"It's not surprising Boffo wins all his races."
a friend from school, with apparently more perspicacity in the realm of contemporary rock music of the time (early seventies, to be appropriately vague) owned a copy of the yes album. this did occasionally lead to quizzical enquiries as to why any band would name themselves yes. if in answer to a specific question, i never found out what that question might have been. my father, more inured to the world of classical music with little tolerance for 'a bunch of long-haired louts' insisted on referring to them as the yes, even though the album cover categorically omitted the definite article.
however, i bring this to the conversation because it led to my first real hero, if such an apellation can be related to a musician who became more famous for later leaving the band than for his subsequent progressive (in both senses of the word) career.
bill bruford played the drumset in a manner i hadn't come across previously, though i'll readily admit that my record collection of the time had only one stand-out percussionist; joe morello on dave brubeck's take five. that was jazz; this wasn't.
i followed bruford's career throughout my years at art college and well into my fifties, through various incarnations of king crimson, occasional reunions with members of yes and his own constantly changing line-up of earthworks. i stayed and admired throughout the days of playing melodies on recalcitrant simmons electronic drums, to his ultimate idiosyncratic setup prior to retiring a few years back. i never quite embraced the stage of having posters on my bedroom wall (then or now), but i do have one or two signed dvds, and i was introduced to the man by his bass player after a concert on glasgow's renfrew ferry.
i won't bore you with my odd attempts to emulate his singular style of playing despite my own gigs most often consisting of 40 second radio jingles or the first dance at a wedding. it takes some of us longer to adapt to reality than others. of course, there have been other drum heroes since, but bruford's the chap that made the biggest difference to my own percussive aspirations, even if you'd be hard-pressed to notice.
cycling heroes i've had none, at least not in the same sense. robert millar was and still is a great influence, but the only thing i have in common with robert is a ponytail and having been born a glaswegian. i'm somewhat ashamed to admit that during the time that eddy merckx was earnestly earning his cannibal nickname, i was totally oblivious to his exploits. coppi, bartali and anquetil were all before my time; though i hold all three in great esteem, i was too young at the height of their careers to be in any way aware of their greatness.
with reference to the merckx era, i count myself in the same class as many i have observed during europsort's coverage of the grand tours, stupidly turning away from the racing to wave to the camera behind them. having stood on a mountainside pretty much all day, when the opportunity to appreciate today's heroes, they squander it all for a few seconds of dubious fame. perhaps hero worship isn't what it once was?
it is likely something of a truism that heroes are identified in the years of innocent youth, before we all grow up (well, some of us) and realise that the great champions aren't born in cradles with the word hero engraved on the headboard. by the time realisation dawns, the act of hero worship has already accomplished its purpose. first published in 1973 the great boffo lays waste to the oft repeated advice that you should never meet your heroes. illustrator frank dickens, progenitor of the record-breaking cartoon strip bristow (it ran for 41 years) was apparently an outstanding cyclist as a young man, with aspirations towards the professional milieu. however, drawing cartoons proved a potentially more successful career move.
the great boffo is so brilliant in concept and illustration that i'm seriously considering petitioning brian cookson at the uci to make it a compulsory purchase for anyone with the faintest notion to become involved in road-cycling. who hasn't at sometime or other (only yesterday, in my case) coveted "...the most beautiful bicycle the boy had ever seen. It was painted red, the handlebars and the wheels gleamed in the sunshine, and it had the name 'Boffo' written on it."?
it would surely be tanatmount to informing all and sundry that the butler had indeed done it, to reveal the whole story line, but suffice to say that the young boy (whose name is oddly never revealed) does not suffer unrequited hero worship and inadvertantly not only saves the day, but indirectly causes the problem from which the great boffo requires to be saved. for those of a nervous disposition, it does contain mild reference to broken lemonade bottles and a delivery bicycle with a basket on the front.
pursuit's james spackman has published this beautifully presented edition "for the Wiggo generation."; it is prescient that dickens foresaw the naming terminology for one of cycling's heroes of the 21st century. surely it cannot be coincidence that boffo and wiggo both refer to two of cycling's great heroes?
in 1973, i was just a tad too old to have the great boffo read to me at bedtime, though as my parents had no cycling tendencies whatsoever, it's stretching credibility to think they might have done so in any case. however, i do have a two year-old grandson who will be indoctrinated into the ways of the great boffo before he gets anywhere near three years old. and the kids under the care of mrs washingmachinepost on a daily basis will grow up watching eurosport, hoping to identify the great boffo from the helicopter shots and wondering why carlton kirby hasn't yet made mention of his sterling efforts.
i fully expect james spackman's pursuit publishing to issue an a3 sized poster of the great boffo and his gleaming red bicycle for mounting on the wall above the bed. though ostensibly a children's book, i'll admit to having read it three times (out loud) already, but you musn't tell a soul. order a copy immediately and organise public readings in the clubhouse or coffee stop.
"The machine is not as important as the man." the great boffo.
sunday 19 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................