Sunday, 22 May 2016

Barely Remembered Lil's


So 53 Rupert Street, once the home of Cheapo Cheapo Records, has transformed itself once again. Having been a mango dessert cafe, then a restaurant called Lil's, I passed the site on Saturday to see that it is now offering Italian fast food (excluding pizza, it seems) under the name of Mister Lasagna.

It only launched a month ago, and more can be read about it here, if you are so inclined. Apparently "Lasagna pans and fresh sandwiches line the counter as diners walk through the door and there’s a subtle waft of garlic in the air."


It's a long way from its former use, although the top image found online, in which the very top of the "Lil's" sign can just about be seen, is a reminder that nothing stays the same, and once there may have been people who lamented the passing of C. Solomons' antique shop.

Hmm ... did Cheapo immediately supplant Solomons, or is there a long trail in between? There's your Daniel Kitson-type show just aching for crowdfunding right there.

If you are not already familiar with it, then the story of my coming to terms with the loss of Cheapo Cheapo Records can be found in the posts collected here.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Freddie Davies Performing Masterclass London, May 31st



Within reach of London? If so, this is to let you know that Freddie Davies, the man also known as "Parrotface" - and a comedian, actor, producer, you name it, with over fifty years' experience - is about to present his performance masterclass in London, at the Hippodrome, Leicester Square, on Tuesday May 31st. Full details including booking are available at the Stage One Productions website here. (A student discount is available.)

This is not just for comedians but magicians and speciality acts of all kinds - who need to talk directly to an audience. It's a rare chance to learn the stagecraft required to present yourself effectively from a man who has been doing it all his life.

An earlier presentation in Manchester was oversubscribed so you are advised to book early. Magician Quentin Reynolds said of an earlier event: "I implemented one thing Freddie said that got me a standing ovation at The Magic Circle in London. And that was simply using one of the many techniques he taught and demonstrated."


More information and booking for the London Freddie Davies Masterclass here

Buy Freddie's autobiography here

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Flamingos # 2: That's My Desire


The opening blast of unison singing seems to herald a performance more suited to rowdy boozer than the "dim cafe" of the lyrics, but the Flamingos' rendition of That's My Desire, a song best known via Frankie Laine's earlier hit, is mainly an exercise in emotional restraint. Discreetly aided by a sympathetic backing band, passion is allowed to build gradually, in stark contrast to some later doo wop recordings of the tune.

The side comes from the group's first session for Chance Records in 1953, so could the introduction have been an attempt to capitalise on whatever airplay the fledgling recording artists could get? Easy to imagine that raucous, attention-grabbing start cutting through the static of an AM signal and the competing wails of other groups, when the disc was first spun by Chicago DJ Al Benson or whoever (Benson himself certainly took notice as he later signed the Flamingos to his own label).

Alternatively, it could be that the introductory roughness was prompted by their rejection, on two separate occasions, by another Chicago company, United Records, according Robert Pruter's Chicago Doo Wop. Zeke Carey, quoted in that book, says:

Monday, 21 March 2016

We ask: "What's the deal with Martin Kelner's sacking from BBC Radio Leeds?"


Very sad to hear that Martin Kelner (above) has been sacked from his lunchtime slot at BBC Radio Leeds. Although I am not a local listener, I acquired the iplayer habit a couple of years ago via a certain psittacine comedian - Martin interviewed Freddie Davies when our book Funny Bones was still looking for a publisher - and the regular, wholly pointless but compelling film club competition (a daily excuse for weak puns) soon got me hooked - not that the regular diet of Northern Soul and sixties and seventies pop proved any kind of hindrance in this matter, you understand. And for a few shining hours - I mean days, or possibly even a week or two - there was even a regular doo wop slot, though it didn't seem to attract much attention from anyone other than me and was quietly dropped.

No matter. The main point about Martin Kelner as a broadcaster, and the real reason why what he describes as his "charmless" sacking is such a pity, is that he gets it: he knows, that is, precisely how to pitch such a show, which is a rarer talent than you might expect. He revels in the essential triviality of much of the content, but switches to more serious topics don't seem a lurch. You know throughout that you're listening to an intelligent man at play rather than someone wearing a bright mask of affability.

Or rather you were. According to a lengthy piece on Martin's own website, which explores not just his sacking but the state of local radio generally, he is already "getting cards and letters from people I don't even know, in a Glen Campbell stylee, so there will be some interesting little jobs to do."  I certainly hope so.

Although part of me is, I have to admit, selfishly glad about this enforced liberation. I have lost count of the number of mornings I have logged onto twitter and lost myelf for forty five minutes or so in thinking up film-based puns for that day's show. Others might have been able to let go after a few minutes, but not me. It got to  the point where I would be going through the New York Times' list of 1000 Greatest Movies, scanning each title for possible wordplay. I mean, that ain't right. Recently I was contemplating writing a Prospero-type speech on this blog renouncing my interest in film title puns and vowing thereafter to resume my pursuit of more creative endeavours.

Well, now the decision of BBC Radio Leeds' Managing Editor Sanjiv Buttoo to sack Martin Kelner has rendered such a speech unnecessary, and if I don't produce a theatrical or literary masterpiece at some point in the future I shall no longer have any spurious film clubs to blame. Still, I suppose it's a new start - which I hope is how Martin sees it (for himself, I mean). But his talents were so specifically suited to that sort of show it's difficult to understand why BBC Leeds thought he was dispensable.

You can read his account of the sacking below:

Martin Kelner: My Sacking, and a Plausible Plan for BBC Local Radio 

And if you are one of the unlucky few who have not yet purchased a copy of Funny Bones: My Life in Comedy, the autobiography of Freddie "Parrotface" Davies, you can find out more about it below:

Funny Bones blog

And I thoroughly recommend Martin Kelner's When Will I Be Famous?, a account of showbiz acts at the more modest end of the business which is, like his late lamented radio show, perfectly pitched. 

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Weald (play by Daniel Foxsmith at the Finborough with David Crellin)


I have just seen Weald by Daniel Foxsmith at the Finborough Theatre. Unfortunately this is its last night, so I can't drum up business for it, but I want to explore why it was so good.

First of all it's the mesmerising performance by David Crellin, owner of a small stable of horses, a man who never achieved his dreams, and whose remaining props are tottering. It's a two hander, and Dan Parr as Jim, the young man who has returned to this remote rural location after a spell in London, gives fine support, but it's Crellin's character, the older Samuel, who has the more painful journey and is pushed over to the edge, though their fates are intimately intertwined.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Barry Humphries' Forgotten Musical Masterpieces (BBC Radio 2 series currently available on iplayer)


Fans of the late Hubert Gregg who have happened upon this blog may be interested in a series of three hour-long programmes currently available on BBC Radio 2 iplayer. The last episode was broadcast a few days ago so don't hang about if you want to hear them: at the time of writing (January 30th) there are thirteen days left to hear the first show. Links are provided at the end of this post.

Presented by Dame Edna's alter ego, the show's title is Barry Humphries' Forgotten Musical Masterpieces, and there are many selections of the sort which Hubert Gregg used to play on his Thanks For the Memory programme. I may be right, I may be wrong, but I'm perfectly willing to swear that the Beverley Nichols-penned Little White Room, sung by "Johnny" Mills (yes, that one) and Frances Day hasn't been heard on Radio 2 since the debonair Gregg left his square chair once for all.

A charming number in the mode of Noel Coward's A Room With a View, I've long suspected that it also played a part in inspiring Sandy Wilson's pastiche A Room in Bloomsbury. And as those iplayer links won't last forever, and I know the internet generation have issues with delayed gratification, here it is on youtube:

Monday, 7 December 2015

Some posts about John Lennon


Anniversary

Paperback Writer
 An account of a spoof Beatles biography with an unexpectedly serious centre plus a moment of shame for me after seeing Nowhere Boy

The Man From Mendips
Transcribed interview with Colin Hall not used in the LENNONYC documentary

Fifties Britain
An overview linked to the previous post

Notes From Nowhere Boy

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Flamingos # 1: Cross Over the Bridge


Listening to the audio clips in a recent post about Clyde McPhatter, here, I was struck by the difference between the Dominoes and the Flamingos. While Sollie McElroy's voice is not unlike that of Clyde McPhatter, hearing You Ain't Ready immediately after those McPhatter-era Dominoes records was mildly disconcerting: it felt like there was something missing, something I hadn't been aware of before. I had always believed that the Flamingos' records for Chance, jump blues and ballads alike, were uniformly superb.

This sent me back to Robert Pruter's book Chicago Doo Wop for guidance and succour. Here's what he says:

Thursday, 1 October 2015

NRBQ (Not Round Britain Quiz)


Round Britain Quiz will be starting soon on Radio 4 ... or will it? There are no clear indications on the Beeb's website. Still, that gives me an excuse to collect the attempts at RBQ-type questions scattered through this blog. Some were actually sent to the programme and not used, but (a bit like Keith Richards) we are not concerned with your petty quality control restrictions. So why not find a partner from the same region, book yourself into a remote but luxurious location and pretend that you are one of the RBQ teams? If you are not from Northern Ireland or Wales, please substitute alternative places.


Q1  Northern Ireland

A Lawrentian betting aid; a Beatles album before a Family intervention; a hillbilly's tribute to the military; seventies popsters who went sky high. In what sort of concerto might you reasonably expect to find all of these and why?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Clyde McPhatter


Prompted by Colin Escott's book on Clyde McPhatter (above), I have now listened to a representative sample of McPhatter's work with the Dominoes and the Drifters plus his solo work on Atlantic, so here are a few more thoughts.

First, no real surprises about the solo sides: my vague recollection of the arrangements being rather poppy and old hat was confirmed. But the less cluttered they are the better, as with A Lover's Question or Deep Sea Ball - or the classic Without Love, which reeks of gospel: you are hearing a sermon being preached. True, it ain't just a piano backing but the arrangement is restrained and supports the vocal, never overwhelming it.

Nevertheless, the solo work on Atlantic isn't a case of a performer being forced to betray his deepest instincts: Jerry Wexler says that "Clyde wanted to be Perry Como" and the material was slanted to the pop market, though he maintains Atlantic didn't go in for "vomitacious" productions - in fact the only regret he expresses is about their decision to use a white backing group. Ahmet Ertegun, however, talks about the "leaden feet" of the arrangements, likening the resultant recordings to a chrome-heavy 1940s car which has dated less well than a sleeker earlier model.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A Few Thoughts on Clyde McPhatter


"A few thoughts" is right in this instance, as this is by way of a note about a forthcoming post which is likely to be sketchy. Influential as he was, there is no mammoth biography of McPhatter to draw on, and he isn't someone to whom I've been listening for years. But I recently bought a slim volume by Colin Escott billed as "a biographical essay" about the singer, and it occured to me that I really ought to write something about him, given that he features in the story of Ben E King, is lauded by Bill Millar in his book on the Drifters, and is a prominent figure in Street Corner Soul, the excellent BBC Radio 2 documentary series about the rise and fall of doo wop.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Beatles documentaries repeated


The image above is only a screengrab, so don't bother clicking, but this is to alert readers in the UK that the documentary Love Me Do: The Beatles '62 has just been repeated on BBC 4 and as a result will be available on BBC iplayer until October 18th. (As far as I'm aware American readers are only able to access radio programmes on the iplayer.) Click here for my review of the original broadcast plus a link to iplayer.

It's not only about the Beatles - they don't crop up in the first half hour - but another documentary, Produced by George Martin, was repeated yesterday on BBC 4 and is likewise available for a month on iplayer. Click here for my review and links to iplayer and two other posts about Martin-produced comic songwriters Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks (or "Dead Ticks", as Martin called him)

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Theatre Book Prize judge Viv Gardner on Funny Bones

If you haven't visited the blog dedicated to Freddie Davies's autobiography Funny Bones, which I cowrote, here is a review of the book from Professor Viv Gardner, one of the judges of the 2014 Theatre Book Prize:
This is one of those stories that just have to be told. It is unique – there has never been quite such a long and varied a career as Freddie Davies’s - but it is also the story of popular entertainment over the past 70 plus years: the hey day and decline of variety, clubs, cabarets and cruise entertainment, the rise of television comedy and subsequent changes in fashion, and the shifting relationship between popular and ‘high brow’ performance. Freddie Davies has played every type of theatre in the country, from working men’s clubs and Butlins to the Royal Shakespeare Company, television and film, though his earliest memories are of the halls and variety theatres of the forties where his grandparents worked. His autobiography is replete with names and places, many long since forgotten, details of acts – his own and others’ – and whole bills. It is also a ‘back-stage’ story. Davies has worked not just as a performer, but also as a producer, so the autobiography charts not just his own stage career but also the challenges of working with and supporting other artists – the ups and downs, the nuts and bolts of the entertainment business.  A researcher’s dream.  It is a fascinating and important story, not just a personal but also a social and performance history.

Viv Gardner
Professor Emerita, University of Manchester
Judge, Society for Theatre Research 2014-15

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

More radio plays about AA Milne ... and a film


Prompted by the play discussed here, I found two other radio plays available online about A.A. Milne - not on the BBC iplayer but preserved on the blog of their author, Brian Sibley. You can find them here and here.

I listened to both at their time of their original broadcasts on Radio 4, and the impressions I retained have been confirmed by subsequent listenings.There is some overlap - both provide an outline of Milne's career - but I preferred Not That It Matters, which draws upon Milne's autobiography It's Too Late Now.

This half hour piece is announced as "a radio portrait" so it doesn't really aspire to be a drama: we simply hear Milne telling the story of his writing career with some illustrations from his work. Pooh does not make his appearance until two thirds of the way in, and the importance of Punch in the writer's career is given due prominence. There are also some tantalisingly brief clips from some of his plays, played in a bright manner which appeals.


The production also benefits from having an actor, Hugh Dickson, whose voice conveys the sense of incisiveness I imagine in Milne's. Well, I say "imagine" but you can hear a recording on youtube of his reading a passage from Winnie the Pooh (though I don't know whether he would have been all that keen on being bookended by Billy Mayerl). I'm pretty sure Milne wrote somewhere about trusting the words do the work.



Alec McCowen supplies the voice of the elder Milne in Mr Sibley's It's Too Late Now and it sounds - to my ears, at least - more petulant and mannered a performance; Dickson's Milne is comparatively flatter and drier.

This second piece has the framework of a play: Milne has a new physiotherapist after the stroke which debilitated him in later years and over several sessions tells her his story. For me, however, it doesn't quite come off: she is too obviously a feed for much of the time and we're not presented with a compelling reason for Milne to tell his tale.

Admittedly I could be an unreliable critic, burdened as I am with my own failure to fashion an effective play out of Milne's life, as briefly described here. Nevertheless, I think there are hints, in Ann Thwaite's superlative biography of Milne, of darker aspects of his later years which might have been followed up, in particular the isolation and loneliness which would justify a compulsion to talk to a stranger: this was a man who would book unnecessary massages simply to break the monotony.

And Milne's wife remains offstage, except in flashbacks, so the suggestive detail in Mrs Thwaite's biography that she was referred to by an employee as "the bloody Duchess" is not seized upon, nor is their relationship in the play's present explored.


I listened to It's Too Late Now again while revising this piece. While I still have reservations about it as a piece of drama, the folding in of passages from Pooh is well done. And it's not simply a retread of the earlier piece: this play is more full-on about Winnie the Pooh, and parental worries about the effect of publicity on the real Christopher Robin.


The identification of Milne pere with Eeyore (which Christopher Milne made in The Enchanted Places) is hammered home a bit, rather than being implied: "Not very how?" the physiotherapist says - though in fairness she is presented as a fan of the books. And if, as his son said,"such sadnesses as there were put on cap and bells" as Eeyore, then perhaps that simple acknowledgement of a sadder side is as much exploration as is necessary for a play which announces itself as being "in celebration" of A.A. Milne.


And is a darker play about Milne "necessary because possible", as they might ask in a Birthday Party at some distance from the Hundred Acre Wood? The restraint I referred to in Christopher William Hill's play Hush! Hush! Whisper Who Dares! may suggest why a searing, tell-all (or at least tell-more) kind of play could be problematic. Hill's imagined meeting between Shepard and Christopher Milne was convincing because it didn't seem to contradict what is known of the two men. And the play became an increasingly fascinating story about two people who, while far from being intimates in the ordinary way of things, were nevertheless so intimately bound together in one respect that it scarcely needed to be articulated.

But Christopher Milne came to terms with his father and the legacy of the Pooh stories only in the writing of his own autobiography, long after A.A. Milne's death. There is no reported knock-down confrontation with his father to draw on for a play. And how far can you twist the facts to create a play when the son's testimony has been widely circulated?

After writing the above I had a look online for more about Milne's propaganda work for MI7 as there was a piece about it in a newspaper yesterday and found to my surprise that there is in fact a forthcoming film about A.A. Milne's relationship with his son. It is called Goodbye Christopher Robin. Details are provided in a casting call for the role of Christopher Robin in March of this year:
Written by Simon Vaughn, Ronald Harwood & Frank Cotterell Boyce and to be directed by Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn, Woman In Gold) in the UK Summer 2015 ... playing range is from 6 to 9yrs old.
We are told "the story focuses entirely around the young Christopher Robin" but I don't know whether it means it stops at the age of nine. It seems to have been in development for some time as a synopsis on the Enchanted Serenity blog, here,  appears to date from 2010, citing a different director (Nick Hurran). Given the time which has passed the synopsis may not be wholly reliable but it does seems to indicate that the film ends with Christopher's going to boarding school and Milne's decision not to write any more Pooh stories or verses.
As Milne’s career soars, his son discovers that being Christopher Robin comes at a heavy price – other children taunt the boy while the media clamours for his attention. With a father obsessed with writing, and a mother busy luxuriating in the family’s new-found fame and fortune, Christopher Robin gets little support from the adults around him. Looming before him is the new terror of boarding school and the inevitable bullying – just for being himself. Slowly, Christopher Robin starts to withdraw into his own world. Realising the problems that fame has brought, AA Milne tries to prepare the young boy for the rigours of boarding school and the new term ahead – triggering a number of changes which rock the foundations of Christopher’s world.

Christopher’s life-long nanny and best friend, Nou, is dismissed from service, and the childish games he has always played in the woodland around the family home are suddenly discouraged. Even visits to the zoo and his friendships with other local children now seem to be out of bounds. At the same time, AA Milne is making his own sacrifices - after much soul searching, he decides to stop writing stories about the boy and his bear. As the summer draws to close, the Milne family must face up to the fact that life can never be the same again.
Hmm ... I don't know about soul searching. There was an essay Milne wrote, explaining why he wasn't going to write more stories, which seemed eminently sensible and logical. He was always keen to move on to new projects regardless of what his publishers or the general public wanted or expected from him. In his autobiography he talks about wanting to escape, "having said goodbye to all that in 70,000 words" or something of the sort. Anyway, we shall see. And some of the other details seem questionable. Someone has left a comment on the blog:
... neither of the Milnes were apt to lay their hearts very bare before others, at least compared to what many another sort of person might do, and the mere synopsis of this film emotes more sadness than Christopher's books themselves do.


On other Milne matters I am currently in the middle of rereading Ann Thwaite's biography, which I devoured on its first publication, and will write about in more detail at a later date.

Oh, and on the Today programme on Radio 4 I have just heard an engineer being interviewed about how to win at Poohsticks.


Review of Christopher William Hill's Hush! Hush! Whisper Who Dares! here.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Anthony Neilson play Penetrator at the Hope Theatre, Islington until 22nd August


I enjoyed, if that's the word, Penetrator by Anthony Neilson, a revival of which is currently at the Hope Theatre, Islington, until 22nd August (tickets available here). I should say from the outset that I am not a huge Neilson fan, but I found a lot to admire here

Friday, 7 August 2015

Hush! Hush! Whisper Who Dares! (review of BBC Radio 4 play about E.H. Shepard and Christopher Robin Milne)


I have just listened to Hush! Hush! Whisper Who Dares, a Radio 4 play imagining a meeting between Winnie the Pooh artist E.H. Shepard and the adult Christopher (Robin) Milne, son of A. A. Milne.

It works very well, partly because of its narrowness of focus. And it's unsensational, by which I mean that although their meeting in later life (Shepard is ninety) is a product of playwright Christopher William Hill's imagination, the parallels which Hill draws between their respective situations are convincing. He even alights on a entirely plausible reason why Christopher Milne might have felt impelled to seek Shepard out at that particular time (presumably late '69 or early 1970, given Shepard's age).

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Morecambe, Wise and Nathan



Last night's BBC 2 repeat of Episode Seven of The Perfect Morecambe and Wise, a compilation series drawing on their time with both the Beeb and ATV, prompted this repost of an extract from The Laughtermakers by David Nathan, a book very influential in my life.

In the chapter entitled Mixed Doubles, mostly about Morecambe and Wise, Nathan writes about being present when the very first sketch in last night's episode, which can be viewed on BBC iplayer here until August 24th, was recorded.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Rock 'n' Roll America Episode Three (BBC 4 documentary series)


The final episode of the BBC's Rock 'n' Roll America was delayed by almost an hour - blame the corporation's decision to persist with live coverage of a golfing event - but it proved worth the wait.

I did wonder, initially, whether the need to cover all the many offshoots of rock'n'roll in this final programme meant that we might only be scratching the surface, but that was a misunderstanding of what the series is trying to do. There may have been more genres to be covered than in earlier episodes but once again the programme makers did a pretty of good job of selecting key moments and remarks which conveyed the essence of a range of styles without losing a sense of the bigger picture.

Which, in this episode, was rock'n'roll's transition into various strands of pop, for good and ill, followed by the impact of the Beatles on a moribund US chart.

We started with the main figures "missing in action" - through death, religion, the army or scandal.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Rock 'n' Roll America Episode Two (BBC 4 documentary series)


Episode Two of Rock 'n' Roll America follows the pattern of the first programme: well-chosen clips, interviews with surviving key players and sidemen, the whole a canny mix of the story's essentials and some illuminating extra details along the way for those who already know the basics. At present it can only be seen on in the UK on BBC iplayer here, but if it makes its way to the US it is well worth watching.

Incidentally, of the sidemen interviewed in the first two episodes there seems to have been a disproportionate number of drummers. Do they tend to be the survivors of rock'n'roll? I suppose having a regular workout as part of your job doesn't hurt in the longevity stakes.

By coincidence, a film about Ginger Baker (not quite new but presented as such in Alan Yentob's Imagine series) had been shown a few days earlier. After all those jokes about the supposed slowness of drummers (in the wit department) could it be that they are now having the last laugh, or at least the last word?

The focus in this episode is on the major stars once rock'n'roll was established as a force: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly. The Elvis Presley material, and the business of his singing Hound Dog to an actual canine on the Steve Allen Show, will already be familiar to most readers, although it does mean something to hear directly from drummer DJ Fontana that Elvis really didn't want to do it and as a result "didn't like Steve till the day he died."

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Spaniels # 2

The previous post was a bit convoluted so I am going to add something today which will, I hope, be clearer. In the meantime I have been rereading Richard G Carter's book on the Spaniels, which can be recommended. It's not necessarily superbly written throughout, but where it scores is that there is a degree of frankness about it which made me wonder at times whether it was wise for the group to embark upon it - at least if they were expecting a PR job.

But I'm glad they did, because you really are taken into the heart of things. Although the book was published in 1994 it ends before they have gone to London, so presumably the MS was completed around 1991. There is a lot of optimism and hope from the various members at the end, though I couldn't say precisely how much success the group had in later years. Group members seem to assume they're on the verge of a huge breakthrough - or at least are entertaining the possibility - and that finally they will get the money and acclaim which is their due. Whatever level of success they did enjoy I don't think it matched up to their expectations.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Spaniels


After seeing the current version of the Spaniels in the BBC's Rock 'n' Roll America I resolved to find out a bit more about the group's various lineups. The above is a videocap from the programme; all I can say for certain is that Billy Shelton is on the far left.

From my memory of Richard G Carter's biography of the Spaniels there were two main lineups of the group which recorded on Vee Jay, and the original members were more instinctive singers than the Mk II version. It was the originals who were reunited in the 1990s and whom I saw perform in London.

Detailed information about personnel changes can be found online in Unca Marvy's R&B Notebooks, an invaluable resource for the doo wop fan. His page about the Spaniels, based on interviews with Pookie Hudson, can be read in its entirety here. Pookie's first group was formed in 1949 at Roosevelt Junior High in Gary, Indiana, when he was fifteen. Billy Shelton was a member of this, though the group which were to become the Spaniels were a separate entity:

Monday, 6 July 2015

All You Need Is Love (Tony Palmer's documentary series)


Having mentioned Tony Palmer's pioneering 1970s series All You Need Is Love, a history of the many strands of popular music, in the previous post here is a review I wrote at the time of its first DVD release in 2008.
I saw the original series when in my teens and have seen many, many documentaries on myriad aspects of popular music since then. So is this worth buying? The answer has to be a resounding yes: the original film material and the range of authorities Tony Palmer gathered together for this mammoth 70s project mean that it remains a vivid account of the genres which coalesced into rock.
Yes, some sections feel a little dull, and the quality of the film transfer doesn't help in the immediacy stakes, but Palmer has two big things going for him: recognised experts in their fields (eg Sondheim on musicals; Lyttleton on swing) wrote the scripts which became the basis of each programme and - crucially - interviewees are given ample time to talk. You get the likes of Hoagy Carmichael and Irving Caesar discussing their own songs, and there's even a bizarre turn from Phil Spector (who appears to be singing his hits in the style of Bob Dylan). Whatever the outcome, Palmer would have deserved our heartfelt thanks simply for the foresight to do something on this scale while the names involved were still around, if occasionally frail.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Rock 'n' Roll America (BBC 4 documentary series)


Just watched Episode One of the new BBC 4 series Rock 'n' Roll America, which will be available on BBC iplayer for a month (for those in the UK, anyway).

It was a particularly clear and effective retelling of what has become an oft-told tale, with enough freshness in the detail to mean that it can serve equally well as an introduction to the social roots of rock'n'roll and as a reminder of the music's importance for those who have read the books and seen the other documentaries. Archive clips seemed to have been very carefully selected and, crucially, the programme's length meant a decent chunk of time was devoted to the consideration of the contributions of key individuals. Each episode (this was the first of three) is an hour long, though the pace never seemed to flag in this debut show.


The great strength of the programme was the way in which the social background to this upsurge of a new kind of music was firmly sketched in.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The Johnny Vegas Television Show


Don't know how long it'll be there, but someone has recently uploaded The Johnny Vegas Television Show to youtube.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Russell Davies interviews Ray Davies


This is to alert readers to the fact that Russell Davies recently interviewed Ray Davies for his The Art of Artists series on Radio 2 and it can be heard on BBC iplayer, here, for 28 days.

I haven't listened to it yet, and will add a note to this post when I have done so, but it has been interesting to hear Russell Davies as interviewer, as opposed to presenter of his sadly departed Sunday afternoon/evening music programme with those superbly scripted links. The unhurried, hour-long format seems to suit him, and as with the departed music programme you can tell he's done his homework and is, in any case, bringing a considerable breadth of cultural reference to the table, what with being Russell Davies and everything. I recall, in the interview with Sandie Shaw, her surprise and palpable pleasure at being taken seriously, and I think she has put the interview on her website.