Caught by the River

George Melly

15th December 2010

Love this. A letter from George Melly to a Mr George Roberts, found by a friend of ours on a website dedicated to the jazz bands and clubs of Manchester between the 1940’s and the 1980’s. The site, edited by a Mr Fred Burnett, a jazz nut from the North West of England, is a place where fans share their memories of the days. Fascinating stuff, which you can find HERE

Dave came across the letter in his capacity as a custodian of the Manchester District Music Archive and was previously unaware of dapper George’s love of fishing. This is not uncommon knowledge in the angling world and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has come across George’s unforgettable ‘dock leaf’ story in his fishing memoir ‘Hooked’ and probably wishes they hadn’t.

By coincidence George Melly’s name has come up on a couple of other occasions this week. Firstly, as the Observer’s film critic in the sixties and seventies, he wrote a (very favourable) review of the documentary film ‘The Moon & The Sledgehammer’ that is now included in the booklet that comes with the DVD (more on this gem of a film in the new year), and secondly, in an e mail I received from Paul Dennis, the deputy editor of Angler’s Mail, who has chosen George’s book, ‘Owning Up’, as his favourite music book for our forthcoming ‘Music Book Reader’. Here’s what Paul says:

Owning Up by George Melly.

Written when he was already well on the way to becoming ‘The Dean of Decadence’, George Melly’s book based loosely around the British jazz scene must have been groundbreaking when it was published in 1965. It remains an entertaining read and has weathered well.
It is a book to which I often return, simply for the pleasure of re-acquaintance. Many of the characters, like Melly himself, are no longer with us, yet they leap from the pages, if not forever young, at least forever delinquent. Rock n roll’s ‘excess all areas’ only carried on the tradition instigated by the red hot ‘blowers’ of the jazz scene.
And yet, this is not warts and all. Benzedrine inhalers apart, drugs are not mentioned, though history tells us that they were very clearly a part of the jazz world. Drink, in all of its forms, is the major player, the catalyst for behaviour taken to further extremes by rock stars. True, the trashing of a wardrobe might not rate highly compared to throwing TV sets from hotel windows, but every journey has to start somewhere…