More TV Memories – Electric Circus.

Electric Circus (BBC2, 1996-1999)

Following on from Trevor And Simon’s Transmission Impossible and Hit, Miss Or Maybe, I thought that I might as well take a look at the third of the three spin-offs (although they were actually segments that were repeated in an evening slot on BBC2 to fill a 15 minute gap in the schedule) from CBBC’s long-running Saturday Morning excitement Live & Kicking.

Electric Circus started out in the first series, and was a combination of what was happening on the showbusiness scene and some gossip, which made this a sort-of cross between Movies Games And Videos and Liquid News. Some of the earliest editions were hosted by John Barrowman, who was part of the original Live & Kicking hosts line-up.

But by the second series, he only appeared in this pre-recorded segment, as he was unable to commit to appearing in the studio because his acting career was beginning to take off, and aren’t we lucky. Among the things that would be featured are films, including reviews, and interviews with all of the big names. There would also be reviews of computer games, and it was always good seeing them taken seriously on a mainstream show.

And of course there would also be plenty of pop music featured. Do you want to take a look behind the scenes at Ant And Dec’s latest video? Well of course you do. And if you thought that was exciting, add in some news about things that some celebrities that you have vaguely heard of might or might not have been up to, and you’ve got everything that you need to know.

It wasn’t until the third series in 1996 when Electric Circus was shown on BBC2 for the first time. There were also a lot of hosts over the years. I don’t think that there was a guest host format, but not many lasted for more than about a month or so. After Barrowman’s departure, Emma Forbes took over for a short while, before she departed herself.

Other hosts were Toby Anstis, Dannii Minogue (seemingly taking a day off from her pop career), Margherita Taylor, and many others, although the actual format stayed the same all the way through. Electric Circus came to an end on BBC2 in 1999, but carried on for a short while on Live & Kicking, before fizzling out, just as the show as a whole seemed to do around this time.

More TV Memories – Hit, Miss Or Maybe.

Hit, Miss Or Maybe (BBC2, 1997-1999)

Something that was a regular feature on CBBC Saturday Morning shows for many years (well during the time that I watched them anyway), was the record review. A rather unlikely combination of people would be put together as a panel. They would be shown a few videos of some songs that were about to be released, and then they would give various scores based on how much they liked them.

They were not likely to make or break many careers by doing this, and the verdicts weren’t usually as harsh as they were on shows like Juke Box Jury, but it did give a few groups a brief moment of fame as a debate about their songs took place. This carried on into the days of Live & Kicking in the 90s, although by this point the feature would be hosted by the comedy double-act Trevor And Simon.

Depending on what series it was, this would be known as the Video Garden, the Video Galleon, the Video Grand Prix, and so on. Although the scoring system had gone by this point, panellists were still encouraged to be rather opinionated, and this was usually rather enjoyable to watch. After Trevor And Simon’s departure, for the fifth series, the decision was made to change the format.

This led to the launch of Hit, Miss Or Maybe, which was one of three segments from Live & Kicking that would be subsequently repeated in an evening slot on BBC2 to try and attract some teenage viewers (the others being Transmission Impossible and Electric Circus). The host was Zoe Ball, who by this point was also the host of the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show, which is a rather coveted slot.

Zoe knew plenty about pop music though, and at this time she was usually carrying on with the drummer from a different Britpop group every week. Three panellists took part, and it was always interesting seeing pop stars offering their view on other groups, and finding out what they really think about each other. This was not a game show as such, but there was definitely a competitive element to be right.

Three videos would be shown, and this time the panel would predict the success of them with some comedy oversized hands that had the thumb sticking out. This meant that if they pointed the thumb up, they were sure that this was going to be a “hit”, pointing down meant that this would be a “miss”, and pointing sideways meant they weren’t sure and this was a “maybe”.

I don’t know how accurate their decisions would go on to be, but the rather nice disembodied voice of “Showbiz Mitch” (as he called himself) would be available to help Zoe and try and keep track of the results. After a couple of years, Hit, Miss Or Maybe came to an end after Zoe departed Live & Kicking at the end of the sixth series (let’s not think about the series after that).

More TV Memories – Transmission Impossible.

Transmission Impossible (BBC2, 1996-1997)

The comedy double-act Trevor And Simon first found fame when they appeared on the first series of CBBC Saturday Morning show Going Live! in 1987, where they created and played a rather bizarre group of characters that earned plenty of laughs. Among their most popular characters were the folk musicians The Singing Corner, who in 1990 even got as far as releasing a single that was a minor hit, and appearing on the cover of NME (yes, really).

They left Going Live! after the fourth series in 1991, to be replaced by another double-act. It was around this point that they went on tour across the country, and some tapes were released that featured highlights of their silliest sketches. I never had these myself, but those that did seemed to be really fond of them, watching them so frequently, that they could practically recite them word for word (and probably still can to this day).

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They returned for the sixth and final series of Going Live! in 1992, and stayed on for the launch of the successor Live & Kicking in 1993. This gave them an opportunity to introduce even more characters. In 1995, they were given their own summer special on BBC1. And a year after this, Transmission Impossible was launched, in an evening slot on BBC2.

This was essentially all of their sketches from the previous week’s Live & Kicking put into one 15-minute show (the features Electric Circus and Hit, Miss Or Maybe were also shown as standalone shows on BBC2 around this time). The characters who featured included the art critics, Picklin’ Jeff who would try to pickle anything, a look at various things in How It Works, and an investigation into the paranormal.

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And any celebrities who happened to be around in the studio would be encouraged to take part in a sketch with them, and it was always good seeing who would be game enough to be mildly embarrassed by their antics. After the second series of Transmission Impossible ended in 1997, Trevor And Simon left Live & Kicking (having done this for almost a decade by this point).

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In the years since, although they haven’t appeared on TV a huge amount, they have contributed to a few other CBBC shows as writers, along with working on various other comedy projects (and they seem to be rather good at Pointless too which is terrific). A lot of people who are around my age still think fondly of them, and it’s rather clear to see why.

The YouTube Files – The Delicious World Of Shampoo.

Here’s yet another 90s pop group that I remember. Shampoo were a female pop duo who consisted of Jacqueline Blake (born in November 1974 in Woolwich) and Caroline Askew (born in May 1977 in Plumstead) who met at school in London and described themselves as “inseparable”. There was a lot of debate about them at the time. Were they two moody teenagers with attitude, or just a pair of airhead blondes? Well one thing’s for sure, they weren’t one-hit wonders and they had girl power for real. They didn’t have any Top Ten hits in the UK but they definitely made an impact on pop music around the world in the mid-90s, although their fame came and went rather quickly. This piece will take a look back at their music videos and TV appearances from 1993-1996 on YouTube. shampoo

After getting their big break by appearing in the video for “Little Baby Nothing” by Manic Street Preachers, Jacqui and Carrie released two singles in 1993 that weren’t hits. The first was “Blisters And Bruises”, and the second was “Bouffant Headbutt” for which a video was made. This was the song that brought them to the attention of the music magazines, winning various “single of the week” awards and tipping them to be huge, and they were often compared to Fuzzbox. vlcsnap-00327.jpg

In July 1994 they made the breakthrough when “Trouble” was released to become their first hit single, reaching no. 11, their highest chart position and also their most memorable song. One of the things that I like about this song is that there is a rhyme that is so obvious they don’t even say it: “we’d get the night bus but the night bus never came/we’re eight miles from home and it started to… (thunderclap sound effect)“. They also performed this song in the first and second of their four Top Of The Pops appearances, one of them being on that bizarre edition that experimented with a filmised look that was hosted by Malcolm McLaren. vlcsnap-00373

In October 1994 the next single “Viva La Megababes” was released which reached no. 27. Around this time they appeared on CBBC’s Live & Kicking to tell John Barrowman how much they loved Barbie dolls (they were also big fans of East 17 and Take That), they were interviewed on BBC2’s The O Zone and ITV’s late-night music show The Beat at their old school in Plumstead, and they also appeared on the cover of Melody Makershampoo1

They also performed “Viva La Megababes” on CITV’s What’s Up Doc? as the hosts including Andy Crane and Pat Sharp threw some shapes and boogied on down in the background. In November 1994 their first album “We Are Shampoo” was released, but this only reached no. 45. There was a big buzz about them around this time though, and suddenly they were appearing in all the trendy magazines including The Face, NMESmash Hits, and Select, and in December 1994 they performed at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party shown live on BBC1 from the Docklands Arena in London. vlcsnap-00364

In February 1995 the next single “Delicious” was released which reached no. 21. They performed this on Channel 4’s late-night show The Word and they were interviewed on The O Zone again, this time at home. I remember reading an interview with Jamie Theakston where he said that Shampoo were among his least favourite interviewees from his time hosting The O Zone, describing them as “the monosyllabic queens”, and concluding “they’re not the sharpest tools in the box, let’s face it”. vlcsnap-00334

In August 1995 their biggest hit “Trouble” was re-issued, this time it reached no. 36. This was an attempt to break them in America by including the song on the soundtrack to the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers film and making a new video, but it wasn’t that successful. However, it seems that for a brief period they were hugely popular in Japan to the point that they were little short of megastars in that part of the world, and they sold a lot of albums there. Indeed such was their success in Asia there was a rumour around this time that they were among the richest women in Britain. vlcsnap-00369

Also in 1995 they appeared on CBBC’s Fully Booked, and I can only imagine what Morag The Cow made of them. Meanwhile, they released two more singles in Japan only, 1995’s “Warpaint” (for which a video was made), and 1996’s “Yeh Yeh Yeh (Tell Me Baby)”. vlcsnap-00381

In July 1996 their next single “Girl Power” was released which made no. 25. Now this is an interesting coincidence because they would often talk about “girl power” and how they were trying to send out a positive message to women, and a week after this song entered the chart another female pop group came on to the scene who had “girl power” as their motto who had massive success. They also performed this song on their third and fourth Top Of The Pops appearances. However, the second album also called “Girl Power” that was released in the same month didn’t chart. vlcsnap-00344

In September 1996 their next single which was a cover of The Waitresses song “I Know What Boys Like” was released which reached no. 42, missing the Top 40. And this turned out to be their final hit single. After this setback, they were practically never heard of again, although it seems that they did make a third album called “Absolute Shampoo” and they didn’t actually split until 2000. vlcsnap-00350

It is rather weird to think that Jacqui and Carrie are now both in their 40s and their first single was released almost 25 years ago, and I honestly have no idea what they are up to now or if they are still in contact with one another. If they now have children I wonder if they have ever told them about the time they became millionaires before they turned 20 years old. It must have been rather odd for them to have found fame at such a young age, but I hope that they enjoyed the experience of being an international pop star in their teens.

The YouTube Files – The Alisha’s Attic Story.

It’s time to remember another pop group who were great in the 90s. Alisha’s Attic were a duo who consisted of the sisters Karen (born in January 1971 in Chadwell Heath) and Shellie Poole (born in March 1972 in Barking), and they were the daughters of Brian Poole who with the Tremeloes had a UK Number One single in 1963 with “Do You Love Me”. They didn’t have any Top Ten hits (most of their singles seemed to peak at no. 12), but they wrote their songs and did have nine hit singles between 1996-2001, and this piece will take a look back at their various music videos and TV appearances on YouTube. As much as I like 90s pop music, it’s a shame that they didn’t make any songs in the 80s… attic

…but wait a moment. Because when I started to put this piece together I was very surprised to discover that Alisha’s Attic actually did bring out a single in the 1980s. In November 1988 they released the single “Sugar Daddy” (credited as “Keren & Chelle”), and they could only have been about 16 or 17 years old at the time. It couldn’t be more removed from the look and sound that they would become known for years later, with the song sounding like a sub-Stock Aitken Waterman energetic dance-pop record that Sinitta rejected. There was even a really cringeworthy video made for it, and it seems that it reached a mighty no. 167. I imagine that they are probably hugely embarrassed by it and have long since completely disowned it, but to think that this happened at all is just so bizarre I can’t really believe it. vlcsnap-00321


Peter “Hithouse” Slaghuis of “Jack To The Sound Of The Underground” fame reviews “Sugar Daddy” in Number One magazine in November 1988

Fast forward to the 90s… they were still struggling to break into the music business when they sent a demo tape of some songs to Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, and he was so impressed by them he produced their first album. In August 1996 they finally had their first hit single with “I Am I Feel” which reached no. 14. This led to the first of their six appearances on Top Of The Pops, and I do remember the video catching my eye on ITV’s The Chart Show. They also performed this on Channel 4’s late-night music show The White Roomvlcsnap-00279

As ever it’s a tough decision, but I would have to say that this is my favourite single by them, and it really is a “girl power” anthem. “I Am I Feel” was also used as the theme to the ITV 1997-1999 sitcom My Wonderful Life, which gives me another opportunity to ask why isn’t this show out on DVD yet? It still hasn’t been released! Please bring it out! It was great! vlcsnap-00313

They were finally famous, and after Strawberry Switchblade and Shakespear’s Sister, it was great seeing another feisty female duo on the pop music scene. In November 1996 their next single “Alisha Rules The World” was released which reached no. 12, and they performed this on Top Of The Pops and also on TV in Australia. Also in November 1996, their first album, also called “Alisha Rules The World” (who is “Alisha”? It’s the name of Shellie’s imaginary childhood friend) was released, which reached no. 14. vlcsnap-00280

In March 1997 the next single “Indestructible” was released which again reached no. 12. This one really does have a terrific video. Also around this time they appeared on CBBC’s Live & Kicking and took part in a comedy sketch with Trevor And Simon, and as you should know by now I am always pleased to see pop stars who are up for being mildly embarrassed on live children’s TV shows. Also in 1997 they appeared on BBC2’s The O Zone and were nominated for a Brit Award in the Best British Newcomer category but they didn’t win. vlcsnap-00300

In July 1997 the final single off the first album “Air We Breathe” was released which was their third consecutive hit to reach no. 12. They performed this on Top Of The Pops and ITV’s Turner Round The World which also included a brief interview. In October 1997 Shellie appeared as a panellist on BBC2’s comedy music panel game Never Mind The Buzzcocksvlcsnap-00277

In September 1998 the first single from the second album “The Incidentals” was released which reached no. 13. They appeared on Top Of The Pops and Live & Kicking again, and also ITV’s CD:UK (some of their videos are a pain to find online, and rather oddly their CD:UK performance of this song is now credited as the official video on YouTube). In October 1998 the second album “Illumina” was released which reached no. 15, but it only spent a few weeks on the chart. vlcsnap-00296

In January 1999 the next single “I Wish I Were You” was released which reached no. 29. This led to another Top Of The Pops appearance and again although a video was made their CD:UK performance is credited as the official video on YouTube. In February 1999 Karen followed her sister by appearing on Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Also around this time they appeared on BBC2’s Electric Circus and CBBC’s L & K Friday which was like Live & Kicking… but on a Friday. vlcsnap-00310

In April 1999 the third and final single from the second album “Barbarella” was released which reached no. 34. They didn’t release any singles in 2000. vlcsnap-00293

They returned in March 2001 with the first single from the third album “Push It All Aside” which reached no. 24. They even hired none other than the award-winning Sophie Muller to direct the videos for the singles from this album and unsurprisingly they were terrific. They also performed this in what was their sixth and final appearance on Top Of The Popsvlcsnap-00278

In July 2001 the next single “Pretender Got My Heart” was released, but this only reached no. 43, becoming their first single not to make the Top 40, and five years on from “I Am I Feel”, this turned out to be their final hit. In August 2001 the third album “The House We Built” was released which received positive reviews but reached a rather disappointing no. 55. In 2003 a best-of called “The Collection” was released featuring all the hit singles plus a few extras, and it was also around this time that Alisha’s Attic split. vlcsnap-00302

Shellie did have one more hit single by herself in August 2006 as the guest vocalist on Michael Gray’s “Borderline”, and this also reached no. 12! After going their separate ways, Karen and Shelly have had more success behind the scenes and now work in the music business as songwriters, and have also performed with various groups, although I’m not aware of them working together in the past decade. Karen has done particularly well with her songwriting work, contributing to some great Top Ten hit singles including “Song 4 Mutya” for Groove Armada, plus “Red Blooded Woman” and “Chocolate” for Kylie Minogue.

Saturday Morning Memories – Live & Kicking.

Live & Kicking (CBBC, 1993-2001)

After the success of Going Live!, CBBC launched a new Saturday Morning show in 1993 with a similar format. Just like Phillip Schofield before him, Andi Peters was promoted from the broom cupboard to become one of the main hosts. He was joined by Emma Forbes, who was also familiar to viewers having hosted some features on Going Live! Alongside them was John Barrowman, but his role was reduced after a while as his acting career began to take off. vlcsnap-00925

Comedy duo Trevor and Simon were also kept on and provided some new characters and sketches, including the funny chat show spoof Meet Someone, also reviewing the latest records at the end of the show with celebrity guests, and constantly telling people that they don’t do duvets. vlcsnap-00920

There was also a floating computer-generated cat head thing called Ratz who always enjoyed talking to the presenters. I presume they hoped that he would become the new Gordon The Gopher but he vanished after the first series, and he was replaced by some leprechaun puppets called Sage and Onion. vlcsnap-00923

Like & Kicking had all the usual features such as computer games reviews, showbiz news, cartoons including Rugrats, competitions with big prizes and star interviews. Run The Risk also continued and every pop group wanted to be on the show, with Take That seemingly appearing every week at one point. A magazine was also published that was popular although I never bought it myself. vlcsnap-00924

The show carried on like this for a while until the end of the third series when Andi and Emma both left. They were replaced by two presenters who were already familiar to CBBC viewers, Zoe Ball and Jamie Theakston from The O Zone. They were popular, and a few more changes were made to the show as the series went by, such as a spin-off shown on Friday afternoons and Trevor and Simon leaving in 1997. vlcsnap-00921

At the end of the sixth series both Ball and Theakston left. Somewhat surprisingly, the show did return for a seventh series, making Like & Kicking the first CBBC Saturday Morning show to go beyond six years. Another new presenter duo were introduced, Steve Wilson and Emma Ledden who was also a presenter on MTV at the time. The format was beginning to tire a little by this point though, and the show was now regularly beaten in the ratings by CITV. Even ideas such as hiring Mr Blobby, who even Noel’s House Party had become tired of using by this point, to cause chaos made little difference. vlcsnap-00922

But it still wasn’t over. There was an eighth series, with yet more features and new presenters including Katy Hill who had just left Blue Peter and Sarah Cawood. It had become something of a mess by this point though, with the final editions seemingly presented by whoever has around and it finally all ended with a whimper in 2001. It is a shame that the show had such a disappointing end, maybe they should’ve ended it a few years earlier, but at its peak it did win some awards and like many people I did enjoy watching the early years.