Friday, December 31, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Above, we have the back end of this fine edifice. Why does it say 'Accident and Emergency' over the ramp? Ah, well, the derelict building was used as a location for the remade Survivors. Then, slightly to the left, we have some fetching octagonal planters, the honeycomb being very much a motif used in the building's construction.
Meanwhile, the only visible signage linking the concrete hulk with its illustrious past was on the door of the electricity substation by the scene dock doors. Maybe one day, when Uncle Lew's pile is finally demolished, a blue plaque will be erected on the replacement saying "Crossroads was perpetrated here".
The reason for being in the West Midlands at the time was one of the always-excellent Kaleidoscope shindigs in Stourbridge, after which the following artifact was brought forth by one of the revellers and snapped. Layzengennelmen, I bring you a genuine LWT mug. (Bottle Boys something something, the punchline writes itself).
This is not the only item of London Weekend merchandise we'll be featuring in this parade of jollification. Oh noes. Be patient, dear anoraks. Tomorrow will bring hither the one item that everyone should be wearing to the office Christmas party.
Before then, though, another coffee-slurping implement from the glory days of the federal ITV system, courtesy of BBC Radio Norfolk's Graham Barnard, who gets to drink out of it, the lucky so-and-so.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
A few years ago, perhaps conscious of the sedentary nature of many of TV viewers, ITV decided to get pro-active. As part of its 'Britain On The Move' initiative, it doled out any number of these stylish pedometers, all the easier to calculate how close one is to one's required 10,000 steps a day. The nation took the hint, lost weight and obesity ceased to be a major problem. Tomorrow: The Border Television meter-wheel, issued to Cumbrian residents to help them calculate how far they'd walked that day to avoid watching Look Who's Talking.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
And for today's delicacy, we return to the 1984 Royal Variety Performance for a reminder just how good Dustin Gee was. Now, I love Les Dennis to smithereens, but there can be no doubt who the senior partner was in their act. That wordless Robert Mitchum impersonation is enough to ensure Gee's pre-eminence, to say nothing of the Russell Harty. He went far far too soon, and I'm not just saying that because he smiled and waved back when my grandad and I said 'Hello, Dustin' as we walked past him on the prom at Great Yarmouth at some point in the early 1980s. Note also Les Dennis impersonating Max Bygraves as host of Family Fortunes. Who knew, eh?
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Friday, December 03, 2010
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Friday, November 05, 2010
However, if you are on Twitter, it's almost impossible to avoid Fry. Even if he weren't all over social networking like shit in a field, people tend to re-tweet his bon mots in lieu of their own insight and wit. So, when he flounces, as he did last week, following volleys of criticism about some ill-advised remarks he made in an interview with the magazine Attitude, the ripples reach even those who shelter from his sprawling online presence.
I'm not remotely impressed by the way he's handled the affair. Flounces are twatty, whether you're famous or a whohe like me. The difference is in the response. When a whohe flounces, the usual reply is "Don't let the door hit you on the arse as you leave". This, generally, is the correct reaction. When a celebrity flounces, though, hundreds, even thousands of people beseech said personality not to go. "We love you, we need you." Really? You need some bloke/woman off the telly posting inconsequential messages about what they're having for dinner and who they're having dinner with? Why? Also, you can only flounce convincingly once. Fry's flounced from Twitter now twice, oddly enough, both times on 31 October. Do trick or treaters annoy him that much?
When Fry typed "Bye bye" last Saturday, the floodgates opened. "Come back, fluffy clever man. We wuv oo". I knew he'd be back. So it has proved. Instead of pretending nothing had happened and carrying on as heretofore, or even (and I appreciate that this is radical) admitting that he said what he was quoted as saying, Fry has returned with a long, blustering, self-justifying blog post, seeming to deny responsibility for any aspect of the whole sorry affair.
"Was it naïve in me that it never for a second crossed my mind that this conversation would be sold on to other papers? That it would be “picked up” and make a disastrous move from being a conversation to some kind of public “declaration”?" Yes, Stephen, it was. Don't come the innocent. You know how it works. By saying that it was "sold on" makes Attitude look grubby and venal, but do we know that money changed hands? Isn't it far more likely that Attitude sends complimentary copies to the mainstream press month-in, month-out, and occasionally the mainstreamers pick up on something within it?
For me, the worst aspect of Fry's bluster is his attempt to besmirch the author of the piece, Paul Flynn. "Maybe I should have guessed that the interviewer wanted not an interview but a story," Fry informs his blog readers. If this stuff was such dynamite, and Flynn wanted to capitalise on it, why did he put it in the sixth page of an eight-page feature? However, the public perception of journalists is so low that this sort of horseshit obfuscation actually works. Fry hammers his disdain home with "You will perhaps say that after nearly 30 years in the public realm I should have known better than to allow myself to have a free-wheeling happy, explorative and silly conversation with any journalist." Countless fans have replied dutifully along the lines of "What do you expect from a journalist?"
Ah, but what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. When the Daily Mail laid into Fry recently and dismissed him as a 'quizmaster', he responded by saying that, with his many contributions to esteemed publications over the years, he was more a journalist than a quizmaster, but that a journalist would never use the word 'journalist' as an insult. At the time, I thought "Good on you, Stephen", but now, I fear that this claim might come back to bite him on the arse. He claims that journalists can't be trusted. OK, but he also described himself recently as a journalist. Why then should anyone trust Fry? You'd think he'd have been too clever to set a trap for himself like this, wouldn't you?
Friday, October 15, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
As it happens, I believe there is a place for Gaunt's style of radio, but I also believe that, to pull it off, you have to be far cleverer than Gaunt seems to be. By all means be contrarian and controversial. Go ahead and wind people up. Feel free to cloak yourself in righteous indignation. Don't, however, lose your rag, whatever you do. You'll have lost the argument, and your job too.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
ATV 4 Thames 2
If it had been a Prodcaps World Cup, the boot might have been on the other foot, but I think that this is a fair and decisive result, and I'd like to thank Sir Lew Grade and Howard Thomas for the clean way in which their teams played. Let's hear that Midlands marvel once again.
Thames 3 HTV 1
Bad luck for LWT in the semi-finals, scoring a lone goal against Sir Lew and the might of the Midlands. Bad luck also to the HTV aerial, the only ident in this semi-final line-up not to feature any vuvuzela-like brass scoring. However, HTV does take back to Pontcanna the 3rd place title. Which means that, live and at the same time as the footballers go at it, we ident fans see a stand-off between the ATV in Colour 'Zoom' ident and the Thames skyline. A few classics have fallen by the wayside, but personally, I think two stunning teams have made it to the final. Now all that remains is to decide the victor. Votes will close at the final whistle in South Africa. Get on with it.
Harlech eye test 1 LWT river 5
Thames skyline 5 Channel 4 original 2
ATV Zoom 7 Westward galleon 0
HTV Aerial 4 BBC mirror globe 3
Oh dear. That means it's:
LWT river vs ATV Zoom
Thames skyline vs HTV aerial.
Votes by 2pm Sunday.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Harlech eye test 5 BBC Schools Diamond 1
Grampian saltire 1 Thames skyline 6
LWT river 5 BBC2 stripey 2
TSW tree of bras 1 Channel 4 original 5
ATV Zoom in Colour 5 Open University 2
Yorkshire Television Colour Production 1 HTV Aerial 6
Anglia knight 3 Westward galleon 4
Central cake mark 1 1 BBC1 mirror globe 5
So, that means the quarter finals look like this:
Harlech eye test vs LWT river
Thames skyline vs Channel 4 original
ATV Zoom vs Westward galleon
HTV Aerial vs BBC mirror globe.
As we're playing catch up, I'm calling a curfew of 2am on this one, with voting on the semi-finals to follow, running into the morning, then the finals to run at the same time as the football World Cup final.
Monday, July 05, 2010
BBC1 1974-1981 Futura mirror globe 6 BBC TV bat wings 1
BBC TV bat wings 3 Westward galleon 4
Westward galleon 4 Tyne Tees 1980s 3
Tyne Tees 1980s 1 BBC1 1974-1981 Futura mirror globe 6
BBC1 1974-1981 Futura mirror globe 4 Westward galleon 2
BBC TV bat wings 3 Tyne Tees 1980s 4
I make that BBC1 on 9 points, Westward on 6 points and Tyne Tees on 3 points. Which means that the block of 16 is as follows:
Harlech eye test vs BBC Schools Diamond
Grampian saltire vs Thames skyline
LWT river vs BBC2 stripey
TSW tree of bras vs Channel 4 original
ATV Zoom in Colour vs Open University
Yorkshire Television Colour Production vs HTV Aerial
Anglia knight vs Westward galleon
Central cake mark 1 vs BBC1 mirror globe
Let's be having your votes, in by 23.59 on Tuesday 6 July.
Anglia knight 4 From the North - Granada 2
From the North - Granada 4 Teledu Cymru dragon 2
Teledu Cymru dragon 2 Central cake mark 1 5
Central cake mark 1 5 From the North - Granada 1
Teledu Cymru dragon 3 Anglia knight 4
Anglia knight 4 Central cake mark 1 3
So, that's 9 points for the Narvicensian silver knight and 6 points for the Central cake. The Granada arrow's lone victory against the Teledu Cymru dragon is not enough to see it through. We can only speculate on how the blue Granada Colour Production card would have fared. And so to H:
BBC1 1974-1981 Futura mirror globe vs BBC TV bat wings
BBC TV bat wings vs Westward galleon
Westward galleon vs Tyne Tees 1980s
Tyne Tees 1980s vs BBC1 1974-1981 Futura mirror globe
BBC1 1974-1981 Futura mirror globe vs Westward galleon
BBC TV bat wings vs Tyne Tees 1980s
We're playing catch-up, so votes by 8pm tonight - Monday 5 July - please.
Monday, June 28, 2010
HTV aerial 7 Open University 2
Open University 6 Scottish Television spinning lion 3
Scottish Television spinning lion 0 BBC2 Colour 1967 9
BBC2 Colour 1967 4 HTV Aerial 5
Open University 5 BBC2 Colour 1967 4
Scottish Television spinning lion 2 HTV aerial 7
A clean sweep for the aerial, and, in second place, the improvers of Milton Keynes.
Right, let's crack on with the next round:
Anglia knight vs From the North - Granada
From the North - Granada vs Teledu Cymru dragon
Teledu Cymru dragon vs Central cake mark 1
Central cake mark 1 vs From the North - Granada
Teledu Cymru dragon vs Anglia knight
Anglia knight vs Central cake mark 1.
Answers by 00.01 on Thursday 1 July.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Channel 3 North East 2 Border chopsticks 7
Border chopsticks 2 Yorkshire Television Colour Production 7
Yorkshire Television Colour Production 0 ATV in Colour Zoom 9
ATV in Colour 'Zoom' 9 Border chopsticks 0
Channel 3 North East 0 ATV in Colour 'Zoom' 9
Yorkshire Television Colour Production 9 Channel 3 North East 0
As expected, C3NE got nowhere, and is slinking back to Newcastle as we speak. A fixture against the hated ident gave Border's chopsticks its only win, but the worthy qualifiers are Yorkshire on 6 points and the sheer class of the ATV in Colour Zoom ident on 9 points.
And so to Group F.
HTV aerial vs Open University
Open University vs Scottish Television spinning lion
Scottish Television spinning lion vs BBC2 Colour 1967
BBC2 Colour 1967 vs HTV Aerial
Open University vs BBC2 Colour 1967
Scottish Television spinning lion vs HTV aerial
Another very strong group, I feel. Can monochrome beardies in kipper ties writing quadratic equations on a roller blackboard outclass Paint Along With Nancy? Or will BBC2's first colour symbol bring the trophy home to Pres B? Or will revolving wildlife spin the cup back to Hope Street, Glasgow? It's over to you.
Monday, June 21, 2010
And so to group E (the way you like it, really like it). Pick the bones out of this little lot:
Channel 3 North East vs Border chopsticks
Border chopsticks vs Yorkshire Television Colour Production
Yorkshire Television Colour Production vs ATV in Colour Zoom
ATV in Colour 'Zoom' vs Border chopsticks
Channel 3 North East vs ATV in Colour 'Zoom'
Yorkshire Television Colour Production vs Channel 3 North East
I think I know the way this one's going to end up. Can one of the most hated rebrandings of broadcasting history and a still ident with no music overcome the majesty of two of the ITV system's biggest hitters? I'm going to go out on a limb and say no chance. Vote with your hearts and heads, please, and don't just be perverse to prove me woefully wrong.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Southern star 2 LWT river 11
LWT river 12 BBC1 COW 1
BBC1 COW 4 TSW tree of bras 9
TSW tree of bras 4 LWT river 9
Southern star 3 TSW tree of bras 10
BBC1 COW 8 Southern star 4
An unsurprising clean sweep for the LWT river, but a sharp intake of breath for number 2. I was quietly expecting the bucolic lilt of Steve Race's jingle to bring home the locally-produced, farm-assured bacon for Jack Hargreaves' Out of Towners, but the sheer barking majesty of TSW's tree of bras nabbed it 2nd place. Sadly, the BBC1 COW (computer-originated world) didn't induce the same "HOLY FUCK IT'S COMPUTERS!" frenzy in everyone that it generated in Mr Nesmith, but BBC1 has another bite at the cherry with the 1981-1985 mirror globe. And shame on you Kecske Bak for suggesting that the BBC COW is now known as Jana Bennett, although the utterly true story of her having to ask directions to TC4 after God knows how many years with the Corporation makes me sympathetic to your cause. And so to Group D. Pick the winners from these stand-offs:
BBC2 stripey vs BBC tv map
BBC tv map vs Channel 4 original
Channel 4 original vs Rediffusion London
Rediffusion London vs BBC tv map
BBC2 stripey vs Channel 4 original
Rediffusion London vs BBC2 stripey
As I have been unable to find a decent copy of the Rediffusion London ident on YouTube, most of them being from multi-multi-gen VHS or terrible mocks by 12-year-old windowlickers, I've taken the liberty of encoding and uploading a recreation of a full Rediffusion startup, made by Kecske Bak and Rory Clark of Farcical Films, who are the Morecambe and Wise, nay the Rolls and Royce, to say nothing of the Dandelion and Burdock of archive TV graphics research. Get your votes in by 6pm, Sunday 20 June.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Thames skyline 11 ABC triangle 2
ABC triangle 5 BBC Schools diamond 8
BBC Schools diamond 11 Ulster oscilloscope on a stick 2
Ulster oscilloscope on a stick 4 ABC triangle 9
BBC Schools diamond 4 Thames skyline 8
Ulster oscilloscope on a stick 2 Thames skyline 10
I make that 9 points for Thames, 6 points for the BBC Schools Diamond, 3 points for ABC and sod all for Ulster. As one commenter said, it may well be that Ulster wasn't fielding its best formation. Better luck in 2014, chaps. I must say that I'm surprised at the lack of love for the ABC chimes, but that's identball. So in Group B, it's a clear win for geography and geometry, and in the next stages it looks very much to me as if Thames will be playing Grampian, with the BBC Schools Diamond competing against Harlech.
This, however, is getting ahead of ourselves, and we must deal with the remaining group fixtures first. And so to Group C, which I believe to be a very strong combination of the iconic and the memorably strange. So, we're looking for scores in the following matches:
Southern star vs LWT river
LWT river vs BBC1 COW
BBC1 COW vs TSW tree of bras
TSW tree of bras vs LWT river
Southern star vs TSW tree of bras
BBC1 COW vs Southern star
While I have, in the interests of fair play, mostly kept ident clips to the bare minimum, I feel that the plucky Plymouth outsider's offering is best seen in the context of first few minutes of the station's gala opening show. Never before have leotards, blacksmithery and rapid-cut vision-mixing been combined to such devastating effect. And that's before you get to a studio full of TSW staffers in party hats being exhorted to enjoy themselves by Lennie 'TV's Mr Punchlines' Bennett. Voting on this round closes at 6pm on Thursday 17 June.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
TVS glass revolve 3 Harlech eye test 12
Grampian saltire 9 TVS glass revolve 6
TVS glass revolve 6 BBC2 'Firecracker' 9
Harlech eye test 10 Grampian saltire 5
BBC2 'Firecracker' 8 Harlech eye test 7
Grampian saltire 8 BBC2 'Firecracker' 6
Three idents each won two games, bringing in 6 points, so we go to goal differences to break the tie and decide which two go ahead. Harlech is a clear winner, scoring 22 goals in winning games where its opponents managed 8, bringing a net figure of 14. BBC2 and Grampian each achieved 17 goals in the two games it won, but BBC2's opponents racked up 13 goals in those same games, compared to the 12 scored by Grampian's opponents, so Grampian joins Harlech in the knockout stage. So, Harlech will play the 2nd team to win Group B, while Grampian will take on that Group's winners.
Which brings us neatly on to the Group B matches:
Thames skyline vs ABC triangle
ABC triangle vs BBC Schools diamond
BBC Schools diamond vs Ulster oscilloscope on a stick
Ulster oscilloscope on a stick vs ABC triangle
BBC Schools diamond vs Thames skyline
Ulster oscilloscope on a stick vs Thames skyline
Voting will close at midnight BST on 15 June. You know the drill by now.
Monday, June 14, 2010
TVS glass revolve vs Harlech eye test
Grampian saltire vs TVS glass revolve
TVS glass revolve vs BBC2 'Firecracker'
Harlech eye test vs Grampian saltire
BBC2 'Firecracker' vs Harlech eye test
Grampian saltire vs BBC2 'Firecracker'
Is that everything covered? Scores for each game in comments, please. Each commenter can award 1 goal per game. Is midnight tonight BST late enough?
TVS glass revolve
Harlech eye test
BBC2 1990s 2
BBC Schools diamond
Ulster oscilloscope on a stick
TSW tree of bras
Channel 4 original
Channel 3 North East
Yorkshire Television colour production
ATV in colour
Scottish Television spinning lion
BBC2 Colour 1967
From the North – Granada
Central cake mark 1
Teledu Cymru dragon
Group H (vertically polarised)
BBC1 mirror globe
BBC TV bat wings
Tyne Tees 1980s
Friday, June 11, 2010
Monday, June 07, 2010
The most prominent of the ladies in attendance were all too familiar. I'd never met these particular examples before, but, as a Shadows fan, I recognise all too easily women whose main ambition in life is to throw themselves onto a Cliff. At Kaleidoscope events, there's a main screening area, and a secondary screening area in the bar. It was the latter that was playing host to a screening of a 1960 ATV Cliff Richard Show and A Matter of Diamonds, the recently recovered drama starring the erstwhile Harry Webb. Normally, there's a bit of give and take. If the people at the bar are talking while you're watching something, you move a bit closer or turn the TV up. Also, if you're watching the programme yourself, but passing comment on its content ("Oooh, look, it's Mario Fabrizi" and "I wonder if it was Wood Green or Hackney. Elstree wasn't open by this point.") you sit at the back and try to keep your voice at a tolerable level.
Neither of these were good enough for the bachelor boy's biggest fans. Turning around, hissing "Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" and then "We're trying to watch, and you're being very rude", before applying a blood-curdling death ray. At one point, they even shhhhhed the rather lovely Pan's Person Dee Dee Wilde, who was being greeted warmly and not too loudly at all by the event's organisers. Now, I have to say that even sitting at the back I had no trouble making out what was being said. At some points, I felt I was hearing too much. Maybe I haven't been deafened by a lifetime's exposure to 'Congratulations'. It really did seem that they felt Cliff required reverent silence. A couple of friends were bemused by the whole display, so I took them out into the hallway and explained. "They're Cliff fans. They've heard about this on the Internet and I bet they've come hundreds of miles. When the Cliff material finishes at 2pm, they will bugger off."
Almost right. They filed into Richard Marson's interview with the aforementioned Dee Dee for the first 10 minutes, but when it became clear that she wasn't going to talk about Cliff any time soon, they buggered off. Anyway, despite everything, I was glad to see them. For once, somebody made the male anoraks look normal.
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
I'm getting ready to abandon another format as it happens. The increasing decrepitude of my small family of portable mini disc machines and an irresistible special offer on Amazon led me to buy a Tascam DR07 solid-state recorder. Early reports suggest that it's a fantastic bit of kit. I'll always retain a massive affection for mini disc, but the ability to transfer my interview recordings to the computer without having to do it in real time will be a massive benefit.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
A while back, I referred to one of his blog posts about various attempts to smear him. In response, I received a communication from head Bloggerhead Tim Ireland suggesting that Daley, if not an active smear artist himself, was not inclined to help anyone else out if they were being smeared. Ireland was speaking from his own bitter experience, having had to contend with nasty, utterly unfounded allegations that he was himself a paedophile. Ireland suggested that when he asked for Dale's help in refuting the allegations, Dale had been non-committal, then silent. I suspected that Dale didn't want to get involved with something that wasn't in his area, while Ireland seemed to think that there was a more sinister explanation. I'm staying well out of that one, ta very much. Any road up, after a to-and-fro in the comments section of my original blog post, Private Eye journalist Adam Macqueen, a friend and a person I can honestly say that I would trust with my life, weighed in by suggesting that I had made eye contact with "the nutter on the bus".
Adam, it turned out, had dealt with Ireland in the past, and wished he hadn't bothered, a common enough situation when working for the Eye, and sifting the plausible from the deranged. A hack can only say "Really? That's very interesting, but..." so many times before the urge to shout "FUCK OFF YOU FUCKING FUCKWIT" down the blower takes over. Adam's too professional to let it get to that stage, which might be why he gets more work than I do. Anyway, Ireland seemed to think that the "nutter on the bus" comment was a statement of Eye editorial policy rather than an off-duty aside from one friend to another. He's since tried repeatedly to get a retraction from Ian Hislop, who, understandably, wants nothing to do with the situation, because it's nothing to do with him.
Now, I don't want to get involved in the political aspect of this spat or any assessments of Ireland's mental well-being, but I'm pretty satisfied that he's not a nonce. He indicates that some people have been posting his home address and encouraging others to harass him. That's really not on. Also, the original correspondence on this blog has been used by Ireland's detractors as ammunition, which I'm not entirely thrilled about. I suspect that whatever I think of Ireland, I'd be unlikely to want to ally myself with his enemies. The trouble is that the more Ireland blogs about this awful state of affairs, the more he sounds like the nutter on the bus, even if he isn't. So, as a concerned third party, I ask anyone who's perpetuating the smear stories about Ireland's sexual preferences to stop it immediately. Please.
There have also been suggestions that he's been stalking Nadine Dorries. There's a very fine line between dogged pursuit of something worthwhile and obsession/stalking. As an obsessive-compulsive myself, I know that only too well. From where I'm sitting, Ireland's interest in Dorries is a combination of horrified fascination, a desire to see the woman's manifest absurdity exposed as widely as possible and simple mischief. In summary, I approve, and the silly cow should be flattered that anyone gives a tinker's cuss about her.
Anyone waiting for my account of running for Parliament, it's half-written in my drafts folder, and will follow when I can set aside a moment or two. I'm sure you're all desperate to read that.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Monday, May 03, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
By the way, it was great to see all the old 'Granada TV' signs in the news coverage of the debate. When Quay Street closes, the Manchester skyline will lose a little more magic. It's already lost a bit with the removal of the lattice tower on the roof of the main office block. The debate was, unless I'm much mistaken, done in studio 6, more usually home to The Jeremy Kyle Show. It was also where they did Crown Court, Wheeltappers and Shunters and The Comedians. Please supply your own punchline.
As for who won, I couldn't care less. Brown was the most fluent. Clegg appeared to be the most sincere. Cameron ballsed up by maintaining our right to nuke China. Why couldn't I care less? We don't have a presidential system, so this debate was a mere sideshow. I'll tell you who lost, though. Alastair Stewart. Bleeding useless, much as I expected. I know Cliff Michelmore's 91 now, but he'd still have whipped Stewart's sorry arse.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Slightly more worrying is that I'm approaching 40 and still acting the arse on occasion. I feel I should make greater efforts to grow up. Not that I haven't made massive progress over the last decade. Once upon a time, random acts of drunken idiocy were my norm, whereas I'm now a sober, boring, respectable(ish), cardigan-wearing dad 99% of the time.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Friday, April 09, 2010
Show business autobiographies are usually more telling in what they omit rather than what they include. One major personality signed a friend's copy of his memoirs with “Try and believe at least some of it”. Very few who tell their life story in a book, ghosted or otherwise, present a balanced and fair picture of the subject, perhaps unsurprising in a business fuelled by ego. Bob Monkhouse's excellent Crying With Laughter is one of the very rare exceptions.
As, oddly, is 65: My Life So Far by Jonathan King, the pop world's equivalent of a disgraced bishop. King is a pariah. His records (and those of Gary Glitter) are noticeably absent from the airwaves, while those of convicted murderer Phil Spector are not. Meanwhile there's an unspoken ban on him appearing on television or radio.
So, he says, he has nothing to lose by telling the truth. However, truth is problematic, as any historian knows. An individual will remember an event one way, another individual will remember it another way. Neither version is contradictory, but there is conflict. So when King says we're getting the truth, what we're getting is King's truth. However, when read with this caveat in mind, there's a lot of value in 65 My Life So Far.
King is excellent when talking about other people and events that he witnessed as a pop personality, which account for 430-odd pages of the 583 on offer (It could be cut by about a third without losing much, and, at this length, the absence of an index is almost a criminal act in itself). Propelled into the charts while still a Cambridge undergraduate, he soon transferred to the business side of music and was on the inside track from the 1960s to the 1990s, ultimately running the Brit awards and the Eurovision Song Contest. It's tempting to assume at times that he's building up his part (he invented this, established that, saved the other from disaster, etc), but the cuttings support his claims. Moreover, he avoided drink and drugs, so his memory of it is unfogged.
He adds credence to the rumours about John Lennon's alleged bisexuality, but that's far less interesting than the stories of wheeling and dealing to get hits made and into the charts. It's also good to read more about Decca chairman Sir Edward Lewis, one of the most fascinating if underwritten figures of the music industry, who regarded King almost as an adopted son.
Perhaps the most telling story in this part of 65: My Life So Far is King's recollection of watching the Apollo 11 moonshot on TV. While others marvelled at the scientific achievement, King's main concern was, rather egotistically, with the copy of his song Everyone's Gone to the Moon that had, through various connections, been placed on the rocket. As Neil Armstrong said “A giant step for mankind”, King was to be found shouting “Enough of these platitudes for God's sake. Play my fucking record!” at the screen.
The last 150 pages deal with King's life since his arrest in 2000. The trial is covered in depth, with some details that contemporary press reports omitted to mention. One of his accusers claimed that he had been 15 when King made an advance on him, pinpointing it at the time of a particular record of King's. King denied ever meeting the lad, but also proved that the record in question had been made 4 years later, when the accuser was 19. Even if a reader isn't persuaded by King's protestations of innocence, as he hopes they might be, there's enough here to bring into question the ethics of those who brought King to book. The apparent pincer movement of police and media, with Max Clifford looming large; and the willingness to move minor details like dates around worked against him, he suggests. It may be that a trial free of these influences would have reached the same conclusions, but nobody will ever have the chance to know.
The relative values at work in the King case are interesting. King is an outcast, while Bill Wyman – who had a well-documented sexual relationship with an underage girl – is welcomed as a guest on The One Show. Is it because Wyman was a Rolling Stone, the epitome of supposed bad boy rock and roll hedonist cool, while King was a naff pop troubadour? Maybe his worst offences were merely those of making daft records and looking a bit too pleased with himself for a bit too long.
Drunk I most certainly was. The first pint had been despatched by 11.45am, and I had left the last pub at 7.30pm to ensure I caught my last train home. For fear of being thought to boast about my capacity and to avoid any trouble from the anti-binge-drinking lobby, I won't reveal my conservative estimate of how much of my body mass was composed of the products of Messrs Greene King, Timothy Taylor and Fuller, Smith and Turner. However, "lapping against the back teeth" would not be far off the mark.
Disorderly? I was fully aware of how plastered I was, and so, on arrival at Liverpool Street around 8pm (my Oyster card usage shows me to have passed through Holborn tube at 7.51pm), I decided to head straight for the platform that I, as a railway bore, knew my train would leave from, and wait there, keeping well out of everybody's way. I sat on some ducting at the far end of the platform and rummaged in my bag for something to attempt to read.
At 8.05pm, I found myself surrounded by three British Transport Police officers in stab-proof vests, telling me to leave the station, as I was not fit to travel. In a sober frame of mind, I would have found this utterly illogical and baffling, but I would have had the wherewithal to challenge the assertion. Think about it. I'm not fit to travel, but I'm fit to wander around the streets of the city of London. Were they just trying to get rid of me so I'd be some other bugger's problem? In any case, leaving the station was my fervent wish, but only on the 9pm train, upon which I was planning to fall asleep and wake at my terminus station with a thumping headache and a vague worry that I'd made a tit of myself. Unfortunately, I was not in a sober frame of mind, so I told them to leave me alone. They didn't. So then, as I recall it, they tried to manhandle me out of position, a manoeuvre that involved twisting my right arm up my back. In the words of Gerard Hoffnung's bricklayer, it was at this point that I lost my presence of mind. Due to unfortunate occurrences last year, my right arm does not respond well to being forced anywhere. I turned the air blue, and found myself face first on the floor, handcuffed and being told I was being arrested. At this point, I burst out laughing. "What's so funny, sir?" asked the chief plod. "This," I replied, "It's hilarious. It's special". From then on, I became unbearable, taunting them from my prone position, asking if they'd joined the BTP because they couldn't get into the proper police. I was carried over the road to Bishopsgate police station. As we passed the front door, I asked if they were planning to take me up the tradesmen's entrance. Once inside, I asked if they could add numerous other heinous offences to the charge sheet just for fun.
From there, it was off with the tie, shoes, etc and into an overheated cell. All this was achieved by 9pm. Shamefully, it took them until after 1am and a shedload of me being tiresome through the grille before they rang my wife and assured her that I wasn't dead in a ditch somewhere. As I said on the last time I reminded them that they had to do this one thing, making me suffer was fair game, but making a blameless woman have a sleepless night was not. In the morning, I was released and told to report to Horseferry Road Magistrates Court the following week at 10am. I paid through the nose for a walk-up ticket to Lowestoft, my ticket for the previous night having been a pre-booked cheapo.
I spent the next week fretting about fine tariffs and the like, and, at the advice of a friend who has recently qualified as a lawyer (who, amusingly enough, had been drinking with me for much of the day in question), working up a statement of mitigation and completing my means form. I'm eternally indebted to Queen Margot & Let's Look Sideways for putting me up the night before I was due in front of the beak. The BTP and the CPS cocked up and nearly failed to have my case papers at the court in time. Had I not asked to see the charge sheet before going in to plead (I was going to plead guilty all along, but I wanted to know exactly what I was being asked to own up to) there's every chance the papers wouldn't have arrived and I'd have walked. The relevant documents were faxed over hurriedly ("Fax it up?" "Well, it doesn't help, your worship") and I was called in after a few hours of waiting around. The magistrate thought I should have been offered a caution, and said that he'd refer it up if I was willing to wait. As I had research work to do that afternoon and I didn't have any desire to dally in the court any longer than I had to, I said that I'd rather just get on with it. He looked at my means form. It's been a lean year, and I'd brought the bank statements to prove it. Sentence was passed. £100 fine plus £15 'victim surcharge' (why don't they just call it a £115 fine?) plus £50 costs. The night in the cells wiped out the £115, leaving me to pay just the £50. I paid up and went to the pub next door for a pint of Shepherd Neame Masterbrew and some lunch. Never has a session bitter tasted sweeter. When I rang my mum to tell her the result, she asked "Where are you now?". When I replied "In the pub next door", it was as though I'd confessed to every unsolved murder in the book. "Go straight home now," she ordered in a quivering voice. As I was booked on another 9pm cheap ticket, and I had interviews to do between now and then, I said that I couldn't, and that I was merely having something to eat and a very weak beer to wash it down. I didn't think this was the moment to remind her that until an hour before I had been the only member of our family who hadn't so much as a parking ticket to their name.
This is the bit that interests me most. The magistrate thought that it was potentially an offence warranting nothing more than a caution. Failing that, an £80 on-the-spot penalty might have been appropriate. So why did the BTP take it to court? Could it be that I was well-dressed and that, with fines being pegged to earnings, they thought I'd be good for more than £80? They don't benefit directly, but a larger fine would surely count for something in the mass of meaningless performance statistics that measure the effectiveness of our law enforcers? How were they to know that I'm a cash-strapped freelance who nonetheless has at least one nice suit?
You've had my side. Here, for reference, is the official version. I've obscured the name of the arresting officer to save him the embarrassment of being exposed as someone who can't spell the word 'twat', so let's call him PC Charles Penrose.
"JUST GET THE FUCK" should obviously read "JUST GET TO FUCK". Other minor details omitted by PC Penrose include what I shouted as they carried me up the stairs from the station onto Bishopsgate, which was "PUT ME DOWN, I CAN WALK, YOU FUCKERS". There's also the small matter of me being identified as "a male...who has been on the platform for some considerable time drinking alcohol". Firstly, I'd been on the platform no more than 5 minutes when PC Penrose and chums rolled up (My Oyster card proves this beyond doubt). Secondly, I had not been drinking alcohol at any point since arriving at the station. Thirdly, nobody from National Express approached me at any point. And if we're really quibbling, the suit was black pinstripe not grey, and I am really, truly not of slim build. PC Penrose - You carried me. You know how heavy I am.
So, people of Waveney, your protest candidate on 6 May is a drunken criminal. Judge me on my record.