20/05/2016

All Things Must Pass



The story of the US’s biggest record store is told in a talky but absorbing documentary.
A while back there was a TV series which showed new businesses starting up and how they coped with the initial launch. It was quite an eye opener seeing how much is involved to the point where you were left wondering how any business managed to get started. This documentary by Colin Hanks seems to suggest things were a lot easier back in the 1960s in the United States. It tells the story of Tower Records which became the largest music chain in the US and even had a branch in London which I remember well. Considering how huge Tower became the origins appear to have been a mixture of chance and opportunism. 

13/05/2016

Should we pay to use the iPlayer?



One of the things included in the government’s latest incursion into public service broadcasting is the idea of including the iPlayer in the BBC’s licence fee. Apparently an increasing amount of people- reckoned to be more than a half a million- are watching BBC programmes on the iPlayer without having paid the licence fee creating a potential loss of revenue for the Corporation. I’m not sure how they know this. Can the BBC actually know if someone watching the iPlayer on a phone for example belongs to a household that have not paid the fee? Aren’t they encouraging this anyway by increasing the amount of original programmes on the iPlayer? They’ve spent years trying to get more people to use it! Could they not forsee this when they first launched the thing? 

11/05/2016

Top of the Pops 14 May 1981



Shown on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby
"ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?" That depends who's asking. This enigmatic question rumbles out over the spinning Top of the Pops logo that stands in for a title sequence these days. This is followed by a close-up of the Eidophor screen and a mysterious caption "Special CUP FINAL Edition" Special eh? Is it going to be longer, or have more exciting guests, or will the number one slot be decided on penalties? If only someone could tell us.
Tommy Vance: "Hi everybody. Good evening and welcome to Top of the Pops! We have 19 minutes together tonight. It's gonna have to be as fast as a parachute jump. And we start off with Thin Lizzy. Are you ready?19 minutes? What happened? The Cup Final replay between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur happened. The two teams drew last Saturday. BBC1 had to tear up it's carefully composed schedule (17.55 Nationwide, 18.55 Tomorrow's World, 19.20 Top of the Pops, 20.00 Are You Being Served?, 20.30 Butterflies) and replace it with almost two and a half hours of football. Top of the Pops was squeezed into a truncated slot after Nationwide at 18.55. Also, it's four weeks after the last BBC4 edition. D*ve L** Tr*v*s presented the programme on 23/04/1981, J**** S***** on 30/04/1981, and the *e*e* *o*e** -sorry, that should be Peter Powell- edition on 07/05/1981 no longer exists in broadcast quality. Something to do with it being a live edition which was recorded wrong when some silly sausage pressed the wrong button (John - apologies for the tech talk here) and muted all Peter Powell's links. 

04/05/2016

Captain America Civil War



The best Marvel film yet?
Warning- Mildly spoilerific review follows. Well you know it’s got Avengers in and there’s a civil war right?
If The Winter Soldier was a rare example of the intellectual blockbuster, then its sequel embraces both the political and the personal. At a time when Western involvement in sundry conflicts around the world is under more scrutiny than ever, here we have the freedom with which the Avengers operate called into question to the point where they are all asked to sign an accord which means any missions have to be sanctioned by politicians. This sort of thing has been done before in the comics realm but rarely as well or thoroughly as it is here. To the credit of the scriptwriters we understand why each of the team takes the stance that they do and even more importantly the team themselves outline their arguments reasonably because really there is no right or wrong in this scenario. The result is that the film avoids becoming an exercise in super -powered glowering and melodramatic confrontations, it’s about different positions being taken based on beliefs. It is – in the best sense- both big and clever!

30/04/2016

Top of the Pops 9th & 16th April 1981



Shown on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby.
9 April 1981:
Mike Read: "Welcome to Top of the Pops. Some 19 million people every week tune in to see some of the top acts of 1981 on this show. Tonight, we're kicking off with Lynx and Intuition."
Mike Read counting up to 19 million
Linx: Intuition [7]. Intuition has done good business for Lynx. It's been featured three times on Top of the Pops -every other week- since the 12/03/1981 edition. Up to now the video has always been shown, some clever pop svengali has obviously decided that a studio appearance by the band will be a good way to squeeze out some more sales. It's a solid, competent, and professional performance. Unfortunately no one does anything amusing, the drum kit doesn't fall over, and the audience all behave themselves. Bah!
Bucks Fizz: Making Your Mind Up [2]. Also live in the studio are Bucks Fizz, just five days after their Eurovision win in Dublin. The band are now confident enough to skip the skirt ripping routine which got them a lot of attention in the pre-Eurovision build up. Presumably some comedy show at the time did a Bucks Fizz spoof in which the blokes' trousers were ripped off? If not then I've got a killer sketch idea to sell Little and Large for their next series. Watch out for Mike Read's disappearing act at the start of the song. After he introduces Bucks Fizz from the side of the stage he disappears from the edge of frame as the camera crane pans round, and he's gone by the time the crane shows a wide shot of the studio.

27/04/2016

The Rise and Fall of Alex Day



Alex Day was a successful self- produced musician with several hit singles as well as being one of YouTube’s first big British vlogging stars. Yet two years ago his career was derailed by serious allegations and both his fame and associates crumbled away. Beset by accusations yet never charged he now continues to create in a strange sort of limbo.

For a while Alex Day was the epitome of the modern young multimedia artist. He had three UK top 40 hits, each of them self –produced including `Forever Yours` which holds the record for the highest charting single by an unsigned artist. He was also one of the first vloggers in this country to accumulate over a million subscribers and his YouTube channel nerimon had over 130 million views. He was the most high profile of a new breed of artists who bypassed conventional channels to speak (and sing) directly to their audience in the days before YouTube was the corporate vehicle it is now. Yet if you look at the top vloggers or independent musicians of 2016 Alex Day is nowhere to be seen so what happened? 

24/04/2016

Top of the Pops 2 April 1981



Shown on BBC4. Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
Simon Bates: "Hello and welcome to this week's Top of the Pops with no less than nine new numbers. Kicking off with the first from Stiff Little Fingers, over here."
Stiff Little Fingers: Just Fade Away [47]. My one Pop Fact about Stiff Little Fingers was that they named the band after the physical characteristic of the aliens in The Invaders. Now www.snopes.com tells me that isn't true. In the absence of anything else let's talk about captions. They've received another upgrade over the last few months. The Stiff Little Fingers one that ends the performance is very fancy featuring an embossed 3-D effect with the words overlaid and trailing down the screen. Oh, and look out for the bloke dancing to the left of the stage. He is wearing a ludicrous gold top with what can only be described as peaked bat-wing shoulders.
Stiff Little Fingers: The singer is alarmed by his bandmate's giant barm cake

22/04/2016

His name was Prince and he was funky



Prince was as big a star in the Eighties as Madonna or Michael Jackson and in terms of musical invention eclipsed them both. His signature style sounds simple enough; often the verse is almost identical to the chorus and the whole package is wrapped in a percussive cloak of handclaps and robotic beats. It is Prince himself who brings character with his expressive voice. His best songs are real earworms; once heard they are never forgotten. Being a true pop star he was also as eccentric as you like from his obsession with the colour purple to inventing text speak b4 we even knew we needed it!