A Return To The Mysterious World Of Danielle Dax.

As it’s the 60th birthday of Danielle Dax (yes, really), I thought that I would take the opportunity to have another look at her interesting career. Think of this piece as a sort-of deluxe extended version of the one that I did on here about a year ago, as I have found out some more things. Although it won’t ever be 100% comprehensive, I have tried to put together some more information that is worth sharing about Danielle’s TV appearances and magazine interviews in the 80s and early-90s. new

pre-1983: Danielle started her music career in a group called The Lemon Kittens who made three albums, “Spoonfed And Writhing” (1979), “We Buy A Hammer For Daddy” (1980), and “The Big Dentist” (1982). The earliest magazine interview that I have found with Danielle is from Sounds as early as January 1981. She then decided to launch a solo career…

1983: Around this time Danielle performed regularly at the Batcave club in London, and in June she was featured in an article in No. 1 magazine checking out the current goth scene. dax2

In October Danielle appeared on BBC2’s Riverside‘s Halloween special in what I presume is her first TV appearance to perform “Pariah”. When I found this on YouTube I was very surprised by her striking look of heavy make-up and bright red waist-length hair. It was a remarkable moment, and it is definitely one of my favourite songs by her. When I searched for Danielle on the BBC Genome, this was her earliest mention. I thought that it was good for her to get a namecheck in Radio Times.

I then found the page on a Twitter account that uploads old Radio Times pages, and I was very surprised to discover that there was also a picture of Danielle. Radio Times was Britain’s biggest-selling magazine at this time, I never expected her to feature. I even went so far as to buy this Radio Times online, and then I scanned the picture to feature in my first piece. I still get pleased when I see it appear in an online image search for Danielle, hopefully seeing the picture has brought more people wanting to find out about her career to my site. Also in this year Danielle’s first solo album “Pop-Eyes” was released. vlcsnap-00067

1984: Danielle appeared in horror film The Company Of Wolves, it was a shame that she wasn’t in more films, as it was a memorable performance. In November Danielle had what I’m fairly sure is her one and only reference in Smash Hits. There is a video on YouTube of Danielle performing “Bed Caves” in Holland, I’m not sure what year it’s from but it seems to be from around this time. In December Danielle performed “Hammerheads” on Channel 4’s The TubeAlso in this year her second solo album “Jesus Egg That Wept” was released. vlcsnap-00014

1985: Some more of Danielle’s TV appearances have turned up on YouTube since my last piece. Firstly, a performance of “Evil Honky Stomp” on TV in Norway… vlcsnap-00413

…and a performance of “Yummer Yummer Man” on TV in France. She definitely travelled around the world a lot. Danielle was also interviewed in NME, although I’m fairly sure that she never appeared on the cover of a music magazine in the UK, but she did also feature in a few fanzines. vlcsnap-00019

1986: There is a video on YouTube of Danielle’s concert at a small club in Switzerland, featuring performances of “Evil Honky Stomp”, “Hammerheads”, and “Pariah”. The compilation album “Up Amongst The Golden Spires” was also released in this year. vlcsnap-00015

In November Danielle was interviewed in No. 1 magazine talking about her spooky observations on life. So there was a picture of Danielle in No. 1 but not Smash Hits? Maybe No. 1 wasn’t such a bad magazine after all. dax1

1987: I thought that I would try and find out the exact date of when Danielle’s concert at the Camden Palace in September 1985 was shown on TV (as part of the Live From London series). It seems that it was planned to be shown on LWT in May at 1am just before closedown, but then it was postponed (I’m not sure why), and it was eventually shown in June (only in the LWT region I think). It has been released on DVD. There is also an hour-long concert of Danielle in Tokyo that was shown on Japanese TV online. Another compilation album “The Chemical Wedding” was released. vlcsnap-00025

Danielle never appeared on BBC1’s Top Of The Pops, but in July her video for “Big Hollow Man” was shown on The Chart Show on Channel 4, along with some facts that insisted that Danielle was huge in Japan. The video was also featured on the Indie Chart but it wasn’t played. She also performed this on TV in Germany. Also in this year Danielle’s third solo album “Inky Bloaters” was released. vlcsnap-00606
In December Danielle appeared on ITV’s Night Network to review the latest singles along with snooker star Steve Davis. I found an interview online where Danielle was asked what it was like to meet Steve, and she said that he was great, and he also phoned her granddad to say hello which made his day. Well my life was definitely enhanced for learning that piece of information. vlcsnap-00018

1988: In April the video for “Cathouse” was featured on The Chart Show‘s Indie Chart and Chart File Update (it was also Single Of The Week in Sounds). This led to more interviews in various magazines including Record Mirror and NME (with a picture in colour!). “Cathouse” is also Danielle’s most viewed video on YouTube with about 356,000 views. Another compilation album “Dark Adapted Eye” was also released. vlcsnap-00065

1989: It seems that around this time Danielle was beginning to be pushed in the American market a little more, and she signed to a major label. An article appeared about her in Billboard magazine where she was described as “one woman with the imaginative bravery to break loose”.

In April the video to “White Knuckle Ride” was played on The ITV Chart Show‘s Indie Chart. This video was the first time that I came across Danielle’s music while I was watching some old clips of The ITV Chart Show on YouTube, and I presumed that as much as I liked the song she was just some random here today/gone tomorrow indie woman trying to have a go, but it turned out that I was totally wrong about that. vlcsnap-00022

In July Danielle was interviewed by the computer on Channel 4’s Star Test. Although she was often portrayed as somewhat eccentric and mysterious (as Radio Times memorably put it), many people have commented that on this show she does come across as rather sensible and grounded, offering some interesting answers. I’m not really sure what motivated her to take part (apart from having a single to promote of course), but I’m glad she did. vlcsnap-00002

1990: A video was made for “Tomorrow Never Knows”, a cover of The Beatles song (I don’t know if this one was shown on The ITV Chart Show though). Also in this year Danielle’s fourth and final solo album “Blast The Human Flower” was released, which might have been a final attempt to have some commercial success. However, despite good reviews from critics the album seemed to fall into the Catch-22 of being too unusual to be mainstream, but too mainstream to be unusual. vlcsnap-00052

1991: I couldn’t find much for this year, apart from a few concert pictures, and a magazine article about Danielle visiting a radio station in America where she was described as a “sultry siren”. Unfortunately, this was around the time that Danielle left the music business, despite much praise from critics and fans, her hard work over the past decade and unique approach to music had brought her no hits. There isn’t much known about what she did next, even her official website has little information about her career post-1991, but here’s a few things that I have found out.

post-1991: Danielle’s most high-profile release since “Blast The Human Flower” has been the 1995 best-of “Comatose Non-Reaction”, which was released on her own record label Biter Of Thorpe. Isn’t it about time that all her albums were re-released in a big nice shiny boxset? I’d buy it. Away from music, Danielle has worked as a home and garden designer, and in May 1997 she appeared on BBC2’s Home Front and won their design competition. This edition hasn’t turned up on YouTube, I would very much like to see it, if anyone does upload it I will be your friend.

Also around the late-90s there were various shows about home design on ITV including Des Res and Our House, and it seems that Danielle might have contributed to these too (again I think these were only shown in the Carlton/LWT region), along with various magazine articles about her design work. I have also seen people say that Danielle was on the team of various TV makeover shows including BBC1’s Changing Rooms and ITV1’s 60 Minute Makeover, but again I don’t know if that’s right.

This all leads to when I found an article online about Danielle doing a small-time gig (her first for a very long time) about a year or two ago at a club in Dalston in London, which is only about a mile from where I live, I was very surprised to say the least. The article also featured some pictures of Danielle on stage, the first that I’ve seen of her for about 25 years, and she now seems to have bright blue hair and big red lips, and I couldn’t help but think that she looked like Stormer from 80s cartoon Jem

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You’ll never believe what Danielle Dax looks like now!

I should conclude by saying that I have noticed that many people still seem to have a lot of admiration and fondness for Danielle’s work, and although I only really discovered her myself about a year or two ago, I can clearly see why. And the amount of times that I’ve seen people say “she should’ve been bigger than Madonna” and regret that it didn’t work out for her is remarkable. Thanks for lots of great memories!

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Game Show Memories – The New Price Is Right.

The New Price Is Right (Sky One, 1989-1990)

When Sky One launched in 1989, they decided to make some original programming for their schedule alongside the imports. These included some game shows, but they weren’t original formats, they were actually revivals of shows that used to be on ITV. One of them was Sale Of The Century, and another one was The Price Is Right (which by this point had a “New” added to its title).

The Price Is Right ended on ITV in 1988 after 100 successful editions, so in 1989 Sky One bought the show for its first revival (I think only Blockbusters has had as many revivals as The Price Is Right on British TV). Leslie Crowther was gone though, and the new host was Bob Warman. Who he? Well the show was still being made at the Central studio, and Warman hosted the local news in the Central region at the time, so maybe it was something to do whilst waiting to host the news. vlcsnap-00771

Another notable thing about The New Price Is Right was that it used the same theme music as the original American version had since the early-70s (I will get round to reviewing the American version soon), and the set design was changed to a rather nasty green and red combination. Warman would come on stage accompanied by too many glamorous co-hosts to much applause from the overexcited studio audience, four of which were then invited to “come on down” for a chance to play various games. vlcsnap-00780

They then had a chance to play for some prizes, and most of these games had been recycled from the ITV version, such as Danger Price, Pick-A-Pair, and of course Cliffhanger! The three winning contestants would then go through to play the Showcase Showdown. Because there were fewer restrictions on satellite channels, there was a lot more sponsorship and product placement on the show than on ITV. vlcsnap-00781

The highest scorer then went through to play for the Showcase. They chose their range at random from nine different amounts on offer, from £250 to £1,000. If their bid was within the range but not over, they won the star prize, and everyone was rather pleased. Another notable thing was that every edition was half-an-hour long so three games were played. vlcsnap-00778

Another point is that there were more advert breaks in the show than what you would get on ITV in a half-an-hour slot at the time, and there were also plenty of trails during the show giving an interesting insight into what other programming was on offer alongside The New Price Is Right in the earliest days of Sky One when there wasn’t exactly a huge amount of viewers watching (indeed I might expand on that in a separate piece). vlcsnap-00784

Trails included the American sitcom ALF, Love At First Sight, a game show hosted by Bruno Brookes, Sky Star Search, a talent show hosted by Keith Chegwin, and The Secret Video Show, featuring sub-You’ve Been Framed! “home video howlers” (as they are always called) that was hosted by Chris Tarrant and Peter Simon? So this show was hosted by two of my favourite TV personalities and I’d barely ever come across it? Well I will definitely have to investigate that one further! s3

The New Price Is Right ended on Sky One in 1990, and was revived again on ITV in 1995 with Bruce Forsyth as host and more prizes on offer than ever.

More TV Memories – The ITV Chart Show Graphics Mystery.

The ITV Chart Show (ITV, 1991)

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you should know that one of my favourite music shows (and of my favourite shows altogether really) is The Chart Show (my review of which is one of my most-viewed pieces). Because of this, I thought that I would do another piece where I investigate the story of one of the show’s more unusual moments. vlcsnap-00717

The Chart Show was famous for having no presenters, either in or out of vision, everything was linked using impressive computer graphics. So the way that the information was passed on to viewers had to be a little more creative. When the show launched on Channel 4 in April 1986, facts about the videos were shown using the HUD (Heads Up Display), although this was rather difficult to make any sense of, and it was gone by the end of the year. vlcsnap-00768

By 1987, the more familiar look was introduced, where six icons appeared that were clicked on by a pointer to reveal the information. When The Chart Show moved to ITV in January 1989, these were redesigned, and they now featured the chart/video/tour/gossip/miscellaneous/bin icons (there were also some variations that were only used for the short-lived Star Chart feature). However, by 1991 these had been used week in/week out for a few years, and it seemed that it was time for a refresh. vlcsnap-00765

In October 1991 a competition was launched for viewers to design the icons that would be used for a forthcoming new look. The current graphics were designed using Amiga computers, so The ITV Chart Show appeared on the cover of issue 42 of Amiga Computing magazine, with more information about how to enter, along with an interesting behind-the-scenes article about how the show was put together, which mostly seemed to consist of fiddling about with lots of videotape. vlcsnap-00763

The star prize on offer was over £600 worth of computing equipment, but even better than that, there was the chance for your artwork to appear on ITV every week and become familiar to a huge amount of viewers! So when the relaunch finally came in December 1991, the new symbols were introduced. I haven’t been able to track down who the winner was, but it must have been a proud moment for them. tcs1

The five new icons introduced were a tour bus, a record sleeve, a television, a speech bubble, and a question mark that all animated when they were clicked on. The graphics seemed to work well with the new all-round package, and it seemed that’s how it would be for the foreseeable future. But then… something rather odd happened. vlcsnap-00761

The following week, The ITV Chart Show went back to using the previous icons, and they would stay onscreen until the next major relaunch in May 1996, by which point they had been used for almost 7½ years, and they looked rather tired and dated. So this is the big question… why were the new icons dropped? I’m fairly sure that they weren’t supposed to be a one-off. vlcsnap-00764

I presume they went back to the previous package because they had nothing else prepared and they weren’t able to reedit them? I saw some YouTube comments speculating about what had happened, with one saying that the TV regulator objected to them, but I’m not aware of there being any complaints from viewers about them, and they weren’t particularly difficult to read either. It still seems to be something of a mystery as to what exactly happened, if anyone else has any theories or information, you are welcome to share them. (oh and if anyone has the edition of BBC1’s Punt And Dennis from 1995 where they did a parody of the 1989-1996 icons I’d be very grateful to see that again online!)

The Comedy Vault – Harry Enfield’s Brand Spanking New Show.

Harry Enfield’s Brand Spanking New Show (Sky One, 2000)

Harry Enfield first came on to the British TV comedy scene in the mid-80s. By 1990 he was successful enough with viewers to have his own BBC2 sketch show Harry Enfield’s Television Programme, which in 1994 moved to BBC1 and was renamed Harry Enfield And Chums. I am rather fond of both of these shows, but neither of them have been released on DVD, however I do plan to review them soon.

In 2000 Sky One decided to commission more original comedy programming, including the sitcom The Strangerers. Showing some ambition, they decided to poach Enfield from the BBC to star in a new sketch show. Naturally Sky were pleased with their big-name signing, and after much publicity Harry Enfield’s Brand Spanking New Show launched on the same day as Al Murray’s sitcom Time Gentlemen Pleasevlcsnap-00751

Enfield is someone who has always left behind his most popular characters, not wishing to play them to the point where they are past-it, so for this show a whole new range were created. Some of the most memorable characters included the Cornish Ladies Man, who was always telling his risque stories, the pharmacist who was rather indiscreet when dealing with people, Strange Bob, the TV presenter prone to unusual outbursts, and Chris Great, the rather big-headed radio presenter who liked bossing his staff around but most certainly wasn’t based on Chris Evans, oh no. vlcsnap-00755

There were no other main cast members as such, but a few other people did occasionally help out Enfield in the sketches, including Gwyneth Strong, Simon Greenall, and Sally Bretton who is better known nowadays for appearing in BBC1 sitcom Not Going Out. Harry Enfield’s Brand Spanking New Show ran for 12 editions in one series, plus a behind the scenes special. vlcsnap-00754

Most editions ended with some outtakes from the show, showing Enfield taking the opportunity to employ a rather more crude sense of humour than in his previous shows, but this ended up being rather awkward as most of these were funnier than the actual sketches. The show received rather average reviews, and Enfield later admitted that there wasn’t a huge amount of time available to put the shows together, and that it wasn’t exactly the peak of his career. vlcsnap-00753

The show has been released on DVD (as Harry Enfield’s Brand Spanking New Video), but curiously it runs to only 90 minutes, the equivalent of about three editions, meaning that plenty of sketches are missing (a few outtakes also feature). However, Enfield would later return to the BBC and team up with his old mate Paul Whitehouse again to create yet another new range of characters for a comedy show that pleasingly fared much better.

More TV Memories – The ITV Weathergens.

ITV National Weather (ITV, 1996-2001)

This is a piece that I wasn’t sure about doing at first, but then I decided to go ahead. Here’s the story. Although I do like to take notice of the bits between the programmes, one area of TV presentation that has never really interested me that much is weather forecasts. Although the graphics and technology on various channels has evolved over the years, and there have been several memorable forecasters, I’ve never really thought that it was worth writing about, partly because such things do seem to have something of an awkward reputation online.

This is because there seems to be a small core of people who are mildly obsessed with old weather forecasts, seemingly needing to know what ident was shown on what day, and they probably often also ponder what Martyn Davies had for dinner before he hosted the forecast after News At Ten on 10 November 1998, and so on. However, watching some old news and weather clips online recently, I couldn’t help but be struck by a piece of weather presentation that all these years on still looked so creative and impressive to the point that I think it is worth documenting it. These are… the Weathergens.

In February 1989, ITV launched their National Weather service, which was sponsored by Powergen (one of the earliest shows on British TV to have a sponsor). In 1993, some idents were introduced to be shown before every forecast that represented the mood and weather of what was planned for that day. These were very good, but in November 1996 they were replaced by the Weathergens. There were a dozen of these remarkable characters created featuring in a 15-second sequence (including a couple of minor variations) before every weather forecast on ITV, accompanied by an equally atmospheric soundtrack. They were designed and produced by Lambie-Nairn and The New Renaissance Company. Over 20 years on they still look hugely impressive and definitely stood up to constant showings. Here’s a review of all of them… vlcsnap-00748

Aurora. This brightly-coloured one represents sun and hot weather so it wasn’t shown very often (joke). w1

Brellina. Possibly the most famous of the Weathergens, mostly for the “how did they do that?” element to it, where a woman has water shoot out of her head on a mountain of umbrellas to represent rain. There was also a variation of this one for stormier weather. I have also noticed that a lot of online commenters have described this one as “kinky”. w2

Crystella. This one stars a rather glamorous-looking woman who has become a snowflake and cloned herself to fall gently from the sky. w3

Cyan. This is a variation on Gilda, who turns around to reveal a blue-tinted woman, seemingly representing the sun going down, and the colder nighttime weather taking over. w7

Frice. This one represents frost and ice, it must have been shown a lot at the start of the year. w5

Florta. This is an autumnal one featuring a young woman who rather unhappily loses the leaves on her head. w4

Gilda. This one represents the sun going down and being replaced by rain. This was one with another stormier variation. w6

Helios. This one represents the sun poking through clouds, as illustrated by a big shiny head. w8

Mirka. This one represents mist and fog. I suppose that after watching these again all these years on I would have to say that this is my favourite of the Weathergens. This is because these idents are a rather unexpected source of what if you have read some of my pieces on pop music you might realise I seem to be a fan of – rather spooky-looking women with big hair wearing too much make-up. w9

Nimbella. This one represents rain and overcast weather, featuring some rather alarming eyelashes. This was another one with a stormier variation. w10

Norwin. This is another moody one that represents wind, which seems to mean bad news for owners of bowler hats. Again, there was a stormier variation of this one. w11

Shivra. I have noticed that a lot of the comments about these Weathergens online are “these used to scare me as a child”. Well I was never really that scared of them, although I do think that this one is probably the weirdest of the lot, featuring a shivering blue-faced boy representing the cold. w12

In October 2001, the Weathergens (following a few re-edits) finally left the screen after almost five years. I definitely think that they remain among the best collections of idents that I have seen. I do try and keep away from “so much better than nowadays!” and “why won’t they bring it back?”-type comments on here, but there really doesn’t seem to be any TV presentation as striking and lavish as this now.

The Comedy Vault – Scrubs.

Scrubs (NBC, 2001-2008, ABC, 2009-2010)

As I have said before on here, I’m not really that big a fan of many American sitcoms, but this is one that I have enjoyed. Scrubs is a sitcom that is set at the Sacred Heart Hospital, and the main character is Dr “JD” Dorian (played by Zach Braff, who would go on to direct some episodes), and most of the stories in the episodes are told from his perspective. We also hear most of his inner thoughts, and most of the episode titles begin with the word “my” (“My First Day”, “My Mentor”, and so on). vlcsnap-00690

Other members of the cast include JD’s fellow doctors Turk and Elliot, and they become good friends. There was also Carla the nurse, the rather short-tempered Dr Cox, and the veteran Dr Kelso who didn’t really enjoy his job and often has run-ins with the others. Also stealing many scenes was the rather mysterious janitor. As the episodes progress, we see the young doctors interact with a variety of patients and prove just how tough a job it can be. vlcsnap-00672

And yes, one of the things that attracted to me to Scrubs (and seemed to turn some people away from it) were the fantasy sequences, where JD’s imagination would go off on a rather odd tangent, which was soon making me say “that’s so funny!”. We also get to see some of what JD gets up to in his spare time, including a complicated love life. And I do try and avoid “do you remember the theme music?”-type comments on here, but “Superman” definitely stuck in my mind. vlcsnap-00673

I suppose that Scrubs can be compared with the British sitcom Green Wing that I reviewed on here recently. I remember saying that although I enjoyed that show, I never really felt that the cast great as they were came across as doctors, when compared to Dr Kelso for example who I felt did convincingly come across as a grumpy old doctor as well as a funny character. At least one thing that Green Wing didn’t do was have some rather sentimental moments which American sitcoms can be known for their fair share of. And well, JD definitely learned a lot of lessons about life that day. vlcsnap-00687

Scrubs was first shown in the UK on Sky One in 2002, before moving to Channel 4, and then it seemed to be shown on E4 endlessly for a while. Scrubs eventually ran for nine series and almost 200 episodes which have all been released on DVD (with plenty of enjoyable extras), but I don’t have the final one, as by that point most of the main cast had left and been replaced by newcomers, and some people including me felt by then it was a little past its best.

The YouTube Files – Wake Up London.

Wake Up London (ITV, 1985-1988)

This blog was set up for me to look back at any old TV show that caught my interest, whether it be a long-forgotten oddity or a ratings-topping classic, and you can probably guess which category this show falls into! ITV on Sunday mornings in the late-80s/early-90s used to be rather odd has it had to cover a wide variety of programming.

TV-am would usually feature a political debate hosted by Sir David Frost (or maybe Jonathan Dimbleby), and this would followed by various children’s cartoons such as The Smurfs, and then there would be things like Morning Worship (which because of advertising restrictions on religious programming featured no breaks), and Link, the show aimed at people with disabilities, and by the start of the afternoon you might feel like going back to bed.

When looking through some old TV Times from the 80s I noticed something unusual that was shown in this slot. TV-am would be followed at 9:25am on Sunday mornings in the LWT region in the mid-80s by a ten-minute programme called Wake Up London. This is something that I have been interested in seeing for a while, so I was pleased to recently discover an edition on YouTube, uploaded by a user called “Nearrrggghh”, so thanks goes to them. vlcsnap-00666

Wake Up London was originally hosted by a comedy duo called the Vicious Boys who were Andy Smart and Angelo Abela. In 1989 Angelo would go on to be one of the presenters of CITV Saturday Morning show Ghost Train under the alias of Gerard. I’m fairly sure that I also saw him in pantomime at the Hackney Empire about 100 years ago when he was at the height (?) of his fame, aren’t I lucky. vlcsnap-00670

The idea of Wake Up London was that it was a what’s on guide as our presenting duo went around London showing us various fun things to do during the weekend including checking out the latest technology, so if you want more information, look out for the phone number at the end of the show. The later editions were hosted by a female comedy duo called Rabbitt And Doon, Doon being Doon Mackichan who would go on to have further success in comedy shows including The Day Today and Smack The Ponyvlcsnap-00668

I did enjoy seeing Wake Up London, it was a fun idea, but what a bizarre piece of scheduling by LWT. I don’t know why someone decided that this was something suitable for Sunday mornings. One thing is for sure though, because of the way that ITV now works with almost no regional programming anywhere, we definitely won’t see its like again. 

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A TV Times listing for Wake Up London in December 1985