29 January, 2007

Black Wednesday: The Movie

An opportunity seems to be presenting itself for British acting talent to go on winning awards for ever, solely off the back of latterday dramatisations of historic talking points.

As such, clearly a successor project to The Queen is required as soon as possible. And the ideal scenario is surely a screen recreation of the events leading up to and surrounding Black Wednesday.

Heading the cast as John Major would be, of course, Peter Davidson: perfect for playing the put-upon open-faced everyman very much the victim of events and other people's machinations. Norman Lamont would have to be somebody with a penchant for playing unlikeable buffoons; Warren Clarke seems the most agreeable option here. Michael Heseltine, meanwhile, would need to be a smooth charmer. In other words, Peter Egan.

As for supporting cast, Stephen Fry would make a suitably capricious Kenneth Clarke, Paula Wilcox could be Norma Major (recreating the screen partnership of Fiddlers Three) and David Tennant could fatten-up De Niro-style to play John Smith.

Finally there'd be a cameo from Kelvin McKenzie as himself for the bit where John Major rings him up and Kelvin informs him of how "I've got this big bucket of shit and I'm about to tip it all over your head."

28 January, 2007

Slow, slow, quick quick slow

Hearing Blur's 'Sunday Sunday' on the radio earlier today served as a reminder of how rare it is - still - to encounter singles that speed up and/or slow down in the middle. It's even rarer for such tempo-tampering efforts to be a success; the boss of Blur's record label boomed "you can't have a hit single which speeds up in the middle", and, in that particular brass-band-knees-up-shoutathon instance, he was right.

Nonetheless there have been a few others which have defied logic, convention and a nation's preference for songs that stick in the same metre and preferably have a beat you can clap along with at the start of each bar like you see all those people in Union Jack plastic hats doing at the Last Night Of The Proms. In reverse order of ubiquity:

'Dear Jessie' is effortlessly proceeding on its graceful, charming, pink elephants-and-lemonade way before - yikes! It's a bit of Viennese waltz whimsy, and you're suddenly up and dancing round the room. "Close your eyes/sleepy head/Is it time/for your bed?" From back when Madge knew what a tune was and knew how to sing it.

"They said to me, Lionel, you can't have a hit single which speeds up in the middle." And they were wrong! 'Say You, Say Me' is unquestionably the man's finest hour, not just for its nifty metre-mayhem (complete with weird electric guitar noodling) but also the only documented use of the word "masquerade" in an American chart topper, plus the classy video with Lionel conducting a battery of spotlights with his bare hands.

Is there nothing this man can't do? Bend an ear to 'Live And Let Die', with not one, not two, but three different sections all in different times! Exhibit A: the moody, wistful opening bit with that "ever changing world" line that's always getting folk in an online kerfuffle. Exhibit B: the howling madness that follows, replete with screaming sliding strings and Obligatory 007 Orchestral Hits. Exhibit C: blimey, it's not only a spot of reggae funk! See also 'Listen To What The Man Said' which slows down right at the end for a bit of pedestrian sax-lead wigging out.

The section in 'Come On Eileen' where everything grinds to a halt, stops for breath then slowly winds itself up again. It's the only bit in the song where you can actually understand the words and, as such, the only bit where, whenever and whatever the context it's being played, everyone joins in.

You couldn't call it unexpected. There are probably tons of examples on all those preposterously-titled 70s albums, but three obvious ones spring to mind: 'Don't Stop Me Now', with Fred doing a bit of stately crooning at the pianoforte both before and after the manic main action; 'Bohemian Rhapsody', with a million and one time changes, all of them shameless; and 'Flash', chugging along nicely until - yup - Fred interrupts with his keyboard yet again to remind us how the titular tyke is "just a man, with a man's courage". Grrr - get back to the samples, dammit! "Dispatch Warlock and Ajax to bring back his body..."

25 January, 2007

Photo clippage #3

The most important man in light entertainment. And Noel Edmonds.

24 January, 2007

Palin's progress

The Beeb seemed to take on the guise of an absent-minded Charlie Drake-esque professor in the late 70s, putting things down then forgetting what it'd done with them or neglecting to look after previously cherished possessions only to find them gone astray when its back was turned. There's a great entry in Michael Palin's recently-published 1969-79 diaries which superbly sums up the whole state of affairs:

"Thursday, June 29th 1978
...Drive through the rain to TV Centre. Terry Hughes disappears, and some time later, when we've finally got the BBC video machine to work (this takes four or five people, secretaries, window cleaners etc.), Terry emerges from Jimmy Gilbert's office and, in an urgent whispered aside, tells us that Bruce Forsyth has just signed for ITV, and that Jimmy is in a state of utter confusion and trying to write a press release."

Just a few months before Morecambe and Wise went missing, prompting nothing less than a emergency meeting of the Board of Governors, details of which have for some reason just been obtained by someone at the Independent who was clearly bored after the Christmas holiday. The highlight of these minutes is obviously when the BBC Chairman Michael Swann, in an unusually perceptive remark, wonders whether Eric'n'Ern had "perhaps passed their best?"

If you still haven't done so, you'd be wise to invest in a copy of Palin's magnificent tome. It's the kind of size and weight that thankfully precludes you attempting to read it anywhere other than inside your own home in a large and comfortable chair positioned in good light and relative silence where you can give it the attention and respect it deserves. Plus it has entries like this:

"Tuesday, April 14th 1970
At the BBC there was nowhere to park - the excuse being 'Apollo 13'. In explanation of why 'Apollo 13' should be responsible for filling the BBC car park, Vic, the one-armed gateman, just said 'Apollo 13' in a way which brooked no argument."

22 January, 2007

Horn of plenty

One of the new series announced as part of BBC4's spring season received curiously little attention from the press. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sax, But Were Afraid To Ask promises to unpick the cultural and sociological legacy of the modern descendant of the crumhorn through five thematically linked but structurally varied episodes adding up to a fascinating snapshot of one of the world's most ubiquitous busking utensils.

Paul Gambuccini narrates a desperately earnest historical investigation into the inbuilt reticence within the UK subconsciousness towards parping horn sounds, illustrating his talk with extracts from 31,420 records out of his personal collection. "Now, come with me as we slide all the way back to the year nieensevenyfie, and bask in the slick sounds of that Atlantic-hopping disco-bopping ice cool connoisseur of the chilly Philly soul groove, Mr David Bowwwwwwiieeee!"

Episode 2: SAXUALITY
A laconic prose poem by Billy Bragg with music by Johnny Marr exploring Britain's fickle relationship with people who decide to come out as saxophonists.

Episode 3: SAX CRIME (1984)
Paul Morley takes viewers on a journey back 23 years to the time of Holly Johnson and the Youth Training Scheme to examine particularly vicious assaults by saxophones upon the ears of a politically divided Britain. He traces the root of the strife to twelve months earlier and the release of 'True' by Spandau Ballet, whose saxophone break, he argues, heralded the impending discordant clash of ideologies between Arthur Scargill and the National Coal Board, despite having a good beat you could dance to. Morley concludes by placing an actor looking like Gary Kemp on trial for the collapse of the UK mining industry.

A portmanteau of intimate taped confessions, captured by an enigmatic free-living American, wherein objectionable neurotic upper class types disclose their penchant for the middle bit of 'Arthur's Theme' by Christopher Cross.

Documentary following an attempt to broaden the youth appeal of the world's oldest sports tournament by IOC President Jacques Rogge, who decides to use the 2008 Beijing games to introduce the ultimate in sonic competitiveness: a saxophone triathlon, requiring competitors to demonstrate sequential mastery of smooth, straight-blowing and swing styles while doing a croggy on a bike going down a 30 mile hill. Unfortunately both he and the documentary crew are unaware the entire proceedings are being secretly filmed and manipulated by a bored Leonard Rossiter, who in turn causes a global arms crisis when one of the contenders is caught on camera referring to another as having "a lazy eye".

20 January, 2007

A JY Prog log

Over three decades ago now, the future BBC Director General and then MD of Radio Ian Trethowan accused Sir Jimmy Young of putting "forty percent effort" into his Radio 1 shows and challenged the housewives favourite to pull his finger out.

"You put the records on," growled Trethowan, "then sit back and read the paper." Somewhat slighted, Jim rose to the bait and declaimed from the Broadcasting House rooftop garden, "I want to be free to talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything, as long as my gut feeling tells me it will interest my listeners!" As we know, said gut feeling ultimately turned into a hip complaint, which subsequently shuttled him off air at the end of 2002. At the time, Creamguide paid tribute to the mobile commode ((C) T Wogan) maestro in a salute to what Ian Trethowan initially wanted to call The Jimmy Young Programme With Jimmy Young:

* The very first Jimmy Young Programme was broadcast on July 2nd 1973, and just two days later Jim had already acquitted himself to unsheathing life's particularly delicate problems. "Is the most widely used method of contraception still the condom, Dr Smith?" Jim quizzed a visiting GP. "Do you by any chance mean the French letter?" came the doctor's stern response, to which a weak-kneed Jim could only reply, "Erm, yes, I suppose I do." "Well if you mean French letters, why don't you say so," snapped the Doctor. "I had learned that people don't want to be 'protected' from the truth," reflected a sadder but wiser Jim later.

* Jim decided to spend the show on Friday 23 November 1973 celebrating a particularly notable occasion. It was, of course, the first appearance by Uri Geller on the British airwaves. Jim has always made great play of the fact that Geller made his debut in this country on his show and not, as is always claimed, on the small screen. "In fact, we had already stopped Britain's clocks and bent Britain's forks many hours before television tried it, as Uri makes clear in his book My Story." Sadly the object Jim utilised to secure this claim to fame was his chief researcher's front door key, who was later arrested trying to climb into his flat via a balcony window.

* In January 1976 a witness giving evidence in Bedford Crown Court claimed he was sure he had spotted an accused man at the time he said he had because he'd heard a time check on Jim's show. The defending barrister added, dryly, "And Jimmy Young is, as we know, extremely reliable at giving out the time." "Who is Jimmy Young?" muttered the judge. Suffice to say it was headline news in the following morning's Daily Mirror, which Jim quoted from at length during that day's show. Several times.

* Jim had spy holes fitted to the front door of his house after a woman discharged herself from a nearby psychiatric hospital, marched round to Jimmy's place, rang the bell and as he opened the door barged past announcing "I've come to stay with you and the children." "Everyone seemed to think it was very funny," snorted Jim later, "which it wasn't. The general line was, 'If she'd been eighteen and 36-24-36 I'll bet we'd never have heard a peep out of you.'"

* A listener called Charles Roberts appeared on the show to claim his tomato plants had grown to their impressive stature thanks to being exposed to Jim's dulcet tones. Moreover, when the Programme wasn't on the air the eponymous vegetation withered and died. "Just fancy," Jim later quipped to the Sunday Mirror, "I've been talking to a load of sensitive adolescent tomatoes for months and I never knew." A million readers responded: and the plants?

* In the old days when the "Prog" used to be on just after Wogan, Jim's bantering and bartering with Tel supposedly even got Her Majesty tuning in. "Within a week we were discussing suspender belts; during week two, the merits of cammi-knickers as opposed to knickers with tight gussets." The upshot was, naturally, a novelty single: 'Two Heads Are Better Than One', which, naturally, failed to chart.

* Jim had a very direct approach to dealing with his engineering team. On being repeatedly hailed "JIMMY - COME - OUT - HERE - NOW!" he simply "put down the key on my side of the glass and say, equally slowly and loudly, 'ALAN - PLEASE - DON'T - BLOODY - SHOUT!'" It never failed. "It never fails!" Thanks Jim.

* Lest we forget, Jim's eye for the ladies did, at one point, become a topic of conversation amongst the largest population in the world. While attending one of BBC executive Aubrey Singer's legendary receptions for Chinese dignitaries, Jim was accosted by one of the guests with a gag. "I know what you should call your show," began the Chinese gentleman. "The current *affairs* of Jimmy Young!" How everyone laughed.

* Lastly, Jim was also one of the hosts of the first ever UK Telethon - on Thames Television - in 1980. Held at Wembley Conference Centre, the occasion was memorable for Jim leading his co-presenters Rolf Harris and Joan Shenton through the musical number 'You gotta make those telephones ring'; Paul Daniels addressing a member of the audience "OK Sandra, you've got a lovely leg. What a pity about the other one too"; Petula Clark singing, "God bless the child who can stand up and sing"; and Rolf repeatedly accosting passing celebrities with the salutation, "Your blood's worth bottling!" As Clive James wrote, "As for the handicapped children, they gain some of the means of life - but life in what kind of world? To do what? To watch Bernie Winters host a darts competition?"

18 January, 2007

17 January, 2007

The Sarah Kennedy casebook

Doggedly clingling onto her slot like a petulant barnacle, it appears Radio 2's resident Old Mrs Clutterbritches is immune to the upheavals visited upon her so-called colleagues. If fate and bad timing has anything to do with it, by posting the following guide to better understanding - and preparing for - what is still archaically referred to as the Radio 2 Dawn Patrol, the show will be summarily axed from the schedule tomorrow.

Sarah lives a three-minute walk away from her studio, but chooses to drive into work because there is a road between her flat and Broadcasting House. Her journey involves navigating a busy intersection of London called Vauxhall Cross, a junction that has no interest or relevance to 95% of the population, but because she gets stuck in traffic jams that she preposterously claim last "up to four hours - it's a total violation of my civil liberties", be ready to hear her drone joylessly on about it every single bloody morning without fail.

Aka Mr Sarah Kennedy. Though he is talked about incessantly his real name is never revealed. Thanks to Sarah's frequent outbursts of indiscretion, however, it's been possible to ascertain a) he seems to be about 30 years younger than his wife, b) he is obsessed with ultra-macho adventure sports and, worse of all, c) he wears Y-fronts with holes in which are over two decades old. There was also a rather grisly incident a few years ago when, suffering from some kind of eye infection that had left him - as far as you could tell from the garbled explanation - half blind, "The Much Beloved"'s suffering was prolonged for another two weeks when Sarah accidentally smashed the only bottle of eye drops they had in the house.

Sarah's nickname. Which she coined herself.

There aren't any. Sarah doesn't like any of the standard Radio 2 jingles with her name on them, so she rather arrogantly makes a point of not playing them, then talks about not playing them, all the while neglecting to say what the show is or which station you're tuned to, making it even more likely - and dangerous - of finding yourself listening in to her programme and not realising it.

No sniggering at the back there. It was of no real surprise to discover this was Sarah's newspaper of choice, though her patronage of Associated's TV Cream-baiting light-fingered nemesis can and does reach astronomical proportions. There's always room for something from the letters page, even if it's 7.33am and both the news and Wake Up To Wogan are waiting to begin. As for the paper "review" at 6.50am, headlines and stories appear to be selected only if they chime in with Sarah's pronounced opinions (see below), while everything else is dismissed as "daft" or "really, really, frightening." She also has an irritating tendency to say "well, that story is being covered in the news bulletin so I won't mention it", thereby removing the entire point of a paper review in the first place. Suffice to say that said reviews, to all intents and purpose, always sound like they've been prepared "in a bit of a rush".

Sarah once played the sublime 'Never Let Her Slip Away', and every time the title was mentioned in the lyrics she interrupted the song to shout out "Split infinitive!" There has never been a more infuriating three minutes of radio broadcasting in the history of this country.

Like a snotty nine year old who's just discovered a button on their school music room Casio keyboard which when pressed makes a sound like a fart through a megaphone, Sarah's fondness for her sound effects tape is unflinching. If a reader has written in about their pet cat, in a flash the airwaves will be filled, not with gentle purring of a kind to rouse you from your sleep, but a din of screeching which Sarah then pretends to "talk" to like a simpleton. A crowing cockerel announces the arrival of the seven o'clock news, because obviously the sound of the pips is too confusing for listeners. The best chance to hear the full works, however, comes during the...

This is clearly Sarah's favourite part of the entire show. How she loves obscuring important roadworks information with the deafening sound of a pneumatic drill - just the thing to wake you from a deep, peaceful slumber. Is that the sound of bagpipes? Why, there must be a traffic jam somewhere in Scotland. Meanwhile any hold ups in Greater London are, of course, entirely the responsibility of "Mayor Ken - and he'll get what's coming to him."

The amount of editorialising that goes on during this show beggars belief. Other presenters, never mind producers, have been sacked for far less. Asylum seekers? "This island is full to bursting, there's no more room." Myra Hindley? "She's where she belongs now - in hell." The Countryside Alliance? "I've cleared all my spare bedrooms if anyone wants to stay over after the next march." In truth what's most maddening is not so much the nature of the opinions she holds (which she's perfectly entitled to) but the manner in which she expresses them: in public, relentlessly, and forever bordering on the slightly hysterical. The absolute limit is when she'll carry on voicing her views while a decent record is playing. Shut up woman, there's someone singing!

Finally, the one slot in the show which used to be actually quite impressive. This was where Sarah self-consciously played a novelty record nominated by listeners of the kind that you either, well, love or hate. Stand-out offerings included 'Shut That Door' by Larry Grayson, 'The Court Of King Caractacus' by Rolf Harris and 'Three Little Fishes' by Frankie Howerd. Even here, though, Sarah could not help but ruin what was her one decent feature, which she did either by making bogus vomiting noises on-mike all the way through, or laughing like a drain all over it. And for a good fifteen minutes afterwards. And throughout the following morning's show. Grrrr.

15 January, 2007

Thanks a shit

Off the back of news that ITV is persisting in its bizarre policy of showing archive episodes of a densely-plotted, highly-cerebral detective series when it should be screening cartoons, and following on from last week's Digi-Cream Times, here are the top ten most preposterous bits of posh swearing from Inspector Morse, all of which have recently assailed the ears of the nation's youth (well, the miniscule portion of it that used to watch Children's ITV):

1) "I'm scared of bloody heights, you stupid sod!" (from the episode Service Of All The Dead)
2) "You've got shit all over you at the moment" (The Dead Of Jericho)
3) "Yes, sir. You did, sir. Didn't you, sir. Aren't you a clever Pommy bastard, sir!" (Promised Land)
4) "I'm halfway up my own arse" (The Dead Of Jericho)
5) "He's a.....shit. Of the first water" (Who Killed Harry Field?)
6) "The bloody Horse Of The Year show came on" (The Sins Of The Fathers)
7) "Rapacious bastards" (Happy Families)
8) "It's all bullshit of course, what he does. Expensive bullshit" (The Death Of The Self)
9) "Bloody leg - I'm not supposed to walk on it, those bastard doctors" (Deceived By Flight)
10) "Thanks a shit - I mean, really, thanks a complete shit" (The Dead Of Jericho)

12 January, 2007

Getting Paul McCartney right

Listen to what the man said: "It's best to stay silent - that way you keep your dignity." Despite a rough few years - jawing with President Putin, brawling with photographers underneath David Blaine's Thames-side tupperware box, changing a thousand locks on a thousand doors - Macca still knows what the public wants.

Admittedly that might not be a release of 'Pipes Of Peace (Blood Not Oil 2007 Mix)' with updated lyrics slamming the war in Iraq, but no cry of "Help Bush to see/That the Iraqi folk are like you and me" is surely going to come close to the sight of an on-form Macca rocking atop the Somerset Downs in front of 100,000 odd punters (with the emphasis there on the word odd) and the sun slowly setting while Sir Paul wigs out during a special extended 15 minute-coda to 'Hey Jude'. Yup, word is the man is returning to Glastonbury to do the greatest ever gig of his lifetime since the last one.

By way of marking Macca's card and providing a crash course for those of you who perhaps aren't so familiar with his often-overlooked repertoire (which is, roughly speaking, in approximate terms, everything post-1969), here's a user's guide to both man and music - including ten key songs to listen out for. Print it off and keep it safe by your TV set so that, come curtains-up, you'll be ready to furnish your palate with an ample serving of sweet Macca memories. And Macca, if you start boning up on this rather than learning how to say "how ya doing?" in Czech before you trot onto stage, you can't go wrong.



Paul McCartney - he can do anything! And perhaps no one subscribes to that point-of-view more than Sir Paul himself. Different musical genres? They're just like different flavours of ice-cream - differently coloured syrups to be squirted into the Magimix of Macca's talent. It doesn't take years of dedication and hard thought to plough your trough in, say, folk or funk, if you're Paul. Consider 'Helter Skelter', his Beatles-era take on the then nascent heavy metal craze, wherein he turned up the amps and just screamed into the mike to ace effect (Ian McDonald's grumblings of "McCartney shrieking weedily against a massively tape-echoed back-drop of out-of-tune thrashing" not withstanding). Likewise, proponents of reggae, why bother with being born in Jamaica and appropriating the accompanying culture? Just put on a silly voice and sing about "Desmond", that'll do. Disco? See 'Dress Me Up Like a Robber' and a high-pitched Donna Summer-esque vocal. Dub? The opening section of 'Take It Away'. Acid house? See the unabashed synth-noodling middle eight of 'Pipes Of Peace'. And let's not forget 'No More Lonely Nights (Ballad)' *and* 'No More Lonely Nights (Special Arthur Baker Dance Mix)'.

However we reckon his most successful foray into a foreign genre is his top duet with Stevie Wonder, 'What's That You're Doing?' This is Macca funking right out, on top of a snaky bassline and some short-and-sharp guitar licks. Duelling with Wonder, let's face it, Macca teaches the would-be-mentor some valuable lessons in how to operate on someone else's turf. All you need for funk, he makes plain, is to drop the "g" sound from words ending in "ing" ("I say it's sunnin' when there's rain"), and to sling in a few Americanisms ("you can make me holler, ow!") That's all it takes. Genre scored off, c'mon, it's time to move onto the next one (anyone else feel a Liverpool Oratorio coming on?).



The many Beatles bootlegs out there make it more than clear that Macca's approach to song writing has always meant that the lyrics are left until the last minute ("Momma don't worry your Teddy boy's here/Teddy's [pause] see you through/Ner-ner-ner-ner-ner-na-na/Ner-ner-ner-na-ner-na-na-noo..."). They're just that unpleasant bit of business that needs to be cleared up before the song can be dispatched and sent on its way to the toppermost. Assured of his own genius (and why not?) Macca's approach to his own word-smithery seems to be that whatever he noodles down by way of lyrics is by definition going to be a-okay.

This lack of self-regulation has meant that during his solo years, some great stuff has come out of the McCartney rough-book unmolested and ready for us to enjoy. Now, genuinely, some of Paul's words are absolutely top. No other pop star would ever use such prosaic and colloquial phrases as "do me a favour" ('Let 'Em In') and "what with one thing and another" ('Tug of War') in their work. But he does, and with real élan. The downside to this, however, is that he doesn't shy away from other words that should never appear in the pop pantheon, no matter what - and there's none more so than "silly" which, of course, appears bloody loads in 'Silly Love Songs' ("love isn't silly, love isn't silly, love isn't silly at all!") That's just wrong in anyone's book.

But by way of a key example, consider 'Beautiful Night' from his 1997 album 'Flaming Pie'. Although a lovely tune, the words are just so unselfconsciously clunking. What do you think could possibly compete with the feeling you have when you're together with the one you love? How would you put that into words? Here comes Paul: "You and me together, nothing feels so good, even if I get a medal from my local neighbourhood." Of course! *That's* how it feels! To be honoured by your - ah - local neighbourhood, that would be pretty near the mark. But wait, there's more. Watch how Macca marries "night" with, er, "night" not once, but twice!: "Things can go wrong, things can go right/things can go bump, in the dead of the night/So let me be there, let me be there/let me be there with you in the dead of the night/make it a beautiful night..." It is indeed a "wonderful sight for lovers of love to behold."



As a veteran practitioner of the uber-adlib, Macca has committed many impulsive vocal utterances to tape, presumably in order to add that "live", loose feel to his songs. For him it's always been the case that scripted verbalese - consider the end of 'The Girl Is Mine' - never has as much charm as the off-the-cuff rap, such as that on the start of 'What's That You're Saying' (that one again), where Macca suddenly decides to salute the listener with a chatty "Good morning!", follows it up with a chirpy "Good afternoon!" then completes the set with a half-whispered "Goodnight!"

Sometimes this has gone to extremes, and the line has been crossed from the casually informal to the downright shambolic. Both 'Let 'Em In' and 'Wonderful Christmas Time' sound like McCartney has a gossip half way through with someone else in the studio, while on tracks like 'Ram On', 'Dear Boy' and 'Listen To What The Man Said' he gives up on lyrics completely and spends whole verses intoning an idle "doo-de-doo".

For full-on signature adlibbery, however, 'C Moon' tops the pile. As the lilting reggae-beat kicks in, Macca essays an opening gambit of "Um-checka-um-checka-um-check it out!" This is then met with a brief giggle from a female voice, presumably Linda, followed by a defiant "Uh-huh? Uh-huh!" from Paul. But there's more to come. Adopting a resounding cod-Jamaican drawl, the man booms, "Was that the intro? I should've been in!" and for a final flourish offers up a demented "Oh-wah-la-la-la-la-la!" at the top of his range. Ten out of ten across the board.



Macca's enormous vocal range could perhaps be filed under 'Versatility' above, but - whatever. Because Paul could never have become that "all things to all men" entertainer (and let's face it, with his range no one can honestly claim they hate everything in his back catalogue - in much the same way you'd have to be nuts to declare you liked everything he's done) if he didn't have such a degree of light and shade to his vocal heroics. So how do the voices of Macca stack up? Well, there's the full-on "the whole fruit" Paul, which is just your straight-down-the-line wobble-headed/lip-curled singing as heard on, for example, 'Pipes of Peace' or 'Ebony and Ivory'. Either side of this we've got the slightly subdued version as heard on 'Take it Away', and the slightly pumped-up one, which you get on 'No More Lonely Nights' (but only once the song gets really going).

That pretty much takes care of his mid-range, so zipping up to the extremes there's the Macca growl. Its most infamous outing probably came during his Beatles era, with that demented "Jude-ah! Jude-ah! Jude-ah! Jude-ah! Waah!" over the end of 'Hey Jude' which Ian MacDonald described as "ill-advised pseudo-soul shrieking" - a bit harsh, surely? Meanwhile, over at the other end of the spectrum an almost comatose Paul dribbled out the vocals for 'Let 'Em In', presumably while slumped in a big armchair watching the telly. And it's all the better for it.

But as if that wasn't impressive enough, Macca can also turn into a kind of musical Jon Culshaw - albeit one it's OK to like, and not sporting the smuggest hair in the business. Yup, he can even throw a few funny voices, most notably in 'Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey' where he takes on the clipped tones of some elderly Naval officer ("Admiral Halsey notified me...") However, the key example has to be 'Coming Up'. This has got the full range, and then some. While Macca growls through the verses (albeit at a notch or two down from his 'Jude wig-out voice, but definitely a couple of octaves up from his normal tone) he puts on what's probably the stupidest voice ever for the chorus, as he bleats out "Coming up!" in a high-pitched, ball-shrinking manner. It's almost like a call and response piece between the many voices of Macca, and suggests the next direction he could take with his music. C'mon, with a bit of studio wizardry and a shed-load of overdubs, let's hear Macca do Barbershop on his own!



A sure sign that you've happened upon a mint Macca melody is when both tune and lyrics are derailed by a spectacularly unsubtle and defiantly cumbersome sound effect. You don't really get this on Paul's Beatles songs, except on occasional tracks like 'Blackbird' where a non-specific fowl squawks unhelpfully throughout the final chorus. Once free of his naysaying peers, though, it seems Macca needed only the slightest of pretences to mount a raid on the FX library and then bolt them onto his songs in the most obvious of fashions.

Fantastically literal in his choice of sounds, that faint gathering of people you can hear at the start of 'Tug Of War' isn't actually a bowed and beaten queue trudging along to the labour exchange. Nope, it's the sound of an actual tug-of-war going on. Likewise, 'Let 'Em In' is blessed with - of course - a recording of a door opening; in 'Listen To What The Man Said' the line "Soldier boy kisses girl" is followed by the sound of - uh huh - someone kissing; and 'The Pound Is Sinking' has someone chinking coins all the way through.

Sometimes this policy goes awry - in 'Picasso's Last Words', for instance, Macca plasters the song with himself and Linda doing Franglais "haw-he-haw" sounds, neglecting to recall the eponymous painter was in fact Spanish. Similarly there are instances when Paul doesn't deliver the goods, such as in the magnificent 'Wanderlust' which controversially omits, after the nautically-inspired (and nothing else) lyric "Dropping a line", the noise of an anchor being thrown overboard. But for best FX value, 'Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey' can't be beaten. Not only do you have, after the line "I believe it's going to rain", an entire thunderstorm breaking out, but halfway through, apropos nothing at all, Macca himself impersonates a ringing telephone!



McCartney's always had a penchant for unleashing sly musical jokes upon the world, often in the shape of entire songs - think of 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' or the Lennon-pastiche 'Let Me Roll It'. He even re-recorded 'Yesterday' for heaven's sake, but then that was for 'Give My Regards To Broad Street', an entire film and soundtrack album based around a Macca one-liner, albeit a resolutely unfunny one.

His real trademark, however, is finding the means (though never, it has to be said, a reason) for reprising snippets of his own songs in the middle of some other of his own songs. This is always done in as shameless and knowing a way imaginable (we imagine him throwing Linda, or maybe George Martin, a big wink when first treating them to a run through on acoustic guitar). Hence 'Picasso's Last Words' peters out into a reprise of 'Jet' for no apparent reason other than they're both at the same speed. The song 'Ram', off the eponymous album, surfaces in charmingly low-key fashion in the middle of side one but then, for no point whatsoever, shows up at the end of, ahem, 'Long Haired Lady' on side two. The most extreme, however, is 'Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five', which closes the 'Band On The Run' album by, yes, segueing into 'Band On The Run', which also just happens to be the very first song on the LP (do you see?)



This section has simply been included so we can rant about the daffy backing vocals on the aforementioned tunesmithery. Listen good, because just before the song makes for its 'Pipes of Peace'-esque finale Linda can be heard interacting with Paul's tug-of-war metaphor as she repeats the phrase "pushing, pulling" over and over. Sure, it sounds nice - but hold on. Surely if one side suddenly decided that pushing - instead of pulling on that rope - was a sensible tactic in a tug-of-war, then things would go very, very wrong. Think, woman, before you commit it to tape!



"She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah!" is not just the refrain from an early beat group hit, it's also in the closing moments of 'What's That You're Doing?' Paul's relationship with his Beatles past has always been open and honest. While, in one of those moments when he was desperate to be seen as some sort of everyman figure, he's been known to refer to the Fab Four as "a great little band" (cf that documentary on the Cirque Du Soleil over Christmas), he's actually forever enamoured with his '60s past.

Enamoured, but not beholden to it, cos Macca is certainly not averse to 'having a bit of fun' with the oeuvre of - ahem - 'McCartney and Lennon'. So, as well as cheekily tagging on a snatch from 'She Loves You' to his uber-collaboration with Stevie Wonder, Macca's quite happy to work-through some of the Beatles hits when he's up on stage (and indeed, has threatened a Beatles-heavy set list for Glasto - even though his solo stuff is stronger). Yep, dead Beatles are manna to Macca who can now get his mitts on 'Give Peace a Chance' and 'Something' under the guise of wistfully saluting the fallen.

In 1984, Paul did what so many have done before and released a Beatles cover album, in the shape of 'Give My Regards to Broad Street'. Here he bashed out 'Yesterday', 'Good Day Sunshine', 'Here, There and Everywhere', 'For No One', 'Eleanor Rigby' (to which he now provided a surely long overdue sequel in the form of 'Eleanor's Dream') and 'The Long and Winding Road'.

Sacrilege, you say? Of course not! Paul carefully assembled a power-pop team around him to finally give those songs the treatment they deserved. Forget McCartney/Lennon/Harrison and Starr, now it was McCartney/Toto/Gilmour/Spedding and, er, Starr! However, his greatest reconciliation with that Beatling past arrives on '...Broad Street' during a cover of that Tug of War track, 'Wanderlust', which here he kitted out with a brass ensemble. An even lovelier arrangement than the original, the song - of course! - eventually segues into an echo of 'Here, There and Everywhere' thereby showing that 1980s Macca was every bit the equal to his 1960s work. Fact.



The last two categories deal with Macca as a performer, and specifically his armoury of on-stage devices he likes to deploy in order to strike an instant rapport with a crowd of several ten thousand anonymous faces. There are some you can expect to see whatever the occasion, namely the famous thumbs-aloft salute, so beloved of Smash Hits c.1987/8; the forced banter with backing musicians to try and imply he's only "one of the band"; the somewhat meaningless exhortation to the assembled throng (listen out for in particular "Oh, this is a good place to be!" "Oh, you're taking me back!" and "Oh, we're in for a fine one tonight!"); and, of course, the careful attempt to dress down in order to appear one of the people.

For Glastonbury Macca will stroll out in denims, try a gag or two about festival culture ("Hey, is someone having a smoke out there?!"), toss in a plug for the latest young pretenders ("Hope you all checked out The Guillemots; great, weren't they?") and launch into his current set opener: a swaggering version of 'Jet' complete with dual guitar solos, bits where he drops out to let the crowd sing the tune, and a few vocal acrobatics at the end ("Oooh, my little lad-yeee!").



Finally, though Macca's never gone in for any Freddie Mercury-style call and response workouts ("Day-ay-oh! Day-ay-oh!"), his impresario skills have come a long way from a faltering attempt to get the world to sing along to 'Let It Be' through a crap microphone at Live Aid. As a case in point, you need no look further than 'Hey Jude', which has been installed at the end of the man's set for about 15 years now, and which always follows exactly the same pattern.

Basically, once he's been through about four "Na na na..." choruses, Paul will rise from his piano stool, move to the front of the stage and, while the band continue providing a basic rhythm, single-handedly orchestrate the entire crowd in a masterclass of participation. First will come the yelled request, "Now I wanna hear the men, just the men!", who'll get one chorus to themselves before, "Now the women, all the ladies out there!", who'll also get one chorus (in the middle of which Macca will either shout "Yay!" or "Ooh, you sound so sweet to me!").

The next instruction, excitingly, will be sung, and will go out to "All the people on the left side!" This is followed, sensibly, by "All the people on the right side!" and then "All the people in the middle!" Finally, Macca will let forth a frenetic "Now men, women, everybody, altogether, COME ON!", the entire band will fall back in on cue, and he'll race back to the piano for a few more rousing choruses.

He's not quite through yet, though. Listen out for "I can't stop this! I can't stop this!" roughly about two choruses before he stops it, and then as the band hit the final chord, Macca will do a bit of business along the lines of "You were great, and you were great, and you were great..." pointing at different parts of the crowd. What an ending - and what a performance! But then from Macca you'd expect nothing less.

08 January, 2007

Photo clippage #1

Two questions: a) which one's Nesta, and b) who are the New Romantics just back from Sainsbury's?

You say it's your birthday?

One thing above all else can be guaranteed to unfold in 2007: a bumper load of anniversaries.

For starters it's 25 years since Channel 4 began, and by way of celebrations the station can hardly do worse than on its 20th birthday five years ago, when it did fuck all. It's also 10 years since Channel Five began, which was originally going to have been commemorated by another relaunch of Family Affairs involving the entire community moving to an unnamed northern provincial town to work in a covered market run by Cathy McGowan and Simon Dee. Instead there'll probably just be a Home And Away pantomime and an episode of Trisha co-hosted by Su Pollard. It surely wouldn't take that much effort to stage an anniversary reunion of Five's Company?

Elsewhere Scottish Television will be 50 years old, it'll be 40 years since colour TV started in Britain, CBBC, CBeebies and BBC4 will all be 5, and in August the entire nation will bow its head and stand precisely where it's told while a flustered booming female voice will announce the fact it's exactly ten years since Kate Thornton invented 'Candle In The Wind 97'.

One anniversary has already passed: the 25th birthday of Central Television, which fell on 1st January and was marked in a manner reflective of the extent to which the company retains a presence in the consciousness of its many millions of viewers, i.e. less than zero.

It's the small matter of Big National Events, however, which is likely to inspire the most number of tie-in programmes and anniversary specials, and for that it's a fair bet most archive clippage requests will be filed for 20 years ago: 1987, the year of the National Disaster. The hurricane, the stock market crash, Hungerford, Zeebrugge, Enniskillen, the King's Cross fire, that bloke landing a private aircraft in Red Square...was there nothing about which Tel could essay a few funnies in the first few minutes of another night's Wogan?

Of course there was! Lester Piggott's tax shenanigans! "Apparently old Lester used to put a dab of perfume on his tax returns. 'Considering what they're doing to me', he told the court, 'I might as well get them in the mood.'"

The Creamguide Local Radio Railshow

In the summer of 2002, what was then Radio Cream Times (later to become Digi-Cream Times) spent a thankless six months schlepping round the country on a pretend train listening in to BBC local radio stations.

Every week the special Creamguide Radio Railshow desk, or "bureau" as its previous owner James Mates kept referring to it when he flogged it off for £2.99, was removed from its perch alongside the Challenge TV King Of The Castle replica climbing frame, the stash of serrated paper Out Of The Office This Week caps, and the specially commissioned Wall Of Fact outside broadcast inflatable paddle steamer, and placed on board a specially customised locomotive rescued from a BBC1 Sunday teatime drama.

Come now and cast your mind back as, transported upon the most refined and genteel of zephyrs, the faint, haunting echoes of escaping jets of steam, the sonorous clang of pistons and gears slipping gracefully into motion, and the impassioned roar of the furnace, through the distance come a list of people with silly names, demented-sounding features and unlikely boasts, kicking off with...

- KEITH SKUES (Three Counties Radio), who claimed to be the only broadcaster "in the world" to have served time on Forces Radio, the pirates, Radio Luxembourg, independent local radio, and BBC national, regional and local stations; and apart from having trouble holding down a job, is a member of PJF - the Paul Jones Fraternity, an organisation for person or persons coming second in holding noted broadcasting positions, but who are subsequently feted to always be confused with somebody else. In Keith's case he was actually the second person ever to appear on Radio 1, not Jimmy Young as is often thought, but a lot of good it'd done Keith. Being a Freeman of the City Of London, based in Bedford, didn't help either.

- JIM BOWEN (now ex-Radio Lancashire), who before he was sacked was busy setting the broadcasting industry back another ten years via his weekday morning show "The Happy Daft Farm" by a) farting a lot b) standing on his chair and asking members of staff to push him around, and c) when somebody phoned up and said "super smashing great" at him he simply cut them off.

- CHRIS BOUNT (Radio Cornwall), who used to produce and present the Home Service staple Morning Sou'West, the best name for a radio show ever.

- COLIN YOUNG (Radio Shropshire), who turned out to not only fit the criteria Pointless World Record Holder (the most holes of golf played in one week) and Seedy Innuendo Within Show Title ("Colin Young's Lunchbox") but Background In Field As Far Removed From Broadcasting As Possible (Colin was originally a maths teacher, before deciding his "career didn't add up") as well as Over-Elaborate Quiz Feature (the old "here's the answer, what's the question" routine, later flogged into the ground by Richard Allinson on Radio 2)

- ED DOOLAN (Radio WM), who made his name on the legendary BRMB throughout the 1970s talking about local government and wishing he was Brian Hayes. Defected to Radio WM in 1982, contributed to titular BBC2 efforts Tuesday People and Doolan At Large, then had a heart bypass that made him a local hero. Now obsessed with Princess Diana, leading a campaign to move an "ugly" statue from the centre of Walsall to elsewhere (anywhere out of Doolan's eyeline, basically); and of handling listeners' correspondence detailing how some big business fat cat told them to "(deleted) off" (sic) - as long as Ed can take all the credit and you take all the blame.

- RICHARD SPENDLOVE (Radio Cambridgeshire et al), former British Rail announcer now entertaining local listeners with gentle humour and comical observations on 1960s Government-instituted programmes of national railway station closure, but without the accomplished delivery and timing of Paul Shane and Geoffrey Holland. Plus broadcasts for a station that held a special "Train Week" in 1985 when, no doubt inspired by Phil Collins' Wembley to Philadelphia Live Aid sprint, began one programme in Ely and ended it in Wisbech.

- DONALD SCOTT (Radio Cumbria), who, besides being a shameless Desmond Carrington-wannabe, turned out to be a former full-time scenic artist for Border Television - but who dissuaded those in search of anecdotery about Lookaround, Canon In The Kitchen, Look Who's Talking and Try For Ten with the unnecessarily stern response "I'm not very tolerant and don't suffer fools gladly." Yikes.

- JOHN FLORANCE (Radio Leicester), a relic who once laboured under the weight of the tagline, "A bachelor gay - and a gay bachelor!" and spent Sunday mornings discourteously doing impromptu OBs from your kitchen just when you were trying to finish cooking the dinner.

- SIMON GROOM (Radio Sheffield), who mixed features such as "Groom's Gold" aka "The Goldie Hour" with vigorous promotions for his sprawling empire which entirely glossed over any lions-through-the-window, Playboy-interview, inflatable-wrestling content, focusing exclusively on his dull production company and multi-media projects.

- CHRIS SERLE (Radio Bristol), who never wrote back.

- MARIAN FOSTER (Radio Newcastle), whose show included a gardening spot with wannabe double act Stan Timmins and Eddie Wardrobe, names alone that suggested instant magazine-show suitability, but still had plenty of room for welcome reminiscences about visiting African mud-huts or Eileen Fowler.

- VINCENT KANE (ex Radio Wales), who used to begin his show Vincent Kane's Meet For Lunch by always saying "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, I'm Vincent Kane inviting you to...Meet For Lunch!" and who was once seen arguing in Marks and Spencer on Cardiff's Queen Street over the freshness of the lettuces.

- DAVE CASH (Radio Kent), a big star of the 60s and an even bigger star of...ah.

and finally:

- DENNIS MCCARTHY (deceased, Radio Nottingham), true colossus of the East Midlands whose syndicated mid-afternoon moan marathon Afternoon Special was immovable from the schedules for aeons. McCarthy contrived to become something of a legend in the region despite having no knowledge of basic radio presentational skills (whenever the individual networks opted out for the news he simply stuck a really long record on until they'd all come back again), an ill-disguised contempt for anyone under 80 and worst of all the supremely annoying habit of waiting for every single caller to finish their conversation and never interrupting, with the result that pensioners often chuntered on for 15 minutes non-stop. Then there were all those pre-teen kids on his Sunday quiz programme ("Would you like to play Family Jackpot?") to tell crappy playground jokes. McCarthy, of course, was also an international dog show judge who wrote a book about his Irish Setter "Woolly Jumper", interviewed six prime ministers, appeared in some early Crown Film Unit productions, once sold a marrow to Errol Flynn, and is now dead. Lest we forget, 20,000 people lined the streets of Nottingham during McCarthy's funeral, some of them hoping to speak to him about lavatory grouting, the majority mistaking his cortege for that of someone interesting.