It was at the launch party for The Amorist that Murray Lachlan Young and I were thrust together by our mutual friend and hostess for the night, Rowan Pelling.
“Richard, do you know Murray?” asked Rowan, possibly looking a little surprised when I said I did not. but then Rowan knows everyone and assumes that everybody else does too.
“Murray, Richard puts on fantastic events [she’s not wrong], you should do one…” And with those words she swished off, leaving us to fend for ourselves, swilling our tequila/rose cocktails (surprisingly drinkable), while she ministered to Howard Jacobson or one of the other literary bigwigs who were streaming up the stairs into the already crowded room.
So I may not have met Murray before but I was already familiar with his backstory and his work and it’s quite likely that you are too. However, just in case you aren’t or need some reminding, here’s some background.
I first heard of Murray in about 1997 when I read reports that a performance poet, who’d been wooing audiences at Ronnie Scotts and elsewhere, had signed a humungous recording contract with EMI by someone who clearly had the mistaken belief that zip-smart, stand-up poetry rather than gardening was going to be the next rock ’n’ roll. Dubbed ‘the million pound poet’, I checked Murray out and he definitely had something I thought, not only were his words witty but he was a modern-day dandy in his deftly-tailored jacket. MTV liked him too, he may even have won an award. He went on to open for the bonkers Julian Cope and our beloved Pretenders - in fact I took the red leather jacket he was wearing at The Amorist launch as a tribute to Chrissie and the first Pretenders lp sleeve – and he strode across festival stages but really, ask anybody who delights in puns, clever wordplay was never going to win over the masses in the same way as say boneheaded Oasis did. Local forager, Liz Knight, was one of many who fondly remembers Simply Everybody's Taking Cocaine from her clubbing days and Murray’s short-lived and heady spell in the sun. Still it wasn’t to be and rather like Liz’s copy of Simply Everybody’s Taking Cocaine, which is likely now languishing under a pile of Lego, Murray dropped from view. Fame fatal fame wasn’t what Murray had hoped for and realising that the hype was probably just that, he freaked.
Murray then did what anybody would do in that situation, he headed for the country. After all, it worked for Paul McCartney. He married girlfriend, Zoe, (she of Sunshine on a Rainy Day fame), had a couple of kids and life went on. From the Sussex woods, they moved to Cornwall, then divorced, he married someone else, that ended and now he is based back in London.
But we’re not interested in the tittle-tattle, what about the work you ask. The fact is that Murray has been honing his craft over the years, such that now he is now way more than just a stand-up poet, he’s also a playwright, actor (Vatel, About a Boy, Plunkett & Macleane) and screen-writer. Those of you who haven’t caught him live have almost certainly heard him on the radio (I know your habits); he has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live, Radio 5 Live and Test Match Special. Since 2011 Murray has been resident poet at BBC Radio 6 Music.
His live shows have evolved too and Murray now delivers a performance that effortlessly blends spoken word and stand-up in an examination of contemporary life and our often unfathomable society. While Murray’s flamboyant, punchy wit remain to the fore, there is also a brooding subtext and a perhaps less-expected empathetic humour at play as he holds a mirror to his audience.
His latest book How Freakin' Zeitgeist Are You? was published by Unbound, the WHC’s favourite (crowdfunding) publisher, earlier this year and collects all his poems to date. Mick Jagger put some of these on a CD to give to Keef on the anniversary of the world’s favourite Johnny Depp impersonator falling out of a coconut tree.
So, to close the loop: I of course told Murray that I would be delighted to have him perform and Murray, no more immune to Rowan’s charm or enthusiasm than anybody else despite having grown up close to her in the extraordinary village of Toys Hill, said he was up for it and gave me his agent’s details and here we are.
Murray Lachlan Young will be appearing at the Wild Hare Club on Sunday 22nd October 2017, advance tickets can be purchased here.