When the much-hyped Netflix series Sex Education debuted last year, I sat down to watch the first episode one evening. Four episodes and three-and-a-half hours later, I had to force myself to stop in. Continue reading →
This week we discuss the capture of child trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell and what comes next. We move on to Trump’s traitorous countenance of the Kremlin-Taliban bounty on U.S. troops, and what Putin’s ultimate goals are for his puppet in the White House.
With four-letter words and violence by the bucketload, Guy Ritchie’s gangster flick had everything a 12-year-old boy could want – and it still does
When I was 12, all that mattered was the certificate. That little coloured shape in the bottom corner of the video box was the be-all and end-all, and there was a rigid hierarchy: U-rated films were to be avoided at all costs, PG piqued little interest, 12 suggested there might be something in there worthy of attention: a bit of swearing, the odd moment of violence, maybe even a glimpse of flesh. The 15-rated films were where things got interesting. From my limited experience, that was a broad bracket that took in a whole new world of invective, some unnervingly moderate sex scenes and a decent amount of blood and gore.
But it was the 18-rated films that were the holy grail. That was where the really foul language flowed, where the sex got terrifyingly explicit and, crucially, where the real bloodletting went down. Even the certificate itself – white numbering against a background of deep, carnal red – carried its own exhilaratingly adult connotations. Human beings tend to want what they can’t have, and 12-year-old boys are no different: any film classified 18 was by definition a film I was desperate to see.
It goes without saying that I almost never got to. My parents being joyless authoritarians, catching an 18 film during my early teens required either treacherous fieldwork (buying a cinema ticket for one film, sneaking into another), meticulous domestic strategising (recording the 9pm film on Channel 5 in the knowledge that something slightly riper would be on straight after: a tactic that, due to the three-hour runtime of VHS tapes, resulted in a lot of half-recorded Shannon Tweed movies) or, most often, by engineering invitations to households with a more flexible view of BBFC guidelines than mine.
It was the latter tactic that got me to see my first 18-rated film in full, thanks to a new DVD player, bought by a mate’s dad, that had come with a stack of recently released films. Two of them carried the desired certificate: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – a British gangster flick starring Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones – and Crash, a slow-burn psychosexual drama about people who get erotic thrills from car accidents. We went for the gangster film.
By the time the mercurial, volatile singer-songwriter John Martyn heard that he had been awarded an OBE for his contribution to British music, he was in a wheelchair, having lost a leg to septicaemia compounded by a lifetime of substance abuse. He died weeks later, before he could accept the honour.
Musicians often embody a garble of contradictions, but the English-born “Scots Belgian Jew” known to his family as Iain McGeachy was a more troubled – and troubling – figure than many from the late-60s. A trailblazing guitarist, he began his artistic life in the crucible of the folk revival that also produced Fairport Convention and Nick Drake. Solid Air, one of Martyn’s most magnificent outings, was written about Drake.
But Martyn took many of his extemporising cues from jazz and he went on to embrace nascent electronics, most particularly the early, spacious effect known as echoplex. U2 guitarist the Edge may not formally concur, but Martyn fans know the Irishman’s signature guitar sound was cribbed from Martyn. John Lydon and Bob Marley were admirers, as were Portishead. (In later life, Martyn did a sterling cover of Portishead’s Glory Box.)
By the end, Martyn had been impaled on a fence post and run into a cow with his car; artistically, he was yesterday’s man, having spent the 80s making slicker, more suffocatingly produced commercial rock music, often in the company of Phil Collins. There were periods when this leading light of the maverick fringe went dark, presumably to avoid the disreputable characters with whom he surrounded himself. The searching artistry of this caustic musician’s musician went hand in glove with dissolution and damage.
To his credit, journalist and biographer Graeme Thomson, author of previous well-regarded works on Kate Bush, George Harrison and Phil Lynott, dives straight into the awfulness of the man in the preface. “He blackened the eyes and broke the spirit of women he professed to love, abandoned at least one of his children and neglected others.”
Martyn’s parents separated when he was young, with his mother remarrying; the young Martyn felt the enforced distance from his mother, Betty, keenly. “He mistrusted women, which turned him into a misogynist,” states the folk singer Beverley Martyn, who suffered his violent alcoholic rages. Her own career did not survive their two-disc partnership; she eventually essayed albums of her own again much later in life, most recently in 2014. When the marriage broke up, Martyn left her, their two biological children and Beverley’s eldest child penniless; they lived off benefits while Martyn fuelled a coke habit. He started another family, forsook them too.
Somehow, this man had the gall to sing about love. Perhaps his best-known early song, May You Never, is an open-hearted blessing: “may you never lay your head down without a hand to hold”.