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Goodnight and Good Lack May 30, 2010

Posted by markswill in About me, Media, Navel Gazing, Politics, Schmolitics.

In my last missive I described the remnants of a not especially notable ‘80s pop group  as being “mighty full of themselves” in lately claiming enhanced plausibility for their ancient efforts, and I must now apply the same sentiment to myself. However the last proper band I was in was ironically (for those that know me more intimately) called The Jailbirds and whose last ignominious gig was on Deal pier in 1960something, and being full of ourselves doesn’t feature in my abiding memories of that evening.

No, I apply the expression to my efforts in the bloggosphere – like so much other techy jargon a word I hate but occasionally perforce use – which I am about to bring to an end, either permanently or for a summer break. Rather to my surprise, since I began working this digital seam I’ve managed to spew out 38 of the buggers all of which are characterised by a kind of intemperate, smug punditry whose lack of justification has been offset, at least nominally, by a degree of cheery self-deprecation. Increasingly I also find myself relying on the same themes of political duplicity, economic dismay and media myopia, with a soupcon of willful nostalgia thrown in for good measure, and this frankly must be becoming as tedious to read as it is dispiriting to pen.

Once again referring to those who know me well, over the past 40 years I have achieved (very) minor celebrity in the (very) niche markets of motorcycle, car, and rather longer ago, rock journalism with columns that applied the same stratagems to mouth off about whatever took my fancy in those areas. I actually love the form of column writing and over time became quite adept at it, but I now realise that the broader canvases of politics and media are not so well suited to this unless, of course, one has a reputation, and a well-deserved one at that, for its practice.

Uncoincidentally, having tried on and off over the past four decades to break into what I will wistfully call ‘mainstream journalism’ and – sour grapes alert – found it a shop closed to all but the families and friends of those who were already there, many of whom admittedly much better scribblers than I ever was, a blog became a means to exercise what I felt I was capable of beyond my usual comfort zone. Candour demands that I also confess a hope that my wild digital opinionating might reach an audience wider than friends and acquaintances and perhaps even a bit of paid writing on a proper paper… or even a proper website. But sincerely grateful though I am for the loyalty of the 250-300 of you who regularly read and sometimes respond with considerable fervour to these rants, audience numbers stubbornly refuse to rise much further, so essentially I preach only to the converted. And my attempts to ping the relevant links to the few folks I actually know, or know of, in the national media are met either with total disinterest or in several cases a curt “stop sending me these e-mails”. 

Which is perhaps symptomatic of the rude and incurious times we live in, times where demands for our attention have escalated wildly since the onset of the digital age. Indeed I noted with a weary resignation that as a nation we are now surviving on at least an hour’s less sleep a night as a consequence of this, and as a consequence of that are becoming more fractious, intolerant and afraid of losing out on vital if polymorphous ‘life opportunities’.

Although having benefited substantially from some of its advantages, I’m thinking Google and to a lesser extent fleaBay, this is a world I do not really enjoy so much anymore, but with further supreme irony I am currently trying to get backing for my first ever totally digital publishing venture. The need to concentrate on one last push with this is another, albeit lesser reason to stop blogging, others being a determination to read more books (while we still have books), and attend more to my sadly diminishing pool of friends (while they’re still around), many of whom have been lucky or worked hard enough to retire early whilst the rest of merely live in hope.

Moreover if I can’t get this enterprise off the ground, then I plan to forswear media in all its forms… unless of course the Telegraph Magazine commissions that 2000 word article on road movies I’ve got in me, I get offered a gig subbing for The Week, or that print publishing enjoys an unexpected renaissance and I start getting consultancy work again –which in truth is somewhat more interesting and rewarding than scribbling!

In the meantime those who’ve only recently stumbled on these witterings might care to trawl back through earlier efforts to understand why I’ve run out of ideas as well as justification for promulgating them, and if I do somehow find myself re-inspired, and/or with nowt better to do in a few months time, then rest assured I’ll be in touch and begging your attention again.

So have a nice what’s-left-of-the-summer.

Please pen a comment, read previous blogs, sign up to get ’em automatically and/or access my website using the links on the right.



1. Terry the Wall Street Pig - May 30, 2010

Yikes! Tell me it ain’t so Joe, tell me it ain’t so! The only writing I read religiously is now gone—poof—vaporized into Electron Land never to be refreshed. You can’t do it Mark. You can’t leave your minions hanging unfulfilled in coitus interruptus. It’s a rarity to find crafted wordsmithing with a point of view and opinions. The celebrated (in some quarters) New York Slimes is written for the vocabulary of a 10th grader—a wet-behind-the-years 16 year old Spielberg spoiled aub-urban brat. If you don’t save us from the Texters, then who will?! Smartphones have beaten the trusty green Royal into the scrapheap?

What of the memories piled since 1970 and of banging the keys writing 1150 words on ‘something’ to fill that last white space in Bike because a booksalesman couldn’t sell advertising in an upscale Bike magazine. And the Editorial Assistant shooting up in the bathroom? Are those days gone? Buried with Hunter Thompson? Mark, you hold the torch. What if the messenger from Marathon decided his message wasn’t important and stopped along the way?

Who cares if the future holds museums with Dioramas of waxen figures of old writers with their Royals gone astray and stooped men in business suits clutching brief cases? So we are once-proud Neanderthals, what of it? Will there be statues for the curious of today’s temporal political pundits whose vapid words are like the morning fog? No more pint-size Truman Capotes wielding the Big Pen? Words write history by their existence.

Nope. You can’t stop Mark. There isn’t much time left or miles to go to finish the race. And if you don’t think of yourself, think of me. Where will I scribble my comments to annoy others? Write, man, write!

markswill - May 30, 2010

I CAN stop Terry. And I can throw a tantrum with the best of them. And you, my friend can and always could write your arse off with just as much if not more style and substance as yrs. trly., but since you’re so busy being a master of the universe and saving the yank economy from entirely disappearing down the toilet, I guess you don’t have time to take up the baton that slipped from grasp due to the excess of KY that coats my quivering digits. And a question: how exactly did you know what the gorgeous pouting Marcella W. was doing in the toilets at Chestergate House?

2. A Concerned Reader - May 30, 2010

Too late to get my oar in first, but grudging thanks to Terry for dropping most of my names and hijacking most of my points. So read his comment again and then again.

Look, what is it? A hangover? PMT? ‘Men’s trouble?’ For God’s sake, there are few enough writers prepared to go beyond the acceptable mush that passes for journalism, and you know why – they’re scared of falling outside of the tight circle of friends & family you’ve just described.

Or, think of the sods who’ll smirk at the thought of one less inquisitor to worry about.

Maybe the reason you’re jaded with the role of outside political ranter is because there aren’t many more important things to write about right now, so you find yourself returning to it. And because those of us who try to talk out of turn (in my case with widely ignored song lyrics) find our efforts bouncing off the corporate armour of the encumbent elite.

I’ll certainly feel deprived if your blog disappears (I usually read it aloud if there’s a wider audience around) and I’ll also miss the amusing to-and-fro of other commentators, a talented bunch in their own right. By all means have a well-deserved break, but don’t go acting like something’s beaten you.

And less of the ‘minor celebrity’ bollocks. Your underground press cred is unimpeachable and, for fucks sake, BIKE was and still is a major achievement – whether you like it or not, even the current issues (yes, I still read it) have your stamp all over them.

Enjoy your break, launch your digi-zine project and then get back to this, your most important

Usual disclaimers, I am, sir, yours sincerely, etc.

markswill - May 30, 2010

C’mon Martin, good pal though you are, I’m not replying to two of your comments, so see above.

3. noel - May 30, 2010

I think the internet has pretty much destroyed the traditional journo job and will probably see off a lot of paid writing opportunities too.

However theres no shortage of words being written and the internet takes us to them effortlessly, whatever our interest, usually at no cost.

The question is, does this development divide or unite people ?

Theres quite a lot Mark has written that I do not agree with but as I dont need to argue with anyone, Im quite happy to simply note for future reference, strictly for laughs of course.

I appreciate what Mark has tried to do but am not surprised at the lack of take up, due, as already noted, to the vast amount of words on the net he has to compete with.

I see difficult times ahead and consider the focus must change from wants to needs.

Who needs words ?


Martin Craig - May 30, 2010

I need words, as long as they’re well thought out and wittily assembled, as here.

I often pull myself into line as a songwriter by asking ‘what is music for?’ and I guess a lot of these comments are our response to Mark’s unasked but maybe implied question ‘What is my blog for?’

Maybe it’s not to get the journalist’s equivalent of ‘a deal’ or God forbid ‘make the charts’, but hopefully there’ll be clues for Mark in each of these responses and from those to all his earlier posts.

I think we lose a lot if we focus on needs to the exclusion of wants, tough times or not. Wants provide the drive and energy to chase down the needs, and are a reminder of why we bother.

markswill - May 30, 2010

Thanks Martin for identifying the question which I narrowly avoided articulating. But flattered as I am by the generous comments of you and others (see below), I don’t however wish to turn this into a hand-wringing fest. underpinned by thinly-veiled self-aggrandisement. I learnt long ago that both columns and the magazines they appear in have a natural life-span which I think irrespective of the doubts I have about the merits of blogging at this (i.e. my) self-indulgent level, must be considered. And in this vibrant and exciting digital age, that life-span is probably about, ooh, 45 minutes.

As a weird postscript, this particular blog has attracted more views on its first day than any so far this year… and I haven’t even yet alerted my loyal legion of very close personal Facebook friends.

4. Colin H - May 30, 2010

Having long believed you’d passed beneath the wheels of a Transit aboard a Davick Motique sponsored two stroke triple, only to discover Williams. M was among the quick, not the dead, a second passing might be too much to take.

It’s repetitive blog strain, innit? Take the summer off, refill your bile duct, come back in the autumn and stop this defeatist talk.

markswill - May 30, 2010

Repetitive blog strain? I rest my case Colin.

5. Angela Pitts - May 30, 2010

I’m sorry to hear you’re giving up on the blogging Mark. They are very good, thought-provoking and original. You write a lot better than many so-called top columnists in the nationaol press. I’ve had a trying week but intend replying to your e-mail soonest. Fingers crossed for your latest venture. I admire your perseverance! xxx

markswill - June 1, 2010

Thanks Angela… but do you admire my foolhardiness?!

6. bazoconnor - May 31, 2010

Mark if you were castaway on a desert island you’d be down the beach every night writing away with a stick in the sand.
If some other poor fucker turned up even a babe she’d take second place to writing.
It was the same in Willesden Rd. When Terry would start his farting contest, no, 8pm you’d be at the typewriter and nothing , weed or soccer could get you away.
You’ll be back!

7. Dr Dick - May 31, 2010

Hi Mark, well let us know where to find your new digital venture – if it comes off. The web is so huge that it is easy to get lost amid the noise. I buy one or two magazines a month, now, against three or four a week pre-web and most likely youngsters with their iPads and eBook readers buy even less. There are always fanatics where you can sell a couple of thousand copies of a magazine a month by subscription but I suspect part of your literary addiction is getting into serious readership. As to that underground press in the seventies it did not take long for its proponents to go mainline – and some of them made serious dosh as publishers. But, if the web is mostly free how can the market rule and filter out the dross – naff magazines just went bust pronto, awful websites done on a budget cost a fiver a year to run and create lottsa noise but just stay there confusing things.

8. Martin Harrison - May 31, 2010

Well Mark, good for you I say. Your reasoning is valid and honest, and self-respect is a good thing to start a new venture with. I’ve never much felt the need to contribute as a bloggee, despite some angry disappointments at your often negative attitudes gleaned from dreadful Radio 4 programmes. I am compelled though, after even more harrumphing than usual, to join the farewell party in defence of the offensive. ‘Bike’ magazine still has your stamp all over it? What a fucking insult. Write some memoirs? Yeah, the first one that springs to mind would be Marcella shooting up in the bog. Wick-idd man! Hey, I could add a paragraph about her vomiting in the waste-paper basket while you were out! Let’s do it! I’ve had a great idea though, and I’m surprised no-one else has come up with it – why don’t you get Saga to come round and do a piece on how you can still ride a motorcycle, then you might get a regular column of your daily doings, like that Brian Viner bloke? Ha-ha. Hope things go well old chum. Onwards indeed.

markswill - June 1, 2010

There may be some merit in your idea young Martin. Where/how do we start? And wither gorgeous, pouting, vomiting Marcella nowadays I wonder? Council flat and three fat brats in Croydon I shouldn’t wonder. and see my reply to Dr Dick, above

9. Andy Ford - June 1, 2010

Don’t blame you mate.
The effort you put into your articles clearly makes this blog more onerous to craft than the others I hang around. They are a procession of loosely organised picture galleries, links to dirtbike crashes and snap witticisms. Their creators are to writing what DJs are to music. Curators, at best.
Your effort also makes yours significantly better, of course. Maybe you should follow Inky Murdoch and levy a charge. I can offer 1AU$ an update as my subscription. At present exchange rates that’s about 265GBP.
With love and best wishes from New South Wales. Fordy.

markswill - June 1, 2010

Blimey Andy, you’re in Oz! Hopefully enjoying yourself and making a better fist of it than our old pal Mike. Thanks for the unctious flatery mind, but see my reply to Dr dick (above).

10. Dr Dick - June 1, 2010

Martin, I assume you are this guy:

“I grew up lusting after the Triumphs and Yams that Martin Harrison built when he was running Bike magazine in the early 70s. Then too many drugs got him kicked out and the mag turned into the gay rag it is today.”


It’s interesting just how strong the influences of the first few years of Bike magazine were and how many guys of a certain age get all excited about it. I still flick through it in W H Smiths but usually get sent to sleep after reading the first paragraph of an article… whatever you think about HST (who surely inspired MW), after reading the first paragraph of anything he wrote you were hooked in and wanted more and more – that kind of excitement lacking in modern moto mags.

markswill - June 1, 2010

This almost ceaseless flattery and reminiscing is very reassuring and makes me wonder if indeed I wasn’t being a tad hasty (and churlish) announcing the end of my bloggery… at least for now. As for Bike’s halcyon days, well to us old farts they may’ve been but I guess that the same could be said of the magazine’s efforts in the ’80s, ’90s and indeed now. Interestingly enough the reader demographic is now much older than it was in ‘our’ days, which suggests that many of ’em are in fact of a similar mindset to us, but that’s not reflected in the editorial flavour and composition of the mag. And my sporadic efforts to scribble for it in recent years have met with mixed or zero response. But for any of you who still perversely enjoy the sort of stuff I scrawl, I started a column for Classic Motorcycle Maniacs a few months ago which seems to be enjoying a positive response. You can never really go backwards, though.

11. Paul N. Blezard - June 1, 2010

Mark, I would be disappointed if I truly believed I’d read your last blog, but I don’t. Especially after reading all the encouragement you’ve received since rashly announcing its premature death. Surely the great thing about running and writing your own blog is that you can write it as and when you’ve got something to say? I concur with ‘A Concerned Reader’ – take a break and come back when you’ve got something fresh to say. (Or rancid, come to that!).
As someone who used to devour the early Bike magazines, I’m tickled and delighted that Martin Harrison is one of your blog readers. Where has he been hiding all these years, I ask myself? For some reason I suddenly recall the Honda CB250 project bike, which mysteriously became a CB325…..
And just think, if you hadn’t started Bike, I would never have become a Feet First devotee through reading Royce Creasey and I any many other like-minded souls would have had far fewer adventures over the past 30 years. Just check out http://www.bikeweb.com to see where that has led to!
I look forward to reading your next blog Mark, whether it’s next September, next January, or this time next year. Le BlogMk1 est mort. Vive le blog MkII!

12. Kelvin Parry - June 4, 2010

Good grief!

I have just arrived from a Ricard sodden existence in the early 80’s to discover this blog and to find that Mark Williams is moving on; Again. Am I the nearly man of your work? Your stuff in Which Bike was great and ROOR (are first editions worth anything?) did retro in real time rather than the Germanic, pasteurised attempts we see today.

Don’t pack it all in for a small farm in Wales and a trail bike. I like what I’m reading here, and it seems others do too. It isn’t all about looking back, but that has a certain charm, so keep the blog. It’s the only dose of rock and roll I get nowadays.

markswill - June 16, 2010

Small farm in Wales doesn’t come into it my old son. Terraced cottage in a wee border town is as good as it got. As for rock’n’roll, well if my blog is/was the only thing that equates to that, I can only repeat your salutation, ‘Good grief.’

Try Radcliffe & Maconie Mon-Thurs on R2 if you want to keep your musical pecker up.

Digital project seems to be stalling, so may be back blogging sooner rather than later anyway. Grrrrrrr.

13. bangkok bill - June 8, 2010

Mark, it is the sort of the beginning of the end, iPads and the like will let you launch new magazines on budgets that are tea money in corporate terms, so do not give up quite yet – or live to fight another day

14. Andy Tribble - June 8, 2010

Hey Mark, Blez put me onto your blog just as you tell us you’re stopping it!

We met just once – I was behind the counter at MCS in Walthamstow at some point in the late ’70s, when you turned up with an impossibly long forked chop and a girl with shades and frizzy hair.

Both you (and us behind the counter) looked like something out of a Paul Sample drawing, except we were Malcolm.

Once you’d gone I still remember a typically teenage conversation among us spotty oiks, along the lines of ‘if I had a bike like that, I bet I could get a girl like that’.

We were all too dim to work out the sequence in which being stylish comes first and therefore girl and bike arrive in parallel, rather than thinking that a nice bike would make us losers more attractive.

15. markswill - June 16, 2010

Hi Andy,

Yeah, I vaguely remember that incident – one of several trips I made to MCS in those daze – but the gurl wasn’t mine, sadly. But in the grand game of life, we’re all losers, ultimately. (Sigh).

16. Jonti - August 3, 2010

This isn’t fair! …well that seems to be the gist of it… I come upon this blog having had to root around in the attic to find a the June 1975 copy of Bike magazine (the one with the most mega 250cc test of all time – remember? and this Mark guy sitting on a two stroke Harley hahaha) in order to remember what they guy Mark’s name was…(Williams!) and then google him to see if he is still alive! And he is… Hooray! And just as I find him and begin reading…He’s trying to turn the light out NO! It’s just not fair… Come back.. the light’s not going out just yet…

markswill - August 4, 2010

Well Mr Johnston (or is it Mr Walker?), I’m sorry to disappoint your in your quest for mindless banter, but sometime bullets have to be bitten and income earnt. However as these have not been fully accomplished, certainly in terms of the latter, I may yet return to online wibbling sometimes soon. You have been warned, but thanks for the flattery. (And if you sign up to my blog, you’ll be one of the first to find out).

17. Dave Lancaster - August 20, 2010

So, it’s nearly late August. And what’s happening? Dave Lancaster here, the fresher you gave a fine job to in 1989, on MCi. Crap money. Great job. As I only now increasingly realise. Soooo glad you’re still writing, and – yes – when you’re ready, come back. You’ve done this before. A little late here, but the memories kinda flood back: Mr MW telling MCi ed that the 0W01 he rode at the launch was, er, crashed. And he fell full time for it. Mr MW gingerly, at first, riding my LOUD Pantah back from an early photo session; a CBR1000 as I recall. And then the later stuff, when MR MW did some fine copy for my mad food, drink and travel mag, EatSoup. And put me up for membership of a London club. Then later correspondence. Good to see Blez is still alive, still an enthusiast, and still charmingly over-writing. It takes me back, in a good way. Mark – you can do both, new project and blog. Take care. DL

18. Steve Lewington - October 12, 2010

Typical! Just when I find your brillant Blog you say you are going to stop. I have signed up just in case you have a change of heart (apart from old friends obituaries). Like many of your “fans” I was a teenage schoolboy when I purchased the first edition of Bike and realized that my moped was just the start. During the Seventies Bike magazine helped chronical what was relevent if you were into bikes (and your decadent lifestyle described in ROOR gave the rest of us something to aspire to). I decided to google your name after coming across a box in the shed with all the old Bike magazines (trying to see if there is room for another bike next to the ’72 TR6C). Anway here’s hoping you reconsider the Blog thing.
Best wishes from sunny Barcelona (actually its been pissing down for 3 days if it makes you feel any better).
Steve L

19. mike volans - December 5, 2012

Tomorrow i am off out with martin Harrison to look at an ex davick kh500 in bits!

Quite by chance i stumble on your article mark, scary!

markswill - December 5, 2012

Blimey! You’re still alive! Congratulations! And give Martin my best and tell him David Cobbold’s coming for lunch next week – from Paris! (That’s enough questions marks for now).

20. rjjw (Johnston Walker) - December 6, 2012

I will never forget Davick Motique – Mike, I bought a BMW R75/6 there (still have it – got the original Davick invoice too!) in part exchange for 2 Kawasakis. The best shopping experience I ever had… Thank you and glad to hear that you’re still biking.

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