Friday, January 15, 2010

Le-no comment

The revelation that a cunt might become a newspaper editor (and people acting like it's unprecedented) is a minor sideshow compared to the meejah story of the moment that really matters: Jay Leno vs Conan O'Brien over the future of NBC's Tonight Show. Five years ago, to keep the very bankable O'Brien sweet, NBC got a commitment from Leno that he'd step aside from the Tonight Show and let Coco take over in 2009, which he did. However, Coco's lost a few of the show's older viewers, in favour of a younger audience, while Leno's new show has lost most of its viewers, whatever their age, and has been cancelled. So, NBC proposed that the Tonight Show be moved back 30 minutes to 12.05am, to be preceded by a new Leno vehicle. O'Brien seems to be regarding this as constructive dismissal, and not without reason, as it's not the Tonight Show at 12.05, it's the Tomorrow Show. Over at ABC, Jimmy Kimmel has been playing a blinder, including ripping Leno a new one on his own show.

Meanwhile, over at CBS, Johnny Carson's rightful heir Dave Letterman has ordered in the popcorn and is watching with glee as the rival network tears itself apart, rather as it did when Leno pipped him to the Tonight Show in 1993.

Belated birthday greetings to Kenny Wheeler

Kenny Wheeler was 80 yesterday. Most remiss of me not to mark the occasion by listening to him tear up Seven Steps to Heaven with the Tubby Hayes Big Band, one of my favourite pieces of anything ever recorded on rust-covered Sellotape. I'll have to repair the omission right now. Happy birthday, Kenny. I interviewed him once - not easy, as he's a chap who prefers to speak through music. With a couple of quotes here and there, I cobbled together a piece that made clear my love and admiration for the man and his work. Anyway, here he is in the early 1990s with Gordon Beck on piano, Stan Sulzmann on tenor, Tony Oxley on drums and a bassist I can't quite identify at the moment, playing an unrecognisably ferocious version of Bill Evans' Waltz for Debbie in 4/4 time. Oxley's at his barking best on this one, omitting to bring anything resembling a snare drum to the gig, a decision that I gather drove a massive wedge between him and his long-time collaborator, Beck. I can't mention him without reminding this blog's reader of Stan Tracey's summary of his exceptional, if idiosyncratic talent. "Jazz drummers play ten-to-ten, ten-to-ten, ten-to-ten [the phonetic representation of the ride cymbal swing pattern]. Tony's more a-round-a-bout-a-quarter-past-eleven."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Public service announcement

If you get an email like the following, ignore it. It's a scam. Naturally, being just before the deadline for self-assessment submission, a few people might think "Oh dear, better click on the link and see what they want". At best, you'll end up with a virus. At worst, you might lose money:

Taxpayer ID: [part of an email address I've never used for tax correspondence]-00000472970993UK
Issue: Unreported/Underreported Income (Fraud Application)

Please review your tax statement on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website (click on the link below):

[Link removed]

HM Revenue and Customs

A Liddle hypocrisy

The aforementioned comment on Woo's blog resulted in a strange and slightly creepy but highly illuminating stream of communications from Rod Liddle himself. To think that he had time between paid opinions to Google his own name obsessively and give little me a piece of his mind, gratis. Truly I am blessed. In it, I see that he called me a "Typical fucking gobshite public school coward, devoid of talent, wit or interest. Or courage. Hopeless little beardy cunt".

Gobshite? Almost certainly. Devoid of talent, wit or interest? I'm probably not the best judge of my own attributes. You decide. Courage? I wish they'd bring back Imperial Russian stout. However, like Liddle, I went to a comprehensive. Still, why research when you can assume, albeit wrongly? As for being "beardy", what's this I see before me? I reckon that he was just jealous because I can actually grow something other than bumfluff.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gilding the Lily

A penny has just dropped. Looking for something in some old emails, I noticed a message from a Cambridge undergraduate called Lily Cole, asking for details of an old cinema she was researching historically. I replied with details of a book that would supply some of the basic information she needed, and got a very prompt thank you email in return. You're way ahead of me, I can tell. Must be, mustn't it? Probably best I didn't make the connection at the time, as she's rather lovely, and I might have entered 'Can I just say what a smashing blouse you have on?' mode.

I've just had a vada at the Daily Mail story on Ms Cole's first-year progress. Girl done good, apparently. What do the commenters say beneath the story?

"No big deal. History of Art is a soft option. The courses are normally full of little rich/ sloanes- girls who really have little interest in the subject but did not get the grades to study anything else. It actually denigrates this whole beautiful subject and the tutors get very despondent with the apathetic stupid students they have 99% of the time." Sam, Australia.

"History of Art? Ha ha! Hardly difficult to get a first when you're studying the Degree of Choice for toffs, celebs and anybody else who can't get a proper degree. Oh, let's look at paintings and sculpture for 3 years, how mentally challenging." James, London.

"Wow, history of art - that's a real degree isn't it!" PureScienceFTW

Every Liddle hinders

I see that Rod Liddle's in the frame for the editor's chair at the Independent. Well, that should ensure that the paper finally joins Today, the News Chronicle and the Daily Sketch, and cast a few mates of mine out onto the dole queue in the process.

Never mind the all-encompassing history of the record industry what I wrote. You can keep the soup-to-nuts overview of light entertainment that followed it. When looking at my achievements, I am perhaps proudest of having ensured, inadvertently, that this blog post comes out top if anyone happens to search Google for the phrase "Rod Liddle is a cunt".

Monday, January 11, 2010

Caught on the Hopper

Sad news about Dennis Hopper's almost-certainly terminal illness. Almost as sad is the shocking state of sub-editing at the website of the urban freesheet Metro, which reports that...well, see for yourselves. Still, at least he's lying down.

Missing Believed Wiped

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.