04/12/2022

Top of the Pops 19 & 26 November 1987

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.

19/11/1987
Simon Mayo: “Hi, welcome to Top of the Pops with a very big Barry White, a not quite so big Donna Summer, and a waif-like Steve Wright.”

Steve Wright: “Yes it's true!! Welcome!! We're going to start off with Maxi Priest!! Some guys have all the luck!! Here!!”

 [18] MAXI PRIEST: some guys. New Sets! The initial impression is of neon tower blocks. Actually, although the blocks do have horizontal neon tubes on them, the blocks are reflective or semi-transparent -Perspex or some sort of gauze? - which get most of their colour by being lit from above which gives the blocks the impression they glow from the inside. There are also a few grills and grates designed for cameras to look through. These grates carry a hint of the forthcoming 90's trend for things to look a bit industrial.

If my mental map of the Top of the Pops studio is correct then Maxi Priest is standing on what would previously have been the stage with three perspex pyramids in the background. You can see it in the 12/11/1987 edition, it's the one Mirage performed on and opposite was the V-shaped stage used by Alexander O’Neil. Wide shots suggest all the old stages have been swept away although the same basic layout has been kept; a stage set into the corner of the studio, then steps leading up to a bridge, then steps down to another stage. Having all the stages look the same gives consistency and when cameras shoot of the edge of a stage the scenery appears to continue off into the distance. Has this change been driven by a desire to make the studio seem bigger, like the one used for Top of the Pops USA? Take a bow Grenville Horner, who is credited with Design. I assume he's the person responsible for the new look.

Brian Whitehouse (for it is he) delivers a nice camera move at the end of Maxi Priest's song. The camera pulls back for the standard wide shot of the studio then pans left and keeps going, and going, until it finds Simon Mayo standing on the stage opposite, and then it pans round him some more, until one of the Top of the Pops logos is visible in the background. Does Maxi Priest have a couple of siblings called Mini and Median? (John – Yes.)



01/12/2022

Christine McVie

The songbird has flown but the songs live on…

 The established shorthand for the story of Fleetwood Mac is like- blues band led by Peter Green then mega band led by Lyndsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. It’s a threadbare representation of a band whose line up has contained many talented writers and / or players not least amongst them Danny Kirwan and Bob Welch, while it’s often been Mick Fleetwood himself who has striven to push the band named partly after him to new pastures. Yet perhaps since Peter Green’s departure it was arguably Christine McVie who took the band towards their Seventies zenith having already been writing the sort of simpler, honest pop songs which became their metier. The Cumbrian born Birmingham bred musician, writer, and singer, who has died this week, penned some of Mac’s most enduring classics. She often seemed like a rock of sensibility amidst her more outgoing fellow members and it may be that her presence was what kept the band together in stormy times.

 


27/11/2022

Top of the Pops 12 Nov 1987

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Hi, good to see you again and welcome to another Top of the Pops. Action packed as always, in the studio tonight we have Mirage, Alexander O'Neil, and T'Pau.”

Peter Powell: “It's hit! After hit! After hit! One of the biggest! The Communards! Never can say Goodbyyyyyyyyyyye!”

Gary Davies: “Yey,”

[6] THE COMMUNARDS: never can say goodbye. Brian Whitehouse is sitting in the studio gallery this week and taking the Produced and Directed By credit. Approaching Christmas, Michael Hurll is off tending to the far reaches of his Light Entertainment principality. There's a new series of Entertainment USA on BBC2, preparations are in hand for 1987's Noel-Edmonds-Christmas-Post-Office*-Tower-Thing, with Gordon Kaye in Battersea; Mike Smith presumably preferred to spend Christmas Day 1987 with Sarah Greene. He's not going to get far with that attitude. Most intriguing of all, Michael Hurll's got a new Noel Edmonds vehicle on BBC1 called Whatever Next... “Presented with an unusual situation can you foresee the outcome?” I can foresee this 16 episode oddity won't be picked up for a second series by programme planners. You can watch the opening titles here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_xLi1xu9PU, stay for the moment when Noel Edmonds bounds on to the most late eighties set ever. All pastel pinks, and muted greys.

 


25/11/2022

Z Nation season one review

 

Catching up on Zees…

 There has been a plethora of zombie related things over the past decade, and I wonder if this will fade since we’ve now had our own, real pandemic. Ok so it wasn’t a zombie apocalypse but there were moments when it felt like we’d never go back to what we had before. The drama of watching other people go through that kind of situation seems a little less enthralling when you’ve brushed against something similar. So, what better/ worse time than to look at something zombie related? The Walking Dead is too obvious and has been reviewed to the max elsewhere, so I decided to look at Z Nation, a series that ran from 2014-19 across five seasons. It is fair to say it did not have anything like the same profile in the UK like The Walking Dead did in its prime and certainly it would be that show’s success that probably enabled this one to be made. However, it must have had something to run for five years. I’d vaguely heard of it imagining it to be some sort of spin off or prequel to the film World War Z but it isn’t. Oh, and because it’s American when you’re reading this the series title is pronounced Zee Nation because Zed Nation sounds like an 80s futurist pop star!

 


18/11/2022

Top of the Pops 29 Oct & 5 Nov 1987

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 

29/10/1987: Steve Wright: “Oh look!! There you are!! Good evening!! Welcome to the Top of the Pops!!” Gary Davies: “Hi, nice to see you again. We have a terrific show lined up for you. In the studio tonight we have Ray Parker junior, we have Scarlett Fantastic, and Rick Astley.” Steve Wright: “And we have Style Council and Wanted!! Right here!!”

26] THE STYLE COUNCIL: wanted. I'm restricting myself to one complaint about Steve Wright, in the hope it will reduce my overall number of bizarre rants. Look at him. All he has to do is turn and point but that's not enough for the mad-man of radio. He's too kerazy. It would be boring and kinda square. Instead he turns side on to the camera and sticks his tongue out. Wacky-doodle! We are less than one minute into this Top of the Pops and I'm in a sour mood.

Paul Weller isn't. He looks happy to be in the studio and he's apparently blacked out one of his front teeth for larks (I apologise in advance if he has some terrible dental problem of which I'm unaware). Why is he in such a good mood? Maybe because he's facing away from the flickering ceiling lights which Geoff Beech has decided to shine direct into the camera. It must have been received as a good idea at the time but the result is, it's difficult to spot Weller through the stroboscopic haze of his close ups. During the closing camera crane pan across the audience, watch out for the girl who flashes twin V-for-Victory signs at the camera. It's a classic brief moment of audience misbehaviour, and her friend throws a guilty look back as if she expects the camera to come screaming across the crowd and eject the pair for bad behaviour.

 


16/11/2022

Review round up- Phoenix, Top 40, John Lewis Xmas ad

 

Phoenix have become one of my favourite bands over the last ten years. They have a knack of producing memorable songs that sit in your memory for some considerable time. `Alpha Zulu` released earlier this month is their seventh album and maintains their high standard for songs that initially sound featherlight, but which reveal many hidden qualities the more you listen to them. Recorded in Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, part of the Louvre Palace (where else!) the songs have a simplicity that the purest pop will provide yet lyrics whose meanings can be difficult to comprehend, and sometimes spill into more than one language. That’s all part of their appeal; they create a world of their own and its a beguiling one. It’s the music that could just as easily be used in the background of an advert as it could be the soundtrack to someone’s significant moments. They play with traditional song structures yet deliver these on a bed of synthetisers and keyboards, echoed vocals and mostly medium to fast paced timing. 



13/11/2022

Black Panther- Wakanda Forever review

 

Real life and fiction mesh effectively as Marvel find a way forward after tragedy

 The tragic death of Chadwick Bosemen in 2020 left a personal and storytelling void in its wake. Just as life goes on so does the story of Wakanda but this is a dignified continuation that both pays homage to the past and also looks to the future. 

 Spoilers after the break..



10/11/2022

Top of the Pops 15th and 22nd Oct 1987 Double Bill!

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.

15/10/1987

Gary Davies: “Hi, good evening, and welcome to Top of the Pops. We have a belting show for you tonight. In the studio Terence Trent D'Arby, The Alarm, the Fatback Band, and the Bee Gees.”  Mike Smith Peter Powell: “But for starters! They woke up in Birmingham this morning! Travelled down the M1! They're on Top of the Pop tonight! Please welcome their brand new hit single! UB40!
Gary Davies: “Woo”

[29] UB40: maybe tomorrow. God blew, and they were scattered. In the real world of 1987, as this episode aired, a depression was deepening in the Bay of Biscay and moving north-east. The aftermath of the great storm of 1987 can be seen in the off-air news recordings on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5i5FhsIaAg Fortunately for UB40, Top of the Pops was recorded on Wednesday so their journey back up the M1 wouldn't have been disrupted.

I could believe this episode of Top of the Pops was being recorded in a smaller studio. There's something about the presentation of UB40 which seems cramped. It's not just the 472 people on stage, that's typical for a UB40 performance (check out their chart photo it looks like a world record attempt to cram people into a phone box). It's the visuals which seem to bounce from one static image to another and back again with a lot less of the camera movement and sweeping crane shots.
Stanley Appel is back as Producer and Director and the Vision Mixer is Priscilla Hoadley , a familiar name, so it's not as if there's anyone new sitting up in the studio gallery. I ended up comparing this opening performance to the one from last week's show, Jellybean featuring Steven Dante; with Vison Mixer Angela Wilson. It turns out both performances are largely captured in the same way, a couple of cranes but most of the work is done via hand held cameras. Steven Dante is simply a more mobile performer than Ali Campbell, who stands on stage so the camera operator doesn't have to do anything. A week previously Steven Dante was dragging the eye of the camera all over the stage, which makes for more interesting pictures. Also, much disappointment that Maybe Tomorrow doesn't turn out to be UB40's cover of the theme to The Littlest Hobo.



09/11/2022

Enola Holmes 2 + first film reviews

 

Sherlock’s little sister takes on the world in superior sequel- and the first film is quite good, too!

Sequels are tricky and often in a film series the second one is a bit of a dip, yet Enola Holmes 2 is bigger and better than its predecessor which was quite good anyway. The confidence the team has is visible on screen. Whereas the storyline of the first was rather meandering and not sufficient for the run time, here there is plenty of incident and, crucially, it is more of a mystery that needs to be solved. Bigger and broader though it may be, the film does not lose the moral undertow that makes the character so empathic in these times.

 




07/11/2022

Cobra Kai Season Five review

 Dojo mojo!

 After the exemplary fourth season, the writers of this lively series have realised there are only so many permutations available of people swapping from one dojo to another, changing sides with the seasons so season five takes a different road. In fact, it’s surprising how few karate sequences there are in the first five or six episodes and those which do pop up are usually well away from the mats and training rooms. Instead, the series explore the non-karate side of the characters which makes for a noticeably lighter tone for long stretches. The storyline also ekes out a change of life for our two main characters; just as Johnny starts to develop a family life so Daniel’s behaviour takes him down a path more familiar to his one-time rival.

 




06/11/2022

Ticked off

 

Has Twitter had its day?

 You may think that the current fuss about charging people for Twitter’s `blue tick` is a storm in a teacup but it is about fundamentally more than just the symbol. A symbol which by the way is a WHITE TICK on a blue background. The point is that by turning it from something that identifies authenticity into a symbol of status the nature of the site will alter. It is setting a way forward for dividing users into two types- leaders and followers because unless you have one of these symbols (which will cost you money) your Tweets will not be seen by anywhere near as many followers reducing you to second class status. And when so many people have the white tick that it becomes almost meaningless, Twitter will invent a green tick or something for which you pay even more for super duper status. It's been a nut nobody has cracked till now but welcome to the monetisation of social media.

 


04/11/2022

Top of the Pops 8 Oct 1987

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Smith: “Good evening and welcome to Television Centre. Another half hour of good clean family fun coming up.” Gary Davies: “And we start with the number twenty nine record this week. It's called The Real Thing. Here is Jellybean with Steven Dante.” Mike Smith: “This way.”

 [29] JELLYBEAN FEATURING STEVEN DANTE: the real thing. Thanks to Top of the POPS USA I recognise Jellybean. He wears a hat. He's famous for it. I've seen him twice and both times he was wearing one.

Stanley Appel takes over the Producering and Directoring this week. He starts Top of the Pops with a well composed shot of the studio behind the hosts, with a view of the crowd and Jellybean et al in the background. Normally the camera would have panned from the hosts round to Jellybean (and Steven Dante) in one continuous shot, but Top of the Pops is being directed with one eye towards reusing performances in America and instead Vision Mixer Angela Wilson cuts from the hosts to a nice clean wide shot of the stage which can be used as the start of the performance, snipped out and put on the weekly rocket to Pasadena. At least this is done for bands like Jellybean featuring Steven Dante, two backing singers, and man playing the drums*, not so much for people who may not be well known in America like, hypothetically, Steve Walsh.
* how many where going to St Ives?


Jellybean: "Where's me hat?" (Steven Dante not pictured)

30/10/2022

Review Round Up - Arctic Monkeys, Black Adam, Bullet Train

 

Arctic Monkeys' first album was named with some prescience `Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not` and this is a mantra songwriter Alex Turner has followed through so some sixteen years on they now occupy a territory rather close to what was once known, with some disdain, as `middle of the road` music. These days people are too wise to dismiss an entire sub genre especially one that produced some of the best songs ever. Strings, slow songs, conversational lyrics and atmosphere tinged with thoughtful reverie pervade their new album `The Car`. It helps that the album’s release was preceded by that of its two best songs. `There’d Better Be A Mirrorball` is tethered by a repeated synth line and finds Turner less cynical than the characters that inhabited `Tranquillity Base`. Wistful might be the best description of this song. For me though it is equalled by `Body Paint` which I described on Facebook soon after I first heard it as “class” and I’d underline that description now. The final runout could be David Bowie and that’s a complement.



28/10/2022

Top of the Pops 1 Oct 1987

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Hi, really nice to see you again. We've got a terrific show lined up for you tonight. In the studio we have Shakin' Stevens, Steve Winwood, we've got Gary Numan, and the Bee Gees.” Mike Smith: “And also, live over here we have the Sisters of Mercy. Highest new entry this week.”

 [13] THE SISTERS OF MERCY: this corrosion. Right down at the front of the stage watching The Sisters of Mercy are a pair of punks. They don't do alot now, but like Chekhov's gun they'll become important in the final act of tonight's programme. The bloke has the word IDOL printed in red on the back of his black leather jacket. “Coming up later, Nicky Campbell, new DJ on Radio 1,” threatens Mike Smith.

 


26/10/2022

Liverpool River of Light 2022

 Each year, Liverpool hosts the River of Light event in which ten works are displayed around the area near to the Mersey bringing art into the public domain. These are free, some of them interactive and you can wander around them in any order. The 2022 event opened on 21 October and runs till 6 November with displays switched on from around 5.30 till 9.00pm. Here's some photos and video clips from the various displays...




23/10/2022

Doctor Who- The Power of the Doctor review

 

Action and nostalgia aplenty mark a great finale for Jodie Whittaker

Regeneration stories always stand apart from regular series of Doctor Who though sometimes can feel either anticlimactic or too over the top. Laced with heavy doses of nostalgia, `The Power of the Doctor` (complete with its double meaning title) manages to hold together remarkably well considering the number of enemies and friends mounting up as it progresses. It has the heft of a sixtieth anniversary story even though the date is a year away and you wonder exactly what the series can do for that birthday. This ninety-minute special is exciting and includes moments that will make you cheer and gasp with surprise in one of Chris Chibnall’s more rigorous scripts. Ironically just as he leaves, he finally seems to have got the hang of how to put together an epic Doctor Who story that doesn’t fall flat at the end.

MASTERFUL SPOILERS FOLLOW...



 

19/10/2022

Top of the Pops 24 Sep 1987 (plus bonus TOTP USA!)

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Hi, good evening. I hope you're well. Welcome to another Top of the Pops.” Mike Smith: “We've got a star-studded show tonight. Madonna, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson. All comin' up.
Gary Davies: “We start off with Johnny Hates Jazz. I Don't Wanna Be A Hero.” Mike Smith: “Right over there.”

[11] JOHNNY HATES JAZZ: i don't want to be a hero. A good song but not the one I'd chose to open this edition. I've always felt the opening song should be punchy and energetic. I Don't Want To Be A Hero is a little too laid back, despite lead singer Clark Datchler's literal air punching to the staccato beats in to the chorus. It's not my job to edit Top of the Pops. This week that job belongs to Brian Whitehouse who is back after a couple of weeks of musical chairs with his two other partners in the game; Stanley Appel and God-King-of-all-Light-Entertainment Michael Hurll.



17/10/2022

Wreck review

Duck!

Sometimes a story is so delightfully absurd that it actually becomes quite endearing despite itself. This six part series set on a cruise ship sails expertly between horror and thriller tropes yet somehow ends up smelling fresh. Courtesy of writer Ryan J Brown the narrative focusses on teenager Jamie Walsh who has sneaked on board the cruise shop Sacramentum (even the name is creepy!) in an attempt to discover what happened to his sister Pippa who seemingly vanished on the previous cruise. The resulting mystery / thriller/ scare story probably won't help an industry still recovering from the `plague ship` headlines of the pandemic yet becomes a gripping if slightly bonkers joyride.

 


16/10/2022

Sea Life Centre London Aquarium Photo and Video Special!

 If you find yourself in London, then I'd highly recommend the Sea Life Centre London Aquarium as an interesting place for people of all ages. The place is so well presented, really atmospheric lighting with mood music and different environments recreated. The assorted fish and sea creatures are fantastic. It takes about an hour and a half to two hours to go round. As you can hear from the clips it can be a bit noisy but that's all part of the atmosphere. Here's some photos and footage from my own visit there on Friday. Exhibits and penguin behaviour can vary!


12/10/2022

Top of the Pops 17 Sep 1987

 

Words: Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Hi, good evening. Welcome to Top of the Pops. We have six acts live in the studio including Cliff Richard, Karel Fialka, Rick Astley.” Mike Smith: “On video tonight we've got Luther Vandross and right over here we've got a deaf leopard. Look.”

 [31] DEF LEPPARD: pour some sugar on me. Hope you like Gary Davies and Mike Smith. They're presenting the next four shows. Gary Davies is here for the next month to cover the launch of Top of the Pops USA, or Top of the Pops as the Americans obtusely insisted on calling it. Top of the Pops USA (I'm calling it that for clarity, if not accuracy, OK) launches next week (1987 time) on 25/09/1987 and Gary Davies will be providing the links for acts performing from London. Mia Peebles (no relation to Andy, or the town) will be hosting from Los Angeles (probably, I haven't actually looked up where Top of the Pops USA was made. It's bound to be Los Angeles, that's where all US Telly comes from). As mumu03 pointed out in the comments to the 06/08/1987 write up, Top of the Pops USA also accounts for a lot of Michael Hurll's absences recently -he's busy setting up the new programme.



11/10/2022

Review- Cobra Kai Season Four

 Sensei and sensibility

Some series reach their fourth season and struggle to reclaim the magic that made them a success in the first place. Not Cobra Kai. This oddball series which once seemed an unlikely excursion is now firing on all cylinders. The fourth season, which debuted at the end of last year, is the best yet. Packed with incident it manages to overcome the potential hurdle of characters constantly shifting allegiances each season by stealth every bit as impressive as the fighting scenes. Mixing old and new characters there is more than enough for both long term fans who recall the films and viewers who have just become hooked by the series. That shorter episode ten part season approach pays off every year meaning there is no slack whatsoever. 



09/10/2022

Review - Titans Season Three Eps 9 - 13

 

Titans has never looked more gothic than it does in `Souls` which could be a pilot for a spin off series. We left poor Tim Drake last episode after he’d been shot by Crane and this episode opens with him on an old fashioned steam train being bothered by an especially aggressive conductor. Also on this train is Donna Troy who of course died at the end of last season. Before long Hank turns up with a car as the other two escape the train and head into a snowy forest. We’re in a monochrome afterlife which makes a nice change to the usual grim Gotham streets. It’s best not to examine too closely just how any of this can happen- especially when they discover they can dream up weapons to fight off shadowy ghouls- and go with it. As well as being visually interesting this episode also contains some great character beats and given the subject matter some humour as well. Just listen to the song playing when Hank draws up- `Living on a Prayer`! This is intermingled with Rachel who is trying to bring Donna back to life on Paradise Island and it’s great to see so many characters back again.



07/10/2022

Top of the Pops 10 Sep 1987

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Simon Bates: “Thursday night. Welcome to Top of the Pops. We're working our way to Number One just before seven thirty. Here's Peter Powell.”

Peter Powell: “Thank you Simon! And celebrating a massive hit in the States and now in the UK! Heart and Soul! Here's T'Pau!”

 [5] T'PAU: heart and soul. Last time, in the comments, Billy Smart pointed out that [“flame-haired songstress”, © All journalists ever] Carol Decker had problems deciding whether to mime along to the main vocal track or the chanted backing track, and she jumped between the two. It's true. She does have problems choosing a lane and tends to switch depending on which is most prominent. Watching and trying to guess when she'll change becomes mildly hypnotic and maybe there should be some kind of This Way Up drinking game which involves taking a slug every time [“flame-haired temptress”] Carol switches. Now, here's your chance to earn 50,000 pop points by naming another member of T'Pau without using Google. Too late.

T'Pau have, “been in the States, at the moment, for the last ten weeks,” according to Simon Bates. So who did I see two weeks ago on Top of the Pops, Simes?

 

"Flame haired songstress"

02/10/2022

Review - Titans Season Three Eps 5 to 8

 Context is everything of course and albeit a tad late here we find out exactly what’s been going on with Jason in the excellent `Lazarus`. Arguably this would have made a great second episode even if it took way the shock of him seeming to die which was taken away in the actual second episode in any case. Essentially a four handed episode without any of the other Titans and an excellent script from Bryan Edward Hill unfurls a story of a boy trying to impress his mentor who in turns is doing his best to stop the kid getting into any more trouble. It reverses the arguments of episode one which painted Bruce as uncaring- as Dick saw him and accused him of- to reveal exactly the opposite. Stung by how his time as Robin damaged Dick, he is determined not to repeat the mistakes with Jason. The latter though, still traumatised by what happened to him in season two, thinks Bruce is trying to protect him because he’s weak and wants to show otherwise hence his attempt to confront the Joker. It’s a potent brew that bubbles constantly and includes some of the best scenes the series has so hitherto played.



29/09/2022

(Retro) Review round up: Avatar (2009), Best of Bowie (2002), The Warlord (1998)

 

Somehow, I had not seen Avatar in the thirteen years since its release neither do I really know that much about it which is curious for such a popular movie. So just before the sequel is released Avatar is back in cinemas and so I finally got to see it this week. While the digital effects look more commonplace now than they would have done in 2009 this only serves to enhance the urgency of the story. An allegory for colonialism in the past and imperialism today as well as ecological issues the subject matter is unfortunately just as relevant if not more so in 2022 even though it is set two centuries from now. There is a righteous anger that permeates the movie especially after we spend an extended period exploring the world of Pandora. It’s a beautiful planet full of jaw droppingly exotic creatures yet also the source of a much sought-after mineral. Tasked with getting to know the native Na’vi in order to persuade them to move, paralysed marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) becomes an `avatar` inhabiting a full size genetically produced Na’vi which he controls while asleep in a tank. However, he is working to double agendas. While ostensibly helping a team led by Doctor Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) to further the scientific knowledge of the planet, he’s also tasked with deadlines by the hawkish General Quaritch (Stephen Lang). Inevitably these priorities clash when Sully falls in love with the planet and with the Na’vi girl Netyri (Zoe Saldana) who shows him it’s wonders.



27/09/2022

Top of the Pops 27 Aug and 3 Sept 1987

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 
27/08/87
Gary Davies: “Hi, good evening. I hope you're well. We have a superb show for you tonight. In the studio we've got Wet Wet Wet, we've got Black, we've got T'Pau, we've got Rick Astley but first we start with a mega-band at number twenty three, Then Jerico, The Motive.

 [23] THEN JERICO: the motive. A mega-band? I vaguely remember them. The song is pleasant enough but I spend most of the performance worrying why the guitar player has a jumper wrapped round his shoulders when he's already wearing a jumper? Also, shouldn't it be spelt “Jericho”? BBC camera operators can be spotted in action as the first chorus kicks in. There's a wide camera shot of the stage which slowly pans round from stage left to the front. At the extreme left of the picture there's a hand held camera operator in a blue shirt who dashes along the front of the stage to change position. His camera cable nearly gets snagged on the head of another operator who is there capturing profile shots of lead singer Mark Shaw.

“Their first appearance on Top of the Pops,” says Gary Davies, “but be sure it's not going to be their last.” He's right. Then Jeric(h)o will pop back eighteen months in the future to perform Big Arena on an edition hosted by Gary Davies and... Anthea Turner? Oh no. Stop the world I want to get off.

 


25/09/2022

Film Review- Moonage Daydream

 

Great clips- shame about the presentation

The only likely way anyone could satisfactorily encompass the length and breadth of David Bowie’s career is a ten- part documentary series. Moonage Daydream is a two and a quarter hour long montage of some of his best bits albeit with notable omissions. The clips are great and like many a modern documentary you wish we could just watch them in the best quality possible but as ever we have a director with some ideas of his own. Brett Morgen appears to have been inspired by Bowie’s own preference for cut up imagery, mixing and matching material to create something new. It worked so well for the singer, less so when it comes to a film about him. The results are a bit of a cheat- yes you get to see some rare footage but you also have to sit through increasingly irritating visual gimmickry that makes even the `Little Wonder` video seems normal. I suppose you could say that it is an achievement to make Bowie seem less interesting than he was!

 


23/09/2022

Review - Titans Season Three Eps 1 - 4

 First shown a year ago, season three finds the series re-locating to Gotham

One of the more fascinating aspects of US episodic shows is their ability to morph into something different. Ostensibly a series about some super heroes ought to be repetitive and focussed mostly  on action but the season three opener Barbara Gordon, shoehorns most of its fight scenes into the opening section.  Now back in Gotham and Robin once again, Jason remains as hot headed as ever plus he appears to have cooked up some sort of mega inhaler of yellow stuff. Yet for all his bravado in defying Batman to confront the Joker, he falls woefully short. Flinching from the first body he finds and some manic laughter he’s easily taken down and, it seems, killed by the villain whom we only see in silhouette. This contrast vividly with the very cool re-introduction of the Titans as they take out another villainous brigade with supple skills all to the soundtrack of `Ca Plane Pour Moi`. It’s a great sequence, perfectly directed and edited. As a season opener you couldn’t ask for more.

 


19/09/2022

The Queen's Funeral

 

Pomp meets circumstance

We're watching and making history all the time of course, in small ways, and sometimes bigger ones. These past six years we’ve been privy to rather more history than most people get what with Brexit, Covid and a seemingly endless cycle of recessions. So, the death of a Queen, however long lived, may appear to be a smaller affair. Not a bit of it. Even the television coverage of Covid did stop sometimes for other matters but ever since Queen Elizabeth the second passed away BBC and ITV have had virtually non stop Royal programming. If you really wanted to you could even watch a live stream of the lying in state of the coffin, surely of all things this is something that if you wanted to see it the preference would be to actually attend? The big day though was today. Why is it even in this blog, you're asking? Simply because it is the largest event any of us are likely to see this year.





16/09/2022

Top of the Pops 20 August 1987

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Steve Wright: “Hello!! Good evening and welcome to another Top of the Pops!! I'm the one who's not pregnant!! This is the one who is!!”

Janice Long: “Lots and lots of things to get in tonight. We've got Sinitta. We've got Spagna coming on the show. Bon Jovi are here. Loads and loads of stuff and this is Wax. They are Building A Bridge.”

[20] WAX: bridge to your heart. The keyboard player is doing more than 50% of the work in this two - person band. He plays the keyboard, obviously, but he also plays the saxophone and does all the singing. He's also found time to work out little illustrative hand gestures to match the lyrics. On the line “I don't know what the future's going to be,” he looks all around with one hand shading his eyes. When he sings, “written guarantee,” he makes a signing-the-cheque motion. The other bloke doesn't bring anything to the group except guitar playing, vocal counterpoint, and a faint resemblance to Howard Stableford from Tomorrow's World. (John- The keyboard player is the genius Andrew Gold, multi- instrumentalist, producer, singer -`Lonely Boy`, `Never Let Her Slip Away`-and the son of Marnie Nixon who used to secretly provide the singing for actors such as Natalie Wood in West Side Story. The guitarist is Graham Gouldman from 10cc)



13/09/2022

Film Review: a-ha The Movie

 

Documentary shows the serious men behind a-ha’s skyscraping music

Given how majestic and serious a-ha’s music often seems it’s no surprise to discover it’s creators were serious young men back in the day and now over thirty five years later they are serious older men! It’s possible there were moments of unbridled joy during the band’s imperial period – there is definitely smiling and laughing in the old clips- but this interesting documentary suggests the trio have spent much of their career getting on each other’s nerves. That is when they’re not liking the band as a whole.



11/09/2022

Top of the Pops 13 August 1987

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. “Come on don't forget that applause.” It's BBC master tape shenanigans again, as the picture rolls in on a wide shot of the Top of the Pops studio with Five Star on stage; they seem to be dressed in Blake's 7 series four jump suits. The voice of God booms through the studio speakers while the crowd whoop and applaud, “come on don't forget that applause, more more!” Who is this cruel taskmaster? It could be Floor Manager Hilary Bevan-Jones but I think you can hear Hilary just off mike carrying out the traditional Floor Manager duty of giving a ten second countdown. So, who is this voice roaring like a lion? Could it be Producer and Director Brian Whitehouse himself? Whoever it is, they whip the crowd to a frenzy, and Five Star launch into a performance of Whenever You're Ready. The show proper follows afterwards.

Peter Powell: “Hi it's Thursday night! We're happening again! It's hit after hit! It's Top of the Pops!” Simon Bates: “I'll tell you what we have got. We've got a first time which is incredible for a band of this qualidy with this number of hits Def Leppard. On the Pops for the first time with Animal here.”

[9] DEF LEPPARD: animal. Excuse the odd typography but I've decided to copy Top Of the Pops's preferred caption format this week. It looks stupid. Will I continue with it? Who knows. Meanwhile, admire Simon Bates' ability to spout words which form sentences but need two or three attempts to parse. He's like a Chatbot jammed on stream of consciousness. And yes, he did say “qualidy”. I didn't think much of Def Leppard first time round, but time has softened me. I quite like the structure of the chorus, “an I want, an I need, an I lust, animal.”

 


09/09/2022

The Queen

 

People are often cruel, judgmental or dismissive about the Royal Family in a way that they would never be about anyone else almost as if they didn’t think they are people. I’m not a Royalist nor anti- Royals it but the Queen has been a presence throughout my entire life in such a way that I feel like I know her even though I obviously don’t. Yes, I can smile at the number of times in the past twenty four hours the BBC has deployed their stock phrases (“mother of the nation”) in sombre tones and the way websites have unveiled their black livery but I do feel this all misses the sense of fun that the Queen herself preferred. After all, one of the last pieces of footage we have of her is tapping along on a teacup to `We Will Rock You`, the Queen playing along with Queen! Or the way she gamely engaged in a little James Bond fun a decade back for the Olympics. I reckon she’d prefer to be remembered like that.



04/09/2022

Review Round Up- 13 Reasons Why S1, Kill Ben Lyk, Muse

 

One of the things of starting to stream stuff is the abundance of material available and though I subscribed to Netflix to finally see Stranger Things (some inevitable reviews will appear!) I’ve found some other gems knocking around including a series I’d always wanted to see 13 Reasons Why. Running from 2017-20 across four seasons this dark glimpse into the bruised psyche of American youth won many plaudits during its run and it’s easy to see why. While a lot of dramas take easy options when it comes to issues like mental health and suicide this is a programme that attempts a more grounded, less sanitised portrayal. It centres on the aftermath of the suicide of a girl called Hannah Baker. Her legacy is a series of cassette tapes, each one addressing the behaviour of one of the people she blames for her ultimate act. The accused have to listen to these tapes and the ramifications both of what she says and what people think happened runs across the whole season.



02/09/2022

Top of the Pops 6 August 1987

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Hello again. Welcome to Top of the Pops. Something of a girls night out on the show tonight because we've got Sinitta, we've got Samantha, and we've also got Spagnia, but first we start with a song at number seven in the charts. Not only singing live but also playing live, here's New Order, True Faith.”

[7] New Order: True Faith. Now this is odd. Last week Gary Davies didn't mention who was hosting the show. Now, here he is again, but BBC Genome (who draw their information from the relevant issue Radio Times) describe tonight's show as “introduced by Peter Powell and Simon Bates.” They'll actually do the 13/08/1987 edition which the Radio Times describes as “introduced by Gary Davies”. Last time there was a short notice change of host it was because Janice Long cancelled because of her pregnancy. Here there's no obvious reason for the change apart from a brief game of musical chairs.

New Order are back singing live and playing live. Do you think that's wise? Remember what happened last time? Actually, this performance is fine. The only real point of interest is the mannequin set up at the back of the stage for some reason. Gary Davies claims it's a bloke called Terry, from France, who is also in the video. Gary, I think the band have been pulling your leg.

 


28/08/2022

The Sandman Episodes 7 -10


Still loving Neil Gaiman’s responses to some of the more absurd criticisms of the series on Twitter. After one person slagged off a particular casting, Gaiman responded by saying they’d cast that actor specifically because that person didn’t like them! So its with respect that I open this post about the last four episodes by saying I’m not sure this show is really for me. That’s not to say it doesn’t have impressive moments but something is not connecting. Perhaps betraying that I’d not been paying enough attention to literally everything in this series I found myself a little disorientated by part seven `The Doll’s House`. I had to check I’d not accidentally skipped an episode because matters seemed to have moved on and there’s a lot happening, 

 


26/08/2022

Top of the Pops 23 and 30 July 1987

 Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.

23/07/1987: Simon Mayo: “Hi, welcome. This is Top of the Pops with a live Judy Boucher, an extremely live Shakin' Stevens, and a kind of live Janice Long.”

Janice Long: “Erm, thank you. He is slim. He is sexy. He's stunningly attractive, Boy George”

[26] Boy George: Sold. This is, as Simon Mayo says, a live edition and as always my first thought is to find out what little bonuses are stored on the master tape. There's not a huge amount at the start but what's there is nice. The picture rolls as the VT Clock hits four seconds, and we see Simon Mayo and Janice Long standing ready to introduce the programme. The audience applaud and Janice says, to someone off-screen, “strategically placed I notice.” What filth is this in TC3 at Television Centre?

Jaki Graham, Step Right Up, begins playing through the studio speakers, and the screen blanks out to a 10 second clock which will count down to the titles. It's clearly not 6.59 and 50 seconds yet because the clock holds on 10, and we hear Jaki Graham continue while Janice and Simon exchange some banter about the regional news programmes and continuity which lead into Top of the Pops. “Do we hear continuity?” Simon Mayo asks, apparently sincerely to someone, but the exchange is drowned out by laughter caused by an off microphone comment from Floor Manager Iain McLean. Simon is very concerned about the question of continuity, and asks again a couple of times, he must get an answer from someone off mike, because he then says, “it just begins,” in a slightly awed tone. This is of course his first live edition so he's probably got a touch of stage fright as he contemplates how the programme “just begins” and is beamed into millions of homes. Fortunately, the watching millions never got to hear the chorus of vigorous throat clearing which follows, I'm just glad Top of the Pops isn't being broadcast in NICAM Stereo yet.



19/08/2022

Top of the Pops- 9 and 16 July 1987

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.

9 July : Gary Davies: “It's Thursday night. It's live. We're very hot. Welcome to Top of the Pops. Actually, tonight's show rather like an ABC of pop music, we've got A-ha, we've got Black, we've got the Christians, and we start with Shakin' Stevens”.

[26] Shakin' Stevens. A Little Boogie Woogie. Simon Bates reign of terror is over. I've never been so pleased to see Gary Davies. Even if he does look a little sweaty. Evidentially the place to be on the evening of 9th July 1987 was not studio TC3 at Television Centre. If Gary looks a little sweaty, it's nothing compared to the friends Shakin' Stevens has brought along. Four half-naked and lightly oiled male dancers who leap, point, strut and caper energetically. It's certainly a memorable image. I wonder if the original intent was for Shakey to appear with female dancers and someone pointed out this was a little obvious, and then suggested the reverse. Regardless, showcasing my endless ability to be distracted by trivia I've just spent 10 minutes or so trying to work out what sort of trousers the dancers are wearing. They kind of look like the calf-length, skintight trousers that American football players wear.  Shakin' Stevens lets his dancers do most of the hard work. His knees aren't what they used to be (John- More like Rattlin’ Stevens then?). His main dance move is an air lasso motion. The song itself is king earworm. I went to bed with it rattling around in my skull and woke up with it doing the same. Listen to it at your peril.



 

15/08/2022

The Sandman Episodes 4 to 6

 

Three excellent episodes explore different moods- and the Sandman finally smiles!

It is interesting to hear that some fans of The Sandman comic book are moaning about changes to the tv series, a perennial gripe of the dedicated. Some even ask why people who’ve never read the comic (like me!) are watching.  I can see their point but tv is a different medium and needs to assert its identity. Also don’t they imagine that at least some of those people might now seek out the comic? I like Neil Gaiman’s response to all this as well- “nobody gets to gatekeep The Sandman” he said. I’ve seen this with fans of all sorts of things, even football teams, where somehow they think they know more than the actual writer or the players or whoever! And if you think this is all to avoid spoilers before the break you’d be completely right..

 SPOILERS AFTER THE BREAK