Down The Dumper – The 2000s Part 15.

This is an American duo who did some exciting things on the chart in the 2000s decade. Outkast consisted of Andre 3000 and Big Boi. They had actually released their first single in America as early as 1993, but in February 2001 “Ms Jackson” entered the lower end of the UK chart on import, such was the anticipation for this one. And then in March 2001, “Ms Jackson” became the song that turned them into big names.

This reached no. 2, to become their biggest hit in the UK, although this was a chart-topper in America. Going into 2002, next up were “So Fresh So Clean” and “The Whole World”. Now although these weren’t among their biggest hits, they are among my favourites by them. As well as the music channels, I remember the video for “The Whole World” being shown on ITV2.

This was on a show called Chart Choice, where they would show a music video or two when they had a five or ten minute gap in the schedule, and I always hoped that this one would turn up (and don’t forget Killer Mike, is he related to Stereo Mike from Bran Van 3000?). They were also appearing on the cover of NME by this point, bad luck for all those indie bands supposedly shaking the scene, but there’s no doubt that they were doing something rather innovative.

And they were also making the Grammy awards in the rap and urban categories their own, winning them for their songs year after year. After two more minor hits, by 2003, Outkast split… except they didn’t. They released a double album, that was actually two albums recorded individually by them, and then they were grouped together under the Outkast name, which offered rather different sounds.

In November 2003 “Hey Ya!” was released. And, in what was a rarity for this time, this seemed to go up the chart for several weeks, as the word spread that this was one of the catchiest hits on the scene. This reached no. 3, although this was another long-running chart-topper back in America. They continued to win several awards, and they probably argued over who got to keep them.

Going into 2004, they had further acclaimed Top Ten hits with “The Way You Move” and “Roses”, and they really were having twice the success of most acts. But by September 2006, “Morris Brown” missed the Top 40, and little has been heard of Outkast since. “Ms Jackson” briefly returned to the chart in February 2013, but that’s been it really. Maybe they really did split for good this time.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 30.

This is a group who were rather popular in the early-90s, before they launched an unlikely comeback. The Farm had actually formed as long ago as the early-80s, but they didn’t have any chart success until 1990. They were often described as being leading figures in the Baggy genre. And in September 1990, “Groovy Train” was released, which for me, is their best hit.

This was a year that featured rather a lot of great singles, and this is one of them. Also featuring in the video were some cast members from Brookside, and that is definitely an endorsement. This reached no. 6, to become their first Top Ten hit single. But the follow-up to this is the one that has endured more. In December 1990, “All Together Now” was released, which reached no. 4.

This was a song about the Christmas Truce, and was produced by Suggs from the nutty boys of Madness. In March 1991, their album “Spartacus” was released, and this was a chart-topper. However, this puts them on a rather short list of acts to be an album one-hit wonder, although they did release further albums and best-ofs, none of them made the chart. Also on this list are Johnny Hates Jazz, and they must be really pleased to be in that company.

They went on to have further hits in 1991 and 1992, the most successful of them being their cover of The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”. They had one further hit in 1993, but not long after this, The Farm went their separate ways, and little was heard of them for the next decade. But then, in June 2004, when there was a football tournament in Portugal, it was decided that there should be an official song that supports England.

Somebody must’ve remembered that “All Together Now” was a song about football to some extent, so it was decided to revive this one. This was now in the same group of songs as New Order’s “World In Motion”, The Lightning Seeds’s “Three Lions”, and most excitingly, Ant And Dec’s “We’re On The Ball”. The Farm had to pretty much reform to get involved with all of this.

This version was remixed by DJ Spoony (if you saw my piece on The Dreem Teem, you might wonder if he worked on this in his bedroom in Bethnal Green), and this was accompanied by The SFX Boys Choir. “All Together Now 2004” reached no. 5, one place lower than the original. Yet somehow England weren’t inspired to victory. They have had no further hits since, but this has gone on to be covered by various other acts, including Atomic Kitten. Er, great.

The YouTube Files – Scrabble USA.

Scrabble (NBC, 1984-1990, 1993)

I thought that it was about time for me to review another American game show, because they’re just so great aren’t they. This one caught my attention because this is based around Scrabble, the word game that people enjoy playing around the world, although this TV version was somewhat different from the traditional board game format.

The host was Chuck Woolery (a veteran who has hosted many game shows over the years). This began with people shouting the name of the show in a similar style to Wheel Of Fortune, and there were also plenty of flashing lights and podiums that turned around for no reason, which is always nice. The format did change, but mostly was something of a cross between Cross Wits and All Clued Up.

Two contestants took part. They were given a cryptic clue to a word that was between five and nine letters long, with only one letter revealed. This would either be horizontal on vertical on the board. They can take two tiles from a choice which is always two more than the letters in the word. They place them in a slot, and then these letters are revealed. They then pick one to put into the word, and they can guess if they like (and there were various bonuses on offer).

But they should beware, because if they pick a letter that isn’t in the word, it is a “stopper” (similar to what would be called a whammy or a stinger in similar shows), and they lose their turn. How annoying. If all three stoppers are played, and the word still hasn’t been guessed, the remaining letters (except one) are revealed. They buzz in if they know, and whoever gets it right wins that round (games would straddle if they ran out of time).

Another round is then played, with the next word connecting with wherever the previous one is on the board. The first to win three rounds, goes through to the bonus game which was the Scrabble Sprint, to play the defending champion. Again, a clue was given to a word with a particular number of letters in it, and after the clock started, they picked various letters (no stoppers at this stage). Buzz in and get it right, and the clock stops.

If their opponent can guess the same amount of words in a shorter time, they win, but if not, there’s a new champion. Contestants could return several times, and some won five-figure sums. There were also special themed weeks, including college students taking part, and even on one occasion, other game shows hosts. Scrabble ran for almost a decade, and confusingly, a board game of this version was released.

More TV Memories – The Weekend Show.

The Weekend Show (ITV, 1997-1998)

Rather a long time ago now, as part of my Saturday Morning Memories series, I looked back at CITV’s The Noise, and said about how surprised I was to see Andi Peters host another Saturday morning show, fairly shortly after his departure from CBBC’s Live & Kicking. His co-host was Emma Forbes, who also around this time hosted shows on ITV including Good Stuff and Talking Telephone Numbers.

But did you know that not long after Live & Kicking Andi and Emma went on to host another show together? Just like The Totally Friday Show that I reviewed recently, The Weekend Show was another live show in the LWT region on Fridays (produced by London News Network) that aimed to get weekends off to a lively start. There doesn’t seem to be much about this one online, so it’s time for me to fill the gap.

This was sponsored by Thorpe Park, and the opening sequence was rather memorable. This was partly because the theme was an extended version of the LWT ident jingle that was introduced in 1996. Every week this would come from a different location in the region, and featured the usual mix of celebrity guests, competitions, and so on.

And well, this was yet another show where pop groups could turn up to get on the TV and perform their latest single in front of some fans, that’s if they didn’t mind being interviewed by Andi afterwards! Another interesting thing about The Weekend Show was that this would be shown in two parts. The first was from 5:10-5:35, which was followed by London Weekend Tonight and ITN Early Evening News.

Then at 6pm there would be Home And Away (and they did seem to insist that this was an actual feature on the show), with the second part following from 6:25-7pm. Andi would get fairly stroppy if we missed the first part for whatever reason. The Weekend Show would run for a year or two, usually around the summer, and maybe it was an attempt at a The Big Breakfast-style show.

I can’t recall Andi’s old mate Edd The Duck ever turning up though, which was disappointing. Andi was also credited as the co-series producer, and after this ended, he went on to work more behind the scenes, including being involved in Channel 4’s T4 strand that was aimed at teenagers, and he then went on to ruin Top Of The Pops. Well I’m sorry, but he did.

More TV Memories – The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004)

You might know that I am a fan of the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants, but then isn’t everyone? I don’t recall watching this on Nickelodeon when I had access to that channel though, it was when there was a repeat run rather late at night on long-gone channel TMF where I just realised that this was all great and adorable, and then I didn’t want to miss an episode, I wanted the comics too and everything.

A pineapple under the sea? What will they think of next. So it was great to know that there was a film version planned of all this, as the popularity was increasing. A lot of people looked forward to this, and hoped that this would be absorbing (what a great pun). SpongeBob and his friend Patrick are about to go on an adventure like never before. King Neptune’s crown has gone missing, who can find this? Well you can probably guess.

Along with this, there was a guest appearance by David Hasselhoff, how exciting. There is also a moment when SpongeBob and Patrick start to dry out, and I’m not sure why, but I thought that this all looked rather horrible. This is a film that is rated U, but I found all this more scary than the content of most 15s that I’ve seen, they never warn you about that, do they.

The first film went on to gross $191m worldwide though, just imagine how many Krabby patties you would be able to buy with that. And there was plenty of tie-in merchandise released too, including a computer game and figurines and everything. It was pleasing that this was a success, and most of the reviews were positive, although some felt that the original TV version was never really the same after this.

DVD extras include how the film was produced (I hope that they had plenty of yellow ink), along with trails and the like. About a decade on from this, there was finally a sequel, Sponge Out Of Water, where as usual, our heroes have to save the world, and will have a go with their usual bizarre charm, this time featuring computer-generated characters. There was recently a third film, and a fourth is currently in development.

More TV Memories – The Totally Friday Show.

The Totally Friday Show (ITV, 1996-1997)

It is hard to believe that regional ITV ended almost 20 years ago now (well sort of, the names of most regions were around until 2004, and there was still plenty of regional programming until about 2005). Over the years, there were many attempts by LWT to feature a live “let’s start the weekend in style”-type show on a Friday, and these including The 6 O’Clock Show and 6 O’Clock Live.

And this is an example of one from the late-90s, that was aimed at younger viewers. The memory is a little vague on this one, but the idea behind The Totally Friday Show, it says here, was “children’s series offering ideas on how to fill your spare time”. This was produced by London News Network, which was also behind Carlton and LWT’s main news show London Tonight.

Among the hosts was Sonya Saul, who had featured as an entertainment reporter on London Tonight, and I didn’t realise at the time that she had actually been on TV going back to the 80s as one of the hosts of CITV’s computers show Video And Chips. One feature was having various pop stars perform their new single in the studio, and they seemed to be anybody who was keen to appear really.

They ranged from Spice Girls (who went on to conquer the pop music world) to Speedy (who, er, didn’t). There is one rather unusual moment that I’m fairly sure happened on this show, but anyone is welcome to confirm or deny this. Let Loose were a group who were tipped to be big in the mid-90s. After about a year on the scene, they finally had a big hit with “Crazy For You” (although this had to be re-released a few times first).

They went on to have further hits, and performed one of them on this show. I’m not sure what happened because I was only half-looking, but afterwards they took some questions from some children who were in the studio. One asked “what was the most embarrassing moment of your career?” (they always seem to ask that don’t they, they never ask anyone what the highlight was).

The singer said “er, I think it happened about ten minutes ago actually”. I think they missed their cue or had some microphone trouble, something like that, there’s live TV for you. I don’t recall seeing them much after this, hopefully they’ve recovered from the embarrassment now. Along with The Totally Friday Show, also around this time LWT tried a similar idea with The Weekend Show, and I’ll review that soon too.

More TV Memories – Turnstyle.

Turnstyle (Channel 5, 1997-1998)

This is yet another piece about the early days of Channel 5, because having looked back at various things like their original commitment to comedy, news, and so on, I thought that I would now take a look at their sport coverage. At the launch, there was a live show on Saturday mornings called Turnstyle, which was often hosted by Dominik Diamond (who wasn’t far short of the end of his time on Channel 4’s GamesMaster by this point), alongside Gail McKenna.

In this, the weekend’s sporting action would be previewed, there would also be guests in the studio, and viewers could phone in to take part in competitions. And there would be a late Sunday edition looking back at the weekend’s highlights. But it would be rather good if they actually had some live sport to show too. Most of this would feature in Live And Dangerous, which filled the majority of the twilight hours most nights (and Channel 4 attempted a similar late-night sport compendium around the same time called Under The Moon).

Among the hosts of the early editions was Tommy Boyd, although, as seems to happen a lot in his career, he vanished not long after in fairly mysterious circumstances. Among the sport featured was Major League Baseball, which attracted a decent following, and continued to be covered for many years, until Channel 5 decided that they wanted to fill the slot with endless Channel Quizzy Quiz.

But the moment where Turnstyle was really going to come into its own was when Channel 5 had the rights to show a live World Cup Qualifier featuring England. This took place at the end of May, and was promoted roughly every ten minutes since the launch of a couple of months earlier. Their aim was, like with other genres, to provide something fresh and different, not like the stuffy old BBC! Coverage began at 4:30, 2½ hours before kick-off, and they wanted an experienced host for this.

Curiously, they went for Brough Scott, best known as the host of Channel 4 Racing (I also remember Hawksbee And Jacobs commenting that he hosted the Breakfast Show on TalkSport for about one week, and all of his guests seemed to be Irish jockeys on the phone). Various people were asked about England’s prospects as the time had to be filled. And for a commentator, they chose Jonathan Pearce.

He was known for his coverage on radio station Capital Gold, and his profile increased following Euro ’96. The idea was that seemingly if there was going to be a goal, he would simply shout “England have scored!!” as loud as he could, just like the fans watching. As it turned out, in Katowice, England took an early lead through Alan Shearer, and Teddy Sheringham scored a second late on for a 2-0 win. And you wouldn’t have seen those goals on TV anywhere else. Unbelievable!

After this, Channel 5 decided to do deals to cover the English teams taking part in the European competitions the UEFA Cup, and the new defunct Cup Winners’ Cup. Pearce was kept on as commentator, but their coverage was now much more straightforward and perfectly adequate, even if it was never going to compete ratings-wise with the likes of the Champions League on ITV. Turnstyle carried on for about a year, and then Diamond went on to host Sportscall on BBC Radio 5 Live, an amusing show featuring questions about the week’s sport.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2010s Part 3.

It’s time to look back at a pop music success from more recent years. Jess Glynne is an English singer who first found fame when she was the guest vocalist on Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” single in 2014. This did rather well, winning a Grammy, spending over a year on the chart, and being one of the more acclaimed chart-toppers from this era.

She then went on to have further hits on her own, and there is one highlight that I want to pick out because it brings back a rather specific memory for me. When The Chart Show ended on ITV in 1998, it was an end of an era, but it was actually nowhere near the end of the story. It seems that the website continued, and there might have been versions produced for other countries that continued too.

But by the time of digital TV expanding in the early-2000s, there was the launch of the channel Chart Show TV. This showed music videos of course, but there was excitement when some editions of The Chart Show from the 90s were repeated, and there was even an attempt at reviving the original format. But I had never seen this channel for myself.

But as channels have constantly come and gone from Freeview over the years, for a short while Chart Show TV (or whatever it was called by this point) turned up, and I was so pleased. A music channel that actually shows music videos! And it’s a distant relative of The Chart Show! I decided I must watch this channel, especially on a Saturday evening, when they showed a selection of big dance hits.

This was a great way to catch up with what was on the chart and discover some new songs, maybe other music channels could try doing this one day. In July 2014, “Right Here” was released, and this did turn up rather frequently in this slot, but I always enjoyed seeing this, and this definitely became and remains one of the sounds of that summer for me, and this reached no. 6.

Flame-haired Jess went on to have several more chart-topping singles, including “Hold My Hand” and “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”, and statistically at least she is one of the most successful British female singers that there has ever been. Her 2015 debut album “I Cry When I Laugh” did very well too. But there’s no doubt for me at what her highlight is.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 29.

This is a British group who had various successes, before suddenly hitting the big time, with one hit that will always overshadow their others. By the time that The Lightning Seeds formed, frontman Ian Broudie had already been in the music business for several years. He had previously been in the group Big In Japan (and no, they never recorded a song called “Alphaville”, stop it), along with contributing to several albums (including the one by Bette “Mrs Suggs” Bright).

In July 1989, “Pure” was their first hit single, which reached no. 16, and this was also their first and only Top 40 hit in America. After a few flops in 1990, they returned in March 1992 with “The Life Of Riley”, which reached no. 20. This would eventually become better known as the theme to Goal Of The Month on Match Of The Day, and Danny Baker when he had a career said that he played an instrument on this, but then he once insisted that he was joining EastEnders as Alfie Moon’s brother, so I don’t really believe him.

There were further hits throughout the mid-90s, including “Sense”, “Lucky You” (which was also used as the theme to a game on Mark And Lard’s BBC Radio 1 show, and made the Top 40 at the second attempt), “Change”, “Marvellous” (which seemed to be used on a lot of adverts), “Perfect”, and “Ready Or Not”. But these were all fairly modest successes, plenty of them making the Top 20, but none the Top Ten. Then, in June 1996, Broudie was invented to perform the anthem for England at Euro ’96.

Also contributing would be Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, the hosts of BBC2’s Fantasy Football League. “Three Lions” turned out to be a big success, becoming an enduring chart-topper. Then there was a return to the smaller-sized hits with “What If” and “Sugar Coated Iceberg”. And then in April 1997, “You Showed Me” was released, a cover of a 60s song which had been a hit for Salt-N-Pepa earlier in the decade. This reached no. 8, to become their first and only non-“Three Lions” Top Ten hit. So it was a surprise that next single “What You Say” missed the Top 40.

But then something rather odd happened. In November 1999 “Life’s Too Short” was released, which launched a new sound for The Lightning Seeds, and a new image. This was in much more of a dance direction, and Broudie no longer wore glasses or had a beard, which people thought was rather weird. And they also wondered why Broudie, who was now in his 40s, suddenly wanted to make songs that sounded like Daft Punk and the like, when he was always going to come off second best.

In March 2000 “Sweet Soul Sensations” was released. This got nowhere near the Top 40, but this is redeemed by the fact that him who used to be in Hollyoaks appeared in the video, and anyone who gives him work has to be commended. Since then, Broudie has concentrated on his production work, and every couple of years, “Three Lions”, the song that must now be his pension, returns to the chart as anticipation for another football tournament increases.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 28.

This is someone who has been on the pop music scene for a long time, eventually becoming a pioneer in the dance genre. Norman Cook first came to fame as a member of The Housemartins, whose hits included “Caravan Of Love”, which was performed a cappella, and was a chart-topper in December 1986. This was expected to also be the Christmas Number One, but was surprisingly beaten at the last minute by a piece of plasticine.

After releasing a few singles under his own name in the late-80s, he formed Beats International, who in February 1990 released “Dub Be Good To Me”, which was also a chart-topper. He then worked under various other aliases throughout the 90s, including Freak Power, Mighty Dub Katz, and Pizzaman. But his most successful time working as a DJ and producer was under the name FatBoy Slim.

This started out fairly quietly, when in September 1996, “Better Living Through Chemistry”, which was his first album under this name, reached only no. 69, and he had a few minor hit singles in 1997. It was in 1998 when he suddenly became an in-demand remixer, these are two of the highlights. In April 1995, British producer Roger McKenzie, under the name Wildchild, released “Legends Of The Dark Black Part 2”, which reached no. 34.

This was re-released in October 1995 as “Renegade Master”, even though this was exactly the same song (a touch of the “Combat Dancing EP”/”Mr Kirk’s Nightmare” unusualness like what 4Hero did in 1990). This earned him an appearance on Top Of The Pops, but barely a month on from this, Roger died at the age of 24 from a heart condition. In January 1998, “Renegade Master” was back once again when this received the FatBoy Slim treatment, reaching the Top 40 for a third time.

Another triumph was Cornershop’s “Brimful Of Asha”. This had previously reached no. 60 in August 1997, but in February 1998, the FatBoy Slim remix became a chart-topper. Although they had already been around for several years, this virtually unknown group were now at the top of the chart, and they seemed as surprised as anybody else about this (people were also amused by the fact that the lyrics contained the word “bosom”, kind of distracting from the point that this was trying to make).

Suddenly everything he remixed turned to gold (discs). But pleasingly, he also saved a few classics for himself. In June 1998, “The Rockafeller Skank” became his first Top Ten hit single under his FatBoy Slim name, and this seems to have been played on the radio at least once every single day since. “Gangster Trippin'” was another great one, and his second album “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby” was a big success, being a chart-topper for four weeks.

Further hits followed in 1999, including Number One “Praise You” (meaning that he had now had a chart-topper as a member of three different acts), “Right Here Right Now”, and the lesser-remembered “Badder Badder Schwing”, a collaboration with Freddy Fresh that Chris Moyles used as a bed on his BBC Radio 1 show for a while. Going into the 2000s, he had plenty more hits, and the video for “Weapon Of Choice” seemed to win dozens of awards too.