In October 1999, David Bowie guested on the Channel 4 music show TFI Friday. It was a coup for the programme to hook Bowie in for an interview and two live performances—but probably not too unexpected as Channel 4 owned Friday night British TV during during the eighties, nineties and noughties.
This was the channel that served up such original, controversial and utterly unforgettable music shows as The Tube—the benchmark for this kinda thing with a roster of bands that read like a who’s who of the eighties’ greatest acts; The Word—which often seemed like some mad for it ravers got their paws on some TV cameras for an evening; and The Girlie Show which unfortunately was never quite as outrageous or as good as it thought it was. TFI Friday followed in a similar fashion with a mix of music, interviews, pranks and alike, all expertly managed by host Chris Evans.
All of these shows were broadcast live and were often very chaotic. Understandably therefore, each had its own memorable moments—just the quality of live bands on The Tube is ‘nuff said; Iggy Pop’s see-thru pants, a pissed-up Oliver Reed or the grungy L7 dropping jeans and enjoying a guitar solo on The Word; and er, well, I can’t honestly think of anything too memorable from The Girlie Show other than it made #80 on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest TV Moments from Hell, which kinda tells you all you need to know…
Anyhow…back to Chris Evans who truly excelled as a host on TFI Friday. He skilfully mixed cheeky banter with a self-deprecating bonhomie. Evans was like a well-trained party host who kept the chat flowing, the music up and the beers nicely chilled. His show featured some of the stand-out live performances of the 1990s—enough to mention Pulp, Suede, Black Grape, Napalm Death, Slipknot, etc. etc… (There’s a lot more to be written about this show and its predecessors, but for now it’s back to David Bowie…)
I watched Bowie’s appearance on TFI Friday as was broadcast and thought (in my best Derek & Clive), “Hello, he’s either jet-lagged or has been dabbling in the sherbets...” Bowie arrived for his interview with Evans in a retina-scalding combination of neon pink shirt and fluorescent yellow T-shirt. From the off, he was buzzing with adrenaline—at least I think that’s what it was—and began telling various stories which by turn were funny, surreal and utterly bizarre. His opener was the “helluva time” he had getting to the studio because of traffic congestion on Hammersmith bridge, before segueing into a long tale about a one-legged man and his donkey from Indonesia and a recent debilitating bout of gastroenteritis after eating “monkey breast and parrot beak.”
The title suggests a contest like Star Search, but the UK’s Channel 4 series Star Test was an interview show with a gimmick: a bleeping and whirring computer host. The guest sat alone in a big, white, reverb-y room with stained glass windows and potted plants (a budget version of the room at the end of 2001? a sanitized Cathode Ray Mission from Videodrome?), choosing categories from a touchscreen menu and fielding questions that were more often insipid (“When did you last cut your toenails?”) than inspired. Wendy James of Transvision Vamp, Bernard Sumner of New Order, and Peter Gabriel all sat in this sterile technochapel and took part in its weird ritual.
YouTube user Tony Payne uploaded the Julian Cope episode of Star Test last week. Aired on June 13, 1989, it picks up right where Cope’s autobiography Head-Onleft off, with Ian McCulloch refuting a fortune-teller’s prediction by living through his 30th birthday that May.
Cope was then between his late-80s pop confections, Saint Julian and My Nation Underground, and his unpolished early-90s deep skull dives, Skellington and Droolian, which prepared the way for the prophetic Peggy Suicide trilogy. Unhurried, slightly bored, and whip-smart, he dispatches some questions with a few syllables—Hell is “a loop tape of U2,” the person with the most power over him is “me”—and uses others to propel himself to sublime heights most other musicians don’t even know are there:
What’s the best reason for being alive?
Um… just ‘cause it’s such a break, you know? I just think this is the best break that anybody could give anybody, and I kind of, I feel that with all the people who are in such a bad place, a bad position in the world, you know, that I’ve got to be good at being what I am, ‘cause it’s like—as an analogy, say life is like a play or something. I’m standing at the front, somebody’s given me a really good ticket, so it’s my duty to enjoy the play I’m in, because it’s rude of me not to, ‘cause there’s all these people starving around the world. They’re the people who’ve got a really, really bad break, and they’re standing at the back, and they’re all smaller than everybody else, and they can’t see over, so they never even get to see what life is, they never even got to see the start, you know?
People just say, “Work, and you’ve got a chance.” That’s complete garbage; it’s just rudeness. There’s so much rudeness. So much rudeness in our society, as well, which really kind of gets to me. Some people, they just physically can’t get it together, they can’t mentally get it together, you know? I’ll apologize for them if it makes, kind of, people in power feel any better. Sometimes you can’t get out of your room. Sometimes the world just completely bewilders you and does your head in, you know? And going out is the same as being dragged and knocked senseless by a bunch of muggers, and that’s just sometimes they way it is.
How do you react to criticism?
I really like a good slag-off, ‘cause a good slag-off can really kinda like erupt you inside. And you can be full of crap a lot of the time; you need to have somebody kickin’ around inside you. If there’s no friction in what you do, then there’s no way that you’re gonna get on, you know? The best way to make great art is to have it trivialized by other people as much as possible—that way, you fight, and fight, and fight.
What is your most wicked fantasy?
My most wicked fantasy? An evil fantasy? Well, if it’s a fantasy, maybe my most evil fantasy is that the white race doesn’t actually belong here, and was put here to mess everybody up, and everything that I do as like a total kind of WASP that I am is gonna destroy the rest of the world with its half-assed evangelical calling. But I don’t even know if that’s a fantasy, see, ‘cause I kind of believe that.
You see, the Drude is dispensing the psychedelic wisdom you need for your life, in a convenient 25-minute TV dose. (The show is half as long as it appears to be—like the Circle Jerks’ Group Sex cassette, it plays through twice in a row.)
It is strange to think that some the most important works of art from the past 100 years have been lost, erased, destroyed, stolen, censored, or allowed to rot, and can now no longer be seen.
The Gallery of Lost Art is a virtual exhibition that reconstructs the stories behind the disappearances of some of the world’s best known and influential works of art. It’s the biggest virtual exhibition of its kind, and is curated by Jennifer Mundy, and is produced by the Tate in association with Channel 4 television. The virtual Gallery has been beautifully designed by digital studio ISO, and the site will be kept live for 12 months, before it is lost.
Amongst those currently on exhibition at the Gallery of Lost Art are:
Lucian Freud Portrait of Francis Bacon (1952)
This small painting was stolen in at exhibition in Germany on May 27th, 1988. It is considered one of Freud’s best early works, and although there was a police investigation and a hefty reward (300,000DM) the portrait has never been recovered.
Tracey Emin: Everyone I have Ever Slept With 1963-1995
Made in 1995, when Tracey Emin was still relatively unknown, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995 is a tent covered with the names of all the people Emin had slept with, including lovers, friends, family members and foetus 1, foetus 2. Inspired by an exhibition of Tibetan nomadic culture, which included examples of their tents, which are used by Tibetan monks for meditation, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995 made Emin an over-night sensation and one of the most controversial artists working in Britain at that time. The work was bought by Charles Saatchi, who kept it (along with hundreds of other art works), in a warehouse in London’s east end. In 2004, a fire destroyed this warehouse and most of Saatchi’s collection - including 40 paintings by Patrick Heron.
I greatly admire Neil Coslett‘s award-winning animation Killing Time at Home from 2003, it’s a dark little tale that stays with you long after viewing. Originally produced by Nicola Black as part of the Mesh scheme, which Blackwatch Media ran for Channel 4 television in 2000 and 2007, producing 27 new digital animations that were shown on TV and at film festivals. It would be good to see Black kick-start a scheme like this again, and hopefully have Coslett make a follow-up to his superb wee film.
This 90-minute film is edited together extracts of the Divine David’s late 90s Channel 4 show The Divine David Presents, produced by World Of Wonder.
At the time this show originally aired was one of the most out-there things on TV, and you know what, it’s still pretty damn bizarre and hilarious. Thanks, of course, to the wonderful stylings of the Divine David himself, who now goes by his real name of David Hoyle and regularly performs in London and Manchester.
If any one person was responsible for kicking drag square on the backside and, erm, dragging it into the 21st Century, it was David Hoyle. You could even say his look goes beyond drag, as it’s an over-the-top parody of a form that is already a parody, and which coupled with his pissed-and-paranoid English gent persona can lead to belly laughs simply from a knowing glance or a flick of the wrist. It can be grotesque, yes, but I dare you not to laugh the laugh of wrongness.
‘Til this day David Hoyle remains criminally neglected outside of the UK, and under-rated even in his homeland (except to comedy nerds that is - Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker personally selected Hoyle for the older rock star character in Nathan Barley.) His strange comic genius is as relevant as ever, and needs more exposure - so please, PLEASE World Of Wonder, don’t yank this off YouTube!
Just when you thought shit couldn’t get any more cynical, here comes Charlie Brooker to cast some withering scorn over the recent ‘Kony 2012’ meme propagated by the group Invisible Children (as broadcast on last night on Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock Live.) I could not think of anyone better than Brooker for this job:
“So, in summary, Invisible Children are expert propagandists with what seems to be a covert religious agenda, advocating military action in Africa while simultaneously recruiting an “army” of young people to join their cause (and their weird Fourth Estate youth camps) and to stand around posing like this [quasi-fascist looking picture], a bit like an army of child soldiers might.”
There are plenty of reasons why so many children are homeless in Ukraine. Some have been abandoned by their families. Others are victims of abuse. Whatever the reasons, each child is different, and has a unique story to tell.
There are no official statistics for the total number of children and young people living or working on the streets of Ukraine, yet various children’s charities and homeless organizations suggest the number is somewhere between 50,000 and 300,000.
David found the children living underground, seeking warmth from central heating pipes. They were ravaged by malnutrition and addicted to drugs - nasal decongestants, which they crushed down and then injected.
“When I first started to take pictures of children living like that, I knew that I wasn’t going to change the world. But I did think something would happen - that it would improve. It didn’t.”
A photograph of one street child, Yana, won UNICEF Photograph of the Year. It captured the 13-year-old only 5 days before she froze to death on the streets.
Most of the children David has documented are now dead and his photographs are the only evidence of their tragic, short lives.
Based around his photographs, David has made a powerful and moving short film, The Neglected for Channel 4 television. Produced by Nicola Black of Blackwatch Media, the film reveals the lives of a lost generation of children who live in desolation underneath the streets of Odessa.
The Tube was an early-to-mid 80s British “yoof” TV program covering music and fashion, hosted by Jools Holland and Paula Yates. This special report comes from sometime around 1983 (the date is unspecified but we know that Klaus Nomi has already died) when Holland and guest presenter Leslie Ash take a trip around New York’s most happening night spots. That includes the Paradise Garage, Danceteria, The Roxy and even a brief, passing glimpse of CBGBs.
If you can ignore the cheesy presenting style (“Wow! Clubs in New York stay open until FOUR o’clock!”, “I hear this club has a “happening” sound system.” etc) there are some great interviews here, as well as some priceless footage inside the clubs mentioned. So we get the likes of Arthur Baker talking about producing New Order, Nona Hendryx and Quando Quango performing live, Afrika Bambaataa on the turntables at The Roxy, The Peech Boys backstage at the Paradise Garage, and Ruth Polsky and Rudolph of Danceteria talking about their good friend, the recently deceased Klaus Nomi:
A couple of months ago Damon Albarn premiered his new work Dr Dee: An English Opera as part of the Manchester International Festival. As the name would suggest, Dr Dee concerns the life of the Elizabethan mathematician, cartographer and magician John Dee, with original music composed by Albarn (singing and conducting a chamber group live on stage throughout the show). Well, maybe it was because I was so blown away by Bjork’s magical Biophilia show a few days earlier at the festival, but I found the opera to be a massive let down. You can read more of my thoughts on Dr Dee An English Operahere.
One of the main complaints levelled at Albarn’s production was that its oblique nature did nothing to explain the fascinating story of John Dee to an audience unfamiliar with the man. I was lucky enough to have some knowledge in advance and was able to spot some of the key moments in Dee’s life - but even then the narrative felt scrambled and made little use of some incredible source material (namely the man’s incredible life story). That’s despite this promising write up in the MIF’s program:
There was once an Englishman so influential that he defined how we measure years, so quintessential that he lives on in Shakespeare’s words; yet so shrouded in mystery that he’s fallen from the very pages of history itself.
That man was Dr Dee – astrologer, courtier, alchemist, and spy.
Queen Elizabeth’s Magician - John Dee is a 2002 television show produced by the UK’s Channel 4 for their Masters of Darkness series, and tells the man’s incredible story in a much more accessible way. While perhaps not revealing anything that the more avid Dee student wouldn’t already know, the show is informative and entertaining (if slightly cheesy) and serves as a good introduction to the man and his legacy. It’s also a good watch for fans of Alan Moore, who appears throughout the show and talks of Dee’s magical practices and their influence - and the three-note “spooky” sax motif is more memorable than anything in Albarn’s opera:
I once produced a series called Banned in the U.K., which was based on the premise that we can learn more about a society through what it bans that by what it permits. This week, the issue of censorship has highlighted the difference of what is permitted when viewing extreme violence as fact and fiction.
The principal focus of The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is the sexual arousal of the central character at both the idea and the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture, and murder of his naked victims….
...There is little attempt to portray any of the victims in the film as anything other than objects to be brutalised, degraded and mutilated for the amusement and arousal of the central character, as well as for the pleasure of the audience.
While the BBFC has banned Brits from viewing fictional acts of extreme and sexual violence, Channel 4 television has taken the brave decision to air raw footage (filmed on a cell ‘phone) of allegedly Sri Lankan troops systematically murdering and committing acts of sexual violence against its population in a documentary called Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields.
The material has been described as “the most horrific footage [Channel 4] has ever broadcast”. An extract from the video was aired in August 2009, which showed naked, bound men being executed with a shot to the back of the head by what appears to be Sri Lankan soldiers. This material was edited as it was considered “too gruesome” to be broadcast pre-watershed. Now the footage will be transmitted at length next Tuesday at 11pm:
Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields includes full-length videos of naked and bound Tiger prisoners kneeling whilst they are shot in the back of their heads by men in army uniforms. When extracts of some of these videos were first shown on Channel 4 News the Sri Lankan government denounced them as fake - and have refused to accept they are real - despite being authenticated by UN specialists. In new footage, a Tiger prisoner is shown tied to a coconut tree. The same prisoner is captured in a series of photos - at first alive, threatened with a knife and then dead and covered with blood.
Further videos show evidence of systemic murder, abuse and sexual violence - women’s bodies stripped of their clothes being dumped into trucks by soldiers. The film includes an interview with a woman who, with a group of civilians, handed herself and daughter over to government forces. She claims they were both raped; she witnessed others being raped, she heard screaming and shots and never saw them again.
This week, Head of News and Current Affairs at Channel 4, Dorothy Byrne defended her decision to screen the film in a radio interview:
“I believe it is absolutely justified. The UN has reported that there is credible evidence that actual war crimes took place.
“This is not just a TV programme, this is evidence. If we don’t show it and the Sri Lankan government say it never happened – how are you the viewer, a member of the public, able to make up your mind, unless you see it yourself.
“We felt we had to show it as overwhelming evidence of potential war crimes which need investigating.
“I would like to be able to say we will never again show footage again like this. I hope it is the first and last time we have to do it.”
Byrne took the decision to show the film “after serious and careful consideration.”
“This dossier of visual evidence of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by forces of the government of Sri Lanka is of the greatest possible public interest. We believe that screening it is the only way to enable viewers to make their own informed judgments about what happened.”
Byrne is right to show the footage as “evidence”, in the same way the films of Auschwitz and Belsen were “evidence” of the atrocities committed. But it will lead to people asking why it is acceptable to broadcast genuine material of “gruesome” violence, and sexual assault, while it is not acceptable to screen fictional material, like the next Tom Six movie?
Shouldn’t it be more troubling to watch film of actual murder, rather than fictional?
The screening also opens “a door to which there is no way of closing” for once one news agency shows such footage, what is to stops others following suit?
There is usually a protocol to showing shootings in news footage: the camera freezes before the moment the gun is fired, then cuts to the dead body. This explains in simple terms what has happened. If this protocol is abandoned then the stakes are upped in terms of what a news channel can offer to attract viewers - and let’s be clear, viewing figures drive scheduling, which drives programs and their commissioning, and if real violence can deliver column inches and a healthy viewing figure, then who is going to say “no” to cell ‘phone footage of other atrocities?
But there is also a more troubling issue - would this material have been screened if it was British citizens that had been shot in the head? Do we treat foreign nations with dignity when it comes to reporting on their lives? Or do we use them as victims for our own infotainment?
This is a very tricky area but I think Byrne is right, for it is “evidence” that Channel 4 is presenting and there is a moral duty to screen it, which is what makes this footage exceptional, and important.
Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields is broadcast on Channel 4 on June 14 at 23.05hours, details here.
Below is the original Channel 4 News report on the Sri Lankan atrocities - please note some viewers may find this clip disturbing, as it contains footage of prisoners being killed.
News reaches Dangerous Minds that one of the organizers of tomorrow’s Government of the Dead’s Right Royal Orgy / Zombie Wedding has been allegedly arrested for “potential breach of the peace.”
The Metropolitan Police is concerned over professor of anthropology, Chris Knight‘s intentions, to be-head of effigies of the Royal Family with a guillotine. Last year, Mr Knight, a professor of anthropology, made national headlines over his support for the student demonstrations at Tory HQ. In 2009, he took part in the “Hang a Banker” demonstration.
The Right Royal Orgy which will take place in London, at the same time as the Royal Wedding is advertised on Facebook as follows:
The Government of the Dead requests the pleasure of your company at The Right Royal Orgy mass bed in, love in and touch up in the shadow of the working guillotine!
Bring sumptuous trappings, extravagant and outre costumery, and duvets decorated with ‘blessings’ and ‘wellwishings’ for the royal nuptials.
We will gather from 10am in Soho Square, and process via Eros statue Piccadilly to bare our tidings of great joy to one and all in Westminster!
Yes folks, there will be a spanking new working guillotine on hand! The Hell’s Grannies’ team of tricoteuses will be directing the entire operation! Remember this is YOUR celebration! We’re paying for the party, so it’s OUR party! The invitations must have been lost in the post what with CUTS to the ROYAL MALE!
Suggested costume themes: Bunga Bunga bloc; Hieronymous Bosch bloc; Bloody Naked/Sluts v Cuts bloc; Big Penis bloc; Sheela-na-Gig bloc; Executioners bloc; Hell’s Granny Tricoteuses bloc (bring your knitting needles); Bunny Girrrll Bloc (is the year of the Playboy Bunny’s revenge!); Werewolf bloc; Balaklava Body bloc…and more than you can ever imagine!
casting couch auditions for Marie Antoinette (with cake!) and naked BUTTlers now on…
all genders need apply to the bunny boss!
The Guardian confirms that Chris Knight has been arrested, along with Camilla Power and Patrick Macroida. The 3 activists were arrested outside Mr Knight’s home at 18.15 hours on April 28, as they were preparing to drive their theatrical props, including a home-made guillotine and effigies, into central London when three police cars and two police vans drew up near Knight’s home in Brockley. Fellow activist Mike Raddie told the Guardian:
“Chris was arrested first. He lay down on the pavement opposite his house to make the arrest difficult,” said Raddie. “He was pulled up by four police officers and two bundled him into the back of a van.
“Camilla was put in the back of one of the police cars. Patrick was dressed up as an executioner when he was arrested.”
Raddie said the police also seized a van containing the group’s props, which included a wooden guillotine. “It’s a working guillotine but it doesn’t have a blade – just wood painted silver,” he added.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “This evening, 28 April, officers arrested three people – two males aged 68 and 45, and a 60-year-old woman – in Wickham Road, SE4 on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance and breach of the peace.
“They are currently in custody at Lewisham police station.”
A Channel 4 film crew were present during the arrests, filming for the Unofficial Royal Wedding,which is due to air at 19.10pm on Monday May 2. Some of their equipment, which was in the activists’ van, was also confiscated.
DV8 Physical Theater was formed in 1986 by dancer and choreographer, Lloyd Newson. Over the past twenty-five years, DV8 has produced 16 internationally successful dance pieces and 4 award-winning films for television.
From the start Newson’s work has been controversial. In 1990, the Sunday Mirror denounced DV8’s television production, Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men, a piece inspired by the career of the serial killer Dennis Nilsen, as a “Gay Sex Orgy on TV”. Such “rabid headlines” gave the program an unexpected boost. It also revealed Newson’s considerable intelligence at work behind DV8’s provocative performances. As he explained in an interview with Article 19
One of the things about DV8’s work is it is about subject matter, for a lot of people who go and see dance it is not about anything and DV8 is about something. I think the other thing that is important is the notion of humour and pathos, of tragedy, of multiple emotions and responses to my work –I’ve been so tired over the years of watching so much dance on one level, it may be very pretty, but it just goes on and on, it’s pretty nice, pretty much the same and pretty dull really, a lot of it.
So my big concern is to try and present images through movement and to talk about the whole range of social and psychological situations.
In 2004, DV8 made The Cost of Living, for Channel 4 television. Based on a longer performance piece, The Cost of LIving was devised by Newson and the dancers, who range from “extremely able-bodied to a man with no legs,” David Toole whose incredible performance challenges our perceptions about ability and adds to the film’s “critique of society’s obsession with image.” As Newson explained in 2004:
The Cost of Living is very much about those people who don’t fulfill the market value, in the sense of playing on the words the cost of living in terms of the financial issue and looking at what happens through experience as you live do you lose your naiveté? As you live do you lose a lot? Or does experience assist you?
What I’m interested in [with] this piece is: do you become cynical and bitter as the cost of living, or do you not? So we’ve got lots of different characters; those who play the more embittered ones, we have the notion of Stepford [Wives] the idea that it’s important for all of us to join the club, whether it be dressing well, being attractive, being successful, and if we can’t be really successful financially or in terms of fame or celebrity, at least we can be normal.
But what happens to those people who don’t fit into any of those categories?
So there are lots of different parallels – dance is a beautiful parallel. So much of dance is about the youthful, beautiful, slender, able-bodied performers. Dance I think is a great form to talk about these issues. It’s a bit like a beauty contest, in fact we have a beauty contest or a physical contest, so underneath all the smiles and attractive bodies on front covers of magazines we want to know what else is going on; who has had the tucks, who is hiding their faults.
Some people can’t hide them as much as others, we have a disabled performer in the company, we have a very large, fat dancer, and on a very obvious visual level they look very different to us.
So what about those people on a psychological level who may be able to hide their physical imperfections, but [cannot hide] their psychological imperfections and why is it so important that we have this ‘Prozac face’? I used to refer to dance as being the Prozac of the art forms. So that is what the piece is about – it’s about those who aren’t perfect and who can’t pretend, those who don’t fit in because they don’t play the game.
There is also the notion throughout the piece about rules. We have a big LED board that has displays about certain rules. The whole set is made of what appears to be fake grass and the board reads like a sign in a park, or a traffic sign “keep off the grass”, also at times it tells the audience and the performers what to do. Do they obey those rules? They’re some of the ideas we’re playing with really, who sets the rules who follows the rules.
More Nineties nostalgia to round out the weekend. Growing up as a kid in that decade I was subjected to huge ignominies in the name of yoof TV. “Yoof TV” was the British expression for television programs made by people in their thirties and forties for people in their teens and early twenties, trying hard to represent the energy and anarchy that being young supposedly represented. YEAH! Like down wiv ver kids anthat?! Yoof!! Energy!!! Rissspekt!!!! YOU KNOWORIMEAN?! It was baaad (meaning just bad). MTV built an entire channel around it, but the biggest, smelliest turd lurking at the bottom of the yoof barrel was undoubtedly The Word.
The Word was Channel 4’s first stab at a concept called “post-pub” television, and as the name would suggest it had a rowdy, boozy, “anything goes!” atmosphere, though I think the show’s primary audience were still too young to go to the pub. Launched in 1990, it was presented by the annoying Manc Terry Christian with a rotating cast of inept co-hosts, most famous of which was probably the ex-model/whatever Amanda De Cadanet. She lives in LA now, and you can have her. Fans of River Phoenix, watch this clip and prepare to have all your romantic illusions about the best and/or best looking actor of his generation (and his crappy band Aleka’s Attic) shattered.
There were moments of genuine unscripted tension too. The best of the co-hosts, Mark Lamarr (currently a dj for BBC Radio 6) famously took issue with Shabba Ranks over his homophobia. Oliver Reed was secretly filmed getting drunk in the dressing room (a very classy move by the producers). The British riot grrrl group Huggy Bear and their fans were forcibly removed from the studio for protesting over a segment about a couple of porn star twins, and funniest of all was an altercation between Snoop Dogg (then just emerging with Doggy Style) and the British kids TV host Rod Hull’s puppet Emu, which had a reputation for violently attacking guests.
The show provided a glimpse of the future of television – some would argue a horrifying one. No longer could celebrities be treated with total reverence, as on The Des O’Connor Show or Wogan. Five-minute videotaped pieces tackled subjects that would these days be given whole series on ITV – dog plastic surgery, fat farms, child beauty pageants.
Yet, while Parsons only mentions it in passing at the start of the piece, 20 years later The Word does have one lasting positive legacy - the live music. Sure, they went for what was then currently popular, but this ensured a diverse range of bands and lead to the television debuts of both Nirvana and Oasis (Nirvana’s spot including the infamous moment when Kurt declared that Courntey Love was “the best fuck in the world”). The tone may have been jarring (see the fluffy bra podium dancers gyrating to Stereolab’s kraut-punk!) but the energy was real. This was one of the very few places on TV you could see bands whose shows you had only read about, and if you were lucky they gave good show too - like L7’s Donita Sparks dropping her pants. Charlie Parsons, speaking as someone who WAS a lonely teenager in a bedroom at the time, THIS is why we watched your towering pile of faeces of a show. Not for “The Hopefuls”, not for the interviews, the wackiness, the innuendo, the edginess, the supposed rule breaking, the sticking-it-to-the-man-down-wiv-yoof-culcha-yah - we watched your show for THIS:
L7 - “Pretend We’re Dead” live on The Word
After the jump: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Hole, Stereolab, Blur, Daisy Chainsaw, Pop Will Eat Itself with Fun-Da-Mental & Huggy Bear
The Shock Doctrine is a 79 minute documentary directed by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, based on Naomi Kelin’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, and broadcast by the UK’s Channel 4 in September 2009. From The Times:
“The Shock Doctrine examines the way that the free-market policies of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School were forced through in Chile, Russia, Britain and, most recently, Iraq by either exploiting or engineering disasters — coups, floods and wars. It’s an obvious fit for Winterbottom, a left-leaning director in the tradition of his one-time mentor Lindsay Anderson. He had long been a fan of Klein’s journalism and her bestselling first book, No Logo, though he admits that he hadn’t read The Shock Doctrine before Klein approached him about turning a shorter film she had made into something feature length.
Klein suggests a link between economic shock (radical spending cuts, mass unemployment) and the shock therapy practised in the 1950s by the psychiatrist Ewen Cameron, which led to the development of Guantánamo-style torture techniques. It impressed Winterbottom as “a simple and clever idea that makes you look at things in a different way”. He adds: “Naomi harnesses these events, especially the connections between what went on in Chile under Pinochet and what’s going on now in Iraq, which I hadn’t thought of before.
Winterbottom makes the point that when the current economic crisis hit, many people were not aware that to be pro-Friedman was to adopt a political position: his policies, implemented first by President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, were the water we all swam in. “I’m an optimist and I think this is a good time to be arguing this case because there’s a possibility we could be talking about a comeback for a Keynesian model,” he says. “Naomi feels differently. She thinks that the powerful people who have benefited from these changes over the years are going to hold on to them. Maybe she’s right. You only have to look at Goldman Sachs paying out record bonuses.”
Absolutely essential viewing, this is television at its best.
Out of the ashes of Punk came the New Romantics, rising like a painted phoenix over London’s club scene. From clubs like Billy’s and Blitz, where Steve Strange and Rusty Egan played Bowie, the Velvets and T.Rex, and Boy George was the coat-check guy, came the New Romantics. Clubbers known as the Blitz Kids, who were made-up and beautiful, and knew imagination was more important than money when it came to having fun.
The Blitz Kids were Steve Strange (Visage), Rusty Egan (The Rich Kids), Boy George (Culture Club), Tony Hadley, Martin Kemp, Gary Kemp, John Keeble, Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet), Tony James, James Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), Marilyn, Princess Julia, Isabella Blow, Stephen Jones and Michael Clarke, and together they were the generation of New Romantics.
Last year, in the Guardian, Priya Elan talked to some of the “movers and shakers behind the scene that spawned the New Romantics.”
STEVE STRANGE, BLITZ CLUB HOST, VISAGE FRONTMAN: By 1977 I’d gotten very bored by punk. It’d become very violent. The skinheads and the National Front had moved in.
RUSTY EGAN, BLITZ DJ, VISAGE MEMBER: The punk venues got invaded by football hooligans wearing Le Coq Sportif clothes. They’d call us “poofs” because we weren’t dressed in a normal way. Hence why we formed the club. It was for those ex-punks who liked Lou Reed, Bowie and Iggy.
SS: It was about being creative, we wanted to start something that didn’t have anything to do with punk.
RE: It was a horrible time of recession. Covent Garden was isolated and badly lit. But then you’d walk into the club and it was like “Ta-da!” Everyone was drinking and taking poppers. The atmosphere was like Studio 54.
SIOBHAN FAHEY, BLITZ CLUBBER AND BANANARAMA MEMBER: We’d spend the whole week preparing our outfits for the club. We’d go and buy fabrics, customise our leather jackets, make cummerbunds, find old military things and throw them together in a mix of glam, military and strangeness. It was all DIY because we didn’t really have any money to properly eat. We lived off coffee and cigarettes, really.
RE: The song that became the anthem of the club was Heroes by Bowie. “Just for one day” you could dress up and be more than what Britain had to offer you.