Friday, 26 September 2008

It'll be Alright on the Night (on the right of the night on the left of the night opposite Mordred)

So The Krypton Factor is coming back, as plugged here - bizarrely with Gordon 'The Chain' Burns holding building blocks spelling 'Trumpton Wanker'. Well, it's an angle.

Nothing amazing about another old quiz being plundered by poor old strapped-for-brains ITV of course, but all the talk of the 'iconic' assault course and 'state-of-the-art technology' suggest that, once again, they're missing the point of the original before it's even begun.

Even at the time, The Krypton Factor was a very ordinary sort of programme. While quizzes in the 1980s gradually stared beefing themselves up, with blonde women in helicopters and Richard O'Brien playing an ocarina, The Kryp (as we all called it) remained sober and, that shouting sergeant major at the end aside, very, very quiet. Gordon Burns's supernormal powers of whispering were stretched to the limit as he conspiratorially confided with the viewing public the key to solving the three-dimensional jigsaw (always something about getting the base segement the right way round) while the camera focussed unforgivingly on Jim, a systems analyst from Redditch who 'doesn't appear to be making any progress at all'.

Since then, silence has become as much a crime on TV as it always was on radio. But radio had a reason for it, as pointed out by John Peel whenever he played a record on the BBC World Service which featured a whopping pause in the middle, half-fearing the momentary silence of the global broadcasting bastion might trigger World War Three.

Blame Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and its constant, pulsating, sub-Jean Michel Jarre backing track, complete with matching Destination Docklands-style sweeping lightshow. Someone decided the sound of a silent studio wasn't 'tense' enough. Either that, or they had a morbid fear of the janitor's broom falling over and destroying the carefully constructed edifice of intellectual suspense.

ITV might decide to help their product stand out from the menacingly thrumming crowd by going back to whispering basics. Who knows? Mastermind managed it after all, but the Beeb tend to have more confidence in their resurrected brands, and don't share ITV's boobish, eager-to-please compulsion to kit the old model out with the TV equivalent of flashy rear spoilers and those blue lights that go along the bottom of the door frames. (They certainly tried odd things towards the end of The Kryp's original run, as I recall.)

But it's an important fact that The Kryp was, even by the standards of the time, quiet, thoughtful, modest telly. No bells, no whistles, no throbbing Fairlights or billowing carpets of dry ice. Even the assault course looked like a badly-tended adventure playground at times. And if they get the mechanics of the quiz right, there's no reason why it can't be like that again. They could even save a few bob to plough back into blinging up that Series Champion perspex trophy.

Oh, and what are the odds they'll persuade Steve Coogan into a one-off return to those 'spot the difference' dramatic film clips he used to appear in?

Friday, 5 September 2008

Funny the Things, eh?

I used to like Sounds. Not as good as the NME admittedly, and a tad heavy on the DEATH TO FALSE METAL! Coverage, but streets ahead of the dour, priggish Melody Maker, for sure. Anyway, one of the wacky stunts the paper pulled towards the end of its life was to fill two whole pages with made-up charts. Not just the notoriously unreliable ‘indie charts’ (ie what some surly get in Notting Hill thinks his customers ought to be buying), but charts of everything from pie fillings to the most popular catchphrases on Bullseye. (This last achieved fame by being read out, a few weeks later, on the programme, to the mock-bemusement of Jim Bowen, and the as ever genuine bemusement of the crowd.)

One of these charts, published some time in early 1988, has stuck in my mind ever since. God knows why - it’s not especially funny or interesting in itself. A lot of it doesn’t even make sense. But, well, ‘funny the things, eh?’ And in an attempt to purge this pointless bit of whimsy from my mind for good, here it is, as the inkies used to say all the time, ‘in full’:


  1. Pete Stride & John Plain
  2. Peter Perrett
  3. Pete Wylie
  4. Peter Glaze
  5. Peter Oosterhuis
  6. Peter, Paul and Mary
  7. Peter Lorimer (Leeds)
  8. Peters and Lee
  9. Pete Gunn
  10. Pete Best

(The little flower things didn't appear in the original paper, of course, it's just Blogger being an arse and not letting me do a numbered list, for some reason. Anyway, let's have a rummage...)

A very Sounds choice, these two being members of pub-punk act The Lurkers and punk-pub band The Boys respectively. Dunno about The Boys, but The Lurkers sounded like 101 variations on The Clash’s White Riot to my punk-ignorant ears and, shall we say, respected the privacy of the UK Top 40. Still, loads of other people, including Peel, loved them, and they ‘made The Ramones sound like Queen’, which has to be worth something. Here’s some phlegmatically flailing skinny tie action from the lads on Revolver (sadly the clip cuts off before we get to hear Peter Cook’s soused verdict on the band.)

Lead signer of The Only Ones, of course, who may have been nowhere to be seen in 1988, but now are all over Jools Holland, adverts and compilations – doing Another Girl Another Planet in all cases, admittedly, but Perrett’s still about, albeit tainted with association with The Libertines, of all folk. And he could still do with a bun or two by the looks of things.

Bit cheeky of them to bung the Wah!meister into this list, as he’d been in the charts with Sinful just over a year previously. Sadly it’s more appropriate these days, as an accident in the early ‘90s put the kybosh on his solo career, though a comeback is apparently ‘imminent’, which could be rather good. Of course, the best band he was ever in was The Crucial Three, one of those late-’70s Liverpool bands who never actually wrote songs or performed, but just hung about in tea shops all day talking about how great it was being in a band. That’s the music career for me. Other members were Julian Cope, who is ace in a bizarre new way every day, and Ian McCulloch who I’ve never been able to stick. Put that jumper on properly lad, you’ll ruin the neck hole! And stop pouting!

Not a very well-researched list this, is it? The former Crazy Gang understudy turned shortarse recipient of a giant tuning fork to the head on Crackerjack* had been dead a good five years by the time this chart was compiled. He carked it halfway through a series of the late-period, Stu Francis-’n’-gunge-era incarnation of the show too, raising the question of how, if at all, the programme commemorated that sad event. A memorial round of ‘get the whistle out of the tray of Sugar Puffs with your teeth’? Or just a mournful Jimmy Krankie with two downturned thumbs, declaring the tragic loss decidedly un-fandabidozi? Best of all, while Glaze was still operational, he could conceivably have covered the work of any of the abovementioned Pete’s in that section of Crackerjack where they do a daft mini-play and shoehorn a Hit parade number into the action. Not sure Glaze’s bluff tones would suit a Perrett song, but I bet he ould do a belting Seven Minutes to Midnight.

Bit of a zany choice here, with the oddly-named lanky golfer who was all over the telly in the canary yellow plus fours era of the sport, but had buggered off to America by the time this list came out. That’s it.

Were still going in ‘88! And are still going these days to the best of my knowledge. Just because you stopped listening to Junior Choice when they started going overboard with the Ralph MacTell songs doesn’t mean that world just vanished, Mr List Compiling Man!

Footballer famous for his ability to kick the ball very hard. Unlike his team-mates, who preferred to do the same to the opposing side. No joke like an old joke, eh?

This list does admittedly run out of steam towards the end. Though this pair are a legitimate Where Are They Now? Target, being as they were bloody everywhere in the 1970s on the back of pretty much one song, with their own TV Christmas specials and everything. They’d long packed it in by 1988, though I do remember seeing them on Summertime Special once, which must have just about been in the ‘80s.

Not sure who this even is. Do they mean Peter Gunn, the 1950s detective series? Or the Duane Eddy theme tune from same? If it’s the latter, that was being covered by The Art of Noise about the time this was published, so zero points on the research front there. But knowing this paper, it’s more likely referring to the bassist from Peter and the Test Tube Babies or something.

Oh, of all the cheap shots… It’s hard not to feel sympathy for the Biggest Loser in Rock (copyright lots of little losers). Twenty years of sterling work for the civil service and a rock solid marriage to the girl off the biscuit counter at Woolie’s mean nothing, do they? Oddly enough, this list was published in the very year Best knocked his day job on the head and went back to music, forming The Pete Best Band. I like to think this list was directly responsible.

* - Crackerjack!