31/12/2023

Losing mum

 Warning- This post deals with subjects some people may find upsetting.

2023 is the year I lost my Mum. It was a loss that I felt particularly as I had been her primary carer for seven years though I never classed it as that till someone pointed it out. Such an endeavour inevitably took a lot of time and took its toll on me too. Mum had dementia but thankfully she was still able to converse and understand stuff. I’d been looking after her at home as best I could but after she went into hospital in May last year it soon became obvious she would not be able to return there and we had to look for a care home.

 


26/12/2023

TV Review: Doctor Who- The Church on Ruby Road

 

One thing we can be sure of is that Russell T Davies makes big, breezy Xmas specials aimed perhaps not so much at fans but the wider public so the new Doctor was actually introduced half way through the last of the three anniversary special and is (literally) up and running for this tale. No sleeping for the first half as David Tennant’s tenth Doctor did back in 2015, Ncuti Gatwa’s first full episode sees him  involved from the start adding his charisma to what is a rollicking fairground ride of an episode. As with other Xmas specials from the first RTD era, `The Church on Ruby Road` is all about action and fun and Xmas (a bit)

 


23/12/2023

Top of the Pops - 22 December 1988

 

Words: Chris Arnsby
Steve Wright: “Hi!! Good evening!! To!! Radio One listeners!! And BBC1 viewers!! How are you tonight!! I'm Steve Wright!! Here's Nicky Campbell!!”
Nicky Campbell: “A great show tonight. We've got Neneh Cherry. Kim Wilde. Jason and Kyie. We start off tonight with a bunch of guys who've been in the business longer than Steve Wright. It's The Four Tops.”

 [15] FOUR TOPS: loco in acapulco. One of those lighting in a bottle moments when the atmosphere in the studio lifts a performance and makes it something great. The Four Tops are clearly having a great time -they've come in specially from Detroit according to Steve Wright- and they look impossibly sharp in their red suits, black shirts and black shoes. I've got a soft spot for the second Top from the left. He looks absolutely delighted to be there and he's really hamming it up. The best bit of the performance comes in the instrumental. The four Tops scatter across the stage to face different parts of the crowd and do their own thing, to whoops of approval.



18/12/2023

What's with all the Nutcracker Soldiers?

 

These Xmas decorations are everywhere this year- but why?

 The thing I’ve noticed about 2023’s Xmas decorations is the ubiquitous presence of toy soldiers. Or to give them their correct name Nutcracker Soldiers. They’ve always been about but recently there seem to have been more and more of them till 2023 has seen an explosion. They are everywhere!  Every shop selling decorations has had a lot of them.  Why they have suddenly proliferated this year is something of a festive mystery but they are available in all sizes from several feet tall to small models. Over the past couple of months they’ve rivalled Xmas trees in availability and the other day I saw a full size one standing guard in the porch of a house. What is going on?

 


17/12/2023

Top of the Pops 8th and 15th December 1988

 

Words: Chris Arnsby

08/12/1988
Nicky Campbell: “Good evening and welcome to Top of the Pops. We are on Radio 1, in FM of course. We've got a show absolutely awash with talent tonight, Kylie and Jason, Angry Anderson, Cliff Richard, and of course, Caron Keating.”
Caron Keating: “What a charmer. We're starting off with something for all you rockers. Status Quo and Burning Bridges.”

 [20] STATUS QUO: burning bridges. Oh goodie. A Status Quo song. I hope it's the one that goes dun-der-dun-der-dun-der-dun-der-dun. It is! Wikipedia tells me the song is actually called Burning Bridges (On and Off and On Again). That's probably too long for the caption generator. Also, the single has a picture of Mike Tyson on the cover. No one knows why.



12/12/2023

Film Reviews: Wonka, Beyonce - Renaissance

 

In the best possible way Wonka is an old fashioned film whose central character doesn’t bear many similarities to the sour chocolatier we are familiar with. If it’s difficult to see how Willy Wonka, here breezily, relentlessly optimistic, became that character in later life so perhaps that’s a story for another film. This one presents him as youthfully idealistic in pursuing his dream of selling his special chocolates. When he gets to the city he is constantly undermined by formidable opposition from a trio of established manufacturers who have the market (and the city’s authorities) in their pockets by bribing them with their chocolate. Oh and it’s a musical which the trailers are ambiguous about, not the first time this has happened with recent films. Its also tremendous fun.

 


10/12/2023

TV Review: Doctor Who - The Giggle

 

Things don't stay the same for long in the Whoniverse these days and there are several interesting developments in this episode which is something of a game of two halves. The first half follows the series’ conventional approach for contemporary stories with a big threat, a supervillain, and some powerful visuals. Then something happens during the second half wherein the story takes a bold right turn that will no doubt irritate some fans. Then again we don’t want the programme to be too predictable do we?

 


Spoilers aplenty after the break

04/12/2023

Top of the Pops 1988 Triple Bill!

 

Words: Chris Arnsby

17/11/1988
Gary Davies: “Hello. Good evening and welcome to Top of the Pops. You know, the last time my friend Susie Mathis appeared on Top of the Pops was in 1968 with a group called The Paper Dolls.”
Susie Mathis: “But I was only seven at the time Gary. Mind you, they must have been impressed because they asked me back twenty years later.”
Gary Davies: “Well it's good to see you back. We've got a great show for you. We start off with who?”
Susie Mathis: “Start off with Yazz at number two.”

 [2] YAZZ: stand up for your love rights. Who is Susie Mathis? Gary Davies is right. She did indeed appear on Top of the Pops in 1968 as part of a trio called The Paper Dolls.

The group made three appearances with a song called Something Here In My Heart; 28/03/68, 11/04/1968 and 18/04/1968. I don't understand how they made two back-to-back appearances when they weren't at Number One. The Paper Dolls were back once more on 21/11/1968 to sing their less successful follow up song, Someday. Then, after a few more unsuccessful songs the group split in 1970.

Susie Mathis moved on and joined Manchester's Piccadilly Radio in 1979. The same year as Gary Davies. She had a decent radio and television career, including an eight week stint on Radio 2, in May and June 1986, in the sleepy 4-6am slot.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Susie Mathis is here. Gary Davies describes her as a friend and I think we can take him at his word. I can't help feeling he's the √©minence grise, arranging for her to be booked at a time when Top of the Pops was trying out new hosts and also as possible to the twentieth anniversary of her last appearance.

Meanwhile, Yazz is repeated from her performance on 03/11/1988.



02/12/2023

TV Review: Doctor Who - Wild Blue Yonder

 

Shrouded in mystery by modern standards (no plot leaks, no full cast list, a vague trailer, just a few photos, quotes about how unusual it is) this episode has been the subject of assorted rumours in the week leading up to today. You know what, this is a good and rare thing these days. When even teaser trailers can ruin some surprises it makes a pleasant change to approach something with no real knowledge of what is about to unfold. Pre Internet, pre smartphones most things were like this, now its very difficult to keep secrets. If you’ve seen the episode, you'll know it's worth watching without knowing what happens so if you haven't then the review that follows reveals things...



Spoilers ahoy after the break


29/11/2023

Film Review- Napoleon

 

Napoleon Bonaparte is an iconic figure whose story we feel we know and in a sense we do. Ridley Scott’s ambitious biopic aims to corral his busy life into a little over two and a half hours, a length that would suffice most movies but which seems to make this one rather piecemeal. Then I found out that there’s a four hour version to be made available for streaming soon and that is probably going to be a more complete and probably more satisfying look at his life. Napoleon seems to get an easier ride than history’s other dictators and this movie does little to draw attention to the fact he was a villain in his story however you slice it.

 


25/11/2023

TV Review: Doctor Who- The Star Beast

 

Good goodness me, Russell T Davies, David Tennant and Catherine Tate are back, Back, BACK!! Like some multi- million selling band that split for a while they have reformed for a limited time only kickstarting a period that someone amusingly dubbed RTD2 which is just something we all wish we’d thought of, right? This opening episode of a Tennant trilogy doesn’t even have to be that good really. It just has to exist and people are happy before they’ve seen a second of it. I know I am. Yet I’m also a little puzzled. What can this team do that they didn’t do thirteen or more years back? Subsequent showrunners and many other programmes have tried their best to match the sheer brio which RTD1 gave Doctor Who yet none have quite been able to match the thrills, spectacle, emotion and character. So just like that great old band getting back together again for a victory lap do our triumphant trio focus on that illustrious past or try out some new material?

 


Lots of spoilers after the break…

 

21/11/2023

Film Review- Saltburn

 

A movie whose opening credits are backed up by the pomp of `Zadok the Priest` is clearly going to be somewhat off the scale and Saltburn is definitely that. It is quite an eccentric film that is by turns serious, odd and funny. I’m not sure it always knows quite what it wants to be (this is a good thing) but as the blurb describes it as a psychological comedy I’ll go with that. I do know it is very interesting and also difficult to review without letting slip its ultimate destination. I’m not sure it goes far enough sometimes, at other times it seems the opposite but a story like this demands a slightly messy film because messy is interesting.

 


20/11/2023

Top of the Pops 10 November 1988

 

Words: Chris Arnsby

Bruno Bookes: “Hello. Welcome to Europe's number one TV pop show this is Top of the Pops and a moment of broadcasting history as I stand one inch taller than my co-presenter Sybil Ruscoe.” 
Sybil Ruscoe: “Thank you very much shorty. Good evening. No competition for them this week. Brother Beyond.”
Bruno Bookes: “... [inaudible]... get this, brilliant.”

 [8] BROTHER BEYOND: he ain't no competition. Sybil Ruscoe? The name rings a bell. BBC Genome has reminded me that Simon Mayo hosted the Breakfast Show with Sybil Ruscoe and Rod McKenzie. In fact, checking Genome more thoroughly, Ruscoe and McKenzie only seem to have been credited in the Radio Times from around 10/10/1988. Before that they were just mentioned in the listing as “the Breakfast crew.” If that is correct then Sybil Ruscoe has done well to parley that credit so quickly into a Top of the Pops hosting gig. When can we expect Rod McKenzie?



15/11/2023

Why don't more people use an umbrella?

 Once upon a time most people used an umbrella. People took them along if they went out just in case of  a shower. Anyone who worked in an office would often carry a lengthy one – the image of bowler hatted gents striding along with an umbrella even on a sunny day- is an enduring one. It is after all one of the uncontradictable facts that it’s frequently raining in Britain whatever the time of year and when that happens British people used to do one thing. They would produce an umbrella from their pocket or bag or they’d just be carrying one. The high street was packed with umbrellas jostling for position as they are inevitably wider than the average person. The etiquette was that you would get out of the way for every other person and they would reciprocate. Now though if it starts to pour umbrellas are rarely to be seen even if it’s the middle of winter. Even if it’s not windy. So is the humble umbrella disappearing into extinction and if so why, what can be done or indeed if anything does need to be done?

 


13/11/2023

Top of the Pops 3 Nov 1988

 

Words: Chris Arnsby.
Nicky Campbell: “Good evening. Welcome to another star-studded edition of Top of the Pops we've got Tanita Tikaram, we've got Yaz, and let me tell you no expense has been spared, we have got Mark Goodier.”
Mark Goodier: “Oh-ho. And everything on Radio One in FM stereo. We start tonight with a welcome back to the charts for Gloria Estefan, One Two Three.”

 [24] GLORIA ESTEFAN & MIAMI SOUND MACHINE: 1-2-3. Observe the way Mark Goodier raises his microphone and then lowers it as Nicky Campbell starts talking. Did Mark forget how the introduction went or is Nicky Campbell cutting in?

I don't really have anything interesting or insightful to say about 1-2-3. It's one of those songs I remember being played to death on the radio(in FM stereo, natch) but the rhythms of Gloria Estefan, who now takes top billing over the Miami Sound Machine, never really thrilled me.

 


12/11/2023

Film Review - The Marvels

 

Whilst The Marvels is undoubtedly a lighter entry in the ever- lengthening franchise, that’s not to say its without strong content or merit. For one thing its notable in that four of its five main characters are female which happens without any particular agenda on display and its often funny without being frivolous. 

Spoilers after the break...

 


09/11/2023

War and Peace (1972) Parts 19 & 20

 

Episode Nineteen- The Road to Life

An episode that shows the aftermath of the war once the French have been expelled from Russia culminates in a ceremony to honour General Kutusov whereas behind closed doors we see the Tsar expressing some dissatisfaction as to the way the campaign was conducted. The old man ends up having to agree that he needs to retire as the Tsar decides he will lead the army from now on. Frank Middlemass is often an actor of large gestures but his work in this scene is subtly still yet with just a hint of the disdain the Marshal clearly feels towards the country’s ruler. Outside a grand ball continues as if nothing has happened in recent years.



08/11/2023

War and Peace (1972) Parts 15 to 18

 

Episode Fifteen- Moscow!

“He’s caught his bear but he’s trapped in the cage with it” is Marshal Kutusov’s accurate opinion of Napoleon’s situation. We see the French Emperor arrive in Moscow feeling he can be generous in victory, talking of a strict but compassionate regime and he quickly sends for dignitaries to speak to. He soon learns the truth that anyone of rank has left the city in the hands of looters and arsonists determined to let Moscow burn rather than allow the French to properly occupy it. It is a gripping opening alright as Napoleon struts around a very grand room – yet another impressive set- and declares he will have his office here even though the place is the size of a small church and similarly decorated. Yet his confidence soon turns to anger and its noticeable that his ideas shift with every development which his Generals can all  see. It’s a well calibrated performance from David Swift who revels in Napoleon’s force of will yet shows his frustrations too.



06/11/2023

Waterloo (1970)

 

In preparation for the shortly to be released Napoleon film directed by Ridley Scott, I thought I’d re-watch the benchmark against which any movie involving the subject should be judged. While only covering a comparatively brief period in the renowned Bonaparte's busy life, the 1970 film Waterloo, despite its title, is mostly about him. It also remains one of the most epic films of all time; its count of 17,000 extras is still a record for any film. Yet it is the way that these assets are deployed that makes Waterloo memorable. One of those big Rod Steiger performances combined with battle sequences that feel as it drones had been deployed to film them is must-see material for anyone who thinks digital effects are essential to create spectacle. At the same time Waterloo is a film that does not forget the horror and cost of war. We may admire the artistry but this is a reminder that every era brings terrible conflict.

 


05/11/2023

Top of the Pops 20th + 27th October 1988

 Words: Chris Arnsby

20/10/1988
Steve Wright: “Hello!! Hello!! Good evening and welcome to another exciting edition of Top of the Pops!! This is Caron Keating!!”
Caron Keating: “And this is a presenter I made earlier. We start off tonight with this week;s number three. It's D-Mob featuring Gary Haisman and We Call It Acieed.”
Steve Wright: “Acieed!!”

[3] D·MOB FEATURING GARY HAISMAN we call it acieed. On video.

A video, first in the show? Who's directing this thing? It's Brian Whitehouse, back to claim the chair of the Director and the chair of the Producer; one buttock to each presumably.This is an odd show with a strange running order. There are nine songs featured but only two are new studio performances, of the rest two are repeats and the other five are videos. What's going on? Was no one available? Did no one want to be in the studio when Steve Wright pulled a face and shrieked “acieed!!” I don't blame them.

Caron Keating makes a good host and like Andy Crane she uses use her presenting experience to appear natural and confident in front of the camera; in her first link she's effortlessly more assured and likeable than Steve Wright.



03/11/2023

Reviews- The Beatles final song & Taylor Swift's Eras tour film

 Past and present icons..

 The Beatles? Didn’t they break up fifty- three years ago? Well in a way they did but in another way they have never and will never break up. The Beatles will always be with us and future generations. That’s quite a weight for the Fab Four to carry and means that however much they did or continue to do they can never escape that legacy. Increasingly as they reach their eighties the two remaining Fabs seem all too eager to embrace it hence the strong concept of a new Beatles song featuring their sadly long deceased colleagues. In a way this is a superb meeting of past and present, a temporal collection from 1978, 1984 and 2022 stitched together complete with a video to boot. Now we all recall the somewhat underwhelming last `new` Beatles songs which were, with the best intentions, slightly thin for such legends. They sounded like out takes that you’d leave off an album or in the old days use as B Sides. `Now and Then` with its spot-on title reflecting not just the lyric but the circumstances is much better.

 




01/11/2023

War and Peace (1972) Parts 12 to 14

 

Episode Twelve- Fortunes of War

The rigour with which this story tackles different aspects of war yet also seamlessly draws together the different characters is never more evident than in this episode. Without showing us any actual fighting the impact of the campaign is illustrated in a number of ways. There is an impressive early shot of the French advance filmed with hand held cameras that has a quality like news footage you’d expect in modern productions. Almost casually the camera picks up more and more soldiers in the distance showing the size of the invading army. Once again the modern viewer has to remember that this is not digitally created- all those extras were actually present. It is so authentic looking I was half expecting a reporter to be brought into shot describing the advance!




31/10/2023

Liverpool River of Light 2023 Pix

 This week is the annual River of Light festival with displays dotted around the River Mersey waterfront and here's some pictures and videos from the event...


25/10/2023

War and Peace (1972) Parts 8 to 11

 

Episode Eight- A Beautiful Tale

It is not just battles that this series stages impeccably. This episode’s centrepiece is a lavish ball which is the most impressive example of such an event I have seen done in a tv drama series. Usually with this sort of thing you get a handful of dancers shot close up to avoid revealing the limited number of extras or space available. It is meant to give the impression of there being many more participants but often you can tell there aren’t.  Here we have dozens of dancers gliding about in a vast room and just to ensure we know it, we see the shot from all angles. Sometimes the camera is ceiling height looking down on the symmetry of it all, other times we’re deep in the dance following people round. There’s no stinting on the soundtrack either with a large set of musicians playing what are presumably authentic period pieces. As a way of making you feel as if you are there it is superbly constructed. Yet the finished scenes do not feel over organised or placed; instead there is still the feel of people enjoying themselves despite the formal nature of the dances and the bright lights. In fact not even some movies can marshall such an impressive display.



24/10/2023

Top of the Pops 13 October 1988

 

Words: Chris Arnsby.
Bruno Brookes: “Good evening. Thursday night means Top of the Pops. Europe's number one TV pop show.”
Gary Davies: “We've got a knockout show for you. We start off with a great record. It's been twenty one years since PP Arnold first appeared on Top of the Pops. This week she's the highest climber together with the Beatmasters. At number sixteen, this is Burn It Up.”

 [16] BEATMASTERS WITH P·P· ARNOLD: burn it up. Brian Whitehouse is still clinging in there as Producer, but Tony Newman is back for a second go as Director after his first try on 29/09/1988 was deemed acceptable. Burn It Up starts off with a voiceover from PP Arnold and Tony Newman gets Vision Mixer Carol Abbott to combine a wide shot of the studio with a big close up of PP Arnold, which makes her giant head loom over the audience. It's a simple effect but a good one.



 

18/10/2023

War and Peace (1972) Parts 4 to 7

 Episode Four- A Letter and Two Proposals

It’s easy to imagine the narrative of part 4 re-worked for a sitcom as it deals with two young people whose elders are attempting to push them into marriage which, in different ways, neither is ready for. Yet in the end the choices they make are unexpected. The intelligent Pierre is ultimately railroaded into an engagement proposal he doesn’t even actually make; rather it’s Vasili Kuragin who congratulates him and his own daughter Helene on it! He is less successful though with his son Anatole whom he tries to interest Maria Bolkonskya in only for the marriage to be rejected by her. While the episode starts with alot of material that seems like old fashioned frippery, it’s very cleverly constructed contrasting the two situations and held together by Basil Henson’s wonderfully arch expressions.


16/10/2023

Top of the Pops 6 October 1988

 

Words: Chris Arnsby. Simon Mayo: “Hello. Welcome to Top of the Pops. Back in our proper time slot on Radio 1FM and on BBC1. Featuring the return of Radio 1's new night time merchant.”

Richard Skinner: “Yes indeed Simon. Including in today's programme we have Erasure, we have Rick Astley [Simon Mayo plays with Richard Skinner's hair]... mmm, lovely haircut,  and this lot, The Pasadenas...”
Simon Mayo: “Yes.”
Richard Skinner: “...Riding on a Train.”



 

13/10/2023

My Latest Book...

 

Aintnoway. I’ve somehow managed to write another novel. I know it is of limited interest to most people who view this blog as its aimed at the so called young adult market but other people might like it. And if you know any young adults who like to read. Anyway its taken about a year which considering what sort of a year I’ve had is really surprising. Then again while writing may tap into your own life but it can also provide a refuge from the worst parts of it. It’s a book about grief, loss, loneliness, giant swordfish, the Moon and a three hundred and twenty year old Cardinal. This is the cover created from my concept by the talented Glendon Haddix of Streetlight Graphics, an image which I hope the target audience would describe as “fire”.

 


Available on Amazon in print and Kindle ebook format  HERE

11/10/2023

War and Peace (1972) Parts 1 to 3

Let's get epic...

Leo Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace has become shorthand for a story that is almost impossible to get through. It is the sort of enormous novel you start reading with intent multiple times but never finish. I’ve never even tried to read War and Peace so I decided to watch an ambitious attempt to bring the epic to life that was shown by the BBC across twenty episodes totalling fifteen hours weekly from late September 1972. It took several months because this is not some eight part Netflix sensation to be binged in one night that’s for sure!

Three years in production including twelve month's location filming the serial includes battle sequences, a large cast, a zillion extras and a timespan to match the novel. Shot in what was then Yugoslavia (using members of that country’s territorial army) and the UK it is nowadays best known as featuring Anthony Hopkins in his breakthrough role. The adaptation is by Jack Pulman and has a theme tune of the Russian Imperial anthem yet everyone speaks English of course! The serial was prestigious enough to even get its own Radio Times Special magazine (a rare honour) clips of which are scattered amongst these posts. 

It’s a series like no other with a considerably larger budget than other historical dramas of the day- compared to say Elizabeth R’s tight direction which hides a small number of extras, War and Peace literally has armies at its disposal. The scope of the outdoor scenes and the battles is immense, as well mounted as any feature film of the day. If some of the interiors can seem a tad stagey there is a rich cast to draw on and some sparkling performances to enjoy

For all its ambition the series wasn't an instant classic receiving a mixed critical reception at the time. It’s been called too slow or even dull and criticised for casting some actors who were too old for the characters they were portraying. Poor Morag Hood came in for particular criticism as the then nearly thirty year old had to initially appear as a thirteen year old. It is said the battle sequences plod – though some have pointed out this is a more accurate representation of the realities of warfare. At a time when a prestigious production like this might be expected to pull in ten to twelve million viewers it drew half of that and some episode fell below two million. It probably didn’t help that the first episode is largely talky and frivolous and it may have been advantageous for the events of part two to be shown first.

So how does this epic, now more than fifty years old, pan out? Only one way to find out..

Scans from the Radio Times Special publication which accompanied the serial.



08/10/2023

Film Review: Living (2022)

 

Bill Nighy always gives a good performance and sometimes an exceptional one and this 2022 film directed by Oliver Hermanus is one of those occasions. He plays Mr Williams, a senior official at the Public Works department at London County Council in 1953. Long widowed with an adult son, he is deeply embedded in his job yet it is one he undertakes without passion. Indeed, the entire department seems hidebound by procedure shown in the example of a group of women trying to get permission and funding for a children’s playground. In a sequence early on we see their application being passed from Mr Williams’s department through several others before ending back on his desk to be “kept here.” In other words, nothing will come of it. The women are persistent enough to keep returning but is seems to make little difference. I think we can all empathise with that sort of bureaucracy even today!

 


06/10/2023

Top of the Pops 29 September 1988

 Words: Chris Arnsby.
Gary Davies: “Hello. Good evening. A very good evening to you. Welcome to Top of the Pops. Not only on BBC1 but also in stereo on Radio 1.”
Mark Goodier: “And a special hello to you if you're in south Wales, or the south west, because you've got Top of the Pops in stereo for the first time tonight on 98.7. That's your frequency. Check it out”
Gary Davies: “And what a show we've got for you. We start off with a new entry at number thirty eight. I Don't Belive in Miracles. Here's Sinitta.”

 [38] SINITTA: i don't believe in miracles. There's a new name on the credits. Top of the Pops this week was Directed by Tony Newman, appropriate name. Stanley Appel is away. Brian Whitehouse is away. Paul Ciani is not away, but apparently this week he's only got enough time to Produce the show.



04/10/2023

Film Review: The Creator

 

Artificial Intelligence is getting a bad rap of late both in fiction and also increasingly alarmist studies suggesting that the stuff of fantasy movies and books in which our machines rise up and replace us could become reality. Might that happen?  I’ve no idea but it is certainly intriguing enough to make a film like The Creator feel closer to home. It explores a possible way in which our interaction with something we've created can take unexpected paths yet is more optimistic than you might expect.



 Spoilers after the break...

03/10/2023

Top of the Pops 15 & 22 September 1988

 

Double Bill! words: Chris Arnsby

15/09/1988

Simon Mayo: “Hi and welcome to Top of the Pops. Live on BBC1 and FM Radio 1 as well. A happy show because we've got some brilliant bands but a sad one 'cause it's Peter Powell's last show. Ahh.”
Peter Powell. “So in that case we've got to make it the best show going! And it's with great delight that on the Pops tonight, they've flown all the way back from Italy to be on! Here's Bros!!”

 [4] BROS: i quit. Paul Ciani is away. And now Stanley Appel is also away. Has he quit? No, he's got two other Light Entertainment programmes to supervise; a new series of Blankety Blank and a new series called I've Got a Secret. Who is left to sit in the chair with Producer and Director stamped, in Helvetica Neue, on the back? Welcome back Brian Whitehouse. Not seen since 17/12/1987.

And what of Mr Powell himself? He's quitting just shy of his 12th anniversary of hosting “the Pops!” His first show was on 03/11/1977 when Abba was at Number One with Name of the Game. This is interesting (wait, come back) because his first stint on Radio 1 doesn't seem to have been until three weeks later, on Sunday 20/11/1977; unless anyone can get more meaningful results from BBC Genome. He's off soon from Radio 1FM as well, 25/09/1988 will be the date of his last show. To be replaced by a Sunday breakfast show with Liz Kershaw and Mark Goodier.



29/09/2023

Brighton pix

 I went to Brighton for a few days last week and here's some pictures. Yes, I've been too busy to write anything since. And Brighton's great.


24/09/2023

Film Reviews - Dazed and Confused@30, A Haunting in Venice

 

Looking back on Dazed and Confused (in cinemas again to celebrate thirty years since its release) is almost like looking back on one’s past.  A slow burn success, partly due to misleading marketing, it’s charms have only become apparent to a wider audience as time went by and perhaps because it contains early performances by the likes of Mathew McConaughey, Ben Affleck and Parker Posey.  They are part of a tapestry that depicts the last day and night of a typical American high school summer semester in 1976, the Bicenntial year though there is no celebration of that, not even from the teachers.. You might say- as some have- that nothing happens in this film when in fact it is packed with small incidents it’s just that events unfurl at an unfussy natural pace. These are not our personal memories of such a formative time yet they seem as if they are.  Nowadays this sort of filmmaking is much more commonplace than it was in 1993 so in some ways the film may not seem as groundbreaking now.



18/09/2023

Top of the Pops 9 Sep 1988

 

Words; Chris Arnsby

[But first, a bit relating to last week's show and the great stereo switch on. Over at https://www.mixcloud.com/espeee/top-of-the-pops-1st-september-1988-with-steve-wright-mark-goodier-radio-1-fm-stereo-switch-on/ there's a recording from Radio 1 on the big day, just before Top of the Pops begins. Steve Wright briefly interviews producer & director “Stan” Appel, and Ian McLean the floor manager, and Mark King from Level 42. You get to hear how TotP was integrated into the Radio 1FM schedule and at the end there's the latest news from 1988].

 Mike Read: “Yes. Top of the Pops time again. Not only that but we're in FM stereo on Radio 1. And tonight, with me, the semi-legendary Andy Crane.”
Andy Crane: “You're too kind. Later in the show we've Britain's brand new number one but to get things underway, Mark Almonds and La Magia and Tears Run Rings.”

 

 


15/09/2023

Reviews- One Piece eps 5 - 8

 

Just two weeks after debuting on Netflix, the notoriously reluctant -to- renew  streamer has actually granted this show a second season. Looking at the analytics its easy to see why- the show was Netflix’s number one in eighty-four countries beating recent high water marks such as season four of Stranger Things or the first series of Wednesday. Of course it does have the benefit of already being a globally recognised brand and has potential beyond that too when you consider its more accessible than either of those other shows especially to younger viewers. What it’s success may also open up is a rich seam of manga adaptations perhaps taking some of the territory currently occupied by comic interpretations? Is this a sea change? Well let’s not get ahead of ourselves but I’m pleased that a series I like has actually been renewed by Netflix for a change after the Lockwood and Co debacle. Mind you the figures do show what it takes to get that elusive renewal. Popularity in a handful of places- even if they are the US and the UK- is just not enough. Nothing less than a global reach will do.



13/09/2023

Top of the Pops 1 Sep 1988

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.
Mark Goodier: “Hello and welcome...”
Steve Wright: “Hello!!”
Mark Goodier: “... to a very special Top of the Pops tonight because it's the first ever nation-wide stereo simulcast.
Steve Wright: “The man speaks the truth!! And here are the frequencies!! In Central Scotland at 98.6!!
Mark Goodier: “Yup, 98.6”.
Steve Wright: “In the north at 98.8 FM!!”
Mark Goodier: “98.8”.
Steve Wright: “And in the Midlands at 98.4 FM now!!”
Mark Goodier: “98.4”.
Steve Wright: “[to the crowd] Shut up you lot!!”
Mark Goodier: “Brilliant. So make sure you turn down the TV sounds, switch up Radio 1 FM...”
Steve Wright: “Woo!!”
Mark Goodier: “... and hear crystal clear stereo Top of the Pops. Now our first band tonight have been away for a long time. Welcome them back. Straight in to 18 at the chart, Level 42.”

 [18] LEVEL 42: heaven in my hands. Paul Ciani is away. As mumu03 pointed out in a comment under the 18/08/1988 write up, Ciani is tending to one of the other plants in his Light Entertainment garden, Call My Bluff. Recording a new series which would start broadcasting at the end of October. While looking up the dates on BBC Genone I came across a Christmas 1975 programme he produced for BBC2, Great Big Groovy Horse. “A rock-musical romp through the legend of The Wooden Horse of Troy.” That's a new entry at the top of my list of programmes I want to see about the Wooden Horse of Troy, beating out the Doctor Who story The Myth Makers.

 


06/09/2023

Reviews- One Piece eps 1- 4, new Sigur Ros album

 

Another month brings another big Netflix launch but curiously of a title I -and I’m sure many others- have never heard of. One Piece is an adaptation of a manga comic whose sales it is claimed make it one of the top ten most read books ever. Its been adapted before as an animated series and now Netflix has lavished considerable resources on this live action version.  The first eight episodes can now be watched; each around an hour long, each containing considerable spectacle. Its about a band of juvenile `pirates` in an unnamed land who join in a race for a fabled treasure called the One Piece. What they lack in age or experience they make up for with assorted skills enabling them to overcome a series of mad pirates.

 


02/09/2023

Top of the Pops 25 Aug 1988

 

Words: Chris Arnsby
Gary Davies: “Hi. We're very glad to see you. Welcome to another Top of the Pops. On the show tonight it's all the Bs, we have Breathe, Brother Beyond, and Baz and the Plastic Population.”
Nicky Campbell: “Er... but we don't have Princess Beatrix quite yet but what we do have is a brilliant British band, Big Country.”
Gary Davies: “Yeah!”

 [16] BIG COUNTRY: king of emotion. Let's take a moment to admire the opening view of the studio. Gary Davies and Nicky Campbell are both together on one of the studio bridges and a handheld camera is used to grab a shot of the pair with the studio and audience in the background.

Paul Ciani is away and it's interesting to see Stanley Appel quietly ditch the elements of the show he doesn't like. Paul Ciani's first week off was 11/08/1988 and instantly gone was the (admittedly daft) insistence on splitting the two hosts to introduce the show from separate parts of the studio. Bruno Brookes and Liz Kershaw were allowed to get together, whereas the previous week Janice Long and Mark Goodier were on different stages. Gone also, Paul Ciani's tendency to treat the video played over the closing titles as an extended Breaker.

 


28/08/2023

Top of the Pops 18 August 1988

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Simon Mayo: “Hi. Welcome to Top of the Pops and we have tonight, we have Chris Rea, we also have Fairground Attraction, and Yazz, and also with his curls cut off, Mike Read.”
Mike Read: “Absolutely. The first group up tonight, really really good, went to see them a few weeks ago live, they are great, Aztec Camera, Working in a Goldmine.”

 [31] AZTEC CAMERA: working in a goldmine. Paul Ciani is still away and Stanley Appel is in the “produced and directed by” seat.

I'm not going to beat around the bush. Cumulatively this is one of the flattest episodes of Top of the Pops I've seen for a while. Individually none of the songs tonight are bad but one after they other they flop onto a pile and lay there; or, maybe I was just tired after a day at work.



23/08/2023

Blue Beetle film review

 

This film was apparently originally intended to go directly onto to streaming yet thankfully has ended up on the big screen where it actually belongs. There is a case though that it might have benefitted from being released in a less crowded period which is replete with superhero and action movies but I’ve given up trying to discern DC’s motives which are as opaque and contradictory as Elon Musk's. Is this the last of the old universe or the first of the new one? Never mind about that, instead let’s enjoy this quirky origin story that is essentially untied from all that baggage and given a chance to stand on its own two feet. Or however many feet beetles have. Yes, there are elements of the plot that you will correctly guess long before they happen and yet the overall package is so likeable and frantic, so well performed and constructed that you can overlook such things and just enjoy it.





20/08/2023

Top of the Pops 11 August 1988

 

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.

Bruno Brookes: “Hello and welcome to Europe's number one TV pop show. This is Top of the Pops and 'ere's Liz with her 'andbag. What's in yer 'andbag Liz?”
Liz Kershaw: “Me [?] and me Mint Imperials. And I'm gonna dance round it. Like to this one. This week's number twenty six, Mica Paris and Courtney Pine. Like Dreamers Do.”
Bruno Bookes: “Yeah.” 

[26] MICA PARIS/COURTNEY PINE: like dreamers do. The revolving door of Top of the Pops presenters spins on. Janice Long leaves and Liz Kershaw arrives. For one week. This is her only hosting shift. Although, ominously, in 1990 the final act of the 22/11/1990 show is something called Bruno & Liz & the Radio 1 D.J. Posse with Let's Dance. Luckily I've got around two years to prepare. It sounds awful.

 


 

18/08/2023

Film reviews - Gran Turismo and Heart of Stone

 

The long absent Neil Blomkamp (its eight years since the under rated Chappie) returns with what may seem like an artistic left turn but in fact it suits his style perfectly. It may be a movie made in the tradition of `unlikely hero trying to beat the odds` but the director’s sensibility steers it cleverly between hazards. While filmmakers have recently been discovering better ways to adapt video games for the big screen in the case of Gran Turismo there is a readymade true-life story that forms the basis of this movie. You might watch it and think it unlikely but most of what we see happened and as a film its excitingly rendered whether you know the story or not.