Saturday, September 26, 2020

Now I See The Mystery Of Your Loneliness

Welcome you are, dear blog readers, to the latest From The North bloggerisationisms update. And we kick-off with some, for a change, actual proper good news. Trust me, dear blog reader, Keith Telly Topping was every single bit as surprised as you, undoubtedly, are at this happenstance. Anyway, the Digital Spy website has reported that Doctor Who is 'on course to begin filming for the first time since the pandemic.' Following, unconfirmed, reports - in several spectacularly uninformed tabloids - that Doctor Who 'may' be off-air until early 2022 (fantastically imprecise word 'may' don't you think?), Digital Spy claims that it has 'learned' the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama's production team are 'still planning to begin filming this year as [originally] planned.' Should that schedule fall into place, alleged 'insiders' allegedly remain allegedly 'hopeful' that the thirteenth series will be screened in Autumn 2021. Allegedly. This latest development is, Digital Spy suggest, 'a hugely positive sign, following showrunner Chris Chibnall revealing in Doctor Who Magazine back in May that his team were hoping filming could happen later in the year.' Doctor Who will be back on screens before then, of course as Jodie, yer actual Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill filmed a festive special, Revolution Of The Daleks before the nasty pandemic struck.
Jodie Whittaker, meanwhile, will face 'some fraught family history' when the popular genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? returns to BBC1 for a four-part series in October. Joining Jodie in the new series will be David Walliams, Ruth Jones and Silent Witness actress Liz Carr. So, at least two of those episodes should be well-worth avoiding like the plague. Jodie, according to the Radio Times, 'learns the poignant reality behind a family myth surrounding her great uncle's sacrifice in World War One, while unearthing some uncomfortable truths about her great-great grandfather in Yorkshire.' One of her predecessors in the TARDIS, yer actual national heartthrob David Tennant, previously appeared in Who Do You Think You Are? in 2006. John Hurt also featured in the series the following year. 
HBO Max will premiere a West Wing 'special' in aid of When We All Vote on 15 October. The production reunites most of the original cast of the greatest TV show in the history of the medium that doesn't have the words 'Doctor' and 'Who' in the title and the creative team of The West Wing for a theatrical stage presentation of the third-series episode Hartsfield's Landing - a particular favourite of this blogger. 'This staged reading is currently being filmed at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, following strict Covid safety protocols,' according to the Theatre Media website. Rob Lowe, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and Martin Sheen reprise their roles, with further casting to be announced (another actor will, obviously, need to take the place of the late John Spencer). 'It will feature new material written by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin and will be staged by the show's long-time director, Thomas Schlamme.' Additionally, A West Wing Special To Benefit When We All Vote will include act breaks with guest appearances from When We All Vote co-chair Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Composer WG Snuffy Walden will perfom his iconic West Wing theme on guitar, with The Avett Brothers closing the show with a performance. In the 2002 episode Hartsfield's Landing, President Bartlett plays a game of chess with Sam and Toby while simultaneously dealing with a foreign policy showdown with China. At the same time, Josh nervously waits the erection results in the small titular New Hampshire town's presidential primary, which is traditionallyknown for accurately predicting the state's winner.
Things we learned from television during the last fortnight. Number one: This week saw the welcome return for a new series of From The North favourite Only Connect and it was jolly gratifying to note that - despite months of lockdown and other general life-altering shenanigan-type affairs - this blogger retains his uncanny ability to get the answer to but one Only Connect question right in every episode before either of the teams do. And, as usual, it was the TV/movie-related one.
Things we learned from television during the last fortnight. Number two: Someone in the Match Of The Day graphics department seemingly doesn't know how to spell 'Newcastle'.
Things we learned from television during the last fortnight. Number three: Watching one of this week's episodes of Government Advice From A Dying Planet, fronted by the Prime Minister his very self, a thought occurred to this blogger. And, the thought was this ...
There was some further jolly good news which arrived, hotfoot, at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House this week. Specifically, the forthcoming reissue - by those lovely people at Telos Publishing - of A Vault Of Horror: A Book Of Eighty Great (*And, Not So Great) British Horror Movies 1956-1974 - one of the few things with yer actual Keith Telly Topping's name on it that he is actually quite proud of having written. Out of print for a decade, Telos's Godlike and extremely awesome David Howe informs this blogger that a straight reprint of the 2004 book is now available for purchase once again from Telos's own website, from Amazon and, for From The North's Canadian dear blog reader, from Our American dear blog readers are, also, catered for, here. Please buy one, several or lots dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping has a bad back, several dozen illegitimate children and a significant takeaway habit to support. Thank you for allowing Keith Telly Topping into your homes. Plug ends.  
This news also prompts a new (and, to be fair, mercifully short) From The North semi-regular feature, Unintentionally Hilarious Rock And/Or Roll Moments In British Horror Movies (1956-1974). Number one: Gordon Hessler's - genuinely superb - Scream & Scream Again (Amicus, 1970) includes, just before the epic twenty-minute sequence in which the vampire Cool Keith (Michael Gothard) leads The Fuzz on car and foot chase through greenbelt Hertfordshire, another properly magical moment. In The Busted Pot(!) discothèque, under-rated Welsh pop-rockers Amen Corner perform two songs - 'Scream and Scream Again' and 'When We Make Love'. For the UK Columbia/RCA video release of the movie in 1989 - presumably for obscure copyright reasons - these were replaced on the soundtrack by some rather ghastly, anonymous and entirely inappropriate instrumental musak which sounded like someone was playing a Hammond Organ with their feet. The inclusion of which left the astonishing sight of poor little Andy Fairweather-Lowe mouthing away on the movie but no sound emerging from his gob. The 2002 MGM DVD, thankfully, restored the correct soundtrack.
Point of interest dear blog reader - besides, Keith Telly Topping believes he's correct in saying, one of only two movies to feature Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price (the only other one this blogger can think of is Pete Walker's House Of Long Shadows in 1983), Scream & Scream Again was, also, the only film, which Shel Talmy - legendary the producer of (deep breath) The Who, The Kinks, David Bowie, The Small Faces, Manfred Mann, The Easybeats, The Creation and, specific to Scream & Scream Again, Amen Corner - ever worked on as musical director. Tragically, between the time of filming (May and June 1969) and the movie's premiere in January the following year, the band - best known for 'Bend Me, Shape Me' and '(If Paradise Is) Half As Nice' - had only gone and split up, hadn't they?
Coming soon in this - as this blogger notes, mercifully very short - series, number two: Dracula AD 1972 narrowly failing to feature the movie debut of Rod Stewart.
Next, dear blog reader, the extremely welcome news that NASA has outlined plans to put the first woman on the Moon by 2024. A mere fifty five years after the first man went there. And, a mere fifty four years after Gerry Anderson did so. That certainly is one small step ...
Although, as this blogger's very excellent chum Rob Francis pointed out, when referring this blogger to a piece by some Middle Class hippy Communist of no cosequence in the Gruniad Morning Star, it is to be sincerely hoped that they have enough lady-spacesuits to go round.
Then, of course, there was the properly astonishing revelation of the possible discovery of life on Venus. Yeah, that'll be the Shanghorns, in all likelihood. So, a reminder to all astronauts; if you should ever encounter one never, under any circumstances, loan it your Perigosto Stick. Otherwise, all manner of discombobulation may occur.
So, dear blog reader, that whole 'getting ourselves back to something approaching normality vis-a-viz Covid-Nineteen' thing didn't last very long, did it? The entire North East, along with much else of the country it seems, is back into well-restricted malarkey. It's not, quite, full lockdown yet, of course it is important to stress that. As this blogger's chum Mark Wyman pointed out: 'These are unfortunate restrictions, sure, but hardly - as the lead story on the evening TV bulletin said - a "lockdown." If the authorities shut the gates to your apartment block and patrol outside, as in Wuhan when this all started, that's a lockdown. If you can still get table service and stay in pubs until 10pm, you might be restricted but you are not locked down.' Nevertheless, things aren't looking good and, being in the middle of a well-restricted area as this blogger is, it certainly feels a wee-bit 'lockdowny'.
As mentioned in a recent bloggerisationism update one of the books on the current Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House reading-list was Robert Harris's 'faction' novel Munich which was one of several volumes given to this blogger as a present by his rather superb pal, Malcolm Hunter during a recent meal in town. Well, yer actual has now finished it (the book, that is, not the meal, he finished that weeks ago) and, he is happy to report, he enjoyed it hugely. Good writer, Harris - not flowery or over-descriptive but he manages to tell a story with economy and skill. This blogger particularly enjoyed his clever usage of tenses, including the revelation of the ultimate future fates of the two central protagonists as almost throwaway lines in the middle of sentences which are set in the then-present (1938) tense. The only other novelist this blogger as seen who was able to do that sort of thing effectively was one of his literary heroines, the great Muriel Spark (she does in brilliantly half-a-dozen times in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie - which remains this blogger's favourite novel of Twentieth Century). Anyway, Munich is highly recommended if you're looking for something to fill those long and lonely hours of our, seemingly inevitable, forthcoming second lockdown, dear blog reader.
A stray conversation with one of his dear Facebook fiends earlier this week brought to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's mind the scariest advert for a soft drink ever to be inflicted upon the unsuspecting general public. To wit, Tango's legendary 1994 effort, part of their long-running 'You Know When You've Been Tango'd' campaign. Featuring the voices of Hugh Dennis (as Ralph), the late Ray Wilkins (as Tony) and Gil Scott-Heron. And, the most terrifying little old lady you ever did see in all the live-long day. 'Tony, hold ma hand!' 
Speaking of genuinely disturbing childhood memories, dear blog reader, forty eight years ago this very week saw the beginning of London 'Bob-A-Job Week.' And, two cheeky young Boy Scout scamps got a little publicity help - and were given the opportunity to engage in an early example of upskirting - from the divine Goddess-of-cool that was (and, indeed, still is) Caroline Munro. And the disturbing part of this image is, dear blog reader, that this looks, uncannily, like a recurring dream which this blogger had just about every night for most of the 1970s ...
Facebook also, and no obvious reason, reminded this blogger of a posting he made in 2011 (not 2010, in a - somewhat more understandable - 'it was ten years ago, today'-type malarkey. But, rather, a ninth year anniversary. What the actual flip?) Still, though, happy memories; those halcyon days, dear blog reader, when a photo of a simple double entendre shop-sign could provide us all with some momentary levity from the crushing oppression of existence. Fortunately, things are very different in 2020 ...
There are simply no words, dear blog reader - no bloody words what-so-bloomin'-ever - to convey just how much this blogger hates the new Facebook layout which has been forcibly rolled-out this week. Keith Telly Topping thinks that it is ugly and bland and, far more importantly, it's not particularly user friendly. And, it seems that he's not alone in his Goddamn annoyance. The thing this blogger dislikes most about the new layout is that at least one useful aspect of the old format doesn't seem to have been included in this hateful new version. The Timeline facility does not appear to be working. There's no drop-down list to provide access to older posts. So, say for example one wishes to access ones pages from June 2010, there doesn't appear to be any way of doing so other than to scroll down though ten years worth of stuff. This blogger has mentioned this to Facebook in 'feedback' messages (several times) and, typically, got no response - not that he was particularly expecting one. It really is so effing annoying when a format which was working perfectly well is changed, without bothering to ask users whether they actually wanted it to be changed or not. For, seemingly, no other reason than some glake in a suit somewhere wants to show off his (or her) go-faster-stripes formatting skills. This blogger notes from many and various Facebook fiends whinging about it on their own pages that the new Facebook layout appears to be about as popular as Covid-Nineteen. Google Blogger have just done something similar and it, too, is harsh, ugly and about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. And it has, seemingly, similarly dispensed with a couple of useful (and, much used) shortcuts without bothering to ask users whether they wanted to lose them or not. First World Problems, obviously dear blog reader, but some plank really needs a damned good, hard fisting for coming up with his fiasco without bothering to do any proper customer research to see whether such changes as a) wanted, b) necessary or c) an improvement on what we had already.
Thankfully, dear blog reader as a small postscript to all this crap - this blogger's very excellent Facebook fiend Kate provided this useful work-around which means that, for the moment at least, the Facebook changes can be reversed. Which is nice. 
The BBC News website posed a fascinating conundrum earlier this week, dear blog reader, in an article entitled: My Neighbours Are Breaking The [Covid] Rules, What Should I Say? Interesting question. Opinion appears to be somewhat divided on the matter, it would seem. The Home Secretary, for example, wants people to snitch up the guilty to Plod right good and proper like a filthy, stinkin' Copper's Narks. And then one imagines watch, amused, as they are hauled off to The Pokey in a Black Maria whilst swearing blood-curdling vengeance on those responsible for their sorry plight. Her boss the Prime Minister, on the other hand, suggests that, instead - since he's not a filthy, stinkin' grass - one should 'confront' those doing The Naughty ourselves. And, presumably, once we've been butted, geet hard, in the mush by some twenty stone right hard skinhead who doesn't appreciate having his right to barbeque questioned by the likes of us scum, we should seek immediate medical attention. Particularly if said contact between this individual's forehead and our nose is likely to have passed on Covid-Nineteen. So, as noted, opinion is divided.
For what it's worth, dear blog reader, for once - and if only on this matter - this blogger is with Bashing Boris all the jolly way on this particular score. You know what they say, thou shalt not suffer a Copper's Nark to live. It's in The Bible. Page three hundred and sixteen. Probably. 
Anyway, dear blog reader, on to far more important matters. This blogger really deserved this shredded beef in chilli and garlic.
And, this beef and king prawn curry. Really.
Then, there was the evening that this blogger had a right proper hankerin' for watching the cricket whilst eating some curry, boiled rice and chips. Because, he really deserved it.
The From The North Headline Of The Week award for this particular bloggerisationisms update period goes to the BBC News website's Woman Who Sawed Off Own Hand Found Guilty Of Fraud. In other news, police are also said to be investigating the curious case of Oleg Stumpy McNoLeg ...
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's passport expired in 2017 dear blog reader and he's had no reason to get a replacement since. He still hasn't, if truth be told - he's certainly not going to exotic foreign parts any time soon. But, being without a form of photo-ID can be a bit of a 'mare as this blogger has discovered to his cost on a couple of occasions when he's been asked to prove that he is Yer Actual Keith Telly Topping, Guv'nor Of The Gogglebox and has been quite unable to do so. Thus, with a bit of spare coin in hand from all the holiday pay he got on his final swag from work last month, this blogger decided to get his very self a replacement one. It must be said, the photo is a little bit more Stalag-Luft Fourteen than usual.
This blogger would definitely have preferred it if his second choice had been used instead.
Though probably not the 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' look of his third option. Cheer up, y'gloomy bugger. 
The temptation to run the actual passport photo through FaceApp (it's 'a thing' which all of the cool kids do, apparently) was, seemingly, too great for at least one of this blogger's excellent Facebook fiends. Which only goes to prove that this blogger's science-fiction twin sister is ... Diane Morgan (if she'd been on the cakes for a few months). Don't know about anyone else but, this blogger definitely would
Within a couple of hours of submitting the photo this blogger received an e-mail from the passport office saying that his application had been extremely accepted and they would be printing his new (blue) passport and sending it out to the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House 'in due course.' So, seemingly, they didn't take one look at the submitted photo and exclaim 'my God, we can't give him a passport, what will the rest of the world think of us?' And, sure enough, not long afterwards this blogger had acquired full legality once more. Interesting to note that the dot-gov-dot-uk website makes much of the fact that the passport office are, currently, working with a reduced staff due to The Plague and that the usually-advised six weeks for a renewal passport to be fully processed is likely, at the moment, to take somewhat longer. This one, from date of application to date of delivery, took just eighteen days. So, if you want to get a passport application in, dearblog reader, now is probably the time to do it. But, don't tell them this blogger told you this, okay?! 
Back to the current right-shite-state-of-affairs that are making life such a bloody chore and, just when you thought things couldn't, possibly, get any worse, dear blog reader, there's this.
Well sod that. No bastard strike's gonna keep this blogger from his weekly Jammie Dodger stash. And, thanks to Poundland, no bastard strike did. So, with that all nicely sorted, up the workers.
Toots Hibbert, the frontman of the legendary reggae trio Toots & The Maytals, has died at the age of seventy seven. One of Jamaica's most influential musicians, he helped popularise reggae in the 1960s with songs like 'Pressure Drop', 'Monkey Man' and 'Funky Kingston'. He even claimed to have coined the genre's name, on 1968's 'Do The Reggay'. The cause of death was not disclosed, but Toots had recently been taken to hospital with Covid-like symptoms and was placed in a medically induced coma. A charismatic and soulful performer, Hibbert scored over thirty number one singles in Jamaica. Thanks to his full-throated vocals, he was often referred to as 'The Otis Redding of Reggae.' The musician was born in May Pen, a town thirty miles West of Kingston, in December 1942. The youngest of seven children, he grew up singing gospel music in his church choir - but it was at school where he formed his ambition to become a performer. 'We had to sing before class, in the morning,' he told BBC 6Music in 2018. 'And teacher said, "Yeah, you have the best voice" and gave me good encouragement.' His mother, a midwife, died when Toots was eight, with his father dying three years later. As a teenager, he moved to Kingston, where he lived with his older brother John (who had nicknamed him 'Little Toots') and found work in a barbershop. There, he struck a friendship with singers Jerry Matthius and Raleigh Gordon, with whom he formed The Maytals. In 1962, the year Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom, they were discovered by Clement Coxsone Dodd, who signed them to his famed Studio One label. Over the next ten years, they released a string of hit singles including 'Fever', 'Bam Bam' and 'Sweet & Dandy'. But the group hit a roadblock in 1967, when Hibbert was arrested for possession of marijuana. He served nine months in The Slammer. On his release, they recorded '54-46 (That's My Number)' - a reference to his prison number. It became one of the first reggae songs to receive widespread popularity outside Jamaica, introducing many Europeans to the sound for the first time. At the time, however, the word reggae didn't even exist. The music, which was an evolution of ska and rocksteady, had been called 'blue-beat' or 'boogie-beat' until Hibbert intervened. 'The music was there and no-one knew what to call it,' he told 6Music. 'In Jamaica we had a slang - if we're not looking so good, if we're looking raggedy, we'd call it "streggae." That's where I took it from. I recorded this song ['Do The Reggay'] and people told me that the song let them know that our music is called Reggae. So I'm the one who coined the word!' The Maytals were part of a scene that included soon-to-be legends, such as The Wailers, Lee Scratch Perry and Jimmy Cliff and they recorded with everyone from The Skatalites to Prince Buster. 'It was competitive and friendly, a golden time,' Hibbert recently recalled in a profile for Rolling Stain. The group scored a UK hit with 'Monkey Man', and, in 1972, Hibbert appeared in the ground-breaking movie The Harder They Come. The Maytals' classic 'Pressure Drop' was featured on the soundtrack - which introduced many US fans to reggae - and it was later covered by The Clash, cementing the group's reputation in the UK. In 1980, they entered the Guinness Book Of Records after a concert in London's Hammersmith Palais was cut to vinyl and released in just twenty four hours, with Island Records boss Chris Blackwell personally delivering copies to record shops in his Mini Cooper. A year later, however, Matthias and Gordon retired from music and Hibbert continued as a solo act. He assembled a new version of The Maytals in the 1990s and toured extensively - but made a more high-profile comeback with the 2004 CD True Love. Boasting new recordings of some of his best-known songs, the record featured a host of guest stars - including Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, No Doubt, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and The Roots. It went on to win a Grammy award, rejuvenating the musician's career. He released a solo CD, Light Your Light, in 2007 and hit the road for The Maytals fiftieth anniversary in 2012. The following year, however, he was injured during a concert and was unable to perform again until 2016. 'What happened was we were doing a college show and one of the guys loved my music so much that he threw a liquor bottle onstage,' he later recalled. 'I tried to catch it but it hit my head. It was a pity that it happened. It's taken me three years to make people happy again.' The fan was arrested and Hibbert told the judge he had suffered 'extreme anxiety, memory loss, headaches, dizziness and, most sadly of all, a fear of crowds and performing.' However, he requested that the nineteen-year-old receive a light sentence. 'He is a young man and I have heard what happens to young men in jail,' he wrote in a letter to the judge. 'My own pain and suffering would be increased substantially knowing that this young man would face that prospect.' In the ensuing years, Hibbert recorded almost every day in his home studio and recently released what was to be his last CD, Got To Be Tough. It was co-produced by Zak Starkey who marvelled at the musician's longevity. 'The power in his voice is beyond anyone I've ever met,' he told Rolling Stain. 'And he has lived through all the generations of Jamaican music. He was at the forefront at the start, and he's at the forefront now. How incredible is that?' In 2012, Hibbert explained his theory of reggae in a profile for Interview magazine. He described his songs as 'a message of consolation; a message of salvation. The youth are going to the school and they have to listen to the words. The parents have to listen to the words. God has to listen to the words. So, we have to make it positive. If you sing nursery rhymes, it is nothing. You just blow up tomorrow, and the record dies at the same time. But if you give positive words, that song lives for ever.'
Ronald Bell, one of the founder members of Kool & the Gang, has died at the age of sixty eight. He started the band with his brother, Robert, in 1964. They became one of the 1970's most popular and influential soul and funk bands, with hits including 'Celebration', 'Ladies' Night' and 'Get Down On It'. Their music also featured in several films including Saturday Night Fever, for which they received a Grammy in 1978 and Pulp Fiction. Bell died at his home in the US Virgin Islands with his wife by his side, his publicist said. The cause of death was not given. A self-taught saxophonist and singer, he founded the group in New Jersey with Robert and five school friends - Dennis Thomas, Robert Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown and Ricky West. Their career was split into two distinct halves. In the early 1970s, they scored US hits with the foot-stomping funk of songs like 'Jungle Boogie' and 'Hollywood Swinging'. Then, with the addition of vocalist JT Taylor in 1979, they morphed into a hit-making R&B band, scoring the biggest commercial success of their career as they reached their twentieth anniversary. As musical director, Bell co-wrote all of their biggest hits, including the wedding disco standard 'Celebration'. It was his favourite song from the band's extensive back catalogue, he told the Reuters news agency in 2008. 'I was clueless, thinking that that was going to be a hit. I had no idea,' he noted. 'But after all these years, there are times at the end of the show when I see all of these people singing a song and after all of an hour-and-a-half, you ask them to jump up and down and they still jump up and down. That's kind of overwhelming for me.' For what it's worth this blogger, a big fan of most of Kool & The Gang's music, is with Buffy Summers' opinion of 'Celebration' in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode Prom Night when it gets played at the Sunnydale High end-of-term party. 'I hate that song!' Anyway, the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015 for their contribution to the world of entertainment and were inducted into the Songwriters' Hall Of Fame in 2018. Bell was born and raised in Ohio and picked up the music bug from his father, a professional boxer who was a friend of jazz legends Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. Unable to afford drums, Bell and his brother taught themselves to play on makeshift instruments. 'I used to beat paint cans like bongos and depending on how much paint was inside, this would determine the tone of the sounds we made,' he recalled. After the family moved to New Jersey in his teens, Bell's mother bought him a real set of bongos and he began to teach himself bass guitar, borrowing an instrument from the brother of his future bandmate Spike Mickens. The first incarnation of Kool & The Gang formed in 1964, but they cycled through several names - including Jazziacs, The New Dimensions, The Soul Town Band, The Jazz Birds and Kool & the Flames - before settling on their best-known moniker in 1969. Along the way, they combined their love of jazz with the gritty rhythms of street funk, creating a sound which would lead to their success in the 1970s. 'We used to play a lot of percussion in the streets in the 1960s, go to the park and start beating on drums,' Bell told Rolling Stain. 'You had a hard time trying to get us to play R&B,' he added. 'We were die-hard jazz musicians. We're not stooping to that.' As The Jazz Birds, they won the Apollo Theatre's famed Amateur Night and landed a record deal with a small independent label, De-Lite Records. Three singles from their self-titled debut LP hit the pop charts, with the instrumental track 'Kool & The Gang' showcasing their raucous, horn-driven sound. Their mainstream breakthrough came with 1973's Wild & Peaceful. Lead single 'Funky Stuff' became their first top forty hit in the US, followed by 'Jungle Boogie' and 'Hollywood Swinging', which both reached the top ten. The former went on to become one of their signature songs - memorably used in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and sampled in Madonna's 'Erotica'. It was only written after the band's record label, in search of a hit single, pressured Kool & The Gang to record a cover of 'Soul Makossa' by Manu Dibango. 'It would have been a hit,' Bell later recalled. 'But we decided we were not going to record 'Soul Makossa' - we'll come up with our own "jungle music", not to be derogatory. We made the song up in the rehearsal, went in and recorded it that night. 'Jungle Boogie' is one take.' As disco rose to prominence, the band struggled to replicate their early success - although they did win a Grammy for 'Open Sesame', their contribution to the multi-million-selling Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Things changed with the addition of Taylor, a former nightclub singer and producer Eumir Deodato, which led to a cleaner, pop-driven sound and the crossover single 'Ladies' Night'. The decision was prompted when the band found themselves on tour with The Jacksons and were told by the promoter that they needed a frontman. Taylor, chosen for his deep baritone 'like Nat King Cole', was the only singer they auditioned. Unlike many of the funk bands of the 1970s, Kool & The Gang thrived in the 1980s, scoring huge hits with sentimental ballads like 'Joanna' and 'Cherish', as well as the party anthems 'Steppin' Out' and 'Get Down On It'. Possibly their most enduring hit was 'Celebration', which was inspired by Bell's Islamic faith. 'I was reading the scripture about where God called the angels together and made an announcement that he was going to create this being,' he told Songwriter Universe. 'He gathered the angels together and they said, "We don't know nothin', but we just celebrate you, God - we celebrate and praise you." And I thought, I'm going to write a song about that, [with the line] "Everyone around the world ... Come on!" That's the intent. It was actually written for mankind.' The group found a new generation of fans in the 1980s and 90s as their music was sampled in a raft of pop and hip-hop songs. 'Jungle Boogie's horn riff appears in Luniz's 'I Got Five On It'; 'Summer Madness' formed the basis of 'Summertime' by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and the syncopated rhythms of 'Jungle Jazz' appear on dozens of songs, from M/A/R/RS's 'Pump Up The Volume' to Jade's 'Don't Walk Away'. When Public Enemy sampled three Kool & The Gang songs for Fear Of A Black Planet, Bell voiced his approval. 'After Public Enemy, I was all in [with hip-hop],' he told Rolling Stain in 2015. 'The music was all new to me. I sat and listened to Fear Of A Black Planet and was thrilled. I thought that was amazing. You can practically hear [drummer] George [Brown] playing that break-beat. You can hear our music in the background. You know it was compound and compact, but you can hear Kool & the Gang music in all that hip-hop.' The rise of hip-hop and the departure of Taylor in 1989 effectively ended Kool & The Gang's presence on the charts, but Bell continued to record and tour with the group as a legacy act. At the time of his death, he was working on a solo CD called Kool Baby Brotha Band, as well as a series of animations about the band's childhood and career. In an interview with Billboard last year, he said that he felt 'grateful' to have had a career in music. 'And, for it to be this long,' he added. 'For me, I'm most grateful for that, to still be relevant since [we were] nineteen.' The musician is survived by his wife, Tia Sinclair Bell and ten children as well as his brother, Robert and three other siblings.
Simeon Coxe, co-founder and vocalist of the 1960s experimental electronic band Silver Apples, has died aged eighty two. The musician was known for fusing traditional rock structures with electronically generated melodies, using synthesizers he built at home. Although Silver Apples' career was relatively short-lived, they influenced the likes of Hawkwind and, later, Beck, Beastie Boys and Portishead. Coxe died at home in Alabama, having suffered with the progressive lung condition pulmonary fibrosis. In a statement, his manager Jack Trevillion said that the condition had made it hard for the musician to breathe without oxygen, but that he had died peacefully. 'Silver Apples leaves a lasting legacy and contribution to electronic music with their ground-breaking sound that has stood the test of time and influenced many artists over the years, right up to the present day,' Trevillion added. Prior to forming Silver Apples, Coxe and percussionist Danny Taylor played in a more traditional 1960s rock group, The Overland Stage Electric Band. But the band's destiny changed after a friend introduced Coxe to an oscillator that had been built in the 1940s. Intrigued, Coxe started experimenting with the machine, layering eerie, atonal sounds over his band's music. 'They hated it,' he told some Middle Class hippy Communist of no consequence at the Gruniad Morning Star last year. All of the band except Taylor quit and the duo began making music as Silver Apples in New York in 1967. Coxe added more and more oscillators (or, in his own words, 'a home‑made pile of electric junk'), eventually building an instrument he called The Thing. According to sleeve notes on the band's debut LP, The Thing consisted of 'nine audio oscillators and eighty six manual controls. The lead and rhythm oscillators are played with the hands, elbows and knees and the bass oscillators are played with the feet.' The instrument - which the press dubbed 'The Simeon' - allowed for some unusual experiments. On stage, Coxe would ask the audience to shout out the name of their favourite radio station - and he would then tune into it live, adding random snatches of speech and music to the song 'Program'. The band won several famous fans, including John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix (with whom they jammed on a version of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' prior to the guitarist's legendary Woodstock appearance in 1969). But they remained a cult item, with low sales for their self-titled debut LP and its follow-up Contact. The artwork for the latter showed Coxe and Taylor sitting in the cockpit of a Pan Am jet - a stunt that had been arranged in return for the band including the airline's logo in the artwork. However, when the LP was released with a picture of a plane crash on the back cover, Pan Am sued. The record was pulled from the shelves and the band's instruments were confiscated. 'They actually came to a club where we were playing and confiscated Danny's drums,' Coxe told Sound On Sound. 'Fortunately, my stuff wasn't there. That photograph led to the lawsuit that broke the band up. No record label would touch us from that point on. That was the end of Silver Apples.' Coxe went on to work as a graphic designer, TV reporter and ice-cream salesman, while Taylor worked for a telephone company. Two decades later, a German record label printed bootleg copies of Silver Apples' two LPs, leading to a surge in interest in their music. In 1997, Coxe revived the band with a show at New York's Knitting Factory, attended by Johnny Depp, Kate Moss, The Beastie Boys and Sean Lennon. At the time, he hadn't been able to locate Taylor - but after mentioning his name in interviews, the pair reconnected and went on to release four new CDs including 1998's The Garden - completing the record they'd been working on when Pan Am ended their career. However, tragedy struck late the same year when their tour bus was forced off the road while driving home from a Hallow'een show in New York. Coxe suffered a broken neck, an injured spine and partial paralysis. Fans including Alan Vega and Martin Rev from Suicide and members of Sonic Youth, played a benefit concert to help pay his medical expenses. After 'years of physical therapy,' the musician felt well enough to resume his career, but by that time Taylor was in poor health, having been diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease. When the drummer died in 2005 of a heart attack, Coxe kept his bandmate's spirit alive by sampling studio recordings into live performances, rather than replacing him with another musician. Coxe's injuries still caused complications, however. 'I still stumble a lot just walking around,' he told Electronic Sound magazine in 2012. 'If I pick something up that's hot, it'll burn me before I realise I shouldn't be picking it up. But when it came to playing, I discovered it didn't matter that I couldn't feel with my hands. As long as I could see the dials on the oscillators, I could play them.' His last CD, Clinging To A Dream, was released in 2016 and he said he never lost the desire to perform. 'Every day I wake up trying to figure out how to unravel something new,' he told Huck magazine. Coxe is survived by his long-term companion and creative collaborator Lydia Winn Levert, his brother David Coxe, sister-in-law Foster and his nephew, Aaron.
Pamela Hutchinson, a member of the Grammy-winning R&B group The Emotions, has died at the age of sixty one. She was the youngest sister of the band's core members Sheila, Wanda and Jeanette Hutchinson and sang on their biggest hit single 'The Best Of My Love'. News of her death was confirmed on The Emotions' Facebook page. 'In loving memory, we are saddened to announce the passing of our sister, Pamela Rose Hutchinson, on Friday18 September,' a statement read. 'Pam succumbed to health challenges that she'd been battling for several years. Now our beautiful sister will sing amongst the angels in heaven in perfect peace. Thank you and as always, You Got The Best of Our Love.' The band emerged from Chicago in the 1960s, where the sisters had been gospel singers as children. After achieving local success, they signed with Stax, working with the likes of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. When Stax folded, the group were taken under the wing of Maurice White from Earth, Wind & Fire, who produced two of their LPs and co-wrote 'The Best Of My Love'. The Emotions returned the favour by lending their harmonies to Earth, Wind & Fire's disco anthem 'Boogie Wonderland' in 1979. Pamela joined her sisters just in time for their crossover pop success - although she only appeared on one LP, before becoming a permanent member in the early 2000s. That incarnation of the band collaborated with Snoop Dogg on 'Life', from the 2006 CD Tha Blue Carpet Treatment. In their statement, The Emotions added: 'We appreciate all kind words, photos, and videos you may want to post for our beloved Pamela and of course your loving prayers. A life so beautifully lived deserves to be beautifully remembered.'
Anglo-French actor Michael Lonsdale, who played the villain opposite Roger Moore's James Bond in Moonraker, has died at the age of eighty nine. In the film, he played Hugo Drax, an industrialist planning to poison all humans on Earth then repopulate the planet from his space station. And he got all the best lines, particularly - to one of his minions - 'look after Mister Bond. See that some harm comes to him!' It was one of more than two hundred roles he played in both English and French cinema over a career that spanned six decades. Bond producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli called Lonsdale 'an extraordinarily talented actor and a very dear friend.' The official Twitter account for the late Sir Roger Moore described his character as 'a smooth-tongued and cultured adversary to 007.' In an interview with Mi6 HQ in 2012, Lonsdale was asked whether he had been concerned that playing a Bond villain might have a negative impact on his career. 'On the contrary!' he replied. 'Because, I made so many films that were not really very popular or didn't make much money and I only made poor films, so I thought I might like to be in a rich film.' In the same interview, he said: 'My teacher, when I was at school for the theatre, told me that "One day you will have to play someone very nasty." But really, he is such a terrible character, a sort of Nazi. I mean, Drax is like Hitler. He wanted to destroy everybody and rain down a new order of very athletic, young people. He was mad, completely.' Lonsdale had a varied career on film, TV, radio and stage. Before becoming a Bond villain, he played the Deputy Commissioner Claude Lebel in 1973 political thriller The Day Of The Jackal. He later appeared as Jean-Pierre in 1998 US action movie Ronin, alongside Robert De Niro and Jean Reno and as Papa in Steven Spielberg's 2005 historical thriller Munich. He won a César for his role in Des Hommes Et Des Dieux (Of Gods & Men, 2010), as one of a group of Trappist monks living in rural Algeria. 'I'd vowed never to accept another role as a priest,' Lonsdale said. 'But, I couldn't resist playing this wonderful, generous character.' It was Orson Welles who first cast Lonsdale as a priest, in The Trial (1962). 'We only shot for one night, but he must have done twenty takes for my scene. Welles was incredibly nice and every few minutes, he would keep asking me: "Are you happy, Mister Lonsdale?" Of course, I was thrilled.' But Lonsdale's real breakthrough came in 1968 in two François Truffaut films. In La Mariée Etait En Noir (The Bride Wore Black), he was a pompous politician, one of five men on whom Jeanne Moreau wreaks revenge for killing her husband on the church steps after their wedding. In Baisers Volés (Stolen Kisses), Lonsdale was the obnoxious owner of a shoe shop who hires a detective (Jean-Pierre Léaud) to work in his store to find out why his employees hate him. Lonsdale's dry delivery and his ability to get to the core of a character almost immediately suited the stylised characterisations and deconstructed narratives of Marguerite Duras. He first appeared under her direction in Détruire Dit-Elle (Destroy, She Said, 1969) as an enigmatic German Jew, one of the few guests at a hotel in a forest. Later, Lonsdale was cast in Duras' India Song (1975) as the lugubrious French vice-consul in the India of the 1930s who turns a blind eye to the numerous affairs engaged in by his pampered wife (Delphine Seyrig). 'It's my favourite role,' Lonsdale said. He also performed in and directed plays by Duras on the Paris stage and, among many others, by Samuel Beckett, another favourite writer. In contrast, he gained wide international exposure in Fred Zinnemann's The Day Of The Jackal (1973), as the cool master policeman in charge of tracking down the lone would-be assassin (Edward Fox) and, of course, in Moonraker where his dry and laconic delivery of some fabulous lines won him an entirely new audience. Lonsdale was born in Paris, to an English father, Edward Lonsdale-Crouch, an army officer and a French-Irish mother, Simone Béraud and spent much of his childhood in London and the Channel Islands. When Michael was eight, his family relocated to Casablanca, where his father planned to set up a business. 'Then the war broke out and we were stuck in North Africa,' Lonsdale recalled. 'It was there that my love for the cinema was born, thanks to the American soldiers who arrived in 1942. My parents became friends with the officers and they brought me along to see all the great movies by John Ford, George Cukor, Howard Hawks. I even saw Casablanca in Casablanca. It was amusing to see Hollywood's idea of Morocco.' In 1947, Lonsdale went to Paris to study painting, but soon decided to switch to acting to 'overcome my shyness.' He took classes with Tania Balachova at the Vieux Colombier theatre, whose classes followed some of the Stanislavskian methods used by the Actors Studio in New York. Among his fellow students there were Seyrig, Laurent Terzieff, Stéphane Audran and Jean-Louis Trintignant. In his 2016 memoir Le Dictionnaire De Ma Vie, Lonsdale said he had fallen in love with Seyrig: 'It was her or nothing and that's why at eighty five I'm still unmarried.' Around that time, he changed his first name to Michel: 'Because the French had trouble pronouncing Michael' and converted to Catholicism. After a number of bits in commercial French films, he started to get bigger parts in the early 1960s, mainly thanks to Jean-Pierre Mocky, who cast him in five features as an archetypal bourgeois, bringing out Lonsdale's deadpan humour. The first, and most widely distributed abroad, was Snobs! (1962), an iconoclastic comedy in which Lonsdale played one of four unscrupulous directors of a milk co-operative vying to fill the post of president, after the incumbent is drowned in a vat of milk. During the 1970s, arguably the most fruitful decade of Lonsdale's career, he was fortunate to work for some of the best directors around in a range of small but striking roles: he was a possibly paedophile priest in Louis Malle's Le Souffle Au Coeur (Murmurs Of The Heart, 1971), a lustful theatre director in Jacques Rivette's Out 1 (1974), a world-weary doctor in Alain Resnais' Stavisky (1974) and, in Luis Buñuel's Le Fantôme De La Liberté (1974), a 'respectable' man who invites four monks to witness his being whipped. Lonsdale was also seen in what could be called avant-garde erotica, playing a judge investigating a girl's murder in Alain Robbe-Grillet's Glissements Progressifs Du Plaisir (Successive Slidings Of Pleasure, 1974) and as a man who tells his friends a story about his early days as a Peeping Tom in Jean Eustache's Une Sale Histoire (A Dirty Story, 1977). 'I like to be where no one expects me to be,' Lonsdale explained. He also made three films with Joseph Losey: Galileo (1975), based on the Brecht play, in which he played the intellectual Cardinal Barberini, who gradually discards his liberal views as he takes on the robes to become Pope Urban VIII, The Romantic Englishwoman (also 1975), in which he appeared as a smooth gangster and Mister Klein (1976), in which he was rather creepy as a cuckolded lawyer. Lonsdale continued to appear in diverse films, including a few Hollywood movies, such as John Frankenheimer's The Holcroft Covenant (1985), as the softly spoken Swiss accountant dealing with Michael Caine's tainted inheritance and Jean-Jacques Annaud's The Name Of The Rose (1986), where he was the quizzical abbot who believes The Devil is at work in his monastery. Although the quantity of films he made was not reduced, the quality was. Among the exceptions were The Tribulations Of Balthazar Kober (1988), the final film by the Polish director Wojciech Has, in which Lonsdale played a wise philosopher and two James Ivory films, The Remains Of The Day (1993), as a French statesman with blisters on his feet and Jefferson In Paris (1995), as Louis XVI. He was back to priestly robes as the Inquisitor General in Miloš Forman's period drama Goya's Ghosts (2006) and in Nicolas Klotz's Heartbeat Detector (2007) he was the chief executive of a large company who locks himself away in his office for hours on end and sits alone listening to Schubert in the back seat of his parked car. In the latter part of his career, the grey-bearded Lonsdale loaned gravitas to whatever part he played, including Theon, the head of the library in Alexandria, in Agora (2009), directed by Alejandro Amenábar, the leader of a mosque in occupied Paris in Ismaël Ferroukhi's Free Men (2011) and the title role of Manoel de Oliveira's O Gebo E A Sombra (2012).
Some cricketers made more runs, some had better averages but no Australian player of his time created more excitement or won more devotion than Dean Jones, who has died of a heart attack this week, aged just fifty nine. A transformative and captivating batsman, especially in the one-day format where he led the world in his pomp during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Deano earned iconic status for his sparkling footwork, effervescent strokeplay, bold running between wickets, and the strip of zinc cream always pasted on his bottom lip. A generation of Australian children, from his hometown of Melbourne to every corner of the continent, were compelled to watch him. They wanted to be him. Jones served as the gateway into a lifetime love of cricket played aggressively to the last. In the years after his career ended, his influence was clear on the Twenty20 revolution that followed, one he embraced as a coach, broadcaster and columnist. Born in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg, Jones followed in his father Barney's steps to the Carlton Cricket Club, where he was a teenage prodigy. He graduated to state ranks in 1982, one year later falling one run short of turning his maiden century for Victoria into a double. From the hard school of the Sheffield Shield, at the age of twenty two he was picked for his first Australian tour in 1984 - the toughest assignment in the game at the time, visiting the Caribbean. It was Jones's debut innings for his country in Trinidad that he looked back on with most pride - not a day when he raised his bat, but when he made forty eight against the fearsome West Indies pace attack on their own patch. It would be more than two years before he got his next chance at test cricket, but what followed was one of the most celebrated innings ever played. In the intense heat and humidity of Madras, he finished on two hundred and ten after more than five hundred minutes in the middle, so dehydrated that he struggled to control bodily functions, partially lost his memory of the innings and ended up in hospital on a drip. This would go on to become only the second tied test match. Underpinned by Jones's bravery, it heralded not only the beginning of his own era but the start of a new one for Australian cricket. A year later, in 1987, back in India and against all expectations, they held won the World Cup for the first time, with Jones at number three instrumental in their success. In 1989, when Allan Border's men reclaimed the Ashes in England for the first time since 1934, it was Jones who struck two centuries, earning acclaim as one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year. Twin centuries against Pakistan the following home summer, along with a torrent of runs in Australia's fluorescent one-day yellow strip, showed the man at his most prolific. The pin-up of a cricket-mad nation, Jones dominated the one-day game like no Australian before him. Skipping down the track at fast bowlers and spinners alike, he attacked, come what may. His one hundred and forty five at The Gabba against the touring English in 1990 was an innings before its time - an unbridled and ostentatious joy, blasting balls over the rope before it was routine to do so. By now there was no doubt: Deano was the best white-ball batsman on the planet. 'Sometimes I die by the sword,' he would later say of his approach, 'but, by gee, I had a few kills along the way.' He certainly did, reflected too in his whole-body boundary fielding or his sprints for each run, like an Olympian athlete rather than a cricketer. He was always in a pair of sunglasses, as significant to the Jones portrait as the lump of gum he chewed whenever at the crease with a County or Kookaburra blade, batting bare-headed or with a cap or in his broad-brimmed floppy hat. This all-or-nothing attitude was on show in early 1993 when Jones made the ill-considered decision to demand Curtly Ambrose remove the sweatbands from his wrists during a limited-overs final. Not for the first or last time, he pulled the wrong rein that night, inspiring a match-winning spell from his annoyed adversary. In part, it was an act of defiance at the end of a summer during which he had lost his test spot despite having clocked an unbeaten century two matches earlier. He would not add to his fifty two test caps, with selectors seeing fit to dispense with his eleven centuries and average of over forty six. Jones never truly got over this, nor did his disciples. In his return to the fifty-over team in the following home summer, it was a matter of faith that he had been slighted; the wrong would be righted. But when he fell two runs short of a hundred against South Africa in the heat of Brisbane - this time with an ice collar around his neck below the signature wide-brimmed hat - it signalled a last hurrah rather than an early-thirties rebirth. Within months he was jettisoned again, this time prompting an impetuous retirement from international cricket. Sure enough, there were twists. 'If they keep saying I'm one of the best one-day players in the world, then why am I not there?' Jones declared when piling on runs in his majestic summer of 1994-95 with Victoria, including an unbeaten triple-century on his beloved MCG. But, although he was available for selection before the 1996 World Cup, the call never came. Bruised by this, Jones made his point the best way he knew how. When Australia returned home as beaten finalists from that tournament, Melbourne's favourite son turned out for a World XI playing against his former teammates. He duly saluted, bringing up his century with a six into the Southern Stand. His supporters bellowed his name that day just as they defended his every frustrated public utterance. A decade in the canary yellow produced ovr six thousand runs at an average of forty five, including fifty three scores beyond fifty, as well as signs reading 'BRING BACK DEANO' for a decade more. Domestic cricket had to fill an initial gap, first in England, helping Durham to establish themselves as a first class county and then leading Derbyshire to their best finish in six decades in 1996, then for Victoria until 1998 to complete his career with twelve thousand six hundred and sixty eight runs across formats, at the time the record for that state. Another chapter of his life began beyond the boundary. While his thoughtful words in print were valued at home, it was in Asia that he was revered as a coach, ultimately leading to success at the helm of Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League in 2016 and 2018. In 2017, when the trailblazing Afghanistan men's team was in need of a coach at short notice, it was Deano who stepped in to do the job. It was inevitable that Jones would court controversy as a broadcaster - he was remorseful to the end about a discriminatory remark he made in 2006 that insulted the South African Muslim batsman Hashim Amla. His years on the airwaves offered endless enterprising theories on the twenty-over game, which he coached so well and would have been so suited to playing. He died the night after commentating on an Indian Premier League fixture. Jones was appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 2006 for services not just to cricket but to cancer fundraising. A year ago he was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame. But there remained a lingering resentment at feeling insufficiently respected by decision-makers at home, resulting in him revoking his life membership with Cricket Victoria after being overlooked for two T20 coaching jobs. Antipathy was part of Jones, but it never defined him. Instead, he will be remembered as a player first and foremost, for work on the field that lives on with those who saw it. It spoke volumes that he kept putting on the whites for his club well into his fortis in the city where he was adored, in a game that was blessed by his lifetime contribution. Jones is survived by his wife, Jane and their two daughters, Isabella and Phoebe.
On Saturday morning, dear blog reader, this blogger had a leisurely limp down to the local medical centre to get his annual influenza jab. And needless to say, he felt a small prick. As usual. Though, at least he remembered this time, at the very last moment, to get it in the arm that he doesn't sleep on.
And then, Keith Telly Topping went into town to pick up his - government allowed - essential supplies. Yes, if you're wondering, Fry's Turkish Delight is essential to this blogger's mental and physical well-being. Trust me, dear blog reader, you wouldn't like to see this blogger if he hasn't had his daily snort of Delight.  
Well, that's two hours and twenty eight quid this blogger will never get back. The buses were back to being 'look, we've got staff issues, all right?' (entirely understandably, let it be noted). This blogger' back was proper knackin' and town was full of people many of whom were not wearing masks and breathing, menacingly, in this blogger's direction. This blogger doubts whether he will be leaving the safety of the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House again until Doomsday comes. (Or, until he runs out of bread and milk, whichever occurs first ...)
It is something of an age-old truism, dear blog reader, but there always seems to be one moron who spoils everyone else's fun. As this image ably demonstrates. Although, to be fair, at least we now have proper confirmation of Darth Vader's first name. Funny, this blogger always assumed it was Jeff. They should've brought in Mister Stevens to sort it all out.
And finally, dear blog reader, further proof that nothing - but nothing - improves a blog's potential audience than a catastrophic worldwide pandemic and everyone being locked in their drum desperately seeking entertainment to take their mind of the fragile nature of mortality. If so, dear blog reader, sorry you came to the wrong gaff!

Thursday, September 10, 2020


Dame Diana Rigg - who died this week aged eighty two - enjoyed a long and effortlessly distinguished acting career on stage, in films and on TV. The range of her roles was enormous, from serious drama to comedy and high camp and just about every shade of the rainbow in-between. She was the only Bond girl to get 007 to the altar (albeit, briefly), but for those of a certain generation - this blogger very much included - she will always be the remarkable, desirable, incomparable Emma Peel in The Avengers. She also played the title role in The Mrs Bradley Mysteries, Helena Vesey in Mother Love, Miss Hardbroom in The Worst Witch, Tracy Draco in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Edwina Lionheart in Theatre Of Blood, Mrs Gillyflower in Doctor Who and Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones. That's not a bad first few lines to have on a CV which also included appearances in Victoria & Albert, Running Delilah, Diana, The Assassination Bureau, Evil Under The Sun and Detectorists.
Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg was born in Doncaster in July 1938. Whilst she was still a toddler, she travelled to India, where her father, Louis, worked as a railway engineer for the Maharaja of Bikaner. By the time she returned to the UK as an eight year old, she spoke fluent Hindi as a second language. She was then sent to a Yorkshire boarding school, Fulneck Girls School in a Moravian settlement near Pudsey. 'I felt like a fish out of water,' she noted, although she later credited the intensely unhappy experience with helping to form her character. On leaving school in 1955, she trained as an actress at the RADA - where her contemporaries included Glenda Jackson and Siân Phillips. She made her professional debut in a production of Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle as part of the 1957 York Festival.
She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, where she received much praise for her portrayal of Cordelia in a touring production of King Lear. Her TV debut came in 1959 with a walk-on part in a Peter Hall production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. During the early 1960s she combined regular - acclaimed - theatre work with occasional forays onto the small screen in productions like Theatre Night, A Sentimental Agent, Festival, Armchair Theatre and Play Of The Week.
In 1965, she screen-tested for the part of John Steed's new partner in The Avengers after the departure of Honor Blackman to play Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. In fact, the role had already been cast for another actress, Elizabeth Shepherd. But Brian Clemens, the programme's producer, was not happy with Shepherd's performance. 'She's not a bad actress,' he later recalled. 'But she just didn't have a sense of humour at all - that was essential in The Avengers. So we scrapped what we'd shot and got rid of her and then out of the tests came Diana Rigg, who was head and shoulders above everybody else.' Diana's performance as the cat-suited, hard-as-nail Emma Peel brought her international fame.
Sexy, resourceful, self-assured - with a deadly knowledge of self-defence - and a street-and-a-half cleverer than her male companion, Diana's character became - much to her own reported annoyance - an icon for the growing feminist movement. Her action-girl allure, coupled with her husky voice - the result of a twenty-a-day cigarette habit - also brought her legions of male admirers. 'We had no idea it would be defining,' she said later. 'It was nose to the grindstone - working all hours that God gave.' She also showed she was capable of taking on the establishment. During filming of her first series in 1965, she reportedly discovered that she was earning less salary than the cameramen and insisted on more money before she would make another episode. But Diana also found the sudden fame as a TV star difficult to cope with. She recalled having to hide in a lavatory to avoid the attention of the crowds. It was partly her resentment at the invasion of her privacy which persuaded her that she would spend only two series on The Avengers.
Diana appeared in fifty one episodes of the popular telefantasy drama having, she claimed, auditioned for the role on a whim, without ever having seen the series previously. In an interview with the Gruniad Morning Star in 2019, Diana stated that becoming a sex symbol overnight had 'shocked' her. She also did not like the way that she was treated by the production company, Associated British Corporation. For her second series, in 1967, she held out for a pay rise from one hundred and fifty knicker a week to four hundred and fifty; she noted in 2019 - when gender pay inequality was very much in the news - that 'not one woman in the industry supported me ... I was painted as this mercenary creature by the press when all I wanted was equality. It's so depressing that we are still talking about the gender pay gap.' The late Patrick Macnee once noted that Diana had subsequently told him she considered Macnee and her driver to be her only friends on the set.
The popular perception of the mid-Sixties, of course, is of an Avengers episode being completed and then Patrick and Diana having a quick glass of champagne in their trailer before popping into central London in the Bentley, still in-costume, to enjoy an evening at The Ad-Lib discothèque with Michael Caine, Terence Stamp, Sean Connery, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who. In fact, according to Diana, 'It was great fun to do but everyone thinks it was party, party, party. In fact it was work, work, work. You had to get to the studio at Elstree for 6.30 every morning and you'd be working until eight o'clock every night.' She also described her working conditions as 'the life of a mole.' She was, simultaneously, keen to keep her stage career alive. 'Some weeks I'd spend four days on the set of The Avengers and then head up to Stratford to be [in] Olivier's Lear,' she said.
Like her Avengers predecessor, Rigg moved to 007, starring in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) opposite George Lazenby. Diana became the only James Bond girl to get the secret agent to the altar, although the marriage was abruptly cut short when her character was shot extremely dead soon after the wedding. She said that she took the role with the hope she would become better known in the United States. Her relationship with Lazenby was reportedly difficult, although she strongly denied the rumour that she had deliberately ate garlic before their love scenes.
Her other films from this period include The Assassination Bureau (1969), Julius Caesar (1970), The Hospital (1971), In This House Of Brede (1975) and A Little Night Music (1977). She also starred, brilliantly, as Vincent Price's daughter in the horror classic, Theatre Of Blood, with its strong Shakespearean theme and very Avengers-style humour.
But soon she returned to the stage - nominated for a TONY for her performance in Abelard & Heloise. Between 1973 and 1974, she starred in a short-lived US TV sitcom, Diana. And, in something approaching a career highlight, she appeared in the 1975 Morecambe & Wise Show Christmas episode, playing Nell Gwynne in one of the plays wot Ernie wrote and singing a saucy version of 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' with Eric.
She appeared as the title character in The Marquise (1980), a television adaptation of the play by Noël Coward. She also appeared in a Yorkshire TV production of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1981) and as Lady Holiday in The Great Muppet Caper. The following year she received acclaim for her performance as Arlena Marshall in the movie adaptation of Agatha Christie's Evil Under The Sun, sharing barbs with her character's old rival, played by Maggie Smith. She appeared as Regan, the king's treacherous middle daughter, in a Granada production of King Lear (1983), which starred Laurence Olivier. As Lady Dedlock she co-starred with Denholm Elliott in an award-winning BBC production of Dickens' Bleak House (1985) and played the title character's evil stepmother in the 1987 adaptation of Snow White. In 1989 she played Helena Vesey in the BBC drama Mother Love - her portrayal of an obsessive mother who was prepared to do anything, even murder, to keep control of her son won Diana the 1990 BAFTA for Best Television Actress.
In New York, her portrayal of Heloise had been criticised by the acerbic US critic John Simon who described her in a nude scene as 'built like a brick basilica with insufficient flying buttresses.' She later admitted that she never felt comfortable removing her clothes on stage. 'I come from Yorkshire and no-one from Yorkshire takes their clothes off, except on a Friday night,' she said. The episode led her to publish a collection of scathing theatrical reviews entitled No Turn Unstoned (1982). She received her second TONY nomination in 1975, for The Misanthrope. A member of the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic from 1972 to 1975, Diana took leading roles in productions of two Tom Stoppard plays, Dorothy Moore in Jumpers (National Theatre, 1972) and Ruth Carson in Night & Day (Phoenix Theatre, 1978).
In 1994 she won a TONY at last for one of her most acclaimed roles, that of Medea, underlining her credentials as one of theatre's leading tragediennes. In the same year Diana was created a Dame in the New Year's Honours List for her services to theatre. She appeared as Mrs Danvers in an adaptation of Rebecca (1997), winning an EMMY, as well as in a production Moll Flanders and as the titular amateur detective in The Mrs Bradley Mysteries, playing Gladys Mitchell's detective, Dame Beatrice Adela Le Strange Bradley, an eccentric woman who worked for Scotland Yard as a pathologist. From 1989 until 2003, she hosted the PBS television series Mystery!, shown in the United States by broadcaster WGBH. She also appeared in the second series of Ricky Gervais's alleged comedy Extras - but we won't judge her too harshly for that - and in the 2006 movie The Painted Veil.
She appeared in great nostril-flaring form in a 2013 episode of Doctor Who, the Victorian-era based The Crimson Horror alongside her daughter Rachael Stirling, Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman. The episode had been specially written for her and her daughter by Mark Gatiss who was shocked to discover that Rachael had never previously acted with her mother. It was not the first time mother and daughter had appeared in the same production - they were both in the 2000 TV movie In The Beginning - but it was the first time she had worked directly opposite her daughter and, also, the first time in her career that her roots were accessed to find an authentic West Riding accent.
The same year, Rigg secured a recurring role in the  HBO series Game Of Thrones, portraying Lady Olenna Tyrell, a witty and sarcastic political mastermind, the grandmother of regular character Margaery Tyrell. Her performance was well-received by critics and audiences alike and earned her an EMMY nomination. The character was finally killed off in the seventh series of the popular adult fantasy drama.
Her work in the theatre continued, including performances in The Cherry Orchard, Pygmalion and Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer. Her final screen appearances will be in a forthcoming mini-series adaptation of Black Narcissus and, next year, in Edgar Wright's psychological thriller Last Night In Soho.
Diana was married twice, first to Israeli artist Menachem Gueffen, from 1973 to 1976 and then to Archie Stirling, the father of her daughter, born in 1977. The couple divorced in 1990 after Stirling's affair with Joely Richardson became public. In the 1960s, Rigg lived for eight years with the director Philip Saville, gaining tutting attention from the more up-their-own-arse tabloids when she disclaimed interest in marrying the older, already-married Saville, saying that she had 'no desire to be respectable.' She was a Patron of International Care & Relief and was, for many years, the public face of the charity's child sponsorship scheme. She was also Chancellor of the University of Stirling.
Michael Parkinson, who first interviewed Diana in 1972, described her as the most desirable woman he ever met, who 'radiated a lustrous beauty.' A smoker from the age of eighteen, Diana was still smoking twenty fags a day as late as 2009. By 2017, she quit after serious illness led to heart surgery, a cardiac ablation. A devout Christian, she commented that: 'My heart had stopped ticking during the procedure, so I was up there and the good Lord must have said, "Send the old bag down again, I'm not having her yet!"' Her first grandchild, Jack, was born to Rachael and her partner, the Elbow frontman Guy Garvey, in the same year.
In a 2015 interview with The AV Club, Diana commented on the chemistry she shared with Patrick Macnee on The Avengers: 'I vaguely knew Patrick Macnee and he looked kindly on me and sort of husbanded me through the first couple of episodes. After that we became equals and loved each other and sparked off each other. And, we'd then improvise. They trusted us. Particularly our scenes when we were finding a another dead body. How do you get 'round that one? They allowed us to do it.' Asked if she had stayed in touch with Macnee (the interview was published a mere two days before Macnee's death): 'You'll always be close to somebody that you worked with very intimately for so long and you become really fond of each other.'
Although it was the role of Emma Peel which brought Diana Rigg to public attention, she was successful in casting off the character and carving out a distinguished career as a classical actress. She never felt the need to return to the cat-suit, steadfastly refusing to sign Avengers photographs that continued to be sent to her. She excelled at playing sharp-witted female characters who carried iron fists in velvet gloves - but distanced herself from those feminists who claimed her as one of their own. 'I come from a generation where, when my dad arrived and parked the car, my mother would rush upstairs and put some lipstick on,' she once explained. 'Which I think is so charming. If a man holds a door open for me or pulls back a chair so that this old bag can sit down, I'm delighted.'