Saturday, March 3, 2018

Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) - Davy Jones' Car

Davy Jones, David Bowie, The Monkees, Lisburn, Northern Ireland

The social and cultural disconnect that many British people in their forties and fifties now feel when looking back at the past - and even the recent past at that up to the late Eighties and early Nineties  - is grounded on a confluence of factors. These incorporate at the very least headspinning technological surges, grotesque geopolitical tensions, the brutal deconstruction of vintage pathways to social mobility, firestorm Ponzi economics,  the unrelenting psychotic force-feeding of on-message political dogma and the transformation of employment into a low-paid and fundamentally insecure world of fawning lickspittles and jargon-spouting bullshitters.

The consequences of this inflammable combination now gather pace by the very day it seems as so many emotional cornerstones gain spatial distance within our memories - lost people, places and  communities where respect and dignity mattered. Yet in the middle of such melancholy reflection this week - here in a Europe laid so sullen and dull by the heavy snows of winter - I felt some fleeting residual warmth and hope afoot from reading the story of Davy Jones.

Not Ena Sharples' grandson down on Coronation Street who later sung The Monkees' classics Daydream Believer, Dream World, Look Out, Daddy's Song and A Little Bit Me A Little Bit You in his wonderfully unaffected Mancunian accent mind. Nor the Brixton South London artiste who prior to his 1967 debut album of music hall whimsy changed his surname to that of the Scots-Irish Kentuckian hero Jim Bowie who died at The Alamo. No, my spirits this week have been uplifted by reading for the first time ever about Davy Jones the 24-inch high resident of Lisburn in Northern Ireland who in the Sixties drove around the town in cars specially modified to his size limitations. This despite heavy vehicular traffic around him on the public roads like lorries and buses that must constitute to this day an unprecedented urban health and safety nightmare of nightmares.

Jones, who displayed at fairgrounds in both Britain and America and took on acting roles as officially one of the world's shortest living men, would also sit on the bars of local Lisburn pubs such as The Smithfield House and The Corner House atop a pint glass. Archive film footage from 1960 and 1965 of him driving his cars can be found at Northern Ireland Screen's Digital Film Archive.

The car in the mid-Sixties footage resembled an E-type Jaguar and was made by Watsonian of Birmingham who were sidecar manufacturers. This fibreglass vehicle had a maximum speed of 14 mph from its 75cc four stroke engine. Jones died in March 1970 and is buried in the town - his wee sports car was (and possibly still is) on display at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra, County Down.

Now it is quite clear from reading through various internet postings on this particularly unforgettable local celebrity that Mr Jones was a character in all vernacular respects  - jolly japes like running through squaddies' legs to win bets that he could do something that they couldn't do through to memories of his particularly rich lexicon of curse words. Nevertheless when seeing the footage yesterday I was reminded of the sheer eccentricity of much of our native folk history - planted so deep in beds of both rich humour and total unpretentiousness.

In turn the Sixties clips of the red car encapsulated the decade itself in many ways when even the harshest deal of life's cards could be transformed into something better off the back of the spatial room for manoeuvre that briefly opened up for the working people of Britain. Back to the days when acts like The Who, Sonny and Cher and The Bee Gees appeared at Lisburn's Top Room ballroom and years before the city was known throughout the world as being the main headquarters base of the British Army in Troubles-era Ulster. That particular venue was blown up in a terrorist bomb attack in June 1972.

Even in these desperate  times as so many nation-destroying issues grimly coalesce  in unforeseen fashion -  with the true dynamics driving the Brexit vote already fudged entirely out of the political equation and one constituent player in the Irish culture wars having now perverted the most sensitive of legacy debates with demented revisionism - it is important to remember what a totally unique country Britain once was. Maybe that as epitomised none moreso than with that tiny yet energising symbol of Sixties spark, cheek, nerve and gall that ended up as a museum piece just eight train stops from the centre of a British city that survived everything that bad history could throw at it.

From this week onwards Davy Jones' car is already fused deep into my own sense of being alongside Elvis's iconic mustard-coloured buggy roaring through the Californian surf at the start of 1968's Live a Little Love a Little towards beautiful Michele Carey's groovy Malibu beach house - when tomorrow still meant something beyond the next bloody rubbish haul after today.

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