Friday, 18 January 2013

T'was in the Year of '77

1977 was an interesting year.  It was the year that The Sex Pistols released ‘Never Mind The Bollocks…’ and bloated corporate rock was blown away forever…allegedly.  Just to underline the brutal military coup undertaken by Punk, Johnny Rotten sported a lurid ‘I hate Pink Floyd’ T-shirt and dared anyone to defend the old proggers.

1977 was also the year that the said Pink Floyd released ‘Animals’ and pigs flew over Battersea Power Station.  History shows that I bought and enjoyed both albums in equal measure in direct contravention of the Us And Them – Choose Your Side of the Fence Act 1976.  You see, musical genres never allow for this sort of thing.  Backed up by the music press with axes to grind, nobody with any street cred to protect was allowed to like, well, just music, you had to choose.  I definitely felt aligned with the energy that the New Wave brought and to a certain extent agreed that the mid-seventies needed a shake-up, but I still liked some of the bands that were in the firing line so I was a fence-sitter with interests in both camps – it gave you more options.

The reason for my musings on this interesting juxtaposition of styles has been brought about by the purchase of the Pink Floyd Discovery Box Set (all 14 studio albums remastered in a natty box).  Whilst I have many of the Floyd’s albums on vinyl, I never converted them to CD and have never owned, or even listened to, many of their back catalogue so a cheap eBay purchase seemed like the answer.  So here I am in 2012 listening to the Soundtrack album, ‘Obscured by Clouds’ (excellent) and ‘The Final Cut’ (dreadful) for the first time, well,  ever.

But more particularly, I have been listening to ‘Animals’, an album that I have not set on the old turntable since the 80s and my overriding impression is not one of bloated self indulgence, but one of anger.  It is a very angry album indeed, driven by Roger Waters various neuroses.  Which is somewhat ironic, for the punk movement that sought to replace the established bands was based almost entirely on anger.  Yet now by comparison, ‘Never Mind The Bollocks…’ sounds a little tame and its ‘anger’ just false political posturing.  On the other hand, the anger displayed on ‘Animals’ is very real.  The vitriol pouring from ‘Sheep’ and in particular, ‘Pigs’ reeks of a genuine hatred (especially against TV clean-up campaigner, Mary Whitehouse).  Frankly I find Waters far more scary that Rotten, and that’s before you get to Gilmore’s final solo on ‘Pigs’ which slashes at you like broken glass.

Yet, and this is the cruncher, I still find myself in the same position that I was 35 years ago and that is that really, I still like both of them.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Gerry Anderson 1929 - 2012

This is my 300th post on this blog and it is perhaps fitting that it pays tribute to a man that looms large in my childhood – Gerry Anderson, who died over the Christmas period.

Most will know his work through the iconic ‘Thunderbirds’ but my link goes back further to the dimly remembered late 50s collaboration with children’s writer, Roberta Leigh that produced the strangeness of ‘Twizzle’ and ‘Torchy the Battery Boy’, made with puppets so weird that it doesn’t bear thinking about.  Although these shows were my initial contact with Gerry’s puppet world, it was ‘Fireball XL5’ that really captured my imagination.  I was besotted with this programme and although the delights of ‘Stingray’, ‘Thunderbirds’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’ were to follow, XL5 remains my first love.  Even today its shiny monochrome world of space adventure still beguiles me.

There is a definable element that pervades the work of Gerry Anderson, from the scariness of ‘Twizzle’ via the live action ‘Space 1999’ and ‘UFO’ to the hand puppets of ‘Terrahawks’ (a million miles away from Sooty) and that thing is integrity.  Everything Gerry touched was stamped with the motto, ‘If you are going to do it, do it well’.  All his products had a sheen of quality, whether it was the tightly drawn scripts, the truly awe-inspiring modelling or the cutting edge special effects.  The live action 2004 ‘Thunderbirds’ movie, which Anderson had no hand in and from which he rightly distanced himself, didn’t have it – and it shows.

This reach for quality can be seen again in the 2005 re-imagining of Captain Scarlet, created using CGI technology.  The series of 26 x 25 minute episodes cost an astronomical £23M but the end result is worth every penny.  The scripts are fast paced and the visuals as inventive and spectacular as always.  Unforgivably, ITV refused to promote the new show and list it as a stand alone but buried it in amongst an existing Saturday morning kids’ show which cut it into two halves with games and adverts between them.  It sank without trace.

Anderson was reportedly furious and I can’t help feeling that it was the beginning of the end for him.  It was desperately sad because ‘The New Adventures of Captain Scarlet’ (now on DVD) is Anderson at his best and a fitting epitaph to a man who had a real pride in his work even if they were ‘only’ kids’ shows.  RIP Gerry.