Zip your lip

The sight of Boris Johnson, Lord Mayor of London, stranded on a zip line yesterday did my heart good, I have to admit. He was inert, dangling, and could do no harm high above the ground.

My real beef with Johnson is not that he’s a clown, on par with Rob Ford, but that he wrote a book last year in which he purports to be an expert on everything. Called Johnson’s Life of London, the book traces that city’s history through a personally skewed list that includes Geoffrey Chaucer but not Charles Dickens.

His efforts at interviewing people for the book are laughable. For a long while, Johnson stalked Keith Richards without success. Finally, he heard that Keef was to be at an event honouring his own book, Life, ghosted by James Fox. As an aside, I must say that Fox, who wrote the excellent White Mischief, managed to capture Keef’s voice perfectly. It’s just that after 150 pages or so, I didn’t want to hear it any more and couldn’t push all the way through the 500-plus pages.

But I digress. When Johnson finally meets Keef, Keef is pleasant enough but I can’t believe he thought Johnson was conducting an interview. It sounded just like party talk to me. But here’s what really irks me about the mayor. His thesis is that The Rolling Stones and The Beatles took the blues from America, turned that genre into rock ‘n’ roll and exported it to the New World.

What a load of codswallop. The Stones formed in 1962; the Beatles played Shea Stadium in 1965. Is Boris trying to say there was no rock ‘n’ roll before that? What about Elvis Presley who was singing Hound Dog in 1956. Or Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti in 1955? And other 1950s stars like Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, The Coasters, Buddy Holly, Duane Eddy and Bo Diddley. And, of course, Jerry Lee Lewis. Surely, Boris must remember The Killer showing up in London in May 1958 with his wife, Myra, who was thirteen and also his first cousin. The visit caused such a stir I heard all about it in far-off Guelph the next day. My point is that rock ‘n’ roll existed long before the Stones got rolling. By 1958 The Killer already had two hits, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On and Great Balls of Fire, as well as a movie, High School Confidential. What Boris wrote is nothing more than classic British condescension toward the former colonies.

I don’t know anything about being a mayor, but non-fiction books should contain facts and not present conversations as in-depth research. I’ll make a deal with Boris. I won’t run for mayor in my lifetime; he doesn’t write any more books.

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