This ad from 1981 is one of those rare occasions when advertising is touched with genius.
If you’re like me you could do with a laugh. I had this sketch on a Monty Python album so I know every word (I was one of those annoying kids who would recite Python sketches) but it’s still bloody hilarious.
The Celebrity Grim Reaper was busy in the week between Christmas and New Year, taking Lemmy, Natalie Cole, The Specials’ drummer John Bradbury and Guru Josh (not Guru Josh!) off to meet their maker. But I’m not kidding when I say the one that upset me the most personally was the death of legendary Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon.
Basketball is a niche sport in England and when I was a kid we’d never even heard of the NBA and couldn’t name a single American team. But we knew all about The Harlem Globetrotters (who actually came from Chicago), the exhibition team who toured the world playing “matches” against opponents they always beat which were full of trick shots and clownish routines and more about entertainment than sports.
They were such a pop-culture phenomenon in the early 70s they had their own Hanna-Barbera cartoon show on television (the first one made with a primarily black cast) and made guest appearances on Scooby-Doo.
My mum took me to see them at Wembley Empire Pool (now the Arena) one year and actually seeing Lemon — the star of the team nicknamed “The Clown Prince of Basketball” — doing his famous Hook Shot and that gag with the bucket full of confetti was one of the major treats of my childhood.
But it was their cartoon show that really made them household names with my generation of English kids, and because of it Meadowlark Lemon (how could you forget that name!) became part of the pantheon of loved TV stars I watched after school. So when I heard the news about his death it felt like Hong Kong Phooey or Secret Squirrel had died. No wonder I was so upset.
Download: Harlem – Edwin Starr (mp3)
This soulful beauty by Edwin Starr was the b-side of “Headline News” in 1966.
This is useful if you need some Xmas present ideas. Think I’ll ask Santa for a Bontempi organ this year.
Who cares that England never qualified for a World Cup in the 1970s when we had Indoor League on the telly to show off our world-beating skill at pub sports? I bet the Germans were rubbish at Skittles.
Televised Shove Ha’Penny sounds like a Monty Python sketch — and looks like one too — but this was real and actually on our televisions in the 1970s. If you’re desperate to see that exciting Shove Ha’Penny final it starts around 3:25.
Download: Spiel Ohne Grenzen – Peter Gabriel (mp3)
NASA’s entire archive of photos taken by the Apollo astronauts has recently been uploaded to Flikr — that’s over 13,000 images of the greatest achievement of the 20th century, scanned in beautiful high-resolution. We all know the famous and iconic Apollo images, but seeing the entire rolls of film unedited — lots of shots are blurry, wrongly-exposed, or badly-framed like holiday snaps you’d reject — brings home the scrappy, imperfect, and seat-of-the-pants nature of the endeavor and makes it even more awe-inspiring because it seems so human. Even when it’s just an empty photo of the moon surface (which is a lot of them) they’re amazing because it’s the fucking moon and it was taken by a human being standing on it.
I was 6 years old when Neil Armstrong took his famous step on July 20, 1969. It happened at 4am in England and my mother woke me and my sister up to see it. I think I watched most of the Apollo missions in my pajamas as the big events tended to happen either late at night or early morning our time which made them seem even more special because I was up watching TV when I was supposed to be in bed. Being a typical boy I was into rockets and space, and I was entranced by the fuzzy black and white television pictures, and the staticky chat between the astronauts and Houston punctuated by that high-pitched beep!
Even 40-plus years later there is still something incredibly glamorous about Apollo: the towering spire of the Saturn V, the white spacesuits that made the astronauts look like heavenly knights, and the ships gleaming in the raw sunlight of outer space. Of course another reason for the enduring wonder of these images is that we haven’t been back to the moon since, so they still look like the future — a future we never had. Back then the year 2000 was this far-off date that only existed in science fiction, and by which time we thought there’d be people living on the moon or even on their way to Mars. Sadly it turned out that Apollo was just another example of 60s optimism that ran aground on the rocks of dismal reality in the 1970s.
Download: Space Oddity (1980 version) – David Bowie (mp3)
This song was a hit thanks to the BBC using it in their Apollo 11 coverage, so Bowie owes his career in part to the moon landings. This is the version he recorded in 1980 which is more sparse and Plastic-Ono-Band in style, I’ve posted it before many years ago but it’s still not a widely available track so here it is again.
Far as I know this is the only clip from Bobbie Gentry’s 1960s BBCTV show on YouTube which is a real shame as it’s wonderful. I hope there’s more sitting in the Beeb vaults waiting to be reissued (please!) but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been wiped knowing their past history with other old shows.
It’s all great but don’t miss her duet with Donovan at the 11:00 mark.
Even Mike Leigh at his most misanthropic couldn’t have come up with something as grimly excruciating as this. Don’t miss “One of Great Britain’s top recording groups” about 3 minutes in, and stay for Charlie Williams making racist jokes. After that it somehow manages to keep getting worse.
We occasionally watched Wheetappers & Shunters at home and I don’t know what is more depressing: The show itself or the sad thought that I might have actually found it entertaining.