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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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Playlist: Listen, my friends ~ November/ December 2016

November 5, 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 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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Anita Harris ~ Dream A Little Dream Of Me (1968)

Lalo Schifrin ~ Shifting Gears (1968)¹

Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Billy Preston ~ Games People Play (1970)

George Benson ~ California Dreamin’ (1972)

801 ~ Tomorrow Never Knows (1976)

Suzi Quatro ~ If You Can’t Give Me Love (1978)

Van Morrison ~ Bright Side Of The Road (1979)

Mike Oldfield ~ Blue Peter (1979)²

Liza Minnelli ~ Copacabana (1979)³

Joe Fagin ~ That’s Livin’ Alright (Theme from Auf, Wiedersehen Pet) (1984)

David Foster ~ Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

Lisa Stansfield ~ In All The Right Places (1993)4

Tears For Fears ~ Break It Down Again (1993)

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¹ Now this is what you call driving music… for any enthusiast of cinematic vehicular chases and any fan of Steve McQueen, this should be instantly recognisable as from the score of the one, the only Bullitt (1968)

² The Hornpipe Blue Peter (or the ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’) was, of course, adopted in the 1950s as the theme for the BBC’s legendary children’s magazine show Blue Peter (1958-present); this is instrumentalist supreme Mike Oldfield’s take on the classic tune

³ As featured on a Liza Minnelli-guest starring episode of The Muppet Show that first aired on November 30 1979

4 From the soundtrack of the bonk-for-a-million-dollars blockbuster movie Indecent Proposal (1993)

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Playlist: Listen, my friends ~ October 2016

October 7, 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 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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Tsai Chin ~ The Ding Dong Song (1959)¹

Herbie Hancock ~ Cantaloupe Island (1964)

David McWilliams Days Of Pearly Spencer (1967)

P. P. Arnold ~ God Only Knows (1968)

Leonard Bernstein conducts the New York Philharmonic Orchestra ~
Overture from The Marriage Of Figaro (1968)

The Carpenters ~ Superstar (Live) (1971)

Ross McManus ~ Secret Lemonade Drinker (1973)²

Caetano Veloso ~ For No One (1975)

Kate Bush ~ The Saxophone Song (1978)

Modern English ~ I Melt With You (1982)

Kenny Loggins ~ Playing With The Boys (1986)³

Madonna ~ Into The Groove (Remix) (1987)

John Williams ~ Toy Planes, Home and Hearth from Empire Of The Sun (1987)

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¹ Something of a novelty hit (topping the charts in Asia), this jolly tune was written by the musical theatre legend-to-be Lionel Bart and recorded by Tsai Chin (or Irene Chow), whom would later star in two Bond films You Only Live Twice (1967) and Casino Royale (2006); her brother is Michael Chow, whom also starred in Twice and is the man behind the Mr Chow restaurants

² Despite the fact actor Julian Chagrin (whose most impressive big screen credit is appearing as one of the tennis mimes at the end of 1967’s Blow Up) appears to sing the theme to this much loved UK TV ad, he actually mimed it, as it was really sung and performed by its writer McManus, whose son – believe it or not – is one Elvis Costello, whom sang the backing vocals

³ Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone may be the more recalled tune of his from the soundtrack of US-Air-Force-recruitment-video-as-box-office-blockbuster-movie Top Gun (1986) – not least for being Archer’s favourite song – but this one (which plays over the film’s notorious beach volleyball scene) boasts a video that has to be seen to be believed – not only does it have an unexpected ‘girl power’ theme, but also showcases Loggins’ mullet-and-trimmed-beard combo to great effect and his uncanny ability to acquire an electric guitar out of thin air (see at 1.27 – you wont be disappointed); Top Gun celebrated its 30th anniversary this summer.

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ September 2016

September 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 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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James Ray ~ Got My Mind Set On You (1962)¹

Caterina Caselli ~ Tutto Nero (1966)

The Scaffold ~ Thank You Very Much (1967)

Head Machine ~ The Girl Who Loved, The Girl Who Loved (1970)

Yvonne Elliman ~ Can’t Find My Way Home (1972)

Highly Likely ~ Whatever Happened To You (Theme from Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?) (1973)

Ike and Tina Turner ~ Whole Lotta Love (1975)

Bernard Hermann ~ Main Title from Taxi Driver (1976)²

Diana Ross ~ Love Hangover (1976)

The Jam ~ And Your Bird Can Sing (1980)

Blancmange ~ Living On The Ceiling (1982)

’Til Tuesday ~ Voices Carry (1985)

Paddy Kingsland ~ Theme from Around The World In 80 Days (1988)

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¹ The original version of this oh-so familiar tune (which can be heard on UK television at present in an HSBC ad) – oh-so familiar? Yes, it was memorably covered by George Harrison in 1987, of course

² Martin Scorsese’s classic, scorching, Robert De Niro-starring, urban decay thriller Taxi Driver celebrates its 40th anniversary this year; the score was the last the great movie maestro Hermann wrote – its recording concluded just a day before he died on Christmas Eve 1975

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50 years of Revolver: the album on which The Beatles emptied the chamber

August 28, 2016

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Eagle-eyed followers of this blog (come on, I know there’s one or two of you out there; erm, aren’t there?) may have noticed that each of this year’s monthly playlists have featured a rare cover of a song from The Beatles’ Revolver album. Why? Because this year – this month, in fact – marks its 50th anniversary. Worth commemorating, indeed; for it’s not just The Fabs’ best album, but (in this blogger’s humble opinion, at least) the best album ever recorded.

Yes, I did just write that. For me, more than any other (even say, The Beach BoysPet Sounds), Revolver is a perfect storm of an album. A select few albums may contain a flawless collection of tracks, sure, but no other surely features the variety of styles; dynamism, audacity and creativity; innovation and (studio) experimentation and all-round quality and entertainment that Revolver does. Think its terrific, but hampered by the ‘nonsense song’ Yellow Submarine? Think again; for that tune features the first ever example of sampling. Not sure it can truly be that good when Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road have always been talked about more? Listen to them and you discover, brilliant though they are, there’s more filler on both of them.

If the band’s previous album – its superb sixth, Rubber Soul – saw them experiment and start to mix things up, then this trend continues and is only deepened on Revolver. Less burdened – and maybe creatively freed up – by their recent decision to give up on touring and performing live, its recording marked the point when they (and ace producer George Martin) began to seriously explore all that the modern music studio technology could offer; merging the beat rock and pop balladry of their early years with drug references, the influence of LSD-use, Indian mysticism/ music and out-and-out psychedelia (in the shape of head-swirling closer Tomorrow Never Knows). I once read somewhere that Revolver is where The Beatles started to ‘turn up at the corners’; that’s an excellent way of putting it, I think.

Anyway, as a celebratory blog post, don’t worry, this one’s not going to delve into each of the album’s 14 tracks in detail (that’s been done before and surely better than I ever could); no, instead it’s going to share rarely seen shots from the album’s recording and some lesser-known facts about its making and legacy. So, please do scroll down and enjoy what follows – and then, should you not be familiar with it, download Revolver itself and give it a listen. Trust me, you’ll feel like you’ve shot and scored…

 

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Fab fact

Revolver’s album cover was created by artist and old friend of the band Klaus Voorman, whom drew each of the Beatles from memory and, despite his efforts winning a Grammy, was paid just £40.

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Fab fact

Backing vocals – all uncredited – were provided by Brit rock movers and shakers of the era, such as Rolling Stone Brian Jones, Marianne Faithfull, George Harrison’s model wife Pattie Boyd and Donovan (whom also contributed to the lyrics of Yellow Submarine).

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Fab fact

Amazingly, The Fabs weren’t under contract to regular publisher EMI at the time they recorded the album, which sort of means the latter received it for nothing; moreover, the band initially wanted to record it in the United States (possibly Memphis) and not at EMI’s iconic Abbey Road Studios.

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Fab fact

Revolver could have been – but wasn’t – called ‘Abracadabra’, ‘Beatles On Safari’, ‘Pendulums’, ‘Magic Circle’, ‘Four Sides Of The Circle’, ‘Four Sides Of The Eternal Triangle’ and ‘Fat Man And Bobby’ (the latter influenced by the US atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII, perhaps?).

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Fab fact

The album took a humongous 77 days to record (April 6-June 21 1966), but made it into the record shops just six weeks after it was completed; going on sale on August 5.

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Fab fact

Ray Davies, lead singer and creative leader of Fabs contemporaries The Kinks, was enlisted by the magazine Disc And Music Echo to review Revolver – he concluded that Yellow Submarine is ‘a load of rubbish, really’.

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Fab fact

For Tomorrow Never Knows, John Lennon’s trippy climax to the record, he fancied sounding like the Dalai Lama on a hilltop; this effect was ‘achieved’ by having his voiced recorded through a rotating Leslie speaker and using  automatic double-tracking – just one of the album’s many innovations.

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Fab fact

Like Tomorrow Never Knows, Taxman and I’m Only Sleeping include backwards recording techniques, while Eleanor Rigby is the first Beatles song to feature no guitars at all and its lyrics were contributed to by all four band members – although only Paul and Ringo performed on For No One (Ringo the drums obviously; Paul everything else, apart from the French horn solo).

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Fab fact

It’s been postulated that at least 11 of the album’s 14 tracks are patently influenced by and/ or reference drug use – not least Doctor Robert, which is effectively about Manhattan celebrity doc Robert Freymann whom liked to offer patients B12 shots blended with speed.

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Fab fact

Those seagull-like sounds on Tomorrow Never Knows weren’t derived from examples of the supreme seaside scavenger at all – they’re actually a repeated electronic distortion of Paul McCartney laughing.

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Fab fact

Good old sunny Good Day Sunshine has been deployed to wake up astronauts and cosmonauts on numerous tours on the International Space Station; in fact, Macca himself performed it for this purpose live in 2005 – the album version’s piano solo was played by producer George Martin.

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Fab fact

John Lennon made his ‘bigger than Jesus’ comment around the time of the album’s recording (March 1966), which unsurprisingly was publicly denounced by The Vatican – yet, years later in 2010, the record was named ‘Best Pop Album’ by L’Osservatore Romano, its official newspaper. Go figure.

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ August 2016

August 21, 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 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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Love ~ Hummingbirds (1967)¹

Tammi Terrell ~ Sinner’s Devotion (1967)

Roy Redmond ~ Good Day Sunshine (1967)

Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity ~ Season Of The Witch (1968)

The Kinks ~ Waterloo Sunset (1973)²

Quincy Jones ~ Summer In The City (1973)

Matt Monro ~ And You Smiled (1973)³

Blue Swede ~ I Didn’t Sing (In The New York Subway) (1974)

Basil Brush and Petula Clark ~ I Remember It Well (1979)

Elton John ~ Imagine (1980)4

Patrick Gowers ~ Theme from The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes (1984)

Sarah Vaughan featuring the London Symphony Orchestra ~ Bali Ha’i (1986)

ABC ~ Viva Love (2016)5

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¹ A bonus track to be found on re-releases of the band’s absolutely seminal, ‘anti-Summer of Love’ album Forever Changes, which is effectively an acoustic (early demo) version of that album’s tune, The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This 

² A quite lovely and lilting performance on BBC TV (from January 1973) of the classic 1967 Kinks hit

³ Yes, this is the theme to 1970s TV detective-drama-series-and-a-half Van Der Valk (1972-77 and 91-92) – with added lyrics

4 The piano-key-thumpin’ one’s tremendous dedication to his friend, former Beatle John Lennon, at his free concert held in Central Park on September 13 1980, which was attended by an astonishing 400,000-plus adoring fans; Lennon, of course, at the time lived in the Dakota Building, just across the road from the park and would, tragically, be murdered in front of the building just eight weeks later

5 The lead-off track on The Lexicon of Love II, the just released, new album from Sheffield’s finest and suavest New Romantic band, a sequel to the original Lexicon of Love album – itself released all of 34 years ago

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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ July 2016

July 30, 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 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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Lonnie Donegan ~ World Cup Willie (1966)¹

Sarah Vaughan ~ 1-2-3 (1966)

Georgie Fame ~ Sunny (1966)

Sally Ann Howes ~ Lovely Lonely Man (1968)²

Asterix ~ If I Could Fly (1970)

Dusty Springfield ~ You’ve Got A Friend (1970)

Redbone ~ Come And Get Your Love (1974)

Cloud One ~ Atmosphere Strut (1976)

Lone Star ~ She Said She Said (1976)

Otis Clay ~ The Only Way Is Up (1980)³

Zack Laurence ~ Peak Performance (Theme from Treasure Hunt) (1982)

Spandau Ballet ~ Lifeline (1982)

Bryan Adams ~ Everything I Do (I Do It For You) (1991)4

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¹ The official anthem performed by the early ’60s skiffle king for the 1966 football World Cup, won of course by Alf Ramsay’s England 50 years ago today

² From the soundtrack of that family musical movie masterpiece with the magical car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

³ The original version, performed by blues and soul legend Otis Clay, that in summer 1988 became a five-week UK chart-topper for Yazz and the Plastic Population

4 The incredibly familiar video to the Groover from Vancouver’s humongously successful single from the soundtrack of medieval box-office blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991), released 25 years ago this summer; the tune topped the UK charts for a (still) record 16 consecutive weeks between July 7 and October 26 1991.

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Euro look-backs: Dutch masters at Euro ’88

July 10, 2016

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Ruud awakening: captained by Gullit and boasting both van Basten and Rijkaard in their ranks, the funky Dutch came to Euro ’88 full of promise – but would they at last prove to be tournament victors? 

Yes, we’re just hours away from it now, peeps; the biggest – and last – kick-off of Euro 2016. Yup, before this evening’s out, we’ll know whether the favourites, those French fancies spearheaded by the new Gallic superhero Antoine ‘The Griezmann’, have equalled the record of most Euro wins by any nation (that would be three) and also won a third major tournament on home soil, or whether the admittedly so far underwhelming Portuguese, led by their captain fantastic Cristiano Ronaldo, have managed to put the kybosh on what would have been a gigantic Parisian party.

And to get you in the mood for the main attraction across the continent tonight, why not indulge, er, me by casting your eyes down this blog post, the final offering in the short but hopefully sweet, soccer-friendly series of efforts reliving former glories, stories, victories, defeats and draws-resulting-in-dramatic-penalty-shoot-outs from football’s European Championships past.

And, should you be wondering just where the sun’s gone this weekend (almost certainly if you live in Blighty you will be), then this post may prove doubly fitting tonight, because with a decidedly Dutch theme, it promises to lend a very summery orange tan to, well, at least the few minutes it’ll take you to read it, sweeping you back to 28 years ago at Euro ’88, as it will, and the likes of Jack Charlton standing in the dug-out, the England team trying to dig themselves out of yet another hole, Rudi Völler’s disagreeable perm and Marco van Basten’s peerless volleying. On y va…?

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When, where and who?

June 10-25 1988/ West Germany/ Participants were Denmark, England, Italy,
Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Soviet Union and West Germany (hosts)

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The champs

Netherlands

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The runners-up

Soviet Union

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The final

Netherlands 2 : 0 Soviet Union

Goals: Gullit 32 mins; van Basten 54 mins

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The semi-finals

Netherlands 2 : 1 West Germany

Goals: Matthäus (pen) 55 mins (0 : 1); Koeman (pen) 74 mins (1 : 1); van Basten (88 mins) (2 : 1)

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Soviet Union 2 : 0 Italy

Goals: Lytovchenko 58 mins (1 : 0); Protasov 82 mins (2 : 0)

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The low-down

Revered as the tournament at which the Dutch finally made good on their totaalvoetbal promise, Euro ’88 is less well recalled for its opening match – perhaps because, book-ending the competition nicely, it was contested by the same two sides that met in the final, only with a reversed result. Yes, in this opening group fixture, the Netherlands lost to the USSR 1 : 0. And similarly forgotten in the mists of time is the fact that it was another side in that group whom were favourites not just to make it to the final, but lift the trophy come end the of the tournament –  England, believe it or not. Why’s this been forgotten? Well, probably because England endured surely their worst ever performance at a tournament this time out. And, yes, given recent tournament performances, you might conclude that’s saying something.

Much indeed was expected from a team blessed with the likes of Gary Lineker, Bryan Robson, John Barnes, Chris Waddle and Glenn Hoddle (not least because it looked stronger than that which had been narrowly knocked out by Maradona in Mexico’s World Cup two years before). Yet, in a now familiar tale, a side made up of superstar talent of the English game completely and utterly failed to live up to the hype – so much so it tasted defeat in every one of its group games. The biggest embarrassment came in an opening 1 : 0 loss to a qualifying-for-the-first-time-for-anything Republic of Ireland (see video above), jam-packed full of ‘lesser’ English-born/ based players as it was, thanks to a super looping header from Ray Houghton, a goal that’s understandably still look back on with enormous affection in the Emerald Isle. Mind you, given England endured 3 : 1 defeats in both their other matches, as to which 90 minutes of football was actually their worst here is a good question, when it comes down to it.

Anyway, enough of the failures of the Three Lions, for this tournament was the glorious triumph of the Oranje Leeuw, of course. And, following that opening loss to the Soviets, their team – led and driven by their terrifically talismanic, dreadlocked and moustachioed skipper Ruud Gullit (who’d both won the Ballon d’Or and been named World Footballer of the Year in 1987) – got their act together and finally cruised their way through the group and to the last four. They claimed a 1 : 0 victory against the plucky Irish (whom following a draw against the USSR, sadly couldn’t qualify for the next round, but had firmly established themselves on the international stage) and thoroughly dismantled the English via a splendid second-half hat-trick from the boot of striker extraordinaire Marco van Basten.

But the Dutch were just getting warmed up. For, in the semi they met their greatest foes, the West Germans, which for both nations then, was as a big a deal as they come. A repeat of the final of the 1974 World Cup (which had been snatched away from a dream of a Dutch side featuring Cruyff, Neeskens and co. by the supreme poaching of Der Bomber himself Gerd Müller), the Dutch desperately wanted revenge; the Germans, whom as in ’74 were hosts, wanted victory just as much – not least to recapture the European crown they’d won in 1980 but lost to the French in ’84. And, remarkably just like 14 years before, the tie ended 2 : 1 with the first two goals traded between the sides via the penalty spot.

The result was different this time, though; van Basten proved the hero with an opportunistic sliding shot that Müller would have been proud of to book his nation a place in the final and knock its huge rivals out. Admittedly, a low point was struck following the final whistle when Dutch defender (and scorer of their penalty) Ronald Koeman, in front of his side’s jubilant fans, used a swapped German shirt to simulate wiping his backside; however, to be fair, this provoked nothing like the furore generated by the antics of Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Völler when the teams met again in the World Cup two years later.

You might think that, after that semi, the final would disappoint. Not a chance of it. Having defeated Italy (whom were building towards the next World Cup which they’d host), the Soviet Union were, as mentioned, the somewhat surprise package awaiting there. And yet, although this would be the last big-time tournament tie in which the USSR would play a part (major change for Europe was just around the corner, of course), the Soviet krasnota couldn’t pull off a fairy-tale finale; for the Dutch oranjes flexed their muscles – first via a Gullit bullet header and then via one of the greatest goals ever scored thanks to that man van Basten (see video below) – and, at last, the ghosts of the 1970s near-misses were laid to rest. Not least for their coach Rinus Michels, the man who’d not only led them to oh-so almost glory back in ’74, but had also masterminded ‘Total Football’ in the first place.  At last then, Rinus – and his fellow countrymen – had enjoyed a rich summer to savour. And they’d clogged it to the Germans too.

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Fantasy football, favourite son and feeling the Bern: Rinus Michels with the trophy (left), Marco van Basten wins the tournament’s best player and top striker awards (middle) and West German coach Franz Beckenbauer looks like he wants to hop away as he meets mascot Berni the rabbit (right) 

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The most valuable player

Marco van Basten

Honourable mentions: Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard
and Jan Wouters (Netherlands); Lothar Matthäus (West Germany)

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The top scorer

Marco van Basten ~ 5 goals

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The turkeys

England

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The unforgettable moment

It has to be – and is – that impudent and incredible near-sideways volleyed goal Marco van Basten netted in the final against the USSR to seal the Dutch their first (and, so far, only) major football title.

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The abiding memory

If you’ve orange blood coursing through your veins, Euro ’88 is surely the greatest summer of football – nay, maybe of all sport – the world has ever witnessed. Featuring the AC Milan defence-midfield-attack axis that was the Rijkaard-Gullit-van Basten triumverate and kitted out in maybe the greatest soccer shirt ever to grace a game, the Dutch weren’t just worthy winners of this tournament they were truly glorious victors, putting right the ‘wrongs’ they – and possibly many purists of the football fraternity – had endured in 1974 and ’78. For the West Germans, though (whom also wore one of the best ever football kits), this was a rare contest to forget; failing to get to the final and beaten by bitter rivals. And for England? Well, nobody of an English persuasion ever really wants to think about, let alone mention Euro ’88. However, for both these nations’ teams, sunny times lay ahead and would be enjoyed very soon – in Italy in two summers’ time, in fact…

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Euro look-backs: Les sacré Bleus at Euro ’84

June 25, 2016

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Michel, leur belle: France’s Number 10, Michel Platini, truly proved to be their captain fantastic; his goal tally (remarkably just one shy of his shirt number) propelling  the host nation to triumph 

So, the UK population – or, at least, its majority – has made its decision; its heading out of Europe. Conversely, though, the UK’s national football teams are certainly not out of the Euros; not yet at least. Yes, today’s second round clash between Wales and Northern Ireland ensured there was always definitely going to be British interest in the quarter finals whatever happened and, as it turned out, the red dragon roared and managed to squeeze its way past the nor’n irons and into the last eight. But what of England?

Well, at present, the three lions are still in the Euros (facing mighty wee Iceland on Monday, to be precise) even if – and forgive me for getting political again – the majority of their people are pleased to see them out of Europe. Maybe fittingly then, today’s look-back at European soccer Championships past casts its glance at one the English played no role in whatsover – and indeed one that the British TV media played little attention to either. Well, more fool them. Because France’s balmy (and, at times, rather barmy) Euro ’84 was one of the all-time greats. And if you doubt that, you really need to read on…

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When, where and who?

June 12-27 1984/ France/ Participants were Belgium, Denmark,
France (hosts), Portugal, Romania, Spain, Yugoslavia and West Germany

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The champs

France

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The runners-up

Spain

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The final

France 2 : 0 Spain

Goals: Platini 57 mins; Bellone 90 mins

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The semi-finals

France 3 : 2 Portugal

Goals: Domergue 24 mins (1 : 0); Jordão 74 mins (1 : 1);
Jordão 98 mins (1 : 2); Domergue 114 mins (2 : 2); Platini 119 mins (3 : 2)

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Spain 1 : 1 Denmark

Goals: Lerby 7 mins (0 : 1); Maceda 67 mins (1 : 1)

(Spain won 5 : 4 on penalties)

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The low-down

Nowadays reviled the world over as a dubious football politician, 32 years ago Michel Platini was revered as a dynamic – and possibly the world’s greatest – football player. Indeed, it would never get better for Le Roi – and rarely that good again for his nation – as, during that heady, balmy fortnight in June ’84, he guided his side to Euro triumph. Aided in his efforts, lest we forget, by the marvellous midfielders that were Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana (making up an irresistible triumverate), Platini scored an astonishing nine goals in five matches – including a hat-trick each in group games against Belgium and Yugolsavia – thus, at last establishing Les Bleus as a footballing tour de force as they barnstormed their way past everyone to walk away from Paris’s Parc des Princes stadium with arguably the sport’s most prestigious piece of silverware (the World Cup trophy’s golden, after all) and their first international title.

In a rather Gallic-shrug-of-the-shoulders, ironic manner, though, the piece de resistance wasn’t the final against Spain, which was won by the host nation thanks to a Platini direct free-kick squirming its way under the hapless opposing ’keeper and a late strike from Bruno Bellone (the only French striker to actually score in the tournament). Instead, the show-stopper was France’s semi against the surprise package that was Portugal. Surely one of the greatest ties in the history of the Euros, it was a dramatic old ding-dong (see video above) that saw the Portuguese, with barely 10 minutes of the 90 remaining, cancel out the host’s slender lead (surprisingly provided by left-back Jean-François Domergue), only to snatch the lead themselves in the first period of  extra-time. France’s stars got their act together, though, and via Domergue again scored an equaliser, only for Platini – who else? – to pop up and seal a place in the final with a winner in the last minute of extra-time.

The other semi also saw fireworks, in that the tournament’s other most fancied team didn’t make it through. Yes, Denmark (who’d previously impressed at Euro ’80 and this time featured the talents of in-demand striker Preben Elkjær as well as midfielders Frank Arnesen and – then, an emerging – Michael Laudrup) lost on penalties to Spain, thanks to the talismanic Elkjær missing from the spot in a climactic penalty shoot-out. Indeed, to their credit, the Spaniards had already achieved notoriety by dumping the West Germans out in the group stage – yes, that’s right, the reigning champions went out in the group – with to a 1-0 victory in which they’d grabbed a winner in the final minute.

So, Euro ’84 may have featured no home nations, no Netherlands, no World Champions Italy and no Germans through to the latter stages, but if exciting, high-scoring and – at times – crazily unexpected football’s your thing, then bleu was definitely the colour in summer ’84.

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Platini, patterns and Panini: France’s hero lifts the trophy (left), the brilliant diamond-adorned Belgian home kit and the stylish French away kit (middle) and the Panini Euro ’84 sticker-book (right)

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The most valuable player

Michel Platini

Honourable mentions: Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana (France),
Frank Arnesen and Preben Elkjær (Denmark)

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The top scorer

Michel Platini ~ 9 goals

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The turkeys

West Germany

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The unforgettable moment

Even though he delivered those couple of moments where he produced back-to-back hat-tricks and clinched France’s final place at the death in the semi, it really has to be the moment when Monsieur Platini finally lifted the trophy – real Le Roi of the Rovers stuff. I thank you.

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The abiding memory

In retrospect, Euro ’84 was something of a standalone – as well as a stand-out – tournament. Although the French managed to reach the last four in both World Cups ’82 and ’86, at neither (beaten by, yes, the West Germans both times) were they able to find the sparkling form they did here. Indeed, they wouldn’t reach the final of a major tournament again until they triumphed – again – on home soil in the World Cup of 14 years later. Moreover, neither of the European football mainstays that are Spain or Portugal shined again in the ’80s or ’90s. The one side that did impress here as part of a trend during those two decades were the dynamic Danes, whom looked good again in the World Cup two years later, topping their group over the team that would eventually finish as beaten finalists… West Germany, of course. Yup, Euro ’84 – it was a wonder of a one-off, for sure.

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