Morrissey: “Ouija Board, Ouija Board”

A silly song. But two comedy legends in the video.

I never knew this happened: Joan Sims AND Kathy Burke in a Morrissey video!

According to Moz’s autobiography, when he met Joan she said to him: “Do you know Nicholas Parsons? He is a c**t”. Bona.

 

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“Today, today… is the first of May”

David Bowie – I’ll Take You There

[bonus track from The Next Day]

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Apparently Britpop is 20 years old…

…which makes me feel VERY old indeed…

p01x0mvc

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this week’s Evening Sessions with Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley. They’ve reunited to celebrate the 90s phenomenon of Britpop.

The Evening Session on Radio 1 was the soundtrack to A-level coursework for me and many others; a nightly reminder that, when the weekend came around again, you’d be back at your local indie disco swinging your pants [chocolate brown corduroy ones in my case] to Shed Seven and The Wannadies.

Twenty years on, Steve and Jo have been relegated to Radio 2. But then, haven’t we all? 

It’s been an unashamedly nostalgic week of programmes – and I’ve loved re-living those bygone evenings – this time, without the nasty Pure Maths revision.

But what I can’t quite understand is…. why now?  Louise Wener, reliably gobby frontwoman of the unfairly maligned Sleeper [who were actually one of my favourites] just posed this very question direct to Steve Lamacq.  His squirmy response, in an obvious struggle to stay ‘on message’, seems to be that it’s something to do with Kurt Cobain’s death and Oasis being played on Radio 1 for the first time.  It seems these events occurred simultaneously – and about 20 years ago. A sort-of tipping point when US guitar bands (‘grunge’) made way for UK guitar bands (‘Britpop’).

It’s tenuous. It seems more a celebration of Britpop-going-mainstream, which somehow misses the point. I liked my indie to be indie.  Before long, it all became too grabbing and mainstream, reaching a horrid nadir with the contrived chart showdown between Oasis and Blur in summer 1995 [Roll With It and Country House being each band’s weakest song to date].

For me, the anniversary celebrations come about a year too late. Rewind to February 1993 and witness two seminal Britpop bands at their best:

If Britpop exploded in 1994, then it was of course Suede that first lobbed the grenade back in 1992. Their third single Animal Nitrate’s sordid subject matter was good old-fashioned sex’n’drugs‘n’rock’n’roll updated for end of the century indie kids – with added mic-swinging and hip-slapping.

Pulp, on the other hand, had been bubbling under in the indie wilderness for ages before flouncing into the spotlight in the 90s with a rush of drama, lust and, well, a little bit of Razzamatazz:

Now that’s a chart battle that would truly have rivalled the Beatles / Rolling Stones duels of old.

 

 

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Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A new album please)

Forty years ago today, pop was re-born.

Cheer up loves - you won!

Cheer up loves – you won!

In spandex and sequins, it burst forth from the flamboyant loins of Brighton* when ABBA took to the stage to belt out Waterloo and win the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. I was minus 4 years old then, but when the time came, ABBA became my first ever favourite group. I own pretty much everything they’ve ever recorded – including all the solo Swedish hurdy-gurdy stuff. It’s an obsession I’ve never felt the need to grow out of.

Like ABBA, I Have A Dream…

Last year, my hero David Bowie darted out from the shadows of retirement to release his first album in a decade; Suede, his bastard offspring and the band that took from ABBA the baton of my-favourite-group-ever, followed suit; even Morrissey has behaved himself long enough to get a record deal and will be dropping a new LP shortly. So, in this atmosphere of reappraising the greats, in this time of Rocky-esque comebacks, when the old masters just seem to pop up unannounced… is it too much – on their 40th anniversary – is it really too much to ask for something like this:

waterloo two

* I have never understood why there is nothing in Brighton commemorating such a momentous occasion. It defies common sense – and business sense.   “Dear Brighton and Hove City Council…”

 

 

 

 

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Live comedy review: Alan Davies at The Lighthouse, Poole

QI’s resident buffoon brings his cheeky charm to Poole

Alan_Davies_LT_14_event

Just a quickie…

To spend the evening listening to Alan Davies is like catching up with an old mate down your local pub. He’s a charming host, gently teasing latecomers before offering a warm welcome, then happily playing along when an impromptu Q & A session starts up at the end of the show.

With the audience cosily won over, his observations on the pitfalls of parenthood meet with sustained giggles throughout the show. There’s nothing edgy or political, and only an occasional stroll into the surreal. It’s a cosy, cuddly love-in and we’re all on Alan’s side as we identify with the minor frustrations and embarrassments of his life.

My only criticism is that, to fill a two-hour show, he seems only to have 3 or 4 decent anecdotes prepared. His meandering delivery ekes them out, but for a little too long at times.

That said, it’s a gentle joy to share a Friday evening in his thoroughly pleasant company.

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No Kate Bush tickets for me :(

Refresh, redial, refresh, redial…

I originally penned this post a week ago. It was supposed to celebrate my obtaining tickets to see Kate Bush in concert. Sadly, I was unsuccessful, trampled underfoot in the online stampede for tickets. I’ve been sulking ever since.

Katebush

Reclusive Pop Genius WLTM fans. Can’t travel. Can’t accommodate.

Kate’s never been one to follow suit. Musically, of course, she is eccentricity personified, but her individual approach reaches further than that. She releases her albums sporadically – when, and only when, she’s ready. She doesn’t whore herself across the media in order to flog her wares. And, as any recent reference to Bush will insist on reminding you, she has only toured once: way back in 1979.

 

There was really no reason to think she’d ever decide to tour again. So it was a wonderful shock when she announced a series of live shows in London this summer.

Of course I booked the day off work. Of course I assembled an online team of like-minded souls desperate for a bit if Bush*. Of course, we never even got a look-in: available ‘green’ seats turned ‘red’ at an alarming rate, shutting out all those with a budget below three-figures within 5 minutes.

I guess I’ll wait for the DVD. At least that’ll cost less than 45 quid, and I won’t have to stand at the back of the room with a partially obscured view.

Of course, this isn’t a real tour, rather a residency at a single venue. The only travelling will be done by the punters, not Ms Bush herself. And it’s an interesting venue to choose. Legendary, even. It was here at the Hammersmith Odeon (as it was called then) that Bowie killed off his Ziggy Stardust character in 1973, with that infamous announcement: “not only is this the last show of the tour, it’s the last show we’ll ever do”.

After finally succumbing to the business of live performance for a few weeks, I do wonder whether Bush may “do a Ziggy” on her final night. It would be a suitably grand, iconic gesture. Then she could scurry back to the seclusion of her secret garden at Bush Towers, never to be seen again.

In reality, Kate has kept a relatively high profile over the years for someone so often labelled a recluse. She has actually released two brand new albums in the last nine years, as well as re-arranging/re-recording tracks from two previous albums on her 2011 release Director’s Cut. And she shows up occasionally at awards ceremonies, whether it’s to collect a South Bank Show Award for Best Album or a CBE from the Queen.

Here is my all-time favourite clip of Kate. It’s of her receiving the deafening applause of a loving audience at The Q Awards in 2001. Which she does, naughtily, with the words “oooh…. I’ve just come”.

Had I been one of the lucky few to obtain tickets to her upcoming shows, I might have reacted in the same way.

 

* I must be allowed one of these. Believe me, this post was wall-to-wall Bush** pre-editing

** OK, two

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Orlando’s Romeo is pretty Bloomin’ good!

Theatre review: Romeo and Juliet, Richard Rogers Theatre, New York (broadcast to cinemas worldwide 1st April 2014)

romeo and juliet

I’ve watched a few of these theatre-beamed-live-into-your-local-cinema events. They’re a cultural lifeline to those of us living out in the sticks – especially when the only alternatives are local am-dram productions [which tend to trigger my irritable bowel].

Yesterday’s screening of Romeo and Juliet was a departure in that it wasn’t being screened from London’s West End or Stratford-upon-Avon, but from Broadway.  Also, it boasted in its lead male role, genuine Hollywood star Orlando Bloom.

Maybe there wasn’t quite the level of New York glitz that I’d hoped for, but it was certainly a slick production.

When the star of the show arrives, it is – quite bizarrely – on a motorbike. And when he then whips off his helmet to reveal his boyish good looks and perfectly coiffured Shakespearean locks, there were audible whoops from the audience. It sounded like a hen party were occupying the front row.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Mr Bloom. I feared the theatre may have blown their budget on a rent-a-heartthrob without enough experience to do justice to such an iconic role.

I needn’t have worried:  Bloom’s cheeky Romeo had me charmed from the start.  He navigates the text beautifully and phrases his lines always with a modern clarity – and often with a glint in his eye. He certainly showed no lack of confidence as he swung himself around the set with a swagger.

Condola Rashad, another Shakespeare rookie, played her Juliet with equal conviction, though maybe overdid the doey eyes.

When they met at Capulet’s ball, their first kiss was suitably invested with teenage awkwardness (whether this was played for or not) but it seemed to go on for ever. I feared another swell of whooping or – heaven forefend! – wolf-whistling from the audience. Mercifully, they unpuckered in time to avoid anything quite so uncouth.

Jayne Houdyshell perfectly pitched her performance as Juliet’s Nurse, providing not just comic relief, but genuine warmth too. She also pricks the pomposity of Lord Capulet and, more importantly, the overwrought love poetry of the star-cross’d lovers themselves. This should normally be Mercutio’s job, but Christian Camargo’s 80s-rock-star portrayal of Romeo’s punning buddy is a little underwhelming here.

The staging keeps no strict sense of historical setting: Romeo may arrive riding a motorbike, and there was rather more bump-and-grinding at the masked ball than Shakespeare might have included in his original stage directions, but the other tricks and gimmicks (the live doves, the real fire, the chiming bells) created, conversely, a sense of a more traditional production.

Reading a few reviews afterwards, it seems that Orlando Bloom took a bit of a pasting for his Shakespearean debut on Broadway. One reviewer in the New York Post described, in particular,“the scene in which Romeo agonizes at the prospect of being banished from his beloved” as “excruciatingly dull”. I think this is entirely unfair. It may be treason to say so, but the second half of Romeo and Juliet hangs on machinations of plot that defy credulity. The scene this reviewer refers to is, on paper, particularly unconvincing [how could banishment from the city ever be worse than a death sentence?]. However, Mr Bloom delivered his anguish at this news with such conviction that, hey, I‘m a believer.

Overall, this is a snappy abridged version of Romeo and Juliet, skipping chunks of dialogue and ditching some minor characters altogether. This works well for most of the play, allowing a focus on the fighting action (which, to be honest, doesn’t really benefit from some potentially embarrassing camera close-ups) and the more famous romantic scenes. Sadly, the trimming of the text doesn’t set up the climax of the play as well.

As I said before, the plot is unavoidably clunky and forced, and I would usually welcome a simplified version of the final act. Here, however, the action of the last 20 or 30 minutes was rushed through without managing to build to any climax. When Lords Montague and Capulet held hands in the final scene I couldn’t help feeling that this denouement had arrived before we’d really earned it. Unfortunately, it was here in the final act that Orlando himself came a bit unstuck too, being less convincing once banished and distraught than he was as a love-struck charmer.

It seemed that the imagined hen-party may have lost some of their admiration for Orlando too, as the cheers for the curtain call were somewhat subdued compared to their earlier raucousness. Maybe the Lambrini had worn off. As the credits rolled, filmed scenes of Orlando greeting over-excited fans at the stage door only left a nasty suspicion that this might perhaps have been merely another vehicle or pet project for the Hollywood hunk, or a desperate attempt by the theatre to get bums on seats.

I understand the show closed early following some bad reviews. This seems a shame and I’m glad it’s been given this second opportunity for exposure at your local picture house.

I, for one, hope Bloom returns to Shakespeare; he seems a natural. And he certainly has the hair for it.

Speaking of which, and to finish on a frivolous note, I spent most of the first act trying to recall who it was that he reminded me of. The answer, when it came to me sometime during the balcony scene, shocked me into embarrassing giggles:

 

Orlando Subo Collage

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