October 29, 2010
October 25, 2010
There will be places around the Interweb today “Keeping it Peel”. It may be 6 years since the legendary DJ passed away but it must be 26 years since I last listened to a Peel radio programme from start to finish. In fact I think I can even recall the day. I’d made a rare visit to London and was driving north up the M1 so I was a captive audience. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t midnight, or even dark. Was his show on at 8pm/9pm at some point in the 1980s ?
It’s all well and good playing new music all the time but there has to be some quality control. He was lucky enough to receive a constant supply of free new records (and cassettes from unsigned bands) in the post. He must have had many many thousands of shiny black flat plastic round things with holes in the middle. I’m sure at some point he must have held a record ?? There is an old saying that everyone who bought the VUs first LP at the time of its release went on to form a band of their own. I have a saying that half of John Peel’s audience consisted of people who had sent him demo tapes and were waiting to see if he’d play them. In the days when the BBC held a monopoly of the airwaves there weren’t many other outlets. After the late 1970s the majority of the records he played did absolutely nothing for me. Although he may have seemed endearing when he played records at the wrong speed, if said record was by The Aphex Twin how would the audience even know ? Personally I always thought The Fall were vastly overrated and I even think I could come up with 100 singles that are better than “Teenage Kicks”. (Sorry if that offends someone but isn’t the whole idea of a Blog meant to be a place where you can voice your own opinion ?). Over the years I think Johnny Walker has shown the best taste in music. Over the last decade Radio 3′s “Late Junction”, Bob Harris and Mark Lamarr have produced the most entertaining radio shows around the midnight slot. But I do commend Peel for being an early champion of the genre known as Dub though. Along with his Producer John Walters he did enable 100s of young bands to get into a studio for a Peel session, most of which seem to be available from various sources. I think John Peel’s best broadcasting was in his later years for Radio 4′s “Home Truths” (and thinking about it, John Walters was an under-rated and overlooked broadcaster who should have spent far more time in front of a microphone rather than standing in the background).
Talking of things Peel I would love to replace my long lost copy of “There is some fun in going forward” which was the final LP release on John Peel’s Dandelion label. It was a compilation LP which I believe sold for 99p. There was a picture on the back of Peel in the bath with someone who may well have been the pig ? (his not particularly flattering nickname for Sheila). I know there is an expensive CD version (with extra tracks) available but I still like LPs. They’re collectible and some of them are pieces of art. And compilation LPs were a relatively cheap way to hear music from bands I wasn’t familiar with (stuff like “Picnic”, the two CBS LPs entitled “Rock machine turns you on” and the fabulous “The house that Track built” spring to mind).
PS: In hindsight, compared to the mass of inane babble produced by DJs over the last 50 years John Peel was an erudite and interesting broadcaster. He was a busy man. As well as gigs, record labels, TV documentary voiceovers and the (very) odd Top of the Pops presentations he wrote books and newspaper articles. In the early 1970s Peel even wrote a weekly column in the chart-orientated pop music paper “Disc and Music Echo” at the time when T Rex were appearing on the front page and co-incidentally no longer appearing on Peel’s radio show.
October 18, 2010
ITEM: Oh dear. The robot isn’t magic anymore. It may well be amazing but it isn’t really the same. And doesn’t it kind of spoil the fun when everything you can think of from days gone by have all begun to come back round again. Like Mamod model steam engines, Stylophones, poverty, rickets…..
ITEM: Why on earth is “Smashing Time” still unavailable on DVD ?? I have a sudden urge to watch it again. But I don’t have a strong enough urge that would entail me buying the film on a second-hand VHS tape and then spending hours recovering my final Video Recorder from the attic.
PS: Update January 2012. The whole “Smashing Time” film has just appeared on UToob. Not just clips. The whole film. In fact lots of whole films and sitcom episodes are appearing. Dunno if this is a temporary thing or a new trend as “Flash” files get bigger and bigger, Broadband speeds increase, everyone rushes out to buy “Smart” TVs, You Tube formulates plans to insert yet more ads around their video and to become the only “TV channel” people watch and as parent company Google continue their world domination (whilst still paying less taxes than you and me…..) But at least I get to see “Smashing Time” again. Didn’t we have a smashing time. Welcome to the future. You’re welcome to it………
ITEM: Dan de Carlo drew this early 1950s series for Standard Comics. The four issues are now collected in book form along with loads of Jetta pin-ups drawn by contemporary artists. It seems pretty obvious to me that the whole concept was borrowed/stolen by Hanna- Barbera ten years later for their “Jetsons” cartoons (particularly the teenage Judy Jetson). Incidentally, my favourite Jetsons moment is where George is made redundant. His arduous job (in the future of 2062 you work a 3 hour day) consisted of standing by a large machine and periodically pressing a button to stop/start the sprocket production line. He was replaced by a robot sporting a single arm with a gloved hand on the end of it to carry out George’s button pressing without the need for toilet breaks !!
ITEM: And talking of space….according to the Interweb there is a 15-mile-long spaceship currently orbiting Jupiter. Even if it were true why assume it contains a thousands-strong invasion fleet that are heading here ? Perhaps it is actually a 15-mile-long escape pod containing a 10-mile-long dead alien ??
October 14, 2010
October 12, 2010
I suppose I was around the age of 10 when I first joined the UK Monkees fan club. Years later I joined another Monkees fan club. In the 1970s and 1980s there were dozens !! Unsurprisingly the membership has long since lapsed but in fact, I never stopped being a fan. Oh, and being in a Monkees fan club in your late teens was a great way to meet girls !!. But they would say things like “Which is your favourite Monkee ?”. I didn’t really have an answer to that. I just saw them as a band that made great (and often under-appreciated) music. Music was most definitely of a secondary consideration to the girls. They were far more interested in the character and personality (and looks) of each of the pre-fab four and had umpteen pictures of their favourite fantasy in scrapbooks and on bedroom walls. So, eventually, if asked I would say my favourite Monkee was Micky. He sang all the best songs. One of the first songs he penned for the band was the album track “Randy Scouse Git” which appeared on the Monkees third LP “Headquarters” in 1967 and which obliquely referred to his visit to the UK and meeting the Beatles and his future wife.
She’s a wonderful lady and she’s mine all mine
And there doesn’t seem a way that she won’t come and lose my mind.
It’s too easy humming songs to a girl in yellow dress
It’s been a long time since the party and the room is in a mess.
The four kings of EMI are sitting stately on the floor
There are birds out on the sidewalk and a valet at the door.
He reminds me of a penguin with few and plastered hair
There’s talcum powder on the letter, and the birthday-boy is there.
Why don’t you cut your hair ?
Why don’t you live up there ?
Why don’t you do what I do
See what I feel when I care ?
Now they’ve darkened all the windows and the seats are naugahyde.
I’ve been waiting for an hour I can’t find a place to hide.
The being known as Wonder Girl is speaking I believe.
It’s not easy trying to tell her that I shortly have to leave.
Why don’t you be like me ?
Why don’t you stop and see ?
Why don’t you hate who I hate
Kill who I kill to be free ?
Repeat chorus, drum solo, drop drumsticks etc
The song was so catchy that it was released as a single in the UK (but never in the USA) and reached the top 10. But the powers that be thought that perhaps “Randy Scouse Git” wasn’t the most user-friendly title. Of course it was what Alf (Warren Mitchell) called his idle son-in-law Mike (Antony Booth) on the TV sitcom “Till death us do part”. Micky had heard the phrase and probably not even asked what it meant. You can just imagine the following conversation:-
Record executive 1: “What we need is an alternate title.”
Record Executive 2: “By jove that’s it !!”
As recently as the 1990s a friend from the USA was surprised to discover the track had been re-named in this way when I sent her a UK single.
It’s amazing to think they could sell a monthly magazine that just contained the lyrics of the current hits but they did. This magazine and similar ones like Disco 45 continued well into the 1980s.
PS: The “b” side of “Alternate Title” was “Forget that girl”. Sung by Davy it is one of the best tunes the Monkees ever recorded. You got value for your money in those days. Considering how many times I must have played that single on an old gramophone meant for 78rpm records I’m amazed it still sounds so good…and loud… There seems to have been a period around 1966/1967 when singles released on certain labels had the volume boosted. This made certain songs positively boom out of the jukeboxes of the time. It’s particularly noticeable on some Stones records, also DDDBM&T and a couple of Monkees singles…..especially this one and “A little bit me, a little bit you”.
PPS: Which as usual sent me off on a tangent hunting out some of those “loud” 45s and checking if they included any Tamla Motown singles. (As if I haven’t got far more important stuff to do….). Then I thought I’d look to see how many cover versions of “Alternate Title” had been made. Surprisingly few. The UK bands Bad Manners and Carter USM had a stab at it along with one or two bands no one has ever heard of on Monkees tribute albums and that’s about it. Of course, The Monkees sang it often enough on their TV show for the tune to still be so recognisable today.
October 7, 2010
Looking with bewilderment through the current issue of “Marvel Previews” at the upcoming same old same old rubbish comics shortly to be available I realise I am now down to buying just ONE Marvel comic per month. (S.H.I.E.L.D if you really want to know…oh and perhaps a dozen DCs like Madame Xanadu and the upcoming Knight and Squire). However these days I’m getting far more fun and satisfaction re-reading old comics. In this case a VERY old comic from 1947…… The art has a nice “Fanzine” feel to it. This can be explained by the fact that most of the comic was drawn by Bryan Berry who was only 17 years old at the time !! I particularly like the lettering. Bryan went on to write some Science fiction but apparently died at the age of 36.
I believe there were only 4 issues of Cardal Comics’ (who ??) “Streamline Comics” in 1947 featuring yes, you guessed it, Streamline, the UKs version of Superman. So this page at the back of the comic with its talk of future issues seems somewhat redundant. Surprisingly, you can actually buy the contents of this comic (and others of the same period) and loads more obscure stuff from Terry Hooper.