30 August, 2008

Geoffrey Perkins RIP

There's a tribute to the great man over on your new-look Off The Telly.

29 August, 2008

"I've got one hell of a story - and it's only in The Sun!"

Do they mean a rather pompous opinionated rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-even-more-riches lollygagger who sued the BBC because he hasn't got a sense of humour and now claims to be Touched By Angels?...

...they surely do!

28 August, 2008

Photo clippage #40

Just what is going on here...and who's the bloke on the floor?

25 August, 2008

The Simon May tapes

TV Cream has been lucky to come into possession of an exceedingly rare sound archive: nothing less than composer Simon May's demo tapes.

It's a heady brew. An early version of the EastEnders theme with Eddy Grant performing a rap and no sign of the usual tune; a techno remix of Eldorado; and a version of Castaway 2000 featuring jungle drums and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

But of particular note is Simon's demo for Howard's Way. It seems his original intention was to create a more chirpy, swingbeat-meets-hornpipe concoction, with dialogue from each episode reprised within the music.

Most surprising of all, though, is the presence of lyrics. Yup, it turns out Simes originally envisaged a singalong chorus to take pride of place at the climax of the theme. Why this never made the final version is a mystery - equally so its later substitution with Marti Webb's dirge to love's permanence, Always There.

Anyway, it's a privilege to be able to bring you this rare glimpse behind closed studio doors.

24 August, 2008

Macca's back pages: chapter 5

David Pascoe writes:

Exhibit E: Check My Machine
AKA: Macca does dubstep
"I figure that in time they'll get around to more recent stuff, Check My Machine, those funny little ones."

Now this is more like it. Liberated by going properly solo, McCartney produced a corking album in McCartney II, containing some of his finest moments. Coming Up, Temporary Secretary ("She can be a neurosurgeon/If she's doing nothing urgent" – Genius) and One of These Days all ring out with the fresh clear confidence of the Ram sessions nine years earlier. But when it came to recording a B-side for TLC-inspiring Waterfalls, McCartney produced something truly surprising.

Starting out with some looped cartoon clips including Barney Rubble in The Flinstones and something sounding suspiciously like a "D'oh" but most probably a clip from the Laurel and Hardy cartoon, we dip into a helium voiced McCartney beseeching us to "Check my machine/Che-eck my machine".

The request continues over a gorgeously, mellow banjo, keyboard and dub bass line. The pace seldom rises above the nodding but the invitation to bob is irresistible. At regular intervals we break off from our bobbing to hear Macca play with the "dropping a metal dustbin on its side" voice on his synthesiser before returning to the hypnotic, circling riff. Finishing with some high-spirited audio verite mucking about, this track is crystal proof that the surge in popularity McCartney enjoyed in the early 80s was no fluke.

Why should we be interested in it?
This track (and the equally lesser-heard Secret Friend, a kind of death disco released on 12" with Temporary Secretary) show that McCartney's instincts for dabbling in different musical styles and for keeping up with contemporary sounds remained as strong as ever. In its own demented way, this track is as timeless as anything he recorded with The Beatles. It could have popped up on late night Radio 1 in 1980, 1990, 2000 or 2010 and would have sounded as exciting and vibrant as anything else going on at the time. McCartney's dance music alter-ego, The Fireman was born here.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones..."

22 August, 2008

"Switch on to the switchover!"

There are only a couple of months to go until the first transmitter is turned off and digital TV begins seeping across the land like the globules in the opening titles to Survivors.

But what word has there been by way of suitably lavish happenings to mark each stage of analogue's farewell? None! The whole thing might just as well involve a group of unlikeable people gathered on a muddy old farm in the back of beyond, like the rest of every episode of Survivors.

No, what's needed is a proper, whistles-and-bells, star-encrusted nationwide effort, called something irritating like The Really Big Switchover, packed full of celebrities and gimmicks. An oversized foam-costumed walking embodiment of Digit Al would be involved, naturally, traversing the land from region to region like he's carrying the Olympic flame. Or the Nationwide chocolate cake.

On top of that, however, there need to be massive events in each part of the country to accompany the actual moment the switch is flicked and Five Million Pensioners Realise They Can't Watch Coronation Street Anymore ((C) The Daily Mail).

Fortunately (for this blog if not anything else), just such a roster of events suggests itself:

The Really Big Switchover (part one)

WHEN: 2008-9
WHERE: A windswept moorland
WHO: Melvyn Bragg, Derek Batey, Fiona Armstrong
HOW: Melvyn pontificates with a group of academics for 45 minutes before Derek does a plug for his Mr and Mrs stage show. Fiona stands in the background looking frosty. Miss Carlisle 2008 presses a giant button which makes a beeeeeeoooooooowwwww sound effect.

WHEN: 2009
WHERE: The Albert Dock
WHO: Colin Weston, Elton Welsby, Sue Robbie, Julie Goodyear, Pete Waterman (DJing a special outside disco), Lord Michael Winstanley (with advice on how to avoid being diddled by a shifty Freeview salesman), William Roache, Anne Kirkbride and a special guest appearance by Richard and Judy.
HOW: Ken and Deidre are having problems with their TV reception. Bet walks in and tells them they need to get digital. Richard and Judy drop by with a spare set-top box (Richard: "You'll find it pays to keep at least three spare in case of emergencies" Judy: "Oh Richard") and soon everyone is settling down to enjoy an episode of a strangely-familiar Northern soap opera set in a cobbled street that's not Albion Market. Meanwhile Colin, Elton and Sue sing a song about Winter Hill transmitter before blowing it up.

WHEN: 2009
WHERE: Plymouth Hoe
WHO: Richard Digance, Judi Spiers, Gus Honeybun
HOW: A lookalike of Sir Francis Drake steps forward for a game of bowls; one of the balls hits a giant cardboard cut-out of Judi's face, a ship's bell sounds, Gus squeals and the plug is pulled.

WHEN: 2009-10
WHERE: The Rift
WHO: Dilwyn Young Jones and Vincent Kane
HOW: An unofficial facsimile of the TARDIS materialises by that giant fountain thing in Cardiff. Out step Dilwyn and Vincent, they exchange pleasantries, thank you for watching analogue television, then step back inside. The switchover happens off-screen, for budget reasons.

WHEN: 2011
WHERE: Norwich market place
WHO: Nicholas Parsons, Fred Dineage, Russell Grant, and Paul Lavers dressed as a medieval knight
HOW: Paul is positioned on a giant rotating board which Nick, Fred and Russell have to spin. While a brass band plays the Anglia fanfare, Paul uses his spear to try and puncture various balloons suspended above his head. Most of them contain whipped cream, custard and mushy peas, but one contains a mobile phone with which he has to ring the nearby transmitter control room and tell them to shut down. Russell provides predictions for the future of television. "Now onto Pisces - this is you Nicholas!"

WHEN: 2012
WHERE: The Angel Of The North
WHO: Tom O'Connor, Mike Neville, Jools Holland, Supergran
HOW: While Jools plays some boogie-woogie, Supergran flies down from the top of the Angel and lands on a giant Crosswits board, which lights up the letters SWITCHOVER and which triggers the opening of a mystery compartment inside the Angel, a la The Wicker Man, from which Tom and Neville wave at the crowd.

WHEN: 2012
WHERE: On top of LWT Towers on the South Bank
WHO: Michael Aspel, Dame Edna Everage, Danny Baker, Janet Street-Porter, Gloria Hunniford (interviewing people in the crowd), Roland Rivron (floating in the Thames), Fred Housego (answering riddles from Aspel on the history of TV), Greg Dyke (in shirt sleeves, explaining how he saved television by inventing Freeview)
HOW: A giant banner is unfurled down one side of the building, onto which a countdown clock is projected. At the moment of the switchover, Cilla Black, in a pod in the London Eye, wishes viewers "a lorra lorra digital fun" and pulls a lever launching a flaming arrow high into the sky which lands on a junction box at Crystal Palace and is the cue for Denis Norden to turn a golden key in a nearby portakabin.

To be concluded...

20 August, 2008

Changes are being made

Property magnates, alliterative abbreviations and one-time-linkers-of-children's-cartoons, Dick and Dom, have been sacked from Radio 1.

That's not the reason for this post. The reason is the fact that in this write-up of the news by, who else, the Media Guardian, the lads' once-all-conquering trademark game, Bogies, is still being completely misrepresented. Five years on.

Right from the outset the Guardian have had trouble with this, seemingly unable to ever correctly describe the purpose of Bogies as being to shout the word, yes, "bogies". And now, even after all this time, they still persist in talking about the game like a hopeless half-sane great uncle, referring to kids having to shout "bogey".

Only the Media Guardian, the place where the least amount of TV is watched in the whole of the country, is it possible to get something so simple so wrong so many times for so many years.

17 August, 2008

The anatomy of TV Cream

Here's TV Cream to the power of ten. For uber-viewing pleasure, watch the high quality version.

16 August, 2008

The Johnny Ball photo clippage challenge

He's the man of a thousand faces, every one a different version of open-mouthed, wide-eyed exuber-ism. But what particular historical epihanies are being depicted by those thousand faces in each of the following?

1) "Fear not - *oil* soon get it working again!"

2) "Those who said the world was round used to get carted off. Hence the name: cart-off-graphy!"

3) "Pardon me if I sound a little burnt out; things have been getting on my wick!"

4) "I used to do this for a living, but my business plan went totally to pot!"

13 August, 2008

Vienna Bon Bons

Tony Currie, historian extraordinaire of Radio Times, TV curator, theme tune specialist and all round good sort, has a new venture: UK Light Radio, an internet-only service that's hoping to launch for real next year.

There's a promising line-up. Tone himself helms Rise'n'Shine, the breakfast show, including a feature enticingly called Tony's Test Card Classics. Then there's Pete Murray from 9am, for just one hour, promising stuff such as Pete's Juke Box Gem. Obviously any feature that boasts the name of the DJ in the title is a Good Thing, so it's reassuring to find so many of them listed in the schedule.

Margaret Howard, who hosted Pick Of The Week on Radio 4 for about 70 years before getting the sack, turns up late morning, then after lunch there's no less a personage than Brian 'Swing With The King's Singers' Kay with a show called, obtusely, The Lightswitch. Are we meant to listen to it with a dimmer switch to hand to vary the illumination according to the choice of record?

Paul Hollingdale, the very first voice on Radio 2, has an afternoon shift called Vienna Bon Bons. It sounds like an assortment of light classics from numerous Palm Court orchestras, and there's nothing wrong with that. Later still there's Sing Along, with the Cliff Adams Singers promised, and Making For Midnight where "the sounds are sweet and gentle...all the way".

The whole thing, as described, sounds fantastic, and completely deserving of a proper licence. As for the way it actually sounds...well, shame you can't listen live on a Mac, but there you go.

11 August, 2008

Bill Cotton RIP

This is truly sad news.

Bill Cotton was one of the absolute greats: a shameless showman, a true populist, a scheduling wizard, a variety stalwart, an inspiration and mentor to thousands, and damn near responsible for every show TV Cream holds dear.

He seemed to have been around forever, a vital link with the traditions and practices upon which the best of British telly was built, but still holding forth and dispensing pearls of wry and witty wisdom long after retirement. It's horrible to think of the world without him.

Forget all latterday pretenders to the throne, all latecomers to the crystal bucket, all modern day broadcasting suits and nabobs and bean-counters: Bill Cotton was and always will be your real, textbook, genuine TV hero.

There's now a proper tribute on the site.

Terence Rigby RIP

Checking out for the last time...

10 August, 2008

"Dance ladies, that's it, ooh, I like it, I like the movement, it's nice"

At long last, Reggie Bosanquet's venture into the world of disco makes it onto the blog.

It's an extraordinary aural creation, notable for many things, among them:

a) the fact it seems that no fewer than three people were involved in its composition; was the salient line of the first chorus, "Dance do-up, ooh-up, ooh-wee", a group effort?

b) the charmingly off-hand sentiment of the second verse: "You're in a pub, a cafe, a club/Then move on cos you've had enough" - arguably a damn sight more down-to-earth than "and you go home/and you cry/and you want to die".

c) Reggie's keen appreciation of sounds of the street: "Like reggae, soul, funk and punk/Bop around, lose all your junk".

d) The will-this-do backing. It's not even at proper speed, sounding instead like the sort of comedy approximation of late 70s dance music you'd get in an episode of George And Mildred where they mistakenly turned up at a discotheque instead of a whist drive.

e) Reg's bucolic abandonment of all airs and graces during the fade-out: "I feel rather splendid at pleasant...I can move so many parts at one time".

Altogether now: Dance ladies, that's it, ooh, I like it, I like the movement, it's nice...

09 August, 2008

Cussing on the Mike

It's a bit embarrassing to think TV Cream once named this man as our number one media mover and shaker:

Not only that, we called him a media genius! Such an unhallowed annointment could only lead, within a matter of years, to one thing: Grade's reputation sinking to the lowest it has possibly ever been, and the man ending up in charge of a rubbish network of channels that can't make any money and can't make any decent new programmes.

After decades of being a master showman and scheduler, it feels like he's met his match and is, in all doubt, going to end his career with a failure. An almighty, million-pound-fine-paying, audience-share-dwindling-into-irrelevance, failure.

That's not right. Perhaps he can see to it that ITV, or rather ITV1, becomes what it so clearly ought to be nowadays: a channel that runs from 7pm to, say, 1am, and that's all. If he did that, and managed to talk everyone else round, then he'll have pulled one last rabbit out of his LWT Towers-shaped hat.

In the meantime, looking again at that top ten of 2004's movers and shakers. Grade, Dick and Dom, Rolf, Greg, Humphrys, Keating, Highfield, Marson, Euan Kerr, Yentob...what's the case for keeping any of them in an equivalent list for 2008?

06 August, 2008

Macca's back pages: chapter 4

David Pascoe writes:

Exhibit D: Rudolph the Red Nose Reggae
AKA: Macca does country festive?

I won't detain you for long with this one. Officially, Wonderful Christmastime marked the resumption of McCartney's solo career. Now while "Ding dong/ding dong/ding dong" has become as much a part of Christmas as "Lo he abhors not the virgin's womb", Rudolph the Red Nose Reggae has gone pretty much unnoticed.

There's a good reason for that. Anyone expecting a festive C Moon rehash is quickly disappointed. Our 'reggae' consists of keyboard and country fiddle chocking out the famous Christmas song for about two minutes and...that's it. No lyrics, no variation, no surprise. Nothing. Certainly bugger all Jamaican about it.

The notes on Back to the Egg revealed that it was four years old, having been recorded in Nashville while Wings were making Venus and Mars. I think he was drunk on the success of recording the perfectly serviceable Sally G at the same time, surely the only pedal steel country tune to feature the refrain "Take it chaps".

Why should we be interested in it?
Only to reflect on a great lost opportunity. Had McCartney left this in the vaults and instead backed Wonderful Christmastime with the gorgeous double whammy of Winter Rose/Love Awake, he would have made the best two-sided Christmas single EVER!

Where's Dick James when you need him?
"I never thought to ask her what the letter G stood for"

04 August, 2008

Another post about Adam and Joe

You know that a bandwagon is really starting to roll when the likes of Gareth McLean haul themselves on board.

Typically, he makes precisely the wrong point. The pair aren't unsung heroes at all; people have been singing their praises for over 10 years now. To be precise, what they are not, as some of those who have replied to McLean's pontification make clear, are properly employed.

The 6 Music show is the best thing on the radio, but it's a criminal underuse of their talents. The very first thing the next controller of BBC2 should do is sign them up for a weekly 30-minute series. Surely a move to Radio 2 can't be far off as well?

Meantime here's advance notice of transmission of Adam's latest pilot, A Week With Adam Buxton, at 11pm on Thursday on Radio 4. Like MeeBOX it was made ages ago, and like MeeBOX no doubt it stupidly won't be picked up and commissioned, despite the presence of numerous spoof songs and BaadDad.

02 August, 2008

TV Cream's Olympic theme

In this week's Radio Times, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett are interviewed about their "ground-breaking" titles for the BBC's Olympic coverage. In the process they have a good moan about previous sequences which featured "a bunch of people running about in slow motion with Olympic torches - boring".

Well, they're wrong, because that's precisely what Olympic titles should be about, not a load of cartoon animals with silly faces. In fact, for them to be any good, Olympic themes should follow a very strict format and never stray too far away from a few core components.

It's all very well, you're thinking, TV Cream laying into yet another target. Just what, you counter, should go in the place of Albarn and Hewlett's effort?

Fair point. So here is an alternative. It's been written with the following essentials in mind:
a) a hummable main melody
b) a moody bit at the start where the Beeb would show images of the sun rising, an old man doing exercises in a city square, someone sipping tea, an Chinese Army officer sharing a joke with a small child, etc.
c) an extended middle bit which would only be available on the accompanying 7"
d) plenty of space for highlights from the Games to be incorporated into the mix

It's also, naturally, in your best Vangelis/Paddy Kingsland/Simon May style.

Now all it needs are lyrics for that limited edition tie-in single.

Let the Games begin

01 August, 2008

Photo clippage: Olympics special

1) A dapper David Coleman gives his chequered suit an outing in Mexico, 1968:

2) Olive off of On The Buses turns up at the Churchill Hotel in Portman Square, London, for a luncheon given for television women and Sportswomen of the Olympics Year, 1972:

3) David again, relaxing in the Moscow sunshine, 1980:

4) Ronald Reagan "reacts" (it says here) after scoring against the USA Olympic team goalie Bob Mason during a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden in Washington on 29th September 1983:

5) Finally, a shameless TV tie-in. Does the Flying Horse still exist?