David Green

David Green (Books) is the imprint under which I publish booklets of my own poems, when there are sufficient of them. Apart from that, the website has become what it is. I hope you find at least some of it worthwhile.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Danny Baker - Going on the Turn

Danny Baker, Going on the Turn (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

There's a mistake on page 116.
I've tried my best to make sense of,
It's a common site
but, in the context, I'm sure it should be 'sight'. It's a mistake anybody could make and Danny Baker didn't go to university, like Shakespeare didn't, so it doesn't make him a bad writer but it does mean that his publishers should find better proof-readers. But Danny belongs to the spoken word and to radio, off the top of his head and come what may, his reliance on a wealth of stock phrases, in the way that Homer filled out his metre, rather than text written for the page, which is brilliant the way he does it but is only the way he talks written down. Spike Milligan said he thought he could talk but had to admit that Baker was something else.

At first, this third volume of memoir from the Greatest Living Englishman looks like the thrown-together contract-satisfying third of three. 250 pages of more of the same to ensure the adoring fans like me will pay up and make the tills ker-ching to the sound of cash rolling in after the tour of stage shows is over and the royalties for the telly show have been spent. And we all have to go work, don't we, even if not everybody's job is being mates with Rod Stewart, Vivian Stanshall, the Stones, everybody else you can think of and Danny Kelly.
I have worshipped the ground he walks on for long enough, not least for the way he can handle the superstar status and get away with the money-for-old-rope routine and still see it for what it is. Try telling that to Simon Dee. There's one for the teenagers.
But if Going on the Turn sets off looking like the last trawl of stories about when he met Ronnie Wood or Peter O'Toole or use a picture of himself with Elton when there is no reference to him in the text, you know it can't possibly be going to be that and it very soon isn't. The book flags up early doors that there is trouble ahead and however much it digresses, and digresses within digressions, it is most overwhelingly, horrendously and graphically, about being treated for cancer.
I know there is a whole genre of 'misery memoirs' and this could have been such a thing in other hands but Danny isn't capable of writing such a book. Even if he had died, which was a serious possibility, one would have only been left on whatever upbeat was available. Those parts, that provide the ground bass for the whole book, are hideous and only perhaps readable, or writeable, because we know he emerges at the other end. Life, we can't help but be persuaded, is a gift and few have been provided with the gift to enjoy it quite like Danny Baker.
I'd have thought I was his biggest fan but I wasn't among the hosts of well-wishers inundating him with well-wishing at his darkest hour. I would also have thought it most unlikely that, considering the company he's kept since his Sniffin Glue and NME days, he had foregone the dubious pleasures of drugs but he says he did until he and his best mate, the equally admirable Danny Kelly, take a trip to Amsterdam to see what cannabis is like.
The account of that spectacular disaster wins the genuinely Laugh Out Loud prize not for this year but for several years back-dated.
And then, the frightening story of how he left his Radio London job in the face of business strategists who honestly had the nerve to go and tell him how he might celebrate the anniversary of Love Me Do. By asking listeners to phone in and say what their favourite Beatles track was.
Oh, for fuck's sake. There's less gratuitous swearing in this book than its predecessor, which isn't only because Baker quotes his father less than before but if Danny can do it because he can, in the same way that Philip Larkin did it in poems, then I'm going to treat myself to one, just the once, because you simply can't have corporate non-entities telling Danny Baker how to do a radio show because that is exactly as gormlessly as they'll do it.
But, in a sad coda, it seems like that is the way it's going. Dan accepts that Radio 5 would rather have a preview of the weekend's sport from 9 to 11 on Saturday morning, and not the Sausage Sandwich Game, and it is only by some old-fashioned indulgence that he's allowed to carry on with this last hurrah, the man who, on Desert Island Discs, if all his other records had been swept away by a big wave, would have wanted to hold on to The Next Time.
That is the measure of the man.
It has been an honour to be of the same species as Bach and Mozart but I'm glad I shared my time as a part of it with Danny Baker.