre-busting TV criticism. Crikey, now I'm a mover and shaker in TV itself, and blow me down but after hearing my poetry the talented but under-appreciated singer Pete Atkins only wants me to collaborate on a series of brilliant but under-appreciated 1970s albums. Is that the Sex Pistols in the next studio?" '
 
SJB
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Ian Chippett
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #24: 06.11.06 at 15:26 »
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The music for the Clive BBC radio programme about his memoirs was apparently composed by the same Pete Atkins. Perhaps there really is one?
 
Ian Chipett/Chippet/ Chipet/Chippette/Chippett (I know how Pete feels...)
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #25: 07.11.06 at 12:10 »
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on 06.11.06 at 15:26, Ian Chippett wrote:
The music for the Clive BBC radio programme about his memoirs was apparently composed by the same Pete Atkins. Perhaps there really is one?
 
Ian Chipett/Chippet/ Chipet/Chippette/Chippett (I know how Pete feels...)

 
Chippette? Don't they sell those in McDonald's? They bissn't proper chips, I know that Grin
 
Chipet? I suppose the French would pronounce it Sheep-Hay or summat like that  Cheesy
 
Well, I've had my own share or problems in the mistaken identity department. I regularly get filed under 'C'  Angry
 
(Oops! Sorry for getting off topic - I still haven't got the book, I'm waiting to see if anyone buys it for me for Christmas  Wink )
 
Cheers
 
Paul
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #26: 07.11.06 at 20:57 »
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Not forgetting Chipset - doesn't Steve have something to do with them?? Grin
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Kevin Cryan
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #27: 18.11.06 at 19:54 »
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Christopher Hitchens has contributed an interesting piece on Clive's North Face of Soho to this week's Times Literary Supplement  
 
I presume that it's been made available on-line because Hitchens wrote it for free and did not insist on copyright, but that does not mean it will be available in perpituity. So, if you are interested, download it while you can.
 
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #28: 19.11.06 at 02:22 »
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Kevin, when you say "interesting", do you mean "pretentious and impenetrable"?  Wink
 
Best,
 
Keith
 
PS: just bumped into Joni Mitchell in the grocery store. I kid you not. Honest. Ralph's on Wilshire and Bundy.
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Kevin Cryan
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #29: 19.11.06 at 22:16 »
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Keith,
 
No, I was not kidding, being ironic or even cynical.  I really did mean interesting.  
 
Hitchens is someone with whom I don’t always agree,  but there is a good deal to to what he has to say in this essay of his. He  reminds us at the very beginning of his piece that Clive, in North Face of Soho, admits not once, but twice, to Peter De Vries’s ambition of having a “mass audience large enough for his elite audience to despise”
 
Quote:
James’s strenuous test of the De Vriesian proposition was to try to demonstrate that one could be simultaneously cerebral and on television……with the implied wager that no diminution of standards would be required.

 
This, it seems to me, gets us the very heart of the problem Clive was creating for himself. In the same way as the thought he could be “cerebral and on television” he also thought that he could be cerebral and be in pop music business.  There were many wise heads to warn him – and Hitchens was no doubt one of them – of the dangers of this line of thinking.  They believed that Clive should have known better, and were pretty vociferous about it.  
 
However, there were also a great many people around – people, like myself, who had eagerly devoured almost everything Clive wrote - who believed that  being cerebral and producing popular cultural artefacts, such as television programmes and pop songs, need not be separate activities. If anybody could bridge the gap, Clive could, or so we hoped. The appearance of the first James/Atkin albums, and Clive’s contributions to  TV shows such as So it Goes and New Faces, together with the essays he’d written for various music magazines, suggested that he knew enough about pop and popular culture to be able to bring to television and popular song-writing the touches of class they conspicuously lacked.  
 
Peter Porter, reviewing Other Passports: Poems 1958- 1985 in January 1987 for the London Review of Books, wrote:
 
Quote:
Literary critics have not taken kindly to the several albums of songs he wrote with Pete Atkin, and I don’t feel able to access them myself. But this indifference has been largely an averting of eyes from what we understand only partly and turning our gaze to the many other departments of art James excels in.  One critic, reviewing a James/Atkin album excoriated James for thinking that neat movement quatrains could possibly be appropriate to the kind of music Atkin writes. He might have done better to recognise that James’s craftsmanship is positively evangelical in the field of Pop. Let it be better made, as the lyrics were in the days of Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart and Ira Gershwin, is his belief.

 
That Clive was trying to get things “better made” at a time when in Pop, with a few outstanding exceptions, the poorly made was getting more airtime than it deserved probably had a lot to do with the lack of success.  I think you can hear the penny dropping with Clive – as it dropped with me - when, on the 9th of October 1977, he included in his Observer TV column a comment about a recent Cliff Richard appearance on television:
 
Quote:
A guest on Parkinson (BBC1), Cliff Richard sang a song of his own composition. ‘There is nothing between we two’ he warbled thinly. Us were in luck.
 
Writing, Cliff told his host, was important to him. ‘Why hasn’t that special woman entered your life?’ asked a puzzled Parky. Cliff said, as he has been saying for the past twelve years, that there is no point in getting married for the sake of it. His argument gained force from the consideration that a decade or so of celibacy can do wonders for your creative powers. Vital, ageless and now an important writer, Cliff is a shining example to all of we.

 
What was the craftsman trying to make it better  to do when the popular singer, who’d  by then had two decades of success in the recording industry behind him, could not even recognise that a line – his own - was not written in proper English? The time for trying to make it better, Clive must have had to concede, had not come – at least not in England.  
 
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #30: 19.11.06 at 22:56 »
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Presumably all the more irritating since Clive had already written this line in a grammatically perfect form...?
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Kevin Cryan
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #31: 20.11.06 at 00:05 »
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You know, Mike, that had not occurred to me. But, yes, it's probably true.
 
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #32: 20.11.06 at 00:40 »
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Hmm. I may have fallen into a trap I warn my students against, i.e., not to associate a person's writings with his personality. I was at Oxford at the same time as Hitchens and he was not, shall we say, universally loved. I have not followed his career, but was shocked to see him interviewed by Charlie Rose on American public television not all that long ago and to learn that he was "slightly" in favour of Bush and supported certain American neo-conservatives, such as Paul Wolfowitz. Now, while many of us have become disillusioned with the left, such a U-turn is inexplicable to me. I'll forego further political comment . . . The other reasons for my negative response to his essay are that he appears to do a lot of name-dropping (of which Clive has been accused, of course), and that he ends up talking about himself as much as the book he is reviewing. When this happens in my racket, it is frowned upon, but I suppose Hitchens is not an academic and the context is quite different.
 
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #33: 21.11.06 at 21:28 »
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As far as I remember no one else has mentioned going to see Clive on his current tour.  
I saw him last night at Keswick. Dreadful weather, wind, pouring rain and an absolutely packed house. Fortuitously there were a couple of late arrivals whose seats had been taken - in the front row!! It was a gift to Clive who got off to a great start organising the seating.
I hadn't seen him do a performance like this where he read very little from his works, I don't think he read more than one passage from the book and there were no poems. He offered observations and anecdotes on a range of topics: clothes, smoking, addiction, the Lake Poets, Australia and so on displaying his considerable skills as a raconteur. It was a good evening.
 
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Re: North Face of Soho
« Reply #34: 15.01.07 at 09:28 »
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My patience and optimism were rewarded - my heavy hints were acted upon and I received a copy for Christmas. As usual, it was "unputdownable" and I read it in next to no time (being in the wet and windy Lake District over New Year helped in that respect!)
 
I sincerely hope Clive isn't going to wait another 30 years before we get the next instalment?!
 
Cheers
 
Paul
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