Thursday, 9 April 2009

All this and Haven Too, and The tube programme

This writing marks the completion of the second series of 101 Myspace writing, or as I now wish the work to be known as 101.75, a total of 1074 pieces if added to those on AOL, within 2 years. It commenced on May 24 2006, with 19 pieces that month, and then in June 151, July 76, August 76, September 99, October 96, November 76 December 87, January 2007 62, February 69, March 61. My objective is to complete a further set of 100.75 by the anniversary of my first year on Myspace on February 17th.

I commenced to write this piece while listening to a commentary of Newcastle at home to Portsmouth. Within nine minutes the score was Newcastle 0 Portsmouth 1, a minute later it was Newcastle 0. Portsmouth 2 and then Newcastle 0 Portsmouth after 10 minutes, with two mistakes. A scrambled own goal via Michael Owen made it 1-3 and from horror disaster the fifty thousand crowd sensed all was not lost.

There are many advantages to living in the North East and one of these the absence of traffic jams. When I travelled, usually by car, once a month to London, for a decade, I dreaded the last fifty odd miles where the choice was the M 25 stuck in a slow moving end less four and three lane chain of cars for miles from the area approaching London Airport through to Purley, or into central London, past Lords, across Oxford Street, to Victoria, with an option of routes through South London, with slow moving traffic and dozen upon dozen of traffic lights. Such was the nightmare of this apart of the journey that after several years I commenced to break up the journey, with a leisurely start, a visit to the cinema or to a country house, an overnight stay at a Travel Lodge paying as little as £5 a night, £10 or £15 and never more than around £25. And then after breakfast facing a morning drive in traffic, traffic, traffic.

Several years before this I learnt the reality of London traffic when serving on a sub committee of a committee organised by the Home Office which offered a car parking space for meetings which commenced at 10.30 am. I remember the first occasion well in that unsure of what the traffic would be like I set off after 8 am probably nearer 8.30 thinking the ten to twelve miles would take a hour to an hour and half which would give me timer to go through the papers once more and get ready any contribution, or chat with other colleagues as they arrived. I had anticipated some traffic congestion as I approached inner London, having in the later 1960's travelled for three years from Teddington to Ealing in West London a journey of a similar distance. I just had not anticipated the growth in traffic out into the suburbs in a decade and a half and arrived just as the meeting commenced. The alternative was a walk to the station, a forty minute train ride usually standing, and a crushed underground ride of one station from Victoria to St James, on a walk. I thought of these experiences as for the first time in years I encountered major congestion last night in the City of Newcastle.

For the second time in a week I miscalculated the time required to journey from my home, on this occasion to the Sage Concert Halls for a curious event to celebrate 25 years since the birth of The Tube, the Iconic contemporary music show produced by Tyne Tees Television for Channel Four in Newcastle from 1982 to 1987, 121 episodes and 10 specials. Given the previous experience I should have set off at 6.30 but it was after seven. I had planned to travel by car to Hewarth, then take the Metro to Gateshead and a special bus service to the entrance of the Sage. I decided not to risk a late arrival and took a taxi although I could have kept to the original plan as it was well after eight before the evening commenced. It was after 11pm when I I decided to take the first special bus which first went to the Baltic, then to the Quayside in central Newcastle and the City station, rather than wait the nine minutes for a bus which would have taken the short distance from the Sage to Gateshead interchange station.

From the moment the bus crossed over the swing bridge onto the Newcastle Quayside the traffic was solid and slow moving, from those leaving after a night out at the theatre, cinema, or concert hall or music gig and those arriving for the night clubs. The streets were pulsating with mainly young people, mostly in single sex groups, although as previously observed there was an age range down by the Quayside. One of the venues, a bar, which might also serve food, has been renamed Rumpole's, after the fictitious barrister created by John Mortimer who frequented a bar called Pomeroy's, popular with members of the legal profession. One group of young men, whop engaged in conversation with a single young man with the appearance of a bouncer, explained that they had stayed in Newcastle after work, doing the pubs and bars looking for lasses, and without success were heading for the night clubs in Shields, where they also had lodgings. I was right about the bouncer as he explained that he guarded the entrance to the restricted area of one of the clubs.

And the event? Was a little disappointing. There were six individuals on the platform but no presenter although Jules Holland did a good interview in which he described how he was appointed and the significance of the show as the creator of a culture in which musicians and comedians would come up to Newcastle, often staying over for the party atmosphere although BA reorganised its Friday flight schedule to bring up those who wished to travel from London for the day or return after the evening performance.

The most rewarding aspect of the evening was the account as to how the show got off the ground, including a meeting in a Newcastle fish and chip restaurant in which Sir Jeremy Isaacs, the founder and chief executive of Chanel allegedly told the commissioning director and programme directors, Don't' f…k up. The use of descriptive expletives was a feature of the Tube, with Jules Holland having to resign after he unintentionally swore on a live programme which went out early evening tea time and was watched by school age children. The programme also gained notoriety because of the outlandish appearance and behaviour of its main presenter with Jools Holland, the later Paula Yates, the former wife of Sir Bob Geldorf. Paul had responsibility for the first 45 mins of the programme which concentrated on interviews, fashion items and comedy, with Paula conducting her interviews on a bed and one on occasion persuading Sting to remove his trousers.

It was the second 45 minutes of live music performances which made the show essential viewing for popular music promoters, managers and record producers and who in some instances snapped up a new artist to make them instant successes, with the Liverpool band Frankie Goes to Hollywood giving their raunchy performance of Relax. They immediately appeared on Top of the Tops and Relax shot to number 1 although he video was banned by the BBC and MTV which had just started.
For young people to day there are over 20 music dedicated stations providing 24 hour entertainment as well a similar number of radio stations with the number exponentially increasing through the use of the internet, there are hundred of music live music gigs and an area such as Tyne and Wear but back in in the early ages, when I was middle aged, until MTV there was only Top of the Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Test was coming to an end and the Tube was a significant break through with its midsummer special programmes lasting five hours.

Looking at the footage of the first programmes in black and white I was struck by the audience, unsophisticated , also church like in their wonderment at the experience unfolding around them and how different from the lively crowds in the Quayside and Bigg Market after the show, many looking as if they had come from on were going to appear on Top of the Pops during its sexual hey day of up short skirt close ups and Pans People. Some of those young original young people were in the audience at the Sage from a hand sup request. There was also a gathering of insiders with many of the crew and production team. My taxi driver said that there had been a feature on the show on regional news before he came out to work for the evening.

The disappointing aspect was the absence of an appearance on the night or a film tribute collation from a major performer. Heaven 17 was a Sheffield based band which appeared on the first show and lead singer was part of the platform team and because he had agreed to participate whereas I suspect many others invited had not, an inordinate amount of attention was given to his work with two numbers from the original show and then a ten minute film, which was out of proportion to what the Tube came to stand for. I very much enjoyed the first part of the show but the second was something of anti climax, rushed because of over running with some clips cuts.

This was an interesting project something of an experiment for the Sage and there was no doubting the enthusiasm of its organiser who acted as chair of the panel and the best were the reminisces of panel members who I thought they were less convincing when they attempted to evaluate the show or comment on whether a similar kind of rough at the edges spontaneous show was required as an antidote to the polished scripted professional music channels and videos and orchestrated live music and dance performances of today.

This is an appropriate moment to mention that New astle eventually lost 1-4 at home indicating what I anticipated as a failure of Sam Alladyce I only know how to play one way with also ran players. Sunderland are at Man City who lost heavily at Chelsea last week so theatre is no expectation of a match which is live on Monday night TV. The following week it is Sunderland laying Newcastle at home with both teams wish to give their loyal fans something to shout about for the rest of the season, or at least the return Derby game.

Earlier in the day I saw the beginning and the end of a melodrama with a young Bette Davis showing the talent which made her I to one of the finest Actors of Hollywood. There were sugary children and one sided characterisations and dodgy script. All this and Heaven too. In past years when it came to a choice between the X Factor singing and the dancing with celebrities there was no context, and last year was exceptional with the amazing Leone and several others destined for a career in 'the business.' This year there are several weak finalists and no one world class uniquely outstanding, and the youngest was booted out when it emerged she had put on phone record a violent outburst involving a former friend. However there is a former school teacher from Luton who has a great voice and the right kind of image and personality. The programme also manufactured two groups one of five, originally six young men and one of six young women, who have talent and are learning presentational skills quickly. There is also one odd looking young man with a powerful stage voice and polished entertaining presentation. But the dancers took the honours.

My chess playing skills matches by lack of concentration and application since the monster work effort a week ago and having reached 50 and 40 runs of wins on level 2 I have not failed to progress into double figures several time in succession but suffered several checkmates. I know what the problem is but the mood and inclination is against making the required changes. So I shall watch the first 15 mins of the Newcastle horror show, the masochist that I am and then start the final episodes of the Great War to mark the third series of 101.75 writing.

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