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Beyond a Joke

Another month, and another set of articles I’ve written over on Ganymede & Titan – the Red Dwarf fansite where Rob Grant’s daughter once posted the immortal words “John is a whore”. This month, I’ve been posting a few joke history investigations:

You will note from the update at the end of that last article that I am currently making my way through the entirety of The Burkiss Way. As punishments go, it’s not exactly a severe one.

■ Posted 25th June 2015 @ 12am in Comedy, Television. No Comments Yet.

Unforgettable

I try my best to make Dirty Feed a proper blog with actual commentary and shit like that – but sometimes you just want to chuck a great link out there, then cut and run. So it is with Unforgettable – published this month, it’s the latest in a long series of jingle montages from Ken Deutsch. This particular selection all come from jingle company PAMS between the years of 1960-1974 – a time which has a special meaning to Ken:

“For me this era represented my teenage years and early 20s, a time I fell in love with top-40 radio and its jingles in particular. People have come and gone in my life. I married, gained a stepson, watched the world change in many serious ways, but the PAMS jingles from the 60s and early 70s will always remain “unforgettable” to me.”

Not that you need to have grown up in the US during that era to get something out of this collection. There are few better ways to dip into the world of radio jingles than listening to material of this vintage – some of the very best jingles ever made. Give it a try. A glorious slice of Americana.

Even if the start of Track 7 may make you wince somewhat.

■ Posted 11th June 2015 @ 9am in Jingles, Radio. No Comments Yet.

Mouthbox

Having spent yesterday praising a blog about television, today I thought I’d slag one off instead. Always a dangerous game when in the past you’ve published things like the top post on this page, but never let it be said that I am not courageous.

On one of my random click-anywhere-and-see-what-happens jaunts on which I waste most of my life, I came across Mouthbox, a “TV reviews & media blog”. Oooh, a a review of House of Fools – I’ll give that a read. I disagree with most of it – especially the part about being “protected from the truth”, also quoted below – but that’s not the point of this post. The part I want to concentrate on is the second half of the following sentence:

“Reeves and Mortimer also have enough friends in high places at the Beeb to be protected from the truth, and a second series has probably already been commissioned despite the glaring problems with this pilot.”

Which is a very odd thing to write, as this piece was published in March 2015… in the middle of the show’s second series.

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■ Posted 10th June 2015 @ 10am in Comedy, Internet, Television. No Comments Yet.

Pillar of the Community

If I can tear myself away from the latest opus from Sam Wollaston, my current favourite piece about television is this absolutely magnificent post by Jason Hazeley: is there a missing episode of Ever Decreasing Circles?

“For many years, British television series were produced in runs of six, seven or thirteen weekly episodes. There was a good reason for this: a 52-week year divides nicely into thirteens, and thirteens split into sixes and sevens. Often, that seventh episode was a bonus – say, a Christmas special. Currently, series length is more fluid: fours are common, and there have been some very good (and shout-about funny) series that have only run for three episodes: Cowards, for instance, the first series of Getting On, and the first two series of The Thick Of It.

Series one of Ever Decreasing Circles (1984) has five episodes. That’s odd. (And not just literally.) It’s one short. The second series has eight. That’s one over (even with its bonus Christmas episode). Was one programme lost from the first series and cashed in on re-commission to make up the shortfall? And if so, why?”

It’s a tale which will take you through half-remembered actor’s recollections, to cold hard facts with scanned scripts and programme numbers. Crucially, however, it also sheds some light on what the show was perhaps intended to be… and how differently it turned out. What looks at first to just be about an unproduced script actually turns out to be about the entire heart of the series. It’s one of the best investigative pieces on sitcom I have ever read.

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■ Posted 9th June 2015 @ 11am in Comedy, Internet, Television. No Comments Yet.

Duncan Newmarch: “The Jingles I Grew Up With”

I’ve linked to many jingle montages in my time. This, however, is something special. The above audio is 2 hours 10 minutes long – and is really less of a jingle montage, and more of a journey through one man’s radio history.

That man is Duncan Newmarch – former radio DJ and producer, current BBC television continuity announcer. I caught up with him for a brief chat about his creation… and what radio means to him.

JOHN: So, what the hell is this, and why have you made it?

DUNCAN: (laughing) That’s a good question! I’ve got to come up with an answer.

Well, the idea was to mix hissy old cassette recordings with lovely clean copies from master tapes and CDs of all the things I just loved listening to as a kid. This is the radio and the jingles that I have grown up with. I did play a few little bits and pieces to somebody and they said: “You can hear where it goes from the crappy quality to lovely, crisp clean explosions… why don’t you just make the whole thing mono and make it sound like it’s from a medium wave speaker?” And I thought “Well, that’s not the point”. I think anybody can find old cassette copies of old radio. If you could have taken all that radio from the 80s and the 90s, how would it have sounded through their headphones? Because I grew up listening to Radio 1 in medium wave, and it sounded horrible for most of the time! But of course, in the studio, they were listening to it sounding beautiful.

But yeah, how do you describe it in one sentence? It’s a radio trip down memory lane, isn’t it?

I just spend so much time in the car. I wanted to have something that I could start at home, and get all the way to work and it still hadn’t finished. And the problem is, I don’t think I’ve changed a lot from being a ten year old – I’m still listening to really weird stuff in the car, rather than just putting the radio on. As a kid, like most kids of the 80s, I had this drawer under the bed which was just full of cassettes. But rather than them being filled with music, I was one of those boys who recorded the Top 40, and had my finger over the Pause button – but rather than recording the music and stopping the tape when Bruno Brookes would start to speak, I was the wrong way round! So I’d be recording what he said, to try and get copies of all the jingles, and all of the silliness in-between.

So there was all these cassettes which I found recently, and I thought: “Well, what the point of having this if you don’t listen to it?” There are lots of jingle collectors, and I don’t blame them, but they’ve got all these jingles and they never listen to them. So I wanted to archive all of those cassettes, and then, rather than just listening to them, mix these hissy old recordings with lovely clean quality versions of all the jingles and the beds and all the things I loved listening to as a kid, and unfortunately still love listening to them now.

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■ Posted 5th June 2015 @ 12pm in Jingles, Radio. No Comments Yet.

Xtended Revisited

As this place is a bit quiet at the moment, I thought I’d point you towards some stuff I’ve been doing over on Ganymede & Titan – the Red Dwarf fansite where my writing has been recently described as “uneducated, vulgar and puerile”. (To be fair, at least two of those descriptions are entirely correct.)

My latest series of articles has a rather bizarre history. The first one was published in 2007, but I only got round to finishing the rest of them over the last couple of months… a full eight years later. (My excuse is that I got very depressed at how bad the actual episode was when I tried to write the second article, but an eight year delay may well be taking things a bit too far.) The subject matter, however, is very much one of my favourites – comparing different versions of the same material. Previous examples on this site include a comparison of the broadcast and VHS edits of Smashie & Nicey: The End of an Era, and a look at the pre-watershed edits of I’m Alan Partridge. Very much in this vein, this set of articles compare the original broadcast versions of four episodes of Red Dwarf with the extended versions released on VHS/DVD.

It strikes me that these articles are exactly the kind of thing which induce a rather glazed look in some people’s eyes. I vividly recall, when talking about a planned article comparing the broadcast version of a Men Behaving Badly episode with its original script, somebody posing the simple question: why?

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■ Posted 23rd May 2015 @ 6am in Comedy, Television. No Comments Yet.

Acorn Fools’ Day

Detail of The Micro User scan

April Fools’ Day tends to get a bit of a bad rap these days. Every year, my Twitter feed gets more and more filled with complaints about how lame it is. As someone involved in a few April Fools over the years, I admit I find myself getting a bit defensive about it. My argument: it’s easy to get hung up on the “prank” aspect of it, with a roll of the eyes, or a scowl. The very best April Fools take the prank aspect as a starting point… and do something interesting instead. The real joy in most good April Fools gags is them going off and doing something else entirely.

The best example of this that I’ve been involved with was pretending the script for the Red Dwarf movie had been leaked. Sure, of course we were trying to fool people into thinking it was true. But beyond that, the actual script extracts we wrote as part of it… kinda have their own interest. They certainly set my mind thinking as to how a Red Dwarf movie would work – which ends up being far more interesting than the actual prank itself.

Still, I get it. Perhaps the internet does make the day lose a bit of its lustre. These days, as soon as you wake up on April 1st and check online, you’re inundated with EVERY WEBSITE DOING A FUNNY. It can get rather wearing, especially when there’s so much crap about – and as you’re automatically on your guard, the whole thing is far less fun. In the old days, it was different. The April edition of a magazine might plop on your mat, way before April 1st… and maybe, just maybe, catch you unawares. The whole thing had a… less mechanical air.

Which leads us to this article. Some of my favourite April Fools growing up were in the pages of Acorn User and The Micro User; two Acorn computing magazines I was absolutely besotted with. I thought it’d be fun to take a look at some of the April Fools they ran over the years. It’s not a complete rundown of every single one they ever did – just a sample of some of the more interesting ones. Neither are they all gold: I’ve not cherry-picked just the really good ones just to make my point. But it’s a nice reminder of the days when April Fools gags were given just a little time to breathe.

It’s also perhaps a reminder that some of the best April Fools gags are often ones targeted at a very specific audience, rather than a general one. By their very nature, April Fools are a bit self-indulgent – and they’re one place where in-jokes can run riot to very good effect. (Another reason why I think some of the Red Dwarf ones I’ve been involved in work so well.) If you don’t have the background knowledge required for some of these, they’ll inevitably fall rather flat. I’ll give some notes as we go, but that’s very much Worth Bearing In Mind.

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■ Posted 1st April 2015 @ 12pm in Best Of, Computers. No Comments Yet.

Jingle History 101

“Hey, whatta ya say, it’s a great new day and we’re livin’, with 1010 WINS
Hey, whatta ya say, let’s get underway, we’re really livin’ W-I-N-S
It’s the right spot, 1010, it’s the bright spot, that’s WINS
The 1010 spot on your dial, and suddenly it swings
Hey, whatta ya say, have a happy day ‘cause we’re livin’, with 1010 WINS
W-I-N-S!”

– PAMS Series 13 “Target”, Cut #1, 1959

One recurring theme here on Dirty Feed can be summed up by the following: “Hey, jingles are fun”. This is a really good example.

A topic I’ve touched on before is the world of jingle syndication: the idea that whilst a jingle may originally be sung for a specific radio station, versions of that jingle can then be sung for different stations or uses all over the world. Here is an ultra-simple example of this; a single two-second jingle sung many different times. (Yeah, the final one is my favourite. Bite me.)

Last month, JAM Creative Productions1 uploaded the following fun bit of audio. It’s the above idea… taken to its absolute extreme. A jingle originally sung in 1959 for station 1010 WINS in New York – resung in 2015, with brand new lyrics, for internet station Rewound Radio. Take a listen below.

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  1. a.k.a. My Favourite Jingle Company.  

■ Posted 18th March 2015 @ 7pm in Jingles, Radio. 1 Comment.

High & Low

High & Low clapperboard In lieu of anything new on here for a bit, I thought I’d point towards a few articles I’ve written over on Ganymede & Titan – the Red Dwarf fansite described by none other than Norman Lovett as a “sad little site for people who haven’t got anything better to do”. Our latest series of articles is called High & Low, and is basically BuzzFeed but better.

My three articles are about the best and worst:

So, y’know. Click on those. Or just listen to Shampoo instead, I’m not bothered.

■ Posted 12th March 2015 @ 7pm in Comedy, Television. No Comments Yet.

11 Things Wrong With Fawlty Towers

Flowery Twats sign

One of my favourite DVD commentaries I’ve ever heard is John Cleese’s on the Fawlty Towers Remastered box set.1 Of course, I could listen to John Cleese talk about comedy forever and a day, but more than that: it’s rare to hear someone of his generation so utterly committed to the art of giving a good commentary. Having clearly rewatched the episodes in preparation, there are very few awkward pauses; the whole thing is dense with facts. Moreover, rarely has someone been so endlessly generous in talking about the talents of the cast of a show… and genuinely makes you appreciate why they are so good, rather than just gushing.

My favourite thing about the commentary, though?2 His thoughts, 30 years later, as to which parts of Fawlty Towers are his favourite, and which bits he likes the least. The former have been talked about before – Basil’s Best Bits on Gold, for example – but I find the latter especially interesting. Having read a number of ill-thought-through criticisms of Fawlty Towers over the years, it seems the only person who actually has any sensible ones is a certain J. Cleese.

Here then, are some of his least favourite things about the show, as taken from his commentary. I’ve picked what I think is his most interesting criticism of each episode. Enjoy.

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  1. That’s Remastered in the Doctor Who Restoration Team sense, rather than this one

  2. Apart from the fact that he makes very clear that the show was written by him and Connie Booth, and not by him alone. 

■ Posted 11th February 2015 @ 4pm in Best Of, Comedy, Television. 1 Comment.

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