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Simon Napier Bell- DO Drink (But Don’t Drive)



Simon Napier Bell: I’ve often stressed how important it is not to drink too little alcohol. By and large almost everything interesting or profitable that’s happened to me can be traced back to it. And if one those things can’t be, then at least enjoyment can.


At the start of managing Wham! I went to dinner with Andrew one night at the Caprice. Over dinner Andrew rambled with self-confident chatter while we knocked back four bottles of wine. Then, with a pleasant feeling of camaraderie, we moved on to the Hippodrome, a vast noise-filled discotheque for young trendies.


In the VIP bar we drank again. For three hours or so my mind drifted in and out of focus while Andrew talked to whoever wandered into the bar. I heard him mention his father came from Egypt and said, “There’s an Egyptian nightclub in Queensway. Drinks and belly-dancers till 4am. Let’s go!”


I recall nothing of the drive (my Bentley must have found its own way), but I clearly remember around 3am being seated twelve inches away from a gyrating belly button set in a plump tummy.


We drank a bottle of champagne and ordered a second, but realising we’d now drunk enough, Andrew poured half of it over my head. “Time to wake up,” he told me.


I grabbed the bottle and returned the compliment with the other half. It felt good – some sort of artist-manager bonding ritual.


We were then confronted with the difficulty of getting home. Too drunk to wave for a cab, and too disheveled to be accepted by one, I thought perhaps we should sleep in my Bentley, but as soon as we got into it the engine somehow started and it moved off.


“You’re drunk,” Andrew told me. “You’d better drive on the pavement. It’ll be safer.”


So I did.


Surprisingly, it was only when we got to a zebra crossing and were trying to reach the other side that sirens wailed and blue lights appeared. Andrew fled.


At Paddington Police Station I was fingerprinted and made to blow into a tube, then led away to a cell.


I woke to find myself in the company of a stone floor and a porcelain toilet. On the floor was what looked like the printout from a cashier’s till. Not being familiar with this sort of accommodation I wondered if it might be the bill for my room. But it had come from the machine I’d blown into the night before.


Two hours later a policeman told me I could go home, but without the car. I asked a lawyer to represent me and sent him the bit of paper from my cell. He found a technicality – it should have been in duplicate. The machine was meant to print out three copies – one for the police, two for me – that was the law.


In court the police claimed I was given two copies, but I told the magistrate, “I admit I was drunk and I admit I drove the car. I was grossly irresponsible I’m prepared to accept any sentence you give me, but I can promise you there was only one bit of paper in my cell. I was very bored. If there’d been a second piece of paper, it would have been something else to read.”


My lawyer handed the magistrate the printout. “You’ll notice,” he said, “there are red lines on it which suggest it was coming to the end of the roll.”


The magistrate stared at the small piece of paper and glared sourly at the policeman. “Case dismissed.” I’d been blind drunk and I’d got off.


I asked my lawyer, “If I’d been been found guilty what would the penalty have been?” He told me “Two hundred pounds and a two-year ban.” So I phoned my local garage and told them to fetch the car and sell it, then donated £200 to Oxfam.


A week later I had to fly with George and Andrew to Norway where they were doing a TV show. Late in the evening we found ourselves in the rooftop restaurant of Oslo’s top hotel. Andrew related the story of our night out and George asked what had happened in court.


When I told him, he was scandalised. “You shouldn’t have used a lawyer to get you off. You should have simply pleaded guilty and taken the punishment.”


“But I paid two hundred pounds to Oxfam and vowed not to drive for two years.”


“That’s not the point; you escaped punishment for doing something against the law. That’s wrong.”


I turned to Andrew for support but he was already floating in too-much-cocktail-land. I was on my own. And anyway George was right.


Later, of course, he had his own problems with driving home after a night out.


Simon Napier- Bell’s next book is TA-RA-RA-BOOM-DE-AY a complete history of the music business.


Pledge now by ordering a copy here



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