The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
Our music critics' highlights including Wild Flag, Public Enemy and 'the modfather'
While not a vintage year for hard rock the genre is in a much healthier state than it was a decade or so ago and that was reflected in the number of artists who took to the road in 2012.
Superstar guitarist and Guns and Roses alumnus Slash played to a sold-out Brixton Academy and didn't disappoint, including tracks from his new album Apocalyptic Love and classics which were given extra venom and relevance thanks to the vocal range of Alter Bridge vocalist Myles Kennedy who - and I'm going out on a limb here - made them sound better then Axl Rose did in his prime.
And Slash, with the passion he brought to the stage, should not worry about his old bands reforming and just concentrate on his solo shows.
The one thing hard rock of the '80s and early '90s was famous for was having a good time with big choruses and bigger ballads.
Then grunge hit and hard rock went out of fashion but now Steel Panther have brought back the good times.
After years of building up a fan base in Britain which culminated with a sold-out show at the Hammersmith Apollo complete with lasers, massive tunes and comedy, they're a group that will just get bigger in 2013.
Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's epic experimental "opera in four acts" Einstein On The Beach finally returned for a short and prohibitively expensive run at the Barbican.
Due to technical difficulties the show was halted during the press night and perhaps that's why this ambitious five-hour production is so rarely shown.
But it was an unforgettable experience that seemed to question the very meaning of existence.
Noisettes are a band who have proven to be rather more explosive live than on record.
Fronted by the high-octane and charismatic Shingai Shoniwa, their gig at Koko in Camden focused on their latest album and a few covers, including from Earth Wind And Fire.
There were somersaults from Shoniwa and her daring encore was performed at the edge of one of the venue's balconies - typical of a band who have to be seen to be believed.
There's something timeless about the distinctive mark made by Wu-Tang Clan over the course of two decades in rap music.
Unlike most modern rap artists their production style is completely unpolished and their nine individual members have all launched solo careers that sometimes surpass the talents of the collective.
That was the case with clan member GZA, whose performance at the Islington 02 was so good you went in miserable and left elated.
It doesn't really matter where or when you see Orbital because each time is going to be fantastic and their date at the Secret Garden Party in Cambridgeshire was no exception.
They're arguably the most successful album-orientated DJs of all time, depending on your tastes. Where Underworld fly the house flag, Orbital's is everything techno - from minimal to funky.
It certainly cheered the souls who were unfortunate enough to experience the garden party's muddiest year to date.
My two live music highlights of the year were united by a belief in the power of art and individuals to change society for the better.
Wild Flag kick-started this positivity at The Cockpit in Leeds. A riot grrrl supergroup comprised of former members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium and The Minders, they combined a love of The Who-style riffage with ragged girl-group harmonies and hints of garage rock.
They created joyous slices of indie rock such as Romance, an ode to the power of music, and Boom, which tapped into the grungy guitar sound of Beautiful Son-era Hole.
Their love of playing music without an agenda made them deliciously refreshing, which was perfectly summed up by their breezy encore of The Ramones's Do You Wanna Dance?
It's arguable that the band wouldn't have existed without the trailblazing work of Patti Smith.
Her show at the O2 Academy in Leeds saw her revise material from her back catalogue, adding new inflections to the vocals and amending lyrics to make them relevant for the current times.
Thus People Have The Power was updated for the Occupy and Pussy Riot generation, while Ain't It Strange was boosted with a newly emphasised bass line.
Some things, however, stayed refreshingly consistent.
The passion in her voice as she whirled around to Ghost Dance remained spine tingling, and guitarist Lenny Kaye continued to be a reliable presence as he provided a vocal counterpart on Rock'n'Roll Nigger.
The clutch of tracks she aired from latest album Banga proved she hadn't lost her ability to inspire, with the title track being as uplifting as anything she's recorded and the Amy Winehouse tribute This Is The Girl being a tender girl-group ballad.
Both shows demonstrated rock and roll at its most vital, with the ability to empower the audience on both a personal and political level.
In the spring mobile phone recordings on YouTube of Orbital's seminal performance at the Royal Albert Hall ranked as the fastest video uploads of year such was the eagerness of everyone to share a significant moment in terms of electronic music going to new places.
New technology audio and LED screens hooked into sound, laser patterns dazzled and the dance took hold to claim the space for what turned out to be the year's only electronic Prom. The ecstatic We Are Here and the beautiful Straight Sun were joys without measure and the restructuring of Halcyon, Chime and Belfast caused havoc.
I never tired of hearing Public Enemy's Harder Than You Think on C4 for the Paralympics coverage throughout the summer and it was even better to see the New York civil rights agitators at Battersea power station in the autumn.
This unique "big air" event combined extreme snowboarding with dance music and interestingly it felt like the competing sportsmen and women were as important as the music performers headlining. This was no ordinary music event and offered up a new form of festival.
Aspiring winter Olympians like Britain's Billy Morgan sparked up the night sky for the best warm up-act Public Enemy must have ever had.
They ripped through their set with outrageous swagger before Fight The Power brought the show to a brutal close. It was then that Chuck D proclaimed: "get peaceful, stay together, think about family and fuck racism and fuck separatism" and that was when the message hit home the most.
How to decide on the gigs of the year is one tough cookie to crack.
The Stone Roses were magical and Mark Rossiter's return after an absence of eight years at the Borderline was a strong contender.
But there was a clear standout - The Cribs at the Troxy in May.
The Jarman brothers always shunned trends and never bought into the "next big thing" nonsense.
As a result, they played to a sell-out crowd straining their larynxes to the classic Hey Scenesters! and inducing a 2,000-strong mosh pit during the modern classic We Were Aborted.
More importantly, new album material Chi-Town, Glitters Like Gold and Come On Be No-One are greeted as fan favourites. How many bands, five albums in, garner this reaction? Very few, I suspect.
What really set this gig apart was frontman Ryan Jarman. He sums up the lifelong struggle of belonging and remaining individual when he is on stage and this is not just because of his bedraggled jeans and insane haircut, though they're all a part of it.
He just has an unflinching ability to be himself and keep the punk flag flying high.
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