BALL, Lucille (It on OFTR): Comedienne, big influence in the development of television. Born Lucille Desiree Ball in 1911 in Jamestown, New York; George Washington is in her family tree. She played Lucy Ricardo, the scatter-brained housewife redhead Lucy of the technically pioneering and hugely successful ‘I love Lucy’, an exotic and wacky (for us in the black and white UK) ’50s and ’60s sitcom (first show aired Ocober 1951), developed from a radio show, which also featured her then husband, Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz. A minor movie actress and glamour girl (the Chesterfield cigarettes girl, no less) before the Second World War, it was television that made her; and then she made television – she became the first woman to head a television production company after she bought her ex-husband out from Desilu, the company established to make ‘I love Lucy’. ‘The Untouchables’, ‘Star Trek’, ‘I spy’, ‘Mission: impossible’ and ‘The Dick van Dyke show’were all to come out of that stable. In the ’80s she tried a comeback as a performer with ‘Life with Lucy’ but it flopped. Died 1989. There was, however, a posthumous appearance (a tv re-run) in The Simpsons, in the episode “Little Big Mom” from the 11th season. There were clips from ‘I love Lucy’ on YouTube last time I looked (2/07).
BARSTOW, Stan (Where are they now? on PA1) : Yorkshire born novelist of working class origins and one time Angry Young Man, or so he was then bracketed. Born 1928, he published an autobiography, ‘In my own good time’ in 2001. Started writing as a newly-wed at the bidding of his wife in 1951, on their honeymoon in the Lake District – apparently it was raining (for a change). His ‘A kind of loving’ (1960) had a big impact as a picture of the changes being wrought on working class life in the UK in the late ’50s. John Schlesinger’s accomplished 1962 movie (with Alan Bates as Vic, June Ritchie as Ingrid and Thora Hird as her mother) is one of those black and white social realist films of the period that seem to have been an important factor in Ray’s social, political and cultural development. Indeed that genre, along with the late-period George Orwell and Aldous Huxley he must have read at school, pretty much set the scene in that regard. These days (September 2009) it’s only ‘Joby’ , Barstow’s novel of a boy growing up in the ’30s and ’40s (and presumably autobiographical) that is still in print, probably because of its staying power on school Eng Lit syllabuses. Not that this pupil (signed A.Consumer on Amazon) was that impressed: “We recently read this book at school, and I can honestly say it hurt. No-one got past the first chapter, let alone the first page. People were falling asleep as it was read, and one nutter even tried to use it as a weapon. Do not make pupils read this at school, please, for the sake of their sanity.” To be fair, there is another review giving it 5 stars. Died August 1, 2011.
BEAVERBROOK, Mr (Mr.Churchill says on Arthur) : born in Canada as William Maxwell Aitken Beaverbrook in 1879, a newspaper baron who was actually later ennobled as a lord, a Baron no less. He made the Daily Express a right wing force to be reckoned with. He had a good war, working with Churchill. A complex character, easily demonized but also defended at least in many important aspects by various left wing worthies and good guys like Michael Foot and James Cameron who worked for his papers. And lest we forget, Express papers ran the Giles cartoons for decades.
BECKET, Thomas a (London song on Storyteller): was he a Londoner? Yes, I looked it up. Also a pub on the Old Kent Road – which has something to do with boxing, and/or the Krays. The man was murdered on the king’s instructions in Canterbury Cathedral, an interesting martyr. Church v. State and all that, rumours of miracles, as can happen. T.S.Eliot wrote a play about it – ‘Murder in the Cathedral’.
BELLE : Flash’s paramour in Preservation Act 2, but hey – so what? I still have fond memories of the Bournemouth Belle, a train, with its rake of luxury Pullman coaches powering its way through Wimbledon station fresh out of Waterloo behind a Merchant Navy or West Country class Bullied pacific loco in my youth; not forgetting the Brighton Belle out of Victoria, an art deco third rail electric multiple unit. No, Preservation Act 2 is not one of my favourite Kinks albums.
BERNADETTE (Bernadette on SOC) : she is so expensive. Not a nice woman, but there’s still a certain fascination there for writer Dave. Who is this gold digging paragon of ‘Hello’ and kiss and tell tabloid culture? “She’s probably a metaphor for a lot of things, the music business being one of them,” Dave is quoted as saying in the essay accompanying the Velvel reissue of SOC. Not she of Singing Nun fame, then; nor indeed the woman friend of The Four tops.
BETTY LOU (Out of the wardrobe on Misfits) : cross dresser Dick’s wife, who got a surprise but soon adapted.
BIG, Mr. (Mr Big man on Sleepwalker) : not to be confused with the villain of a Free song of similar title, which I think I might actually prefer. The inspiration here has been credited to various rock luminaries, among them Bowie. I always thought Lowell George did it so much better with Little Feet’s ‘On the way down’ – “The same people that you meet on the way up / You might just meet …”
BIG SKY (Big Sky on VGPS) : a benign but uninvolved pagan god and dispenser of therapy. Male, apparently. Revisited on the Choral Album, a bit softer, more Church of England, veering away from Old Testament.
BLACK, Mr (PA 1&2) : one of the leading protagonists, along with his rival Flash, in Preservation Act. Leader of the revolutionary forces. Lenin rather than Lennon, not remotely recognisable as any significant British politician of any prominence.
BLAKE, William (London song on Storyteller) (Art school babe on Storyteller) : lived 1757-1827, an important English poet, artist, engraver, revolutionary mystic and visionary. Wrote ‘Jerusalem’ (“And did those feet …?”), which really should be the English national anthem (I say this as an atheist), and the ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’ collection of poems (one of which – ‘Ah! Sun-flower’ – was rendered in a country music stylee by the Fugs); was chums with intellectual hero of the American and French revolutions Thomas Paine, and communed with angels, one of whom vouchsafed he’d previously been painted by Michael Angelo (as Blake called him). Ray’s Art School Babe quotes from Blake and then rolls a joint; Ray thinks he’s definitely in there, but seemingly not. Peter Ackroyd’s splendid biography, ‘Blake’ (1995) is a tremendous read, well worth the effort (he’s not one for short paragraphs). Ray used his ‘God writing upon the tablets of the Covenant’ for the cover of ‘The Kinks Choral Album’ and in a radio interview in the US with Dennis Elsas for wfuv in November, 2009, likened his illustrating his own poems to a contemporary musician doing his own videos. Ray says Blake is, “One of his heroes”, and describes him as, “In a strange way, very rock and roll in his own time”. He certainly wasn’t like everybody else.
BOYD, Mister (Long distance on SOC): disappoints the singer for some reason. I’m reliably informed (my lips are sealed), it’s Colin Boyd, wardrobe and one of the production team on the February, 1982 tour of Australia and Japan. The song also refers to other members of the touring crew, who appear collectively, along with the band, as the Merry Men.
BRENDA the alkie (Morphine song on Working man’s cafe) : bit part player in the drama unfolding in the charity ward of the New Orleans hospital Ray was taken when he was shot in the leg by a mugger in January 2004. She was a fellow patient of Ray’s, or at least she is in the song. You could say am American cousin of Rosie Rooke but she’s in a far worse way. A morality tale: “It’s the drugs and the drink / It could happen to anyone / Sure makes me think.” (28/10/07)
BROWN, Mister (Next door neighbour on OPL): generic. Smith, Jones and Brown were traditionally reckoned to be among the most common English surnames and quite possibly still are for all I know. That being so I find it strange I know so few personally … apart from Chris Smith and Kevin Jones … over a lifetime. Sheer laziness on Ray’s part is what I say. But Anthony Holland suggests it’s Smith for the English, Brown for the Scots and Jones for the Welsh, thus covering the island … maybe.
BUBBLES, Charlie (Where are they now? on PA1) : eponymous fictional character from a film of 1967 about an English northern working class novelist, played by Albert Finney, who also directed. Charlie is struggling with London success and an American student who has made him her po-faced literature project. It ends with him realistically escaping – the American student is Lisa Minelli fer cring out loud – his dilemmas in a hot air balloon (“and I hope that CB had a really pleasant flight”). Worth watching if you haven’t got a lot to do. No, really.
BYRON, Lord aka George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale (1788-1824) (A well bred Englishman from 80 days) : poet with a dodgy reputation, a dashing celeb of his age. Born club footed, died helping the Greek fight for independence. Many tales to tell in between. “Mad, bad and dangerous to know.”