Joyous and very, very funny: Beastie Boys Story reviewed

The music of the Beastie Boys was entirely an expression of their personalities, a chance to delightedly splurge out on to record everything that amused them. And early on, in their teens-get-drunk debut album, Licensed To Ill, that resulted in obnoxiousness. But mostly they were kinetic and colourful, which is why the new Apple TV+ film about them works so well. The format suits the story. Beastie Boys Story simply documents a stage show where winningly they talk the audience through their personal history. It’s much like Netflix’s Springsteen on Broadway. But since the third Beastie, Adam Yauch, died in 2012, the band no longer perform, so where Springsteen punctuated

Burnt out at 27: the tragedy of Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin hated the word ‘star’, but she loved the trappings. As soon as she made serious money she bought a Porsche convertible and had it painted with psychedelic images to make it the most recognisable car in San Francisco. She also rejoiced in her lynx fur coat, courtesy of Southern Comfort. She sent them a file of all the numerous press clippings that said Southern Comfort was her favourite tipple and they responded with a cheque. ‘Oh man, that was the best hustle I ever pulled,’ she crowed to a reporter. ‘Can you imagine getting paid for passing out for two years?’ If only she’d stuck to Southern Comfort

Will Self’s memoir of drug addiction is a masterpiece of black humour

Well, it was always going to be called Will. More than once in this terrifying, terrific book, Will Self refers to ‘nominative determinism’ — the idea that a name somehow foretells a life. That he chooses Will, not Self, is indicative and ambiguous. This memoir — not an autobiography — starts in May and ends in August 1986, but also spirals back to 1979, 1982 and 1984 in the kind of chronological fracturing that has typified his later fictions. It is a chronicle of addiction, and the ‘will’ is everything, from the insistent desire, to a futureless future, to the psychological horror of being called ‘Little Willy’ by his mother.

Rave revolution

Jeremy Deller’s Everybody in the Place: an Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992 (BBC4) began with some footage of kids queuing up outside a warehouse rave in Stoke-on-Trent in 1991. It was at once banal and extraordinary: everyone was white; nobody was overweight; none of the clothes were designer, expensive or branded; nobody wore facial hair. This was the England of my late youth and I remember it vividly. But it feels so remote from the present that it might just as well have been a lithograph of extravagantly side-burned men in stiff woollens captioned: ‘The Camp before Balaklava’. Deller is probably a bit more left-wing than me — how could

Letters | 25 July 2019

Rose is the right choice Sir: Every Wednesday for the past nine years, it has been my privilege to attend the lunchtime Eucharist services in the Parliamentary Chapel, conducted by the Speaker’s Chaplain Rose Hudson-Wilkin. These routine acts of worship are not public, but are attended by parliamentary staff, MPs and peers. Central to them are Rose’s homilies and prayers, which are spiritual life-support to those of us who serve and navigate our increasingly fraught politics. I did not recognise the person described by Ysenda Maxtone Graham in her article (‘Kent’s new Rose’, 20 July) and noted with some concern the author’s emphasis on perceived political agendas, which we are

Barometer | 18 July 2019

Mars missions When will there be a manned Mars mission? — As early as 1962, Nasa studied the practicalities of a mission to Mars, as part of its Project EMPIRE (Early Manned Planetary-Interplanetary Roundtrip Expeditions). The initial plan was to put a man on Mars by the early 1970s. However, budgetary restraints meant that the programme was limited to a flyby of Venus before being axed. — The prospect of a manned mission to Mars has been revived several times since. However, two years ago Nasa announced that it is unlikely to happen before the 2030s. Counting cups England won the cricket world cup. Which country holds the greatest number

Wasted lives

Twenty years ago, the Scottish parliament was reconvened after a lapse of almost three centuries. The logic for devolution was clear enough: that Scotland has discrete issues, and ones that were not always solved by London government. Devolution would allow ‘Scottish solutions for Scottish problems’. There was, in Westminster, a feeling that MPs could worry less about these problems. Public health in Glasgow, previously one of the biggest problems in the UK, would be someone else’s problem. Let the MSPs see if they could do any better. The news this week should shock people on both sides of the border. Scotland has the worst rate of deaths from drugs in

Barometer | 13 June 2019

What’s in a name? If Jeremy Hunt wins the Conservative leadership election both prime minister and leader of the opposition will have the same forename. Has this happened before? — Between 18 July 1992 and 12 May 1994, John Major was PM and John Smith leader of the opposition. — Between 14 February 1963 and 18 October 1963, Harold Macmillan was PM and Harold Wilson leader of the opposition. — Jeremy would become one of only three forenames which have been held by leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal parties. The other two are William (Hague/Adamson/Gladstone) and John (Major/Smith/Russell, 1st Earl of Russell). Life choices Jeremy Hunt said he

Portrait of the week | 13 June 2019

Home Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, a candidate for the Conservative leadership, admitted he had used cocaine several times 20 years ago. ‘I deeply regret the mistake that I made,’ he said. ‘It was a crime.’ He also said: ‘Certainly when I was working as a journalist I didn’t imagine I would go into politics.’ His admission came as the Daily Mail published extracts from a biography on Gove by Owen Bennett, due to be released next month, that relates an earlier admission of cocaine use to party colleagues. Ten candidates for the leadership started the race after Sam Gyimah withdrew: Michael Gove, Matt Hancock, Mark Harper, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid

James Delingpole

It would be weird if Gove hadn’t taken drugs

Cocaine is an abominable drug, by far the most hateful of all the various uppers and downers and psychoactives because it turns you into such a complete moron. The problem with coke, as my friend, the drug historian Mike Jay, once explained to me, is that nature never intended us to use it the way we do. In its raw, coca leaf form, it’s a handy and pleasant stimulant, just what you need to keep you going on a long trek over the Andes. But in its refined form it’s just nasty, not least because it plays a cruel, built-in trick on you. You take cocaine to get high —

The thoughts of Chairman Gonzalo

Few Peruvians today are interested in ‘the Shining Path years’, which left no traces besides 70,000 mutilated bodies and a wrecked country. Modern Lima, by and large, is a thriving city of five-star restaurants, shopping malls and newish Toyotas. Yet between 1980 and 1992 it was a vile and violent place, under siege from a revolutionary movement that modelled itself on Mao, Pol Pot and Enver Hoxha, and which venerated its leader as these men’s planetary heir. If anything, Sendero Luminoso was a precursor of Isis, with its child-suicide bombs, its rigid code of secrecy and its cultish devotion to a short, bearded, chubby figurehead who believed that ‘violence is

Weed thriller

You don’t come across too many films from Colombia, but every few years one wriggles its way through the festival circuit and on to an arthouse screen, fingers crossed near you. Any film that survives that Darwinian journey will be robustly fit for purpose. Such is Birds of Passage (original title: Pajaros de verano), which with startling freshness tells a tale of gruelling familiarity. There tend to be two Colombian subjects that work for distributors: the international drugs trade or, for more rarefied tastes, indigenous tribes. What are the chances of encountering a film that fuses both? Slim, you’d suppose. And yet this narco-ethnographic thriller is inspired, we are advised,

Stop with the propaganda – marijuana use is not trivial

It is difficult to decide whether to condemn Chris Daw QC for his defeatism, or for his wilful ignorance of the true state of law enforcement in this country. There is no ‘prohibition’ of drug possession, as he claims. Hardly a week passes without some police force declaring that it is not interested in applying laws it is legally obliged to enforce. On 20 April, marijuana’s holy day, 5,000 people gathered in Hyde Park and broke the law, while police stood about. Not one person was arrested for an offence which officially carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and an unlimited fine. This is the culmination of

Letters | 9 May 2019

Scrutinising charities Sir: Toby Young was right to raise questions about War on Want’s links to the Stop Trump campaign (4 May). The public rightly hold charities to high standards of behaviour, and charities are required to follow clear rules around political activity. We will be scrutinising the charity’s activities, and the issues raised by Toby Young, closely as part of an ongoing case into the charity. Similarly, we have examined concerns about the activities of a range of charitable thinktanks, and last year issued a regulatory alert to all charitable thinktanks on the register, including to warn them about unacceptable political activity. I can assure your readers that as

The Spectator Podcast: the Brexit party, drugs, and fake lesbians

As the two main parties reel from their local election performances today, are we at the beginning of a golden age for smaller parties? James Forsyth evaluates the chances of the Brexit party – Nigel Farage’s new electoral outfit – in this week’s cover piece. The conclusion isn’t pretty for the Conservative party: the Brexit party is slicker than Ukip ever was, and two out of five Tory councillors are considering voting for them in the upcoming European elections. The party has also managed to perform better than Change UK, who seemed to have peaked at their launch a few months ago, demonstrating – James argues – the sheer anger

A bitter pill

I have been a defence lawyer for more than 25 years. I have defended clients charged with almost every crime there is. I have argued against convictions for robbery, rape, sexual assault, murder, manslaughter, copyright theft, perverting the course of justice, perjury, serious fraud, international illegal fishing, money laundering, causing death by dangerous driving, grievous bodily harm, blackmail… and the list goes on. Of all the crimes and misdemeanours I have seen, all the improbable tales and shocking lies in the witness box, what sticks with me most about the criminal justice system is the utter simplicity of the one thing that lies behind almost all of it. People want

High life | 4 April 2019

New York   It was 51 years ago, in the Hôtel du Cap d’Antibes, that I first met the man whose opioid product has, along with other prescription opioids, killed more than 200,000 Americans. Mortimer Sackler looked old even back then. He had a Noo Yawk accent and, even though we’d never been introduced, approached me after a tennis match I had just lost with some unsolicited advice: ‘You need to calm down. Take a tranquilizer’ — or words to that effect. (I had been feuding throughout the match over atrocious line calls with a French ref who was being intimidated by the pro-French crowd.) Although I do not gladly

The new freedom

For me this book evokes a Gigi duet moment: ‘You wore a gown of gold.’ ‘I was all in blue.’ ‘Am I getting old?’ ‘Oh, no, not you.’ Memory plays us false, and it takes the skill of a sympathetic historian such as Virginia Nicholson to sift the evidence, written and oral, and unfold a story that is both plausible and sound. I look back to my 1960s life and think how many of us were metaphorically clothed in gold… how we strode through the years enjoying new freedoms, new loves, music, clothes, drugs, opportunities. I have in my time contributed to the myth of unalloyed pleasure, extolling the 1960s

Diary – 24 January 2019

Will I be allowed to take my dog to Europe after 29 March? A trivial question, you might think, in these feverish times, but one that might be an indicator of what the EU thinks of us and how/if they’re going to make us pay for leaving. I took Boss, my Battersea rescue, across France this Christmas and it couldn’t have been easier. The dog was barely noticed on the way out and given a fast, friendly check on the way back. Why should anything change? A pet on the road doesn’t get extra germs just because of the colour of its passport and yet nobody has any idea what’s

Mary Wakefield

Is cannabis driving us crazy?

Fewer people are smoking cannabis these days, down to 1.4 million from two million, they say. I say, if you believe that, you’re high. Arrests, prosecutions and the issuing of ‘cannabis warnings’ might be down — but then, I’ve seen the police quite deliberately look away from dope smokers on the street. Weed is everywhere. I’m sure of this, because the smell of the city has changed. A decade ago, as I cycled across town, the dominant scent was diesel. There were also wafts of tobacco from the fag-break gang and the odd drift of ground coffee. Ten years later both the cigarettes and the diesel have faded. There’s the