Here’s a nice mixed bag. It opens with Tracey Ullman Takes On New York.
It’s a lot of character sketches, with some interesting guests. Like Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson). They play a couple where he’s totally bad luck, and she’s good luck.
She meets Michael York in Central Park.
He gets mugged.
Jerry Stiller makes a brief appearance.
Tracey and Michael Williams play an older couple making a trip to New York.
Ullman also plays their daughter, a Tina Brown type now the editor of a hot magazine.
Michael Tucker off of LA Law works on the magazine.
Jill Eikenberry plays an interviewer.
K Todd Freeman, Mr Trick from Buffy, plays young Ullman’s second in command, who brought her parents over to embarrass her.
In another story, Michael Tucker plays a husband.
After this, recording switches to the end of an episode of Nurses.
Then, there’s an episode of The Unpleasant World of Penn & Teller. They open with the pair teaching the entire audience how to vanish a handkerchief.
John Cleese is the guest, and they do the underwater card trick.
This episode features the trick you could do for yourself, where they show a clip of Jon Snow reading the news and revealing your chosen card.
Here’s the whole thing.
After this episode, recording switches to The South Bank Show and a profile of Woody Allen. It opens with a look at the recent scandals involving Allen’s affair with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, and Farrow’s accusations of child abuse. For some reason, all the news footage of these events is shown on a TV and then filmed. I wonder if this is a deliberate alienation device, to make them seem somehow unreal? Or could they just not afford to have the clips transferred to film?
After this, I thought that was all on this tape, but recording switches to UK Gold, and there’s a whole episode of Top of the Pops. It’s a good one too. It opens with Tom Robinson Band doing Won’t Take No for an Answer
Then, the reason I would have recorded this – it’s Kate Bush’s first appearance, doing Wuthering Heights.
She’s followed by Darts doing Come Back My Love. I always liked Darts, but I do think they look a bit like there’s a comprehensive school in Rickmansworth missing their Geography department. Except Den Hegarty who was probably the slightly scary metalwork teacher. And the fact that I can remember Den Hegarty’s name after all this time is slightly worrying. I could change the world with my genius if only my brain weren’t full up with useless information like that.
After Legs and Co dance to Rose Royce, Billy Joel sings Just The Way You Are.
It was a suprise to see The Sweet still going in 1978. I remember rocking away to ‘Little Willy’ and ‘Wig Wam Bam’ when I was (genuinely) tiny. They’re doing Love Is Like Oxygen here (or ‘Oxygene’ as Kid Jensen has it).
Elkie Brooks sings Lilac Wine. A depressing warning against alcoholism. But then, Pearl’s a Singer was no laugh riot. And that purple (lilac!) vignette doesn’t go away for the whole song. The director was proud of that one.
The Bee Gees are on film with Staying Alive. It says something for the raw, transformative power of disco music that we were (and are) able to take the Bee Gees at all seriously with their singing style.
Next, a band I don’t remember nearly as well, Magazine, singing Shot By Both Sides. An offshoot of the Buzzcocks, I’m informed by Wikipedia.
Then, Britain’s Number One is ABBA and Take a Chance on Me. Their videos were directed by Lasse Hallstrom, who would go on to have a good career in feature films, and who directed the rather brilliant ABBA The Movie.
The fun doesn’t stop there, as there’s another episode right after, from September 1979. Opening with Starjets and War Stories. Didn’t ring any bells for me until the chorus, with its references to Sgt Fury and Captain Hurricane. I do remember that.
Next, another Kate Bush performance, of Them Heavy People.
Madness have their first hit, The Prince.
The Bellamy Brothers perform If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me?
Next, a truly stonking song from a band that had few hits. It’s The Jags and The Back of My Hand. I don’t know why, but I looked up this song a couple of years ago. I don’t know what reminded me of it, but I thought at the time it’s one of those really brilliant but mostly forgotten songs, and I’m delighted to have it here.
Next, it’s a pre-Eurythmics Annie Lennox in The Tourists and The Lonliest Man in the World.
The Police perform Message in a Bottle. Another banger.
Holy Cow, now it’s Sad Cafe and Every Day Hurts. The hits go on.
And now it’s Rainbow doing Since You’ve Been Gone.
Legs and Co dance along to ELO and Don’t Bring Me Down.
Then, Britain’s Number One, and straight in, is Gary Numan and Cars.
Back to March 1979, and an episode that was unlikely to have appeared on BBC Four recently, because it’s presented by Dave Lee Travis.
I don’t think I’ve ever told my Dave Lee Travis story. I was working at Computer Concepts, a software house that produced software for various home micros in the 80s and 90s. But the headquarters was in a large stately home in Hertfordshire, as I’ve pointed out in various things where it’s been used as a location.
The mother of the company founder used to organise a family day for the local community every year, so we were sometimes called upon to do something using our technical resources, and this year we were using a video capture card to take photos of people and make up wanted posters, stuff like that, using our DTP programs.
The celebrity who opened the family day was the hairy cornflake himself. We were mostly inside, so we didn’t see much of him, until he appeared at the door with blood pouring from a cut in his finger. One of the attractions was some ferrets, and he had obviously stuck a finger too close to them, and one of the ferrets had bitten him.
We found this quite amusing. DLT was less amused, struggling to maintain an avuncular public persona. I guess I don’t blame him. We made an amusing poster for him, saying something like “Wanted for interfering with a Ferret”. He didn’t find this as amusing as we did. With hindsight, perhaps the headline was prescient.
And perhaps the Ferret knew.
This episode opens with Sham 69 and Questions and Answers.
Dire Straits perform Sultans of Swing.
Legs and Co dance along to Turn the Music Up.
Then The Buzzcocks do Everybody’s Happy Nowadays. Edit: When Pete Shelley died (last Thursday as I write this addendum) I learned the news after I’d been talking about my blog to some friends, and had mentioned the curse of the blog, so when they asked if I’d had Pete Shelley on one of the tapes I said “Of course, just a couple of weeks ago”. But later that evening, when I had a chance to check the blog (I was staying overnight with the friends and had very patchy internet, thanks O2) I did find this entry, but, because the images were taking so long to load, I got as far as the earlier reference to the Buzzcocks, with Howard DeVoto’s Magazine, and just assumed I must have mis-remembered having the actual Buzzcocks on the tape. I didn’t scroll down this far. So this entry was published just a week before he died. I’m so very, very sorry.
The Village People do In The Navy
Dennis Brown does Money in my Pocket.
Queen perform Don’t Stop Me Now.
Another Kate Bush hit, now she’s doing Wow.
The Real Thing perform Can You Feel The Force.
Slightly hipper, Squeeze do Cool for Cats. “The Sweeney’s doing 90 cos they’ve got someplace to go”
And this week, Britain’s Number One is Gloria Gaynor and I Will Survive. An immortal classic.
The tape ends right after this episode.
- trail: Oklahoma!
- Philips CD-i
- Pizza Hut
- A Few Good Men on video
- trail: NYPD Blue
- Daily Telegraph
- trail: Top of the Pops