The dozenth episode of the podcast which asks: were Senser any good at Laser Quest?
This episode – another pop-blather behemoth – sees us stepping right out of our comfort zone and looking at an episode from the mid-Nineties. A golden era when, as we all know, the charts were weighed down with young men with guitars and Paddington coats that made us all proud to be British again.
The episode we examine, however, sees The Greatest Pop TV Show Ever at the beginning of its death throes as it begins its run of celeb presenters with Tetley Tea Folk-soundalike Mark Owen and Robbie Williams, who is already starting to get on all right-thinking peoples’ tits with his endless mugging. The charts – our precious, beautiful, immaculate charts! – are treated with the utmost distain while we’re constantly reminded of an exclusive premiere of a Madonna video, which is an advert for a film we’ve never heard of.
Yes, Blur are on at the beginning, but that’s your Britlot. What follows is a parade of people we thought we’d safely left behind in the Eighties, loads of Euro-acts both good and bad, Alison Moyet being forced to submit to an unrelenting biff-boff beat and a No.1 that left us hankering for the days of Jive Bunny. On the upside, Roachford manages to get through a song without shitting himself (allegedly).
Luckily, Al Needham is joined by Neil Kulkarni and Simon Price – who both worked for Melody Maker at the time, and take the opportunity to offer invaluable advice for anyone looking to break into the music press a quarter of a century ago and trade war stories about riding bikes on a dancefloor with the Sugarcubes, finding a message on their answering machine from lead singers threatening to break their legs, apologising for being gingist in the past, and having a potential fight being broken up by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine.
The eleventh episode of the podcast which asks: is anyone willing to swap a Fonz action figure for a ‘Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets – Heterosexual Rock n’ Roll’ badge?
This episode, Pop-Crazed Youngsters, has been a bastard to put together, and the sound quality may be a bit manky at times – but oh, what a glistening slab of televisual spangliness awaits us. It’s a full-on Flags & Balloons TOTP, this one, overseen by the circular face of The Hairy Breakfast Brunch Bar (who has wisely been kept away from The Kids and is monitored at all times), and the air is ripe with the soggy Lycra tang of the universally-despised Zoo.
But no matter – this episode is a veritable time capsule of the early 80s. Kool and The Gang drop the world’s most unwatchable video ever, which is danced to by another not-very-good troupe, Shakin’ Stevens places his white-shod foot upon the throat of the charts of the Eighties, DLT commands the BBC cameramen to stalk Claire Grogan at all times, The Stranglers look on in disgust at Zoo, and there’s the longest discussion of Brown Sauce ever conducted by three grown men. And Dollar. And Bucks Fizz.
Al Needham is joined by Taylor Parkes and Simon Price for a solid examination of a glorious episode of The Pops, veering off to brag about who they’ve had a drink with, why you shouldn’t use Dettol to treat facial acne, seeing Morph laid out in a glass coffin, the declining standards of World Cup mascots, and getting battered on Top Of The Form because of Noel fucking Coward. And swearing. AND Chris Needham’s new record!
The tenth episode of the podcast which asks: when did vest and pants go from being an instrument of self-expression to a punishment for leaving your games kit at home?
This episode, Pop-Crazed Youngsters, sees us going back further than we’ve ever been before, to a time where Beatle wigs are still in Woolworths and nobody seems to mind that the BBC have taped some horse racing over their coverage of the Moon Landings. And what delights await us, as we see a show still in its embryonic stage and groping – but not in a DLT manner – towards the format we all know and love.
As always, the music therein is a proper lucky bag of randomness – the serious bands are away doing albums, so the void is filled with loads of songs that never even get a sniff of the Top 30, a folky Sixtiesness that refuses to go away, and tons and tons of the purest pop. The Jackson Five cause an older-than-usual audience to do berserk and forget that a cameraman is looking up their micro-minis, John Lennon allows us to be a fly on the wall at an Apple board meeting, Pans People let the Dads down big style, and Cheryl Vernon stands outside a church, waving flowers about with a face like a smacked arse. And Tony gets a silver cup. And Peter Marinello is intimidated by a girl with eyelashes like huntsman spiders.
Al Needham is joined by Neil Kulkarni and Taylor Parkes for a Stan-out-of-On-The-Buses-like leer at the dawn of the Seventies, breaking off to talk about our fathers’ love of dog food, why Country Dancing was a thing in West Midlands schools, the toys we never got and still want, and being disappointed to discover that colour TV was just a load of dots, really. And all the swearing you could possibly want.
The ninth episode of the podcast which asks: were England’s international failures of the 1970s caused by an insistence on playing football on beaches in massive flares and stack heels while pretending to be Marvin Gaye?
This episode, Pop-Crazed Youngsters, sees us making another Sam Tyler-like voyage to Spangleland in an attempt to see if 1974 could keep up the quality levels of the year before, or if it was already lurching into the hell of 1975. What we discover is a Bizarro-world in which Noel Edmonds stands out as a bouffanted, proto-Medallion Man object of genuine teenage lust amongst the sullen, lank-haired youth.
Musicwise, we see ‘new’ bands taking wing (Mud, in their Glam-Ted Vishnu phase), older bands calming themselves down (Slade, doing a ballad) or on their way out (Mungo Jerry, we’re looking at you), and people absolutely losing their shit over The Wombles. Pans People cause your Dad’s tea to slide right off his lap as they don the flounciest, bounciest nighties ever, Bill Haley is unearthed and put on display, the Terry Jacks Deathwatch drags on for another week, and history is made as Abba yomp all the way from Brighton to Shepherds Bush to begin their glacial reign over the Seventies.
Al Needham is joined by Simon Price and David Stubbs to discuss all of this, as well as rubbish funeral songs, supporting a football team that looks like your favourite mug, BBC Families v ITV Families, believing that pop songs are actually news bulletins, and the Celtic ritual of Crisp Sacrifice. And all the swearing you could possibly want.
The eighth edition of the podcast which asks: a new version of Top Of The Pops with sketches? FUCK OFF!
This episode sees the controls of the Time Sofa hijacked by our own Simon Price, who force-lands it smack in the middle of 1981. He’s been saying for ages that ’81 is the greatest Pop year ever, forcing us to throw down the frilly, fingerless gauntlet.
Things start weirdly with Simon Bates looking like a supply teacher and the return of Slade and Alvin, but then it’s wave after wave of ‘bands’ that don’t even have proper drums and make records by just pressing a button, don’t you know, interspersed with black men slinking about and even getting skinheads to wave their hands in the air.
Any Brexiteers who can stomach Leee John being all sexually threatening and David Sylvian looking like Lady Di will be trapping a creased-up England flag in their bedroom windows in unrestrained joy to see a practically all-British line-up, and Madness have dropped another video, but it’s not all good news: Barbara Gaskin comes on like a glammed-up Candice-Marie in Nuts In May, and a soon-to-be-on-the-dole Legs & Co look on as Lulu scabs out and dances with someone called Jeremy.
Al Needham, Taylor Parkes and Simon Price pick through the dress-up box that is 1981, veering off to discuss dog auto-fellatio, throwing Molotov cocktails into Welsh churches, whether people in Birmingham are proud of Crossroads (or not), cousins who get pissed up at your auntie’s do and accuse you of being gay, and why it’s a bad idea to do an Ant Stripe with Tipp-Ex. The usual swearing, and edited dead fast in order to get it out before the end of the month, so if it’s shonkier than usual, soz.
The seventh episode of the podcast which asks: if Les Dennis and Dustin Gee were Torvill and Dean, who would be who?
This episode sees us firmly on the wrong half of the Eighties, with Live Aid a mere five-and-a-bit weeks behind us, and the Greatest Pop Programme Ever is not coping very well with it. At all. For starters, it’s been shunted up to 7.55pm to make way for Eastenders, The Kids are burdened with pom-poms and manky pastels and pushed right to the back of the studio and danced at by Pineapple Studio Wankers, there’s a compulsion to lob in as many videos as possible, Garry Davies is wearing an appalling jacardigan, and there’s Steve Wright.
As for the actual music, Lisa Lisa is with Cult Jam (but without Full Force), Drive by The Cars is trotted out for the second year running, Kate Bush rises about it all as usual, Stock Aitken and Waterman make a record that actually manages not to get on your wick. and oh look, there’s Madonna with her pits over the hand dryer. And there’s a woman cupping a right handful of a gorilla’s breasts.
Al Needham is joined by Taylor Parkes and Neil Kulkarni for an unflinching gaze into the open wound of post-Live Aid Pop, breaking off to discuss failed Marxist dictatorships in Ethiopia, failed attempts at breakdancing, Psychobilly caravan holidays in Skegness, persistently homosexual Mexicans, the Curse of Arsewasher’s Back, and white boys from villages going to black hair salons in order to look like a wrestler. And swearing.
This sixth episode of the podcast which asks: a Lego submarine full of maggots? Really?
This episode sees us throwing ourselves between two stools marked ‘GLAM/FUNK’ and ‘PUNK/DISCO’ and sprawling awkwardly in the space marked ‘1975’, in order to check whether it really was one of the tawdrier years for Pop. Spoiler alert: yes, it rather is, actually.
Emperor Rosko (looking for all the world like a Transatlantic Stu Francis) empties out a massive lucky bag of Pop-rammel, which includes people in silhouette pretending to have oral sex with Telly Savalas, someone who wasn’t brave enough to be Alvin Stardust hiding behind a dog, Chicken-In-A-Basket (but really decent chicken, not Findus) soul, And Pan’s People aredressed like sexy, sexy Vileda SuperMops.
It’s not all bad, however: The Sweet come back hard on their tottery platform heels one last time, the Goodies wear matching dungarees with a ‘G’ on them, like radical-feminist Crips, Susan Cadogan drops one of the greatest reggae tunes of the decade, and it’s 1975 and Bohemian Rhapsody hasn’t come out yet, so you already know what’s No.1.
Al Needham is joined by Neil Kulkarni and Simon Price for a proper snuffle around the bell-bottomed, tartan-fringed crotch of April ’75, veering off to sing disgusting variations of Bay City Roller songs, discuss why pirate radio was a bit crap, actually, the thrill of Snuff Delivery Day in old peoples homes in Coventry, and being bequeathed platform shoes by your father. The longest episode yet, full to the brim with swearing.