Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
The first event happened in the late days of June when the Daily Mirror announced that Brian Jones had left the Rolling Stones. Then, within a few short days, round about 2nd July, they screamed Brian Jones Is Dead. I don't why it affected me so much, but it had been a bad summer for me so far. My first group, having barely got off the ground had then broken up earlier that year. My mates. Dave Ward, Hedley Pierre and I weren't going to be the power trio we imagined. The Beatles had broken up. I'd broken up with a girlfriend back in April. In late May, I'd had a severe hiding from some thugs in the street and so I too was broken up. Everything, in the words of Bob Dylan 'was broken.' And now Brian Jones had died. Murdered? Overdose? Asthma attack? Nobody seemed to know.
He was the first one. The first casualty and sacrifice. The newspapers had a field day. Of course all the licentiousness of the past few years would end like this, they muttered sombrely. At work in my dull, dull, first job, some idiot of my own age said. "I don't understand the fuss. He was just some creep." My dad, on seeing the Jones-less Stones on television playing Honky Tonk Women, laughed and then, I suspect for my benefit, made a sick joke which I won't even grace him with by reproducing here.
I couldn't get the news out of my head. I think it was then that I realised that The Sixties, if there really were such a thing, was over and by default, so was my late childhood. I now realise that I had a kind of breakdown at the time. I didn't recognise it as such but certain others did and after quitting my job I was dragged to the doctor's by my mother and medicated with some rather crude drugs. Poor old Brian. The establishment and the straight people all around me were actually glad he was dead. I couldn't believe the world could be so cruel and nasty. I pored over every detail of the circus surrounding his funeral. I had my haircut as closely like his as I could. I looked at pictures of him. I wrote poems and song lyrics about him. and as you will imagine, they were the work of a sixteen year old boy of fragile mindset.
Years later, when the books and interviews surfaced about him, it emerged by most accounts that he had been a rather feckless, self-indulgent and nasty sort of person. Nonetheless, the image of the androgynous, pop aristocrat-dandy that he and one or two of the other Stones had been has never left me. And I also consider that as good as the Stones were - and still are - when Brian Jones played with them, they had an eclectic and psychedelic side to their work which has never been bettered. My favourite album of theirs to this day, remains the semi-forgotten Between The Buttons which is full of good stuff and strange instrumentation. It still sounds great and really different.
The pictures of Brian Jones in his mid-60s finery are defining images of the time. I thought for years, that if I could ever make that grade, then I too wouldn't mind dying young because how could there possibly be anything better? A test of how cool he was lay in the amount of rage he he was able to engender in people from outside his world. He spoke softly, he lisped, he hid behind blond fringes and had an exotic foreign girfriend, who looked so like him that she may as well have been his sister, so close was the resemblance. His very image on television could foster paroxysms of rage in certain adults. Worse: he was rich, famous and successful. He was too cool to live. It was almost pre-destined that he would be the first sacrifice.
A few days after he died, I, along with half a million other people traipsed to Hyde Park to see the Stones play live. I had a headache and the heat made my nose-bleed for an hour or so. I watched the spectacle weakened and faint and walked dazed away after the concert, knowing that something had changed forever. Pop had lost its innocence Brian Jones, the blond Rolling Stone was dead and for me at least, a shadow had drifted over the sun. Shortly afterwards, a man walked on the moon. I couldn't have cared less. The summer was already over.
“You can slag off an Oxford education off as much as you wish.” said an ex-girlfriend of mine, rather waspishly. “But the one thing it does do is to teach you how to spot a bullshit argument.”
“I suspect that it also endows you with the sophistry to construct one.” I replied, “ Or all those politicians wouldn't go there, would they?” With this, I finished my can of lager, lit a roll-up and belched.
And so with one yobbish counterblast, I shot another chip of honey-stone off one of British education's misty minarets. The middle-class in this country have an obsession with university education which currently borders on the fetishistic. Their faith in the system is in many cases touchingly misplaced. Nearly everyone goes to university these days. At least half of them don't seem to be able to sling a coherent sentence together or add up their pay-slip.
I hear on the radio news that there aren't enough places at university to go round. Good. Places which used to be colleges or polytechnics are now given the status of universities. Young people who attend university routinely come out of them anywhere between £12,000 and £22,000 in debt to the state. “But you don't have to pay it back.” I'm told “Not unless you get a job making x thousand a year.” And you don't necessarily get a job either.
I do actually think it's probably a good idea to go to Uni if you're planning to be a doctor, a vet or any kind of scientist. Ancient and modern languages are probably good things to study at uni, too and I'm sure there are a number of other things. The universities themselves seem to be full of fairly unhappy lecturers, many of whom are having to waste time producing large amounts of spurious 'research' in order to justify their jobs. At least one high-ranking academic of my acquaintance is glad to be doing this, since he thinks that the material he's getting sent to work with – that is, the students – isn't quite up to what it once was. And he does have genuinely valuable reasearch to do.
Universities have had to become competitive. The old Socratic principles of education seem to have more or less gone out of the window. Our universities now take a large number of students from abroad, most notably, the far east. It's good business. They pay lots of money. Everyone I speak to, from the admin people through to the lecturers seems pissed off. The only uni I can think of that makes any sort of sense these days, seems to be the Open University. Having said that, it sounds frightfully dull and the other universities secretly laugh at it.
The myth persists that you won't get a good job unless you go to uni. The facts remain that you mostly can't get a job even if you do. What kind of a start are we giving young people if they surface, aged twenty-two from the torpor of a used-to-be-shit-poly-but-now-it's a pretend uni with a huge financial debt? You'd be better off learning plumbing, working a lap-dancing club or, come to that, doing card tricks on street corners. They ought to make it harder to get to uni. And then they ought to make it .not just free, but with a generous unconditional grant. From evidence I've seen over recent years, there's a huge swathe of young people who are doing something at uni, but whatever it is they're not being educated.
I walked out of education when I was fifteen. Didn't even take any o-levels. Haven't got a single qualification. Never went back. Wouldn't want to go back. And as a result I have all the self-opinionated arrogance of the typical working-class auto-didact to prove it. But I can string a sentence together and I can do my own book-keeping. If my son or daughter told me they wanted to go to uni, they'd better have a pretty good reason for it because in most cases, these days, they'd be better off with a job and a library ticket.
It's the ultimate sucker punch for the concerned classes. The persistent lie being circulated today is that you need those qualifications or employers won't even look at you. Well, I know at least two local employers that just want somebody bright, punctual and hard-working. They wouldn't give a flying V whether you'd been to uni or not. You can still work your way up to CEO from coffee boy. Never let anyone tell you that you can't.
Another interesting thing with academic institutions, is the way, once a year, they hand out honorary degrees like lollipops to people in the wider community. This is a feelgood gesture. It's good p.r. And it helps to fold the town into the gown. Oh and it also helps the duller institutions get a few luminaries on their roll-call that they may have missed out. There's a certain amount of cachet, if say, you could have Bono or Mick Jagger up there on the board. Would I ever take one? Dunno. No-one's offered, yet. But probably not. It's not the institution, I object to. It's the idea of having to stand around in a hot hall half the afternoon with that stupid gown and hat on.And anyway, by whose authority and judgement do they decide that you're worthy of it?
Until they make university free again and more difficult to get into, unless you're going to be a doctor or a physicist it ain't worth a light, these days. Too many universities and not enough education, is what I reckon. Just thought I'd get that off my chest. Probably get shot to ribbons for it. Don't really care.
Here are 10 points for dads of teenage girls, who may need to refresh their knowledge of the subject.
1) Foundation make-up. This is utterly, utterly important, even though you may have the flawless skin of a thirteen and a half year-old typical English Rose, you must have loads of it. It costs £7.50 a bottle and it's an absolute disaster if you run out of it first thing on a school morning because one of your friends must have been using it and can't you please, please have some money to buy some more right now, even though it's five to eight in the morning?.
2) Food. This isn't really important, Until it suddenly is. The best thing is to hardly eat anything all day, apart from eight cans of Coke and six packets of crisps, then rush home, don't even say hello, pull open the fridge door and say "When is dinner gonna be ready?" Eat loads of biscuits bits of toast and fruit while you're waiting, then only eat half of the nutritious dinner.that's been prepared for you Follow this up by eating loads of snacks until bed-time (whenever that is) including the last bit of bread and most of the pineapple juice. Don't forget to leave the milk the butter and everything else out on the kitchen surface. Oh and never eat breakfast. Not even if they try to force you.
3) Clothes You can never have enough of these. With school clothes, the best thing is to hide them when they're dirty, stuff them into the school-bag next to your uneaten sandwiches or why not simply leave them at a friend's house after school? Don't forget to leave it till midnight to tell your dad you haven't got a clean polo shirt for the next morning. Leisure clothes, though, are best left strewn over the furniture and all over the house, for easier access.
4) Hair: You're definitely going to need hair straighteners. These can be left switched on, for extra heating. Preferably leave them on your father's work-table. Hours must be spent with hair straighteners. And you'll need a gallon each of shampoo and conditioner. Conditioner is really good for coating the bathroom fittings and making the taps feel oddly slimy. Hair-brush? If you can't find your own, just use your father's only hairbrush and when you've finished with it, put it in a different place every time. It keeps him on his toes if he has to say, go and visit his accountant that day and he's late for the train.
5) The Bathroom. The bathroom is a citadel for the teenage girl. It must be occupied by stealth and you must set in for a long siege by anyone else who might just need to get in there. Only leave it when all the towels are soaked. Except, keep one big wet bath towel back so you can leave it on a living room chair later. It helps the chair stay damp.
6) The Computer. At all costs, keep your father away from this. He'll only use it as a work-station.
7) The Television: To be left on, always...and at top volume. It complements the hip-hop music which is rattling the speakers in their screws on the computer and because you're a teenage girl, unlike other people, you're perfectly capable of watching it while your back's turned and you're on Facebook. Oh and keep the i-pod headphones in while you're doing that. This is while you're text messaging on your mobile, using the webcam and talking on the landline.
8) The Land-line: All teenage girls know that the landline is absolutely free and so it's obviously best to phone your friends on their mobiles with it. The myth that this is expensive is only promoted by your father who is completely out of touch with the technology of today. Not only that but he's old and he smells of poo.
9) Lights and Heating: When in doubt just switch it all on and leave it all on. You never know-- even though it's now June, it still might suddenly get dark or a bit cold or something.
10) Beds and Laundry This is a bit of a mystery area for teenage girls. Nobody really knows how beds get made or how laundry gets done. But hell, they kind of do, don't they? So let's not dig too deeply there.
Coming soon. Martin's Guide To Budget Rest Homes.
A dynamic teenage girl in action, yesterday.