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Retro Crimbo: Attaboy, Clarence! It’s A Wonderful Life hits 75

December 31, 2021

You want the moon? It’s A Wonderful Life has been delivering its marvellous movie magic to generations of film fans for 75 years – all with an irresistible sprinkling of festive goodwill and joy

As, for many of us, this year’s festive season draws to a close, we’re left to reflect on another twelve months that, while compromised for many millions of us, may well, too, have featured many highs and many lows. At times like this, then, and at any time of the year, frankly, during this unsettling, pandemic-wracked era, it’s definitely good for us all to seek some solace and comfort.

And how better to do that than with an utterly heartwarming, undeniably brilliant flick? It’s A Wonderful Life, every single time you give it a watch, ticks all those boxes. And has done so now for 75 years. Yes, Frank Capra’s much-loved festive-fest of frothily-fun-cum-dark-cum-cheery genius has been around for three-quarters of a century. Reason, indeed, methinks for a celebratory post on this blog – featuring behind-the-scenes facts and pics. I can’t say giving it a read will ensure an angel gets its wings, but who knows? It just might… so, go on, why not give it a go…

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CLICK on the images for full size

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It’s A Wonderful Life is based on a 1943 short story, The Greatest Gift, written by Philip Van Doren. Curiously, Van Doren struggled to interest publishers in his story, so instead printed 200 copies of it and, as a Christmas gift, gave them to friends, to relatives and – in a genius move – to his Hollywood agent.

Impressed, the agent sold the story’s rights to the RKO film studio, where a producer was impressed enough to share it with Cary Grant, whom, in turn, was impressed enough to want to make it and play the lead character, George Bailey.

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Perfect pairing: Capra and Stewart shooting the breeze on set (l & r); the latter checking his script (m)

Eventually, the story was discovered by top-tier producer-director Frank Capra, whom bought the rights from RKO for his then new studio, Liberty Films. Obviously, Cary Grant didn’t end up as George Bailey; James Stewart did (whom had previously collaborated with Capra on 1938’s You Can’t Take It with You and 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). But why?

In his autobiography, Capra wrote: “Of all actors’ roles, I believe the most difficult is the role of a Good Sam who doesn’t know that he is a Good Sam. I knew one man who could play it … James Stewart. … I spoke to Lew Wasserman, the MCA agent who handled Jimmy, told him I wanted to tell Jimmy the story. Wasserman said Stewart would gladly play the part without hearing the story”.

Cast as Mary Hatch, George Bailey’s irresistibly lovely love-interest and eventual wife, was the irresistibly lovely Donna Reed. Now, through her Hollywood roles, Reed had nurtured a girl-next-door persona, but had actually grown up on an Iowa farm. Apparently, thesping great Lionel Barrymore (cast as the Scrooge-like local tycoon-cum-villain Mr Potter) found the juxtaposition of Reed’s image and background unlikely, so in a $50-bet he challenged her to milk a cow.

Reed would go on to claim that, in her long, distinguished career, it was the easiest $50 she ever earned.

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Talking of Potter appearing to be a thinly veiled version of Dickens’ most famous creation, an FBI memo dated May 26th 1947 actually suggests the Feds were concerned about the film’s supposed ‘Communist’ content. The memo read: “It’s A Wonderful Life represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘Scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This … is a common trick used by Communists”.

Crazy as the Feds’ fears may seem today, perhaps they were on to something because Dalton Trumbo (whom, years later, famously ended up blacklisted because he wouldn’t ‘name names’ to the House on Un-American Activities Committee) was one of several uncredited writers whom Capra collaborated with on the script. Another of the uncredited scribes was Dorothy Parker.

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Marriage and wonderful strife: the movie’s two stars posing together in a colour publicity shot

Constructed in eight weeks in Encino, California, the movie’s exterior sets (for the fictitious upstate New York town Bedford Falls) were among the largest built by Hollywood up until that point. They featured more than 75 buildings scattered across four acres and included the now iconic 300-yard-long main street and 20 fully-grown oak trees.

Elsewhere, one of the movie’s biggest interior locations, the high school gym, was actually Beverly Hills High School. Its retractable floor, under which lies a 75-foot-long swimming pool, made for an unforgettable sequence, of course, when the floor’s opened by a revenge-seeking would-be paramour of Mary; his attentions having been thwarted by George. The facility exists to this day – it’s affectionately referred to as the ‘Swim Gym’.

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Strictly gym dancing: Stewart and Reed learning and rehearsing their dance steps for the gym scene

Despite its decades-and-decades-long association with Christmas (owing to the time of year when its conclusion takes place), It’s A Wonderful Life was shot during a scorching hot Californian summer. Indeed, conditions got so hot and sticky that production had to be halted more than once. In fact, that’s not melted snowflakes on Stewart’s face during the legendary bridge scene; it’s sweat – temperatures exceeded 30°C on that day of filming.

When it did come to the on-screen snow, though, It’s A Wonderful Life broke new ground. Artificial (of course!), what features in the movie was a brand new, more authentic-looking creation; a mixture of sugar, shaved ice, soapy water and Foamite (which is commonly used in fire extinguishers). As much as 6,000 gallons of the stuff was blown about to blanket the Bedford Falls set.

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Groundbreaking snow and sweat-covered pros: surprisingly filmed at the height of summer, It’s A Wonderful Life’s shoot generated several unexpected challenges for Capra, his cast and his crew

During filming – and maybe surprisingly – the wholesomeness that Reed imbued Mary with rather threw Stewart, whom hadn’t felt she was right for the role. So much so that shooting the passionate kissing scene between the two characters was put off for two weeks.

When asked later, Stewart claimed of the scene’s eventual filming: “I was so nervous. There was real electricity in the air. I asked Donna if she wanted to rehearse and she said, ‘Why don’t we just do it?’ and Capra, knowing what was going on, agreed. So there we were, cheek to cheek, no rehearsals, hormones out of control, and Capra says: ‘Action!’ Well, we did it in one take. One of the best things I’ve ever done”.

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Legendary comic actor, W.C. Fields was initially considered for the role of George’s loveable but forgetful Uncle Billy, whose critical mistake of misplacing the bank’s envelope of money sets in motion the events of the movie’s third act (including, of course, the intervention of Clarence the trainee angel and the George-less alternate, dystopian reality). Cast in the part instead was Thomas Mitchell, famous for playing the father of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind (1939).

Meanwhile, for Bedford Falls’ good-time girl Violet Bick, Capra had wanted an actress who could play ‘a good bad girl’. Gloria Grahame won the role and, like Donna Reed, would eventually go on to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar (for 1952’s The Bad And The Beautiful; Reed won hers a year later for her performance in From Here To Eternity).

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Classic cast and golden Grahame: the movie’s thesps in a full-cast, in-character group-shot (right) and the glorious Gloria Grahame in action as irrepressible but good-hearted Violet Bick (left)

Returning to that iconic-for-all-times scene on the bridge, George recognises he’s alive and back in his own reality again when he feels and extracts from his pocket Zuzu’s petals – the petals that had fallen off Zuzu’s flower, to her disappointment, so he’d pretended to reattach them but slyly put them in his pocket. Today, both a flower shop in NYC’s Brooklyn and a Minneapolis rock band go by the name ‘Zuzu’s Petals’.

Inexplicably, though, the one-time child actor Karolyn Grimes, whom played Zuzu, had to wait until 1979 to first see the film, later explaining: “I never saw movies I was in because my mom told me that would be prideful, being stuck on yourself”.

Another influence on pop culture the movie can proudly claim involves, yes, Muppets – or at least their very near cousins. To wit, the much-adored Sesame Street ‘couple’ that’s Bert and Ernie were named after George Bailey’s friends, Bert the policeman (Ward Bond) and Ernie the taxi driver (Frank Faylen).

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From Bedford Falls to Sesame Street: sb1991 on devianart’s brilliant Bert and Ernie fan art mash-up

However, in one of oh-so many cases of Oscar getting it wrong, It’s a Wonderful Life was nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Director and Actor) but didn’t win any. In a year that also saw the release of the awesome Bogart-Bacall film noir The Big Sleep, the Best Picture Oscar went to WWII-era drama The Best Years Of Our Lives. Its director (William Wyler) and lead actor (Frederic March) won in their respective Oscar categories, too.

In fact, despite its enormous popularity in recent decades, It’s A Wonderful Life wasn’t even a convincing hit following its release (December 20th 1946). With a budget of $2.3 million, expensive for its time, it required bumper business to be deemed successful, but by raking in just $3.3 million from its theatrical run, Liberty Films managed to lose $525,000 on the film.

All that’s long forgotten today, though. Indeed, following its emergence as the pre-eminent classic Christmas flick, it’s now made in excess of $70 million in DVD sales, as well as generating ever-growing profits from modern-day merchandise. Not that any of that’s compensation for Liberty Films – the company was sold to Paramount Pictures in 1947.

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George Bailey goes global: the movie’s original French, Italian and Spanish posters (left to right)

Yet, the film wasn’t actually intended to be released in time for Christmas, let alone become regarded as a ‘Christmas movie’ (if such a notion existed back in 1946). Initially, its release was scheduled for January 1947 but was pushed forward due to buzz around its obvious quality so it might qualify for the 1946 Oscars.

In the final analysis, though, if It’s A Wonderful Life is about and encompasses anything then it’s surely the ideals of doing good, putting things right and, ultimately, destiny. Just like Clarence getting his wings, the film was destined to and eventually did become an all-time Hollywod Holidays classic – not least because that basically happened due to a mistake.

In 1974, nearly 30 years after its theatrical release, the film’s copyright wasn’t renewed, which meant that, over the next two decades, It’s A Wonderful Life wasn’t owned by anyone and happily drifted about in the public domain, meaning TV channels across the United States (and overseas) could freely broadcast it as much as they wanted, every December – and ensure the whole world embraced it and claimed it for themselves.

That’s a Hollywood fairy tale ending, right there. Attaboy, Clarence!

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Playlist: Listen, my eager-eared Ebenezers! Christmas 2021

December 13, 2021

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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 never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, sip a glass of mulled wine, munch on a mince pie and listen away; for in the words of Noddy Holder, ittttttt’s… well, I’m sure you know what comes next…

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CLICK on the track titles to hear them

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James Stewart ~ I Want To Live Again! (1946)1

Leonard Bernstein, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra ~ The Twelve Days of Christmas (1963)

Doris Day ~ Snowfall (1964)

John Lennon and Peter Cook ~ London’s Most Fashionable Lavatory Spot (1966)2

Laura Nyro ~ Christmas Is In My Soul (1970)

Elton John ~ Ho! Ho! Ho! (Who’d Be A Turkey At Christmas?) (1973)3

Donna Summer ~ Winter Melody (1976)

Kiri Te Kanawa ~ Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1986)

Electric Mayhem ~ Jingle Bell Rock (1987)4

Sarah Vaughan ~ Happy Holidays/ White Christmas (1988)

Sarah Brightman ~ Make Believe (1989)5

David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst ~ Del Boy Goes Jet-Skiing (1991)6

Simon Callow ~ The Cratchit’s Dinner (from A Christmas Carol) (2018)

Felicity Kendal ~ ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas (2020)

Nat King Cole ~ The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) (1961)7

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¹ Hollywood’s Christmas classic for all-time, It’s A Wonderful Life, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year

² A sketch featuring the then mop-topped Beatle from the Christmas special of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s BBC comedy show Not Only… But Also (1964-70), originally broadcast on December 26th 1966

³ The little known, even rarer played-on-radio, B-side to Elton’s iconic festive glamrock hit Step Into Christmas (1973)

4 As featured in the wonderful seasonal TV special A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)

5 The closing theme from UK TV Channel 4’s animated special Granpa (originally broadcast on December 31st 1989) and made by the team behind the legendary The Snowman (1982) and Father Christmas (1991)

6 From ‘Miami Twice’, the feature-length (and audience-laughter-free) 1991 Christmas special of Only Fools And Horses

7 This version of the classic Robert Wells and Mel Tormé Christmas tune – its most-played and so most iconic recording – celebrates its 60th anniversary this festive season.

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Retro Crimbo 2020: a festive photo bonanza

December 24, 2020

Put one foot in front of the other: Kris Kringle and Winter Warlock go for a snowy stroll in Rankin/ Bass’s classic Holiday special, the 50th-anniversary-celebrating Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town   

Whichever way you slice it, 2020 has been a year unlike any other. And, for far too many of us around the world, it certainly hasn’t been anything like an oh-so sliceable, oh-so tasty chocolate Yule log. Plus, like it or not, the festive season hasn’t been immune from the ongoing disruption of this pandemic-afflicted annus horribilis; millions and millions of us are locked-down and spending the Holidays away from at least some of our nearest and dearest.

However, its not all bad news. Christmas is still Christmas, with its unbeatable spirit and all its terrific traditions, tinsel and razzmatazz. And speaking of traditions, this very blog’s playing its part, too, with this very post. Yes, it’s yet another seasonal celebration of the great and the good, the brilliant and the beautiful, the iconic and the unforgettable of lore, all snapped in festive scenarios and merry moments. So, if this post can provide you just a little comfort, peace and goodwill this Yuletide, then it – and George’s Journal – will have served its purpose as 2020 comes to a close.

Take care, keep safe and all the very best to all of you and yours…  

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CLICK ON the images for full-size

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Christmas crooner: Nat King Cole poses with his daughter and superstar-singer-to-be Natalie

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Leading ladies: Ava Gardner, Claudette Colbert and Bette Davis pose, hit the slopes and gather gifts 

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Jimmy and Mammy: James Stewart bears gifts and Hattie McDaniel decorates the tree 

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Fiddle-de-dee! Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman merrily get together in rom-com Indiscreet (1958) 

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Euro-ho-ho: Sophia Loren with her friends and family and Brigitte Bardot with snapping paps

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Sitting pretty: Janet Leigh and Shirley Jones advertise the many merits of Christmas decorations

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Festive fashionista: Audrey Hepburn pauses during the Alpine shoot of hit thriller Charade (1963) 

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Eight Holidays a Week: The Beatles snapped in Eskimo garb on December 23rd 1964 at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, where they’re performing their showcase ‘Another Beatles Christmas Show’ 

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Leggy Christmas: Yvonne ‘Batgirl’ Craig braves the cold as she licks her ice lolly while sitting on ice cubes (top), while South Pacific’s Mitzi Gaynor demonstrates her boots are made for posin’ (bottom)

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Yule Britannia: George Best graces the cover of the January 1st 1972 edition of Shoot! magazine, while Faye Dunaway and Simon Dee switch on the Carnaby Street Christmas lights in November 1967

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The Happy-ning Christmas: Florence Ballard, Diana Ross and Mary Wilson looking ‘supreme’

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Thrifty at fifty: Albert Finney, as A Christmas Carol’s legendary anti-hero, leads a bunch of Victorian kids in song in the musical movie adaptation Scrooge, also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year

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Tree-fic Tiffany: Jill St. John, in costume as ditsy but luscious leading lady Tiffany Case, promotes the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, which opened in cinemas on December 28th 1971

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Joy-lie to the world: Julie Andrews in promotional shots for her 1972 and ’73 Christmas TV specials

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Twiggy and Kelly on telly: Twiggy in 1977’s Bing’s Merrie Olde Christmas (left) and Princess Grace of Monaco reading the Nativity for Yorkshire TV’s 1973-broadcast The Glories of Christmas (left)

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Merry melody makers: awesome pop foursome ABBA enjoy Christmas in a funky Swedish manner

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Seasonal angels: French screen siren Catherine Deneuve on the set of 1964’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and star of US TV’s Charlies Angels, Farrah Fawcett, adds glamour to a ‘white’ Christmas 

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The funny and the furry: Carry On’s Sid James and Barbara Windsor (RIP) get into character for a 1973 TV Times shoot, while Sooty, Orville the Duck, Emu and Hacker T. Dog get the party going

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Do they know its Christmas? George Michael, Bob Geldof, Sting, Simon Le Bon (top), Jodi Watley, Francis Rossi and Banarama (bottom) pose to promote 1984’s iconic Band Aid charity single

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Do you see what I see? Mick ‘Santa Claus’ Jagger delivers models Iman and Paul van Ravenstein in his sack (left) and Jack Nicholson enjoys a devilishly good snowball fight (right)… probably

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Merry menaces: the Dennis and Gnasher story from the December 23rd 1989 edition of The Beano

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Venkman-tlers: Amy Adams and Bill Murray featuring in festive shots from Vanity Fair magazine

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And finally… happy Christmas (Star Wars is Over?): R2D2, C3P0 and (Santa) Yoda wish you all a…

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MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A

HAPPY, HOPEFUL AND HEALTHY 2021! 

 

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Playlist: Listen, my figgy pudding pals ~ Christmas 2020

December 21, 2020

musical_bauble_yellowmusical_bauble_bluemusical_bauble_redmusical_bauble_green

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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 never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, sip a glass of mulled wine, munch on a mince pie and listen away; for in the words of Noddy Holder, ittttttt’s… well, I’m sure you know what comes next…

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CLICK on the track titles to hear them

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Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra ~ A Christmas Festival (1959)

Peggy Lee ~ Christmas Carousel (1960)

Sarah Vaughan ~ Snowbound (1963)

Barbra Streisand ~ Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1967)

Bob Hope and Raquel Welch ~ You Make Me Feel So Young (1967)¹

He 5 ~ Silent Night (1969)

José Feliciano ~ Feliz Navidad (1970)

Morecambe and Wise, Pan’s People and Brenda Arnau ~ Big Spender (1970)²

Kate Bush ~ December Will Be Magic Again (Bongo Mix) (1979)

Slade ~ Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1985)

ALF ~ ALF’s Christmas presents (1986)³

Only Fools And Horses ~ The Shooting Party Gatecrasher (1986)4

Dick Van Dyke ~ T’was The Night Before Christmas (2008)

Annie Lennox ~ God Rest You Merry Gentlemen (2010)

Donald and Daisy Duck ~ Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (2012)

Sophie Ellis-Bextor ~ My Favourite Things (2020)

Basil Brush ~ White Christmas (2018)

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¹ From a 1967 Bob Hope-fronted United Services Organizations (USO) performance for American troops serving in Vietnam and originally broadcast in Hope’s Christmas TV special of that year  

² As featured in Eric and Ernie’s December 25th-broadcast, 1975 BBC Christmas show; you may recognise singer Brenda (or B. J.) Arnau – and her voice – from a scene in 1973 James Bond film Live And Let Die, in which she serenades Roger Moore with the title tune, before his chair, yes, drops through a trapdoor in the floor

³ From ‘Oh, Tannerbaum’ , the first-season seasonal episode of furry-alien-living-with-an-American-family sitcom ALF (1986-90), first broadcast on December 22nd 1986

4 An unforgettable sequence from ‘A Royal Flush’, one of the many classic Christmas specials of (surely) Britain’s most popular sitcom, originally broadcast by the BBC on December 25th 1986. 

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George’s Journal’s pick of the flicks and top of the pops ~ 1985-89

July 21, 2020

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It’s nigh-on impossible to think back to the 1980s – especially its latter half – and not instantly have images and sounds flash through your mind of Americana. The visuality of TV gems like Miami Vice, Cheers, Cagney And Lacey and The Refrigerator winning the Super Bowl. In addition to über-macho movies like Die Hard, Top Gun, Lethal Weapon and Batman (as well as, of course, the feminist yuppie fairy tale that’s Working Girl). All of it joined by a soundtrack driven by Madonna, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Guns N’ Roses and the exciting, emerging hip hop of Public Enemy and Beastie Boys. And yet, that’s far from the whole story…

In this then, the latest in a long line of long posts, each charting this blogger’s choices of the very best tunes and films from a semi-dectet of times past (check out here the posts covering 1950-54, 1955-59, 1960-64, 1965-69, 1970-74, 1975-79 and 1980-84), we cast our eyes and ears back to 1985-89. A loud, florid, varied five years punctuated by Reaganism and Thatcherism, the rise (and, to some extent, fall) of the yuppie, the build-up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the humble-ish beginnings of the mobile phone, Oprah, The Simpsons and ‘satellite TV’ coming to Blighty.

For, yes, ’85-’89 wasn’t just about Americana. After all, it also saw the rise of the biggest rock band of the last 30 years – hailing from Ireland – as well as a particular purple patch for Euro cinema (fuelled by the Provence-picture-postcard-perfect Jean de Florette/ Manon des Sources and the sweatily sexy Betty Blue) and Australian soaps beguiling British TV viewers. All right, in retrospect, maybe we could have lived without that last one.

All the same, there was a heck of a lot going on – so, why don’t we start, each and every one of us, by throwing our headphones on, slamming down our Walkman’s ‘play’ button and skateboarding our way back into 1985…?

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CLICK

on the film and song titles for video clips…

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1985

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Gorbachev becomes Soviet premier; Live Aid rocks; hole in ozone layer found;
Rainbow Warrior is sunk; Titanic is located; tragedy at Brussels’ Heysel Stadium;

EastEnders and Neighbours debut; UK mobile networks launch; New Coke hiccup

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Film:

Back To The Future

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Directed by: Robert Zemeckis/ Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd,
Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover and Thomas F. Wilson/ Country: USA/
Running time:
116 minutes/ (Sci-fi-teen-comedy-adventure-drama)

What George says: An impossible-to-resist slice of entertainment, this is an expertly executed, much-loved ’80s classic that perfectly blends Hollywood teen comedy with time-travel adventuring, thereby masquerading as an inevitable blockbuster. But it inevitably became a blockbuster because of its quality; its smart, witty script, pitch-perfect comedy, tone, score and direction are all spot-on. This was the movie that sent Michael J. Fox stratospheric, made Johnny B. Goode essential all over again and almost rescued the DeLorean’s reputation – all by delivering unadulterated joy to audiences everywhere.

What the critics say: “It’s every kid’s fantasy come true, and Zemeckis exploits its possibilities with delicious abandon, deriving considerable humor from the [narrative] situation’s unseen generation gap. There’s even shades of an Oedipal It’s a Wonderful Life … From its uproarious, Rube Goldberg-esque opening sight gag to its race-against-time finale, Back to the Future remains a trip worth returning to.” ~ Kirk Ellis

Oscar count: 1

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: Out Of Africa

The public’s pick this year: Back To The Future (global box-office #1)

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Read about the making of the Back To The Future trilogy here

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George’s runners-up: 2. Witness; 3. Brazil4. 乱 (Ran); 5. The Color Purple

   

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And the rest: After Hours; The Breakfast ClubDesperately Seeking SusanThe Emerald ForestFletch; The Goonies; Insignificance; Kiss Of The Spider WomanMitt Liv Som Hund (My Life As A Dog); My Beautiful Launderette; Out Of AfricaPale Rider; The Purple Rose Of CairoPrizzi’s Honor; Shoah

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Song:

Everybody Wants To Rule The World ~

Tears For Fears

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Writers: Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley and Chris Hughes/ Released: March 1985

What George says: Is there a better proponent of ’80s pop than this classic? So flushed with über-synthesised goodness is it, it features a real drumbeat on top of a drum machine and so richly studio-polished breezily bouncy, with its shoe-shuffle-like shamble, it makes even the bluest-sky of blue-sky, summer days better. ’80s politically fashionble, its lyrics also make vague counterpoint sideswipes at excess and authoritarianism. In the end, then, it’s a stylistic masterpiece that’s a bit fatuous – ensuring it’s such a slice of ’80s gloriousness, it totally deserves to have ruled the world’s airwaves for 35 years.

What the critics say: “Tears For Fears synthesise … intricacy, romance, psychology, and politics … on … Everybody Wants to Rule the World. … The song [was put] together in a week, astonishing because the track has so many components … the genius of [it] is how it escalates, how each part increasingly amplifies the passion of the music.” ~ Tal Rosenberg

Chart record: US #1/ UK #2

Recognition: Ranked #15 for 1985, #232 for the 1980s and #1,477 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.net’s cumulatively ranked ‘top songs’ lists/ won ‘Best Single’ at the 1986 Brit Awards

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George’s runners-up: 2. Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush)/
3. Into The Groove (Madonna)/ 4. Head Over Heels (Tears For Fears)/
5. There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart) (Eurhythmics)

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And the rest: And Dream Of Sleep; The Big SkyBrazilCloudbusting (Kate Bush)/ Alive And KickingDon’t You (Forget About Me) (Simple Minds)/ All You Zombies (The Hooters)/ Back In Time; The Power Of Love (Huey Lewis and The News)/ Back To The Future Overture (The Outatime Orchestra)/ Bad Boy (Miami Sound Machine)/ Bit By Bit (Theme From Fletch) (Stephanie Mills)/ The Boy With The Thorn In His Side; How Soon Is Now (The Smiths)/ Broken WingsKyrie (Mr Mister)/ Brothers In ArmsMoney For NothingSo Far AwayWalk Of Life (Dire Straits)/ Building The Barn; Witness (Main Theme) (Maurice Jarre)/ Can’t Fight This Feeling (REO Speedwagon)/ Close To MeIn Between Days (The Cure)/ Crazy For YouMaterial Girl (Madonna)/ Cry (Godley & Creme)/ Don’t Bang The Drum; Old England; Spirit; The Pan Within; This Is The SeaThe Whole Of The Moon (The Waterboys)/ Easy LoverOne More NightSussudio (Phil Collins)/ The Edge Of Forever; Life In A Northern Town (The Dream Academy)/ Everytime You Go Away (Paul Young)/ Fletch, Get Outta Town (Dan Hartman)/ Fletch Theme (Harold Faltermeyer)/ Glory Days; Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (Bruce Springsteen)/ A Good Heart (Fergal Sharkey)/ The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough (Cyndi Lauper)/ Heaven; Summer Of ’69 (Bryan Adams)/ Heaven Is One Step Away (Eric Clapton)/ Holding Back The YearsMoney’s Too Tight (To Mention) (Simply Red)/ I Believe (Tears For Fears)/ I Know Him So Well (Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson)/ I Want To Know What Love Is (Foreigner)/ I’m Your Man (Wham)/ It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back)When Tomorrow Comes; Would I Lie To You? (The Eurythmics)/ It’s Christmas (All Over The World) (Sheena Easton)/ Johnny B. Goode (Marty McFly with The Starlighters)/ Johnny Come Home (Fine Young Cannibals)/ Just Like Honey (The Jesus and Mary Chain)/ Kayleigh (Marillion)/ Lay Your Hands On Me (Thompson Twins)/ Lean On Me (Ah-Li-Ayo) (Red Box)/ Live Is Life (Opus)/ Loving The Alien (David Bowie)/ Main Title (I Had A Farm In Africa) (John Barry)/ Miami Vice Theme (Jan Hammer)/ Move Closer (Phyllis Nelson)/ Nightshift (Commodores)/ Nikita (Elton John)/ 19 (Paul Hardcastle)/ Oh Yeah (Yello)/ One Night In Bangkok (Murray Head)/ One Vision (Queen)/ Part-Time Lover (Stevie Wonder)/ People Are People; Shake The Disease (Depeche Mood)/ The Power Of Love (Jennifer Rush)/ Rhythm Of The Night (Debarge)/ Road To Nowhere (Talking Heads)/ Rock Me Amadeus (Falco)/ Saving All My Love For You (Whitney Houston)/ See The Day (Dee C. Lee)/ She Sells Sanctuary (The Cult)/ Sisters Are Doin’ For Themselves (Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin)/ Slave To Love (Bryan Ferry)/ Smalltown Boy (Bronski Beat)/ Some Like It Hot (The Power Station)/ Something About You (Level 42)/ St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion) (John Parr)/ Take On Me (a-ha)/ That Ole Devil Called Love (Alison Moyet)/ Theme From The Goonies (Dave Grusin)/ Time Bomb Town (Lindsey Buckingham)/ A View To A Kill (Duran Duran)/ Voices Carry (’Til Tuesday)/ Walls Come Tumbling Down! (The Style Council)/ We Close Our Eyes (Go West)/ We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) (Tina Turner)/ Welcome To The Pleasuredome (Frankie Goes To Hollywood)/ Who’s Zoomin’ Who (Aretha Franklin)/ Wide Boy (Nik Kershaw)

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1986

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Glastnost and Perestroika; Challenger space shuttle disaster; Chernobyl; 
London’s ‘Big Bang’; Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’; Oprah on TV; Hailey’s Comet;

Chicago Bears and ‘The Refrigerator’ win Super Bowl XX; Channel Tunnel gets go-ahead

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Film:

Blue Velvet

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Directed by: David Lynch/ Starring: Kyle MacLachlan,
Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern and Dean Stockwell/
Country: USA/ Running time: 120 minutes/ (Neo-noir mystery-psychological horror)

What George says: In one of the weirdest and, arguably, most visceral and violent of 1980s movies to have come out of the US (or, frankly, anywhere), David Lynch does here what Tim Burton would do in a few years’ time (in the likes of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands), in peeling back the veneer of respectable, vanilla America to reveal the darkness and ugliness beneath; only in a full-throttled, adults-only manner. At times visually beautiful, at others utterly vulgar, Blue Velvet’s like a Hitchcockian thriller as dreamt after a cheese feast – and it’s full of unforgettable moments and iconic images.

What the critics say: “Watched again over 25 years later, Blue Velvet looks even more bizarre than ever, a disorientating palimpsest of moods and eras and genres. It’s an intensely ’80s film in many ways… [yet] … the rest of the time it could, of course, be a Forties noir … but there is something in the infectious and mesmeric weirdness of David Lynch which makes it feel all right.”
~ David Bradshaw (writing in 2012)

Oscar count: 0

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: Platoon

The public’s pick this year: Top Gun (global box-office #1)

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George’s runners-up: 2. Platoon;
3. 
Jean de FloretteManon des Sources; 4. Aliens; 5. The Color Of Money

 

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And the rest: Children Of A Lesser God; Crocodile DundeeFerris Bueller’s Day OffThe Fly; Hannah And Her Sisters; Labyrinth; Little Shop Of Horrors; ManhunterThe Mission; The Money PitThe Name Of The Rose; Peggy Sue Got Married; Stand By Me;  37°2 le Matin (Betty Blue); When The Wind Blows

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Song:

Hounds Of Love ~ Kate Bush

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Writer: Kate Bush/ Released: February 1986

What George says: Ever felt anxious, even afraid by the sudden, onrushing, overpowering emotion that’s love? No? Many haven’t, but some have and, for them, Hounds Of Love could very well be a hymn. A daring, irresistible pop song of a hymn, that is. Throwing together the catchy symbolism of being hunted through woods (with its decidedly Hammer Horror-inspired gothic vibe), a pulsating, barreling synth drive and searingly impassioned vocals, the Queen of Art Rock delivers, here, simply one hell of a title tune for one hell of an album – indeed, maybe the greatest to have been crafted in its entire decade.

What the critics say: “The song married mythic themes with modern concerns [of accepting love]. The building ethereal atmosphere created by the Fairlight synth makes for a mental diorama where you could visualise the internal battle taking place. Bush’s vocal delivery is explosive, climatic and bombastic and serves the piece perfectly.”  ~ Lori Gava

Chart record: UK #18

Recognition: Ranked #10 for 1985, #183 for the 1980s and #1,226 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.net’s cumulatively ranked ‘top songs’ lists

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George’s runners-up: 2. Don’t Dream It’s Over (Crowded House)/
3.
Live To Tell (Madonna)/ 4. Always The Sun (The Stranglers)/
5. The Way It Is (Bruce Hornsby and the Range)

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And the rest: Absolute Beginners; As The World Falls DownMagic DanceUnderground (David Bowie)/ Addicted To Love (Robert Palmer)/ All I Need Is A Miracle; Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground) (Mike + The Mechanics)/ Ask; Bigmouth Strikes AgainPanic (The Smiths)/ Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order)/ Big Time; In Your Eyes; Sledgehammer; Red Rain (Peter Gabriel)/ Breakout (Swing Out Sister)/ Burning Heart (Survivor)/ Caravan Of LoveHappy HourThink For A Minute (The Housemartins)/ The Chicken Song (Spitting Image)/ Coming Around Again (Carly Simon)/ Dancing On The Ceiling (Lionel Richie)/ Danger Zone; Playing With The Boys (Kenny Loggins)/ A Different Corner (George Michael)/ Don’t Get Me Wrong (The Pretenders)/ Don’t Give Up (Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush)/ Don’t Leave Me This Way (The Communards)/  E=MC² (Big Audio Dynamite)/ The Final Countdown (Europe)/ Friends Will Be Friends; A Kind Of Magic; Who Wants To Live Forever (Queen)/ The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades (Timbuk3)/ Gabriel’s Oboe; The Mission (Ennio Morricone)/ Going Down To Liverpool; If She Knew What She WantsManic Monday (The Bangles)/ Graceland; You Can Call Me Al (Paul Simon)/ Greatest Love Of All; How Will I Know (Whitney Houston)/ Higher Love (Steve Winwood)/ Hip To Be Square; Stuck With You (Huey Lewis and The News)/ Human (The Human League)/ Hunting High And Low; The Sun Always Shines On T.V. (a-ha)/ (I Just) Died In Your Arms (Cutting Crew)/ If You Leave (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark)/ Invisible TouchLand Of Confusion (Genesis)/ Is This Love? (Alison Moyet)/ Lessons In Love (Level 42)/ Jean de Florette (Jean-Claude Petit)/ Life’s What You Make It (Talk Talk)/ Main Title Theme (Robbie Robertson)/ The Miracle Of Love; Thorn In My Side; When Tomorrow Comes (Eurthythmics)/ My Favourite Waste Of Time (Owen Paul)/ Oh L’amour; Sometimes (Erasure)/ Open Your HeartPapa Don’t Preach; True Blue (Madonna)/ Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)Suburbia (Pet Shop Boys)/ Pretty In Pink (The Psychedelic Furs)/ Somewhere Out There (Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram)/ Sweet Freedom (Michael McDonald)/ Take My Breath Away (Berlin)/ These Dreams (Heart)/ Through The Barricades (Spandau Ballet)/ Top Gun Anthem (Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens)/ Theme from The Krypton Factor (The Art Of Noise)/ True Colors (Cyndi Lauper)/ Venus (Bananarama)/ (Waiting For) The Ghost Train (Madness)/ When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going (Billy Ocean)

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 1987

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Thatcher makes it three in a row; Black Monday; Reagan: ‘Tear down this wall’;
Michael Fish left red-faced; Terry Waite kidnapped; Iran-Contra Affair; King’s Cross Fire;

New Zealand win inaugural Rugby World Cup; Michael Jackson is ‘Bad’; The Simpsons debut

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Film:

Der Himmel Über Berlin (Wings Of Desire)

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wings_of_desire_1987

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Directed by: Wim Wenders/ Starring: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Donmartin, Otto Sander,
Curt Bois and Peter Falk/ Country: West Germany/ France/ Running time: 127 minutes/
(Human-social-fantasy drama)

What George says: Probably a film unlike any you’ve seen before, Wings Of Desire’s as much an exercise in atmosphere as it is a plot-driven movie. After all, there isn’t much plot (a male angel falls for a lonely woman and wishes to be with her), allowing the viewer to join this angel and another observing Berliners’ lives. Is this a movie commenting on the beauty of human experience and companionship? Probably. Is it a tad too indulgent for its own good? Perhaps. Either way, it’s a languid, melancholic, quirky, mainly monochrome, beautiful one-off that (best of all?) features Peter Falk as… Peter Falk.

What the critics say: “[It] evokes a mood of reverie, elegy and meditation. It doesn’t rush headlong into plot, but has the patience of its angels. It suggests what it would be like to see everything but not participate in it … [it] is one of those films movie critics are accused of liking because it’s esoteric and difficult …[but] For me, [it’s] like music or a landscape: it clears a space in my mind, and in that space I can consider questions.’” ~ Roger Ebert

Oscar count: 0 (but did win Best Director at 1987’s Cannes Film Festival)

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: The Last Emperor

The public’s pick this year: Fatal Attraction (global box-office #1)

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George’s runners-up: 2. Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye, Children);
3. The Last Emperor; 4. Hope And Glory5. No Way Out

   

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And the rest: Angel HeartBabettes Gæstebud (Babette’s Feast); Empire Of The Sun; Full Metal Jacket; InnerspaceLethal WeaponThe Lost Boys; Pelle Erövraren (Pelle The Conqueror)Planes, Trains And AutomobilesThe Princess Bride; Raising Arizona; The UntouchablesWall Street; Withnail & I

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Song:

With Or Without You ~ U2

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with_or_without_you_u2_1987

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Writers: U2/ Released: March 1987

What George says: U2 are the rock monoliths everybody seems to love to hate, yet while I’m sympathetic to many of the reasons why, this brilliant ballad has to be one of the best tunes of the ’80s. Making full use of The Edge’s (later, lazily overused, but then brand new) echoey guitar sound to great effect, along with Adam Clayton’s deep baseline, it creates a richly soulful sonic space, in which Bono’s plaintive vocals are allowed to build and rise with the song to a crescendo of passion and vulnerability. Apparently not a love song at all, it’s nonetheless one of the most romantic rock tracks ever recorded.

What the critics say: With or Without You has Bono unleashing all his vocal power, moving from a soft, subtle intro and middle to an explosive burst of unyielding energy toward the end … the tune’s discerning air sounds almost church-like as it slowly unravels.” ~ Mike DeGagne

Chart record: US #1/ UK #2

Recognition: Ranked #6 for 1987, #47 for the 1980s and #345 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.net’s cumulatively ranked ‘top songs’ lists/ ranked #132 of Rolling Stone’s ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ list

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George’s runners-up: 2. I Wanna Dance (With Somebody) (Whitney Houston)/
3. Where The Streets Have No Name (U2)/ 4. Luka (Suzanne Vega)/
5. Got My Mind Set On You (George Harrison)

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And the rest: Always On My Mind; It’s A Sin (Pet Shop Boys)/ Angel Eyes (Home And Away); Sweet Little Mystery; Wishing I Was Lucky (Wet Wet Wet)/ Bad; I Just Can’t Stop Loving You; The Way You Make Me Feel (Michael Jackson)/ La Bamba (Los Lobos)/ Beds Are Burning (Midnight Oil)/ Big Love; Little Lies; Seven Wonders; Tango In The Night (Fleetwood Mac)/ The Boy In The Bubble; Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes; Under African Skies (Paul Simon)/ Bridge To Your Heart (Wax)/ Build; Me And The Farmer (The Housemartins)/ Bullet The Blue SkyI Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2)/ China In Your HandHeart And Soul (T’Pau)/ Crazy Crazy Nights (Kiss)/ Criticize (Alexander O’Neal)/ Crockett’s Theme (Jan Hammer)/ Didn’t We Almost Have It All; So Emotional (Whitney Houston)/ Dude (Looks Like A Lady) (Aerosmith)/ Fairytale Of New York (The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl)/ Faith (George Michael)/ Gazebo3 Themes; Water Fountain (David Foster)/ Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Belinda Carlisle)/ Hungry Eyes (Eric Carmen)/ I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) (Aretha Franklin and George Michael)/ I Think We’re Alone Now (Tiffany)/ If There Was A Man (The Pretenders)/ (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life (Bill Medley and Jennifer Warns)/ La Isla BonitaWho’s That Girl (Madonna)/ It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) (R.E.M.)/ Jacob’s Ladder (Huey Lewis and the News)/ Just Like Heaven (The Cure)/ Labour Of Love (Hue and Cry)/ Let’s Wait Awhile (Janet Jackson)/ Letter From America (The Proclaimers)/ The Living Daylights (a-ha)/ Living In A Box (Living in a Box)/ Love In The First Degree (Bananarama)/ Mary’s Prayer (Danny Wilson)/ Moonlighting (Al Jarreau)/ Need You Tonight (INXS)/ Never Gonna Give You Up (Rick Astley)/ Never Let Me Down Again (Depeche Mode)/ Once Upon A Long Ago (Paul McCartney)/ The Price Of Love (Roger Daltrey)/ Pump Up The Volume (MARRS)/ Respectable (Mel and Kim)/ Rhythm Is Gonna Get You (Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine)/ Run With Us (Lisa Lougheed)/ Running In The Family (Level 42)/ Sally Cinnamon (The Stone Roses)/ The Secret Of My Success (Night Ranger)/ She’s Like The Wind (Patrick Swayze)/ Sign O’ The Times; U Got The Look (Prince)/ Someone Like You (Van Morrison)/ Sometimes The Good Guys Finish First (Pat Benatar)/ Toy Planes, Home And Hearth (John Williams)/ True Faith (New Order)/ Turn Back The Clock (Johnny Hates Jazz)/ Twistin’ The Night Away (Rod Stewart)/ The Untouchables (End Title) (Ennio Morricone)/ Valerie (Steve Winwood)/ Walk Like An Egyptian (The Bangles)/ Walk The Dinsosaur Was (Not Was)/ Weak In The Presence Of Beauty (Alison Moyet)/ When Smokey Sings (ABC)/ (You’ve Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!) (Beastie Boys)  .

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1988

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George H. W. Bush elected in US, Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan; Lockerbie air bombing;
Ben Johnson cheats his way to gold; Piper Alpha disaster; USSR out of Afghanistan;

Bruce Willis ‘Dies Hard’; Eddie ‘The Eagle’ comes last – but becomes national hero

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Film:

Spoorloos (The Vanishing)

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Directed by: George Sluizer/ Starring: Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets,
Johanna ter Steege and Gwen Eckhaus/ Country: Netherlands/ France/
Running time: 107 minutes (Psychological thriller-horror)

What George says: Knowledge is power, so the saying goes, and so the viewer assumes in this slow-burn, all-too-real-feeling thriller, yet the more we – and an ever-obsessive protagonist, trying to figure out what happened to his missing girlfriend – learn, the less sure and more unsettling and compelling things become. And that’s due to how well constructed and executed this slice of satisfying (and very accessible) arthouse is. With masterly tone-shifting from Sluizer, a fine turn from the eerie Donnadieu and a truly devastating climax, it’s a low-budget masterpiece that ought to be worth a billion Euros.

What the critics say: “Mr Sluizer, whose direction has the spooky precision of non-fiction crime-writing and whose matter-of-factness makes the characters seem quite real, builds a disturbing horror story from seemingly modest beginnings.” ~ Janet Maslin

Oscar count: 0

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: Rain Man

The public’s pick this year: Rain Man (global box-office #1)

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George’s runners-up: 2. Die Hard3. Rain Man; 4. Dangerous Liaisons; 5. Dead Ringers

   

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And the rest: Big; The Big BlueDirty Rotten ScoundrelsDistant Voices, Still Lives; A Fish Called WandaFrantic; Krótki Film O Miłości (A Short Film About Love); Krótki Film O Zabijaniu (A Short Film About Killing)Midnight Run; Mississippi Burning; Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios (Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown); They LiveThe Unbearable Lightness Of BeingWho Framed Roger RabbitWorking Girl

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Song:

Somewhere In My Heart ~ Aztec Camera

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Writer: Roddy Frame/ Released: April 1988

What George says: Despite long believing it a throwaway effort whose popularity he never got his head around, Roddy Frame crafted here a perfect pop tune that bounces along from verse to chorus and back again, in irresistible manner. But maybe what makes it so special is that, lyrically, it’s willfully an everyman’s love song; its sense of place (“A star above the city in the northern chill / A baby being born to the overkill”) crucial for its universal message – whoever you are, wherever you’re from, love is for you, too (“Ambition and love wearing boxing gloves / And singing hearts and flowers”). Hear, hear!

What the artist says: “I didn’t really get it until I was being driven down Ladbroke Grove one day and the sun was shining and someone was in a convertible and I heard it blaring out on their radio. It’s one of those songs.” ~ Roddy Frame

Chart record: UK #3

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George’s runners-up: 2. Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns N’ Roses)/
3. Fast Car (Tracy Chapman)/ 4. Englishman In New York (Sting)/
5. The King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Prefab Sprout)

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And the rest: Anything For You; 1-2-3 (Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine)/ Angel Of Harlem; Desire (U2)/ Baby Can I Hold You; Talkin’ Bout A Revolution (Tracy Chapman)/ Back When We Was Fab (George Harrison)/ Big Area (Then Jericho)/ Broken Land (The Adventures)/ Cars And Girls; Hey Manhattan! (Prefab Sprout)/ Chocolate Girl; Real Gone Kid (Deacon Blue)/ Circle In The Sand (Belinda Carlisle)/ Coming To America (The System)/ Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin)/ Devil Inside; New Sensation; Never Tear Us Apart (INXS)/ Dressed For Success; Listen To Your Heart (Roxette)/ Especially For You (Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan)/ Everyday Is Like Sunday (Morrisey)/ Find My Love; Perfect (Fairground Attraction)/ Fisherman’s Blues/ You And The Sky (The Waterboys)/ Good Life (Inner City)/ A Groovy Kind Of Love; Two Hearts (Phil Collins)/ A Hazy Shade Of WinterIn Your Room (The Bangles)/ Heart; Left To My Own Devices (Pet Shop Boys)/ I Should Be So Lucky (Kylie Minogue)/ I Think We’re Alone Now (Tiffany)/ I Want Your Love (Transvision Vamp)/ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) (The Proclaimers)/ It’s The End Of The World (And I Feel Fine); Orange Crush (R.E.M.)/ John Kettley Is A Weatherman (A Tribe Of Toffs)/ The King’s Motorcade (Nile Rodgers)/ A Little Respect; Stop! (Erasure)/ Loadsamoney (Harry Enfield)/ Loco In Acapulco (The Four Tops)/ Love And Mercy (Brian Wilson)/ Man In The Mirror; Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson)/ Mary’s Prayer (Danny Wilson)/ One Moment In Time; Where Do Broken Hearts Go (Whitney Houston)/ The Only Way Is Up (Yazz And The Plastic Population)/ Orinoco Flow (Enya)/ Piano In The Dark (Brenda Russell)/ The Race (Yello)/ Rush Hour (Jane Wiedlin)/ Sign Your NameWishing Well (Terence Trent Darby)/ Simply Irresistible (Robert Palmer)/ Straight Up (Paula Abdul)/ Teardrops (Womack & Womack)/ Tema Finale; Totò e Alfredo (Ennio Morricone) / Theme from S-Express (S’Express)/ Twist In My Sobriety (Tanika Tikaram)/ Waiting For A Star To Fall (Boy Meets Girl)

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1989

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Berlin Wall falls, Eastern Bloc revolutions; Tiananmen Square protests; Hillsborough disaster;
Salman Rushdie into hiding; Guildford Four are released; Exxon Valdez oil spill; Tyson vs. Bruno;

Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web; Sky TV  launches; Doctor Who ends after 26 years

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Film:

(nuovo) Cinema Paradiso

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cinema_paradiso_1988

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Directed by: Giuseppe Tornatore/ Starring: Philippe Noiret, Salvatore Cascio,
Marco Leonardi, Jacques Perrin, Antonella Attili and Agnese Nano/ Country: Italy/
Running time: 155 minutes (Human-social drama)

What George says: One of cinema’s greatest love-letters to itself, this unashamedly sentimental delight (with its lusciously romantic score from the late, great Ennio Morricone) is just as much an examination of friendship between a scallywag ankle-biter and his irascible father-figure, a doomed first love affair and a poor yet idyllic Sicilian town with all its idiosyncratic characters – and its glorious picture house. Its a long, indulgent film that, while high on nostalgia, doesn’t shy away from the other side of that coin – regret and the forgotten. Never has movie melancholia been quite so mellifluous.

What the critics say: “Not a false note is struck among the sunkissed Sicilian locations, gentle, humorous performances, and tinkling soundtrack. Assembled with a wide-eyed, childlike wonder, Tornatore taps themes of bonding, nostalgia, community, history and the power of film to transport man into a world of dreams.” ~ Ian Nathan

Oscar count: 1 (Best Foreign Language Film, 1989; also won the 1989
BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
and the Grand Prix du Jury award at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival)

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: Driving Miss Daisy

The public’s pick this year: Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (global box-office #1)

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Read why Cinema Paradiso is one of cinema’s ultimate romances here

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George’s runners-up: 2. Do The Right Thing;
3. When Harry Met Sally…4. Henry V5. My Left Foot

   

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And the rest: Batman; Born On The Fourth Of July; The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover; Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure; Dead CalmDead Poet’s Society; Dekalog (The Decalogue); Drugstore Cowboy; Field Of Dreams; GloryHeathers; Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade; Mystery TrainSay Anything; sex, lies and videotape

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Song:

I Am The Resurrection ~ The Stone Roses

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i_am_the_resurrection_stone_roses_1989

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Writers: Ian Brown and John Squire/ Released: April 1989 (on the album The Stone Roses)

What George says: For a brief, shining moment at the end of the ’80s, brilliant, ’60s-informed British guitar music made a swashbuckling return, thanks (pretty much entirely) to Manchester’s Stone Roses and their eponymous debut album, full of swaggering, psychedelic-tinged, jangly, jaunty tunes; the epitome of which was this eight-minute-plus opus (the latter half of which is a bold instrumental outro). Its lyrics in the glorious chorus may err on the side of Messianic grandiosity, yet the uplifting melody and banging percussion drive the whole thing along perfectly – and ensure it’s irresistible.

What the critics say: “Certainly it was [John] Squire who took the band into essentially ‘freak-out’ territory, especially on the wah-wah’n’drum work out at the end … there’s [also] that unmistakeable swagger and defiance that was to prove such a template for Oasis a few years later.” ~ Chris Jones

Chart record: UK #33 (1992)

Recognition:  Ranked #27 for 1989, #286 for the 1980s and #1,810 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.net’s cumulatively ranked ‘top songs’ lists/ ranked #8 on NME magazine‘s ‘50 Greatest Indie Anthems Ever’ list/ ranked #10 on Q magazine’s ‘100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever’ list (2005)

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George’s runners-up: 2. Like A Prayer (Madonna)/ 3. Let The River Run (Carly Simon)/
4. Sowing The Seeds Of Love (Tears for Fears)/ 5. We Didn’t Start The Fire (Billy Joel)

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And the rest: All Around The World (Lisa Stansfield)/ All I WantPure (The Lightning Seeds)/ Another Day In Paradise (Phil Collins)/ Baby I Don’t Care (Transvision Vamp)/ Back To Life (How Do You Want Me); Keep On Moving (Soul II Soul)/ Belfast Child (Simple Minds)/ Birdhouse In Your Soul (They Might Be Giants)/ Breakthru; I Want It All (Queen)/ Can’t Be Sure (The Sundays)/ Cheer Down (George Harrison)/ Cherish; Express Yourself; Oh Father (Madonna)/ DangerousListen To Your HeartThe Look (Roxette)/ Days (Kirsty MacColl)/ The End Of Innocence (Don Henley)/ End Of The Line (Travelling Wilburys)/ Eternal Flame (The Bangles)/ Fergus Sings The Blues (Deacon Blue)/ Fight The Power (Public Enemy)/ Fools GoldShe Bangs The Drums (The Stone Roses)/ Free Fallin’; I Won’t Back Down (Tom Petty)/ Get On Your Feet (Gloria Estefan)/ Getting Away With It (Electronic)/ Have I Told You Lately (Van Morrison)/ I Don’t Want A Lover (Texas)/ I Drove All Night (Cyndi Lauper)/ If We Hold On Together (Diana Ross)/ If You Asked Me To (Patti LaBelle)/ If You Don’t Know Me By Now; A New Flame (Simply Red)/ I’ll Sail This Ship Alone; Song For WhoeverYou Keep It All In (The Beautiful South)/ It Had To Be You (Harry Connick Jr.)/ Leningrad (Billy Joel)/ The Living Years (Mike + The Mechanics)/ Love Changes Everything (Michael Ball)/ Love In An Elevator (Aerosmith)/ Love Shack (The B-52s)/ Makin’ Whoopee (Michelle Pfeiffer)/ Mixed Emotions (The Rolling Stones)/ Pacific (State) (808 State)/ Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode)/ Pump Up The Jam (Techtronic)/ Ride On Time (Black Box)/ The Road To Hell (Chris Rea)/ Rockin’ In The Free World (Neil Young)/ Rooms On Fire (Stevie Nicks)/ The Sensual World; This Woman’s Work (Kate Bush)/ She Makes My Day (Robert Palmer)/ (Simply) The Best (Tina Turner)/ Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart (Marc Almond)/ Stand (R.E.M.)/ Sweet Surrender (Wet Wet Wet)/ This Time I Know It’s For Real (Donna Summer/ Toy Soldiers (Martika)/ When Love Comes To Town (U2 and B. B. King)/ Wind Beneath My Wings (Bette Midler)/ Woman In Chains (Tears for Fears)/ You Got It (Roy Orbison)

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And coming up…

George’s pick of the flicks
and top of the pops ~ 1990-94

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george's_journal_motif

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Playlist: Listen, my lockdowned friends!

April 23, 2020

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

Wherever you may be in the world, there’s a decent chance that, right now, you’re in lockdown – to shield you and your fellow man (and woman) from the unprecedented threat that’s Coronavirus. These, then, are strange, uncertain times we’re living through, but to help ease the experience, here’s this very blog’s lockdown-themed playlist – featuring a collection of tracks that’s been playfully, thoughtfully and just a wee, little bit provocatively chosen.

So then, pause those home-working-chores or that box-set bingeathon, sit back, listen away and enjoy…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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Roy Orbison ~ Only The Lonely (Know How I Feel) (1960)

Dusty Springfield ~ I Only Want To Be With You (1963)

The McCoys ~ Fever (1965)

Petula Clark ~ Games People Play (1969)

The Doors ~ Break On Through (To The Other Side) (Live) (1970)¹

Crosby, Stills and Nash ~ Our House (1970)

Ron Grainer ~ The Omega Man Theme (1971)

Isaac Hayes ~ (They Long To Be) Close To You (1971)

Harry Nilsson ~ Without You (Featuring Pan’s People) (1972)²

John Lennon ~ Watching The Wheels (1981)

Dudley Moore, Lily Tomlin and The Muppets ~ We’ll Meet Again (1981)³

Queen ~ I Want To Break Free (1984)

Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush ~ Don’t Give Up (1986)

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¹ Recorded live at the Isle of Wight Festival on 29 August 1970; the last of the three consecutive, original Isle of Wight Festivals, this one achieved an attendance of up to 700,000 people, greater than that of the previous summer’s gathering at Woodstock  

² As featured in an episode of the BBC’s Top Of The Pops chart programme, first broadcast on 28 December 1972 

³ From the ABC TV movie The Muppets Go To The Movies; broadcast on 20 May 1981 and featuring guest-starring spoof scenes of Hollywood cinema, it was intended to promote that years feature film The Muppets Take Manhattan.

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The spirit of Christmases past: George’s retro Crimbo photo overload

December 23, 2019

Old meets new: the season’s master music-man welcomes the decade’s golden boy to his ‘London home’ as David Bowie legendarily guest-stars on Bing Crosby’s final, UK-filmed television special in 1977 

Ah yes, the end of another year brings with it the opportunity to pause for reflection – and that’s quite some reflection this year, being it marks the end of a decade, too, and serves as the eve of a brand new one. But what about decades past? And, in particular, the decades that this very blog (which, yes, like it or not, is back from the dead!) concerns itself with?

Well, at this most atmospheric, colourful, cheery and, frankly, red, green and baubly time of year, times past and the great and good, who so entertained and defined them, go together like it’s Crimbo kismet. It’s easy as (a mince) pie, via a little digging, to unearth a rather special seasonal pic of one’s favourite stars of yesteryear. So, here then, is a choice selection of snaps of oh-so many big and little screen-stars, Rat Packers, Bonds and music-men and -women, all of them making merry and seeing out a year (whichever it may be) in fine style. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (and new decade) to you all…!

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HOVER OVERCLICK ON or OPEN IN A NEW WINDOW the images for information

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Silver (screen) belles and bello-sPart One

Party with these festive peeps if you could,

Audrey, Monroe, Bardot, Natalie Wood?

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Rat Pack unwrapped

Sing a seasonal tune with Dean and Frank,

And Sammy doing ads – money in the bank

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Jingle Bonds

Connery with Morecambe & Wise,

Moore and Lazenby, super spies

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Dreaming of a White House Christmas

JFK decorates the Camelot tree,

Ford, Reagan and Carter with the family

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Silver (screen) belles and bello-sPart Two

Welch in Vietnam, Deneuve, Cardinale;

Dudley Moore, Gremlins, Muppets and E.T.

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Merry Music Makers

The Fabs, The Monkees and Jimi have a jam,

Bing, Dusty and Slade make the party go Wham!

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Festive TV faves

Only Fools, the Two Ronnies make us laugh and cry,

Happy Days, ALF and Mr T hit the telly Bullseye

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Playlist: Listen, my jingle belles and jaunty baubles! ~ Christmas 2019

December 10, 2019

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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 never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, sip a glass of mulled wine, munch on a mince pie and listen away; for in the words of Noddy Holder, ittttttt’s… well, I’m sure you know what comes next…

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CLICK on the track titles to hear them

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The Sauter-Finegan Orchestra ~ Midnight Sleighride (1954)¹

Frank Sinatra ~ Jingle Bells (1957)

Dean Martin ~ Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (1959)

Sammy Davis Jr ~ Christmas Time All Over The World (1965)

Sally Ann Howes ~ Toyland (1967)

Petula Clark ~ The Happiest Christmas (1969)

Nina ~ Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown? (1969)²

Happy Days ~ Christmas with Fonzie and The Cunninghams (1974)³

The Wombles ~ Wombling Merry Christmas (1974)

Morecambe & Wise and Des O’Connor ~ If You Want Me To Be A Goner,
Get Me A Record By Des O’Connor
(1975)4

Gladys Knight & The Pips ~ Do You Hear What I Hear? (1975)

Hall & Oates ~ Jingle Bell Rock (1983)

The Pro Arte Orchestra ~ The Box Of Delights (1984)5

Miles Davis, Marcus Miller and David Sanborn ~
We Three Kings Of Orient Are (1987)6

Ringo Starr ~ Pax Um Biscum (1999)

Eric Clapton ~ White Christmas (2018)

Slade, Pan’s People and Legs & Co. ~
Merry Christmas Everybody (1973)

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¹ The popular jazz version of Sergei Prokofiev’s thoroughly festive-associated Troika, from his Lieutenant Kijé film score/ suite (1934); the Sauter-Finegan version recently featured in the movie Isle Of Dogs (2018)

² As performed by the then Baroness von Pallandt on the 1969 Morecamble & Wise Christmas Show; On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (the Bond film for which this tune was written) celebrates the 50th anniversary of its release on December 18th

³ An excerpt from the sitcom’s second season episode ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Christmas’, broadcast on December 17th 1974

4 A classic sketch from the 1975 Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show

5 The theme from the BBC’s much-loved serial adaptation of John Masefield’s The Box of Delights (broadcast November 21st-December 24th 1984)

6 As performed on a 1987 edition of NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman; the trio would go on to appear in a scene, performing the same tune, in the following year’s Bill Murray feature-film Scrooged

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ Autumn/ Winter 2019

November 28, 2019

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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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Eric Coates ~ (By The) Sleepy Lagoon (1942)¹

The Five Satins ~ In The Still Of The Night (1956)²

Alice and Ellen Kessler ~ The Boy From Ipanema (1967)

Ennio Morricone ~ L’Arena (1968)³

Ella Fitzgerald ~ Sunshine Of Your Love (1968)

Jean-Pierre Mirouze ~ Sexopolis (1968)

Mouth & MacNeal ~ How Do You Do? (1972)

Sid James ~ Our House (1973)4

The Hollies ~ He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (Live) (1975)5

Gloria Gaynor ~ I’ve Got You Under My Skin (1976)

Vangelis ~ Love Theme (from Blade Runner) (1982)6

A Tribe of Toffs ~ John Kettley Is A Weatherman (1988)

Bananarama (featuring Gipsy Kings) ~ Long Train Running (Alma de Noche Mix) (1991)

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¹ The unmistakable theme of the long-running, much-loved BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs (1942-present)

² As featured in Martin Scorsese’s latest epic mob movie The Irishman (2019); this classic track is often credited as the original ‘doo wop’ song

³ From the soundtrack of the Italian spaghetti western Il Mercenario (A Professional Gun) (1968)

4  Originally written for and performed by Sid James for the stage musical Carry On London (1973)

5 As broadcast on an episode of the short-lived ITV pop-performance-featuring children’s show Supersonic (1975-77); curiously, some of its musical performances were later repackaged for the Twiggy-fronted US TV show Twiggy’s Jukebox (1978-79)

From the soundtrack of the seminal sci-fi classic Blade Runner (1982), which was, of course, set in ‘Los Angeles, November 2019’

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ Winter/ Spring 2018

March 22, 2018

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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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Carmen Miranda ~ Chica Chica Boom Chic (1941)¹

Frank DeVol ~ The Glory Of Love (1967)²

Blood, Sweat & Tears ~
Variations On A Theme By Erik Satie (1st And 2nd Movements) (1968)

The Association ~ Everything That Touches You (1968)

Barry Gray ~ Opening Titles Theme from UFO (1970)

The New Seekers ~ I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (Live) (1972)

Frank Zappa ~ Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow (1974)

ABBA ~ Ring Ring (Live) (1974)

Jean-Pierre Sabar ~ Vai Vai (1975)

Blo ~ Get That Groove In (1979)

Jenny Logan ~ Shake ‘n’ Vac (1979)

David Essex ~ Silver Dream Machine (1980)³

Mari Wilson ~ Just What I Always Wanted (1982)

Dudley Moore ~ Beethoven’s Colonel Bogey (1988)4

Billy Joel, Marlee Matlin and Oscar The Grouch ~ Just The Way You Are (1990)5

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¹ From the soundtrack of the recently crowned Best Picture Oscar winner, The Shape Of Water

² As featured over the opening titles of the classic race-relations-tackling comedy drama Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967)

³ Performed on the 1980 New Year’s Eve edition of ITV’s The Kenny Everett Video Show (‘New Year’s Daze Show’) and from the soundtrack of the Essex-starring 1980 motorcycle-racing film drama Silver Dream Racer

4  From a Christmas special of Terry Wogan’s iconic BBC chat show, Terry In Pantoland (broadcast on December 21 1988)

5 As shown on the January 31 1990 episode of Sesame Street, which  was sponsored by the letter K and the number 11

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