Tuesday, December 01, 2015

John Lanchester on the London housing crisis

John Lanchester is the author of the novel Capital, which is currently being dramatised on BBC One.

Here he is interviewed about London's housing crisis, its social impacts and its consequences for ordinary citizens who can no longer afford to live in their capital city.

Whoops!, Lanchester's nonfiction account of the financial crash, is well worth reading.

Welcome to the new Liberal Democrat bloggers

Two new blogs appeared on the LibDemBlogs aggregator in October. Thanks to Ryan Cullen as ever for sending me the details.

John Rodgers devotes his blog to the Healey area of Rochdale and Lib Dem campaigns there:

The Pond is a little Jewel. It’s a lovely asset for the community but the Council needs to spend some money to sort the walkway round the pond as it’s very loose and possibly dangerous. The Geese seem to be having a good time though.

Swallow of Liberty, written by Ben Powell, has seen only three sporadic posts. Yet it has already quoted 'Me and the Farmer' by the Housemartins in the course of this post on agriculture:

Less than half the butter we eat in this country comes from UK milk and only a third of the cheese. We do however import 40,000 tonnes of cheddar even though you could hardly think of a more British product.

Six of the Best 554

Photo: Andreas Trepte
"The real case against the party leader, that most Labour MPs know in their hearts but dare not say openly, is not that a Corbyn government is unlikely, but that a Corbyn government would be disastrous." Peter Kellner gets it right on Labour and Jeremy Corbyn.

Ian Cummins endorses a study suggesting that Work Capability Assessments are linked with an increase in suicides.

"It is no coincidence that the notion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights is spreading globally at the exact moment that old boundaries are collapsing in the era of the digital revolution, mass migration, and international commodity markets." Mark Gevisser explains why repressive states are losing the battle against sexual freedom.

Dr Anna Arrowsmith says we are using the term 'mansplaining' incorrectly.

Dan Brown tells us about the status of the curlew in the UK and the work that needs to be done to safeguard the future of this wonderful bird.

The trap streets mentioned in Doctor Who the other week really are a thing. Londonist will tell you all about them.

Liberal Democrat MPs to back air strikes again Isil in Syria

It is a horribly difficult decision, but I think this is the right call. And I am pleased that all eight (count 'em of our MPs will be voting the same way.

Nick Clegg explained some of the thinking behind this decision in an interview with the Yorkshire Post today.

I wonder if his prominence today reflects an acceptance that he should have accepted the foreign affairs post he was offered when Tim Farron became leader?

Anyway, this is what he said:
"I'm minded to support the extension. Not really because of the military argument because just as much as opponents exaggerate the risks, we are already in a war with Isil. We are already chucking bombs at them and I think people slightly exaggerate what a step it is when they criticise it." 
"Equally I think people who overstate what will be gained militarily are also overstating their case. The idea that extra British bombs will militarily change the dynamic completely is stretching credibility. 
"I just don't think anyone should overstate the case for or against. We are already at war, we are already dropping bombs from 30,000 feet, we are already conducting surveillance missions over Syria, they are already attacking us, they've already murdered Brits on the beaches of Tunisia. It's already highly likely there's going to be an attack on British soil at some point." 
He said France's request for help from the RAF had been a key moment in helping him make up his mind. 
"[France] are an incredibly important ally of ours. If that had happened in London and we asked the French, I think we would want the French to try and help us out as one of our closest, nearest neighbours," he said.

Monday, November 30, 2015

John McDonnell: "Put that light out, Napoleon"

Thanks to whoever it was who pointed out the resemblance on Twitter a while back.

Recently lost railways 4

The final part of this video visits (among other places) Dover, King's Lynn and Birkenhead, before ending on an optimistic note with the reopening of a stretch of line as part of the Robin Hood service from Nottingham to Mansfield and Worksop.

Watch part 1, part 2 and part 3 on this blog.

Men in panda onesies carry out armed robbery in Lincolnshire

The Guardian wins our Headline of the Day Award.

But see the Louth Leader for all the latest updates.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Jeremy Thorpe and Des Wilson go shopping

A scene from the Hove by-election of 1973.

Des Wilson was already well known as a campaigner, particularly as the founding director of Shelter, and joined the Liberal Party in order to fight this election. He later became a significant figure in the party and in the Liberal Democrats in that party's early years.

The Liberals had not fought Hove in 1970 (though they did achieve 16 per cent there in the 1966 general election), when the Conservatives had won 69 per cent of the vote in a straight contest with Labour.

In what was seen as a brave by-election campaign in an unwinnable seat, Des Wilson came second with 37 per cent of the vote. He was less than 5000 votes behind the winning Tory.

Today Hove is a Labour/Tory marginal. Labour won it in 1997, held it until 2010 and then won it back in 2015.

I guess the retired colonels and their ladies have died out, hitting the Conservative vote.

What does J.K. Rowling know about Harry Potter anyway?

This exchange turned up in my timeline. No doubt I was meant to laugh at Harry Potter Fans and praise Matthew Hankins for condemning mansplaining.

But I think the Harry Potter Fans tweet is fine.

Behind Hankins' contempt lie a number of connected and faulty aesthetic theories: that a work of art has one fixed meaning; that its meaning derives solely from the author's intentions; and that those intentions are somehow transferred from the author's mind to the book, which it then inhabits as a sort of ghostly substance.

The truth is different. As soon as a book is published the author loses control of it. There is no single correct reading of it that derives from her intentions. Readings multiply as its readership multiplies.

You could even argue that the better a book is, the more diverse the possible readings are, It this sort of fluidity of meaning that keeps the classics alive and makes us still want to read them.

Good criticism may reveal things the author was never conscious of. Here is G.K. Chesterton writing about Charles Dickens:
It seems almost as if these grisly figures, Mrs. Chadband and Mrs. Clennam, Miss Havisham, and Miss Flite, Nemo and Sally Brass, were keeping something back from the author as well as from the reader. When the book closes we do not know their real secret. They soothed the optimistic Dickens with something less terrible than the truth.
This is brilliant imaginative criticism - and it would be just as much if Chesterton were discussing a woman writer.

I will confess that I have read little by Rowling - because I found her a dull writer when I tried. But my prejudice is that everything in the Harry Potter world is that way because she says so. The stories failed to take on a life of their own that surprised their own author.

So it may be that Rowling's telling of the stories is the only possible one. But if that were true it would be a sign of her weakness as a writer not her strength.

Listening to the Long Mynd and Stiperstones shuttle

The Long Mynd and Stiperstones shuttle bus will start running again on Saturday 30 April 2016, running every weekend and bank holiday Mondays until the end of September.

While we wait for spring, we can enjoy the audio commentaries on the website devoted to this service. If you know these hills you need only close your eyes to see them.

There is even one that mentions Malcolm Saville.

Flaming Groovies: Shake Some Action

A 1976 track by an American band who were trying to sound like a 1960s British band and came to be seen as harbingers of Punk.

I think that is what Wikipedia is telling us.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Recently lost railways 3

There is some good news in connection with this section of the video.

The Nuneaton avoiding line was partly reopened when the town's station was remodelled. Trains from Leicester to Birmingham now use its bridge over the West Coast Main Line.

The Wensleydale branch is now run by volunteers as a heritage line: The Wensleydale Railway. Bedale signal box was one of three working British Rail signal boxes I was allowed into in my younger days.

Plans to reopen the Great Central came to nothing.

Watch part 1 and part 2 on this blog.

Why did the Conservatives tolerate Mark Clarke for so long?

Isabel Hardman explains:
The answer is that the Tory party was desperate for ground troops to fight Labour, and with a small and often elderly membership, this was hard to come by. It seems that their desperation stopped them asking the sorts of questions that an organisation with the luxury of many footsoldiers should have asked. They’d risk taking on someone like Mark Clarke because they considered it less of a risk to being utterly swamped by Labour activists in key seats. 
But it’s not just Mark Clarke, who denies bullying Johnson. Those involved in Tory youth politics say bullying was rife – and not limited to one man. Perhaps the party judged what was going on to be the sort of usual histrionics amongst student politicians, who believed they were acting like grown politicians with verbal thuggery and internet smears. 
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceIn hindsight, of course, with one young activist dead, the oversights of the party machine have proved far more costly than anyone could have imagined.

Danny Alexander takes defeat philosophically

They are very good podcasts and you can find them on the Philosophy Bites website.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Colour film of York in 1963

Click on the still above to go this short silent film from the BFI's Britain on Film collection:
This is a lovely portrait of York in the, much less busy, early sixties, illustrating well the city’s great history and many cultural attractions. Among the highlights is footage of the 1963 production of the York Mystery Plays and the York Regatta. 
This film was made by York photographer and filmmaker May Webb, who, with her husband Frank, ran a photography business in York, as well running the York cine club, the Apollo Film Unit.

Nick Clegg in Oldham

Up for the by-election, Nick Clegg has been interviewed by the Oldham Evening Chronicle:
“I think Jane’s getting a really positive response on the doorstep and I am very confident that she is going to do a lot better than we did in the General Election. 
“We have got to rebuild like any party, like any individual that takes a hard knock. You have got to lick your wounds a bit but move on and dust yourself down. 
“The party’s finding its zeal and fighting spirit again. In a constituency like this where we haven’t traditionally been competing at Westminster level we still have scores and scores of activists coming into our HQ and knocking on people’s doors."

Greville Janner's alleged victims may claim £2.5m in damages

From the Leicester Mercury:
Six men who say they were sexually abused by former Leicester MP Greville Janner are expected to submit a claim for up to £2.5 million in damages. 
Lawyers acting for the men, who claim the 87-year-old committed the offences against them decades ago, indicated the scale of their potential damages claim at the High Court in London on Tuesday. 
Details of the claim are to be formally served on Lord Janner's legal team, which must happen before the end of November. 
Lord Janner, who was MP for Leicester West for 27 years from 1970, is accused of 15 counts of indecent assault and seven counts of other sexual offences against a total of nine complainants.
The report also reminds us of the current state of play in the Crown prosecution of Lord Janner:
A judge ruled in September that Lord Janner would be put on trial next year for alleged historical child sexual abuse. 
That hearing is scheduled to take place on Monday, February 22. 
The peer is said to suffer from severe dementia and the early symptoms of Parkinson's disease. 
A hearing to assess whether he is fit to stand trial is due to take place on Monday, December 7. 
If that hearing decides he is unfit to stand trial, a court might conduct a "trial of the facts". 
That would mean a jury would hear evidence from alleged victims and decide whether he committed the abuse, although there would be no finding of guilt or a conviction. 
In total, the peer faces 22 allegations of sexual offences against nine boys and men between 1963 and 1988. 
He has not entered pleas to any of the allegations.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

In which I draw with a man who once came second in the British chess championship

Derren Brown came to Leicester in 2010:
We stayed at a terrific boutique hotel ‘Maiyango’, which was just lovely, and has a great restaurant attached. Worth seeking out. And pop into Alfred Lenton’s next door: an odd gem of a downtrodden second hand bookstore that has been there for 40 years.
In my experience he did well to find Alfred Lenton's open, but I am glad he enjoyed himself.

Alfred died in 2004 and these days the shop is run by his son.

Alfred Lenton was a strong chess player. His obituary on the Leicestershire & Rutland Chess Association website begins:
Alf Lenton was a notable player immediately before WW2, playing in the first three Anglo-Dutch internationals and the last four pre-war British Championship tournaments. 
He made his debut in the British Championship in Great Yarmouth in 1935, when he finished 3rd= (with Golombek, Michell and Tylor) behind Winter and Sir George Thomas. 
In 1936 he improved to 2nd= with Ritson Morry, once again behind Winter. Had he taken a good chance to beat Winter he might have won the championship that year.
Lenton played chess for Thurnby in the Leicestershire league until a few months before his death.

I played him in a match in the late 1990s when he must have been pushing 90 (and I was pushing 40).

I remember the game was a short, violent King's Indian Defence that soon burned out into a draw, but I cannot remember if I was White or Black. (I may still have the game score somewhere.)

So as well as having beaten someone who played top board for two different countries in the Olympiad, I can say I have drawn with someone who finished second in the British championship.

David Mackintosh MP and the finances of Northampton Town

Over the summer the finances of Northampton Town have been in the news.

David Conn wrote a good summary of this byzantine affair in the Guardian at the start of the month:
Put bluntly, there is a huge, grim question over where £10.25m has gone, which was lent to the club by Northampton borough council between September 2013 and August 2014, specifically to pay for improvements to its Sixfields stadium, including a new East Stand.
All that exists in return for so much money are minor works on the west stand, floodlights understood to have cost a little over £100,000, and a shell of a new East Stand for which the developer, Buckingham Group, says it was paid only £442,000, before it downed tools.
Since then the club has been sold to the former Oxford United chairman Kelvin Thomas.

Now it appears that David Mackintosh, Conservative MP for Northampton South and a former leader of the borough council, has been drawn into the mess.

BBC News reports:
A Conservative MP's local party was given undeclared payments linked to a businessman involved in a stalled stadium development, it has emerged. 
David Mackintosh's party received a £6,195 payment for tickets from Howard Grossman, the director of a company overseeing work at Northampton Town FC. 
Mr Mackintosh was leader of the borough council when it approved a £10.25m loan for the plans. Millions of pounds of the money is currently unaccounted for. 
He declined to comment on the payments. 
Three individuals with links to Mr Grossman also paid £10,000 into Mr Mackintosh's general election fighting fund, a BBC investigation found. 
The payment to Mr Mackintosh's party from Mr Grossman and one of the donations for £10,000 were not declared to the Electoral Commission.
The BBC goes on to report a Conservative spokesman as saying "we are looking into the matter".

I suspect this is a story to watch. Already there is a petition in circulation calling on Mackintosh to resign as MP for Northampton South.

Dog gets stick wedged in its ‘manhood’ in million-to-one accident

The Rutland & Stamford Mercury wins our Headline of the Day Award by a distance.

However, I have two observations to make.

First, shouldn't that be 'doghood'?

Second, what excuse did the dog give to the vet? "I was doing some carpentry in the nude when I slipped...?"

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Recently lost railways 2

The second part of this film covers many lines, including a colliery branch at Moira filmed in the days when Leicestershire still had coal mines.

Two of the more substantial lines covered this time are Aberdeen to Fraserburgh and March to Spalding, I travelled on the latter line in 1979 of 1980.

Watch Part 1 (which includes the Woodhead route) on this blog.

A Box of Delights on the radio in the 1960s

Christmas is coming and a lot of people are preparing for it by watching their Box of Delights DVD.

This time last year I wrote:
my heart was lost to A Box of Delights some time in the 1960s, when I heard a radio adaptation.
Since then BBC Genome has been invented and I can work out when exactly that was.

It must have been on 29 December 1968 or 28 December 1969.

Looking for the cast list (it was the same production for both broadcasts) it is noticeable that Kay Harker and Peter Jones were played by women. In Kay's case by the well known actress Patricia Hayes.

It was once common practice for women to play boys in BBC radio drama. I remember Jock Gallagher telling me that Judy Bennett, who played Shula in The Archers, was widely fancied by the production crew. So it was rather disconcerting when she put on her gruff small boy's voice and became the young Adam.

Today Kay and Peter would be played by boys. Interestingly, if you go back to a Children's Hour radio dramatisation of The Box of Delights from 1948 and you find that boys played those parts then too.

Harborough Tories: £7 off council tax, £40 on bin tax

Tomorrow evening a special meeting of Harborough District Council will consider a proposal to impose an annual charge of £40 for collecting garden waste - the authority's 'green bin' service.

Over to the Harborough Mail and my old friend Phil Knowles:
Lib Dem group leader Cllr Phil Knowles said the plan by the Conservative majority on the district council was “nothing short of a Conservative Bin Tax”. 
“Before the May elections we were treated to the Conservative election gimmick of a £7 per annum cut in Council Tax” he said. “Now they are proposing to charge £40 a year to empty green bins on a part-year service. 
“And if it’s £40 a year at first, who’s to say it won’t soon be £50 a year or more?”

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Restoring the Grantham Canal

The Grantham Canal ran for 33 miles from Grantham to the Trent at West Bridgford. It was abandoned in 1936.

In recent years a lot of restoration work has been done. For details see the Grantham Canal Society website.

I have walked part of the canal myself through the Stilton country of the Vale of Belvoir.

Alan Johnson shows the good and bad sides of mainstream Labour

There is no doubt about the bust up of the day. It is Alan Johnson's pummelling of Simon Hardy from what is laughing called 'Left Unity' on the Daily Politics this lunchtime.

Johnson was absolutely right to question Hardy's blithe assumption that only his groupuscule of the left stands against racism, austerity and war.

He was right to defend the record of the Labour governments of which he was a part:
we introduced the minimum wage, when we introduced the education maintenance allowance, when we introduced sure start children’s centres, when we reduced child poverty, when we attacked pensioner poverty, when we gave trade unionists the right to be represented, the right not to be sacked for going on strike.
Part of Labour's problem is that it has made so little effort to defend the Blair and Brown years. Blair, like Harold Wilson before him, has become a nonperson despite winning multiple elections for the party.

Where Johnson was completely wrong was where he complained that Hardy is "a middle-class intellectual".

Of course he is. Labour needs middle-class intellectuals. Labour wins when it manages to persuade both the working class and middle-class intellectuals to vote for it.

Yes, it must be galling for someone like Johnson to be lectured on the meaning of socialism, but his attitude does remind you of stories about how moderate Labourites used to behave when they were in the ascendancy back in the Fifties and Sixties.

Then, if someone applied to join the party, the local membership secretary would call. If he saw books in the house the candidate would be told that the party was full.

Still, if Labour is to return to sanity, let alone government, then the party's mainstream will have to emulate Johnson's fighting spirit.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Jeremy Corbyn's New Politics

Another visit to Bonkers Hall draws to a close. Thank you for listening.

Jeremy Corbyn's New Politics

Tense scenes in the House this evening as we debate Osborne’s proposed cuts to tax credits. The motions before us arrange from total rejection, put forward by us Liberal Democrats, to the bishops’ proposal for loud tutting.

I spy an old Socialist of my acquaintance – when I first knew him he was generally to be found on picket lines with Mary Berry and I would have offered long odds against his taking the ermine, but you know what Socialists are. “I expect you will be voting with us this time,” I say brightly. “Oh no,” he replies, “We are all going to abstain. It’s Jeremy Corbyn’s New Politics.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary
  • We are not downhearted
  • How the Lib Dems won Loch Ness
  • Freddie, Fiona and four-cornered liberalism
  • Mary Berry is unmasked
  • "I'm a Jihadi, Daddy"
  • Jeremy Corbyn alone on the opposition front bench

    This is what it looks like if you defy your party whip 500 times and then become its leader.
    Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

    Monday, November 23, 2015

    Recently lost railways 1

    The first of four parts (I spoil you. I know) of a video that looks at lines that were closed in the decade between the late 1970s and late 1980s.

    This first part looks at the Woodhead route, the lost electrified line between Sheffield and Manchester.

    I travelled on this line several times when it was used for Sunday diversions between the two cities while I was a student in York, and part of it was used by the Sheffield to Huddersfield service.

    The video looks at a number of other lines, including the remarkable branch along the seafront to Weymouth Harbour.

    Six of the Best 553

    Richard Kemp has little time for the mayor of Liverpool.

    Raymond Smith speaks up for the Green Belt: "The Green Belt may not have turned out quite as it was planned, but it is increasingly used for urban recreation and, if protected, could be of ever greater environmental value.

    "During the latter half of the 1930s, a surprising number of Nazi-themed summer camps sprouted across the United States. Organized locally and without the support of Germany, these summer outings bore a startling resemblance to the Hitler Youth." George Dvorsky on a forgotten slice of American history.

    Yes you should drag your children round museums, says John Lanchester.

    Lynne About Loughborough is pleased by the opening up of the town's Old Bleach Yard.

    Wales Online has some fascinating photographs of lost towns, villages and neighbourhoods in Wales - some of them "dismantled for English gain," as it puts it.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: "I'm a Jihadi, Daddy"

    Another diary entry from Rutland's most popular fictional peer, first published in Liberator magazine. This one proved scarily prophetic.

    "I'm a jihadi, Daddy"

    This evening I attend a viewing of a sparkling new print of one of my favourite Oakham Studios films.

    Set amid the trad jazz boom of the early 1960s, it is nevertheless the hard-hitting story of a schoolgirl (played by the young Helen Shapiro) who is radicalised by a penfriend and eventually travels to Syria to take part in the armed conflict there.

    I feel sure that ‘I’m a Jihadi, Daddy’ will win itself a whole new generation of viewers.

    Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

    Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary<
    • We are not downhearted
    • How the Lib Dems won Loch Ness
    • Freddie, Fiona and four-cornered liberalism
    • Mary Berry is unmasked
    • Sunday, November 22, 2015

      Vanished Leicester: St Nicholas Street

      Copyright © Dennis Calow
      Writing of the Leicester parish of St Nicholas in 1958, the Victoria County History for Leicestershire said:
      The main thoroughfare of the parish is St. Nicholas Street, which joins High Street and Applegate Street and leads to the West Bridge.
      The photograph above show St Nicholas Street in 1962.

      Today it has vanished, lost somewhere under the road system of St Nicholas Circle.

      Tim Farron sounds the right note on economics

      Tim Farron gave a major speech on economics at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London on Thursday.

      He set out three principles which he said will govern Liberal Democrat economic policy for the next five years:
      • Invest now in infrastructure 
      • Back enterprise 
      • Take the long view
      His take on the second principle is particularly good:
      The fact is that the Tories aren’t really pro-free market capitalism at all. They are pro-corporate capitalism. 
      They are there to fight not for entrepreneurs, not for innovators who oil the wheels of the market, but for the status quo. 
      Don’t believe me? Look, not at what they say, but what they do. 
      An opportunity to cut taxes on business? Go for corporation tax to benefit the very largest of companies, not help small start-ups to grow. 
      An opportunity to diversify the energy sector? Withdraw the subsidies for renewables that would give small start-ups the opportunity to challenge the big six energy companies. 
      An opportunity to change banking as the major shareholder in RBS? 
      Rather than use the chance to create a real, diverse, regional banking sector, sell the stake at a loss and keep the bank intact as yet another too-big-to-fail institution, ill-equipped to finance small businesses.
      This manages to sound anti-Conservative without sounding soggy or socialist or corporatist.

      At the same time, it poses a challenge to economic liberals in our party.

      For economic liberalism should be a radical creed. It should involve the breaking up of monopolies and the introduction of competition of markets that are dominated by a few big players.

      Too often, however, they make it sound like a slightly exasperated defence of the status quo. They give the impression that they resent any questioning existing concentrations of power in the economy.

      Tim's speech points a way forward for all Liberal Democrats. I hope the party will unite around it.

      Lord Bonkers' Diary: Mary Berry is unmasked

      Marry Berry is unmasked

      There was outrage at the identity of the finalists of the Great British Bake Off and, though it was an ugly affair, I am pleased that Mary Berry was finally unmasked as the left-wing troublemaker she has always been.

      For, I can exclusively reveal, ‘Red Mary’ has been behind every politically motivated strike, every violent demonstration and every act of industrial sabotage in Britain for decades. And who do people imagine baked the macaroons for the Angry Brigade?

      Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

      Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

      Simon Dupree and the Big Sound: Like the Sun Like the Fire

      I have written before about the first single I ever bought: Kites by Simon Dupree and the Big Sound. It seems my preference for Mellotrons and psychedelia was present from the start.

      There is a good entry on the band on All Music:
      "Simon Dupree" was vocalist Derek Shulman, one of a trio of brothers (Ray and Phil being the other two) from Portsmouth, England, who started out in music as R&B fanatics and first formed a group in 1964. 
      Their musical interests can be glimpsed by the choices that the Shulman brothers made between 1964 and 1965 in naming their bands, which included the Howling Wolves and the Road Runners. 
      Those names aside, their repertoire was focused a lot more on the songs of Wilson Pickett, Don Covay, and Otis Redding than on the Wolf or Bo Diddley. "Simon Dupree & the Big Sound" came about in the course of their search for a flashy name.
      And it explains how an R&B outfit came to record Kites:
      Then, in October of 1967, the group's management and record label decided to try moving Simon Dupree & the Big Sound in the direction of psychedelia. It's entirely possible that they were looking at the huge sales and international recognition suddenly accruing to the Moody Blues, an R&B-turned-psychedelic outfit who had gone from near-oblivion to scoring a pair of hit albums and singles with their new sound. 
      The result was "Kites," a song recorded in the early fall of 1967 at Abbey Road. The bandmembers were unhappy with the new song and the sound they were being asked to create, but they tried to make the best of it - they experimented with a Mellotron for the first time, and used it pretty much as impressively as the Moody Blues did. The melody was Asian-sounding, and the presence of actress Jackie Chan reciting some poetry over the music didn't detract from the single's "Eastern" sound. 
      "Kites" wasn't R&B, but it was the right song at the right time, and it made the British Top Ten, a major commercial breakthrough for the group.
      The Shulman brothers later formed the prog rock band Gentle Giant.

      If they were in Abbey Road in the autumn of 1967 then they may well have coincided with the Zombies as they made Odessey and Oracle. And the Mellotron on Kites may be the one John Lennon left at the studios after recording Sergeant Pepper, which the Zombies made such good use of.

      Listening to Kites today, it isn't very good. In fact I prefer the B side.