Friday, July 06, 2007

Goodbye to George Melly

'George Melly the jazz singer, author and raconteur who has died aged 80, leched, drank and blasphemed his way around the clubs and pubs of the British Isles and provided pleasure to the public for five decades' - The Daily Telegraph.

It would be remiss of me to let the death of George Melly pass without any comment.

The phrase 'They don't make them like that anymore' is much overused but that is truly the case with Melly. Apart from being a wonderful jazz singer, he was in his day one of the keenest chroniclers of popular culture, an expert on surrealism, cartoonist and general all-round icon of the louche pop/jazz/art demi-monde that was London and in particular Soho in the 1950s and 1960s.

His hair-raising lifestyle, long on drugs and multiple sexual personas and rather shorter on the feelings of others, is beautifully chronicled in the memoirs of his long-suffering wife Diana which will make the perfect summer read if you haven't got hold of it already.

I saw him many times in concert, always in his pre-Christmas residence at Ronnie Scott's, always finding time to go in case each gig might be his last.

As the years of good living took their toll, George's sets became ever shorter until the last one where he did about 20 minutes tops, sitting down wearing a rather sinister eyepatch. But he never failed to leave without several standing ovations from a packed house of devotees.

You then staggered out from Scott's to the Bar Italia across the road, stinking of cigarette smoke and having had too much crap wine and appalling food (the club is rather more upmarket these days). On more than one occasion one of our party was truly tired and emotional because, as Goerge might have said 'Someone had done them wrong' and they had attenpted to heal their wounds with too many office party gin and tonics followed by too much of the club's cut-price Valpolicella.

But it always was the most wonderful way to start Christmas in London.

PS Plentiful obits including The Guardian and The Times, which also supplies the following priceless piece of information:

'At school, Melly wrote, he once seduced the future Sunday Telegraph editor Sir Peregrine Worsthorne on a sofa, but he said that he found a 78rpm record by Bessie Smith was far more satisfying.'

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