Monthly Archives: April 2009

Top Of The Pops Thursday: My Chemical Romance – Welcome To The Black Parade

This week’s live music comes courtesy of New Jersey rockers My Chemical Romance, a band that only recently caught my attention, so I don’t have much to say by way of an introduction.

This performance of Welcome To The Black Parade – their first UK No.1 single, from their 2006 album The Black Parade – is from the Big Day Out music festival in Sydney, Australia, in January 2007.

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A Word From Our Sponsors… Lipsmackin’ Pepsi

Long before I was old enough to have heard of The Who or appreciate their music, I was very familiar with one of their best-known songs (Summertime Blues, which I realise is actually an Eddie Cochran song from the 1950s that they covered but their version was the first I heard, so it’ll always be a Who song to me).

It was all thanks to this week’s classic advert, for Lipsmackin’, thirst-quenchin’… Pepsi Cola.

It seemed to air a lot back in the the mid 70s, an era before Pepsi adverts turned into cheesy, big-bucks, mutual marketing gimmicks showcasing the latest hot pop stars.

It combines visuals that reinforced the 1950s nostalgia (a la the 1973 George Lucas movie  American Graffiti and the TV show Happy Days, which began in 1974) with a customised version of Summertime Blues into one of the TV ads I remember most vividly from my childhood.

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Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory is, for me, the best traditional sitcom (ie, filmed in a studio, in front of an audience) to come out of America in recent years.

For those who haven’t seen it yet (the second season is drawing to a close at the moment and the show has been renewed for at least another two seasons), the show revolves around two nerdy twenty-something science prodigies (played by former Roseanne star Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons) who share a flat across the landing from a beautiful blonde waitress (Kaley Cucuo), who dreams of being an actress.

The quality of the laugh-out-loud funny writing is second to none in TV comedy at the moment and the brilliant cast are all perfect in their roles.

But what we are here to celebrate today is the show’s theme tune, called History of Everything, which was specially written for the show and performed by Barenaked Ladies. The lyrics describe the creation of the universe.

Like most network TV shows nowadays, the opening theme is very short, clocking in at just 20 seconds, but is more memorable than most. Here it is:

However, the Barenaked Ladies’ song is longer and the show’s opening titles only feature the first verse. Here, then, is the full song, accompanied by a very cool video of a cartoonist illustrating the the lyrics (which I assume was produced as a promo for the show):


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The Monday Movie – The Princess Bride

This week’s memorable  movie scene comes from the cult classic comedy-adventure The Princess Bride.

The 1987 film, directed by Rob Reiner (who also made the likes of This Is Spinal Tap, Misery, Stand By Me and When Harry Met Sally), was scripted by William Goldman (writer of the scripts for classic movies such as All The President’s Men, Misery, Marathon Man, The Stepford Wives and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid), based on his 1973 novel of the same name.

Good as the film is (and it is very, very good) the novel is even better, and well worth a read.

The central conceit of the book is that Goldman claims to be presenting an abridged version of an older work called The Princess Bride, “A Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure” by a author called S. Morgenstern from the fictional European country of Florin. Morgenstern’s work is described by Goldman as a satire of the excesses of renaissance-era European royalty and, in his introduction, he bemoans the level of boring detail in the original about Florinese history, politics and social etiquette.

Goldman, therefore, presents what he describes as the “good-parts version” of  the novel, frequently interrupting the abridged narrative with asides about the sections he has omitted. He also inserts (fictionalised) autobiographical comments about his own life, in which he reveals that his Florinese father used to read him the story as a child, leaving out the dull bits, which is what prompted him to write his own abridged version.

The movie retains a similar framing device, with a present-day grandfather (Peter Falk) reading the story to his bored grandson (former The Wonder Years star Fred Savage), who is stuck in his sickbed. Initially sceptical about the romantic nature of the story, the boy is gradually won over both by the story and his grandfather, who he had previously found embarrassing and a bit annoying.

The story itself is about a farmhand called Westley (Cary Elwes) who falls in love with beautiful but spoiled farm-owner’s daughter, Buttercup (Robin Wright).

Believing Westley dead when she hears his ship was attacked by pirates after he leaves to seek his fortune so that he may marry her, Buttercup becomes betrothed to a Prince and is then kidnapped by his enemies, apparently as part of a conflict with the neighbouring country of Guilder.

That’s where the scene below fits in the story, as the mysterious, masked Dread Pirate Roberts pursues the three kidnappers to take Buttercup from them for his own, unknown ends. Having defeated two of them – a giant called Fezzik (Andre The Giant) and master swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) – he catches up with the third, a Sicilian called Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), an arrogant, evil, self-styled criminal mastermind who is waiting for him.

In the confrontation that follows, one of them falls victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which, we learn, is never get involved in a land war in Asia (the book, remember, was written in 1973)…

The Princess Bride is a great film (the star-studded cast also includes the likes of Peter Cook, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane and Mel Smith) from an even greater book. I highly recommend them both. Enjoy!

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Video Killed The Radio Star: Marillion – Garden Party

This week’s music video comes from another of my favourite 80s bands – Marillion (they are still active but I have to admit they fell off my radar a couple of albums after Scots singer Fish left the band back in the late 80s).

This is their video for Garden Party, which was the second single from their 1982 debut album, the brilliant Script For A Jester’s Tear.

The song is an attack on the class system, snobs and elitism and the video takes the concept a step further. Sort of a cross between Lord Of The Flies and a Dennis Wheatley novel, it features the band members as working-class schoolboys who disrupt a posh garden party at a country house.

Initially they simply make fun of the upper-class guests but then they start to sabotage the party, at first with harmless schoolboy pranks – before revealing a more sinister and demonic side to their characters.

A great song with some clearly cheap and cheerful music video production but surprisingly effective and entertaining for all that – and it’s always good to see the hooray Henrys and Henriettas get a doing…

Enjoy! (Don’t forget to click the HQ button to get the best sound and vision quality.)

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It’s Classic Clip Friday: Have I Got News For You – A Tub Of Lard

The BBC’s comedy topical news quiz Have I Got News For You returns tonight for its 37th season (it began in September 1990 and, for those keeping count, tonight’s episode is #309).

To mark the occasion, this week’s Classic Clip Friday celebrates one of the defining moments from the show’s early days (June 4, 1993, to be precise).

To set it up for those who are not aware of what happened, corpulent Labour politician Roy Hattersley (right, in Spitting Image form) was due to be one of the guests, alongside host Angus Deayton and team captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop, but pulled out of at the last minute – the third time he had done so.

This left the furious producers to, yet again, try to find a replacement at very short notice…

Here are the edited highlights of the show that followed:

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Top Of The Pops Thursday: The Alarm – 68 Guns

This week’s live music comes courtesy of Welsh rockers The Alarm.

I can’t claim the band is one of my all-time favourites but I was a big fan back in the mid 80s, especially of their first two albums, Declaration and Strength.

I saw them live at Glasgow’s Barrowland in 1985 on their tour to promote Strength and, to this day, it remains my all-time favourite gig.

They were a fantastic live band (singer Mike Peters still tours with a version of the group, though none of the other original members are part of it) and here is their signature song, the full version of 68 Guns, filmed at a concert in Germany in 1985 (which contains possibly the worst audience participation ever caught on film):


EDIT: Click here for the music video for The Alarm‘s second-greatest song, Spirit of ’76.

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