Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Beatle Bulldozer

Ever since the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine waltzed onto the Jonathan Ross Show, days after his stay in Liverpool for the start of culture year's "celebrations" (a stay which, thanks to Cameron's mate Phil Redmond, cost the city's taxpayers £90,000), his name's been mud with most people.
Which is a shame, as the continuing animosity towards Starr has obscured the issue of the street, & the house, where he was born, Madryn Street, in the Dingle.
Those who feel the headless topiary at John Lennon airport reflects the true feelings of most Scousers will have had their convictions buttressed by today's Oldham Echo in an editorial of saloon-bar subtlety ( ). The fact that the Fabs' drummer was born there is "a red herring", opines the Echo, & that the issue should be judged on wider housing concerns. Displaying its contradictory & crudely populist aspects, however, the Echo goes on to base its stance on Starr himself & his Jonathan Ross appearance.
It may well be that those of us who feel the Welsh Streets in the Dingle should be preserved & renovated are currently in a minority, thanks to such rants. As Wayne noted yesterday ( ), wider housing issues have to be considered. On that basis, it beggars belief that demolition is accepted as the only option when the toxicity of housing as a political issue intensifies by the week.
It's unsurprising that the Tories should seize on this story in a pathetic attempt to talk up their Big Society. Grant Shapps, Tory housing minister, wasted little time in dashing off a statement which cleverly included the Fabs & Tory ideology in the same paragraph ( ). Penned by Matthew Taylor, the Guardian piece said that Madryn Street "could be saved from demolition after the intervention of a government minister."
Oh really? Here's what Shapps said:
"Any regeneration project will generate strong feelings. But when what many people consider to be a culturally important building, such as the birthplace of the drummer in the world's most famous band, is at risk then feelings are going to be even stronger. That is why, before a single bulldozer rumbles along Madryn Street, I want to ensure every option has been considered. In particular, I want local community groups to have the opportunity to put forward viable proposals to preserve this historic house."
Read between the lines in the penultimate & final sentence of Shapps' statement; it proclaims, "Embrace our Big (do it yerself) Society!"
It's a point noted by Simon on his No Rock And Rll Fun blog a few days back ( ):
"Of course, he's going to do bugger all to actually save the building -- he's a Tory, and we know how close they are to a pound note these days --but, hey, if the Big Society wants to do something, he's happy to issue a couple of press releases and sign a couple of letters.
"You might wonder if Shapps' time might be better spent writing to Liverpool City Council about the scandalous neglect of the areas around Anfield, where people live, but maybe that wouldn't make it into all the papers."
Aside from the notion that a Tory minister would write to the city council to complain about inner-city deprivation & neglect (a notion which, with all due respect to Simon, belongs to the realm of Beatle-esque surrealism), that is the nub of the matter.
John Harris touched on the city's historically schizophrenic attitude to the Fabs on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages earlier this week. As an aside from his central concern about the Beatles' musical legacy, he wrote ( ):
"In Liverpool, meanwhile, delusions of post-industrialism have reached their apogee in the idea that Beatledom can be a substitute for a lost mercantile past. It's all there: John Lennon international airport, the Hard Day's Night Hotel, the 'Magical Mystery Tour' that wends around the city, even a Fabs-themed Starbucks -- though judging by the forlorn atmosphere of too many of the surrounding streets, Beatles-driven regeneration really isn't working. Funny, that."
Harris also notes that before the mid-90s the city's Beatle legacy was relatively muted: "There was a Beatles tourist trail, of sorts -- but it usually involved squinting at car parks or boarded-up shops, and trying to divine whatever spectral magic they had left behind."
The most obvious example of this, of course, was that of the Cavern itself. Countless tourists photograph the "new" Cavern entrance; they snap & film away in blissful ignorance of the fact that the original site was razed & filled in to make way for a car park. It is now an electricity sub-station. Perhaps it's an oblique reference to George Harrison's brief teenage electrical apprenticeship.
Be that as it may, there's an undeniable truth in another post Simon published today ( ) with his remark that "Liverpool City Council has a habit of pissing on its chips and then saying 'nobody will eat these, they smell of piss'. "
This serves as a case study in how a crucial social, economic & political issue has been buried under the bulldozer of Beatle celebrity; a comment casually thrown into a TV chat show exchange & seized upon by Oldham Hall Street now forms the basis for what is deemed to be the only option for the Welsh Streets. All the while, the Tories chuckle before making platitudinous statements in which they eagerly plug their Big Society dogma.

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