Monday, 16 June 2014

Mark Ellen: Rock stars stole my life! (2014)

Mark Ellen: Rock stars stole my life!
1985. Live Aid day. 13 July. I’m ripping open my envelope and then ripping up the cheque, to rewrite it, because Bob Geldof’s just convinced me to send in a bigger donation, following that video set to the music of the Cars. A vivid memory. 

But one of the presenters that day was the lovely Mark Ellen. I knew him better from his time on Whistle Test with Andy Kershaw; and their relentlessly positive, familiar, cozy approach. They offered me zany fare; for instance, Udo Lindenberg, singing the bizarre “Germans”. And Mark Ellen commented on the Cold War geopolitical nature of the song's fallout. It was 1985, after all. 

The coziness continues in the book. This, from his teenage years:

"We had no tents or even sleeping-bags so the four of us slept both nights on mounds of straw under a plastic sheet in a great warm nest of fur and smoke and tangled hair, like puppies in a basket". 

I had the same experience just reading this book which is, let's face it, for blokes. Well, let's really face it; it was written for me. 

Mark Ellen wasn't in my consciousness after 1985, but I was keen to buy this book after I heard him talking about it on the Six Music Radcliffe and Maconie show. That was last summer (2013) and when he announced it was out in May 2014, I know it would be a long wait, but worth it. 

And then I saw him. August 2013 at a gig. I only spoke to Mark quickly to say that I was buying his book after hearing him on the radio. I forgot to thank him for Udo Lindenberg...

He was at the show with David Hepworth, another Whistle Test presenter and fellow music magazine veteran. These people are icons from when I was in my early 20's and, on the TV, there was only really Top of the Pops or Whistle Test. 

And then the Tube. Mark Ellen is positive about the Tube and explains how the BBC took it on, including moving Whistle Test to a more prime-time slot. I recently read about the same period in time in his co-host, Andy Kershaw's book. Andy's a lot less generous about the Tube and Jools Holland in particular. Mark Ellen's completely non-offensive and his book was just as a joy to read as Andy Kershaw's, but for different reasons. Butter v bitter. 

I also like him because he doesn't fall for that Morrisey viewpoint that music started in 1977 with punk. His eclectic collection makes him very interesting. At Mojo: "We didn't subscribe to the Stalinist notion that punk rock was year zero". 

I didn't want it to end. And he spends a page talking about his experiences with my hero, Vivian Stanshall. I'll memorise that bit. But was the book really written for me alone? I'd like to think so. But there were always those two billion people that (one estimate at the time suggested) watched Live Aid. 

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