This book is such a good idea, stills from the film of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning with black and white pictures on the facing page of the exact same scene now in Nottingham.
In most cases the scenes are unrecognisable – Arthur Seaton cycling out of Raleigh on Faraday Road, now no Raleigh but plenty of student accommodation; Derby Road with a variety of buses, a trolley bus and a Ford Cortina, now the one-way system and a variety of hotels in view; Salisbury Road with cobbles and children playing in the street, now a weed infested car-park… So much has gone, though who wants to go back to having outside lavvies even if your kids could play in the streets and you could leave your door unlocked (because you had nothing worth stealing)?
And some of the progress is welcome. The two shots of the Castle Terrace where Brenda meets Arthur shows industrial filth settled over the city while in modern times you can see for miles. Our air is cleaner, and those living in the valley that is Nottingham don’t die so young.
Of the instantly recognisable scenes there is Brenda paying attention to her headscarf at the bottom of the stairs at the Savoy in 1960 and then the same stairs though ticket prices seem to have gone up a bit.
The contrast between the still pictures and modern photos is a delight and it is easy to see why half the copies sold at the special screening of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning when the book was launched at the Savoy. But, oh my, the book could have done with a bit of proof-reading. This is a shame as the information is good and people’s memories of the period are interesting, not least those of Shirley Ann Field who provided her recollection of the filming.
But let’s just accept the book as it is, a loving, amateur (in both senses of the word) effort. And the author has his heart in the right place, dedicating the book to “those Nottinghamshire miners who came out on strike in 1984 to defend their industry and communities only to be defeated by the real ‘Enemy Within’.”
Already a local legend on the performance scene, Mulletproof’s first full-length collection stakes an immediate claim to cool based on the cover alone. A striking image by Mark Dickson is capped with this quote from Jim Bob (of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine fame): “Like finding a great lost Roger McGough collection in a box in the loft.”
It’s a good call: the poems on offer here are as grounded in reality and conversational in their aesthetic as anything by McGough. But the ghost of Adrian Henri suggests itself in ‘Wings’, ‘The Love Tree’ and ‘It’s No Longer Tomorrow, Yet…’ – the latter the most nakedly experimental piece in the collection. In fact, Light at the End of the Tenner is thronged with ghosts: Soviet cosmonauts, rock ‘n’ heroes, suicidal comedians, B-movie casualties, and Jimmy from Quadrophenia riding Ace Face’s Lambretta over the cliffs and into eternity.
Mulletproof’s subjects are certainly eclectic. From a geriatric Elvis swapping Graceland for a trailer park to deer armed with Kalashnikovs squaring up to their erstwhile hunters (“no more roof rack mortuaries / or tailgate processions // just the sun shot green canopy / and the assurance of a fair fight”), the poems bristle with attitude as they blaze their way through half a century of pop culture, span the globe and (quite literally) shoot for the moon.
But Mulletproof’s hometown is always the anchor. ‘Radford Road’ is an impressionist portrait of Nottingham in all its on-the-streets glory, while ‘Rammel Nitrate: Nottinghamshire Kisses and Laced History Lessons’ whizzes slap-bang through the county’s history, picking out a through-line of what made it the place it is today, while ‘The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Rumour’ sees Alan Sillitoe’s racing-throwing anti-hero eternally on the run.
Clocking in at a chunky 116 pages (steroid poetry in a culture where most collections barely tap out at half that length), Light at the End of the Tenner captures on the page what anyone who’s seen Mulletproof live cherishes about the man: flair, fury and flippancy in roughly equal measures.