Making Plans For Crackerjack



Though it’s undeniably silly I hope that XTC were well chuffed with this. Getting played by John Peel or appearing on Top of The Pops are nothing compared to having your song performed on a great British television institution like Crackerjack. I would have retired happy after this.

A friend of a friend of mine worked on Crackerjack in the early 1980s and got a group of us tickets to see a show. We had a bloody marvelous time, Stu “Ooh, I could crush a grape!” Francis was the host then and Depeche Mode were on performing “Monument” (apparently, I’d forgotten). Every time we shouted CRACKERJACK! the Boy Scouts sitting in front us turned around and gave us funny looks as if they were thinking “What are these old people doing here?”

I still have the ticket.


We didn’t get Crackerjack pencils but the bloke we knew on the show got us copies of Depeche Mode’s A Broken Frame album signed by all the band. Like a fool I later gave mine away to my girlfriend, it wasn’t a great album but really wish I hadn’t done that now. Wonder if she still has it.

Acker on the Shore


Trad Jazz clarinetist Acker Bilk died on Sunday. He was one of those faces that always seemed to crop up as the musical guest on Light Entertainment television shows in the 1970s, always with his distinctive bowler hat, waistcoat, and goateee. Put on Morecambe & Wise or Mike Yarwood on a Saturday night and there he’d be. If it wasn’t him it would be fellow Trad-Jazzer Kenny Ball (who died last year), it was like a refuge for all the pre-Beatles acts who’d had their pop careers wiped out by the Fabs.

So while I knew bugger all about him — I only just found out where his nickname “Acker” came from — and couldn’t tell you how good his Jazz chops were, he was ubiquitous in my youth so his death makes me rather sad. It’s like another little piece of my childhood as gone, if a very esoteric one. Acker Bilk was a household name back then but I doubt if anyone under 30 has ever heard of him.

This is the tune he’s most famous for and no apologies for that because I think it’s a gorgeous melody, even if it does sound like a proto-Kenny G record now. A huge hit in 1962, this became only the second record by an English artist to top the American chart (Vera Lynn was the first, trivia fans).

Download: Stranger On The Shore — Acker Bilk (mp3)

He plays it slightly jazzier on this version, but I’m including this clip mostly because it’s such a perfect example of the shabby tackiness of 1970s Light Entertainment television. The rubbish you had to sit through on a Saturday night while lying on your brown living room carpet in front of the television waiting for Match of The Day to come on.

The Mad Woman in the Kitchen



I think even back then we knew Fanny Cradock was a bit deranged. I love the way she says “A PROPER OMELETTE PAN!” as if she’s going to come round your house and hit you with a ruler if you don’t use one. And how crappy that stove looks now compared to the fancy, well-appointed kitchens Nigella and Jamie cook in. But at least it’s something her viewers might actually have themselves — looks like the stove we had, in fact — and not some aspirational Aga range which cost more than most people’s cars.

This is the Christmas episode from 1975 and apparently things were so bad that year — terrorism, unemployment, inflation — British housewives were reduced to making their entire holiday feast out of mincemeat. It’s all rather sad and desperate and Fanny even gives a little speech at the end about the “appalling present conditions” as if the country was in the middle of the Blitz. Pretty sure we had turkey as usual that year.

The other 1978



The BRIT Awards weren’t always the slick extravaganza they are today, you know.

If it wasn’t for the presence of Ian Dury and Nick Lowe you wouldn’t have any clue that popular music had just gone through something of a revolution (and notice that neither of them got actual BPI awards). Rock industry awards are notoriously conservative but this is even less edgy and rock n’ roll than an episode of The Two Ronnies.

Commercial Break



God knows how many years ago this was but I still can’t eat onion rings without getting this song stuck in my head.

“Pure ground beef that you cook like a steak and serve like a steak” – but tastes nothing like an actual steak.

Something for the Weekend



Cher, Bing Crosby, Queen, Lulu. David Bowie could sing duets and make records with anyone yet still keep his artistic credibility. Truly, the man’s coolness is bulletproof.

BONUS: There’s something truly surreal about seeing Bowie on American light entertainment television. Here he is bringing da funk — and some cool dance moves — to Dinah Shore.

Un Film de Gerry Anderson



This actually sounds better in French and goes with the romantic visuals, though Troy and Marina should probably be smoking.

Commercial Break



I’m used to the more subtle and arty suggestiveness of later Flake ads so I was shocked — shocked! — at how blatant this 1960s one is. The lascivious look in her eyes, the way she pulls back the wrapper, and then the exploding waterfall! They might as well have changed the product name to Cadbury’s Cock.

Despite what it says in the caption at the top this ad wasn’t banned, and neither was this one which is pretty hardcore chocolate porn too. The whole country went to the dogs in the 60s didn’t it?

What’s it all about?

The sentimental musings of an ageing expat in words, music, and pictures. Mp3 files are up for a limited time so drink them while they're hot. Contact me: lee at londonlee dot com

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