ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
PICTURE THIS, as Debbie Harry used to say. You go into a business that is perilous at the best of times. You get a decent foothold. Then a recession comes along. You survive it. It deepens; you manage to expand. Then the landlord pulls the plug. This is what has happened to Ollie Smith, the man who runs the Town & Country Club in Kentish Town, north London. The leases on the T & C and its little sister in Highbury, T & C2, are both up for renewal and the landlord, Folgate Estates, is not prepared to renew. So, from 24 March, the place that is comfortably the best rock venue in London, perhaps the world, will be no more. Smith hopes to open elsewhere, but most of all he hopes to gain a reprieve. If any readers share my dismay, perhaps they could drop me a line, which I will forward to Folgate Estates.

YOU ARE either the sort of person who objects to violence on the cinema screen, or you are not. Or so I thought until last weekend, when I went to The Last of The Mohicans. I quite enjoyed it. No one seems to have told Michael Mann about characterisation, but he has made a film on the grand scale, bursting with big cinematic moments. It is hard to say which looks the best: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe or North Carolina. But the film is also violent and the violence - knifework, mostly; native American blade sliding into colonialist scalp, throat or belly - is repulsively graphic. That would be fair enough, on the grounds that war is not a nice business, if it were not for the film's certificate. It is a 12. It shouldn't be.

ONE OF the oldest stories in the newspaper book resurfaced this week. BEATLES TO REFORM] It's been going round for 22 years and on a scale of one to 10 it normally commands a degree of belief somewhere between nought and one. This time there may be some truth in it. Paul, George and Ringo have been helping make a television history of the Beatles. They are said to be going to play together for the cameras and Paul says they might record. I'll believe it when I hear it. But something tells me he may be serious. There is a certain pull. When people have been saying will-they-won't- they for 20 years, a temptation builds up like unreleased passion. I hope they don't succumb. They were the best group ever. With Lennon gone, the chances of their being that good again are minuscule. It is part of their greatness that they got out while the going was good. As the song says: let it be.

CHRISTMAS IS coming, and the big record chains have undergone a Scrooge-like conversion. Where once they offered discounts only on old Peters & Lee compilations, now they offer a wide range of decent mark- downs on decent discs. This is excellent, but it puts the dedicated campaigner in a dilemma. If we snap up Simply Red's Stars for pounds 8.99 at Woolworth's, the small record shops which gave discounts without being asked to do so may be in danger. Reader, I leave it to you. Just don't pay full price if you can help it. Happy Christmas.