CITV Memories – Skull.

Skull (CITV, 1990-1991)

I’ve already written about why I was a fan of the rather spooky CITV Saturday Morning show Ghost Train, and one of the reasons was because of the game show segment that deserves a separate piece looking back at it. I don’t think that Skull featured in all three series, but it was definitely in the last two. Skull was a somewhat chaotic game that featured a lot of mess and it was played in three parts.

In the first part a contestant alongside one of the hosts of the show had to jump in a pool and find the skull, because this contained some questions. Whilst they tried to find it, the main villain Barry and his band of baddies would squirt them with gunge and everyone would cheer them on. When they did finally find it, the host, who was already exhausted after having to search, would ask three questions. vlcsnap-00223

While the questions were asked, Barry and the baddies would be watching on, because if they got any of the questions wrong they would throw even more gunge over them, and the contestant would have a disadvantage in the second stage of the game. In case they got all three right, Barry would ask another question himself which was usually impossible with the hope that there would be at least one wrong answer resulting in a squirting. vlcsnap-00222

The second part of the game wasn’t as messy, but was just as unpredictable. The contestant would enter a room with a chequered floor which contained blindfolded baddies holding maces (how many they faced depended on how many questions they got right in the first round), and they could only step on the white squares. If they got hit they would lose the game, much to the delight of Barry. vlcsnap-00225

If they got past them without being hit though, they would enter another room to play the final game where they would have to face the man himself Barry. This time, both the contestant and Barry would be blindfolded, and if they managed to beat him in the main duel by successfully banging him on the head with their mace, they would win a prize that money can’t buy… that’s right, a jacket! vlcsnap-00226

It was also rather amusing when in the final edition of the series the game reached its rather inevitable conclusion when all three hosts took part and pushed Barry in the pool at the end. Also, one of Barry’s baddies was played by Mark Heap who in more recent years went on to have a lot of success as a comic actor. I always thought that Skull was great fun and livened up Saturday Mornings just really because it was so ridiculous.

The YouTube Files – The Cathy Dennis Story.

Time for a look back at another pop star’s career. Cathy Dennis was born in Norwich in March 1969, she made a lot of great dance-pop records (most of which she wrote herself) and she also had a distinctive bright red hairstyle. Unlike others that I have reviewed on here recently, Cathy never had a look or sound that was particularly “weird”, but as far as mainstream pop stars go she is one of my favourites, I remember enjoying a lot of her singles from first time round in the early-90s and she was one of the earliest singers that I became a fan of, and my memories of seeing her on TV and in magazines now go back over 25 years so I wanted to share her story. Although Cathy was never really an A-list pop star in this country, she was popular and had success around the world, particularly in America. This will be a piece looking back at her 13 hit singles in the UK from 1989-1997 and her various TV appearances and music videos on YouTube. cathyIn October 1989 Cathy had her first hit single with the dance act D-Mob (of “We Call It Acieed” and “It Is Time To Get Funky” fame) as the lead vocalist on their single “C’Mon And Get My Love” which reached no. 15, and she made her first of ten appearances on BBC1’s Top Of The Pops. This was also Cathy’s first of four Top Ten hits in the US, I was surprised to discover that she had more Top Ten singles in the US than she did in the UK. In December 1989 Cathy’s first solo single “Just Another Dream” was first released which reached no. 93. vlcsnap-00123

In April 1990 Cathy’s second single with D-Mob “That’s The Way Of The World” was released, but this was less successful, reaching no. 48. In November 1990 “Just Another Dream” was released for a second time, this time reaching no. 95. vlcsnap-00311

1991 would turn out to be Cathy’s most successful year. In May 1991 “Touch Me (All Night Long)” was released. This was a cover version of the 1984 disco classic by Fonda Rae (with some rewritten lyrics). I am a real fan of both versions and I would have to say that this is my favourite single by Cathy and the one that really got me into her. Cathy put a lot of hard work into promoting her songs and “Touch Me” became her most successful single, reaching no. 5 to become her only Top Ten hit single in the UK. It was also her second Top Ten hit in the US and her biggest, spending two weeks at no. 2. Cathy also performed this song on Top Of The Pops and CITV’s Ghost Train! Also in May 1991 Cathy appeared on the cover of Smash Hits, everything was going right for her. vlcsnap-00086

In July 1991 it was third time lucky for “Just Another Dream” when it finally became a hit single, reaching no. 15 in the UK, and it was Cathy’s third Top Ten single in the US. It was accompanied by a new video and appearances on CBBC’s The 8:15 From Manchester and Top Of The Pops. In August 1991 Cathy’s first album “Move To This” was released in the UK which reached no. 3. vlcsnap-00242

In October 1991 the next single “Too Many Walls” was released which reached no. 17 in the UK and was her fourth and final Top Ten hit in the US. She also performed this song on BBC1’s Wogan and Top Of The Pops, and the video was featured on the “Now 20” VHS compilation. One notable thing about the TOTP performance was that it was just after the relaunch of the long-running show where a rule was introduced that performers had to sing live, and she definitely impressed and showed off her voice. Also in October 1991 she appeared on the cover of Number One magazine. vlcsnap-00256

I know I am bringing it back to Bid TV again but I remember watching Andy Hodgson one day about a decade ago when he said that when he was working at a local radio station he once met Cathy around the time she was promoting “Too Many Walls”. It was just nice to hear someone talking about her on the TV again and it was good to discover that he was a fan too. Also in October 1991 Cathy performed at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party live on BBC1 from the London Arena. I’m fairly sure that my sister went to this one, so she has seen Cathy perform live on stage and I haven’t? Pah! vlcsnap-00239

In December 1991 the final single off the first album “Everybody Move” was released which reached no. 25, and it was accompanied by an amusing video. She performed this song on Des O’Connor’s ITV show, along with yet another Top Of The Pops appearance. Also in December 1991 Cathy appeared on the cover of Time Out magazine. vlcsnap-00219

In August 1992 the first single off Cathy’s second album “You Lied To Me” was released which reached no. 34. Also around this time Cathy appeared on the CBBC shows The O Zone and one of my favourites Parallel 9Also in 1992 there was a big sign that she had made her mark on the pop scene when she was done on ITV’s Stars In Their Eyesvlcsnap-00300

In November 1992 the next single “Irresistible” was released which reached no. 24 and there was another Top Of The Pops appearance for Cathy. In the early-90s my sister set the video for a lot of music shows that were shown late-night on ITV. One of them was The Beat which was hosted by Gary Crowley. On one edition that she recorded there was a feature where the latest singles were reviewed, “Irresistible” was one of them, and I remember that Gary said he didn’t like it. I do though! vlcsnap-00236

In January 1993 Cathy’s second album “Into The Skyline” was released which reached no. 8, and in February 1993 the next single “Falling” was released which reached no. 32. This was accompanied by what has to be Cathy’s strangest video which is rather different to her other ones, it was great. Also in 1993 she appeared in an episode of the US drama series Beverly Hills 90210vlcsnap-00226

It was also around this time that one of the more unusual moments in Cathy’s career happened. The computer games magazine Sega Power ran an article in issue 35 about how much they liked her, this led to her being interviewed in issue 38, and issue 40 (dated March 1993) included a free gift of a cassette which featured some of Cathy’s songs including “Falling” plus some messages specially recorded for the magazine of her reading some tips and cheats for various Sega games. This might be something of an in-joke as Cathy does sound a little bemused, presumably this was organised to satisfy the writers who seemingly had a fantasy of her talking about Sonic The Hedgehog while tracks from her new album played in the background. So if you’re a gamer and you’d ever wanted to hear Cathy say things like “press the up button” it was your lucky day. However, it seems that Cathy actually might be into her games because also in 1993 she appeared on Channel 4’s GamesMaster where she tried to complete a computer game challenge by playing Global Gladiators, but she failed and caused the end of the world (in the game at least) which was rather disappointing, much to the amusement of host Dominik Diamond. vlcsnap-00001

In February 1994 Cathy’s third and final single with D-Mob (and the final single off the second album) “Why” was released which reached no. 27. Along with Top Of The Pops, Cathy also performed this song on CBBC’s Live & Kicking and CITV’s What’s Up Doc. I watched a lot of Saturday Morning children’s TV in the 90s and it was always great seeing Cathy turn up on these shows. vlcsnap-00290

After releasing no singles in 1995, Cathy returned in August 1996 with the first single from her third album “West End Pad”, which reached no. 25. Cathy also moved away from the dance-pop sound of her early singles. I remember watching the video on The Chart Show, it was great seeing her back on the scene after a couple of years away. Also around this time she appeared on ITV’s This Morning, Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast and CBBC’s Fully Booked and The O Zone where she spoke about her enthusiasm for rally driving (women rally drivers? Insert Alan Partridge/The Day Today reference). In November 1996 Cathy appeared as a panellist on the first series of BBC2’s comedy music show Never Mind The Buzzcocksvlcsnap-00286In March 1997 the next single “Waterloo Sunset” was released which became her second-biggest hit in the UK, reaching no. 11. This was a cover of the classic 1967 song by The Kinks which was endorsed by the writer of the song Ray Davies who also appeared in the video. Cathy performed this on Top Of The Pops and BBC1’s The National Lottery Live when it had high ratings which helped give the song a boost. Also in March 1997 her third and final album “Am I The Kinda Girl” was released, but it reached a very disappointing no. 78. After performing on several editions, Cathy hosted an edition of Top Of The Pops in May 1997, introducing the likes of Robbie Williams, Kenickie, D:Ream and Republica. vlcsnap-00270In June 1997 Cathy had what turned out to be her final hit single in the UK with “When Dreams Turn To Dust”, which reached no. 43. I remember her appearing on lots of shows around this time to promote this song. One of them was 5’s Company, a live daytime entertainment show in the very early days of Channel 5 where she was interviewed by various hosts including Steve Allen and John Barrowman. vlcsnap-00332

After leaving her pop star career behind, Cathy went on to become a hugely successful songwriter, writing many hits for a wide variety of singers, and she has contributed to eight UK Number One singles. They are “Never Had A Dream Come True” by S Club 7 (2000), “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” by Kylie Minogue (2001, widely regarded as one of the best chart-toppers of its era), “Have You Ever” by S Club 7 (2001), “Anything Is Possible” by Will Young (2002), “Toxic” by Britney Spears (2004), “About You Now” by Sugababes (2007), “I Kissed A Girl” by Katy Perry (2008, a transatlantic chart-topper), and “Once” by Diana Vickers” (2010). Cathy has also won several awards including Grammys and Ivor Novellos and her songwriting work has been hugely acclaimed.

The YouTube Files – The Exuberant World Of Fuzzbox.

After looking back at the careers of Danielle Dax and Strawberry Switchblade, I thought to myself are there any more women with strange-coloured hair who made terrifically quirky records in the 1980s… and there are! (We’ve Got A) Fuzzbox (And We’re Gonna Use It) formed in Birmingham in 1985 and originally consisted of frontwoman Vickie “Vix” Perks, along with Jo Dunne (1968-2012), Maggie Dunne and Tina O’Neill. They didn’t have any Top Ten hit singles but they made lots of great songs which brightened up pop music in the mid/late-80s. This is a piece telling their story through their various TV appearances and music videos on YouTube (plus some magazine covers) from 1986-1990. fuzzbox0

In April 1986 they had their first hit single, an EP featuring “Rules And Regulations”, “XX Sex”, “Do I Want To?”, and “She” which reached no. 41. They made one of their earliest TV appearances on a show in Belgium. This consisted of an interview where they were sat on the floor, followed by oddly-framed performances of “She” and “XX Sex” where one of them was up a ladder and another one was down a hole. vlcsnap-00174

Before I started putting this piece together, I would never have had any idea that they appeared on TV in Belgium, never mind it being as odd as this, YouTube really is the gift that keeps on giving. And also, if my maths is correct it seems that most of them including Vickie would only have been 17 years old at the time of this performance, and I didn’t realise that they started out as young as that. vlcsnap-00177

Also around this time the video for “Rules And Regulations” was played on the first-ever Indie Chart on Channel 4’s The Chart Show, and they were also interviewed on CITV’s Splash and CBBC’s Lift Off, as we’ll discover they seemed to be very fond of appearing on children’s TV shows. Also around this time they appeared on BBC2’s Whistle Test where they were described by Radio Times as “exuberant” and performed a couple of songs including their cover of “Spirit In The Sky”. vlcsnap-00264

In May 1986 they appeared on the cover of music magazines Record Mirror and Melody Maker. Fame at last!  fuzzbox1

In July 1986 they took part in the single “Rockin’ With Rita (Head To Toe)” as part of the Vindaloo Summer Special, a supergroup consisting of various acts on that record label which reached no. 56. They performed this on CITV’s Razzmatazz, part of the 1980s Tyne Tees music show trilogy along with The Tube and The Roxy, and afterwards they were interviewed by David Jensen. Also around this time they played at the Glastonbury festival. vlcsnap-00211

In November 1986 their next single was released which became their first Top 40 hit, another EP featuring “Love Is The Slug”, “Console Me”, “Spirit In The Sky”, and “Justine”. It reached no. 31 and earned them their first mention on Top Of The Popsvlcsnap-00312

They also performed “Love Is The Slug” on TV-am’s Wide Awake Club, where they were then interviewed by Tommy Boyd as Garfield looked on. In December 1986 their first album “Bostin’ Steve Austin” was released but this wasn’t a hit. Also in this month they performed a lively concert at the Astoria Theatre in London which has turned up on YouTube. vlcsnap-00188

In February 1987 the final single off the album “What’s The Point” was released which reached no. 51. They also performed this song when they appeared on German TV and American TV’s The Late Show where they were interviewed during the brief time that their frontwoman was Christina Aguilera (well not really of course but Vickie really does look like her there don’t you think?). They never really made the breakthrough in America though. vlcsnap-00274

They also performed this song on CITV’s No. 73 and none other than Neil Buchanan could be seen clapping along in the crowd to their performance, you only see things like that happen on children’s TV. “What’s The Point” had a great video too. vlcsnap-00234

After a break in 1988, Fuzzbox returned in 1989 for what would turn out to be their most successful year. They also had a new look, no more pink hair for these ladies, and frontwoman Vickie had become something of a flame-haired sex symbol. In February 1989 the first single off their second album was released, the Thunderbirds-influenced “International Rescue” which featured Adrian Edmondson in the video and became their biggest hit, reaching no. 11, and this earned them their first Top Of The Pops appearance. vlcsnap-00261

Also around this time they were interviewed on CITV’s Motormouth. Most excitingly though, in April 1989 they appeared on the cover of Lookin magazine for the first time alongside the likes of Kylie Minogue and Scally the dog! fuzzbox2

In May 1989 their next single “Pink Sunshine” was released which reached no. 14, and although it’s a tough decision I would have to say that this is my favourite single of theirs. I remember watching the video to this on the “Hits 10” VHS compilation, and I also enjoyed their Top Of The Pops performance. vlcsnap-00208

They also performed this song on ITV’s My Secret Desire and live on CITV’s Ghost Train which featured something of a mishap when the backing tape began to rewind that revealed that they were miming and they laughed for about the final two minutes of the performance. Also around this time they were interviewed on BBC Midlands Today in a report about the Birmingham music scene, and they also appeared on CBBC’s On The Waterfront and met Andrew O’Connor! vlcsnap-00254

In August 1989 the next single “Self!” was released which earned them another Top Of The Pops appearance and reached no. 24. Also in this month the second album “Big Bang!” was released which made the Top Five. They also appeared on CBBC’s The O Zone where they were interviewed by Andi Peters at a fairground, and we found out some great facts about them including “Jo thinks that Tom Jones is the best-dressed man in pop!”, “Maggie’s favourite book is Simon And Schuster’s Guide To Cats“, and that they are big fans of the Reynolds Girls, but then who wasn’t at the time? vlcsnap-00002

Also around this time they appeared on lots more magazine covers including NMEJackieLookin and Record Mirror again, and Smash Hits for the first and only time. fuzzbox3

In November 1989 the final single released from the second album was a cover of “Walking On Thin Ice” which reached a very disappointing no. 76. They performed this on TV-am’s WAC ’90 (and again they were interviewed by Tommy Boyd), plus CBBC’s The Satellite Show and CITV’s The Disney Club. The video was also featured on the “Monster Hits” VHS compilation (essentially “Hits 11”) although it wasn’t a monster hit. Indeed, it wasn’t a hit at all. vlcsnap-00310

In June 1990 what was planned to be the first single from the third album “Your Loss My Gain” was released. They performed this on ITV’s The James Whale Show and Cannon And Ball’s Casino, along with appearances on CBBC’s The 8:15 From Manchester and CITV’s Ghost Train where they met Nobby the sheep. However, it reached a miserable no. 100, and after this disappointment work on the third album (which was to be called “Out Of This World”) was abandoned and Fuzzbox split, and they didn’t perform together again for 20 years, although in 2004 a best-of album was released called “Look At The Hits On That” which featured all their big ones.

Saturday Morning Memories – Ghost Train.

Ghost Train (CITV, 1989-1991)

Here’s my second review of classic Saturday Morning TV. This review will be mostly based on the third and final series of Ghost Train that I remember the most and will be accompanied by some pictures of the last-ever episode where they had a This Is Your Life-style retrospective looking back at some classic moments on the show.

This was a rather odd one. Each week the Ghost Train (as it was) would land in a different place and the show would be hosted from there. However there was something of a plot to the show which added some excitement. First I’ll have a look at the presenters on the show, and then explain the features they did.

Frances was supposedly the owner of the Ghost Train and inherited it. Every week it would be used to host the show from and lots of guests would turn up. vlcsnap-00052

Gerard was supposed to be an alien or something, I never really grasped what was supposed to be happening there. His real name was Angelo and unless I am going silly I am sure that I saw him in pantomime at the Hackney Empire once during the run of Ghost Train. Yes, that’s how popular the show was at the time. vlcsnap-00056

Sabra was a presenter who used to interview all the pop stars that were around at the time, for a long time after the show ended I thought she was called Sabrina but I realised recently that’s not right. vlcsnap-00057

Nobby The Sheep was also a presenter, he was an amusing puppet thing. (He’s the one on the left etc.)vlcsnap-00062

Barry Mafia was the baddie of the piece, he was a nasty character who was always trying to steal the Ghost Train, boo, hiss etc. vlcsnap-00059

Along with all this, there was also comedy from the bizarre double act The Two Marks. One of them was none other than Mark Heap, who many years later would turn up in a lot of great comedy shows including SpacedBig Train and Look Around You. I very much enjoyed his madcap style at the time, and he was the only person to rival Peter Simon when it came to falling over in silly ways on Children’s TV, so it was terrific seeing him again so long after the Ghost Train days. vlcsnap-00054

The features included Skull, a ludicrous gunge-filled game, Boo!, where The Two Marks simply shoved a custard pie in a child’s face, and cartoons including Samurai Pizza Cats. The guests were mainly the pop stars who were big at the time who liked to perform their new single (Jason Donovan and Dannii Minogue seemed to turn up every week). There were also competitions. Look, Sonia wants you to win a Sega Mega Drive! vlcsnap-00060

The final show ended with the presenters being banished to a mysterious planet. Amusingly, only Nobby The Sheep out of the presenters was ever seen again when he co-hosted Gimme 5. I imagine the others are still on that planet. Overall though I very much enjoyed the show in those early-90s summers.