Top Of The Pops: Big Country Live At King Tut’s in Glasgow, July 7, 2011

Hot off the press, here are a few videos I shot during Big Country‘s brilliant gig at King Tut’s in Glasgow last night.

With original members Bruce Watson, Tony Butler and Mark Brzezicki now joined by The Alarm‘s Mike Peters on vocals – taking over from his friend, the late Stuart Adamson – (plus Bruce’s son Jamie on guitar), this is not quite the same as the original Big Country and never will be, given the large shoes Adamson left to fill.

However, this line-up is undoubtedly as close as you could possibly hope to get to recapturing the spirit of the band in the glory of its 80s hey-day.

Mike Peters, still gigging with his own band (also a favourite of the Choob‘s) in addition to his new Big Country duties, is respectful and worthy of Adamson’s legacy and has the voice, personality and stage presence that has already won over the legion of Big Country fans, who have taken him to their hearts.

This week, we had a rare chance to see a band of Big Country‘s stature in a small, cosy, intimate venue when they played in front of around 250 fans at the legendary King Tut’s in Glasgow as a warm-up for their T In The Park appearance this weekend. Enjoy!


Fields Of Fire



In A Big Country

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Choob Chart – The Top 10 Geekiest Pop Songs

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It’s the time of year for resolutions and one of mine is to update the ol’ blog more regularly than I managed in the second half of last year. So, without any further ado, here is a brand new feature – The Choob Chart.

Thanks to TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory and stars such as 30 Rock‘s Tina Fey, Geeks have never been so cool. So my first choob chart is my list of the 10 geekiest rock and pop songs ever recorded.

Now, there are a few ways of defining geeky music. For the purposes of this chart, the songs must be inspired by, be celebrations of or, at the very least, substantially reference, geek-friendly subject matter. They must NOT have been specially composed as part of a larger geeky project. So, for example, Still Alive, the song from the closing credits of the video game Portal was written for the video game and therefore exists solely as an integral part of something uber-geeky to begin with.

Also, the songs must be the work of established and (to some extent) commercial acts. This means no songs by self-publishing internet amateurs or YouTube stars, no matter how good they are.

10. Mutants In Mega-City One – The Fink Brothers

I Am The Law by Anthrax is the best known song about 2000AD‘s legendary future lawman Judge Dredd. But I’m opting for the more obscure Mutants In Mega-City One by The Fink Brothers (which was a one-off side project of Madness members Suggs and Chas Smash) for two reasons. First, I’m not really a fan of Anthrax. Secondly, and more importantly, I bought the 12-inch single back in 1985. It came with cover art and a free Dredd poster by Brian Bolland.

It’s far from zarjaz, musically, but the guys do know their Dredd lore and the lyrics are full of references to Mega-City life and characters. After the music video below there is a brief appearance by Suggs and Chas in costume as Fink Angel and his brother Mean Machine.

Which brings me to two geeky gripes. First, they should really be called the Angel Brothers since Fink was the christian name of one of the Angel gang, not their surname. And second, the song repeatedly has Dredd referring to citizens as “Earthlets” which, of course, is a word 2000AD’s alien editor Tharg The Mighty uses, not Dredd. Tut!

9. Doctorin’  The Tardis – The Timelords

Again, musically, this mish-mash-up of the Doctor Who theme tune, Gary Glitter’s Rock And Roll (Part Two) and Blockbuster by Sweet is far from brilliant (though this didn’t stop it reaching the top of the charts in the UK in 1988). But its geek credentials are impeccable.

Quite apart from Whovian-cred, The Timelords was an alter ego of The KLF, the anarchic acid house legends whose origins and philosophy were heavily inspired by one of the all-time great works of geek literature, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. So the Timelords and their 23-year-old song have more than earned their place in this chart. Or, to put it another way, they’re justified and they’re ancient…

8. Sgt Rock (Is Going To Help Me) – XTC

A Sgt. Rock movie has been in the works for years now. Years ago, Arnie was lined up to play the non-superpowered DC Comics WWII hero of Easy Company. More recently, Bruce Willis has been linked to the role, with Guy Ritchie directing. The latest rumour has the action being rather ridiculously moved from WWII to a future war. Don’t hold your breath. If non-comics geeks are aware of the character at all, it’s probably thanks to this fine track from new wavers XTC, released in 1980.

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7. In The Garage – Weezer

Although this song – from Weezer‘s self-titled 1994 debut album – is more about a young geek’s appreciation of his safe haven, where he can geek out away from prying eyes, without being judged or ridiculed, there are some great references at the start to the X-Men’s Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler, along with Dungeons and Dragons and 12-sided die. Pretty good song, too.

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6. The Prisoner – Iron Maiden

Several years before I ever saw an episode of The Prisoner on TV (it was rarely repeated on TV when I was growing up, in the days before video and DVD box sets), I knew the show’s opening dialogue off by heart thanks to this classic Maiden track from their legendary 1982 album The Number Of The Beast. You’re spoiled for choice, really, when looking for geeky references on Maiden songs through the years (for example: The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner, The Wicker Man, Lord Of The Flies, A Brave New World, Murders In The Rue Morgue) but this is one of the earliest and, given the cultish nature of the TV show that inspired it, this is arguably the geekiest. They revisited The Prisoner two years later with Back In The Village, on the album Powerslave.

5. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. I – The Flaming Lips

Now, you can read this song (and, in parts, the 2002 album of the same name it comes from) in a number of ways, from an anime-inspired futuristic tale of a young woman fighting to save the world from robots in revolt, to a more thoughtful, allegorical meditation on the importance of individuality and creativity in the face of pressure to conform and be subservient in the corporate rat-race.

For the purposes of this chart, I’m going for the former!

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4. The Eighth Day – Hazel O’Connor

Talking of revolting robots, here we have the plot of The Terminator neatly summed up in a song – four years before James Cameron’s movie was released! Okay, so the idea of a war with sentient machines was a sci-fi staple long before 1980, but still. The song qualifies for my chart because although it was written for a film – 1980’s Breaking Glass – it’s not a sci-fi film and so the song is not self-referencing (Hazel O’Connor plays a pop star struggling to cope with sudden fame and The Eighth Day is simply one of her character’s songs).

Adding to the geekiness of the song, note the costume that O’Connor wears while performing the song in the film. Tron wasn’t released for another two years.

3. History Of Everything – Barenaked Ladies

Yes, I’m bending my own rules ever so slightly here, since this song was written to be the theme song for every geek’s favourite sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. However, it does not reference the show or characters and is a great standalone song that crams the creation and 14billion-year history of the universe so far into one minute 45 seconds PLUS its future and ultimate destruction. It also has a great video, about which I have written before.

2. Hanging Out With Halo Jones – Transvision Vamp

Transvision Vamp singer Wendy James had a great voice and there were some great songs on the band’s first two albums. Most interesting from a geek perspective was the song Hanging Out With Halo Jones, from their 1988 debut album Pop Art.

The Ballad of Halo Jones was a much-loved story that appeared fairly early on in the life of 2000AD and is still regarded as one of the comic’s finest strips. Unusually for the macho, testosterone-fuelled 2000AD, in an attempt to make the comic more female-friendly, the main character was an ordinary teenage girl (albeit from the 50th-century Earth) and the storyline was a lot more thoughtful and philosophical than most of the other strips of the day.

It was written by Alan Moore before he hit the big time working for the big American comics publishers and I think it surpasses much of his later, better-known work, including Watchmen. The strip was beautifully illustrated by Ian Gibson, one of my all-time favourite 2000AD artists.

Sadly plans for a nine-volume storyline, following Halo Jones all through her life from youth until old age, fell apart when Moore fell out with the then publishers of 2000AD over creators’ rights and the series stalled after three volumes were published. It’s well worth getting hold of the reprinted collected editions if you’ve never read the story.

Transvision Vamp were clearly fans and this song was great homage to the character:

Since there is no video or live performance for the song I can find, here are a couple of bonuses. They all come from the late, lamented (by me, if nobody else!) Night Network, circa 1988. ITV’s first attempt at through-the-night programming, it aired on Friday and Saturday nights and was aimed squarely at a young audience staggering home from the pub.

The first two videos feature the cast of a Halo Jones stage play performing a couple of scenes plus an interview with 2000AD founding father Pat Mills and acclaimed artist Kevin O’Neill (Nemesis The Warlock, Marshall Law, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

And here are writer Peter Milligan and artist Brett Ewins talking primarily about their 2000AD strip Bad Company.

1. DC Comics and Chocolate Milk Shake – Art Brut

I’ve featured this song on the blog before. Art Brut‘s frontman is the very geeky Eddie Argos, comics reviewer and the world’s biggest Booster Gold fan. The song is about embracing your inner geek and refusing (or being unable) to grow up and leave childish, geeky things behind just ‘cos that’s what’s expected of you. Amen, brother!

And as a special post-festive bonus, here are three more geeky songs that don’t really fit the rock/pop requirement but deserve to be included as companion pieces to the main list.

i. The Galaxy Song – Monty Python

Some excellent astronomy-based geekiness courtesy of Eric Idle. this is probably my favourite song from Monty Python’s 1984 film The Meaning Of Life, although Every Sperm Is Sacred certainly does have its charms…

ii. Elements – Tom Lehrer

The periodic table, in song, from the great Tom Lehrer. Quite the feat of memory, never mind extreme geekiness.

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iii. Star Trekkin’ – The Firm

The Choob has already spotlighted this one. Possibly the most annoying geeky song. Yet we all love it. Um, don’t we…?

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Classic Clips – Red Dwarf and Twin Peaks (Happy Birthday (again) Leanne!)

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Happy New Year from the Choob – and a very Happy Birthday to exiled friend of the Choob, Leanne!

It’s only natural for one to reflect – usually the day after one’s birthday, with a hangover – on another year gone by and the relentless march of time. Just remember, as a wise man once said (well, two wise men, if you count me repeating it), “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage!”

Mind you, given that Leanne is working far, far, far away from her beloved Scotland, in Bermuda, I’m not sure what that implies…

Ahem. Anyway, hope you have a great day/night with your tropical island chums and maybe sip a sherry or two. I know you were home over Christmas but hurry back for another visit soon because we miss you (nothing at all to do with the Bermuda rum cake you bring, nope, no siree, not at all, I took a straw poll and missing you got, ooh, several more votes that the rum cake…).

By way of a birthday present to you from me, here are a few classic clips I think you’ll like. Happy birthday, with love from the Choob!

First up, since you had Cat singing Tongue Tied last year, here’s Rimmer’s Munchkin Song – in fact, the whole Rimmer Experience tour – from the fifth episode of Red Dwarf season 7:

But wait! There’s more. Here is the (very slightly) extended version of the song, introduced by Kryten:

Now, moving on to the awesome Twin Peaks, don’t forget to check out these brilliant Albert scenes and Agent Cooper’s Tibetan crimefighting, which I’ve already spotlighted. But just for you, here’s another couple of great scenes from this awesome show.

First of all, the extended opening credits from the pilot episode – with Angelo Badalamenti‘s beautiful, haunting theme tune, of course – plus the opening scenes of the show that made such an impact on us all back in 1990:

And here’s the legendary, backwards-filmed, Cooper’s dream scene from episode two:

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Filed under Classic TV, It's Classic Clip Friday!, Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day, TV Themes

Top Of The Pops: Green Day’s American Idiot – Broadway Cast In Session

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The Choob is back on the air! Apologies for the unscheduled summer hiatus over the last couple of months. Part of the reason for it was an extended trip to New York (right in the middle of the heatwave in the city – that sort of thing’s really not good for a Scottish chap!)

Just a few weeks before I flew out, I went to see Green Day‘s latest gig in Glasgow. It was the first time I’ve seen the band live and was blown away by their outstanding performance.

As I was on a Green Day high from that, I was determined to make sure I went to see the American Idiot musical on Broadway while I in the Big Apple and was so glad I made the effort (and splashed out on a ticket) as the stage show was, in its way, just as good as seeing the band play live.

If you live in New York or are in town while American Idiot is still playing, I really can’t recommend it highly enough. The energy of the performers, the clever staging and set design, the vivid storytelling using pretty much only the lyrics of the songs, the wonderful musical arrangements that paint some of Green Day’s greatest songs in a whole new light – it all adds up to an astonishing theatrical experience (and probably the only broadway musical that doesn’t feature a superhero The Choob is ever likely to go and see).

If you haven’t seen it, or want to relive its genius, the cast of American Idiot have just recorded a few of the songs from the show for AOL. And here are the vids:

American Idiot:

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Are We The Waiting:

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Last Night On Earth:

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Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life):

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Filed under Music, Theatre, Top Of The Pops Thursday

Cool Retro Football T-Shirts From tenten*

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So, full time is rapidly approaching in the 2010 World Cup.

There’s just over a week to go now until the Final and then that’s our lot for another four years.

But though the feast of football is almost done, the festival need never end – thanks to a bunch of talented artists  who have just launched their own design and print studio with a range of stylish, hand-printed, retro football-themed T-shirts.

The inaugural offerings from tenten* – who are based near Glasgow, Scotland – celebrate football in general and the highlights of World Cups and European Championships gone by.

Here are a few of the offerings from their initial range (other colour combos are available – check the website for the full range).

Buy now and get in before the brand becomes famous and everyone is wearing the label.

This one celebrates Maradona’s legendary goal for Argentina against England at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico (La Mano De Dios = The Hand Of God).

Ask nicely and they might even add the “Maradona 10” back print in the photo below this one:

The white shirt below celebrates the French triumph at Euro 84, in particular the Carre Magique – the Magic Square of midfielders Luis Fernandez, Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse and Michel Platini:

The next one is a tribute to Brazil’s 1970 World Cup winning squad (beer belly optional):

And here is a more generic Copa futbol shirt:

And here’s the motley crew who are responsible for them all (but don’t let that put you off buying):

I should point out that one of the guys behind the studio is a mate of mine from work but beyond that I have no connection to it. However, it’s a talented group of guys and if you want to support their future work, I know they’d appreciate your custom.

Also, for their latest product announcements, check out their Facebook page here.


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Top Of The Pops: The Doctor Rocks Glastonbury (ft. Orbital)

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We’ve seen The Doctor dance. We’ve seen The Doctor kiss.

Now watch the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) rock the 2010 Glastonbury Festival with his own theme tune (with a little help from Orbital).


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It’s Classic Clip Friday: Alan Partridge’s Guide To The World Cup

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“The proof is in the pudding… and the pudding in this case is a football!”

Today marks the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and what better way to celebrate than with Alan Partridge‘s… um… unique guide to the event (circa 1994), as originally broadcast on BBC2’s The Day Today.

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Filed under Classic TV, It's Classic Clip Friday!, Sport