Well I was rather disappointed to turn on the TV as background hum soundtrack to my hurriedly getting sorted to leave this morning to discover that one of my favourite poets was a pundit on the bloody dire Wright Stuff. Murray Lachlan-Young a man once hailed as the enfant terriblé of the performance poetry scene and for bringing it back into vogue after its previous heyday of the angry, shouty, affected working class voiced agitprop 1980s now reduced to reading out tabloid headline stories to a baying phone in audience and a group of imbeciles in the studio on loan from Jeremy Kyle.
At first I didn’t quite recognise him, I was sure it was him but the doubt was caused more by how different he looks now.
Long gone is the Byronesque hair of curly locks, gone the dandy-ish almost gothic dress sense and toned down the fruity rich sounding thespian voice instead to present a sort of slightly nondescript figure on yet another panel magazine show. He now has the look of a shabby ‘minor celeb’ about him but one which most people probably would find hard to place. Think Jona Lewie with a hint of B. A Robertson. It oddly enough saddened me as when I met him (admittedly a few years back now) at some hippie-dippy counter festival to Glasto. He still cut the same svelte Modern-Romantic figure that he had done back when I first got into his stuff by watching on various late night ‘youth’ programming back in the 1990s and I have to say he was really very lovely by the way, a true gentleman and gave a lot of time to the people gathered for signings after his performance.
Of course, his dress sense and appearance on this show doesn’t and shouldn’t have any bearing in his art or his great wit (after all we all change with time and what might have once worked for us might seem to distract from the whole package) and he’s never stopped performing live in venues where he’s fondly known and well received but to see him now on a TV show like The Wright Stuff… well, for whatever reason it made me sigh quite heavily a fair bit over my toast and coffee to be honest. He is an acquaintance of long time Wright Stuff panellist Steve Furst and has performed poetry at cabaret nights in which Furst compares as the wonderfully entertaining ‘Lenny Beige’ so maybe its a favour, a filling in a slot. Sadly even his prodigious talent couldn’t make the show interesting (well, for me at any rate) and to be honest I doubt he has a lot of chances to chuck in a verse or two. Still to quote Mr Bell: “A Gigs a gig” and I’m sure he has bills which need paying same as all of us.Just a bit odd seeing such an important and really very exciting figure from my teens, he was the first poet to reportedly sign a million quid record deal remember, swiftly dubbed the saviour of ‘punk’ poetry dragging it into the pre-Cool Britannia 1990s with his acerbic and very funny observations and fantasies, the focus of much rubbishing by tabloids such as the Daily Mail sort and even making a blink and you’ll miss it cameo in the British film Plunkett & MacLeane (in which he is by far the most interesting person in it and which seemed to have led to a minor side job in acting) Now to be seen on such a tedious, provincial and truly humdrum phone in opinion show for the next week.
Now I’ve managed to make it sound like I’m an utter snob I can only hope to redeem myself by suggesting everyone who reads this goes out and search for his work (and especially his joyous children’s book) to see what a rare talent he really is. Much more than the 1990s headlines and any possible schtick which the press attributed to him but a true eccentric and talented voice. In an age where the pained adopted mannerisms of Performance/ Street Poetry are easily parodied and cliché we need figures like him to stand as beacons of nonconformity for their fluidity of speech, articulate manner, outlandish storytelling, dramatic readings and dare I say it also for the virtue of being a little bit ‘posh’ in an age when so many poets artificially ‘dumb down’ and adopt some garish ‘street’ style of faux-hip hop posturing.
Hurrah for MLY I say. (less said about The Wright Stuff the better though)