Tuesday, 10 June 2014

But Why Are The Kids Crying?

Once in every lifetime comes a love like this.

Rightly, there have been many tributes to Rik Mayall in the hours following his death so let me be brief. When I was 13 years old I decided that I didn't want to ever work for a living. Why would anyone want to be responsible and live a life decently when you could shout, pull faces and annoy people? I mean, if I could do that when I grew up instead of actually, you know, growing up then I think there's a chance that I could be happy. And the one and only reason that the idea even entered my head is solely down to Rik Mayall.

The first time that Rik and I ever hung out was in my living room in 1981. He was on TV and I was on the floor in front of him, a position I have never left. A brand new sketch show had started on BBC 2. It was called A Kick Up The Eighties, it starred Richard Stilgoe and it was completely and utterly awful. Yet everyone in my school talked about it the next day like they'd just witnessed the second coming of a V-flicking Christ. It was one of the worst comedies on television yet to miss a single episode would have been agony. I assume. I never, ever missed it. Why? Because of the rush and excitement of the silhouette of Kevin Turvey, an investigative journalist who would research any subject with pain staking detail, if it wasn't for the fact he was easily distracted. "My name is Kevin Turvey but you can call me Kevin Turvey", he said in that exotically nasal voice. "Alright, alright. Settle down".

It is the one and only time anyone has had me at hello. Everything that appeared on my TV screen in those few minutes were brand new. Those eyes, that voice, those hands. No one in television had eyes, voices or hands before Kevin Turvey. I grew up in 70's/80's Northern Ireland and for the very first time, I didn't feel safe in my own home. Someone had broken into the dust of television and shouted "RIGHT. I'M IN. LET'S BREAK EVERYTHING!"

I think I'm in love.

A million years later, I saw a trailer for The Young Ones, a brand new BBC sitcom. I thought it looked shit. I hated punks, didn't really know what hippies were and I'd absolutely no idea why these young men were all still living with their dad. But wait... Kevin Turvey's in it! Well, it's bound to be good.

It wasn't good. It was much more than that. It was the single most important thing in my life. It was wild, anarchic, surreal and gloriously stupid. A sitcom that destroys its "sit" in the very first episode. And I didn't just watch every episode, I devoured them. I memorised them. I loved them. I had no idea where this programme had come from but I did know that their disgusting, sick-and-snot-filled house was my home. And the star was Kevin Turvey. I didn't even care that Kevin was playing a new character called Rick because Kevin Turvey is great in everything. He's my new hero and I want to know all about him. The Young Ones is everything I've ever wanted. And therefore, The Young Ones got banned in our house.

Not for long. Just a few episodes. I'd called my Dad a "complete and utter bastard" once too often and so The Young Ones had to be switched off. Of course, Dad couldn't keep to his threat because in the Legge household, comedy isn't just comedy. It's romance. My Dad first noticed my Mum when he heard her doing Goons impressions and, 56 years later, he's still married to the funniest person he knows. Maybe Dad thought that I should watch The Young Ones because maybe someone will someday fall in love with me after hearing me saying "Neil, Neil, orange peel" repeatedly. I don't see why they wouldn't.

It seems too much of a corny thing to say that I wish I could say thanks to Rik Mayall for all he's given me but it's true. In the same way that The Beatles fans feel their lives were changed by music, my life is all the better for having The Dangerous Brothers, The Comic Strip Presents, Happy Familes, Filthy, Rich & Catflap, Blackadder, The New Statesman, The Bad News Album and Bottom. Let's face it, what is Pointless Anger, Righteous Ire if it isn't Robin Ince and I trying to steal Bottom and get away with it? When I found out that Rik had died yesterday, I was glad I was with Robin. I think when someone as important to you as Rik Mayall dies, you need to be with someone who loved him too. Or maybe you could just look on Twitter and Facebook and all forms of online media. Or you could turn on the TV or read a newspaper. It turns out that Rik Mayall was loved by everyone. We all felt a loss and we all celebrated his life. Everyone quoted him, everyone posted clips of him and... oh, Greg Davies... you beautiful, beautiful man. Imagine writing a sitcom and the sitcom gets made and you star in the sitcom and RIK MAYALL IS YOUR DAD!

I don't need to tell you which bits of Rik Mayall's work you should see because you already know. But if I was forced to, I'd say get a time machine and go back to 1991 and see Rik and Ade Edmondson performing Waiting For Godot, still the best production of the greatest play I've ever seen. Or just watch Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, my favourite comedy of all time.

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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Some Kind of Monster.

Your heroes should never meet you. You'll only let them down. And by that I mean that my heroes should never meet me. I will definitely let them down. Mind you, they've got no one to blame but themselves. I mean, what is Morrissey doing coming round my house for tea? He knows I'm bound to ask him why he wears leather shoes or ask why his band are terrible. And Peter Davison. Why would he ever go out of his way to meet me when it's guaranteed that I'll shout and cum on him? And Seamus Heaney. Why would he ever get his agent to ring my agent to organise meeting me in an upscale West London restaurant (his treat, of course) when he knows fully well I talk with my mouth full and I'm bound to ask him why he's dead? It makes no sense whatsoever. These heroes are just wasting their time meeting the likes of me. And just in case you think I'm being self-deprecating, know this: when De La Soul met me, I forgot to talk. When Robyn Hitchcock met me, I got so excited I completely ruined his solo acoustic gig. And... proud face ...I've been told to fuck off by all three members of R.E.M.

But not all my idols have been horribly let down by their worshipper. I met Metallica when I was 18 years old. It was in a club in Oakland, California during a show by the band Armored Saint. I really liked Armored Saint but they were nothing compared to Metallica. And there they were. Just standing around like they were ordinary human beings. I stared at singer James Hetfield for what felt like hours, like he was Molly Ringwald. And finally, like Andrew McCarthy, I got the courage to just go over there and speak to her. I mean him.

He was lovely. Not only was he very friendly but he was genuinely decent. When drummer Lars Ulrich didn't want a fan anywhere near the band, James asked me to sit with them. And when I couldn't get any alcohol because I was under 21, James sneaked me a beer. It was a brief meeting but a beautiful one. I was a fan then and I'm still a fan today. There's barely a week goes by that I don't listen to a Metallica album in full, I still happily wear my awful-looking Metallica t-shirt and my favourite film of last year was easily Metallica: Through The Never. And one of the reasons I'm still a fan is down to James Hetfield. He's funny, he's utterly charming and he has one of the truly great singing voices in rock. I mean, he's close to Nick Cave. He's THAT good.

But... hey, all good things must come to an end. Sooner or later, your heroes just turn out to be shit. Ben Elton wrote The Young Ones and a song for George W. Bush's inauguration. George Lucas created Star Wars and its prequels. And James Hetfield wrote Master of Puppets and now he's narrated a TV show called The Hunt, a reality programme focusing on men tracking down and killing a Kodiak bear. What a prick.

I can't joke about it. Firstly, I'm not very good at jokes. Secondly, I'll never understand why anyone would want to hurt anything. The idea of being so impressed by something that you have to kill it makes no sense. It can't even make sense to the hunter. So why do they do it? I think Dolly Parton is utterly incredible but the idea of having her severed head mounted in my living room makes me feel like I've taken fan worship too far. Plus, it would end all the things she does brilliantly. And I'd go to jail and shit. Anyway, the third reason I can't joke about it is I actually feel hurt. Someone I admire is doing the very thing that I'm against. It's weird but I really do want James Hetfield from Metallica to promise he'll stop all this, say sorry to me and then just hold me. I'll have a cry on him and then I'll forgive him. But he HAS to promise.

I found out about this on Sunday but I started reading more and more about it yesterday. None of it made me feel better. It's not like I didn't know that people hunted bears, I just always assumed that the people I had picked for my team wouldn't ever do that. I stopped reading about it and closed my laptop. Metallica's next record just won't sound that good now. But you can't mope, I suppose. You have to get out of the house and give yourself a shake. It was a lovely day yesterday. A nice walk will help.

And it did. I decided to get some unhunted and unmurdered broccoli from Tesco and, as I walked down the street, I saw a kitten. It was tiny, black and white and it was adorable.

It got my attention, not from it's adorability but because it was digging a hole in a garden. I've never seen a cat dig a hole before. That's more a dog thing, really. This tiny little ball of fluff and eyes using its soft white paws to dig a hole... look, I know James Hetfield would have just kicked it's fucking head in but it made the sun rise and shine brightly in my heart. It was beautiful. I just stood there watching this little kitten dig and dig and dig. It's tiny paws nowhere near powerful enough to make much of a dent in the soil but, with its eyes wide and his front legs frantic, it wasn't for the lack of trying. I must have stood there, outside an ordinary house on an ordinary Lewisham street, for three minutes. I didn't know why the kitten was digging but I was gripped. A tiny, industrious and curious kitten padding at the earth with all his might. Then it stopped.

It stopped because it had finished digging its hole.

Then, it lay down in the hole it had just made, under a plant, and curled up to go to sleep.

THAT KITTEN MADE A BED! Right in front of me. A tiny, ickle, adorable kitten made a wee, tiny bed for itself and lay down to sleep. I saw the whole thing and it was just magical. Oh, I'm well aware how sweary and aggressive I can be but, believe me, I swoon over an animal being amazing just as easily as I raise my devil horn hands to a great heavy metal riff. The little kitten closed its eyes and settled down under the plant and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life.

Then a man who lived in the house came out and asked why I was looking in his garden.

I laughed and explained everything, even pointing to the kitten. "That must have looked really weird from your living room...a man just standing there staring at your garden...but your kitten was just lovely", I beamed.

"Yeah, well, it's not your cat, it's mine. Fuck off", he said.

I won't lie, I hate you. All of you people. You're rude, smelly, ugly and you kill animals. Or at the very least, tell people to fuck off when they look at your kitten. I spent most of yesterday with Jerk. We didn't argue or get fed up with each other or try to kill one another. Maybe she's actually my hero? And I had that moment with that kitten. And nothing else matters.

BOOM! Ended on a Metallica lyric. Well proud.