Kesha and Dr Luke: just when you think things can’t get any worse

The record industry, eh!!? Drugs, sex, shouting, bullying. A few more drugs, a bit more sex. It’s a wonder we ever make any music.

And just when you think maybe people can see it’s a bit more serious than that, along comes Vinyl, Martin Scorsese’s and Mick Jagger’s take on the early 70s American record industry.

I haven’t seen the Sky Atlantic series, because I don’t subscribe to Sky. My cable provider is Virgin, and Virgin refuses to pay the necessary fee to carry Atlantic. So I’ve missed out on a lot of reportedly brilliant drama, from Boardwalk to Game of Thrones to Ray Donovan.

What I’ve read about Vinyl is that it’s either a) a rollicking and accurate rendition of the American record industry in the early 70s, albeit with some script problems; or b) that it’s a ridiculous caricature of how the public thinks the record industry behaved but rarely did.

One way or the other, it obviously reinforces stereotypes and, frankly, we could do without them.

Then up pops Kesha, tied into what looks like, on the face of it, a totally unreasonable record deal. But a US Court didn’t think so, and refused to give her leave to break the terms of the deal and record elsewhere.


Having lost that battle, we then start hearing accusations that her producer (and boss of the label) Dr Luke abused her, verbally and physically. More, she says he drugged and raped her.

I don’t know if any of this is true. And neither do you.

But that hasn’t stopped the Twitterati going mad with charges that Sony – the ultimate owner of her records – is a ‘rapist sympathiser’.

It does seem remarkable that an 18 -year-old would be advised to sign a record deal (with Dr Luke’s Kemosabe label) and a publishing deal, (with another Dr Luke company, Prescription Songs) that tied her into a situation which, 11 years later, she can’t get away from. I’m told that the initial deal was for eight albums, but as far as I can see only two have been released. Someone is doing something wrong, and someone is lying.

I can tell you, hand on heart, that I would never let the pop star who lives in my house near such a deal. The idea that one individual has one hand in your recording pocket, the other in your publishing pocket, and is also your producer – well, someone steered Kesha wrong. Or Dr Luke gave her a ton of money, enough to make her not care one way or the other.

All I can observe is that, generally speaking, courts tend to look with sympathy on young artists who have signed unsuitable deals. That would usually go double when, 11 years down the line, things have clearly broken down.

And I might also observe that if Kesha had taken the allegations of drugs and rape to court, and won, her contract would instantly have been rendered invalid.

But what with Atlantic’s fictional Vinyl, and the all-too-real life Kesha case, the public is once again fed a diet of record business exploitation and excess.

As the music business and, more particularly, artists fight to wrestle back their right to earn some money from their efforts, this is exactly the kind of jiggery-pokery tabloid fodder we could all do without. Well, apart from the public who clearly lap this stuff up before turning to Twitter and Facebook to make their uninformed observations.

You couldn’t make it up. And in this instance, you don’t have to. More’s the pity.

David’s dead? Could we just slow the world down a bit?

It was depressing enough to find three people who’d died during 2015 aged 67 – the age I became on January 1 this year.

But to wake up on January 11 2016 and find that David Bowie has died aged just 69 is simply shocking.

Country star Lynn Anderson (I Never Promised You) A Rose Garden; Chris Squire, guitarist with Yes; and Jimmy Greenspoon, Three Dog Night keyboard player, all served to remind me of my own mortality during 2015 as New Year’s Day 2016 crept nearer. They all died aged 67.

Still – all respect to their families’ loss – these were journeymen artists. Millions enjoyed them, so God bless ’em.

But what are you supposed to say about David Bowie that hasn’t been said a thousand times before?

Millions of words will be written and spoken about him over the next few days. The same stories, tropes and cliches will be repeated ad nauseam and young people will be wondering what all the fuss is about. He wasn’t Ed Sheeran, was he?

But we know, don’t we, we who were sentient in the 1950s? We were ready for the greatest explosion of popular culture ever known – Elvis, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Monty Python, James Bond, Muhammad Ali, Woodstock, even the first man on the moon and Concorde.

And that was when David Bowie just got his toe in the door with Space Oddity, an ‘overnight success’ in 1969. Seven years of frustration, failure and feeling his way through the treacherous music industry served well to strengthen his artistic resolve when times were tough, and they often were. He was the best part of 20 years into his career before he might safely assume financial comfort and the security of his reputation.

Artistically, he’s up there with with the absolute greats.

Only Dylan and The Beatles could be said to have been more influential. He was as restless as The Beatles, who reinvented themselves pretty much album by album. The difference being, they did it for six years; Bowie did it continuously over six decades.

I’ve been loving Blackstar, his latest album, released two days before his death. Unlike Double Fantasy – not well received, peaking at number 14 in the UK charts and plummeting to 46 before John Lennon was killed – Bowie’s latest (last?) is challenging, admirably uncommercial and containing lyrics over which we will now pore for clues to his state of mind.

Dollar Days, for instance, has the lines:
If I’ll never see the English evergreens I’m running to
It’s nothing to me
It’s nothing to see


Don’t believe for just one second I’m forgetting you
I’m trying to
I’m dying to

Is Blackstar a cry for authenticity, but not at the expense of an ethical life?
How many times does an angel fall?
How many people lie instead of talking tall?
He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar, I’m not a gangstar)

Oh, David. What are we going to do now?

God bless Adele, but I think she’s done

Oh, to be Adele.

Maybe I’ve taken on too much. Trying to finish an album, build a new website, write a novel – then I realise it’s Friday afternoon and I haven’t written this week’s post. Cue panic!

Meanwhile, Adele – thirty million albums sold last time out, four years in the making for the new one.

So unconcerned is she, that she’s kept the title 25, even though she’s 27 now.

At one point in the process, she discarded an entire album because it addressed a situation in her life that had come and gone. No suggestion that the songs were below par, nor the album itself. Which, from where I’m standing (or sitting, most likely, chained to my computer) seems indulgent to a degree that is wasteful.

Still, she’s Adele, and I’m not. And you can’t help but love her. The segment in her BBC programme with Graham Norton where she disguises herself as an Adele impersonator is a masterclass in warmth, humanity and humour.

Which makes it all the more painful to say: I think Adele’s done.

From what I’ve heard of the new album it doesn’t take her one creative or artistic step forward from 21. In some respects – some truly woeful lyrics, and a dearth of memorable melodies – it’s a step backwards.

Listening to her talk about the process, particularly the consideration she gave to not even following up 21, she gives the impression not so much of an artist driven by compulsion to create but more of someone for whom this is the one thing she’s confident she’s good at.

She doesn’t even have to tour to break sales records – 25 shifted the most copies in first week history (achieved in only four days, just to stick the boot into poor NSYNC’s 15-year-long hold on the title).

But the sub-text is, she’s also good at being a human being, and clearly loves being a mother, and therefore might find as much fulfilment in raising a family.

And before anyone takes issue with my apparently non-PC (anti-feminist) suggestion that raising a family might now be a priority (and it’s only a guess on my part), I’d just remind you that no-one took issue on sociological grounds with Kate Bush leaving a 12-year gap between The Red Shoes and Aerial. For Kate, the creative rush of raising her son was not even a sub-text; it was the text, and inspired some of Aerial’s most beautiful moments.

So, good luck to Adele. I’ve loved some of her songs, and many of her performances. Her voice is a gift.

But for artists to last they have to grow, and take their audience with them. And growing doesn’t just mean titling your album after your current age.

The Beatles went from Love Me Do to Tomorrow Never Knows in three and a half years. The Who went from Zoot Suit (written by their manager) to Tommy (conceived and mostly written by Pete Townshend) in five years. Bob Dylan, of course, started as he meant to go on, never once thinking about sales, and thereby carrying his audience with him to this day.

If Adele wants to be more than a footnote in pop music history, she needs to consider whether she’s capable of more than baring her soul for the masses. I hope she can. I don’t expect her to start using sitars and backwards tapes of monks chanting; or even to write a pop opera. But she will need to channel her inner Amy (without the drugs and the self-destructive urge) if we’re still to be talking about another new album 20 years from now.

Meanwhile, here is evidence of why we love her in the here and now:

On the other hand, I’m getting far more enjoyment from Songs In The Dark, an album of lullabies and other {sometimes scary) songs by The Wainwright Sisters, Martha and Lucy. Occasionally on the album, it’s like The McGarrigle Sisters are back. But Martha and Lucy leave no doubt they are the current generation.

Unfortunately, there are no decent videos of the songs I’d like to highlight, but those familiar with the Wainwright family saga will recognise the storyline of Runs In The Family.

Driver 67 is having the time of his life

Thinking about it the other day, it dawned on me that I’m going through a bit of a golden period.

Of course, there are always bloody problems. Stuff doesn’t just happen. First off, you have to get out of bed every morning and put one foot in front of the other. You know what I’m saying, Lucy Joplin? It’s tougher than it sounds, innit?

There’s always another cup of tea to be made. Or maybe you’re compelled to get along to the coffee shop because you need to read a few more pages of your book. And in any case, you haven’t been out of the house for four days.

I can, hand on heart, say that I’ve never fallen into the Jeremy Kyle trap; nor any kind of daytime telly, except for when the Test Match used to be transmitted live by the BBC.

But when the butterfly in my mind flaps its wings, on the other side of the kitchen a piece of bread hits the toaster and the kettle starts boiling.

Still, things do get done. My book on the music industry is nearly finished (with the publishers; doing their thing. Mind you, no predictions from me about publication dates).

I’m also, finally, writing a novel. Again, I wouldn’t hold your breath. It’ll take some time.

And on January 1, 2016, Driver 67 will be 67. So that’s got to be an auspicious year, hasn’t it? I’m waiting for a blocked ear to clear so I can mix my new album, which will be called….

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 15.09.07

On top of all this, for the first time in my life I’ve been asked to sing someone else’s songs. Not that it’s a done deal (I’m auditioning the songs at the moment). But to be asked alone is worth the price of entry. Apparently my ‘crooning style’ could be well suited to the material.

I’ve never thought of myself as a crooner. But quite quickly, after picking myself up off the floor, I realised it’s probably the most accurate description of my singing ‘style’. I’ve never thought of myself as a singer; but I’m happy to think of myself as a crooner!

Just to add to the load, I’m trying to redesign this blog into a magazine. I may not watch Jeremy Kyle, but I do spend an inordinate amount of time trolling around Facebook baiting the loony left (mostly my own family) and giving the anti-Israel lobby a dose of (my) reality.

So I thought, isn’t it time you put all that effort into something of your own? You could be the anti-Huffington Post, the anti-38 Degrees, or, simply, the anti-Christ – because that’s what it feels like when the online world tips its manure on your head.

Of everything I’m doing, the blog redesign is the hardest. I have no trouble writing (Look! I’m doing it now!); and music is a joy, until it becomes work and you have to finish and release.

Usually, with anything online, you just Google your problem and thousands of posts appear telling you how to do what you want to achieve. I’m a bit of a Noddy to Big Ears type when it comes to online building and design. I need all the help I can get. But I invested in Newspaper 6 before I found out that the usual user videos and forums aren’t out there. Nothing like someone who’s faced the same problem posting their solution. But it’s not happening.


So I asked WordPress and BlueHost to point me at some easy to understand advice. And they did. Except, their idea of step-by-step involves you understanding coding and showing you loads of templates that, despite looking exciting and inviting, all end up looking almost exactly like the blog I’ve been posting for nearly two years.

So if anyone out there can lend a hand, just a few Noddy to Big Ears directions will do.

Once I’m up and running I can usually figure it out. But with Newspaper 6 I can barely get out of the starting blocks.

Still, I’m off to Cuba on December 17, back on January 1. Like I said, Driver 67 is having the time of his life.

Now, I haven’t got all day to chat. The toast is burning, and I haven’t even put the kettle on yet.

Meanwhile, being deaf in one ear, I have no new music of my own this week. So – sticking with the crooner theme – I’ll leave you with one of the greatest of all time (Sinatra, of course, being the greatest. But after Frank how many cigarette papers would you put between Crosby, Bennett, Nat King Cole and Elvis Presley?).

I was a bit horrified when I heard about the latest Elvis project – overdubbed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

But it settles one argument for ever and a day. Elvis was a truly great singer, blessed with a voice of exceptional quality.

Is Jeff Lynne Kevin Turvey? Or is he a genius?

Do you remember Kevin Turvey?*

He was from Solihull and, frankly, you have to be from Solihull or thereabouts to fully appreciate his pedantry. “I got some milk out of the fridge and I poured it on my cornflakes. Well, not all of it. Obviously.”

People from there or thereabouts will go into excruciating detail to ensure you get the full measure of whatever story they’re telling you. It’s a rarely remarked upon ethnic eccentricity.

I was reminded of this reading an interview with Jeff Lynne this week. He was asked if he’d like a cup of tea.

“Do you want a cup of tea, Jeff?”

“Yeah, I’ll have the same again.”

“The same cup of tea?”

“No, I can’t have the same cup of tea, obviously, ‘cos I’ve drunk it. But some tea. In the same cup.”

Well, it made me cry laughing, but perhaps you had to be there. Or thereabouts.

Another comment I love from Jeff was when Tom Petty pulled up next to him at some traffic lights in LA. “Hey Jeff, we should hang out,” said Tom. “Which was nice,” said Jeff, recounting the story later.

Of course, but for that chance meeting (Tom Petty had been planning a sabbatical) we might never have had The Traveling Wilburys. So ‘nice’ doesn’t begin to cover it.

I saw The Electric Light Orchestra at Fairfield Halls, Croydon on what may have been its first major outing (after a pub debut at The Fox & Hounds (also in Croydon). As a Beatle nut, an entire band dedicated to recreating the sound of I Am The Walrus, cellos and all, seemed an entirely brilliant concept.

But all was not sweetness and light. Backstage after the gig, I saw manager Don Arden line the group up against a wall and walk up and down, shouting at each of them for some invented slip-up. It was a control mechanism. He even punched a couple of them.

No wonder tensions ran high. Not long after, Roy Wood scarpered with a couple of other members to form Wizzard. To those of us who had imagined that the whole Walrus thing was Roy’s idea, ELO seemed like a dead duck.

But Roy wasn’t the creative midwife. Jeff Lynne was. So after a long apprenticeship, going back to 1965, when he first met Richard Tandy, Jeff finally had centre stage and a vehicle for what turned out to be a stunning talent for timeless pop tunes and a mastery of studio techniques.

I’m not going to go on and on about how brilliant Jeff Lynne is. But let’s just think about his timeline – The Idle Race (legendary but rarely heard), The Move, ELO, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, The Traveling Wilburys and then, a career crowner you’d have thought, The Beatles!r

But Free As A Bird and Real Love were 20 years ago. Oh, fuck me!! Really? Yes indeed. And you can’t keep a restless and creative soul like Jeff Lynne under wraps for 20 years. I bought his 2012 album Long Wave, which is a joy.

And now he’s in the process of releasing a new ELO album, though it’s really a Jeff Lynne album, Alone In The Universe. I’ll be buying it.

I know some of you won’t. There are a lot of ELO haters out there. Though you’re not in the same class as the Phil Collins haters. Just deviating for a few seconds (without hesitation or repetition) I personally cannot see the point of hating Phil. I’m not a fan, but for God’s sake, the man is a brilliant drummer, much sampled by the Hip Hop community who revere him.  And he’s written some great songs. His music career alone (preceeded by a five-year spell as a child actor) has lasted nearly 50 years.

But hating ELO at least comes with the possibility that you don’t also hate Jeff Lynne. I bet every one of you has a favourite record tucked away that has Jeff Lynne all over it. Surely no-one can hate Roy Orbison and George Harrison and Tom Petty and Dave Edmunds and Olivia Newton-John and Paul McCartney and Duane Eddy and Regina Spektor and Joe Walsh and The Beatles and The Traveling Wilburys?

If you hate absolutely every one on that list, please spare me your rationale. Instead, make a doctor’s appointment and ask to see a consultant. You’re clearly unwell.

Meantime, in case you’ve missed the buildup, here’s a gorgeous taster of Alone In The Universe, due for release late next week, I think.

*Kevin Turvey was one of Rik Mayall’s earliest inventions.

When the black dog barks, there’s always a song to be sung

Have you seen those Facebook posts, urging you to copy and post in friends’ Timelines?


I don’t know how useful this is. But I do know this:

You wouldn’t want to live in my head.

There’s a never-ending conversation going on in there and it simply will not shut up. Sometimes I’ll be reading and the conversation gets louder and louder till it drowns out the words on the page. No wonder I watch so much crap on telly.

And this conversation – it’s deadly serious. What’s wrong with the world, what I would do to put it right, how stupid are the people in charge, and why are none of them fucking listening to me!!!!!?

Are you paying attention?

You’re not, are you? Well, good for you. Not paying attention is surely the answer.

I saw a Facebook post last week that nearly broke my heart. It was from a FB ‘friend’ – we don’t know each other, but we’re connected through a musical network.


A few weeks ago I referred to Lucy as a “stunning young woman of somewhat bonkers demeanor” and left you a video of her performing Not Your Type At All. Watching her apparently total commitment to appearing bonkers, you would never guess that she’d rather have been a world-class ballerina.

I know exactly how Lucy feels. I gave up making music thirty-odd years ago because of frustration at not being as good as the musicians I worked with. I wanted to be Steely Dan; my band practically were Steely Dan. I could not compete, and I was never going to be able to.

It took me thirty years to understand that my gift was my songs, not to play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix, or to sing like Otis Redding.

And then I saw this from Lucy –

and realised we probably had even more in common.

Cheryl Rad’s reply gives the clue: “Lucy what’s all this???”

I think Cheryl sensed, as I did, a red light for danger.

I was in the process of recording a song about mental health. I felt compelled to ask Lucy if I could use her FB posts in the accompanying blog post. I told her I was bipolar. She said she wasn’t. “Common or garden clinical depression is all”.

“Common or garden clinical depression” strikes me as the response of someone who feels the weight of responsibility not to burden friends. So maybe that Facebook meme does have a role to play. Yes, indeed – let’s ‘stop sweeping mental illness under the rug’.

In another post, Lucy listed things ‘I should be doing – reading, writing, dancing, listening to music, singing …..(and lots of other things); what I am doing….sweet FA, losing it’. Others in the grip of depression will recognise that immediately, and only we know that the answer is not as simple as ‘pull yourself together’.

Which brings me back to the song I was recording. It was written by my friend Lon Goddard. As soon as I heard it I knew I had to record it. It really hit the nail on the head about the mess inside my own, even though he was describing the mess inside his.

It’s about getting a handle on yourself. It’s called Handle. Isn’t simple great?

It’s hard to explain the inside of your brain, but there are those of us who prefer a dark room to bright sun. I used to love gloomy winter afternoons. The lights and fires in people’s front rooms were always more inviting and evocative than beaches and palm trees. Mind you, there weren’t many palm trees in Wolverhampton, plus you could never find a beach when you wanted one.

And fog. I bloody loved fog. Stupid environmentalists ruined that. Talk about the law of unintended consequences. What’s a melancholic depressive to do when the air’s so clean fog won’t form?

Well, there’s always a song by another melancholic depressive to cheer you up. It was The Beatles’ Rubber Soul that introduced me to that concept. Norwegian Wood, You Won’t See Me, Nowhere Man, Girl (aah, girl!), In My Life – tailor-made for the less cheerful.

Then came Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks. Joni Mitchell filled some of the gaps in between with her tales of vaguely unsatisfactory relationships and a jaundiced view of the world (Both Sides Now). Later, the entire Hejira album fed my soul for years (and still does, when I need it to).

I’m a bit better now. I won’t sit in the sun, but I do like a blue sky and a shiny sun. Just as well. I’m going to Cuba for Christmas.

But, y’know, meds notwithstanding, this thing never really goes away. Which is why, when I heard this lyric from Lon –

Now I need a hole into my brain
What a lot of bullshit I could drain
I could watch it go and let my whole life
Flood out on a plain

– I just knew I had to sing it, record it, put it out there.

So here we go Lucy (and Lucy’s dad Norman who I’ve known, on and off, for nearly fifty bloody years), and anyone else who struggles to get a handle on their life.

But mostly, of course, to Lon Goddard, who saved me from writing my own song by just doing it better than I would have.



You there, with that line of coke. Just hang on a second….

I’ve done my fair share of cocaine.

I’m not saying that to shock. Obviously, I want to grab your attention. But some of you know it anyway, and I want to avoid accusations of hypocrisy.

Because this week I’m going to talk about drug cartels (and, yes, I’ve written a song about them!).

Have you been watching Narcos? It’s a series on Netflix, their version of The Sopranos.

Except that Narcos is a true story, about real people.

And these people – well, it’s hard to believe we share a planet with them.

Mind you, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. The first series of Narcos is the story of Columbia’s Pablo Escobar. It starts off as the story of a folk hero, at least to his own people. He takes on the government of Columbia, which is impervious to the needs of ordinary people, who are poor and neglected beyond our understanding.

So Pablo gives them jobs, builds schools and hospitals and ends up more popular than film stars or singers.

Which, of course, the government cannot tolerate. What happens next is an escalation of violence that makes you question humanity and your own sanity – how could you possibly have thought Pablo Escobar was anything but evil?

Well, bad as he was, the Mexican cartels are worse. Transgressors are tortured, skinned alive (flayed), decapitated, dismembered, hung from motorway overpasses. In one six year period to 2012, 100,000 people were slaughtered in the interests of cocaine trafficking.

And yet Americans alone spend about $30bn a year on the cocaine that is causing untold misery just the other side of their border.

Not to mention the environmental damage. The process of maceration – turning the innocent coca leaf into a paste, the basis of cocaine itself – requires a mixture of kerosene, sulphuric acid and lime. This appalling cocktail, once it’s done its job, is allowed to run off into local waterways.

You will never stop these people. There’s always someone ready to take their place. The means of smuggling becomes ever more sophisticated. In 2011, US officials found their first narco submarine. No-one knows how many there were/are. Costing $2m to build, one submarine can carry $60m worth of drugs along riverbeds and into America.

But even as the first submarine was discovered, the narcos were already investing in drones. They are always one step ahead.

I stopped buying cocaine in 1982, when small time dealers started ‘stepping’ on it. There might be five or six ‘stepping’ stages – bulking up the cocaine with baby milk, talcum powder and laxative (oh yes!).

But then it got worse. As the cocaine ( £60 a gram) became less and less of a constituent, the familiar ‘sting’ to the nasal passages was missing. So they started using scouring powder (Borax in America, Ajax in the UK).

Ajax – yeah, that stings alright.

And then, of course, as the cocaine element in your £60 envelope diminished, so did the expected effects of the drug. So they replaced even more of the cocaine with amphetamine sulphate (£15 a gram) for an extra kick.

Unfortunately, amphetamine sulphate (speed to you and me) is highly addictive. Which, of course, brings a whole slew of new problems with it.

Stopping using pure cocaine was easy. Stopping using something that is less than 20% cocaine (but still at cocaine prices) bulked up with the highly addictive sulphate would be a different proposition.

In the intervening 33 years I’ve accepted a line here and there maybe half a dozen times. It has routinely proved to be crap. And disgusting crap at that.

So: torture, death, addiction, environmental pollution, all for a fraudulent product; not to mention one trillion dollars flushed down the toilet in the ‘war on drugs’ – what does it take till a supposedly civilised society throws up its hands and accepts the case for legalisation and control?

It was Richard Nixon who started the war on drugs. He allocated a budget of around a half billion dollars. Most of the money was to be spent on treatment and rehabilitation of addicts. Today America alone is wasting over $100bn a year on an actual war – fought against narco cartels whose annual turnover is sometimes larger than that of the country they operate in, and whose private armies are better-equipped than the army of their sovereign state. (You think I’m exaggerating?).

Throughout the world we already have the means of clean and controlled manufacture. In our international network of regulated pharmacies we also have the means of controlled distribution and sale.

Wipe out the narcos raison d’être overnight: take drugs off the street,  tax their sale to fund treatment for addicts, reallocate the $100bn war-on-drugs fund (£10bn in the UK) – isn’t it a no-brainer?

Meanwhile, there’s a Mexican tradition of corrido, songs that – in a pre-digital era – spread the news, and revolutionary ideas and expressed the feelings of ordinary people.

Today there’s a nasty extension known as narcocorrido – songs that celebrate the drug cartels, their acts of violence and the power they wield.

These narcocorridos are not spontaneous outbursts of admiration. They are coerced. “Write a song about me and make it respectful and adulatory – or I will kill you.” As Pablo Escobar himself said: “Take my silver or take my lead (ie: my bullet)”.

In other words, there’s no middle ground. If I ask for your help and you refuse, you will be killed. As will your family. And anyone else we can think of who will help to spread the message that you don’t say no to the cartel. And if they haven’t invited you in, you still don’t go against them in any way.

No-one doubts it. The media in Mexico has been extremely circumspect in recent years, simply because large numbers of journalists and broadcasters have been slaughtered as a means of intimidation. In some areas the local cartel literally controls the media.

Even blogging isn’t safe. They may be barbarians, the cartels, but they are not living in a barbaric age. They have the technology to track you down. Bloggers have been killed. It’s a brave soul who speaks out.

So the narcocorridos are no surprise. Given a choice between a horrible death and putting up a YouTube video of a song celebrating those who will kill you if you don’t, what would you do?

Well here’s what I’ve done. This is a narccorrido, but not sung in praise. I wouldn’t be so brave if I lived in Mexico, believe me.

And if you want a cracking good read, and an education in the drug trade, I highly recommend Don Winslow’s Power Of The Dog (2005) and its more recent sequel, Cartel. Brilliant novels on any level.

And the Channel Four documentary The Legend Of Shorty, and Cocaine: History Between The Lines, an exceptionally well made documentary recently shown on Sky and currently up on Vimeo.

If you’re a user, you won’t want another line until you can get it from your local Boots.

This is a Narcocorrido
That tells of their cowardly ways
This is a Narcocorrido
But not sung in praise

It tells of how they flay the living
Skin them alive as they scream
Then pray to the dead for the giving
of life as a dream

Cut your throat and take your head
to the mall so children can see it
Hang your police from a freeway overpass
so you get the message

Oh to be a narco hero
You can have your own corrido
Written and sung in fear
Oh it must make you proud

Don’t forget it’s me who’s running the
town and the city and country
The federales are my army and who can help you?
Nobody. Nadie.

Sing me a song mi cantante
Or I’ll kill your mother and sister
An accordion and a bajo sexto
y muchas corista