25/02/2021

Five Old Things with Odd Names!

People loved them-and then they didn’t! But you can still buy them!!

Filet -O- Fish
Not an Irish musician but the pseudo French moniker for one of McDonald’s burgers, officially described as "a fish sandwich" but because the company can't talk properly it has to have a silly name. Like they can't just say Delivery, it has to be McDelivery. I suppose Filet-o-Fish sounds better than Fish Burger and much more high end than Fillet of Fish. It’s not actually French as that would be Filet de Poisson and can you imagine your average McDonalds customer asking for that. Plus from a distance that name looks just a bit too much like Filet de Poison which is just not acceptable in a restaurant. The Filet- o Fish was invented in 1962 in Cincinnati to solve the issue of falling hamburger sales on Fridays due to Catholics not eating meat on that day. Why they couldn’t just call it a Fishburger I don’t know. Or they could have called it Friday o’Fish really. It consists of a fried breaded fish fillet, pasteurised cheese and tartar sauce inside a steamed bun. Mmm.

  Filet-o- Fish uses the famous square fish

 

22/02/2021

Top of the Pops 6 Feb 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. Paul Jordan: “Hi there and welcome to Top of the Pops. Among other things tonight there's little Paul, that's me, and big Simon, that's him.” Simon Bates: “I shall do my best. We've got Whitney Houston's new video later on but right now here's The Damned and a terrific version of Eloise, on Top of the Pops.”
[18] The Damned: Eloise. Lighting Director Alan Jeffery makes his bid for attention. Eloise is a song with lots of big dramatic beats and the studio is lit accordingly. The overhead lights flare to the rhythm of the song and the whole pattern changes for the faster paced chorus. It looks fantastic. And it gets better.
About two thirds of the way into the song it winds down to a false ending (the studio audience mistake this for the actual end, cheer and give a well- deserved round of applause). Alan Jeffery fades all the colour out of the studio and leaves it lit in blue with a single white spotlight on David Vanian; he's dressed in white and stands out like a beacon in the gloom. The performance ends with a great long pull back as the camera moves all the way across the studio, leaving the band and the audience framed by one of the scaffolding walkways and looking tiny in the distance.

 


19/02/2021

Space 1999- The Bringers of Wonder parts 1 & 2

The only two part story in the show's roster starts alarmingly with Koening acting out of control in an Eagle. Has Martin Landau finally had enough? Is Tony’s homebrew more potent than we thought? The Alphans have no time to puzzle over their commander’s wayward behaviour when an Earth spaceship turns up- a Super Swift that is travelling faster than light. On board are a coterie of relatives and friends of many of the senior crew. What’s more they claim they can get everyone back to Earth in record time. While they mingle like it’s a cocktail party, Koenig is having his brain massaged. Now you and I and everyone who ever watches this episode knows full well that obviously these arrivals are not really the people they say they are but aliens of some sort up to no good. The trick with these types of stories is when and how to make the reveal.


 

15/02/2021

Top of the Pops 23 and 30 Jan 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. 23/01/1986.
Paul Jordan: “Hello and welcome to another Top of the Pops and tell me something, have you ever seen this man's face on the television before?”
Mike Smith: “I doubt it very much indeed. A wonderful line up coming your way tonight and a new number one. We start off with a band who have flown back specially from Germany, from Hamburg, to be with us tonight. The Alarm. The Spirit Of '76.

[22] The Alarm: Spirit Of '76. This is a fallow edition of Top of the Pops. I nearly skipped writing it up because none of the studio performances are great*. Nana Mouskouri's going to get Performance of the Week so you can stop reading now, if you want. The Alarm make their second return to Top of the Pops in three years (that's how popular they are). I note The Alarm's last appearance on 22/09/1983 edition was also introduced with a story about the band's globe-trotting ways. Simon Bates launched into an unlikely story about the band being stopped by a US cop wielding a telegram summoning the group back to the UK to appear urgently on Top of the Pops. I suspect The Alarm don't actually travel anywhere. They just make up these globe-trotting stories to sound cool. The Alarm's last song was called 68 Guns. Are they only allowed to release songs with numbers in the title? And what is the spirit of '76? Is it something to do with those swarms of ladybirds that got everywhere?


 

12/02/2021

The Carpenters - Goodbye to Love

An antidote to Valentine's Day!
Yes, its that time of year again when single people feel left out and socially inadequate. Even in our lockdown world there is no escape from Valentine's Day despite everything else being cancelled. So enough of that stuff, here’s a song that provides an antidote! `Goodbye to Love co-written by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis came to prominence in 1972 when it charted highly around the world bringing The Carpenters to even wider attention and gaining them a little musical respect. It’s sombre lyric is given additional emotion by Karen Carpenter’s vocals and there’s a surprisingly rousing guitar solo that tips the song into being a classic. I’m no fan of guitar solos but this is one is definitely welcome. This is a song that reaches beyond melancholy and could be interpreted as the thoughts of someone who is depressed. Inevitably in view of Karen Carpenter’s own ultimately tragic life it has been seen as something of a cry for help but this was earlier in her career and she was always a singer who could isolate the very essence of lyrics to maximum effect. This is quite simply (and it sounds simpler than it is) one of the best songs of the Seventies. Let’s face it, more of us feel like this on Valentine’s especially when faced with that sea of pink cards and balloons everywhere.

 


10/02/2021

Space 1999 - A Matter of Balance & Space Warp

A Matter of Balance
This rather uninvolving episode takes ages to get going initially leaning on the already tired running gag of Tony’s homebrew. Barely funny the first time we saw it the series seems to return to it constantly as if this is the only personality it can give the security officer. He is popular with hydroponics technician Shermeen though, in fact she has a crush on him and this makes her the best candidate it seems for the attention of a transparent alien from the planet Alpha is circling. He is called Vindrus and his people suffered some sort of accident which turned them into anti matter beings who plan on using Alpha to help restore them one by one to the universe of matter. As the title of the episode suggests for each one of them to transfer over means an Alphan must replace them. Why exactly?  That such a transfer can be achieved in a couple of perspex pyramids hooked up to one of Alpha’s handy portable nuclear generators makes the process look as unlikely as it sounds. You wonder what they would have done had a travelling half Moon not handily passed by.

Lynne Frederick moments after reading the script.
 

09/02/2021

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart- The Bee Gees review

Released late last year, Frank Marshall’s film explores the remarkable career of The Bee Gees. It’s a story with all the requisite peaks and troughs though they are best known for the remarkable success of their late 70s disco material. However this documentary takes us through a period of success in the 60s first. The pace is breezy with archive interviews and interesting footage though much of it is clipped to make the story more manageable. While it is a solid enough account of their lengthy career it is interesting what makes the cut and what doesn’t. There is certainly a case for an extended version at some point and this could do with having been at least two hours long as there are notable omissions.

 


06/02/2021

Now We Are Ten!!

The weird thing about me reviewing stuff is that the first time I was ever asked to do so, back in school, I wasn’t even sure what a review was. Did I just explain the plot to people who perhaps hadn’t seen it? How could I say anything much more than “that was good, I enjoyed it” or “That was rubbish”? How did reviews work? What was the point of them? I was only about ten at the time though. I finally realised their worth several years later when I would hear a new album or song and for some inexplicable reason if I really liked it I wanted to read other people’s thoughts about it. This still happens today, though I now wait till I’ve written my review before I see what other people say. So how did it all start….how do you learn to review if indeed it can be learned. After all it’s just your opinion and everyone has one. So where was I inspired to start putting mine into the public domain?


 

04/02/2021

Top of the Pops 16 Jan 1985

Presented by Chris Arnsby. Mike Read: “Welcome to Top of the Pops even more exciting and thrilling than EastEnders, and Dixie has borrowed a new jacket just for the occasion.” Dixie Peach: “Lots of great stuff and we're going to start with a song that was a hit for Elvis Presley back in 1969. Suspicious Minds. Fine Young Cannibals. At number 17.”
[17] Fine Young Cannibals: Suspicious Minds. Mike Read is wearing his tie in a low slung loop. It looks like he ran to the studio while still getting dressed. I've got a nagging memory of this trend which I think it started in a commercial; probably featuring some bright thrusting young Thatcherite washing their clothes in a new type of laundry powder or using their Dragon 32 to hack into the Pentagon.


 

02/02/2021

Space 1999 - Seed of Destruction & The Beta Cloud

Seed of Destruction
Sooner or later most sci-fi tv shows get round to the doubles episode wherein one or more of the regulars are somehow duplicated and it takes ages for anyone else to notice even though they are behaving out of character. This is one of those episodes and it is Commander Koenig who is copied when he goes exploring a mystery asteroid that is causing Alpha’s systems to malfunction. The place is largely covered in ice except for a crystalline cave in which he himself describes as like a hall of mirrors. This gives director Kevin Connor the opportunity to play some visual tricks with reflections which also forms the basis of the plot. For this is the resting place of what remains of a race called the Kalthons whose own world perished and who are cryogenically frozen waiting for an unsuspecting traveller to show up. Handily they speak English though we never really see them.


 

31/01/2021

It's A Sin review

By a strange coincidence Russell T Davies’ latest arrives in the midst of global pandemic and it’s undercurrent of fear and ignorance plays even more strongly in the world of 2021. Yet when Aids arrived in the early 1980s we were definitely not all in it together. The attitudes that caused the condition to spread and different reactions towards that spread are essayed in a drama that can be both rousing and subdued, happy and then sad. The first episode is as low key as someone like Russell T Davies can be but the drama builds as matters progress and there are some powerful moments along the way. Though I think the narrative is even handed, some may find the subject matter too unsettling or the presentation too biased one way or the other.

There are major Spoilers in this review after this point


 

28/01/2021

Top of the Pops 9 Jan 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. Mike Smith: “Welcome to the weekly meeting of the BBC hand-clapping society. Good things tonight, including...” Steve Wright: “...oh, including this band down here. Wonderful Feargal Sharkey, You Little Thief. Go ahead.” Mike Smith: “Nice bunch of boys.”

[26] Feargal Sharkey: You Little Thief. This is the song previously seen on BBC1's Noel Edmonds Live Christmas Day Morning Up The Post Office Tower (working title). The reasonably famous cockup involving Feargal Sharkey and band performing in a 747 flying at 2500 feet over London. It was billed as the World's First In Flight Pop Performance but actually became the world's first in flight footage of a band enthusiastically miming while Feargal Sharkey shrugs and silently mouths something (presumably a variation of “I can't hear anything”) at an off screen peon. They had a second go later in the programme and got it right, and that's the story of how Noel Edmonds saved Christmas 1985. You Little Thief may be the jauntiest angry pop song ever. It's essentially a list of insults to the unnamed person who appears to have stolen Feargal's Good Heart. That relationship clearly didn't end well.

 “Looking so much like Michael Heseltine,” is Steve Wright's oblique comment. The Westland helicopter affair (ask your grandad) was reaching a climax at the time and this episode of Top of the Pops was recorded on Wednesday, but broadcast on the day Michael Heseltine resigned from cabinet (also ask your grandad about the days when politicians resigned on matters of principle; little bit o'politics there, etc). (John- Chris, nobody who reads this blog is as young as that! If they were I’d be posting Bernie Sanders sea shanties and not splling props innit)

 


26/01/2021

Midsomer Murders - Crime and Punishment

Isn’t it weird how small a social circle both Barnaby’s have had? Basically any time they host a shindig at home the only people who get invited are Barnaby’s assistant and the pathologist. One can only image the table conversation once the wine gets flowing. Most series would at least include a couple of non speaking extras to share some food or relatives you only meet once however long the programme runs but in Midsomer social gatherings are only for people from work. The other thing they always do is have Barnaby’s wife seeming to like the assistant more than Barnaby does. 


 

25/01/2021

Space 1999 - The AB Chrysalis

That old novelty hit `Star Trekkin` included the line “We come in peace- shoot to kill” which adeptly summed up the attitude of many a big sci-fi series of yesteryear and Space 1999 was often one of them. Yet not always. `The AB Chrysalis` flips that over and has any attempt at resistance proving futile yet once Koenig engages in a little more conversation the results are positive. Tony Barwick’s interesting script centres around a series of ever more dangerous explosions emanating from a distant planet. Each creates a shockwave deadlier than the previous and as the episode opens the Alphans are waiting for the imminent arrival of the next one. Concluding that any further shockwave could destroy the base, Koenig, Maya and Alan journey to investigate. Tony is presumably brewing beer somewhere.

 


21/01/2021

Top of the Pops 2 Jan 1986

Presented by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: “Our researchers have discovered that this is the first Top of the Pops of 1986.” Janice Long: “They earn their money. And it's live. We are live tonight. Aren't we?” John Peel: “This is right yes so come in for nudes, knees, and knockabout.” Janice Long: “And which one are you? Over here a band who've got two singles in the Top 40. A-Ha and The Sun Always Shines on the telly.

[27] A-ha: The Sun Always Shines On TV. The 2nd January seems too early for the first Top of the Pops of the year. 1986 has barely got underway and the charts are still full of the Christmas overspill. Own up, who drove We All Stand Together back into the Christmas 1985 charts? I know your aunt always gives you a £3 Boots voucher but that's no reason to get your revenge by giving her this single. Still, pity the residents of 1987 who will gaze at Gary Davis through the fug of a barely clearing hangover on New Years Day; between a repeat of The Russ Abbott Show* and Eastenders. 

Anyway, it's sayonara 1985 with your rubbish inventions like Pictionary, Hobnobs, and Albion Market. Here's to groovy, funky 1986 which will bring us futuristic consumer items like.... oh Wikipedia doesn't have a page for things invented in 1986. What am I supposed to do, rely on my memory? Fine, then here's to groovy, funky 1986 with it's fabulous inventions including the the Sony Walkman, those car stickers that read “don't follow me or you'll end up at my house”, and Babbage's Difference Engine.  Here also is A-ha. With one of their songs that fell between Take On Me and The Living Daylights. A chance to gaze once more on Morten Harket's cheek bones, and remember the days when it was cool to wind loads of cloth and leather straps round your wrists. 


20/01/2021

Worst President Ever!!

Tweetin’ and bleatin` till Biden beat ‘im!
Until 2020, I thought 2016 was the unlikeliest year I would see and one of its unexpected happenings was the election of Donald Trump as US President. Supposedly part of a populist wave that would overturn the old order of politics the implication was that this would be change for the better. Four years on he has left a trail of havoc that has done the US no service at all. In fact, as umpteen people have already said, he made America grate again. It would be wrong though to label Trump as some sort of maverick outsider- look at the numbers of people who still voted for him after a Presidency that even impartial experts believe will turn out to be the worst in history. The really strange thing is that there are clearly millions of Americans who think as he does, who refuse to engage with the factual details and see things only from the narrow minded parameters of their own interests.


 

19/01/2021

Doctor Who- Terror of the Autons@50

“I am usually referred to as The Master”. With just eight words a new classic tv villain made his debut appearance fifty years ago yet nobody could know just how defining a performance Roger Delgado would give and how enduring the character would become. The Master has re-appeared in many guises over the subsequent half century yet the benchmarks are all laid out from the start. Generously afforded the role of (increasingly un-surprising) enemy in each of 1971’s stories enabled both character and actor to develop a popularity to rival that of the Doctor. Yet there was nothing complicated about The Master really. Clad in black and sporting a Mephistophelian trimmed beard the only way he could look more evil would be to sprout a couple of horns. In another actor’s hands it could have been unimpressive but gifted a role he was totally suited to Roger Delgado makes it his own. So much so that every Master since has used it as a template either to copy or develop. As an example of how in thrall the Eighties version of Doctor Who was to its past when they recast the part they made the actor look as similar as possible to Delgado. Nowadays writers like to pry into the psyche of the main characters but this version of the series never went too deep. They didn’t need to. The Doctor versus The Master is clear good versus evil and kids at that time were happy with such escapist adventure.

 

12/01/2021

1987's most unexpected hit single!

In 1987 a remarkable piece of music arrived in charts that were filled with epic chords, big drum sounds and power ballads. `Jack Your Body`by Steve `Silk` Hurley was a breath of fresh air like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers compared to a troupe of elephants. Sparse and spare it skated over the lumpen competition reaching number one while everyone was still wondering just what it was all about. How does one, erm, jack? “Ooo, Ethel that sounds a bit rude.” Those magazines that printed song lyrics probably hated it as the official lyrics go something like this: ”Jack, jack, jack, jack your body..”. Repeat many times. It wasn’t really something you could singalong to. Yet the further we travel from that year the more and more it seems like a pointer to the future.

 


07/01/2021

Space 1999 - Catacombs of the Moon

A curious episode that doesn’t quite put across the point it is trying to make that faith is stronger than we think. With his wife Michelle dying of a heart condition, mining engineer Patrick Osgood is understandably out of sorts though this manifests itself in fire filled visions of Alpha being consumed by an inferno. For the viewer’s benefit this sees his wife stranded in a four poster bed surrounded by flames looking rather like a spoof of some early 80s pop video. That she is played by a very young Pamela Stephenson is even more odd. Meanwhile Helena keeps making artificial hearts for Michelle and when one doesn’t work she knocks up another one about an hour later! Of course had Victor been here with his mechanical heart he may have been able to help but- hang on – Victor no longer exists. Instead we have to be content with a lot of soft focus medical meandering as Pat goes loopier by the minute. Koenig meanwhile goes to see what is causing waves of heat driving the temperature up.

 

05/01/2021

The Great season 1 episode 1 review

 At the end of Channel 4’s showing of the debut instalment of this series the continuity announcer provides information for any viewers who have been affected by anything in the episode. Presumably he means viewers who may have recently had their bear shot or been chucked in a lake whilst inside a trunk or maybe if it’s in case any unhappy empresses are watching? Otherwise it’s hard to see what effect the episode might have on viewers other than to make them laugh. Hugely entertaining and quite mad at times, Tony McNamara’s  apparantely partly true origin story of the woman who would become Catherine the Great is cut from the same satirical cloth as shows such as The Thick of It though at times could be called Carry On Catherine! It’s frequently amusing and once or twice will make you gasp at the fact that you are finding a violent incident actually rather funny.

 


02/01/2021

Doctor Who - Revolution of the Daleks review

Made over a year ago this is the first new Doctor Who we’ve seen since the world changed in real life and thus comes over as somewhat odd now. Despite some fortuitous resonances with scenes of a prime minister talking about safety and security the episode has the feeling of being made much longer ago in a different world. This is definitely not the fault of the production but shows that programmes like this may suddenly seem outdated now we’ve had a taste of something an episode might actually depict (of course aliens would be responsible for the pandemic). We now know what something that potentially threatens our whole world is actually like and I’m not sure you’d ever stretch to call it entertainment however many Chris Whitty memes try. I suppose the time will come when there are dramas made about the pandemic but I don’t know if that’s the sort of thing I would ever want to watch. When you’ve seen the real thing, drama can’t compete. 


 SPOILERS FROM HERE ON....