In 1979, rock singer Frankie Miller landed the lead as Jake McQuillan in Peter McDougall‘s brilliant play Just A Boys’ Game. It was an incredible piece of casting for what was one of the best dramas produced for British TV in the seventies.
Indeed, it is fair to say McDougall, along with Dennis Potter and David Mercer, wrote some of the greatest and most powerful dramas produced during this time:
There can be no better justification for the modus operandi of the BBC drama department of the 1960s and 70s than the discovery of Peter McDougall. The most original Scottish voice of the era, McDougall might never have been given a break at any other time in broadcasting history.
McDougall started work at 14 in the Clydebank shipyards, alongside Billy Connolly. After a few years, he left and moved to London, where he became a house painter. One day, while painting actor and writer Colin Welland’s house, the young McDougall impressed the future Oscar-winner with his tales of marching and mace throwing in an Orange Walk. Welland encouraged McDougall to write his story down, which became the Italia Prix-winning drama, Just Another Saturday:
Just Another Saturday was first broadcast on 7 November 1975, as part of BBC2’s Play For Today. Britain, then as now, was a place of great inequality. Sectarian troubles in Northern Ireland were at their height. Issues of Scottish independence/devolution were in the spotlight, with the collapse of traditional industries such as shipbuilding on the Clyde, and the associated poverty, mirrored by vast wealth promised from North Sea oil in Scottish waters.
The script, screenplay, direction, film stock, lighting, photography, sound recording and editing of Just Another Saturday combine to give an understated, real-life appearance; making the emotional impact of picture and dialogue all the more intense. The use of brief close-ups of very human details add hugely to the emotional effect; faces in the crowds tell, evocatively, of Scotland’s pride and sadness. Outdoor shots especially show powerful visual imagery. The Duncan Street violence is that much more disturbing because much of it is hidden from view.
The play is about beliefs and innocence, and the desire to escape. As Lizzie tells John, “at least you believe in something”; Dan despises all “the organisations” on both sides of the Glasgow Protestant/Catholic divide: he ridicules what he sees their moral hypocrisies, like “suffering for the cause”. There is pointed irony in the fact that the only injury John incurs over the whole day is from a confused drunk. Dan points out the divisions that the organisations cause and the many contradictions from Scottish history that make their positions absurd. His quiet socialist conviction is delivered with great pathos.
Director John Mackenzie was flabbergasted at McDougall’s raw talent, and claims the finished film barely contained a single change from the original draft of the script. However the Glasgow police blocked filming on a drama they feared would cause “bloodshed on the streets in the making and in the showing.”
There wasn’t bloodshed, but considerable outrage that McDougall had highlighted so many of Scotland’s ills. McDougall was undeterred by the controversy, going on to write: The Elephant’s Graveyard (1976), with Jon Morrison and Billy Connolly; Just A Boys’ Game (1979), with Frankie Miller, Ken Hutchison, Gregor Fisher and Hector Nicol; A Sense of Freedom, the story of Scotland’s notorious gangster, Jimmy Boyle: Shoot for the Sun (1986) with Jimmy Nail, and told the dark story of heroin dealers in Edinburgh; Down Where the Buffalo Go saw Harvey Keitel as US Marine stationed at Holy Loch naval base, and the slow disintegration of his life; and Down Among the Big Boys the story of a bank heist with Billy Connolly.
These days, McDougall’s work is rarely seen on TV, as those now in charge of drama commissioning are but mere “civil servants”, more interested in focus groups, audience figures and mediocrity, than genuine talent. It’s a shame, for McDougall is the best and strongest voice to have come out of TV over the past few decades.
McDougal’s Just a Boys Game is an equal to Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, and contains some of the finest performances put into a TV film - watch out for comedian, Hector Nicol’s sly performance as the elderly hard man, whose respect Miller wants to earn, as well as brooding Ken Hutchison (from Straw Dogs) as Dancer and a young Gregor Fisher (who later starred as Rab C. Nesbitt) as Tanza, and Katherine Stark as Jane. It is an brilliant, brutal and unforgettable film.
The astounding Just a Boys Game (Play for Today, tx. 8/11/1979), was another ‘play in a day’, pursuing hard man Jake McQuillan, whose life of alcohol, violence and emotional impotence is threatened by the arrival of a younger, razor-wielding thug. Jake’s casual ‘boys’ games’ ultimately result in the death of his only friend.
Featuring some of the strongest violence the BBC had ever dared broadcast, it was stunningly photographed by Elmer Cossey and featured McDougall’s most crackling dialogue and richest characterisations, all brilliantly evoked by a cast headed by blues singer Frankie Miller in a performance that melts the camera in its intensity.
Miller sadly suffered a brain hemorrhage in New York in 1994, while working on new material for a band with Joe Walsh of The Eagles. Miller spent five months in a coma, after which he went through rehabilitation. In 2006, Frankie released his first new material in almost twenty years, Long Way Home.
The rest of McDougall’s ‘Just A Boys’ game’ plus ‘Just Another Saturday’, after the jump…
As if there even is a middle class to reach, anymore… The top 1% control nearly 40% of the wealth and according to the American Affluence Research Council, just 10% of U.S. households “account for almost half of the consumer spending”—an INCREDIBLE one-third of the total GDP!
Why would Madison Avenue want to bother with “the little people”? They haven’t got any money. If you can’t afford a solid gold Bugatti, you don’t exist to them. This is just another one of the almost imperceptible ways that the capitalist system skewers our reality tunnels, both collectively and individually and just fucks us up as a nation:
The chain-smoking ad agency account execs of Mad Men, the hit cable TV series set in the early 1960s, all want to be rich some day. But these execs, professionally, couldn’t care less about the rich. They spend their nine-to-fives marketing to average Americans, not rich ones.
Mad Men’s real-life ad agency brethren, 50 years ago, behaved the exact same way — for an eminently common-sense reason: In mid-20th century America, the entire U.S. economy revolved around middle class households. The vast bulk of U.S. income sat in middle class pockets.
A small plutocracy of wealthy elites drives a larger and larger share of total consumer spending and has outsize purchasing influence. The rich back then, for ad execs, constituted an afterthought, a niche market.
Not anymore. Madison Avenue has now come full circle. The rich no longer rate as a niche. Marketing to the rich — and those about to gain that status — has become the only game that really counts.
“Mass affluence,” as a new white paper from Ad Age, the advertising industry’s top trade journal, has just declared, “is over.”
The Mad Men 1960s America — where average families dominated the consumer market — has totally disappeared, this Ad Age New Wave of Affluence study details. And Madison Avenue has moved on — to where the money sits.
And that money does not sit in average American pockets. The global economic recession, Ad Age relates, has thrown “a spotlight on the yawning divide between the richest Americans and everyone else.”
Taking inflation into account, Ad Age goes on to explain, the “incomes of most American workers have remained more or less static since the 1970s,” while “the income of the rich (and the very rich) has grown exponentially.”
The top 10 percent of American households, the trade journal adds, now account for nearly half of all consumer spending, and a disproportionate share of that spending comes from the top 10’s upper reaches.
“Simply put,” sums up Ad Age’s David Hirschman, “a small plutocracy of wealthy elites drives a larger and larger share of total consumer spending and has outsize purchasing influence — particularly in categories such as technology, financial services, travel, automotive, apparel, and personal care.”
Ya got that? Here’s the part where you might vomit in your mouth a little bit:
America as a whole, the new Ad Age study pauses to note, hasn’t quite caught up with the reality of this steep inequality. Americans still “like to believe in an egalitarian ideal of affluence” where “everyone has an equal shot” at “amassing a great fortune through dint of hard work and ingenuity.”
In actual life, the new Ad Age study points out, “the odds of someone’s worth amounting to $1 million dollars” have shrunk to “1 in 22.”
That’s right, so make sure to vote a straight Republican ticket so when you be makin’ that Donald Trump, 50 Cent or Kim Kardashian-level money, the damned IRS don’t come and take it all…
“Old skool” rap icon Monie Love—where she at?—tells the wonderful tale behind the lyrics to her signature hit, 1990’s “Monie in the Middle,” in an episode of True Hip Hop Stories. I still play this song all the time. It’s unbeatable!
After the jump, watch the original video for “Monie in the Middle.”
Love 20th Century experimental music and have 14 hours to spare? You’re in luck ! Long enshrined at the redoubtable Ubuweb, and available for purchase from Lovely Music in what I’d presume to be far superior quality, here’s the entire series of 7 films, each devoting a generous 2 hours to the composer, presented by composer Robert Ashley entitled Music With Roots in the Aether in YouTube form. Each film begins with a solid hour of unedited and consistently fascinating conversation in odd landscapes, frequently surrounded by people engaging in unrelated yet complementary activity leading into an hour of musical performance, most of which is solid wonderful-ness. One terrific example: See Alvin Lucier (as pictured above) performing Music For Solo Performer wherein his brainwaves are massively amplified through speakers attached to a battery of orchestral percussion instruments. Good times !
Whoa! Here’s a rather shocking and ultra-violent video for UNKLE’s “Money and Run” featuring vocals by Nick Cave. I’m simply rendered speechless. Who directed this, Pasolini? BTW, the video is probably NSFW.
The feared Mexican drug cartel La Familia was behind the shooting down of a police helicopter, authorities say and they were given a tip-off about a big meeting that was to take place in the group’s stonghold area of Michoacan. That information led to a police shoot-out that the killed eleven suspected members of the cartel, and 36 others, including three known top leaders were captured.
The Mexican police also confiscated several jewel-encrusted or gold-plated automatic weapons. From the BBC:
“They were hiding in Jalisco, waiting for instructions from their boss and planning an attack on a group which calls itself the Knights Templar, with which they’re at war,” Mr Rosas told reporters at a news conference.
The police commissioner described the Knights Templar as an offshoot of La Familia, which had split from the cartel after the killing by security forces of La Familia leader Nazario Moreno in December 2010.
Police said they seized 70 long-range weapons and 14 pistols, many of them encrusted with gold, silver and precious stones.
They also secured more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition and 40 bullet-proof vests.
Fighting between rival factions of the La Familia cartel displaced at least 2,000 people from their homes in Michoacan state this week.
Imagine having so much money that you could have a gold-plated automatic weapon! That’s some real James Bond shit. Perhaps Harry Winston and Tiffany’s need to get in on the “luxury” arms trade? They’re leaving BIG money on the table if they don’t!
Here’s a short but compelling clip of Blondie’s Chris Stein and William Burroughs having a chat in 1987. Wish there was more.
Chris describes the scene:
This is a pretty simple discussion here, (i was trying to sound intelligent)... Bill is just saying that war is part of the natural plan, universe whatever… he drops a lot of phrases that come from Buddhism, he and Kerouac, Ginsberg and co. were all enthusiastic followers… i dont really think that Bill was a devoted practitioner… he was more of a mystic or animist in my opinion.
This was shot in the basement of the last and biggest Warhol factory which was the old Con Ed building on Madison and 33rd street for a segment of Andy’s cable tv show hence the models who were directed to wander through the shots.”
Austrailian shark expert Valerie Taylor hand-feeds a great white shark for Australian Geographic’s TV documentary Shadow of the Shark. Towards the end of the video, she even gives the great white a friendly pat on the head. What the heck, Valerie?!