Archive for the 'TV & Film' Category


(Bad) Cover Version #18: ‘Simon Says’ by Peter Simon (1990)

The origin of the cover: Released as a single
Original recording artist: 1910 Fruitgum Company
Grade: F

‘Going Live!’, most likely, is one of the few television programmes where the majority of its regular human cast members released a single.

Phillip Schofield’s ‘Close Every Door’ – a blatant cash-in from ‘Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ – was the most successful of these releases, reaching Number 27 in November 1992.

Jennifer Juniper’ – a charity single for Shelter – by the Singing Corner meets Donovan (AKA comedy duo, Trevor and Simon, and *THE* Donovan) also charted, peaking at Number 68 in November 1990.

Meanwhile, Sarah Greene’s only single, ‘Eeny Meenie’, flopped in 1983. Both of those releases had some interesting ideas, but were nothing more than short-lived curiosities.

And there was also Peter Simon, the presenter of game show segments ‘Double Dare’ and ‘Run The Risk’. Incidentally, Shane Richie, who was Simon’s first co-presenter on ‘Run The Risk’, had a Number 2 hit with ‘I’m Your Man’ in November 2003.

The concept of Peter Simon covering 1910 Fruitgum Company’s ‘Simon Says’ sounds ludicrous enough to work, but it also seems well suited to his affable personality. After all, he manages to make the shopping channel, Bid, look entertaining.

Unfortunately, though, the reality of this cover version leaves an unpleasant taste.

Although it is faithful to the original – with the exception of Simon’s troubled Poochie-esque rap – it still ends up being the musical equivalent of Bombalurina covering a Black Lace song.

The backing track is like a dentist’s drill being inserted into your brain, but it’s Simon’s complete disregard for dignity that is most concerning.

The song’s strong whiff of cheese is excusable, but it also sounds nonsensical and hideously puerile to the extent that it makes Roland Rat Superstar’s ‘Rat Rapping’ sound as deep and meaningful as Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’.

‘Simon Says’ is simply inadequate in every single department.

This is, without a doubt, Peter Simon’s lowest moment. It’s even worse than ‘Star Pets’, which says it all.


Has ‘The Football League Show’ improved?

I don’t like to use the word infamous lightly, but it is a word that I would use to describe BBC One’s ‘The Football League Show’.

The programme was launched in 2009 – after the BBC obtained the rights to show live Championship matches and highlights from the Football League – and the remit was very much focused on offering something new.

Unlike ITV’s Football League highlights package, which included ‘Football League Extra’ and ‘The Championship’, it was presented in a studio rather than an empty ground.

It certainly wasn’t seen as a low-key affair; the package was a big thing for the BBC and the programme’s producer, IGM Sports Media.

The early days

Even the opening titles were different. Again, unlike ITV’s offerings, there weren’t any shots of crests and managers in 2009. There were fans wearing their replica shirt over a Hi-Viz jacket, and doing cartwheels outside a train station. It was meant to be real football for real fans.

The opening minutes of the very first edition were bold, too. Take, for example, presenter Manish Bhasin’s introduction on 8 August 2009.

He proclaimed:

“Yes, good evening and a warm welcome to the brand new ‘Football League Show’ as we aim to bring you every goal across all three divisions. By the way, there’s only 95 just to squeeze in tonight. Over the next 40 weeks, we’d also love to hear from you. Have you got the right manager in charge? Have you got the right players in the team, perhaps? What about your result this afternoon? Here’s Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes as to how you can get in touch.”

And the second edition was no better, with Bhasin saying:

“The best opening day attendance figures for nearly 50 years show exactly what the Football League means to its fans. And, if that first week threw up some extraordinary results, then let me tell you, today was no less dramatic.”

The attitude taken by the programme – and Bhasin – was overzealous and condensing. They felt that the Football League was exciting; so exciting that it should be alike forcing half a dozen chicken balti pies down your throat at once.

Other elements of the programme were just as preachy. Steve Claridge was recruited to act as the programme’s pundit. During the first edition, Bhasin described him as “a man who knows the Football League inside out”.

But, at best, he has been unbearable to watch during its tenure. Clichés were often, and incoherently, bandied around with a swagger of arrogance. For a show that is broadcasting beyond midnight on a Saturday, it was the wrong tone.

There was also an ‘interactivity’ element, where Greenwood-Hughes read out texts and e-mails from viewers.

As a troubled indictor of this segment’s quality, the first five messages were about Newcastle United: four of them stated that Alan Shearer should become their manager, and one was about Tim Krul being stung by a wasp. A further two messages, during the first edition, supported Shearer.

Greenwood-Hughes also patronisingly said “well done” to a Peterborough United fan, who thought that their defeat at Derby County was a “starting block for a good season”.

During the first series, there was a slight obsession with Newcastle; on most occasions, their matches were shown first.

Within just a few minutes of the first edition, Bhasin said:

“Well, you [Claridge] mentioned the big teams, no doubt the big talking point of the Championship is Newcastle. Who’ll buy them? Who’ll be their manager? And can they bounce back at the first time of asking? Well, we got some sort of pointer to that last question, at least, when they travelled to West Brom, a game you might have seen a little earlier on BBC One.”

And then there was Mark Clemmit, a man who was equally enthusiastic talking about Torquay’s “postcard image” or about “Cardiff City’s swanky, new, £15 million stadium”.

That’s perfectly fine, but there was no light and shade to his presentation – the joviality felt like a façade, at the very least.

He presented two items: a feature about a team in the Football League – particularly if they had changed stadiums or managers – and ‘Potted History’, a collection of ‘wacky’ facts about another team.

These two segments rarely lasted more than a few minutes, but listening to Clemmit often felt like being forced to down a couple of pints after vomiting on the balti pies.

However, the amount of actual football shown was proportionally low. Over 22 minutes of the 75-minute time slot was spent on Championship football, and just under half of that was used for two games: Newcastle United v West Bromwich Albion and Derby County v Peterborough United.

Over 11 minutes was dedicated to League 1 highlights, while nearly nine minutes was used for League 2 football.

The format factory

In a way, you could say that ‘The Football League Show’ was an experiment during its earliest editions. Before 2009, there were two other similar experiments that flopped: ITV’s ‘The Premiership’ and the launch of Channel 5.

The former, which started in 2001, had a number of new features including a teatime screening, Townsend’s Tactics Truck and Terry Venables’ ProZone analysis. All three of those items were scrapped within a matter of weeks.

Channel 5’s launch in 1997 was also troubled. Its flagship programme, ‘Family Affairs’, wasn’t originally a soap about a community, it was pitched as a soap about just one family.

Its early schedules were also “stripped”, a tactic that was normally reserved for digital television. In fact, it often felt like a satellite channel.

Furthermore, two of its main sport presenters were Dominik Diamond, best known for presenting Channel 4’s ‘GamesMaster’, and Gail McKenna, a former Page Three model and future ‘How 2’ presenter.

The channel quickly obtained broadcasting rights for the Poland versus England international, but it was transmitted from a London sports café with stars from ‘Family Affairs’ and ‘Gladiators’. Claridge was also given his own role, in the form of providing betting news and analysis.

Channel 5’s reputation for its sports coverage never recovered from this moment – even if they managed to take an interest in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, Eredivisie and Primeira Liga.

The problem with these two examples, and ‘The Football League Show’, is there was an eagerness to please that went too far. They tried to add too many new gimmicks at once, while failing to get the basics right.

A slow improvement

But changes have been made to ‘The Football League Show’. The show is now pre-recorded, which led to the interactive element and Greenwood-Hughes being dropped in 2011.

Clemmit remained, despite the quiet axing of his ‘Potted History’ segment, although the insufferable enthusiasm remains.

Claridge’s role has also been reduced, being partially replaced by Leroy Rosenior. His gentle tone is suited to the programme’s late transmission time, and he also comes across as intelligent and well informed on occasions.

Bhasin’s interest in the Football League seems more genuine in 2013 than in 2009, and the programme’s overzealous attitude has been toned down.

For example, Bhasin introduced an edition, on 23 February 2013, by saying:

“Good evening, and we’ve become increasingly used to managerial chopping and changing in the nPower Football League. But this week, though, it seems to have stepped up a gear. Out went Paolo Di Canio and Dean Holdsworth, while in came Paul Ince, Simon Grayson and Andy Scott. Not to mention Alan Knill, now covering for Martin Ling over at Torquay. And they’ve all, of course, got to hit the ground running with points becoming more precious by the week. A warm welcome tonight to Steve, as we reflect on a busy day across all three divisions.”

This change in tone is seen in the new titles sequence, which was introduced in 2012. The focus is on the past – with images of Brian Clough and Glenn Hoddle – to remind viewers that football existed before 1992.

It isn’t ideal, but it is a sight more preferable than a John Westwood-esque figure dancing around in a circle.

Also, in 2013, ‘The Football League Show’ is now broadcasting more football than in 2009.

For example, on 23 February 2013, nearly 28 minutes were dedicated to Championship matches and nearly 15 minutes were spent on League 1. Furthermore, there was over ten minutes of League 2 football.

By comparing the editions on 8 August 2009 and 23 February 2013, the amount of actual highlights being broadcasted has increased by 20.32%. It must also be mentioned that both shows were 75-minutes long. (NB: this chart provides a more detailed comparison.)

The programme’s quality has slowly improved to an acceptable level and, for the most part, it is now perfectly watchable.

The future?

But there are still doubts of whether the programme requires a punditry element, particularly when Claridge is at the helm.

A back-to-basics format is recommended, where just the goals are shown, à la ITV’s ‘Football League Extra’.

If its length remains at 75 minutes, then more action can be shown – particularly as its coverage of League 2 feels rushed – but the producers would be wise to reduce the running time by 15 minutes or even half an hour.

It may look like a step backwards, but it would get the most out of a format that is difficult to produce with such short lead times.

‘The Football League Show’ may have its critics, and there is still room for improvement, but it has changed since 2009. And it is all the better for it.


(Bad) Cover Version #16: ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ by Metal Mickey (1983)

The origin of the cover: Released as a single
Original recording artist: The Beatles
Grade: D

The act of a fictional robot covering The Beatles sounds abnormal and fey. It even sounds slightly deranged.

But what remains even stranger is that this cover was not Metal Mickey’s début single. He had already released FOUR singles prior to the release of ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’.

His first single, a version of the Chordettes’ ‘Lollipop’, was issued by EMI in January 1979, just months after the robot made one of his earliest television appearances on Southern Television’s ‘The Saturday Banana’.

Meanwhile, on BBC One’s ‘Nationwide’, John Stapleton described him as a “friendly and an occasionally tuneful robot to keep you company while you work”. Yes, quite.

After the arrival of London Weekend Television’s family sitcom ‘Metal Mickey’ (produced and directed by Micky Dolenz, fact fans) in 1980, three further flops were released on Mickeypops Records: ‘Metal Mickey Magic’, ‘Sillycon Chipp’ and ‘Do The Funky Robot’. They all, quite frankly, sound terrible.

And then came ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’, a cover that doesn’t have any right to be good.

The problem with covering this particular song is that some artists can easily fall into the trap of coming across as needy and desperate, or just plain creepy.

Even worse, they could be dealt with a triple whammy of sounding needy, desperate AND creepy.

And this problem can be multiplied by a hundred if it involves a robot of some kind – especially one that has most likely uttered the words “[c]all my baby lollipop” on vinyl.

But, to be fair, this is a sweet – albeit extremely dated – version, and its relaxed tone certainly prevents it from becoming sinister.

More pressing issues, however, lie with the song’s production. Not only is it flimsy and sluggish but – astonishingly, for a song that lasts just over two minutes – it starts to outstay its welcome at the end.

The production ends up being far too weak to make any long-lasting impression, and it really lacks the glam rock fun of the theme music to ‘Metal Mickey’.

As a cover, ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ just about makes the grade but, in all honesty, it offers nothing more than a brief fling of intrigue.


(Bad) Cover Version #15: ‘Teenage Kicks’ by Crush (1996)

The origin of the cover: Album track on ‘Teenage Kicks’
Original recording artist: The Undertones
Grade: D-

Regarding chart success, spin-off singles from the children’s television drama, ‘Byker Grove’, have been a very mixed bag.

PJ & Duncan AKA, Point Break, Freefaller and Summer Matthews all reached the UK Top 40, but a similar number of acts flopped.

Grove Matrix, whose line-up featured PJ & Duncan AKA, failed to reach the Top 75 with their only single, 1993’s ‘Rip It Up’. Charley had also suffered the same fate in 1990 with ‘The Best Thing’.

Two other flop acts, meanwhile, included two ‘Byker Grove’ actresses: Jayni Hoy and Donna Air.

In December 1994, Hoy and Air teamed up with fellow ‘Byker Grove’ star Victoria Taylor to release ‘Love Your Sexy…!!’, under the Byker Grooove! band name, for the Christmas market.

The one-off single sounded like a no-frills version of Shampoo and, unsurprisingly, never peaked beyond Number 48 in the UK Singles Chart.

And, although the trio still participated in music magazine shoots during the early months of 1995, Taylor left the music industry, and Hoy and Air were known as pop duo Crush by 1996.

Their sound was lighter, and had some traces of airheaded Britpop, but they still struggled to make a commercial breakthrough: ‘Jellyhead’ stalled at Number 50 in February 1996 and their follow-up single, ‘Luv’d Up’, fared little better, peaking at Number 45 in July 1996.

However, in the USA, ‘Jellyhead’ became a minor hit in the Billboard Hot 100, and they were tipped to “give the Spice Girls a run for their money”.

Also, they released their début album, ‘Teenage Kicks’ (which included THREE songwriting collaborations with Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell), in Japan and South Korea. And that’s where it begins to look a bit more interesting.

‘Teenage Kicks’ featured three covers: The Go-Go’s ‘We Got The Beat’, Blondie’s ‘Picture This’ and, inevitably, The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’.

Yes, that’s right, the album showcased DONNA AIR COVERING ‘TEENAGE KICKS’. And that’s exactly when this cover stops being interesting.

Technically, there isn’t much wrong with it; there’s a little bit of light Garbage, with splodges of Sleeper and Pulp elsewhere.

But, while ‘Jellyhead’ and ‘Luv’d Up’ were faintly catchy, this cover has very little to offer.

Crush have gone down the credibility route and, even if it does sound perfectly competent, no thought or imagination has been put into this cover.

‘Teenage Kicks’ just sounds depressingly familiar to the original, and not a single foot-tap was made while listening to it.

Don’t get me wrong, this could have been a lot worse. After all, the sheer thought of Donna Air covering John Peel’s favourite song is enough to drive anyone to the bottle.

But, to be perfectly honest, hearing a car crash of a cover would have been more entertaining than a vapid interpretation that just plods along to the next album track.

You won’t remember a single second of it, trust me. It’s that pointless.


Ten of the biggest Christmas single flops by television stars

If you’re a television personality, having a hit Christmas single is harder than it looks.

For instance, UK Top 10 singles such as ‘I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas’ by The Goons, ‘Your Christmas Wish’ by The Smurfs and ‘I Believe in Christmas’ by the Tweenies are exceptions to the rule.

Also, because several of these singles have flopped, even minor Top 40 hits such as Mr Blobby’s ‘Christmas In Blobbyland’ and The Goodies’ ‘Make A Daft Noise For Christmas’ can be considered as success stories.

And this is without considering the numerous tie-in singles that were released during the Christmas period. For example, ‘Supermarket Sweep (Will You Dance With Me?)’, by The Bar-Codes featuring Alison Brown and M.C. Dale [Winton], reached Number 72 in December 1994.

There are too many celebrity-related Christmas singles to mention – including ‘I Dream Of Christmas’ by Anita Dobson, ‘The Christmas Singles’ by Spitting Image, ‘Light Up The World For Christmas’ by The Lampies and ‘Help Yourself/Bigamy At Christmas’ by Tony Ferrino – but here are ten of the more interesting flops.

‘White Christmas’ by Freddie Starr (1975)

Surprisingly, Freddie Starr has released a number of serious-minded singles and albums. This stemmed from his collaborations with the Midnighters and Joe Meek in the 1960s, and his Top 10 single ‘It’s You’ in 1974.

Also, between 1974 and 1990, he released four easy listening LPs, which mostly contained cover versions.

The comedian’s version of ‘White Christmas’, however, took a ‘comedic’ turn, as it involved Starr impersonating Elvis Presley and Adolf Hitler throughout the song.

Considering that it was Starr’s second and last UK Top 75 single – peaking at Number 41 in December 1975 and having a month-long stay in the charts – it can be seen as a minor success for Starr.

Additionally, Jim Davidson’s version of the same song reached Number 52 in December 1980.

‘Home For Christmas Day’ by The Red Car and The Blue Car (1991)

For those who aren’t in the know, “The Red Car and The Blue Car” was a Milky Way television advert from the late 1980s.

‘Home For Christmas Day’ reworked the advert’s 40-second jingle and, unsurprisingly, turning it into a three-minute pop song was too much of a stretch for it to work.

After entering the UK Singles Chart at Number 73 in December 1991, it eventually rose to Number 44; making it one of the more successful Christmas single flops.

‘Boom Boom/Christmas Slide’ by Basil Brush featuring India Beau (2003)

In December 2003, Basil Brush teamed up with his ‘The Basil Brush Show’ co-star India Beau to release a double A-side single.

And it’s particularly telling that Right Records, rather than BBC Worldwide (who released singles by the Teletubbies and Tweenies, among others), released this single.

In a non-shocker, ‘Christmas Slide’ is soulless pap and only the most easily pleased group of tiddlers will enjoy it.

No wonder it faltered at Number 44 in the UK Singles Chart.

‘Rockin’ Good Christmas’ by Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown (1996)

There are three things about Roy Chubby Brown’s Christmas single that shouldn’t surprise you: a) it features lots of swearing, b) it peaked at Number 51 in the UK Singles Chart and c) it’s a beggared song, aimed at fans of tasteless vulgarity.

‘Another Blooming Christmas’ by Mel Smith (1991)

Mel Smith’s ‘Another Blooming Christmas’ – which was taken from the animated short, ‘Father Christmas’ – should have replicated the Top 10 success of ‘Walking In The Air’ during the 1991 Christmas period.

However, there was one problem. The single was released before Channel 4’s original transmission of the cartoon on 24 December 1991, and it made its last appearance in the UK Singles Chart just five days later.

Had it been released a year or two later, it would have been a sure-fire Top 30 hit, at the very least, and Epic Records must have been disappointed with its Number 59 peak.

‘Old Fashioned Christmas’ by Anne Charleston and Ian Smith (1989)

Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan were all the rage in 1989, so it surprised no one when other Australian soap stars jumped on the bandwagon.

Craig McLachlan and Home & Away’s Dannii Minogue reached the UK Top 10 in the early 1990s, but Madge and Harold Bishop’s short-lived music career raised more than a few eyebrows.

The duo, Anne Charleston and Ian Smith, went on the promotional chase in December 1989, as they appeared on 22 television shows to promote the single including kids’ programmes ‘Going Live!’ and ‘Wac 90’.

However, they couldn’t muster up a hit single – it entered the charts at Number 89 and, although it climbed to Number 77, a week later, it soon sunk without a trace.

Still, at least it didn’t flop as much as Mark Stevens’ non-hit wonder ‘This Is The Way To Heaven’ in 1991.

‘Christmas Wrapping’ by Tony Robinson and The Angel Voices (1990)

Tony Robinson’s venture into novelty rap records was perhaps overlooked and unappreciated in December 1990, as it stumbled into the UK Singles Chart at Number 78.

Also, the fact that it was released by independent label Nico Polo wouldn’t have helped matters at all.

It’s a genuinely amusing song, though, and the dance-cum-choir mix is a nice touch.

And it wasn’t even a cover of The Waitresses’ ‘Christmas Wrapping’, as Robinson co-wrote the song.

Furthermore, and very interestingly, the ‘Blackadder’ actor seemingly performed the song under the guise of his Sheriff of Nottingham character.

‘Christmas Wrapping’ may have performed far better if it had been an official ‘Maid Marian and her Merry Men’ tie-in single.

‘Give Us A Kiss For Christmas’ by Pinky and Perky (1990)

Here’s a surprising fact: until May 1993, Pinky and Perky had never entered the UK Top 75.

And that wasn’t going to change with their cover of Lionel Bart’s ‘Give Us A Kiss For Christmas’.

Especially when their version – which failed to peak beyond Number 79 in early December 1990 – was originally recorded in 1962.

Old-hat doesn’t even come into it.

‘Cashing In On Christmas’ by Bad News (1987)

Before 1987, comedy fans knew all about spoof rock band Bad News. After all, Channel 4 had aired a ‘Comic Strip… Presents’ episode, entitled ‘Bad News Tour’, in 1983.

Over four years later, Bad News – also known as comedians Adrian Edmondson, Nigel Planer, Rik Mayall and Peter Richardson – teamed up with Queen guitarist Brian May (as a producer) to release a self-titled LP.

Also, two singles were released from the album: a cover of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Cashing In On Christmas’.

Both the LP and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ reached the Top 70, but ‘Cashing In On Christmas’ sounded tepid and the joke was perhaps becoming a parody of itself.

Despite the 7” single featuring a range of free gifts – including a signed Christmas card, press release, foldout poster and fake £10 note – ‘Cashing In On Christmas’ peaked at Number 81 in November 1987.

‘Songs For Christmas’ (EP) by Minipops (1986)

Although the ‘Minipops’ television series on Channel 4 lasted for only six weeks in 1983, it was successful enough to spawn a bunch of singles and albums during the 1980s.

One of them, the ‘Songs for Christmas’ EP, was in aid of the Leukaemia Research Fund’s Silver Jubilee Appeal.

In May 1986, the TV Times launched a competition for under 18s to write a “Song For Christmas”.

The entries were whittled down to four shortlisted songs, which were performed by the Minipops on TV-am’s ‘Wide Awake Club’.

The programme’s viewers selected ‘Adventures of Santa’ as the winner, but the other three songs (‘Christmas Scenes’, ‘Ring A Bell For Christmas’ and ‘Rock Baby Jesus’) were also featured on the EP.

Although it sold poorly – it peaked at Number 88 in December 1986 – two further ‘Songs For Christmas’ EPs reached Number 39 in 1987 and Number 97 in 1988.


The 12 most awkward music interviews on children’s television

You could curse YouTube sometimes.

Andy Crane discussing Spot the Dog with Pop Will Eat Itself, Noel Edmonds asking XTC’s Andy Partridge to “be quiet”, Captain Sensible falling from tables, Gilbert the Alien telling Aswad’s Brinsley Forde to “skin up” and Neil Buchanan visiting the set of Gazza’s ‘Fog On The Tyne (Revisited)’ video.

It all happened on children’s television – and none of them are currently on YouTube.

Heck, the full Matt Bianco and Five Star interviews, from ‘Saturday Superstore’ and ‘Going Live!’ respectively, aren’t even on the Internet. [EDIT: The Five Star interview is now on YouTube.]

And, to make matters worse, Zig & Zag’s interviews with Terry Hall and the Beastie Boys are excluded because ‘The Big Breakfast’ wasn’t a children’s show.

But fear not, the following 12 interviews are very awkward.

This is mainly down to the interviewers’ incompetence, but also due to baffling location spots and various interviewees looking hopelessly out of place.

And you know that they’re bad when you can’t include Noel Gallagher proclaiming that ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’ is the best Oasis album since ‘Definitely Maybe’.

12. Living in a Box are asked political questions by kids with regional accents (‘It’s Wicked!’, 1987)

Candid is not a word to describe Living in a Box.

Refusing to answer a question about the general election is one thing, but staying tight-lipped about whether one member had a Number 1 in Spain is quite remarkable.

And, to add to the tension, there are some catty remarks about regional accents and Sheffield, while one child mistakes Richard Darbyshire for an imaginary band member called Stephen.

However, when answers are provided, it’s clear to see the group’s aura of unease. For instance, they said that Bucks Fizz was an early influence, JUST BECAUSE CHERYL BAKER WAS DOING A COOKERY SLOT ON THE SHOW, and also admitted that the band’s name and début single was based on one half-witted anecdote.

Alan Partridge would’ve been proud of those answers.

For more awkward interviews on ‘It’s Wicked’, your best bet is to watch Carolyn Marshall’s tactless chat with seminal kids’ presenter Brian Cant.

11. Violet Berlin discusses video game soundtracks with Alien Sex Fiend (‘Bad Influence!’, 1994)

First of all, here’s the good news: deathrock duo Alien Sex Fiend co-composed the soundtrack for space simulator ‘Inferno’ in 1994. It was awesome.

And the inevitable bad news was that Violet Berlin interviewed Mrs Fiend on technology magazine ‘Bad Influence!’.

The signs were bad, even before the interview started, as their band name was censored as ASF, and Andy Crane made the obligatory “legendary” reference.

And, after the interview, they played out the show on Yorkshire Television’s car park, while being drowned out by a firework display.

As for the interview itself: Mrs Fiend looks like that she wants to do a runner, while Berlin gets excited over what she calls “chase noise”.

Still, it’s not all bad. You get to see Mrs Fiend using an Amiga, after all.

10. Toby Anstis meets Radiohead (‘The O-Zone’, 1995)

The mid-1990s was a period when Andi Peters edited a certain music show and Gary Barlow produced its theme tune.

That sort of thing will never happen again, mainly because Peters decided to base his editorial début on ‘Top of the Pops’ around a Victoria Beckham exclusive.

But Toby Anstis’ interview with Radiohead will stay long in the memory.

Anstis, in an attempt to hide his lack of knowledge about independent music, focused on the aftermath of ‘Creep’ as he mentioned the song title THREE times in less than 90 seconds, and referred to other terms like “one-hit wonders” and “one-song band“.

His voiceover, however, was even more awkward and it included the following passage:

“The striking video to the new single, ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, looks like it was made for the American market. It features the tortured lead vocals of Thom Yorke, who is desperate to rid Radiohead of the ‘Creep’ label.”

Yorke did well to gaze into the distance with a vacant expression.

And, for more surreal music interviews with Anstis, he once played crazy golf with The Bee Gees.

9. Tony Gregory and Jane Wiedlin discuss animal ethics (‘Motormouth’, 1988)

The website Sat Kids described Tony Gregory, the original voice of ‘Big Brother’, as a man “who couldn’t maintain a look of interest while interviewing”. Which says it all.

Here, he mistakes a rabbit for “furry clothing”, and then patronisingly asks animal rights activist and former Go-Go guitarist Jane Wiedlin why people shouldn’t wear fur.

You have to give Gregory some credit, mind.

For instance, his chat with Martika wasn’t half as bad as Terry Christian’s interview with her.

Just be thankful that his interviews with Bananarama and Kakko are no longer online, though. Be very thankful.

8. Michaela Strachan admits that she struggles to pronounce the Inspiral Carpets’ band name (‘Wac 90’, 1989)

This interview featured the following: a bunch of kids wearing Inspiral Carpets T-shirts, Tom Hingley wanting a breakfast cereal to be named after him, the group answering questions from a set of playing cards and Clint Boon being forced to talk to his mother on a dinosaur telephone.

I think that fulfils the awkward criteria quite nicely.

Goodness knows why Tommy Boyd didn’t conduct this interview. It would have been so much better with him at the helm.

7. Philippa Forrester and Carter USM visit a dinosaur museum (‘The O-Zone’, 1993)

Another O-Zone interview means more filler questions about irrelevant topics.

This time, Philippa Forrester focuses on ‘Jurassic Park’, because Carter USM’s latest album at the time was called ‘Post Historic Monsters’, and Fruitbat’s rugby tackle on Phillip Schofield at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party.

Fruitbat and Jim Bob were unsurprisingly subdued – to the extent that a caption proclaimed:

“Carter found it difficult to talk about their new single – so we asked an easier question…”

And that question was about haircuts.

Honestly, showing random shots of the museum in question would have been more productive.

6. Andi Peters tries to punch himself in the face while interviewing Pulp (‘Live & Kicking’, 1995)

It’s never going to end well when Andi Peters doesn’t know who Russell Senior is. He makes that mistake twice.

He also tries to crack jokes with Jarvis Cocker – again, he does it more than once.

It culminates with Peters trying to punch himself in the face.

And, if you thought that things couldn’t be any more awkward, you’d be wrong.

During a “Robert’s Records” sketch with Trevor & Simon, Gary Glitter spontaneously busts some moves.

At least Candida Doyle seems to be enjoying herself – there’s some very faint praise for you.

5. Pat Sharp mistakes The Beautiful South for The Housemartins (‘What’s Up Doc?’, 1994)

“What’s Up Doc? continues with Jacqui, Paul and Dave from The Housemartins, and the rest of the gang, who used to be The Housemartins, shall I say, but are now The Beautiful South. That was my first line. ‘Cos that’s true, innit?”

I don’t think anything else needs to be said about this interview. Instead, let’s focus on Pat Sharp’s other memorable chats.

For instance: he washed cars with Gary Numan, discussed “eye-to-eye rings” with Actifed and interviewed BMX star Mat Hoffman while in drag.

4. Andi Peters’ Hot Seat interview with NKOTB (‘Live & Kicking’, 1994)

All I will say is this: anything that makes Andi Peters uncomfortable is good. God bless the New Kids on the Block and their crazy antics.

Meanwhile, other interviews by Peters that failed to make the final cut included: chatting to The Human League about whippets and flat caps, asking Shed Seven whether Henry Kelly influenced their Top 10 single ‘Going For Gold’, talking about stalkers with Jas Mann and playing in a ball pool with Fuzzbox.

3. Ross King, Charlotte Hindle, Dianne Oxberry, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer bop to the beat of ‘Born Free’ (‘The 8.15 From Manchester’, 1991)

I was tempted to include Ross King messing around with They Might Be Giants’ mobile phone in this list, but you can’t beat Vic Reeves rigorously stroking plush toys and King’s hair.

On the plus side, “the man with the stick’s first helmet from 1943” is one of the all-time great prizes on Saturday morning television.

2. Jenny Powell, the advisor from ‘Theme Park World’, Nicky Wire and Richey Edwards chat about make-up (‘Gimme 5’, 1993)

Despite Lewis MacLeod’s best efforts with his ‘Scooby Doo’ plugs and multi-coloured shorts, Jenny Powell emerges victorious with her observational skills:

“Can I just get one thing right? I think you’re sort of like: metal rock, not pop, punk kind of thing. I mean what are your roots, your musical roots? […] It makes a change having some English rock ‘n’ roll, really, in this day and age.”

For more ‘Gimme 5’ goodness, check out MacLeod chatting to Oui 3 about “quite serious subjects in your [Oui 3’s] lyrics” – as well as Powell and Nobby the Sheep being “deep and meaningful” with wannabe shoegazers Bedazzled.

1. Gary Crowley tries to impersonate Danny Dyer in front of Devo (‘Fun Factory’, 1980)

This interview was always going to be bad from the very start. For instance, the blurb on the YouTube video states:

“The group had a huge bust up with show producers and another group on the show, The Regents – a 1 hit wonder – which may explained [sic] the strained mood through the interview.”

Gary Crowley, however, does his best to make matters even worse.

He asks Devo about their musical influences on FOUR separate occasions without realising that their answer, “T.V. and bad life”, suited their kitsch style and deadpan humour.

In particular, one question – “What about music, though? What was you listening to when you was about 17 and all that? You know, when you were in your teenage years and before you become [sic] old men. What was you listening to when you was about 17?” – makes Dexter Fletcher’s presenting stint on ‘GamesMaster’ look like Jeremy Paxman.

If Crowley can become a successful music broadcaster, anyone can.


(Bad) Cover Version #8: ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’ by Michaela (1989)

The origin of the cover: Released as a single
Original recording artist: Edwin Starr
Grade: F

Bandwagon jumping vanity projects are never good things in music.

Especially when they involve children’s television presenters.

By the time Michaela Strachan had released her début single, a version of Edwin Starr’s ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’, in September 1989 under the Michaela moniker, it wasn’t uncommon to see the stars of Children’s BBC and ITV release musical offerings.

And this was before the likes of Timmy Mallet, Edd the Duck, Peter Simon and Phillip Schofield infested record store shelves.

In this niche area of music, there were two types of singles.

The most common, and well-known, efforts were seen as novelties. Usually, tracks like Roland Rat Superstar’s ‘Rat Rapping’ and ‘I Wanna Be A Winner’ by Multi-Coloured Swap Shop’s musical combo Brown Sauce, weren’t undesirable and flirted with Top 20 success.

The stars that took it seriously and, subsequently, sunk into musical obscurity were part of the second and much rarer camp, mainly because soap stars were becoming regular chart fixtures by the late 1980s.

Kim Goody, for instance, relentlessly plugged her version of ‘Don’t Turn Around’ on TVS’ Saturday morning show ‘No. 73’, yet it failed to break into the UK Singles Chart’s Top 100.

Unsurprisingly, for someone who admitted to Smash Hits that she always wanted to be a popstar for the attention, Michaela’s brief music career fell into the latter category.

And, despite the fact that ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’ was produced by Mike Percy and Tim Lever from Dead Or Alive, its questionable quality wasn’t surprising either.

The cover rigidly follows the same template that was used by Stock Aitken Waterman, even though ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’ sounds cheaper and tackier than singles like ‘Hand On Your Heart’.

There wasn’t anything particularly new to be heard, especially if you had already listened to tracks by Sonia and Samantha Fox.

You can forgive a lack of imagination in the production department, especially considering that it is a cover, but there’s no excusing how vapid it is.

Percy and Lever were experienced enough to know that adding radio sound effects, in a desperate attempt to tie the cover in with the lyrics’ radio theme, does not make it any more flavoursome.

As for Michaela: she was professional – after all, she blew an inflatable saxophone in the promo video and seemed to enjoy it – but her performance had little life and energy.

However, unlike some of her contemporaries in the late 1980s Hi-NRG scene, she didn’t come across as over-enthusiastic or desperate. She seemed canny enough to know that a duffer was being produced.

At least this meant that Michaela came out of this whole sorry affair with some dignity intact.

Unfortunately for Michaela, though, its impact on the charts was just as tepid as the cover itself; it only peaked at Number 62 in the UK Singles Chart.

However, she was keen enough to co-write the b-side, ‘Time Flies’, and with a bit more luck, she could have had a decent chance of doing well in the music industry.

Even when Michaela collaborated with Ralf-René Maué, best known for his work with the London Boys and Sinitta, she could not make a dent in the charts.

The German music promoter was behind her follow-up single, ‘Take Good Care Of My Heart’, and while there was a slight improvement quality-wise, it still faltered at Number 66 in April 1990.

It was not just the terrible first impression that put an end to Michaela’s musical aspirations, though.

The Eurobeat sound, that was made popular in the UK by the likes of Maué and SAW, was going out of fashion. Even though SAW had seven UK Number 1 singles in 1989, for instance, their sovereignty was starting to show cracks.

By late 1989, Donna Summer and Sonia were struggling to replicate the success of their SAW débuts, and by mid-1990, it was Big Fun and Jason Donovan who were running out of steam.

Furthermore, in February 1990, SAW released what was regarded as their biggest mistake, Kakko’s ‘We Should Be Dancing’. This was a blatant attempt to tap into the Japanese market, as shown by its oriental pentatonic hook, and it flopped at Number 101.

It was a far cry from the success of Rick Astley and Mel & Kim in 1987 but, if Michaela had reacted a bit quicker to the bullet and teamed up with her “Hit Man”, she may have faired better in the charts.

But, given the quality of ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’, its lack of success was deserved.

For Michaela Strachan, chart dominance wasn’t meant to be.

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