Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Blame Mexico - My Private Aztecs Story

Here's another one from the article The Archives. Keith Telly Topping wrote this piece for a fanzine but I'll be blowed if I can remember which one or, even, if it ever appeared. So here it is now, the story of why The Aztecs became, and remains, this blogger's favourite bit of Doctor Who.

My viewing of Doctor Who began in 1968 with Fury From The Deep (probably episode two) when I was almost five years old. It was one of those quasi-religious experiences with a television series that, I suspect, most of us have at some stage of our childhood that remain with us through to our adult lives. (Well, those of us that are, you know, sad do, anyway.) I was lost to this strange other-world immediately. Doctor Who was something of a family tradition by that stage anyway, my mother and older brother were confirmed fans, and it was therefore somewhat expected that I’d follow in their footsteps.

However being, you know, born in 1963 meant that I missed the William Hartnell era completely. I used to hear stories about those first episodes of course but, with the exception of the brief interludes in The Three Doctors it wasn't until 1981 that I ever saw any proper William Hartnell episodes - that was when the BBC repeated An Unearthly Child as part of their The Five Faces Of Doctor Who series. And, to be honest, it didn't do much for me at the time.

Okay, now for a brief history of videotaping of Doctor Who episodes in UK fandom:

Some of our more wealthy collective cousins had their own video recorders in the mid-1970s and had been taping episodes live off-air ever since. But, most of us weren't on the wage of a record producer that could afford a huge luxury item like a VCR. Astonishing as this may seem today, VCRs were actually very rare in this country until well into the 1980s. I got my first model - a Ferguson - in 1983 having started work earlier that year for the Civil Service; I was the first person in my family, the first person in my street and, I think, only the third person in the office that I worked to have one. It was a beautiful model - size of a suitcase - which I bought on hire purchase and which cost a bloody fortune! I then acquired, within a few months from people who could do such space-age stuff as copying tape-to-tape, most of the early Peter Davison episodes and bits and pieces of late-period Tom Baker. But for anything prior to that, getting hold of copies required you either to know somebody who knew somebody who had access to the BBC archives (which was, let's face it, very unlikely) or, more possible even in those pre-Internet days, to know somebody who knew somebody who lived in Australia, New Zealand or a part of the US that had a PBS station which showed Doctor Who. By a series of circumstances so bizarre as to border on the ridiculous, I did.

A friend of a friend of mine was a doctor and, on one of those dreadful development courses that you most people have to go on in the fullness of their employment, he met a colleague from Australia who, during a drunken night out at the end of the course, revealed that he, too, was a Doctor Who fan and, more importantly to this story, had copies of just about everything that ABC had shown in the last five years (this would have been around 1985). Which, for the purposes of shortening an already lengthy cock-and-bull story, was just about every full story that existed in the BBC archives at that stage.

A deal was quickly done, copies were made and sent over to England, our doctor friend then loaned all of his priceless tapes to two other friends of mine who promptly hired a couple of VCRs from their local Rumbelows, bought some duplicating leads and then spent approximately the next three or four months running off copy after copy (after copy) of EVERYTHING. This is where most of the Doctor Who videos circling in UK fandom from that period came from. Need a copy of The War Games run-off overnight? Ask Rob and Ian. Want a - wobbly - copy of The Mind Robber to take along to your DWAS local group and impress the twelve-year-olds? Ask Rob and Ian! Desperate for an eighth generation copy of those two Moonbase episodes so you can laugh at the silly Cybermen voices? Rob and Ian are yer very guys.
You've got to remember that these were stories that most of us had heard about (in so much as we knew the title and the rough plot from The Programme Guide), that we might have read the Target novelisation of, but that nobody who wasn't ten years older than us and wearing a suit like ours dads and, usually, a beard had actually seen. The Web Planet? Wasn't that, like, the holy grail or something?

One of the first batches that I received from Honest Rob & Ian’s Third Hand Video Emporium (actually, what happened was that Ian came up to Newcastle for a weekend in early 1986 and brought a holdall full of videos with him and I did most of the copying myself) contained a little known Hartnell historical from season one called The Aztecs. I wasn't a great fan of historicals, to be honest, and almost passed up the opportunity to leave the tape running on that one whilst we went out and had a beer. 'It's a good one, that,' said the sage-like Ian. I’m glad I took his advice.

The Aztecs is John Lucarotti at his very best. A meticulously-researched piece of cod Shakespeare. I’ve said this before and it bears repeating, Doctor Who often works best when it’s pretending to be something other than a family science-fiction drama series and here was a ninety minute script that desperately wanted to be a BBC Sunday afternoon classic period drama serial. It had the sets, the costumes, the quality of actor (John Ringham, Ian Cullen), the period aesthetics and the moral and ethical ambiguity that you'd expect. It also had the TARDIS. For two scenes at the very start and the very end. When I was pitching my novel Byzantium! to the BBC and Justin Richards asked me whether I thought the lack of the TARDIS in the story could be a drawback I said, with staggering pretension, 'it wasn't in The Aztecs, was it?!'

I can remember about a week after my mate Ian's drunken weekend at my gaff, sitting down and running through some of the tapes we'd made, checking that the quality was consistent (or, consistent for a fourth generation copy of material that wasn't all that well-recorded in the first place). On, around, tape nine I hit The Aztecs - it was somewhere towards the end of episode one, John Ringham was doing his sinister little Richard III-type rant about Barbara being a false goddess ('And I shall have her').

I was utterly transfixed - this wasn't what I'd expected from the story at all. I went back and watched it from the start, episode one was terrific. Episode two was, if anything, even better - that entire ‘how shall a man know his Gods?’ dialogue between the protagonists was mesmerising stuff. Then Hartnell managed to get himself engaged by drinking some cocoa to the huge amusement of Ian Chesterton. Ian (my mate Ian, that is, not Ian Chesterton) had been right, it was really funny in places. Having watched the story through to its conclusion, I had become a convert and spent the next year, until the Target novelisation came out, telling everybody that I thought would be interested how great a story The Aztecs was. The novel, thankfully, backed me up, as did the official BBC release of the story on video several years later.
The Aztecs remains a particular favourite of mine. At a convention I attended in Los Angeles a year or two ago, on a panel with various other authors we were asked our favourite Doctor Who story. Amid lots of votes for The Talons Of Weng-Chiang or The Deadly Assassin, my lone voice saying The Aztecs didn't carry much weight, but afterwards one of the audience came up to me and said that that was a story he particularly loved too. A few hours later I saw him again in corridors of the hotel and he produced a copy of the novel The Hollow Men and asked me to sign it. 'I bought that cos you're an Aztecs fan,' he noted, probably sarcastically. But, you know, I like to kid myself sometimes that a fifteen year love of a thirty five year old piece of black and white videotape got me a sale.

There are worse delusions to have.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Les Cirque Des Vampires

This is a slightly extended version of a piece that Keith Telly Topping wrote for Shivers magazine in 2002 and which he has always felt worked quite well:

Buffy The Vampire Slayer has, effectively, rewritten the entire Fantasy/Horror rule-book over the last six years. Keith Topping, the author of the best-selling unofficial Buffy guide The Complete Slayer, looks at why this needed to be done and how it was achieved.

‘I watched a lot of horror movies as a child,’ Joss Whedon told The Big Breakfast in 1999. ‘I saw all these blonde women going down dark alleys and getting killed. I felt really bad for them. I wanted, just for once, one of them to kill the monster for a change. So I came up with Buffy.’

Whether Buffy The Vampire Slayer, conceptualised when Joss Whedon was just twenty one years of age, should be regarded as an example the writer's precocious talent or as a triumph for his impressive persuasive skills remain unclear. But the very fact that the concept (additively silly title and all) ever made it beyond its initial one-line pitch - 'teenage airhead schoolgirl fights vampires in the San Fernando Valley' - in the cut-throat world of the Hollywood system more than suggests the latter.

Comedy and vampirism may seem strange bedfellows but Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) showed that such a merging of seemingly incompatible genres was entirely possible. Indeed, as the critic RW Johnson noted in New Society in 1982, ‘we have actually got round to really funny films about vampires - not burlesques, which refuse to take the myth seriously, but comedies which accept the myth head on, and still laugh at it.’ In the 1980s, at the very moment when the vampire novel was attempting to become a serious literary subgenre with the success of Anne Rice’s novels, a slew of teenage vampire movies were being made in America. Mostly low-budget, often sneered at by ‘serious’ movie critics who regarded the horror motif as unworthy of proper study and equally loathed by old-time horror fans because they didn't include capes, castles and bats, from Fright Night, Once Bitten and Beverly Hills Vamp it’s a relatively short step to the movie version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, a critical and artistic failure upon its release in 1992.

Four years later and Whedon, now a much sought-after Hollywood scriptwriter with an Oscar nomination for his work on Toy Story and script-doctor non-credits on Speed and Twister under his belt, was asked to revive the Buffy format for television. Nobody seriously expected that it would last more than twenty episodes. The title, alone, was ridiculous.

Whilst a lifelong fan of horror movies and comics, and acknowledging the influence of two stylistically fascinating modernist vampire films (Near Dark and, especially, The Lost Boys) on his concept, Whedon was smart enough to realise that the series could not live by vampires alone. The original movie script had started life as a witty pastiche on the real horrors of the high school years: about alienation, loneliness, isolation, peer pressure and parental expectations. 'For me, high school pretty much was a horror movie,' noted Whedon, who attended New York's prestige Riverdale School. 'Girls wouldn't so much as poke me with a stick.' So, when the chance came to expand his movie concept into a weekly TV series, Whedon decided that he would make the series 'a metaphor for how lousy my high-school years were. But, from episode three onwards, vampires were to be only a part of the mix.

'Buffy has all the classic monsters: vampires, werewolves and mummies,' Whedon told BBC Online in 2000. It has also included in its bestiary of terrors a plethora of demons and witches (both good and very, very bad), hyena spirits, insect creatures, malevolent robots, ghosts, invisible girls, fairy-tale monsters, zombies, incubi, succubae, pan-dimensional Gods and even the odd alien slug. A veritable carnival of horrors. As Rupert Giles tells the heroine in the series' pilot episode, Welcome To The Hellmouth: 'Everything you've ever dreaded was under your bed, but told yourself couldn't be by the light of day. They’re all real.'

Whedon's inspiration for Buffy involved not only his own experiences at school, but also the woes of others. ‘When I got together with my writing team, I asked them “What was your favourite horror movie? What was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you? How can we combine the two?”’ Like many modern fantasy television series (Stargate SG-1 and The X-Files are two other excellent contemporary examples), Buffy’s writers seem to revel in knowingly sampling exterior texts into their work. That is, to wear their source material like a badge of authenticity and ask, ‘hey, what happens if you take a bit of Dracula, Prince Of Darkness and bit of Salem’s Lot and a bit of A Clockwork Orange and mix ‘em all up?’ They do this, seemingly, in the certain knowledge that their audience are sussed enough to know what they’re watching an homage to. And to celebrate that.

Intellectual parallelograms to classic monster movies like The Bride Of Frankenstein (Some Assembly Required) and The Curse Of The Werewolf (Phases) and of modern horror fables such as Hellraiser (Hush), Nightmare On Elm Street (Killed By Death) and Children Of The Corn (Older, & Far Away) are cleverly combined in Buffy. It's a breathless mix of knowing allusions, visual references and outright name-checks. (The character of Buffy's friend Xander Harris, for example, seems to have an encyclopaedic horror knowledge that matches Whedon's own.)

What’s more to the point is that the show is made for an audience who, Whedon and his writers obviously believe, have pretty much the same video and comics collection and the same willingness to explore a favourite genre as they, themselves, do. This, kids, is what happens when the fanboys (and, in Jane Espenson and Marti Noxon’s case, the fangirls) take over running the asylum. We get what we’ve always wanted. Our kind of show.

Even in its early days, Buffy seemed to know exactly what the viewers wanted to see from it. Thus, within weeks of the show beginning we had an episode like ‘The Witch’, a beautifully fashioned combination of quite ludicrous body-swap shenanigans and Carrie-style high school supernatural horror full of self-combusting cheerleaders and frustrated sexual yearning. After this, the two key conceptual episodes of the first season were Angel, the roots of which lay deep in the doomed Byronic Gothic romance backstory of Coppola's Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the remarkable Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight, a delicious revenge-saga which used elements from The Invisible Man, Hallow'een and The House That Screamed to fashion a story about the crushing cruelty of loneliness.

The Buffy production team, clearly, had enough wits about them to realise that a generic patchwork can be effective both for those viewers who recognise the origins of what they’re watching and for those too young to do so, but who don’t care anyway because, to them, it’s all new. An episode like Ted ably demonstrates this - in other hands, desperately faux-naïf - duality perfectly. It’s almost the definitive Buffy-as-teenage-horror tale in a series in which hyena-kids, vampires and witches are de rigueur as opposed to real life where we have bullies and abusive parents instead. Whedon and his writers use the clichés of the horror genre as a metaphor for the terrors of being a teenager (thus Buffy’s divorced mother’s new boyfriend is a violent robot because, to a teenage girl, that’s exactly how a prospective stepfather would appear).

Put simply, in Buffy the obsessions and fears of teenagers are, literally, made flesh. This is, largely, what got the show its audience from day one.

Many of Buffy’s viewers - far more than most other series could dream about - are hip to the metaphors at the heart of each episode, and of the series itself. The subtext stuff: ‘Be careful what you wish for, it might just come true,’ ‘I had sex with my boyfriend and he turned into a monster,’ ‘no-one ever seems to notice me,’ ‘the only way I can achieve anything is through a senseless random act of violence.’ This enables them to stay a step ahead of the characterisation so it was no surprise to the audience when, for example, Cordelia suddenly metamorphosed from a hollow two-dimensional bad girl archetype into something considerably deeper. Or when Willow evolved and blossomed.

Even more impressively, these viewers connected with the series’ sly and pointed observations on sexuality, the warming comfort of denial, the pleasure of guilt and the thrill of punishment and, most obviously, the joy of redemption (Angel, Spike, Wesley and, especially, Faith). The audience got with the programme, basically. And, as a direct consequence, the programme got with them.

By its third season Buffy was still doing classy tributes to horror favourites of the past (Dr Jekyll &Mr Hyde in Beauty & The Beasts, The Twins Of Evil in Gingerbread, The Dead Zone in Earshot). But, by now, the show was confident enough to start subverting these knowing glances. In episodes like The Zeppo and Homecoming they both paid tribute to, and also laughed at, the sheer absurdity of much of the horror tradition. And they took the audience to very brink of parody in The Prom wherein the episode's protagonist, who intends to release Hellhounds on the Sunnydale High prom night, has his own video collection of the movies that inspired the episode sitting on top of his TV when Buffy comes bursting in on him. There was clever subversion, too, in Fear Itself, an episode about the schlock of teenage Hallow'een parties in which a clichéd ‘haunted house of horror’ becomes far less comfortable than one might have expected.

It’s probably the season four episode, Hush that will be Buffy’s most lasting legacy to the genre and past, present and future. It’s the one that, in fifteen years time, the next generation of horror fans will be talking about in reverential terms the way that fans of my age do about Trilogy Of Terror or certain episodes of Hammer House Of Horror or Doctor Who. Joss Whedon wanted to create the modern day equivalent of a Brothers Grimm nightmare in The Gentlemen. A combination of all of the darkest and scariest things from the darkest and scariest places in the corners of his own, and his audiences, mind. Whedon had specific ideas about what his critical summation of all that is horrible should look like. ‘They came from Nosferatu (both the Max Shreck and Klaus Kinski versions), Dark City, Hellraiser, Grimm’' Fairy Tales, The Seventh Seal. From many storybooks, silent movies and horror movies and many nightmares. And Mr Burns from The Simpsons,’ he noted. And, indeed, they did. They were terrifying.
Perhaps the best example of Buffy’s deliciously Dionysian approach to traditional horror conceits is in its treatment of vampirism, per se. Taking a cue from several modernist texts, and with an extremely healthy disregard for the depressingly traditionalist approach of, for example, the works of Anne Rice (notice how dismissive on the subject of that particular author Spike is in School Hard), Buffy sees vampirism as less of a plague of evil and more as something akin to a sexually transmitted disease. Note, for example, how Buffy herself describes the process of a person being turned into a vampire as ‘a big sucking thing’ in one early episode.

The subliminal link between vampirism and sex is nothing new, of course, but in Buffy that link is less sensual and erotic and more like an addiction. In this regard, the series is much closer to something like Simon Raven's classic 1960 vampire novel Doctors Wear Scarlet than to Dracula. Yet, ironically, when the old Count himself finally turned up for a somewhat surprise appearance in the season five opener, the series attitude to this horror icon wavered somewhat uncomfortably (yet very amusingly) between arrogant dismissal (Buffy knowing that the dead Dracula will return because 'I’ve seen all your movies') to the clever incorporation of elements of the Dracula myth within its own framework. (Giles's meeting with The Three Sisters echoing Jonathan Harker's decent in Stoker’s novel; Nicholas Brendon's uncanny impression of Dwight Frye's Renton from Tod Browing’s movie version.) The message here seems to be, we may take the mickey at times, but at the end of the day we’re still fans at heart.

The horror that Buffy presents as its public face is a critical nexus of numerous styles and vogues. Gothic romance, urban alienation, myth and fantasy, postmodern sampling of exterior texts. All filtered through a charming gauze of Californian cynicism. If all this blather makes it sound like a dry and academic exercise in creating a cool TV show for kids of all ages by ripping-off all of the best bits of the movies that we’ve enjoyed over the last seventy years, then that damns Buffy with the faintest praise possible. Far less than it deserves.

What Joss Whedon and his writers have done with the horror genre is to perform a surgical examination of what, exactly, makes it tick. Not an autopsy, because the horror genre is as alive as its ever been, but a poke through the entrails to find new ways to scare people. They’ve come up with some absolute crackers - killing the heroine’s mother (The Body) and, subsequently, the heroine herself (The Gift) are brilliant examples. Then, they resurrected her and dragged her, bodily, out of heaven by clueless friends who were just trying to help (Bargaining).

The recently completed sixth season had its moments of looking backwards to where we've come from, but most of its energies were concentrated on a new kind of horror to the Buffy oeuvre and the wider genre. The horror of, reluctantly, having to grow up fast. That’s one we all have to face and it never gets any easier.

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Celebration Of The English Way Of Life

What with cricket being right back in the headlines, after Freddie's boys magnificent comeback against India last week, yer actual Keith Telly Topping thought he'd post this - it's an extended and slightly updated version of an article he wrote for his semi-regular Home Thoughts To Abroad column in the American magazine Intergalatic Enquirer a couple of years ago.

And, in celebration of this, here's a photograph which yer actual was surprised to find published in Wisden Cricket Monthly sometime in the 1980s taken at an international charity match at Northumberland's beautiful county ground, Jesmond, in about 1982 or 1983. That's the great Barry Wood (Lancashire, Derbyshire and England) signing autographs for a line of young children and, just behind yer actual Keith Telly Topping and his father sitting in the crowd. You can always spot Keith Telly Topping at a cricket match, dear blog reader, as he's the one with a big white arrow sticking out of the top of his head..
I love cricket. At its very best, cricket transcends sport and becomes something close to an art-form. Americans, by and large, just don't get the game - as evidenced by a 2004 episode of The Jay Leno Show when the host attempted to ridicule one of his guests, the actor Keanu Reeves who, during a stay in Australia had recently become interested in the game.

Reeves, according to most reports, put up a stout and defiant defence almost worthy of Geoffrey Boycott on a sticky wicket at Brisbane. He said that he couldn't understand how anyone could enjoy, for instance, baseball and yet claim to find cricket 'boring.'

I'd, further, go on to suggest that anyone who ever saw Ian Botham, Mike Proctor, Viv Richards, Dennis Lillie, Shane Warne or Freddie Flintoff in their prime and still thinks cricket is boring needs to visit either a neurologist or an optician because there's something wrong with either their eyes or their brain.

For those who are unlucky enough not to have the game as part of their cultural background (so, that's everyone who lives in a country that wasn't part of the British Empire in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century), it can, I admit, be a source of desperately confusing befuddlement. How can something go on for so long, for example (sometimes as much as five or six days) and still not produce a definitive result?

And as for the LBW law, what the hell's THAT all about?
Cricket's socio-political origins, listed annually in Wisden’s Cricketers Almanack, and recently expanded upon in Derek Birley’s superb A Social History of English Cricket, are shrouded in mystery. What is known for certain is that the first probable reference to the game was made in Royal Wardrobe Accounts of 1299-1300, when a sum of six pounds was paid so that the fifteen-year-old Prince Of Wales (the future Edward II – yes, the one who ended up with a red hot poker up his unmentionable) could participate in 'creag, and other "plays"', with his garçon boyfriend, Piers Gaveston.

The sport probably first came to these shores with the Normans, whose particular form of French would become the official language of England for some three hundred years after the Conquest of 1066. The Norman word 'criquet', probably a diminutive of the Old Flemish 'krick', meaning a stick, was the dialect name for a variant of jeu de crosse. Norman French also had a word 'wiket', meaning a small gate often used by shepherds as part of sheep pens. Together with the unusual curved shape of many early cricket bats used until the turn of the Eighteenth Century, which somewhat resemble a shepherd's crook, this has led some scholars to speculate that the game's origins may have been in the farming communities of Kent and Sussex. Even the red leather of cricket balls may have been a nod in the direction of a sphere of dyed sheep's fleece used in this pastime during it's primitive early days.

Variants on the game were recorded throughout the Middle Ages - pila baculorea (‘club-ball’), which Edward III banned in 1369 as 'detrimental to his war effort against the marauding Scots' and ‘stool-ball’. The latter, a game somewhat like skittles but using a stool as a target, was also forbidden by royal proclamation (this time by Henry VIII) along with other ‘idle games’ – such as football – which ‘interfered with the practice of archery essential to the defence of the realm.’

See, even in the Middle Ages, the Bi Knobs didn't want us plebs enjoying ourselves ...

Subsequent to this, Cromwell’s Commissioners proscribed ‘Krickett’ throughout Ireland in 1656, stating that ‘all sticks and balls should be burnt by the local hangman.’ The late Seventeenth Century is full of references of parishioners being prosecuted for playing cricket on a Sunday, indeed, as late as 1796 a match between Eton and Westminster public schools at Hounslow was played in defiance of the Eton headmaster, one Doctor Heath, who flogged the entire Eton XI (and their scorer!) on their return from a match that they, co-incidentally, lost by sixty six runs.

Yet, within a few years, Eton and Harrow had commenced their annual match, at Lord's, with a game in 1805 in which the Harrow XI was captained by the young Lord Byron. A decade later, Sir Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington (and the Englishman responsible for more DEAD FRENCHMEN than any other), would be describing the remarkable (and unexpected) victory of the British army and their allies over Napoleon’s forces at Waterloo as having been ‘won on the playing fields of Eton’. In 1841, when Prime Minister, Wellington ordered that a cricket ground was to be made as an adjunct to every military barracks in the Empire. A sure and certain sign that something which was, once, banished by the establishment had become a fixed and important part of it.

Of course, any form of change in the game is often violently resisted by the old establishment – the advent of one-day cricket and the T20 competition, and of crowds actually, you know, enjoying themselves (what a radical suggestion!) still excites much debate within the cricketing community – sadly, most of it remains along class-lines. The novelist Simon Raven (a man whose work this blogger greatly admires) is an classic example of this stuck-in-the-1920s traditionalist view of the game. In 1995 he wrote an article in Wisden Cricket Monthly. The main burden of the piece was Raven’s hostility to all forms of change in the first-class game. His pleasures, he stated were ‘far removed from the considerations of the “football yobs” at one-day matches.’ He liked the ‘peace and decency of the longer game … it takes up much time, which the modern world would like to turn into money.’ For which, it would appear, read Simon would prefer to be sitting – virtually on his own – at Canterbury, or Hove, or Chelmsford or one of the other county grounds, watching some dull four-dayer grinding to an inevitable draw than, for instance, being in the crowd on the last day of The Oval test last summer with England poised to win back the Ashes for the first time in eighteen years from a brilliant Australian side.

What a pity that, even in the world of Flintoff, Pietersen, Warne and Lee, you'll still find some old Tory whinging about something.

'Skinheads, Skinheads Everywhere. They've Got Big Boots But They've Got No Hair'

Those of you in church today who frequent the Ask Keith Topping board at Outpost Gallifrey may know that this blogger had a bit of a dodgy run-in yesterday with one of that most delightful of breeds, The Skinhead.

And for those of you who don't know what one of those are, they're a particularly loathsome, crude and ignorant bunch of racist knobcheeses as ever one could wish to meet.

This one happened to be one of a pair of surly, foul-mouthed men who were employed by a removals company who, in turn, had been subcontracted by the local Housing Association to do removals and re-deliveries whenever anyone on the estate has had anything put into storage. They were, in my case, contracted to collect and return forty five boxes that had been held in storage whilst Keith Telly Topping has been having all this building work done on Stately Telly Topping Manor. And, on Thursdays, they were bringing them back. Cause for some celebration, right? You'd think so ...

Anyway, to cut a long story short these two (the other one wasn't a skinhead, per se, but was something of a miserable old scrote with a very nasty attitude) turned up effing and blinding with every other word and complaining, loudly, about them having to carry these forty five - admittedly heavy - boxes up the stairs. Keith Telly Topping did point out to them that this was, you know, THEIR JOB but that really didn't seem to cut much ice with them. So, he left them to it went into the front room and rang Helen, his liaision officer with the building company, just to note that he wasn't very happy about these chaps and their general surly attitude and would it be possible for a message to get passed through to their gaffer and for someone to have a quiet word in their shell-like to remind them that it's generally not considered very professional conduct to come into a clients home and say, as for example one of them did very loudly, 'we shouldn't be FUCKIN' doing this.'

Keith Telly Topping also informed the pair of them that if their management had any problems with the health and safety aspect of this particular job - ie the weight of what they were carrying being too heavy for them to manage - then they wouldn't have let them leave the depot in the first place, or they'd have supplied another couple of men to help them out. And, therefore, would they kindly just get the hell on with what they were being paid to do.

At this point, things threatened to get ugly. The skinhead one, after giving this blogger a perfectly evil stare and asking me if I had a problem (to which Keith Telly Topping replied 'I don't, but you seem to have a problem with doing your job') gave me a mouth full of impudence and then stormed out of Stately Telly Topping Manor muttering 'we know where you live.' Keith Telly Topping asked him to repeat this and he refused. This blogger then told him that I believed he had just threatened me, that I considered this to be wholly out of order and that I'd be reporting the matter. (Which, actually, I haven't done yet - except to the Internet! The police wouldn't be interested since it would be my word against his and, frankly, why go to his boss and probably get him sacked when that would likely only antagonise some shaved gorilla even further?)

So, anyway, if Keith Telly Topping is found dead in a pool of blood any time over the next few weeks, the police needn't be baffled in looking for potential suspects.

This blogger is not, normally, an overtly emotional person dear blog reader but the incident (which happened at around 9:30 in the morning) fair ruined the rest of his day. It takes a hell of a lot for somebody to upset me but that bonehead managed it with seemingly practiced ease.

Garry Bushell, you've created a MONSTER.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

'We've Come To Speak Politics To You Today ...'

Keith Telly Topping does not want to use the pages of this blog to voice too many political comments (either party political or national politics for that matter) for several different reasons. There are far better places than here for such discussions, for a kick-off. Also, politics are an intensely personal thing and treading on someone's political toes usually ends up in a fight.
This blogger, especially, want to avoid taking any cheap-shots at American politics - and the current President in particular. Again, there's an element of 'easy target' there which even the world's worst alternative comedian should avoid like the plague (but, wanting cheap laughs, most don't).

There's also the complexities of many of the issues involved but, mainly, Keith Telly Topping just doesn't want to go there because he remembers how annoyed he used to get when some well-meaning but clueless American would end a sentence that began with 'say, you're British, do you know Mrs Smith in Blackpool' with 'and, I must just say, I LOVE your Mrs Thatcher. And the Queen.'

However, this blogger would like to draw all of your attention to the posters and T-shirts produced by the violently anti-Bush website which is, quite simply, one of the best places for political satire on the planet. They're not subtle, admittedly, but they ARE wee-in-your-pants funny.

Among my particular favourites is this one.

Friday, March 17, 2006


In full and frank tribute to having watched Joss Whedon's 'little movie' on DVD - Keith Telly Topping's opinion on which remains pretty much the same as when he saw it in the cinema: A decent (if somewhat flawed) movie that is, perhaps, and especially given the genre that it's a part of, a little too clever for its own good - here's the stars of the show.

Tell 'em all about it, ladies...


Is anybody else having trouble accessing the blog this morning? Or the Internet generally?

Doesn't it really piss you off? Frustrate you? Make you want to go out an torture innocent strangers for a laugh?

Don't you sometimes, you know, just want to smash your PC with a big effing hammer and then go and live in the jungle?

Wasn't the world a much simpler place when all we had was pen and paper?

Isn't this a complete waste of time as, if the blog can't be read by anyone then to whom is yer actual Keith Telly Topping talking?

Hello.... Is there anyone out there?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

'Seen It In Yer Eyes, Read It In Books ...'

Today's bloggerisationisms-random-cover-generator produces the following.
Good book, that. Local author, apparently...

Anyway, it occurs to Keith Telly Topping that some people may have stumbled across this blog having heard the blogger on The Book Club on BBC Radio Newcastle (18:30 GMT, first Monday in each month - be there or ... be somewhere else).

If so, hello there, how y'doin'? Hope you're enjoying the show and, if so, please leave a comment.

For those who haven't heard it, basically, each month Keith Telly Topping reviews a bunch of recently released books along with regular features like a competition and guest interviews. It's pretty light and fluffy - we cover a bit of everything; books with local interest, pop culture subjects, biographies and autobiographies, some fiction, sporting books ... something for everyone, in fact.
So far, Keith Telly Topping has covered the following:

Show One: December
John Peel - Margraves of the Marshes, Bantam Press.
More Magpie Memories - Malcolm Holt, Breedon Books.
Shirt of Legends - Paul Joannou, Mainstream Books.
Elvis Untold Gold - Ace Collins, Souvenir Books.
Valley of Lights - Steve Gallagher, Telos Publishing.
Really Daft Ideas - DI Saster, Summersdale Books.
The Pedant's Revolt - Andrea Barham, Michael O'Mara Books.
I Hate Christmas - Daniel Blythe, Allison & Busby Books.
TV Classics: Our Friends in the North - Michael Eaton, BFI Books.
Serenity: The Visual Companion - Joss Whedon, Titan Publishing.
The Sky Sports Football Yearbook, Headline Books.
Does Anything Eat Wasps? And 101 Other Questions, Profile Books.
Show Two: January
Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman, Review Books.
The Mercy Seat - Martyn Waites, Pocket Books.
Northstars - Chris Phillps, Sid Smith and John Tobler, Zymurgy Books.
Soapy Business - John Solomon, Zymurgy Books.
The Little Book of Tyneside, Zymurgy Books.
The Fashion of Football - Paolo Hewitt and Mark Baxter, Mainstream Books.
My Father & Other Working Class Football Heroes - Gary Imlach, Yellow Jersey Press.
Show Three: February
Spectre, Stephen Laws, Telos Publishing.
If I Don't Write It Nobody Else Will, Eric Sykes, Fourth Estate Books.
McCartney, Christopher Sanford, Century Books.
The Modfather, David Lines, William Heinemann Publishing.
The Brothers, Ian Lennox, Gordon Liberty Publishing.
Show Four: March
Balderdash & Piffle - Alex Grimes, BBC Books.
Fanboys & Overdogs: The Language Report - Susie Dent, Oxford University Press.
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova, Time Warner Books.
Old Wives Tales: Lipstick, Powder & Paint - Carol Cooke, Business Education Publishers.
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed - Alan Alda, Hutchinson Books.
Alan Shearer: Captain Fantastic - Euan Reedie, John Blake Publishing.
The RaW Quick Reads
Other recent books received include:
Shaun Lyon, Doctor Who: Back to the Vortex, Telos Publishing.
Jim Sangster & Paul Condon, TV Heaven, Harper/Collins Publishing.
Guy de la Bedoyere, Hadrian's Wall, Tempus Books.
Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Simon & Shuster Books.
James Lovelock - The Revenge of Gaia, Penguin.
Dave Gibbons - The Originals, Titan Publishing.
Alistair Moffat & George Ross, Tyenside: A History of Newcastle and Gateshead, Mainstream Publishing.
Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Jonathan Cape.
Robert Crais, The Two Minute Rule, Orion Books.
Ashes Victory: The official story of the greatest ever Test Series in the team's own words, Orion Books.
Neil Doyle, Terror Base UK, Mainstream Publishing.
Kathryn Sullivan, Talking to Trees, Amber Quill Press.
Bernard Cornwell, The Pale Horseman, Harper/Collins Publishing.

All of the above, incidentally, are highly recommended.

Each month Keith Telly Topping will be putting up a list of both books that he has covered on the show and an 'also received' list as he usually get too many review books each month to include twenty five minutes of radio time. In the next show, amongst others, Keith Telly Topping be looking at Raymond Khoury's new novel (The Last Templar) and both laughing and swearing at everyone who has never read The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, The Buddha Of Suburbia and Revolution In The Head.

No, actually, he won't be doing the latter - although he probably should.

If you're looking for a decent bit of rock journalism and you've never read either the late Ian MacDonald's Revolution In The Head, or Nick Kent's The Dark Stuff, or Charles Shaar Murray's Shots From The Hip then, frankly, you've never lived.
I think, though, if push came to shove, Keith Telly Topping's desert island book would still be either The Woman Who Slept With Demons by Eric Ericson (New English Library, 1980) which Keith Telly Topping bought in Soho for twenty pence or Testkill by Clifford Makins and Ted Dexter (Penguin, 1977) which he bought in Scarborough for ten pence, both of which got him through some pretty horrid family holidays with his sanity just about in tact.
Either that, or Doctor Who & The Day Of The Daleks by the great Terrance Dicks (Target Books, 1974), purchased (for about five pee) in Ryde on the Isle of Wight and which helped him overcome not only an 'orrible family holiday but, also, bronchitis during an 'orrible family holiday. So, double plus points there for Uncle Terrance.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My Favourite Words

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is not sure just exactly why he hase chosen to include Paul and Paul's beautiful fizzogs to illustrate this particular bloggerisationisms posting (Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan or Elvis Costello might've been more appropriate) although it is, undeniably, a very cool picture. It was, I believe, taken sometime during the winter of 1981-82 whilst The Jam and Macca were both in AIR Studios in Oxford Street recording The Gift and Tug of War, respectively. It was first published on the back cover of Smash Hits magazine circa February 1982.

Anyway... What this is, dear blog reader, is a list of this blogger's favourite words - in no particular order. If you spot any that are missing which you think should be featured, let Keith Telly Topping know and he will try to include them in whatever he's working on next:
  • namby-pamby

  • moist

  • hollow

  • quincunx

  • goitre

  • abeyance

  • thong

  • lugubrious

  • faux-naïf

  • risible

  • irksome

  • demisemiquaver

  • jiggery-pokery

  • oblong

  • yacht

  • rhombus

  • onomatopaeia

  • kitchen-knave

  • zeitgeist

  • crass

  • pretentiousness

  • blithering

  • parallelogram

  • snot

  • cromulent

  • plodding

  • lob

  • stymied

  • colloquialism

  • voluminous

My Gaff, Is A Very, Very, Very, Very, Very Fine Gaff

Now, as some of you hot-shot kiddies out there in 'netland may be aware Keith Telly Topping has been having various bits and pieces of work done on Stately Telly Topping Manor over the last couple of months - some with his willingly participation (new windows, electrics, et cetera.) others, less so (the back garden).

Keith Telly Topping's last trip to America was almost ruined by having all of this crap dumped on him just before he left. Anyway, to cut a very long story somewhat shorter, the work is pretty much finished now (apart, that is, from getting forty five boxes worth of books, CDs, DVDs, videos, magazines and other household essentials out of storage - that's going to happen sometime over the next few days).

So, whilst Stately Telly Topping Manor is in it's current, half-decorated-and-half-empty-but-actually-quite-tidy state, Keith Telly Topping thought he would do a quick 'before and after' photo competition.

Can you stop the difference, dear blog reader?

It used to look like this:

And now, it looks like this!
Ace, eh?! Don't worry about the massive plaster stain on the wall, that'll be gone soon enough.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Who I Am And How I Came To Be...

Ah, what a sweet little chap.

Recently the Beeb asked Keith Telly Topping to put together a pen picture of his very self to use on their RaW website to advertise The Book Club.

He did a short version but he also did a long version too which, because it'll never see the light of day elsewhere, he thought he'd share with y'all here. See, bloody ego the size of Rwanda:


A full-time survivor, dandy highwayman, bon vivant, raconteur and all round decent chap Rockin’ Keith Telly Topping is an extremely freelance author, journalist and broadcaster who first stumbled across Buffy The Vampire Slayer, quite by accident, in 1997 whilst he was still working as a mild-mannered Civil Servant by day and attempting to kick-start a pathetically underachieving writing career by night. To say that the series changed his life is, frankly, the under-statement of both the Twentieth and the Twnety First Centuries.

Keith Telly Topping's bibliography includes over forty books. He was the co-editor of two editions of The Guinness Book of Classic British TV (1993 and 1996) and has written or co-written books on television series as diverse as The X-Files, The Sweeney, Star Trek, The West Wing, The Avengers, 24 and Stargate SG-1 as well as volumes of music and film critique. He has authored four Doctor Who novels (including the multi award-winning The Hollow Men, co-written with Martin Day) and a novella (Ghost Ship). His books include two editions of the acclaimed West Wing guide Inside Bartlet’s White House, A Vault Of Horror: A Book Of Eighty Great (and not-so-great) British Horror Movies 1956-1974, Do You Want To Know A Secret?: A Fab Anthology Of Beatles Facts, A Day In The Life, High Times, Triquetra, The Complete Clash, Beyond The Gate, Shut It!: A Fan’s Guide To Seventies Cops-On-The-Box (with Martin Day: ‘Book of the Month’ in Loaded magazine) and X-Treme Possibilities and Doctor Who: The Discontinuity Guide (both with Paul Cornell and Martin Day).

He is also a regular contributor to numerous TV and genre magazines, including TV Zone, Xposé and Shivers and was a former Contributing Editor of DreamWatch. Keith Telly Topping is widely considered to be one of Britain’s foremost experts on the bewildering complexities of US network television. No, he has the faintest idea why either.

Notoriously articulate, erudite and a right wow with the ladies (allegedly), Keith Telly Topping was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne in October 1963 on the very day that his beloved United lost 3-2 at home to Northampton Town. Things haven't improved much since.

Keith Telly Topping is the presenter of the monthly Book Club and a bi-weekly television review slot  - Keith Telly Topping & His Tip TV Tips - on BBC Radio Newcastle. He has contributed to the BBC television series I ♥The 70s (albeit wearing a particularly nasty green shirt for which he wholeheartedly apologises to viewer). He has also written for Sounds, the Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times Culture Supplement and many other magazines and periodicals.

Keith Telly Topping writes, and occasionally performs stand-up, and has written radio comedy, an (unproduced) stage play and a TV pilot that is, currently, stuck in 'Development Hell.' A failed pop star at the age of fourteen as bass guitarist in (the never-legendary) Slime, he lives, works and occasionally sleeps on Tyneside. His favourite six movies are The Godfather Part 2, Almost Famous (Untitled extended cut), The Usual Suspects, Apocalypse Now, A Matter Of Life & Death and Dr Terror's House Of Horror. Though not necessarily in that order.

He much prefers 'Can You Dig It?' by The Mock Turtles to 'Can U Dig It?' by Pop Will Eat Itself, and Joy Division's 'Atmosphere' to Russ Abbot's 'Atmosphere'. Perversely, he considers The Talking Heads' version of 'Take Me To The River' to be the definitive one, and not the Reverend Al Green's. But then, Keith Telly Topping was always weird like that.

And, he still dines out on the story of how he and three friends once stalked George Harrison down the entire length of Oxford Street.

The ultimate tragedy of Keith Telly Topping's life is that he would love to write the definitive Elvis Costello biography but knows he never will.

Keith Telly Topping's hobbies include socialising with friends, exotic foreign travel to wild and outrageous locations, loud guitar-based popular music, trashy SF television and even trashier British horror movies of the 1960s and 70s, football and cricket, tasty chicken and king-prawn curries from his favourite takeaway - the Kam Ming on Monkchester Road, military, social and local history, archaeology, wondering whatever the hell happened to both Nutz and Arthur Two-Stroke & The Chart Commandos and, most importantly, irking the purists and winding up the pseudo-intellectuals, the boneheads, the school bullies - especially those in their thirties - and the clowns and watching them squirm.

His autobiography, I've Had Her, will be published posthumously.

Self-indulgence, eh? It's what makes the world go round.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Songs To Sing & Learn...

As space in this blogger's profile section seems to be somewhat limited - how, in all honestly, can a forty two year old geezer who grew up with, even if he does say so himself, a reasonably decent grasp of popular culture in all its any forms reduce the impact that about a thousand different bands have had on his life to a mere six hundred words, I ask you? - this would appear to be an ideal place to list those musical acts (groups and artists) that have had a moderately significant effect on my life.

The list goes something like this...
? & the mysterians, 3 teens kill 4, the 5am event, the 5th dimension, 10,000 maniacs, 10cc, the 13th floor elevators, 14 iced bears, the 23rd turnoff, the 101ers, 808 state, 999, a band of angels, a better mousetrap, a craze, abba, abc, abstract sounds, the accent, a certain ratio, ace, ace kefford stand, ace of cups, the acid gallery, the act, the action, the actress, ryan adams, add n to [x], the adult net, the adverts, a flock of seagulls, afrika bambaataa & the soul sonic force, age of chance, agitation free, a guy called gerald, a homeboy a hippie & a funki dredd, a-house, air, alabama 3, the alan bown!, seve aldo & the challengers, arthur alexander, alice cooper, alisha's attic, mose allison, the allman brothers, all seeing i, herb alpert & the tijuana brass, altered images, alternative tv, amazing friendly apple, amen corner, america, the amorphus androgeny, anan, andrea true connection, andwella's dream, angel pavement,... and you will know us by the trail of dead, the animals, the animated egg, amon düül, amon düül II, andromeda, angelic upstarts, anubian lights, the aphex twin, aphrodite's child, apollo 440, apple, the the apples in stereo, aquarian age, arab strap, arctic monkeys, argent, argosy, arizona wamp company, ar kane, joan armatrading, bill boy arnold, the arnold corns, pp arnold, arrows, artery, art movement, the art of noise, the artwoods, arzachal, asian dub foundation, ash, ash ra temple, ashton gardner & dyke, the associates, the association, aswad, atomic rooster, a tribe called quest, the attack, winifred atwell, audioweb, brian auger trinity, the auteurs, the average white band, david axelrod, kevin ayers, aztec camera, eric b & rakim, b-movie, babe ruth, babes in toyland, burt bacharach, bachman-turner overdrive, badfinger, badly drawn boy, david baird, george baker selection, lavern baker, afrika bambaataa, the bamboo shoot, the band, chas barber & his jazz band, barcley james harvest, the bar-keys, barmy army, barnaby rudge, jj barnes, courtney barnett, richie barrett, syd barrett, the barrier, the john barry seven, len barry, basement jaxx, fontella bass, shirley bassey, bauhaus, the bbc radiophonics workshop, the beach boys, the beastie boys, the beat, the beatles, the beatstalkers, beats international, beaver & krause, be-bop deluxe, beck, jeff beck group, the bedrocks, the bee gees, the be good tanyas, beirut, archie bell & the drells, the beloved, cliff bennett & the rebel rousers, tony bennett, brooke benton, elmer bernstein, chuck berry, david berry, b-52's, big audio dynamite, big boy pete, big brother & the holding company, big game hunters, big star, the big three, acker bilk, the birds, the birthday party, birth control, bishops of the holy rollers fall out shelter, bjork, the black arabs, black box, black box recorder, cilla black, black flag, blackfoot sue, black grape, black narcosis, eugene blacknell, black uhuru, otis blackwell, hal blaine, bley-peacock synthasizer show, blind blake, the blind boys of alabama, blind faith, blodwyn pig, blonde on blonde, blondie, blood sweat & tears, the blossom toes, the blow monkeys, the blue aeroplanes, the bluebells, the blue nile, blue öyster cult, the bluetones, blur, the bmx bandits, boards of canada, the bodines, bodkin, boeing dunveen & the beautiful soup, hamilton bohannon, bomb the bass, graham bond organisation, bongo les & herman, the bonzo dog doodah band, booker t & the mg's, the bo street runners, the boo radleys, earl bostic, boston, andrew bown, bow street runners, david bowie, the box tops, eddie boyd, tiny bradshaw & his orchestra, bob brady & the con chords, billy bragg, delaney & bonnie bramlett & friends, brain, brain donor, brainticket, brass tacks, jacques brel, jackie brenton & his delta cats, big bill broonzy, anne briggs, the brilliant corners, brinsley schwartz, british sea power, broken toys, john bromley, bronski beat, the edgar broughton band, the brown mountain lights, the crazy world of arthur brown, dennis brown, james brown, joe brown & the bruvvers, the dave brubeck quartet, jeff buckley, tim buckley, roy budd, buffalo springfield, bulldog breed. the bunch, vashti bunyan, eric burdon & the new animals, solomon burke, johnny burnette & the rock and roll trio, burning spear, burundi steïphenson black, kate bush, jerry butler, paul butterfield blues band, the butthole surfers, buzzcocks, the byrds, the bystanders, cabaret voltaire, john cale, caleb, calico wall, californians, terry callier, cab calloway, robert calvert, gc cameron, john cameron, glenn campbell, can, canned heat, freddie cannon, cape kennedy construction company, captain beefheart & the magic band, captain sensible, caravan, wendy carlos, hoagy carmichael, leroy carr, the carter family, john carter & russ alquist, carter usm, martin carthy, the cascades, johnny cash, cast, the casuals, catatonia, nick cave & the bad seeds, ccs, cerrone, the chairman of the board, chameleons, the champs, ray charles, the charlatans, chelsea, the chemical brothers, cherry smash, chicken shack, chicory tip, the chiffons, the chi-lies, china crisis, chocolate watch band, chordettes, the chords, the chords 5, charlie christian, tony christie, chymes, cinnamon quill, circus, city of westminster string band, clannad, the clancy brothers, eric clapton, chris clark, gene clark, petula clark, james clarke, john cooper clarke, classics IV, claudette, merry clayton, jimmy cliff, climax, patsy cline, the clique, the clash, judy clay & william bell, clock dva, cluster, the coasters, eddie cochrane, joe cocker, cockney rebel, the cocteau twins, dennis coffey & the detroit guitar band, leonard cohen, lloyd cole & the commotions, nat king cole, collapsed lung, dave & ansel collins, edwyn collins, judy collins, colourbox, john coltrane, the commadors, the comsat angels, comus, arthur coney, consortium, the contours, sam cooke, julian cope, the coral, phil cordell, cornershop, the cortinas, cosmic jokers & sternenmädchen, cosmic sounds, elvis costello & the attractions, cotton mather, the cougars, denis couldry & the next collection, count bishops, count five, lol coxhill, the cramps, crass, carolyn crawford, cream, the creation, credit to the nation, creedence clearwater revival, crew cuts, the crocheted doughnut-ring, crosby stills nash & young, arthur big boy crudup, the crusaders, the cryan shames, the crystals, the cuban boys, the cult, culture, cupid's inspiration, the cure, king curtis, curve, cymbeline, cypress hill, the cyrkle, daft punk, the dakotas, dick dale, dalek i love you, karen dalton, the damned, vic damone, dan le sac vs scroobius pip, danny & the juniors, dandy warhols, danse society, dantalian's chariot, the dark side of the moog, the darling buds, bobby darin, darts, david, dave davies, betty davis, miles davis, spencer davis group, the dead kennedy's, dave dee dozy beaky mick & tich, desmond dekker & the aces, de la soul, delerium, the dells, del-vikings, denim, sandy denny, the dentists, depeche mode, delia derbyshire, derek & ray, derek & the dominos, jackie deshannon, the detroit spinners, the deviants, devo, dexy's midnight runners, diane & carole & watchamacallits, the the dictators, bo diddley, dido, digital underground, dinosaur jnr, dion & the belmonts, the disposable heroes of hiphoprisy, dustant galaxy, the divine comedy, the dixie cups, willie dixon, dr alimantado, dr feelgrood, dr john, dodgy, the dog that bit people, joe dolan, thomas dolby, dom, fats domino, lonnie donegan, val doonican, donovan, the doors, lee dorsey, carl douglas, doves, the downliner sect, dragonfly, nick drake, drama, the dramatics, mikey dread, dread zeppelin, dreadzone, dream academy, dream police, the drifters, dry ice, the dubliners, dubstar, ducks deluxe, the aynsley dunbar retaliation, simon dupree & the big sounds, bob dylan, e cap, snooks eaglin, earth wind & fire, east of eden, clint eastwood & general saint, the easybeats, echo & the bunnymen, eddie & the hot rods, duane eddy, edison lighthouse, dave edmunds, dennis edwards, egg, eire apparent, donnie elbert, electric flag, the electric light orchestra, electric prunes, electric toilet, electric six, electrified people, electronic, electronic butterflies, electronic funk, elias & his zig-zag flutes, the elgins, duke ellington, ramblin' jack elliott, andy ellison, elephants memory, eloy, embryo, the end, brian eno, enough's enough, epics, episode six, epitaph, the equals, the escorts, david essex, sleepy john estes, the ethiopians, betty everett, the everly brothers, everything but the girl, the exciters, exceptions, the executive, explosive, eyes of blue, the faces, the factory, donald fagen, brian fahey, john fahey, yvonne fair, fairport convention, the fairytale, adam faith, percy faith, the fall, georgie fame & the blue flames, family, the family cat, fancy, fanny, the fantastic four, fargo, chris farlowe, the farm, fat, fat boy slim, the fatima mansions, faust, bill fay, jose feliciano, felius andromeda, felt, ferris wheel, finders keppers, fingers, the fire, first impression, sheley fisher, john fitch & the associates, ella fitzgerald, five day week straw people, roberta flack, the flamin' groovies, the flamingoes, the flaming lips, flash and the pan, lester flatt & earl scruggs, fleetwood mac, fleur-de-lys, the flies, the flirtations, floh de cologne, floribunda rose, flowered up, the flowerpot men, eddie floyd, flying burrito brothers, flying machine, flying saucer attack, focal point, focus, eddie fontaine, tennessee ernie ford, george formby, fortes mentum, the fortunes, fotheringay, the fourmost, the foundations, the four seasons, four star mary, four tops, the fox, inez & charlie foxx, john foxx, frabjoy & runciplespoon, frankie goes to hollywood, connie francis, aretha franklin, erma franklin, john fred & his playboy band, free, free design, freedom, bobby freeman, friends, fripp & eno, frog, front line assembly, fruit machine, mark fry, fugs, bobby fuller four, jesse fuller, lowell fulson, fun boy three, funkadelic, billy fury, fut, future sound of london, rory gallagher, the game, gang of four, elmer gantry's velet opera, the gap band, garbage, the garden club, mort garson, gass company, gates of eden, marvin gaye, gaylads, general soup kitchen, generation x, geneva, gentle giant, gentle influence, bobbie gentry, geordie, gerry & the pacemakers, gershon-kingsley, ghost, glass menagerie, glass opening, the global village trucking company, the gnomes of zurich, the go-betweens, godspeed you black emperor!, the gods, the go-go's, goldfrapp, goldie, goldie looking chain, gong, goodbye mr mackenzie, benny goodman, ron goodwin orchestra, the gordian knot, manuel gottsching, graded grains, davey graham, grand funk railroad, grand union, grandmaster flash & the furious five, grapefruit, the grateful dead, barry gray orchestra, dobie gray, reverend al green, barry green, peter green, green on red, laura greene, green scarab, john gregory, the grid, grinderswitch, grobschnitt, groep 1850, groop, groove armada, groundhogs, grudge, the guess who, guided by voices, guitar slim, the gun, guru guru, arlo guthrie, woody guthrie, bill hailey & his comets, half man half biscuit, hamell on trial, the hammersmith gorillas, albert hammond, lionel hampton sextet with dinah washington, hapshash & the coloured coat, herbie hancock, the handsome family, the happy mondays, harmonica, harmony grass, roy harper, harper's bizarre, slim harpo, johnny harris, wynonie harris, george harrison, wilbert harrison, harry j all stars, jeff hart & the ruins, mick hart, keef hartley band, pj harvey, richie havens, dale hawkins, ronnie hawkins & the hawks, alan hawkshaw, hawkwind, hayden wood, isaac hayes, tunny hayes quintet, haymarket square, the healers, heavy jelly, heldon, richard hell & the voidoids, hello, jimi hendrix experience, henry tudor, the heptones, the herd, herman's hermits, the high, high tide, the higsons, the hinge, the hip sound, hipster image, hipsway, robyn hitchcock, eddie holland, billie holliday, the hollies, brenda holloway, buddy holly & the crickets, hollywood argyles, hollywood brats, the hombres, honeybus, the honeycombs, john lee hooker, lightnin' hopkins, hot butter, hotlegs, the housemartins, house of love, 'cisco houston, catherine howe, peg lee howell, howlin' wolf, alan hull, human beinz, human instinct, humble pie, the humblebums, marsha hunt, hurrah, mississippi john hurt, hush, husker du, willie hutch, frank hutchinson, brian hyland, i am kloot, janis ian, i ludicrous, ice, icarus, the icicle works, the idle race, the image, the impressions, the incredible string band, the in crowd, i-roy, the isley brothers, it's a beautiful day, the iveys, the ivy league, chad jackson, chuck jackson, the jackson five, joe jackson, michael jackson, python lee jackson, jack the lad, jacky, jade warrior, the jags, jah lion, the jam, james, elmore james, etta james, jimmy james & the vagabons, skip james, jamie wednesday, jane, bert janesh, jasmin-t, jason crest, frank half-pint jaxon & tempa red's hokum ju band, blind lemon jefferson, eddie jefferson, jefferson airplane, jerusalem, the jesus and mary chain, jethro tull, jigsaw, jobraith, david john & the mood, elton john, johnny & the hurricanes, john's children, johnny johnson & the bandwagon, laurie johnson orchestra, marv johnson, robert johnson, tommy johnson, blind willie johnson, jon, george jones, gloria jones, quincy jones, tom jones, jook, janis joplin, louis jordan, joy division, judas jump, juice, julian's treatment, july, junior's eyes, just brothers, dick justice, jimmy justice, bill justis, kak, kaleidoscope, the kane gang, kasabian, kate, katina, kc & the sunshine band, johnny keating, keith, eddie kendricks, al kent, kid rock, johnny kidd & the pirates, kilburn & the high roads, the killers, killing joke, kin ping meh, kincade, albert king, bb king, ben e king, carole king, freddie king, king crimson, the kingsmen, kings of convenience, kings of leon, kingston trio, the kinks, kippington lodge, kiss, klf, the klubs, knickerbockers, gladys knight & the pips, johnny kongos, koobas, kool, kool & the gang, alexis korner, kraan, kraftwerk, kula shaker, kult, kytes, lace, the la's, patti labelle, la düsseldorf, francis lai, denny laine's string band, frankie laine, lambchop, the last poets, lead belly, vicki leandros, led zeppelin, brenda lee, jerry lee lewis, julia lee & her boyfriends, peggy lee, leftfield, lemon pipers, lemon tree, liabach, lightnin' red, lightning seeds, lindisfarne, david lindup, lions of judah, lion tamers, liquid smoke, little feat, little richard, little sherman & the mod swingers, little willie john, the liverpool scene, danny livingstone, robert lloyd & the new four seasons, locomotives, nils lofgren, lois lane, lomax alliance, jackie lomax, london phogg, claudine longet, loot, trini lopez, lord beginner, lord kitchener, lord rockingham's xi, lord sitar, the lords, los bravos, love, love affair, love children, love & money, love sculpture, lovin' spoonful, nick lowe, lucifer, lucifer's friend, lulu, lush, luv machine, humphrey lyttleton, neil macarthur, ewan maccoll, kirsty maccoll, madness, magazine, magnet, majority, will malone, mandrake paddlesteamer, manpower, tony martinez & his mambo combo, man, henry mancini, mandingo, manfred mann, aimee mann, keith mansfield, mansun, marcels, mark four, markley, bob marley & the wailers, marquis of kensington's minstrels, m/a/r/r/s, martha & the muffins, martha & the vandellas, dean martin, george martin orchestra, john martyn, john & beverley martyn, the marvelettes, david mason, massive attack, ian matthews, matthew southern comfort, paul mauriat, john mayall's bluebreakers, curtis mayfield, mazzy star, mc5, paul mccartney & wings, the mccoys, chas mcdevitt skiffle group with nancy whiskey, shelagh mcdonald, stick mcghee, mcguinness flint, john mclaughlin & the mahavishnu orchestra, don mclean, barbara mcnair, clyde mcphatter & the drifters, blind willie mctell, david mcwilliams, joe meek, mellow candle, memphis slim, sergio mendes & brasil '66, men they couldn't hang, mercury rev, the merseybeats, the merseys, message, the meteors, methusalah, the mickey finn, middle of the road, the mighty avengers, the mighty lemon drops, mighty mighty, amos milburn, steve miller band, garnet mimms, mindbenders, kylie minogue, smokey robinson & the miracles, mirage, the mirror, mississippi sheiks, misty in roots, the misunderstood, moby, the mock turtles, the modern jazz quartet, the mods, the moles, mojos, moloch, momus, monaco, the monkees, the monks, bill monroe & his bluegrass boys, the montanas, mooche, mood of hamilton, moody blues, moon, moonstone, dorothy moore, lindsay moore, alan moorehouse, jerome moross, van morrison, morrisey, van morrison, giorgio moroder, ennio morricone, mortimer, mosaic, motherlight, the mothers of invention, motions, the motives, the motorcycle boy, mötorhead, mott the hoople, mountain, the move, movement, moving finger, mr fox, mud, mungo jerry, junior murvin, mutant mirrors, mystery trend, names & faces, nashville teens, the nazz, ned's atomic dustbin, nektar, frances nero, nerve, network, new york public library, neu!, aaron neville, anthony newley, new model army, new order, the new york dolls, the nice, nico, billy nicholls, the night the goldfish died, harry nilsson, nirvana, nite people, north atlantic invasion force, northside, gary numan, nutz, nwa, oasis, ocean colour scene, octopus, odetta, odyssey, ohio express, the o jays, the olympics, one in a million, the only ones, yoko ono, onyx, opal butterfly, open mind, opus, the orange bicycle, orange juice, orange machine, orange seaweed, the orb, orbital, roy orbison, orchestral manoeuvres in the dark, the ordinary boys, he organisation, beth orton, oscar bicycle, johnny otis, our plastic dream, the outer limits, outsiders, the owl, the oyster band, augustus pablo, the pale saints, paper blitz tissue, paper dolls, paris angels, alan parker, bobby parker, charlie parker, junior parker, parking lot, particular people, the pastels, charley patton, les paul & mary ford, freda payne, johnny pearson, ann peebles, the peep show, penetration, penny peeps, the pentangle, people, persimmon's peculiar shades, pere ubu, carl perkins, lee scratch perry, peter & gordon, peter & the wolves, rodeo jim peters, pesky gee!, pharaohs, philwit & pegasus, piccadilly line, pickettywitch, wilson pickett, pigbag, pilot, the pink fairies, the pink floyd, pisces, gene pitney, pixies, the plastic ono band, plastic penny, playground, please, pleasure garden, pleasure seekers, plod, jon plum, poco, the poets, the pogues, the polyphonic spree, pony-tails, the pooh sticks, iggy pop, poppy family, pop will eat itself, carole pope, popol vuh, portishead, protobello explosion, jimmy powell & the five dimensions, duffy power, pre-cambrian lightning bolt, prefab sprout, elvis presley, billy preston, the pretenders, the pretty things, the alan price set, lloyd price, primal scream, the primitives, prince, prince buster, prince far i, procol harum, mike proctor, the prodigy, professor longhair, prong, the psychedelic furs, psycheground, public enemy, public image ltd, gary puckett & the union gap, the pudding, pulp, the purple barrier, the purple gang, pussy, quantum jump, quicksilver messenger service, quintessence, radha krishna temple, radiohead, the railway children, rainbow, rainbow ffolly, ma rainey, ramases & selket, the ramones, barbara randolph, rare earth, the rats, rattles, johnnie ray, the real thing, red crayola, otis redding, the redskins, jimmy reed, lou reed, steve reich, django reinhardt, r.e.m, the remo four, paul revere & the raiders, renegade soundwave, the residents, charlie rich, rich kids, neil richardson, jonathan richman & the modern lovers, rico & the rudies, ride, rifkin, amy rigby, the righteous brothers, billy lee riley & his little green men, terry riley, river, marty robbins, paul robeson, rockin' horse, the rockin' vickers, rockpile, jimmie rodgers, roek's family, rogue traders, the rolling stones, max romeo & the upsetter, chan romero, the ronettes, ronno, mick ronson, nino rota, rotary conntetion, roxy music, the rubettes, david ruffin, jimmy ruffin, rumplestiltskin, the runaways, run dmc, rupert's people, otis rush, the ruts, the rutles, mitch ryder & the detroit wheels, sad people, sadie's expression, st david's road, st etienne, st valentine's day massacre, buffy sainte-marie, sailor, salamander, sallyangie, sam & dave, sam gopal, sam the sham & the pharaohs, sands, evie sands, savage resurrection, boz scaggs, scene, lalo schifrin, klaus schulze, scissor sisters, scorio tube, scots of st james, gil scott-heron, screaming blue messiahs, scritti politti, gil scott-heron, screaming lord sutch, scrugg, seahorses, the searchers, second hans, neil sedaka, the seeds, the seekers, the sensational alex harvey band, serendipity, serious drinking, the sex pistols, shack, shahid quintet, the shadows, the shamen, the shangri-las, ananda shankar, ravi shankar, el shannon, marlena shaw, sandie shaw, the shazam, she trinity, sheridan-price, the shirelles, shocking blue, the shop assistants, shriekback, the showstoppers, shy limbs, shyster, frank sidebottom, judee sill, silhouettes, silkie, silver apples, paul simon, simon & garfunkel, simon's secrets, nina simone, frank sinatra, nancy sinatra, the sinatras, siouxsie and the banshees, sir douglas quartet, sir henry & his butler, the skids, skip bifferty, slade, percy sledge, slender plenty, the slickers, guitar slim, sly & the family stone, the small faces, brett smiley, huey piano smith & the clowns, jimmy smith, patti smith group, the smiths, the smoke, david snell, soft cell, mick softley, the soft machine, son house, sonic youth, sorrows, sounds incorporated, soul survivors, the sound barrier, soup dragons, space, space shuttle, spacemen 3, otis spann, sparks, sparrow, the specials aka, the spenser davis group, spirit, spiritualised, victoria spivey, splendid, dusty springfield, spooky tooth, squeeze, squires, stack waddy, big jim stafford, the standalls, the staple singers, edwin starr, state of mickey & tommy, state of mind, stavely makepeace, tommy steele & the cavemen, steelers wheel, steeleye span, steely dan, martin stephenson & the daintees, stereolab, stereo shoestring, cat stevens, mike stevens & the shevelles, rod stewart, stiff little fingers, stockingtops, stone axe, stoneground, stone poneys, the stone roses, the stooges, the stranglers, strawberry alarm clock, strawberry switchblade, string driven thing, joe strummer & the mescaleros, mike stuart span, studio six, stump, the stylistcs, morton subotnick, suck, suede, suicide, sugarcubes, sun also rises, the sundays, sundragon, sunforest, supergrass, supersister, supertramp, the supremes, swans, the sweet, the swinging blue jeans, symarip, the syn, talking heads, sharon tandy, tangerine dream, tangerine peel, tavares, bobby taylor & the vancouvers, james taylor, the james taylor quartet, kingsize taylor & the dominoes, r dean taylor, vince taylor & the playboys, the teardrop explodes, the teddy bears, teenage fanclub, television, temple row, the temptations, tempa red & georgia tom, tempus fugit, ten years after, tammi terrell, sonny terry & brownie mcghee, terry dactyl & the dinosaurs, alan tew, joe tex, sister rosetta tharpe, that petrol emotion, the the, them, thin lizzy, third ear band, third world, third world war, this mortal coil, evelyn thomas, irma thomas, rufus thomas, richard & linda thompson, big mama thornton, threashold of pleasure, throbbing gristle, throwing muses, thunderclap newman, thundermother, tickle, timebox, time hacine, time zone, timon, tindersticks, tintern abbey, tin tin, toby twirl, tomorrow, tom tom club, tonto's expanding head band, toots & the maytals, the tornados, peter tosh, pete townshend, the toys, toyshop, tracy, the trammps, trash, the trash can sinatras, the trashmen, traffic, merle travis, trees, t-rex, the triffids, the troggs, doris troy, truth, tommy tucker, tuesday's children, big joe turner, ike & tina turner, turquoise, the turtles, arthur two stroke and the chart commandos, tyde, tymes, ultramarine, the undertakers, the undertones, underworld, the undisputed truth, unit 4 plus 2, utopia carwash, u2, ritiche valens, van der graaf generator, earl van dyke & the soul brothers, linda van dyke, van dyke & the bambis, dave van ronk, bobby vee, the velvelettes, velvet frogs, velvet haze, velvet illusions, velvet opera, the velvet underground, velvett fogg, the verve, the vibrators, mike vickers, the village, gene vincent & the blue caps, bobby vinton, the vipers skiffle group, virgin sleep, virus, the vogues, the vulcans, wah heat!, bunny wailer, johnny wakelin, junior walker & the all-stars, scott walker, t-bone walker, the wallace collection, fats waller, little walter, war, dionne warwick, washboard sam, geno washington & the ram-jam band, the waterboys, waterloo, muddy waters, johnny guitar watson, nigel watson & peter green, we all together, the weather prophets, the webb brothers, paul weller, mary wells, west coast consortium, paul westerburg, the western brothers, west minst'r, jonathan weston, kim weston, we ugly dogs, wheels of time, bukka white, josh white, tony joe white, white mule, white noise, the white stripes, white trash, david whittaker, the who, wild cherry, the wild swans, wild silk, gert wilden, willard grant conspiracy, big joe williams, danny williams, hank williams, larry williams, lucinda williams, mason williams, maurice williams & the zodiacs, sonny boy williamson, bob wills & his texas playboys, al wilson, frank wilson, jackie wilson, wimple winch, winston's fumbs, edgar winter group, johnny winter, wire, wire machine, mark wirtz, bill withers, wizzard, jah wobble, howlin' wolf, stevie wonder, chuck wood, woodentops, the wonder stuff, working week, world of oz, link wray & the wraymen, rita wright, writing on the wall, robert wyatt, xtc, the yardbirds, yeah! yeah! no!, yello, yes, yesterday's children, neil young & crazy horse, youngblood, frank zappa, zen, the zephyrs, zero end, warren zevon, zion train, zipps, the zombies, tapper zukie, the zutons.

... Keith Telly Topping supposes he should say something pithy like 'and that was just last night' at this point. Well, tough, cos he's not going to. That is, in fact, in the time since 26 October 1966 when little Keith Telly Topping his very self was bought the 'Yellow Submarine' single for his third birthday (black Parlophone label). Still got it somewhere. His favourite song up until that moment had been 'My Boomerang Won't Come Back' by Charlie Drake ... also on the Parlophone label and also produced by George Martin, interestingly.

It's an evolving process, of course and every so often this blogger will update the list (just added Arctic Monkeys and The Killers in the last few days, in fact ... the jury's still out on the Kaiser Chiefs).

A Mod's Odyssey

Keith Telly Topping his very self believes that he would have been about eighteen years old when this very photograph was taken in the back garden of his parents gaff in Wigmore Avenue. So that would mean it was around about 1981. This, therefore, is a very old photo of your actual bloggerist (is that a proper word? if not, it really should be don't you think?). Keith Telly Topping likes to imagine that the vaguely tuned-in - albeit, slightly camp-looking (note the eyeliner!) - young rock 'n' roll scooter-kiddie staring into the camera here would, hopefully, have approved of his image being used, twenty-five years later, as a reminder to his cynical old future-self of his impressionable and wholly adrenaline-and-amphetamine-fuelled Modernist past.

When this photo was taken Keith Telly Topping would still have been at school - in the Sixth Form, actually. Nineteen years in the Civil Service (yes, you do get less than that for murder) and a self-employed writing career which has seen him author or co-author over forty books (including a number of overseas editions), writing articles and reviews for numerous magazines and periodicals and, relatively recently, getting into local radio broadcasting was all way in the future when he slipped on his parka for the camera.

But this blogger does like the photo's presence here at the start of From The North. He finds it somewhat comforting. He was a good kid was young Keith Telly Topping. A bit naïve, maybe - but his heart was usually in the right place. Poor little sod, that was all knocked out of him when he got out into the Big Bad World.

So, anyway, dear blog reader this is my blog.

And you are very welcome to it.