Monday, January 31, 2011

Switch Me On. Turn Me Up. Don't Want It Baudelaire, Just Glitterlust

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping simply loved the ludicrous Nigels versus the Bruces challenge on Top Gear on Sunday, so he did. And, the revelation that some say The Stig is 'the only woman in Britain not to have slept with Alan Johnson's policeman.' Of course, the disgraceful lice who read the Daily Scum Mail and the Gruniad Morning Star will have found something to whinge - loudly - about in it, no doubt. The Mexican sports car bit, probably. Or the Aussies arriving for the challenge in a prison van. 'That's racism, that is. Or something,' they will note. There you go, that's your page six story for Monday morning, for free this week.

Danny Baker has spoken for the first time about his cancer fight after going back to work. The fifty three-year-old was in a joking mood after being back on-air last week. He told BBC London listeners: 'I haven't earned a brass farthing since October and, I don't want to break any hearts here, but I have outgoings and this is local radio.' He added: 'It's been pretty rough recently but things lifted over the last weekend. And by Wednesday I was approaching full strength.' He said that he had lost a stone in the past week, but still decided to come in to present his show. 'Excuse the self-indulgence nonsense but it's been October since I came into the West End. It's like country mouse who came to town.' Get well soon, Dan the Man, and then hurry back. Your country needs you, now more than ever.

The vile and odious Piers Morgan has seen ratings for his new CNN chat show plummet by seventy five per cent since its debut two weeks ago. The Life Stories presenter, former (disgraced) tabloid editor and twat only managed to attract a risible four hundred and ninety eight thousand viewers to the latest edition of Piers Morgan Tonight on Thursday, a substantial drop from the two million viewers who tuned in to watch him interview Oprah Winfrey on 17 January. Morgan, who probed deeply into the not-entirely-shallow lives of reality TV regulars Kim and Khloe Kardashian in the poorly-received instalment, finished behind rival talk show hosts Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow, as well as - most embarrassingly - a CNBC supermarket documentary in the 9pm slot. Upon discovering the disappointing figures, Morgan's long-standing rival Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie gloated on Twitter: 'Piersy is this true? Piers Morgan beaten by CNBC oh dear! I got more ratings on CNBC when they ran UK version of Apprentice a couple of years ago.' Big fight. Little people.

BBC1's Casualty scored another high rating on Saturday night, overnight viewing figures indicate. Broadcast at 9pm, A Lion Roars - which saw Kirsty and Warren come to blows - pulled in a solid six million audience. There were also strong performances on the channel from The Magicians and In It To Win It, which were watched by 5.7m and 6.6m at 7.15pm and 8.15pm respectively. Prior to that, All New Total Wipeout had an audience of 4.17m as BBC1 for the most part dominated Saturday prime time. Over on ITV, the live FA Cup of Scumchester United's win at Southampton drew 5.12m between 4.45pm and 7.15pm. The latest episode of Primeval sadly continued the downward trend with 3.39m and 4.08m watched Paddy McGuinness in the wretched Take Me Out an hour later, before a repeat of Benidorm was seen by 2.62m. On BBC2, the documentary From Haiti's Ashes managed 1.05m at 8pm, then Qi: XL had 1.86m and The Tudors was watched by 1.65m at 9.45pm.

Coronation Street will reportedly feature two sham marriages as part of an upcoming plot line. Graeme Proctor (Craig Gazey) will marry his girlfriend Tina's Chinese friend Xin so that she can stay in the country when her student visa runs out - risking going back to jail in the process. The fake couple will then bribe David Platt (Jack P Shepherd) and Kylie Turner (Paula Lane) into letting them share their wedding day, but Kylie is only marrying David in the hope of getting her grubby mitts on Audrey's hair salon, according to the News of the World. The scheming rotter. Graeme and Tina stage a break-up and Xin (played by Elizabeth Tan) moves into their flat. However, despite being Tina's idea, the lies will push the couple apart and Graeme leaves Weatherfield later this year. He tells Tina: 'I can't believe what we've got ourselves into. I could get seven years in jail for doing this.' She tells him: 'When the dust settles we'll find a way out.' A source said: 'Things get messy. Corrie fans love Graeme and Tina together. But the lies eventually split them up. And whether or not he is found out and sent to jail, Graeme will leave Corrie very soon.' Ah, truth is always the victor. That could almost be a fifty year motto for Corrie.

BBC1's controller Danny Cohen has defended the decision to cancel Lark Rise To Candleford. According to the Sun, more than eighty viewers have complained since it emerged that the period drama will end after its current run. Eighty, out of a regular audience of between four and a half and five million, please note. Presumbly the others just couldn't be bothered. However, Cohen explained that he wants the show to finish while it is still getting relatively high ratings. 'Lark Rise To Candleford has been a truly wonderful part of the BBC1 schedule and we are incredibly grateful to writer Bill Gallagher and the team,' he said. 'But we feel the time is right to make room for new dramas which we hope will be taken to the nation's hearts in the same way.'

Well known horrorshow, faceache and drag, Ann Widdecombe has called for EastEnders' upcoming 'sex exploitation' plotline to be shown after the watershed. The Strictly Come Dancing contestant and former - widely loathed - government minister expressed concerns about children watching the storyline, in which Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty) is manipulated by new boyfriend Rob (Jody Latham). 'The BBC need to think about how they handle this,' she told the People: 'I don't think something like this should be screened before 9pm. There are eleven-year-olds up at this time. We shouldn't be encouraging children as young as eleven to watch stuff like this.' Isn't it totally beyond belief that Ann Widdecombe seriously imagines we live in a world where eleven year olds aren't 'up' at nine o'clock? And then, people wonder why the Tories are accused of being out of touch. A spokeswoman for the soap said: 'This is about Whitney being emotionally abused and groomed. It is different to prostitution. Whitney is initially not aware she is selling sex. In the long tradition the show has of tackling social issues, this is a storyline that looks to be exploring a growing problem that faces many young women in the UK.'

Plastic surgeons in the UK have said that the record number of breast augmentation surgeries performed last year is due to women wanting to look like Mad Men's Christina Hendricks. In 2010, more than nine thousand women went under the knife in the hope of achieving a more voluptuous profile. A source from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (which, of course, has the quite wonderful acronym of BAAPS) told the Sunday Torygraph: 'Christina Hendricks is gorgeous, and the hourglass figure is definitely back in fashion. Let's just say that heroin chic isn't the big thing at the moment.' The total number of operations performed is believed to have jumped by ten per cent from 2009. 'That kind of increase in arguably the worst period of the recession is impressive,' the insider added. 'Especially as the growth in demand had slowed down before.'

Keira Knightley has confessed that she used to feel like she didn't deserve success as an actress. The Never Let Me Go star admitted that finding fame at an early age was confusing and revealed that she used to feel insecure about leaving school at sixteen. Asked if she enjoys being successful, she told the Observer: 'Yes and no. I had success very young. I found that confusing and rather frightening for a long time. I didn't feel I deserved it.' She added: 'Sometimes I feel very stupid and sometimes I feel like I'm all right. Normally after days like today doing press I feel incredibly stupid. But I can talk about my dress really well. But I love research. I left school at sixteen. I don't have any formal education after that, so I think it's part of my education, and it sends me off reading in different areas and I enjoy that. I think I was a huge snob. I always did very well at school, and the idea that I was a person who left at sixteen was shocking to me for years. I've now come to terms with the fact, and that's all right. But it's always a part of my personality, a chip on my shoulder.'

Andy Gray's former best friend has chosen this week of all weeks to speak to a national newspapers about the sacked sports pundit's affair with his estranged wife. Quite why he didn't do this a fortnight ago when Gray were, merely, 'Sky's very much not-sacked football pundit' is, at this time, unknown. Although, you can probably guess dear blog reader. Mike Lewis recalled how his five-year marriage to Rachel, as well as his three-decade long friendship with Gray, was 'blown apart' by the revelation of their 'secret fling' in 2006. Not so secret now, one could note. Gray and Rachel are said to be planning to get married later in the year, but Lewis told the Scum Mail On Sunday that he has refused to sign divorce papers until receiving an apology from Gray, who last week was fired from Sky Sports for making sexist remarks about a female assistant referee. What any of this has to do with anyone apart from the three people involved, much less the lice who read the Scum Mail on Sunday is, of course, an entirely separate matter dear blog reader. But, this blog reports it because it's been reported. We are all prostitutes now, it would seem. 'Before Christmas I got a call from Rachel asking me to sign the papers - but no. It's not that I want her back, it's just that I'm owed an apology,' bewailed Lewis. 'Andy is a low life - there are certain things you don't do in this world. I know he's totally devastated by his sacking, it's taught him a lesson. But he needed it.' Lewis further claimed that Gray had denied the affair when rumours of Rachel's infidelity began to circulate. 'Andy's words were "Me mate? The one thing I want in this world is for you and Rachel to spend the rest of your lives together." When your best pal says that to you, it puts you at ease. I only heard about the affair when a newspaper rang me. I was shattered.' Still, I imagine the cheque from the Scum Mail on Sunday will ease the pain slightly.

Channel Four has confirmed plans to air Live From Abbey Road - Beady Eye Special. The thirty minute show will feature Liam Gallagher's post-Oasis band performing four songs plus an interview with the group. It will be broadcast in late February. In spring 2011, the broadcaster will follow up the programme with a new series of fifteen minute shows entitled Abbey Road Debuts. Each programme will feature two songs from a band's Abbey Road debut and an interview with host Tom Ravenscroft. Neil McCallum, head of T4 & Music at Channel 4, said: 'We're looking forward to broadcasting Beady Eye's eagerly anticipated televised performance prior to the release of their brand new album. In addition, it's exciting to be announcing a brand new spin off series, Abbey Road Debuts which will allow the next generation of musical stars, the opportunity to perform in such a historical space. We envisage the shows to be the perfect accompaniment to the main series, collectively covering a whole new musical spectrum.'

Some terribly sad news to start off the week. The legendary composer John Barry has died at the age of seventy seven. John - who will always, despite his many other achievements, be best known for his work on the James Bond movies - died after a heart attack, BBC News reports. After being hired to arrange Monty Norman's 'James Bond Theme' for Dr No in 1962, Barry would compose the scores for eleven of the next fourteen Bond movies from 1963's From Russia With Love to 1987's The Living Daylights. The subject of the authorship of 'The James Bond Theme' itself has always been something of a vexed one with at least two court cases being fought over it. John's other famous scores included those for movies as diverse as Séance on a Wet Afternoon, Zulu, The Ipcress File, The Knack ... And How To Get It, The Wrong Box, The Lion in Winter, Born Free, Midnight Cowboy, Walkabout, The Dove, Out of Africa, Body Heat, The Cotton Club, Jagged Edge, Peggy Sue Got Married and Dances with Wolves among many others. Born in York in 1933 as John Barry Prendergast, John's father, Jack, owned several local cinemas and by the age of fourteen, John was capable of running the projection box at The Rialto in York. It was also a musical family - John's mother having been trained as a concert pianist - and as he was brought up in a cinematic environment, John soon began to assimilate the music which accompanied the movies he saw nightly. To a point when, even before he'd left St Peters school, he had decided to become a film music composer. Lessons provided locally on the piano and the trumpet were followed by the more formal theory taught by tutors like Dr Francis Jackson of York Minster and jazz composer William Russo, with whom John had a lengthy correspondence course. A three year sojourn in the army as a bandsman on National Service combined with his evening stints with local jazz bands gave him the idea to form a combo of his own. The John Barry Seven launched during 1957 via a succession of tours and TV appearances. A recording contract with EMI followed, and although initial releases made by the group failed to chart, Barry showed enough promise to influence the management at Abbey Road to allow him to become an arranger for other artists on the EMI roster as well as pursuing his own pop career. The John Barry Seven eventually had considerable success in Britain in the late 1950s and early 60s, including 'Hit and Miss' which was used as the theme tune for the BBC's Juke Box Jury, a well-remembered cover of the Ventures' US hit 'Walk Don't Run' and a number of John's own instrumentals including 'Black Stockings', 'Beat For Beatniks' and 'Cutty Sark.' Another career breakthrough was the BBC television series Drumbeat, where John as well as appearing with The Seven produced arrangements for many of the other singers on the show, including most notably pop idol Adam Faith for whom Barry also composed songs (along with Les Vandyke). When Faith made his first film, the excellent - and controversial - Beat Girl in 1960, Barry was hired to compose, arrange and conduct the score. Johng also composed the music for another Faith film Never Let Go the following year. He orchestrated the score for Mix Me A Person, and composed, arranged and conducted the score for The Amorous Prawn. Barry was employed by EMI from 1959 until 1962 arranging orchestral accompaniment for a wide variety of the company's artists. He moved to Ember in 1963 as the label's house producer. John was often cited as having a distinct style which concentrated on lush strings and extensive use of a powerful brass section and reverb. However he was also an innovator, his mid-60s work making heavy, and hugely influential, use of the harpsichord, being one of the first composers to employ synthesizers in a film score (1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service), and to make wide use of pop songs in the award-winning soundtrack for Midnight Cowboy. John also wrote the memorable Moog-and-harpsichord-dominated theme for TV's The Persuaders! (1971) and the scores to a number of musicals, including Passion Flower Hotel (with lyrics by Trevor Peacock), the successful West End show Billy (with lyrics by his long-time collaborator Don Black) and two major Broadway flops, The Little Prince and the Aviator and Lolita, My Love, the latter with Alan Jay Lerner as lyricist. During 2006, Barry was the executive producer on a CD entitled Here's to the Heroes by the Australian ensemble The Ten Tenors. Barry and Black also composed one of the songs on Shirley Bassey's 2009 comeback CD, The Performance. The song, 'Our Time Is Now,' was the first written by the duo for Bassey since 'Diamonds Are Forever' thirty eight years earlier. John's work saw him win five Oscars (for The Lion In Winter, Out of Africa, Dances With Wolves and two for Born Free), while he received a BAFTA fellowship in 2005. His most recent film score featured in the 2001 war thriller Enigma, while a musical version of Brighton Rock, created with Don Black, had its London premiere in 2004. In 2002 he was named an Honorary Freeman of the City of York. Awarded an OBE in 1999 for his services to music, John was renowned for his lush strings, orchestral swells and elegant melodies. And for those magnificent Bond themes he wrote with Black, Lionel Bart, Anthony Newley, Leslie Bricusse and Hal David. If ever the opening five seconds of a film's theme song told the listener everything they needed to know about the movie that was to follow it's the beginning of 'Goldfinger.' 'He's never satisfied with what he does. Every day he wakes up and believes that into his mind and soul is going to come some magical arrangement of notes that he's going to ultimately either entrance you with in a concert hall or cinema. It's because he thinks there's still a peak to climb that he's a great film music composer,' was Sir Richard Attenborough eloquent explaination of what made John Barry tick. Their success together in 1992 with Chaplin is a superb example of what John's music does for a motion picture. Robert Downey Jr's portrayal of the comic legend is given a tragic soul by the score. The result (nominated for yet another Oscar) is but one of John's magical arrangement of notes. The duo had worked together at the very start of Barry's career in film on The L-Shaped Room (1962). Sadly, John suffered a rupture of the oesophagus in 1988 following a toxic reaction to a health tonic he had consumed. The incident almost killed him, rendered him unable to work for two years (his comeback was Dances With Wolves) and left him vulnerable to pneumonia for the rest of his life. John was married four times: To Barbara Pickard 1959-63, Jane Birkin 1965-68 and Jane Sidey 1969-71. He married his current wife, Laurie, in 1978. He is survived four children, one each from his first, second, and fourth marriages and one with the actress Ulla Larsson, with whom he lived in the sixties, and five grandchildren. The current Bond composer, and one of Barry's most notable protégés, David Arnold wrote on Twitter: 'It was with a heavy heart that I tell you John Barry passed away this morning. I am profoundly saddened by the news but profoundly thankful for everything he did for music and for me personally.' Arnold later told BBC Radio: 'I think James Bond would have been far less cool without John Barry holding his hand. Of course, John was aligned to very cool things as well - James Bond and Harry Palmer - and he was having hit records with his band, the John Barry Seven. He lived in Chelsea and I think he drove an Aston Martin. If he didn't he should have done. He had the whole thing down.' Don Black added, 'The thing about John that I will always remember was he never changed. He was very much the Yorkshireman whether he was in Beverly Hills or Manhattan. When he played you a melody it was like an unveiling. You didn't question it because you knew he had been up all night working on it and getting it right.' John's son-in-law, BBC business reporter Simon Jack, said that he 'truly loved writing music as much as people enjoyed listening to it. He saw himself as much a dramatist as a composer and his music was inextricably linked to the stories told on the screen.' Jack also remembered John as 'a wickedly funny man' whose 'passion, genius and sense of humour will be terribly missed by his family and friends.' Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Born Free star Virginia McKenna said Barry was 'a wonderful musician and composer.' Michael Crawford, a close firend of John's for many years, who took the title role in Barry and Black's stage collaberation with Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, Billy, said that John had written 'some of the most memorable and beautiful film scores we could ever wish to hear.' Yer Keith Telly Topping's recommendation, dear blog reader, if you have only a passing knowledge of John Barry's work, is to get yourself over to and pick up a second hand copy of the superb four-CD collection Themependium. It will change your life.

This news, of course, necessitates a change to the final Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day for January, which now kicks-off with one of John's best remembered and most moving works. Moving on, we follow that with a piece of ice-cold perfection from Alison and the chaps.