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Gold perfection: February 14 1984 ~ when Torvill and Dean skated into immortality

February 14, 2014

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Red hot on the ice: they mayn’t have been a couple for years but Torvill and Dean’s sublime performance to Ravel’s Boléro made-up a (semi-) loved-up Blighty on Valentine’s Day 1984

Ah, Valentine’s Day, eh? We all know the drill, don’t we – romantic dinners out, rose petals, cherubs and cardboard-mounted declarations of love (conveniently phrased by greeting cards’ copywriters). But 30 years ago today, the drill was very different for Blighty’s – and the world’s – leading ice skating pair, Nottingham’s Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean, the biggest thing to have come out of that most provincial of cities since Robin Hood.

For today promised to be their day of destiny; the day they performed their best – maybe anyone’s best – ice skating routine ever witnessed; the day they’d burn up the ice, whup the opposition into a pulp and bring home the gold; the day their remarkable careers would reach its dizzying zenith. And, yes, peeps, they only went and did it – did it with bells on, in fact; or rather with that hypnotic Boléro-ific drumbeat on. For this was the day ice skating was changed forever with their passionate, intoxicating, beautiful and unforgettable routine; the day Torvill and Dean became as famous as Cupid himself.

So, here it is, George’s Journal‘s image-, quote- and (at its end) video clip-packing celebration of the 30th anniversary of Torvill and Dean’s glorious triumph at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics. Get those ‘sixes’ ready, folks, because here we go…

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“Tonight we reached the pinnacle. I don’t remember the performance at all. It just happened. But I think it was the most emotional performance we have ever given. What just happened out there – getting the medals – that is what we’ve worked for so hard for so long” ~ Christopher Dean

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GBR FIGURE TORVILL & DEAN

Great skate: following the performance, the scoreboard makes it official – Torvill and Dean’s incredible routine has made history by scoring an utterly unprecedented perfect six score for ‘artistic impression’ from all nine judges; their winning the gold medal is now a formality 

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“I just don’t believe it. I don’t think we’ll get to bed tonight at all. I just want to say hello and thank the people of Nottingham” ~ Jane Torvill

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Royal encounter: Torvill and Dean and their coach Bettie Callaway (centre) meet Princess Anne around midnight, hours after their performance – they’d been up since around 5am in order to get a private practice session in; at home, 24 million Brits have watched them win the gold

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“Nowadays, with the rules of the competition, it’s quite a technical thing rather than a creative thing. The skaters have to include certain types of lifts, certain types of steps – none of which are contained in Boléro. So I don’t know how it would go down – we’d probably be breaking the rules” ~ Jane Torvill (radiotimes.com, February 11 2014)

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Not so tiny ice dancers: Elton John’s presenting them with the BBC’s 1984 Sports Personality of the Year award in December confirmed that Torvill and Dean had become British superstars; by now they’d already ‘gone professional’ – they would dominate international professional competition for the next 10 years before returning to the Olympics and winning a bronze 

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“In my heart, Torvill and Dean will always still be above everyone” ~  Evgeny Platov, the Russian skater whom with partner Oksana Grishuk beat the Brits to gold at the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Games (radiotimes.com, February 11 2014)

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Further reading/ viewing:

torvillanddean.com

Torvill And Dean: The Perfect Day documentary on the BBC iPlayer

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Playlist: Listen, my (un)loved-up friends! ~ February 2014

February 7, 2014

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In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy (whether you’re loved-up or loveless come Valentine’s Day)…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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Dooley Wilson ~ As Time Goes By from Casablanca (1942)

Patsy Cline ~ Crazy (1961)1

Jimmy Bryant (Richard Beymer) and Marni Nixon (Natalie Wood) Tonight from West Side Story (1961)

Skeeter Davis ~ The End Of The World (1962)

Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot ~ Bonnie And Clyde (1968)

Janis Joplin and Tom Jones Raise Your Hand (1969)

Dean Martin and Goldie Hawn ~ A Word A Day (1969)2

Neil Diamond and Shirley Bassey ~ Play Me (1974)3

Herbie Hancock My Funny Valentine (1979)

Miss Piggy and Roger Moore On A Slow Boat To China (1980)4

Cybill Shepherd Medley: Blue Moon/ I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out (1985)5

Kiri Te Kanawa and Jose Carreras Finale Ultimo (1986)

Alan Silvestri ~ End Title from Romancing The Stone (1984)

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1 As featured in a more-than-memorable scene from the rom-com gem that’s Doc Hollywood (1991)

2 From the opening episode of Season 5 of The Dean Martin Comedy Hour (1965-74), first broadcast on September 18 1969 by the US NBC network; at the time Goldie Hawn was, of course, best known for portraying the ‘dumb blonde’ on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-73)

3 A duet of the red jumpsuited-Diamond’s classic 1972 hit, as performed on the The Shirley Bassey Show, the ’70s BBC prime-time variety vehicle for the Welsh belter

4 This sketch featured in Episode 24 of The Muppet Show (1976-81)’s fifth season, on which Roger Moore was the guest star

5 This medley appeared in the October 1985 ‘The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice’ episode of the irresistible, often fourth-wall breaking comedy drama Moonlighting (1985-89); one of the show’s most popular episodes with both the public and critics, in 1997 it was voted #34 on TV Guide magazine’s list of the ‘100 Greatest TV Episodes Of All Time’

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At the peak of his powers: the very best of Bob Peak’s poster art

January 19, 2014

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Selling the dream: Bob Peak’s all-time classic efforts for Superman, Apocalypse Now and Star Trek: The Motion Picture are just three of his utterly unforgettable movie poster masterpieces

Nowadays, sadly more than 20 years after his death, he’s often referred to as ‘the father of the modern movie poster’ and, genuinely, it’s a title that’s not ill-fitting for the late, the great Bob Peak. Many of his illustrative advertisements for Hollywood flicks of lore are ubiquitous – and have been since they were created back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. They’re simply among the greatest and most iconic movie posters ever created.

During those three aforementioned decades, Peak – along with his similarly brilliant rival Drew Struzan – was Tinseltown’s go-to-man for producing engaging, nay captivating posters that would stick long in the memory (sometimes longer than the contents of the movies they advertised). Originally a geology student and after serving his time in the Korean War, he returned to college to study art and, coming out the other end, settled in New York and set himself up as a commercial artist.

Almost immediately he was in demand – as soon as 1961 he was called on to produce  the poster for the blockbusting, Oscar-magnet musical adaptation of West Side Story. And after that, the film poster commissions came his way in an incessant surge – among them, My Fair Lady (1964), Camelot (1967), Rollerball (1975), Superman (1978), Apocalypyse Now (1979) the Star Trek series and more than one Bond film (see ’em all below).

But what was so special about Peak’s posters? Quite simply, marrying avant garde techniques (tracers of light and art deco-esque bold lines) to brilliant realisations of form (verticals and diagonals, triangles and circles) along with an outstanding ability at portaiture and, overall, an imagination overflowing with ideas, he brought a vitality and unforgettableness to poster design which was perfect, in particular, for the genres of the (admittedly) fading big-budget musical and the undoubtedly stratospheric-seeking fantasy adventure.

His work was, however, far from limited merely to cinema. He was actually far more prolific in magazine advertorial and cover images – his artwork for the likes of Time, Cosmopolitan and TV Guide (US) running into the hundreds. Much of these such efforts were far from the intoxicatingly dreamy recipes he cooked up for Hollywood, yet were no less striking; often exhibiting his ability for creating fast, stark, loose and bold work full of movement and interesting perspective.

A stylish man in himself with a love for beautiful, fast cars, Bob Peak was stolen from us all too soon. Were he still around, who knows, maybe the best of today’s blockbusters would be advertised via feasts for the eyes at his hand? One can only speculate – and inspired by the best of his poster art – dream away…

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CLICK on the images for full-size 

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Sci-fi, spy-fi and fantasy

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Superman (1978)

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bob_peak_superman_unused_art_jor-el bob_peak_superman_unused_artwork_clark_kent

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Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)/ Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)/
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)/ Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1987)

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bob_peak_star_trek_iii_the_search_for_spock_poster bob_peak_star_trek_iv_the_voyage_home_poster

Star Trek: The Motion Picture – unused artwork

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The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)/ Licence To Kill (1989)

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.Excalibur (1981)

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Rollerball (1975)/ Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

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Adventures and musicals

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Apocalypse Now (1979)

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bob_peak_apocalypse_now_unused_poster_artwork_2 bob_peak_apocalypse_now_unused_poster_artwork_3

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Every Which Way But Loose (1978)/ Any Which Way You Can (1980)

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Any Which Way You Can – unused artwork

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The Voyage (1974)/ The Year Of Living Dangerously (1983)

bob_peak_the_voyage_poster bob_peak_the_year_of_living_dangerously_poster

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The Missouri Breaks (1976)/ Pale Rider (1985)

bob_peak_the_missouri_breaks_poster bob_peak_pale_rider_poster

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.My Fair Lady (1964)/ Funny Girl (1968)

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The Wiz (1978)/ Hair (1979)

bob_peak_the_wiz_poster bob_peak_hair_poster

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Camelot (1967)/ Pennies From Heaven (1981) 

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Advertising, articles and sport

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7 Up/ Winston cigarettes/ Lord West men’s clothing/ Hanging Loose slacks

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Illustrations for 1964 Cosmopolitan magazine article ‘Never Marry For Love’/
Illustration for spy-themed Life magazine article ‘for boys’ 

bob_peak_1964_cosmopolitan_article_illustration_'never_marry_for_love' bob_peak_1964_cosmopolitan_article_illustration_'never_marry_for_love'_2bob_peak_'photi_spy_illustration_for_boy's_life_magazine

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1984 Olympic Games illustrations for the US Mail postage stamps

bob_peak_official_1984_olympics_hurdles_poster_for_us_postal_service bob_peak_official_1984_olympics_speedskating_us_postage_stamp_design bob_peak_official_1984_olympics_archery_poster_for_us_postal_service bob_peak_official_1984_olympics_torville_and_dean_iceskating_poster_for_us_postal_service

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bob_peak

Bob Peak

(1927-92)

 

All images are copyright Bob Peak and – along with many more – can be found in the coffee-table book The Art Of Bob Peak

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Further reading:

bobpeak.com

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Playlist: Listen, my friends ~ January 2014

January 1, 2014

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In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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Julie Andrews ~ Auld Lang Syne (1973)1

Medley: Astrud Gilberto ~ The Girl From Ipanema/ The Standells ~ Bony Maronie/ The Dave Clark Five ~ Whenever You’re Around (1964)2

Pete Moore ~ Asteroid (Pearl & Dean cinema advertisements theme/ 1968)3 

Iron Butterfly ~ In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 ~ Norwegian Wood (1969)

Family ~ The Weaver’s Song (1969)

Ron Goodwin ~ Main Theme from Where Eagles Dare (1969)

Stevie Wonder ~ He’s Misstra Know It All (1973)

Aerosmith ~ Sweet Emotion (1975)4

Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five ~ The Message (1982)

Salif Keita ~ Sina (1987)

Belinda Carlisle ~ Live Your Life Be Free (1991)

Slade ~ Auld Lang Syne (1985)5 

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1 Most likely performed on the US TV-broadcast Julie’s Christmas Special

2 From Get Yourself A College Girl (1964), a member of the now curious rock-‘n’-roll-bands-featuring-teen-movie genre, which also boasts performances by The Animals and a non-singing Nancy Sinatra

3 This is a bit of a cheat as composer Pete Moore’s original Asteroid theme was only 18 seconds long; this version was created recently by re-recording and significantly extending the original. However, it does impressively feature the same three male voices (‘ba-bah, ba-bah, ba-bah, ba-b-b-bah!’) as its 1968 predecessor

4 As featured over the opening credits of the awesome 1976-set school’s-out-for-the-summer classic flick Dazed And Confused (1993)

5 The bagpipes on this Hogmanay-cum-Celtic-centric take on the classic New Year tune (featuring the words of Robert Burns’ poem, of course) were played by one Victor Herman, discovered by Slade guitarist Dave Hill busking in Oxford Street, London. Hill immediately invited him to play on this track, which he did and, at the end of the recording session, the band gave him an envelope containing a sizaeable sum of money as thanks for his efforts. Days later, however, Herman returned the money, claiming performing on the record was enough for him. As a compromise, Slade invited him along to play at their ‘Christmas Party’ (the launch of the album from which this track comes, Crackers: The Christmas Party Album), an invite which Herman happily took up.

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50 years ago this year ~ that was when…

December 31, 2013

Christine Keeler

Bad times for a good-time girl: Christine Keeler poses for Lewis Morley’s iconic photo snapped at the height of 1963’s Profumo Affair in Peter Cook’s Establishment Club in London’s Soho

Too often, many dismiss the early ’60s as a continuation of the ’50s before the colourful, exuberant and blink-and-you’ll-miss it Swinging Sixties got underway in ’64, but that view does a great disservice to one of the most dynamic, surprising and eventful years of that – or frankly any – decade, yes, 1963.

So, in this third and final post of George’s Journal‘s trilogy of ‘retro reviews of the years’ to close 2013, join me in taking a look back at 1963 – the year when fascinatingly the ’60s began curling up the corners…

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CLICK on the entry titles for video clips

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December 26 1962-March 6 1963 ~ that was when…
Britain endured the worst winter in living memory

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Believe it or not, there’s one, single word that perfectly describes the start of Britain’s 1963: snow. Those who remember it recall it in much the same way as the seemingly unending summer of ’76, but for entirely the opposite reason, of course. It all started late on Boxing Day the previous year when – it must have seemed whimsically and cosily right on Christmas – the snow started to fall and heavily at that. By the turn of the year, the country was covered in snow drifts and, into January, the air temperature failed to rise above freezing (its average was -2.1°C), ensuring it was the coldest month of the entire 20th Century. Many waterways froze over, leading to a man driving a car across the Thames in Oxford and the Beeb speculating whether the Straits of Dover might freeze. In February, more snow piled up on that already frozen solid, ensuring in some parts the drifts were extraordinarily more than six metres deep. The biggest cultural effect of the astonishing winter (apart from more remote villages in the country stuggling against being totally cut off) was on the sporting calendar – some FA Cup football ties were rescheduled at least 10 times. But then come March, it was over as soon as it had started. On the sixth day of the month, Blighty experienced its first morning of the year without frost and the thaw verily began, ensuring the temperature rapidly rose to as high as 17°C. To say it was all snow joke is an enormous understatement – not to mention an exceedingly bad pun.

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February 11 1963 ~ that was when…
… The Beatles recorded their debut album in a day

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It’s rather hard to imagine in some ways, but once upon a time – and, relatively speaking, not that long ago – nobody outside of Liverpool (or Hamburg) had ever heard of The Beatles. Admittedly, you’ve got to go back 50 years now for when that was last the case because on this date in February ’63, John, Paul, George and Ringo recorded their very first album under the guidance of producer supremo George Martin at London’s Abbey Road Studios. It’s a mark of just how big they’d become that those studios would become synonymous with them (not least thanks to 1969’s Abbey Road album and its cover art), but back on that wintry day they were so definitely nobodies they were only allowed a single day-long sitting in which to record Please Please Me – between 10am and 11pm. After which the record was quickly mixed by engineers and released a couple of months later. The album then scaled the dizzy heights of the UK charts faster than you can say Mean Mr Mustard, eventually hitting the top spot like so many of its successors and The Fabs were on their fabulous way.

Read – and see and hear – more on The Beatles’ recording Please Please Me here

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June 12 1963 ~ that was when…
the world finally got to see Dick and Liz in Cleopatra

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It took three years to film; was the most expensive movie ever made for 25 years (inflation unadjusted; more than one seventh of its eventual budget of $44m was paid to star Taylor); was relocated for shooting twice (form Hollywood to London and then to Rome; the Carry On team didn’t mind its London sets had deteriorated – they filmed 1964’s Carry On Cleo on them); had several major casting changes (Burton and Rex Harrison replaced Stephen Boyd and Peter Finch) and saw its long-suffering, nay obsessed writer/ director Joseph L Mankiewicz fired and then re-hired to finish it (the studio 20th Century Fox realised nobody else could), all before it went on to become the only Number 1 box-office grosser of a year not to make an actual profit. Yet, although all these facts have rightly gone down in cinema lore and fascinate movie buffs, what really kept the punters of the day interested in the whole damn thing was its serving as the backdrop to the beginning of the stormy, extraordinary love affair of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The glamorous Hollywood insider since childhood, Taylor (whom, before the production had shifted to Rome, had become life-threateningly ill, delaying filming further but aiding her a somewhat sympathetic Oscar win for 1960’s Butterfield 8) was arguably the world’s biggest star; the Welsh valley-boy-done-good, Burton was easily one of the greatest stage and screen actors – and boozers – of his generation. They weren’t exactly chalk and cheese, but to the outsider they may not have been far off, yet even before anyone got to see Cleopatra or the pair became a sort of life-imitates-art Scarlett and Rhett over the years to come, for a gripped public their controversial affair (Burton was still married) was extravagant and electric. In the end, their scenes together in the film (like much in the, from the beginning, artistically doomed  project) hardly set the world alight – but isn’t so often the thrill of the chase more fun than the eventual clinch?

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August 8 1963 ~ that was when…
the Great Train Robbery was committed

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A generation born in the ’70s and ’80s has grown up looking upon Ronnie Biggs as a cheeky-chappy ex-pat living the high life in South America, while believing Buster Edwards was a groovy kind of lover who looked and sounded a lot like Phil Collins. Yet, contrary to perceptions formed from whimsy, Biggs and – especially – Edwards were players in a smartly planned if far from perfectly orchestrated, occasionally violent and breathtakingly audacious armed robbery of a Royal Mail train bulging with banknotes. As detailed so finely in the BBC’s recent double-header dramatisation of the event (made to mark its 50th anniversary), the amount of loot the job’s architect Bruce Reynolds and his gang got away with was staggering – £2.6m (the equivalent of £46m today). Nobody had ever got close to pinching that amount of moolah before – let alone of effectively Her Maj’s stash – yet the British public, gawd bless ’em, in a sign that things were a-changin’ (look out Harold Macmillan’s patriarchal government), viewed the robbers more as rascally scamps, even rather illogically as Robin Hood-like figures, than the violent villains who’d ripped off the entire country that The Establishment tried to paint them as. For this reason (in addition to the first of them caught being handed unprecedentedly large stretches in the clink), the robbery and its perpetrators have become the stuff of folklore; a link to an old-fashioned Blighty in which Cockney ne’er-do-wells sometimes came up against the powers that be and won. Sort of. The truth, of course, is that the robbery was actually the sort of hard-nosed crime (albeit without guns) very familiar to us today from an era less bygone, more on the verge of becoming the near recognisable UK of the more socially liberated, wealthier 1960s.

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August 28 1963 ~ that was when…
… Martin Luther King declared he ‘had a dream’

martin_luther_king_i_have_a_dream_speech

Already looked upon as the de facto leader of the US civil rights movement, Atlanta-born baptist preacher Dr Martin Luther King journeyed that sunny summer’s day to Washington DC with the thousands of other like-minded Americans hoping for a fairer, better future and topped an already near extraordinary march to the Lincoln Memorial by delivering there his extraordinary ‘I have a dream’ speech. A piece of statesmanship that still to this day can’t fail to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, it proved to be not just one of the defining moments of its year, but also of its entire decade – and may just have been the game-changer in the long road to the passing of unprecedented civil rights legislation in the Land of the Free.

Read – and see – more on Martin Luther King’s momentous speech here

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September 5 1963 ~ that was when…
… the Profumo Affair reached it zenith

Mono Negative

Surely the most significant – certainly the most sensational – thing to happen over here in ’63 was the Profumo Affair. In many ways (as the ‘Affair’ highlighted) Britian was a very different place to today’s UK, in others it wasn’t – for instance, the press was just as voraciously eager to unearth and bleed dry any political scandal it could lay its hands on, especially if it also involved illegality and sex. The Profumo Affair had it all. In 1962, the press caught wind that John Profumo, Minister for War in Harold Macmillan’s sitting Tory Government, had had an extra-marital affair with a beautiful and incredibly sexy would-be actress, model and showgirl named Christine Keeler. As the story progressed into ’63, the dots were joined and it became suspected Keeler and Profumo had been introduced by a London osteopath to the stars and party planner for them, Stephen Ward. At one such – and maybe more than one – party held by Ward, it was also established that a senior naval attaché at London’s Soviet Embassy, Yevgeny ‘Eugene’ Ivanov, was in attendance, and Keeler may have enjoyed a dalliance with him too. This being the height of the Cold War, the alarm bells rang for both the press and MI5 (whom questioned Keeler as to whether she may have been corralled into furnishing Ivanov with delicate information from Profumo, maybe even via Ward). In March, Profumo declared in Parliament that he was guilty of ‘no impropriety’, but just three months later he admitted he’d lied and resigned. Ward, who’d had a testimony filmed to defend the parties involved, was found guilty of apparently making earnings from prostitution (presumably involving Keeler, whom for a time had lived with him), but committed suicide before being sentenced. Then, on the date recorded above Keeler herself, to the unadulterated delight of the press, was questioned in court. The political fall-out was tremendous, in that it discredited Macmillan’s government (which was simultaneously being lampooned and ridiculed by the satiric likes of 1961-63’s That Was The Week That Was and the Beyond the Fringe performers), so much so that in October Macmillan resigned as PM and his party lost the following year’s General Election, which ushered in Harold Wilson’s more modern, progressive and unequivocally non-upper-class Labour government. Like with the Train Robbery, The Establishment had been rocked, but unlike with the latter, this time it had been – to some extent at least – knocked over.

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October 22 1963 ~ that was when…
Peter O’Toole played Hamlet in the National Theatre’s first ever performance

1963_peter_o'toole_hamlet_national_theatre

In 1948, the powers that be finally made good on British theatre’s ambitions to found an official National Theatre by giving the go-ahead for the, well, Royal National Theatre. Long before building actually started on the now universally acclaimed and adored bastion of UK arts on the South Bank, though, the thing finally got going in ’63 down the road at The Old Vic Theatre under the management of Laurence Olivier (who else?). And on this date the curtain rose on the Theatre’s opening production – a headline-grabbing version of Hamlet featuring in the lead Peter O’Toole (whom, straight after 1962’s Lawrence Of Arabia was the hottest thing since sliced bread). Yet, although great for publicity, O’Toole was generally considered far from a natural fit for the role, his blonde beauty and – especially – exuberant thesping a possible clash with the melancholia of the Bard’s greatest character. And that wasn’t to mention his boozing. Had Larry dropped a clanger? Well, following opening night, many critics were sniffy (Olivier himself had expected it), yet one was more than won over, for The Sunday Times‘ Harold Hobson wrote: ‘Great Britain may not yet have joined the Common Market, nor even adopted a system of decimal coinage, but at least in one respect … we are full and free in the main European tradition. The opening of our National Theatre … puts us side-by-side with at any rate France, Germany, Greece, Finland and Spain … If it is an equivocal thought that it has taken us well over a century to get level with Helsinki, it is comforting to reflect that we have in Hamlet a better play than any which these countries have written in the last thousand years’. Yes, the National Theatre was off-and-running, but surely nobody, least of all Olivier, could have envisaged the reverence in which it would be held half-a-century later.

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November 22 1963 ~ that was when…
… the world mourned the loss of JFK

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Tragically, of course, the already very memorable year that was 1963 had a sting in its tail – an event that would make it a momentous year; an event that would simply become infamous, the assassination of US President John F Kennedy. As practically anybody who’s switched on recalls or just knows, it occurred when he and First Lady Jackie were visiting Dallas, Texas, him dying within little more than minutes from gunshoot wounds sustained from a marksman’s rifle as they travelled in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza. To this day, it’s still far from clear, of course, whom the killer was – the smart money may still be on the man arrested for the crime (and murdered in full glare of the public and media just two days later), outcast Lee Harvey Oswald – thus conspiracy theories, including the likes of Soviet agents, the mafia and even the CIA and (ludicrously) Kennedy’s successor Lyndon B Johnson, rage to this day. What’s undeniable, though, is that just as it did when the civil rights legislation following Martin Luther King’s speech was eventually passed, America changed this sad, dark day. What’s also undeniable is that, astonishingly and far less well remembered, both towering British authors Aldous Huxley and CS Lewis died (from natural causes) on the same day.

Read – and see – more on the assassination of John F Kennedy here

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And finally…

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November 23 1963 ~ that was when…
… a sci-fi drama named Doctor Who was broadcast for the first time

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The year didn’t entirely finish on a downer, though, for (remarkably when one looks back) just one day after JFK’s assassaination, surely the best loved of that select band of Blighty’s longest running TV shows began. Yes, it was at teatime (5.15pm) on this autumnal Saturday that the most legendary of the Time Lords made his bow in the guise of William Hartnell. It wasn’t an immediate success, believe it or not. In fact, it wasn’t until the debut in mid-December of those dastardly pepper pots from Skaro, the Daleks, that Doctor Who (1963-present) truly took off and became essential viewing for children up and down the land – and their parents. Indeed, had that second serial of the show not been an unadulterated hit, The Doc may’ve had to return his TARDIS to Gallifrey before he’d really got going. So, yes, that’s right, this was the very first – and so far definitely only – time The Doctor was saved by his most deadly enemy. Who’da thunk it?

Read – and see – more on the very first Doctor Who serial (An Unearthly Childhere, on the show’s 50th anniversary special (The Day Of The Doctor) and the drama based on its beginnings (An Adventure In Space In Time) here, and read this blog’s countdown of the show’s 10 greatest moments from its entire 50 years here

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US top 10 box-office

1. Cleopatra $57,777,778
2. How The West Was Won  $46,500,000
3. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World  $46,332,858
4. Tom Jones $37,600,000
5. Irma La Douce $25,246,588
6. The Sword In The Stone $22,182,353
7. Son Of Flubber $22,129,412
8. The Birds $18,500,900
9. Dr No $16,067,035
10. The V.I.P.s $15,000,000

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UK top 10 best-selling singles

1. She Loves You The Beatles
2. From Me To You The Beatles
3. How Do You It? Gerry and the Pacemakers
4. I Like It Gerry and the Pacemakers
5. Confessin’ Frank Ifield
6. You’ll Never Walk Alone Gerry and the Pacemakers
7. Summer Holiday Cliff Richard
8. From A Jack To A King Ned Miller
9. The Next Time/ Bachelor Boy Cliff Richard
10. Do You Love Me? Brian Poole and The Tremeloes

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In memoriam…

Robert Frost (March 26 1874–January 29 1963)
Sylvia Plath (October 27 1932–February 11 1963)
Patsy Cline (September 8 1932–March 5 1963)
Max Miller (November 21 1894–May 7 1963)
Pope John XIII (November 25 1881–June 2 1963)
Pedro Armendáriz (May 9 1912–June 18 1963)
Guy Burgess (April 16 1911–August 30 1963)
Édith Piaf (December 19 1915–October 10 1963
Jean Cocteau (July 5 1889 –October 11 1963)
John F Kennedy (May 29 1917–November 22 1963)
Aldous Huxley (July 26 1894–November 22 1963)
CS Lewis (November 29 1898–November 22 1963)
Lee Harvey Oswald (October 18 1939–November 24 1963)
Dinah Washington (August 29 1924–December 14 1963)

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40 years ago this year ~ that was when…

December 30, 2013

awesome_album_covers_pink_floyd_the_dark_side_of_the_moon_animated

Us and them: prog rockers extraordinaire Pink Floyd united themselves with seemingly the entirety of the world’s record-buying public thanks to the release of their moody masterpiece – yes, the one with the above iconic light spectrum cover art – The Dark Side Of The Moon

You know, you can’t blame ’em. Peeps often look back on 1973 as one of the, well, crappier years of the Twentieth Century – constant union strikes across Britain, the Watergate scandal rocking the United States, the Arab-Israeli War igniting the Middle East and the oil crisis tipping the entire world towards recession. Yet, in spite of these unforgettable low-lights, the fourth annus of the ’70s offered significant cultural highlights too – many of which (even if we don’t remember them exactly occurring in this year) are recalled by folks with more than a smile.

So here we are then, in this, the second of George’s Journal‘s three retro ‘reviews of the year’ to conclude 2013, I give you, yes, 1973…

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CLICK on the ‘entry titles’ for video clips

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January 14 1973 ~ that was when…
Elvis said aloha from Hawaii (via satellite)

1973_elvis_aloha_from_hawaii_via_satellite

Ironically for a year remembered for a depressing recession, it actually kicked-off with a sunny and breezily nostalgic, global event thanks to the campy deliciousness that was Elvis Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite. Although actually not the first TV broadcast beamed live by the, at the time, highly space-aged seeming medium of Earth-orbiting electronic hardware (that was the one with The Beatles singing All You Need Is Love back in ’67), Elvis‘s shindig was still the first performance broadcast live via satellite by a solo performer. And, in spite of its ambitious aims (to reach 40 countries across Europe and Asia and turn around the faltering star’s fortunes) it turned out to be a roaring success. Impressively, there were no hiccups (just in case, a rehearsal had been taped two days earlier and The King had lost 25 pounds in its build-up) and the album it spawned Aloha From Hawaii: Via Satellite (1973) topped the US charts later in the year, thus giving Presley’s career the boost he and manager Colonel Parker had hoped for. Although it clearly must have achieved ginormous viewing figures, the estimation often trotted out that as many as 1 billion peeps tuned in has always been poppycock, as the combined population of the countries it was broadcast to only amounted to 1.4 billion. And surprisingly none of those was Elvis’s homeland of the US – Americans had to wait, thanks to a move to maximise viewers, until April 4, the day of the Superbowl, to catch it.

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March 1 1973 ~ that was when…
Pink Floyd took us to The Dark Side Of The Moon

1973_pink_floyd

Nowadays, to listen to the ultimate album for navel-gazing students from the ultimate navel-gazing rock band, it seems inevitable it became the inescapable icon we know it as. But back when it was released on this day, nobody really could have envisaged Pink Floyd’s eighth studio album Dark Side Of The Moon becoming the unstoppable runaway phenomenon that launched those nice middle-class boys from the Home Counties into the stratosphere. Don’t get me wrong, by ’73 they’d already made the heady transition from psychedelic oddity to arguable prog rock gods, but they were really on no higher a plain than the likes of Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Moon changed all that forever. The ’70s enjoyed its fair share of monster albums, all right – Carole King’s Tapestry (1971), Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973), Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors (1977) and, of course, The Bee Gee’s Saturday Night Fever (1978) among them – but none of them quite scaled the dizzy heights of the existentially angsty but utterly beautiful and brilliant Moon. Despite only topping the US charts for a solitary week, it managed to spend an incredible 741 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 album chart between ’73 and, yes, 1988. This clearly then makes it one of the best-selling albums of all-time in the US – but it holds that distinction practically everywhere else in the world too; in the UK it’s currently the eighth biggest unit-shifter. Overall, it’s sold around 50 million copies – ironic for a record one of whose most memorable tracks (Money) sarcastically berates man’s predilection for the old green bill.

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March 27 1973 ~ that was when…
… The Godfather picked up the Best Picture Oscar (but Marlon Brando rejected his)

1973_sacheen_littlefeather_at_the_oscars

It’s the Oscar ceremony – the 45th – that nobody has ever forgotten. Yes, the one at which a rightly rewarded Marlon Brando didn’t turn up to accept his Best Actor Oscar for playing Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972), but instead sent a Native American woman Sacheen Littlefeather to read out a speech ‘on his behalf’ detailing his rejection of the gold little man. It was also the Oscar ceremony, however, at which director Francis Ford Coppola’s American mafia opus picked up a further two awards (Best Picture as mentioned and Best Adapted Screenplay), but not Best Director for Coppola himself. Somewhat oddly that went to master choreographer Bob Fosse for Nazi-themed musical Cabaret (1972) as well as a perhaps surprising seven further nods. Never mind, Franny, The Godfather Part II was just around the corner.

Read – and see – the full-story of Marlon Brando’s Oscar rejection here

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May 25 1973 ~ that was when…
Virgin Records was launched with Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells

1973_tubular_bells_mike_oldfield

For many, Tubular Bells will forever conjure up the image of Max von Sydow desperately attempting to pull Linda Blair out of her possessed state in William Friedkin’s visceral monster hit The Exorcist (1973), but maybe (in terms of its biggest legacy) it ought to conjure up the image of a rather self-satisfied smiley billionaire with a beard and a floppy mullet – namely one Richard Branson. For had he not chosen the prog rock-meets-bell-chiming opus from then utterly unknown multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield to open his fledgling record company, Britain’s most recognisable tycoon maybe would never have, well, become a tycoon. Having raised enough dosh from the Virgin discount record store he’d opened on London’s Oxford Street in 1971, Branson was in a position a year later to buy up an Oxfordshire pile and set it up as a recording studio, simultaneously allowing artists to record material there to be released on the Virgin record label he’d just set up. Oldfield came into contact with Branson via engineers working at the studio (known as ‘The Manor’) and Branson – liking what he heard of the work that’d be released as Tubular Bells, or maybe being slightly nuts as its commerciality had been dismissed by and all sundry already – thus picked it as Virgin Records’ very first release. The rest, of course (thanks in no small part to its opening theme being chosen by Friedkin as the theme for The Exorcist the same year giving it enormous publicity and aiding it to become the other enormously profitable music album phenomenon of ’73) is history.

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June 27 1973 ~ that was when…
Roger Moore debuted as 007 in Live And Let Die

1973_roger_moore_live_and_let_die

It was the role that had doomed poor George Lazenby to a lifetime of ‘nearly man’ status (despite his effort in the now 51-year-long film series being one of the very best), thus the conventional wisdom was nobody – absolutely nobody – could follow in Sean Connery‘s tartaned footsteps. Yet, in summer ’73, one man proved that notion very wrong indeed; he was smooth, he was suave, he loved a good (or more often) bad innuendo and could raise his eyebrow faster than Connery could say Jacksh Robinshon… he was Moore, Roger Moore. And his debut effort as 007 was a stonker of a Bond film, the Blaxpoitation-tastic, speedboat chase-fuelled, voodoo-themed spectacular Live And Let Die (1973). Indeed, to this day it remains – inflation adjusted – the sixth most successful 007 blockbuster at the box-office; you’ve surely got to raise a glass to that, giant explosion behind you or not.

Read – and see – more on Roger Moore’s casting as Bond here, a review of Live And Let Die here and a celebration of the film’s 40th anniversary here

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July 3 1973 ~ that was when…
David Bowie ‘retired’ Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie performing as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon, 1973.

Ever since its launch at the Toby Jug pub in London’s Tolworth on February 10 1972, David Bowie‘s alter ego Ziggy Stardust had been an extraordinary pop culture creation – generating greater cult-like adulation from besotted teen fans than the multi-talented Bowie could have gained in his own guise perhaps, as well as serving as a shockingly red-mulletted and androgynously, outrageously attired persona into which Bowie could disappear as his fame became increasingly dizzying. Yet, following many a shocking and absurd on-stage antic (such as simulating fellatio on band member Mick Ronson’s guitar) and Bowie retreating into the character so much that he’d got into the habit of giving press conferences as him, he realised maybe for his own sanity enough was enough; it was time to ditch Ziggy. The trouble was that when he did so at a concert at The Smoke’s Hammersmith Apollo on the date above, right before fitting final tune Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide, he did so in a manner that suggested he and his band were retiring for good rather than them just retiring the Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars band (“Of all the shows on this tour, this particular show will last with us the longest because not only is it the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show we’ll ever do, thank you” – click on ‘entry title’ above). Thus, along with hundreds of fans in the venue, the music and wider press got the wrong end of the stick. In hindsight, though, it may’ve been canny on Bowie’s part, as the announcement was clearly deliberately ambiguous, ensuring it’d grant him further headlines and even greater publicity. Still, with the death of Ziggy out went too in the blink of an eye one of the most organically electric and exciting periods in rock history. Ziggy was dead and that was that.

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October 17 1973 ~ that was when…
Poland’s ‘clown’ prevented England reaching the World Cup

1973_england_v_poland

If the hangover the England national football team suffered at the 1970 World Cup, after the champagne supernova of winning the ’66 World Cup, wasn’t bad enough, it got a hell of a lot worse three-and-a-bit-years later. For, on this autumnal night in ’73 (seemingly reflecting the union-strike-afflicted gloom into which the nation was fast sinking), the Three Lions sank to a new – and before then utterly unthinkable – low… they conspired somehow not to beat Poland at Wembley and thus failed to reach the following year’s World Cup. It’s a well-worn tale, of course, Bobby Moore’s replacement as centre-back Norman Hunter misplaced a pass and Poland took the lead… a lead they’d hang on to until the hour-mark when England finally managed to equalise through a penalty. But a 1-1 draw wasn’t enough; despite England’s 30 shots on goal – nearly every one of them batted away by the inspired goalkeeper who became a legend that night, Jan Tomaszewski – a winning goal wouldn’t come. The repercussions were tremendous; it spelled the end for England’s World Cup-winning manager and captain, Sir Alf Ramsey and Bobby Moore respectively. And with their departure was ushered in a new era of mediocrity and disappointment, as England failed to qualify for another World Cup for eight long years. And yet, it wasn’t all bad news, for the match proved a turning point for Poland, its result ensuring they qualified for West Germany ’74 instead, where, buoyed by the enormous confidence they’d gained that night, they only went on to finish third. Brian Clough had never been more wrong – Jan Tomaszewki and this teammates turned out to be human cannonballs rather than clowns.

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November 17 1973 ~ that was when…
Richard Nixon told the world he was ‘not a crook’

1973_richard_nixon_watergate

Ah, Watergate… the innocuous-seeming break-in at the eponymous Washington DC hotel that, through the tireless investigative journalism of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (as terrifically detailed in 1976’s All The President’s Men), grew into the near unbelievable sh*tstorm that eventually engulfed then US President Richard Milhouse Nixon’s Cabinet – and in 1974 claimed his head too. Even by the end of ’73, however, its conclusion was some time off, for it was then – the clouds darkening rather than the wagons circling – that Nixon went before the TV cameras for a Q&A and decisively declared loud and clear to the people of America and the world that he’d done no wrong. “The people”, he said, “deserve to know whether their President is a crook – well, I’m not a crook”. Fair enough, that should put a lid on it. Only it didn’t. It was a big, fat whopper. He knew only too well what those under his employ had been getting up to in trying, through illegal means, to scupper the Democrats displacing him from the White House in the previous year’s General Election, so much so he’d been trying, also through illegal means, to cover it up. In that instant, thanks to (actually fairly swift) hindsight, Nixon had sealed his fate and his reputation for the rest of his life; following this and his resignation months later to avoid impeachment, he would forever be monikered ‘Tricky Dicky’, recalled as the crooked Prez. Nowadays (more so than ever surely), Americans expect their politicians to lie, let them down and more often than not be corrupt and – excusing the controversy and unpopularity Lyndon B Johnson courted in the ’60s thanks to the disparate combo of civil rights legislation and Vietnam – much of that started here. Nixon’s claim he wasn’t ‘a crook’ is the touchstone for politicians patently telling porkies to save their skin – and getting found out.

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And finally…

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December 15 1973 ~ that was when…
… 
Britain’s Christmas went glam

1973_slade_merry_xmas_everybody

By the end of ’73, held to ransom by the coal miners’ unions, the then UK Government of Ted Heath had no alternative than to introduce limits on non-essential energy use throughout the land from midnight on December 31 – yes, exactly when Big Ben would chime in 1974. A happy New Year was certainly not in prospect. Yet, as if in defiance of the candle-lit crappiness to come, Blighty seemed to prepare for the inevitable through that age-old method – it ignored it. To be exact, it indulged in a good old-fashioned Crimbo knees-up by embracing all the tinsel-tinged, bell-bottomed barmy brilliance of glam rock that dominated the music charts that December. Most memorably, of course, was the battle for the esteemed Christmas #1 between two of the last year or two’s biggest – and most colourfully, ridiculously clothed – bands, Slade and Wizzard, both hailing from the usually deeply unfashionable West Midlands. As is known by practically every bod in the country thereafter, the legendary Noddy Holder’s Slade triumphed, taking top spot with the inescapable Merry Xmas Everybody (click on ‘entry title’ above), while former The Move leader Roy Wood’s Wizzard claimed the #4 spot with the equally inescapable I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. Not to be outdone, though, the (glam-related) rock star – and possibly the biggest music act in the world at the time – Elton John also released a Crimbo tune this year, yet bizarrely given it’s one of the season’s very best, Step Into Christmas managed to scale no higher than #26. Still, thanks to its glam credentials, Christmas ’73 is rightly recalled as a rather marvellous merry time, poignantly so too given the predicament the UK – and the wider world – found itself  in outside its blithely innocent bubble.

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US top 10 box-office

1. The Sting $156,000,000
2. The Exorcist $128,000,000
3. American Graffiti $115,000,000
4. Papillon $53,267,000
5. The Way We Were $49,919,870
6. Magnum Force $39,768,000
7. Last Tango In Paris  $36,144,000
8. Live And Let Die $35,377,836
9. Robin Hood $32,056,467
10. Paper Moon $30,933,743

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UK top 10 best-selling singles

1. Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree  Dawn
2. Eye Level (Theme from Van der Valk) The Simon Park Orchestra
3. Welcome Home Peters And Lee
4. Block Buster! Sweet
5. Cum On Feel The Noize Slade
6. See My Baby Jive Wizzard
7. I’m The Leader Of The Gang (I Am) Gary Glitter
8. I Love You Love Me Love Gary Glitter
9. The Twelfth Of Never Donny Osmond
10. Spanish Eyes Al Martino

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In memoriam…

Lyndon B Johnson (August 27 1908–January 22 1973)
Edward G Robinson (December 12 1893–January 26 1973)
Noël Coward (December 16 1899–March 26 1973)
Pablo Picasso (October 25 1881–April 8 1973)
Roger Delgado (March 1 1918–June 18 1973)
Nancy Mitford (November 28 1904–June 30 1973)
Betty Grable (December 18 1916–July 2 1973)
Veronica Lake (November 14 1922–July 7 1973)
Lon Chaney Jr. (February 10 1906–July 12 1973)
Jack Hawkins (September 14 1910–July 18 1973)
Bruce Lee (November 27 1940–July 20 1973)
John Ford (February 1 1894–August 31 1973)
JRR Tolkein (January 3 1892–September 2 1973)
Gram Parsons (November 5 1946–September 19 1973)
WH Auden (February 21 1907–September 27 1973)
Laurence Harvey (October 1 1926–November 25 1973)
David Ben-Gurion (October 16 1886–December 1 1973)
Bobby Darin (May 14 1936–December 20 1973)

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30 years ago this year ~ that was when…

December 29, 2013

1983_flashdance

What a feeling: the pop culture sensation of the year belonged to up-and-coming Hollywood producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, cute-as-a-button popster Irene Cara and the body of Jennifer Beals – it could only be the ultimate movie sleeper hit that was Flashdance

So you know how the media (TV, newspapers, magazines, radio and, yes, the Internets) are full right now of all sorts of different reviews of the year about to conclude? Well, I’m all for them (reflection on what’s been is often useful and interesting so we can chart where we are) and this year, yup, George’s Journal will be verily getting in on the act, but with a twist – for over the next three posts to be posted over consecutive days it’ll be reflecting on the highlights of specific years 10 years apart from each other from the ’80s, the ’70s and the ’60s. Effectively then, the twelve months that occurred 30, 40 and 50 years ago. Oh yes.

So, up first, mes amis, it’s 1983, which, when you immediately cast your mind back, may seem like not the most eventful year, but oh you’d be very wrong…

 

CLICK on each ‘event title’ for a video clip…

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January 17/ February 1 1983 ~ that was when…
… the Beeb and ITV gave us breakfast television

1983_breakfast_time_and_tvam

So 1983 kicked-off with a move by the UK media that, for me as an impressionable young ‘un, felt like it had dragged Blighty into the modern age – yes, breakfast television. The US had had it for years, of course, and as ever back in the ’80s, it’s introduction (like the glitz of ’80s Hollywood blockbusters) seemed to highlight just how much Blighty had been/ was lagging behind. But on that fateful morning in January, the Beeb finally put on something not just worth watching, but also fresh, bold and stylish with which dynamically to start each day. Well, sort of, given BBC’s Breakfast Time hosts included Frank Bough and David Icke. Still, at least on board too was the fashionable and coolly sexy Selina Scott – whom nowadays lives in Yorkshire and sells socks. And just a couple of weeks later, ITV got in on the act with TVam and its eggs-in-cups end-titles-icon. TVam lasted 10 years until it was replaced by GMTV, having survived near oblivion just two years after its launch when it was saved by the unleashing on to the world of Roland Rat, while nowadays BBC Breakfast’s a cosy, Middle-England affair with mumsily sexy Susanna Reid on the presenters’ couch. Ah, how things evolve – or revert to comfy type.

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February 28 1983 ~ that was when..
half of all Americans watched the M*A*S*H finale

1983_mash_final_episode

On US TV screens, this was easily the biggest deal of 1983. In fact, it could be argued it was US television’s biggest deal of the entire decade, given it managed to secure the highest viewing figures of any broadcast in the country’s history until the 2010 Superbowl. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. For Goodbye, Farewell And Amen (the two-and-a-half-hour-long finale to CBS’s comedy drama adapted from Robert Altman’s 1970 Korean War satire, which ran for 11 seasons) managed not just an enormous 77% audience share of all viewers at the time, but was also watched by an utterly staggering 60.2% of all American households. By these more exacting statistics, it’s easily still the most watched broadcast in all American TV history. But what of the episode itself? Well, it was written – along with many other contributors – by its star Alan Alda (Hawkeye the prankster surgeon), whom also directed it. And, like many US sitcom finales down through the decades, it has a suitably moving conclusion, as the characters at last leave their Korean mobile field hospital for home, but – like all episodes of M*A*S*H – has its sledgehammer-like, darker moments too (one of which sees Hawkeye almost go insane). Indeed, its an encapsulation of just what an outstanding effort the show it concluded was – explanation maybe then of why so many Americans dropped everything to catch it.

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March 16 1983 ~ that was when…
… Michael Jackson moonwalked for the first time

1983_michael_jackson_moonwalk

One of the absolutely iconic moments of the 1980s this one, as in a few brief seconds of his performance of latest (and still brilliant) hit Billie Jean on the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today Forever TV special broadcast from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Jacko chicly shuffled across the stage as if he was being pulled backwards while wanting to move forwards. Dressed as he was in the dazzling black jacket and one white glove outfit that would become his defining look for always, he (surely unwittingly) managed to execute for some the coolest thing they’d ever seen – and maybe have ever seen. Looking back it seems like it was the thunderclap that triggered the tsunami of essentialness that Jackson became thereafter throughout the ’80s and maybe the watershed for the new MTV-driven hyper-commercialised American zeitgeist – although the first broadcast of that other Jackson-derived moment, the Thiller video, on MTV on December 2 the same year certainly rivals in those stakes.

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April 15 1983 ~ that was when…
Jennifer Beals (Flash)danced up a storm

1983_flashdance

Critics absolutely loathed it (and still do), would-be star Jennifer Beals didn’t actually do much of the impressive dancing her character does and the best of its publicity was far from orthodox, yet upon release Flashdance quickly became an utter phenomenon and trendsetter for the decade to come. A highly unlikely Cinderella story of how a female-steel-mill-welder-by-day and strip-club-dancer-by-night succeeds in becoming a dance conservatory student (although it may actually have been based on a real-life story – no really), the film gained notoriety thanks to film-clip-featuring videos of its songs being played on hip new youth channel MTV (Irene Cara’s Oscar-winning Flashdance… What A Feeling – see bottom video clip – as well Michael Sembello’s Maniac and Laura Branigan’s Gloria). Moreover, it was the first flick to be produced by the prodigiously successful pairing of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer and kicked-off the (often Simpson and Bruckheimer-backed) ’80s craze for music video-like flashy visuals in movies. If all that weren’t enough, Beals apparently won the lead thanks to a Paramount Pictures big-wig asking 200 blokes working on the lot which of the three potential actresses (also including Demi Moore) they’d prefer to shag. Ironically then, not exactly a bastion of female empowerment it turns out.

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May 25 1983 ~ that was when…
… Return Of The Jedi concluded The ‘Wars

return_of_the_jedi_mark_hamill_as_luke_skywalker

Remember the days when George Lucas wasn’t a villain for ruining Star Wars, but a hero for bringing us the most satisfyingly complete three films of our young lives? When Yoda didn’t reappear as a younger self looking more like a Muppet cast-off, but instead tear-inducingly passed on before Luke’s and our eyes? When we hadn’t become head-scratchingly embroiled in the intergalactic politics of Coruscant, but instead Endor, the forest party moon of the Ewoks, was where it all ended? And not when Hayden Christensen lined up in a Ready Brek kid-like blue glow alongside Obi-Wan and Yoda, but when middle-aged Annakin simply and nicely did so? Yes that was back in ’83, when the original, innocent and fabulous Star Wars trilogy come to a close with the charmingly silly but still utterly awesome Return Of The Jedi. Prequels (and a whole other trilogy to come too)? Pah, who needs ’em.

Read – and see – more on Return Of The Jedi‘s 30th anniversary here

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June 9 1983 ~ that was when…
Thatcher got back in with a landslide

1983_thatcher_re-election_landslide

Quite frankly, were this not to have happened, the ’80s would not have been the ’80s in Britain. Mind you, there was little chance of it not happening, given the dubious bounce Thatch received from Blighty apparently whupping the Argies’ collective arse in the Falklands the year before and Labour deigning to drop into free-fall by turning to ultimate old-school socialist Michael Foot to lead them into near oblivion in the run up to this election. As noted, the consequences of Election ’83’s result were enormous – Thatcherism and its drive for fiscal rejuvenation through an increasing free market economy yet also an increasing social imbalance; the rise of The City’s significance and thus the emergence of the yuppie; privatisation and coal mine union take-down; Maggie and Ronnie snuggling up (ironically with Gorby) to tip the scales of the Cold War in The West’s favour; the adoption of iconic moderniser and/ or ‘The Welsh Windbag’ Neil Kinnock as Labour leader and, slightly less importantly, Spitting Image (1984-94) invading middle-England’s TV screens of a Sunday night. Hello to the ’80s, indeed.

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July 14 1983 ~ that was when…
Mario and Luigi came to arcades

1983_mario_bros_arcade_game

Along with Donkey Kong (1981), the first video game to feature Nintendo’s ubiquitous character Mario, the Mario Bros. arcade game was one of the very first ‘platform games’ – and the very first in which the dumpy, blue-and-red-dungarees-wearing Mario and his brother, the taller, thinner and green-dungarees-wearing Luigi, appeared as sole protagonists. Although only a modest success in Japanese arcades and crossing the Pacific to North America during the early to mid-’80s video game recession, it undoubtedly made its mark, spawning as it did one of the most enduring pair of pop culture icons of the last 30 years in the shape of its two Italian-American plumbers (whom here have to fight creatures emerging from New York City’s sewers). Two years later, Mario and Luigi switched to the home video game Super Mario Bros. and have since moved from mere ‘platform games’ to go-kart-racing, tennis, golf, role-playing and recently Wii games – in fact, Mario himself (the Mickey Mouse to Nintendo’s Disney) has to date astonishingly appeared in more than 200 video games. Just don’t mention the turkey that was the Super Mario Bros. movie (1993) – especially not to Bob Hoskins.

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July 27 1983 ~ that was when…
Madonna brought back dance music

1983_madonna

Amazingly, for the album that perhaps more than any other heralded the sound of Western chart music in the ’80s, Madonna’s eponymous debut long-player only hit a high of #8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in October ’84 – well over a year after its release in the summer of ’83. However, thanks to her driving ambition and musical intuition, the 23-year-old – and a number of key collaborators (some of whom were former and current lovers, such as the marvellously monikered John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez) honed an upbeat synth disco sound for the album, while through its tunes – especially the not insignificant singles Borderline (US #10), Lucky Star (US #4) and, of course, the runaway success that was Holiday (US #16/ UK #2 – click on entry title above) – effectively came up with the sunny, perfect pop sound that practically every US and UK pop act wanted to emulate for the rest of the decade. There was more to it than that, naturally – the charisma of Madonna’s heartfelt, often soaring vocals, her New Wave-esque tomboyish sex kitten appearance and the sheer danceability of the tracks (thanks in no small part to her association over the last few years with some of New York’s hottest clubs) made Madonna‘s sound simply irresistible – it was hopelessly hip chart pop that teens and twentysomethings could dance to once more after the recent demise of Disco, as well as the kick-starter to the sound of the ’80s.

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And finally…

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December 11 1983 ~ that was when…
women took centre-stage as the Greenham Common protest turned ugly

Greenham Common

Although in sheer numbers, the 70,000 women whom formed a 14-mile-long human chain from Greenham Common to the Aldermaston nuclear weapons base on April 1 ’83 was the bigger event, the total encircling of Greenham Common on this day in December ’83 by 50,000 women has maybe gone down in history as the more memorable event. Why? Because this was the one that resulted in – unique for the time – the multiple arrests of female-only protestors. The whole shebang had begun two years before when a mere 36-strong Welsh group of women peace protestors decided to walk to the Common, following the decision in 1979 by NATO to ground cruise missiles at the RAF site. By ’83, an all-women peace camp had been established, with the intention it would remain there in defiance of NATO’s stance for the next two decades. On December 11, the thousands of women not only encircled the Common then, but also started to cut through its fence in a move deliberately orchestrated to get maximum media – and especially TV – coverage. It worked; by the end of the year there was nary a woman or man whom hadn’t heard of what was going on there. Sure, protest against The West’s drive to build nuclear weapons had been constant throughout the Cold War, but these protestors (and the fact they were all women) highlighted both the controversy of the Reagan/ Thatcher doctrine to heat up the delicate détente with the Soviet Union and the slow evolution of feminism (this major all-female protest being tied in philosophically with the role of the mother as chief child-carer facing down a potentially world-ending threat). Believe it or not, the peace camp only officially broke up in the year 2000, meaning it actually did endure at the site for almost two decades.

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US top 10 box-office 

1. Return Of The Jedi $252,583,617
2. Terms Of Endearment  $108,423,489
3. Flashdance $92,921,203
4. Trading Places $90,404,800
5. WarGames $79,567,667
6. Octopussy $67,893,619
7. Sudden Impact $67,642,693
8. Staying Alive $64,892,670
9. Mr Mom $64,783,827
10. Risky Business $63,541,777

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UK top 10 best-selling singles

1. Karma Chameleon  Culture Club
2. Uptown Girl Billy Joel
3. Red Red Wine UB40
4. Let’s Dance David Bowie
5. Total Eclipse Of The Heart  Bonnie Tyler
6. True Spandau Ballet
7. Down Under Men At Work
8. Billie Jean Michael Jackson
9. Only You The Flying Pickets
10. All Night Long (All Night) Lionel Ritchie

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In memoriam…

Dick Emery (February19 1915–January 2 1983)
George Cukor (July 7 1899–January 24 1983)
Billy Fury (April 17 1940–January 28 1983)
Karen Carpenter (March 2 1950–February 4 1983)
Sir Adrian Boult (April 8 1889–February 22 1983)
Tennessee Williams (March 26 1911–February 25 1983)
Hergé (May 22 1907–March 3 1983)
Donald Maclean (May 25 1913–March 6 1983)
Umberto II of Italy (September 15 1904–March 18 1983)
Anthony Blunt (September 26 1907–March 26 1983)
Gloria Swanson (March 27 1899–April 4 1983)
Buster Crabbe (February 7 1907–April 23 1983)
Muddy Waters (April 4 1913–April 30 1983)
Norma Shearer (August 10 1903–June 12 1983)
Chris Wood (June 24 1944–July 12 1983)
Luis Buñel (February 22 1900–July 29 1983)
David Niven (March 1 1910–July 29 1983)
Ira Gershwin (December 6 1896–August 17 1983)
Ralph Richardson (December 19 1902–October 10 1983)
John Le Mesurier (April 5 1912–November 15 1983)
Slim Pickens (June 29 1919–December 8 1983)
Dennis Wilson (Decemner 4 1944–December 28 1983)

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