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.