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Book Review

Mott’s CD review

Book Review: Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination

by Lang Reid

This book, Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination, was published by Picador paperbacks last year (ISBN 0-330-43274-5) and was written by Helen Fielding, who the book cover told me, was the creator of Bridget Jones, subject of two books and screenplays. This showed me the total failure of my education, having never heard of this Bridget Jones, even though Mr. Google later showed me 615,000 entries for same.

The heroine in this book, Olivia Joules, comes across as a totally neurotic twit. I have met several of these in my life (neurotic twits, not Ms. Joules’), and each time have managed to find an excuse to get away. This time I was handed one in a book to review by Asia Books and had to stick it out till page 344.

The plot seems to be that a freelance journalist (the redoubtable Ms. Joules) decides that a perfectly charming man who pretends to be French, but is actually an Arab from the Sudan, and has so much money that he can’t spend it, is actually Osama Bin Laden, or one of his henchmen. She keeps meeting up with the dark-eyed stranger, who has a hypnotic effect on her, so much so that she has to tear herself away before she hops into bed with him.

She decides to spy on the dark-eyed Arab and climbs a hill using carrots to mark the way, so she could get back down again. (Obviously there were no goats, rabbits or donkeys in the immediate vicinity.) However, she is able to use her spy mirror ring to attempt to spot the henchmen. If that all sounds fairly “Girls Own Weekly” or something similar, you are getting the right idea. To really emphasize it, there are even illustrations of our heroine in perilous circumstances, complete with captions!

This book reads like Mills and Boon meets the CIA. I found this book nauseatingly sugary. Or perhaps just nauseating. It certainly does seem to give a good insight into the neurotic female mind, but this is an insight I could have quite happily lived without. Just as I do not need to know what foods give you borborygmi, I did not need to be reminded every few pages of “Rules for living by Olivia Joules” of which there are 16 if you must know, beginning with ‘Never panic. Stop, breathe, think’. Author Helen Fielding should have taken her own advice and just stopped.

I’m sorry I could not take to this book at all, which was a shame, as patently Helen Fielding can write well, great powers of description and attempts to maintain the acute characterizations all the way through the book. It was a “Jane Bond” movie written firstly as a book.

Perhaps it was significant that the rave reviews on the back cover were all written by women. Perhaps it is my male brain that is screwed up. Whatever the reason, whether I am an MCP or otherwise, this was not a book for me. No matter what the RRP. Even if I found it left on a plane seat.

Mott's CD Reviews: The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Next

Pawed by Mott the Dog Re-chewed by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

N.E.X.T. Next. What a way to start a song. As Alex Harvey spells out the letters of the title, before leering the word into the microphone, the band breaks into a tango beat to support him, which is perhaps one of the defining moments in the career of “The Sensational Alex Harvey Band” and its inspirational leader.

In 1972 Alex Harvey had reached the grand old age of 38, way too old in those hedonistic days of music to consider becoming a Pop Star. But tragically, Alex’s younger brother by some ten years, Leslie, had been killed in an electrical accident during a sound check with his group “Stone the Crows” at the Top Rank in Swansea. The cause was an unearthed microphone. This tragic event spurred Alex on to have one more go at cracking the big time. At the time Alex was earning a crust in the orchestra of James Rado’s iconoclastic musical ‘Hair’, but was persuaded by his manager, friend, and mentor Bill Fehilly, to go up to his native Glasgow, Scotland, to check out a gritty Progressive outfit called Tear Gas. The band was in the throws of giving up all dreams of stardom and going back to ‘normal jobs’. They were so broke that in true Scottish tradition they had resorted to haggis hunting up the side of mountains to find sufficient nutrition to survive.

However, Alex, recognizing talent when he saw it, coerced the band to stick together and plant him in as lead singer and inspirational genius. Putting “Sensational” into the title of the band, they went into the studio and in six days had recorded their first album, released in early 1973, before starting to play live anywhere that would have them. Not surprisingly, they quickly built up a reputation of one of the hottest acts on the live circuit.

Out front was Alex himself, skin tight jeans, dirty red handkerchief hanging from his back pocket, black and white looped T-shirt, with Alex’s huge head sticking out the neck (with all the creativity going on in this head, it needed to be a big one), topped off by an unruly mop of unruly jet black hair, the perfect leader.

Next to him was Zal Cleminson in a green rubber jumpsuit with cake white clown’s make-up, which exaggerated his gurning face as he cut loose during the solos, and becoming a complete maniac, the perfect foil.

On the other side of the stage on bass was a man who could have made a living as an Elvis impersonator, or at least one of Elvis’ bouncers Mr. Chris Glen, the perfect man to have on your side if the chips were down.

On keyboards, as befitting this lot, was Hugh McKenna, who looked more like a university music teacher than a Rock ‘n’ Roll star, the perfect musical director. And keeping it in the family, on drums you had Hugh’s brother, Ted, the perfect rock onto which to hoist your Rock ‘n’ Roll flag.

The first album was a reasonable commercial success, but for once the record company saw the potential in this group. Later that year they booked a full month for the band to record their follow up album and brought in top Glam Rock producer Phil Wainman. The results were ‘Sensational’. Alex sung with such pathos you cannot help but love him. Nobody else at the time could have gotten away with singing the title track, the J. Brel tribute to European brothels, or ‘Gang Bang’ poking fun of an unmentionable subject.

Zal Cleminson’s guitar playing throughout is nothing short of brilliant, and the band supports him note for note. All of the songs here were to stay in the band’s stage act in one way or another until the end, especially ‘The Faith Healer’ with its throbbing Tooltelbug drone opening, which was to become the band’s standard bearer and opening song. (The sight of Alex staggering to the front of the stage screaming “can I put my hands on you” used to send the audience into raptures.)

‘Vambo Marble Eye’ became a saga that Alex was going to take to higher plains on the live stage. Final number ‘The Last Of The Teenage Idols’ was inspired by an event way back in 1957, when Alex Harvey won a Daily Record organized competition to find the Scottish Tommy Steele (true - I promise!), which brings the album to a fitting rocking climax before we are lulled away by a final burst of do-wop.

In another year, “The Sensational Alex Harvey Band” was the biggest touring band in Europe, quite a turn around from Haggis chasing. Unfortunately, the work load was just too much and after suffering declining health, Alex left the band in 1978, after which the band imploded. Later in 1982, Alex would die of a heart attack while on tour in Europe, a day before his 47th Birthday. Although Alex’s career did not really catch fire until late, when it finally did, it sure burned bright. If “The Sensational Alex Harvey Band” is a mystery to you, pay attention. Alex Harvey was one of the greatest ring masters to have ever strode across the field of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The first two “Sensational Alex Harvey Band” albums, “Framed” and “Next”, have just been released as a special 2-for-1 box set, a bargain not to be missed.

Alex Harvey - Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica, Whip, Spray Paint, and Genius
Zal Cleminson - Lead guitar
Hugh McKenna - Keyboards
Chris Glen - Bass
Ted McKenna - Drums


Gang Bang
The Faith Healer
Vambo Marble Eye
The Last Of The Teenage Idols, Parts 1, 2, & 3.

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