Yesterday, in between the shooting pains in my hip, I spent half an hour or so mulling over my current top ten records of all time. Whilst I realise that the final selections will change from time to time – day to day – one of yesterday’s choices was a live version of I Fought the Law by The Clash.
Back in the mid-80s, I saw the band performed an impromptu acoustic set in York city centre – and this was one of the songs they played. I hadn’t given it any thought before, but I just sort of assumed this was another in a long line of classic Strummer/Jones compositions... I was wrong.
Full marks if you know that it was Sonny Curtis of The Crickets who penned the song, which was duly recorded in 1959 (with Curtis on guitar, following the untimely passing of Buddy Holly). For those of you who love your trivia, Sonny Curtis also wrote the theme tune to the MaryTyler Moore Show....
Several years later, I Fought the Law proved to be the breakthrough track for the American rock ‘n’ rollers the Bobby Fuller Four (pictured). I’ve listened to The Crickets’ original and seen a video of the Bobby Fuller Four in action, both are excellent versions, but there was something about Bobby Fuller’s sound that made me want to hear a few more songs – which I duly did, and I’m only disappointed I hadn’t found out about this band before now.
The Beatles were dominating popular music on both sides of the Atlantic during the mid-60s, but whilst Bobby Fuller seems to have been influenced by the music of the late-50s, he still created (or at least he had last night) a sound that arguably deserved a wider audience. Unfortunately, the Bobby Fuller Four story ended almost as soon as it had begun, when the twenty-three year-old Fuller was found dead in his car on 18th July 1966.
He was lying face down in the front seat of the car with the windows and doors shut and no keys in the ignition. Nearby was a half-full, open petrol can and Fuller’s body was soaked in petrol, as well as his arms and shoulders being covered in bruises.
Initially ruled as suicide, the verdict on Fuller’s untimely demise was later changed to accidental asphyxiation, but there is another theory that suggests Fuller was murdered and those who had committed the crime fled the scene, after being spotted as they were about to dispose of the body.
Nearly fifty years on, the exact cause of Bobby Fuller’s death is not known for certain, but in one house in a small corner of north east England, this young man’s music now lives on.
Robert Gaston Fuller 22/10/1942-18/07/1966
Emmett Till would have been seventy-two today: nothing particularly remarkable in that—many people live into their eighth decade and beyond nowadays. It is the use of the third conditional—help me out Wendy! —which provides a clue to an incredible story. Emmett Till did not live to be seventy-two, because on 28th August 1955, the fourteen year-old was brutally murdered.
The black teenager, who was born in Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi when, on 24th August, he reported “flirted” with a young woman who was the joint-owner of a grocery store.
The lady in question was named Carolyn Bryant, she was twenty-one—and she was white.
It is hard to be certain what exactly happened whilst Emmett bought bubble gum in the shop—some accounts suggest he wolf-whistled at Carolyn, others that he touched her arm. Whatever the truth, the consequences would be horrific.
A few days later, Carolyn’s husband Roy Bryant, and his half-brother J.W. Milam kidnapped the youngster and handed out a brutal beating, before shooting Emmett in the head and throwing his body—which was weighed down with a heavy fan tied round his neck with barbed wire—into the Tallahatchie River.
The corpse was recovered three days later, the face mutilated beyond recognition; in fact, Emmet was only identified because he was wearing a ring that his mother had given to him, before his trip. The teenager’s body was taken to Chicago, where his mother decided to have an open-casket funeral, allowing her son’s terrible injuries to be displayed to the thousands who flocked to pay their respects.
It’s hard to believe that the suspects were subsequently tried before an all-male, all-white jury and despite some truly astonishing bravery of a number of black witnesses—including Moses Wright and Willie Reed (who died as recently as last Thursday)—who openly identified the attackers in court, the defendants were duly found not guilty after a paltry sixty-seven minutes of deliberation.
Protected by double jeopardy laws, Bryant and Milam not only admitted the killing early the following year, but actually sold their story to a magazine for $4,000. I haven’t the words to explain how I felt after reading that.
A matter of months after Emmett was slaughtered, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus—an action that sparked the Montgomery bus boycott—and, although it took many years until the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, Mamie Till realised that despite the pain of losing her son in such shocking circumstances, ultimately his death was not in vain.
For me, a world in which someone could not only justify, but glorify the killing of a black teenager is hard to accept— that this world existed less than sixty years ago is totally beyond my comprehension, but I would like to take this opportunity to remember Emmett Till on this, his seventy-second birthday.
As ever, with anything related to the Royal Family, public opinion will always be divided. There were those who camped outside the hospital where Kate was due to give birth, just to feel part of such a significant event—I admire their dedication and devotion, but their body odour may have left something to be desired. Equally, there are others who simply shrug their shoulders at the very mention of the Royals, or mutter something involving the words “waste” and “money” (oh, and “of”).
My position is very much closer to the former. I am a staunch supporter of our Royal Family, but I just watch from afar—smelling particularly pleasant in the process.
I was thrilled at Monday’s news of the safe arrival of a baby son for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It is my firm belief that the relevance and future of our Monarchy lies in the hands of William and Kate; they are already outstanding ambassadors for our country, capable of engaging with people from any generation and background. I suppose William and the equally admirable Harry were born into this way of life, and having Diana, Princess of Wales as a mother was always likely to give them an ability to display genuine empathy, but although Kate’s own background was relatively privileged, she has still adapted superbly—outwardly at least—to her new role.
It’s unfair to offer subjective comparison with William and Harry’s late mother, because the Duchess is very much her own person, but I really think that this endearing young woman will make every bit as significant a contribution as Diana and with the next generation of the monarchy assured with the newborn third in line to the throne, I actually feel a sense of comfort, along with happiness at the news.
The only real downside has been the television coverage. Of course a Royal birth is a big story, especially given this particular baby’s destiny, but Monday’s hour-long “specials” on both BBC and ITV were at best unnecessary. There are only so many times you can show the front of a hospital and tell viewers that the presumably proud parents are somewhere inside, or head off for numerous visits to The Old Boot Inn in Kate’s home village of Bucklebury where apparently the champagne was flowing freely—well if it was, it was being drunk from pint glasses.
That said, I watched the programme anyway, but my “switch off” moment did arrive—yesterday morning, in fact—when Kate’s old piano teacher was interviewed and given the chance to perform a song he’d written to commemorate the birth. There is a line you should never cross... and that was it.
For the record, Kate had passed her Grade 3 piano exam, and her Grade 5 theory—which presumably means she failed the practical. Back in the mid-1970s, I passed my Grade 3 trumpet exam—actually I got a “merit”—and although it’s been a while, I have composed a little tune...
On four... one, two, three, f...
As you can see, I’ve decided to overhaul the site—hopefully a thumbs up if you like orange!—and this is the first of a new series of blogs, with all my previous offerings now consigned to the “archive” tab.
I’m intending to focus more on my BearManor Media books, and although I’ve retained the reviews of all my self-published books, they are now neatly gathered together on one single page. The tab containing photos of friends with books is still here—waiting patiently for any newcomers (you still know who you are!) and I’ve kept the page about some sporting exploits from yesteryear, mainly because my left hip is in a lot of pain at the moment, and I’m trying desperately to remember a time when I was even reasonably athletic.
The need for replacement joints is sadly inevitable—albeit not imminent—but I’m hoping there’ll be a way of better managing the pain, because every step hurts at the moment and a 100 mile-a-day drive to work certainly isn’t going to make things any better. That said, with the announcement last Monday of two layers of management being removed as part of our ongoing restructure, I might not have the drive for too much longer! And yes, the CV has been updated—looks quite good . . . I’d employ me!!
Work on the Marie Prevost bio is back on track—sincere thanks to everyone who left such positive messages in response to the inaccurate and actually quite upsetting comments made on another blog page. The fact remains that however my research is perceived, I believe that I can write—writers surely don’t get offered contracts purely on the basis of an interesting subject?!
Finally, I’m really excited to receive the first copies of Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman—fingers crossed the reviews will be good and the book will prove popular. I’ll post a photo when the books arrive, but for now it’s time to hobble to the kitchen for my Sunday morning cornflakes.
Until next time!