'The House will forgive me for quoting five democratic questions that I have developed during my life. If one meets a powerful person - Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler - one can ask five questions: what power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and, how can we get rid of you? Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.'
- Tony Benn, during his final speech to The House Of Commons, 22nd March 2001
Tony Benn died on Friday. For what my opinion is worth I think that he was a remarkable man, and that The World is a lesser place for his passing. I met him a few times - you can read the story of one such encounter here if you like - and on every occasion he seemed to me to be an absolute gentleman, which considering that he spent much of his life among professional politicians counts as a real achievement if you think about it. In the last few days it's been interesting to hear the odious, self-serving creeps that currently inhabit our government attempting to say something vaguely nice about a man that they so obviously hated for his honesty and conviction, two qualities that they themselves wouldn't know if their miserable, corrupt little lives depended upon it. It's easy to criticise Benn for being an idealist, or for being unrealistic about how his ideas would translate into the 'real' World, but I think that misses the point - here was a man who was unafraid to state his beliefs and stand by them, which is perhaps something that many in Westminster won't do or indeed can't understand. Strange isn't it? You might have thought that they'd realise that honesty and integrity are actually qualities worth having, rather than saying anything that they think might make them more attractive to us long-suffering members of the general public regardless of whether they believe it or not, all for a fear of making themselves unelectable or because they are obliged to tow the party line. As we sink further and further into coalition - orchestrated oblivion we need men like Tony Benn (and indeed Bob Crow) more than ever - but where are they going to come from? Now there's a question...
And if that's not bad enough, Scott Asheton has died. Also known as Rock Action (that's got to be the best rock 'n' roll name ever hasn't it?!?) he was a founder member of The Stooges, and is so by definition one of the most influential drummers of all time. His work on 'The Stooges', 'Fun House' and 'Raw Power' helped to inspire countless punk players, and when the band reformed in 2003 he and his late brother Ron finally received the recognition (and indeed financial reward) that they so richly deserved. Iggy Pop's comment that 'I've never heard anyone play the drums with more meaning than Scott Asheton' says it all - a very sad loss.
In the meantime Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played at The Halfway House in Rickmansworth on Friday evening. With Dave busy elsewhere Mac Poole depped on drums - since we were all there early it was great to have chance to talk to Mac about some of his illustrious past, and I must admit that I could have listened to his stories of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Move (among many others) for hours. But we had a gig to play, and a good gig it was too, with more dates being offered at the end of the evening and a positive reaction all round.
The next night The Upper Cut returned to The Load Of Hay in Uxbridge for the first time in quite a while. Sad to say the place seems to have gone downhill since I used to book Sunday night acoustic gigs there a few years ago, to such an extent that they ran out of lager and indeed quite a few other beers during the course of the evening. Strange - you realise that a pub without beer is, well, not very much at all really... as a result several people went home in disgust and others expressed their general annoyance to all and sundry - I must admit I was more concerned when my amplifier blew a fuse when I first turned it on, although it thankfully worked fine for the rest of the evening. An odd night.
And yesterday was of course St. Patrick's Day - it was also time for another Reggae Punk Monday at The 12 Bar Club. Heroically resisting the temptation to order a gallon of Guinness I thoroughly enjoyed Dave Kusworth's brand of low-slung-guitar-powered rock'n'roll but had to leave for the last train home before The Duel played. Oh well - there's always next Monday... hopefully...