Friday, October 26, 2007

For years now, I've looked at Chaz Jankel's composing credit on Quincy Jones' 'Ai No Corrida', and assumed that the Blockhead-in-chief wrote the number especially for the man stalked by Starla in 'Arrested Development'. I've only recently discovered that CJ (who didn't get where he is today by writing songs for other people) actually did the original version himself, and that it tans Q's version hollow. Unfortunately, the only links I can find are to the cover version, or worse, the dancified version of a few years back that ditched all the interesting chords. Spend some money on Chaz. It'll be worth it. While you're at it, get Quincy's 'Big Band Bossa Nova' album. Not only does it contain 'Soul Bossa Nova' (best known for its use in the Austin Powers films and as the basis of 'My Definititon' by the Dream Warriors), but also a stunning, life-affirming soca version of 'On the Street Where You Live'.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Radio 2 seems hell-bent on sending my blood pressure through the ceiling at the moment. The last item on the 9 o'clock news concerned the vital information that Kerry Katona has become a novelist. Cut to a clip of la Katona admitting that she was more surprised than anyone at the development, on account of being dyslexic. She then went on to explain that someone else had written the book, and that "all she had to do" was come up with the plot, characters and the way that they intertwined. Does this make her a novelist? Not as long as my arse faces south. Will her book sell more copies than a half-decent effort by a first-time author who actually put the words in the right order themselves? Why, of course.

What exactly is the point of a ghost-written novel, apart from to shift a few copies in an increasingly debased market? Ghost-written autobiographies can be worthwhile - a skilful ghost creating the book that the nominal author would have written, had they not been too busy, stupid or strung-out on crack. I'm no football fan, but Tony Cascarino's 'Full Time' (written 'with' Paul Kimmage) is a superb piece of work - a tragi-comic morality tale. The big public seemed to grasp that ghost-written novels were an environmental scandal back when Naomi Campbell tried to foist 'The Swan' on the dumpbins of the nation. Since then, however, Jordan has proved that you can flog any amount of third-party drivel to the lumpenproletariat as long as your tits are big enough. If you wonder why the book trade's fucked (and don't believe anyone who tells you it isn't), you need look no further.
At the risk of turning this into the 'Save BBC Television Centre' blog, here's another slice of archive greatness. Called 'Birth of a Building', it shows the old place being erected, aided by the spooky excellence of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.


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On the subject of BBC Television Centre, I was moved to dig this wee delight out of the ganderbag and share it with a wider audience. From the edition of 'Points of View' that went out on 2 June 1962, this is a montage of images showing BBC tv going about its daily business. The exciting new building plays a starring role, supported by Robert Robinson, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, various old cars - including a Pininfarina-bodied BMC barge (the resolution of even the original tape is insufficient for me to say either Morris Oxford or Austin Cambridge with any confidence, but I've ruled out the Wolseley, Riley and MG options), shedloads of Richard Levin's wonderful Derek Italic signage, a rake of GPO type 332 bakelite telephones and a director who sounds suspiciously like Rudolph Cartier at the end. There's even a cameo appearance from the White City greyhound stadium, a much-missed example of the architecture of pleasure. TC must not be allowed to join it.

Note that the concerns about programme quality and use of resources seem oddly familiar.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Yesterday, on the train back home after a weekend on the other side of the country, I caught the end of Jeremy Vine on Radio 2, discussing anger management with Rabbi Julia Neuberger. Discussion over, he segued into 'Fairground' by Simply Red. Now, there's very little more likely to make me want to punch holes in brick walls than the sound of Mick Hucknall. All of the good work done by the interview and phone-in was unravelled just outside Stowmarket. I thought Jeremy Vine was meant to be a music lover?

In the profit column, we're living through a golden age of archive television repeats. BBC4 dug out Magnus Magnusson's rather wonderful preview of the 1972 Tutankhamun exhibition, and cobbled together a half-hour of the greatness that was Sir Mortimer Wheeler (who should be played by Simon Callow, if a biopic is ever made). Elsewhere, More4's 'Channel 4 at 25' season has thrown up some real gems, including the 1986 production of Mervyn Peake's 'Mr Pye' and a complete 'Tube' from 1983. The latter made for both joyous and sad viewing. Paula Yates, Big Country's Stuart Adamson and Tyne Tees studio 5 - designed by Richard Rogers, as it happens - all went long before their time. OK, I know that studio 5 is still there as a church, but it should be a TV studio.

Talking of which, the BBC's decision to sell off Television Centre strikes me as the worst kind of short-sighted, cost of everything, value of nothing, horsepiss. The main block - as good a bit of New Elizabethan/Festival of Britain-style design as you'll find away from the South Bank - is as fit for purpose as it was when it went up in the late 1950s. Any short-term financial gain will be spunked away on hiring in facilities of the same type as those sold off. Even though far less is made in studios nowadays, if TC closed, there would not be enough capacity in the UK to meet current peaks of demand. The cost of moving to new premises will be lower on paper, but, in reality, it will spiral. The great money-saving manoeuvre of BBC Birmingham from Pebble Mill to the Mailbox ended up costing far more than staying put and renovating the existing site. But, hey, what do I know? I only help pay for the Corporation.
Despite fairly fundamental issues with blogging, and the extreme smugness of some bloggers, I've observed rather splendid little communities growing up around the weblogs of people I like and admire. Being all for communities, society, camaraderie and anything that helps reverse the general 'do as you would be done by, but do it first' nature of modern living, it occurred to me that maybe I should get off my high horse and join in. So here I am, a body full of good British opinion and raring to go. In the main, I'll be commenting on matters concerning my various areas of expertise, most notably anorakdom, light entertainment, music, general trivia, books and radio. This is because I assume, nay hope, that no-one gives a toss about my personal life. I should point out that at no point in the proceedings will the horrible, vile non-word 'blogosphere' be used, apart from just then.