Wednesday, October 06, 2021

"His Words Are Bonds, His Oaths Are Oracles, His Love Sincere, His Thoughts Immaculate"

So, dear blog reader, as Keith Telly Topping mentioned in the last-but-one From The North bloggerisationisms update, Tuesday of this week had been pencilled-in for this blogger's second post-lockdown cinema visit, this time for to see No Time To Die. And, it being a horrible, miserable, rainy day notwithstanding that is, indeed, what occurred. Just thought you'd be interested.
Given that Diamonds Are Forever was the fourth movie that this blogger was ever taken to see as a both shaken-and-stirred eight year old and, two years later, Live & Let Die was the seventh, attending a new Bond flick a few days after its opening was hardly a significantly out-of-character step for this blogger to have taken. And, thus it was that - with his beast fiend and fellow life-long Bond devotee, Young Malcolm - this blogger attended a shortly-after-1pm screening (half-an-hour's worth of adverts and trailers being an unwanted necessity) of the twenty fifth film in the most successful movie franchise of all time at Newcastle's Cineworld multiplex in The Gate. Which was nice.
The short review, of course, is that this blogger thought it was great. Which, he trusts, is as little a surprise to you, dear blog reader, as it was/is to him. Especially given that the reviews - at least from most UK critics - have been, by and large, wildly positive and that the opening weekend's takings were astronomical; something to which this blogger has now contributed. A few, slightly more verbose, comments need to be made to go with 'Keith Telly Topping thought it was great,' however. (If you're wondering, Young Malcolm expressed the opinion that he thoroughly enjoyed it, too.) Firstly, the length: In common with just about every Bond movie since the mid-sixties, No Time To Die was overlong. At one hundred and sixty three minutes, a good half-an-hour too long. As has been the case with, again, just about every Bond movie in some considerable time, it could easily have done with losing twenty minutes or so, at least - this blogger even extends this observation to the shortest Bond movie in living memory, A Quantum Of Solace which, at one hundred and seven minutes, was still at least twenty minutes too long. Actually, in that particular case, it was about one hundred and seven minutes too long.) From The North favourite and Britain's finest film reviewer Mark Kermode has often commented in the past that any movie which is longer than one hundred and forty one minutes needs to work really hard to justify its existence. The reason being that one hundred and forty one minutes is the length of 2001: A Space Odyssey and, in that movie, Stanley Kubrick managed to go from The Dawn Of Civilisation to the birth of a new species. Thus, if you're spending more than two hours and twenty one minutes establishing your narrative, make sure you don't pad it to buggery. (Mark, incidentally, loved No Time To Die, with a few, minor, reservations and, so did his mate, Simon Mayo, as you can discover, here.) So, yeah, it was a bit too long. Then again, so was The Spy Who Loved Me. So was The Living Daylights and Goldeneye and Skyfall. All four of those are also great and, to repeat, so is No Time To Die - and, unlike in the case of Skyfall where the obvious twenty minutes to cut was the entire Macau subplot, in No Time To Die there was no blindingly obvious, 'the movie would've lost nothing if they'd cut that bit' which stuck out like a sore thumb. So, for once, ending the movie with a jolly numb bum and having to rub ones legs vigorously to get them working again as the titles rolled was a small price to pay.
The screenplay by series regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the director Cary Joji Fukunaga and From The North favourite, the excellent Phoebe Waller-Bridge managed to avoid a common problem with scripts written by committee, that is feeling like a script written by committee. One or two reviews - included Kermode's mentioned above - have suggested that the movie was rather 'set-piecey' shifting the narrative all over the place in a series of individual subplots, some of which seemed to have little obvious link to other aspects of the overall plot. This blogger doesn't buy that. If there's one thing that No Time To Die did really well, it was make the audience follow the narrative with an economy that isn't always there in a Bond film (I'm looking at you, Tomorrow Never Dies). One thing which this blogger does agree with yer man Kermode about (other than the fact that it was great) was the suggestion that Waller-Bridge's contributions had mainly been to provide the - often superb - comedy zingers and general pith at which the movie excels. It's perfectly possible that she did but that rather undermines a fine author who, as her astonishing work of the first series of Killing Eve proved, can write action and drama just as well as she writes sharp, sarky dialogue and excellent one-liners. That said, is it wrong to be utterly convinced - as this blogger is - that the entire Bond-in-Cuba sequence featuring the brilliant Paloma (Ana de Armas), possibly the best new Bond character in half-a-dozen movies, was largely the work of Pheebs her very self? Elsewhere, as usual Ben Wishaw gets most of the dryly pithy lines (well, at least, the ones that Rory Kinnear doesn't get). And, in just a couple of scenes, Christoph Waltz was given the opportunity, once-again, to do his wonderfully entertaining so-far-over-the-top-he's-down-the-other-side routine with aplomb. Which certainly helped to make up for a curious lack of humour in the film's main villain, played with just the right degree of nostril-flaring, eye-rolling, scenery-chewing intensity by Rami Malek.
The music was pretty good - Billie Eilish's theme song was obviously going for the Adele, Skyfall, 'you can sort-of imagine Dame Shirley belting this one out in Studio One at Abbey Road' vibe and, for the most part, succeeded. No, it's not the most memorable Bond theme of recent vintage, although it's in a different league to Sheryl Crow, Jack White and Alysia Keys, Madonna and Duran Duran. Let's face it, dear blog reader, Bond themes tend to age gracefully or be utterly forgettable. We're probably never going to get another 'Diamonds Or Forever' or 'Live & Let Die' or 'Nobody Does It Better' (much less another 'Goldfinger' or 'You Only Live Twice'). But, so long as we don't get too many 'All Time High's or 'View To A Kill's then we can, at least, think 'hmmm ... the song's okay, oh, it's finished, the movie's started.' Hans Zimmer's score was really rather good - heavily influenced (as with several aspects of the plot, if that isn't too much of a spoiler for those who have yet to see the movie) by one of John Barry's greatest hits, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The guitar work - by From The North favourite Johnny Marr - was particularly impressive.
Bits this blogger particularly liked: The portraits of Judi Dench and Robert Brown in MI6 (one presumes there was also one of Bernard Lee in there somewhere). The fact that, unlike in, say, The World Is Not Enough, they managed to construct a pre-title sequence in under forty minutes. Just. The entire Cuba sequence (especially the bit with the hidden tuxedo). Bond and Moneypenny interrupting Q's evening of 'entertaining' (and Q's very poor attempts at convincing M he's surprised to see Bond alive and well). The Bond-Blofeld scene in Belmarsh. The Bond-Nomi's verbal duelling. A nice cameo for Hugh Dennis. Madeleine's lethal use of a cup of tea. The moment when James didn't say 'this never happened to the other fellah(s)' as something quite unexpected happened five minutes before the end. The last scene. 
       Bits that made this blogger go 'hmmm': The fact that, according to her grave, Vespa Lynd was twenty two or twenty three at the time of Casino Royale (Eva Green was twenty seven and she looked it!) David Denick's 'wacky minor Russian villain' who manages to say 'Chames Bondt' twice without sounding remotely convincing. The glider. But, they're minor points, really. Once again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, this blogger thought it was great. And, among the best things in it was Danny Craig who, yet again, played a Bond used to loss, heartbreak, pain and suffering. A Bond that, let us remember, more than a few planks back in 2005 - sight-unseen - took issue with. Four of Craig's five Bond movies have been utterly terrific, for many different reasons but, always, because of him (and, with regard to A Question Of Sport, he wasn't in any way the reason that particular pile of rancid diarrhoea didn't work). Whomsoever has the job of replacing him in the franchise has big boots to fill. One doesn't envy the responsibility that the next owner of the hardest working libido in the intelligence service will face. But, importantly, James Bond will return. And, he will return with a clean slate as well as a new face. MI6's Time Lord's next regeneration is going to be fascinating to observe.
So, dear blog reader, just to repeat again, this blogger thought No Time To Die was great. Not Danny's best (Skyfall still ,just about takes that honour), but right up there with Casino Royale and Spectre. And From Russia With Love. And The Spy Who Loved Me. And The Living Daylights. And On Her Majesty's Secret Service. A film about a blunt instrument who does what is necessary when a trigger needs to be pulled. Someone once told him 'names is for tombstones, baby.' For a man who faces such an ending every day, James Bond has had a remarkable run. And, he's still running. Shaken, maybe but never, ever, stirred. 
One of the - few - highlights of sitting through half-an-hour of annoying pre-movie adverts was the first opportunity to watch the trailer for Edgar Wright's forthcoming Swinging London psychological horror movie Last Night In Soho which opens in the UK at the end of this month. This blogger has been eagerly anticipating this movie for a long time (so long, in fact, that Matt Smith was probably still The Doctor when it was first announced!) With a cast that includes Smudger his very self, Anya Taylor-Joy, the Godlike Genius that is Terence Stamp and, in her final big screen role, Diana Rigg even without having the director of Hot Fuzz behind the camera it would probably be worthwhile. This blogger and Young Malcolm decided, of an instant, this would be our next joint trip to the flicks. Again, it's had some startlingly good reviews from the likes of the Torygraph and Gruniad (and one sniffy one from some prick of no importance at Vanity Fair). So, this blogger is really looking forward to that. 
And finally, dear blog reader, as mentioned at the beginning of this From The North bloggerisationisms update, the weather was pure-dead filthy on Tuesday morning, so it was. A slate-grey sky and the rain was lashing down like The Flood had returned. This blogger had arranged to meet Young Malcolm just before 1pm at the cinema and, although he had a few bits and pieces of shopping to do beforehand, he was leaving it as late as possible to vacate the safety of The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House on the off-change that it might just stop stotting-it-doon for five minutes so this blogger could get to the bus stop in a post-diluvium state without getting, you know, drowned. That didn't look likely for most of the morning and, as the time approached 11.30, it appeared increasingly as though a thorough soaking was going to be the order of the day. And then, miraculously, the rain stopped. It still wasn't exactly a bright sunny day, remaining overcast and with occasional short busts of misty precipitation but, at least, this blogger managed to get the twelve up to town, do a quick round of Morrison's, the bank, Poundland, Boots, Greggs, Wilkinson's and, because he was still twenty minutes early, Starbucks without getting drenched through to his vest. And, after the movie, it was still just about dry enough for us to have a quick soft drink in the nearest rubba before getting the bus home. It was almost as if some divine force was looking upon yer actual Keith Telly Topping and thinking 'you shall be dry today.' Would that this was always the way, dear blog reader. Of course, it isn't and his blogger can pretty much guarantee that, the next time he ventures forth from The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague Hour - say, to grab a nice yung-chow fried rice, curry and chip from the local takeaway - he likely to return to his gaff with his shoes squelching. 
      Anyway, like James Bond, From The North will return ... 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

"The Future's Bright. The Future's Rusty"

Screenwriter, producer and all-round top-bloke yer actual Russell Davies is to take charge again of Doctor Who, the BBC's popular, long-running family SF drama which he helped to revive so successfully in 2005. Big Rusty, who was the drama's showrunner until 2009, will take over when Chris Chibnall departs next year. 'I'm beyond excited to be back on my favourite show,' said Davies (seen below, auditioning successfully for the role of Batman), who resumes his role as Doctor Who prepares to mark its sixtieth anniversary in 2023. 
One of Big Rusty's first responsibilities will be to decide who will take over the TARDIS controls following Jodie Whittaker's exit. The actress is set to hang up her Sonic Screwdriver and get back into some normal clothes after one further six-part series to be broadcast later this year and then three 2022 specials. In a statement, Davies said it would be 'time-travelling too fast' to speculate at this early stage as to what will actually happen when he returns to the production. Not, as this blogger has noted previously, that such a detail will stop much idle, ill-informed, crass and downright daft speculation being published in the popular media, argued over on the Interweb or talked about, loudly, in pubs. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, dear blog reader. 'There's a whole series of Jodie Whittaker's brilliant Doctor for me to enjoy, with my friend and hero Chris Chibnall at the helm,' Rusty continued. 'I'm still a viewer. For now.' Chibnall his very self said it was 'monumentally exciting and fitting' that Davies would be back in charge for the series' sixtieth birthday. 'Russell built the baton that is about to be handed back to him,' the current showrunner and producer continued. 
    Davies revived Doctor Who in its current incarnation with Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor and remained for David Tennant's three year tenure in the lead role, leaving after Tennant's final 2009 episode, The End Of Time (Part 2). You knew all that, right? And, if you didn't, what the Hell are you doing reading this blog? Anyway, Steven Moffat (or, 'Moffatt' at the BBC News website insist on renaming him) took over when Matt Smith assumed the role in 2010, staying on for Peter Capaldi's stint as TV's indefatigable Time Lord, including supervising the astonishingly successful fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 2013. The success of Doctor Who's relaunch led Davies to create two spin-off shows, Torchwood - which was quite good, in parts - and Sarah Jane Interferes - which really wasn't. 
    'It's nearly eighteen years to the day since the BBC announced that Doctor Who was returning, more than a decade after it was axed,' wrote the BBC's entertainment correspondent, the very Lizo Mzimba. 'No Doctor or companion had yet been cast, but it was confirmed that Russell T Davies would be in charge of the show. At the time, the lifelong Doctor Who fan was best known as the writer of Queer As Folk (he even managed to briefly squeeze robot dog K9 into the series).' Few within the TV industry, Lizo added, predicted just how bigly large the revival would become upon its return and Davies is the man credited with much of that success. As showrunner he oversaw every creative aspect of the popular long-running family SF drama, wrote many of its scripts and was an exceptionally hands-on executive producer; the book The Writer's Tale (reviewed on this blog back in 2008), a diary of daily e-mails and text messages between Davies and the journalist Benjamin Cook, details the astonishing attention-to-detail Davies gave to almost every part of the show, from approving merchandise designs to overseeing the plans for media events. Rusty's unexpected return to the show has delighted many, this blogger very much included. Not least because he once stood next to Russell at a Virgin writer's event in London and was asked to (and, indeed, did) pass the future Doctor Who showrunner the vodka and orange he was drinking at the time. Few moments in this blogger's life have come close to that and he's dined out on that story for decades
With the exception of the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie with Paul McGann, Doctor Who has always been produced in-house, purely by the BBC. But from 2023 it will be a co-production with Bad Wolf. The production house was founded by Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner who worked alongside Davies during his time on Doctor Who. Tranter was the BBC's head of drama, Gardner was an executive producer on the show. Both are seen as less high profile, but still crucially important parts of Doctor Who's previous success. After leaving the show in 2009, Davies enjoyed more acclaim with the dramas Years & Years, A Very English Scandal and It's A Sin. He also created Cucumber (which wasn't very good), Aliens Versus Wizards (ditto) and Old Jack's Boat (which was quite sweet). Piers Wenger, the BBC's director of drama, said the news of Davies' return would 'delight Doctor Who fans across the globe.' Especially, perhaps, all of the ones who whinged about him on a weekly basis between 2005 and 2009 and then, the second he was gone, spent much time and effort longing for 'the good old days' when he was in the job. (Steven Moffat is currently, also going under a similar 'you don't know what you've got till its gone' reassessment by large chunks of The Special People. Some of us, dear blog reader, always appreciated what we had, when we had it.) 'We are thrilled that Russell is returning to Doctor Who to build on the huge achievements of Chris and Jodie,' Wenger continued. 'Russell, it's wonderful to have you back.' 
       Yeah. What he said.  

Thursday, September 16, 2021

"Presume Not That I Am The Thing I Was"

It has been something of a wee while since the last From The North bloggerisationisms update, dear blog readers. For many and for varied reasons, let it here be noted. Not least was the fact that yer actual Keith Telly Topping was feeling well-poorly for several days last week. Which meant, among other things, that he was forced to miss meeting up with his good chum Mick The Mod on Sunday before (and after) Mick ran in The Great North Run. Sadly, the dreaded lurgy (one of the more non-lethal-but-still-nasty variants thereof) hit, big-style, in the area of The Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House that very weekend. Occasioning this blogger to, instead of taking in the the sights, sounds and smells of forty thousand people running through the streets of this here fair city, sitting in his gaff aal snotty and feeling discombobulated and very sorry for himself indeed. Life, dear blog reader, do not talk to this blogger about life. Unless you want a geet-hard punch up the bracket, obviously.
Nevertheless, by the back-end of the following week, yer actual Keith Telly Topping was feeling somewhat better and his second, long-standing, appointment with one of his beast fiends was, this time, kept. Lordy be praised, issa miracle. This blogger met up with his good mate Young Malcolm in town for one of our occasional (of late, very occasional) 'hey, let's have a Chinese, that'll be good for a laugh'-type socials. Thus it was, dear blog reader, that this blogger and Young Malcolm found their very selves in the excellent, Egon Ronay-starred King Neptune on Stowell Street. Having, in this blogger's own case a really nice garlic, salt and chilli chicken with fried rice. Young Malcolm's choice was somewhat more conservative. As is Young Malcolm's want in so many ways.
And, jolly nice it was, too - good food accompanied by a couple of nice (non-alcoholic) drinks and some proper convivial - extremely wide-ranging - conversation. Which included, in no particular order (and, the list is by no means inclusive), Power Play (1978); Tom Baker's film career; Girl In The Headlines (1963); the deficiencies of Michael Foot's leadership of the Labour Party and how Dennis Healey's defeat of Tony Benn to be Labour's deputy leader in 1980 denied the SDP-Liberal alliance a fair bit of support they might've, otherwise, enjoyed; Death Line (1972); The Aristocats (1970, the first movie that both yer actual Keith Telly Topping and Young Malcolm saw in a cinema - though not in the same cinema ... or even the same year); The Corpse (1970) and this blogger's one meeting with its author, the late, great Olaf Pooley; Kermode & Mayo's Film Review Show on 5Live; the films of Robert Hartford-Davies; Keith Telly Topping's other blog; ITV4; The Champions - and Sharron Macready being the first woman (apart from his mother) that this blogger ever gave his total, unconditional love to; Talking Pictures; Vice Squad (1982); what were the biggest (and second biggest) grossing movies in the UK in 1971; this blogger's many and various Facebook shenanigans (still unfixed as of the time of writing if you're at all interested); the 'echo chamber' nature of much social media; The Jungle Book (1967); the connection between The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) and The Adventures Of Robin Hood (easy. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to catch this blogger out on a piece of Be-Atles-related trivia, Young Malcolm); the source of the information behind the Norrie Paramour hatchet-job on the first episode of That Was The Week That Was; this blogger being one of the five people in the country who once owned a BSB 'squarial'; the infamous BSB 'Doctor Who Weekend' in which they managed to broadcast the two episodes of The Edge Of Destruction in the wrong order; Lonnie Donegan's career and influence of British pop-music post-1957; the first non-musical soundtrack LP to be released; Roman Polanski's MacBeth (1970) and Keith Chegwin's role in it; the way that just as yer actual Keith Telly Topping tends to base how good a Sherlock Holmes adaptation is on the portrayal of John Watson, so his appreciation (or, otherwise) of all versions of MacBeth rather depends upon how The Weird Sisters are played; Pete and Dud's The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1977); Des Lyman's The Generation Game; the lack of good ITV sitcoms in the 1970s; who is likely to be the next Doctor; this blogger's singular lack of appreciation of David Jason's career post-Do Not Adjust Your Set (apart, maybe, from A Sharp Intake Of Breath); Robert Lindsay; Ronnie Kray's, ahem, friendship with Bob Boothby and Tom Driberg, et cetera, et cetera. You really had to be there, dear blog reader.
After a gentle, post-lunch walk back into town and a quick visit to HMV, this blogger and Young Malcolm decided that it would be a really good idea to do all this again early next month, perhaps also taking in a showing of the forthcoming (and, much delayed) Bond movie at the local multiplex. So, that should be pure dead two-thousand-mill edge and such malarkey.
The actress Tanya Fear has been found in Los Angeles after being reported missing last week. A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department told the BBC that the thirty one-year-old was 'safe.' They would not provide further details. A statement said the actress's family were 'relieved and extremely grateful.' Tanya appeared in - and was very good in - a 2018 episode of Doctor Who, Arachnids In The UK. Friends and family said she had last been seen on Thursday. According to the FindTanyaFear Twitter account, which is described as being run by her family, the actress left her Hollywood apartment without her phone or purse and was last seen at 22:00 local time that day. Her uncle had said the family were 'deeply worried.' A statement posted on Twitter on Monday thanked police and members of the public for their efforts in locating the actress and 'the outpouring of concern and support over the last several days. We understand she is not physically harmed, but as a precaution, is being assessed at a local hospital,' it said. The actress, whose full name is Tanyaradzwa Fear, has also appeared in Spotless, Endeavour, DCI Banks and Midsomer Murders. She was seen in the movie Kick-Ass 2 and had recently started doing stand-up comedy.
After a period of new drama appearing as an endangered species on the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House gogglebox, how splendid it has been over the last week to have the return of not one, but two of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's smartest examples of the strand, From The North favourites Endeavour and The Brokenwood Mysteries. Which is nice.
Series thirteen of Doctor Who is set to return to our screens this year, with Jodie Whittaker taking on the Time Lord mantle one last time before she exits the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama. Apart from the three episode's that she will be making next year, obviously. Joining Jodie for her final series of TARDIS adventures is Large-Toothed Scouse comedian John Bishop as The Doctor's new companion, Dan Lewis. And, in an interview published in Doctor Who Magazine, Bish had nothing by praise for the 'phenomenal' Whittaker and co-star Mandip Gill. 'They've been great to work with,' he said. 'So welcoming and really supportive, particularly to someone like me who's not done a run on a series like this before. I know everyone knows it, but as everyone says, Jodie is phenomenal.' He added: 'The way she carries this show - the amount of responsibility that she wears so lightly on her shoulders - is staggering. The run's coming to an end soon and we were all talking earlier about how weird it will be not seeing each other every week.' Showrunner Chris Chibnall will also be exiting the show after the upcoming thirteenth series and the 2022 trio of specials, but not before he brings back 'truly iconic enemies' from Doctor Who's past. Bishop is not the only new face joining the Doctor Who cast, as Game Of Thrones' Jacob Anderson has also been confirmed, though not much is known about his character other than his name - Vinder.
An irrepressible and immensely likeable personality, Sarah Harding, who has died at the age of thirty nine, helped Girls Aloud - a particular favourite of this blogger - become Britain's biggest-selling girl group of the Twenty First Century, but also had a 'wild child' reputation and a turbulent personal life. Harding's natural warmth, energy and glamour were key parts of the chemistry which helped Girls Aloud blew a breath of fresh air through the charts. Her vocal capabilities and wide-eyed exuberance were put in the national spotlight on 2002 TV talent show Popstars: The Rivals. When judge Louis Walsh rebuked the twenty-year-old for failing to remember dance moves in one episode, her excuse was: 'I'm too much of a loon.' When Walsh then told her she was through to the next round anyway, she proved herself right by hugging him, skipping into the corridor screaming, jumping into two peoples' arms and collapsing on the floor. Wearing her emotions on her sleeve endeared Harding to viewers. In the final, five spots in the band were up for grabs. Cheryl Tweedy, Nicola Roberts, Kimberley Walsh and Nadine Coyle had all been told they were in - meaning it was between Harding and Javine Hylton for the last place. When Harding's name was read out, she staggered, sobbing uncontrollably, to sit alongside her new bandmates. Hylton had been the bookies' favourite and the result was such a surprise that ITV launched a brief investigation into the voting - but no irregularities were found. Three weeks later, Girls Aloud were number one. They were the first band to have a Christmas chart-topper with their debut single and the first girl group to debut at number one. It helped that the song, 'Sound Of The Underground', was one of the best and most innovative pop songs of the decade. 'They landed in a gulf in a drab pop landscape,' wrote the Toryraph's Alice Vincent in 2017. Against that backdrop the tune 'almost tore a hole in the space-time continuum,' declared the Gruniad Morning Star's Michael Cragg. It was the first of four UK number ones and twenty one top ten hits over the course of a decade. Girls Aloud's other slices of pop brilliance, crafted by writers and producers Xenomania, included 'I'll Stand By You' (2004), 'Biology' (2005), the glorious 'Something Kinda Ooh' (2006), this blogger's particular favourite 'Call The Shots' (2007) and 'The Promise' (2008). In fact, a couple of dodgy covers which were forced upon them (notably, a truly terrible version of Dee C Lee's 'See The Day') aside, a Girls Aloud single was, usually, a thing of rare beauty and perfect for throwing shapes to at the local discothèque. 'The Promise' earned the band a Brit Award for best single. The success fulfilled a dream Harding had held since her father, a session musician, started taking her into recording studios when she was three years old. 'It was all I wanted to do,' she told the Sun. 'I always loved being the centre of attention and ever since I can remember I've wanted to be a star.' Harding was born Sarah Hardman in November 1981 in Ascot and moved with her family to Stockport at the age of fourteen. But she struggled to settle in at her new school and dropped out before taking her GCSEs. She gigged in pubs, clubs and caravan parks around the North-West and North Wales and formed her own short-lived girl group. She also signed with an Italian label to sing on dance tunes - only to get cold feet three days before she was due to fly out. At college she studied hair and beauty and did jobs ranging from pizza deliveries to directory enquiries. It was while working in a bar that she applied for Popstars: The Rivals. Despite her grounding in music, Harding had little idea about what to expect from stardom. 'These days there is a lot more talent coming out of shows like that, so people are now partly aware of what is going to happen,' she told the Daily Lies in 2015. 'With social media, you kind of see what is coming. We didn't have all that back in the day.' A nickname, Hardcore Harding, was coined by her karate teacher because 'she's left loads of men injured' - but it also suited her party lifestyle. Her twenties were 'all heartbreaks and hangovers,' she once said. 'I was young and naïve and played up to my lairy [sic] character,' she told the Sun. 'It overshadowed the real me. I used to think I was Liam Gallagher, flicking the Vs at the camera, thinking I was rock 'n' roll,' she added. As for the heartbreaks, her boyfriends included Calum Best, TV presenter Steve Jones, producer Mark Foster, actor Danny Dyer and DJ Tom Crane, to whom she was engaged. After her four-year relationship with Crane broke down in 2011, she went into rehab for depression and alcohol addiction. 'I've been to hell and back,' she said at the time. 'I'm just glad I survived.' She told another interviewer: 'The drinking was more to give me more confidence, especially when I was going through my little wild-child stage.' But her lifestyle calmed down in her thirties and she enthused about how she preferred tending her vegetable patch in her Buckinghamshire garden to partying. Girls Aloud reassembled for their tenth anniversary in 2012 only to part ways again the following year, having sold a total of over eight million singles and CDs. Explaining the band dynamic to Look magazine after the split, Harding said: 'Me and Nadine are more music orientated - more vocals - and the other three are more about dancing. I'd put my foot down about the music side of things. Nicola was more about the clothes. Choreography is Cheryl's forte. When there's five of you, it's difficult to have a say in everything. I'm looking forward to having more control.' By that time, the other four had all launched solo careers to various degrees of success (or, lack of it). Harding started work on hers in 2011, but ditched the songs and started again a few years later with more input into the songwriting. 'This is my angry song but there's some real heartbreak stuff that I've written,' she said of her debut solo single 'Threads', which came out in 2015. It missed the charts, however and her solo career was over almost before it had begun. Harding got into acting, appearing opposite Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike and Riz Ahmed in the 2009 BBC drama Freefall. She appeared in - and, was rather good in - St Trinian's 2: The Legend Of Fritton's Gold the same year and acted alongside Dyer and Denise van Outen in the colossal 2012 flop Run For Your Wife, though that film's many, many failing were hardly her fault. Coronation Street signed her up for four episodes in 2015 and she took part in such other TV shows as Celebrity Masterchef, the BBC's gymnastics contest Tumble - where she came second - and Channel Four's alpine fiasco The Jump. She dropped out of the latter after sustaining a ligament injury (something of a running, or rather, limping, theme with contestants on The Jump). Later that year, she blamed the injury for her withdrawal from her theatre debut in Ghost: The Musical, which had received poor reviews. 'I've been in constant pain with my knee injury,' she said. 'It can take a massive toll on your mental as well as physical well-being.' In 2017 she went into the Z-List Celebrity Big Brother house and emerged as the winner. Harding then retreated from the limelight, only re-emerging in August 2020 to deliver the devastating news that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. In March 2021, an early extract from her memoir, Hear Me Out, revealed doctors had told her she wouldn't see another Christmas. She wrote she was 'trying to live and enjoy every second of my life, however long it might be.' The book also revealed that all five members of Girls Aloud had been reunited behind closed doors in the wake of her diagnosis. Harding admitted that she was anxious about them all seeing her looking 'bloated' due to the steroid treatment she was on, and having lost her eyelashes due to chemotherapy. 'It's not that I thought they wouldn't understand or be judgmental, of course; it's just that when we were together as a group, part of our thing was the glamour,' she wrote. While back together, the ex-bandmates watched the 2006 E4 documentary series Girls Aloud: Off the Record, 'laughing' and 'cringing' at their old antics. 'I have to say, I looked on fondly,' wrote Harding. '"You only miss this when it's gone," I told the girls.'
It is very difficult to separate the character of the eponymous hero of the television series Lou Grant (1977 to 1982) from the actor who played him. Ed Asner, who has died aged ninety one, will always be associated with the irascible but kindly crusading editor of the Los Angeles Tribune, although he had a career that stretched back to the 1950s and continued long after Lou Grant was cancelled. While the show was running, Asner was an outspoken activist against US support of the sick right-wing scumbag junta in El Salvador. He stood on the steps of the state department to announce the formation of Medical Aid for El Salvador and presented the first twenty five thousand dollar relief cheque for war-ravaged communities there. Dozens of sick right-wing scumbag organisations asked their members to boycott the products that sponsored the show. As sick right-wing scumabgs tend to do. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Asner was also twice elected head of the Screen Actors Guild, a position that he frequently used as a forum for his political opinions, which brought him into conflict with Charlton Heston, who took over from Asner in a highly publicised power-play. 'My presidency of the Screen Actors Guild, coupled at the same time with being one of the founding members of Medical Aid for El Salvador, created a conflict which eventually led to the cancellation of the Lou Grant show,' he wrote. 'It was 1982, the height of Reagan power.' It all sounds like the plot of an episode of Lou Grant, in which, at Lou's instigation, star reporters Joe Rossi (Robert Walden) and Billie Newman (Linda Kelsey) gathered facts about how pressure groups forced a TV network to cancel a show because of the political leanings of its star. Many of the groundbreaking show's themes reflected Asner's views. Among the controversial issues it covered were abortion, prostitution, child pornography, racism, homophobia, the negative treatment of Native Americans, Viet'nam vets, Vietnamese immigrants, illegal aliens, US support of military juntas in South and Central America, big business corruption and third world dumping. Looking back, it is a wonder the show lasted five years and that Asner remained a star and in work. Indeed, his newfound fame as Grant did not, initially, gain him many roles on the big screen. Years later, Asner commented, 'I still find resistance to putting me in movies. I'm not sure whether it's a combination of so much TV in my life or my recognition as Lou Grant so intensively that they hoped to bury me within the wrappings of a character. They're much more afraid to cast me than they are in television. Also, I'm not a leading man, so it would be a harder sell.' Asner had originally appeared as the Lou Grant character in The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1970. An eminent ex-journalist, Grant was the macho news show producer at WJM-TV. Sometimes he was the exasperated boss, sometimes the wise counsellor, traits Asner carried over from the sitcom to the spin-off drama series. Added to this, Asner transformed the comic persona into a serious newsman, uncompromising in his defence of press freedom and, despite his gruff exterior, genuinely caring about people. Asner was born in Kansas City, Missouri, into a traditional Orthodox Jewish family, the son of Lizzie and Morris Asner, a poor immigrant junk man who described himself to his friends as being in the 'used materials business.' Theirs was the only Jewish family in the neighbourhood, so the young Ed learned to defend himself both vocally and physically. He played football in high school and organised a basketball team which toured much of liberated Europe. After moving to Chicago in the 1950s, he was briefly a member of The Playwrights Theatre Club until he went to New York to try his luck. There, from 1954 to 1957, he appeared as Mister Peachum in the off-Broadway production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera, in a cast which starred Weill's widow Lotte Lenya. In the early 1960s, on television, he profited from his physical resemblance to the stereotyped view of KGB types during the spy-show boom. At the same time, he started to appear in feature films in secondary roles, mostly as policemen. It was while playing a streetwise police lieutenant in Elvis Presley's last - and, by a distance, worst - feature film, Change Of Habit (1969), that he met Mary Tyler Moore. The latter played a nun who at one point stages a sit-in at a grocery store because the prices are unfair. When Asner refuses to arrest her, she shrieks, 'Police brutality!' In 1970, despite Moore's initial reluctance (she was not certain he was funny enough), Asner was cast as Lou Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show which ran for seven series and for which he won three EMMY awards. Among the few substantial roles he had in feature films were a slave trader in Skin Game (1971); an owner of a football team which includes a Yugoslav mule in Gus (1976); a tough cop, second billed to Paul Newman, in Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981); a faithful widower in communication with the ghost of his wife in O'Hara's Wife (1982) and as a lawyer defending a couple accused of treason in Sidney Lumet's Daniel (1983). Asner continued to appear regularly on television, taking on two weekly sitcoms, Hearts Afire (1992 to 1993) and Thunder Alley (1994to 1995), atypically cast in the latter as an ineffective grouch who is easily dominated by his daughter and grandchildren. At the same time, Asner started to get a lot of work as a voice actor on animated TV series (Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, Zorro, The Boondocks, Gargoyles and The Cleveland Show, for example) and animated features, notably Up (2009), beautifully exploiting the gruff persona that was the protective stance of a private, sensitive person. Despite his being cast so often as a curmudgeon, it might seem paradoxical that he played Santa Claus a number of times, most famously in Elf (2003). As a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, he remained outspoken in a very conservative industry. 'Socialist means a thing that will curb the excesses of capitalism: the increasing wealth of the rich and decreasing wealth of the poor,' he said. 'I'd like to see a national guarantee of health, a national guarantee of education (through college), fair housing and sufficient food.'Asner had two daughters and a son from his first marriage, to Nancy Sykes, which ended in divorce and a son from a relationship with Carol Jean Vogelman.
Lee Scratch Perry, who has died aged eighty five, was one of Jamaica's finest and most unpredictable record producers, as well as a much recorded singer. But perhaps his greatest global legacy was the profound effect he had on the king of reggae, Bob Marley. As a singer in The Wailers with Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston, Marley had experienced a modest degree of success in Jamaica before he came into Perry's charismatic orbit in 1970. Hooking up with Perry changed the way Marley saw things, pulling him away from the measured harmonies of a trio towards something more heartfelt. Urged on by Perry to take a more spiritual approach, he copied some of Perry's vocal phrasing, built a new, bass-dominated sound and, with Perry's help, began to release a string of new songs - 'Soul Rebel', 'Duppy Conqueror', 'Kaya', 'Small Axe' - that would propel him onto the world stage. Although Perry and Marley parted company on poor terms before Marley really hit the big time as a solo artist, it was Perry's free-spirited unorthodoxy that drew the best out of the younger man. Essentially a layman in music circles, Perry came up with ways of doing things that would rarely occur to trained musicians – and which they regularly rejected as unworkable until they tried them and found to the contrary. His adventurous, shamanistic spirit brought him to the very top as a reggae producer in the mid-to-late 1970s, when he ruled the Jamaican music scene from his fabled Black Ark studio in Kingston, creating critically acclaimed and popular records with artists such as The Heptones, Junior Byles, Max Romeo and The Congos. His tiny twelve-foot square workplace, cluttered with strange artefacts, produced a signature sound like no other, as distinctive in its own way as Phil Spector's famous wall of sound. The Ark was also one of the great cradles of dub music, where Perry, along with his collaborator King Tubby, got under the bonnet of reggae, stripped it down to its bare essentials and reassembled it in new form, adding a cacophony of sound effects, reverberations and electronic exclamation marks. The golden years came to an abrupt end in 1979, however, when an overworked Perry, always deeply eccentric but now increasingly unhinged by the consumption of unwise amounts of dynamite ganja and rum, burned the place down and walked off into the wilderness. Perry had always trodden the thin line between genius and insanity and was an enigma throughout his life. Born into harsh poverty in the rural Jamaican town of Kendal to Ina, a field-labourer and Henry, who worked on the roads, he left school early, living itinerantly and making a precarious living in the North-West of the country as a professional dancer, dominoes player and bulldozer driver. in a 1984 interview with NME, he said: 'My father worked on the road, my mother in the fields. We were very poor. I went to school. I learned nothing at all. Everything I have learned has come from nature.' After a short-lived marriage to a local woman named Ruby Williams, he moved to Kingston in the early 1960s, where he found work with Clement Coxsone Dodd's famous sound system, which played American records to the masses at venues around the country. When Dodd moved into record production and created his Studio One label, Scratch helped him out by talent spotting, arranging sessions in the studio and writing songs. Though he was not blessed with a great singing voice, from 1961 he also began recording songs in his own right. Among his early output of around thirty singles was 'Chicken Scratch', the song that gave him his nickname. Perry was one of Dodd's key men in the early 1960s, but was never well rewarded for his efforts and in 1966 he split acrimoniously with his boss over personal and financial matters. Fallings-out were not unusual where Perry was concerned and his other longstanding nickname was The Upsetter. He went on to work as a freelance for various producers, and in 1968 set up his own Upsetter label. By now he was a recognised leader in his field and Trojan Records in London even established its own licensed version of The Upsetter imprint to put out his singles - one of which, 'Return of Django', reached number five in the UK charts in 1969. It was Perry's decision to sell his Wailers tapes to Trojan and pocket the money that brought about a temporary end to his relationship with Marley. However, the subsequent LP, African Herbsman, became one of the foundation stones for Marley's recognition and the two were to work together later, notably on the glorious 1977 single 'Punky Reggae Party' recorded in the UK shortly after The Wailers' Exodus sessions. Whilst in London Scratch also befriended The Clash and worked on their 'Complete Control' single. Perry had heard the band's cover of 'Police & Thieves' and was moved enough to have put a picture of the band (the only white artist accorded such an honour) on the walls of Black Ark. When The Clash learned that Perry was in London, he was invited to produce the single. During the session Perry allegedly blew out a studio mixing board attempting to get a deep bass sound out of Paul Simonon's instrument, while a 1979 NME article written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones stated that Perry had complimented Jones' guitar playing, saying he 'played with an iron fist.' Perry began building the four-track Black Ark studio in the backyard of his Kingston house in 1973 and for the next five years produced some of the great works of dub reggae from its cupboard-like domain. The studio had a mystical air about it which Perry put down to the presence of extra-terrestrials, but in reality the dense underwater sound that emerged from its walls was due to the constant overdubbing of material and consequent loss of sound quality. Improvisation was also the watchword and Perry would often pluck unknown musicians off the street to join a session. The classic single by Junior Murvin, 'Police & Thieves', took form in this way, when Perry overheard the young singer strumming the nascent tune in the adjoining backyard. In his heyday, Perry was focused and clear-headed in the studio, able to convey exactly what he wanted. But in other arenas he was far from coherent. During the extended period of erratic behaviour that led to the burning of The Ark and the break-up of the relationship with the mother of four of his children, Pauline Morrison, he took to walking backwards in the street, daubing the studio and his house with arcane graffiti and pounding the ground repeatedly with a hammer. Though he was arrested for arson after the fire, he was released due to lack of evidence and the exact circumstances of the incident were never determined. Perry was not about to enlighten anyone, for he always preferred to talk in rhymes and riddles. After this episode, Perry left for the US before moving on to Amsterdam, then London in 1984 and eventually Switzerland, where, in 1991, he married Mireille Campbell-Rüegg, a businesswoman with whom he had two children; the couple returned to Jamaica in 2020. He made several LPs of variable quality, appeared live on many occasions and produced various artists in the late 1980s, all the while stalked by wild stories of his odd behaviour. There had been a half-hearted attempt to rebuild The Ark, during which Perry constructed a duck pond in the drum booth, but it came to nothing. Instead, during the 1990s, his old material found favour among a new generation of fans and he benefited financially and critically from a plethora of reissues and compilations, including the comprehensive three CD Arkology (1997). In a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, Keith Richards described Perry as 'the Salvador Dali of music.' He collaborated with the dub producers Mad Professor and Adrian Sherwood and did some production work for The Beastie Boys - and in 2003, won a GRAMMY award for Best Reggae Album with the recording Jamaican ET. In an eerie echo of his days in the Ark, in 2015, Perry’s recording studio in Switzerland was damaged by a fire that destroyed various unreleased recordings and some of his stage gear. While much of his later work was a disappointment to his followers, he continued on his unconventional and unpredictable path to the very end. He is survived by Mireille and his six children.
Former France footballer Jean-Pierre Adams, who had been in a coma for thirty nine years, has died at the age of seventy three. Adams was admitted to hospital for knee surgery in March 1982 but never regained consciousness after an error with his supply of anaesthetic. Born in Senegal, the defender made more than one hundred and forty appearances for Nice and also played for Paris St-Germain. In a statement, PSG said Adams' 'joie de vivre, charisma and experience commanded respect.' Nice said the club would pay tribute to Adams - who won twenty two caps for the French national side between 1972 and 1976 - before their next home game against Monaco on 19 September. Adams also made eighty four appearances for Nimes, who said they were sending their 'most sincere condolences to his loved ones and his family.' On the day of Adams' operation to repair a damaged tendon in his knee - suffered whilst on a coaching training camp - many staff at the hospital in Lyon were on strike. His operation still went ahead, with the anaesthetist looking after eight patients, including Adams, at the same time. Adams was supervised by a trainee, who later said: 'I was not up to the task I was entrusted with.' Between the anaesthetist and trainee, numerous errors were made, causing Adams to suffer a cardiac arrest and brain damage. It wasn't until the mid-1990s that the anaesthetist and trainee were punished - a one-month suspended sentence and a seventy hundred and fifty Euro fine. Adams was discharged from hospital after fifteen months and had been cared for at home in Nimes by his wife, Bernadette, ever since.


Friday, August 27, 2021

I Hope Good Luck Lives In Odd Numbers

Despite becoming one of the greats of rock and/or roll, the dapper and deadpan Charlie Watts, who died this week aged eighty, spent more than sixty years doing his second-favourite job. Charlie applied himself diligently to the task of being the rock-steady heartbeat of The Rolling Stones, but what he always yearned to do was play jazz. Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis were his musical idols and his playing was inspired by jazz drummers such as Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes and Philly Joe Jones.
Charlie's career with The Stones ran from the cramped West London clubs of Britain's early-1960s rhythm and blues boom to the international stadium tours which became the norm by the 1970s. Through it all, he seemed determined to be as self-effacing as anybody could be as a member of perhaps the world's most high-profile rock band. Nonetheless, the group fully understood his value to them. Keith Richards, in particular, often acknowledged how fundamental Charlie was to The Stones' sound, perhaps not least because he was prepared to make space for the churning rhythmic drive of the guitars of Richards, Brian Jones and, later, Mick Taylor and Ronnie Wood. The crisp economy of Charlie's drumming, both swinging and muscular, was remarkable for its absence of frills or fuss, freeing the rest of the band to express themselves around it. 'Charlie Watts gives me the freedom to fly on stage,' Richards once observed.
Charlie, who trained in graphic design, also contributed a lot to The Stones' marketing and presentation, which came to the fore as they evolved into a global brand and their performances grew increasingly spectacular. He was involved in the artwork for some early Stones releases - notably 1967's Between The Buttons - and collaborated with Mick Jagger on the design of their elaborate stage sets for such tours as Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle (1989-90), Bridges To Babylon (1997-98), Licks (2002-03) and A Bigger Bang (2005-07). Any conversation with Charlie was likely to rove amiably across topics such as his love of Savile Row suits, cricket - he often attended test matches at Lord's and The Oval - and the horses he reared with his wife, Shirley, at their Halsdon Arabians farm in Devon. But he would invariably come back to his first love, jazz. 'The first person whose playing I was aware of was [baritone saxophonist] Gerry Mulligan and the track was 'Walking Shoes', with Chico Hamilton playing drums,' Charlie recalled in 2012. 'That's what made me want to play the drums. Before that I wanted to play alto sax because I loved Earl Bostic.' 
'As much as Mick's voice and Keith's guitar, Charlie Watts's snare sound is The Rolling Stones,' Bruce Springsteen once wrote. 'When Mick sings, 'It's only rock 'n' roll but I like it,' Charlie's in back showing you why!' Charlie was never the most flashy drummer. He wasn't known for the frenzied solos of The Cream's Ginger Baker, or for placing explosives in his kick drum like The Who's Keith Moon. Instead, like his good friend Ringo Starr, he was the subtle, stoic, metronomic heartbeat of his band for almost sixty years. His jazz-inflected swing gave many Stones' songs their swagger, pushing and pulling at the groove, creating room for Jagger's lascivious drawl. He was at his best on the cowbell-driven 'Honky Tonk Women', the power-groove of 'Street Fighting Man' or the locked-down quasi-funk of 'Gimme Shelter' (where he even threw in some uncharacteristically showy fills). On and off the stage, he was quiet and reserved - sticking to the shadows and letting the rest of the band suck up the limelight, the controversy and the glory. 'I've actually never been interested in all that stuff and [I'm] still not,' he told the San Diego Tribune in 1991. 'I don't know what showbiz is and I've never watched MTV. There are people who just play instruments and I'm pleased to know that I'm one of them.' In 1989, during a Stones twenty fifth anniversary TV documentary (Twenty Five By Five) Charlie was deliciously self-deprecating about his time in the band, describing it as 'five years of work and twenty years of hanging around!'
Charlie was born at University College Hospital, London, to Charles Watts, a lorry driver and his wife Lillian. The family (including Charlie's sister, Linda) lived in Wembley in post-war prefabricated housing. He became lifelong friends with his neighbour, Dave Green, who would become a fine jazz bass player. The young Watts (dubbed 'Charlie Boy' by his parents) became fixated on hard bebop and cool jazz during the 1950s. He bought himself a banjo when he was fourteen, but rather than learn how to play it he converted it into a snare drum. He was given his first drum kit as a Christmas present in 1955 and whilst other teenagers were shaking a leg to Bill Haley or Elvis Presley, he dreamed of playing drums with Miles Davis, or stepping into Art Blakey's shoes with The Jazz Messengers. His first band was the jazz outfit The Jo Jones All Stars, which he and Green joined in 1958. After Tyler's Croft secondary modern school in Kingsbury, Charlie studied at Harrow School of Art, where he drew, as part of an assignment, a thirty six-page children's book called Ode To A High Flying Bird, depicting the life of the saxophonist Charlie Parker. The book was later picked up by a London publisher and printed in 1964. After art college Watts secured a job as a designer with a London advertising agency, Charlie Daniels Studios, in 1960. Whilst working at the agency he was lured away from jazz by Alexis Korner, who recruited him for his band, Blues Incorporated in 1962. In the small pool of the nascent British 'blues boom', the future Stones Jagger and Brian Jones (then calling himself Elmo Lewis) made appearances with Korner's band, before Jones branched off to start his own group that included The Stones' unsung but faithful pianist and roadie, Ian Stewart. 
A meeting with Jagger and Keith Richards prompted the formation of The Rolling Stones, although it was a few months before the cautious Watts was induced to leave Korner's band and join them full-time, which he eventually did in January 1963. Charlie would observe The Stones' remarkable trajectory from his vantage point at the back of the stage, occasionally permitting himself a quizzical smile - particularly on the odd occasions where he got to introduce a number - but always remaining detached from the cavalcade of The Sex, The Drugs and the spectacular headlines which followed the band around the world. Renowned as the quiet, sensible one, he never strayed into the limelight if he could avoid it, though the title of Peter Whitehead's documentary film Charlie Is My Darling, shot when The Stones visited Ireland in 1965, acknowledged that Watts projected his own, quiet, mystique. While Jagger, Jones, Richards and Bill Wyman would be out on the town in the Soho clubs, havin' it large with every fashion model within touching distance, Charlie quietly married his girlfriend Shirley Shepherd in 1964 without even telling his bandmates. The couple's relationship remained solid until his death.
Only for a brief period during the mid-1980s did his natural self-reliance fail him. During recording of The Stones' worst LP, Dirty Work in 1985, Jagger and Richards were at loggerheads, the future of the band looked shaky and Charlie's daughter Seraphina (born in 1968) had been expelled from the prestigious Millfield public school after being caught smoking dope. Watts began hitting the bottle, and - shockingly for anyone who knew him - developed a brief, but heavy, heroin habit, though never quite on a scale to match that of Richards. 'Towards the end of 1986, I hit an all-time low in my personal life and in my relationship with Mick,' he admitted later. 'I was mad on drink and drugs. I became a completely different person, not a nice one. I nearly lost my wife and family and everything.' Charlie's relations with Jagger had reached a nadir. On one infamous occasion, in an Amsterdam hotel in 1984, a drunken Jagger reportedly woke Watts up by bellowing down the phone 'Where's my drummer?' Charlie responded by getting dressed, having a shave, going round to the singer's room, giving Mick a damned good fisting with a left hook and bellowing: 'Don't ever call me "your drummer" again, you're my fucking singer.' However, the ever-practical Watts quietly weaned himself off drugs even before his problem had become public knowledge and concentrated on building a family life focused around horses and breeding sheepdogs at a country estate he had purchased in Devon.
He also distracted himself from the squabbles and struggles of The Stones by putting together The Charlie Watts Big Band, which featured many top British jazz players. They toured the US and recorded an LP, Live At Fulham Town Hall, released in 1986. In 1991 he formed The Charlie Watts Quintet, which recorded a string of CDs including From One Charlie, a tribute to Charlie Parker and, in 2000, he teamed up with fellow drum legend Jim Keltner for The Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project, a tribute to the pair's favourite jazz drummers. In 2004 came Watts At Scott's, a live recording of The Charlie Watts Tentet at Ronnie Scott's club The disc appeared as news emerged that Watts had been undergoing radiotherapy for throat cancer. The treatment proved successful and the cancer went into remission. 
While touring and studio work with The Stones continued as ever, in 2009 he began playing with The ABC&D Of Boogie Woogie - the name came from the first-name initials of its members, the pianists Axel Zwingenberger and Ben Waters and Charlie's old mate Dave Green. They recorded The Magic Of Boogie Woogie (2010) and Live In Paris (2012). 
Charlie was, of course, extremely inducted into the Rock and/or Roll Hall of Fame with The Stones in 1989 and was voted into Modern Drummer magazine's Hall of Fame in 2006. Also in 2006, Vanity Fair voted the impeccably tailored Charlie into an International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame. Shortly before his death it was reported that he had undergone surgery and that Steve Jordan would be taking his place on the Stones' No Filter tour of the US. He is survived by Shirley, Seraphina and a granddaughter, Charlotte.
Ted Dexter, who has also died this week at the age of eighty six, was the beau ideal, the supreme all-rounder of English cricket for a decade. Dexter could turn his hand to anything sporting and he did so with panache, style, vigour and a hint of the arrogance, whilst ticking every establishment box. Dexter was born in Milan where his father, Ralph, was a prosperous underwriter. Ted along with his family moved to England when he was aged three just before the start of World War II. Dexter was educated at Norfolk House, Beaconsfield and Radley College, where he played in the first XI from 1950 to 1953, initially as a wicket-keeper and as captain in 1953 and was nicknamed 'Lord Ted' by his coach Ivor Gilliat for his aloof self-confidence. While Dexter was head boy at Radley, Peter Cook, the satirist, was - he claimed - among those younger boys upon whom 'a big and strong' Dexter inflicted corporal punishment. (Dexter also made an enemy of Geoffrey Boycott who used two pages of his 1979 autobiography Put To The Test to criticise Dexter for using comments Boycott made off-air during an appearance on Parkinson in public. 'That article was a disgrace,' wrote Boycott, angrily. 'If that's what a public school a university education does for Ted Dexter, I'm glad I went to Hemsworth Grammer School.') Dexter did his national service as a second lieutenant in the Eleventh Hussars during the Malayan Emergency (1953-55) and was awarded the Malaya Campaign Medal. On his discharge, Dexter entered Jesus College, Cambridge in October 1955, where he played golf and rugby in addition to winning his cricket Blue. Dexter was all the more exciting against the contemporary background of English cricket. It was, frankly, a boring period. The late 1950s was the epoch of Trevor Bailey blocking all day, of Peter May captaining cautiously, of Colin Cowdrey reining in his prodigious talents. Dexter went out and stroked the ball all around the ground, like almost everyone these days but few others then. His signature shot was the front-foot drive, through the covers or over long-off and as dashing as Wally Hammond's had been.
Dexter had flexed his wrists by playing golf from an early age - and he continued to play it, occasionally with professional friends like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, such was the company he kept. While his team-mates pushed and poked, Dexter strode out at number three for Sussex or England, lowered his cap and charged the bowling. One of the most celebrated of all test innings for England was the seventy he scored against the West Indies at Lord's in 1963, when Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith were dishing out some of the fastest bowling England had seen to that point, backed by Gary Sobers, the one adversary Dexter found more gifted than himself. Dexter could bowl pretty fast too, well enough to be England's regular third seamer. It is unimaginable now but in those amateur days England's number three would peel off his sweater and bowl as quickly as the opening bowlers. Having been selected too soon for England on their 1958-9 tour of Australia and New Zealand, Dexter had come to the fore the following winter on their tour of the Caribbean. Never let it be assumed that Dexter was just a dashing amateur: he had a cricket brain that was ingenious and he worked out that playing the bouncers which Hall and Griffith fired down, as never before, were best dealt with by playing back and chest-on - not in the orthodox style of side-on. Although junior to Cowdrey, Dexter became England's captain when May retired, as the MCC, who then made such appointments, hoped he would lead his team to play less defensive cricket: around the world test cricket was congealing into a morass of blocking and draws. Dexter tried to lead by example when scoring four hundred and eighty one runs in the 1962-3 series in Australia, the most in a series there by any England captain to this day, but even then the series was another draw. It was in one-day cricket that Dexter found the scope for his ingenuity. As captain of Sussex, he won the first two Gillette Cups, in 1963 and 1964. In this knockout tournament English cricket roused itself from the post-war stupor of the late 1950s. Dexter bowled Sussex's pace bowlers, no spinners and spread the field, then cashed in with the bat when his opponents played conventionally. Dexter needed the tactics of one-day cricket as something to think about on the field (he came out of retirement to play for Sussex when the Sunday League was launched in 1971). Dexter declared himself unavailable for the 1964–65 tour of South Africa as he contested Jim Callaghan's Cardiff South East seat for the Conservative Party in the 1964 General Election. Finding himself free to tour after his parliamentary defeat he was made vice-captain to Mike Smith, who won the series and continued as captain. Dexter's cricket career was virtually ended by a serious motor accident in 1965. His Jaguar ran out of petrol in West London and he was pushing it to safety when it pinned him to a warehouse door, breaking his leg. He left Sussex and played occasional Sunday games with the International Cavaliers whilst beginning a long career in journalism. He returned tocricket, briefly, in 1968, making two hundred and three not out in his comeback match against Kent and appearing twice for England in the 1968 Ashes series under Colin Cowdrey. Like many talented and versatile people, Dexter easily became bored. On a slow test or championship day he could be seen practising his golf swing while he was supposed to be concentrating in the field - not something he would have approved of when he became England's chairman of selectors in 1989. If Dexter had any direct successor as an England test captain, it was David Gower who took an afternoon off to fly a Tiger Moth on a tour of Australia. In 1970 Dexter had piloted his own plane from England to Australia to cover that winter's Ashes tour. He was accompanied by his wife, the glamorous model Susan Longfield, with whom he had had fallen in love at Cambridge, but the living conditions for almost a month with a baby were arduous. Planes, fast cars, motorbikes, cricket journalism, a co-written novel (Testkill - with Clifford Makins, a particular favourite of this blogger) in which an Australian bowler is murdered during a test match at Lord's: all these exploits kept Dexter amused for a while. In another piece of ingenuity he helped to devise the Deloittes Ratings, which were to become the official ICC player rankings. He was much quoted for the odd gaffe when England chairman of selectors, notably when he mistakenly referred to Devon Malcolm as 'Malcolm Devon' but he became bored by saying and doing conventional things because they came so easily, and it is not what he should be remembered for. Dexter illuminated English cricket when darkness was threatening to overcome. Dexter was appointed CBE in 2001. In 2007 his long Sussex attachment came full circle when he was elected club president. In 1959 Dexter married Susan, the daughter of the former county cricketer Tom Longfield. She and their son, Tom and daughter, Genevieve, survive him.
The comedian Sean Lock has died from cancer at the age of fifty eight. A comedy panel show favourite, Lock was a team captain on the series Eight Out Of Ten Cats, hosted by Jimmy Carr. He also appeared regularly on Qi, The Last Leg, Have I Got News For You and The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year (where he had to suffer co-hosting with That Odious Corden Individual). Paying tribute, Bill Bailey said: 'It's heartbreaking to lose my dearest friend Sean Lock, he was a true original, a wonderful comic.' Lee Mack, fellow comedian and another close friend of Lock's, described the news of his death as 'heartbreaking', adding: 'A true original both in comedy and life. I will miss him so much.' Born in Chertsey, Surrey, Sean left school in the early 1980s and began working on building sites but developed skin cancer, which he blamed on over-exposure to the sun. He recovered and decided to focus on a career in comedy. Early in his TV career, Lock appeared on the 1993 series Newman & Baddiel In Pieces. Lock co-wrote the screenplay for the 2001 feature film This Filthy Earth alongside director Andrew Kötting, which was adapted from the novel La Terre by Émile Zola. Lock was named best live comic at the British Comedy Award in 2000 and had also previously been nominated for the prestigious Perrier Comedy Award at Edinburgh. In 2006, he presented and produced the Channel Four series TV Heaven, Telly Hell, in which guests would discuss their likes and dislikes in television. Lock also appeared at Channel Four's Comedy Gala. He wrote and starred in the BBC sitcom Fifteen Storeys High. But Lock was probably best known as a team captain on Eight Out Of Ten Cats. The show saw panellists answer questions based on statistics and opinion polls. He appeared on the first eighteen series, opposite team captains including Jason Manford and Jon Richardson. Lock left the show in 2016. He and Richardson also appeared on the spin-off series Eight Out Of Ten Cats does Countdown which included one of his finest ever routines, The Tiger Who Came For A Pint. 'I wish I had the words to describe the exceptional man that was Sean Lock. But today I don't, and I think he might have liked it that way,' tweeted his co-star Susie Dent.
Don Everly, the surviving member of the rock and/or roll duo The Everly Brothers, has died in Nashville at the age of eighty four. A family spokesperson confirmed Everly's death to the Los Angeles Times. Everly and his brother, Phil, had hits worldwide in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including 'Bye Bye Love' and 'All I Have To Do Is Dream'. They were known for their close harmonies and influenced the likes of The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. The pair had an onstage break-up in 1973 which led to a decade-long estrangement, but Phil later told Time magazine that the brothers' relationship had survived this. 'Don lived by what he felt in his heart. Don expressed his appreciation for the ability to live his dreams with his soulmate and wife, Adela, and sharing the music that made him an Everly Brother,' a statement said. The Everly brothers were the children of country and western singers and performed on the family radio show while growing up. In their heyday, between 1957 and 1962, they had fifteen US top ten hits, including 'Bye Bye Love' and 'Cathy's Clown'. The duo called it quits during a performance in California in 1973, in which Phil smashed his guitar and walked off stage. During their time apart, both pursued solo careers with limited success. They reunited a decade later with a concert in London, followed by a comeback LP. In a 1986 interview with the Associated Press news agency, Don Everly said the two were successful because 'we never followed trends. We did what we liked and followed our instincts. Rock 'n' roll did survive and we were right about that. Country did survive and we were right about that. You can mix the two but people said we couldn't,' he said. The Everly Brothers were elected to the Rock and/or Roll Hall of Fame in its first year, 1986 and they were given a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys in 1997. Rolling Stain magazine has described them as 'the most important vocal duo in rock.' Phil Everly died of pulmonary disease in 2014, aged seventy four. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

"So Shaken As We Are, So Wan With Care"

Tinkerty-tonk, dearest bloggerisationisms readers and welcome you are, old fruits. to the latest From The North update in the area, like. It's going to be a right proper good'un, so it is. Hopefully.
A statue which featured in a groundbreaking TV performance by The Be-Atles is going under the hammer. The five foot fibreglass figure of Aphrodite was seen by up to seven hundred million viewers worldwide as The Be-Atles took part in the first live satellite TV broadcast in 1967. The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) represented the UK as alcoholic, wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon wrote 'All You Need Is Love' just days before to reflect the event's Summer of Love and flower-power themes. The Greek goddess of love statue will be auctioned in Liverpool on 28 August. The statue, which is coated with a cement-like finish to simulate a stone appearance, is estimated to fetch between fifteen and twenty grand and will, probably, be sold to either an American or Japanese Be-Atles fan with far more money than sense. Artists representing nineteen countries took part in the Our World show, on 25 June 1967 and was screened in twenty five countries. Or, twenty six if you count Wales. The Beatles performance at Abbet Road - some parts were pre-recorded but the vocals and George Martin's superb orchestration were live - was broadcast by the BBC. The set was dressed with balloons, flowers and streamers draped around various bits of décor as Lennon (MBE), Sir Paul McCartney (MBE), George Harrison (MBE) and Sir Ringo Starr (MBE) perched on stools. The Aphrodite statue, believed to have been bought from a prop shop, was on the set directly behind Lennon. Sir Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Marianne Faithfull and Graham Nash were in the audience as were Mike McCartney, Derek Taylor, Be-Atles biographer Hunter Davies and loads of other friends, acquaintances, general hangers-on and assorted riff-raff.
Sound engineer the late Geoff Emerick, who won two GRAMMY awards for his work with The Be-Atles, took the statue home after the recording and it took pride of place in his - somewhat overgrown - garden in Hornsey for the next forty five years. It was put into storage when Emerick moved to the United States where he later died in 2018, aged seventy two.
He had particularly close links with Sir Paul as he was appointed to oversee the building of Apple Studios in Savile Row in 1969 and then won another GRAMMY for his work on the Wings LP, Band on the Run. Other prized personal items released by Emerick's estate, including original plan documents for the conversion of Apple Studios, will feature in the sale along with Beatles memorabilia. News of which, needless to say, saw most long-term fans of The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them) getting their considerable knickers in a considerable twist (as illustrated below).
The climax of the recent Olympics was covered in the previous From The North bloggerisationism update - and very nice it was too - but a couple additions deserve highlighting. BBC Sports editor Dan Roan's excellent think-piece Tokyo Olympics: Sporting Drama Amid A State Of Emergency But How Will Games Be Remembered? covers most of the main talking-points, positive and negative whilst another BBC Sports article, Tokyo Olympics: A Look At How Team GB Fared Sport-By-Sport Compared To Their Funding broadly comes to the same conclusions as this blog last time around. That most of those representing Great Britain did a marvellous job. Except for the rowing squad - as previously noted, they were a fekking disgrace.
Football fan culture in the UK is changing, with a more diverse make-up of fans following the beautiful game, according to a new report commissioned by Sky Sports at the start of the 2021-22 domestic football season. Which started last weekend, you might've noticed (as usual, this blogger's beloved though unsellable Magpies lost. Don't worry, he's well used to such malarkey by now, he's had fifty seven years of this sort of thing). Traditional one-club supporters made up almost a third of those surveyed - the fact that they didn't makes up all of them being the biggest crime identified by this nonsense - but research suggests the treasured die-hards are now joined by a host of different types of fans 'enjoying the game in new ways,' including some who have drawn to the sport through players' powerful voices off the pitch. Yes, dear blog reader, some people actually got paid to produce this shit. Nice work if you can get it. The Football Fandom In 2021 report finds an overwhelming seventy per cent of people feel footballers have 'helped the nation' get talking about discrimination, while sixty three per cent believe they have 'a better understanding of social and economic issues' because of their love of football. And not, seemingly, because they have eyes and a brain in their head. Possibly because, in the case of the latter, they are lacking in that particular department. The findings 'also reveal a number of football fans are now more dedicated to the game itself rather than to a particular team.' Yes, there have always been a few of those around - they're called twats. One in five of those who consider themselves 'football fans' but do not follow a specific team, will still watch football at least once a week and/or never miss a big game. Five 'distinct subcultures' of modern football fandom have emerged, according to the report. Considered the 'traditional' football fan, Lifers are often one-club lifelong fans who have had a football-orientated upbringing. Or, 'normal people' as they're also known. Ever crunching the numbers, the Stattos are more likely than the other subcultures to focus on the pre-match build-up. They will also infuriate their friends by dominating in Fantasy Football. They're mostly harmless but should be avoided if possible since they'll likely bore your tits off with a ream of stats about most passes completed or how many social media followers Richarlison of Everton has which they picked up off Sky Sports News. (Because, it's a little-known fact that Everton, by law, cannot be relegated from the Premier League even if they finish in the bottom three because of Richarlison's forty eight gazillion follower on Instagram. True story.) Modern football culture has seeped into fashion, music and how we connect with each other. Allegedly. Expressionists thrive off this merging of football and lifestyle. It might have been their favourite replica away shirt, or even David Beckham's hair. It was the style, the panache, the culture around football that drew them in, wanting to one-up their mates with the latest boots. These people are dangerous and, frankly, need a ruddy good punch up the bracket to show them of the considerable error of their ways and get them to settle down and behave themselves. Or, stick a bat up their nightdress, whichever is more applicable. Trust this blogger, it's for their own good in the long run. Socialisers focus on the way football brings people together. This subculture connects more with family and friends during the season and they are the first to make plans for big games. Socialisers are mostly into football for the way it makes the country tick - enjoying how big wins bring local community together. They likely follow footballers in the news and on socials simply to be part of the conversation. Again, like Stattos they're fairly harmless and, if you ignore them, hopefully they'll just go away. Finally, driven by the social impact of the football for the greater good, Game Changers are likely to have seen or experienced first hand the power the game has to change mindsets. The Game Changer may have fallen in love with football because of common causes. Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Hector Bellerin have used their voice to shine a light on important issues at home and abroad, winning them legions of new followers. Game Changers, in other words, are likely to be Middle Class quiche-eating, Gruniad Morning Star-reading hippy Communists who never liked football until it became fashionable amongst their Middle Class quiche-eating, Gruniad Morning Star-reading hippy Communist fiends. But who now think they know everything about everything. Death's too good for the lot of 'em. So, dear blog reader, to sum up them ... some tosser actually got paid to come up with this rank horseshit. As any fule kno. And, I'm not even lying.
The stars of Line Of Duty will go head-to-head for one of the main prizes at this year's National Television Awards. Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar and Martin Compston are among the five nominees for the best drama performance trophy. They will face competition from Olly Alexander and David Tennant, who delivered acclaimed performances in It's A Sin and Des respectively.
South Asian food bloggers have, reportedly, criticised the overuse of the word 'curry' over claims it is 'rooted in British colonialism.' Earlier this year, Chaheti Bansal (no, me neither) posted an Instagram video calling on people to 'cancel the word curry.' This blogger will admit he does somewhat overuse the word curry since he eats little else. Next ...
TV and radio services for more than a million people will remain off-air indefinitely after a transmitter fire. The blaze at the Bilsdale mast on Tuesday of last week disrupted Freeview, DAB and FM radio signals across North Yorkshire, Teesside and parts of County Durham. But not, thankfully, as far North as the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House otherwise there would have been a bit of bother. Operator Arqiva said that it would bring in temporary equipment but could not say when services would be restored. Witness Ron Needham reported seeing 'a huge black cloud of smoke come from the buildings at the bottom.' That'd be the fire, then, Ron. He had been hiking on the North York Moors with his wife, Sue, when they stopped for lunch at the base of the mast. They noticed 'nothing untoward' but after continuing for about a mile-and-a-half noticed smoke coming from the top 'like a chimney,' Needham claimed. One or two people even believed him. Despite the loss of transmission from the tower, BBC television remains available on iPlayer. Although, if you live in the area and haven't got a computer them, basically, you're screwed. Radio stations can still be listened to on BBC Sounds. Ditto. Firefighters were sent to the site after a call from an engineer working on the transmitter near Helmsley. North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said there were 'concerns about the structural integrity of the mast' and a three hundred metre exclusion zone was in place around the mast. It also said the cause of the blaze was 'being investigated' but did not believe it was as a result of 'a criminal act.' Unless, of course, Ron and Sue know different. Arqiva confirmed that no-one was injured in the fire and thanked emergency services 'for their swift action. We have started the process to gradually restore services using a combination of temporary structures and existing infrastructure elsewhere in the region, and will be moving through this process as quickly and safely as possible,' a spokesperson said. A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Police said Airwave, the radio service used by all the emergency services, had 'not been affected' by the mast fire. The tower was built in 1969 and provides coverage for half-a-million homes across Northern England, from Tadcaster to Seaham. Arqiva said about two hundred thousand of those use Freeview as their main TV platform. Needless to say, people were soon contacting the BBC about how the loss of transmission has affected them, with one viewer saying they were 'stuck at home with severe disabilities.' Which, presumably, had been the situation before the fire so, really, there's not a whole heap anyone can do about that particular situation. The services affected include: Channels on the PSB1, 2, 3, COM4, 5, 6, 7 and LTV television multiplexes; BBC Radio Tees, BBC Radios 1-4 and BBC DAB; Commercial radio stations SDL, North Yorkshire DAB, BAUER Teesside, Digital 1, TFM, Capital, Heart and Classic FM. Sky, Freesat and cable services are not affected. Coverage of BBC Radio Tees on DAB is reduced but some reception should continue for most listeners and there is no need to retune. BBC Tees's coverage of Middlesbrough's match against Blackpool was affected, however - an utter tragedy for all Smoggies who couldn't get to Lancashire and watch their side receive a three-nil hiding. Although, if the The Football Fandom in 2021 report is correct, then the majority of Middlesbrough supporters are either Stattos or Expressionists anyway and, thus, were more concerned about how much possession they'd had, or how their hair was looking at the time.
Sky News Australia has removed dozens of videos from its websites, after YouTube suspended the channel for spreading Covid misinformation. The archly right-wing TV network, owned by billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch, has been criticised for promoting conspiracies and questioning public health orders in its broadcasts. In recent days it has taken down about thirty videos without explanation or making corrections. Sky News Australia has declined to comment. And, to paraphrase the late and much-lamented Mandy Rice-Davies, 'well, they would, wouldn't they?' But its parent company, News Corp Australia, told local media that the network had taken an 'editorial decision' to remove the videos. One or two people even believed them. Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd was among the first to accuse the channel last week of 'quietly scrubbing incriminating Covid-19 misinformation videos' from its platforms. The videos had showed network hosts - including Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and Rowan Dean - expressing views that have been rejected by global medical authorities. One video showed Jones questioning the legitimacy of the pandemic, erroneously claiming it wasn't worse than the 'common cold.' Which, you know, it probably is. Given that it had now killed over four million people worldwide during the past eighteen months. By and large, the cold doesn't tend to do that. So it would, therefore, appear that this Jones individual is, how can we put this, taking crap. Another video since removed promoted an interview with a pathologist spreading misinformation that Covid was a hoax. According to Gruniad Morning Star Australia (some relation), most of the removed videos 'talked up the drugs ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.' Both drugs have gained attention after being promoted by figures including former US president - and hairdo - Rump. But medical authorities, including the WHO, say the evidence for their effectiveness against Covid remains unproven and, you know, who you gonna believe, scientists or orange-faced former reality TV has-beens and currently full-time arsehole? Tough choice? No, not really. Rudd and other critics have described Sky News Australia's broadcasts as 'dangerous and irresponsible.' It comes as millions of Australians remain in lockdown to prevent the spread of Delta outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne. Fewer than a quarter of Australians have got themselves vaccinated. Frustration over restrictions has also led to several large anti-lockdown protests. Mostly from the kind of beer-swilling Neanderthals who used to populate The Hill at the SCG and shout 'pooftah' at any hapless England cricketer who suffered the misfortune of being posted down to long leg. Sky News Australia executives are due to face a parliamentary inquiry on Friday, after YouTube on 1 August penalised the channel's Covid coverage. The network accused the tech giant of 'censorship', but lawmakers said the platform's decision 'reflected wider concerns.'
Engineers are, reportedly, trying to work out what went wrong when the US space agency's Perseverance rover tried to gather its first rock core on Mars. The robot's mechanisms seemed to work perfectly but when a metal tube expected to hold the sample was examined, it was found to be empty. The mission team think the particular properties of the target rock may have been to blame. Either that or, you know, The Ice Warriors snuck up and pinched it. One or the other. 'The initial thinking is that the empty tube is more likely a result of the rock target not reacting the way we expected during coring and less likely a hardware issue with the sampling and caching system,' said Jennifer Trosper, project manager for Perseverance at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. When asked about the possibility of Ice Warrior interference, Jen claimed a prior appointment and left. 'Over the next few days, the team will be spending more time analysing the data we have, and also acquiring some additional diagnostic data to support understanding the root cause for the empty tube,' she added as she hurried through the door and headed for the nearest NASA bunker. Perseverance has a drilling and coring system on the end of its 2m-long robotic arm. This is capable of cutting and retrieving finger-sized samples of rock. These are then passed to a processing unit inside the rover's belly that packages and seals them in titanium cylinders. But before sealing, a camera and probe are used to assess the amount of material recovered and when this was done for Friday's coring attempt it became obvious the sample was missing. This would not be the first time the Red Planet's surface has played hard-to-get with robots' analytical tools. NASA's 2007 Phoenix lander found the local soils in Mars' 'Arctic' region to have a sticky consistency that made it difficult to get a sample into the robot's onboard laboratory. And the agency's 2018 InSight lander struggled - and ultimately failed - to drive a temperature instrument into the ground. The sub-surface was unexpectedly resistant. Take it from this blogger, those Ice Warriors can get like Somerset farmers when it comes to trespassing.
Deliveroo has said demand for its services has strengthened despite Covid restrictions easing. Which only goes to prove how lazy some people have got during lockdown. This blogger included - although, to be fair, he tends to use Just Eat instead. The food delivery firm saw orders double to over on hundred and forty eight million in the first half of this year, while the value of its transactions also doubled. At the same time, it narrowed its pre-tax losses to one hundred and four million knicker, as against one hundred and twenty eight million smackers a year earlier. It was the first set of results from the company since it floated on the stock market in March. Deliveroo initially listed on the London stock exchange at three hundred and ninety pence a share, but the price fell sharply on the opening day of trading, 31 March. On Monday, its shares rallied on the news that German rival Delivery Hero had bought a five per cent stake in the company. Cooped-up consumers flocked to order from Deliveroo during the earlier stages of the pandemic, when restaurants were closed and people switched to home deliveries. The firm said it expected customer behaviour to 'moderate' later in the year, but it remained 'excited about the opportunity ahead.' It added that its outlook for the remainder of the year continued to be 'optimistic but prudent, combining confidence in continued year-on-year growth in orders with an expectation that average order values revert towards pre-pandemic levels.'
Eurovision type individual James Newman has won a High Court case against an ex-Voice contestant who claimed he had, previously, copied one of her songs. Before representing the UK at the annual song contest, where he came extremely last with but nul points, Newman co-wrote Rudimental & Ella Eyre's 2013 number one hit 'Waiting All Night'. It won best British single at The Brit Awards the following year. Kelly-Marie Smith claimed the song was copied from a song which she allegedly wrote in 2006. But a judge has dismissed her claim and told her to stop being so silly. One half of The Voice duo Nu-Tarna, who appeared on the lack of talent show in 2013, Smith sued Newman along with co-writer, Jonny Harris and three members of Rudimental - Kesi Dryden, Piers Aggett and Amir Izadkhah. But by the end of the High Court trial, judge Mr Justice Zacaroli said 'the allegation of copying was pursued against Mister Newman alone.' He concluded, with the help of musicologists, that while there were 'some limited similarities' between the choruses of 'Waiting All Night' and Smith's 'Can You Tell Me?', there were also 'important differences.' Any similarities in the lyrics, he said, could be down to the fact they contained 'commonplace expressions.' The suggestion that Smith's little-known and commercially unreleased song had 'filtered through' to Newman was based on 'tenuous connections', he added. Smith's legal team argued there were 'too many similarities' between the songs to be explained away by 'mounting coincidence.' But Newman's barrister, Tom Weisselberg QC, said her case was a 'concocted claim that should never have been brought.' He said Newman had conceived his song in 2012 when he was working night shifts in a restaurant whilst trying to make it as a songwriter. Something which is still a work-in-progress, apparently.
Bright and bubbly, Una Stubbs, who died over the weekend aged eighty four, was a revue regular and a Palladium pantomime principal boy who parlayed her natural song-and-dance talent into a later, highly diverse career on the classical stage.
In earlier years she was best known for her roles alongside Cliff Richard in two well-remembered pop musical movies - Summer Holiday (1963) and Wonderful Life (1964) - and as Alf Garnett's spirited daughter, Rita Rawlins, married to a socialist layabout (Anthony Booth), in Johnny Speight's classic social document sitcom Till Death Us Do Part (1965 to 1975) and in episodes of its 1980s sequel, In Sickness & In Health. Both of these incarnations are unimaginable today: a docile, amenable dolly bird hanging around with Cliff and The Shadows and a tolerant but incipiently trendy daughter of a loud-mouthed racist bigot - the late Warren Mitchell's brilliant and relentless performance.
Una transcended, or at least sidestepped, these cultural contrasts by the simple expedient of always being herself, honest and translucent in all she did. She had the ability to shine in revues (at the Mermaid Theatre) based on the works of Noël Coward and Cole Porter, as well as in Shakespeare and Schiller directed by Michael Grandage - her latterday mentor - in Sheffield and the West End, or even Ibsen at the National Theatre. Wherever she went, she sparkled and the longevity of her career was remarkable. She started out as a sixteen-year-old dancer in a Folies Bergère-style musical revue, Pardon My French, with Frankie Howerd and the pianist Winifred Atwell at The Prince Of Wales in 1953 and finished as a touchingly endearing Mrs Hudson in the BBC's Sherlock, starring alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. She was geared to be fast and funny. She was The Dairy Box Girl in an early TV advert in 1955, her breathy, adenoidal voice instantly memorable and she was soon starring in the West End revue On the Brighter Side (1959) at The Phoenix – with talents including Stanley Baxter, Betty Marsden and Ronnie Barker.
Una was born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, where her mother, Angela, worked in the cutting room of Denham film studios nearby and her father, Clarence Stubbs, was a factory worker with Shredded Wheat. Her great-grandfather was Ebenezer Howard, the founder of Welwyn Garden City. The middle of three children - a sister, Claire, was two years older; a brother, Paul, two years younger - Una struggled to assert herself as they all grew up in Hinckley, Leicestershire. She trained at the La Roche dancing school in Slough ('There's posh,' she recalled) and made a debut at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, as the fairy Peaseblossom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In 1955 she was dancing at the London Palladium and in 1956 appeared in both ITV's Cool For Cats, one of the first teen pop music shows, with The Dougie Squires Dancers and as 'a starlet' at the Venice film festival in Grab Me A Gondola, a somewhat unjustly forgotten British musical in which Joan Heal gave a celebrated performance as a wannabe film star. Una met her first husband, the actor Peter Gilmore (the star in the BBC's The Onedin Line in the 1970s), whom she married in 1958, on these gigs. The marriage ended in divorce in 1969. After the Cliff Richard films and during Till Death Us Do Part, there was a step-change when she joined The Young Vic and met Nicky Henson, whom she married in 1969. She appeared there in the Rita Tushingham role in The Knack and as the Princess in The Soldier's Tale (starring opposite her new husband). In 1975 Stubbs played the lead role in Irma La Douce, directed by Dougie Squires, at the Watford Palace, in which she exploded like a firecracker in the big set-piece number 'Dis Donc'.
Her place in popular television culture was sealed in the next few years as she appeared in Fawlty Towers, as the ferocious Aunt Sally in Worzel Gummidge with Mister Pertwee and as team captain, opposite her great friend Lionel Blair, in the television game show Give Us A Clue.
Her second great phase as a stage actor began at The Royal Exchange in Manchester in the 1990s – Mrs Hardcastle in She Stoops To Conquer, Lady Markby in An Ideal Husband - culminating in a devastating and wholly unexpected performance as Terence Rattigan's confused and desperate heroine Hester Collyer in The Deep Blue Sea, in a production at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester in 1997 directed by Grandage. She began the new millennium as a hilarious sidekick to Penelope Keith in a touring (and West End) stage adaptation of the Noël Coward short story Star Quality and as the Nurse in Romeo & Juliet at Chichester in 2002 (with Emily Blunt was Juliet). In 2005 she joined the National Theatre, playing Mrs Holt in Ibsen's Pillars Of The Community, with Damian Lewis and Lesley Manville; two years later, her legit status increasing, she joined Peter Hall's summer season at The Theatre Royal, Bath, to play a delightful Mrs Pearce in Pygmalion, a revival that, with Tim Pigott-Smith as Higgins and Michelle Dockery as Eliza, later transferred to The Old Vic. When Grandage took over at The Sheffield Crucible, then succeeded Sam Mendes at The Donmar Warehouse, Una was a regular part of his team and a revelation, as a pert and fiery Maria in Twelfth Night, a starchy lady-in-waiting in Schiller's Don Carlos, with Derek Jacobi and a choric mainstay of a revival of TS Eliot's The Family Reunion, with Samuel West and Penelope Wilton, in 2008.
In the same year, she registered a beautiful comic cameo in the Menier Chocolate Factory revival of La Cage Aux Folles starring Douglas Hodge. She returned to The National in 2012 to feature strongly in Marianne Elliott's staging of The Curious Incident Of The Dog in the Night-Time as the neighbour who spills the beans about mother 'doing sex' with Mr Shears. Her television career remained eclectic, as she popped up in EastEnders as Caroline Bishop in 2006 and in various episodes of Benidorm, Midsomer Murders and The Durrells. Her screen CV also included appearances in Murder On The Blackpool Express, Call The Midwife, Starlings, The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff, The Catherine Tate Show, The Worst Witch, Tricky Business, Happy Families, I'm Bob, He's Dickie, Life With Johnny, Boy Meets Girl, Hudd, The Dick Emery Show, The Strange World Of Gurney Slade and Rush Hour.
From 2010 onwards she was busy as Mrs Hudson in Sherlock, but managed one last movie outing in John Miller's Ealing Comedy-style pensioners' criminal caper Golden Years (2016). This blogger had the great good-fortune to meet Una in 2012 at a Sherlock publicity event in London. She was, as one would have wished for, every bit as charming, witty and pleasant as her onscreen persona, recalling aspects of her career with clarity and speaking with great fondness of former co-stars like Warren Mitchell ('he really was like another dad to me'), Tony Booth and Cliff.
She enjoyed embroidery and painting, writing two books on the former - Una Stubbs In Stitches (1984) and A Stitch In Time (1985), which expanded into a self-help volume on single motherhood - and indulging her well-trained eye for the latter in co-hosting (with Richard Bacon) the first series, in 2015, of BBC's The Big Painting Challenge. Her marriage to Henson ended in divorce in 1975. She is survived by their sons, Christian and Joe and by Jason, the son of her first marriage.
Fußball-Club Bayern München and West Germany legend Gerd Müller has died at the age of seventy five. One of the best strikers in history, Müller scored sixty eight goals in sixty two appearances for West Germany, including the winning goal in the 1974 World Cup final against The Netherlands. He also scored five hundred and forty seven goals in fine hundred and ninety four competitive games during fifteen years at Bundesliga giants Bayern, one of the finest goals-to-games ratio of any player in the modern socherball era. 'Today is a sad, black day for FC Bayern and all of its fans,' Bayern president Herbert Hainer said. 'Gerd Müller was the greatest striker there has ever been - and a fine person, a personality in world football. We are united in deep sorrow with his wife Uschi and his family. Without Gerd Müller, FC Bayern would not be the club we all love today. His name and the memory of him will live on forever.' Müller, a two times German footballer of the year, won the Golden Boot for netting ten goals at the 1970 World Cup - including the one that knocked England out in the Quarter Finals - and also won the Ballon d'Or that year. He helped West Germany win the European Championship two years later, scoring twice in a three-nil win against the Soviet Union in the final after, again, putting out in the Quarters. 'The news of Gerd Müller's death deeply saddens us all,' Bayern chief executive Mary Shelley's Oliver Kahn said. 'He's one of the greatest legends in the history of FC Bayern, his achievements are unrivalled to this day and will forever be a part of the great history of FC Bayern and all of German football. As a player and a person, Gerd Müller stands for FC Bayern and its development into one of the biggest clubs in the world like no other. Gerd will forever be in our hearts.' During his fifteen years at Fußball-Club Bayern München, Müller was the Bundesliga's top scorer seven times. He also held the record for the most goals in a calendar year after scoring eighty five in 1972 until Lionel Messi surpassed his total in 2012. His record of forty goals in a Bundesliga season - scored during 1971-72 - stood for forty nine years before it was broken by Robert Lewandowski in May. In total, Müller helped Bayern win four Bundesliga and DFB Cup titles, three European Cups, a European Cup Winners' Cup and an Intercontinental Cup. In 2015, the club announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Born in November 1945, Muller joined Bayern in 1964. With his short stature and stocky build he was nicknamed 'short, fat Müller' by his first coach at the club, Zlatko Cajkovski. However, Müller quickly developed a reputation for being a clinical striker and his goals helped Bayern win the league title four times between 1969 and 1974. His prowess in the penalty box quickly made him one of the most feared forwards at club and international level, with another Bayern great - Karl-Heinz Rummenigge - describing Muller in 2015 as 'the best of all time, the Muhammad Ali of the penalty box.' To football fans worldwide he was Der Bomber. Müller retired from international football shortly after helping West Germany win the World Cup in 1974, aged just twenty eight, but continued to enjoy success at Bayern before leaving in 1979 to join Fort Lauderdale Strikers. He played three seasons in the United States before announcing his retirement in 1982.
And finally, dear blog reader, The International Cricket Council is bidding to have the sport included in the Olympic Games. The ICC says its 'primary target' is being added to the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. It would end a one hundred and twenty eight-year wait for the sport to be included, following its only previous appearance in the 1900 Games in Paris. The sport will feature as a women's event in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. ICC chair Greg Barclay says the 'sport is united behind this bid' and that the Olympics are part of cricket's 'long-term future. We have more than a billion fans globally and almost ninety per cent of them want to see cricket at the Olympics,' said Barclay. Why the other ten per cent don't, he didn't elaborate. 'Clearly cricket has a strong and passionate fanbase, particularly in South Asia where ninety two er cent of our fans come from, whilst there are also thirty million cricket fans in the USA.' Where, exactly, that thirty million figure was derived from he, also, didn't say. 'The opportunity for those fans to see their heroes competing for an Olympic medal is tantalising.' Although, given the woeful current form of the England test team - if not the white ball variety side - one could argue it's unlikely to boost Britain's projected medal total too much.