Pop for pop’s sake

Scott Walker (Photo credit: Jamie Hawkesworth/4AD)

Bob Dylan‘s Nobel Prize for Literature win last Friday was an unexpected one. Leaving the discussion about the definition of literature aside, because I haven’t got a spare year to hand, the auto declaration that Bob Dylan is the world’s greatest poet, the poet of American pop who creates poetry for the ear, and other platitudes, irks. Not because Dylan is not a fine songwriter – only the churlish and argumentative would insist that – but by slapping him with the poet tag we are denigrating songwriting, and the art of pop and rock songwriting itself.

Poetry, as singer songwriter and composer Scott Walker says in the documentary film 30th Century Man, ‘isn’t written to be sung’. And he’s right.  His own lyrics, like Dylan’s and alongside other songwriters, are often wrongly referred to as poetry.  But poetry is written down. It is performed, sometimes, but it is not sung.

And neither is rap the same as poetry. There’s been many a spoken word and poetry night where someone has cheekily called their work poetry and everyone has thrilled, because it’s so different to all the sonnets and whatnot, but I’ve thought, ‘nah, babe. Who are you kidding? That’s a rap. And you jolly well know it.’

A song with lyrics is different to a poem.  The musical part of a song emphasises, heightens and underlines emotions and meaning. Lyrics are not poetry. Even if you write down the lyrics to a song, glory in them on paper, enjoy them, weep or fall in love over them or pluck inspiration from them, they are still not poetry. Reading out lyrics as poetry results in something akin to Peter Sellers orating Lennon & McCartney’s A Hard Day’s Night in the style of Laurence Olivier.

Lyrics are lyrics, and there is no shame in referring to them so. The word lyric is not an insult. We don’t typically consume lyrics as we do poetry, in physical book form, although very few people buy poetry in 2016. The sale of poetry books and pamphlets is consistently and depressingly low, year on year. I’ll wager any books of lyrics published are largely left on bookshelves, or displayed on coffee tables for the benefit of visitors, but rarely read. That’s because lyrics require music to hit the sweet spot, the tender flesh of the heart.

Pop songwriting and lyric writing are equal in value to poetry. You get bad poetry in exactly the same way there is awful songwriting. One is not a better or worse art form than the other. There’s an instinctive response to try and legitimise pop music somehow, an underlying feeling that pop is not good or worthy enough on its own, like it needs that extra bit of class to make it better. As if it is lacking. Calling a songwriter a poet appeals to the vanities within us. If we enjoy lyrics and claim them as poetry, it makes us cleverer, deeper, more intellectual than those who foot tap and enjoy rousing choruses. We are elevated above all that, we are the brainy ones! Aren’t we good?

What bollocks. It’s snobbery, and not unlike the horrible trend of slathering unnatural orchestration over pop songs, or even worse, concerts with orchestras banging out versions of Beatles songs and theme tunes from James Bond and Dr Who;  y’know, to get the kids into classical. And let’s not leave out the pop bands with no classical bent in their musical DNA whatsoever, hooking up with Philharmonic orchestras, and slapping on an extra ten or fifteen quid on a concert ticket.

For artists like The Last Shadow Puppets, The Magnetic North and Meilyr Jones, to take three examples of contemporary artists who combine pop and orchestration on their albums, the combination is a natural, understandable thing. And it works. But I have no truck with some, those who push their luck, big time. We all know who they are.

For the Christmas record market last year, someone at RCA had the bright idea to re-work recordings by Elvis Presley going to the bother of hiring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to perform alongside the songs, with a choir bellowing away on top. The resulting album, If I Can Dream : Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is a ghastly affair. Recording the original version of the title song, part of the 1968 Comeback Special, was a pivotal moment for Elvis.

I have lots of Elvis stuff in my house

In it, he had to prove himself, after years churning out bad films, and lordy, he did precisely that. It’s a powerful, emotional vocal performance but it’s the imperfections that make it perfect.  A lone guitar string moans – with pleasure or pain, it’s impossible to tell – and his voice cracks and trembles, his vulnerability exposed. It’s utterly fucking beautiful. But once If I Can Dream is, erm, reworked, we don’t hear any of that. It is reduced a vulgar, rude blare, strings and piano and choir combined into a sickly sweet layer of icing that makes us gag.  And don’t get us even started on what they’ve done to his song Burning Love. There’s another Elvis Philharmonic album coming out this year. Help us all. If he were still alive, Elvis would shoot the telly. And who could blame him?

My point is, declaring lyrics as poetry, plus pop and rock bands suddenly out of the blue performing with formal and straight orchestras might make us feel all cultured and highbrow, but it is patronising towards pop music and those who enjoy it for what it is.  Pop and rock music is fine as it stands. It needs no extra trimmings, or validation.  We should stand up for what we love, our beloved pop and rock. Adding extra tags and qualities to either, ones which simply aren’t there, is completely and utterly unnecessary.

Who knows if Bob Dylan himself feels the same? For now, the body that awards the Nobel Prize for Literature has given up trying to contact the singer-songwriter – not poet! – regarding whether he accepts the prize or will attend the ceremony in Stockholm on 10 December.


We’re a nation of terrible paparazzi

I was walking to the shops the other week. A woman parked her car on the other side of the road, and came over to me with a strange look on her face. As she came closer, I realised she was smothering a smile.

“Did you know you’ve got your skirt tucked into your knickers?”  she said, before corpsing big time.

SHE PARKED HER CAR. Bless her darling heart.

We had a good – and long – laugh, because what else could you do? It genuinely was very funny. “You really wedged your skirt in…really high…” she added, making folding motions with her hand, which set us both off again.

Someone said to me afterwards that it was luck on my part that this Good Samaritan for Women Who Can’t Dress Properly helped me, partly because there are so many people who would’ve filmed me on their phones and put it on YouTube (or wherever). You know, for larfs. And the bantz. I honestly never thought about that. As far as I know no one has (please God) but it got me thinking, and worrying.

At the boxing gym this week I was sparring with a new member, and before I had chance to blink her mate had filmed our session and put it on Snapchat. I wasn’t asked if I was ok being filmed by some stranger, and to be honest I’m not even sure why I didn’t say anything. Ordinarily I would.

I think it was because I was shocked, and my defenses were down. The gym is a safe place where you’re meant to be able to sweat (or glow, in may case ‘cos I’m a lady) and look as rubbish as you like. If you can’t relax when you’re working out, when can you?

But then again, why can’t we relax everywhere? Going back to the tucked in knickers incident again, even a couple of years ago we wouldn’t dream of even thinking someone might take a snap of something like that. But now it’s an automatic reaction.

My point is, we should be able to go out for a pint of milk without wariness. But that goes for everything else we do too. I get a shiver of horror when I see sneery photos of folk on social media getting their shoes mocked, VPL zoomed in on or unfortunate women like me who accidentally and foolishly expose their underwear.

I think it’s rude to take photos of people without their permission.   To my mind, it’s ok to take the piss out of yourself with this sort of thing, but definitely not ok to do it to others.

It’s like we’ve turned into a nation of terrible paparazzi. Very bad manners, in my opinion, whether we think someone else looks daft or not.


I have a new weekly radio show


Indeed I do.

It will be a music show, focussed around new releases, local (to Merseyside) music and classic songs.

Of course by “classic” I mean ones which are classic to me. Interpret that as you will.

You can listen to me on KCC Live each Monday 6pm-8pm online here or if you’re in the area on 99.8fM.

(And yes that indeed is a Last Shadow Puppets album you can see there in the studio with me and no, I’m not ashamed.)



Loose women (and one man) in the library


I chaired very cheery writers’ event at Nantwich Library this week.


Authors Nikki Ashton, Caroline James, Victoria Johns, John Paul Goss and poet Helen Kay spoke about self-publishing vs traditional publishing, writing practices and revealed (more or less!) all.

The Nantwich librarians kept us sustained with chocolate digestives and shortbread (we managed to ‘force’ them down).  At the end, they said “tonight was like an episode of Loose Women”.  We’re taking that as a compliment!

I loved this sign on the library’s toilet door. As soon as I saw it, a full episode of Seinfeld ran through my head:


And the stairs had a Vertigo/Hitchcock vibe to them…



I’m also on Instagram now, if you’d like to follow me on there.


My top night at the Lawrence of Belgravia screening and Q & A – Regent Street Cinema


Lawrence badge 1
“Here is a badge from Lawrence. It is terribly important you wear it.”

On my visit to London last week I took in a rare screening of Lawrence of Belgravia, followed by a Q & A with Lawrence himself and the film’s director Paul Kelly, at the Regent Street Cinema.

If you’re not familiar with Lawrence, or the film, that’s not unusual. I was at an event in Liverpool last month, his name came up and The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess asked the audience, “does anyone here know who Lawrence is?”

Three of us did. Sitting on the back row, like the cool kids we aren’t and never will be. It’s a lonely path we tread, us Lawrence fans. But we kind of like it that way.

Lawrence of Belgravia is the final ‘London film’ made before The Shard was built, showing the landscape of a city very different to now, important in itself.

But it is also more than a mere rock documentary covering the ups and downs of a cult icon’s life. An icon who feels he should be better known than he is, world famous in fact, and with a supermodel wife to boot. His ambitions for glory are met with scoffs by some who don’t get it, but totally understandable to us who appreciate him.

Carefully and respectfully following our Lawrence as he deals with personal issues and getting the latest record from his band Go-Kart Mozart, On The Hot Dog Streets, (released back in 2012), off the ground, Lawrence of Belgravia is an important visual – audio document of a man written about rarely, but name dropped often. Revered by passionate people, he’s a hero. On the night of the Q & A, hosted by Dickon Edwards, grown men were tearful and fidgety. Giddy to breathe the same air.

Dickon Edwards, Paul Kelly, and….Lawrence.

Walking in, we were all handed a gift. “Here is a badge from Lawrence,’ we were told. “It is terribly important you wear it.”

When Lawrence, Paul and Dickon came on the stage, Lawrence was the only one without a badge pinned to his chest.  It felt like we were all in a fan club; an emotion not too far from the truth.

Dickon asked Paul Kelly if the film was about authenticity, so much footage in it of vinyl records, mixing desks in studios…

“No,’ said Paul. “This film is about Lawrence.”

Yes, indeed it is.

Lawrence talked about hat shopping, going AWOL for months during filming, anything and everything.

He was asked by the audience if he’d ever get married. “I don’t have sex anymore. Too old for all that,” he said. “I’m asexual now, I think. Unless she’s a millionaire. I’d probably go for someone like that.”

On his disapproval of the internet and refusal to have it at home – please buy the film and watch it, his views on the internet at top notch –  “too many wires, everywhere. Hate wires”.

How about going wireless then? “Nah.”

He told us that Cherry Red records are re-releasing the Felt albums later this year, describing them as “your last chance” to access them with the design for each exactly how he wants. He’s holding back signing off on everything until he’s happy, the tease. Good news is, there is a new Go-Kart Mozart album in March 2017 and there will be gigs around the UK.

He’s not a modest man about his musical output. His favourite Felt record is famously, “all of them”.

At the end of Lawrence of Belgravia, it hurts when he wonders aloud about why he’s been a “failure”, because fame and financial rewards haven’t come his way.  I found myself shouting at the telly when I first saw the documentary, BLOODY HELL LAWRENCE YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE YOU DOUFUS. So tonight I was made up that he conceded yeah, ok, he’s a creative success.

Because that’s it, exactly.

And afterwards, when I told him how much I love On The Hot Dog Streets, he smiled.

“Yeah,’ he said. “I love it too.”

Glad to hear it. But really, I expected nothing less.

Continue reading

My copyright controversy, and FWYL is out

For the past two years, the camera on the phone I had was rubbish. When it came time to upgrade in July, the man in the shop said, ‘Are you upgrading because the screen on your phone is cracked?’

I said, ‘No, it’s because it’s crap. It’s a terrible phone.’

So he did his best and found me a really good replacement phone with a boss camera, to make up for it. And since then I’ve been photographing more or less everything.

I took a snap of a pop group at the Liverpool International Music Festival three weeks ago. Stealing Sheep looked far too ace in white tights and glittery goodness to ignore. I was pleased because I got all three women in the shot, and please note the “HEEP” part of “sheep” is expertly included.

stealing sheep
Stealing Sheep at LIMF, copyright ME, Cath Bore.

I put the photo on Twitter because I was made up with myself.

When I got home that night, I searched for Stealing Sheep on Twitter. To see how good my photo was compared to everyone else’s. I’m stupidly competitive that way.

It was then I saw it.

My photo of Stealing Sheep, used by another Twitter account.

It wasn’t a private individual, or even a local webzine getting carried away with my Mario Testino/Annie Liebovitz-esque photography, combined with festival fever. It was part of a large organisation here in Liverpool, and they’d nicked my photo.

My photo without my consent, crediting or even tagging me. This is not on.

To add insult to injury, they edited my beautiful work to make the colours “pop” more.

I’m not naming or shaming because of what happened to me last year which you can read about here, but without respecting copyright then as creatives we’re all banjaxed. To each and every one of us who make things for a living, copyright is how we earn our money. If we don’t own what we create – whether it be writing, or even photographs taken on a mobile phone on a dreamy Saturday afternoon, then why are we doing all this?

Why do people think we do all this?

I’m not known for exceptional photography, and I’m willing to accept this fortunate snap was a happy accident rather than skills-related, but even if it’s idiots like me taking photos, the shots shouldn’t be just nicked. It’s very bad form indeed.

And the thieves ignored my comminications over it too.

That’s just rude.

On a lighter note, the fabulous first issue of FWYL, edited by the fabulous Claire Biddles, is back from the printers, meaning it’s available to buy online now. It contains feminist essays on the glory of Matt Healy’s hair, straight girls crushing on gay popstars, erotic fanfiction (yep, that last one’s written by me, how did you guess) and loads more.

You can order it here, if you wish. This is the beautiful cover (photo by Claire Biddles):

fwyl printed

Additionally, if you’re in Liverpool, I have some flash fiction as part of the ‘Women: Where Do You Find Yourself in the Arts?’ exhibition at the café in Constellations until the end of next weekend. And it’s free!


The Critical Sense

In the second year of English A Level class, at age seventeen, we were handed a book. A slim volume with The Critical Sense printed blandly on the over, our tutor warned us from the beginning, ‘this book is hell.’

And he was right. The most boring book ever written, instructing us on how to criticise poetry and prose.  We had to pen essays on the bloody thing for the next eight months. Horrific.

Whether one can learn how to critique by reading and analysing a book is debatable (that might be one of the essays I wrote, come to think). Fact is, in 2016, a *few* years later, Amazon and the internet have made reviewers of all of us.

Authors need five star reviews on Amazon, and lots of them, to sell books. Fair enough.


Award under full marks and reprisals start bleeding through, naming and shaming the new sport.

Music reviews on blog sites and webzines are the same; everything must be declared ace or it’s sucked in cheeks, waggling fingers and passive aggressive sub tweets.

Reviewing is largely a thankless task. Reviewers are reviewed, critics critiqued.

As critics we can only say what we see, hear and feel.  The last one is as important as the rest. Puff pieces simply won’t do.

Of course there are always those wanting to make a name for themselves by slaughtering sacred cows, nothing new about that. And giving one measly star on Amazon because a book took 2 days to arrive or you didn’t like the look the postman gave you when he delivered it, is plain daft.

Hey – everyone’s a critic these days.

It’s important that authors, musicians, actors and creatives know that we largely go in desperately wanting to be thrilled. I always want to fall in love.

A book or performance making me happy is one of life’s most beautiful things.  I think that’s the same for all of us, pretty much, yes?