Just back from braving the snow-struck public transport system for a visit to London. The purpose of the jaunt was to attend Missing Believed Wiped at the NFT (Yes, I know it's BFI Southbank now, but I still call Hammersmith Apollo the Odeon, nearly 20 years after it changed, because I'm like that). I took a small detour on my way from Liverpool Street to the south bank, via the British Library, to renew my reader pass, guaranteeing 3 further years of civilisation, ready access to a complete run of the Radio Times and free wi-fi. A new picture was taken, and it's a vast improvement on the old one, taken when I was a stone or two heavier and sporting a luxuriant beard. In that one, I looked like an Old Testament rapist. Now I merely resemble a slightly lardy Tin-Tin wearing Ronnie Barker's glasses.
MBW was a splendid affair, as usual. Some of the functioning addicts of the archive TV community gathered beforehand to concoct evil fantasies about TV executives' mothers with a sideline in illegal abortions. Well, that wasn't the plan, but that's what happened. Sadly, the libel laws prevent me outlining the leaps of fractured logic that brought us to that point, but rest assured, if I were to spill the beans, you'd never look at the Young Generation in the same way again. All this before a single alcoholic drink had been taken, too.
Session 1 saw a welcome repeat of the Kaleidoscope documentary on Bob Monkhouse's private archive, as seen at BAFTA last October. This was followed by the near-saintly Ian Greaves introducing a selection of clips recovered from off-air recordings of the defunct satellite broadcaster BSB. Noel Gay Television made most of BSB's comedy, but junked the recordings at some point in the last 20 years, including very early TV appearances by Chris Morris and Armando Iannucci. Both featured in Ian's compilation, but the real delight was a smattering of material from I Love Keith Allen, including a lovely little piece about BSB continuity. Seated at a Yamaha DX7 in a bad wig, Allen proclaimed that the keyboard would be at the heart of BSB's identity, and that his fellow announcers included Bobby Crush, Russ Conway and Mrs Mills. If anyone ever questions the reason for Keith Allen's existence, this clip alone would justify it.
We also got the first episode of Ronnie Barker's 1972 series His Lordship Entertains, in which his Lord Rustless character turned the ancestral seat into a hotel. The plot revolved around the visit from a hotel inspector. I wonder if John Cleese ever saw this show? The final item in session 1 was a recovered Till Death Us Do Part, but I ducked out for a pint with young Masterton, who had just finished his working day at nearby TalkSPORT, which had been more talk than sport, weather having kiboshed most of the fixtures. Even had James not been around, I'd have probably given Garnett a miss, because love the series though I do, I couldn't face listening to the more reactionary members of the audience cackling with glee every time Warren Mitchell said 'coon' and muttering how it was political correctness gone mad that you couldn't shout 'darkie' on television anymore.
Session 2 was music all the way, beginning with the sole surviving edition of Southern TV's 1968 popfest Time for Blackburn (an early Mike Mansfield production, complete with in-shot turret lens changes and very very fast cutting used as a cheap but arresting visual effect), featuring a young Jonathan King holding forth on topics of the day.
Toe Knee Black Burn was followed by a compilation of clips from the late-1970s/early 1980s BBC Midlands regional music programme Look! Hear!, which were a real revelation. After a worrying start with heavy metal dullards Black Sabbath and Diamond Head, things picked up with a raft of fab Two-Tone acts, including The Selecter enduring a stage invasion from the entire audience, and less well-known but utterly adorable Swinging Cats skanking their way through Never On a Sunday. Actually, kids, show, don't tell.
In summary, it was effing marvellous, and I know that I would buy a DVD of the series without a second thought.
Then there was a 1976 TOTP, recovered from David Hamilton's off-air recording. This was another loo-and-bar break for me, as in the last year or so, I've seen more mid-1970s TOTP than my mind and body can truly stand. Finally, it was time to dust off the much-vaunted recently-retrieved clips from a 1967 TOTP, including unique footage of Pink Floyd performing 'See Emily Play'. Unfortunately, the tape seems to have been stored in a vat of cat's piss, and we ran the whole gamut of sound without picture, picture without sound, neither picture nor sound and, very occasionally, picture and sound. As Dick Fiddy said in his intro, the best way to approach it was to kid yourself that you had miraculously tuned into a signal that had been thrashing about in the ether for 43 years, with attendant reception problems. And Thence We Issued Out, not to see the stars, but to drink and be merry. Which we did.
I had the great good fortune to be put up by Roman Empress and Let's Look Sideways at their palatial east end residence, and, to soak up our Sunday morning hangovers, we met up with The Urban Woo for a fry-up at S&M in Spitalfields. Which was nice. Like the knitting needles and gin reverie of the previous day, most of our breakfast chatter is sadly unrepeatable here, so you'll just have to make up your own rumours about Heather Mills.