Tag Archives: BBC

October 23rd 1975

“Wired up stereo at college. Talked to Caitlin. In the evening Nig came round. Roxy on TOTP”

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be…

Don’t you find it amazing that Roxy Music appearing on Top of the Pops commanded a diary entry?

But that’s what it was like back in ‘the old days’. An ‘event’. A new song was rarely accompanied by any kind of video media, but even when it was you had to wait weeks – sometimes months – to see it. Any performance on TV was seen once – when it was broadcast – and then all you could do was somehow wish you might see it again.

3 television channels – BBC’s 1 + 2 and ITV – and that was it. Top of the Pops was on once a week – Thursday nights – and even then viewers were given no advance warning about what acts or what songs might be featured. You had to guess who might be on, based on how your favourites fared on the charts the previous Sunday. If a single went down there was NO chance of seeing it again. At least not for a couple of decades and the advent of both the VCR and the ‘television repeats’ culture.

Kids today have it MADE! Not that I am jealous of what they have over what we had back in 1975. Not at all.

In other news it looks like practised my chatting-up techniques on Caitlin and displayed my wiring skillz to be fellow students.

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May 16th 1975 (IV)

The “John, Paul, George, Ringo… and Bert” programme continued…

Alan Dossor‘s subsequently helmed for TV shows such as “Johnny Jarvis“, “Bergerac“, “The Governor” and “A Touch of Frost

Bernard Hill‘s acting career leapt into the stratosphere on the back of his bravura performance in the TV drama series “Boys from the Blackstuff“, where he played “Yosser” Hughes, an unemployed tarmac layer who angrily rails against the social unfairness of the Thatcher administration. Two of his lines became catchphrases, still used to this day… “Gizza Job” and “I can do that”

After “…Blackstuff” he appeared in Richard Attenborough’s award-winning “Ghandi” and films such as “The Bounty

In 1989 he returned to a Willy Russell script, playing the boorish Joe in “Shirley Valentine“. He is probably best known these days for his appearances in “Lord of the Rings” and as the fated ship’s captain in “Titanic

After playing Paul McCartney for a year at the Lyric Theatre, Trevor Eve was cast as Jonathan Harker in John Badham’s UK/USA-produced “Dracula” movie where he starred alongside such luminaries as Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasance and Frank Langhella.

In the late 70’s and into the early 80’s he was famous for playing the title role in “Shoestring“, a hugely popular TV show about  private investigator with his own show on “Radio West”, a fictitious station located in Bristol. (Peculiarly enough a few years later a REAL Radio West started broadcasting, the result of some new broadcasting franchise opportunities)

He is now (even better) known for playing Detective Peter Boyd in the BBC drama series “Waking the Dead

Philip Joseph‘s post-play career seems sketchy but he does appear to have appeared in TV shows like “Great Expectations”, “Soldier Soldier” and “The Bill“. Sorry to say, I wouldn’t recognise him at all.

Antony Sher is now Sir Antony Sher, knighted by the Queen for his services to the theatre in 2000.

Although he has appeared in a few movies – “Mrs Brown” and “Shakespeare in Love”  to name but two – the main body of his career has been spent on the stage where he has won many awards and plaudits. He has been a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company since 1982.

George Costigan didn’t allow being born in Portsmouth hold him back from enjoying a very succesful TV and Movie career.

He gained proper public recognition after his stand-out performance as the serial adulterer in the 1986 hit film “Rita, Sue and Bob Too

His TV roles include shows like “Kavanagh QC“, “London’s Burning“, “The Bill“, “Holby City” and “Doctor Who“, and he has just signed up to play a part in the popular UK soap opera “Emmerdale

Anthony Blackett, who, as the programme states got his stage break in “J.P.G,R… and B”, changed his name to to the simpler Tony Blackett and after a seven-year stint in the UK and USA – where he appeared in shows such as “The New Avengers” and “Return to Eden” – went back to live Australia.

Robin Hooper appears to have had a mixed career, his high spot doubtless being a recurring role as Malcolm in Ricky Gervais’ observational comedy smash “The Office

Barbara Dickson was already a well-known face on the English folk circuit before Willy Russell asked her to perform the music in “J,P,G,R… and B”. It has been said that it was her unique interpretation of the Beatles songs which made the show so succesful.

She attracted the attention of  Robert Stigwood (co-producer of the play) who promptly signed her to his RSO Record label, where she made the album “Answer Me“, the title track from which became a Top 10 hit single for her in 1976.

She also recorded the song “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” for the Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s musical “Evita” and enjoyed yet another hit. More hits followed in 1980; “Caravan Song” and “January, February

In 1982 she returned to the West End, starring as the mother in Willy Russell’s hugely succesful “Blood Brothers“. A role which won her an “Actress of the Year” award.  She was then cast in Tim Rice’s musical “Chess” which included a duet with Elaine Paige. The subsequent recording of “I Know Him So Well” was massive hit and is still listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling female duet of all-time.

She continues to act and sing and worked again in 2003 with Willy Russell on his album “Hoovering the Moon”. In 2006 she released a collection of her versions of Beatles songs “Nothing’s Gonna Change My World” – which almost takes her career full circle – and has recently published her autobiography “A Shirtbox Full of Songs

My observations on the “John, Paul, George, Ringo… and Bert” theatre programme concludes in the next post…

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March 11th 1975

“Got elected onto committee. Passed Economics O-Level. packed up Vivienne”

What a day……..

Barton Peveril had a Sixth Form society – colloquially known as the “Coffee Club” – responsible for arranging the entertainment aspects of the students.

With the year-end exams looming – well 3 months distant – I suppose it felt prudent for the college to induct the new organising committee in advance of the 2nd year 6th students hunkering down to their (supposedly more important) educational matters?

I originally ran for President of the society, drawing up ‘vote for me’ posters based on famous album sleeves (one was based on David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” cover, with the tagline “A Lad Insane Enough to be running for President“) and gave a speech on stage during which time I tried to bribe the audience (voters) by tossing blackjacks and fruit salads (popular 4-for-a-penny sweets of the time made by Bassetts) into the crowd.

My competitor was a certain John Sweeney, a name who media fanatics may recognise as someone who worked for the Guardian newspaper before becoming one of the BBC’s top investigative journalists.

Other people may recognise him as the unfortunate reporter who – somewhat fired up – went apeshit ballistic on Tommy Davis, a representative of the Church of Scientology during a BBC “Panorama” documentary about the odious religious cult.

A piece of television history that went ‘viral’ (as they say in internet speak) attracting squillions of online hits.

John Sweeney, trying to look happier

Anyway, back to the election…. John was blessed with an ‘actor’s voice’ and thus gave a pleasing oratory to the hundreds of students hanging on his every word. I then followed him in my ‘Ampshire ‘Og accent with a speech packed with jokes rather than any substance. (I was, if you like, the Palin to his Obama)

Votes were duly cast…. and as I state somewhere else on the internet, “John Sweeney prevailed. He went on to present programmes for the BBC, and I went on to watch them

By way of a runners-up prize I was offered a place on the organising committee. My good friends Nobby, Neville, Tony & Nigel all ended up with representative nods too, so it looked like a fun time was ahead…

However, it appears it’s all over for me and the illustrious Vivienne? I have “packed her up” apparently. Maybe it became the case that I got glandular fever from her, but precious little else? Ouch!!

Oh, and there’s confirmation that I nabbed another GCE O-Level.

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July 30th – August 19th 1974

Nothin’

Once again “Excerpts from a 70’s Teenage Rock Opera” comes up empty-handed, this 1974 diary proving extremely poor value for money indeed.

So I can do little more than ask you to hum quietly whilst staring at the image below…..

(Non-Brits may like to read this for an explanation of the above)

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(1974 Albums) Cat Stevens – Catch Bull at Four / Buddha & the Chocolate Box / Teaser & the Firecat

I have already expressed my embarrassment over not liking Cat Stevens the first time I heard him back in January 1973.

By way of defence I can only add that my musical head must have been so very packed with ‘prog’, that a singer/songwriter warbling about simple things like love and peace must have sounded ‘dull’. Not for ever though, thankfully.

“Teaser and the Firecat” is my second-favourite Cat Stevens album. (Top spot is definitely reserved for “Tea for the Tillerman”)

“Teaser..” yielded no less than three chart singles. The worst of them is the anthemic and somewhat bleating “Morning has Broken“, Cat’s interpretation of an old Christian hymn. The other two are much better: “Moonshadow” is a beautifully uplifting acoustic number, whilst “Peace Train” remains, even to this day, as strong an anti-war song as you’re ever likely to hear.

Of the rest of the cuts, opener “The Wind” is a short but stunning guitar duet wherein Cat sums up his personal philosophies about life, and “If I Laugh” is a straightforward, but sublime ballad. The others cuts really don’t do a lot for me, although I realise that “Bitterblue” is a favourite of many Cat fans.

Where “Teaser…” was pretty instant, “Catch Bull at Four” is an album that grew on me over time. Despite repeat playing however, it took me many years of listening to realise that it is an LP which is openly bi-polar.

Side 1 is all upbeat and optimistic. “Sitting” sets the scene, with all that happy, happy piano and words of growth and hope, and “The Boy with a Moon & Star on his Head” talks about finding love that was thought lost. “Angelsea” – a tribute to his wife – saw Cat flirt with synthesizers for the first time, and to great effect. The sound on this cut is so very dense and involving, and I just LOVE that drumming!

Silent Sunlight” finds Stevens in a contemplative mood and Side 1’s closer “Can’t Keep It In” is a wonderful open expression of (again) love and optimism. (It proved to be the album’s only hit single, reaching #13)

Side 2 by contrast feels a complete downer. “18th Avenue“, for all its wonderfully theatrical flourishes, seems to suggest Cat is already worrying about his old age and impending lack of mental comprehension. “Freezing Steel” finds him scared about being kidnapped and “O Caritas” ( a beautiful song sung in both Greek and English) has Cat concerned he won’t live long enough to find spiritual fulfillment.

The dour mood continues with “Sweet Scarlet“, a piano ballad that seems to suggest a lost love, and the album is then wrapped up with “Ruins” where Stevens predicts ecological disaster for the planet, loooooong before it was trendy to do so. (Helloooo, Sting)

1973 saw Cat Stevens release “Foreigner”, an unweildy and excessively pretentious album wherein he tried to merge his sound with that of authentic Black American ‘soul’ music. Despite its chart positioning – reaching Number 3 in both the US and UK – it was not an LP which stood the test of time and soon fell off people’s collective radar. (With the exception of “How Many Times” I pretty much hate it)

The follow-up album, 1974’s “Buddha and the Chocolate Box” was, thankfully, a little easier on the ear. Despite its religious overtones, it is an album which I personally still have a lot of time for.

One thing (the otherwise disastrous) “Foreigner” did seem to achieve was to allow Cat to break away from his beloved “acoustic” roots. This is highlighted by the multi-instrumental and multi-faceted “Music”, which contains the ludicrously joyful chorus of
“New Music, Music, New Music
Sweet Music can lighten us
Can brighten the world, can save us”
35 years later and I still sing along – usually out loud – to the sentiment.

The single, “Oh Very Young” is a little tribute to Buddy Holly. “Sun/C79” has always been one of my favourites of Cat’s output. I love how the rhythm blows hot and cold and how Stevens emotionally remembers “she was back in C79” with a little scream whilst explaining to his (imaginary?) son who his mother was and where he met her.

Ghost Town” is peculiarly offbeat (including offbeat lyrics too), whilst “Jesus” doesn’t tell us anything new and is, by far, the worst cut on Side 1.

Ready“, starting Side 2, is always a song that sounds as if it being played WAY too fast and “King of Trees” is lyrically a little too suspect for my liking. By contrast, “A Bad Penny” is all too clearly the words of a man wanting to turn his back on the ‘rock & roll lifestyle” and the closer “Home in the Sky” suggests he’s ready to walk away, actually ending with the words “bye bye“. Somewhat prescient given later events.

Between 1975 and 1978 Cat Stevens would release three more albums – “Numbers”, “Izitso” and “Back to Earth” – none of which attainted the heights of his early seventies material. In 1978 he changed his (real) name from Steven Demetre Georgiou to Yusuf Islam and abandoned his musical career for almost three decades.

Instead he immersed himself in the Muslim faith, briefly courting controversy over the years with poorly timed remarks about author Salman Rushdie and the 9/11 attacks on America. He also got in the news for being denied entry to the USA when it was discovered he was documented on the Transport Security Adminstration’s ‘no fly’ list, supposedly due to “concerns of ties he may have to potential terrorist-related activities“.

As if to highlight USA Immigration’s apparently mandatory requirement to be bureaucratically bumbling, ignorant and stupid in equal measures, it actually took a complaint from Britain’s Foreign Secretary to the US Secretary of State to finally straighten things out. It later transpired that the TSA had ‘the wrong spelling’ in their database…. a mistake which took them a full two years to rectify before Yusuf could fly again.

In 2007 – as Yusuf Islam – he released the commercial “An Other Cup” album which, at least in part, did hark back to his glory years.

He’ll always be Cat Stevens to me though, and these three albums (plus the aforementioned “Tea for the Tillerman”) perfectly spell out just how good he was. He was one of the few acts I never saw live in concert, although a few years ago we did catch an acoustic show recorded (I think by the BBC in the seventies?) on TV which showcased his material. I’ll admit I sat on the sofa and sang along to far more songs than I thought I would remember!

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(1974 Albums) Various Artists – The House That Track Built

I believe I bought this Track Records budget compilation from Woolworths’ music department in Eastleigh.

In terms of a budget compilation it certainly had a LOT going for it. Here’s the track listing….
• The Who – Magic Bus
• Jimi Hendrix Experience – All along the Watchtower
• The Sandpebbles – Love Power
• The Who – Young Man Blues
• The Precisions – If this is Love
• Thunderclap Newman – Wilhemina
• John’s Children – Desdemona
• The Crazy World of Arthur Brown – Fire
• Jimi Hendrix Experience – Purple Haze
• The Parliaments – (I Wanna) Testify
• Fairport Convention – If I had a Ribbon Bow
• The Crazy World of Arthur Brown – Devil’s Grip
• The Who – A Quick One While He’s Away

Track Records was a label set up by The Who’s managers, Chris Stamp &  Kit Lambert, so it’s no wonder that their boys get the lion’s share of cuts, and “Magic Bus” has always been one of my favourite Townshend & Co cuts (outside of the “Quadrophenia” album… more about that in a later post).

For the unaware, John’s Children was an early incarnation of T.Rex’s Marc Bolan. The cut here, “Desdemona“, was actually banned by the BBC when it came out, the lyric “Lift up your skirt and fly” evidently corrupting the youth of Britain. There’s really no doubting Bolan’s distinctive warble in the background is there?

Fire” is, as this blog has mentioned before, a psychedelic prog rock classic of the very highest order. We tip our (probably flaming) hat to Arthur Brown for that one!

The Sandpebbles “Love Power” was their one and only R&B hit (at least, in the USA), whilst The Precisions – another R&B offering by Track – were probably the only Motown-sounding band from Detroit who weren’t actually signed to Motown!

Let’s face it, Fairport Convention are never worth talking about. 

The Parliaments - that's George Clinton on the right!

However, The Parliaments are hugely notable for being the precursor to Funkadelic & Parliament, all featuring the one and only P-funkmeister; Mr George Clinton. (Many of The Parliaments songs were later re-recorded by both bands after a label dispute was settled in the early 70’s)

Thunderclap Newman had one hit single during their brief career, the sublime “Something in the Air“. Newman himself was a Dixieland jazz pianist, whilst the band featured not only an uncredited Pete Townshend on guitar, but a 15-year-old axe virtuoso, Jimmy McCullogh, who later went on to play in Stone the Crows, Paul McCartney’s Wings and an ill-advised 1977 reformation of The Small Faces. (McCullogh died of a heroin overdose in 1979, aged just 26)

You do have to say though that for the Hendrix and Who tracks alone this album was worth every penny of its entrance fee. Surprisingly, it wasn’t an album I held on to… which in retrospect is one hell of a shame as original UK copies regularly fetch three figure sums on the likes of eBay. (Mainly because it’s the only album where that studio version of The Who’s “Young Man Blues” appears)

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Just to let you know, EFA70sTRO posts will continue to appear a little sporadically for a week or so. This is due to the necessary ‘catch up’ following my battle with the flu. Once again, apologies to all the regular readers out there.

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December 27th 1973

“Bort Brain Salad Surgery – not very good but alright”

Wha??

Doubtless buoyed by “christmas money” I went out and bought Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s new opus – released a mere month earlier – only to get it home and immediately deem it “not very good, but alright

Do I sense dissatisfaction setting in with progressive rock gods Keith, Greg & Carl? (I use their first names here to deliberately suggest certain levels of abundant familiarity). “Not very good, but alright“? Wow, talk about fence-sitting.

Let’s take a look at the evidence shall we?….

There’s no doubting “Brain Salad Surgery” was ELP’s most ambitious and flamboyant project to date.

H.R.Giger in 2008 - is it just me, or is he starting to morph into one of his own paintings?

It started with the unsettling album cover, an admittedly fantastic piece of airbrushed work by surreal artist H.R.Giger. It is said that Giger was so flattered Keith Emerson had asked him to design a cover for the band, he painted the piece in just two days – in actual 12″ x 12″ size – including all the incredible detail as well as coming up with the now-distinctive ELP logo.

There was much talk in 1973 of phallic imagery at play with the cover, which, to be honest I never saw then, nor do I see now. Instead all I see is some kind of artistic pre-cursor to a massive selection of sci-fi movies where a human being is taken over by robots, or at least some kind of mechanical device. (Indeed, Giger’s notion was that of a “mechanical woman”)

With excess being the mandatory name of the game for most Prog acts in the 70’s, the sleeve was not a straightforward one. It expensively and expansively folded out, over and over, to present the buyer with a selection of images, the most frightening of which were actually those of the band themselves. Greg Lake apparently trying to pass himself off as some kind of pre-pubescent Donny Osmond.

“Brain Salad Surgery” remains one of my favourite album covers of all time. Not because of all the die-cut nonsense – which, as I found out to my horror, was easy to rip or tear – but for H.R. Giger’s stunning artwork. Indeed, it took me on a multi-decade journey of appreciation for Giger’s output, including (but far from limited to) the set and creature design he did for the “Alien” movie franchise.

As for the music itself, I’ve since come to realise how my initial reticence came about. This album contains both some of ELP’s finest moments… and some of their very worst.

It opens with some of their very worst. Never a good idea.

Track 1 is an adaptation of William Blake ‘s timeless hymn “Jerusalem“. (So bad there’s not even a recording of it to link to on You Tube!) In their infinite lack of wisdom, Manticore Records decided to release this track as the single, only to find it banned by the BBC, who rightly argued it was in ‘poor taste’. I could wax lyrically about just how bad this adaptation is, but probably not without copious levels of family-unfriendly swearing.

Side 1 Track 2 “Toccata” makes up for the weak opener. It is an almost-psychedelic take on Argentinian composer Ginastera ‘s 1st Piano Concerto, with Emerson’s sound effects and Palmer’s electronic drums to the fore throughout. It would prove to be a live favourite, essentially because it automatically lends itself so well to visual excesses on stage.

Still You Turn Me On” is one of Greg Lake’s trademark sugary-sweet love ballads. However, I’ll admit to having a soft spot for this one, despite the distraction of lyrics such as
Every day a little sadder
A little madder
Someone get me a ladder

Benny the Bouncer”  is another throwaway piece of nonsense that the band habitually littered their albums with. (Think “Jeremy Bender” on Tarkus or “Hoedown” on Trilogy). Once again, no link to an original recording of the song, but there IS this marching band version from 1983! (My wife will like this clip having been in the flag corps for such events)

The rest of the album is filled up with one grand ELP ‘epic’. Or, rather, isn’t. “Karn Evil 9” is a ‘suite’ of three ‘impressions’, the first impression split into two parts, resulting in…. yep, four tracks.. um, all of which appear to have very little to do with one another.

Despite this – and despite the band drafting in maddeningly-dodgy lyricist Pete Sinfield (he of the PFM & King Crimson connection) – this thirty-minute musical montage contains (in my humble opinion) 26 minutes of some of the band’s finest work.

Karn Evil 9 – 1st Impression, Part I” closes side 1 of the album., but it’s “Karn Evil 9 – 1st Impression, Part II” at the start of Side 2 which most people will recognise. Why?…

The opening lyric, “Welcome Back my Friends to the Show that never Ends….” has become an iconic statement ever since, even reaching the hallowed portals of the White House! (OK, OK…. so Martin Sheen’s President Bartlett character actually muttered it in an episode of  TV’s The West Wing).  Plus, the ensuing music – perhaps, if you will, the ‘riff’ – has been used over and over again in TV shows, documentaries, commercials and more.

Karn Evil 9 – 2nd Impression is a meandering go-nowhere instrumental featuring drums, bass and piano with Emerson briefly interpolating an old number by influential jazz musician Sonny Rollins. For me it is the thorn in Karn Evil 9‘s side

Karn Evil 9 – 3rd Impression” finds the band returning to a war theme, something they had done so well on Tarkus a few years previous. With a somewhat hokey “man vs machine” concept (to tie in with the cover art) this cut is over-the-top ELP at their most extravagantly bombastic. The battle runs for over 9 minutes with Emerson’s electronics, Lake’s loud vocals and Palmer’s computerised drums all fighting one another for centre stage, the latter even finding time to include a 70’s/Prog-rock staple; the extended drum solo.

As with most other ‘concept’ albums/pieces I mostly managed to ignore the storyline running rampant through “Karn Evil 9”, preferring to just concentrate on grooving along with the rhythms and soundscapes on offer.

There’s no doubting that this album was the last ELP studio album I had/have any real fondness for. Even in retrospect I can see why my review was mixed. 50% of this album is great, the rest is utter pants.

I suspect too that my musical tastes were already subtly diversifying and – let’s face it boys and girls – there’s only so much ELP one person can take isn’t there? There were, however, still a couple more ELP releases to come that I wouldn’t shun. One was an earwormy single, the other an utterly ludicrous triple live album… both of which, I am sure, will be highlighted in future EFA70sTRO posts.

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