29/09/2019

Top of the Pops 6 Sep 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: "Hello and welcome to another Top of the Pops. I've got a bit of an explanation to do at the beginning of this one so..." Janice Long: "No but I was just going to...." John Peel: "Shut up. If you'd just be quiet a minute. What happened was that Bucks Fizz last week started their number and they go to the station and..." Janice Long: "To cut a long story short. Bucks Fizz."

[21] Bucks Fizz: Talking In Your Sleep. You need to go all the way back to 1981 and the 11/06/1981 edition to find the last time Bucks Fizz were considered a big enough draw to open Top of the Pops. On that occasion the song was Piece Of The Action, the follow up single to Making Your Mind Up. Viewers at the time wouldn't have noticed but watched back to back it's immediately obvious that the two performances of Talking In Your Sleep are identical. It's the same routine, performed on exactly the same stage, even some of the camera set ups are broadly similar (the production team probably reused the camera script to save time). I could believe this performance was recorded from the camera rehearsal for the 30/08/1984 show and simply edited across into this week's edition. It's only the camera pan from Janice Long and John Peel at the start that rules this out as an option.

The whole thing has an odd scent of contractual obligation about it. Were Bucks Fizz offered the chance to come back and open the next show as a way of smoothing ruffled egos? If they were, then why were they put back on the same stage to do the same dance routine? The end result looks like something negotiated by lawyers, although it almost certainly isn't.


Question two, what song got bumped so that Talking In Your Sleep could get a quick repeat? Not Malcolm McLaren's Madam Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo), which is the highest climber of the week; up 17 places from 32 to 15. Madam Butterfly will be ignored by Top of the Pops. The same fate befell White Lines (Don't Do It) which never rated a mention during its seven week climb up the charts to number 7. Had Bucks Fizz not been back I think we'd have seen the video for Elton John's Passengers again, and Are You Ready? by Break Machine would have taken Passengers' place to be played out over the credits.

While I'm asking questions I can't answer, what was the plan for the live 30/08/1984 edition anyway? Presumably the train was expected to arrive during the video for I Called To Say I Love You which would have been easier to cut short.

27/09/2019

Space 1999 - Black Sun


For what is ostensibly an action orientated series aimed at a younger audience, `Black Sun` is a surprising diversion. David Weir’s screenplay clearly draws from the hippy mentality prevalent in late Sixties culture with its eventual message “everything is everything else” and takes a refreshingly philosophical angle on a potential disaster. Moonbase Alpha is being drawn into an enormous black Sun whose pull is liable to destroy it. “We’ll all be dead in three days” is Commander Koenig’s not exactly inspirational summary of the scenario. Victor Bergman however has other ideas, scribbling and thinking his way to a plan involving a forcefield that will use the base’s anti gravity towers as its tentpoles. “It looks like fish scales” someone says improbably. If the first section of the episode leans heavily on the hardware and mechanics that might save them, matters become more interesting when other aspects are introduced.

25/09/2019

What does ruby chocolate taste like?


In 2017 it was announced that there are now four types of chocolate.  Joining milk, dark and white is ruby. According to the website of its originator Barry Callebaut, a Belgian- Swiss cocoa company “Ruby offers an intense sensorial delight, a totally new taste experience: neither bitter, milky or sweet, but a tension of fresh berry fruitiness and luscious smoothness.” Others have described it as having intense fruitiness as well as fresh and sour notes. Ruby chocolate is not, as some have imagined, just another flavoured chocolate but is made from an existing cocoa bean variety that can be processed into a distinctive taste. In truth such a new product should already have created more waves than it has but its existence is not that widely known. When I mentioned it at work amongst colleagues who between them know about most subjects raised nobody else had even heard of it.


22/09/2019

Ad Astra review



Roy McBride must be the most accident prone- yet also the luckiest – man in the Universe. What befalls him during the first five minutes of this intriguing film would be the end of a lesser man but what he has to deal with for the next two hours few movie heroes would survive without superpowers and he doesn’t have those. Ad Astra (which means `To The Stars`) is a story that may span the reaches of space and contain a world threatening problem but at its heart it is a simple, family tale of how generations can both reject and reflect each other. It is thoughtful yet gripping, intimate yet Universal (in both senses) and if a bit unbelievable at times still a thrilling cinematic ride. 
Spoilers past this point





20/09/2019

Space 1999 - A Matter of Life and Death


The crux of this episode is that the kind of life the Alphans will encounter may be somewhat different to their expectations. It’s a timely and well mounted escapade that also shows us something of the dynamics of command. When a mission to a potentially habitable planet (which incidentally looks like a cocktail) returns with a third person on board that’s strange enough. The fact that he appears to be Helena’s late husband who went missing presumed dead during a mission near Jupiter five years previously is just bizarre. It certainly gives Victor several chances to look puzzled and engage in tests; my favourite one is the scan of Russell which suggests he is dead. Victor’s scientific knowledge seems boundless yet for Koenig, eager it seems to please the crew, even this oddity must not stand in the way of evacuation.

18/09/2019

Something to vote for....


The current UK political scene moves so quickly that by the time this is posted – and certainly after a few weeks- things will probably have changed again. However what I am reassured about at the moment is that there’s now a party I can vote for in the event of General Election in the coming months. The Liberal Democrats have decided that their manifesto will include a commitment to reverse Brexit by revoking Article 50. You could predict what the response from some quarters would be and indeed it has been. “Its undemocratic” they cry without understanding that this would only happen after an election in which as many if not more people would vote than did in the EU Referendum. Any policies enacted by a government that were in their election manifesto are democratic by the fact that people have already voted for them. Second, “the Lib Dems would never win a general Election under any conceivable scenario”. True perhaps but the point of this policy is not to suggest they are preparing for government but that they have drawn a line in the sand. It is as clear where the Conservatives stand on Brexit just as it as unclear where Labour do on the topic. Now there’s an actual choice with a party committed to the EU. Besides dismissing them because they won’t win is overlooking how the Lib Dems could actually hold the balance of power.

17/09/2019

Top of the Pops 23 Aug 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Read: "Surprise surprise it's Top of the Pops. Me and Tom wondered where you'd got to, to be honest." Tommy Vance: "Well, we made it and we're glad that you made it too. Our first band are in our studio tonight. They're from M√ľnster in Germany. Alphaville who are Big In Japan."
[43] Alphaville: Big In Japan. I'm not sure Big In Japan is the best song to open the show. Coming up later are two more obviously crowd pleasing singles, Miami Sound Machine and the dance antics of Break Machine (there are a lot of Machines -well two- on tonight's edition, is this the first sign of that technological singularity I keep reading about?). I like Big In Japan but, rather like Mothers Talk which opened the last edition of Top of the Pops, it feels as if Michael Hurll is deliberately resisting the obvious by putting this song in pole position.

16/09/2019

Tolkien review


Given that this film is not endorsed by the writer’s estate and did badly in cinemas I was still intrigued to see what take it took on the formative years of one of the best known authors in the world. It is easy to see why the movie didn’t take off as we live in a time where historical characters are encouraged to speak with a modern tone and Tolkien resolutely and refreshingly stays in period. Its dialogue springs from the screen but because it’s not talking about kejoree for breakfast or something similarly Downtonesque it means we have a movie which celebrates diversity of language and literature which is always a hard sell. I’m not sure the means the filmmakers employed to liven this up always works either though there are some very satisfying aspects to the movie.


13/09/2019

Space 1999 - Breakaway


In 1975 television fantasy was thin on the ground. Most popular shows from the States were either police based or else Earthbound stuff like The Six Million Dollar Man. The Star Wars boom was still a couple of years away while in the UK apart from Doctor Who these sort of shows sat mainly in the children’s programme slots. It’s important to mention this because when it arrived Space 1999 seemed like a breath of fresh, colourful air. People watched it with enjoyment at the time and it is only later that it came to be seen in a somewhat less appreciative light. Personally I loved it and had models of the Eagles (the spaceships not the group) and those poster magazines with gorgeous colour photos of weird alien locations.

Many of the criticisms of the series are at least partly valid- there is certainly a lack of empathy amongst the main characters and some of the plots are hugely derivative. The science is of course all over the place and you have to smile at the idea that what was then a view of 30 years into the future depicted everyone still wearing the flares and hairstyles of the mid -70s. At the same time, the series is enormous fun to watch with its gaudy alien planets and impressive model shots.  And can you really dislike a programme whose opening credits give away half the plot and depict the two stars staring into space while slowly revolving on a platform. I mean everyone does that at home don’t they?

So over the coming weeks I’m going to be watching every episode of the first season to see what I find then nattering about it on here. It’s important to point out these are not intended to be either episode guides or definitive reviews of the series, just reactions and observations as I journey alongside Commander Koenig (no relation to Ezra or Walter) and a remarkably smooth flying Moon through the Universe. If I survive the G Forces I’ll probably do season two next year. So let’s go back to 13 September 1999 or to be more precise 4 September 1975 when the first episode was originally broadcast….

09/09/2019

Top of the Pops 16 Aug 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Steve Wright: "Well hello!! Good evening!! And welcome to another edition of Top!! Of!! The Pops!!" Andy Peebles: "Yes. Good to have your company. Let's get under way. Over here on my right will you welcome please Tears For Fears and their latest single Mothers Talk."
[38] Tears For Fears: Mothers Talk. Steve Wright is jiggling like someone 24 hours into a course of antibiotics for a bladder infection. He doesn't have a UTI. It's his normal presenting style.
[Paragraph of criticism of Steve Wright cut. It's Andy Peebles I feel sorry for]
It's Tears For Fears. What are they up to? Singing about the weather. As Mark Twain said, "everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it." (John – I’m sure Boris will get round to it once he’s `sorted` Brexit)