Tuesday, December 31, 2019

People Come & People Go, Naturally

Amid the anarchy of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Neil Innes, who died this week unexpectedly at the age of seventy five, was a creative force, a calming influence and an urbane spokesman for a group of student dadaists whose success in the 1960s predated the world of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Yet even Neil's patience could be exhausted when working alongside Vivian Stanshall, the group's eccentric frontman, fellow composer and self-destructive surrealist comedic genius. When Viv began reading his epic saga 'Sir Henry At Rawlinson End' on-stage one night and his speech became a slurred crawl, Innes stormed off in a rage of frustration.
There would be rows and disputes between the multitude of Bonzo line-ups over the years of regular break-ups and reunions. The music business often proved a songwriter's legal minefield, but for Neil, The Bonzos, he once said, gave him his fondest memories. A singer, pianist and guitarist, Neil wrote The Bonzos' only bona-fide hit single, 1968's jaunty, stylish 'I'm The Urban Spaceman', co-produced by Paul McCartney, which peaked at number five in the UK charts and won the composer an Ivor Novello award the following year. In truth, it was a good song but was rather unrepresentative of The Bonzos usual, unique musical template. Stanshall's exquisite Elvis pastiche, 'Canyons Of Your Mind' on the b-side was, actually, much more them.
Neil also coined the phrase 'Cool Britannia' - a song on The Bonzo's debut LP - which would eventually become a mantra for the Labour Party when Tony Blair was Prime Minister, much to Neil's mild dismay. He thought its political use was spectacularly uncool. Surrounded by explosive Bonzo chums such as Stanshall, Rodney Slater, Roger Spear, Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell, Legs Larry Smith and Sam Spoons, Neil emerged as the most studious and musicianly of a motley group whom The Be-Atles, Cream and, a little later, David Bowie took to their hearts, especially when Neil played the world's most deliberately appalling guitar solo on 'Canyons Of Your Mind'. It was all done, of course, in the worst possible taste.
A twinkling, self-deprecating humour revealed itself in The Bonzos early live shows in pubs around South London. The Bonzos sounded like a retro 1920s dance band mixing styles as diverse as music-hall, jazz, folk and rock and roll. 'We're not copying The Temperance Seven,' Neil insisted at the time. 'We are murdering them.' In their time the band recorded four genuinely great, influential, hilariously funny and musically brilliant LPs - Gorilla (1967), The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse (1968) and Tadpoles and Keynsham (both 1969) - and a handful of classic (if somewhat under-appreciated in chart terms) singles - 'My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies', 'Alley Oop', 'Equestrian Statue', 'Mister Apollo' and 'Mister Slater's Parrot'. They performed 'Death Cab For Cutie' in a memorable sequence in The Be-Atles Magical Mystery Tour (1967), spent two series as the resident house band on the cult ITV show Do Not Adjust Your Set (where they first worked with Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam) and made a short surrealist film, The Adventures Of The Son Of Exploding Sausage in 1969.
After The Bonzos came to an end, Neil started working with the Monty Python's Flying Circus team, writing songs for and appearing (as Brave Sir Robin's extremely annoying chief minstrel) in Monty Python & The Holy Grail (1975); as well as getting memorably crushed to death when the French Knights catapult The Trojan Rabbit out of their castle! And, playing one of the self-flagellating monks who hit themselves in the face with a large chunk of wood. Friends with all of the group, Neil was, nevertheless, probably closest to Eric Idle and a sketch on Idle's subsequent solo series, Rutland Weekend Television, provided a platform for Neil and Eric's astonishingly affectionate Be-Atles spoof The Rutles. George Harrison - another mutual friend of Neil and Eric - had made a famous guest appearance on Rutland Weekend Television's 1975 Boxing Day special and encouraged Idle and Innes to create a film which parodied The Be-Atles' career and deflated some of the more ludicrous myths surrounding the band's legacy (he even loaned the pair a copy of Neil Aspinall's - unreleased - film, The Long & Winding Road which would, in later years, metamorphose into the grandiose The Be-Atles Anthology project). Following further Rutles sketches on the US comedy show Saturday Night Live, the 1978 TV special, The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, included appearances by Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Ronnie Wood and George Harrison his very self. In the band, Innes played Ron Nasty, a character not-even-remotely-loosely based on alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon. Who married a conceptual artist, 'a simple German girl whose father had invented World War II!' Lennon, reportedly, loved All You Need Is Cash, though he advised Neil not to include the song 'Get Up & Go' on the soundtrack LP as, due to its almost note-for-note similarity to 'Get Back', Neil risked getting sued. The subsequent fourteen-song LP was transatlantic hit in 1978 (and it remains one of this blogger's favourite records of all time) despite the sad fact that Neil made hardly a penny from it having been forced to sign over half of his songwriting royalties to the then owners of The Be-Atles publishing, Lew Grade's ATV music, to avoid being sued for plagiarism.
That was followed by the acclaimed BBC2 series The Innes Book Of Records (1979 to 1981). From 1973 onwards Neil's musical director was John Altman, who said: 'He really was a very talented guy. When you heard his songs for The Rutles, you'd think "This is as good as The Beatles." George Harrison became a huge fan and was always in the studio when we were recording. He famously said he that he liked The Rutles better than he did The Beatles.' Maybe it was the trousers ...
In an interview in 2012 Innes reflected on the many different phases of his career. 'The thing is it all happened very quickly,' he said. 'The Bonzos lasted for just five years or so and in that time we paid off three managers and had no holidays. Then I dropped into the Python era but that seemed to be over in a flash, too. And, similarly The Rutles were a brief phase. They were only intended to be a short-term, one-off gag because the timing seemed so right.' He added: 'People were desperate to get The Beatles back together and a guy in America was offering them twenty million dollars each each for a reunion! It was quite absurd. George Harrison, who by then was closely involved with the Pythons, felt something even sillier needed to be done. He loved every moment of The Rutles. The 1996 revival for our Archaeology album was even funnier really.' In the same interview Neil described joining the other members of Python onstage at Concert For George - the 2002 tribute to the late Be-Atles guitarist, at London's Royal Albert Hall - as 'probably one of the most special evenings of my life.'
Born in Danbury in Essex, Neil was the son of Edward Innes and his wife Rita and had a brother, Iain. His father was a warrant officer in the Royal Artillery and the family moved to Bad Harzburg in Lower Saxony, as part of the British Army on the Rhine. Neil went to primary school there and after, the family's return to Britain in 1955, attended Thorpe Grammar in Norwich, before enrolling at Goldsmiths College of Art in 1962. He studied piano from the age of seven until he decided to switch to the guitar when he was fourteen. But he had bought a very cheap model: 'It was such a bad instrument it was more like playing an egg slicer. So I put music aside and became more interested in painting.' On returning to music, he played tentatively with the newly formed Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in the canteen at the Royal College Of Art in 1963. The band began playing London pubs with elaborate stage shows that led to a record contract and then appearances on Do Not Adjust Your Set.
Yet despite achieving cult status and some success, the band broke up acrimoniously in 1970. Undaunted, Neil launched a productive solo career, releasing the LP Lucky Planet (credited to The World) and joining forces with the Monty Python's Flying Circus team. Neil appeared in (and wrote some sketches - including the memorable Most Awful Family In Britain - for) the show's fourth series in 1974 and toured, extensively, with the Pythons in the UK, Canada and the US during 1973, 1974 and 1976. He was usually introduced as 'Raymond Scum'. After which he would often tell the audience, 'I've suffered for my music. Now it's your turn', before performing two or three songs. In 1980, he travelled to the States with the Pythons again, subsequently appearing in Monty Python Live At The Hollywood Bowl (he, alongside George Harrison, is one of the Mounties in the 'I'm A Lumberjack' segment). In Idle's song 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life', from Monty Python's Life Of Brian (1979), Neil contributed to the whistling chorus. He also worked with the likes of Roger McGough, Mike McGear and Adrian Henri in the music and poetry collective GRIMMS which released three LPs. He continued to release - usually very well-regarded - solo works including How Sweet To Be An Idiot (1973) Taking Off (1977), Off The Records (1982) and the soundtrack LPs The Rutland Weekend Songbook (1978, with Eric Idle), The Innes Book Of Records (1979) and Erik The Viking (1989). In the 1980s Neil diversified, contributing to children's TV shows, adding voiceovers for the cartoon series The Raggy Dolls and composing music for other children's series, notably Puddle Lane, The Riddles and Tumbledown Farm. In the 1990s he was given an out-of-court writing credit on the Oasis song 'Whatever', after Noel Gallagher was judged to have borrowed portions of Neil's 1973 song 'How Sweet To Be An Idiot' (which featured on the Monty Python At Drury Lane LP). Cheekily, Neil 'nicked back' 'Whatever's swooping orchestral introduction as part of 'Shangri-La', a song on the 1996 Rutles project, Archaeology.
A documentary film about Innes, The Seventh Python was made in 2008. Neil returned to the stage and embarked on tours of the UK, America, New Zealand and Japan and in 2006 took part in a historic Bonzo Dog Band reunion concert at The Astoria. This was followed in 2008 by a Rutles thirtieth anniversary tour. In 2010 he unleashed A People's Guide To World Domination tour and was still on the road and making personal appearances until shortly before his death. Neil had been travelling to his home in France after an evening out with his wife and friends. His family have asked for privacy 'at this difficult time. It is with deep sorrow and great sadness that we have to announce the death of Neil James Innes on 29 December 2019,' they said in a statement. 'We have lost a beautiful, kind, gentle soul whose music and songs touched the heart of everyone and whose intellect and search for truth inspired us all. He died of natural causes quickly without warning and, I think, without pain.' In 1966, Neil married Yvonne Hilton. She survives him, along with their sons, Miles, Luke and Barney and grandchildren, Max, Issy and Zac.
Neil Innes, dear blog reader. Bigger than Rod. The author of 'Music For The Head Ballet', 'Humanoid Boogie', 'You Done My Brain In', 'King Of Scruf', '(We're) Knights Of The Round Table', 'Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues', 'Lie Down & Be Counted', 'Protest Song', 'The Fabulous Bingo Brothers', 'Feel No Shame', 'Montana Cafe', 'The Knicker Elastic King', 'I Must Be In Love', 'Ouch!', 'Doubleback Alley', 'Cheese & Onions', 'Another Day', 'Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik', 'Joe Public' and 'No Matter Who You Vote For, The Government Always Gets In'. One of this blogger's favourite songwriters, a genuine twenty four carat musical genius and gone long before his time. We shall not see his like again. More's the pity.

Monday, December 23, 2019

If All The Year Were Playing Holidays, To Sport Would Be As Tedious As To Work

So here it is, dear blog reader. A merry - if you will - 'XMas'. And, everybody is, at least alleged to be, havin' yer actual fun. We should all, therefore, probably think about looking to the future. As, according to yer actual Sir Nodbert (OBE), it has only just begu-uh-hun. You feel me?
Yes, dear blog reader, it's that time of the year again. And, Keith Telly Topping has managed to get the Stately Telly Topping Manor decorations sorted for yet another year. Best not to skimp on this sort of thing, this blogger has found.
Well, dear blog reader, much - much - has occurred around Stately Telly Topping Manor since From The North was last updated in mid-November (Keith Telly Topping Presents ... The From The North TV Awards (2019) was, in fact, written and constantly re-edited over quite a lengthy period so the last proper 'written pretty much all in one go' update was Obituaries posted a few days earlier). For one thing, yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self continues to be in somewhat gainful employment in his current role as a Customer Service Associate. For a couple of weeks in late November and early December he, briefly, wasn't - his initial twelve week contract with his employer ended and there was the prospect of a fortnightly trip to the Job Centre to justify this blogger's virry existence. Fortunately, just before that became necessary, Keith Telly Topping's previous employer advertised another couple of vacancies (and, kindly, gave this blogger a heads-up about them in advance of them going online). Keith Telly Topping applied for both, got interviewed for the first one, did really well (the company's view, not Keith Telly Topping's own he hastens to add) but narrowly missed out on getting that gig (since there was only one post and ten people going for it). However, on the strength of his assessment and interview performance he was offered the other role without him actually having to go through the assessment and interview process again the following day. Which was jolly nice. And, so it was that, on 2 December - after just over a fortnight as 'a man of leisure' - this blogger became a Working Man (and scoundrel) again.
The past month has also seen - in no particular order other than the purely chronological - the cold virus which had been threatening to break for the last couple of weeks in November, as t'were, breaking big-style; several 'I Really Deserve This'-style Chinese takeaways being eaten; various transport difficulties (for which read 'utter bloody fiascoes') mainly caused by Newcastle's Christmas Market completely closing off much of the centre of the city to traffic. The market itself is, it should be noted, lovely to look at, stimulates the local economy and, at least one of the stalls therein is responsible for The Finest Bratwurst In All The Land, Bar None®™ (and, believe him, this blogger did check). All terrific. But, it's still a right bleeding pain in the bum if one actually has to go anywhere. And, there was a really fine 'leaving work' do at Za-Za Bazaar World Buffet with a number of former colleagues, the vast majority of whom yer actual Keith Telly Topping was, within a fortnight, working with again in the same joint and for the same company just in a different department.
There were also a couple of pleasant family nights up at Our Colin and Our Maureen's spacious Forest Hall gaff and this blogger discovering that, wow, he actually does have an - occasional - social life; the day the Stately Telly Topping Manor central heating - briefly - packed in and this blogger had to wait for five hours for an engineer to come out and fix the bugger whilst resembling Mister Sulu in that episode of Star Trek when he and his team of Red Shirts were stranded on Planet Chilly due to a transporter malfunction; a return to work and a fortnight of training which included what might well be the best single day at work this blogger has ever experienced in nearly forty years of near-constant employment (the reason was simple - some of the products that the company from whom he is providing a helpline make are multi-cookers, air fryers, blenders et cetera. So, as part of the training, we spent two hours watching a very nice lady cooking up a full chicken, some beef steaks and various soups in the canteen, all in the cause of 'product familiarity', obviously. And, when they'd been cooked, we had - that's had - to check what they tasted like. Again, so we can do our jobs properly in the long term). At least, that's our story and we're all sticking too it, dear blog reader.
There was the day after Keith Telly Topping had his (successful) job interview where - in lieu of a further trek across the city to Longbenton for another interview - he was thinking about popping into town to do a bit of shopping instead. But, on reflection, he decided to do that the next day instead. So - given that it was raining like Noah had an Ark on the go - he simply enjoyed what has become something of a novelty these days - a day of rest with his feet up the fire watching daytime telly and finishing off the From The North 2019 Best & Worst Of bloggerisationisms whilst he still had the chance.
We had a power cut for two hours at Stately Telly Topping Manor one night in early December (was this 1973, or what?); there was a further fight with this blogger's local pharmacy about their less than 'how hard can it be?' attitude towards delivering the drugs which keep this blogger, you know, alive; a general erection (and the country, ultimately, choosing Bashing Boris over Comrade Corbyn - the worst of very two bad options); a hasty emergency visit to the dentist after this blogger somehow managed to crack one of his teeth whilst eating ice cream (which, mercifully, cost a lot less than this blogger feared it might) and a really good Big Boozy Big Lads Big Neet Oot On The Lash with this blogger's fine work chums Malcolm Hunter and Christopher Armstrong at the Palace Garden. 'Aving it large, so we were. Or something considerably less 'down wid da kidz'.
Additionally, there was the evening that this blogger asked his kindly brother to give Keith Telly Topping a lift home from work due to this blogger having to take with him a large, bulky, very heavy work-related packaged item. Which was completed to the satisfaction of everyone. Then, the next night, this blogger was presented with a slightly smaller (but still bloody bulky and jolly heavy) similar item which, that time, he transported his very self on a combination of two buses, through a bloody monsoon. Because, this blogger is pure rock hard, me. (But, mainly, because Keith Telly Topping did not want to impose on Our Colin Telly Topping's generosity for a second night in a row, if truth be told.) And, by a combination of both buses in question being late and very late, just as the sixty two arrived at the top of Shields Road, the twelve was rocking up at the bottom. Thus, a quick run round the corner at Byker Metro (with this bloody huge and bulky cardboard box tucked neatly under Keith Telly Topping's arm) and he caught his connection and was back at Stately Telly Topping Manor inside fifty minutes of leaving the office. Not quite as fast as the previous night, admittedly (and that was with us setting off fifteen minutes later than scheduled due to this blogger getting a last minute call at work) but proof that Our Colin Telly Topping's tasty jam-jar is, indeed, a lot faster than two buses. And, somewhat less overcrowded too.
Least you think that it's all been sunshine and rainbows, dear blog reader, last Friday was an utter pig of a day - every call that this blogger took at work seemed to be a piece of really awkward, complex troubleshooting - though, to be fair, most of the people Keith Telly Topping was dealing with on the helpline were lovely and very understanding, they just had somewhat obscure problems. This blogger did, however, receive the first threat of violence against his person made in a working environment since about 2000 when he was working for what was, then, the Employment Service. There will be no further discussion on this particular subject, incidentally, dear blog reader - confidentiality malarkey prevents this blogger from alluding to any details in even the most tangential way. And, anyway, it was not worth worrying about.
Also, Keith Telly Topping found out that he will definitely be working both Christmas and New Years Eve(s) but not on Boxing Day which had, for a while, seemed a distinct possibility. So, he gets that off along with Christmas Day and New Years Day on both of which the office is properly closed. This blogger is also working on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year though that is, officially, classified as overtime (and, paid accordingly). That particular Friday ended with yet more Commuting Hell (this time, this blogger arriving at Byker and then waiting almost exactly half-an-hour for a twelve). But in case it be thought that the whole day was a total write-off, however, a comment from yer actual Chris Armstrong casually mentioning 'I thought about you in the toilets,' gave this blogger a bit of a chuckle. Wild horses will not drag the rest of that story from this blogger's lips.
So, anyway, enough about this blogger's full and active life and back to the stuff that you actually read From The North for. Tele-visualised malarkey. As you probably know, dear blog reader, fifty six years ago on 23 November 1963, the greatest ever format in the entire history of the television medium was first broadcast. But, enough about The Chars starring Elsie and Doris Waters, much has already been written and said. There was also some old bonkers toot about a madman in a box which started that day. Whatever happened to that?
The Doctor Who series twelve trailer landed in late November to the delight of millions (and, the pitiless whinging of all the usual suspects). And, truly, it was glorious in this blogger's sight.
The BBC has, of course, now confirmed that Doctor Who will return on New Years Day. You might have heard about it. The series will be back with the first part of the new run, Spyfall with all subsequent episodes being broadcast on Sundays. Starting with 'a blockbuster action packed two-part episode,' as Jodie Whittaker takes charge of the TARDIS once more, The Doctor will be joined by her friends Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill and That There Bradley Walsh. The twelfth series will also welcome a host of familiar guest stars including national treasure Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry (last, briefly, funny in 1983), the very excellent Robert Glenister (last seen in Doctor Who in 1984 in The Caves Of Androzani) and Goran Višnjić to name but four. Add to that, some familiar enemies - including The Judoon and The Cybermen - series twelve is 'set to be an epic action-packed rip-roaring rollercoaster for everyone.' Don't stray too far from behind the sofa.
Seemingly, The Doctor is helping out MI6 with some problem or other in the New Years Day episode. Presumably, MI6's own captive Time Lord was unavailable at the time; making a film at Pinewood, or something.
The BBC has announced that Anjli Mohindra and Laura Fraser are set to guest star in upcoming episodes of Doctor Who. Previously starring as Rani Chandra in the CBBC Doctor Who spin-off Sarah Jane Interferes, Anjli is no stranger to the Doctor Who franchise. Appearing in a separate episode, Laura has previously been in various dramas including the hit BBC drama, The Missing and more recently Better Call Saul.
The biggest Doctor Who collection ever streamed in the UK comes to BritBox from Boxing Day. Six hundred and twenty seven episodes of the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama will be available on the service. This includes a mixture of episodes, spin-offs, documentaries and reconstructions and 'includes many rarely-seen treasures.' Subscribers will be able to access this content via the Interweb, mobile, tablet, connected TVs and Chromecast. BritBox is the digital subscription service created by the BBC and ITV. The service aims to bring 'the very best in past, present and future British programming and award-winning content' to viewers for £5.99 per month in HD. It launched in the United States in 2017 and in the UK last November. One hundred and twenty nine complete Doctor Who stories, a total of five hundred and fifty eight episodes spanning the first eight Doctors from William Hartnell to Paul McGann, form the backbone of the collection. It also includes four stories - The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase, The Ice Warriors and The Invasion - which feature a combination of original content and animation. The unbroadcast (and, uncompleted) 1979 story Shada which was originally presented as six episodes but has been uploaded as a one hundred and thirty minute special. A further two complete, solely animated, stories - The Power Of The Daleks and The Macra Terror - will also be included as will five other surviving 1960s episodes - The Crusade episodes one and three, Galaxy 4 episode three, The Space Pirates episode two and The Celestial Toymaker episode four - the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie starring Paul McGann, the unbroadcast pilot version of An Unearthly Child and Mark Gatiss's sublime 2013 'creation of' drama An Adventure In Space And Time will also be available on the service, in addition to The Underwater Menace, The Wheel In Space and The Web Of Fear which have been completed via telesnap reconstructions (in the case of the later, this only applies to the still missing third episode). The - really not very good at all - spin-off K-9 & Company and the documentaries More Than Thirty Years In The TARDIS and Doctor Who: Doctors Revisited complete the collection. BritBox will also be curating allegedly 'special' Doctor Who collections, including 'New to Who', featuring one key episode from each of the first seven Doctors as an introduction for the uninitiated. Further collections will be devoted to the most memorable monsters, with The Cybermen, The Daleks, The Master and The Sontarans each being represented by selected episodes. Regeneration episodes have also been collated (or, in the last of The Tenth Planet episode four, animated regeneration episodes). Boxing Day also marks the start of a longer-term collaboration with the BBC, with 'a shared vision' of making BritBox 'the ultimate home of Doctor Who Classic content in 2020 and beyond' and 'ensuring the widest collection of content available is presented in the best possible format and quality.'
There's always the potential for a tricky problem when there is a last minute change of programme due to tragic circumstances, particularly when whoever is in charge of the EPG changes the title of a programme but not the actual on-screen description. And, this is what happened on the evening of 27 November following the sad death of Clive James and the late decision to repeat the 2018 documentary When Mary Beard Met Clive James on BBC2. Unless, of course, the documentary in question did, indeed, feature Mary and Clive meeting aboard a lifeboat. Because, let's face it, who wouldn't happily pay their licence fee to watch that?
On a somewhat-related note, 5USA appear to have given Clive Revill a sex-change if this EPG page is anything to go by. Clive himself seemed quite amused by such a happenstance.
And now, dear blog reader, a brief overview of what has been on the viewing list at Stately Telly Topping of late. Look upon his works, ye mighty, and despair.
On Talking Pictures.
On ITV4.
On Dave.
On 5USA.
On Drama.
On Yesterday.
And, on BBC1.
Also, this blogger was watching ITV4's annual 'nothing says Christmas like Clint and Dickie mowing down half the Wehrmacht on their own' showing of Where Eagles Dare last weekend. And, Keith Telly Topping was minded of his mate Malcolm's observation about the irony of the casting of the three main Nazi characters in the movie - Anton Diffring (gay) and Ferdy Mayne and Darren Nesbitt (both Jewish)!
On a completely unrelated subject, The Force was, obviously, with someone at the Copa Libertadores final a few weeks ago.
Steve Brucie (nasty to see him, to see him, nasty) said that he 'hadn't heard a roar like it' as Newcastle fans celebrated Miguel Almirón's first goal for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies. The popular Paraguayan midfielder scored a late winner against Crystal Palace to send The Magpies above The Eagles into ninth place in the Premier League. It also saw the twenty five-year-old break his Newcastle goal duck on his twenty seventh Premier League appearance since joining from Atlanta United for a then-club record twenty million in January. Whilst some media commentators and sneering gobshite journalists - most with a sick agenda smeared all over their disgusting collective mush - have chosen to focus upon Miggy's lack of goals with some glee, Newcastle supporters - you know, the people that factually matter - have been, broadly, highly supportive of the wee man, appreciating his tireless energy, pace and work-rate and knowing that, eventually, the goals would come. 'I think the crowd showed their appreciation for him,' said Brucie and, for once, he was absolutely correct. 'I think relief is the wrong word - we're all just delighted for him. Since he came to the club in January he lit the place up with his pace, trickery and skills. Day-in, day-out, he works and works, but unfortunately he's not been able to manage a goal. Today he's got the winner and we're all delighted for him. It took a long time, he's been unfortunate on so many occasions. Today when it fell to him, it was a difficult chance, coming from behind him and he's managed to smash it in. He's a great pro, a great lad, and he works really hard. When you've got a gem like that they deserve all the success I'm sure will find him.' The game looked set to end in a stalemate before Andy Carroll headed a cross down for an unmarked Almirón to volley home and Newcastle comfortably then held on through final ten minutes for their third victory in four games. Since Newcastle lost embarrassingly five-nil at Leicester at the end of September, they have beaten The Scum, West Hamsters United, Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Southampton and the Palace as well as drawing with Sheikh Yer Man City and Wolverhampton Wanderings. Palace had more of the possession and it appeared that their injury-hit defence had dealt with the aerial threat of former England striker Carroll before he played a crucial role in the winner. The Eagles also had the better chances for the majority of the game, with Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke denied by home goalkeeper Martin Dubravka in each half. But the visitors slipped one place to twelfth after their four-match unbeaten run came to an end. Newcastle welcomed back Almirón and Jonjo Shelvey after they both missed last Saturday's defeat at Burnley with injuries and they provided a welcome boost as The Magpies remained unbeaten at home since an opening day of the season loss to The Arse. The midfield pair had been instrumental to their team's run of seven points from nine before the Turf Moor setback and added some guile to go with Newcastle's undoubted grit. Both showed some neat touches while Almirón curled an effort straight at Palace goalkeeper early on whilst Shelvey - the club's top goalscorer so far this season - sent a speculative effort just over from near the halfway line which narrowly cleared the Palace bar. Then with time running out, Almirón found himself in space in the box to pounce on Carroll's knock-down and his relief was clear, the twenty five-year-old peeling off his shirt in celebration, which saw him receive a booking from some over-officious prick with a whistle. Brucie sprang a selection surprise by asking Joelinton to play up front with Carroll, rather than out on the left but, for the most part the strike pair struggled to connect and The Magpies did not give him enough service. But, just as Palace were beginning to increase the pressure, all that changed as Fabian Schär's right-wing cross found Carroll at the far post to lay on Almirón's match-winner. Schär was impressive in a back-three alongside Federico Fernández and Florian Lejeune - the latter making his first appearance of the season due to an injury picked up, also against Palace, in April. Also worthy of praise were United's two wing-backs, the often under-appreciated Paul Dummett and Javier Manquillo - the later, in particular, keeping the dangerous Zaha quiet for most of the afternoon. Brucie (nasty to see him, to see him, nasty) said: 'I always thought maybe one goal would decide it because Palace don't give much away. We try to prime ourselves the same way. My goalkeeper made a few good saves but I don't think anybody would deny that Almirón deserved the winner.' On United being in the top half of the table at Christmas, he added: 'I'd have taken it because it was difficult at the start [of the season] but in the Premier League you can't get carried away. I look at our fixture list coming up and think "wow" - we've got some tough games in a close period of time. We'll accept where we are because the lads and the staff have worked so hard. There's a good spirit amongst them, that can go a long way, and they showed that again today.' Three points raised Newcastle two places into ninth - their highest league position for over two years - and extended their current unbeaten home Premier League run to eight games, something not achieved since 2012.
Elsewhere, Sheikh Yer Man City came from behind to beat Leicester City at The Etihad Stadium and move to within a point of the second-placed Foxes. Jamie Vardy finished off a flowing counter-attack to fire the visitors in front, but a deflected Riyad Mahrez effort and an İlkay Gündoğan penalty turned the game on its head before the interval. Gabriel Jesus slotted home Kevin De Bruyne's low cross in the second half to complete the scoring and lift Pep Guardiola's side to within eleven points of leaders Liverpool (although, obviously, The Reds have a game in hand, being otherwise occupied - see below). In Saturday's early game, Soft Toffees Everton and The Arse played out an uneventful goalles draw at Goodison Park in front of their respective new managers, Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta. The two men - and the crowd - had little to get excited about, with The Soft Toffees failing to register some much a a single shot on target during the game and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang squandering The Gunners' best chance of the match early in the second-half. High-flying Sheffield United edged to victory at Brighton & Hove Albinos despite having two goals (rightly) disallowed by the video assistant referee. Which, obviously, made their sour-faced manager Chris Wilder gurn like he'd just stood in some dog-shat. Well, no, hang on, he always looks like that. John Egan's early goal was ruled out by VAR, but Ollie McBurnie's powerful effort gave The Blades the lead midway through the first half. Jack O'Connell's second-half header was also chalked off by VAR, but Wilder's side held on to move up to fifth in the table. Struggling Southampton moved out of the bottom three with a comprehensive win at a very poor Aston Villains, who drop into the relegation zone. Two goals from in-form striker Danny Ings either side of Jack Stephens' header put The Saints firmly in the driving seat, before Jack Grealish netted a consolation for Dean Smith's side with twenty minutes remaining. Second-half goals from Romain Saïss and Raúl Jiménez helped Wolverhampton Wanderings come from behind to beat struggling, relegation-haunted Norwich City at Carrow Road. Todd Cantwell capitalised on a poor clearance to put The Canaries ahead, but Saïss powered home a header to restore parity before Jimenez beat Tim Krul with nine minutes remaining to seal the points for Nuno Espírito Santo's team. Meanwhile, Jay Rodriguez's late goal secured all three points for Burnley at Bournemouth. The match at The Vitality Stadium appeared to be petering out into a stalemate, but Rodriguez got on the end of Ashley Westwood's delivery to seal back-to-back league wins for Sean Dyche's side. Rodriguez's was the first effort on target from either side in the ninety minutes. In Sunday's two games, bottom club Watford amusingly beat The Scum two-nil (which, to be fair, was funny) whilst Moscow Chelski FC also inflicted a two goal defeat on their former manager Jose Mourinho's Sottingtot Hotshots, for whom Son Heung-Min was sent off for petulantly kicking Antonio Rutdiger.
As their points lead in the Premier League remained in double figures, Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws boss Herr Klopp praised his players for 'passing test after test' after they became Club World Cup Champions for the first time by beating Clube De Regatas Do Flamengo of Brazil in Qatar. Roberto Firmino scored the decisive goal in extra time to secure victory for The Reds at The Khalifa International Stadium. It is the second trophy Liverpool have won this season after they beat Moscow Chelski FC to win the UEFA Super Cup in August. 'The boys dug in again and massively put in a performance,' said Herr Klopp. 'They keep getting tested constantly - our life is like this. At the moment we pass test after test after test. We have to make sure we pass further tests as well.' Victory was all the more impressive for Liverpool considering it has come in the middle of a busy December for the 2019 Champions League winners. The Club World Cup clashed with Liverpool's Carabao Cup quarter-final at Aston Villains, meaning that they had to send separate teams to compete in the competitions. A youthful Reds side lost that game five-nil at Villains Park but the first team were able to add another trophy to the cabinet and they return to England with that ten-point lead at the top of the Premier League, as well as a game in hand over their rivals. Herr Klopp said that he was proud of his players for putting in such a strong performance in another final. He added: 'I struggle to find the words to express my respect for the boys. It was incredible. We did so many good things. I saw so many sensationally good performances and I am really happy. It was a very intense game for different reasons; it was not our best game we have ever played but it was enough to win. This was a wonderful night for the club. I said before I didn't not know how it would feel. Now I know it feels outstanding, absolutely sensational. I am so proud of the boys.' One concern for Liverpool was a potential injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The England midfielder was seen using crutches and wearing a protective boot during Liverpool's celebrations having earlier been substituted following an awkward fall. 'Hopefully it is not too serious,' Herr Klopp said. 'Even he was smiling at the end, which helped us all.'
Martin Peters, who has died aged seventy six, will forever be remembered as the England World Cup winner described as 'ten years ahead of his time' by his manager, Sir Alf Ramsey. As immaculate off the pitch as he was on it, Peters was the thinking man's midfielder and a trailblazer for the modern goalscoring midfield players who populate the Premier League today. Perhaps 'fifty years ahead of his time' might have been closer to the truth. He scored England's second goal in the four-two win over West Germany in the World Cup final - but this was just one part of a career that brought club successes in domestic and European football to set alongside that day in the glorious sunshine at Wembley in July 1966. Plaistow-born Peters, whose father was a lighterman on the River Thames, was a product of the West Hamsters United academy, a hothouse of forward thinking led by players such as Malcolm Allison and Noel Cantwell and put into practice by managers Ted Fenton and, most notably, Ron Greenwood. Tall, lean and elegant, Peters was the perfect pupil for Greenwood's desire to bring intelligence and tactical awareness to the game, developing alongside those other England World Cup heroes captain Bobby Moore and hat-trick hero Sir Geoff Hurst - Hamsters fans still boast about how West Ham won the World Cup. He had the natural gifts and awareness that allowed him to act like a sponge for Greenwood's progressive techniques, easily absorbing his manager's instructions and carrying them out with authority. Peters, like another West Ham legend of later years, Sir Trevor Brooking, exerted his influence through speed of thought and natural ability as opposed to physical presence. He became known as 'The Ghost' for his ability to arrive undetected among heavy traffic in the penalty area to score. He made his debut on Good Friday 1962 in a four-one win against Cardiff City and his first goal came in a six-one victory at Manchester City the following September. It was the start of a career that would bring him one hundred goals in three hundred and sixty games for West Ham as he settled into a pattern of performance and goalscoring that would define his style. Greenwood's team was regarded as talented but defensively fragile alongside the fierce competition offered by the likes of The Scum, Everton, Liverpool, Dirty Leeds, The Arse and Stottingtot Hotshots, but they still enjoyed moments of glory. Amid that success there was disappointment for Peters, who was not included in the West Ham side that won the FA Cup final against Preston Both Ends in 1964, victory being secured by Ronnie Boyce's last-minute winner. There was to be consolation, of sorts, for Peters a year later when he was a key component of the team which won the European Cup Winners' Cup against Turn-Und Sportverein München 1860 at Wembley, courtesy of two goals from Alan Sealey. Peters continued to be one of the most significant members of a West Hamsters team that was pleasing on the eye, operating with characteristic stealth and intelligence, but was short on success and his future glories were to come elsewhere.
In the modern parlance, Peters was a 'bolter' in Sir Alf Ramsey's plans for the 1966 World Cup - the player who came up on the rails to make his case for inclusion close to the tournament. It proved to be an inspired choice by Ramsey as Peters helped him fulfil his much-derided prophecy that England would indeed lift The Jules Rimet Trophy on home soil. Peters only made his England debut on 4 May 1966 in a two-nil win over Yugoslavia at Wembley, scoring the first of his twenty goals for his country on his second appearance against Finland in Helsinki on 26 June. He did not actually figure in England's line-up at the start of the World Cup campaign, missing the opening group game against Uruguay at Wembley. Peters started the second match against Mexico and was then a permanent fixture under Ramsey. Peters helped Ramsey implement a system known as the wingless wonders after Liverpool's Ian Callaghan, Southampton's Terry Paine and The Scum's John Connelly had all appeared during the group phase but were left out of the knockout games as England's system reaped the ultimate reward. He once said: 'I wasn't a winger. Alan Ball and I were midfield players that broke wide. We had to get back and defend. We worked hard to defend when we played against a midfield player opposite us and then would break to support attacks. I wasn't quick but I could run and run and run, so I would run into the box, see a space, run into there. If the ball didn't come in you'd get out again, run in and then would come in and bang - goal.' Peters and Ball - both in their early twenties - were the engine-room of the midfield, allowing Bobby Charlton more time on the ball - a key part of Ramsey's plan. It was Peters' cross from the left flank that enabled Hurst to head home England's winner in the tempestuous quarter-final against Argentina at Wembley, a game remembered for the sending-off of the visitors' captain Antonio Rattin and Ramsey tearing George Cohen's shirt away from an opponent as they tried to exchange them at the final whistle. At the age of twenty two, Peters was to take his place in England's sporting hall of fame as he scored the sort of goal that became his trademark in the final against West Germany, pouncing in the penalty box to put England two-one ahead.
Hurst recalled: 'When you look at the film of Martin after his goal in the final you can see him flicking his fingers out. He said the exhilaration was like an electric current running through his hands. He was a fantastic player, a natural footballer who was totally and utterly devoted to the game.' It was the high watermark of his England career and future World Cups would provide bitter disappointment for both Peters and Ramsey, the manager whose aloof public profile was at odds with the complete devotion he inspired in his players. Peters, now at Spurs, was still central to Ramsey's plans when an England team many still argue was actually better than the 1966 World Cup winners in terms of pure talent, headed to Mexico four years later. Most of the great names remained though Nobby Stiles had been replaced as the midfield enforcer by Spurs captain Alan Mullery, Everton pair Brian Labone and Keith Newton replaced Jack Charlton and Cohen, while Manchester City's Francis Lee came in for Roger Hunt. And, when Peters put England two-nil up in the now infamous quarter-final against West Germany in León with one of those familiar far-post arrivals on the end of Newton's right-wing cross, Ramsey looked on course for more success. Instead, with the outstanding Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Bonetti having a rare off day as a late replacement after Gordon Banks was taken ill and Ramsey's substitution of Bobby Charlton with Colin Bell backfiring, West Germany fought back to win three-two in extra time. It was the end of that golden England era. Peters was Ramsey's captain, with Moore replaced by Norman Hunter, on one of the darkest nights in England's football history - 17 October 1973 and the World Cup qualifier against Poland at Wembley that they needed to win to qualify for the 1974 finals in West Germany. It was a night that belonged to Poland goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski, labelled 'a clown' by Brian Clough, as he performed heroics and his goal led a charmed life. England could only draw the game one-one. It was the end of Ramsey and Peters followed not long after. He won his final cap in May 1974 in the two-nil defeat by Scotland at Hampden Park, Joe Mercer having taken over as caretaker manager from Ramsey. Peters may have had an inauspicious end to a magnificent England career but his record of sixty seven caps, twenty goal goals and a World Cup win secures his place in history.
Peters cut his ties with West Hamsters in March 1970, becoming Britain's first two hundred thousand knicker player when he signed for Spurs, although a portion of the fee was taken up with Jimmy Greaves making the reverse journey to Upton Park. Martin was at his peak at twenty six, figuring in a side with a more ruthless edge under manager Bill Nicholson and alongside players of the calibre of Mullery, Pat Jennings, Mike England, Martin Chivers, Steve Perryman and Alan Gilzean. Peters was able to add his elegant flourishes and natural eye for a goal to these talents and he went on to further success at White Hart Lane. He scored on his debut in a two-one win against Coventry City and finally won domestic honours when Spurs beat Aston Villains in the 1971 League Cup final at Wembley. Peters was captain when Spurs repeated the feat two years later against Norwich City. Spurs also won the UEFA Cup in 1972 when Wolverhampton Wanderings were beaten in an all-English final, but they tasted defeat in the same competition's final two years later when they lost to a crack Feyenoord side in a two-legged tie which was overshadowed by crowd violence. He left for Norwich City in a fifty thousand quid deal in March 1975, having scored seventy six goals in two hundred and sixty appearances for Spurs.
Even in his latter years, Peters was still able to show the old mastery and enjoyed something of an Indian summer at Carrow Road, winning the club's player of the year award in 1976 and 1977. In 2002 he was made an inaugural member of Norwich City's Hall Of Fame. In 1978, while still at Norwich, Peters was made an MBE for services to football. He is still regarded as one of the finest players to represent The Canaries, scoring forty four goals in two hundred and six league appearances before joining Sheffield United as player-coach in July 1980. Peters was Harry Haslam's designated successor as Sheffield United manager but only had a brief and unhappy spell in charge for sixteen games between January and May 1981 when The Blades were relegated to the old Fourth Division. In 1982-83 he played in defence for non-league Gorleston in the Eastern Counties League, after which he retired from playing and joined Hurst in forming an insurance-selling business. For a period Peters was also on the board of directors at Tottenham and he later took on hospitality roles both at Spurs and West Ham.
Peters made a career total of eight hundred and eighty career appearances in all competitions, scoring two hundred and twenty goals and was inducted into English football's Hall Of Fame in 2006, confirming his status as one of the towering figures of the post-war football generation. His autobiography, The Ghost Of 66, was published in 2006. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen - whom he married in 1964 after they met at a bowling alley in Dagenham - and by their children, Leeann and Grant.
Like the critic Clive James - who died on the same day, 27 November - Jonathan Miller spent his life dividing opinions. Miller's talents were manifold, his natural gifts bewildering in their profusion. He was a humorist, an author, a director of films, TV programmes, plays and operas. He was a photographer, a sculptor, an all-purpose intellectual and accomplished broadcaster. He could be witty, charming and life-enhancing, especially when he was the centre of attention, as he usually was. Yet Sir Jonathan - as he became - was also famously cantankerous and grumpy and, on occasions, devastatingly rude. He claimed his chronic dissatisfaction stemmed from an early decision to make his career in the world of the arts and entertainment, rather than science and medicine. Others thought it had something to do with attention-seeking on the part of a very clever person deprived of affection during his childhood. Born in St John's Wood, Miller was educated at St Paul's school, where the neurologist Oliver Sacks and the bibliophile Eric Korn were contemporaries and, thereafter, lifelong friends and St John's College, Cambridge. His father, Emanuel Miller, was a child psychologist and psychiatrist and his mother, Betty, a popular novelist and biographer of the poet Robert Browning. The cultured milieu of Miller's North London childhood is hinted at by the fact that Stevie Smith once wrote a satirical piece about his family, including a thinly-disguised and uncomplimentary version of Miller, aged nine, in her short story Beside The Seaside: A Holiday With Children (1949). At St Paul's he was, reputedly, talkative and entertaining. At Cambridge, he read medicine. He married Rachel Collet, a contemporary at university and, later, a general practitioner, in 1956. They bought a house in Gloucester Crescent, Camden Town, in 1960 and became indelibly associated with such neighbours as the playwrite Michael Frayn, George Melly and his old friend Alan Bennett - who lived directly opposite - as 'the trendy literati of NW1.' He might have become a leading neurologist were it not for the extraordinary success of the groundbreaking satirical revue, Beyond the Fringe. With his fellow Oxbridge comedians Bennett, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, he changed the face of British entertainment. This was the start not just of the satire boom, but also the postwar reaction to political stuffiness, religious hypocrisy and cultural stasis. There had been nothing like it on the stage before, certainly no Prime Minister had been so openly derided before as was Harold Macmillan and the gifted quartet became the toast of the town. It premiered at the 1960 Edinburgh Festival and brought a kind of clever undergraduate humour to a much wider audience. It transferred to the West End and then to Broadway.
Miller had just qualified as a doctor and taken leave from his job to travel to Edinburgh. The show was, of course, a runaway success and it was instantly apparent that he faced a choice. He found performing intoxicating and addictive. He later described that first Edinburgh run as 'a cocaine-like snort of celebrity and approval.' But, in the words of his biographer Kate Bassett: 'He could not both walk the wards and tread the boards.' In the event, he signed up for the show's West End run and put his medical career on hold. In later life, he often claimed he regretted the decision. Going into show business was like 'stepping off the edge of a diving board into this murky swimming pool where my moral fibre rotted irreversibly. I still fiercely regret the distraction. I think that was a bad thing I did.' By 1965, he was working in television - as the editor and presenter of the BBC's arts programme, Monitor. The following year, he directed a highly controversial television version of Alice In Wonderland shown over Christmas on the BBC. It was rather like a 1960s acid trip with John Gielgud as The Mock Turtle, Bennett and Cook (as The Doormouse and The Mad Hatter respectively) and a Ravi Shankar soundtrack. The programme was critically lauded but also denounced in the House of Commons as a perversion unfit for children and added to Miller's burgeoning reputation for being excessively trendy and pretentious.
In 1968 he directed the well-remembered Omnibus episode Whistle & I'll Come To You - an adaptation of the MR James ghost story starring Michael Hordern after which Miller began to forge a reputation in the theatre. His 1970 production of The Merchant Of Venice starred Laurence Olivier. The grand old man of British theatre wanted to play Shylock as a traditional Jewish stereotype - complete with false nose and teeth. Miller urged him to throw away the props and play the part as a Nineteenth Century businessman who happened not to be a gentile. It reflected Miller's own approach to his background as a non-practising non-believer: 'Not really a Jew... Jew-ish,' to quote a line from Beyond The Fringe. From 1973 to 1975, he was an associate director of The National Theatre, which was then run by Olivier. But when Olivier retired, the top job went to Peter Hall. The two men fell out. Miller dismissed Hall as 'a safari-suited bureaucrat.' Hall retaliated, describing Miller as both a genius and a fool. 'Jonathan did very unsuccessful work,' he said. And there's nothing to breed discontent like failure.' In 1980, he joined the BBC's then-troubled project to televise all of Shakespeare's plays. He directed six of them, including The Taming Of The Shrew with John Cleese and Othello with Anthony Hopkins. But the yearning to return to medicine stayed with him. In 1978, he presented an acclaimed BBC series about the history of medicine and anatomy, The Body In Question. 'And so, over millions of years,' runs a typical line from the script, 'the head has developed as a far-seeing helmsman which guides and controls the propulsive engine of the rear end.' It was clear that he still regretted that decision not to become a doctor. 'There are things about the sciences which are difficult to do,' he said on Desert Island Discs in 2005. 'You have to wrap a wet towel round your head to think out some of the things. It sounds like an idle and arrogant boast - most of the things I've done in the arts I can do with my right hand tied behind my back.'
He did eventually returning to medicine full-time, spending two years at McMaster University in Canada and as a research fellow in neuropsychology at Sussex University. But it didn't last. Cutting-edge science, as he acknowledged, was beyond him: he'd been away too long. And it turned out that he craved the limelight after all. He returned to run the Old Vic for a year, to his role as a kind of public intellectual and to a life of writing, broadcasting and directing - especially operas. He had staged his first opera, Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, for Kent Opera in 1974, despite being unable to read music. Over the next four decades, more than fifty further productions followed at opera houses around the world. At one point, he was working on six international productions simultaneously. Several of his productions were so successful they were repeatedly revived. His Mafia-style production for ENO of Verdi's Rigoletto, updated to New York in the 1950s, remains in the repertoire. His production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado was equally successful, although he claimed to hold the writers in contempt. 'Boring self-satisfied drivel,' he called their work. No better, he claimed, than 'UKiP set to music.' The critics didn't always like his work - and Miller often displayed a thin skin. But that didn't stop him dishing it out to those he didn't like. Opera singers of the old school (people assumed he had in mind the likes of Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti) were derided as 'Jurassic performers', who arrived at rehearsal 'with shreds of primeval vegetation hanging from their jaws.' Britain under Margaret Thatcher was described as 'an ugly, racist, rancorous place ... a mean, peevish little country ... with its acid rain of criticism and condescension.' He could be personally kind and thoughtful, but also monumentally tactless. The Royal Opera House, which commissioned several of his productions, was 'a kind of wife kennel for rich men.' A large part of the audience for his work he described as 'disgusting old opera queens' - this from a man who had been a vice-chairman of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. He continued to present television series - on language, madness and atheism - though the last was a term he objected to. 'I never use the word atheist of myself,' he said. 'It's scarcely worth having a name for. I don't have a name for not believing in pixies.' Miller was a very funny man but his versatility made him a figure of fun. He was also a polymath, a dangerous word, with its overtones of 'too clever by half' and dusty, book-bound isolation. It is rumoured that Jeremy, The Nowhere Man in The Be-Atles' animated movie Yellow Submarine who is brilliant at everything but has no friends was based on Miller. But he was no snob. He loved low comedy and the Carry On movies. It was his fate, however, to be branded a 'pseud' in Private Eye - owned, of course, by his former Beyond The Fringe colleague Peter Cook; he became, in those pages, a cartoon character, Doctor Jonathan, a preposterous figure holding forth in Camden on Jung, Freud, Shakespeare, Schiller and schadenfreude. The fact that Susan Sontag, in some ways his opposite number in New York, branded him as 'one of the most valuable people in the United Kingdom' did not help matters. In later life, he became increasingly curmudgeonly. A newspaper profile described him as 'famously, noisily, angrily fed-up.' He complained that he had always felt undervalued in Britain, that he was no longer being offered work, that he was assumed to be dead and that he was giving up directing opera. He was awarded him a CBE in 1983 and a knighthood in 2002. He never carried out his threat to leave the country, turning to making sculptures out of scrap metal instead. His various publications include McLuhan (1971), a demolition job on the medium is the message guru, The Body In Question (1978), Subsequent Performances (1986), a superbly argued narrative about the afterlife of plays and their realisation in new cultural circumstances and an enjoyable edition of essays, The Don Giovanni Book (1990). Erudite and clever, witty and paradoxical, Jonathan Miller was a born performer, a brilliant talker and a first-rate director. He might have been 'too clever by half' but the world is a less intelligent place without him in it. He is survived by Rachel and their children, Tom, William and Kate.
The writer Donald Tosh has died at the age of eighty four. Donald was the last surviving member of the writing team from Doctor Who's William Hartnell era. He served as script editor for nine months, writing (uncredited) much of the well-remembered 1966 story The Massacre Of St Bartholomew's Eve, reworking the original script supplied by John Lucarotti. Later in the year, Donald also rewrote much of the script of Brian Hayles' story The Celestial Toymaker. Donald had a long career in British Television. He was working at Granada in Manchester when he was part of the drama team asked to commission a new twice-weekly series to compete with Emergency Ward Ten, then the most popular continuing drama on British TV. Their solution was a new project initially to be called Florizel Street, created by Tony Warren. This later changed its name to Coronation Street. In the early 1960's Donald moved to the BBC, working for Donald Wilson, the then Head of Serials. Against his better judgement, he was asked to script edit the popular soap Compact. 'A twice-weekly serial! It was the one thing I loathed and wanted nothing to do with,' he recalled. 'However, I did it for eighteen months and learned a great deal about script-writing. Eventually, I went back to Donald and he told me that there were a few things he'd be quite happy to move me to. One was another twice-weekly serial and I said, "no way" and then he suggested Doctor Who and also told me that John Wiles was going to take over as producer from Verity Lambert and I said, yes, I'd like to work on Doctor Who, as I knew Johnnie, we got on very well and I had a huge respect for his work.' He joined the show in the summer of 1965, staying until the spring of 1966 and overseeing the stories The Time Meddler, Galaxy Four, Mission To The Unknown, The Myth Makers, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Massacre Of St Bartholomew's Eve and The Celestial Toymaker. While some scripts needed very little work, most needed major rewrites. His most accomplished work was probably for The Massacre, set in the French court of 1572. The script had been supplied by Lucarotti, but on reading it Tosh realised it would need to be completely rewritten. 'John sent in a script and he hadn’t had any time to do his research, which was very unlike him. He had missed the whole point of the story and everything else that was going in. It's a period I know quite a bit about, so I had to go away and rewrite it from page one. Bill Hartnell was a good actor and I wanted to give him something different to do. I gave Bill a doppelganger story where I got him to play the Abbot Of Amboise, not just The Doctor. He had great fun doing it, as he wasn't having to learn all the usual scientific lines, as he had to do as the old man. As a result of that, when he came back to playing The Doctor, his performance had really improved. I thought it worked brilliantly and it's one I'm still very proud of. It's such a shame that the BBC no longer have it.' Tosh left the show in March 1966 after an argument over the scripts for The Celestial Toymaker, which had been further rewritten whilst he was on holiday. He told The Celestial Toyroom fanzine, that he did regret leaving the series as quickly as he did. 'I really always felt that I should have stayed on as story editor until after The Gunslingers [sic], until after Donald Cotton was settled, but when I spoke to the new producer, Innes Lloyd, it became very clear to me that his idea of what Doctor Who should be and my idea of what Doctor Who should be were poles apart. So there was really no point in me trying to stay on. I could have done, but I suspect it would have lead to untold battles in the production office, which is very bad for any programme.' After Doctor Who, Donald worked on shows such as Sherlock Holmes, Mystery Hall and Ryan International as well as scripting the 1967 Thirty Minute Theatre play Happiness Is E-Shaped, but he left the television industry in the 1970's. He worked for a time for English Heritage and became Head Custodian of Sherborne Old Castle in Dorset.
Another member of the extended Doctor Who family, the actress Wendy Williams has died at the age of eighty four. Wendy played Vira in the highly acclaimed 1975 story The Ark In Space. Her performance as the revived human, struggling to adjust to the reality of the Wirrn invasion, was a tour de force, developing a real chemistry with the newly regenerated Doctor, played by yer actual Tom Baker. Annette Wendy Rickman Williams was born in Cheam in Surrey in 1934. Her first television appearance was in the 1954 play A Party For Christmas. Over the next forty years, she became a regular on British Television, appearing in many popular series. Her first main role was as Lady Lizzie Eustace in the 1959 series The Eustace Diamonds. She played Frances Graham in Knight Errant Limited and Margaret Hale in North & South. Roles followed in The Further Adventures Of The Musketeers, The Marriage Lines, No Hiding Place, Danger Man, Thirty-Minute Theatre, The Regiment, Jack The Ripper, Crossroads, Z-Cars, Dominic, When The Boat Comes In, The Black Velvet Gown, Chain (with a young Peter Capaldi), The District Nurse, Angels, The Life & Times Of David Lloyd George, Butterflies, The Many Wives Of Patrick, Leap In The Dark and Sutherland's Law. In 1976 she played Barbara in the Terry Nation series Survivors and later appeared in Poldark as Lady Basset. In 1981 she joined the cast of the acclaimed World War II drama Tenko as Vicky Armstrong. The following year she played Lady Brandon in the Barry Letts production of Beau Geste. Wendy was married to Doctor Who director Hugh David until his death in 1987. She subsequently married Michael Winser who survives her.
That fine comedy actor Tony Britton has died aged ninety five. His daughter, the TV presenter Fern Britton, announced on Twitter that he had died early on Sunday morning. 'Great actor, director and charmer,' she wrote. 'May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.' Britton was best known for starring in sitcom and Don't Wait Up alongside Nigel Havers in the 1980s, as well as many British films including The Day Of The Jackal. He also appeared in Robin's Nest alongside Richard O'Sullivan and Tessa Wyatt and in the films Operation Amsterdam and Sunday Bloody Sunday. In 1975 he won the Broadcasting Press Guild's best actor award for his role in The Nearly Man. Britton was born in a room above the Trocadero pub in Temple Street, Birmingham, the son of Doris Marguerite and Edward Leslie Britton. He attended Edgbaston Collegiate School and Thornbury Grammar School in Gloucestershire. During the Second World War he served in the army and he also worked for an estate agents and in an aircraft factory. Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in 1973, Britton said he did not come from a theatrical background. 'I believe one of my many aunts had a good voice but she never used it professionally,' he said. Britton added: 'Ever since I was old enough to think, I've always wanted to be an actor. I couldn't tell you why, it was just there.' He joined an amateur dramatics group in Weston-super-Mare and then turned professional, appearing on stage at the Old Vic and with the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as the role of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady for two-and-a-half years as part of a national tour. On screen his CV included appearances in Holby City, The Royal, My Dad's The Prime Minister, Lord Alfred Grendall, Don't Tell Father, Agatha, Scorpion Tales, Three Piece Suite, Raffles, Dame Of Sark, Play For Today, ...And Mother Makes Five, Marked Personal, Kate, Father, Dear Father, Mister Forbush & The Penguins, There's A Girl In My Soup, The Root of All Evil?, Special Branch, The Wednesday Play, The Saint, Miss Adventure, Melissa, The Magical World Of Disney, Doctor Syn, Alias The Scarecrow, Moonstrike, It Happened Like This, The Six Proud Walkers, Comedy Playhouse, Armchair Theatre, Suspect, The Rough & The Smooth, The School For Scandal, Sunday-Night Theatre, Behind The Mask, The Other Man, Loser Takes All, The Man Who Stroked Cats, The Dashing White Sergeant, 1066 & All That, Back To Methuselah and Salute The Toff. In September 2013 Sir Jonathan Miller directed a Gala Performance of William Shakespeare's King Lear at the Old Vic in London. Britton played the Earl of Gloucester. Britton and his first wife Ruth Hawkins had two children, the scriptwriter Cherry Britton and the TV presenter Fern Britton. Britton's second wife was the Danish sculptor and member of the wartime Danish resistance Eva Castle Skytte Birkfeldt. They had one son, the actor Jasper Britton.
Tough and tender marked the acting style of Nicky Henson, who has died after a long illness aged seventy four. Energetic and ebullient were other critical adjectives made about a career of more than five decades in revue, musicals, with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company and on television and in films by Roy Boulting (There's A Girl in My Soup), Mike Leigh (Vera Drake) and George Clooney (Syriana). The range and variety of Nicky's work was astonishing and seems even more so after taking into account the cancer and serial medical procedures he endured over the last twenty years of his life. It was the director Frank Dunlop who really unleashed Nicky's talent when he founded the Young Vic in 1970 and picked Henson as a cornerstone actor - along with Jim Dale, Denise Coffey and Gary Bond -in a project revitalising classics for a new audience. Between 1970 and 1973, Henson played in Molière, Goldsmith, Shakespeare and Tom Stoppard, scoring particularly as Pozzo in Waiting For Godot, Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet and Jimmy Porter in Look Back In Anger. He was also the sado-masochistic housemaid Solange in Jean Genet's The Maids. In 1973-74 he appeared in Peter Handke's enigmatic A Ride Across Lake Constance at the Hampstead Theatre and the Mayfair with Alan Howard, Nicola Pagett and Gayle Hunnicutt; Laertes, Bottom and Petruchio at the Open Air theatre, Regent's Park and Buttons to Twiggy's Cinderella at the London Casino. On television he starred as a rumbustious Balzac in a three-part study of the novelist's love life - Prometheus: The Life Of Balzac - with a top cast including Helen Ryan, Rosemary McHale and Elizabeth Spriggs.
Born in London, Nicky was the son of the music hall star and producer Leslie Henson and his third wife, Billie Collins. He was educated at St Bede's prep school, Eastbourne and Charterhouse, before training as a stage manager at RADA. Also a musician, he formed, and played guitar in a pop group called The Wombats (along with his friend Ian Ogilvy) and wrote songs for Cliff Richard & The Shadows. In 1979, during an episode of This Is Your Life focusing on Ogilvy, Nicky claimed that one night after a show they had been approached by a man asking if they had a manager. He said that he managed a small, upcoming stable of popular beat combos and that one of them was starting to make a bit of a name for themselves. Ogilvy and Henson told him that, no, they were going to be actors and the rock and roll lark was just a bit of a hobby. Perhaps inevitably, Nicky claimed, the man was Brian Epstein! Nicky made his West End debut in a revue, All Square (1963), at The Vaudeville, with Beryl Reid, Naunton Wayne and Julian Holloway. Before joining the Young Vic he was modestly established in West End musical theatre. He played Mordred in Lerner and Loewe's Camelot at Drury Lane (1964), with Laurence Harvey and Elizabeth Larner; joined other young hopefuls Francesca Annis and Bill Kenwright in Wolf Mankowitz and John Barry's Passion Flower Hotel at The Prince of Wales (1965); supported Harry Secombe, Thora Hird and Russ Conway in London Laughs at The Palladium (1966) and spent eighteen months in the Martin Starkie/Nevill Coghill musical version of Canterbury Tales (1968) at The Phoenix with Jessie Evans and Wilfrid Brambell. Henson's big number was 'I Have A Noble Cock' ('he crows at break of day'). His early films included the highly regarded horror movie Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General (1968), a graphic tale of torture and persecution in the civil war, starring Vincent Price and Nicky's former bandmate Ogilvy, There's A Girl in My Soup, starring Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn (Henson was Goldie's rock musician boyfriend) and The Bawdy Adventures Of Tom Jones (1976), Henson succeeding Albert Finney as the athletic lothario in the Tony Richardson version, Henson's fellow actors including, Joan Collins, Terry-Thomas, and Trevor Howard. He was brilliant as Tom, the rebellious (and, subsequently undead) leader of biker's gang in Don Sharp's downright peculiar 1973 cult movie Psychomania opposite George Sanders, Beryl Reid and Robert Hardy.
After the Young Vic and a 1977 tour - and season at the Savoy - with Shaw's Man & Superman for the RSC, co-starring Richard Pasco and Susan Hampshire, Henson joined Peter Hall's National on the South Bank from 1978 to 1980, playing in Chekhov, Edward Bond (The Woman), Middleton and Rowley's A Fair Quarrel and two Restoration classics directed by Peter Wood, The Double Dealer and The Provok'd Wife. He also squeezed in a reunion with Dunlop for a West End season in the Ben Travers farce Rookery Nook, at Her Majesty's (1979). This was a play first produced by Nicky's father with Tom Walls in the Aldwych farce series in 1926. His second great farce triumph came in Michael Frayn's Noises Off (1982) as the ageing juvenile lead Roger Templemain, who can only articulate semi-sensibly while spouting the lines 'in character' as the hapless Gary Lejeune. He returned to the RSC for the 1985 and 1986 seasons and gave two fantastic performances as Touchstone in As You Like It, a role usually immune to comic invention and as the frenetic Frank Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor, searching a palpably uninhabited laundry basket for his cuckolder and adopting a ludicrous disguise as a moustachioed little Hitler in a yellow bicycle plastic mac. In the second series of Fawlty Towers (1979), Henson had played a fruity medallion man whom Basil suspects of smuggling a woman into his room. He had. She was his aged mother. He once predicted - with uncanny accuracy given a few less imaginative tabloid obituaries following his death - that despite his fifty years of professional acting, his tombstone would probably read 'Here lies Nicky Henson – he was in one episode of Fawlty Towers!' In the subsequent decade, his TV work embraced several mini-series: The Happy Apple (1983), scripted by Keith Waterhouse from a Jack Pulman stage play set in a failing advertisement agency; Thin Air (1988), in which a radio reporter uncovers local corruption and Kingsley Amis's The Green Man (1990), Finney leading a cast including Henson, Linda Marlowe, Josie Lawrence and Michael Grandage. In the 1990s, he appeared as Vershinin in Frank McGuinness's version of Three Sisters with the Cusack sisters and their father, Cyril, at the Royal Court; in Ronald Harwood's Reflected Glory with Finney at the Vaudeville and on a bill of Frayn playlets and sketches, Alarms & Excursions, at The Gielgud. His final stage role came as the suave vice-chancellor and lead gymnast, Archie, in David Leveaux's National Theatre revival of Stoppard's Jumpers (with Simon Russell Beale and Essie Davis) on its transfer to The Piccadilly in 2003. By then he was seriously ill in sustained bursts, but still he managed to make a Shakespeare TV film, A Waste Of Shame (2005), with a script by William Boyd that weighed the mystery of the sonnets and he joined the cast of EastEnders as Jack Edwards in 2006, threatening the putative husband of his daughter ('I will hunt you down. With dogs. On horseback.') He even popped up, twice, in Downton Abbey (2010 and 2013) as a washed-up music hall artiste, partner in a long-ago double act with Jim Carter's Carson. In 2005 the RSC had invited him back to play Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, but he had to quit the role after just one public preview. In 2017 he directed John Cleese's Bang Bang, an adaptation of Feydeau, with Oliver Cotton playing the Cleese role at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester. His last film credits were in The Holly Kane Experiment (2017), a spooky thriller in which he played the sinister nemesis of an obsessive psychologist (Kirsty Averton) and in a low-budget crime thriller, Tango One (2018). His CV also included appearances in The Avengers (his screen debut as an uncredited extra in an episode in 1961), The Human Jungle, The Frost Report, Vacant Lot, The Jokers, Doctor In Clover, Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, Thirty Is A Dangerous Age, Cynthia, Mosquito Squadron, All Coppers Are ..., Shirley's World, Arthur Of The Britons, Anyone For Sex?, Penny Gold, Vampira, The Foundation, That's The Way The Money Goes, Minder, Seagull Island, Whoops Apocalypse, Tropical Moon Over Dorking, Home To Roost, Inspector Morse, Boon, Lovejoy, The Upper Hand, Between The Lines, Shine On Harvey Moon, Number One Of The Secret Service, Pie In The Sky, All Quiet On The Preston Front, A Touch Of Frost, Heartbeat, Swiss Toni, Bad Girls, Midsomer Murders, The Bill, Casualty, Grantchester and Doctors. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. Surgeons removed tumours from around his spleen, but a routine check-up in 2006 showed that he had other tumours and it would be dangerous to remove them. Nicky was put on a regimen of chemotherapy and worked regularly to raise funds for cancer charities, especially Marie Curie Cancer Care. In 1968 Nicky married Una Stubbs. After they divorced in 1975. He was in a relationship for five years with Susan Hampshire. In 1982 he met and married Marguerite Porter, a principal dancer with The Royal Ballet. She sustained him through his illness and survives him, along with their son, Keaton, the two sons from his first marriage, Christian and Joe and four grandchildren. All three sons are musicians and composers. His nephew is Countryfile presenter Adam Henson.