This blog is five years old today!
It was on 6 February 2011 that I put up the first post and after 648 posts in total its now reached this anniversary. A lot has changed in that time, both in my life and in the world, and I felt it was worth acknowledging this landmark. Of course This Way Up as a title goes back to 2002 when it started as a printed fanzine but those issues were on the whole seen by far fewer people than have viewed the blog. Blogs were already old hat when I started this but they continue to thrive. This may be because it’s a very adaptable format and it doesn’t matter how much or little you decide to post. The problem with the paper issues was filling that awkward half page or having to wait until all the material appeared. With the blog, if there isn’t anything particular to say then I don’t have to come up with something. Also with the zine once the issue had been available for a few months, it had effectively finished its life span until it turned up ten years later at a car boot sale whereas here posts from the very start of the blog can still be viewed indefinitely.
Shown on BBC4 Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
21st January 1981 already? BBC4 is attempting to work me to death by showing two editions of Top of the Pops each week. The slave drivers. Understandably they're also continuing to skip editions presented by certain people. Fortunately J*mmy S*v*l* only presented seven programmes in 1981; unfortunately one of them was the special 900th edition. D*** L** T***** continues to be a monthly presence (bad news folks he presented the programme where Legs & Co campily splash around in a paddling pool to Bermuda Triangle) which is why BBC4 have just jumped from 08/01/1981 to 21/01/1981 which is presented by...
Peter Powell: "Hi folks! Welcome to Top of the Pops! Well we've started and I'm glad you could join us for this Thursday night edition starting off with The Look and I Am The Beat!"
The Look: I Am The Beat . Congratulations to Vision Mixer Hilary West for a perfectly timed cut right at the top of the programme. Top of the Pops begins with a close-up of the big Eidophor screen, and as the introduction to I Am The Beat plays the camera slowly zooms out to Peter Powell before zooming back in across the audience to the stage where The Look are playing; with a spot on cut to a different camera just as the lyrics begin. Yes it's a small moment, but it's the kind of small moment which adds impact and excitement to the show even if the viewers at home don't notice. In fact this is a very slickly recorded performance with lots of swooping crane shots (and inevitably lots of turning audience heads as they realise a camera is bearing down on them), and another nicely timed camera move at the end of the performance with a pull back from The Look to Peter Powell. The only oddity is the empty audience area at the back of the stage. Shots of The Look are sometimes a bit sparce because they lack the normal background of people dancing (or sitting and looking bored, this is the Top of the Pops audience we're talking about). This is still a brilliant song, and The Look become the first band of 1981 (or 2016 if you prefer) to get my hard earned 99p in exchange for a copy of the single.
Shown on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby
Richard Skinner: "Hello. They say that Top of the Pops is the home of the hits and tonight is no exception. We've got a racy show for you this evening including, surprisingly, Racey singing about a girl that we all know..."
Racey: Runaround Sue . When Richard Skinner finishes his introduction he turns to one side, as if the camera is going to move past him but instead the picture cuts straight to a big close-up of the lead singer of Racey. Did the camera move get messed up and have to be edited out, or were Racey and Richard Skinner not in the studio at the same time? Meanwhile. Racey? They haven't been seen on Top of the Pops studio since 1979. Where have they been? Clothes shopping apparently. The band are all decked out in matching lavender suits and black shirts. Unfortunately this look combined with the cover version song suggests that Racey have turned into a low rent Showaddyaddy. At least the studio audience seem pleased. The production team has realised that in order to get some atmosphere into the studio the whole crowd needs to be on its feet. The stepped area at the back of the stage used to be seating only, now the whole studio is standing and dancing and it looks great.
Adam & The Ants: Antmusic . There's a jarring cut from Racey straight to a repeat of Antmusic from the 11/12/1980 edition. Richard Skinners head is superimposed over Adam & The Ants as he does his introduction, the effect is actually more distracting than if they'd just gone straight from one song to the other with no link.
There are 13 episodes in season 2 which was shown in 1967 but unfortunately only two survive, the rest perhaps cryogenically frozen in some underground bunker or maybe Miss Jones borrowed them and forgot to bring them back. The duo which do survive suggest that the season had a more varied tone and was a little more macabre. Multiple episodes feature Adamant’s nemesis The Face who talks like an Ice Warrior from Doctor Who and dresses like someone with a rubber fetish. He seems to pop up with various fully formed plans week after week with little explanation as to how he affords it or who in fact he is. Perhaps these revelations are in one of the many missing episodes.
Toasted cheese sandwiches
During the Seventies, when people wanted a snack especially first thing in the morning or last thing at night they would head for their pine covered kitchen and reach for the Sandwich Toaster, probably made by Breville. You didn’t have a proper kitchen unless you had one of these and before long people worked out that toast was tastier if you put cheese on it. This is of course an unhealthy sort of snack but everyone partook until they realised this fact. Now these toasted sandwich devices lie in cobweb covered obscurity.
12 Beauty is an Ugly Word
“I am the supreme being” declares villain Sinoda in a particularly over the top moment in what is an oddly paced episode. Writers Vince Powell and Harry Driver are best known for comedy so it’s no surprise they have fun with officialdom portraying both a political secretary and later a policeman as inept figures of simple intelligence. They also play heavily on a too often ignored aspect of Adamant’s sense of being out of his time gifting Gerald Harper some lovely arch lines which he delivers impeccably. When for example asked about whether there were beauty contests in his day, Adamant replies, “Only with cattle!”
One of the fun things about non fantasy series that delve into the genre is seeing how well they manage to do and this episode achieves a good job of purportedly showing a UFO on several occasions. It sounds loud, it blows gusts of wind everywhere and is suffused with strong lights. More importantly it’s a big old physical prop. No wonder people think that it is a UFO and plaudits to the production team for making it as convincing as many an actual sci-fi series. They tip over into the horror genre with the victims though; as if making up for last episodes’ absence of murders this time we are served up three grisly deaths in which the bodies are encased in a black polymer in which they had drowned and which then hardens. Nasty even by Midsomer standards.
Well the next day anyway. The media and especially the public reaction to David Bowie’s death has been phenomenal and unexpected. Not just from the likes of people who recall classic album or tours or grew up when Ziggy played guitar or even from those who first heard of him when he invited us to dance in 1983. Many of those paying tribute weren’t even born when `Let’s Dance` came out. The response has been heartening and resulted in this week’s remarkable UK albums chart in which 19 Bowie albums feature. At the centre of it all `Blackstar` sits at number one though it was probably already destined for the top spot before Monday’s news. Most online media sites have been packed with stories about Bowie while views of the much referenced `Lazarus` video have passed the 20 million mark. The press lavished wraparound features and covers on the story.