Friday, August 17, 2012

Once I Was Downhearted, Disappointment Was My Closest Friend

Doctor Who showrunner The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) has admitted that he struggled with Amy and Rory's final moments in the series. Moffat told the Digital Spy website that he 'completely' rewrote the pair's last scenes in upcoming episode, The Angels Take Manhattan. 'I completely changed the ending as I was writing it, thinking "No, I've got it wrong. I'm on the wrong emphasis" - but it's a good one and it's properly emotional,' he promised. Of the final script, Matt Smith said: 'I was very moved indeed, because not only is it two characters that I love, it's two actors that I love working with. To see them go - and I think go so beautifully, it's moving.' Karen Gillan - who plays Amy - added: 'I instantly phoned Matt [when I read the episode] and I was crying and laughing hysterically because it's so good!' 'It was like getting the last chapter of the best book you've ever read and being really surprised by the ending and really satisfied,' explained Arthur Darvill. 'It was pretty emotional. It's Doctor Who - I'm so proud of being part of such a big show. The show is bigger than all of us and it will outlive all of us... I'm really proud to have been a part of it.'

Peter Kay's first stand-up in seven years, The Tour That Didn't Tour, premiered on Channel Four with 4.2m last night. Horrifying, isn't it? Some 3.63m watched a recording of the comedian's 2011 show on Channel Four between 9pm and 11pm, while five hundred and seventy seven thousand additional punters caught Kay on C4+1. Elsewhere, BBC2's - really very good indeed - Paralympics drama The Best of Men (starring Eddie Marsden and Rob Brydon) took an impressive 3.15m from 9pm until 10.30pm, prior to which The Hairy Dieters also broke the three million mark with 3.11m. Celebrity Big Brother dipped alarmingly to 1.62m on Channel Five in the 10pm hour, down 1.1m on its Thursday launch. Both BBC1 and ITV had rather poor nights - their soaps aside. The BBC 999 Awards was watched by 2.73m between 8pm and 9.30pm, then a repeat of John Bishop's Britain had an audience of 1.81m. Meanwhile, it was even worse for ITV with Jennifer Saunders's equine documentary Back on the Saddle drew a truly dismal 1.76m at 9pm despite a Corrie lead-in. being beaten by all four of the other terrestrial channels. Overall, helped by Coronation Street, ITV topped primetime with just 16.7 per cent of the audience share over BBC1's 15.7 per cent. BBC2 earned a very creditable third place with 11.4 per cent.

If ever there was a television drama which captured the recent British Olympic mood – rousing, proud, dignified, wholesome and optimistic – BBC2's The Best of Men was it. Designed to stir the viewers' deepest emotions, this ninety-minute TV movie told the true story of Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who founded the Paralympic Games. A specialist in spinal injuries, Doctor Guttmann arrived at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1944 to revolutionise the way in which paralysed servicemen were cared for. Until he came along such patients were heavily sedated and largely written off. The spinal unit was not so much a treatment centre as a dumping ground for bedsore-ridden invalids waiting for their inevitable death. Guttmann changed all that. His radical idea, which reportedly drew scepticism from his peers, was a simple one: he thought that by getting them playing sports such as wheelchair hockey and basketball, the depressed patients would not only improve their fitness and upper body strength, but also regain their self-esteem. A sense of purpose, he argued, would spur them on to reclaim their shattered lives. And so, eventually, the Paralympics ('a parallel Olympics') were born – initially in 1948 with the Stoke Mandeville Games, and then in earnest in 1960 in Rome. The drama, scripted by Solider, Solider veteran Lucy Gannon followed Guttmann's tireless efforts, and the progress made by the patients, from desperation to determination (by 1945, Guttmann had turned what was essentially a death sentence into an eighty per cent survival rate). A bespectacled Eddie Marsan, terrifyingly sadistic in last year's Tyrannosaur, starred in the lead role. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the real-life Guttmann, he conveyed the doctor's stubborn tenacity and wry humour – even if his German accent was a bit more 'Allo 'Allo than Gert Fröbe. 'Zee spinal chord is zee same whezzer you are Wilhelm or William,' said Guttmann, when forced to defend his unconventional approach to the drama's main villainous character, the supercilious Cowan (played with an appealingly sarcastic sneer by Richard McCabe). 'Too many cripples in zee last war, too many young men dying young, too many men made helpless by medical neglect, too many vidows. Zat is vy I am here.' Yah. Marsan managed brilliantly to humanise a character who was, in performance terms, hopelessly unflawed: a great doctor, a great family man, a great and kindly motivator, a great shouter only at those who thoroughly needed to be shouted at. A lesser actor would have struggled – and left us, the viewer, to struggle – to get a handle on him. Engaging, too, was Rob Brydon, whose performance as the ward joker Wynn Bowen, a Welsh corporal coming to terms with his paralysis, was by turns amusing, tender and avuncular. Brydon is a superbly witty man and a fine comic but this was his best acting performance since The Trip and possibly one of the most interesting of his entire career. One scene, in particular, with him will stay with the viewer. Returning triumphantly from a weekend at home in which he was able to 'perform' with his wife, Brydon's character burst into song. 'Get it up, did you?' asked a young private (George MacKay). 'We skinned the cat, oh yes we did,' replies Bowen, pride plastered across his face. Of course, given its subject matter, a film such as this was always likely to waver between feel-good drama and lachrymose sentimentality. The jarringly string-laden musical score certainly didn't help in the latter regard. Neither did some occasionally questionable dialogue ('Come on then, we'll take you all on if you think you're man enough,' enthused one paralysed soldier). Most of the main characters - Guttmann aside - were rather thinly written and the minor ones were often a parade of clichés we have come to expect from a medical drama set in the bad old days – the seemingly unbending but soon-converted motherly ward sister, the hapless bureaucrat, befuddled parents and the arrogant, paternalistic surgeon representing everything that's wrong with the British establishment who is eventually bested by the kindly interloper and the patients he had written off. But The Best of Men had heart and soul and if the story rather than the characters was the thing, that really didn't seem to matter. Any lingering doubts dissolved in the haze of tears that rose unstoppably during the final montage of shots from all the Paralympic Games since, each one suggesting that while there is still much to be done there has at least been progress in our attitudes to disability. Even the flintiest viewer would have been moved by a tale this inspirational. With the Paralympics less than two weeks away, now is the time to acknowledge one of the world's great unsung heroes.

Keeley Hawes is to star in a new BBC adaptation of the Hitchcock thriller The Lady Vanishes, which will be broadcast this Christmas. The ninety-minute psychological thriller for BBC1 will start filming on location in Budapest later this month. It tells the story of wealthy young 1930s socialite Iris Carr, who finds a woman has disappeared from her train while travelling across Europe. The cast also includes Stephanie Cole and Julian Rhind-Tutt. Writer Fiona Seres has adapted the script from Ethel Lina White's novel The Wheel Spins, which also inspired Hitchcock's 1939 film The Lady Vanishes. Relative newcomer Tuppence Middleton plays socialite Carr, who is comforted by Miss Froy after fainting on a train platform, before waking up to discover her good Samaritan has vanished. 'Fiona's adaptation of The Wheel Spins deftly weaves together the intriguing stories of a psychologically complex group of characters played out against the tense backdrop of the Balkans in the 1930s,' said BBC Drama's Kate Harwood. Several British TV stars will appear in the drama, including [spooks]' Gemma Jones, Selina Cadell from Doc Martin in the role of the vanishing Miss Froy and Silk star Tom Hughes as fellow traveller Max. Hawes, who previously starred in BBC dramas Ashes to Ashes and [spooks], will play Mrs Todhunter, with The Hour's Rhind-Tutt as her husband.

After a fortnight in which the BBC swept all before it with the Olympics, ITV will attempt to hit back in the ratings war with a 'super Saturday' line-up this weekend headed by the return of The X Factor. The show's creator Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads will again be absent from the judging panel – he is busy across the Atlantic making the US version for FOX – but his presence will be heavily felt in the ITV schedule. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's flop game show Red or Black? will also return, fronted by yer actual Ant and yer actual Dec their very selves, with a two-part outing wrapped around The X Factor to give it as much of a ratings boost as the talent show can muster. Red or Black? which has changed its format after criticism that it encouraged gambling, disappointed in the ratings last year, as did - to a far lesser degree - The X Factor, whose audience for the final fell by four million on the previous year, its first reverse since 2007. Elaine Bedell, ITV's director of entertainment and comedy, said The X Factor remained the 'big daddy of all entertainment shows.' ITV slumped to its lowest ever audience share in the first week of the games, and Bedell said: 'We have had a quiet few weeks.' Last year's X Factor was felt by many of its more vocal fans to have been somewhat lacklustre without Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads, with even the show's long-running judge Louis Walsh compared it to 'The Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger.' But producers have stuck with the three of the four judges for the ninth series, bringing back Gary Barlow, and the N-Dubz's Tulisa Contostavlos. Richard Holloway, managing director of Thames, which makes the show with Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's Syco TV, brushed off concerns about last year's ratings. 'We were thrilled with the results for last year's show,' he said. 'The ratings, they fluctuated from time-to-time, we were still the number one show on TV. Is there much to complain about really?' Walsh said: 'It was still the second biggest X Factor last year. The press gave it a hard time, the public loved it.' Contostavlos added: 'When you drop one million then go back up again, it doesn't mean the show's in crisis. It's changed very much over the year, the viewing figures have fluctuated. It was still the biggest show second to the royal wedding.' This year's twenty-week run will feature a familiar mix of hopefuls and no-hopers, tantrums and tears, and ordinary-looking contestants who turn out to have extraordinary talent. The contents of the first show are strictly a secret until Saturday, but the opening credits include a thinly veiled reference to BBC1's The Voice, which was scheduled against Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's other ITV talent show, Britain's Got Talent, in the spring. It initially stole BGT's thunder but its rating dropped after the first round of blind auditions, and ITV, ultimately, had the last laugh. Walsh tells viewers: 'It's not just about the voice. You need star quality, a good attitude … you need The X Factor.' BBC1 will launch its own 'super Saturday' next month when Doctor Who and Strictly Come Dancing both return. It remains to be seen where they will be scheduled, but it is unlikely to be without controversy. ITV has given The X Factor an 8pm slot. Saturday will also see the return of Jonathan Ross's ITV chat show, with guests including the gold medal-winning Olympians Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis, plus Colin Farrell and Kelly Brook. Guest judges on the new series of The X Factor will include Geri Halliwell and Melanie Brown, who early indications suggest will most ably fill Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's role. In an attempt to widen the pool of talent available, acts with managers are allowed to enter this year's series for the first time. Holloway was keen to point out that all the acts, managerless or not, were treated the same. 'We opened the net wider but everyone who comes along goes through the same process,' he said.

The Department for Education has apologised after giving inaccurate figures about the number of school playing fields sold off in England. This month, it said the disposal of twenty one playing fields had been approved since the May 2010 general election but has now upped that figure to thirty. It said the department had been provided with 'wrong data' by officials. The Daily Torygraph reported that ministers had over-ruled advisers to approve sales five times in the last fifteen months. The lack of education secretary, rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant, George Formby lookalike (and drag) Gove and oily prime minister David Cameron were among those who relied on the earlier figures to say that just twenty one playing fields had been sold off. The DfE, which admitted its error after the paper highlighted the inaccuracy, said the government had tightened protections for existing playing fields and 'most decisions' on disposals were taken by junior ministers after 'careful consideration. We are sorry to say that the secretary of state was provided with incorrect information about how many playing fields were disposed of since May 2010,' a DfE spokesman added. The figures first given related to applications received between May 2010 and June 2012, he added. He said those figures should have included requests received by the previous government and then approved by the coalition - which took the total to thirty. He added: 'Ministers have sought to ensure that proceeds go to improving sports facilities for young people overall.' The revised figures come amid a debate about the legacy of the London Olympics after Britain's medal haul of twenty nine golds, seventeen silvers and nineteen bronzes. An estimated ten thousand playing fields were disposed of between 1979 and 1997 when the Conservatives were in power. Previously, the DfE has said sales had only been approved 'if the school has closed, has merged or if equal or better facilities are being put in their place.' When the DfE initially claimed - wrongly - that twenty one playing fields had been approved for disposal since May 2010, it said fourteen were at schools that had closed and four were at sites that became surplus when existing schools amalgamated. One was surplus marginal grassland on the school site and the proceeds were invested in the school library and better sports changing facilities, it added. The department says it now publish more details about their decisions. The Daily Torygraph said there were five occasions when ministers gave their approval to playing field sell-offs despite recommendations from a panel of independent advisers to keep them. BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins said the revelation was 'bound to be controversial' amid the recent debate around the issue of boosting school sport participation in the wake of the Olympics. Shadow lack of education secretary Stephen Twigg said rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant, George Formby lookalike (and drag) Gove appeared to have 'failed to disclose at least another ten school playing field sell-offs' which was 'misleading and incompetent at the very least.' Nine, not ten, Twiggy. One can see maths wasn't your strongest subject at school. But, otherwise, yes. 'Rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant, George Formby lookalike (and drag) Gove must now come clean and explain what appears to be a secret programme to sell off school playing fields,' Twigg added. He has written to the most senior civil servant in the DfE, Chris Wormald, asking him to 'release all submissions and correspondence regarding these disposals, including via private e-mail accounts, so that we can understand why the secretary of state overruled his own expert panel.' In the letter, Twigg states that he is 'deeply concerned by the fact that the secretary of state has failed to disclose around a third of the playing field sell-offs that have been approved since the general election.' Earlier this week, critics warned that new rules on outdoor space for pupils in England to do PE would make it easier for secondary schools to sell-off playing fields. The schools previously had to provide pitches ranging from five thousand to fifty four thousand square metres, depending on the number of pupils, but must now provide only 'suitable outdoor space.' The DfE said its 'extremely strict rules' on playing fields were still in place.

A former news editor at the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World Scotland has been arrested and charged in connection with the perjury trial of former MSP Tommy Sheridan. Douglas Wight, thirty nine, has been charged with perjury, conspiracy to hack telephones and multiple charges of conspiracy to obtain personal data. Strathclyde Police said that Wight was detained as part of Operation Rubicon. A report will be sent to prosecutors who will decide how to proceed. Wight, who lives in London, arrived at Govan Police Station in Glasgow at about 14:00 to be interviewed, at the request of Strathclyde Police. It is understood he left the station late on Thursday night and is not expected to appear in court on Friday. Sheridan was awarded two hundred thousand smackers in damages from the Scum of the World in 2006 after it printed allegations that he had committed adultery and visited a swingers' club. After the court action, the former MSP and his wife Gail were charged with perjury. She was acquitted during the subsequent trial but Sheridan was convicted in December 2010. He has since been freed after serving just over a year of a three-year sentence.

Yer actual Jezza Clarkson has branded Britain 'a nation of sixty two million complete and utter bastards.' Yeah. Sounds about right. I know I am. The Top Gear presenter was responding to abuse he received from Twitter trolls after announcing that his dog, Whoopi, had died. 'A few moments ago, my dog died, and, as an experiment, I announced the fact on Twitter. Now, everyone must have known that when a family pet is put down, the family in question is bound to be upset,' Clarkson wrote in Top Gear Magazine. 'So you'd expect a bit of sympathy. And, in America, that's what you'd get. Not in Britain, though. Moments after I posted my tweet, Adam Farrow said the news was "kinda funny." Phil May wanted to know if it was James May's fault, and Tom Green said simply, "Good." All that in less than what Twitter calls zero seconds.' Well, that's twitter for yer, Jez. Anybody with half-a-head could've told you it's full of the very slime and detritus of humanity. And, that's just the readable stuff. 'Five minutes has now elapsed, and still it's a non-stop tirade of abuse. Which confirms my theory. Britain is a nation of sixty two million complete and utter bastards.' Clarkson continued: 'We are the country that invented the concentration camp, and international slavery.' True. 'Hanging, drawing, quartering: that was us too.' Again, true. Mind you, to be fair, we also invented football, Mersyebeat, chicken tikka masala, Doctor Who and the railways so, you know, it's not all bad. 'And who was it that sent the White Russians home to be slaughtered by Stalin? Yup. Us. Outwardly, we hated communist Russia; inwardly, it's what ninety five per cent of the country wants. Bankers, estate agents, politicians, journalists. Anyone in a suit is basically evil and must, after they've been sacked, go to prison.' Yeah, that's about right as well. Bastards. 'Anyone in a donkey jacket? They're basically good and must have a plasma television immediately.' Expect some louse of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star to stir up some 'shock! horror! violence!' shitehawk 'exclusive' about this any moment.

Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik has returned to work on the show, a day after injuring her hand in a car crash in Los Angeles. The actress, who also played the title role in 1990s sitcom Blossom, told fans on Twitter that she was 'in pain but will keep all my fingers.' Bialik's husband wrote the message for her, after her left hand and thumb were severely cut. The thirty six-year-old was photographed with both arms in bandages. The actress, who received hospital treatment after the accident on Wednesday, has thanked her colleagues and fans for their support. Bialik said she was 'doing okay. Grateful. And tired,' writing on Twitter: 'How much do I get love and support from the Big Bang cast and crew?' Los Angeles police said the actress suffered 'severe lacerations' to her hand after another car crashed into her vehicle in Hollywood. The three occupants of the other car suffered minor injuries and left the scene on their own. Bialik has been acting since childhood and was recently nominated for an EMMY in the outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series category, for playing Big Bang Theory's Amy Farrah Fowler.

Bradley Wiggins has been rested from Team Sky's eight-man line-up for next week's Tour of Denmark. He had originally been scheduled to make his return to professional racing in the five-day race but has now been given some extra time off. The Olympic time-trial and Tour De France champion is currently on holiday with his family in Mallorca. He will be back in Lancashire to host the inaugural 'Ride with Brad Sportive' on Sunday. No decision has been reached yet on when the thirty two-year-old star will make his return to competition. British fans will now be optimistic that Wiggins might be included in Sky's plans for the Tour of Britain, which starts on 9 September, although the World Championships in the Netherlands a week later might be a safer bet. News of Wiggins' absence will disappoint the organisers in Denmark who have been using Wiggins and Sky team-mate Mark Cavendish to drum up interest. Cavendish, who won the road race at last year's World Championships in Denmark, will still be lining-up when the race starts in Randers on 22 August, and he will be joined by two of Britain's victorious Olympic team pursuit quartet, Peter Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas. Emerging Welsh talent Luke Rowe is the fourth British rider Team Sky have selected for Denmark, with Austria's Bernard Eisel, Italian Davide Martinelli, Norway's Lars-Peter Nordhaug and Michael Rogers of Australia forming the rest of the team.

Olympic seaman Ben Ainslie has outlined his plans to win the America's Cup. Fresh from collecting a fourth career gold medal at London 2012, Ainslie is now concentrating on making a challenge for the thirty fifth version of the series. The thirty fourth America's Cup, to be held in San Francisco in September 2013, will come too early for the Briton. 'I've had some America's Cup experience in the past and I would really love to be part of a winning team in the future,' said Ainslie. 'As a kid my main two goals were the Olympics and the America's Cup.' He will sail a catamaran under his Ben Ainslie Racing banner, with JP Morgan announced as the main sponsor for the team, and will enter the upcoming America's Cup World Series, which starts in San Francisco on 21 August. 'We started a new team, JP Morgan BAR, which will take part in the America's Cup World Series,' he said. 'It will take part in this coming series and the one after, which is really a great opportunity for us to build this team up. The next America's Cup is in 2013 and we want to try and build this team up for the World Series so we can be a proper challenger for the America's Cup post-2013.' Ainslie won his fourth Olympic gold in a row by coming home first in the Finn class at Weymouth, a victory that makes him the most decorated Olympic sailor in history.

Graham Onions took a career-best nine for sixty seven after being released by England to play for Durham against Nottinghamshire. Onions only arrived at Trent Bridge at lunchtime and by then had missed Notts, led by Ben Phillips (three for thirty nine) and Andy Carter (three for forty), dismiss Durham for 194. He then took nine wickets to record the best first-class figures this season and also ran out Luke Fletcher as Notts were skittled out for 154. Durham then extended their lead to sixty seven runs as they closed on 27-0. The visitors had begun the day on 85-4 in their first innings and quickly lost Paul Collingwood (twenty one) to Fletcher (three for fifty seven). Wickets continued to tumble as Phillips and Carter particularly impressed and Durham were reduced to 144-9. Mark Wood (thirty four), playing in his first game of the season, then put on fifty with Chris Rushworth (twenty four not out), but the visitors fell six runs short of a batting bonus point. Onions, who took the place of Mitchell Claydon, then took centre stage beginning with the wicket of Alex Hales, with only Paul Franks (fifty three) offering any real resistance. Onions missed the chance to become the first player to take all ten wickets in an innings at Trent Bridge when he ran out Fletcher for the ninth wicket. But the dismissal of Carter in the next over saw him finish with the sixth-best figures ever recorded at Trent Bridge.

Eddie Izzard's new US series has been described as 'the most violent sitcom ever made' – by its own creator. Alan Spencer, who previously created the Eighties detective spoof Sledge Hammer said Bullet in the Face lives up to its name, as 'people get shot in the face multiple times.' Sounds terrific. It also features beheadings and in one scene Izzard, who plays a mob boss, beats a man to death. In an unusual piece of scheduling, all six episodes of the show will be broadcast over two nights, starting yesterday, on US broadcaster IFC.

Former Stottingtot Hotshots manager Hapless Harry Redknapp and ex-Wolves boss Mick McCarthy have signed up as regular pundits on the BBC's Match of the Day. The football highlights programme returns to BBC1 this Saturday at 10.30pm following the start of the new Premier League season. Match of the Day 2 will return on Sunday at 10.25pm, shifting from BBC2 to its new BBC2 slot. Fresh from presenting on the BBC's London 2012 Olympics coverage, Gary Lineker will once more act as host of the Saturday night programme, aided by regular pundits Alan Hansen and yer actual Alan Shearer his very self. Following Lee Dixon's traitorous defection to ITV, the corporation has agreed deals with Redknapp and McCarthy to act as regular pundits throughout the season. Both men are currently out of work after getting the tin-tack from their clubs last season and they also recently appeared on the BBC's Euro 2012 coverage. Odious Colin Murray will return as - the crap - host of Match of the Day 2, looking at Sunday's Premier League games with the help of a mix of Hansen, Shearer, Redknapp and McCarthy, along with special guests.

Three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. The judge said that the feminist trio had 'cruelly undermined social order' by performing a 'punk prayer' criticising Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Butcher of Grozny, at Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina were found guilty of the crime at a Russian court. Prosecutors had called for the members of the group to be imprisoned for three years, but judge Syrova has instead ordered them to serve two-year terms each. Alyokhina, twenty four, Tolokonnikova, twenty two, and Samutsevich, twenty nine, joined other members of Pussy Riot to stage a flash-mob style performance in front of the church alter on 21 February. The performance, which was filmed, featured the band calling on the Virgin Mary to 'throw Putin out,' enraging the Orthodox Church. Judge Syrova said that the three Pussy Riot members had 'offended the feelings of Orthodox believers' and shown a 'complete lack of respect.' The judge also quoted prosecution witnesses, who had alleged that no anti-Putin song was performed and said that the performance was 'an act of blasphemy. Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich committed hooliganism - in other words, a grave violation of public order,' she said. Protests have been staged all around the world against the trial of the three. Pussy Riot have also attracted the support of various high profile people since their arrest, including Paul McCartney, Madonna, Martha Wainwright and Bjork. The Associated Press agency said that a number of protesters had been arrested today, including ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov. Yesterday, Tolokonnikova said that she was 'not bitter about being in jail,' but added that their imprisonment 'serves as a clear and unambiguous sign that freedom is being taken away from the entire country.' Two weeks after the women were arrested, Putin was elected for second term as president.

Record producer Carl Davis, who helped shape the sound of Chicago soul, died last week at the age of seventy seven. Davis, who produced Gene Chandler's legendary chart-topper 'Duke of Earl', was at the centre of the Chicago music scene during the 1960s and 70s. His reputation as a talent spotter saw him work with Curtis Mayfield, Major Lance and Jackie Wilson, with whom he recorded the hit '(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.' He died at his home in South Carolina. 'Like Berry Gordy, he understood the modern recording industry of the 60s and 70s, and really understood how to make hit records,' said Robert Pruter, music journalist and author of Doowop: The Chicago Scene. Davis was born in Chicago in September 1934, but in spite of the fact that most of his family were musically gifted, Davis 'couldn't play a note' - according to his brother, George. But his gift for recognising hits quickly became apparent when he took a job alongside the DJ Al Benson in the mid-1950s. His defining success came with 'Duke of Earl', whose vocal riff he first heard during a rehearsal session by The Dukays. The Gene Chandler hit went on to top the charts in 1962 for five weeks and sold more than one million copies. In the same year, Davis was offered a job at Columbia Records subsidiary Okeh, where he worked with Major Lance on popular hits including 'The Monkey Time' and 'Hey Little Girl'. In 1965, he moved to the Brunswick label where he once again collaborated with Gene Chandler and found further chart success with Wilson. He also produced The Chi-Lites' 1972 hit 'Oh Girl' and 'Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)', which was more recently sampled in Beyonce's 'Crazy in Love'. Latterly he founded two labels: Dakar and Chi-Sound, but the success of Chicago soul began to falter in the 1980s. In later years, he found himself variously working as a security guard and a chauffeur - although Chi-Sound was revived in 2007. He is survived by his wife, Dedra, and seven children.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, and one of Carl Davis's finest production moments.

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