Tag Archives: ITV

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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Number One Singles of 1974 (Part 4)

[…”Number One Singles of 1974″ continued from Part 3]

Country singer John Denver ‘s first marriage was to Annie Martell from Minnesota.

In 1974 he purloined the main theme from the 2nd Movement of Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 5“, and wrote a set of words to go with it, the sum expressing his love for his wife. 

The subsequent “Annie’s Song” became a Number One hit single on both sides of the Atlantic. It is now regarded as a classic love song, and doubtless the scourge of many a wedding DJ.

John Denver’s popularity in the 70’s should never be underestimated, certainly in America where he is a considered more than just a pop culture icon. His song “Rocky Mountain High” is now one of the two official state songs of Colorado, whilst there are moves afoot to try to bestow “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with a similar honour for the state of West Virginia.

I’m not sure I was really ever aware of this song back in 1974. I think my first proper exposure to John Denver would have been his appearances on “The Muppet Show” which used to air on British TV at Sunday tea-time. Much later I was one of few who critically praised his performance as the ‘chosen one’ in Director Carl Reiner’s religious comedy “Oh God!“, even if he was acted off the screen by the superb George Burns!

Denver died in 1997, crashing his self-piloted (home-built, and experimentally-designed) plane on the Californian coast. In a rare tribute to a singer, the then Colorado governor ordered all state flags be half-staffed in Denver’s honour.

Trivia fans may wish to hang onto the notion that Denver was a fully trained astronaut. In 1986 he was lined up to become “the first civilian in space” on the Space Shuttle Challenger, a twist of fate keeping him out of the eventual crew of that tragic flight.

Sweet Sensation were an 8-piece British soul group from Manchester who first caught the public’s eye on the ITV talent show “New Faces“.

Their first single flopped but the follow-up, “Sad Sweet Dreamer“, reached Number 1 in the UK and Number 14 in the USA.

The band enjoyed one more minor hit single – “Purely by Coincidence” – in 1975 before disappearing into obscurity.

Somewhat bizarrely, lead singer Marcel King attempted a belated solo career – in 1985 – with the help of New Order‘s Bernie Sumner and A Certain Ratio‘s Donald Johnson. The resultant “Reach for Love” was a failure.

Ken Boothe ‘s “Everything I Own” was British reggae label Trojan‘s second Number One hit single. (The first was the superb “Double Barrel” by Dave & Ansel Collins)

Boothe had already enjoyed success in his home country of Jamaica, working with such reggae luminaries as Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, the Wailers, Keith Hudson and Alton Ellis, as well as releasing songs on the legendary Studio One label.

Everything I Own” was a shift away from his regular sound, and far more poppier and mainstream than he was known for. The song itself had already been a minor hit in the UK – in 1972 – for its writer David Gates who released it with his band, Bread.

Trivia fans may care to note that
a) Boothe sings the lyrics incorrectly throughout, crooning “Anything I Own” instead of “Everything I Own“, and
b) he is namechecked in the Clash song “(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais

Given his popularity in the 70’s its a little surprising to realise that this is only the first mention of David Essex in this diary blog.

Gonna Make You a Star” was his first Number One, but he had already enjoyed chart success with “America“, “Lamplight” and the (yes, it’s another secret guilty pleasure) surreal but stunning “Rock On

With his boyish good looks, Essex was also enjoying stardom as a film actor, “That’ll be the Day” proving to have been a cinema hit in 1973, with “Stardust” – reprising his role as troubled rock star Jim Maclain – also becoming box office gold in 1974.

His apparent laid back and affable nature has continued to serve him well and, unlike many of his seventies peers, he has remained successful to the present day, still acting and recording albums for an appreciative and demographically diverse fan base.

Barry White (aka “The Sultan of Soul”, or rather less generously “The Walrus of Love”) was born in Texas but grew up in crime-ridden South L.A.

After a brief flirtation with crime, he got into songwriting, penning tunes for acts as diverse as Bobby Fuller and TV’s comedy act The Banana Splits

In 1963, he helped arranged Bob & Earl’s classic R&B hit “Harlem Shuffle” then worked as an A&R manager for Mustang/Bronco Records, to whom he signed (eventual) disco act Viola Wills.

1972 saw his first big commercial success, writing and producing the sexy soul classic “Walking in the Rain (With the One I Love)” for a girl group he had discovered called Love Unlimited. It would prove to be the first of many hits for the band and really kickstarted White’s career.

Whilst working on some demos White was persuaded to sing some vocals himself. The rest, as they say, is history. “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby” was a debut smash hit, quickly followed by many others, establishing him as a crossover soul artist and ‘housewives favourite’ for years after. He would go on to sell over 100 million records worldwide. He died from complications following a stroke in 2003.

You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” was his pre-Christmas 1974 Number 1 hit. Somewhat astonishingly it was written some 21 years earlier as a country tune before Barry White souled it up with his distinctive deep voice and orchestral arrangement.

Back in Part 1 of this 4-piece diatribe I mentioned that although Mud had the biggest-selling UK single of 1974, they would have a much “bigger” single.  

Lonely this Christmas” would end up being their primary long-term contribution to British culture… mainly because it is trotted out every December for a whole new set of unwilling fans to enjoy. It has become, like a handful of other songs, an “annual fixture” of the pop firmament.

It’s OK, but I’ve never really cared for it that much if truth be told. It’s a terrible Elvis pastiche and WAY too maudlin for my liking.

All in all I think 1974 was a good year for songwriters Nicky Chinn & Mike Chapman.  Three Number 1 hit singles (bringing their total to five) plus seven other high charting songs probably made them FAR from lonely at Christmas. If I sound jealous, it’s because I am.

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Telly in 1973 (Part II)

[…continued from Part I]

Another show I got into in 1973 was the Sci-Fi ‘classic” The Tomorrow People“.

The Tomorrow People were a bunch of teenagers – all with special powers – who operated out of a secret laboratory hidden in an abandoned London Underground station. The team spent their days watching out for for “new Tomorrow People” emerging (“breaking out” as it was referred to) in Britain, and then aided them through the often painful and harrowing process. Their bosses were the “Galactic Federation” – headed by (No, I am not making this up) “Galactic Trig” – set up to apparently oversee the general welfare of “telepathic & telekinetic species throughout the universe”.

The teenagers were helped in their quest by TIM, a computer capable of original thought (a bit like the Dell model I have here) and which helped them teleport long distances. Every sci-fi show has to feature teleportation of some kind, but in The Tomorrow People it was called jaunting. No, I don’t know why either.

As with all TV sci-fi of the time this show balanced great concepts with crappy effects, stilted dialogue and dodgy acting. I say this having again recently ‘enjoyed’ the first story ever broadcast. “The Slaves of Jedikiah” was a six-part tale that jumped around (“jaunted”?) all over the place and featured a character called (amusingly to me) “Ginge”. Maybe the 15-year-old me found it enthralling stuff, but the 51-year-old me is more jaded and thus found it tedious.

Trivia freaks may care to store this gem away though…. Roger Price, the creator of The Tomorrow People, was allegedly inspired to write the show after a chance meeting with David Bowie.

Bowie’s song “Oh You Pretty Things” features the line “let me make it plain, you gotta make way for the homo superior“, and Price subsequently made the characters in the show people who had attained a higher level of human evolution; a ‘Homo Superior’.

______________

Tomorrow, people will be able to read my thoughts on a collection of TV comedy classics which all debuted in 1973.

[article continued in Part III…]

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July 5th 1973

“Watched the Burke Special then did some more of the Hist. project”

Wow.

I had almost totally forgotten about James Burke and his set of techno-science documentaries – all called “The Burke Special” – that littered the TV during the 70’s and early 80’s.

He was a great presenter who managed to educate and entertain in equal measures as he showed us the intricate workings of the world around us.

It’s somewhat spooky timing that his name turns up now… because I first remember him as the BBC’s “space guy” – the reporter they always trotted out to talk on the news whenever there was a new Apollo mission. I wasn’t 100% certain but research backed up my addled brain to confirm that he was indeed the presenter on the day Neil Armstrong & Co landed on the moon… almost 40 years ago on the 20th/21st July 1969 (20th U.S. time, 21st UK time)

Here he is, taking us inside the Apollo Command Module, from some footage that seems to scream 1973…

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An Aside (V) – Telly in 1972

“Three Channels and Nothing On”

Unlike today, when my wife and I have 200+ channels to choose from and almost unlimited programming possibilities (thanks to the advent of TiVo), in 1972 I had 3 channels to pick my viewing from; BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV.

We had just ONE television in the house. A small black & white set, my parents did not ‘convert’ to colour (together with it’s necessary, but far more expensive, TV license) until I gifted them a Sony brand 26″ for Christmas in 1976 or 1977. (I had promised myself that as soon as I started earning any decent money, I was going to buy them this ‘luxury’)

Maybe unlike other children of my age at that time, I have to be honest and say that my Mum & Dad did allow me to watch many of my favourite programmes. Actually, between us we shared quite a few faves, although in the case of The Benny Hill Show I am sure my Mum was watching a different element of the show than me or my Dad were!

I can’t ever remember getting stroppy with them because they didn’t let me watch a particular favourite, although I am convinced it must have happened a few times when programming clashes occurred.

It is weird to think that we had to watch everything “live” without any opportunity to record/timeshift/replay/rewind a show. If you missed a scene by visiting the loo, you missed it. If a joke wasn’t heard, you missed it. That sudden plot twist? Missed it.

Also, unlike today, there were no ‘instant repeats’ either! If you missed a show because you were out or busy doing something else, you never had the chance to “catch it again” later in the week. Indeed, repeats of anything were quite rare, the whole clichéd “here’s another opportunity to see” not yet in the TV lexicon.

So, what did I watch in 1972?
(By the way, be warned, this is the first in an irregular series of lengthy observational asides about life in the 70’s).

Here’s a merest selection…..

Are You Being Served?
OK, I admit it. I know I watched this awful show in 1972 and I know I laughed. Hey, I was 14 years old, Pauline Fowler looked like hot stuff and jokes about “pussies” had me giggling like a very giggly thing.

I was ‘gayly’ naive regarding the awfully homophobic jokes about Mr Humphries’ overt sexuality, but not so stupid so as to believe Captain Peacock would secretly teach me everything I needed to know for my later career in retail.

Even then the show was a little cringeworthy, so years later surely you could never admit to watching this comedic tosh? … oh, unless you are an American.

Since living in the mid-west I have seriously lost count of the number of people we’ve met who – once discovering I am British – have asked me if I have seen – or like – “that English TV show Are you being Served?“, adding “we simply luuuuurve it” and “it is sooooooo funny“. Yes, 36 looooooooooong years after first being broadcast in the UK, PBS in the USA continues to schedule regular reruns of the show (along with similarly anachronistic “Keeping Up Appearances” and, more recently, “Last of the Summer Wine“)

I am convinced therefore that many Americans believe “Are You Being Served” represents some kind of embodiment of British society. Nothing can be scarier. When someone asks me “are you free on Saturday night?”, I always wonder what response they expect!

Clangers
1972 sadly saw the demise of this classic kids TV show.

What can be more engaging for children than a bunch of hand-knitted puppet aliens who spoke only in penny-whistle noises and breathy whoops? 

Were they supposed to be anteaters? Pigs? Whichever, they subsisted on green soup brought to the surface of their bizarre planet from underground wells by the inimitable aluminium-clad soup dragon.
(No, Mr American spell checker, aluminium IS spelled that way, OK?! There IS an extra “i” in there…. look, we gave you the bloody langauge, please try not to ruin it)

Contrary to what I said earlier, I think The Clangers was often repeated, episodes shown weekly at tea-time on Sunday evenings just before the “god slot” (all things church and other prayer-based nonsense). Despite my ‘rebellious youth’, I watched The Clangers on a semi-regular basis, and it may have scarred me for life…

If you have 9½ spare minutes in your life, please try and enjoy the following brief spectacle…

… and I watched it (then) withOUT drugs!

A year or so ago, hit by a wave of ludicrous (mid-life crisis) nostalgia, I purchased a DVD collection of Clangers episodes. I watched two of them before giving up, deeming them “childish and stupid”. I subsequently gifting the set on to a friend in England who continues to indulge in ‘otherworldy’ substances. I’m sure – in fact I KNOW – he got more of a kick out of seeing the show again than I did?!

Show such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Goodies and Top of the Pops were die-hard staples of my weekly viewing and I suspect I will continue to comment on them in regular Efa70’sTRO diary postings, as well as the ‘educational’ (for me) show The Old Grey Whistle Test. So, what else was there?……..

We had American ‘imports’ – easily as much a part of UK TV programming back in the 70’s as it is now. The ones I can remember getting hooked on include:-

Columbo – One-eyed man in shabby old flasher mac catches the killer
• Mission Impossible – They always solved the mission, so why wasn’t the show called Mission Entirely Possible?
• Hawaii Five-O – Fact. Back then I told myself that I would NEVER visit Hawaii as I was convinced there was always too much crime there. (The theme tune to Hawaii Five-O remains one of THE best ever American TV openers!)
• Land of the Giants– One of my favourites without a shadow of a doubt. I can remember being as amazed by the sets the producers built for the actors to work in as I was the story lines.
• Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea – This series about a futuristic nuclear submarine which trawled the seas of the world solving the mysteries of nature (like land of the Giants, an Irwin Allen production) felt quite believable to me back then. However technology & discoveries in the past 3 decades have subsequently rendered the show carbon-dated as ‘silly’

Most of these USA shows were broadcast on Sunday afternoons, which must have been one of my weekly rituals before going out to those TIB’s classes or… whatever else it was I did on Sunday evenings that I can’t remember.

Shows that wanted to be American, but weren’t, and which I also enjoyed were The Saint and The Avengers, both of which I will still watch and get a kick out of.

There’s some wonderfully old-fashioned ideals floating around in The Saint, Roger Moore’s Simon Templar character being permanently macho around women and feeling he has to protect them all the time whilst he solves the latest crime caper.

The Avengers, by total contrast, was supportive of the female role with all the women co-stars (Honor Blackman, Linda Thorson or the delectable Diana Rigg) being as – if not moreso – action-packed and formidable than Patrick Macnee’s John Steed character. I never realised it back then, but The Avengers was (and, watching repeats, still is) a very dark & often bizarre show. Some of the plots feel so blatantly surreal that I sometimes wonder what audience the producers were aiming for.

The show is often described at “kitsch”, but I never really see that. It’s very groovy and very 60’s/70’s for sure, but the scripts often appear fresher than any of the nonsense that calls itself ‘sci-fi crime’  these days. If that makes me sound like an old fuddy-duddy that might be because I am?!

Colditz debuted in 1972. Cleverly cashing in on the continuing popularity of the 1963 “bank holiday” classic movie “The Great Escape“, this series took the premise of POW’s (prisoners of war) one step further.

Why not give all the prisoners completely rounded characters and lock them in a supposedly impregnable German castle from which there is also, apparently, no means of escape? Then make the series more about a battle of the minds between the captors and the captives, than mere tunnel building. It was, therefore, a kind of World War II version of The Prisoner.

I was pretty hooked on this series as a teenager. My folks were too, making it something none of us missed. The series ran for just two series and for two years apparently, but it feels like we watched it much longer than that? (Maybe there was just no escape from it? *heh*)

Another show – a soap opera – which debuted in 1972 was Emmerdale Farm. A TV rip-off of the BBC Radio’s The Archers, a long-running radio saga about ‘everyday country folk’, Emmerdale Farm continues to, …erm, entertain 36 years later.

Now called simply Emmerdale, and broadcast five evenings a week (instead of a couple of lunchtimes as in 1972), my father still watches it.

OK, by way of sad disclosure, I’ll admit I still watch it too, but only – I hasten to add – whenever I go and stay with him in the UK or, as recently, he flies across and stays with us. (I think he was secretly impressed he could still catch up on his little guilty pleasure thanks to me finding daily downloads)

As a 70’s teenager you had a definite choice to make. You were either a Blue Peter fan OR a Magpie fan. There’s was no mixing and matching. Blue Peter was the BBC’s long-running (STILL running now) magazine-format TV show for ‘young people’. It went out twice a week and featured all kinds of things including activities, crafts, cookery, toys & charity events. It is one of the Beeb’s most iconic TV shows, with early presenters such as Peter Purves, John Noakes and Valerie Singleton (the trifecta of PERFECT hosts) 100% assured of their place in TV history.

Personally, I always found Blue Peter to be a little po-faced and ‘immature’, those gifts made out of toilet paper rolls and washing-up bottles somewhat twee and entirely unnecessary. So I gravitated towards Magpie, ITV’s far superior imitation. 

With an easier-going attitude to stuff, Magpie just seemed a much trendier, cooler show. The sets were all sci-fi like, the presenters (including Tony Bastable, Mick Robertson, the weirdly attractive Susan Stranks, and the – to me, back then – stunning Jenny Hanley) generally seemed more laid back  and the subjects discussed more relevant to a hormonal teenager.

I’ll own up to writing in to the show from time to time, just so that they would send me one of the badges they gave away. Each badge was based on a line from their singalong theme tune (sung by later musical faves of mine, the Spencer Davis Group). I still have the badges somewhere amongst the pile of junk I brought across the ocean with me. If I can find them, I will scan and share them with all my readers.

Another geeky favourite was Mastermind, a weekly quiz-show presented by ice-cool Magnus Magnusson. In this, 4 contestants would slug it out as to which was the brainiest by first taking questions on their specialist subject and then answering a bunch of general knowledge questions. All whilst sat in a comfy leather chair and under the spotlight in a dark-foreboding studio. I’m sure that I probably answered no more than one question every 4 or 5 episodes of this, but it made me feel clever watching it.

Magnus used to have a catchphrase which seems apt to use here….

I’ve started so I’ll finish

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