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Monday, 25 March 2013

My daddy was a punk rocker, but he never hurt nobody

Blimey. I almost self-combusted reading the Guardian's account of the funeral of the Great Train Robber Bruce Reynolds last week. It had everything. Historic London locations, "faces" from London's gangster past, famous punk-era rock 'n' rollers, less famous post-punk rock 'n' rollers, film stars, etc, etc. It was a right old gallimaufry.

So, at the funeral for the "mastermind" of Britain's most famous organised criminal enterprise, you had (in no particular order) Mick Jones, Ronnie Biggs, David Thewlis, Freddie "Brown Bread Fred" Foreman, Ray Winstone, Chris Lambrianou, John Cooper Clarke and, no doubt, the entire cast of The Rat Pack stage show and representatives of the staff of Wormwood Scrubs. (I made those last two up).

With Reynolds’ son Nick being a well-established London-scene musician (Alabama 3), I guess some of this was unavoidable. Nevertheless, a heady stew. The piece in the paper was illustrated by a photo of a very frail-looking Ronnie Biggs in a wheelchair holding up two fingers (presumably to press photographers). What a strange sight. Quite a bit of pathos to it, but some lingering charge as well. This crumpled old man still acting the tough old crim, but perhaps self-consciously hamming it up for the cameras, playing the “Ronnie” part for real before Ray Winstone takes the role in the definitive film version in oh, just a few years’ time …

Mr Biggs was of course doing time before he sold his soul to punk (and the tabloids), and here it seems as if time has been compressed, with everything now squeezed into one weird, supercharged moment. There’s John Cooper Clarke with his mid-60s Dylan look chatting to Chris Lambrianou, a sharp-dressing sixties gangster who famously disposed of the body of the murdered Jack “The Hat” McVitie on the Krays’ orders.

Actually, as I’m reading all this, sitting on the upper-deck of a slow-moving bus going down Cambridge Heath Road in Hackney in east London, the overcrowded omnibus goes over the Regent’s Canal where the McVitie murder weapon was disposed of in 1967. And as Iain Sinclair’s account of the Lambrianou/McVitie episode reminds us, the disposal of McVitie’s body involved navigating an east London route beginning in Evering Road in Clapton, along Lower Clapton Road (past my flat, gulp), on through Narrow Way, Mare Street, Cambridge Heath Road and on southward. Yes, that’s Evering Road, where another possible murderer, Sid Vicious, used to live.

No, stop it! Enough of this time-slippery. Unless there are verifiable reports that Malcolm McLaren’s ghost was seen to pay homage to Bruce Reynolds, hovering above the entrance to St Bartholomew’s, then I think we should call last orders on all this geezer mythologising. Punks never pulled off major mail-train heists and the Krays liked Frank Sinatra and July Garland, not the Rolling Stones or the Velvet Underground. 

Ever get the feeling you've been overdetermined ...?

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