Tag Archives: The Prisoner

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.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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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Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – The Lost Islands

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Imagine a TV show about a group of strangers from several different countries who are traveling together and find themselves marooned on one of a pair of mysterious islands that are apparently lost in time.

There is a community of people already living on the island, ruled over by a leader whose identity is a mystery but who they are compelled to obey.

It even has the word “Lost” in the title! But this show, The Lost Islands , predates Lost by almost 30 years (the Dharma Initiative may have watched it on their video monitors…).

A co-production of Australia’s Ten Network and US studio Paramount, The Lost Islands is a kids’ drama that first aired in 1976. It ran for a single season of 26 episodes.

The show told the contemporary story of five children, part of a crew of youngsters on an expedition to sail around the world, who get left behind when everyone else abandons ship during a storm.

The ship gets swept over a reef and ends up on the shores of two strange islands, populated by people apparently living in the 18th century and ruled over by a 200-year-old tyrant called Q (Star Trek fans take note!). The series told of their adventures as they tried to avoid being captured by Q, who fears their modern knowledge and attitudes will contaminate his people and threaten his rule, and find a way off the island.

The Lost Islands was a regular fixture of school-holiday kids’ TV in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when the Choob was a lad. However, I never, ever got to see how the story ended because the Scottish school holidays always started (and ended) a few weeks earlier than the English holidays. The kids’ TV schedules were always timed to accommodate the English holidays and so Scots invariably missed the last few episodes of all the cool TV serials that aired during the summer break (this was in the days before VCRs). Not that I’m still bitter about it or anything…

Anyway, one of the most memorable things about The Lost Islands was its amazing theme song, easily one of the top 10 theme tunes of all time. Like The Prisoner, the opening credits explain the whole premise for the show – but unlike The Prisoner, which relied purely on the visuals to tell the story, The Lost Islands goes one better with a cool, lengthy theme song with lyrics that spell out every little detail of the plot.

It’s so detailed and clear that the first episode of the show doesn’t even bother with any set up – it simply picks up where the theme song leaves off, with the kids waking up on the island the morning after the storm (in fact, in a nice touch, the opening titles for the first two episodes of the show left out the verse from the theme song about the people living on the island, so as not to spoil the surprise for viewers when our heroes discover them).

Written and performed by one Michael Caulfield, it’s an over-blown, melodramatic masterpiece. Great tune, excellent story-driven lyrics and a wonderfully expressive and emotive performance.

Once heard, never forgotten, here is that amazing opening theme song – enjoy!

And here are the closing titles, which add another verse to the theme song:


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Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – The Prisoner

As a final tribute to the Patrick McGoohan, who died last week, the Choob dedicates this week’s Themes Tunes Day to the brilliant opening credits to The Prisoner.

The opening titles run an astonishing three minutes – which is hard to believe in an age where many new shows do not even have an intro sequence or theme tune, due mainly to the fact that increased advertising breaks have cut back the running time of shows so much (back in the day, hour-long drama on commercial TV used to run to around 50 minutes, leaving 10 minutes or so for commercials – nowadays, on network TV, you only get around 40minutes of content and nearly 20minutes of adverts).

The Prisoner music, titled The Age Of Elegance, was written by the legendary Ron Grainer, who also gave us the theme music for classics such as Doctor Who, Steptoe and Son and Tales Of The Unexpected.

I love opening titles that serve as a prologue to/recap of the plot of the show and The Prisoner’s title sequence is one of the best, showing McGoohan’s mysterious agent driving to his work, storming in to his boss’s office, handing in his resignation, returning home and then being gassed and kidnapped, before waking up in The Village. Then, just when you think the titles are done, there is the classic exchange with Number Two, ending with the classic quote, “I am not a number, I am a free man” followed by Number Two’s derisory laughter.

They truly don’t make ’em like this anymore. Enjoy. Be seeing you…

And here are the closing titles:

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It’s Classic Clip Friday: The Prisoner – Arrival In The Village

As a tribute to the late Patrick McGoohan, who died this week, The Choob dedicates this week’s Classic Clip Friday to his masterpiece, The Prisoner.

Number Six arrives in The Village:


Number Six tries to escape for the first time:


And finally, a classic, bonkers confrontation between Number Six and Number Two:

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TV Heaven: Number Six

“I will not make any deals with you. I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own. I resign.”
– Number Six.

The Prisoner‘s number is up, the Choob is sad to note. Patrick McGoohan, best known for his role as Number Six in the mind-bending, surreal, philosophical, psychological, existential, allegorical (in other words, totally bonkers) 1960s drama, died at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday at the age of 80, after a short illness.

The original broadcast of The Prisoner, in 1967/68, was before The Choob’s time. I do, however, clearly remember the first time I ever saw an episode of the series. It was during one of those theme nights on the UK’s Channel 4, sometime in the early 80s. I don’t recall which episode it was,but when it was over, I remember turning to my mum (I was in my early teens at the time) and saying, “What on earth was that all about?” I knew I liked it – but I didn’t understand it.

Even for the psychedelic 60s, The Prisoner was, like, far out, man. McGoohan created the show and wrote and directed several of the 17 episodes and the show seemed to reflect his own frustrations about the subversion of individuality in an increasingly homogenised and commercial society.

The actor was always a bit of a rebel, doing things on his own terms or not at all. His big TV break was as secret agent John Drake in Danger Man (known as Secret Agent in the US). But even back then, he insisted on a number of changes to the character before accepting what would be his career-making role.

Most notably, he did not want the character to be defined, as most of his contemporaries were, as a two-dimensional action hero with a propensity for casual violence and gratuitous sexism. Drake would rely primarily on his superior intellect, not guns to defeat the bad guys. In addition, there would be no soppy, gratuitous romantic interludes with a sexy co-star-of-the-week.

Perhaps his sensibilities and idea of what made for an interesting, truly heroic character help explain why he reportedly turned down the role of James Bond – for all his popularity, a cold-blooded, cruel, misogynistic creation – in the first 007 movie Dr No.

From inauspicious beginnings, Danger Man became a massive hit and McGoohan became the highest-paid actor in the UK. But by the time season four started shooting, he was growing restless and decided to quit. Producer Lew Grade didn’t want to lose his hottest property completely, so he asked him  if he had another project he wanted to work on. As it happened McGoohan already had the concept for The Prisoner in his mind, and a classic was born.

McGoohan originally planned The Prisoner as a 7-episode mini-series but Grade insisted that the concept be stretched out with additional episodes make it more attractive to overseas TV stations. The original plan they agreed on was for two seasons of 13 episodes each but, in the end, true to form, McGoohan put his foot down and insisted that 17 episodes were all he could come up with without stringing the audience along and stretching the show’s concept beyond breaking point.

The rest is TV history. The Prisoner’s struggle to outwit and endless parade of Number Twos and unmask the mysterious Number One delighted, disturbed and baffled viewers in equal measure and continues to do so to this day.

There has been a graphic novel sequel, The Prisoner: Shattered Visage (approved by McGoohan), which was published by DC Comics in the late 1980s, and the show even inspired a couple of Iron Maiden songs.

If anything, in the age of globalisation the themes that show explored have become more relevant with every passing year and it is somewhat ironic, given McGoohan’s death, that a remake (co-produced by Britain’s ITV and US cable channel AMC, home of the brillaint Mad Men) is due to air in the US this coming November. The six-episode series stars Jim Caviezel as Number Six and Sir Ian McKellen as Number Two. If you’ve never seen the original 1967 version, AMC has made all the episodes available for viewing on their website (viewing is restricted to viewers in north America, however).

It is a testament to McGoohan’s creativity and vision that even now, 42 years later, the show still provokes intense debate about what Number Six’s refusal to conform and his refusal to buckle to authority said about McGoohan’s view of the world and where society was heading.

He went on to make memorable appearances in other TV shows, winning two Emmys for roles on Peter Falk‘s detective drama Columbo, and in films such as Ice Station Zebra and A Time To Kill. His last major role was as the cruel English king Edward Longshanks in Mel Gibson’s 1995 movie Braveheart. But it as the thought-provoking, strong-willed, authority-challenging Number Six that he will always be most fondly remembered.

RIP Patrick McGoohan. “Be seeing you.”

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