Friday, December 29, 2017

Sweeping The Nation's 200 "Other" Tracks Of 2017: K-Z

As explained in the A-J post last time out, by "other" we mean anything not from one of our top 50 albums of the year. The second hundred of our far too large selection runs thus...

Kagoule - Monsieur Automaton
Kamikaze Girls - Deathcap
Katiya Falcone - Lust Is A Ride Through Hell
Kelly Lee Owens - Throwing Lines
Keto - Superstar
Kiran Leonard - Living With Your Ailments
Krafty Kuts feat. Chali 2na - Hands High
Lana Del Rey - Love
Land Of Talk - Yes You Were
LCD Soundsystem - other voices
Liars - Cred Woes
Loney Dear - Sum
Lorde - The Louvre
Lush Purr - (I Admit It) I'm a Gardener
Magana - Pages
Martha - The Winter Fuel Allowance Ineligiblity Blues
Mary Epworth - Me Swimming
Mega Emotion - OK Maybe OK
Meilyr Jones - Watchers
Mew - The Wake Of Your Life
Milo's Planes - Fidget In Paralysis
Mogwai - Coolverine
Molly Burch - Wrong for You
Moon Duo - New Dawn
Mount Kimbie - Audition
Mr Jukes feat. BJ The Chicago Kid - Angels/Your Love
Mutes - Vanishing
N.E.R.D feat. Rihanna - Lemon
The New Pornographers - This Is The World Of The Theater
Nilüfer Yanya - Baby Luv
Oh Wonder - High On Humans
The Orielles - Sugar Tastes Like Salt
Overcoats - Nighttime Hunger
Peaness - Same Place
Peggy Sue - Slow Fade
The Physics House Band - Calypso
Pip Blom - Babies Are A Lie
PJ Harvey - A Dog Called Money
Pronto Mama - Double-Speak
Ralegh Long - Take Your Mind Back
Ride - Lannoy Point
Robyn Hitchcock - I Want To Tell You About What I Want
Roddy Woomble - Jupiter
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - French Press
Rose Droll - Girl
Rostam - Gwan
Sacred Paws - Empty Body
Saint Etienne - Take It All In
Sam Airey - In the Morning
Sam Pink/Be Softly - False-Bottomed Coffins
Sean Rowe - Gas Station Rose
Seazoo - Shoreline
Sekel - Next To Nothing
Shannon Lay - The Moons Detriment
Shopping - The Hype
Single Mothers - Long Distance
Siobhan Wilson - Dark Matter
Sivu - Lonesome
Skepta - Hypocrisy
Sløtface - Pitted
Slow Skies - Shut Your Eyes
Slowdive - Sugar for the Pill
Sneaks - Hair Slick Back
Sodastream - Three Sins
SOHN - Hard Liquor
Sondre Lerche - I Know Something That's Gonna Break Your Heart
Soulwax - Missing Wires
Sparks - Hippopotamus
Spiral Stairs - Dance (Cry Wolf)
The Spook School - Still Alive
State Broadcasters - Feelin' Alive
Stormzy - Big For Your Boots
Sufjan Stevens - Wallowa Lake Monster
Superorganism - Something For Your M.I.N.D.
The Surfing Magazines - New Day
Sweet Baboo - Wild Imagination
Tempesst - Waiheke
The The - We Can't Stop What's Coming
Thurston Moore - Cease Fire
Tica Douglas - Down + Out
Tune-Yards - ABC 123
U.S. Girls - M.A.H.
Ulrika Spacek - Full of Men
The Vryll Society - Sacred Flight
W. H. Lung - Inspiration!
Waking Aida - Shoal
Washed Out - Get Lost
Wavves - Daisy
Waxahatchee - Silver
WHY? - Proactive Evolution
Wild Beasts - Punk Drunk & Trembling
Wiley - Speakerbox
Wire - Diamonds in Cups
Wolf Alice - Yuk Foo
Wolf Girl - Moody
Wovoka Gentle - They Mostly Come at Night Mostly
Xenoula - Luna Man
The xx - Dangerous
Yr Poetry - These Are Not the Days of Our Lives
Zola Blood - The Only Thing

Friday, December 22, 2017

Sweeping The Nation's Top 50 Albums Of 2017: 10-1

10 Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
Weaver's ninth album is the one on which she hits full stride, a kind of retro-futurist analogue motorik that's as happy to drift as charge, hypnotic and uncomfortable in equal measure to sound like it's neither tethered to her folktronic past nor a willing part of the psych hordes.

9 Public Service Broadcasting - Every Valley
Using more stories of yesterday, here South Wales mining communities, as a case study for human spirit and community undermined from above. It's a necessary shift forward in their post-rock motorik approach too, where folk is folded in and hierath-flavoured vocals uplift.

8 Los Campesinos! - Sick Scenes
Obligatory. But then they *will* keep mining the territory that sees them grow up and settle into the endless Kubler-Ross cycle of ageing, depression and dark humour, not so much energetic any more as neuroses fighting back with muscle memory at an uncaring world.

7 Protomartyr - Relatives In Descent
Joe Casey is the poet laureate of slow-burning anger, whether against the enemy or in the face of ennui and age, trying to contain the stream of thoughts. The coiled, rumbling post-punk suits it down to the ground, an uneasy proclamation from the growing darkness.

6 St Vincent - Masseduction
Annie Clark's pop album, in that the alien guitarscapes of her last album are in the background of art-Technicolor sheen and beats. Up front, though, we find a knowing intimacy, Clark indulging in identity games and self-destruction within inverted commas, very much under her slippery control.

5 Perfume Genius - No Shape
Mike Hadreas hasn't entirely moved on as much as he wants to move outwards, whether from personal pain or gender roles. There's accordingly a kind of weightlessness in an unashamedly Technicolor shapeshifting approach, a high wire act where the narrator feels nerveless despite everything.

4 Baxter Dury - Prince Of Tears
Ironic that in taking up the Gainsbourg mantle of uneasy character narrator of orchestral litheness Dury has ended up sounding more like his old man than ever before. Dury's adoption of various sides of toxic masculinity that slide away to uncover unvarnished emotiveness.

3 Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins
The strokes on the first album in five years may be broader but the interplay is tighter than ever, the familiar harmonies and fractured overlapping baroque melodies smouldering and more forceful but still coming on like mid-air acrobatics, heavy on detail and growth.

2 Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination
Shah, a second generation immigrant in northern England, finds herself overtaken by the need to justify and fight, dialling down the dramatics of previous albums for a knowingly uncomfortable gothic clank. Never losing sight of hope, nevertheless it's an album built with something to push against.

1 Algiers - The Underside Of Power
In a year not exactly short on kicking back against the world nobody is doing what Algiers do - retro soul and Pop Group post-punk darkness, distorted gospel and harsh industrial beats, Franklin James Fisher a righteous, urgent preacher against the rush in a glorious, powerful statement of ultimate intent.

"Other" tracks of the year next week, but for now... here's a standout from each of the top fifty in order (apart from Christian Fitness, which is Bandcamp-only):

Sweeping The Nation's Top 50 Albums Of 2017: 20-11

20 Laura Marling - Semper Femina
Touted as Marling's exploration of femininity, it necessarily lets some light in on her previous self-questioning and folky fingerpicking world, all still present but Atlantic-skipping in tone, garlanded with jazzy production and ever more personal and barbed in its approach.

19 Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up
In its own way Crack-Up is a companion piece to Bon Iver's album of last year, wooded folkies taking great strides to find a way out. Proggish melody and structural about-turns and dissolves, multi-part songs, complex lyrical allusions, yet ultimately still their trademark harmonic gorgeousness.

18 Hurray For The Riff Raff - The Navigator
In which Alynda Segarra shifts her country-folk basis into its own sphere, a narrative piece that takes influence from her native Puerto Rico and 1930s dustbowl recordings alike, delivering a stridently powerful story of opposition, identity and personal pride.

17 Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 3
Ah, indie boy's picked his obligatory single black culture album for the year, has he. Actually, yeah, because Killer Mike's no holds barred theorising lyrics and El-P's hammer blow beats feel as urgent and defiantfor the time in their own way as PE and NWA did two decades ago.

16 Out Lines - Conflats
The work of the Twilight Sad's James Graham, Kathryn Joseph and producer Marcus Mackay, seven tracks lasting less than half an hour total make an immense impact, an intensely oppressive and forthright statement that like the best of recent Scottish music finds a defiance in foreboding.

15 Friendship - Shock Out Of Season
The popular drift away from weird Americana means Friendship have drifted below the radar where once Dan Wriggins' conversational narratives and the way Bill Callahan-esque arrangements are underpinned by electronic patterns would have been celebrated. There's time yet to adjust that.

14 Torres - Three Futures
Mackenzie Scott's great leap forward is one where she endlessly self-examines, as a woman as much as the self, and plays with perspectives in senses both predatory and honest, sounding raw even as the music heads towards dark, almost industrial electro tones.

13 The National - Sleep Well Beast
Album seven has the feel of a band who know the world and time alike has caught up on them, often much lower-key than previous roars, Matt Berninger occasionally down to a defeated croak. Not so much learning to let go as hoping against hope for it.

12 Big Thief - Capacity
Folk rock with real bite, both in the way the guitars barge their way in and in the use of Adrianne Lenker's honeyed vocal and excavatory lyrics unflinchingly uncovering personal vulnerabilities, the whole package pieced together with uncommon care and constant revelation.

11 Christian Fitness - Slap Bass Hunks
So here's this year's shouting-into-the-void Andrew Falkous high entry place, the fourth of his self-released albums similar to the others - distorted bass, trademark extraordinary lyrical touch, post-hardcore distillation into something entirely singular.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Sweeping The Nation's Top 50 Albums Of 2017: 30-21

30 Lost Horizons - Ojalá
The return of Simon Raymonde, alongside Dif Juz's Richie Thomas, echoes not the Cocteaus as much as 4AD colleagues This Mortal Coil, a floating airiness of haunted, delicate beauty in texture, with effective cameos from Tim Smith, Marissa Nadler and Ghostpoet.

29 Jens Lekman - Life Will See You Now
In which the genre-hopping perennially self-questing storyteller gets over the heartbreak of I Know What Love Isn't, rediscovers his disco sample library and recovers both his lyrical hook-writing mojo and ultimate sense of optimism.

28 Piano Magic - Closure
Glen Johnson brought his ever shifting project to an end after twelve albums and twenty years with a valedictory lap of honour, nodding at post-rock, dreampop, baroque and ambient of things past to form a whole of ethereal, introspective heaviness. Godspeed.

27 Priests - Nothing Feels Natural
The grand return of DC punk in a heavily mutated form where instead of settling for screaming about equality the influence of jazz via no wave, surf and modern pop are brought to bear without leavening the poised targeting or lifting the heavy overhanging elements.

26 Meursault - I Will Kill Again
Neil Pennycook gave up the Meursault banner in 2014, but it turned out all it needed was a reclamation of his early full-hearted approach to anguish and lush brokenness while being simultaneously, weirdly life-affirming, all knitted together by that cracked voice.

25 Jen Cloher - Jen Cloher
Courtney Barnett's rise may have propelled Cloher into the spotlight four albums in, and the keen eye for detail is similar, but the propensity for self-examination and use of her domesticity as somewhere to view the plight of those home and abroad from are entirely her own strengths.

24 Gallops - Bronze Mystic
Wrexham's answer to Battles reformed after three years away and blast back with a record that liberally pelts mathrock with warped electronics, arrhythmic rhythms and harsh synths and guitar stabs that either stand triumphant or sound like they want to pull the whole place down bare-handed.

23 Sufjan Stevens/Nico Muhly/Bryce Dessner/James McAlister - Planetarium
A 76-minute classical suite on the cosmos, everybody! A shapeshifting rich swirl that cleaves close to Sufjan's own eclectic work (particularly The Age Of Adz), it ranges wildly from new age to folk to techno, leaving nothing to spare and still all anchored to earthly concerns.

22 Rose Elinor Dougall - Stellular
Six and a half years after her solo debut Dougall remains what she was - swooning, sophisticated, shimmering, spacey - but with a more evident electropop sheen that her intrinsic ice-coolness carries through whether referencing Broadcast or Blondie.

21 Warm Digits - Wireless World
Motorik dystopia never seemed so approachable as when approached by the Newcastle duo, a polyrhythmic, propulsive collection whose collapsible charges and electronic pulses only hold back for vocalists including Sarah Cracknell and Field Music's Peter Brewis.

Sweeping The Nation's Top 50 Albums Of 2017: 40-31

40 Idles - Brutalism
The decade-long overnight success coalesced into the kind of distilled punk anger at specific targets and attitudes a lot of hyped bands try these days but very few get even near right, mostly because they don't have that charisma, focus or actual melodic capability.

39 Broken Social Scene - Hug Of Thunder
Back after seven years and reinvigorated in their community-minded maximalism, continually reaching for the heights of paranoid party jams and attempting to bring a sense of urgency to the can't-get-any-worse level of optimism they've always held dear.

38 Napoleon IIIrd - The Great Lake
Five tracks, 46 minutes. Six and a half years after James Mabbett's last release this slow motion, latter Talk Talk-like uneasy listening suite, ambient spacious and heavy in emotional heft, is the very opposite of immediate but for all that can't easily be torn away from.

37 Grandaddy - Last Place
Jason Lytle and co pick up where they left off a decade ago, technological dysfunction, quirky chugging, heartbroken balladeering - the tale of Jed the Humanoid continues - and swelling psych exploration going hand in hand. If Kevin Garcia's death means their end, it's a fine close.

36 Weaves - Wide Open
Sharpened and toughened up, the Toronto band deal in rushing classic Canuck indie-rock tropes which they then delight in pulling apart and putting back together slightly wrongly just because, ambition reflected both in Springsteenian charges and weirder arragements.

35 H Hawkline - I Romanticize
Almost too rote to praise idiosyncratic folky pop by a Welsh artist, but while rooted in those offbeat shapes Huw Evans doesn't mind throwing in wobbly psychedelics, bubbling synths and sudden about-turns and interjections without losing the thread of the songs.

34 Widowspeak - Expect The Best
Taking a leftward shift from autumnal alt-country, their fourth album travelled a more gossamer path, the reverberations of dreampop enveloping and complementing both Molly Hamilton's wistfully hypnotic vocal and the open desert twang.

33 Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound
After four albums Dylan Baldi and co peel away the lo-fi and reveals the melodic strength underneath, not averse to distorted guitar noise but strengthening the hooks and energy, colouring in the cracks and building to an intriguing personal validation.

32 Martin Carr - New Shapes Of Life
In which Carr returns to what he specialised in when writing for the Boo Radleys, namely turning pop shapes upside down into sophisticated, detailed arrangements that push at melodic boundaries, recalling classic art-pop, often with grandiose but unresolved builds.

31 AK/DK - Patterns/Harmonics
The synth/drum duo delivered more than just the base rate of electro-Kraut thrills, pushing into the red as everything - rhythms, electronics, loops, the odd distorted voice - pushed against everything else to thrilling swirlingly percussive effect.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sweeping The Nation's Top 50 Albums Of 2017: 50-41

50 Fazerdaze - Morningside
Although from the country's other island, the hazy DIY guitar-pop of Amelia Murray fits into the history of her label Flying Nun's 'Dunedin sound', loungingly etheral guitar washes giving way to forceful fuzzbombs all with an undercurrent of anxiety.

49 H. Grimace - Self-Architect
Post-punk holding societal pressure and power to account isn't that fresh ground, even right now, but something in the band's menace, distorted driving assurance and the pointed spoken word interludes makes it feel relatively fresh for once.

48 Iron & Wine - Beast Epic
Sam Beam's best work in at least a decade is him returning to a stripped down base, the recovered warmth all the better to enable Beam to slow down and tease out the detail from his Southern gothic tales in a way that finally suits his advanced age and experience.

47 Novella - Change Of State
Building on both their spiky psych-pop debut and The Way The World Is Now, it comes across as compact post-punk wiriness with sparingly effective retro effects, personally introspective while still trying to work out how things have changed around them.

46 Storm The Palace - Snow, Stars And Public Transport
Baroque to a fault, the debut album has clearly been a long time in development, richly melodic in a way, aided by Sophie Dodds' compelling voice, that keeps it of a piece as orchestral storytelling folk leans into Kirsty Maccoll-esque genre playfulness.

45 Onsind - We Wilt, We Bloom
The political acoustic-punk wing of Daniel and Nathan from Martha bring in a full band (including Naomi of same) on some tracks without diluting the message, cutting to the core of the bleakness around changes in attitudes and inequality.

44 The Academy Of Sun - Codex Novena
The chance discoveries are sometimes the most rewarding - this second album by an ambitious Brighton collective bases itself in dark post-punk widescreen wistfulness and then delves into post-rock dynamics, psychedelic longeurs and string-laden uncomfortable questing.

43 Post War Glamour Girls - Swan Songs
Coming on with even more compressed intensity to their theatrical post-Cave menace, the serrated guitar sound is leavened with the odd latter-day Radiohead-like moment of controlled ire, all driven by James Smith's literate entreaties to taking the power back.

42 Spoon - Hot Thoughts
Always different, always the same, this album's twist on their leftfield strutting, arrythmic indie-rock is a pale version of funk and high-stepping funk-pop where beats sound like samples, electronics are dramatic and Dave Fridmann's production effect is evident.

41 The Mountain Goats - Goths
Not just the titular throughline, mostly treatises what happens once fashion moves away from your tribe, but also John Darnielle abandoning guitars for pianos, indulging in jazziness and even velvety crooning. Throughout his lyrical pen remains sharp.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The ten: odd/forgotten music TV shows of Christmas past

You'll undoubtedly be using our mammoth Christmas TV guide by now, so why not add to that some historical perspective? For that we hand over to author Ben Baker:

Christmas. What does it mean to you?

Don’t answer that, obviously. This is a book, not Google.

If you’re British, the festive season invariably means excess – be it through food, drink or, most importantly for this article, television. It never fails to confuse me when most American TV programmes run their big festive specials around December 9th whereas we in good old Blighty Britain are nowhere near ready to see so much as a televised paper hat until the very week of Jesus’s birth saving up the big specials for the proper occasion. And at the heart of those telly feasts is music. Whether it's Morecambe and Wise recreating Singin' In The Rain or confusedly pointing at the screen and bellowing “WHICH ONE'S IMPY?” throughout the latest “Top Of The Pops” on Christmas Day.

As featured in my new book Ben Baker's Festive Double Issue, here are ten less memorable musical moments that baffled, bewildered and buggered about generally on the schedules of Christmas past...

10. There’s Something Wrong in Paradise (December 22nd 1984, 10pm, ITV)

“A magical musical set on the mythical Caribbean island of Zyllha. Kid Creole and his Coconuts are shipwrecked on the island and anxious to get back home to New York, but Zyllha is ruled by President Nignat, who believes in racial purity. He is incensed by the Kid's mixed-race group winning his island's music festival. When Kid discovers his old girlfriend, Gina Gina, is running a pirate radio station and finds his true love Mimi, the scene is set for adventure.”

How amazing does this sound? A two-hour musical set around the music of Kid Creole And The Coconuts, one of the biggest chart acts of recent years tackling racial hatred with songs from their back catalogue including under-performing new album Doppelgänger. Unfortunately, even with the terrific Pauline Black from The Selecter as Mimi, The Three Degrees and founding EastEnders cast member Paul J Medford as the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin-named ‘Teenager’, the whole thing is a mess, while the 10pm timeslot will have excluded any younger fans. Kid and the band would appear on the channel again two days later in Joy to the World, described in that year's TV Times as a “magical tour of Christmas past and present” by “David Pickering, 12-year-old Chorister of the Year”. They really had it all that Christmas on ITV, eh?

9. Première for Elizabeth (December 29th 1979, 4.15pm, ITV)

“In September the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra opened its season at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon with the first public performance of 14-year-old Elizabeth Lane’s Sinfonietta for Strings.”

Another extraordinary thing that you just couldn’t imagine being broadcast now. Lane had appeared in a 1976 Magpie special called And I Write Music, after winning the Dr Barnado’s/Nationwide “Champion Children” Competition. Now a PHD, Lane still composes and lectures today but now known as just ‘Liz’.

8. Billy’s Christmas Angels (December 23rd 1988, 5pm, BBC One)

“Billy wants to play in a rock band with his brother Dave. ‘Dreams’ says Dad. So Billy’s Angels come down to earth to help find Dave – and reality – through Faith, Hope & ‘Charlie’...”

A single half-hour Liverpudlian pop fantasy with stunning music from the British six-piece acapella group The Mint Juleps who play the titular angels. Staged like a kitchen sink drama initially before veering off into more fantastical realms, Billy clashes with his harsh but sensible parents who don’t want him to run off like his older brother. Inevitably he does and bumps into the always welcome Daniel Peacock (as the Disney villain-esque Mr Big) and his henchman (played by Steve Johnson, soon to become part of ITV’s Motormouth memorably as host of the 'Mouse Trap' segment in which kids got to take part in a giant sized version of the popular board game.) Later Nabil Shaban appears as a philosophising junk shop owner and the story meanders to some sort of conclusion with the brothers reuniting and a lesson probably being learnt by somebody. It all lacks the charm of similar BBC shows of the era and exists now purely to torment people who can only half-remember what it was. Also the kid playing Billy is bloody awful. Nice music, though.

7. When Santa Rode the Prairie (December 23rd 1976, 5:40pm, BBC Two)

“A Festive Western by William Rushton. New Mexico, Christmas Eve 1876 and not a snowflake in sight. Tilly and Charlie Flagstaff have to spend Christmas at the Last Chance Hotel with their aunts, Santa Claus and an assortment of goodies and baddies while the Apaches are on the warpath.”

The joy of doing a book like mine is finding out about truly unusual sounding little one-off programmes like this, nestling cheerily in the pre-Christmas teatime telly schedules featuring people I really like. Rushton himself plays Santa in this 50-minute fantasy tale featuring songs by him and Roy Civil, with a supporting cast that includes future 'Tomorrow Person' Nigel Rhodes, Sue Nicholls and Victor Spinetti. Roy Civil is now a music teacher in the Northampton region.

6. Cucumber Castle (December 26th 1970, 1:30pm, BBC Two)

“A medieval musical starring The Bee Gees with Eleanor Bron, Pat Coombs and Julian Orchard and special guest stars Blind Faith, Frankie Howerd, Lulu, Spike Milligan, Vincent Price.”

The Bee Gees, now down to just Barry and Maurice, try their own Magical Mystery Tour with much less convincing results. It featured their recent number two hit “Don’t Forget to Remember” – which ironically most people have now forgotten – along with four other songs from their already flopped album which had been released in April 1970, but had stalled at number 57 in the UK charts. In fact Cucumber Castle marked their last charting LP in the UK until John Travolta’s swaying crotch propelled them back into the limelight in 1978. The film feels like wading through treacle at times when compared to The Beatles’ earlier extravaganza and whilst it’s nice to see the likes of Frankie Howerd, Spike Milligan, Vincent Price and Pat Coombs doing their usual schtick as The Gibbs attempt to keep up, it does feel like something Peter Cook and Dudley Moore might have put together in a particularly lazy afternoon.

5. The Solid Gold Top 20 (December 28th 1979, 5:15pm, ITV)

“A complete run down of the 20 best selling records in Britain in the past two decades presented by pop’s Jimmy Pursey.”

POP’S JIMMY PURSEY?! A fine example to show The Kids who had been listening intently to the Truth from the middling punk band he fronted – Sham 69 – whose original line-up had their fifth and final top twenty hit earlier in 1979 with Hersham Boys which, as we all know, went: “Hersham boys/Hersham boys/Laced up boots and corduroys”. Solid gold toss.

4. A Cup O’ Tea an’ a Slice O’ Cake (December 27th 1980, 5:20pm, ITV)

“All-singing, all-dancing Worzel Gummidge special which examines the important role that scarecrows play in helping Santa Claus find his way back to the North Pole on Christmas morning...”

Nothing terrified me on TV as a child like Worzel Gummidge. My two-year-old self didn’t care that co-writers Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall were local lads from Leeds, or were behind projects like Whistle Down The Wind, Budgie or Billy Liar. Likewise Jon Pertwee wasn’t yet the singing, dancing Third Doctor to me. He was a scary, grubby bugger who spends the first two minutes of this particular special vindicating my terror by standing at a family’s window and gawping in. Can you imagine turning round and finding the scarecrow from up in the field stood looking at you with a dopey grin on its face? You’d feel certain he wanted to swallow your soul. Elsewhere, special guest stars Bill Maynard, Billy Connolly, and Barbara Windsor (as “Saucy Nancy”) turn up to sing a few numbers. Which means they’re all dead to me now.

3. Orion (December 26th 1977, 1:45pm, BBC Two)

“The world is coming to an end, and the last survivors board a space-ship ready to leave the doomed planet Earth in search of a new world. A rock musical by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley.”

A sci-fi “Noah’s Ark in Space” with a book by none other than the Sinex-snorting supremo himself Melvyn Bragg? Merry all our Christmases! A soundtrack was never released but it’s a fair bet that it’s an adaptation of 1969’s Ark 2, the only studio album by Flaming Youth, featuring songs written by the musical’s co-authors Howard and Blaikley better known for writing pop hits at the time. On drums on Ark 2 was a pre-Genesis teenager called Phil Collins who writes about the experience in his autobiography Not Dead Yet: “Ark 2 is unveiled with a publicity stunt launch at London’s Planetarium. The sixties scenesters come in two-by-two. By now I’m squirming at all this ultra-fab cod-psychedelia; it’s both pretentious and cartoonish.” Howard and Blaikley would go on to write several other musicals including an adaptation of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole for the West End.

2. Lulu’s Big Show (December 31st 1993, 6:30pm, BBC One)

“Since she burst on to the pop scene in the 60s, Lulu has had hits all around the world, most recently topping the charts in a single with Take That. For this show recorded at Glasgow’s Tramway, she can be heard singing some of her favourite songs and is joined by some surprise guests.”

Thanks for nothing, Barlow. Tosser.

1. Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas (December 24th 1977, 9:40pm, ITV)

“Bing’s last show, recorded just before his death, features his family, music, laughter, a touch of Dickens and of course White Christmas.”

Well, I’m glad they didn’t record it after his death as that would’ve been really tough to shoot. We finish with a famous show that is now only really known for giving the world that awkward but hugely enjoyable Bing and Bowie duet, which had been apparently concocted at the last minute when the latter didn’t fancy a performing a straight take of Little Drummer Boy. There’s also Scottish comedian Stanley Baxter playing the entire staff of Bing’s long-lost English relative Sir Percival Crosby, most of them bearing a passing resemblance to the characters of ITV’s drama Upstairs Downstairs (a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic) There’s also Ron Moody and Twiggy as various characters including Charles Dickens and Tiny Tim. (I’ll let you work out who played which) Despite the inherent naffness, the special is actually quite sweet and you’d never assume Crosby was five weeks away from the grave with that spectacular voice in great form throughout.

For over 200 more of these sort of capsules, get your copy of Ben Baker's Festive Double Issue today.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Your Christmas and New Year music TV

We did this at length a couple of times back in the old days and nobody cared then, but if STN is renowned for one thing it's not knowing when it's not wanted so here's all the interesting music-related programming on telly and radio between now and the first Friday in 2018:


6am Runaround On Ice (Talking Pictures TV)
Highlight of the entire three weeks right away. From 1979 it's Mike Reid on an ice rink in Bournemouth gripping onto anything immoveable for dear life as he marshals kids into skating to the correct answer area, plus full Nutty Boys Madness as musical interlude. The ending where everyone stands outside in obviously fake snow with no idea of what to do is particularly special and may go some way towards explaining how Southern TV lost their franchise a year later. Talking Pictures TV is the best channel in the country, and there'll be more proof of that to come.

1.30pm Danny Baker's Christmas Hits (Sky Arts)
Ahoyhoy! The thought kind of gets swallowed by the execution as the Candyman starts off this show from 2015 by promising to go outside the usual festive hit canon - after all, there's multiple music channels pumping those videos out 24/7 throughout the month - only to cling to it anyway, but that we suppose shows the limitations of the genre visually.

3pm A Kylie Christmas (Sky Arts)
From the Royal Albert Hall in 2015, an eclectic setlist that incorporates not only a duet with Chrissie Hynde on 2000 Miles but an array of festive disco-kitsch covers that spans both Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - with taped Sinatra! - and Christmas Wrapping.

4.25pm Mariah Carey's A Christmas Melody (Channel 5)
What? Yep, in 2015 Mariah directed and co-starred in a Hallmark festive comedy musical. You know that really famous and beloved Mariah Carey Christmas song? That's not in it.

5.00pm Mamma Mia! (ITV3)
And for ever more.

6:30pm Strictly Come Dancing: the Final (BBC1)
Ed Sheeran's on it! This isn't off to a great start terrestrially, no. But the house band occasionally pull out something so leftfield - My Sharona in the semi-final - you do suspect it might be for a bet. Also Mollie King and Alexandra Burke surely qualifies it.

8pm Quadrophenia - Can You See The Real Me? (Yesterday)
One of a good few things Yesterday have picked up from BBC4, Pete Townshend wanders round studios and rifles through his archive to tell the story of the era, its troubled upbringing - Townshend and Daltrey were very much at odds throughout - and the mod scene that it engendered.

9.20pm & 10.40pm Guitar Heroes At The BBC (Yesterday)
Another BBC4 borrow, two of their seemingly innumerable compilations on this theme. The first is the pick, with New York Dolls on Whistle Test, Duane Eddy in his dotage, John Martyn, BB King, Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, Black Sabbath, Joan Jett and Peter Green doing experimental folk on Top Of The Pops; the second features the Who, Faces, Focus, Chris Spedding, Ralph McTell, The Runaways, Buzzcocks, Judas Priest and Davey Graham.

11.30pm Jeff Lynne's ELO: Wembley Or Bust (BBC2)
That's Jeff Lynne's ELO. If you want your own ELO you'll have to make it yourself. A 75 minute package of the just released DVD/Blu-Ray of a date from June of their hits, plus Handle With Care for the hell of it.

11.45pm Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison (Sky Arts)
Shania Twain and Dixie Chicks have seasonally appropriate shows on earlier, but, y'know. Let us in place of that guide you to the documentary of the famous album, made by our own Granada.

RADIO PICK: Loose Ends (Radio 4, 6.15pm) has the unmissable combination of the Surfing Magazines (Wave Pictures/Slow Club) and Dave.


1.50pm Grease (Sky Movies Classics)
You're the One That I Want and its video is basically a spoiler, isn't it?

5pm My Vintage: Ranking Roger (Vintage TV)
If it didn't have so many advertising breaks Vintage would be the kind of station you could leave on all day with its carousel of old videos and live footage of indeterminate memorability. In between times they let the occasional passing former star pick an hour, as here with the Beat's now-frontman. At 10pm there's another showing of Brix Start-Smith giving an hour over to talking about her life.

6.30pm Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank (Sky Arts)
Originally the Christmas special of the Frank Sinatra Show from 1957, as well as proving Coca-Cola didn't invent that festive renaming. Bing arrives with presents, there's a jazz arrangement of Jingle Bells, a spell in a stylised Victorian London singing carols, the orchestra is led by Nelson Riddle and Frank directed the whole shebang himself. It's both as homely and as vaguely threatening as you'd have expected.

9pm Gwen Stefani's You Make It Feel Like Christmas (Sky Arts)
Stefani brought out a Christmas album in October, presumably because it felt like a thing that should be done. This special aired earlier this week on NBC so we don't know what it entails apart from featuring country singer Blake Shelton, and he duets on the album so that's not much of a surprise. Other listed guests are Chelsea Handler, Seth MacFarlane and Ne-Yo, so make your decision wisely.

1.30am I Saw The Light (Sky Movies Hits)
Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams. Must have made sense to someone.

2am Timeshift: Mods, Rockers and Bank Holiday Mayhem (BBC4)
Seaside-declaiming insomniac fun! The mods vs rockers beachfront battles used many years ago to be a totem of 1960s culture, but they were basically a tabloid concoction based on the notion of the fashion-conscious end of the London working class not understanding what their parents fought for two decades earlier that some people took seriously. And this talks to some of them.

RADIO PICK: Christine McVie is on Desert Island Discs (Radio 4, 12.15pm), Charlotte Gainsbourg is on The First Time (6 Music, 1pm), and Johnnie Walker's Sounds Of The 70s - there's a lot of Johnnie Walker around in this bit - sees him joined by Linda Lewis and sends Jeremy Vine to the new Abba exhibition, which given the specificity sounds like payback for something.


6.25pm Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Sky Movies Comedy)
The Lonely Island get their film out right after their appeal palled, and what many reviewers predicted would be near enough Spinal Tap level in the great ledger of pop mocking seems forgotten less than eighteen months after release. The look-at-me-being-in-on-the-joke cameos don't help.

9pm Abba: When All Is Said And Done (Channel 5)
A drama documentary tracing the history of the band through Annifrid and Agnetha's eyes. Beyond that we know nothing, not even through the online credits of the lead actresses.

10pm Cilla (ITV3)
And for the next two nights too, a reshowing of the acclaimed Our Cilla But In The 60s With The Cavern Club And That docudrama.

10pm Silver Dream Racer (Talking Pictures TV)
David Essex gets over his brother's death by finishing the experimental motorbike he was designing. His song about it, Silver Dream Machine, reached number four. Heady days.

11.05pm Abba Live In Concert (Channel 5)

At Wembley in 1979, released in 2014 without the track one of the backing musicians sings but including an instrumental.

12.10am The Greatest Ever Pop Families (Channel 5)
Hope for the Moffatts yet!

RADIO PICK: It's the start of Marc Riley's (6 Music, 7pm) week of the best live sessions and records of the year, which is always worth your while. Benjamin Clementine discusses his Mercury-winning album At Least For Now on Mastertapes (Radio 4, 11pm) and Chris Difford joins his old bandmate Jools Holland (Radio 2, 11pm) to "play a Squeeze favourite in a decidedly Christmas manner."


12pm Johnny Cash Christmas Special 1976 (Sky Arts)
Given his latter-day outlaw prince status it seems jarring that Johnny Cash made specials for CBS, and even more so when you actually see them. Here he invites some country friends along to his and June's gaff for homespun fireside fun, including the Carter family and Tony Orlando, who does get to duet with Cash on Tie A Yellow Ribbon.

12pm Gonks Go Beat (Talking Pictures TV)
From 1965 maybe the most famous of the B-tier set of movies cashing in on this pop fad before it passed, and almost certainly the one with the most extraordinary title and concept, as much as there is the latter. Earth is split into two warring factions, Beatland whose people wear polo-necks and listen to beat pop, and Ballad Isle inhabitants who wear slacks and love crooners. It's left to an alien race to try and bridge the gap, with the warning that if they fail they'll be exiled to the dreaded Planet Gonk, where soft toys listen to Dixieland jazz. In the end they bring into public an illicit relationship between a couple from each side and get them to perform a duet that unites the factions. Yep, it's the Romeo And Juliet plot, only absurdist. Within all this lie Lulu, the Nashville Teens, the Graham Bond Organisation - featuring a pre-Cream Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker (who leads a mass drum-off) - and of course Derek 'Charlie from Casualty' Thompson as a balladeer, while the acting contingent includes Kenneth Connor, Frank Thornton, Terry Scott and Arthur Mullard. Amateurish, clunky and plain silly, it's ideal.

7.30pm The Royal Variety Performance (ITV)
The Killers, Paloma Faith and Seal are among those performing for the Que...Prince Ch...oh, it's the Cambridges.

9pm U2 At The BBC (BBC1)
Another example of a label wangling an hour of prime-time by way of promo, U2 play new and old songs with an orchestra and choir in Abbey Road Studios, which seems about the level. To fill the bits in between Cat Deeley of pop TV past follows them to backstage in Sao Paulo.


12pm Johnny Cash Christmas Special 1977 (Sky Arts)
Cash actually made four of these family variety specials but we're only getting the first two - a shame, as the latter two included Steve Martin and Andy Kaufman. This is actually the most straight down the line in terms of music, as Cash honoured the recently deceased Elvis by reuniting Sun Records alumni Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis.

8pm Michael Buble's Christmas In Hollywood (Sky One)
The housewives' choice has made six festive specials now, not including anything he may be up to this year. This is 2015's, mentioned here as Sharon Jones appears if only to do White Christmas as a duet.

10pm The Story Of Fairytale Of New York (BBC4)
An hour long examination of the band, the lyrics, the myths and legends, within a framing device of the current Pogues setting up to perform the song for the camera, which they never actually do.

11pm TOTP2 Christmas 2012 (BBC4)
Obviously they do one of these every year, but this may be the best for what they slot in around the usual suspects - the Barron Knights from Christmas Night With The Stars 1964, the Ramones, the Scaffold, the Greedies (half of Thin Lizzy and the Sex Pistols rhythm section's drunken mash-up of We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells), Mikey Dread, Francoise Hardy and the Snowmen, in which some Stiff Records staffers and friends led by the session guitarist on Kung Fu Fighting don immoveable snowman costumes and deliver the Hokey Cokey in an approximate Ian Dury impression.

11.30pm Rod Stewart: Merry Christmas Baby (Sky Arts)
Have no memory of a Rod Christmas album? Doubt you're alone. You can probably imagine how this Las Vegas run-through with added Cee-Lo Green goes as well.

RADIO PICK: We accept no responsibility for Jo Whiley's (Radio 2, 8pm) Christmas Knees-Up with Chas & Dave, Alex James and Gabrielle Aplin.


9pm Donny Osmond's Easy Listening Christmas (Channel 5)
10.30pm An Audience With Donny And Marie (Channel 5)

The first is actually a Sladeless festive list show, the second being the actual live cheesathon its title suggested, an ITV staging of their Las Vegas show but in front of some people from Emmerdale from 2009.

RADIO PICK: Gideon Coe (6 Music, 9pm) playing three hours of lesser known Christmas songs plus a good sized wodge of a John Peel Carol Concert is an annual joy; against that, Christmas At The Quay with Roddy Hart (BBC Radio Scotland, 9pm) brings in Belle & Sebastian, the Rezillos and Rachel Sermanni live.


7.30pm TOTP4 Christmas (BBC4)
The traditional BBC2 Christmas offering moves onto the thinking man's channel, maybe because they realised they'd gone in too early with the 1984 Top Of The Pops episodes they could show. So here's Scrawn voicing over the usual footage while we hope for the surprises.

8pm Mastermind (BBC2)
Questions on the Clash! Good luck, John Humphrys.

9pm Saturday Night Fever - The Ultimate Disco Movie (BBC2)

Thirty years and eight days after its US release (and three months before it came out over here) it's time for what's not really a theme night but is likely as close as BBC2 get these days. Travolta, Barry Gibb are among those involved telling of its making and unexpected success. There's also promised talk about Robert Stigwood, which may mean we get clips of the Sgt Pepper film. We would if we were producing.

9pm Tom Jones and Beverley Knight's Gospel Christmas (BBC1 Wales)
This is also on BBC2 on Christmas Day at 9pm, but it was recorded in Cardiff so apparently Wales has to have it first. Carols and spiritual music ahoy, including covers of Prince, Bob Dylan and for some reason Steve Winwood, and guesting Jessie Ware, Kwabs and obviously the London Community Gospel Choir.

9pm Music Legends We Lost (Sky Arts)
This was a decent little show last year, ninety minutes in which working colleagues of stars who died during the year talk about their experiences and memories.

10.10pm The Joy of the Bee Gees (BBC2)
Not sure this 2014 documentary has been repeated outside BBC4 before, but it's a natural thing to have spare for an occasion like this. Barry Gibb helps unpick that ever changing fabric along with a cast of collaborators and fans, and for those who feel it's been too long we're glad to report John Lydon is doing his "bet you didn't think I liked THIS!" act again.

11.10pm Boogie Fever: A TOTP2 Disco Special (BBC2)
Notice this Saturday Night Fever Night doesn't actually include Saturday Night Fever itself. This clip show manque is on a round figure anniversary, originally shown in 2007 with all the Steve Wright that entails. Rick Dees is on it! And Hi-Tension's British Hustle, and the JALN Band which were an early Pete Waterman hitmaking effort.

RADIO PICK: Soulwax are doing a very particular takeover of 6 Music, with special complementary mixes for both Lauren Laverne (10am) and Nemome (midnight).


6am TOTP2: Boy Bands (Yesterday)
7.15am TOTP2: Girl Groups (Yesterday)
8am Ultimate Cover Versions At The BBC (Yesterday)
9am Ultimate Number 1s (Yesterday)
10am TOTP2: Pop Stars (Yesterday)
2pm TOTP2: Christmas 2013 (Yesterday)

We did mention that Yesterday bought in a pile of BBC slight seconds, and this extended weekend is where plenty of them get put out there. Highlights of the 2013 show are of course the Barron Knights, Darts on Cheggers Plays Pop, Erasure covering Gaudete, regular Christmas TOTP performances from the Teardrop Explodes, Abba and Junior Senior, and the Special AKA's Nelson Mandela, given it was 2013. These are repeated throughout the day if they're too early for you.

4pm Smashie's Xmastastic Playlist (GOLD)    
The usual videos, but with Paul Whitehouse doing some second hand gurning in between. There's a second one on Christmas Eve at the same time.

6.15pm Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special (BBC1)
Justin and Dan Hawkins, Mike Batt and Jona Lewie, Gareth Malone and Military Wife Samantha Stevenson, amd Jimmy Osmond and his longtime close friend Ben Haenow (he won X Factor in 2014 and got to release one more single before being dropped)

7.10pm Even Better Than The Real Thing Christmas Special (BBC1)
There's an inherent problem with commissioning a Christmas special of a new series, namely "what if nobody remembers it by the time Christmas rolls around?" Still, it fills a gap. Tributes to Michael Buble, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Kylie Minogue and Bruce Springsteen do their big Christmas songs, or the Christmas songs they covered, and you... watch?

8pm It's Christmas Live From The Royal Albert Hall (Sky One)
A kind of festive variety conveyor belt of pop - hope it has a revolving stage - featuring Holly Johnson, Jona Lewie, Marc Almond, Melanie C, Nadine Coyle, Ricky Wilson, Shakin’ Stevens, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Tom Chaplin, The Vamps, Alexandra Burke, Fleur East, Alexander Armstrong - he's a singer now - and "special guest Chrissie Hynde", which sounds like she flatly refused to be featured amidst that list. Ed Harcourt is bandleader and musical director.

9pm BST Hyde Park Highlights 2017 (Sky Arts)
This year's headliners were Phil Collins, Green Day, Justin Bieber, Kings of Leon, the Killers and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Any hope for some of the supports - Blondie, Pixies, Elbow, Stevie Nicks, Tears For Fears, um, Rancid? We've seen these Sky Arts highlights shows before, don't hold your breath.

10pm Top Of The Pops Christmas Hits (BBC4)
Second verse, same as the first. From memory, if this is the same as last year's show we think this one includes an East 17 hit that isn't Stay Another Day.

10pm Take That Live: Wonderland (Sky One)
The Wiki for the tour says "there might be a Wonderland Live DVD released at some point from Take That". Well, this will do, no rush.

10.30pm Rhys a Meinir (S4C)
First shown last month, a musical documentary film based on the titular north-east Wales folk tale described as "the most romantic and tragic love story in the Welsh language", composed by Super Furries' Cian Ciarán and previously performed as a suite with the National Orchestra of Wales.

10.50pm Chas and Dave's Christmas Knees-Up (Channel 5)
In which LWT do a studio up as a working pub, bring in what seems to be the inhabitants of all the finest local hostelries and then forgot to put any toilets in. Eric Clapton, Albert Lee and the former half of Peters & Lee show up. Glorious, and yes, it was considered prime Christmas night fare in 1982. Also being shown on Christmas Day on Yesterday.

11pm Prince: A Purple Reign (BBC4)
Originally from 2011 an hour really isn't enough, especially compared to that Dave Clark Five documentary the channel used to show occasionally that seemed to take up a whole weekend. Still, it's Prince, and there's great archive and contributions.

RADIO PICK: Has the whole eighty-plus years of BBC broadcasting ever come up with a more tempting programme title than Neil Tennant's Smash Hits Christmas (5.30pm, Radio 4 Extra)? Originally from 2012, this uses the magazine's 1982 Christmas flexidics full of festive wishes from the stars as a jump-off point to talk the greatest pop magazine there ever was with everyone you'd want to do so - Nick Logan, David Hepworth, Mark Ellen, Miranda Sawyer, Sylvia Patterson...


8am Car SOS (National Geographic)
A day-long marathon of this, which we mention entirely because it's still incredibly under-the-radar weird that the drummer from Pop Will Eat Itself turned big beat micro-hitmaker is now TV's Mr Classic Car Repair.

8.15am ...Sings The Beatles (Yesterday)
9.15am ...Sings Elvis (Yesterday)
10.15am TOTP2: Donna Summer (Yesterday)
10.55am TOTP2: Duran Duran (Yesterday)
11.30am TOTP2: Wham! (Yesterday)
2.10pm TOTP2: The 60s (Yesterday)
2.40pm TOTP2: The 60s (Yesterday)
3.10pm TOTP2: The 60s (Yesterday)
3.45pm Sounds Of The Sixties (Yesterday)

That's not a copy and paste error, there were three of them to cover what seems like most of the surviving TOTP archive. The first one is mostly worth it for Su Pollard's light entertainment rendition of Back In The USSR. That's "rendition" in the US anti-terrorism sense of the word.

11.30am Runaround (Talking Pictures TV) 
This time it's the 1979 Christmas show with Barbara Dickson and some very loud huskies. If we recall correctly TPTV had to run a language-of-its-time warning beforehand when they showed this a couple of years ago, which is the danger you face when presenting Mike Reid.

7.30pm Top Of The Pops Christmas 1973 (BBC4)
And the hits just keep on coming. This is one of the few Christmas shows that still exist and aren't Savile'd, instead Blackburn and Edmonds introducing lots of Slade, some Wizzard, two Osmonds, Simon Park Orchestra, Suzi Quatro, the Sweet and Pan's People wagging their fingers at some dogs.

11.55pm Christmas TOTP2 Special (BBC2)
The 2014 show, and even if 2012 is the set text this is worth your while too as alongside Kate Bush, Kurtis Blow, Abba and Boney M in the Alps and Johnny Mathis on Mike Yarwood's show it features Dennis Waterman and George Cole's What Are We Gonna Get 'Er Indoors?, the last great forgotten Christmas hit. Not least by themselves given they forget the words and improvise around the theme.

1.25am Whitney: Can I Be Me (BBC2)
First shown at a reasonable hour in September, Nick Broomfield's documentary of this year - fame, drugs, tempestuous love, self-denial and some rare live footage

RADIO PICK: first broadcast on RTE Radio last December, then updated and moved over at Easter, In Search Of The Blue Nile (midday, BBC Radio Scotland) is a very worthwhile companion to the cult status bestowed on the band, whose members talk at length alongside testimonials from colleagues and fans including Matt Healy. Over on 6 Music Jodie Whittaker is the first of the annual Three Wise Women curating an evening's listening from 6pm, including Win Butler's The First Time.


6am TOTP2: School Days (Yesterday)
This is from 2010 and appears to have no reason to exist, but it does give airtime to the Jackson 5 on the 1972 Royal Variety Performance, the Runaways on Whistle Test and the video to Just Say No if that's any reward.

12.20pm Top Of The Pops Christmas Special (BBC1)
Sounds Like Friday Night can never be allowed to win! The old brand comes out twice a year as it has ever since the vessel was sunk eleven years ago now, Clara Amfo joining Fearne in the first change of host since then. In order of how much a tired middle-aged indie blogger recognises their name: Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Clean Bandit, The Script, Rita Ora, Dua Lipa, James Arthur, Anne-Marie, JP Cooper, Jax Jones and Raye, Jonas Blue and William Singe.

3pm Michael Jackson: The Life Of A Icon (Sky Arts)
Produced by David Gest, with all the independent exposition (and passing of time) that suggests.

10pm Alan Carr's Christmas Chatty Man (Channel 4)
Noel Gallagher's on it, somehow inevitably. So are Kasabian, Adam Lambert and Dua Lipa.

10pm The Seven Ages Of Elvis (Sky Arts)
11.45pm Elvis: The Final Hours (Sky Arts)

Two different views of the man's life, the first refracted through the As You Like It prism, the second through the eyes of Elvis' Memphis Mafia confidantes.

12am George Michael: Freedom (Channel 4)
1.40am George Michael Live In London (Channel 4)

The documentary from the other week, a perfect storm of self-indulgence and openness, George himself taking on a Man Who Wasn't There mantle, and lots of analysis being left to Ricky Gervais, James Corden and Liam Gallagher. Following that, a greatest hits show from Earls Court in 2008

12.10am The Christmas No.1 Story (BBC4)
From 2012... well, what it says, really.

RADIO PICK: Shaun Keaveney (6 Music, 7am) is joined by assorted Brians - Eno, Cox and Blessed - at the Royal Observatory; Anneka Rice brings back Junior Choice (Radio 2, 10am); Kurupt FM take over 1Xtra from 4pm; Picking Up the Pieces - The Average White Band Story (BBC Radio Scotland, 4pm) tells the story of how Scotfunk took over America; today's Wise Woman (6 Music, 6pm) is Beth Ditto; Radio 2 take a look back through the George Michael At The BBC (8pm) archive a year to the day since his passing; Lost And Found (Radio 2, 10pm) featues Linda Rondstadt talking about her battle with Parkinson's Disease; Huw Stephens (Radio 1, 11pm) finishes the day with a Jonny Trunk festive mix.


11.55am A Hard Day's Night (BBC2)
Boxing Day is the fiftieth anniversary of the premiere of the famous Beatles film, so it stands to reason that... wait, no, that was Magical Mystery Tour, which isn't on at all anywhere and in fact hasn't been on telly since 1979. As for the black and white classics there does seem to have been an effort to associate these films with the festive season insomuch as this was shown over the Christmas period four times in the 1970s, and this was last shown on BBC2 as recently as 2008. It's not exactly heavy on plot - lovable mop-tops loosely rehearsed, get chased, get on a train and mess about around a theatre - but it's heavy in contemporary faces, most famously Wilfrid Brambell but also Norman Rossington, John Junkin, Victor Spinetti, Deryck Guyler, Robin Ray and Lionel Blair, plus an uncredited cameo by Charlotte Rampling and a schoolboy Phil Collins in a crowd scene.

1.45pm Bee Gees: In Our Own Time (Sky Arts)
The festive season's difficult second Brothers Gibb documentary, made in 2010 so Robin is still around to contribute.

9pm Tim Rice - A Life In Song (BBC4)
From 2014 Tim Rice talks to Michael Grade about his songs before they're performed by the likes of Roger Daltrey, Rufus Wainwright, Laura Mvula, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Seth Lakeman, Tim Minchin, Tom Chaplin, Rob Brydon, Alexander Armstrong - he's a singer now - and Gemma Arterton for some reason.

9pm Fleetwood Mac: Don't Stop (BBC4)
From 2009, when they reunited and still all hated each other.

10pm Meat Loaf: In And Out Of Hell (Yesterday)
Goes behind the scenes of his Las Vegas residency, which surely qualifies as Meat's final form.

11pm Queen: Live At Wembley (Sky Arts)
12.15am Queen: The Magic Years (Sky Arts)
Strange that Queen at Live Aid is a key moment in everything but the music they put out around that time isn't so well remembered or revisited nowadays. The live gig is from 1986 on what would turn out to be Freddie's last tour, followed by what would seem to be a contemporaneously shot documentary.

11.25pm David Bowie: Five Years (Yesterday)
A great documentary scouring five years in the Dame's career with levity and full fascination over ninety minutes. Which makes it peculiar that this is only an hour slot.

RADIO PICK: 1Xtra is running a UK Garage Takeover this week, today's standout being an A-Z of UKG (1pm). Deep Purple start a weeklong run of Radio 2 concert repeats (2pm), Sharon Horgan (7pm) is the last of 6 Music's Wise Women for this year, Don Black and Van Morrison discuss The Great American Songbook (Radio 2, 7pm) and Annie Nightingale's special series to mark Radio 1's 50th anniversary is repeated tonight and the next two nights at 9pm. Nothing from the pop-up Radio 1 Vintage station is being rebroadcast, sadly.


1.15pm Sunshine On Leith (Channel 4)
Dexter Fletcher, who directed this, just got the gig on the endlessly delayed Freddie Mercury biopic - which, remember, May and Taylor want to use to show Queen carried on from strength to strength after Mercury died - so here's his first music-based film, a Proclaimers driven classic of the 'British Feelgood' genre.

10pm Oasis: Supersonic (BBC2)
Last year's documentary, filmed in the style of executive producer Asif Kapadia's own work (Amy, Senna) meaning any soundbites remain offscreen. It stops at Knebworth, so just as it gets to the bits you'd really prefer to hear about this far into the tellings and retellings of their story.

11pm Grease 2 (Sky Movies Musicals)
Songs composed by different people, film starring different people (apart from Frenchy), features the outright silly Reproduction. Your mileage may vary. There were meant to be two more sequels, a warning from history to Avatar.

12.45am Britpop At The BBC (BBC2)
1.45am Blur At Glastonbury (BBC2)

A delayed ending to a kind of Britpop night, in that there's unrelated programming between these and Supersonic. The former features Powder.

RADIO PICK: Chic Featuring Nile Rodgers, not for the last time in these billings, play the hits (Radio 2, 2pm); "idea for a programme, Lynn, Paint It Black with Ronnie Wood and Anneka Rice" (Radio 2, 5pm); Gideon Coe (6 Music, 9pm) is on the theme of families; Sigur Ros share a festive mix on 6 Music Recommends (midnight)


10.25pm Bruno Mars Live In Harlem (BBC1)
You accept slim pickings where you find them.

RADIO PICK: 6 Music is your best best for the night, with the best of the Scott Walker Prom at 7pm followed at 9pm by Gideon Coe's annual obituary show.


2pm The Beatles: From Liverpool To San Francisco (Sky Arts)
Well, here's an undervalued and lesser scrutinised corner of pop history alright. It's unofficial, so no music, and comprised entirely of sometimes quite rare footage of Beatlemania imagery and assorted interviews and press calls, cutting off before the bitter end.

7.15pm Joe Cocker: Mad Dog With Soul (Sky Arts)
Released just this year, an acclaimed dissection of the wild-haired bluesman turned MOR uplifter. Joe doesn't contribute directly but his family do, as do Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman and Billy Joel.

8pm Top Of The Pops 1984 (BBC4)
Having sacked off the DJs and had the bands link the Christmas show themselves, the second was left in the hands of Lenny Henry, one of the first to bring modern pop culture to comedy prime-time and who after the success of his much admired Sunday Hoot show the previous year was doing a Saturday morning Radio 1 long-time deputisation run at this time. The highlight is Neil, and how he starts singing his flop follow-up My White Bicycle before realising that's not what Pops wanted him back for.

9pm Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender (Sky Arts)
10.45pm Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (Sky Arts)

The second of Rhys Thomas' in-depth Queen documentaries, this one on Mercury's solo career revealing a ton of new details including an appearance with the Royal Ballet and abortive duets with Michael Jackson and Rod Stewart. Then it's back to Wembley for a concert people forget featured a cameo by Spinal Tap and remember featured a cut-in for the Lord's Prayer.

10pm Elvis: The Rebirth Of The King (BBC4)
Vegas Elvis is so established a punchline - and so popular a period for tribute artists, weirdly - that it's hard to think that his residency started the year after the Comeback Special (when he was 34), founded the TCB Band, debuted Suspicious Minds on the opening night, and it's only towards its/his end that he was ground down and became what he became. Clips and collaborators make the point.

11.50pm The Blues Brothers (Sky Movies Musicals)
Carrie Fisher, Steven Spielberg, Twiggy, Chaka Khan, half of the MGs, and none of them are wearing sunglasses.

12.30am The Making Of Marc Bolan (Sky Arts)

RADIO PICK: the chart of the year is spread out over six hours, which isn't how Bruno used to do it (Radio 1, 1pm); Johnnie Walker Meets Albert Hammond (Radio 2, 5pm) is self-explanatory; The Songs They Tried To Ban (Absolute, 10pm) features Billy Corgan for some reason.


3.30pm Beach Boys Live At Knebworth (Sky Arts)
From 1980, the only live recording of the classic lineup together. This is Brian post-Eugene Landy but while still spectacularly unstable, but with all three Wilsons, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston to keep he and Mike Love far apart it's a strong showing.

6.20pm Pointless Celebrities: Radio 2 (BBC1)
Which means teams of Jo Whiley and Jeremy Vine, Zoe and Michael Ball, Ken Bruce and Anneka Rice, and natural partners Vanessa Feltz and Craig Charles. Plus a performance from Mika, for some reason.

7pm Guess The Star (ITV)
Prepare for your head to hurt. Jonathan Ross commands three celebrity teams to try and recognise five famous people made up as and miming to a hit by a big music name. One of the disguises is Sia, which is surely as easy to carry off as possible; another is Lemmy, which is surely about as far as possible from undemanding ITV prime-time fare.

9pm Liam Gallagher: Live in New York (Sky Arts)
10.15pm Oasis Live At Barrowlands (Sky Arts)
11.30pm Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds at Hurricane Festival (Sky Arts)

See, BBC2, we can all do Oasis theme nights. The middle is from their Ten Years Of Noise And Confusion tour of 2001 so before the rot had that much time to develop, while the latter is from 2015 so watch yourself.

11.35pm Glen Campbell: The Rhinestone Cowboy (BBC4)
12.35am Chuck Berry In Concert (BBC4)

A Those We Lost late double bill, first a documentary from 2013 just after his Alzheimer's began setting in with contributions from the likes of Jimmy Webb (obviously), Leon Russell, Don Black, Carol Kaye, Mickey Dolenz and Bob Harris, and then Berry's storming (apart from My Ding-A-Ling, but hey, it was his contemporary hit, so..) 1972 show at the BBC Television Theatre.

12.40am Mumford and Sons: We Wrote This Yesterday (Sky Arts)
Excuse me, Sky blurb, but can you really have "an epic tour of South Africa"?


4.05pm Top Of The Pops New Year Special (BBC1)
Many of the same as Christmas Day, thus diluting the point of two shows a bit. Yungen, DJ Sigala, Starley and Mabel featuring Kojo Funds are added to please the kids, along with Bastille featuring Craig David.

5.15pm Bee Gees Live in Melbourne 1989 (Sky Arts)
At the National Tennis Centre, to be exact. There's a joke somewhere in there.

6.50pm CBeebies Bedtime Stories (CBeebies)
Dolly Parton's Imagination Library project, gifting books to children, has been established for more than two decades and came to the UK in 2008, so she's a natural to be giving the gift of storytelling to the young audience. Josh Homme was due to give a second reading for the slot this week but events have put that on hold.

9pm Alan Carr's New Year Specstacular 2017 (Channel 4)
Big Narstie is on Big Fat Quiz Of The Year this year too, so he clearly appeals to somebody. Music for Carr's now annual not quite up to midnight extravaganza comes from Stefflon Don and Pete Tong plus Heritage Orchestra, probably not doing Unfinished Sympathy now.

9pm Gig Fawr 2017 (S4C)
A rather more Cymru celebration of the year past, with Candelas, The Rhys Taylor Band, Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog, Alys Williams, Bronwen Lewis, Gwilym Bowen Rhys, Mabli Tudur, Betsan Haf Evans, Mared Williams and HMS Morris, hosted by 9Bach's Lisa Jên Brown and Candelas' Osian Huw Williams.

9pm Disco At The BBC (Yesterday)
Actually no, not the same as the TOTP2 special, the highlights here being a live version of Lady Marmalade and an LE reading of Disco Inferno. Ideal for this night of dancing fun, of course, but if you really want a large chunk of it in one place...

11.20pm Nile Rodgers and Chic: Good Times (BBC1)
Well, you wanted a party band to bisect the turn of the year, and you have to say this is a far better choice than most, including practically all of...

11.20pm Jools' Annual Hootenanny 2017 (BBC2)
HOOTEyeah alright. So that's Ed Sheeran, Mavis Staples, Jessie Ware, Beth Ditto, Soul II Soul with Caron Wheeler, George McCrae, the Beat (Dave Wakeling version, with Rhoda Dakar and Jennie Bellestar), Jose Feliciano, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, Ruby Turner and the Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards. And Rowland Rivron in the audience somewhere.

1.20am Best of Glastonbury 2017 (BBC2)
The hay bales come out of storage for a post-Hootenanny outing that's as much an annual regular as that show is. Wonder what they'll do here next year.

RADIO PICK: Jarvis Cocker's fascinating, fitful stint on 6 Music comes to an end at 4pm; Radio 2's New Year's Eve party is spearheaded by Tony Blackburn from 9pm and then Ana Matronic from 11pm.


9pm The Story Of Bohemian Rhapsody (BBC4)
10pm Queen: Rock The World (BBC4)
11pm Queen: The Legendary 1975 Concert (BBC4)

Christmas and the Queen syntaxically go hand in hand, we know, but the amount of the band's gubbins covered here is slightly overwhelming. So here's one of those "story of recording, bake the master tape, here's the filters used in the video" docs BBC3 made occasionally, then the more recent feature on News Of The World, and finally the Christmas Eve Hammersmith Odeon performance featuring as close as they could get to Bohemian Rhapsody live.

12.05am The Clash: New Year's Day 1977 (BBC4)
This year's winner from the BBC4 Julien Temple tombola, some footage from the Roxy he rediscovered in 2014 interspersed with clips of that festive season's telly, which is fine by us. The drummer at the time was Rob Harper, who after Terry Chimes left did what was left uncancelled of the Sex Pistols' Anarchy tour, then left after this gig and Chimes was reluctantly brought back. Fans of everything being connected to everything else may like to know Harper had been in both a very early version of Dire Straits and Billy Idol's first band, and was later in the UK Subs briefly and then a power-pop band produced by Tommy Ramone.

0.15am Shane Macgowan: A Wreck Reborn (Sky Arts)
The story of Macgowan's teeth! Amazing. And being reshown a week after his sixtieth birthday too.

RADIO PICK: The 1Xtra UKG Takeover continues with a repeat of Spoony's Garage Classical set, a kind of underground version of Pete Tong's Heritage Orchestra stuff, from 3pm. BBC Radio Scotland's Classic Scottish Albums returns with The Proclaimers' This Is The Story at 6pm; Don Letts' Culture Clash Radio comes to normal hours with a best of the year just gone from 7pm.


3pm Johnny Cash: Song By Song (Sky Arts)
We're all but pitched back into the regular year already but some channels still have stuff they want to use up, like this set of six shows here shown back to back examining Cash's songs.

7pm Tina Turner - Live In Amsterdam (Sky Arts)
Part of 1997's mammoth Wildest Dreams Tour, the kind of title you can reasonably only imagine being given to a Tina Turner tour.

10pm Prince: Last Year Of A Legend (Channel 4)
Respect for the dead is of course a noble thing, but suggesting as this promises to do that Prince's last year saw him hit a creative peak is ambitious. This follows those last twelve months through a concert to support protestors in Baltimore, a secret White House gig for the Obamas, two albums and a solo tour that ended a week before his passing.

10.30pm XTC: This Is Pop (Sky Arts)
Starts with Andy Partridge complaining at length about how much he hates rock documentaries, including an impeccably timed gag involving a regular rockumentary talking head. Thus is the scene set for an entertaining, candid hour and a half covering one of the nation's finest, with Stewart Copeland and Harry Shearer among those backing up.

12am Rock And Roll (Sky Arts)
Well, there's an easily Googlable title. The "epic" "definite story" spread over ten parts was first shown over the summer and gets a post-midnight re-run starting here and then at 12.30am Thursday and Friday.

RADIO PICK: First broadcast on Christmas Day 2009 but we've never heard it so there - Peel's Scottish Sessions (BBC Radio Scotland, 4pm) in which Tom Ravenscroft introduced Caledonia-originating session tracks and memories from Stuart Murdoch, Jim Kerr, Clare Grogan, Stuart Braithwaite, Richard Jobson, Emma Pollock, Mike Heron of the Incredible String Band, Justin Currie (from Del Amitri, yes), Paul Thompson of Franz Ferdinand, Gordon McIntyre of Ballboy and Graham Kemp of Urusei Yatsura.


3pm Dolly Parton: Song By Song (Sky Arts)
As with Cash yesterday, except not for him.

7pm Queen Live in Milton Keynes (Sky Arts)
And more! This from the Bowl in 1982, apparently most notable for Brian May managing to unplug himself mid-solo.

9pm Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here (Sky Arts)
10.15pm The Who: Sensation - The Story Of Tommy (Sky Arts)
11.30pm The History Of The Clash (Sky Arts)

Continuing where they left off with documentarypalooza: a 2012 documentary involving practically everyone involved with Wish You Were Here who was alive at the time, Daltrey and Townshend doing likewise two years later, and a better than you'd think Clash career history involving Mick Jones, Don Letts and contemporaries.

RADIO PICK: a BBC Radio Scotland show we don't think is a repeat, which makes it odd a tribute to the Associates is on at 4pm on a work day. The official Nile Rodgers New Year continues into Good Times (Radio 2, 10pm), the start of a four part series in which he talks about his influences, inspirations, own songs and favoured songs.


4pm Blondie: Song By Song (Sky Arts)
Someone was really trying to run this concept into the ground, but could only come up with four parts, again run back to back, for Debbie and Chris.

8pm Pulp Live (Sky Arts)
Here's a piece of social history, a renaming of the F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.I.V.E. VHS of their Brixton Academy set from December 1995. Top Amazon customer review: "A much better film than it might at first appear and show the power of `Power' and how it corrupts a society. Filmed in Malta, remember the hunting scenes and the fact that despite European Union rules hunters still kill thousands of migrating songbirds every year in their transit passages." Um...

9pm Manic Street Preachers: Escape From History (Sky Arts)
Debuted back in April, the Manics say this will be the last time they discuss the story around the making of Everything Must Go, with award-winning collaborator Kieren Evans directing.

RADIO PICK: Cover Me (BBC Radio Wales, 6.30pm), in which Elis James traverses the country talking about album covers photographed in the Welsh landscape. It's an idea. Sean Moore and Paul Draper contribute.


3pm The Shadows Final Tour (Sky Arts)
Finally, we've reached the last repurposed Sky Arts live recording of the season, twang and synched walk recorded in Cardiff in 2004. (Though while compiling this we received an email about Sky Arts showing a feature-length documentary about the Hansa Studios in Berlin, of Bowie, Iggy and U2 fame, on the 10th, so watch out for that)

8pm Only Yesterday: The Carpenters Story (BBC4)
Fully ten years old, this, a tetchy Richard and assorted collaborators tell the story of one of the saddest crashes to earth amid rare TV footage.

9pm The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years (Channel 4)
One last big TV premiere for the season, if you don't count what's opposite it on BBC4 - Ron Howard's hugely acclaimed documentary from Cavern Club via Star Club to Shea Stadium and Candlestick Park, making a valiant attempt to wring something new out of the most told story of all.

9pm Top Of The Pops: The Story Of 1985 (BBC4)
10pm Top Of The Pops: Big Hits 1985 (BBC4)

Seems implausible that these TOTP repeats have been going on unbroken (within broadcastable reason) since 2011, though we're now past the party/pop atmosphere and into the new Live Aid era of seriousness and superstars. The Big Hits shows always pull out interesting clips, including a few we won't see on the actual Pops that BBC4 are allowed to show (Savile and Travis had left the show by then but Mike Smith refused to let his work be repeated and his estate have upheld his wishes)

11pm Radio 2 In Concert: Tears For Fears (BBC4)
Curt and Roland are on speaking terms at the moment so the Beeb quicky got them into a studio for posterity. Warning: contains cover of Creep.

12am TOTP2 80s Special (BBC4)
And if we were going to see this mighty project off in any way, it could only ever be through a repeat of a themed TOTP2. And a happy new year to all our readers!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

STN recommends... November 2017

Don't worry, there is some actual written content coming here in December, but for now the year's eleventh Spotify playlist of the stuff we've loved out this month.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

STN recommends... October 2017

Here we go again with the best stuff to have passed our way in this tenth month just gone. Yes, that says Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds there. Fight us.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

STN recommends... September 2017

Yet again the consistently latest monthly wrap-up in blogland does its job with the playlist of our favourite things from the thirty days just completed:

Friday, September 29, 2017

40 From 40: 2007

Looks like we made it to the end. We close with ten years ago, another of those years right at the end of this survey in which it's driven more by what STN was writing about at the time then what else was happening as the alternative rapidly segregated. What else were we going to lionise, Live Earth? Annoyingly, for the final post it's ended up being one of the most problematic to put links and playlists together for - three tracks aren't housed on YouTube in studio versions and one not at all, and it's the wrong version for the year in question of You! Me! Dancing! Still, here's forty great tracks from the fortieth year we've covered between 1970 and 2009, and that's what we've been doing this for. Hope you enjoyed it in some fashion.

Los Campesinos! - You! Me! Dancing!
Johnny Foreigner - Champagne Girls I Have Known
Blood Red Shoes - I Wish I Was Someone Better
Liars - Plaster Casts Of Everything
Sky Larkin - Molten
Future Of The Left - Manchasm
Meet Me in St Louis - All We Need Is A Little Energon And A Lot Of Luck
Foals - Hummer
Crystal Castles vs HEALTH - Crimewave
Battles - Atlas
Au Revoir Simone - Fallen Snow
BARR - The Song Is The Single
Robyn feat. Kleerup - With Every Heartbeat
LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends
M.I.A. - XR2
Caribou - Melody Day
Holy Fuck - Lovely Allen
Arcade Fire - (Antichrist Television Blues)
The Acorn - Crooked Legs
Grinderman - No Pussy Blues
Pagan Wanderer Lu - Tree Of Knowledge
Bonde Do Role - Solta O Frango
White Williams - New Violence
Radiohead - Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Napoleon IIIrd - This Is My Call To Arms
Burial - Archangel
Panda Bear - Comfy In Nautica
Piano Magic - England's Always Better (As You're Pulling Away)
Laura Marling - Night Terror
Bon Iver - The Wolves (Act I & II)
Johnny Flynn - Tickle Me Pink
Jens Lekman - A Postcard To Nina
Spoon - The Underdog
Field Music - Working To Work
Those Dancing Days - Hitten
Wake The President - Remember Fun?
Lucky Soul - Ain't Never Been Cool
Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe
Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Gruff Rhys - Skylon!

Previously on 40 From 40: 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009