Friday, October 23, 2020

A Most Poor Man Made Tame To Fortune's Blows

The BBC has released two new images from the upcoming Doctor Who episode Revolution Of The Daleks. The festive special will see the return of one of The Doctor's most long-standing and, you know, hardest foes. The story begins where the previous series ended: With The Doctor banged-up in an intergalactic high-security Slammer. Isolated, alone, with no hope of escape and, generally, not very happy with her lot. Albeit, armed with some chalk.
Far away on Earth, meanwhile, her friends, Yaz, Ryan and Graham have to try to pick up the pieces of their lives without her. But it's not an easy task. Old habits die hard, especially when they discover a disturbing plan being formed. A plan which involves ... a Dalek (the title sort of gave that away, really, didn't it?) How can you fight a Dalek, without The Doctor? Poke it's eye out? No, sorry, that's 'How do you make a Venetian blind.' Always get those two mixed up.
Though it ended in 2006, The West Wing - the greatest TV show in the history of the medium ... that doesn't have the words 'Doctor' and 'Who' in the title - never really ended in many people's hearts. Fans of the US political drama have longed for some form of revival almost from the day that the final episoide was broadcast (the fact that the entire Barack Obama presidency was, effectively, The West Wing series eight notwithstanding). This remains true of this blogger who once, a lifetime ago, wrote a couple of books about the drama. It was with considerable anticipation from the masses, therefore, that in August 2020, it was announced Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney (plus, many of the supporting cast) would reprise their roles. For a stage version of the acclaimed 2001 episode Hartsfield's Landing, intended to raise awareness and support for When We All Vote, a non-profit organisation founded to increase participation in US elections. 'We've gotten the band back together,' as Brad Whitford said at the beginning of the broadcast. Production took place Los Angeles' Orpheum Theatre, the episode was shown on 15 October on HBO Max and this blogger finally got a copy sent over from the US this week. The role of Leo McGarry was played by Sterling Brown, the late John Spencer having, of course, sadly died in 2005. Emily Procter read the stage directions and Marlee Matlin and Elisabeth Moss also made appearances. The production included additional material written by creator Aaron Sorkin and Eli Attie and was directed by Thomas Schlamme and act-breaks featured guest appearances from When We All Vote co-founders Michelle Obama and Lin-Manuel Miranda, plus former president Bill Clinton and Samuel L Jackson. Music was performed by West Wing composer Snuffy Walden and The Avett Brothers.
Perceptions that this might have been a case of 'preaching to the converted' - again, as Whitford said in the introduction, 'arrogant actors telling you what to do' - the reception for the production was hugely positive from both critics and viewers alike. CNN's Brian Lowry characterising the special to 'approximate the experience of watching a stage play, only with a best-seat-in-the-house view,' including 'shooting the performers from behind and revealing the rows and rows of empty seats,' what Lowry considered 'a poignant reminder of what's been lost on the theatrical front since the pandemic began.' Patrick Gomez of The AV Club wrote 'the special always stays on the right side of being a Very Special Episode.' Ben Travers from IndieWire considered '[as] a reimagining of a strong television episode, the new version of Hartsfield's Landing plays out beautifully.' Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter added it was '[a] solid recreation of a solid episode for a solid cause.' Deadline said that the episode was A Sobering Reminder Of When Presidents Were Presidential, At Least On TV. From this blogger's viewpoint, watching this was both a welcome and a sad experience. Welcome, obviously, because this is The West Wing and it was, frankly, stunning - indeed, the only way it could, possibly, have been any better would've been if Josh and Donna had got their kit(s) off and done The Sex right there on the stage for all to see. (That may, admittedly, be the 'shipper-fan lurking within this blogger having, briefly, taken over this review.) This blogger virtually chanted his way through the episode like he was at a rock gig knowing, as he does, that particular script backwards. 'You're a good father, you don't have to act like it. You're the President, you don't have to act like it. You're a good man, you don't have to act like it. You're not a regular guy. You're not "just folks", you're not plain-spoken ... Do not, do not, do not act like it!'
But it was also sad because it was an, at times, awkward and uncomfortable reminder of an era - not that long ago either - when television made this kind of challenging, thoughtful, sincere, outspoken drama effortlessly. And now ... it doesn't very much - if at all. The world has become a colder, harsher, more nasty and far less inclusive place, dear blog reader (and this was before Coronavirus came along and made the situation a hundred times worse). And - this is the real tragedy - we are all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, responsible for the critical and commercial conditions in which such a lack of ambition, empathy and, frankly, decency exists.
It's worth considering this, dear blog reader; when Hartsfield's Landing was first broadcast, America's president at the time was George W Bush and pretty much everyone who hadn't voted for him in the US (and everyone outside America) considered that he was, without any shadow of a doubt, the worst president that had ever, or would ever, be (even worse than Nixon fer Christ's sake). There couldn't possibly be anyone worse than Dubbya out there, that wasn't even open to question. Almost two decades on and A West Wing Special To Benefit When We All Vote was a useful, necessary, reminder of a truism which the original series included as a specific plot point on more than one occasion: Be very careful what you wish for, dear blog reader. Because it might just come true.
This blogger first saw the band The Go-Go's supporting Madness and The Specials at a club in Sunderland in April 1980, dear blog reader. In front of an audience composed almost entirely of mods and skinheads (who, even though they both liked the two headliners hated each other and, at various points between sets enjoyed kicking the shit out of anyone within easy reach; thus acting out, with surreal accuracy, the opening verse of The Specials' song 'Do The Dog'), a five-piece female group from Los Angeles went down, predictably, like a sack a diarrhoea with the majority of those in the gaff. This blogger thought they were adorable; nothing particularly special musically at that stage in their development but he particularly enjoyed a moment when one of the numbskulls in the crowd shouted 'Get yer tits out.' 'We're nice girls, we don't do that,' replied Belinda Carlisle. 'Yeah,' added Jane Wiedlin. 'So, go fuck yourself!' The place promptly erupted in a hail of beer bottles, hockle and incandescent fury. How could one not fall, instantly, in love with that?
Alison Ellwood's superb documentary about the band which this blogger watched on Sky this week was a timely reminder that women in rock and/or roll face some massive disadvantages. Due to their lack of a collective penis, mainly. A story of triumph against all the depressingly sexist odds - including coke binges, heroin addiction, playing Saturday Night Live drunk, heart surgery, bi-polarity, break-ups, reunions, more break-ups and so on - The Go Go's mixed contemporary interviews with Carlisle, Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Kathy Valentine and Gina Schock, plus management, former members and friends (including Lee Thompson and Lynval Golding) with much, impressive, archive footage. They gave Rolling Stain magazine a, long-overdue, kicking for their outrageous 1982 cover-shoot of the group in their vests and panties although the constant whinging about the fact that they haven't been nominated for the Rock and/or Roll Hall of Fame yet quickly grew tiresome. You're in a very select group, ladies - neither have The Specials or Madness. Or The Jam or The Smiths. Or Kraftwerk for that matter! They bitched about each other with considerable glee but, as Schock perceptively noted, sisters fight with each other all the time. And, at the climax, they recorded their first new song in nearly two decades, a sharp little jangly rocker 'Club Zero'. Ellwood - as with her previous documentaries about The Eagles and the Laurel Canyon scene - drew together the various strands of the story with wit, economy and knowing exactly which bits to leave on the cutting room floor (Schock and Valentine suing their bandmates over royalties being the most obvious example of something, perhaps wisely, left with their lips being, as it were, sealed). What we ended up with was, actually, genuinely heart-warming and a bloody good excuse to pull out ones well-worn copy of Beauty & The Beat. And, not for nothing, but they remain - all of them - fine-lookin' ladies (especially Kathy who is still effortlessly packing that 'slightly surly West Coast rock-chick thing' she always had going for her). It seems the love affair which began for this blogger in Sunderland in 1980 hasn't ended yet.
Production on two From The North comedy favourites, Qi and Would I Lie To You?, has been badly affected by the same Coronavirus malarkey which has conspired to fek-up so much else this year - on TV and elsewhere. In the case of Qi, the show was nine episodes into production on its R series when lockdown occurred in March. Two further episodes were then filmed without a studio audience and proved to be, sadly, disastrously disappointing (the fact that one of them featured both the extremely annoying Holly Walsh and scowly-faced misery-guts Bridget Christie didn't help matters, admittedly). It was something which few of us had previously considered but, in truth the audience makes Qi work (another long-running BBC comedy panel show, Have I Got News For You, had a similarly awkward transition from a studio production to being filmed using Zoom in people's kitchens during March and April. That didn't come out very well as an audience spectacle either). According to a report in August, further series R Qi episodes were planned to be recorded with a 'virtual audience' via Zoom. Whether (or when) that will happen has yet to be confirmed. At least the first nine episodes were, mostly, up to the usual high standard and, in particular, this blogger was delighted to see the Goddamn righteous Benjamin Zephaniah making his Qi debut. Would I Lie To You? got the last few episodes of its thirteenth series out of the way early in the year before The Plague hit town (the one featuring Richard Osman and Steph McGovern being a particularly good example of the show at its best) but, thereafter there was silence regarding when it would return. Finally, last week, came some welcome news - via Reddit. Another batch of episodes has been filmed - importantly with audiences - earlier this month, though there has no announcement as yet when they will be broadcast. And yes, before you ask dear blog reader, series regular, From The North favourite and genuine twenty four carat national treasure Bob Mortimer will feature in one episode (along with another much-loved contributor, Miles Jupp). Thankfully, Dave's virtual wall-to-wall repeats of both shows have kept audience's entertained as they contemplated the inherent ludicrous nature of existence for the past few months. What would we do without Dave?
On a somewhat related theme, given that lockdown is, effectively, upon us all once more this blogger has just started compiling this year's From The North 'best and worst TV of the year' awards. It'll be a good six weeks before it's finished, obviously (the annual award bloggerisationism usually tend to get posted on this blog around the end of November or the start of December). But at least writing it will keep this blogger off the streets for a while. Which is, sort of, the point, I guess. As noted previously, each year when Keith Telly Topping posts these awards, he usually gets a handful of e-mails saying something along the lines of '... but, you missed off [insert own favourite here].' Since answering such comments is always a right flaming pain in the dong, it's worth stating once again that these awards represent what this blogger has been watching and enjoying (or, in the case of anything featuring Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall, really disliking) during the last year. If a programme is not mentioned, it is either because Keith Telly Topping didn't see it or did, but didn't consider it worthy of inclusion, thereupon. If, when it's published, you disagree with anything therein (or, not therein) dear blog reader, please feel free to start your own blog and do your own best and worst awards.
It was proper fantastic to see the legend that is Mitch Benn as a contestant on Only Connect a couple of weeks ago. Second best thing about that episode, in fact, after The Divine Victoria's joke about a salmon.
And now, dear blog reader, a new From The North semi-regular feature, Great Moments in Rock and/or Roll History. Number Thirty Two: The day Thelma Barlow got top billing over two members of The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them).
WANTED: Drummer for four-piece two guitar/bass popular beat combo with recording contract and some chart potential. Must have excellent hair. No time wasters, please.
For reasons which are far too complicated to go into at this time, for the past few months this blogger has been unable to play any of the - not inconsiderable number of - non-Region 2 DVDs which he has picked up over the years. Fortunately, with a bit of fiddling to the leads on one of Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House's several DVD players (the oldest one Keith Telly Topping has, as it happens) which is multi-region, this blogger managed to connect it to Stately Telly Topping Manor's massive flat-screen telly. And, therefore, he is delighted to report that this is, once again, a multi-region Plague House in all its forty two-inch widescreen mega-glory. Which is nice.
Now, a few items which caught (and, briefly, retained) this blogger's attention on the BBC News website. Firstly, Fleetwood Fishmonger Saves 'One In Thirty Million' Orange Canadian Lobster. A lovely, genuinely heart-warming story. Though, this blogger is still willing to bet that the lobster in question would've tasted great if garnished with lemon drizzle and served on a plate of chips and/or rice. Just saying.
Another heart-warming story, Billionaires See Fortunes Rise By Twenty Seven Per Cent During The Pandemic. Because, let's face it, we were all so worried about how those guys were doing during these dark and desperately troubled times.
Also, there was Durex Condom Sales Jump After Virus Rules Relaxed. No shit? Well, what a surprise ...
Of course, it's worth pointing out that lockdown led many people to discover all manner on new forms of in-home entertainment.
To sum up the gist of this story, those taking part in last month's 'Hell No, We Don't Wanna Wear A Mask' rally in London appear to have consisted of an unholy alliance between conspiracy theorists, Covid-deniers, extreme right-wing troublemakers, extreme left-wing troublemakers and people who just fancied a right good punch up with Plod. God bless this virus, therefore, for bringing together this wide - and highly disparate - group of individuals. So, we all know whom to avoid in future (if we weren't avoiding them already). Listen, you stupid, selfish bastards, it's very simple - you may not have any concern about your own safety and that's entirely fine. But, every time you breathe on any of us that do wish to, you know, stay alive, you're not merely risking your own health. Please, this blogger says the following with all necessary respect, grow the fek up, will you. And do what you're told just like the rest of us. It's The Law. This particularly applies to students in Nottingham who are now working out how to pay their fines.
Sometimes, of course, BBC News provides some extremely wise words for us all to consider and reflect upon.
However, the worst piece news lately - by a considerable distance - came from the Gruniad Morning Star. Haven't we Northern folk suffered enough already without having him (and, presumably, his lute) inflicted upon us?
There is an Interweb meme which has been doing the rounds lately that you may be aware of, dear blog reader. It, or variants of it, have been seen all over the Twitter and Facebook pages of lots of people (who, seemingly, think they're being terrifically original when they post it). This blogger would like to assure all of you that his grandmother, Elizabeth MacKay Elliott Lamb, born in 1895, did precisely none of these things. Just so we're clear about that. He's less-certain about what Granny Telly Topping got up to, admittedly. 
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, with the arrival of autumn at the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House, there have been a number of days where it's been more than a bit nippy in the gaff.
And thus, it did come to pass, dear blog reader, that yer actual Keith Telly Topping had spent one particular day virtually on the starve and, by 5.30pm he was, like, Pure Dead Hank Marvin, so he was. Thence, it further came to pass that he picked up the dog-and-bone and rang one of his local takeaways and sayeth unto Linda: 'Yer actual Keith Telly Topping realises it be-eth a Goddamn filthy night out tonight, but could you possibly deliver unto the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House at your earliest convenience a dozen of your finest salt and chilli prawns (with a side order of boiled rice) so that he may scoff these in his righteous hunger (with some freshly-cooked garlic bread). Because, yer actual really deserveth this happenstance in the area.' And lo, he saw that it was good. And this pleaseth yer actual Keith Telly Topping who sayeth unto the multitude 'I am satisfied.' Amen.
This blogger last did his - government sanctioned - weekly shop in town at M&S, Boots, Poundland, Greggs and Morrisons at the weekend. See below for proof of purchases. Yes, dear blog reader, this is a really bad photo, caused by Keith Telly Topping trying to do about eight things at once. He was going to take another one but, actually, he quite likes the 'action blur' on this; it makes it look as though the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House's comestibles are all in a state of perpetual motion. Which they aren't, incidentally, but it would be pure-dead-cool if they were. Anyway, it was a decent trip - a nice warm sunny early autumn day. And everyone this blogger encountered was really pleasant - he made sure, as he always tries to do, when having paid for his goods and/or services, to thank the checkout operator and/or bus driver, wish them a good day and add 'stay safe.' Bit of a cliché, this blogger is aware, but you'd be surprised at how few others one hears saying anything similar. And, to a man/woman, all of them replied 'thanks very much and the same to you.' Keith Telly Topping was, therefore, in a really smashing mood when he got to the bus stop outside Morrisons to come back to the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House, put his feet up and rest his still troublesome bad back. And, at that precise moment, this blogger had his good mood shattered into a million tiny fragments when some spotty, lanky, skinny twentysomething twonk who wasn't wearing a mask sneezed all over this blogger from about two feet away. This blogger, thankfully, was wearing his mask but there's no telling what infections may have sneaked past the protection. So if, in about ten days time, Keith Telly Topping is in the Royal Victoria Infirmary on a ventilator, being pumped full of steroids (which, actually, sounds quite nice) and/or bleach and is at death's door, you'll know whom to blame.
Opening up his e-mail the following morning, this blogger found one which had the header Suffering from erectile dysfunction? Keith Telly Topping immediately responded to this with a reply headed Who have you been talking to?
And still, dear blog reader, From, The North's daily traffic continues to hover around an average of six thousand hits per day.
... From, it should be noted, a bewildering variety of dear blog readers around the globe. See if you can spot yourself.
A bit more politics, dear blog reader. And, the news that Mark Hamill now owns the Interweb. Not before time, either.
Frank Windsor, who has died aged ninety two was, as Detective Sergeant John Watt, one of the longest-serving coppers on TV - in Z Cars and several BBC sequels and spin-offs from 1962 through to 1978. At that point, Windsor returned to the theatre to play a dotty doctor in Tom Stoppard's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour at The Mermaid Theatre – with music by André Previn and directed by Trevor Nunn - revealing another side to his talent, that of an incisive and hilarious comic actor; he'd given us a taste of that when he took over briefly from Patrick Stewart as an absurdly barnstorming Lenin in Stoppard's Travesties at The Aldwych in 1974. But it proved impossible for him to shake off the long arm of the law enforcer entirely. Z Cars was one of the great dramas of its time and few dramatic double acts on the small screen - asie from Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise - matched that of Stratford Johns as the truculent Detective Inspector Charlie Barlow and Windsor's stern, if infinitely more sympathetic, Watt as they chased down the criminals in Newtown, a fictional version of Kirkby in Merseyside.
Z Cars highlighted the issues of control in public and private arenas into the new postwar realities of the welfare state; unemployment, domestic violence, gang rivalry and cultural fragmentation. Week-in, week-out, brilliantly acted and produced, it was compelling viewing. It dealt with the realities of policing a large city; in tone it was a million miles away from the BBC's other popular crime drama of the era, Dixon Of Dock Green and made stars of many of its regular cast - including Brian Blessed, James Ellis, Jeremy Kemp and Colin Welland. After three years, in 1966, Barlow and Watt were detached, promoted - to Chief Superintendent and Chief Inspector, respectively - and relocated in a new series, Softly Softly, to the fictional region of Wyvern, somewhere near Bristol. They moved again, in 1969, to Thamesford constabulary's CID, the series renamed Softly Softly: Task Force. When Johns peeled off into his own series, Barlow At Large, Windsor as Watt battled on for another few years with a variety of different partners on Softly crime watch. But the pair were reunited in two mini-series within the franchise, the first, in 1973, reopening the case files on Jack The Ripper, the next - Second Verdict - re-examining other, more recent real-life murder cases.
Windsor, who was born Frank W Higgins, in Walsall - his father was an accountant in local government - was educated at Queen Mary's grammar school and trained for the stage in London at the Central School of Speech and Drama, still situated in the early 1950s at the Royal Albert Hall. He toured in Britain and India with the Elizabethan Theatre Company of Thane Parker, who also ran The Oxford Playhouse, where Parker appointed Peter Hall as artistic director in 1954. The actors alongside Windsor in that first Oxford season included Billie Whitelaw, Maggie Smith, Tony Church and a very young Ronnie Barker and Windsor soon moved into television playing the Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria in a BBC Sunday Night Theatre play of 1955 and, two years later, the Duke of Norfolk in an adaptation of Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons. Windsor's experience in Shakespeare with Parker made him well qualified to play the Earl of Warwick and Sir Walter Blunt, among other characters, in the landmark BBC series of Shakespeare histories, An Age Of Kings (1960). He played a dentist in Lindsay Anderson's new-wave classic This Sporting Life (1963), with Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts and William Hartnell, but his movie career - small parts in Peter Hammond's Spring & Port Wine (1970) with James Mason and John Schlesinger's Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) with Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch aside - never really took off thanks to his regular police duties.
When he did break out, into the Stoppard stage roles, he underlined his rich vocal authority and commanding presence in another dimension. He followed up with a West End thriller, Mister Fothergill's Murder (1982) by Modesty Blaise author Peter O'Donnell at The Duke of York's, with Rula Lenska and David Horovitch and joined the cast of Hugh Whitemore's spies-in-suburbia drama Pack Of Lies at The Lyric in 1984. And, then there was a twelve-week national tour of Holmes & The Ripper. Television fame did not translate into theatrical stardom, perhaps unjustly and he spent the last twenty years of his active career appearing in such long-running series as Lovejoy, EastEnders (as Major Charlie Grace), Midsomer Murders, Peak Practice, Casualty and, in 2002, as Sir James Valentine, in Judge John Deed. He also appeared in The Avengers - 1968's Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?, the first episode of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), Headmaster, Middlemen, The Goodies (a gorgeously funny over-the-top turn as The Scoutfinder General in 1977's Scoutrageous), the 1979 version of Eric Sykes's The Plank, Play For Today, Thirty Minute Theatre, Into The Labyrinth, Chancer and September Song. He featured in Doctor Who twice. In 1983 he played the kindly Crusade-era nobleman Ranulf Fitzwilliam in the Peter Davison story The King's Demons. In 1989 he returned opposite Sylvester McCoy's Doctor playing, unsurprisingly, a police officer, Inspector Mackenzie, in Ghost Light.
He could never, quite, shake off John Watt - he even played versions of his most famous character in comedy series like The Detectives and Paul Merton's Life Of Comedy. He came close, though, as Gridley, 'the man from Shropshire,' in the BBC's second of their three versions of Dickens's Bleak House (1985, starring Diana Rigg and Denholm Elliott), making an excellent fist of the ruined old Chancery suitor with a combative look and a chafing, dissatisfied manner. In later years appeared in a number of television commercials advertising life-assurance policies for people over fifty, a role he was happy to parody in a sketch on Harry Hill's TV Burp. Windsor is survived by his wife, Mary Corbett, a former dancer and their daughter, Amanda. A son, David, died in a tragic car accident in 1997.
American singer-songwriter Johnny Nash, best known for the 1972 hit 'I Can See Clearly Now', has died aged eighty. Nash, whose health had been in decline for some time, died at his home of natural causes, his son told US media. The musician began singing as a child and made his major label debut with the 1957 song 'A Teenager Sings The Blues'. Nash, born in Houston, was one of the first non-Jamaican singers to record reggae music in Kingston. His single 'I Can See Clearly Now' sold more than a million copies and reached the top of the Billboard chart in 1972, where it remained for four weeks. He also had a number one hit in the UK in 1975 with 'Tears On My Pillow'. Nash also, famously, helped reggae legend Bob Marley sign a recording contract. Nash's covers of songs like 'Stir It Up' helped to bring Marley's music to a broader audience and the pair later collaborated on 'You Poured Sugar On Me'. In an interview with Zoo World magazine in 1973, Nash told Cameron Crowe that he hoped his music had wide appeal. 'I feel that music is universal. Music is for the ears and not the age. Everybody likes music, from eight to eighty. There are some people who say that they hate music,' he added. 'I've run into a few, but I'm not sure I believe them. Maybe they have never been without music.' Besides his son, John, Nash is survived by his wife, Carli.
Spencer Davis, one of the key figures of the 1960s beat scene, has died at the age of eighty one. The Welsh guitarist was the driving force behind The Spencer Davis Group, who scored transatlantic hits with 'Keep On Running', 'Somebody Help Me', 'Gimme Some Lovin' and 'I'm A Man'. The band, which also featured the teenage Stevie Winwood, toured with The Who and The Rolling Stones. Davis died in hospital on Monday, while being treated for pneumonia, his agent told the BBC. 'He was a very good friend,' said Bob Birk, who had worked with the musician for more than thirty years. 'He was a highly ethical, very talented, good-hearted, extremely intelligent, generous man. He will be missed.'
The son of a paratrooper, Davis was born in Swansea in 1939 and first started learning harmonica and the accordion at the age of six. He moved to London to work for the civil service at the age of sixteen, but later relocated to Birmingham, where he taught German by day and played in local clubs at night. Inspired by blues and skiffle, he formed a band called The Saints which, initially, included a pre-Rolling Stones Bill Wyman and also performed folk music with a young Christine Perfect. But it was with his eponymous rock group that he struck gold. Formed in 1963, The Spencer Davis Group featured Davis on guitar, sixteen year old Stevie Winwood on keyboard and vocals, his brother Muff on bass and Peter York on drums. Originally called The Rhythm & Blues Quartette, they changed their name in 1964 when Muff pointed out that Davis was the only one who enjoyed doing interviews - the logic being that the rest of the band could slope off to the pub while he handled the press. Their breakout hit, 'Keep On Running', was a cover of a song by West Indian performer Jackie Edwards. When it topped the UK charts in January 1966, it knocked The Be-Atles 'Day Tripper' from the top slot - and Davis received a telegram from the band congratulating him on the achievement.
The follow-up was delayed when Davis bashed his head on a car windscreen after braking to avoid a dog - but 'Somebody Help Me', another Jackie Edwards cover, gave the quartet a second number one in March. The band went on to prove they had songwriting chops of their own, with hit singles like the furious 'I'm A Man' and 'Gimme Some Lovin' both of which made the UK top ten. The Spencer Davis Group also recorded the famous theme song for the long-running children's TV show Magpie, under the pseudonym The Murgatroyd Band - a reference to the show's mascot, a fat cartoon magpie. The band starred in their own film, an (admittedly rather slight) musical comedy called The Ghost Goes Gear (1966), which found the band stranded in a haunted manor. Davis also made a cameo in The Be-Atles' TV movie Magical Mystery Tour, as one of the passengers. Hits followed in the US - including their gorgeous cover of 'Every Little Bit Hurts', although the band never toured there; while Davis's ability with languages (he was fluent in German, French and Spanish) helped the band further their career in Europe. Those linguistic capabilities even led to Davis recording a German version of 'The Age Of Aquarius' ('Aquarius Der Wassermann') in 1968 and earned him a lasting nickname: 'The Professor'.
However, the Spencer Davis Group came to an untimely end in 1967 when, at the height of their fame, when Winwood quit to form Traffic, leaving Davis without his dynamic frontman. The band recorded a few more minor hits, but broke up soon after, with Davis moving to California, where he embarked on a short-lived solo career. At the time, he later claimed, he was near to bankruptcy, thanks to a punitive contract with Island Records. 'I didn't realise what had been going on. I'd sold millions of records and hadn't seen a penny from them,' he told Music Mart magazine in 2005. 'In 1970, I was considering declaring bankruptcy, but I'd written a track with Eddie Hardin, called 'Don't Want You No More', which The Allman Brothers put on their Beginnings album. The damned thing sold six million copies. Suddenly a cheque for five thousand pounds arrived through the door and I'd never seen so much money in my life. I saw more money from that one song than I [received] from all the stuff that had been an Island production.' After confronting Island's owner, Chris Blackwell, over the issue, he was given a job in artist development at the label in the mid-1970s. There, he helped to promote newcomers like The Wailers, Robert Palmer and Eddie & The Hot Rods, as well as working alongside Winwood, who was now establishing himself as a solo artist. Davis returned to songwriting with 1984's Crossfire, which featured contributions from Dusty Springfield and Booker T Jones. He made numerous guest appearances with such headliners as The Grateful Dead and Hall & Oates, then formed The Classic Rock All Stars in 1993.
In 1996 he upgraded this to The World Classic Rockers, which included Randy Meisner from The Eagles, Carmine Appice from Vanilla Fudge and the former Paul McCartney sideman Denny Laine. In 2001, he began touring with a rebuilt Spencer Davis Group - albeit without the Winwood brothers. In 2006 he released the LP So Far, on which he looked back at his Welsh roots with songs such as 'The Swansea Shuffle' and 'Uncle Herman's Mandolin'. In 2017 The Spencer Davis Group played its last dates, utilising two different line-ups (both featuring Davis) for dates in Europe and the US. Birmingham International Jazz Festival founder Jim Simpson, who was told about Davis' passing by drummer Pete York, said: 'Spencer was a lovely man - always very courteous and a purist about music. The Spencer Davis Group stuck more to the blues and never became a fully-fledged rock band. Spencer was scholarly and well educated, very gentle and kind and his tastes in music were spot on.' The musician is survived by his long-time partner June Datne, three children - Lisa, Sarah and Gareth - and five grandchildren..
Margaret Nolan, the actress best known for appearing in the title sequence for Goldfinger and for a string of appearances in TV shows in the 1960s and 70s, has died aged seventy six. Film-maker Edgar Wright, who directed Nolan in her final film role, in the forthcoming Last Night In Soho, reported the news on social media. Nolan, who was born in 1943 in Somerset, first appeared on film under the name Vicky Kennedy in 'glamour' (for which read 'softcore') shorts by the notorious George Harrison Marks, appearing in his naturist film It's a Bare, Bare World.
She soon graduated to more mainstream films, with a noticeable role in Dick Lester's A Hard Day's Night (as the girl accompanying Wilfrid Brambell in a casino) and Goldfinger, as the masseuse Dink.
Nolan also appeared in Robert Brownjohn's celebrated title sequence for the same movie, wearing a gold bikini and with images projected on her skin - though in the film itself it was Shirley Eaton who played Jill Masterson, the girl who gets smothered to death by gold paint.
Margaret Ann Nolan was born in Norton Radstock, Somerset in 1943. Her father was serving in the Army and her mother took her to neutral Ireland for the duration of the Second World War. She was training to be a teacher when she met her husband Tom Kempinski, who was an actor with The National Theatre. Nolan and her twin sister, Geraldine, had staged their own plays when they were children and Kempinski encouraged her to consider acting as a career. Nolan quickly outgrew her glamour-model beginnings and forged a reputation as a performer of great likability, with small roles in films as varied as Michael Reeves' Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General, The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery, the Marcel Carné drama Three Rooms In Manhattan and in a deleted scene in Hitchcock's Frenzy.
She also began a long association with the Carry On movie series, beginning in 1965 with a role as a secretary in Carry On Cowboy. She would go on to appear in five more, finishing in 1974 with Carry On Dick. At the same time, Nolan developed a prolific career in TV, with guest roles in a wide variety of programmes, including The Saint, Adam Adamant Lives!, Spike Milligan's The World Of Beachcomber and Q6, Budgie, Steptoe & Son, The Persuaders!, The Sweeney, Fox and Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? After the mid-1970s Nolan stepped back from acting, but did appear as the dancehall girl Effie in the celebrated TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited in 1981.
Nolan went on to develop an interest in visual arts and her piece My Divided Self - a cut-up collage of her own publicity stills - was included in the feminist exhibition Equals in 2013 in Manchester's Blankspace gallery. In an interview in 2007, Nolan described her artworks as 'the idea that I was there as this passive woman, being looked at, but behind it all, behind my eyes, of course I knew what was going on.' Nolan also became involved in politically-inflected theatre in the early 1970s, influenced, she said, by Kempinski's experience of the 1968 évènements in Paris. She and Kempinski divorced in 1972. He later enjoyed success as the writer of the play Duet For One. Margaret is survived by her two sons, Oscar and Luke.
And finally, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping went into a pub one lunchtime and asked them if he could get toad-in-the-hole. He did. And he really didn't deserve that.