Saturday, September 29, 2012

I See Bloody Fountains, And Ten Million Dune Buggies Comin' Down The Mountains

Karen Gillan has admitted that she is often genuinely frightened by the show's signature monsters. Well, so was yer actual Keith Telly Topping. In fact, when I was six, in 1969, the Cyberman made me shite in my own pants. Anyway, enough of that, Gillan's final Doctor Who episode after two-and-a-half series is broadcast this weekend, pitting her character against The Weeping Angels one last time. 'Sometimes I genuinely get really, really scared. Do you know the monsters the Weeping Angels? Well they freak me out so much, cause they're just like, "Aaarrrgh,"' Gillan revealed to the Independent about the villains. 'They're just like, "Aaarrrgh,"'? And, again, but this time in English Karen, if that's possible. She went to say: '[The Angeles are] so freaky, aren't they? They're actually in the last episode I'm going to be in. So that was really scary.'
Gillan also touched on exiting Doctor Who, explaining that she felt a natural ending for Amy Pond's story had been reached. 'I honestly wanted to go on my gut instinct with the whole leaving thing, and I just had a rough idea of when would be a good time for me to go cause I wanted to go on a high,' she said. 'I didn't want to stay in it too long and outstay my welcome. And I wanted to take the character as far as possible before it started getting a little tired.' The twenty four-year-old actress previously hinted that Amy and Rory's exit from Doctor Who is 'very final.'

Highlights of a really rather good episode of Qi on Friday night included an impressive début by Cal Wilson, Alan Davies's less than amusing story about losing his passport, all the stuff about what names Stephen Fry calls his household items ('PEREGRINE!') and Phill Jupitas's faultless Eddie Izzard impression. True story.
Julian Fellowes his very self, the writer behind the hit series Downton Abbey, may be planning to write a prequel which follows how the Earl and Countess of Grantham first met. 'I do actually have an idea of doing a prequel of the courtship of Robert and Cora, when all those American heiresses were arriving in London. They had a slightly troubled courtship, because she was in love with him before they married, as we know, and he married her entirely for her money,' said yer actual Lord Snooty, speaking at the BAFTA Screenwriters' Lecture series. 'I sort of feel there's something quite nice in there because he's a decent cove, and so he feels rather guilty about this which has affected their marriage beyond that.' Lord Snooty spoke of the prequel in book form, but - given the success of Downton Abbey - a TV adaptation seems likely if he actually gets around to writing the damn thing. The period drama, now in its third series, has proved a huge hit for ITV, and the broadcaster is keen to extend Downton's longevity - though it is rumoured that leading actors such as Dan Stevens are likely to leave the show at the end of the current series. The spin-off drama would cast a pair of younger actors in the roles, currently played by Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern. Lord Snooty said any spin-off would be broadcast after the end of Downton Abbey. 'For me, any other books or plays or films should follow after the end of the television show. I don't think you can continue a narrative in more than one area at once,' he explained. 'I never really liked those Coronation Street Christmas specials where they all go to Haiti, and you don't have to watch it. Somehow it doesn't feel very organic.' The prequel may also provide an opportunity to take the drama to America, where Downton Abbey has proved equally popular - picking up an Emmy for Dame Maggie Smith earlier this week. 'I do feel very strongly that America rescued me,' said Lord Snooty, referring to his 2001 Oscar-winning screenplay for Robert Altman's Gosford Park. 'All the stuff in England, the stuff we have about each other, they don't care about all that. They care about whether your last picture did anything or what you're doing next.'

Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial attracted less than half the previous night's audience on Channel Four on Thursday. The second and concluding episode of the science event programme averaged nine hundred thousand viewers from 10pm. This was down from the 1.9 million overnight viewers who watched Wednesday's opener – which did offer the added attraction of Keith Allen and novelist Lionel Shriver taking MDMA, or a placebo. Or it could be that after watching Allen and the other drug guinea pigs doing nothing more trippy than lying in a hospital bed and going for an MRI scan on the first night, people got bored and didn't bother coming back. The competition in the 10pm slot included BBC1's news (4.6m), ITV's News at Ten (two million), BBC2's Mock the Week (1.8m) and Channel Five's True CSI (five hundred thousand). In the 9pm hour, ITV's new drama Homefront (3.3m), focusing on four wives of soldiers serving in Afghanistan, was pitched against BBC1's Crimewatch (4.1m) and BBC2's The Choir: Sing While You Work (three million, including one hundred and sixty thousand on BBC HD). Other 9pm competition included the final episode of Channel Four's The Audience (seven hundred thousand) and Channel Five's Making Faces (nine hundred thousand). ITV2's Celebrity Juice, hosted by Leigh Francis' alter-ego Keith Lemon, continues to be one of the most popular shows outside the five main channels. Which is a staggeringly depressing fact, frankly, dear blog reader. I'm told its very popular with students. Which, given the current state of education in their country, probably says much. Celebrity Juice averaged 1.9 million and an eleven per cent audience share from 10pm – better than Channel Four's Drugs Live and competing programmes on BBC2 and Channel Five. Other top Thursday night performers outside the five former terrestrial channels included new series of BBC3's Russell Howard's Good News (nine hundred and ninety thousand) and ITV2's The X Factor USA (nine hundred and seventeen thousand). BBC4's two-part adaptation of Room at the Top concluded with four hundred and sixty eight thousand viewers.

The BBC has confirmed the broadcast date for the final episode of Good Cop. The Warren Brown drama was originally set to conclude on 20 September, but the last episode - which features scenes of a violent attack on a female police officer - was pulled from the schedules following the deaths of two Greater Manchester policewomen in a gun and grenade attack the previous day. The fourth and final episode has now been confirmed for Saturday 13 October at 10.30pm. Good Cop follows John Paul Rocksavage, a police constable who seeks revenge on a gang of criminals who have murdered his partner (Tom Hopper) in a brutal ambush.

In the moments before filming began, Jools Holland muttered into his microphone 'twenty years. You don't get that for armed robbery.' Then it was lights, cameras, action, and presenter swept around the floor of BBC Television Centre's Studio Four to introduce the night's turns: Public Image Limited, making their first live TV appearance for twenty years, Muse, The xx, and two newcomers to the show, Natalie Duncan, and The Beach Boys. It's typically eclectic line-up which kick-started the forty first series of Later … which first hit the nation's TV screens in 1992. Initially a spin-off of arts discussion programme The Late Show, Later … is the second-longest running music series in British TV history (it's got a long way to go to catch up with Top of the Pops which ran for forty two years), and remarkably, the same core team has been involved since it started: Holland, director Janet Fraser Cook, sound supervisor Mike Felton and producer Mark Cooper. Broadcast, also, in the US, Germany and twenty-odd other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, the UK edition of the programme now comes in two parts: recording is on Tuesdays, with half-an-hour shown live on BBC2, prior to the hour-long extended remix on Fridays. The first episode attracted one hundred thousand viewers, whereas one million caught Tuesday's broadcast. 'It's the host and the mix of acts, and the fact it's recorded live and in one room,' says Cooper, breaking down the constituent parts of the show's success. 'The bands love playing to their peers – the legends like seeing the new acts, and the new acts learn from the legends.' At the sight of Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys swaying to the sound of The xx on Tuesday night, one audience wit noted: 'Someone's forgotten their medicine tonight,' but the sense that the acts were thriving on the others' performance remains palpable. Through a haze of cigarette smoke which clearly contravened White City regulations, Johnny Lydon held court in his cramped dressing room after the show. 'Of course it's a bit Butlins,' he said, 'but who else is doing this?' During recording he'd alluded to a falling out with Holland when they met in a New York bar, and the latter insisted on playing the piano, honky-tonk style. 'But I love him now, of course I do,' says the former Sex Pistol, adding his admiration of all the performers, with just a dash of criticism ('Muse amuse. They look like shaved gerbils'). The roll call of artists to have appeared in the two hundred and seventy five-plus shows is legion but Later … also has a track record in breaking new talent, often giving acts their TV debut. It can be intimidating. 'I can't tell you how nervous I was beforehand,' Natalie Duncan said on the morning following recording. 'And not in an enjoyable way, in a really horrible way. But as soon as the show started, and the audience started stamping their feet, I relaxed into it, because the focus is so much on the music.' Duncan – who was three when Later … was first broadcast – had learned she would be on the show a month ago. Series producer Alison Howe and executive producer Cooper scout new talent themselves, and in this instance he checked out two gigs by Duncan. Within hours of Tuesday's broadcast she had added five thousand views to her YouTube channel. Next year, when Television Centre closes, the programme makers will need to find new premises, but more than fifteen hundred acts have performed on the show and there are no plans to end it (Paul Weller has the record for the most appearances with eleven). On the first episode, shown on 9 October 1992, The Neville Brothers, The Christians and D'Influence played, and Holland got the lead singer of Nu Colour's name wrong. It was part of the new show's charm at the time, and the same is still true today.

Earlier this week, odious louse Kelvin MacKenzie was trying an example of the 'if you've done something wrong and got found out, try blaming someone else' malarkey. Now, it seems, another chap appears to be having a go at the self-same trick. The government chief whip has risked inflaming the row over his alleged altercation with Downing Street police officers by, again, insisting that he did not call them plebs. One or two people even believed him. In an interview with his local newspaper, the Sutton Coldfield Observer, Andrew Mitchell said that he wanted to 'draw a line' under a matter which was 'blown out of all proportion' by the media. He says he still does not accept the police account of what happened last week when officers refused to allow him to cycle through the main Downing Street gate. According to an official police log, published in full in the Daily Telegraph, Mitchell swore repeatedly at the officers, calling them 'fucking plebs.' But Mitchell said in the interview: 'I think most people who know me know I would not use words like "pleb" or "moron" in describing anyone. I would gently point out that I did not say the words that have been ascribed to me. I hope my constituents and friends in Sutton Coldfield will not recognise the hideous caricature that has been portrayed in some of the tabloid press.' Oh, I'll bet you do, especially when the next election comes around. Police representatives say that by refusing to accept the police account, Mitchell is effectively impugning the integrity of the officers involved and calling them liars. The chief whip acknowledged he 'did not treat the police with the respect they deserve' and said he apologised profusely to the officer involved. Despite the differing versions of events, No 10 has rejected calls for an inquiry by the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to establish who is telling the truth, saying that the police have decided not to pursue the matter. David Cameron, dogged by questions about the issue during his attendance at the UN general assembly in New York this week, said Mitchell's behaviour was 'deeply regrettable' but that his apology should be the end of it. 'On the basis he has given an apology and the police have decided not to pursue that any further, that is where matters should rest,' said the prime minister.
Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks's husband, millionaire Old Etonian Charlie has spoken about the anger directed at the couple in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and claimed that the police searched their new baby's cot before their arrest earlier this year. In a lengthy interview with the Racing Post, racehorse trainer Brooks recalls the day of the arrest as the first day of the Cheltenham festival. 'The police turned up at 4.45am, eighteen of them. Mass murderers don't get that kind of attention.' One is not sure exactly how millionaire Old Etonian Brooks knows what sort of attention mass murderers get from the police but, you can be sure that somebody, somewhere, will probably ask him that very question the next time he does an interview to plug his latest novel. 'They searched the baby's cot and dragged both of us off,' he added. He, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks and four others appeared at the Old Bailey earlier this week charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, of concealing material from police investigating alleged Scum of the World phone-hacking last July at the height of the scandal. All of them deny the charges. Separately, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks has been charged with conspiracy to unlawfully intercept voicemails, along with seven others including Andy Coulson, David Cameron's former director of communications (and 'chum') who was editor of the Sunday tabloid before his move to Downing Street. 'I never get a chance to forget about it, it's always on my mind,' Brooks said. 'I tell myself I have to focus on the days when I really need to focus on it, when Rebekah's in court, for instance, but of course I can't. I might be mowing the lawn or whatever, and it floats back into my mind. I might be thinking about it for another year or more. It's the waiting that gets to you, the ponderous nature of the way these things proceed. I have to learn to accept it. It's much harder for Rebekah, she's already lost more than I ever will. I can wander around London and no one knows who I am, whereas she's very recognisable. Bar cutting off all her hair there's not much she can do about it. It makes life very difficult for her. We have to recognise that we can't carry on as we did before, because we don't want to be putting ourselves in situations where we can't relax.'

Meanwhile, an allegation that all major stories in the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World over a two-year period were a result of phone-hacking has been strongly challenged by News International at a high court hearing. During a case management conference at the high court in London on Thursday, Hugh Tomlinson QC, counsel for more than one hundred ans seventy individuals seeking damages for alleged phone-hacking, said that an internal News International communication suggested this was the case. Tomlinson claimed that it was because of significant information like this that the court should order further disclosures from the company in relation to alleged interception of voicemails of public figures, celebrities, sports stars and victims of crime. He added: 'If we have a document, as we do, in the bundle where an individual writing to another individual [says] "everyone knows that all significant stories over a two-year period were obtained by phone hacking," that does matter.' Tomlinson did not specify who the individuals were or where they worked, but was speaking in the context of disclosure of internal e-mails from News International. News International's counsel, Dinah Rose QC, made a strong objection to Tomlinson's comment, telling the high court that the document was not contemporaneous and that it did not say what he claimed it did. Rose warned that Tomlinson 'really does need to be more careful' about what he said in open court with representatives of the media present. One could, indeed, say the same about people having to be careful about what they say on the telephone with members of the media listening in. 'He knows that the document does not say that,' she claimed. Mr Justice Vos, who is presiding over the civil litigation process, said that after hearing the claim made about the document he 'did raise [his] eyebrows.' Tomlinson was arguing for more disclosure of documents and e-mails from News International to progress the claimants' cases against the company. He said the litigants were almost solely relying on information provided by the Metropolitan police, which has been disclosing notes made by the private investigator used by the Scum of the World to hack phones. Tomlinson added that this information was limited to 'a few pages of notes' and 'some call data,' with virtually no information from News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that published the now-closed in shame and ignominy Scum of the World. 'In terms of News Group disclosures between 2001 and 2005 we have a total disclosure of twelve e-mails,' he said. Rose again objected to the suggestion that the publisher was withholding e-mails, saying in the early 2000s, when the Scum of the World phone-hacking took place, e-mail in-boxes had less capacity and e-mails were not kept as a matter of routine.

The US network FOX News has apologised for showing a man apparently shooting himself in the head on live television. FOX News on Friday was covering a high-speed chase which began in Phoenix, Arizona, using a live helicopter shot. After driving for dozens of miles into the desert, the motorist suddenly stopped and ran on a dirt road. He then appeared to put a handgun to his head and fire. Anchor Shepard Smith later apologised to viewers for not cutting away. 'We really messed up,' he said. 'We're all very sorry. That didn't belong on TV.' Something that could, indeed, be said about FOX News itself.

Strictly Come Dancing professional Aliona Vilani will miss the first live show after fracturing her ankle in training. The show's website confirmed that the dancer would probably be out of action 'for at least the next fortnight.' There are no details yet on who will partner Johnny Ball in the opening stage of the competition. 'Aliona suffered a hairline fracture to her ankle today while training with partner Johnny Ball,' a statement said. '[That is] putting her prospects for dancing in the first Strictly live show on 5 October on hold. Initial prognosis suggests our plucky pro-dancer may be out of action for the next two to four weeks, but a further appointment tomorrow will confirm her condition.' The dancer posted pictures of herself on Twitter with her right leg elevated and with an ice pack on it. She also thanked fans for messages of support on the social networking site. Vilani won the competition with McFly's Harry Judd in 2011 and came second the year before with BBC presenter Matt Baker. Ball is best known for presenting science and mathematics television programmes for children in the 1970s and 1980s. He is the father of former Radio 1 DJ Zoe Ball.

The brother of former EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie has accepted responsibility for her death. Tony McCluskie, thirty five, will face a trial on 14 January at the Old Bailey where the issue will be whether it was murder or manslaughter. The torso of Gemma McCluskie, twenty nine, was found in Regent's Canal in East London, on 6 March. More body parts have since been removed from the canal. The actress played Kerry Skinner in the BBC soap in 2001. She was last seen on 1 March at the opening of the six hundred and fifty million quid Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. McCluskie, of Pelter Street, is accused of killing her in the days leading up to 6 March. Family and friends had appealed for help in finding her, including her former co-stars Natalie Cassidy and Brooke Kinsella.

Skins actors Joe Dempsie and Kaya Scodelario are among those scheduled to star in new Channel Four drama Southcliffe. The pair will be joined by Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris, Shirley Henderson, Eddie Marsan, Anatol Yusef and Nichola Burley. The four-part series - directed by Sean Durkin and written by Red Riding scriptwriter Tony Grisoni - tells the story of a fictional English town devastated by a spate of shootings, exploring the tragedy through the eyes of a journalist and those close to the victims. 'Southcliffe is a fictional market town inhabited by fictional characters, but with similarities to many actual people and places in Britain today,' said Grisoni. 'Invisible people, anonymous places. The inexplicable chain of events at the dark heart of this four-part drama shatters time and space for Southcliffe's inhabitants. Violence and sudden bereavement confronts them with emotions they are unequipped to understand. Rather than analyse or moralise about our characters' actions, we share in them. Southcliffe is an anthem to ordinary people's ability to reinvent themselves in the face of ultimate darkness.' Channel Four's Head of Drama Piers Wenger added: 'Tony Grisoni's unique ability to convey the darkness and subtleties of human behaviour is in full evidence in these four brilliant scripts and I'm delighted that Warp Films and Tony have found a world class director like Sean Durkin to bring them to life.' The series will start shooting next month and will be broadcast on Channel Four in 2013.

The late comedian Ronnie Barker is being commemorated with a blue plaque at the Oxford home where he grew up. It will be unveiled at the site in Cowley on Saturday. His family moved to Oxford from Bedford and bought the house at 23 Church Cowley Road in 1935 when Ronnie was five. He lived there until 1949. The Porridge and The Two Ronnies star's first job after leaving school in the city was clerking at the Westminster Bank in Cowley. He later moved to Aylesbury and died in 2005, aged seventy six. The comedy star attended Donnington Junior School and won a scholarship to the City of Oxford High School for Boys, which is now Oxford University History Faculty building, in George Street. His first taste of acting came with the Theatre Players, an amateur group which he joined while at the bank and took part in their performances at Oxford's St Mary and St John Church Hall. In 1981 Ronnie Barker returned to Oxfordshire, buying a house at Dean. After retiring from showbusiness in 1987 he opened and ran an antiques shop in Chipping Norton for ten years. The plaque will be unveiled by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Alan Armitage, and Mike Chew, chairman of the City Of Oxford School Association, which donated the plaque.

The head of NBC's London 2012 Olympics coverage has blamed viewer and sponsor 'fatigue' for its woefully limited coverage of the Paralympics. Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, suggested that in future this alleged 'problem' could be solved by making the gap between the Olympics and Paralympics longer, which might also attract more US sponsors. Zenkel said that the broadcaster had not yet met with the International Olympic Committee for a debrief on its much criticised London 2012 coverage, but added that the idea of rescheduling the Paralympics was worth a look. 'As an event its positioning, one or two weeks after the Olympics, is difficult as there is a tremendous amount of fatigue,' he said, speaking at the Royal Television Society's Digital World Conference in London on Friday. 'A US audience, probably commits a tremendous amount of time to the Olympics. They change their whole lifestyle. When it ends reassembling that audience [for the Paralympics] is very, very difficult,' he added. 'Commercial support is very difficult. It is also fatigued and very difficult to re-engage the sponsor base to support the coverage. We respect and believe in power of the [Paralympics] and how it can inspire. We'd love to do more. It needs to be positioned, at least in the US, when the audience will gather and commercial sponsors return.' Speaking to the Gruniad Morning Star after his RTS session, Zenkel clarified that NBC was not necessarily calling for a schedule change for the Paralympics, but said that it was 'worth a look at' and would almost inevitably come up in a debrief of overall coverage with the IOC in the coming weeks and months. He pointed out that despite the criticism of NBC's coverage of the Paralympics, compared to the main Olympics, the broadcaster had done more than during previous games. 'The Paralympics was a spectacular event, it clearly reached new heights in London,' he said. 'We participated in a consortium that included the US Olympic committee, the Paralympic rights holders, YouTube and Universal Sports in making available more coverage in the US than historically. That said, there was plenty of criticism of not adequate coverage of the Paralympics. I will only say that we provided a fair amount of coverage over the course of the Paralympics. We are a commercial broadcaster.'

Lewis Hamilton is to leave McLaren after signing a three-year deal to race for Mercedes from next season. The move, predicted by the BBC's Eddie Jordan earlier this month, and then furiously denied by both Hamilton and McLaren, was announced on Friday, causing huge repercussions throughout Formula 1. It has forced Michael Schumacher out of Mercedes but it is not clear whether the German racing legend will go back into retirement or look for another team. Sauber driver Sergio Perez has signed as Hamilton's replacement at McLaren to partner Jensen Button. 'It is now time for me to take on a fresh challenge and I am very excited to begin a new chapter,' said 2008 world champion Hamilton, who will partner Nico Rosberg at Mercedes. 'Mercedes-Benz has such an incredible heritage in motorsport, along with a passion for winning which I share. Together, we can grow and rise to this new challenge. I believe that I can help steer the Silver Arrows to the top and achieve our joint ambitions of winning the world championships.' Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn said: 'I believe that the combination of Lewis and Nico will be the most dynamic and exciting pairing on the grid next year and I am looking forward to what we can achieve together. Over the past three years, we have been putting in place the foundations and building blocks that are needed to compete regularly for the world championship. The potential is now there to match any other team on the grid.' The twenty seven-year-old Hamilton's new team-mate Rosberg tweeted: 'Very cool that Lewis will be my new team-mate! Gonna be another great challenge!' Hamilton's decision is a huge blow to McLaren, who will now have to do without the speed and inspirational talent of a man they have nurtured since he was thirteen years old. McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the Briton had written 'a huge chapter of his life and career with us,' adding: 'It goes without saying that we all wish him well for the future.' Hamilton added: 'I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that they have given me and for their support throughout the years. I have had the pleasure of working with a fantastic team of genuine people and would like to thank them all for their hard work and support.' Although Hamilton's salary at Mercedes will be larger than the one he was offered by McLaren - and he has more opportunity to earn money through personal sponsorships and endorsements - alleged 'sources' allegedly 'close' to the Englishman insist that he has switched teams with a view to long-term performance and not in an outbreak of crass greed. McLaren have the fastest car this season, while Mercedes have slipped backwards after a promising start to the year. But Mercedes have sold the move to Hamilton on the basis that they are preparing for a huge push in 2014, when new chassis and engine rules are introduced. 'Mercedes-Benz has supported Lewis throughout his career, from karting, to Formula 3, to our successful partnership with McLaren,' said Norbert Haug, vice president of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. 'It will be a very nice moment for all of us in the team to see him at the wheel of a works Silver Arrow next season, following in the tradition of British Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix drivers Sir Stirling Moss and Richard Seaman.' Schumacher's future remains uncertain. Sauber team boss Peter Sauber said a week ago that he would offer the seven-time champion a drive if he became available. Despite the Swiss team's strong displays this season, that would be seen as a significant comedown for a man who was expected to challenge strongly for podium places on his return. Instead, Schumacher's comeback after three years in retirement has been something of a disappointment. The forty three-year-old German has scored only one podium finish in three years. In a statement, Schumacher thanked Mercedes for their 'trust' and 'unconditional commitment. I have had three nice years with the team which unfortunately did not go as well as we all would have wanted on the sporting side,' he said. 'I wish Lewis well and for the team to achieve the success we worked so hard for in the build-up. I will now concentrate on the next races.' In another development at Mercedes, triple world champion Niki Lauda has been tipped to take a senior management role at the team.

A foundation in Switzerland believes it has scientific evidence to prove that Leonardo Da Vinci painted an earlier version of The Mona Lisa. The Zurich-based Mona Lisa Foundation claims that the painting, discovered in 1913, portrays a younger version of Leonardo's masterpiece currently housed in the Louvre. The foundation is basing its claim on thirty five years of research. But Oxford professor Martin Kemp insists there is 'no basis for thinking that there was an earlier portrait.' The painting, which has been held in a bank vault for more than forty years, was unveiled to the press in Geneva on Thursday. Known as The Isleworth Mona Lisa, the painting shows a woman who appears to be approximately ten years younger than the Louvre Mona Lisa. The foundation claims that forensic testing backs early suggestions that it is the same woman - Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of wealthy Florentine merchant. Ever since the Sixteenth Century, sources have suggested that Da Vinci painted two versions of the Mona Lisa: a portrait for her husband, in 1503 (The Isleworth Mona Lisa), and another, completed in 1517, for Giuliano de Medici, Leonardo's patron - the portrait which now hangs in the Louvre. The foundation argues that historical evidence, critical comparison and scientific examination all support this theory. 'Not one piece of scientific evidence has so far been able to prove definitively that this is not a Leonardo Da Vinci,' said foundation member and art historian Stanley Feldman, on Thursday. 'We have investigated this painting from every relevant angle and the accumulated information all points to it being an earlier version of La Giaconda in the Louvre.' However, the foundation acknowledged that The Isleworth Mona Lisa remains unfinished, and that Leonardo did not paint all parts of the work. The unveiling of The Isleworth Mona Lisa was accompanied by the launch of a book called Mona Lisa - Leonardo's Earlier Version. The painting was first discovered in the Somerset home of an aristocrat, in 1913, by art collector Hugh Blaker - who took it to his studio in Isleworth in south-west London. Shipped to the US during World War I, it was bought in 1960s by American art connoisseur Henry Pulitzer. While in his possession, and held in a Swiss bank, Pulitzer wrote and published a book, entitled Where is the Mona Lisa?, in which he presented the case that the painting was an unfinished portrait of Lisa del Giocondo by Leonardo Da Vinci. The painting is currently owned by an anonymous consortium, making it unclear who would now benefit from it being officially attributed to the artist. Alessandro Vezzosi, director of Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci, said the foundation's claims merit 'consideration.' 'The Isleworth Mona Lisa is an important work of art deserving respect and strong consideration,' he said. 'Scientific tests don't demonstrate the authenticity [and] the autography of a painting, but demonstrate it's from a certain era, whether the techniques are similar or not,' he told The Associated Press. But Professor Kemp, who was instrumental in identifying a major work by Leonardo Da Vinci in 2010, is convinced it is a copy - though he has not personally viewed the painting. 'The Isleworth Mona Lisa mistranslates subtle details of the original, including the sitter's veil, her hair, the translucent layer of her dress, the structure of the hands,' he said. 'The landscape is devoid of atmospheric subtlety. The head, like all other copies, does not capture the profound elusiveness of the original.' Whatever that means. Professor Kemp also points out that the Isleworth version is painted on canvas, where Da Vinci's preferred choice was wood. 'The scientific analysis can, at most, state that there is nothing to say that this cannot be by Leonardo,' said Kemp, rather huffily. You know what these art critics are like when they get a chimney on about something. Ooo, fair vexed, so he was. 'The infrared reflectography and X-ray points very strongly to its not being by Leonardo.' Stanley Feldman has acknowledged the controversy surrounding the painting, saying: 'There is always going to be somebody, somewhere who will dismiss it as a copy. We welcome every new discussion and every new piece of evidence that could support this painting, one way or another.'

Some very sad news, now. The great Frank Wilson, the man who wrote and sang the most sought-after Northern Soul masterpiece 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)' and produced a string of Motown hits, has died aged seventy one. Frank wrote and produced songs for artists such as Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and The Temptations but only released one single as a vocalist himself. Just two copies have survived - one of which sold at auction for more than twenty five grand in 2009. Frank had fought a long battle with prostate cancer but died on Thursday. Just two hundred and fifty copies of 'Do I Love You' were pressed on vinyl in late 1965, but Wilson decided that he would rather focus on producing, so they were junked. A rare remaining copy which changed hands in 2009 is the most expensive record ever sold at auction. A prized item among collectors, the song is regarded as a genuine twenty-four carat Northern Soul classic in the UK. 'It's always seen as the epitome of the Northern Soul style,' said promoter Ady Croasdell who runs the 6T's Northern Soul All-Nighter at London's 100 Club. 'It probably is the most iconic record of the lot, because it does have all the qualities that a classic Northern Soul record should have.' Croasdell revealed news of Wilson's death on the Soul Source website, after being e-mailed by mutual friend, Los Angeles producer HB Barnum. Crossdell told the BBC: 'He was a much-loved man with a friendly disposition who was delighted and humbled by the Northern soul scene's admiration of his singing.' Wilson was more widely known for his work as a producer and joined Motown in 1964, when the company set up an office and studio in Los Angeles where he lived. That year he co-wrote Patrice Holloway song Stevie, one of the first singles to be released by Motown's West Coast operation. In 1965 he wrote 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)', supposedly for Marvin Gaye who is said to have recorded a version but seemingly didn't think much of it and it remained unreleased. Some months later, Berry Gordy suggested to Wilson that he have a go at the song himself which Wilson - a reluctant performer - did, in late 1965, produced by Hal Davis and Marc Gordon. The vocals were certainly recorded in Los Angeles, although studio information on this particular recording is virtually non-existent and the backing track could, easily, have been made at Hitsville in The Snake Pit. It certainly sounds like the great James Jamerson's bass on the record. The single was scheduled for release on the Motown subsidiary label Soul on 23 December 1965 and about two hundred promotional copies were pressed.
But, sometime shortly before release, Wilson had a change of heart. Like Eddie Holland, he felt that he was a writer and producer and not a singer and didn't really want to go out on the road to promote the single. Thus, he begged Gordy to destroy the copies already made and just forget the whole thing. Gordy agreed. On 2 January 1966 Wilson, Davis and Gordon recorded Motown's white soul chanteuse Chris Clark doing a fine version of the song - using the same backing track - for a planned single release. But, that too only reached the test-pressing stage (VIP 25034-A) before being consigned to the vaults for nearly three decades. Wilson went back to producing and spent much of the second half of the sixties as one of Motown's most successful writers, working with The Supremes and The Four Tops among others. 'Do I Love You' was completely forgotten about until the mid-1970s when a researcher working for Motown discovered a copy of the single which had somehow escaped the purge in the company's archives. He 'acquired' it and subsequently sold it to a British collector in Los Angeles. The collector realised just how good the record was and pressed some acetate copies and sent them over to several DJs he knew on the British Northern Soul circuit where the song (often credited to another artist entirely) was discovered by soul fanatics. The vitality, excellence and craftsmanship of the uptempo slab of soul saw it acclaimed at the biggest soul venues of the day, the Wigan Casino and the Blackpool Mecca. Eventually, word leaked out as to the artist's true identity and Motown's British label, Tamla-Motown, realising they have something of a cult hit on their hands finally released 'Do I Love You' as a single in late 1979 (TMG 1170-A). Meanwhile, the one copy of the original 1965 single known to exist changed hands a couple of time for increasingly outrageous amounts of coin before a second copy was discovered, in Canada in the 1980s. In May 2009, one of these was sold at auction and fetched a world-record price of twenty five thousand smackers. Fortunately, if you want to hear 'Do I Love You' in all its effervescent, stomping, dance-floor glory, you don't have to sell your house and children as it's available on a number of compilation CDs. Frank was a much-loved man with a friendly disposition who seemed genuinely humbled by his cult following in Britain. In the late 1960s, he re-located to Detroit, where he worked with artists such as The Four Tops and Eddie Kendricks. He co-wrote classic songs including 'Love Child' and 'Stoned Love' for The Supremes, 'All I Need' for The Temptations, 'Chained' for Marvin Gaye and 'Whole Lot of Shakin' in My Heart' for Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. He was born Frank Edward Wilson on 5 December 1940 in Houston to James Wilson and Samantha Gibbs, but moved to Los Angeles with his family while he was a teenager. Wilson left Motown in 1976 and became a born again Christian. After being ordained as a minister, he wrote books and gave speaking tours around the US with his wife Bunny Wilson. He was also involved in producing gospel music and founded the New Dawn Christian Village in Los Angeles. His books include The Master Degree - Majoring in Your Marriage and Unmasking the Lone Ranger. He also appeared on TV programmes such as The Oprah Winfrey Show.

A postbox has been discovered full of letters dating back to 1989. Builders working at Birmingham New Street Station found the letters inside the postbox when they removed it last week. The box could easily be seen in front of thousands of visitors to the station for over two decades, the Daily Telegraph reports. Royal Mail is now attempting to deliver the letters to their planned destinations, but have been unable to explain why the post had been ignored. The box had been sealed earlier this year after travellers had complained that their fingers kept getting caught in its small flap. An 'out of action' sign was later stuck on it. A postal worker said: 'We didn't know it was there, to be honest. It was unbelievable to find the thing stuffed with old letters.' A Network Rail spokesperson said: 'For security reasons many mailboxes have been removed from stations but presumably it seems that the post in this one was simply missed. There were letters that were meant for Australia and America and postcards to people's friends and family in there, just lying under a thick layer of dust.'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day, yer actual Keith Telly Topping feels somewhat in a Neil Young mood. And, why not?

No comments: