Robert George Meek was born in 1929 in Newent, England. Joe’s mother wanted a girl and dressed him as a girl. Whilst his three brothers were outward going young Joe was introverted and enjoyed staging magic shows for other children and dressing up for his own elaborate theatre productions. His other love was old radios and record players. Joe began building his own electrical gadgets and would rig up speakers so the local cherry pickers could listen to the radio as they worked. Later he became a mobile DJ, travelling the area with his own mobile set up,
Starting with their self-titled 1982 debut, The Call have gained acclaim from countless critics and had their music hailed as “uncompromising,” “urgent,” “bristling,” and even” apocalyptic.” Those in the know— from Spinto New Musical Express—have extolled The Call for the depth of their material and the passion with which it’s performed. “If there is any justice,” wrote the Philadelphia Daily News in the band’s earliest days,
As I step off the train in a semi-rural picturesque northern town on the outskirts of Manchester, my mood is heightened as the sound of Motown, (a frequent fixture on my MP3 Player), is making me feel vibrant and inspired. I love the honesty, the soul and well crafted songs of this iconic label, and since my discovery of the sound of young America as a teenager, it is a label
The Early Years
When critics discuss the movies James Fox starred in during the ’60s and early ’70s, his co-stars often seem to overshadow him. This is somewhat understandable since Fox’s greatest films from that period feature amazing talents from the decade such as actor Dirk Bogarde and musician Mick Jagger, but James Fox is an extremely talented actor who possessed the uncanny ability to brilliantly portray young men of various backgrounds wrestling with their sexual identity and social class as the sexual revolution of the ’60s was still taking shape.
At the height of their popularity in 1974, their then manager, Chas Chandler (former bass player of The Animals and former manager of Jimi Hendrix), suggested Slade do a film. Perhaps trying to emulate the success of The Beatles with A Hard Day's Night and Help at the height of Beatlemania, it seemed a logical step that The Black Country's answer to Merseyside's Fab Four should follow suit.
I remember thinking how good his band were but what a strange character he was, dragging himself across the stage in a leg calliper dressed in his trademark Crombie and silk scarf and using the mike stand as a crutch, and thinking ‘this bloke can’t really sing but he’s got some serious attitude’.
A lot has been made of the 70’s pub rock scene, but it’s no wonder Punk Rock wiped it out, because there were so few bands with any real balls or passion. Only Dr Feelgood would fall into that category and I guess Ian Dury and a few others.
After Malcolm McLaren had dreamed up and launched The Sex Pistols and his mate Bernie Rhodes did the same with The Clash- featuring of course Joe Strummer from the pub rockers The 101’rs- a lot of the clever muso bands or simply older good players (successful or otherwise) ran for cover. Whilst others donned the motorbike jackets and plastic trousers, dyed their hair peroxide blonde giving us the excellent Stranglers, The Only Ones and The Vibrators, followed by the likes of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Ian Dury & The Blockheads on Stiff Records. So I was delighted to see him crack it with the album ‘New Boots and Panties’, in fact I recall being in a Brighton hotel overlooking the seafront, drinking into the small hours with The Jam, and drummer Rick Buckler wouldn’t stop playing the album until the sun came up, so I got to know it rather well. Dury was truly London’s original Punkfather.
The film is a bit of a sad affair to be honest, and a real warts ‘n’ all, but highly stylised and brilliantly directed by Mat Whitecross .Having read extracts of the new biography and interviews with his son I could see how cleverly this had been scripted and with great casting and performances all round. A lot centres around Ian’s miserable institutionalised childhood stricken with Polio and how it coloured his life, the early chaotic days of the band, the fights, the sackings, his strained relationship with his first wife and how life on the road and his music made him an errant and rather selfish father to his son. We see some creative moments of genius between Ian and his long suffering right hand man and co-writer, Chas Jankel, and some live performance moments faithfully recreated-but not nearly enough for me. His clever blend of simple word play and rhyming, cheeky chappy cockney slang and hilarious observations on working class life spoken in a rap style, put to a soft funk backing, was unique then-although Chas ‘n’ Dave had made their name doing much the same but in a music hall ‘knees up mother brown’ kind of way-and you hear his influence in so many acts these days; think Blur and the ‘posh mockney set’ Lily Allen and Kate Nash.
But as he continually yo-yos between wife and lover, and drags his son through the mire, Ian appears to let success get to his head, hits the self destruct button and let’s his lynchpin and musical partner Chas walk off in frustration. Of course the music slips as he tries to go it alone and by the time Chas comes back the moment, sadly, has gone.
There is a priceless segment on his involvement with the International Year of The Disabled and how splendidly he pisses everyone off with the song ‘Spasticus Austisticus’ a cathartic trip back to the institution that robbed him of his childhood, which the politically correct were appalled by and it was subsequently banned by the BBC . What did they expect- a soppy ballad?
The film then seems to end rather abruptly and doesn’t attempt to cover his decline into ill health and his untimely death from cancer at the age of 57. Nor does it touch on his extensive charity work for UNICEF, which was a bit puzzling and a little unfair I thought, but I’m sure there were reasons for that.
This stylish biopic comes across as a very honest portrayal and doesn’t pull any punches (borne out by comments from his son Baxter) but a little too hard on the man, as I’m sure anyone who suffered the way he did could be forgiven for being more than a little bitter at the cards he’d been dealt in life.
I wondered off down the Holloway Road humming Ian Dury’s ‘What A Waste’ -a sad omission from the soundtrack.
© Words - Dave Cairns/ ZANI Ltd
During the swinging sixties, Sinatra’s Mafia connections returned to haunt him, with regard to his friendship with Salvatore ‘Mooney Sam’ Giancana, head of the Chicago Mafia syndicate. During the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy was running against the sitting Republican vice president, Richard Nixon.