Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Cult Icons: Morecambe and Wise - Christmas Show.


As traditional as burnt turkey and mushy brussel sprouts, the one thing that personified Christmas Day more than anything for those of us in the UK was the Morecambe and Wise Show. Once you'd ate your fill of the feast, worn out the batteries with whatever gizmo your Auntie Nellie had told Santa to bring you on the big day, and got fed up with the endless holiday adverts telling you all about the wonders of Skegness even when there was a blizzard blowing outside, everyone - and I mean, everyone, gathered around their tellys on Christmas Day evening to watch Eric and Ernie's Xmas special. And it was special. It was an event. A "did you see so and so last night?" communial moment of mutual worship. Even as a kid, I realised it was something that you shouldn't miss even if you wanted to be outside riding around on your new Raleigh Chopper bike.  

Twenty million plus viewing figures were the norm for the Eric and Ernie Xmas show back in the day. And they were funny. Funny as in funny funny. Eric Morecambe had a face born to be in comedy. Nothing smutty just old school funny. Funny enough to be remembered no matter how many years pass. 

- photo: Ernie (left) and Eric -

Friday, 18 November 2011

Electric Music: Top of the Pops LP's (1968-1984)


Before music got rubbish and long before the Top 40 turned into one long promotion to X-Factor, the number one program for music fans in the UK was Top of the Pops. Every Thursday at 7pm, you'd find me sat in front of our wooden Rediffusion telly watching Jimmy Savile, Dave Lee Travis, John Peel and Kid Jenson introducing all the latest pop hits from people and groups like the Beatles, Elvis, Slade, David Bowie, Showaddywaddy, Bay City Rollers, ABBA and many more classic artists. The sixties and seventies were fantastic decades to grow up in if you had any interest in music. 

One of the by products of the show was there was always a special No1's compilation vinyl album put out just in time for Christmas by Pickwick Records under their Hallmark label. I had a few and I remember them because they always had a hot looking babe on their covers. Something to look at while you listened to Lieutenant Pigeon belting out "Mouldy Old Dough." through your single mono speaker. Geez, those really were the days and you really only truly discover what you're missing when it's long gone..

Retro Toys: Escape from Colditz.


Now this is a classic board game from way back. And like most board games, the thing was too damned complicated to play no matter how many times you read the rules.

I remember being so bored with it I got a crayon and drew a sort of racetrack around the castle and used the little coloured wooden pieces that were supposed to be your escaped prisoners and made them into F1 cars instead. A pencil and a piece of paper to keep a tally of who was who, a roll of the dice to see how many hexagonal squares to move and it was the German Grand Prix. Much more fun. So like I said, a classic game  - but for all the wrong reasons.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Electric Snapshot: Star Trek - the Motion Picture (1979)


Absolutely the best moment in the movie. Everything about it is perfect. Epic in scale, the visuals give that vital impression of hardware weight in the vast slowness of space. Stir in the superb Goldsmith music with the brilliant design and you've got a classic sequence in a movie that is awe inspiring and disappointing in equal measure. It also proves that a bit of super glue, reams of fibre optics and sticky back plastic has more gravitas than any amount of CGI super doodling will ever have. A truly great special effect experience.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Retro Sci-Fi Hardware: NSTV EAGLE Transporter.


National Space Transport Vehicle codenamed EAGLE. A robust multi-operations modular workhorse powered by four nuclear fusion engines with fuel capacity for 48 hours flight at 1/8th light speed. Flight crew consists of two qualified astronauts in the main pod. The EAGLE was designed as a long term supplies and personnel shuttle for Earth/Moon low orbit operations to and from Moonbase Alpha. Fleet consisted of 20 ships until the Moonbase disaster of  13th September 1999.

Electric Cinemas: the ABC Haymarket - Newcastle upon Tyne


The ABC Haymarket cinema is a special place for me. It was here back in 1976 that I saw the first ever summer blockbuster. That blockbuster was JAWS. I remember having to stand in a huge line for over an hour and wondering if there was going to be enough seats for all of the family or if we'd have to wait till the next showing three hours later. Fortunately we all got in and even had seats together. Phew. The cinema was packed and there was a sort of nervous expectation because we'd all read the stories in the newspapers of people having heart attacks, puking in the aisles, or running screaming from the building because the movie was so scary. JAWS came with a reputation as the ultimate shocker. And it was. Even 35 years later I still can't watch the first five minutes where the girl is attacked by the unseen shark. That freaked me out something serious that did. It's true that the scariest horror is best left to the imagination. Then there was the scene with the "head". When that popped out our whole row gave a sudden "holy shit" jolt and there was women shrieking, men swearing, kids clapping and popcorn everywhere.


Saw many a blockbuster there. Everything from FLASH GORDON to STAR TREK: the slowmotionless picture. But by far the biggest was ET. That was one crazy day. ET was huge. The movie was smashing box-office records all over the world and was the must see movie of the summer. Huge crowds that zig zagged like a long snake all around the back of the building and then some. We got in but this time we had to sit apart and I was stuck right at the back in the upper section - see the above photo. That's just about the view I had. A great movie and a great experience even though I ended up stuck next to a girl who blubbed her eyes out. She was quite hot though. Maybe I should have asked her for a date...


Like the nearby classic ODEON on Pilgrim Street, the Haymarket is long gone now. Knocked down when multiplexes were becoming the fashion and another nail in the coffin for those of us who loved  the real cinematic experience. The cinema closed in 1984 and the last movie shown was "Purple Rain" with Prince -  which kind of makes it even more depressing come to think of it. All that's left are the memories and they're all bloody fantastic.