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DOCTOR GRAY'S LIST OF 27 - the really long version now makes it 28...

Most of you will be familiar with the phenomenon whereby certain key musicians in the history (and prehistory) of rock have paid for their dance with the devil by passing away suddenly at the tender age of twenty seven. Johnson, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison...the list usually ends there. I was inspired recently to see if I could find any other, perhaps slightly less influential, figures who'd suffered a similar fate without making it into the pages of The Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code.

This endeavour was triggered by my recent discovery that traditional northern brass bands always have twenty-seven musicians. You'll note that one-third of the people below died in a period of less than three years, from 1968-71.

Robert Johnson
poisoning: by a jealous husband. Or his own wife. Or maybe he was shot. Or something. Near Greenwood, Mississippi.

Jesse Belvin
band: The Shields (also nickanmed "The black Elvis")
car crash: in suspicious circumstances, having just played to his first 'racially integrated' audience. The scorched earth by the highway in Hope, Arkansas was still visible twenty years later. Probably the most influential pop musician you never heard of.

Rudy Lewis
band: The Drifters

Malcolm Hale
band: Spanky and Our Gang
accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, 31st Oct

Dickie Pride
overdose: sleeping pills, 26th March, after prolonged psychiatric treatment

Don Drummond
band: Skatalites (another great black musical innovator who died way too young)
died in a psychiatric hospital 6th May, four years after murdering his girlfriend: natural causes, or suicide, or murder, take your pick

Brian Jones
band: The Rolling Stones
drowning: 3rd July, in mysterious circumstances, not least the fact that he was alone in his own pool, at the original 'House at Pooh Corner', the former Milne house, Cotchford Farm, Hartfield, Sussex. Ask to see my photos.

Alan Wilson
band: Canned Heat
overdose: ?accidental, 3rd September, but following two suicide attempts

Jimi Hendrix
(surprisingly born Johnny Allen Hendrix, not what you thought it was)
accidental suffocation: 18th September, apart from that your guess is as good as the Coroner's

Janis Joplin
overdose: heroin, 4th October (on my fifth birthday, which rather soured the party, particularly after Don Drummond had snuffed it on my brother's fifth birthday...)

Arlester Christian, aka Dyke
band: Dyke & the Blazers

Jim Morrison
band: The Doors
overdose: heroin, 3rd July. Or heart failure due to alcohol and the temperature of the bath. Honestly, French Doctors are full of crap.

Ron McKernan, aka Pigpen
band: The Grateful Dead
alcoholism: gastrointestinal hemorrhage, 8th March

Roger Lee Durham
band: Bloodstone
riding accident: fell from horse

Wally Yohn
band: Chase
air crash: Jackson, Minnesota, 12th August

Dave Alexander
band: The Stooges
alcoholism: pulmonary oedema, 10th Feb, following admission for pancreatitis

Pete Ham
band: Badfinger
suicide: hanging, 24th April

Gary Thain
band: Uriah Heep
overdose: 8th Dec

Helmut Kollen
band: Triumvirat
accidental carbon monoxide poisoning: unless it was intentional, of course

Chris Bell
band: Big Star
car crash: hit telephone pole

Jacob Miller
band: Inner Circle
car crash

D. Boon
band: The Minutemen
car crash: thrown from the back of a van, in Arizona

Peter de Freitas
band: Echo and the Bunnymen
motorcycle accident

Mia Zapata
band: The Gits
murdered: man convicted on DNA evidence 11 years later

Kristen Pfaff
band: Hole
overdose: heroin. And another bath-tub.

Kurt Cobain
band: Nirvana
suicide: shooting

Richey James Edwards
band: The Manic Street Preachers
missing: officially presumed dead 13 years later

Temporary addition #28:

Amy Winehouse
Presumed overdose
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The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. And Rock.

I just read the final chapters of "The Time Traveler's Wife". Ian Gillan has been screaming in my head for weeks. I realise now why "Child in Time" has been dogging me. It was briefly displaced by "Coming Home" from Iron Maiden's new album, but Ian is back with a vengeance this week. You have to understand, I don't actually play these records. I don't even own either of them. But still they fill my head. Audrey Niffenegger's book has engaged me like no other. Schindler's Ark read like a mail-order catalogue by comparison. All SF could be like this if only all SF were written by arty middle-aged, middle-class American women with red hair. And why not?
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BRIGHTON MARATHON done and dusted

I'm glad I've had 24-hr to recover before writing this. It should cut down dramatically on the swearing. I had only had time to train up to 8-9 miles before the race, and hence haven't run any further than that since last year's Brighton half-marathon. This was my first ever full marathon, of course.

So, I enjoyed the first 13 miles! A few hills, but I'd trained for these, thank God. Matched my target time for a half-marathon almost exactly (2:20). The next seven or eight miles were harder, but manageable. "Just keep going" (but for one loo break, once the queues were short enough).

At 20 miles, some college had built a huge wall across the access road to Shoreham Power Station, and called it "The Wall". Sweet. That perked me up, briefly. Fascinating to see this side of town around the Shoreham & Southwick port and freight depots. They cleverly held their open day when all the roads were closed for runners, so no-one else has seen the place either.

21 miles onward was definitely wall of pain time.
22 miles on was nausea and dizziness. Heatstroke?

I confess to doing some sitting down (nausea worse; might as well walk) and some walking (almost as painful as running) during the next couple of miles. But I knew I was going to finish running, and the crowds really picked us up. The people were great. If you wear a name on your shirt, they'll shout it out to spur you on. Raucous rock music from one of the seafront hotels in the last mile gave me a boost, too. People were really supportive.

I was disappointed to miss the five-hour mark completely, with 05:12:04 - but considering my training schedule (working 5-7 days a week for several months, plus looking after the kids, plus eBay etc.) and the fact that my body wanted me to quit at 22 miles, I guess it's a respectable mark. About six thousand people made it home in that time. Another thousand or so took as much as another hour to get to the line. And I'm soooo old...

And my quads aren't really working today, so walking downstairs is challenging, but I've no blisters, just one slightly sore heel and a few tender toes.

Will I try again next year? Hmmm... Keep asking. Next time I'll remember the fucking sunblock. Ouch!

Thanks for all your support.

Richard / Reg x

Donations are still open for a week or two:
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Brighton Theatre Royal

I was in the process of rejoining Brighton Theatre Royal friends, after a long absence. The absence was triggered by our one-and-only precious baby-sitter mum-in-law emigrating to Southern Sudan. My return to the stage was finally precipitated by Alan Bennett's The History Boys returning to TRB. I've yet to see a production of it, but I've been reading vast tracts of the writer's diaries. Mum is back but fifty miles away, so I think I'll leave Jacquie with the bin-lids and go it alone...

TRB is now fully-established as part of the Ambassador Theatre Group, hence friend status now confers benefits at all of their London venues. The booking website brought great news in duplicate: Spamalot in June, followed by Armstrong and Miller in October, both coming to Brighton!

Friend status for a whole year cost only £25 and immediately saved me £13 on Bennett. Spamalot preferential booking should come to me in a few weeks. A&M were of course sold out already (the first such of the 2010 October Brighton Comedy Festival?!), but I used the magic word "wheelchair" and they found us some space... worth a try if you travel with a seated friend. (Sounds like a new euphemism.) Me & Stevie generally do some comedy at the May and October festivals together.

Note also that the whole Dome complex (Dome Theatre, Pavilion Theatre & delightful Corn Exchange), the main venue/s for the October events, offer some very generous concessions.

Reg x
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Ghosts in the machine at Virgin Media.

The fact that Virgin Media has been cobbled together out of a whole bunch of other companies has some amusing consequences. Ok, some might say that they're about as much use as a football team made up of some body parts from great players and some from less successful ones, all held together with ticky-tacky and goodwill, and they make me very, very angry. But I'm feeling mellowish just now. Or liverish, possibly. Where was I?

So, I have this vestigial email account from my old NTL dial-up service, and now I live in cable-land, where the man from BT, he don't roam no more. Now I'm starting to sound like a bad reggae number. Anyway, the email has a password that was allocated to me years ago. You know the type. One letter, followed by a load of meaningless digits. So I can only ever access it from the one computer that stores the number for me. Elsewhere, no chance. So I tried to change the password...

Cutting the first half of a long story short, the error message informed me that my a/c had been suspended. Previously, I had been sent a helpline number by email, by some guy at Virgin who also informed me that cable customers have no email support (!), presumably because support calls are so cheap. So cheap in fact that when I dialled the helpline, they kept me holding for 11 minutes before I got to speak to the Indian lady, who eventually said that she'd have to transfer me to someone who could actually help.

After another 11 minutes, I was told by the even more highly-skilled English lady that it is not possibly to change the password, not possible even for them, because, yes indeed, this email service no longer exists.

Which is funny because I was using it at the time.

Ghosts in the machine at Virgin Media.

Reg x
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Comedy, isn't it?

The oddest thing that's happened to me for a while was when I bumped into Grant Cribb in my local ASDA. The fact that our Adam (aged 2) was doing the shopping for me my while I pushed Zoe (13 months) in the buggy is perfectly normal. He knows what to buy. He is mini-rainman. The right varieties of milk, the right veg, the right cereal (he finds it faster than I can).

But ol' Grarc Beeps was a bit of a surprise.

He claimed to be in Brighton for a couple of gigs by his mad brother Yeti, currently performing under the name Godfrey Cuntington, although some listings show a bowdlerised spelling.

I think the gigs on Tuesday and Wednesday qualify as part of the tail-end of the Brighton Comedy Festival Fringe.

There is a wonderful photo of Godfrey at the bottom of this page:
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Time & Motion

I recently took a short time journey to attend a Douglas Adams book-signing that I had previously missed. I took the liberty of photographing him, and the much greater liberty of showing him my Olympus Ultra-Zoom SP-510. The man was naturally impressed, although I distracted him from asking questions by pointing out that Iain Banks was about to write a short story about one of its more primitive ancestors. And that, by adding an "M" to the middle of his name, Banks would be able to pass this off as science fiction, rather than an amiably dull piece about a bloke taking a bit of a walk. I left politely with a signed volume, emploring Douglas to "write faster and forget about the f***ing movie." Oh, and not to to mention the camera. He tapped his nose conspiratorially; fresh falls of snow and rare birds were still tumbling gently from its peak as I left the bookstore.
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BRIGHTON FESTIVAL FRINGE Saturday 10th May (afternoon)


One minute I was facing thousands of Zulus, the next thing I know its the 2008 Brighton Festival - and I am in it!!

Am I a time-traveller, or lost in a delusional coma, or just barking mad? Come and see me tomorrow and help me to solve the conundrum, then just maybe I can get back to 1879 where Thomas Hardy still owes me ten bob.

Where else can you combine a family craft day, a sale of local crafts and original artworks, and a delusional fiction-writer doing a book signing?

Signed copies always available direct from the author, post-free worldwide at UKP 6.99. Reviews here:

Email me directly anytime. Cheers, Richard xx