and by the way, which one is Pink?

An interesting where are they now? story on the BBC here.

I’ve mentioned it before, but this reminds me of my upstairs Flat in Stavanger back in 1981, the Landlady’s Son liked playing it LOUD.

I was disappointed to find that the kids in the vid were stage school. They scrub down well! (They make an appearance when the clock has counted down to 1’58”).

(The title is a Pink Floyd pop at the record business).

The summer of ’76

This song reminds me of my old mate Colin from the long hot 1976 Summer between leaving school and (not) going to Newcastle Poly. He had a new live-in Girlfriend who was (just) 16 and I helped decorate their Flat in Jesmond. (Lime green walls and light chocolate brown woodwork). I don’t recall her name but she worked at the huge Civil Service complex at Long Benton, trying to decode scribbles on prescriptions for correct apportionment. (She said it was very boring).
Colin really liked the Gallagher & Lyle Breakaway Album that had been released the year before and so did I, although side one was better than side two. I bought their follow-up Love on the Airwaves in Coventry the following year but it wasn’t quite as good overall, although with some excellent songs on it (I particularly like the track Runaway). If you don’t know them but their voices sound familiar they used to be in McGuinness-Flint with “when I’m dead and gone”.

In praise of "The Glums"


Les Miserables is the longest running Musical in London’s West End. It opened in 1985 at the Barbican (based on a simpler 1982 Paris Production) and was severely panned by the critics. However, the audiences loved it and after trimming the show a bit so that it wasn’t overly long, it transferred to the Palace on Shaftesbury Avenue. A few years ago, it moved down the road to the slightly smaller Queens theatre and it is still there, having celebrated over 9000 performances!

I first saw it in 1988 when I worked in technical marketing. I was asked at very short notice to entertain a couple of Danes from a Telco, picking up the bar bill beforehand and the Restaurant meal afterwards. I knew them slightly so it wasn’t an ordeal and the tickets were biked down to us in Maidenhead from one of those last minute ticket agencies that charge such silly prices that only the Corporates can afford them.

We were sat centre stalls in row C, an excellent place to see the show. Not too close that you are having to look up, close enough that the stage fills your field of vision and you can see the detail of facial expressions.

Les Mis the Musical is based on the Victor Hugo novel of the same name and charts the post-prison life of a convict (prisoner 24601) who was arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, serving nineteen years overall as he tried to escape. In it there are barricades, gunfights, deaths and sorrow, counterbalanced with love and a couple of comic characters. It is wrongly assumed to be about the French Revolution although it does include a student insurrection.

The show is entirely “sung through”, i.e. there is no spoken dialogue at all, every line is set to a melody. The main set consists of a large revolving stage surrounded by French looking 18th Century tenements and two large piles of what look like junk either side. These junk heaps move onstage, mesh together and transform into the barricade at a key point in the show. The revolve is frequently on the move as it is acted upon and the cast make it look easy to step onto and off (it isn’t.)

The show is lit by David Hersey and has many of his trademark lighting styles, especially light curtains (narrow vertical or rear angled tight beams in a continuous row). Of particular note is the follow-spotting- it uses low voltage narrow beam projectors for very tight subtle following with a very soft edge to the beam, such that it is hardly obvious that the actors are being followed at all. It is a visual device that when an actor dies, they are briefly bathed in a brilliant white light, readily achievable by the follow-spots that are otherwise running at about one third intensity the rest of the time.

I got to see Les Mis again circa 1990, buying a Gallery tout ticket for a mid-week Matinee when I happened to be passing. (£25, face value £6.50).You feel very remote up there (particularly in the Palace which is vertigo inducing) but I was able to appreciate the gobo effects projected onto the revolve, particularly the sewer and river scenes.

Since then, we have seen it in London again, New York (when we went there via Concorde) and in Manchester (another Palace). In Manchester, the stage is so wide there that the Barricade looked less substantial. A joke was made of it on the UK Soap Coronation Street when two of the actors supposedly went to see it and they kept pronouncing it in all seriousness as “Lez Mizzer-a-Baalls”

A couple of years back, my Mum and I visited the touring set onstage at the Bradford Alhambra. She remembers it better than me and recalls being surprised when a little concealed door opened on the barricade and the driver got out! She also recalls us being let loose onto the revolve, it being set at full speed and then being encouraged to sing whilst we stepped off and back on again. It is hard to do it with full concentration so they must hold training courses for the actors. (They really are the “turns” in that show).

We have the various CDs, DVDs and making of stuff. (Stage by Stage is particularly good, only on VHS though).

Anyway, seeing it in the MAOS show has whetted our appetites and we have booked to see it again in London. The Orchestra is smaller in the Queens show, partially because the Pit is smaller, partially to save money. (The Musicians Union were not happy at the time). I imagine there is another omission- the radio controlled rectangular truck used as the Cafe in the Palace staging that occasionally had a mind of its own- some bricks at the downstage edge were actually girders preventing the truck ending up in the Pit. It was omitted in other stagings as it was troublesome and I imagine it was restaged when it moved.

It isn’t the most hi-tech musical and doesn’t have the best songs but it remains my favourite for its theatricality, staging, flow and level of emotional involvement. I still get a tear in my eye when little Cosette sweeps the floor and yearns for a Castle in a Cloud.

Name that tune

I received an email from Portaventura theme park today, promoting Halloween at the theme park. They also had a link to an Internet enabled visitor scarer.

Anyway, seeing no punters to scare, I dipped in to their video archive and found someone singing a song.

Now I heard this song at the theme park and couldn’t place it, although it seemed that the whole crowd could and were singing along as we exited the park after their fireworks spectacular. (It turned out that the crowd were singing along on the actual recording, as I discovered the day after when I heard it again in a quieter bit of the park.

Anyway, randomly dipping in to the archived video scare footage, I was delighted to hear the song again and indeed see someone singing along to it.

Now, all I need is to get others to go to the archive bit again, and hope a regular recognises it!

To join in the challenge, go to http://www.portaventurawatchingyou.com/, after the intro, choose Videos of Victims (third choice along the bottom), put in September 30th, 13:09 and hear the tune that goes:

Da Da Da de doo de dah,
Da Da Da de doo de dah,
Hello!
do de do de doo de dah…

It sounds rather C&W-ish and is probably really well known (except in Chez Grey).

(The bloke wasn’t overly frightened but did flinch slightly.)

Answers on a postcard, or preferably in the comments section.

(Don’t say “The Zombies Band”, that is probably being a smartarse!

UPDATE: Have you ever seen the rain- originally Creedence Clearwater Revival, covered by Rod, Smokie, et al.