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Libel or Bust

31 Aug

I’m still stuck in Edit Hell – the 7th circle to be exact, which is populated with pedants and grammar Nazis. Trust me, you do NOT want to run into the comma Brownshirts – they’re the worst!

While working through the comments I’ve received from beta readers, I was asked to consider whether the following paragraph is libelous:

Led-Zeppelin According to Emerald Room hearsay, the hippy had begun selling weed back in the day, when it was still exotic and difficult to obtain.  Legend had it he’d bumbled his way into a sound check one day and with a combination of charm, cheek and a bag of very good marijuana, secured himself a job working for Led Zeppelin as their new dealer, their old one having been busted with a K of Morocco’s finest down his pants the night before.

That was Woody’s story and he was sticking to it.

 

Tell me what you think in the comments below. Does it constitute libel in your country? If you want to know what I think regarding the UK laws, keep on reading…

In an earlier draft of the novel two incidents were picked up during copy edit as potentially libelous. In the first incident, Ferret says some horrible things about David Icke, then repeats a bunch of facts about Icke’s life, which when checked, were not entirely true. In the second incident, Ronnie Wood pockets a wrap of cocaine. Being of sound and belligerent mind, I had to go check things out. I found the following article to be a very good summary of the UK libel laws, it’s definitely worth a read: http://www.urban75.org/info/libel.html

In the case of Icke, the horrible things that were said are fine. Calling him a ‘shell suit wearing conspiracy nut’ is permitted, as it’s simply an opinion. Relating facts about his life that are untrue – that’s libel and depending on the damage to his reputation, may result in compensation. In the case of Ronnie, a quick search of the internet reveals he was a bit of a party boy back in the day, so it’s definitely something he might have done. However, he’s recently cleaned up his act and become a dad again.  As The Ferret Files is a contemporary novel, Ronnie’s act of pocketing drugs might well have happened yesterday.  One of the reasons I included him as an incidental character is because I once met him at an exhibition of his paintings and he was a thoroughly nice chap. However, I don’t wish to damage his reputation (or mine), so out went the pocketing of marching powder.

Now, onto the Led Zep paragraph. Woody is talking about the early 70s. A quick search of the internet reveals that the Zep were out of control in those days, and a few spliffs was nothing compared to the rest of the well-documented things they were up to.  In context, Woody saying that he became Zep’s dealer, without specifically saying what he dealt, or to whom, at a time when the band were allegedly out of hand on a combination of drugs and alcohol,  whilst entertaining groupies of a questionable age is hardly going to damage their collective reputations. Plus, it’s a story told by a character who, once we get to know him, is not entirely reliable.  Hence, in my opinion, the paragraph stays as it does not constitute libel.

Now, back to Edit Hell. If only I’d brought a ball of string with me and unraveled it on my way in…

 

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Killed by Death

3 Jan

Ace of Spades

In case you missed it, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister of Motorhead fame passed away over Christmas.  The title of this piece is a reference to a song he once wrote, which is both ridiculous yet sublime.  I should start by saying that I’m not a massive Motorhead fan.  Ace of Spades – terrific song.  It throws open the saloon doors, strides in with menacing purpose, grabs you by the throat, drinks all your whiskey, smashes up the tables and leaves.  You can’t ask for much more.  Why am I not a fan?  Back in the early 80s, Motorhead played the Northern town in which I grew up.  We’d heard that they were the loudest band on the planet, so two of my pals John & Pil decided to have a competition – who could get the closest to the speaker stacks and lose their hearing for the longest.  Pil won.  He was so proud of the ringing in his ears, which lasted for three and a half days.  That was when I knew Motorhead were not the band for me.

LemmyI spent most of the early 90s hanging about the London rock and metal scene, watching as many bands as I could, going to backstage parties, studiously avoiding the gruff northern git in the cowboy hat, who by that time had grown a splendid pair of warts.  Nowadays, no self-respecting performer would do that – they’d be straight down the surgeon’s with a writ from their agent for their removal.   Not Lemmy.  He proudly announced they were a part of him, there to stay.  For my part, I have a bit of a wart phobia, caused by one of my school teachers, who had a very prominent pink growth on the knuckle of his index finger.  If you were naughty, he’d grab you by the nose and thrust his wart threateningly close to your eye, much to the revulsion of the entire class and the abject horror of his victim.  He did it to me once for late homework, and I never got over it.  Hence meeting Lemmy was a no-no, even though it was relatively easy, him being such an approachable guy at the bar.  Over the years, I’ve been to countless festivals where Motorhead were on the bill.  Every time I found someone else to see, to the point where it’s become a standing joke.  After 35 years of going to gigs, I’m still a Motorhead virgin.  I always assumed that at some point I’d accidentally run into them, they’d nick my cherry, make my ears bleed and I’d come to hours later in a dumpster, in a back alley, sore and battered, smelling of JD and coke.

That’s no longer going to happen.

lemmy heavenIt’s a week since Lemmy passed away and I find I’m still delving into his legacy.  For a bloke that I spent many years deliberately avoiding, where on occasion it would have been easier to run into him, he hasn’t half had an effect on my thoughts.  I’m sure it comes down to an uncompromising attitude and a determination to do things his way.   In an era of oh-so-safe homogenised pop bands with spray-on lego hair. waxed brow lines and perfectly managed, sugar-coated content-free interviews, he stands out a mile.  He had character; he lived a dozen lives in one lifetime; he was surrounded by a gang of loyal die-hard fans who he regarded as his family.  He had no time for political niceties, he told it as it was.  Coming from a Northern fishing town, I grew up with people like this: grizzled, hard drinking fishermen, all with tales to tell.  That industry is dead now, the characters long gone.  They don’t make real men like that any more, except maybe in Alaska and Siberia.  Lemmy was cast in a day when the rock and roll foundry made them one at a time, with rough edges intact.  Today, they mass produce acts using cookie cutters and a strict formula.

In closing, I’m reminded of the film/documentary ‘Lemmy’, where one of the interviewees states: “When the nuclear holocaust comes, all that will be left will be cockroaches and Lemmy.”  Sadly, he was wrong.  Like many others, I’m still in shock.  I thought Lemmy would go on forever and I’d finally get to see him perform on my 100th birthday.

RIP you rock and roll legend.

You did it your way.

 

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