George Melly RIP
July 5, 2007 3:48 AM   Subscribe

George Melly, singer, writer, and expert on Surrealism, has passed away aged 80.
posted by motty (18 comments total)
For those who aren't familiar with George or his work, I'd urge you to check it out. His memoirs (of which there are several) are wonderful, wonderful things. The first is titled 'Rum, bum and concertina' comes from a saying they had when he was in the Navy:

"On shore, we have wine, women and song,
At sea we make do with rum, bum and concertina."

George seemed as though he was *always* out about his bisexuality and his love of a decent weed. It isn't that long ago that he was arrested for growing in his greenhouse, but what are the courts going to do? The guy is a British jazz icon, beloved by us all. While I could see them sending Paul McCartney down those steps, it was never going to happen to George Melly.

Sadly, there aren't any copies of George performing classics like 'Hot Nuts' or 'If you'se a viper' on YouTube, but here's a brief clip of him presenting a documentary on Ken Colyer and the first traditional New Orleans jazz band.

This guy definitely qualifies for my first ever:


Rest in peace, George. Tonight, I'll spark one up in your memory.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:02 AM on July 5, 2007

He was great.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:09 AM on July 5, 2007

Thta's very sad, he was a national treasure. An amazing life.

posted by WPW at 4:27 AM on July 5, 2007

Zimmertime blues.
Thanks for the fun George....and the Hats.
posted by adamvasco at 4:33 AM on July 5, 2007

My grandmother never forgave him for the time he allegedly stepped on her foot and did not apologize. Unfortunately, I never had the presence of mind to ask my grandmother when she was alive how it was she came to be at a party with George Melly.

Still, .
posted by kcds at 4:55 AM on July 5, 2007

My favourite Melly story (well, favourite is too strong a word), is how he and one of his boyfriends used to wank onto dinner plates and then lick the spunk off. Not only was Mellie a true bisexual but he was also right at the end of the pier when it came to sexuality.

He's a powerful reminder that each generation don't invent raucousness and rebellion. They just think they do. In fact, they inherit it from the previous generation and, in many cases, tone it down somewhat.
posted by humblepigeon at 4:59 AM on July 5, 2007

I see that he died of lung cancer. Obviously smoking weed all his life must have shortened it, somehat. Had he not smoked weed, the man could have lived until he was 136!

George on cancer.

And those of you youngsters who think that you're saying something new when you complain about the commodification of radicalism should pay attention to George's fine book of pop music/arts criticism, Revolt into Style.

Now you kids get offa my lawn. I gotta Sea of Green hydroponic system on the go in my greenhouse, and I don't want you bringing the heat.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:07 AM on July 5, 2007

Very sad.

I forget where I heard it - possibly on one of his documentaries on art? - but my favourite Melly anecdote is the tale of the time that, threatened with a glassing by some thugs, his first thought was to start reciting a Kurt Schwitters sound poem, and the scallies were so freaked out that they promptly legged it.

That defines the man, I think - under threat, his first response was not fight or flight, but a spontaneous eruption of art!
posted by jack_mo at 5:33 AM on July 5, 2007

Wikipedia says he was a script writer on the classic Mod film "Smashing Time." God, I love that goofy-ass movie.
posted by Brittanie at 5:36 AM on July 5, 2007

What's extra depressing is that our over packaged, cynical and ultimately deeply conservative mass culture today would never, ever tolerate (much less celebrate) someone like George. A sad loss...
posted by The Salaryman at 5:42 AM on July 5, 2007

Saw him once about five years ago. Thought I was being taken to a jazz concert, but instead got him giving a slideshow on surrealism. One of the most interesting and entertaining nights I can remember.

posted by dowcrag at 5:43 AM on July 5, 2007

"As an atheist, I don't believe in an afterlife. And I believe in it no less and no more than I did at 20."
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:01 AM on July 5, 2007

What a life lived.
Only knew bits and bobs about George Melly (he'd pop up in things I read about anarchist politics too, as well as the art and music) but always came across as one of those people you're glad is out there in the world doing their thing.
posted by Abiezer at 1:57 PM on July 5, 2007

My Mum loved George (from afar, it must be said). I never laid hands on any recordings but I read quite a lot of his stuff, especially old Punch columns. I wonder if in these days of Youtube there's any Melly floating around?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:57 PM on July 5, 2007

I was lucky enough to see him play at Ronnie Scott's some years ago. I cannot begin to describe how good it was. Over fifty years of stage experience more than made up for the fact that his voice wasn't entirely what it had been. I don't think I've been to a better gig.

Also I'm really glad people have mentioned key things about his anarchist politics and his sexuality and his journalism and his broadcasting which was missing from the original post (mea culpa).
posted by motty at 3:12 PM on July 5, 2007

What a terrific thread!
posted by Wolof at 5:10 PM on July 5, 2007

Also, buggeration, the link on the full stop has broken since this morning. Was meant to go to this.
posted by motty at 6:23 PM on July 5, 2007

Oh man. Not only did I read (and greatly enjoy) some of his memoirs as a teenager, but he then played at a legendary May Ball I attended, after which my tulle dress (navy with embroidered tulips!) was literally in shreds.

Following that, I pretty much forgot about him till just now. I'm sorry, George.
posted by tangerine at 12:40 PM on July 6, 2007

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