Wednesday, January 5, 2011

don't knock me down

Christmas is traditionally a period of vicious familial infighting and my family is no exception.  One of the most momentous arguments I can recall began with a fight between my eldest brother and I over what to watch one Christmas day afternoon in what must have been the late 1970's. The choice - limited in those reassuringly austere times to three channels only - came down to the Bond film Goldfinger and The Beatles' Help! 

King Solomon-like my Dad decided that the best way out of this impasse was to take the whole family out for a freezing and miserable snow-bound walk until both films had finished, thus managing to piss everyone off.

Years later I finally managed to see Help! and it turned out to be total rubbish of course. Enjoyable 1960's rubbish, but total rubbish nonetheless. The scene posted below is quite clever though, possibly the smartest and most self-aware moment in a film which is otherwise blighted by some low-key racism courtesy of Rumpole of the Bailey. In some ways the scene can be read as a kind of gentrification by stealth, a spectacular piece of 'knocking-thru' reminiscent of Archigram's Suburban Sets project.

All of which is interesting in relation to the current battle to save Ringo Starr's childhood home. Starr's former home in the Toxteth area of Liverpool is due to be demolished  as a legacy of New Labour's generally abominable Pathfinder scheme, a policy which Owen Hatherley correctly described in a recent Guardian piece as "slum clearance without the socialism".

Despite my nostalgia for the film and love of The Beatles' music, the preservation of Ringo's house is probably the least compelling reason for resisting Pathfinder. As John Harris has pointed out recently, the Beatles' heritage industry seems to be growing exponentially and has always suffered from a mawkish and sentimental side. Harris' article also notes the recent and faintly bizarre listing of the long since erased and repainted zebra crossing that features on the Abbey Road cover. Quite possibly this raises some interesting questions about authenticity and value that my Xmas booze ravaged mind can't quite grapple with at the moment. Nevertheless, Pathfinder is the problem and you can object to the mindless destruction of perfectly decent housing here.

Anyway, enjoy the clip - you have to wait until about 14 seconds in when the Rolls Royce arrives. Happy new year! 


Artog said...

Happy New Year Charles! I watched Help! about 30 years ago and that clip's the only bit I remember.

I used to live round the corner from where it was filmed (Ailsa Rd in Twickenham) but could never quite summon up the energy to make a little pilgrimage.

Nemesis said...

Letter from Grant Shapps re Madryn St

@emptyhomes on Madryn Street:

"So to go back to my original question; what’s so special about this house? The answer is, it may have brought an end to the whole “demolition first” way the country tackles housing regeneration. And very welcome that is too. Of course poor Ringo, who famously ran down his place of birth on the Jonathan Ross show a couple of years' ago has had nothing to say about it. He’s just been the populist peg on which this whole debate has been hung. But his role is not over. The next debate has to be how can we get these houses back into use. What better way of advertising them to potential residents than using the Beatles connection again, so I’m afraid your work is not yet done Ringo."

And of course SAVE, which has campaigned so fiercely and vociferously for years against Pathfinder demolitions, and continues to fight for the Welsh Streets. As a charity it has a remit, and if culture and heritage angle will help and help with publicity, so be it. Reports, meetings, public inquiries, legal challenges, Commons Select Committees, applications for listing, Press Releases,alternatives to demolition, the whole shebang, SAVE has done its bit.

Become a Friend.

Charles Holland said...


Happy new year to you too! It's funny, it's the ONLY scene anyone remembers. The only other reason the films is worth watching is Victor Spinetti's slightly deranged performance.

Nemeis, I can't believe you've quoted Grant Shapps on my website! Get him out of here...