Friday, 14 March 2008

Irrational Likes

Here are some things that, looked at with an objective eye, add nothing to the sum total of human well-being, but which I love nonetheless:

The audible ‘clonk’ of the continuity announcer’s fader as he introduces ‘another… Round With Alliss’.

Female backing singers on Top of the Pops in the first half of the ‘80s who, despite being dolled up in the finest evening frocks and elbow-length gloves Richard Shops can provide, still look unmistakeably like bored sixth-formers killing time at the wedding of an unloved maiden aunt.

The avuncular bloke who does the announcements at the otherwise horrendous Bank tube station. I know many people object to the way he tells us what to do if we see ‘any suspicious be-HA-viour!’ as if he was addressing the front row audience for Dick Whittington at the New Theatre, Oxford, but I love it, especially when he rounds it all off with an indefatigably cheery ‘Or a police officer!’

In a similar vein, the news vendor at London Bridge station who shouts ‘Evening Standaaaard!’ to exactly the same tune as the Velvet Underground’s Sunday Morning. Sadly he’s yet to work the phrase ‘West End Final!’ into a version of Lady Godiva’s Operation, but give him time.

American ladies of a certain age who steadfastly refuse to use even the mildest swearwords in a heated argument. ‘That’s a load of bull-ploppy, mister!’

Un-rock-‘n’-roll guitars. First you’ve got the half-guitar, half-synthesiser. Anything with a keyboard and a little handle that does nothing goes under the fabulous moniker of ‘Keytar’. Better yet is the SynthAxe, a ridiculously expensive (and ridiculously heavy) bent-necked MIDI-enabled thing that could only ever be used on a Peter Gabriel filler track circa 1987. (Or by Rock School's guitar heroine Deirdre Cartwright, of course.)

Other un-rock-‘n’-roll guitars include the fretless bass (and better yet, the bass that had frets you could retract with a special key, as demonstrated on Tomorrow's World, where its Swedish inventor played it inside Bob Symes's potting shed - rock!), the one with the ‘sawn-off’ headstock look, and the one Brian May’s dad built out of a Victorian fireplace. (I’m not including guitars with two or more necks – they are rock ‘n’ roll, albeit in a goofy sort of way, and just don’t do it for me.)

Thursday, 13 March 2008

'I've just received this meemo!'

It's the pointless craze that's sweeping the globe! Take the book you're currently reading, flip through it to page 123, ignore the first three lines and bung down the subsequent five. Someone somewhere is cackling with evil glee at the silly men and women running around fulfilling this pointless task that he (oh, it'll be a he all right) initiated. And thanks to DJ and noted Brothers MacGregor fan Matthew Rudd, it's my turn to continue the cosmic ballet.

Funnily enough, most of the books I've been reading lately don't even have a page 123 (there are perfectly innocent reasons for this, but that's for another time). Fortunately the one I'm currently on has, so let's see here:

'It used to be a common practice for some agents to keep their clients' fees until the actor came raging into the office pleading starvation. Whereupon the books would be examined, and with a "Hello, what's this?", the agent would find a record of payment. Salaries are passed on immediately nowadays, but repeat fees are still liable to do a stint in a W1 deposit account before reaching the actor.
'But money doesn't actually mean very much to me to be honest. As long as I can buy my booze and fags and pay my mortgage and have a week or two on Lesbos and a Winterbreak and the odd dinn at L'Escargot then I'm happy.'

Well, there you have it. One person will guess what book that is instantly, the rest will just back away smiling nervously. And now I'm supposed to pass the metaphorical baton onto two other poor saps, but everyone seems to have done this already apart from dapper gadabout Steve Berry and the protean genius behind Digi-Creamguide. So, er, them then.
[Edited as I cocked it up first time round. Not, of course, that it matters, but in for a penny and that.]

Friday, 7 March 2008

Reasons Why Derek Griffiths is Brilliant #2704

Nothing to add to that, really, except that this predates Whose Line It Is Anyway by a good couple of years, I think.

Telly Selly Time #3: 'Hand over that Tizer, you boys!'

I’m not usually a subscriber to the idea of advertising as an artform in its own right. Far from being a hive of creativity, 99% of it leeches off what’s floating about the zeitgeist, chops it up into a one-minute chunk for the uses of Messrs Procter and Gamble, then sits back and takes all the money. Ad execs like the dreadful Trevor Beattie nick someone else’s perfectly good idea, employ highly talented technical folk to recreate it, then bask in all the glory despite having contributed nothing but a badly soiled fag packet. It’s not out of some strong Socialist principle or anything like that, I’m just sarky about Saatchi.

But a rule as monolithic as that spawns some great exceptions, and the 1985 Tizer ad here is one of them. (Doesn’t start until 00.50 but don’t miss a fine bit of Roland Rat/Tommy Boyd rivalry on the way.) The premise doesn’t hold much promise: a bunch of bored South London yobs get high on Tartrazine fizz and decide to terrorise a pair of security guards (a pre-Carling Black Label Oblivion Boys) with an intimidating mixture of formation pogoing and Pig Latin.

But. It’s great though, isn’t it? That catchy Madness-meets-Sham 69 song, some top crosstalk from Frost and Arden, that moustache, and an all-round playground quotability factor of 10. There’s a school of thought (population: me) that says adverts at their best are the purest form of nostalgia. Think about it – you spent about eight months of your childhood watching the same sixty seconds of action several times a day. It burns itself into your brain. Then they stop showing it, and you forget all about it, until it turns up decades later on an old VHS or YouTube and the sleeping dragon wakes. You enter a dreamlike state wherein – you swear – you start mentally reciting the ad a fraction of a second before it unspools on screen. It’s like playing a tape directly out of your memory, and when it happens the results are uncanny.

By the way, if anyone can identify any of the actors playing the ‘yobboes’, or indeed decipher the line that comes directly after ‘so we say words they won’t understand,’ you’ll have scratched a 23-year-old itch.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

'But now let's meet some people who are juggling... with life.'

There doesn't really need to be any text accompanying this clip of WC Fields's rightfully legendary juggling skills from The Old Fashioned Way (1934), this isn't so much a post as a sort of replacement for Monkhouse Movie Madness or Make 'Em Laugh or any of those other wet Sunday afternoon compilations of old comedy films which you just don't get anymore, thus depriving future generations of a staple of their cultural diet.

(Well, I assume you don't get them anymore - I'd love to be proved wrong by the discovery of T4's Charley Chase season, or by catching the last five minutes of Loose Women in which Kate Garroway and Colleen Nolan break into a step-perfect recreation of Laurel and Hardy's soft shoe shuffle from Way Out West, but I'm not holding out much hope.)

Why, though, do juggling and comedy seem to go together where, say, plate-spinning and comedy or going over Niagara Falls in a barrel and comedy don't? I suppose comics often feign daftness to conceal a razor-sharp mind, and jugglers pretend to be clumsy only to turn the audience's expectations around by plucking balls out of the air, or something equally woolly and cod-theoretical like that.

Anyway, here's a more contemporary bit of precision tossing shorn of its original context but none the worse for that - Mark 'Let me put my thinking cap ONNNN...' Heap's ten seconds of wonder from one of those Big Train pay rise sketches. Contain your jealousy by thinking of those thousands of unfunny Covent Garden/Glastonbury regulars who make An Audience with Justin Lee Collins seem like a nice night's entertainment, but admit it, you wish you could do this sort of thing, don't you?