SALLY, Long Tall (Long tall Sally; first single) : an early example of the Music Hall & Vaudeville influences that were later to flower in Ray’s first “golden” period. The reference is to “Sally in our alley”, a song featured by Gracie ‘Our Gracie’ Fields, the Rochdale nightingale (or some such northern bird appelation). Oasis were to pay another tribute a quarter of a century later in ‘Don’t look back in anger’. And while we’re at it, Davy Graham’s ‘Sally free and easy’ has a lovely flow to it. Oh, and the original Long Tall Sally by one Little Richard. (There’s only one Little Richard). And there’s my mate Sal, too, a Crewe Alex fan, who is quite short.
SANDERS, George (Celluloid heroes on EIS) : as it happens a bit of a cad on (and to an extent off) the screen, albeit a well dressed Englishman. He even called his 1960 autobiography ‘Memoirs of a Professional Cad’. Won an Oscar for his role as the sardonic theatre critic Addison DeWitt in the 1950 film ‘All about Eve’. Also played a character based on the painter Gaugin and Charles II among many others in a career of 111 (it says here) films. Late ’30s, early ’40s he played Simon Templar, aka ‘The Saint’ in a handful of movies. His was the voice of Shere Khan, the tiger in Disney’s ‘Jungle Book’ (1967). Married both the Gabor sisters, though not at the same time; with Magda it only lasted a matter of months. And celluloid heroes never die …
“On April 23, 1972, George Sanders checked into a hotel near Barcelona. He was in poor health, lonely, bewildered, without a home: a woman he had taken up with in his last years had convinced him to sell his beloved house in Majorca. Two days later, his body was discovered next to five empty tubes of Nembutal. A note read, “Dear World. I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.”
‘Celluloid heroes’ was written and recorded later that year so he never heard of his place in the pantheon of those honoured in this wonderful song; this makes me feel very sad, though I dare say he wouldn’t have been bothered one way or another, given his state of mind at the time. There’s a fine article by Gary Kamiya telling his tale and detailing his career in Salon’s archives – the home of a lot of fine writing – from which the quotation above is lifted.
SANTA CLAUS: see CLAUS, Santa
SARA JANE (Too hot on WOM) : working on her way to a degree, subsidising her education by working as a stripper during the academic vacation. Presumably a story lifted from a newspaper.
SARTRE, Jean-Paul (Art school babe on Storyteller) : French novelist and existentialist philosopher (‘Being and nothingness’) of massive reputation not so many decades ago; proto-feminist Simone de Beauvoir’s partner. The subject of a visit from Mrs Premise (John Cleese) and Mrs Conclusion (Graham Chapman) in the laundromat sketch in the third and last series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Conversation turns, as it does (in, of course, so sensible voices), from killing cats and budgerigars to JPS’s ‘Roads to freedom’ trilogy, about which they have a dispute as to its meaning (‘Oh yes it is’ / ‘Tisn’t’) so decide to visit the man himself in Paris … Check it for yourself – pure essence of Python. Mrs Premise had met him on holiday: “Well, you know, a bit moody. Yes, he didn’t join in the fun much. Just sat there thinking. Still, Mr Rotter caught him a few times with the whoopee cushion.” Though sadly Jean-Paul does not feature in ‘The philosopher’s song’ (“Rene Descartes was a drunken fart / I drink therefore I am.”) this laundromat sketch continues to give the main man of postwar existentialism pop culture recognition beyond his time.
I bought the Penguin Modern Classics edition (you know, the grey ones) of his novel ‘Nausea’ as a sixth form badge of existential cool back in ’65. Here’s the cover, Dali picture and all, presented here out of sheer nostalgia. I might even read it one of these days. Not a lot of communists in this list but by a quirk of the alphabet here comes another one … at least, until Ol’ Satan intervened …
SATAN (A hymn for a new age on WMC) : who keeps knocking on his door, apparently, a bit like an over eager next door neighbour. I don’t beieve it Ray, I think you’re being a bit lazy lyrically. Usually seen as a fallen angel, given the red card from heaven. Satan originally is a name specific to the Judaeo-Christian tradition and he’s a pretty interesting chap – just check him out in Wikipedia. The English republican poet Milton doesn’t do a bad PR job on him. I just can’t resist quoting here an excerpt from Bob Dylan’s splendid ‘Theme Time Radio Hour’ show on the theme of the devil (try and imagination the deep throated chuckle in his voice):
“This is Theme Time Radio Hour, and there’s hell to pay. “Him the Almighty Power Hurld headlong flaming from th’ Ethereal Skie With hideous ruine and combustion down To bottomless perdition, there to dwell In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire, Who durst defie th’ Omnipotent to Arms.” – John Milton, ‘Paradise Lost’. (In the background we hear the Reverend Gary Davis playing ‘The Devil’s Dream’). We’re talking about the Devil. You might know him better as Beelzebub, Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Old Scratch, Moloch of Hell, Leviathan, the Prince of Darkness, the Anti-Christ, or as they call him in Spain, El Diablo. Doesn’t matter what you call him: just stay out of his way.” (28/10/07)
SCARGILL, Arthur (Too hot on WOM) : “Arthur’s on the picket line / winding up the nation”. Leader of the disastrous miners’ strike of 1984/5. Old style Communist whose failure to give even lip service to the notion of democracy doomed the action – no matter how just the arguments or bad some of the police repression that followed became – from the start. Handed Thatcher (see elsewhere) a triumph on a plate. Few on the left were wise enough to see this soon enough or if they did were brave enough to say it in public until the damage had been done. One of the few brave souls who did was Jimmy Reid, one-time militant Clyde shipworker, union activist and friend of Jack Bruce’s dad, who – Jack’s dad – gave him his address when Jack first came down to London to make a living as a musician and JR was a national officer with the Communist Party. Hence my second son’s middle name – James, that is, although we did still think about Arthur for other obvious reasons; he was born while all the badness was going down in the winter of ’85.
SCARLET, Captain (Daylight on PA1) : see CAPTAIN SCARLET
SCOTT, Walter (A well bred Englishman from 80 days): a Scottish novelist (‘Rob Roy’ ‘Heart of Midlothian’, the Waverley novels) and poet (‘Border ballads’), no less. Sometimes you have to wonder about Ray Davies as lyricist. Didn’t he know he was Scottish? Didn’t anyone working with him tell him? If so, why not? It’s disappointing. Or is this meant to indicate a fault in the character in the musical singing this song (presumably Phileas Fogg?)?
SEATON, Arthur (Where are they now? on PA1) : another Arthur as it happens, though as Private Eye might say, no relation methinks (he has a brother called Brian). Powerful character in one of those novels of northern working class life that were made into black and white films of some distinction and had quite an effect on the social and cultural development of the teenage Ray. ‘Saturday night and Sunday morning’ was directed by Karel Reisz and released to great acclaim as one of the films heralding a revival in British cinema in 1960, based on the 1958 novel of the same name by Alan Sillitoe (for whom, see below). “What I want is a good time. The rest is all propaganda.” But it wasn’t quite that easy … well worth watching. Notable at the time, as well as the sheer energy and quality of the production, was the location filming in Nottingham; not many film crews made it out of the Home Counties in those days. The factory scenes (the noise!), then an eye opener for us soft middle class southerners, now stand as industrial archaeology. The book still stands the test of time too, and gives as good a picture as I can recall in literature of the kind of working class community that Ray and Dave Davies were brought up in, where the front room was located. The Christmas pub crawl at the end is a great piece of celebratory drinking writing. “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Unlike Joe Lampton we do get to know whether they did and where he is now. In 2001 Sillitoe published ‘Birthday’ in which Arthur looks back on the previous 40 years. They didn’t, and he’s still in Nottingham and though he’s been mellowed by prosperity and the eventual love of a good woman (the marriage to Doreen only lasted 10 years) he’s not impressed by Tony Blair’s New Labour, sometimes from the left, sometimes from the right. In the 1960 film Arthur’s brother Brian is played by Norman Rossington, who was the Beatles’ manager in ‘Hard day’s night’. In ‘Birthday’ the brother, Brian – very different from both the Brian of the film and the earlier book – features more strongly. He is the one who escaped to London as a writer, which rather undercuts any significance one might give to the author and his major creation sharing the same initials. It’s a sad but not bitter book with a sense of gratitude too … mortality beckons, his beloved second wife dying is at the core of the book. Along with life being ‘better’ materially, there is the sense of a community and something of value lost – sold – over the years. Just like in the Kinks album, Arthur, we see the next generations. “Now that you’ve found your Shangri-La … ” The twinkle in Arthur’s eye, the bullshitter’s energy, has been delightfully domesticated, but though its scope is inevitably smaller the mental energy is still there. From anti-hero to good old boy. Nor, one is pleased to report, has his body gone : ” … a solid figure, no longer a six foot pit-prop as in the old days, yet not looking anywhere near his age, either.” And they can still go on some grand drives for pub lunches in the Derbyshire countryside.
Much later (early 2006), just to prove you can’t keep a good man down …
“The title chosen by the Arctic Monkeys for their record-breaking album ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ was originally a characteristic piece of lip delivered by Arthur Seaton, the bolshie young hero of Alan Sillitoe’s 1958 novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning – a bracingly un-romanticised slice of working-class life later made into a gritty film starring Albert Finney.” – from The Independent, 7 February 2006.
SESSION MAN (Session man) : Take your pick – Jimmy Page (doing not a lot contrary to popular rumour – possibly tambourine on YRGM), Nicky Hopkins (who’s there on the track playing harpsichord – wonder what he felt about it?), Bobby Graham (drums on the very early stuff) were among those passing through. Mo Foster’s curate’s egg of a book ‘Play like Elvis! How British musicians bought the American dream’ (Sanctuary, 1997) spends some time describing the session scene and how it developed; though I haven’t seen it, what is effectively the second edition appeared under the title ’17 watts’ in 2000, and should have improved it. Let’s go for see Nicky HOPKINS
SHAKESPEARE, William (20th century man on MH / A well bred Englishman from 80 days / Stand up comic on OPL) : So great he gets 3 namechecks from Ray and 2 pictures from me. English dramatist, 1564-1616, with a nice turn of phrase. Born and died on the same date – April 23 – which happens also to be (patron saint of England) St George’s Day. Only the greatest ever exponent of the English language. If you don’t know by now … Interesting for all sorts of things, not least for the speculation as to who actually wrote the plays – Bacon, Marlowe, Queen Elizabeth, the Earls of Oxford and Essex, various court cabals, Uncle Tom Cobley, all have their supporters. Classic conspiracy theory. Mark Twain wrote a marvellous extended essay as to the impossibility of how the documented WS (background, experience, education, awful handwriting etc.) could have authored the plays attributed to him. Nonsense, of course. The best two comics in Neil Gaiman’s epic Sandman saga (and that is really saying something) are treatments, with Will in attendance, of the plays ‘A midsummer night’s dream’ and ‘The tempest’, both drawn by Charles Vess. Magic.
SHE (Heart of gold on State of confusion) : she’s got … a heart of gold, no less. That would be Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, or just plain Ma’am to you. Ray said so in an interview, the provenance of which I take on trust from a posting to the Kinks Preservation Society in May 2006. so see Princess ANNE.
SHE (Natural gifts on TV & elsewhere) : you know what she’s got.
SHE (She’s got everything) : including red lips. When you analyse the description not much else is actually revealed.
SHE (To the bone on To the bone): the one who “caused this melancholy mood”. Ray sings that, “She rocks me to the bone/Knocks me to the bone”. Mike Segretto, in the blog entry ‘Kinks A-Z‘ on his entertaining Psychobabble website, says this song is about Ray’s first wife leaving him; I’ve not seen any documentation supporting this claim, but such is the quality and wit of what else is displayed there I’m prepared to take his word for it, so see Rasa DIDZPETRIS.
SHERRIN, Ned (Top of the Pops on LVTA) : “My first impression was that Ned resembled a giant pigeon. He has a very military bearing, he has wonderful manners and he puffs his chest out.” – so says Ray Davies, quoted at the top of Ned Sherrin’s entry in the BBC Presenters series of web pages. Born 18 February 1931 into a farming family in Somerset, after National Service in the army he trained as a lawyer at Oxford University where he became involved in the theatre. Though the evidence is circumstantial I’ve always thought Ned Sherrin was probably the queen, as in “I’ve been invited out to dinner with a prominent queen” (see the end of this entry for what may constutue proof – 30/10/2010). He and Ray would have met socially and did indeed work together. Theatrical director and producer (‘Side by side with Sondheim’ and ‘Jeffry Barnard is unwell’ are his best known and lasting successes), wit, raconteur, comic novelist and radio presenter (the celebrated weekly review, ‘Loose ends’ on BBC Radio4 since 1985 on which Ray has appeared), Sherrin’s early career as a television producer was crucial to the ’60s though he did not like no rock and roll; he was the guiding light behind the mould breaking late night satire of ‘That was the week that was’ (aka TW3) and its successor ‘Not so much a programme, more a way of life’. Ray did a weekly topical song on ‘At the 11th hour’, a later and less successful attempt to reproduce a hipper version of these shows featuring, among others, Oz editor Richard Neville, which Sherrin had nothing to do with. More importantly here, Ray did the theme tune for the decent movie version of Leslie Thomas’s first novel, ‘The virgin soldiers’, a rites of passage tale about one of the last batches of UK national servicemen, fighting in Malaya, which Sherrin produced. The liner notes to he Kinks album ‘The songs we sang for auntie’ suggest Ray was originally asked about acting in it, but this invitation is not recorded in Sherrin’s autobiography. What is recorded is what the American film industry moguls tried to do with Ray’s march, given the hiatus over the film’s release in the US because of the Viet Nam conflict: “The crowning glory in this sorry postscript was the engagement of a pair of elderly protest writers to write a lyric to Ray Davies’s march, expressing the universal antipathy to war of ‘young people the world over’. The enthusiasm with which the company suggested that this ‘moving treatment’ would be ‘plugged’ on peace marches in Washington was not shared by the youthful protesters.”
It’s a highly entertaining autobiography, which was published in the autumn of 2005 with the fascinating title of ‘Ned Sherrin : the autobiography’ and it contains many a grand tale – he gives great anecdotage. On the night of 24 Nov 1962, writes Ned, after the first live transmission of TW3:
” … we piled into taxis and headed for the Casserole in the King’s Road – which was very much my local, a splendidly camp restaurant. It became our regular Saturday night destination and went through a heady period when regular visitors included the emerging Beatles and the Stones. You nodded and got on with your meal. Beef and mango casserole at seven shillings and sixpence (old money) was a popular favourite. It remains more vividly in the memory than the mop-heads and their rivals.”
Which just goes to show that Ray was indeed, not like everybody else. Completing one of those cultural questionnaires in ‘The Express on Sunday’ in 1996, Sherrin’s response to the question, “Which Beatles album do you prefer?” is, ” Revolver, largely because of the cover, which was designed by a friend of mine. But they don’t compare with The Kinks and Ray Davies’s lyrics, like Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, Waterloo Sunset and Lola.” That friend was Klaus Voormann, who did some graphics for another of his tv productions, ‘Where was spring?’ which featured Eleanor Bron and John Fortune; Ray did a song for each programme in the first series (early 1969) the music from which (no vocals) was delivered under a set of Voorman’s illustrations – the world keeps spinning round.
There is a rumour that I was only made aware of when I posted about Sherrin’s autobiography to the KPS (the Kinks’ fan community’s web digest) that Ned was the inspiration for the song ‘Berkeley Mews’ (“I thought you were a diplomat …”) which I merely report – it’s certainly not an address cited in the autobiography. Sherrin is also the editor of the second edition of the ‘Oxford dictionary of humorous quotations’ (OUP, 2003), a book of which, I am sure – he has an eye for it – you could almost say, it contains a laugh in every line.
He died in 2007. Ray dedicated ‘Dedicated follower of fashion’ to him at the BBC Electric proms gig at the Roundhouse in November of that year, “because he loved this song.”
In the ‘What I’ve learnt’ feature in the Times Magazine of November 13, 2010, Ray says:
Ned Sherrin was a great. I got to know him in the Sixties when I received a note that said: “I thought Dedicated follower of fashion worked rather well. So did Noel Coward, who’s friend of mine. I’d like to meet you for dinner.” I miss him not just for his humour and friendship but for his wise head. The best advice he gave me was, “Don’t do it , darling.”
SHORTY, Long Tall (cover version on The Kinks) : according to the singer this is what they called him. No wonder Dave Davies (he sang it) would later appear somewhat confused at various points in his career.
SILLITOE, Alan (Where are they now? on PA1) : writer, born 4 March 1928; died 25 April 2010. ‘The loneliness of the long distance runner’ was his first highly successful collection of short stories of working class life in Nottingham; Tom Courtenay starred as a juvenile delinquent in a successful Tony Richardson 1962 film adaption of the title story. (It’s no great coincidence that Ray Davies would play the piano player in a tv play ‘The loneliness of the long distance piano player’). ‘Saturday night and Sunday morning’ (released 1960), a black and white movie directed by Karel Reisz, also started as a Sillitoe novel (published 1958), which, according to Nick Hasted, Dave Davies read, then passed his copy on to Ray. Arthur Seaton (see above), played in the film by Albert Finney, who also played Charlie Bubbles, was the anti-hero. The factory scenes were rivetting then as reality, now as history lesson. Although Sillitoe left school in 1942 aged 14 to work in the Raleigh bicycle factory he is not entirely the proletarian writer the Russian Communists tried to make him out to be, nor was he prepared to be co-opted by them. There were other similar jobs until he joined the RAF, becoming an air traffic control assistant and then a wireless operator with the RAF voluntary Reserve. He fancied being a pilot but they had enough already. Next came 3 years in the Signals Corps in Malaya where in 1949 he got TB and spent 18 months in a military hospital, where he used the time educating himself, reading anything he could get a sight of, including Greek and Roman classics and – significantly – Robert Tressell’s 1914 classic novel of working class life, ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist’. Sillitoe was also a poet (he married poet Ruth Fainlight); theyspent time with Robert Graves, poet and writer of the mystical ‘White goddess’, in Mallorca. He later became a bit of a bore. That’s probably unfair; he was still being published well into his 70s, but with the exception of ‘Birthday’ (2001) which features Arthur Seaton 30 years on, I doubt I’ll be reading any more. ‘Birthday’ is actually quite a wry return to Nottingham. Compassionate, ironic, lyrical about days out in the South Peak of Derbyshire.
And you can’t keep a good man down: this from The Independent, 24 January, 2006, on the occasion of the release of young Sheffield band The Arctic Monkey’s record breaking (and really very good) first album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ :
“I was more surprised than flattered I suppose when they took the title of the album from my book ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’. I’m mainly a big jazz and classical fan, not really into pop at all. I must say it is marvellous, I really like it and it’s got me dancing around the room. I’m from Nottingham, which is a very similar place to Sheffield and I can recognise their accents and their background. I think that reflecting their background is what helps lift them above other groups – if you localise with sufficient integrity, you achieve universality. The sheer life and energy that they convey is a very good thing in this rather dead and politically correct society that we live in. They seem to have that connection to what real people think and want.”
SIMES, Frankie (Holloway Jail on MH) : a spiv who took in the singer’s ‘baby’. She refused to grass him up so she’s impaled in said women’s prison in North London. Ray says this song was about someone who “existed in my parents’ lives” in the remastered MH CD sleeve notes.
SISTER, My (Come dancing on SOC) : the inspiration is his sister Rene who loved dancing …. It’s all there in the black book which is ‘X-Ray’. Read it and weep. She bought Ray his first guitar for his birthday, went out and collapsed on the dance floor; it had a huge effect on the young Ray. And now there’s also the musical.
SMITH, 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 S and Kevin J … 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.
SMYTH, Frank (Storyteller on The storyteller and an extended and much improved version on ‘The tourist’ EP) : onetime Kinks publicist (he did the liner notes to ‘Face to face’), bullshitter supreme and drinkist of the first order. He is introduced in ‘X-Ray’ thus:
“As I looked down into Old Compton Street I saw what I thought was a down-and-out tramp lying in the gutter […] We went and helped Smythe [sic] up to the office, where he seemed to sober instantly. Frank was a born-and-bred Yorkshireman, who had been an accomplished skiffle singer in his college days. a poet and writer, with a huge, robust physique […] [He] took me under his wing, which meant a tour of most of the pubs in Soho.”
Ray Davies co-dedicates his ‘The storyteller’ album to him:
“I was in the middle of finishing this record and I was thinking about asking Frank to write some sleeve notes when I got a phone message that Frank had died. His funeral was held in August in Highgate and he is now laid to rest in Highgate Cemetery in a very prestigious plot near to Karl Marx and Max Wall. Now whenever I sing the line in ‘London Song’, “If you’re ever up on Highgate Hill on a clear day, I’ll be there”, [earlier Ray had described how Frank told him how Highgate got its name, a tale of shepherds and drovers bringing their herds to London’s markets, not quite knowing whether to believe him] I will think of Frank Smyth, one of the greatest storytellers of them all.”
And how. What follows are the edited highlights from an obituary written by Bob Rickard in the August 1998 edition of that excellent magazine, Fortean Times:
“FRANK BRENDAN SMYTH Born in Morley, Yorkshire 6 May 1940 – died 2 August 1997 aged 57.
“In 1969, Smyth joined the editorial staff of “Man, Myth and Magic” – an ambitious and influential encyclopaedia marketed by Purnell in 111 parts beginning in January 1970 – and continued on “Crimes and Punishments” (also for Purnell), becoming quite an authority in many aspects of many of these subjects. Smyth’s interest in criminology began while he was a young reporter on a Yorkshire newspaper. He wrote “The detective in fact and fiction” (1977); co-authored the (unofficially approved) account of the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, “I’m Jack” (1979); and “Cause of death” (Orbis, 1990) a well received history of police forensic science. His “Modern witchcraft” (Macdonald, 1970) – which he claimed took him just four days and which was dismissed by one reviewer as a disgrace to its publisher – had the singular distinction of being omitted from most bibliographies on the subject …
“Smyth was just 19 when he arrived in London. he edited “Record Retailer” and then joined Pro-Ject, a PR firm that handled such groups as the Kinks, the Seekers, and the Hollies. He became a ubiquitous figure on the music scene of `Swinging London’. A bulky, untidy man with a huge appetite for food, drink and women, it was his gifts as a musician, mimic and raconteur that made him tolerable company. One of the last of the old breed of indigenous Soho writers, he could be found in almost any local bar, drinking with the likes of Sir John Betjeman, Ray Davies, Daniel Farson, Brian Inglis, Colin Wilson and Brian Innes (founder of Orbis). It was said that he had no aspirations to home ownership and it was only his considerable charm that persuaded his friends to forgive his more outrageous behaviour (such as overstaying his welcome by months or propositioning his hostess).
“In the minds of many he will be remembered for a hoax played upon Colin Wilson while Wilson was making “A leap in the dark” for BBC2, a documentary series on convincing cases of psychical phenomena. When Smyth, afterwards, revealed that he had invented the phantom vicar of Ratcliffe, Wilson was appalled. Even so, the story has appeared as fact in several books since.”
SON, Uncle (Uncle Sun on MH) : he was just a working man, something of an Arthur figure as per that album. Ray says he actually had an Uncle Son in the liner notes in the MH remastered CD. He’d earlier elaborated in an interview with Janis Schacht in Circus Magazine in 1972:
“Uncle Son was an uncle of mine who worked for the railway. Most of the people I know in life are just ordinary people like Uncle Son. They’re not extremely talented. I can’t remember talking to him but he came to see me when I was young, just before he died. He had TB from working on the railway, and he died because of his job. He drew me a picture of a train. He couldn’t draw, but he thought he was giving me something by drawing a train for me. I never really spoke to him, but like Rosie Rooke, he symbolized something to me.”
SONGBIRD , Mr. (Mr Songbird on a VGPS variant) : not a real person – Ray talking to the birds, an example of the pathetic fallacy (ask your EngLit chums). Like Big Sky, something of a therapist.
SPOT, Jack (London song on Storyteller): born Jack Comer, of Polish immigrant stock in Stepney in the East End of London. in 1912. Answered to quite a few names but ultimately became know as Jack Spot due to his habit of finding himself in, and sorting out, the odd ‘a spot of bother’; or alternatively because of a mole on his cheek. For a long time he was the closest the UK had to the gangster and crime bosses of the US. Rose to underworld prominence running protection and gambling rackets before off-course gambling was legalised in the UK (though his activities on-course were far from straight either). It was a career based on intimidation and the casual use of violence. He also became something of a local hero when he became involved in organised resistance against Oswald Mosley’s fascist Blackshirt movement in the East End of London in the 1930s – an equal opportunities gangster maybe, but it was also an extension of his protection activities. Post-war he lost ground to Billy Hill, once a junior partner but now his main rival, and retired from crime mid-50s after a series of failed heists, knife fights and court cases. Publicity hounds, their rivalry even ran to a battle of the published memoirs. There used to be a really informative two part article by John Rennie on the web, that originally appeared in a local newspaper, but it’s disappeared.
STAMP, Terence (Terry on Waterloo sunset?) : then a young film actor out of the East End (his father was a Thames boatman) with iconic status as far as swinging London went. Claims Ray told his brother that “he thought of Julie Christie and me when he wrote it”, according to Shawn Levy in his book ‘Ready, steady, go!’. Levy goes on to say that later on Davies claimed that he was writing about his nephew and the girl he was seeing. There are a few versions floating around in ‘X-Ray’ and interviews, but these day Ray tends to disclaim the connection. In the early ’60 Stamp shared a flat with Michael Caine. His films incredibly span 5 decades. Achieved prominence as the psychopath in the film adaption of John Fowles’ novel, ‘The collector’. His brother co-managed The Who. Was gutted when Antonioni gave ‘Blow up’ to David Hemmings, with whom he is not to be confused. He actually did have a relationship with Julie Christie and later starred with her in what I think is a rather good film adaption of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far from the madding crowd’; he was the dashing bad guy army officer to Alan Bates’ humble shepherd, Gabriel. (Not a lot of people know this but Thomas Hardy was also an accomplished fiddler, with tunes still in the repertoire attributed to him.). He was the villain General Zod in Superman and Superman II, and appeared in ‘Star Wars Episode 1: the phantom menace’ in 1999. Has published some well received memoirs and … cookbooks themed around various food allergies that he discovered he’s always suffered from. A novel was published in 1993 with the main man the son of a lighterman, ho hum. ‘The night’ is a singularly bad though it has its moments (time spent with a low key guru in India, a night trawl through London) but is mostly mystical tosh with a number of bids for a retrospective ‘Bad sex award’ nomination thrown in and is a bad advert for the elitism and drugs that Levy (cited at the start of this piece) reasonably claims did for the ’60s; never a good sign when the author’s photo is on the front cover. As I write (Jan 2003) his latest media offering is playing Lord Asriel (another fantasy baddie) in the BBC’s radio adaption of Philip Pullman’s wonderful ‘Dark Materials’ trilogy, so good for him for that at least. A great book. If you haven’t read it I would urge you so to do – prizewinning storytelling.
STARR (Morphine song on Working man’s cafe) : the third missus (wife) of Nelson, co-worker in the hospital in New Orleans Ray was taken to when he was shot in the leg early in 2004; for a bit more detail go to Nelson’s entry. Evidently she’s still got it: “walks in / gives a little wiggle / makes Nelson grin” – just like in one of those tv hospital dramas. Obviously a good sort. (28/10/2007)
STEPHEN, John (Where are they now? on PA1) : groundbreaking clothes designer and shop owner who effectively invented Carnaby Street. You know, the Carnabatian army. One of the main men in the nascent days of Swinging London; his commercial success is seen by some as one of the early coffin nails.
What follows is shamelessly lifted and mucked about a bit from a piece in The Guardian by Katie Coyne, dated September 3, 2005, on the occasion of Westminster City Council intention that autumn to put up blue plaque in his name – blue plaques in London are an official honour usually given to the long gone, marking where celebrated historical figures lived – at 1 Carnaby Street, close to the site of his first shop, ‘His Clothes’; his other outlets were ‘Mod Male’ and ‘Male West One’. Credited with creating Carnaby Street, building an empire of 15 fashion boutiques, under his influence the once unheard-of thoroughfare, tucked away behind Oxford Street, came to rival the Kings Road as the trendiest place to shop in the 1960s. As well as attracting The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones and the era’s leading models and actors, his shops were a magnet for ordinary kids looking to escape their parents’ world of stuffy suits and blouses. His trademarks were hipster trousers, floral shirts, mini kilts for men, low-slung elephant cord trousers, androgynous velvet double-breasted jackets and caftans for men.
A gay Glaswegian, he hailed from an unlikely background. He arrived in London aged 18, a failed welder’s apprentice, and within two years he had bought himself a Rolls Royce. He spotted a market for Levi’s shrink-to-fit jeans – so cool – and imported them directly from the States to sell on by mail order. He led an extravagant lifestyle, dining in the restaurants like the Ivy and the Mirabelle, always accompanied by his German shepherd dog, Prince. His friend and business partner of 48 years, Bill Franks, remembers him as “the youngest person to get a Rolls Royce at that time – he had one before The Beatles. In those days people who had Rolls Royces were lords – not ordinary people, which is what John was, and that’s precisely why he got it. He would get stopped by the police, and they would ask him ‘what are you driving your father’s car for?’ ” I’m not sure what happened after that, but he died of cancer, February 2004.
STORYTELLER (Storyteller on The storyteller and an extended and much improved version on ‘The tourist’ EP) : though the tale told here is not specifically about him, the liner notes do tell of his explanation as to how the London village of Highgate got its name, so see SMYTH, Frank
SUPERMAN (Superman on Low budget) : Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Superman. The first comic book Superhero with super powers derived from his origins on the doomed planet Krypton.You know, Superman, Man of Steel, aka (to us) as Clark Kent, the bespectacled mild mannered reporter who used to change into his costume (underpants outside) in phone booths as often as not before various makeovers. The creation of writer Jerry (or Jerome as he was credited in the very first strip) Siegel and artist Joe Schuster, he first appeared in the pages of ‘Action Comics’ in America in June 1938, soon doubling its circulation before national syndication soon followed, along with radio and several film and tv incarnations, not forgetting a whole series of comic books still going strong today, including the bestselling ‘Justice League of America’. In the original story he was revealed as “a champion of the oppressed … sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need!” The creators sold the rights to the Superman character to DC Comics, who still publish him in various titles, for a little over $100. “You’ll believe a man can fly” was the slogan of the big movie – as long ago now as 1978 – with Christopher Reeves. And in the third film in that sequence he was actually flying over Milton Keynes. It was the thinking heavy metal fan’s favourite German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who came up with the concept of the Ubermensch in the last third of the nineteenth century. In opposition to the idea of absolute values and what he called the “slave mentality” of Christianity, the Ubermensch should impose his will on the weak and worthless. Some contradiction here, then, with the Man of Steel’s mission statement. George Bernard Shaw took up the notion and explored its meaning in his play ‘Man and superman’ (1905), thus putting the term into the cultural zeitgeist from whence it was plucked, nay hijacked, by Siegel and Schuster.
SUSANNAH (Susannah’s still alive) : she’s still alive, apparently. Drinks a bit. She’s got a picture on her table of a man who is young and able. The quite touching story of how she’s a subject in a lot of his songs is in Dave’s ‘Kink’. She wast pregnant, their families kept them apart bybasically lying to them. A tale touched on in ‘Schoolboys in disgrace’ too.
SUSIE (Situations vacant on SE): she and Johnny were lovers, but their love flounders under the weight of an ambitious mother-in-law. I could say “see also: JOHNNY” but you wouldn’t learn anything new.
SUZI (Motorway on EIS) : “Mama oh mama, my dear Suzi too, This motorway message is sent just for you.” – in the last verse. Not the most crucial of namechecks, it has to be said.
SYBILLA (Two sisters on SE): according to ‘X-Ray’ this is ravin’ Dave, out giving it some, having it large etc etc. in swinging London while Ray was at home with Rasa changing nappies. Also the name of a new London club, of which Shawn Levy writes, in his ‘Ready, steady, go!’ (Fourth Estate, 2002)
“nothing … quite seemed so symptomatic of how self-reflective the London scene had become as Sybilla’s, which opened in June, 1966, just east of Picadilly Circus … The premier of the club was preceded by months of publicity, rumour and … hype. Part of this was on account, undoubtedly, of George Harrison’s small percentage of the business: a Beatle owned discotheque! And part was due to a list of members and potential members so filled with great and trendy names that the club owners were offered £1000 just for a copy of it … But part was too due to the ripeness of the moment – the swingingness of the scene, its self-celebration, it’s self-awareness. Sybilla’s was planned, built and launched as … ‘the first Classic London discotheque.’ And the high-water mark of the whole shebang might’ve been the night the joint opened its doors.” (p245)
So exclusive was the club that not even all the members were invited to that opening night. Inevitably it didn’t last long. see also PRISCILLA