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George’s Journal’s pick of the flicks and top of the pops ~ 1980-84

August 10, 2017

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Yes, after an unplanned, extended sabbatical (apologies, but life has a habit of getting in the way of the best-laid plans!), George’s Journal has come roaring back with a familiar friend… Well, that’s if you consider the latest in a series of overlong (sorry!) blog posts taking a look back at the best single feature film and song release from each year across a specific half-decade as, er, a friend. But hey, given this blog’s already spurted out such posts covering the early ’50smid-to-late ’50searly ’60smid-to-late ’60s; early ’70s and mid-to-late ’70s, at least it’s familiar. Right?

And, to needlessly extend that point, the five years that spanned 1980 through to ’84 are certainly familiar to many of us. The semi-dectet that gave us the early years of Ronnie and Maggie at the top – and, thus, established both at home and abroad (and for better or worse) Reaganism and Thatcherism – as well as the US and Soviets trading Olympics embargoes; conflicts in the Falklands and Lebanon; the Greenham Common peace protests; political assassinations (as ever); recession (again, as ever) and miners’ strikes (again… you know the drill).

Meanwhile, in the arts realm, the punk and disco eras gave way to post-punk, ‘New Romantics’ and synth-pop and there was, of course a Spielberg-Lucas-driven rise in Hollywood’s box-office fortunes but still a commitment to interesting, curious and varied work from filmmakers the world over.

So, when you get down to it, it’s far from easy to sum up the early-to-mid 1980s in a nice, easy-to-consume soundbite (what many perceive as the 1980s arguably didn’t arrive until the middle of the decade; at least, aesthetically or properly in political terms). Instead, the seeds were being sown – MTV arrived and Michael Jackson and Madonna burst on the scene, as did Indiana Jones, Max Headroom and The A-Team. In which case then, why not join me in reliving the intriguing and surprising reality that was 1980-85 through this very post? Oh, go on – you never know, you might even enjoy it…!

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on the film and song titles for video clips…

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1980

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Ronald Reagan sweeps to power; John Lennon dead; Iranian Embassy Siege;
Maze hunger strike; Mugabe elected in Zimbabwe; Solidarity rises in Poland;
Coe vs Ovett; CNN launches; Alton Towers opens; Pac-Man gobbles up Japan

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Film:

The Empire Strikes Back

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Directed by: Irvin Kershner/ Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher,
Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker and Alec Guiness/
Country: USA/ Running time: 122 minutes/ (Sci-fi-space fantasy adventure)

What George says: Deeper, darker, smarter but also funnier, grander and more elegant and stylish than the original Star Wars, Empire may not possess the same narrative purity, but with its exploration of the murkier aspects of fairy tale and Classical myth, sublime set pieces, sensational score, shock Luke-Vader plot twist, cliffhanger non-ending and, well, Yoda, it’s definitely one of the greatest sci-fi flicks ever made. A New Hope may be the Star Wars for the purists; Empire’s the one for grown-ups.

What the critics say: “At once more graceful and melancholic than its predecessor, Kershner enhances the pensive mood of impending tragedy with an array of inhospitable worlds … The film culminates in a whirl of emotional intensity and the infernal machine of the carbon freezing chamber … the whole feel is of a Wagnerian opera: dark and epic. … Nothing in the Star Wars canon betters this.”
~ Ian Nathan

 Oscar count: 2

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: Ordinary People

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

Discover a pictorial celebration of The Empire Strikes Back here and read a full review of the film here

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George’s runners-up: 2. Raging Bull;
3. Le Dernier Mètro (The Last Metro);
4. The Shining5. The Long Good Friday

  

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And the rest: Airplane!Atlantic CityThe Big Red One; The Blues Brothers; Coal Miner’s Daughter; Dressed To Kill; FameThe Elephant ManHeaven’s Gate; Kagemusha (Shadow Warrior);
Melvin And Howard; 9 To 5; Ordinary People; The Stunt ManUsed Cars

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Song:

Love Will Tear Us Apart ~ Joy Division

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Writers: Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner/ Released: June 1980

What George says: Poetic desolation as irresistibly cool percussion-driven pop song; this may be post-punk faves Joy Division’s most accessible track, but it’s also their finest. With tragic frontman Ian Curtis’s fatalistic, almost ethereal lyrics – they may well be autobiographical – accompanied by a haunting synth melody that soars and falls throughout, it’s a flawless creation that, like all great products of pop, takes you somewhere neither of place nor time; instead here, beautiful melancholia.

What the critics say: “What has always been … compelling … about Love Will Tear Us Apart is that it comes from a mournful, sad place, where the end of love has become a harsh yet inevitable reality. Few bands get the chance to end their careers on the absolutely perfect note, but Joy Division did.”
~ A. J. Ramirez

Chart record: UK #13

Recognition: Ranked #1 for 1980, #1 for the 1980s and #18 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.nets cumulatively ranked song lists/ ranked #1 on NME magazine’s ‘The Best Single of All-Time’  list (2002)

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George’s runners-up: 2. Atmosphere (Joy Division)/ 3. Same Old Scene (Roxy Music)/
4.
 Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)/ 5. (Just Like) Starting Over (John Lennon)

   

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And the rest: Ace Of Spades (Motörhead )/ Against The Wind (Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band)/ All Out Of Love (Air Supply)/ All Over The World (Electric Light Orchestra)/ And The Beat Goes On (The Whispers)/ Another One Bites The Dust (Queen)/ Army Dreamers; Babooshka; Breathing; December Will Be Magic Again (Kate Bush)/ Ashes To Ashes; Fashion (David Bowie)/ Atomic; Call MeThe Tide Is High (Blondie)/ Baggy Trousers; Embarrassment (Madness)/ Biko; Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel)/ Brass In Pocket (The Pretenders)/ Celebration (Kool & the Gang)/ De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da; Don’t Stand So Close To Me (The Police)/ Enola Gay (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark)/ Everybody Needs Somebody (The Blues Brothers)/ Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime (The Korgis)/ Fade To Grey (Visage)/ Fame (Irene Cara)/ Funkytown (Lipps Inc.)/ Geno (Dexys Midnight Runners)/ Give Me The Night (George Benson)/ Going Underground; Start! (The Jam)/ Han Solo And The PrincessThe Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme); Yoda’s Theme (John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra)/ Happy New YearOn And On And On; Our Last SummerSuper Trouper; The Winner Takes It All (ABBA)/ Hit Me With Your Best Shot (Pat Benatar)/ Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen)/ I Got You (Split Enz)/ I’m Coming OutUpside Down (Diana Ross)/ It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me (Billy Joel)/ Jump To The Beat (Stacy Lattisaw)/ Let’s Go Round Again (Average White Band)/ Little Jeannie (Elton John)/ Love Sensation (Loleatta Holloway)/ Main Theme from The Long Good Friday (Francis Monkman)/ My Perfect Cousin (The Undertones)/ 9 To 5 (Morning Train) (Sheena Easton)/ Oh Yeah; Over You (Roxy Music)/ One Day I’ll Fly Away (Randy Crawford)/ Oops Up Side Your Head (The Gap Band)/ Pulling Mussels (From The Shell) (Squeeze)/ Redemption Song (Bob Marley)/ Refugee (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)/ Ride Like The Wind (Christopher Cross)/ Rock With You (Michael Jackson)/ Run Like Hell (Pink Floyd)/ Sara (Fleetwood Mac)/ The Spirit Of Radio (Rush)/ Stop The Cavalry (Jona Lewie)/ Take That Look Off Your Face (Marti Webb)/ Theme from Magnum, P.I. (Mike Post)/ Theme From New York, New York (Frank Sinatra)/ To Cut A Long Story Short (Spandau Ballet)/ Train In Vain (The Clash)/ Turn It On Again (Genesis)/ Turning Japanese (The Vapors)/ Use It Up And Wear It Out (Odyssey)/ Woman In Love (Barbra Streisand)

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1981

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Charles and Di wed; urban riots in Britain; first space shuttle, Columbia, in space;
Reagan and Pope survive shootings; Mitterand is French President; Yorkshire Ripper jailed;
MTV launches; ‘Botham’s Ashes’; first London Marathon; Bob Marley dies

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Film:

Raiders Of The Lost Ark

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Directed by: Steven Spielberg/ Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman,
John Rhys-Davies, Wolf Kahler, Ronald Lacey and Denholm Elliott/ Country: USA/
Running time: 111 minutes/ (Period-fantasy action-adventure)

What George says: A rollicking adventure in the grandest tradition of its exotic if corny forebears (complete with snakes, tarantulas and a rolling boulder), Raiders absolutely transcends its genre thanks to the peerless craftsmanship of director Spielberg. In adapting Lawrence Kasdan’s tip-top script (where wryly God, via the Ark of the Covenant macfguffin, tops everyone come the climax), he blends blood-pumping thrills and spills with droll comedy, a dash of romance and a touch of ghoulish spectacle, to bring George Lucas’s post-Star Wars hero, the instantly iconic Indiana Jones, irresistibly to life.

What the critics say:Raiders of the Lost Ark is an out-of-body experience, a movie of glorious imagination and breakneck speed that grabs you in the first shot, hurtles you through a series of incredible adventures, and deposits you back in reality two hours later – breathless, dizzy, wrung-out, and with a silly grin on your face.” ~ Roger Ebert

Oscar count: 5

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: Chariots Of Fire

The public’s pick this year: Raiders Of The Lost Ark (global box-office #1)

Read about the making of Raiders Of The Lost Ark here and a full review of the film here

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George’s runners-up: 2. Das Boot (The Boat); 3. Time Bandits;
4. An American Werewolf In London5. The French Lieutenant’s Woman

   

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And the rest: Arthur; Blow Out; Body HeatChariots Of FireEscape From New York;
Excalibur; Gallipoli; Gregory’s GirlMad Max 2: The Road WarriorMephisto;
Mommie Dearest; On Golden PondPennies From Heaven; RedsThief

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Song:

Under Pressure ~ Queen and David Bowie

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Writers: Queen and David Bowie/ Released: October 1981

What George says: Recalled as much for the Vanilla Ice-half-inched bassline that opens proceedings and those finger-clicks that close them, as it is for being one of the highest profile rock collaborations of all-time, this is nonetheless a perfectly composed and produced supergroup-esque venture; Bowie and Freddie Mercury’s voices gloriously soaring at different points and the whole rumbling, thundering and crashing towards its conclusion as the lyrics declare, unequivocally, that we should all care about the downtrodden among us a little more – we should all give love one more chance. And so we should.

What the critics say: “[With] Queen providing the musical backing, mixing the Chic-reminiscent bassline of John Deacon with piano and a lovely Brian May guitar melody … Freddie Mercury handles the higher vocals in his own inimitable way, delivering some classically bravura moments, while Bowie tackles the lower register to provide the perfect balance. Anthemic, showy and warm-hearted, it’s a clear standout for both acts.” ~ Ned Raggett

Chart record: US #29/ UK #1

Recognition: Ranked #12 for 1981, #103 for the 1980s and #717 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.nets cumulatively ranked song lists

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George’s runners-up: 2. Souvenir (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark)/ 3. Vienna (Ultravox)/ 4. In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins)/ 5. Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey)

   

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And the rest: The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash And The Wheels Of Steel (Grandmaster Flash)/ All Those Years Ago; Teardrops (George Harrison)/ America; Love On The Rocks (Neil Diamond)/ Angel Of The Morning (Juice Newton)/ Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do) (Christopher Cross)/ Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)Watching The Wheels; Woman (John Lennon)/ Begin The Beguine (Volver a Empezar) (Julio Iglesias)/ Bette Davis Eyes (Kim Carnes)/ Chant No.1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) (Spandau Ballet)/ Chariots Of Fire (Vangelis)/ Chi Mai (Ennio Morricone)/ Computer Love (Kraftwerk)/ Don’t You Want Me (The Human League)/ Endless Love (Diana Ross and Lionel Richie)/ Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic (The Police)/ For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton)/ Ghost Town (The Specials)/ Girls On Film; Planet Earth (Duran Duran)/ Grey Day; It Must Be Love; The Return Of The Los Palmas 7 (Madness)/ I Go To Sleep (The Pretenders)/ I Ran (So Far Away) (A Flock Of Seagulls)/ I’ll Find My Way Home (Jon and Vangelis)/ I’m In Love With A German Film Star (The Passions)/ Jealous Guy (Roxy Music)/ I Will FollowOctober (U2)/ Just Can’t Get Enough (Depeche Mode)/ Kids In America (Kim Wilde)/ Kiss On My List; Private Eyes; You Make My Dreams Come True (Hall and Oates)/ Lay All Your Love On Me; One Of Us (ABBA)/ Let’s Groove (Earth, Wind & Fire)/  Maid Of Orleans (Joan Of Arc) (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark)/ Memory (Elaine Paige)/ Mr. Mistoffelees (Paul Nicholas)/ 9 To 5 (Dolly Parton)/ One Day In Your Life (Michael Jackson)/ Once In A Lifetime (Talking Heads)/ Physical (Olivia Newton-John)/ Prince Charming; Stand And Deliver (Adam and the Ants)/ The Raiders March (John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra)/ Rapture (Blondie)/ Reward (The Teardrop Explodes)/ The River (Bruce Springsteen)/ Romeo And Juliet; Tunnel Of Love (Dire Straits)/ Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (David Bowie)/ Start Me Up; Waiting On A Friend (The Rolling Stones)/ Swords Of A Thousand Men (Tenpole Tudor)/ Tainted Love (Soft Cell)/ Tears Are Not Enough (ABC)/ Theme from Hill Street Blues (Mike Post)/ There’s A Guy Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis (Kirsty MacColl)/ (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (Heaven 17)/ Yellow Pearl (Phil Lynott)/ You Better You Bet (The Who)/ Young Turks (Rod Stewart)

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1982

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War in the Falklands and Lebanon; Greenham Common peace protest; Brezhnev dies;
China’s population tops 1 billion; UK jobless tops 3 million; Italy win third World Cup;
E. T.; CDs; Countdown launches Channel 4; first ever computer virus unleashed

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Film:

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

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Directed by: Steven Spielberg/ Starring: Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote,
Robert McNaughton, Drew Barrymore, K. C. Martel, Sean Frye, C. Thomas Howell and Erika Eleniak/ Country: USA/ Running time: 110 minutes/ (Sci-fi-human drama)

What George says: A target of cineastes for its supposed over-sentiment, this small movie that could (it went stratospheric at the box-office, proving the top champ for more than 10 years) is actually among that select band of films that are practically flawlessly crafted, showcasing Spielberg at his imperious best (again), with exquisite natural performances from the mostly young cast (and Carlo Rambaldi’s astonishingly realised alien puppet) and sublime sequences soundtracked by John Williams’ soaring score. A movie of emotional honesty, as well as wonder and magic; it’s one for the child in all of us.

What the contemporary says: “I was certain that not only would E.T. win [the Best Picture Oscar], but that it should win. It was inventive, powerful, [and] wonderful. I make more mundane movies.”
~ Sir Richard Attenbrough (whose film Gandhi won the Best Picture Oscar for 1982)

Oscar count: 4

The public’s pick this year: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (global box-office #1)

Read about the making of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial here
and why it’s actually one of cinema’s greatest romances here

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George’s runners-up:
2.
Fanny Och Alexander (Fanny And Alexander);
3. Blade Runner4. The Thing; 5. Koyaanisqatsi

   

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And the rest: The Dark Crystal; Diner; Fitzcarraldo; 48 Hours; Gandhi;
Missing; My Favorite Year; Pink Floyd – The Wall; Poltergeist; The Secret Of NIMH;
Sophie’s Choice; Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan; Tootsie; The Verdict; Veronika Voss

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Song:

All Of My Heart ~ ABC

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Writer: Martin Fry/ Released: August 1982

What George says: Exuding all the luxury of a jet-setting Monaco sojourn with a touch of the camp of a Blackpool ballroom, this deluxe ballad is simply the Sheffield synth-pop superheroes at their scintillating best. ABC strove to eke out the total 100% richness a studio could lend their music, so much so that (especially on the supreme Lexicon of Love album from which this comes) their sound was wall-to-wall dripping with glorious gorgeousness and yet, ensuring the whole shebang would actually work, it was also shot through with a fair degree of irony – and All Of My Heart is the prime example. The fact it’s a bloody brilliant love song with heartfelt vocals from songsmith Fry doesn’t hurt either.

What the critics say: “ABC’s slickest and most gorgeous single, and yet also possibly their most bitter … Martin Fry alternates between open-hearted and suspicious, warm and resentful with the turn of a phrase. The outra – a swirl of soundtrack strings, plucked bass and cascading piano – is the most purely beautiful music of the era” ~ Jess Harvell

Chart record: UK #5

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George’s runners-up: 2. Gypsy (Fleetwood Mac)/ 3. Golden Brown (The Stranglers)/ 4. Shipbuilding (Robert Wyatt)/ 5. The Look Of Love (ABC)

   

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And the rest: Abracadabra (Steve Miller Band)/ Africa; Rosanna (Toto)/ Always On My Mind (Willie Nelson)/ Avalon; More Than This (Roxy Music)/ Back On The Chain Gang (The Pretenders)/ Beat Surrender; Town Called Malice (The Jam)/ Blue Eyes (Elton John)/ Chariots Of Fire (Vangelis)/ Come On Eileen; Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile) (Dexys Midnight Runners)/ Da Da Da (Trio)/ Date Stamp; 4 Ever 2 Gether; Poison Arrow; Show Me; Tears Are Not Enough (ABC)/ Do You Believe In Love; Workin’ For A Livin’ (Huey Lewis and The News)/ Do You Really Want To Hurt Me; Time (Clock Of The Heart) (Culture Club)/ Don’t Go; Only You (Yazoo)/ The Dreaming; Sat In Your LapThere Goes A Tenner (Kate Bush)/ Driving In My Car; House Of Fun; Our House (Madness)/ Edge Of Seventeen (Stevie Nicks)/ Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant)/ Escape/ Chase/ Saying Goodbye; End Credits from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (John Williams) / Eye Of The Tiger (Survivor)/ Forget Me Nots (Patrice Rushen)/ Glittering Prize; Promised You A Miracle (Simple Minds)/ Gloria (Laura Branigan)/ He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’; It Ain’t What You Do… (Bananarama & Fun Boy Three)/ Head Over Heels (ABBA)/ Heartbreaker (Dionne Warwick)/ Heat Of The Moment (Asia)/ Hot In The City; White Wedding (Billy Idol)/ Hungry Like The Wolf; Rio; Save A Prayer (Duran Duran)/ I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do); Maneater (Hall & Oates)/ I Melt With You (Modern English)/ I Ran (So Far Away); Space Age Love Song (A Flock of Seagulls)/ I Won’t Let You Down (Ph.D)/ It Started With A Kiss (Hot Chocolate)/ It’s Raining Again (Supertramp)/ Jack & Diane (John Mellencamp)/ Last Night A D.J. Saved My Life (InDeep)/ Lifeline (Spandau Ballet)/ Living On The Ceiling (Blancmange)/ Love My Way (The Psychedelic Furs)/ Love Plus One (Haircut 100)/ Mad World (Tears For Fears)/ Main Theme from Knight Rider (Stu Phillips)/ The Message (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five)/ Mickey (Toni Basil)/ Mirror Man (The Human League)/ Never Give Up On A Good ThingTurn Your Love Around (George Benson)/ 1999 (Prince)/ Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy (David Bowie & Bing Crosby)/ Private Investigations (Dire Straits)/ Rock The Casbah; Should I Stay Or Should I Go (The Clash)/ Say Hello, Wave Goodbye (Soft Cell)/ Senses Working Overtime (XTC)/ Sexual Healing (Marvin Gaye)/ Shock The Monkey (Peter Gabriel)/ Steppin’ Out (Joe Jackson)/ Temptation (New Order)/ Theme from Cheers (Where Everybody Knows Your Name) (Gary Portnay)/ Theme from St. Elsewhere (Dave Grusin)/ Tug Of War (Paul McCartney)/ Up Where We Belong (Joe Cocker  and Jennifer Warnes)/ Why (Carly Simon)/ A Winter’s Tale (David Essex)/ You Can’t Hurry Love (Phil Collins)

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1983

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Thatcher back in with landslide, Kinnock new Labour leader; Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’;
Michael Jackson’s moonwalk and ‘Thriller’; US invades Grenada; Brink’s-Mat robbery;
half of America watches M*A*S*H finale; Mario and Luigi in arcades; first Hooters opens

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Film:

Local Hero

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Directed by: Bill Forsyth/ Starring: Peter Riegert, Burt Lancaster, Denis Lawson,
Peter Capaldi, Jenny Seagrove, Jennifer Black and Fulton Mackay/ Country: UK/
Running time: 111 minutes/ (Human-social comedy-drama)

What George says: Blending together social and environmental comment, wistfulness, absurdist humour and magical realism, writer-director Forsyth delivers a timeless fish-out-of-water comedy that’s less an intoxicating brew; more a gently delivered, enchanting paean to a place and community of people the like of which has probably never really existed, but it doesn’t matter. Local Hero is a quirkily funny, always subtly shifting ode to feeling, touching the soul and existential satisfaction, however indefinable and difficult to grasp and hold on to that may be; just as its everyman protagonist finds.

What the critics say: “[Forsyth] finds the perfect tone for this not-quite-a-fairy-tale set in a quaint seaside Scottish village named Ferness. By injecting a little (but not too much) magical realism into the mix, [he] leavens his pro-environmental message to the point that those not looking for it might not be conscious of its presence … [It’s] a fragment of cinematic whimsy – a genial dramatic comedy that defies both our expectations and those of the characters.” ~ James Berardinelli

Oscar count: 0 (but did win Best Director at 1983’s BAFTA Awards)

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: Terms Of Endearment

The public’s pick this year: Return Of The Jedi (global box-office #1)

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George’s runners-up: 2. The Right Stuff;
3. The King Of Comedy; 4. Trading Places; 5. Educating Rita

   

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And the rest: The Big Chill; A Christmas Story; The Dresser;
Gorky Park; Merry Christmas, Mr LawrenceNational Lampoon’s Vacation;
Return Of The Jedi; Risky Business; Rumble Fish; ScarfaceSilkwood;
Tender Mercies; Terms Of Endearment; De Vierde Man (The Fourth Man); Zelig

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Song:

This Charming Man ~ The Smiths

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Writers: Johnny Marr and Morrisey/ Released: October 1983

What George says: Charming, indeed, and still a magnificent slice of rock-pop it may be today, but this bouncy, irresistible tune was deceptively dynamic and courageous when released nearly 35 years ago, thanks to Mancunian misanthrope-deluxe Morrisey’s lyrics telling how a young man happens upon his first homosexual experience; his vocals soaring and dropping to match Johnny Marr’s deliciously jangly-guitar-peppered, upbeat melody. Never before had – nor since has – popular music sounded quite so self-aware, progressive, evocative, defiant, exciting and beautiful all at the same time.

What the critics say:Where has all the wildness and daring got to? Some of it has found its way onto The Smiths’ record This Charming Man. It jangles and crashes and Morrissey jumps in the middle with his mutant choir-boy voice, sounding jolly and angst-ridden at the same time. It should be given out on street corners to unsuspecting passers-by of all ages”
 ~ The Face magazine (written in 1983)

Chart record: UK #25 (#8 in 1992)

Recognition: Ranked #2 for 1983, #8 for the 1980s and #78 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.nets cumulatively ranked song lists/ ranked #1 on Mojo magazine’s ‘50 Greatest UK Indie Records of All Time’ list (2008)

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George’s runners-up: 2. Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)/
3. Every Breath You Take (The Police)/
4. Modern Love (David Bowie)/ 5. Gold (Spandau Ballet)

   

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And the rest: Ain’t Nobody (Rufus and Chaka Khan)/ All Night Long (All Night) (Lionel Ritchie)/ All Time High (Rita Coolidge)/ Baby Jane; That’s What Friends Are For (Rod Stewart)/ Beat It; Human NatureThriller; Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (Michael Jackson)/ Blue Monday (New Order)/ Change; Pale Shelter (Tears for Fears)/ China GirlLet’s Dance (David Bowie)/ Church of the Poison MindKarma Chameleon (Culture Club)/ Club Tropicana (Wham!)/ Come Back and Stay; Love Of The Common People; Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home) (Paul Young)/ Cruel Summer; Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) (Bananarama)/ Down Under (Men at Work)/ Everyday I Write The Book (Elvis Costello and the Attractions)/ (Feels Like) Heaven (Fiction Factory)/ The First Picture Of You (The Lotus Eaters)/ Flashdance… What A Feeling (Irene Cara)/ Galaxy Song (Monty Python)/ Gimme All Your Lovin’ (ZZ Top)/ Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper)/ Give It Up (KC and the Sunshine Band)/ Going Home (Theme from Local Hero) (Mark Knopfler)/ Goodnight Saigon; An Innocent Man; Tell Her About ItUptown Girl (Billy Joel)/ Heart And Soul (Huey Lewis and the News)/ Hold Me Now (Thompson Twins)/ Holiday; Lucky Star (Madonna)/ Holiday Road (Lindsey Buckingham)/ I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues; I’m Still Standing (Elton John)/ I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Nik Kershaw)/ In a Big Country (Big Country)/ In Your Eyes (George Benson)/ Is There Something I Should Know? (Duran Duran)/ Islands In The Stream (Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton)/ It’s Like That (Run-D.M.C.)/ Just Be Good To Me (The S.O.S. Band)/ Little Red Corvette (Prince)/ Long Hot Summer; Speak Like A Child (The Style Council)/ The Love Cats (The Cure)/ Love Is A Battlefield (Pat Benatar)/ Love Is A Stranger; Right By Your Side; Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This); Who’s That Girl? (Eurhythmics)/ Mama (Genesis)/ Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (Ryuichi Sakamoto)/ Moonlight Shadow (Mike Oldfield)/ Never Say Never Again (Lani Hall)/ New Year’s Day; Sunday Bloody Sunday (U2)/ Oblivious (Aztec Camera)/ Only You (The Flying Pickets)/ Owner Of A Lonely Heart (Yes)/ Pipes Of Peace (Paul McCartney)/ Rip It Up (Orange Juice)/ Rockit (Herbie Hancock)/ The Safety Dance (Men Without Hats)/ The Sun And The Rain; Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day)Wings Of A Dove (Madness)/ Temptation (Heaven 17)/ That’s Livin’ Alright (Joe Fagin)/ Theme from The A-Team (Mike Post and Pete Carpenter)/ Twisting By The Pool (Dire Straits)/ They Don’t Know (Tracey Ullman)/ This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (Talking Heads)/ Total Eclipse Of The Heart (Bonnie Tyler)/ Too Shy (Kajagoogoo)/ True (Spandau Ballet)/ Undercover Of The Night (The Rolling Stones)/War Baby (Tom Robinson)/ Wrapped Around My Finger (The Police)

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1984

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Reagan re-elected by monster margin; miners vs police at Ogreave; Indira Gandhi assassinated;
‘material girl’ Madonna’s ‘like a virgin’; Ethiopian famine and Band Aid; Brighton hotel bombing;
Torvill and Dean’s perfect sixes; Ghostbusters and Gremlins; Spitting Image splats on to TV

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Film:

Once Upon A Time In America

(European version)

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Directed by: Sergio Leone/ Starring: Robert De Niro, James Woods,
Elizabeth McGovern, Tuesday Weld, Scott Shutzman Tiler, Rusty Jacobs
and Jennifer Connelly/ Country: USA/ Italy/ Running time: 229 minutes/
(Crime-period drama)

What George says: Something of a cross between the first two Godfathers and Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West – and a companion piece to them – this four-hour mob opus is a tale of ambition and opportunity; kinship, loyalty and betrayal; love and loss; and the passage of time. Told through the eyes (and opium-addled dream?) of a Prohibition-era New York-Jewish hood, it’s a bewitching mix of, yes, brutal violence, borderline misogyny and bawdy humour with melancholic nostalgia, historical curiosity and opera-esque melodrama sweep. Not perfect, but intoxicating and an utter one-off.

What the critics say: “Ultimately America is much more than just a gangster picture. Certainly some of the familiar genre-trappings are floating about … But it’s at its deeper level that the film transcends genre and becomes something much more profound. It’s a movie about the unreliability of memory; about ageing and guilt and indelible regret.” ~ Adam Smith

Oscar count: 0

Oscar’s Best Picture pick this year: Amadeus

The public’s pick this year: Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (global box-office #1)

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George’s runners-up: 2. Amadeus;
3. The Killing Fields; 4. Ghostbusters5. Starman

   

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And the rest: Beverly Hills Cop; Birdy; Blood Simple; Broadway Danny Rose; Cal;
The Company Of Wolves; The Cotton Club; GremlinsIndiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom;
Moscow On The Hudson; A Nightmare On Elm Street; Paris, Texas;
Romancing The Stone; The TerminatorThis Is Spinal Tap

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Song:

Drive ~ The Cars

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Writer: Ric Ocasek/ Released: July 1984

What George says: To my mind, this ballad and summer ’85’s Live Aid are so indistinguishable (thanks to the tune soundtracking a film shown partway through the concert of starving Ethiopian people, many children, to remind everybody what the day was about), it seems fruitless trying to write about the song here but not about the event. Yet, it’s exactly because this is a mellifluously melancholic, sublimely synthed pop song, with its singer lamenting the dire straits of his subject (whom he clearly loves), that it perfectly fitted that moment on that day. The effect could have been inexcusably glib; it wasn’t. It was kismet; a profound union of devastating imagery and beautiful music.

What the critics say: “The lonely ache in the bassist’s voice haunted and captivated listeners … The rhythm sways at slow-dance pace, although this is the kind of dance that immediately precedes a final farewell … Maybe The Cars aren’t who anyone would have expected to deliver one of the most heartfelt ballads of the ’80s, but Drive is impeccable evidence that they did.” ~ Jim Beviglia

Chart record: US #3/ UK #5 (#4 in 1985)

Recognition: Ranked #52 for 1984, #497 for the 1980s and #3,053 for ‘all-time’ on acclaimedmusic.nets cumulatively ranked song lists

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George’s runners-up: 2. Radio Ga Ga (Queen)/ 3. The Heat Is On (Glenn Frey)/ 
4. Shout To The Top! (The Style Council)/ 5. Dancing In The Dark (Bruce Springsteen)

  

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And the rest: Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)One More Night (Phil Collins)/ All I Need Is EverythingJump (Aztec Camera)/ Axel F (Harold Faltermeyer)/ Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream) (The Icicle Works)/ Blue Jean (David Bowie)/ Borderline; Like A Virgin; Material Girl (Madonna)/ Born In The U.S.A. (Bruce Springsteen)/ Borrowed Time (John Lennon)/ The Boys Of Summer (Don Henley)/ Can’t Fight This Feeling (REO Speedwagon)/ Careless Whisper (George Michael)/ Dance Hall Days (Wang Chung)/ Dancing With Tears In My Eyes (Ultravox)/ Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Band Aid)/ Eyes Without A Face (Billy Idol)/ Footloose (Kenny Loggins)/ Free Nelson Mandela (The Special A.K.A.)/ FreedomLast Christmas; Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (Wham!)/ The Ghost In You; Heaven (The Psychedelic Furs)/ Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr.)/ Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)/ Hammer To Fall; I Want To Break Free; It’s A Hard Life (Queen)/ The Heart Of Rock & Roll; If This Is It (Huey Lewis and the News)/ Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now; Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want; William, It Was Really Nothing (The Smiths)/ Here Comes The Rain; Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four) (Eurhythmics)/ Holding Out For A Hero (Bonnie Tyler)/ I Feel For You (Chaka Khan)/ I Should Have Known Better (Jim Diamond)/ I Want To Know What Love Is (Foreigner)/ It’s My Life (Talk Talk)/ Jump (Van Halen)/ Jump (For My Love)Neutron Dance (The Pointer Sisters)/ The Killing Moon (Echo & the Bunnymen)/ Legs (ZZ Top)/ Let’s Go CrazyPurple RainWhen Doves Cry (Prince)/ Let’s Hear It For The Boy (Deniece Williams)/ Locomotion (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark)/ The Longest Time (Billy Joel)/ Michael CaineOne Better Day (Madness)/ Mothers TalkShout (Tears For Fears)/ My Ever Changing MoodsYou’re The Best Thing (The Style Council)/ 99 Luftballons99 Red Balloons (Nena)/ The NeverEnding Story (Limahl)/ A New England (Kirsty MacColl)/ New Moon On MondayThe ReflexThe Wild Boys (Duran Duran)/ No More Lonely Nights (Paul McCartney)/ Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want (The Dream Academy)/ The Power Of LoveRelaxTwo Tribes (Frankie Goes To Hollywood)/ The RiddleWouldn’t It Be Good (Nik Kershaw)/ Robert De Niro’s Waiting (Bananarama)/ Robin (The Hooded Man) (Clannad)/ Smooth Operator; Your Love Is King (Sade)/ Smuggler’s Blues (Glenn Frey)/ Stir It Up (Patti LaBelle)/ Together In Electric Dreams (Giorgio Moroder and Philip Oakey)/ Young At Heart (The Bluebells)

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And coming up…

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

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Playlist, listen my friends! ~ August 2017

August 3, 2017

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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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Henry Mancini ~ Baby Elephant Walk (1962)

Love ~ She Comes In Colors (1966)

Nancy Sinatra ~ You Only Live Twice (Alternate Version) (1967)

Bernard Cribbins ~ When I’m Sixty-Four (1967)

Claude Bolling ~ Full Speed (1970)¹

Shirley Bassey ~ Light My Fire/ Big Spender (Live) (1973)

Alan Hawkshaw ~ Girl In A Sports Car (1973)

Peter Falk ~ Lt. Columbo Roasts Frank Sinatra (1978)²

Godiego ~ Monkey Magic (1978)³

Electric Light Orchestra ~ Shine A Little Love (1979)

Yazoo ~ Nobody’s Diary (1983)

Paul Aitken and David Owen Smith ~ Theme from Hartbeat (1984)

Duran Duran ~ A View To A Kill (That Fatal Extended Kiss) (1985)

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¹ From the soundtrack of the 1970, Romy Schneider-starring Franco-Italian mystery-thriller Qui? (or The Sensuous Assassin)

² From The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast of Frank Sinatra, broadcast on the NBC network July 2 1978

³ The unmistakable theme tune from the 1978-80, cult Japanese adventure-drama TV series Monkey (Saiyūki/ 西遊記)

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ July 2017

July 13, 2017

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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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The Standells ~ Batman Theme (1966)¹

Hljómar ~ Sveitapiltsins Draumur (1967)²

Maggie Smith ~ I’ll Make A Man Of You (1969)³

John Shakespeare ~ Bell Hop (1970)4

Candi Staton ~ In The Ghetto (1972)

Albert Hammond ~ It Never Rains In Southern California (1973)

Peter Reno ~ Silver Thrust (1973)

Fela Kuti ~ Water No Get Enemy (1975)

Marvin Hamlisch ~ Bond 77 (1977)5

Elkie Brooks ~ Fool (If You Think It’s Over) (1981)

Električni Orgazam ~ Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite! (1983)

Nik Kershaw ~ Wide Boy (1985)

Madonna and Mandy Patinkin ~ What Can You Lose (1990)6

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¹ Adam West, star of the classic kitsch Batman TV series (1966-68) passed on June 9, aged 89

² An Icelandic-language version of the utterly iconic hippiedom and Vietnam War-era track from The Mamas & The Papas, California Dreamin’ (1966)

³ As featured in the First World War film satire Oh! What A Lovely War (1969), itself adapted from Joan Littlewood’s musical stage show

4 The ‘music library’ track that years later was chosen as the theme to the loveable, middle-of-the-road BBC sitcom Terry And June (1979-87)

5 From the soundtrack of the awesome, still enormously popular disco-era Bond epic The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), which was released 40 years ago this month – specifically on July 7 1977 (yes, 7/7/77)

6 Written by musical theatre maestro Stepehn Sondheim and from the big screen comic book-inspired gangster caper Dick Tracy (1990) 

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ May/June 2017

May 30, 2017

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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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Pop Tops ~ Oh Lord, Why Lord (1967)

Harry Nilsson ~ She’s Leaving Home (1967)

Bobbie Gentry ~ Ode To Billie Joe (1968)

Acid Gallery ~ Dance Round The Maypole (1969)

Open Mind ~ Magic Potion (1969)

Booker T & The M.G.’s ~ Time Is Tight (1969)

Dusty Springfield ~ To Love Somebody (1970)

Alan Hawkshaw ~ The Night Rider (1972)¹

Jefferson Starship ~ Song To The Sun
(Part I: Ozymandius/ Part II: Don’t Let It Rain)
(1976)

England Dan and John Ford Coley ~ I’d Really Love To See You Tonight (1976)

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band ~ Nutbush City Limits (Live) (1977)

Carly Simon and Friends ~ Nobody Does It Better (Than Roger Moore) (1977)²

Marvin Hamlisch ~ Pachelbel’s Canon in D (1980)³

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¹ The theme made oh-so famous in the UK thanks to its use in the James Bond-parodying ‘Milk Tray Man’ TV adverts of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s

² RIP, Sir Roger Moore (October 14th 1927-May 23rd 2017)

³ From the soundtrack of Robert Redford’s multi-Oscar-winning family drama Ordinary People (1980)

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ April 2017

April 10, 2017

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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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Françoise Hardy ~ Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles (1962)

The Kinks ~ Dandy (1966)

Hugo Montenegró and his Orchestra ~ Our Man Flint (1966)

Davy Graham ~ Getting Better (1968)

Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab ~ The Lions And The Cucumber (1971)¹

The Hollies ~ Jesus Was A Crossmaker (1972)

Carly Simon ~ Night Owl (1972)²

George Harrison ~ Give Me Love (Give Me Peace) (1973)

Deodato ~ Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001) (1973)³

Tom Robinson ~ War Baby (1983)

Bernard Hoffer ~ Theme from Thundercats (1985)

Eurhythmics ~ There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart) (1985)4

The Style Council ~ The Gardener Of Eden (A Three Piece Suite): I In The Beginning;
II The Gardener Of Eden; III Mourning The Passing of Time
 (1988)

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¹ From the soundtracks of the classic, racy Jess Franco horror Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and, later, Quentin Tarantino’s crime heist favourite Jackie Brown (1997)

² An awesome bluesy version of the James Taylor tune performed by his then girlfriend Carly Simon, on which both Paul and Linda McCartney provide backing vocals, frequent Rolling Stones collaborator Nicky Hopkins plays piano and Beatles musical associate Klaus Voorman also appears (probably on bass) – the latter had designed the cover of Fabs album Revolver back in 1966 

³ The legendary Brazilian jazz-crossover artist’s disco-friendly take on Richard Strauss’s 1896 tone poem, the classical version of which is instantly recognisable from the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); this recording can be briefly heard in the masterful Peter Sellers big-screen satire Being There (1979)

4 The iconic 18th Century opera-themed music video to this, Eurhythmics’ so far only – but truly glorious – UK #1, which features a stand-out harmonica solo from one Stevie Wonder.

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ March 2017

March 7, 2017

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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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Miriam Makeba ~ Khawuleza (1966)

William Shatner ~ Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1968)

The Meters ~ Cissy Strut (1969)

Mouth & MacNeal ~ How Do You Do? (1971)

Pop Tops ~ Mamy Blue (1971)

John Denver and Mama Cass ~ Leaving On A Jet Plane (1972)

Lynsey de Paul ~ Sugar Me (1972)

Dooley Silverspoon ~ Bump Me Baby (1975)

Shelby Flint ~ The Journey (1977)¹

Lynda Carter ~  Medley: Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy/
Proud Mary/ I Was Made For Lovin’ You/ Friends
(1980)²

The Hooters ~ All You Zombies (1985)

Jim Diamond ~ Hi Ho Silver (1986)³

Cyndi Lauper ~ I Drove All Night (1989)4

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¹ As featured in Disney’s animated classic The Rescuers (1977)

² From the original Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter’s song-and-dance TV special Encore!, broadcast by US network CBS in September 1980 

³ Memorable as the theme from ITV’s Michael Elphick/ Neil Morrissey-starring, Brum-set drama series Boon (1986-95) 

4 The cracking tune that’s also memorable for Roy Orbison’s slightly later version (although actually recorded before Lauper’s in ’87, it wasn’t released until ’92, its video featuring then hot Hollywood starlets Jason Priestly and Jennifer Connelly); Orbison’s effort didn’t chart in the States while Lauper’s hit #6 there, but did so in the UK where it made it to #7, matching Lauper’s UK chart high.

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Playlist: Listen, my Oscars-following friends! ~ February 2017

February 21, 2017

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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 this dozen (and one more) tunes, all of which can claim – yes, it’s true – to being recipients of the Academy Award for Best Original Song…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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Cliff Edwards ~When You Wish Upon A Star (1940)¹

Nat King Cole ~ Mona Lisa (1950)²

Doris Day ~ Secret Love (1953)³

Frank Sinatra ~ High Hopes (1959)4

Dusty Springfield ~ Windmills Of Your Mind (1969)5

B. J. Thomas ~ Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head (1969)6

Isaac Hayes ~ Shaft (1973)7

Matt Monro ~ Born Free (1974)8

Jennifer Warnes ~ It Goes Like It Goes (1979)9

Irene Cara ~ Fame (1980)10

Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes ~ Up Where We Belong (1982)11

Berlin ~ Take My Breath Away (1986)12

Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes ~ (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life (1987)13

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¹ As featured, of course, in Disney’s utterly timeless Pinocchio (1940)

² Originally from the film Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)

³ From the soundtrack of the cinematic adaptation of the Broadway musical Calamity Jane (1953)

4 As featured in the Frank Sinatra and Edward G. Robinson comedy A Hole In The Head (1959); Sinatra often performed the tune during the 1960 Presidential Election campaign of pal John F. Kennedy – with altered lyrics, obviously

5 Originally recorded by Noel Harrison (son of Rex) for the classic crime caper The Thomas Crown Affair (1968); this version is from the all-time classic album, Dusty In Memphis (1969)

6 Composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for, of course, the soundtrack of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969)

7 Written and performed by Hayes for the 1971 film of the same name; the chap introducing the funktastic legend is, a little bizarrely (?), Reverend Jesse Jackson

8 John Barry’s mellifluous pop masterpiece,  which originally featured in the movie of the same name (1966)

9 From the Sally Field-starring union-themed drama Norma Rae (1979)

10 As unmistakeably featured in the NYC stage school-set film of the same name (1980)

11 From the soundtrack of the classic romantic drama An Officer And A Gentleman (1982)

12 The Giorgio Moroder-penned chart-topper that featured, of course, in Top Gun (1986)

13 The third of three – count ’em, three! – Oscar-winning tunes sung by Ms Warnes and, naturally, from the soundtrack of the inimitable Dirty Dancing (1987); this performance was broadcast on Top Of The Pops in November ’87, during the first of the song’s two runs in the British charts – its second came in January ’91 following the film’s UK network TV premiere. 

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ January 2017

January 25, 2017

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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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Larry Kert ~ Something’s Coming (1957)¹

Burt Bacharach ~ The Look Of Love (Instrumental)  (1967)

Children ~ Girl Of Tender Means (1971)

The Rolling Stones featuring Eric Clapton ~ Brown Sugar (1971) 

Shirley Bassey ~ Bridge Over Troubled Water (1971)

Art Garfunkel ~ 99 Miles From L.A. (1975)

John Belushi ~ With A Little Help From My Friends (1975)²

Rita Moreno and Animal ~ Fever (1976)³

Jon and Vangelis ~ I Hear You Now (1979)

Meco Monardo ~ Empire Strikes Back (Medley) (1980)

ABBA ~ The Piper (1980)

Phil Lynott ~ Yellow Pearl (Remix) (1981)4

The Doug Wood Band ~ Drag Racer (Theme to BBC Snooker) (1982)

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¹ From the original cast recording of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s classic revolutionary musical West Side Story – this year marks the 60th anniversary of its debut on the Broadway stage

² A classic moment from the legendary Saturday Night Live satire show par excellence (in fact, from just its third ever episode, which originally aired on October 25 1975) – the late, great John Belushi impersonating his soul singing idol Joe Cocker’s unmistakeable take on The Fabs’ Sgt. Pepper hit

³ A truly marvellous musical skit from the first episode of The Muppet Show, first broadcast in the US in September 1976

4 This version of the Japanese digital technology-referencing tune from the Thin Lizzy frontman (co-written by Midge Ure) featured over the chart rundown on Top Of The Pops from 1981-86

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Retro Crimbo 2016: George’s ultimate Christmas Day TV schedule

December 23, 2016


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All ident for Christmas is you: the UK BBC1 channel’s Christmas idents from 1977 through to 1991 (the last being an alternate to the second last for the Christmas Day network premiere of 1989’s Batman) 

So, it’s just a couple of days away now from the thing itself and, having taken a look at the telly schedules, you may have concluded (in the UK at least) that Christmas TV this year – as so often nowadays – somehow isn’t really cracked up to what it used to be. So many channels and so many viewing options, but when you plough through it all and find the diamonds in the rough, you realise there aren’t actually that many of them and, to watch them, they don’t quite cut the mustard in the way a seasonal special back in the day from, say, The Two Ronnies, Mike Yarwood or even Top Of The Pops did.

Which inevitably leads you to wonder – what, if you could have your way, would you really want to sit down to watch on Christmas Day? Which shows, movies and marvellous moments would you want to be tickled, teased, gripped and delighted by? Well, you may disagree with me, fair dos; but below follows a schedule that would pretty much be my pick (along with clips of the different entries – or even the whole programmes; lucky you!). Either way, take a look, have a watch and, by all means, let me know what you think by leaving a comment at the bottom. Now where’d you leave that darn remote…?

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7.00am TV-am Good Morning Britain (1985)

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What better way to kick-off Christmas Day than a visit to the classic ITV breakfast bods at TV-am – not least when it was hosted by the diamond pairing (geddit?) of sexy-would-be-wife-next-door Anne Diamond and he-of-the-plastic-grin Nick Owen? A viewing of the short clip below (it begins proper 50 seconds in) reveals that their co-hosts’ll include random TV-am regular of the era Jimmy Greaves (who’s bringing in his grandkids for some reason; it’s a funny old game), while weather girl d’hier Wincey Willis will be visiting the largest children’s hospital in Surrey. Which is nice. Plus, Anne and Nick are baking mince pies, even though neither of them like them. And Nick’s wearing a jumper with bananas on it, even though neither we nor Anne surely like it. Ah, Christmas in the ’80s…

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8.40 The Noel Edmonds Live, Live Christmas Breakfast Show (1985)

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Over to the Beeb for mid-morning because, on the same day, BBC1’s go-to-man of the ’80s/ ’90s had transferred his Saturday early-evening precursor to the House Party (namely the Late, Late Breakfast Show) to London’s British Telecom Tower for some sort of live-charity-telefon thing. He was ably assisted by the likeable, sadly late Mike Smith (the lucky Mr Sarah Greene) and a guy in Leeds called Tudor Nash Jones (great name). He was also joined by charlies running up the Tower to set a new world record and The Krankies and Feargal Sharkey on a 747 (obviously), while a ‘brand new’ charity named Comic Relief was launched (yes, that one) and a live prize draw was conducted via computer (exciting!). Unlike everything on this schedule, I remember this being broadcast and seem to recall it feeling like genuinely dynamic TV. Er, yes. If you really want to, you can watch the whole thing below…

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10.45 Film: It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

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For millions around the globe, Christmas simply wouldn’t be Christmas without this golden slice of do-good Americana from the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood. It stars a career-best James Stewart as an everyman who itches to see the world but is tied to his home town to responsibly see it through bad times and good. A tiny slip one festive season, though, puts him and all around him in jeopardy, until he’s visited by the most unlikely guardian angel he could ever imagine. Utterly charming and beguiling, romantic and dramatic, funny and compelling; this has to be the perfect way to revv up to Christmas lunch. See for yourself via the clip below…

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1.00pm A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

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Good grief! Poor old Charlie Brown searches for the true meaning of Christmas amidst all his pals and iconic pet dog Snoopy, of course, in this all-time classic – actually anti-commercialised-Christmas – US TV animated special. Featuring all the smarts, sass, wisdom and off-kilter greatness of the Peanuts universe and the marvellous jazz-inflected music of Vince Guaraldi, the whole thing follows here…

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1.25 Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (1970)

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Narrated by Fred Astaire himself, this rather awesome origin tale of good ole Santa Claus (neatly working in the tune from which it takes its title) may just be the greatest of the spate of late ’60s/ early ’70s stop-motion animated specials produced by the Rankin Bass studios for American TV. It’s adored just as much – if not more – today than when first broadcast, so discover the magic of Kriss Kingle and co. by watching the whole thing below…

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2.15 Top Of The Pops 73 (1973)

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A staple of BBC1’s Christmas afternoon schedules for decades (it still is; even though the regular pop-chart-tune-featuring show itself no longer exists), the edition from ’73 has to be the all-time festive classic. Why? Because it would have featured Slade performing Merry Xmas Everybody (#1 that Crimbo), Wizzard doing I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday (#4) and possibly Elton John inviting everyone to Step Into Christmas (#7). Admittedly, footage of that particular show’s hard to come by, but what a glam rockin’, toe-tappin’ party it must have been – here’s Slade doing their thing from an episode a week or two before…

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3.00 The Queen (1957)

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A real timepiece here, the very first television-shown message from Her Maj, the likes of which forever after (apart from one year that is, 1969) have been broadcast on BBC1 and ITV every Christmas Day at 3pm. Yes, so very much has changed since then – Ghana and Malaysia only gained independence from Britain that year (as she mentions) and the little boy in that photo nearest her is Prince Charles (yes, really!), but much hasn’t changed at all; take note of what she says about disregarding the good values and traditions of ‘the past’ in the face of the uncertainties of the future. Watch the full thing below…

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3.10 The James Bond Film:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

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And what better to follow The Queen than a Bond film? Yes, it could only be Bond really, couldn’t it? (Certainly on this blog at least, haha!) And here’s a real stonker – for two reasons. First, it’s an unashamedly snowy and seasonal one (Bond says ‘Merry Christmas’ at one point and Blofeld even decorates the tree!); second, its one of the very, very best. Yep, its the one with that Aussie feller George Lazenby, but he makes a more than decent 007, plus there’s Diana Rigg as the Bond Girl, Telly Savalas as the villain and Gabrielle Ferzetti, Joanna Lumley, Catherine Schell and Angela Scoular all in supporting roles, as well as lashings of terrific action, real Swinging Sixties style and cool, genuine romance and one hell of an ending you’ll never forget. Here’s just a snippet…

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5.30 The Snowman (1982)

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Originally broadcast for UK Channel 4’s first Christmas – and a national institution by the mid-’80s thanks to choirboy Aled Jones’ near-chart-topping rendition of its theme Walking In The Air – this is an irresistible, unforgettable old-school pastel-like animation that tells the tale of a lonely boy’s snowman magically coming to life and whisking him off on an adventure one Christmas. It’s like a British answer to E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Sort of. (Warning: the ending’s just as heart-melting):

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6.00 Bruce Forsyth
And The Generation Game
(1973) 

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Life is the name of the game and he wants to play the game with you! Who could forget the Generation Game, honestly! All those clueless yet loveable members of Britain’s great unwashed making fools of themselves under the BBC studio lights playing daft games and trying to win a ‘cuddly toy’ and other prizes, while a – back then – sprightly and sarky Brucie took the p*ss and his squeeze (on off the screen), the toothy beauty Andrea Redfearn, ‘did a twirl’. It was very un-PC, admittedly, but top Saturday night telly entertainment – and here’s the first few minutes of a Crimbo special from its heady heyday…

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7.00 The Good Life (1977)

Silly But It’s Fun

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The one-and-only festive special of the ’70s-suburban-self-sufficiency sitcom par excellence (which featured the outstanding thesp quartet that was Richard Briers, Penelope Keith, Paul Eddington and sexy Felicity Kendal); it’s defined by the episode’s title above there, with drunkenness, parlour games, class-ish comedy and crap presents throughout. Silly but oh-so classy fun. Watch the whole thing here…

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7.30 Family Ties (1983)

A Keaton Christmas Carol

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Yes, its Marty McFly as Scrooge, folks! Before he headlined Back To The Future (1985), Michael J Fox was the breakout star of one of the best sitcoms of the ’80s, the wonderful Liberal-vs-Conservative-America comedy that was Family Ties – and in this Christmas special from its second season, the Reagan-worshipping eldest son Alex (Fox) to a pair of hippie-ish Dem-lovin’ parents gets the Dickensian treatment in order to learn whats truly most important this time of year. Watch it all below…

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8.00 Only Fools And Horses (1996)

Time On Our Hands

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Before it was brought back for a trio of festive specials in the early Noughties (which, in retrospect, lacking in the old magic as they were, probably shouldn’t have happened), this is where the Only Fools journey concluded – with Del Boy and Rodders finally making it and becoming mill-yonaires in this third of three hour-long specials shown across Christmas 1996. This one, the last and best of the three, was actually broadcast on Sunday 29th December, but still brought in more than 26 million viewers, as it utterly deserved to. Relive below the moment at the end when, having realised their dream at long last, they finally face up to the fact that Trotters Independent Traders (TIT) has ceased trading – all the fine acting, perfect timing and pathos that made it maybe the greatest ever British sitcom is right here…

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9.00 The Morecambe And Wise
Christmas Show
(1971)

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Let’s face it, for any British TV watcher who knows and appreciates their stuff, no perfect Christmas Night would be complete without an hour-long seasonal special from the still (surely forever) unparalleled comic double act that was Eric and Ernie. And, let’s face it, it’s far from easy to choose which of their nation-halting, festive BBC extravaganzas that aired every December 25th (apart from one) between 1969 and ’77. There’s the Upstairs, Downstairs take off from ’75, the high-kicking of Angela Rippon from ’76 and the roster of newsmen hoofin’ it up to There’s Nothing Like A Dame in ’77 (the show that was watched by more than 27 million avid viewers). However, I’ve gone for the classic from ’71, which featured that year’s Best Actress Oscar-winner Glenda Jackson, Shirley Bassey singing Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (as Eric and Ern sort out errant props and her footwear) and the magnificent sketch of Morecambe’s ‘performance’ with the LSO of Greig’s Piano Concerto ‘by Greig’ – overseen by Andrew Preview, sorry André Previn. Watch the following clip for more on that oh-s0 brilliant bit…

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10.05 Bernard And The Genie (1991)

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Between the days of Blackadder and transforming Hugh Grant into a global film star in Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994), comedy writer par excellence Richard Curtis turned out this all-too-little-seen, far-too-little-repeated Christmas comedy special-and-a-half, which sees shy nice guy Bernard Bottle’s (a pre-fame Alan Cumming) Christmas turned upside down but also salvaged by a Biblical-era genie (Curtis’s Comic Relief pal, Lenny Henry; on effervescent best form). With a gaggle of great, often knowing gags, the always terrific Rowan Atkinson on villain duties, something of a cinematic feel and an irresistible seasonal atmos, it’s easily one of my favourite slices of festive TV. Watch it in full below…

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11.15 Julie’s Christmas Special (1973)

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What better way to pass Christmas Day’s late-night than by being serenaded by Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews? This ’70s-stylish US TV special’s a real treat. It sees her and guest Peggy Lee (as the Sugar Plum Fairy) perform various seasonal favourites and swingin’ tunes, while Peter Ustinov provides fine support as Santa Claus (perfectly cast). Mind you, the highlight has to be Julie’s mellifluous rendition of In The Bleak Midwinter. Heart-melting. Watch the whole thing below…

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12.05am Film: Trading Places (1983)

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Finally, for those still awake despite the day-long onslaught of turkey, rum truffles and too much sherry; yes, they and the night owls out there will be rewarded with a pseudo anti-Crimbo comedy classic from the early to mid-’80s that sees the (then) unlikely pairing of Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd – both at the peak of their powers – unwittingly switch roles as part of a scheme by a pair elderly tycoon codgers (who are sort of Scrooge-cum-Trump hybrids), only to plan the latters’ comeuppance with their accomplices Jamie Lee Curtis (sexy) and Denholm Elliott (dry as a non-British summer’s day). Merry Christmas!

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Retro Crimbo 2016/ Playlist: Listen, my stocking rockers and plum-pudding popsters!

December 13, 2016

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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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Enrico Caruso ~ Cantique de Noël (1916)¹

The Barron Knights ~ Merry Gentle Pops (Parts 1 and 2) (1965)

Simon & Garfunkel ~ 7 O’Clock News/ Silent Night (1966)

Original Broadway Cast of Promises, Promises ~ Christmas Day (1968)

Nancy Sinatra ~ It’s Such A Lonely Time Of Year (1968)

Isabelle Aubret ~ Savez Vous Ce Qu’il Faut au Sapin de Noël? (1969)²

Bert Jansch ~ In The Bleak Midwinter (1974)

Dick Shawn and George S Irving ~ The Snow Miser/ Heat Miser Song (1974)³

Electric Jungle ~ Funky Funky Christmas (1974)

Greg Lake ~ I Believe In Father Christmas (1975)4

Basil Brush ~ Christmas Wishes (1977)

Piotr Tchaikovsky ~ Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy (1977)5

Jerry Goldsmith ~ The Gremlin Rag (from Gremlins) (1984)

Elaine Paige ~ Father Christmas Eyes (1986)

Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem ~ Jingle Bell Rock (1987)6

Dina Carroll ~ The Perfect Year (1993)

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ~ What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? (2011)

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¹ A version of the truly awesome carol O Holy Night from the 20th Century Italian opera superstar, recorded – yes – exactly a century ago

² An exquisite French-language take on John Barry and Hal David’s Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown? from the soundtrack of festive-themed Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

³ From, of course, the Rankin-Bass Claymation Christmas favourite, The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974)

4 Prog rocker Greg Lake’s critique of the increasing commercialisation of Christmas, which reached #2 in the UK festive chart in its year (memorably, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was the runaway #1); its video gives us something of an anti-war message too, featuring as it does footage from the then very recently concluded Vietnam War. Lake passed on December 7, aged 69. RIP, Greg.

5 From the American Ballet Theatre’s sumptuous and sublime version of The Nutcracker featuring the legendary Mikhail Baryshnikov in the title role, originally broadcast on December 16 1977

6 As featured in the 1987 TV special A Muppet Family Christmas – it actually marked a rare crossover, involving characters from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock and even Muppet Babies.

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