TARZAN (Apeman on LVPATM)+(Artificial man on PA2) : character created in a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, enthusiastically taken up many times over the years in the cinema. The best known incarnation was Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, the first in 1932: ‘Tarzan, the ape man’ no less. Iconic. “Me Tarzan, you Jane”, swinging through the jungle vines. Weissmuller’s right profile is featured in Peter Blake’s Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band Beatles album cover collage; he’s low down in the middle, under Marilyn Monroe’s head and above Ringo’s (the Ringo in colourful garb, that is).
TEMPLE, Julien (Too hot on WOM) : the film in question is the excreble “Absolute beginners” (1985) featuring David Bowie, about which there was an enormous pre-production buzz. Based on a very good book by Colin MacInnes which successfully caught the shift in mood in London in the late ’50s and early ’60s very early in the game – the modernists before they became ‘mods’. Most critics and punters thought the Ray Davies sequence (the cutaway dolls house set, singing ‘Quiet life’) its most redeeming feature. Temple’s reputation has never really recovered, though ‘Earth girls are easy’ has its moments. Worked with Malcom MacLaren on ‘The great rock ‘n ‘roll swindle’ and later on the more documentary version of the Sex Pistols story, ‘The filth and the fury’ (2000).
A couple of years later he made a very good film – Pandaeminium – about the Romantics and radical England in the late 18th and early 19th century which gave a fairly unflattering picture of William Wordsworth as opposed to the charismatic druggy Coleridge. Early October 2009 saw the screening on British tv of his collaboration with Madness, with a lot more than just a film of the group’s live performance in full Music Hall mode of their rather wonderful ‘The Liberty of Norton Folgate’ song sequence.
‘Oil city confidential‘ his 2009 film about the band Dr Feelgood raised the bar for rock documentaries, featuring as it did classic film of the band projected at night onto the oil containers on Canvey Island in Essex, the band’s spiritual home, a technique he later employed in ‘Ray Davies: Imaginary man‘. The aforementioned ‘Ray Davies: Imaginary man‘ is simply the best Kinks documentary yet, a tremendous biographical programme focussed around an Alan Yentob interview with Ray for Yentob’s sequence of ‘Imagine’ arts programmes on BBC2, late 2010. A similar programme on Dave Davies – Kinkdom Come – aired in 2011. As of 2012 plans are afoot for a Kinks movie provisionally titled You really got me, with a script by Dlick Clement and Ian La Frenais, of Likely lads, Porridge, Auf Wiedersehn fame and – more crucially I suspect for this enterprise – responsible for scripting 1998’s tremendous Still crazy, which featured the great Bill Nighy as a recovering rock star.
“TERRY” (Waterloo sunset): it was from early days assumed that this was a reference to ’60s icon Terence Stamp (and Julie Christie) but the ground has shifted over the years in various Ray interviews and writings, pointing to his nephew Terry, the son of his eldest sister Rosie and her husband Arthur, who was born 1945 as the likely inspiration. Ray lived with the family for a period as a child and says Terry was “like a brother” in ‘X-Ray’. They emigrated to Australia in 1963. Dave Davies is cited as saying that Walter in ‘Do you remember Walter’ was in part inspired by cousin Terry in the notes to the de luxe 3cd 2004 edition of VGPS. but see Terence STAMP anyway.
THATCHER, Margaret (Dear Margaret on UKJ) : 1925-2013. Longest continuously reigning – 11 years – UK Prime Minister from 1979 until not a moment too soon. Just the very thought of her makes me shudder still. A free marketeer, her policies effectively reinvented wide-scale inner city poverty in the UK. Mad woman (“conviction politician”) and constant source of frustration to some feminists (“What has Maggie Thatcher ever done for women?”). Elvis Costello did a song about her too – “Dance on your grave” – which pretty much sums it up. In a 1984 interview, while still a Smith, one Steven Patrick Morrissey spoke of her thus: “She is only one person. She can be destroyed. It is the only remedy for this country at the moment.” Morrissey’s first solo album, Viva Hate, included a track entitled “Margaret on the Guillotine“; British police responded by searching his home. “There is no such thing as society” was one of her choicest bon mots. Thatcherism became a political creed. In her later years her health declined and Alzheimer’s set in. She died of a stroke in bed in The Ritz. She was given what was, in all but name, a state funeral with the Queen attending and a big military ceremonial presence, something that was disgracefully set up years in advance, to their great shame, by Labour premiers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when they were in office.
In answer to Dave Davies’s question in the song, she certainly did not like no rock and roll; if you take his words – it’s pretty much a solo effort from him rather than The Kinks – as a character piece, the character being middle England, rather than a personal love letter and appeal, it’s lyrics are quite prescient, though where rock and roll actually come into it must remain one of Dave’s little mysteries.
Her death in April 2013 was as divisive as her life had been. She went to a grammar school – a relative pleb in Tory terms these days – and was the first woman prime minister, but apart from that I’ve nothing much else to offer for the defence. As a chemist apparently she was part of the team that made ‘ice cream’ extrudable into a cone for a 99, for which much thanks, though it hasn’t actually got much to do with real ice cream. As a leader of the nation she was in deep trouble until the Falklands War came to her rescue in a blizzard of overblown patriotism and unnecessary deaths; personally I’d still be happy for Argentina to have the Malvinas back. As for the miners, check out my entry for Arthur Scargill. Glenda Jackson MP gave a brave summation of her legacy in the House of Commons tribute session (which was quite a performance, well worth watching in full if it’s still there on YouTube) with, “In coming to the basis of Thatcherism, I come to the spiritual part of what I regard as the desperately wrong track down which Thatcherism took this country. We were told that everything I had been taught to regard as a vice—and I still regard them as vices—was, in fact, under Thatcherism, a virtue: greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker, sharp elbows, sharp knees, all these were the way forward. We have heard much, and will continue to hear over next week, about the barriers that were broken down by Thatcherism, the establishment that was destroyed. What we have heard, with the words circling around like stars, is that Thatcher created an aspirational society. It aspired for things.” And David Cameron, PM when she died, described this legacy as having been the saving of Britain. What wasn’t said at the time, but has to be admitted, is that the left and centre left in the UK played their parts in the easing of her path to electoral victory by being moribund and boring, but Tony Benn playing student politics inside the Labour Party, the ease with which Trotskist enterist groups were allowed to prosper therein, and defending the indefensible (see the print unions in particular), were the direct cause of the creation of the Social Democratic Party, which crucially split the Labour vote. Nor should it be forgotten it was her own Conservative Party who sacked her from Downing Street as a liability.
The day she died there was one of those instant and rather brilliant social media campaigns to get ‘Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead‘, the Munchkins song from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ into the popular music charts. What happened next, as described by Charlie Brooker in one of his regular astute Guardian columns, is a definitive illustration of precisely what is wrong with UK news media in this day and age: “Millions sang for joy when the Tories themselves kicked Thatcher out of No 10 back in 1990. Breaking into song again 23 years later because she’s died of a stroke following years of debilitating illness and seclusion strikes me as futile and a bit sad – not unlike dancing into the British Museum to shake your fist at a mummy. But any active celebrations seemed fairly isolated until the press noticed an online campaign to get Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead into the charts. They were so outraged that they decided to promote it on their front pages, thereby causing a further surge in sales, which they then pretended was a crisis for the BBC on the basis that Radio 1’s weekly chart show – a factual record of what music the British public has been buying – might be forced to play the tune. Pardon me for swearing, but in the spirit of robust free speech, not to mention accuracy, what the papers have perpetrated there is what Viz magazine would describe as ‘a cunt’s trick’.
THUNDER, Johnny (JT on VGPS)+(One of the survivors on PA1) : a generic English “rocker”, or “biker”. In an article in Melody Maker on VGPS in 1968 Ray says, “It’s about a rocker. I wrote it after ‘Wild One’ was released.” Although made in 1953 Laszlo Benedek’s ‘The Wild One’ only achieved wide British cinema release in early 1968, ’50s UK censors not liking the violence. A slim Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin play the leaders of rival motorcycle gangs; Brando’s character was called Johnny. “He’s the local hound – a real swine. But he’s inside at the moment,” Ray elaborated in an interview with Disc & Music Echo. (Thanks to Andy Miller’s estimable book ‘The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society’ (Continuum, 2003) for the above).
Johnny seemingly turned out to be further proof of Ray Davies’ clairvoyant talents: could this be the inspiration for future American punk icon and original New York Dolls member Johnny Thunders – was there ever an admitted attribution? The ‘real’ JT, NY’s proto-punk much loved of certain music critics, was unfortunately not one of the survivors (though for that he had nobody else to blame but himself). (Kids, how many more times do you need to be told? – heroin is just not cool).
If Ray did actually invent the name, there must be a nod in there to the stage names of the first generation of British rock’n’rollers managed by Larry Parnes who went out under names like Marty Wilde, Duffy Power and Billy Fury (not forgetting Johnny Gentle). There was also a pre-Beatles beat combo called Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, whose drummer became a certain Ringo Starr. I like to think of the Johnny Thunder of VGPS astride a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning like the one Richard Thompson (another one-time denizen of Muswell Hill) sings of on his ‘Rumour and sigh’ album of 1991, though not necessarily sharing the fate of Thompson’s protagonist; he dies spectacularly.
Barney Ireland emailed me September 1 2004 pretty much scotching my speculating about the NY punk JT but providing some interesting info on previous incarnations of the name as cultural icon and nom de stage:
“There was an American comic book “hero” in the 1940’s named Johnny Thunder. This Johnny Thunder was a bumbling do-gooder who relied heavily on a summoned genie to get him out of various jams he got himself in. He fell in love with another character, Dinah Drake, aka Black Canary, who wore black leather and fishnet stockings, rode a motorcycle, and eventually replaced Johnny Thunder in the comics. Black Canary evolved quite a bit, and is currently a main character in the Birds of Prey series. After his replacement by Black Canary, Johnny Thunder’s name was reused for a completely different character: a crime-fighting gunslinger in All-American Comics, which was retitled All-American Western after only three issues, but which gave the new Johnny Thunder a fairly long run from 1948-1961. There was also an American musician Gil Hamilton who went by the name Johnny Thunder and had a hit in 1963 with “Loop De Loop”.” [Personally, I’d be surprised if Ray ever heard it though.] “Thunder was briefly a member of The Drifters, who also recorded the first version of “Tell Him” (the Exciters took it to #4 in 1963).” [He almost certainly heard that one but it’s hardly relevant.]
TITIAN (20th century man on MH) : Italian painter of the 16th century (c1487-1576). Hugely influential it says here. Get thee to a library. Like Brazilian footballers Italian Renaissance masters seem to have a long name and a short name. Titian, or Tiziano Vecellio to his mother, was more famous and admired than any other artist of his era. Born in a northern Italian hill town, he died of the plague in his Venetian palazzo, still painting at almost 90 years of age, though some claim he made it to be a centurian. Landscapes, religious paintings, portraits, classical allegories … he did ’em all. Among his most famous works are ‘Bacchus and Ariadne’, ‘Man with the Blue Sleeve’, ‘Diana and Actaeon’, ‘Tarquin and Lucretia’ and ‘The Entombment.’ There was a successful campaign in early 2009 to keep ‘Diana and Actaeon’ in the UK; the Duke of Sutherland was asking £50million for it. Many think it’s worth it, like Jonathan Jones in the Guardian of December 18, 2008. This is but one of his reasons:
“At the work’s heart is one of the most sumptuous collections of nudes ever painted. The goddess Diana and her nymphs are bathing in a woodland pool when the hunter Actaeon chances by. It’s a story that gives Titian ample opportunity to glory in women’s bodies. In Renaissance Venice, where Titian was the leading painter, courtesans (basically high-class prostitutes) were a recognised part of society and artists regularly portrayed them – but never more ecstatically than here, in what is in all likelihood a brothel scene cloaked in myth. Titian’s brushstrokes tingle with desire. This is not just a painting of nudes, but one that goes in among them, almost making love to them.”
Sounds pretty good to me. Just bung it into Google images.
TOM (Harry Rag on SE): the hero of this humorous ditty, as bold as the knights of old, finding consolation in a cigarette. Pure music hall.
TRAD BAND, The (Morphine song on WMC) : see The OLD TRAD BAND
TRAMP, The : the classical chorus in Preservation Act. A Ray Davies sort of figure as it happens.
20th CENTURY MAN (20th century man on MH) : ladies and gentlemen, I give you Raymond Douglas Davies; he didn’t die one.
UNCLES are distributed throughout filed by forename eg. SON
VALENTINO, Rudolph (Celluloid heroes on EIS) (Hidden quality on Picture book Vol 5): born plain Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaele Pierre Philibert Guglielmi di Valentino d’Antonguolla in Italy, 1895. No, really … It is said that many authors of reference works insert the odd false entry to check for plagiarism; if that is the case here then it’s a fair cop, Scott & Barbara Siegel and ‘The (Guinness) Encyclopedia of Hollywood’ (1990). He was a dancer (and convicted thief) before Hollywood made him the biggest male sex symbol of the silent cinema, an archetypal romantic figure, the original silver screen heartthrob. Very much of his time, these days it’s hard not to laugh at the pose. ‘The Sheik’ of 1921 was his big one; when his career dipped one of the big comeback movies was ‘The son of the Shiek’ of 1926. Women reportedly committed suicide later that year on the occasion of his early death. His five years of intensive fame did not serve him well physically or emotionally, and he died at the age of 31 from a perforated ulcer brought on by overindulgence. So we’ll never know how he’d have survived the challenge of the transition to talkies. “A man should control his life. Mine is controlling me.” An early warning sign for the whole celebrity charade.
VICTORIA, Queen (Victoria on Arthur / A well bred Englishman from 80 days) : longest reigning (1837-1900) UK monarch. Born Alexandrina Victoria Hanover in 1819 of German lineage; the great love of her life, Albert, husband and Consort, was also a German. The royal family changed the family name from Saxe-Coburg to Windsor because anti-German feeling in the years leading up to the First World War. Empress of India from1867. Synonymous in some minds with “the good old days” when the British ruled and /or “civilized” the world. The jury is still out on just how good a thing this was (compared to, say, the Belgians in the Congo) if at all. I go on about the German connection not out of any malice or jingoism (though I shall never forgive the goalkeeper Schumacher for that ‘challenge’ on Battiston in the 1982 World Cup Semi-Final against France) but merely to stress what a peculiar received idea the notion of Englishness, or of being British, is. I prefer the radical republican heritage of Tom Paine and William Blake, but that’s another story.