14 January 2012

Vivian Nicholson. Spend, Spend, Spend...

Vivian Nicholson & Stephen Smith. SPEND, SPEND, SPEND. Jonathan Cape, London 1977.

Current Selling Prices

A book that looks like nothing...In 1961 Vivian ('Viv') Nicholson won £152,000 on the football pools when she correctly predicted 8 draws. She announced to the press that she was going to "spend, spend, spend". The phrase has entered the language, a recent £8 million pound lottery winner also said she intended to 'spend,spend, spend.' Within 3 years the wild Viv had spent the lot (the equivalent of £3 million nowadays). She had been a tabloid sensation, she recorded a single ('Spend, Spend, Spend') appeared in a strip club dancing to 'Hey Big Spender' and was the subject of a musical and TV play by the late Jack Rosenthal. Rosenthal's play was based on this book of taped interviews with Viv by ghostwriter Stephen Smith.

Rosenthal was a colleague of the PR man who, on behalf of Littlewoods Pools, persuaded Nicholson to allow publicity for her pools win. He wrote in his autobiography: "From that day on, I followed her wild, seemingly stupid adventures in the papers - and believed every snide, snooty, biased word the relentless publicity said. All adding up to one word - that she was a cow." Reading the book caused Rosenthal to reassess his attitude and he "became a fan" eager to put across an explanation of her behaviour.

The 1978 musical was successful, although I tend to agree with the acerbic critic Martin Cropper who stated that in his opinion all musicals were bad. It's a botched art form, although a million busloads of punters would disagree. Certainly the lyrics are unpromising:

'8 draws, you've got them all, 8 draws,
Love was a bitch, but now you're rich,
She's bloody Santa Claus.'
As a kind of outrageous pre-Punk she was a natural hero for that anarchic era. Her photograph later appeared on the cover of The Smiths' 1984 single "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" and "Barbarism Begins At Home". In 2012 she may be slightly neglected but the book still commands fancy prices with Angela Carter's copy at £150, and a copy with two pages missing (but supplied in xerox) at a chancer's £75. The paperback version which I just picked up for 20p (reduced from 35p) has to be worth £20+ and has a better cover than the hardback. The book is as the blurb says "...a totally unselfconscious self - portrait, a ripping good tale, fast cars, booze, 'sexual happenings', deaths...you name it Viv can talk about it as if it were the most natural thing in the world." The style is 'Educating Rita' before her Michael Caine makeover. The book ends- 'I still have hopes of making me million...pinning me hopes on the rock opera version, I am.'


Joe Simpson Walker said...

The Smiths were actually a long time after punk - the Viv Nicholson single sleeve came out in 1984. Other "cover stars" of their record sleeves included Billie Whitelaw, Pat Phoenix and Shelagh Delaney, which suggests they liked Northern kitchen-sink drama.

Bookride said...

Thanks Joe-- edited it to reflect this info, the lesson is one cannot totally trust Wikipedia. I still think she was a bit of an Ur punk, her look also reminds me of the other Viv (Westwood) but I take your point about Northern drama...

Photonic said...

I'm trying to think of a decent musical to challenge your claim that they are all bad. What about Lloyd Webber's 'Jeeves'?

Anonymous said...

Morrissey met up with Viv during a South Bank Show Smiths special. Clip is on youtube I am sure.

Boursin said...

Just noticed that Angela Carter wrote a longish essay on Viv for New Society magazine (24 March 1977, pp. 610–611) on account of the Rosenthal play. Surely this would make her copy even more collectible than it is already. But that too would probably have to be "supplied in xerox", as it is my experience that back volumes of New Society hardly ever come up for sale – had to hunt for years to get to buy a few ones that were otherwise inaccessible to me.