02/07/2020

Top of the Pops 20 & 27 June 1985


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Janice Long: “Hello, may I be the first to bid you a fond welcome to Top of the Pops.” Gary Davies: “Er, in other words Janice is basically saying, hi how you doing? What's on the show tonight Jan?” Janice Long: “Well we've got Harold Whatis..er.” Gary Davies: “ Faltermeyer.” Janice Long: “Yeah, we've got China...err.” Gary Davies: “Crisis.”Janice Long: “And we've got Mai......”Gary Davies: “Tai.”Janice Long: “And we've got Sting as well and a fine bunch of young upstanding men first.” Gary Davies: “In other words to get us underway here are the Fine Young Cannibals.”

[15] Fine Young Cannibals: Johnny Come Home. I remember the Fine Young Cannibals first time round but I don't recall them making much of an impression on me. This was clearly a mistake judging by this barnstorming performance of a very good song. I think Janice Long sums it up best when she shapes her words carefully like clay in the hands of a master potter and reveals “I think Roland Gift's voice is just...like...brilliant.” Despite all this praise, there is no way to describe whatever the hell it is the bass-player thinks he's doing. And he looks stupid doing it. Fred Wright is still on Lighting duties this week but Michael Hurll has had a word. The purple studio lighting has been dialled back from last week's visual cortex burning levels to a less strident shade of magenta. Week two of the new main set, for those keeping track, and someone has found the button that makes the neon tubes flash on and off. There's also a new addition, a row of round white lights that flash on and off to no obvious pattern. If you translate the flashes into Morse code they spell out “help I'm being held prisoner in the BBC lighting department,” but that's probably a coincidence.

29/06/2020

When your friends are in a band...


Subjectivity about music is one of the great things about discussions with friends. Whether it’s the crazy who’ll shout “Chooooooooooon” each time a dance banger is mentioned or dusty audio academics discussing the merits of obscure King Crimson tracks, we rarely hold back when it comes to expressing our opinions about music and of course we are always right. However what happens when friends of yours start to write music, record it and give you a copy. Or start playing live and want you to go. Do we then continue to maintain subjectivity in the same way we might normally? Course not! Instead we resort to obfuscation or vagueness unless of course your friend’s music really is amazing. And what are the chances of that happening? Besides do they expect unadulterated praise? Wouldn’t they prefer you to say, “You know what, Jez, it’s a crock of ##**!!” Actually they probably wouldn’t.

 
"It went really well, mate"

23/06/2020

The Boy Who Won The Pools


Unusual Sunday kids TV serial from 1983 remains elusive- but you can read the book.
Before the National Lottery was invented there were the Football Pools (actually I think they’re still going). This was a palaver that involved densely printed forms listing all the scheduled football matches across four Divisions and Scotland from which you’d select about 12 and predict which would be a score draw or something. Anyway some people used to take this very, very seriously studying form and previous matches whereas others would randomly put crosses in squares knowing next to nothing about football. Either approach was as likely to win you a cash prize. Pools entrants would then sit glued to the football results as they came in on the `teleprinter` to see if they’d scooped a fortune. Writer Gerard McDonald used the Pools as the basis for a book later adapted into a 10 part Sunday afternoon tv series shown in 1983 whose title explains exactly what it was about- The Boy Who Won The Pools. In this case 16 year old Rodney Baverstock was the lucky recipient of £758,000 (and 27p) courtesy of his Aunt. As money is now something like three and a bit more times the value it was in 1983 this would be like winning about two and a quarter million now.


19/06/2020

Top of the Pops 13 June 1985


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Read: “Welcome to Britain's best loved serial, Top of the Soaps. You've seen him on Radio 1, for the first ever time on television a natural life-sized effigy of Dixie Peach.” Dixie Peach: “Thanks Mike. I've been laying in the sun in anticipation for this big event. Tonight I'm going to kick off with Scritti Politti, Word Girl.”

[8] Scritti Politti: The Word Girl . The Top of the Pops studio has been refurbished. The walls around the main stage used to be fitted with neon tubes that flashed in basic geometric shapes; circles, triangles, and squares (alright settle down Pythagoras). The new neon shapes are more complicated and don't flash quite as much. The effect is to increase the overall light levels and form a more definite boundary to the set. The higher light levels make it easier to spot the hosts sneaking off when their introduction is complete. They used to escape from the main set through a secret gap in the scenery by the neon Top of the Pops logo. The redesign has given them a proper set of stairs with a Health and Safety approved handrail. 

16/06/2020

The Personal History of David Copperfield review


This charming film is not entirely what you might expect from Armando Iannucci whose reputation was made with dark comedic satire. Yet he has breathed life into this venerable tale giving it a contemporary spin only inasmuch as to show how identifiable a story it actually is. If for some reason you had no idea this was based on a book you might think it was penned recently as there’s nothing here that smells musty or old. Quite the contrary in fact- this adaptation is as fresh and enjoyable as run on the Yarmouth beach which provides one of its locales. But don’t accuse the director- who also co-writes with Simon Blackwell - of going soft as there is always a harder edge where Dickens is concerned.

11/06/2020

Top of the Pops 23 May & 6 June 1985


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 23 May 1985: Mike Read: “More exciting than Dynasty, more fabulous than Dallas, even better than Eastenders.” Steve Wright: “It's true!!” Mike Read: “Top of the Pops.” Steve Wright: “Top of the Pops!! And here we're going to start with Go West and Call Me!!”
[17] Go West: Call Me. Go West's Wikipedia page claims the band only has two members, lead singer Peter Cox and Richard Drummie, guitar and backing vocals. This must be a bone of contention for all the other people on stage performing Call Me. I only discovered the non-person status of the drummer, guitar player, second keyboard/guitar player, and backing singer because of an unfortunate moment just after the first chorus when the backing singer forgets how to dance. She's doing fine and then the rhythm just abandons her and she is left staring at her malfunctioning feet for a moment before getting back into the groove. Maybe it's best that she is not named by Wikipedia but using an impersonal pronoun feels rude and reminds me of my nan asking “who's she, the cat's mother?”
Go West- Call Me (or I'll kick your cat)

09/06/2020

What to do about Liverpool's shameful history?


The headlines of the past few weeks made me think about my home town Liverpool which played a significant part in slavery in the past. In fact the city’s wealth and expansion was built on it. There were more slave ships running in and out of Liverpool in the late 1700s than there were either in London or Bristol. So is it now time for the city to follow the lead elsewhere and remove evidence  of those people responsible?  Or should we continue to acknowledge it as an example of wrong doing.

02/06/2020

Snowpiercer (film) review


Imagine the worst train journey ever and you’ve got Snowpiercer. This 2013 film has generated new interest lately partly due to director Bong Joon-ho winning a handful of  Oscars for his latest feature Parasite and also because a tv series is in the works. Somehow the original release of the film passed me by and I can’t remember it getting a massive publicity drive at the time. In some respects it is a typical post- apocalyptic movie- grim, unrelenting and painted in muted tones. In fact it is one of those films you start watching and then think- am I really going to stick with this for two hours? Well do stick with it because, while not perfect, Snowpiercer is an imaginatively presented thrill ride packed with claustrophobic action and not without strands of thoughtfulness.