Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on May 4, 1979. The Manchester episode of Something Else, a youth program produced by the BBC with the mandate of offering teenagers “something else” to watch, was first broadcast on September 15, 1979, so it makes for a fascinating shapshot of the conditions that led to her becoming the head of state.
It might not need saying that it’s strange to have the Jam on the program, because Manchester was on the cusp of a truly singular wave of musical talent and the Jam were a London outfit—still, their bits are suitably vital. The clips of JD are top-notch, they’ve have been floating around the Internet for ages (there’s an excellent Playmobil stop-motion re-creation of “Transmission,” for instance), but the full program is encountered considerably less often.
The absolute best thing on this entire video, by far, are Ian Curtis’ dance moves during the guitar parts of “She’s Lost Control.”
Something Else was done in a magazine format with shorter segments. So there’s a brief documentary of an 18-year-old single parent in Salford as well as an interview with Cyril Smith, presented as “Rochdale’s only MP,” about underage drinking. (Smith is utterly indistinguishable from a Monty Python character, must be seen to be believed.) There’s also an awkward exchange with two uniformed police constables who must defend the premise that they hassle kids too much (which they deny).
There’s also a round table featuring Factory Records honcho Tony Wilson, Radio One DJ Paul Burnett, and Joy Division’s drummer Stephen Morris about why the radio never plays anything good. John Cooper Clarke is shown wandering around a shopping mall reciting his signature poem “Evidently Chickentown” and, late in the program, there’s a heavily censored reading of “Twat.”