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Join me, Tony Robinson, and me, “Strictly”’s Arlene Phillips, as we take a look at what James was saying in early 2010.

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Don’t put my name on a building, Mrs Worthington

1 Mar 10 | Re: Alternative sightseeing

On Vauxhall Bridge Road in London, on the right hand side as you walk from Victoria Station towards the Thames, you can see two box-like, red brick buildings that look to be blocks of flats, probably built in the 60s or 70s. What distinguishes them from other such buildings is the pair of placards that sit side by side and proclaim them, in austere, black block capitals, to be NOEL COWARD HOUSE and AUBREY BEARDSLEY HOUSE.

How incongruous that these functional properties should be called after two gentlemen noted for being bon viveurs and persons of taste, leading lights of scenes associated with decadence and refinement. There isn’t even a diaeresis on the e of NOEL. I would like to believe that this represents a judicious application of the developers’ waspish sense of the absurd, but I fear not. What Mr Coward and Mr Beardsley would have to say about it I do not know, but there must be a possibility, just a tiny one, that the word ‘ghastly’ might be involved at some point.

No photo yet - I will take one next time I pass by.

Posted by TED TONKS at 13:38

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Monday Music: The One

22 Feb 10 | Re: Famous singer, less famous song

Monday Music, and contrary to my intentions when starting this feature I once again find myself writing about a dreamy electro pop song. I do like proper music as well, I assure you, but it’ll have to wait another week.

This week’s song is The One by Kylie Minogue. This was the last single from her last album X (all here on We7), and it got to number 36. It didn’t make much of a splash.

Like most of the world’s population, I was unaware that the song existed. Then I bought a Freemasons compilation album (Shakedown 2 - very banging), and eventually noticed that the best track on there was this Kylie Minogue song. Then I realised that it couldn’t just be that good because of the Freemasons, since they’d remixed practically every song on there, so I investigated the original. Now it’s replaced Love at First Sight as my favourite Kylie Minogue song.

The One turns out to be this fairly robotic song, but with that feeling of disco euphoria that sometimes creeps into quite mechanised music - like Donna Summer, it takes you to an idealised dancefloor where the stars have aligned and everything moves in slow motion. Most of the lyrics are just “love me, love me, I’m the one”, but there are some very neat ones in there too: “close to touch like Michelangelo” is very evocative. Again, slow motion. Moments you don’t want to end, and that don’t feel like they ever will.

The rest of the album doesn’t seem to be quite up to that high standard, though All I See is notable for Kylie out-Janeting Janet Jackson.

Posted by HOLLY SULLIVAN at 20:01

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Oh my days

20 Feb 10 | Re: Rather Spartan day names

According to Dot Wordsworth in the Spectator, the Portuguese days are just called after numbers - they translate as Day One, Day Two, Day Three and so on. What must the people of this unfussy, mathematically minded nation think when they learn English and find out that about half a billion people worldwide go round naming their week after a posse of mead-swilling, axe-swinging gods? Day names are pretty basic too, probably covered in the first few lessons. For a while, these Portuguese eleven-year-olds must wonder what else we name after bloodthirsty Aesir. We should name more things after them. Kettles should be Thor’s pots.

Posted by HERMES TRISMEGISTUS at 20:41

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Monday Music: Back of the Van

15 Feb 10 | Re: Overlooked fantasticity

What are we going to do with Ladyhawke? She makes pop rock songs that sound a bit like Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark, these very 80s inspired, dramatic numbers, drenched in nostalgia and yearning and the triumph of wide-eyed teenage promise. Now that it’s the early 21st century, you might ask how it’s possible to make music like that and it not turn into cliched, soulless bombast. What you’ve got to do, and what Ladyhawke does, is make sure your songs are all very good indeed.

My favourite is Back of the Van, which you can listen to on We7 here. (A small detail is that it ought really to be called You Set Me On Fire.) But really, I could have picked any one of her tunes. When I hear them I can’t help but think that not only are they the best music ever, they’re actually the best music that it is possible to make. Note that I only think this when the songs are actually playing, but even so, they move me. If you can listen to Ladyhawke and remain unmoved, perhaps you could get in touch via the email link in the sidebar and explain how.

Posted by GLENN GUGLIA at 18:22

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Movie date fail

12 Feb 10 | Re: Valentine’s Day forgetfulness

This ain’t Failblog, but I still know a fail when I see one:

Poster showing Valentine's Day as 12th Feb

Posted by RONNY JONSEN at 18:37

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Hello again, searchketeers

11 Feb 10 | Re: Internet serendipity

Since I last did this I’ve archived my old posts, so the original list of phrases I want people to search for won’t now take people to my most up-to-date thoughts, if they ever do happen to search for them. Here, then, are my new top five things I’m hoping people search for and thereby come upon this blog:

  1. Blog posts apologising for the lack of more blog posts
  2. A-list wigsbies
  3. Santa-suited disco dancers
  4. Ian Austin MP
  5. Pictures of gurning old women

Perhaps YOU have found my blog in this way. Perhaps you were expecting gurning old women and have been pleasantly surprised. If so, use the email link in the sidebar and let me know, putting “I’m a searchketeer” in the subject line.

Posted by STEVE JOBS at 13:45

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Women wearing wigs

9 Feb 10 | Re: Fake hair on people’s heads

According to the Belgravia Centre, heaps of female celebrities wear wigs pretty well all the time! Surely this is big news. Beyonce is the wigmaster in chief, and there are numerous other A-list wigsbies including J-Lo, Christina Aguilera and even supposed paragons of honesty like Oprah. Platinum blondes like Gwen Stefani are particularly likely to be bewigged. The recent Grammy awards must have had the highest concentration of wigs in one building outside the British legal system.

I had no idea. I thought it was their real hair.

Posted by WASSILY KANDINSKY at 20:06

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Monday Music: Cover My Eyes

8 Feb 10 | Re: Another dimension of new synthist(s)

Monday again, Monday Music again, and this week I’m writing about Cover My Eyes by La Roux. There’s only a 30 second clip on We7, but a YouTube user has somehow obtained the rights to the whole thing, or you can listen on Spotify if you’re one of their lucky initiates.

This is an album track from the album La Roux, which is puzzling as it’s by far the best track on there. What’s more, it shows you another dimension to the singer (sorry, group) that you don’t get from the singles - it’s slow, reflective and very heartfelt, with that Hot Chip wistful-electro feel. I’ve seen La Roux’s (sorry, Elly Jackson’s) voice described as flawed, but this is one of those cases where a less-than-perfect voice adds to the song, as the slightly strained quality gives it a picturesque fragility that, say, Celine Dion just wouldn’t bring to the table. Like Rihanna on Unfaithful - the singer’s struggle with the song becomes a part of the story.

It’s a song about being heartbroken, and the moments when you have to face the fact that you are heartbroken (if you are), like Walk On By or the 35th poem of Petrarch’s Canzoniere. What makes it moving is that the delivery is so matter-of-fact - it’s like someone looking you dead in the eye and simply saying “it’s all over” - no melodrama, no theatrics, just a blunt, low-key statement of an inescapably bad situation. Of course the song is about not being able to look you dead in the eye, but that’s really the point: it’s a view right into the psyche, where you can see emotions that would normally be kept private.

So in summation, it’s much better than I’m Not Your Toy, it should have been a single, and if you’re wondering whether to get the album you should definitely factor it in. It’s a gem.

Posted by ROBYN FENTY at 18:27

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Bye bye Blue Dragon

7 Feb 10 | Re: Sumo retirement


Just a note to mark the retirement of Asashoryu, the controversial sumo great. He was the greatest of a number of Mongolian competitors who have entered the sport in recent years, and the only wrestler worthy of the title yokozuna (highest rank in sumo) for a fair proportion of the last decade. He’s been controversial partly because, like a lot of the non-Japanese who’ve come into sumo, he doesn’t always show the expected level of respect for the sport’s traditions, and partly because he’s apparently done a few things that might make John Terry raise a quizzical eyebrow. But there’s no denying his success, and part of the negative feeling comes from the Japanese fans’ frustration that there hasn’t been a home competitor who can challenge the foreigners’ dominance.

It’s one of my pet hates when people make fun of sumo. Obviously I can see why they do, but then again chasing a football round a field might look pretty comical if you weren’t familiar with the idea. The fact is that sumo is a demanding, very skilled sport, with perhaps more tradition and culture surrounding it than any other, and great to watch as well. I always look to see if it’s on whenever I have access to Eurosport or similar sport-ghetto channels.

So goodbye Asashoryu, and congratulations to Hakuho (also Mongolian) who is left as the only remaining yokozuna.

Thanks to Morio for the fab pic. Licence here.

Posted by RODNEY ANOA'I at 16:06

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Will this do, Haiti?

3 Feb 10 | Re: Half-baked charity effort

This Haiti charity single is just a catalogue of errors from start to finish. For one thing it’s completely out of step with the times. Normal adults who want to give money will have donated already so the song has to be aimed at teenagers, in other words people who would no sooner buy a CD single than a penny-farthing, so how is it going to raise any money? Downloads? 79p for a download is an insulting amount to give to any charity, so even if the single sells a few hundred thousand copies the total amount will be tiny compared to what is being given through other channels. Plus it’s been played on radio loads of times but isn’t even available until next Monday - in other words, they’ve got it ready but they refuse to sell it to anyone because they are still in the mid-1990s and so can’t release a single without a couple of weeks of hype beforehand. Result: lots of people who might want to purchase the song and give actual money to the cause are not allowed to do so. The earthquake was weeks ago now!

Compare that with the American effort. They held a concert with a host of performances by top names, which got a massive TV audience, and then capitalised by making all the performances available on iTunes immediately afterwards. In other words, they acted as though it was 2010 and not still 1983. The album is at number 1 right now and has raised many times more than this British effort will manage.

The Americans are doing a single too (We Are the World), which I’m a little sceptical about, but at least they chose a song with a bit of life in it, and at least all the singers actually turned up to sing it together instead of having their voices digitally assembled after they’d literally phoned it in. The lyrics to Everybody Hurts are really inappropriate as well. I don’t want to blame Simon Cowell as I’m sure he’s doing his best, but it’s very telling that he only did this after he was asked to. What made the original Band Aid work was Bob Geldof seeing the news reports and feeling that he absolutely had to do something, ringing everyone up that he possibly could and not taking no for an answer. Everybody Hurts is more the work of a coalition of the available.

It’s tempting to say that at least it will raise some money and awareness and so on, but for me the Sun’s involvement takes away even that. I don’t want to say a good word about anything linked to the execrable Sun, and the obvious will-this-do mediocrity of this enterprise just makes it easier.

Summary: CD singles are dead so there is no longer any point in charity records, and this would be a pretty poor specimen even if there were.

Posted by MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT at 18:56

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Monday Music: Devil in Sports Casual

1 Feb 10 | Re: Silly, awesome tune

Monday again, and ever since last Monday that means Monday Music. This week’s track is Devil in Sports Casual by the Midfield General. You are strongly advised to listen to it, like say on Youtube.

This is the finest example I have come across of the old big beat trick of setting a silly vocal sample to a, well, a big beat. See also Sexiest Man in Jamaica by Mint Royale, and all the good Fatboy Slim tracks. The sample here is some American giving dire warning about how all rock and roll songs have backwards Satanic messages in them.

I love everything about this song from the title onwards, apparently a modern update of ‘Devil in a Red Dress’. I love how the Midfield General restrains himself for over two minutes before turning the sample backwards itself. I love how it goes on slightly longer than you expect it to. I love how it’s clearly just this guy, the boss of Skint records, messing around and striking pure dance gold.

A slight credit is due to Q Magazine because I would never have come across this if it hadn’t been included on one of their free CDs in 2001. I tend to feel that buying Q is a bit of a Faustian bargain that no good can ultimately come of, so I suppose it’s appropriate really.

Posted by GUNTHER CENTRAL-PERK at 13:40

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Pickling Time

31 Jan 10 | Re: Finally doing it, finally pickling these eggs

Today I have finally found the time to make pickled eggs. Yes! I can barely tell you how long I have been meaning to do this, well over a year anyway, but now the countdown to delicious home-pickled eggs has begun. Wives, this is the kind of thing that happens when you go away for the weekend.

To make the pickled eggs I used a recipe for pickled onions from Cooking - A Common Sense Guide, only instead of onions I substituted eggs. So far I have what looks like a perfectly plausible jar of pickled eggs, but only time can tell how they turn out. I’m not going to turn the whole blog into Picklewatch, not just yet, but I will let you know.

Posted by JOBY, WHO IS HERE AS WELL at 21:03

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ndy Murra

30 Jan 10 | Re: The joy of cropping

Some pictures look better without the sides. Here’s one of Andy Murray:

Cropped Murray pic

Posted by THE WRIGHT BROTHERS at 15:18

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They come in pairs

27 Jan 10 | Re: The benefit of investment in sport

Great to see two Chinese tennis players in the semis of the Australian Open. After Zheng Jie’s run at Wimbledon in 08 it seems the stars have aligned again for her and Li Na, making them the latest example of the curious trend for women’s tennis players to come in groups from the same area.

Most recently there were Ivanovic and Jankovic, who’ve both sunk from view at about the same time as well. A few years before them we had the Russian explosion, with as many as 40% of competitors in grand slams having names ending in -ova. Before that there were two players from Belgium, Henin and Clijsters. And before that there were two players from the same house in Los Angeles. What this probably means is that women’s tennis is a sport where a bit of investment and intensive coaching can reap particular rewards - I expect Li and Zheng have benefited from pre-Olympic investment in China. When a country decides that what it needs is a few useful hardcourt performers, all it needs to do is get the coaches, spot some promising young girls, stump up the cash and wait a few years to reap the success. Unless it’s Britain, obviously.

I wonder if the Bahranians are watching. You might remember how they and some of the other Gulf states, having no sporting success of their own, like to buy up the loyalty of Kenyan runners (and hilariously make them change their names to Arab ones). They would surely get a better return on a girls’ tennis academy. Yet another reason for them to bring in gender equality.

Posted by CHOW YUN FAT at 22:23

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Monday Music: Rouge et Bleu

25 Jan 10 | Re: New music bit

Haitian flag

To replace the quiz questions for a bit, I’m starting a new weekly feature, Monday Music. I’m going to write about a different song every Monday. With Haiti in the news at the moment, for the most terrible reasons, my first choice is Rouge et Bleu by Wyclef Jean. If you haven’t heard it, please take the time to listen. Several versions are on Youtube; one is here.

Rouge et Bleu means red and blue, a reference to the Haitian flag. The Haitian flag is a flag of defiance - during the slave revolt that led to the country’s founding, rebels ripped up the French Tricolore and sewed the red and blue stripes together to make their own flag (with no white). Remember that the Tricolore itself was then only two decades old, itself supposed to represent a bright new future. Well, not for the Haitians.

So that sets the tone for this song. The song is in Creole, the language of Haiti. If you speak French you might get a bit of it; I don’t so I don’t know how much. If you don’t speak French or Creole, all you get is a few place names, a lot of emotion, and the red and blue, repeated again and again, as if to say that whatever happens in history everything comes back to this flag and what it represents, a struggle and an idea.

In style, the song is best described as a lament or an elegy to the singer’s country. There’s a slow, lazy guitar. The rhythm is restrained, like drums made for a Carnival caught in a moment of reflection. And the coda is a long, heartfelt guitar solo with little other backing that sounds like it could go on forever - Maggot Brain is probably the closest other example. You expect another verse to come in, but instead it just stretches out and fades away while you listen and reflect. (It leaves it up to you to write your own last verse.)

A word about this song’s placing on the album. It’s on Carnival II: Memoirs of an Immigrant (2007), but not on its own - it’s the final third of a 14-minute song, or triptych, called Carnival Jam. This tour de force ends the album: first comes Touch Your Button, a fun, upbeat innuendo featuring Will.I.Am and one Melisa Jimenez; then comes the carnival itself, a party bit featuring greats from all round the Caribbean; and then comes Rouge et Bleu. Putting it at the end of that somehow intensifies the emotion - it gives it a late-night feel, tired but focused and proud. By the time the guitar fades out, you’ve lost track of how long the song’s been going, accentuating the air of timeless spirituality.

At a time when a lot of artists are talking about Haiti, and quite commendably, it’s worth remembering that Wyclef is not only from there, but felt strongly enough to be able to write a song like this about it a couple of years ago. There isn’t much obvious commercial potential in singing in Creole either - this is a labour of love, an ambitious artistic statement, and in my opinion a very successful one. So whatever you think about Perfect Gentleman and It Doesn’t Matter and Hips Don’t Lie (biggest worldwide single of the 2000s I believe, by the way), this is a side of Wyclef that’s worth investigating.

Posted by SWEET MICKY at 21:00

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Get on with it, Potter

21 Jan 10 | Re: Writerly nit-picking

Been reading the Harry Potter books, and very much enjoying them. I must say I do find that a lot of the moaning about JK Rowlingova’s (as she’s called in the Czech Rep) writing style a bit churlish and misplaced - they’re for kids, and very readable. But having got to book number five, there is one habit of hers that is bothering me.

Here’s a quote for you by way of illustration:

The injustice of it all welled up inside him so that he wanted to yell with fury. It it hadn’t been for him, nobody would have known Voldemort was back! And his reward was to be stuck in Little Whinging for four solid weeks... How could Dumbledore have forgotten him so easily? Why had Ron and Hermione got together without inviting him along too? How much longer was he supposed to endure Sirius telling him to sit tight and be a good boy; or resist the temptation to write to the stupid Daily Prophet and point out that Voldemort had returned?

There’s a lot of this kind of thing - interior monologues pondering the as-yet-unanswered questions that the reader is meant to ask him or herself. But come on - these are stories with a strong element of mystery, so you expect the reader to wonder what is happening, but you don’t actually write all the questions out, do you? It’s as if Charles Dickens had written:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Now, you might wonder, why have I told you that? What was so good about these times, and which times am I talking about? What was so bad about them? How, indeed, can times be the best and the worst at once? Perhaps they are good for some people and bad for others? Perhaps some really interesting events are taking place, that I will tell you about in a minute, after I have finished asking you all these silly questions. Can I even expect my readers to read as far as this, without skipping a bit further down the page...

If you ask me, it detracts a bit from the mystery and interrupts the narrative flow.

Posted by NED RYERS at 18:35

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The marketing of Shreddies is atrocious

16 Jan 10 | Re: Atrocious Shreddies marketing

The marketing of Shreddies is absolutely atrocious. Shreddies are easily the best cereal going, so why in the blazes do they have to carry on with this pea-brained knitted by nanas rubbish? Who is it meant to appeal to? Kids? And now the boxes say ‘scrumptious new recipe’ on them. The new recipe is indeed an improvement, but who do they think they are talking to, to describe it as scrumptious? Nobody says scrumptious. They don’t say scrumptious. The whole thing is just maddening, these pictures of gurning old women on the boxes.

Posted by ROBIN OF LOXLEY at 15:46

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PS On ‘This Week’ this week, which I only bothered to watch because N-Dubz were on, Andrew Neal described something that was sporadic and patchy as “poratchy and spadic”. Does he do that a lot?

All hail the Rugg Review

16 Jan 10 | Re: Democracy in action

In November, I wrote to my MP for the first time about letting agency fees (I won’t go too far into it just now, but briefly I think that the way the system works makes the exploitation of tenants inevitable). I’ve been reasonably pleased with the response.

After my initial email to David Howarth’s office I got a fairly speedy email acknowledgement followed by a letter two weeks later. The letter enclosed another letter Mr Howarth had written to none other than Lord Mandelson to pass on my concerns, since letting agencies fall within Mandelson’s super-department, along with greengrocers, inventors, teacher training colleges and a twinkling miscellany of other incidentalia. The tension had now been ratcheted up - I might get a communication from the Grand High Poo-Bah himself.

I waited, agog, until yesterday when I received my reply. The House of Commons envelope was an early clue that I had not in fact been personally contacted by Lord Mandelson, and so it proved: the reply was from one Ian Austin MP at the Department for Communities and Local Government. It appears that letting agencies are not part of Mandelson’s remit after all. Perhaps David Howarth simply uses him as a repository for all queries whose rightful destination isn’t immediately clear.

Ian Austin is a man, it seems, of some competence, though his handwriting is rather a scrawl. If you want to read more about him, a diligent, friendly-looking under-secretary toiling under the scattershot sway of John Denham, you can do so here. His letter contained no end of encouraging information: the Government is already planning to start regulating the hated letting agencies, and back their pronouncements up with “an effective system of redress”. This is in response to the little-known Rugg Review of 2008. Shout-outs to Julie Rugg and David Rhodes of the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York.

Now, I follow the news and I have never heard of the Rugg Review, yet if it does manage to reduce the arbitrary, exploitative and unjust fees that agencies charge at the moment then it will be one of the most important acts of government for years, improving the lot of millions of ordinary people. You would think a Labour government would make a bit more political capital out of something like that. Nevertheless, it’s good to know that you can write to your MP and get an informative and worthwhile response. I hope all MPs are as attentive as David Howarth.

It’s also worth mentioning that Mr Howarth came out of the expenses scandal very well indeed: a good guy all round. Shame I’ve heard he won’t be standing at the next election.


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No moral, Marge, just a bunch of stuff that happened

11 Jan 10 | Re: Worthwhile but maddening book

I recently read the novel 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. There are already plenty of reviews available, but I do have a few thoughts I’d like to share.

For the most part, the reviews available online are on the money. The book is long, often pretty grim, and very hard to get a handle on. It doesn’t have a coherent plot, and even what seem like key plot developments are often forgotten or dropped without further comment. When I got to the end of it, I found myself wondering (a) why I’d bothered to read it and (b) why I wanted to go back and read it again.

How to describe it? Well, most novels are like watching a film, starting at the beginning and following events through to the end. This one is more like looking at a painting by Hieronimus Bosch, with grotesque sights and events going on everywhere and no semblance of order. Maybe there’s a story there, maybe there are several, but you’d have to look for it.

I think the key passage comes very near the end, when it’s said of one of the characters, a writer, that:

the way the stories followed one another didn’t lead anywhere: all that was left were the children, their parents, the animals, some neighbours, and in the end, all that was really left was nature, a nature that dissolved little by little in a boiling cauldron until it vanished completely.

I think it’s safe to say that Bolaño has his own novel in mind here - one of countless rather precariously bold strokes. In my opinion, if this is what he’s going for he’s pretty much hit the nail on the head, especially the boiling cauldron bit.

Then again, in Mostly Harmless I remember Arthur Dent settling on a planet whose inhabitants are utterly infuriating because they just accept everything life gives them. Their novels are particularly unreadable, having no point whatsoever - they just report some events for a set number of pages and then end. Sometimes this book feels a bit like that.

Sound interesting? Well, it is. But you’d better be 900 gruelling pages worth of interested before you read it yourself.

Posted by BERTHA JORKINS at 18:56

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Funk Hunt

9 Jan 10 | Re: Unintended musical consequences

Have you heard the theme tune to Bargain Hunt? It’s this frenetic funk instrumental. I mean, obviously it’s not actually very funky, or if it is, it’s only in the way a member of its target audience might also describe a pair of stripily garish woollen socks as funky, ie nothing to do with actual funk at all. But all the innovations of funk are there - the ‘one’ rhythm, the syncopation, the wah-wah guitars, the staccato horn lines. All there, cats.

Come Dine With Me’s another one. What makes producers of populist, undemanding challenge-type TV programmes automatically bring on the funk when they commission their theme tunes? I like to imagine George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Maceo Parker in their rehearsal rooms concocting the new super-heavy P-funk phenomenon, and wonder what it would have taken for them to dream that their ideas would end up soundtracking all this adequate TV fluff.

And what about QI? That’s a reggae one. Again, did Lee Scratch Perry and Coxsone Dodd and King Tubby think, as they slaved over four-track recorders and analogue tape delays, that they were creating sounds that, forty years later, would be deemed ideal to introduce a smugly conceived middlebrow panel programme? Will the maddening Fry vehicles of 2040 crank up to the sounds of spooked-out dubstep?

Personally I would like to see more theme tunes with lyrics written specifically about the programme in question. Bargain Hunt would be far more watchable if its funky signature was overlaid with a struggling r’n’b artiste singing some quality rhymes about the joy of discovering an underpriced Edwardian teapot. Should the producers be reading this, they should know that I myself would have no hesitation in agreeing to write suitable lines, if approached.

Posted by THE ATOMIC DOG at 19:19

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A bad influence on Reggie

8 Jan 10 | Re: Biggest music TV of the year

I want to review the music television I watched over Christmas. Everyone knows that now that Top of the Pops is gone there is no mass-audience music TV at all, and it’s not just TOTP either - I’d like to mention CD:UK and the Chart Show as well, or even Saturday morning kids’ shows like Live and Kicking: all gone, and each one a loss to the TV pop fan.

So I was excited to watch the Christmas Top of the Pops, and I even added an extra archaic touch by videoing it during my Christmas dinner and watching it later on. It was pretty good, and it looks like TOTP still has the appeal to attract a lot of the year’s big acts - Dizzee Rascal, JLS, Alexandra Burke and others all got big after the weekly shows stopped but still made the effort. In fact Robbie Williams even looked a bit out of place, despite being by far the most experienced TOTP vet on the programme.

The best performance was definitely Muse, who resurrected the spirit of the really old days of Top of the Pops by dressing in Christmas outfits and having Santa-suited disco dancers. It’s quite difficult to believe now that there was an era when the biggest actual rock acts of the day weren’t afraid to participate in a bit of variety entertainment, but it happened all the time years ago, before rock credibility became deadly serious business. I actually think that the idea of rock credibility is losing its power, so it’s good to see that Muse have picked up on the trend.

Bad points:

The New Year TOTP was much worse. Almost all the performances were by acts who had also been on the Christmas programme, making it obvious that the two had been filmed at the same time, and a couple of them were exactly the same! Dizzee at least could have done Bonkers as well as Holiday. Honestly! And the two live show clips didn’t feel like TOTP, though I suppose it was a compromise to get Gaga on there. The best thing about this one was the appearance of Tinchy and N-Dubz - one of the singles of the year, and one of the best performances on either show, by people who looked like being asked on really meant something.

Finally a word about Jools’ Hootenanny. I don’t mind admitting that I stayed in and watched the entire thing. Obviously Jools is annoying, and it’s very noticeable how he now somehow gets to add his boogie-woogie piano stylings to around 85% of the songs on a programme he used only to present, but it was pretty good. Paolo Nutini is the 21st century Rod Stewart. Dizzee looked awesome in the DJ and was even better than he was on TOTP. There was too much Al Murray and Paloma Faith, and not as much delicious friction as last year when some middle-aged guy, I forget who, embarrassed himself flirting with Duffy. Florence was really good. Boy George doesn’t quite have what he used to have. Rowland Rivron inexplicably showed up for the 19th year in a row: WHO IS HE? And the best bit of the night was Vic Reeves suggesting the Dizzee’s real first name was Disraeli. I never would have thought of that.

Posted by RICO at 19:07

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Hiatus at end - blog is back

5 Jan 10 | Re: Return of this blog

Yo, I’m back. Sorry to my regular readers for the late-year hiatus. Perhaps you have been waiting for the last 56 days in aching anticipation of the answer to the twentieth quiz question; wait no more, for it is Heart Radio.

And we all know that there is nothing more tedious than blog posts apologising for the lack of more blog posts, so this needs to be short. All I need to say is that I’m stopping the quiz for a bit, and that I’ve spent the Christmas period concocting no end of startling opinions and observations, so the area above will soon be filled with lots more of the usual unusual stuff.

Posted by GEORGE FOREMAN at 18:24

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