Friday, April 25, 2008

A Few Of My Favourite Things - A Profile....

Taking Views Beyond The Fridge


Okay during the daytime

Local Favorites:
The eldery chap who lives at number 2 and the two Border Collies who live at the end of my road

I Belong To:
My cat - she owns me.

When I'm Not on Topix:
I am writing for nothing somewhere else

Read My Forum Posts Because:
I'd read them if it was me

I'm Listening To:
The voices inside my head

Read This Book:
Tricks Of The Mind by Derren Brown

Favorite Things:
Theatre, books, Richard E Grant's legs and 1970's music

On My Mind:
Being a great writer and a profound thinker and why you cannot buy Fruit Salads anymore

Blog / Website / Homepage:

I Believe In:
Anything that educates, inspires and generally puts your faith back in humanity, oh yes, and eternal youth - it's a long shot....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Tragedy Of A Much Loved And Irreplacable Children's Entertainer

Mark Speight, who has been missing for six days, has been found dead at a London train station, presumed hanged. It is the end of a tragic story of two people of incredible talent, and lives destroyed by drink and drugs...

Today in the UK, we mourn the loss of someone who could even be described as 'iconic.' He was a much loved children's TV presenter who had entertained both children and parents for over a decade with his wacky and wild approach to educational and artistic TV.

On screen, he was an enigmatic, presence whom children across the UK and thanks to Sky TV, across many areas of the world, was one of laughter and fun, yet in real life, he had been suffering. After the tragic death of his fiancee in January, his world had taken a dive and the loss had left him in a downward spiral, he had felt, there was no escape from.

Early yesterday morning, Transport police officers found his body in a remote part of one of London's most busiest railway stations, Paddington. There are today, unconfirmed reports that he was found hanging, almost definitely suicide. A post mortem test will show today what and how exactly he died. The death, police say is "unexplained," yet the rest of us know that he had a broken heart since loosing his love, Natasha Collins.

The 42 year old and 31 year model had been presenting a TV show for children when they first got together, but her career in broadcasting failed to take off at such a rate as Speight's did. He had a clearer presence on TV than her, so she moved into modelling and became a familiar face in magazines. The two had shared a flat together in North London, but soon found that their careers led them into a world of drink and drugs. Both figures of priceless talent, ended due to too much "partying."

Three months ago, Mark Speight awoke to find Natasha lying in a bath, full of boiling hot water, dead from an overdose of drink as well as 60% burns across her body. The pair had been quietly "partying" the night before at their home and had both taken a concoction of sleeping pills, drink and cocaine. During the middle of the night, Natasha got up to run herself a bath, but died as a result of an unknown heart defect and scolds to her body. Shortly after Speight was arrested for murder, but released very quickly afterwards, yet he had never recovered. When he had woken after that fateful night, he discovered the horrendous body of his fiancee in the bathroom and since then, had never been able to set foot in the home they shared again.

Over the last three months, Mark had spent every minute at her mother's house, close to Natasha's family, they became a tower of strength for him, but he proved to be not strong enough himself to cope with the loss of his Natasha. This week, the family, including his father and brother mourn the loss of two much loved people.

Where mark had worked on TV, the BBC said in a statement,

[quote]"This is very sad news and our thoughts and sympathies are with Mark's family and friends.
Mark was a hugely talented and very popular presenter for many years." [/quote]

At the officers of [url= t=_blank]Mark's agent, Billy Marsh Associates[/url], Jan Kennedy told BBC News of how much the shock of his death has saddened the company. She said,

[quote]"Caring and compassionate in everything he did, Mark was truly gifted in life and we are proud to have represented him as a friend and client for almost 20 years. He was blessed with a remarkable personality, great artistic talents and the wonderful warm ability to communicate those skills with people, especially children of all ages. With his sensitivity of spirit, coupled with his dynamic presence and natural enthusiasm, he was loved and respected by his adoring family, friends and colleagues everywhere in the media."[/quote]

Our thoughts go to both families. A special tribute video has come from [url= t=_blank]YouTube.[/url]

mduffy 2008

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Dear Mo - Let It Rest. Is The Title Of Murder What You Really Really Want...?

The verdict on the inquest into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and her companion, Dodi al Fayed has resulted in "gross negligence" at the hands of Henri Paul and the paparazzi, yet Mr al Fayed is disappointed. Would he have preferred murder?
The six month slog at the Old Bailey in London for the grief-stricken father Mohamed al Fayed is now over. After campaigning for jury a of six ordinary women and five ordinary men as well as a complete public hearing into the deaths of his son and Princess Diana, the result has left Mr al Fayed lost for words. After stepping quietly out of court this afternoon, he did not stay to address the awaiting press, but went home to be with his family. The result - not what he had wished for, yet in his statement read by his team outside today, he expressed his bitterness and disappointment in the case, yet thanked the jury for doing their job.

The judge and jury decided on a verdict of "unlawful killing" at the hands of Henri Paul, their driver that night, and members of the paparazzi. They also found that the two passengers in the rear of the black Mercedes, Dodi and Diana, were not wearing their seat belts. Henri Paul was found to be over three times the legal drink driving limit. A collaboration of these events are said to have led to the deaths.

Bitter and defeated, Mohamed al Fayed has refused to accept the verdict, yet knows in his heart of hearts that he has no choice but to. Thoughts of the court and those involved have gone to Mr al Fayed and his loss. Included in the list of these people was former Met Police chief Lord Stevens, who expressed his wish for Mr al Fayed to accept the outcome and bring closure to the ten year battle.

According to the BBC News website, "The jury returned joint verdicts of unlawful killing through grossly negligent driving - or gross negligence manslaughter."

It is thought to be the most expensive investigation into a human death in criminal history. British taxpayers have obviously been hit with the "bill" to the tune of around £10m. Yet as Mr al Fayed approaches the 11th anniversary of the car crash which killed his son, Henri Paul his driver and Princess Diana, he will be thinking again about the events which surrounded their deaths in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris on the 31st of August, 1997.

As the former police chief, Lord Stevens said outside court today,

"I do hope everybody will take this verdict as being closure to this particular tragic incident and the people who've died will be allowed to rest in peace.."

Yet in Mr al Fayed's statement which was read out today for his millions of supporters around the world, he said,

"For 10 years I have endured two police investigations. The French and the Scotland Yard inquiries were wrong. These inquests prove it. They said it was an accident and their findings are now dismissed."

Yet it has far from brought closure on the subject for those of us around the world as since the verdict was announced today in court, dozens of radio stations and news channels have discussed it, analysed it and focused on it and will continue to do so for a very long time to come, and why? Because we are human and in a case where we think there has been an element of deceit, sensationalism, deception and passion, we will be there, talking about it.

Mr al fayed had said,

"The most important thing is it is murder."

So is that what we really would have wanted to hear? Would that have allowed us and Mr al Fayed peace and understanding? Would we have then been able to put closure on the matter and laid the Princess and her companion to rest? Probably not, we would not have stopped there and neither would have Mr al fayed.

So it actually might not end here. There is a possibility of this case coming back to court again. Would Mr al fayed be ready for a new challenge, or would he simply be seen as a man who cannot let something go? Such a challenge would consist of a High Court judicial review, and that would mean more press coverage and a possible country fed up with hearing Mr al Fayed gone one again. He has had a lot of support from the UK, but surely enough is a enough? The press agent, Michael Cole said,

"That is a very difficult route but we are keeping all our options open."

Yet there might be a stick in the clause for Mr al Fayed. A scrap of small print suggests that it is "not possible for the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute foreign nationals for deaths abroad, even if the victim is British. All of the paparazzi involved were foreign," according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Even now thought, we can imagine Mr al Fayed sitting at home mumbling the words "murder plot" over his evening meal. Yet there are events of the case itself which leave a bad taste in the mouth - the fact that the butler, Paul Burrell refused to appear in court again after he was cross questioned over certain details, the mother, Mrs Shand Kydd who described her daughter, Princess Diana as nothing more that "a whore." The plot will continue to thicken and make head line news for ever.

Yet even the Princess's own family have kept quiet over the case. On leaving court, neither the Earl of Spencer, her brother or her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale said anything. Only her long time friend and occasional holiday companion, Rosa Monckton, spoke after the result, she said,

"The inquest had been incredibly intrusive. I think there's a lot of her life that has come into the public eye that should never have been there. That's been a very unfortunate side-effect of this inquest. One must never forget that he (Mohamed al Fayed) lost a son. I just hope now that he will find some sort of peace."

We do, as a nation and a world united, have to agree...

PJ Digital Journal 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Pink Hair, Bad Taste And Good All Round Sauce - Show Us Your Fuzzbox

Somewhere back in the early to mid Eighties, (no one exactly knows when) four dizzy school girls got together and decided to do something with their lives in Birmingham rather than be destined to grace the checkouts in their local Tesco’s. Sisters Jo and Maggie Dunne (four years older) were eagerly learning to play lead guitar and bass respectively whilst Vickie Perks only had eyes for being a front lady with microphone in hand and petite, blonde Tina O’Neill, already had drumsticks in her tiny grip ready for her first lesson. Not really coming up with any great ideas for a band name, one of them came up with the idea of playing around with one of the instruments they were now rehearsing with. A ‘Fuzzbox,’ to describe it in his entirety, is a guitar pedal used to create a distorted sound. It was first used by Jimi Hendrix and was an essential item to create a surround sound of blurred or ’fuzzy’ noises in rock music predominately. It also was and still is, a certain piece of equipment used by many punk groups around at the time to give the very essence to a punk rock sound. Thus ‘We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It’ was born…

Although with their brightly coloured rags and market off cuts image that was more Barbie than pure punk, they were appealing, but albeit out of date. Gracing the Indie charts was about as good as they could get in their early days. Too clean and well made up for anything along side The Slits, they took their place next to fellow extreme make up appliers, Strawberry Switchblade in the quest for pouts, powder, ribbons and vacant expressions. Now well equipped and fully all lessoned up on their respective instruments, they were ready to release their first single.

Signing up for Vindaloo records (they were the first and the only label around willing to take a chance on the colour blind quartet) they released the AA sided record ‘XX Sex/Rules And Regulations’ in April 1986. It was Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ all over again. It was racy, ever so girlie and pumped up to the hilt with far too much bass, and certainly not enough glam to tame the record buying public. Their video promo was an embarrassing arrangement of flitty scenes of a derelict street and all the gravitating stunning shots of a kid brother on too much Tizer. The single itself, flopped at number 41 and failed to rise any higher, but it did take the number 1 spot in the Indie chart. With it’s squeaky chant ‘There must be more to life…’ it seemed that Fuzzbox were going to have to pull something better out of the hat if they really wanted to keep away from the food isles. It is however, one of those tracks that since their readily acquired fame a couple of years later, that we sit back now and analysis for any deeper hidden meanings. ‘XX Sex,’ will just go down as a crap song. Their over usage of hollering and whooping screams certainly weren’t going to put them down firmly in the punk hall of fame, but it seemed that for a brief moment, they managed to achieve something of a albeit, teddy boy retro feel with ‘Rockin’ With Rita.’ Teaming up with mediocre ‘where are they now,’ fellow nerds from the same label, it’s heavy Duane Eddy feel should certainly pull in the Seventies Teddy Boy ravers, even if they were all out of work Dads by now. Again, the timing was poor and yet again, it’s a track that we look back on fondly and remember the days of fancying the bloke working the Dodgems at Blackpool…

‘Love Is The Slug,’ was actually their second charting single and took all the chic out of girlies in white stilettos dancing around handbags reluctantly at some cheap disco on a Saturday night (probably in Kidderminster) It was pure Siouxie Sioux with its dull, draining vocals and lacked any real imagination. Yet it was typical of the time. It sounded dreary and almost to the point that the band were being held hostage whilst recording it. It wasn’t until the bubble gum ’What’s The Point,’ that we felt a definite change in the way their were reflecting the music scene around them. Released in February 1987, it was time that punk image of on the way out and they made a point of starting to dull down their look without it being too much of a shock to the last remaining punk buyers. Strangely but this time, they were creating an alternative to the ever popular ‘The Bangles‘, who were happily having a jolly good time in the middle of the road pop charts. Meanwhile, Fuzzbox were climbing the ranks through the Inidie scene. Not an accomplishment by any all female set up until now. Surprisingly, this up beat, rockabilly track failed to do anything higher than number 51. Although they were Indie Queens , it was actually the commercial pop charts they were after…

They knew by this time that it wasn’t just their alternative, working class, struggling lyrics that would have to change. They couldn’t sing about snogging at the disco, having a pint with the boys and doing the washing up anymore. The green netting had to go as well as the leggings and pink and blue hair.

After coming to blows with the Vindaloo label, they switched to the U.K section of WEA for their next single, and ’International Rescue’ was chart bound in February 1989 after a rather silent two year break.
It was yet more apparent in this track that Fuzzbox had a definite humorous side. We had all be aware of their antics as their video performances up until now had always been a touch risqué and tongue in cheek. With this particular track, we see two of them dressed up as Thunderbirds along with villain played by Adrian Edmundson. All an incredible piss take but we wonder which is more the stronger, the pee out of Thunderbirds or themselves. Either way, the trick had worked, they had reached number 11 and were now ell on their way to creating another angle to Eighties pop music. Already regulars on certain programmes such at The Tube on CH4 and (who could forget?) The Old Grey Whistle Test! They were certainly about to have their most explosive 15 minutes of fame.

Still just as noisy, yet now all wearing the same colour, they appeared to be tamed somewhat, and only admitting to writhing about on the floor during video sessions and gigs. They were now even bigger, more glamorous and profession, miles away from their amateurish, badly styled yet energetic theme. The music was more rock now than Indie. It had edge, sex on legs and was beautifully aggressive. The Spice Girls were a bunch of cabbage patch kids in still in baby grows compared to Fuzzbox. These girls were certainly all for girl power. Instead of a cosy night in and perhaps a snog goodnight; Fuzzbox would have worn you out then chucked you out after ordering you to serve them breakfast in bed.

‘Pink Sunshine,’ followed and sat rather ecstatically at number 14 in May 1989. One thing that could be said for this band who were songwriters, producers and masters at their own mixing, they knew exactly how to control their market. Not throwing too many singles in all at once in a desperate attempt to win the crowd over, they would instead, sit back and observe carefully, delegating as to what to release first. This particular track, ‘Pink Sunshine,’ was, by their own personal standards a track that should be released during the summer. A track full of jollity and a real summer theme of bright sunshine and fun, they felt that it would have been a better hit if it hade been released a month or two later. They were probably right, but we would never know.

Perhaps their biggest track was their last noted single release although a couple more did follow. A swift, and also unaccredited solo by the legendary Brian May from Queen, ‘Self,’ was definitely Fuzzbox going out just as the album from whence this track came suggests, with a, ‘Big Bang.’ Angrily hogging number 24 in August 1989 it was the summer when all girls learned how to sneer successfully. It was meaningful as well as mean. We hated everything that moved whilst listening to this track. Men cowered in fear at a thousand young teenagers growling with the strength of a hundred PMT’s. It was an awakening for both listeners and Fuzzbox themselves, but bitter resentments and disagreements between the label and the band members, meant that any further work was going to be limited.

Notably the most poignantly titled, ‘Walking On Thin Ice,‘ which was originally by Yoko Ono, was released somewhere around 1990 whilst the band went off on an epic tour of the far East. It was a desperate track not just in it’s theme but it flopped dramatically and the bitterness became too much. The band decided to cut their losses and continue with the tour, despite an awareness that Vickie was hankering after a break to peruse a solo career. Something, even today, she is still trying to find.

They returned home, recharged and fairly flat in their sense of the band’s now iffy direction. Work on a new album was meant to take place, but reconciliations between the band and the label proved to be not worth it. From the unfinished ’Out Of This World,’ album, a final single was released just at the point hat the band decided to split up. The significantly titled, ’Your Loss, My Gain,’ heralded the second line of ’..and you know things will never be the same again…’ seemed to be the band’s swansong. It was time to jack the whole thing in and follow more personal plans. The enigma of Fuzzbox had come to a sad ending and quite literally, all four went their separate ways. Tina is now an Art teacher whilst sisters Mags and Jo have gone on to write for other artists as well as DJ ing on the underground scene. (Must be ever so tight manoeuvring turntables around on those escalators…)


Looking back on this band, we wonder if it could have been possible for this band to have kept going. Leaving the scene on such a creative high, it always seems such a shame that band’s depart company when to appears that they could have had so much more to say. We had watched Fuzzbox grow and we grew with them, from their messy, embarrassing and over coloured take on punk (almost an insult to true punk rockers) they were, only briefly mind, to punk what the Cheeky Girls were to pop music; petty much an insult, but they broke away, rather glamorously from all that and became the most sort after girly group in the late Eighties, if only for a couple of years - hence the idea that they had literally, 15 minutes of fame.

With no real tuneful notes in their heads, they certainly had learnt to play their instruments well considering they couldn’t play a note at first. They were so bad, it was genius. They looked awful, they couldn’t sing and their arrangements were about as professional as the Mini Pops yet they still stick in our heads and the world of Indie pop is a very dull and uninteresting place without them even today. It has been 16 years since they had us reaching for either the remote for the volume button to go up or reaching for the kettle in the kitchen. An attempt to make a come back did appear once somewhere in 1998, but quickly fizzled out the same year.

It was time to put the sequins and hairspray away and go back to listening to some dire ‘Best Of 2006,’ album instead. Somehow it doesn’t have the same feel….

Fuzzbox were and will always remain so as;

Vickie Perks - vocals
Tina O’Neill - drums
Jo Dunne - lead guitar
Maggie Dunne - bass guitar

Albums to run out and elbow old ladies for;

‘Big Bang,’ 1989

‘BBC Sessions,’ 2002

‘Look At The Hits On That!’ 2004

Vindaloo/WEA record labels
©mduffy 2006