Book Review: ‘Dear Mr. Kershaw - A Pensioner Writes’ by Derek Philpott Print E-mail
Written by Jim Rowland   
Sunday, 06 September 2015 03:00

I can safely say this is the first time I’ve been asked to review a book on Uber Rock, which is just as well as these days by the time I would actually get around to finishing a book, it would probably be out of print anyway. This one, though, is different and perfect for people like me who don’t have much time for a ‘proper’ book. It’s one of those you can dip in and out of whether you have two minutes or two hours, and there’s no story to follow.


So what is it? And who is Derek Philpott? Well this book is actually released on the back of an extremely popular cult internet series that has been in circulation for five or six years now. Derek Philpott and his friend Wilf Turnbull are, we are led to believe, two pensioners from the elephant’s graveyard of Bournemouth, Dorset. Growing increasingly frustrated with lyrical inaccuracies and ambiguities in the world of rock and pop music, they set out on a quest to right these wrongs by confronting the offending pop and rock stars themselves to give them some stern advice by way of a good old fashioned letter. As the letters became more popular, it seems that quite unexpectedly some of the artists themselves began to write a response, and this book is a compilation of many of those letters, with the actual responses too.




The ‘victims’ of these letters span many genres of music, and cover the worlds of pop, rock, punk, metal and even prog. Some, such as Del Amitri, Sailor, Smokie, Joboxers, Flowered Up and Hayzi Fantaysee, are artists we would have pretty much forgotten ever existed in the first place, and judging by some of their responses they’re desperate for any publicity they can possibly get these days. Others, such as Rick Wakeman, Slade, Saxon, Captain Sensible, Human League and Stiff Little Fingers, remain pretty major players. The full list is quite extensive, and of course Nik Kershaw is in there too, hence the title.


Looking at a few of the rock related letters, Saxon get a lecture about metals actually likely to be used in the manufacture of a wheel for a ’68 Chevy’ as well as a dressing down for ‘doing one forty’ which would clearly be contravening the Highway Code of the United Kingdom. Ex-guitarist Graham Oliver provides a response every bit as funny as the original letter , whilst Anvil’s Robb Reiner responds to Derek’s problems with erecting a metal (on metal) Ikea table that ‘keeps on rocking’ giving every bit as good as he gets. Perhaps not too surprisingly, it’s the prog merchants that embrace their letters with lengthy replies as long as some of their famous pieces of work. Rick Wakeman’s response to an invite to perform ‘The Six Wives Of Henry VIII’ at a history themed school fete is particularly witty and he actually offers to perform the more truncated ‘Four Wives Of Rick Wakeman’ instead, whilst Fish’s response to Derek’s advice on better confectionary alternatives than sugar mice to be left out in the rain is bordering on the surreal.


Punk artists are particularly well picked on with the likes of Peter Perret, Jake Burns, TV Smith, Vic Godard and Tom Robinson all game for a laugh, with The Undertones’ Damian O’Neill providing another good answer to Derek’s challenge that cousin Kevin had clearly failed to comply with Subbuteo rules when flicking a kick whilst he didn’t know.


At 215 pages there’s plenty of this daft, bizarre, original and very funny comedy to peruse at your leisure. Some of the funniest moments are much shorter ramblings from Derek and Wilf that never received a response, one of which left me severely laughing out loud for several minutes. It concerns a letter to a Mr. Judas Priest about his song ‘Exciter’, and ponders the fact that if everything he touches fries into a crisp, what indeed would happen if he actually touched a crisp?


Whether these letters are indeed the work of two pensioners from Bournemouth I somehow doubt, but Al Murray isn’t really a pub landlord is he? If you like the kind of humour that has kept VIZ selling copies for yonks now, and if you know your onions when it comes to music of varying types, there’s something in here for everyone to laugh out loud at, and that’s just about the best medicine you can get.


Highly recommended.


‘Dear Mr. Kershaw - A Pensioner Writes’ has been funded by Kickstarter. To pre-order a paperback copy, available in November, go to


For more information about the world of Derek and Wilf, visit or