Has it really been seven years since the publication of ‘Dear Mr. Kershaw: A Pensioner Writes’, the collection of ludicrous letters to pop stars from retired member of the public, Derek Philpott (with help from his neighbour, Wilf Turnbull)? That’s a lot of lyrical scrutiny under the bridge.

For any of you shamefully unaware of the world- and word-weary correspondence from Philpott, here’s a quick recap: curious as to why a successful Eighties pop star could find himself ‘Living In A Box’, Derek started sending letters to various denizens of the hit parade questioning the legitimacy of their lyrics. Amazingly, the pop stars started replying. In the aforementioned debut tome, luminaries as varied as Saxon, Rick Wakeman, and Toto Coelo had their work disassembled by an elderly man on a mission. So well received was that rib-tickler of a book that a second was destined to follow. ‘Dear Mr. Pop Star’, now in hardback, appeared in 2018; Derek now aided and abetted by his increasingly-cantankerous offspring, Dave. This second collection upped the ante somewhat and harboured genuine replies from the likes of Gillan, Mott The Hoople, and Tears For Fears within its hefty four-hundred pages.

The 2020 lockdowns accompanied the World turning in on itself like that monkey in Cronenberg’s version of ‘The Fly’ but, swathed in the quintessentially British way of finding humour in the harshest of climates, Derek and Dave filled their hours, not just with daytime television, but with a slew of new letters, this time focussing solely on the U.K. punk community. Cock Sparrer, GBH, Sham 69, Angelic Upstarts, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, and a gob-full more all got the D & D treatment, the letters collected into a third classic book in 2021, ‘Grammar Free In The U.K. – The Lockdown Letters’. Now, grasping technology in their arthritic hands (they’ll be texting next), Derek and Dave have only managed to get a load of those U.K. punk rockers to record their replies to the latest letters! ‘Grammar Free In The U.K. – The Audio Book’ is a wonderful companion piece to the book, the whole Philpott library to be fair, and is as brilliantly silly as hoped. The letters in audio form, quite remarkably if you’ve been with these aged anarchists long term, are often funnier now that you can hear them in fluent Philpott rather than your own boring inner narrator. And the replies, well, they really take this whole letter-writing saga to the next level. From Duncan Reid and the Big Heads to Viki Vortex and the Cumshots, via Steve Ignorant, The Vibrators, and Chelsea, the bonkers correspondence is now more crazed than even the more hopelessly hopeful could ever have yearned for. There are even a load of bonus tracks to entice you to have your auditory canals rictus-grinning: Tenpole Tudor, Bauhaus, The Piranhas, and Public Image Limited feature among these bananas bonuses. Also, as with the paperback version of ‘Grammar Free In The U.K.’, all purchases of ‘The Audio Book’ will see a portion of the profits donated to charity. Like you needed another reason to buy this.

Derek and Dave Philpott have promised to debase the annals of literary history with a fourth and final book in the near future. Personally, I hope that this pop culture dismemberment carries on forever. If, however, the Philpott legacy stops with four books on your shelf and at least one audio book in your lugholes, then I guess that’s a pretty good result.

I have to go now. Bargain Hunt’s on.

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Author: Gaz Tidey