John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for December, 2014


The giants of rock are leaving the stage: their music never will | John Harris

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

The Joe Cocker generation’s unsurpassable sounds and amazingly romantic life stories make it truly legendary

Three days before Christmas, TV news channels announced the death of Joe Cocker, the singer who had begun his adult life as a Sheffield gas fitter, and eventually settled in Crawford, Colorado. His passing, at 70, made it into the bulletins’ opening headlines, partly because his story was replete with signifiers of success and commercial achievement – a Grammy, the OBE – and an indelible association with one song: his cover of the Beatles’ With a Little Help from My Friends, which he had performed at the cultural watershed that was Woodstock.

Earlier this month, the death of another English musician attracted slightly less attention, but in generational terms it was of a piece. Ian “Mac” McLagan was the keyboard player with the Small Faces and their successor group the Faces, and a supporting musician for such artists as Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Billy Bragg. In 1991 he played on a Joe Cocker album entitled Night Calls, and among other common aspects of their life stories, they shared the sense of having come a very long way – in McLagan’s case, from his native Hounslow to Austin, Texas.

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Why modern Britain is crying out for good Tories | John Harris

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Ending food banks and poverty wages can’t be done without the help of enlightened voices on the right

On the way out of Sainsbury’s yesterday, I stopped by the food bank collection box to put in the usual few quids’ worth of stuff – pasta and chocolate, this time – and noticed that it was more full than I had ever seen it. Sat in a rack nearby were copies of the weekly Frome Standard, with a big story headlined: “Rising numbers of families struggling to afford food”– the accompanying text referred to this week’s Feeding Britain report by MPs and church leaders, and described local people who had not just been given things to eat, but also “nappies, sanitary products and toiletries”.

The charity responsible – which, thanks to the progressive independents who seized power from the Lib Dems three years ago, is part-funded by our town council – said it was also “collecting toys and small gifts”, in preparation for Christmas.And, once again, the realisation hit home: that as the usual consumerist din reaches its peak, the seasonal zeitgeist includes a mounting sense of dread about the condition of the country – not just on the part of social activists and bleeding hearts but among the public. Because we are British, it is manifested in sighing dismay rather than seething anger, but it is there all the same.

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