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Book Review:Mussolini

His part in my downfall

by Lang Reid

The editor probably assumes (and he will see incorrectly if he reads further) that this column has reviews of all the new titles appearing on the bookshelves. Silly chap! This week I decided I should review a book from my own bookshelves, and “all major booksellers” be damned! There is an ISBN number, so it is traceable, and those web-based bookshops will no doubt be able to find you a copy.

“Mussolini. His part in my downfall” (ISBN 0-7181-1738-7) was written by Spike Milligan, one of the original ‘Goons’ and his recent death brought him to the surface of my memory. Who can forget his description of Woy Woy, the town in Australia where his parents lived, as “God’s waiting room”, or “The world’s only above ground cemetery”.

The book is the fourth in Milligan’s war series, all taken from his experiences in WWII. The first was “Adolf Hitler : My part in his downfall”, followed by “Rommel? Gunner Who?” then “Monty: His part in my victory” and finally this book, the fourth volume.

All of these books are written in the first person, giving the reader a very personal view of WWII. In his preface, Milligan counters a Clive James’ critique of one of his previous books as being “an unreliable history of the war.” Milligan wrote, “Well, this makes him a thoroughly unreliable critic,” and later, “I wish the reader to know that he is not reading a tissue of lies and fancies, it all really happened.” Unfortunately, it all did happen, and it does not take long discourses with someone who actually fought in that war to verify Milligan’s claims. The “Peter Principle” of promotion to the level of incompetency has many examples in Milligan’s book(s).

The very human level at the grassroots (or perhaps rather the mud roots) of the army is shown by Milligan, in all its droll and farcical nature. His unit spending all day reeling in a telephone line, to find that another battery was reeling one out! Or his description of air raids. “It was one of the entertainments of the war, a sort of early television.” “See anything last night?” “Smashin’ air raid on Naples.” “Are they going to repeat it?”

The book finishes with one of the most poignant and soul-searching descriptions of a person going through a nervous breakdown. The difference between this and the usual reports is that Milligan does this in the first person. A heart-wrenching personal description of what it was like to lose one’s grip on reality. This is made even more devastating as up till the last few pages you have been crying from laughing so much. It is difficult not to shed the final tear with Milligan as he labels himself as a PN (psychoneurotic) and sets the seal on himself as the tragic-comic.

If you are a fan of farce, a fan of the Goons, or even just someone who wants to understand a little more about the futility of war from someone’s personal angle, this book is for you. No, you may not borrow mine!


Music CD Reviews:Garth Rockett and the Moonshiner - Good Evening I’m Ian Gillan and these are The Moonshiners

by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

By the end of 1988 the Deep Purple camp was once again in disarray, the concerts in early 1988 had been very successful musically, in fact amongst some of Purple’s best ever, but socially they found it hard to all be in the same room together, especially Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan.

As a new album was needed and an agreement could not be reached on a musical direction, Blackmore claimed that they needed to move forward musically and Gillan claimed the band was going in the opposite direction, and becoming Rainbow. The rest of the band went to the United States of America to record the music before sending it to Ian Gillan in England to add lyrics and vocals, before heading out on tour, well that was the plan. Sounds like a reasonable one to you? No, not me either, and of course it wasn’t.

Whilst kicking his heels in England and looking for something to do to fill in the time before the others summoned him, Ian Gillan looked up his old mate Steve Morris to put together a band to do some low key gigs to keep Ian’s vocal chords in practice.

The back rooms of the Cumberland Tavern in Liverpool were hired for a couple of weeks to rehearse. Liverpool has always been a hotbed of good old English rock ‘n’ roll, so it was not exactly a problem to find some good solid folk to fill out the line up. From Steve Morris’s own band “Export”, powerhouse drummer Lou Rosenthal and solid rhythm guitarist Harry Shaw were recruited (people always underestimate rhythm guitarist in my view, but where would Humble Pie and Status Quo have been without the pile driving rhythms of Steve Marriot or Rick Parfitt?). Then with the talented young keyboard player Mark Buckle, formerly of heavy metal revivalists “Quest”, and the bass playing abilities of Keith Mulholland from the late lamented “Rage” on board, Mr. Ian Gillan had got himself an astonishing new band of almost limitless talents.

A set was put together, noticeably not including any Deep Purple songs, but pulling songs from Ian Gillan’s previous enforced break from the Purple ranks when he recorded several albums and toured the world with his hard rocking own band “Gillan,” including probably the best songs from that band’s roster, the hard rocking and hilarious ‘No Laughing in Heaven’, as well as other old favorites ranging from covers of old Little Feat numbers (Let it Roll) the Stevie Wonder Classic (Living for the City), one from Cliff Bennett (Ain’t That Loving You Baby) and probably the artistic highlight of this collection with an absolutely spine chilling version of ‘Ain’t No More Cane On The Brazos’ - a song from the deep south of America at the turn of the century, but popularized by Lonnie Donegan in the 1950’s.

Tacked onto this album is another version of this song with the audience noise cut out, plus another version on Ian Gillan’s next solo album “Naked Thunder’. Never has the Gillan vocals been put to finer use, in all his work since or before he has never bettered this performance.

Also in the set are a couple of songs from the album that Ian Gillan did with his old Purple running mate Roger Glover called “Accidentally on Purpose”, another album well worth looking out for (“I Thought No’’ and “I Can’t Dance to That’’). Then finishing up with a brace of rock ‘n’ roll classics in ‘New Orleans’ and Lucille, where the band are let off the leash to simply rock their little hearts out.

After seven very enjoyable gigs in the North of England, Ian Gillan went across to America to sort out the Purple situation and was promptly fired for having the audacity to criticize the work of a certain Mr. Blackmore, so Purple replaced Gillan with Joe Lynn Turner (noticeably Rainbow’s last frontman) to tour and record their next album ‘Slaves and Masters’. Although a good rock album, it is no Deep Purple record and their appearance in Bangkok in 1991 was nothing short of a disgrace.

Ian Gillan went back to England and did a short tour of Britain under his new name of Garth Rockett with his backup band The Moonshiners, from which these recordings were culled, and very exciting they are too. Finally released on CD twelve years later, they show what an excellent band they were, perhaps if Ian Gillan had kept them together who knows?

But it was not to be as Ian went back into the studio to record a couple of solo albums, only keeping Steve Morris with him for recording and touring (The aforementioned ‘Naked Thunder’ plus ‘Toolbox’ - both fine albums) before the call came back out from Purple to re-join them for the “Battle Rages on” album and tour which he did, but after more animosity it was Ritchie Blackmore that left, leaving Ian Gillan leading Deep Purple from the front to this day, as was seen in their triumphant return to Bangkok last year at the Impact Arena.

This live recording, though, is a great example of a bunch of experienced musicians putting on a good show as well as having a good time, well worth your hard earned shilling.

Musicians

Ian Gillan/ Garth Rockett / Vocals
Steve Morris / Lead Guitar
Keith Mulholland /Bass
Harry Shaw / Rhythm Guitar
Lou Rosenthal / Drums
Mark Buckle / Keyboards

Songs

I’ll Rip Your Heart Out
No laughing in Heaven
Living for the City
Trouble
Ain’t That Loving You Baby
Ain’t No More Cane On The Brazo’s
I Thought No
Nothing But The Best
Let it Roll
Unchain Your Brain
I Can’t Dance to That
No Easy Way
New Orleans
Lucille

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]