Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is a writer and editor. Today he works mainly for not-for-profit organisations but he has written for both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers and both men’s and women’s magazines, mainly about men’s health. His journalism was shortlisted for the Patients’ Association health journalist of the year award while the Men’s Health Forum’s website malehealth.co.uk won several awards under his editorship. He continues to work on health content for the Forum (menshealthforum.org.uk).

 

He is author of seven health books including the award-winning User’s Guide to the Male Body. His acclaimed first novel Rotten In Denmark, which was published by Smith/Doorstop in 1999, is now available as an ebook for the first time.


Reviews

'Nailing perfectly what it was like to be a young music-obsessed kid in the 70s ... depth and narrative thrust'

— Andy Basire

‘A funny and assured story… there's a neat twist in the final pages of this promising first novel.’

 —Jerry Brotton on Amazon

 

‘Strong storytelling with surprising twists; a true portrayal of friendship and rivalry.’

—Jane Rogers

 

‘Funny and fast-moving. A talented new writer: one to watch.’

—Mark Illis

 

Extracts from Rotten in Denmark


Frankie Dane’s entry in the most recent edition of The Encyclopaedia Of Rock

Frankie Dane
English, singer-guitarist-songwriter
Born 1959

First exploded onto the London punk scene as one of the Go-Karts. On strength of excellent debut album Rotten In Denmark (1978), he and songwriting partner Cal Carter were hailed by the critics as the bards of the new wave – ‘the thinking men of punk’. After Carter’s untimely death the following year, Dane moved initially to France and disappeared from the rock scene. He returned with one of the biggest popular and critical successes of the 80s in Stolen Moments (1984). It went platinum – an achievement he matched with Phoenix (1989). His strength is in his unswerving approach unaffected by fashion – both solo albums display the Go-Karts hallmarks of dual guitars, infectious melodies and kitchen sink lyrics. His lack of pretentiousness throughout the 80s was wholly refreshing and now the circle has come around again – Dane is often cited as the Godfather of Grunge or the Great Uncle of Brit-Pop – his limited catalogue, just like that of The Beatles, is emerging as a strength as the runaway success of Frank (1998), the recent greatest hits repackaging, proves. Dane enjoys both longevity and integrity – a combination, rare in the rock industry, which could yet see him become the biggest of them all.

 

*

 

1

Nothing is subtle in the synthetic city. There is the perpetual scream of the houselights rendering even a west coast tan, wan yellow. There are the jewels, flashing blades of brilliance, set in awkward billowing necks. There is the clatter and the rumble of the not-so-far-away fruit machines. And there is the smell – a smell where perfume ends and disinfectant and incontinence begins.

This could be a bingo hall. With a little imagination. They don’t play in tiara and fur in south-east London but perhaps here. Big enough to house an aircraft. From the lighting balcony at the back, a technician sweeps the supertrouper across the vast stage like a searchlight.

The men are in dinner-dress: standing, civilised, easing back chairs. Big-shots or bouncers, it’s hard to tell. The women are plucked from the pages of a hundred magazines, the stuff of white dreams.

By a side-door, a young man with hair a cheerleader would kill for is playing his hunches. A doorman distracted by a lick of lamé, the young man marches in – adjusting his tie, nodding his hollow hellos with purpose. In his pocket are a handful of dollars. Tickets tonight cost hundreds. Anyone watching would see that he is an intruder and no master of disguises: hunched at the bar over another man’s bourbon; then standing at the door with a tip-me tug of his golden forelock; then crouched at the side of the stage scribbling into a notebook. Anyone watching could tell that he is an impostor but nobody watches. The crisp English cut of his suit is adequate, even appropriate. Cal Carter is wearing it for the first time, Elvis Presley his shimmering jumpsuit for the umpteenth. It is Las Vegas, it is 1976 and rock’n’roll has gotten fat.

Out of the darkness, a single spotlight targets the microphone. Presley appears. Applause. The lights lift as the orchestra clicks into a crisply concluded crescendo. Two bars. Cal has done it: gatecrashed the King. Imagine him glowing inside with a sip of Jack Daniels and a surge of pride.

‘I’m…’ The orchestra comes back as Presley sings: ‘…hurt’ – the word straddles a beat, a backbeat, a bar and another.
‘…to think that you lied to me.’
‘Hurt.’ Shorter this time. The first wiggle of the hip and shudder of the lip. ‘Way down deep inside of me.’

‘And that was it,’ Cal would say. ‘Down deep. Like a voice from a cave. Like buried treasure.’ Unless you really knew him and how fast his mind worked, my best friend’s sentences appeared to come in prepacked, ready-to-speak slices. Whenever he told this story – and I heard him tell it several times to the band, to reporters, to fawning girls and buck-skinned boys – he always described the moment thus: like buried treasure. That was the moment Cal Carter believed he saw our future.

The first time I heard the story we were sitting five thousand miles away from Las Vegas in the far from glamorous public bar of The Roebuck, our special seats round the corner out the way of the dart board where we always sat when the information to be exchanged was serious stuff. He’d arrived back from America that morning and had jet lag scratched scarlet across his eyes.

I watched him standing at the bar. Shaking his head and waving his hand as he ordered bourbon and was offered scotch. We were neither of us whisky drinkers but Cal’s return was already working  great changes in our lives. I was eighteen, a smoker of Players No.6 and a drinker of keg bitter. I was a member of Her Majesty’s Civil Service and a lowly one at that. Licensed to bill. Elvis Presley at the Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas was another world, another language.

Cal returned with more pints and two whiskies which he pointedly and, I discovered only years later, inaccurately, referred to as ‘chasers’. Then he was off again, back there again. ‘At first it was just a bit of a fun. Seeing how many Bourbons I could lift. It was just a scam. You know, Presley, Christ…’ He paused over his beer. ‘It was four lines in, Frankie… Buried treasure.’

He shook his head and smiled again. ‘And I could barely hear it beneath the applause and rattling of jewellery.’

I probably smiled back. I certainly lit a cigarette. He shook his head when I offered him one and produced an American soft-pack from the breast pocket of his denim jacket. He tapped on the top and a cigarette emerged, sliding upwards, humbling gravity. Although Cal went on about it for another half-an-hour that, I think, was the moment when he convinced me. You could put it down to the power of Presley but those soft-packs were something else.

‘It was better than any amount of money.’

My eyebrows barely moved and he may have sensed my interest waning. ‘It was better than sex.’

I smirked. ‘Presley singing was better than sex?’

‘Better than sex.’

Cal and I had grown up together. He understood the expressions on my face, the way I fiddled with my hair. He smiled and pushed a tumbler of scotch towards me.

‘More than that,’ he said. ‘It was better than you thought sex would be when you were fourteen.’ I looked up at him . Now that was a wholly different ball game of soldiers. He was in the process of sitting. He leaned across the table, his eyes inches from mine, his breath flecked with whisky.

There was a pause before I shook my head. ‘I thought we’d finished with that schoolkids stuff. Isn’t that what Jon said?’

‘But you never had the vision before,’ said Cal. ‘I never had the vision. Any of us. It’s all very well to want to make money, shag women and take drugs, but…’

‘I thought there might be a but.’

‘But you have to see it, feel it. Take it and twist it.’ In his eye there was a twinkle like a safety pin in the sun.
I wasn’t too sure what he was talking about but I could feel a schoolboy’s grin tighten across my face, a sensation I hadn’t felt for at least a year. The grin Wendy Carter said was cute when she was twenty and I was fifteen and a half.

Potential is just that. Unrealised. But I am as close to certain as it is possible to be that when Cal died his best moments were yet to come, his best songs were yet to be recorded. Today he stands next to me just a stage width away from Elvis in some rock’n’roll waxworks museum they’ve got for the tourists up in town. They’ve made Cal three inches taller than he really was. I’m the right height but I’m told my eyes are hollow, empty and robbed of the sparkle of life.

I knew him – the supposed new McCartney to his new Lennon. I can say, hand on my rock-hardened heart and without an ounce of the all-American sentimentality that once inspired us that my story is nothing without the story of Cal Carter.

And when I think of him now, it’s often of that cabaret moment. Not of any of the umpteen millions of moments when we were together but of that one in Las Vegas when Elvis Presley sent a chill down his spine. And sometimes, I can see it as big and as bold and as bright as Presley’s white sequined suit. And sometimes I can hardly imagine it at all. Perhaps that is because I can’t imagine me there. Sore thumb me but Cal fitted.

 

 

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