Posts from 25th April 2004

Apr 04

Some ambitions seem so unlikely

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Some ambitions seem so unlikely that they end up just being vague curiosities. For instance I always assumed there was some kind of vetting process for TV pop show audiences and that a fat bearded thirtysomething would fall well outside it. So it came as a bit of a surprise yesterday to be ‘down the front’ (or front-ish) for a CD-UK recording of The Streets.

It hadn’t been advertised as CD-UK; it had been advertised as a free intimate Streets show being recorded for TV, and during one of the many technical breaks I could hear some of the hipsters grumbling along these lines. A gig don’t come for free, though – I assume they fudged the description a little bit because they (or the band) wanted proper Streets fans and didn’t want to put them off by admitting it was for a Saturday morning show (without even Cat Deeley!). Outside I felt dreadfully old and out of place – and tall! Young people are so short nowadays, perhaps it’s the alcopops. Anyway that was outside, in the unforgiving glare of London’s first hot weekend – in the studio all cats are hep, or something like that, and I soon relaxed.

The performance? Mike Skinner is a very charismatic guy, and his rapport with his co-vocalist (Leo, according to this morning’s Observer Music Monthly) is easy and sparky: within a minute or two any doubts I had about the tourability of A Grand… were gone. In fact I reckon if you get the chance to see him in a smallish venue it’ll be something very entertaining and a bit special. Of course the record stands or falls on its lyrics, and their nuances don’t always translate live – “Dry Your Eyes”, on paper a monster single, fell a little more flat taken out of context because so much of its power is in the minute awkward details; “Not Addicted” has a much broader storyline and worked better, but will probably need a remix or two to do any major business. But “Fit But You Know It”, a song I’d come to almost hate after too much XFM rotation, sounded great, way more muscular. Afterwards Skinner sat in the sunshine chatting to fans before his streetsmobiles headed to the airport and then Ireland.

A Bird In The Hand

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A Bird In The Hand was what Channel 4 called its biog of tragic emu-wielding funnyman Rod Hull. The show ran along standard tears-behind-the-laughter lines; what really divided the viewers was the question of whether Emu was funny. Alan and I voted an uproarious yes; Emma and Isabel a stony-faced no. I’m always quite impressed by comedians who manage to keep one single joke going over an extreme length of time, and Emu is surely the champion of this. Even watching clips that have turned grey through repetition I couldn’t help laugh – for one thing the gangly Hull was a terrific physical comedian; for another Emu was an unusually expressive puppet (only Kermit comes close); but even at this distance its still possible to get your main thrill from Hull getting away with beating up or groping anyone he likes because he has a cloth bird on his arm. Producers on the Johnny Carson show, we were told, had expressly told Hull not to attack Carson with Emu: but Emu without the violence was no act at all and Carson duly got a beak in the face. Even the programme’s narrator’s couldn’t help themselves – after Emu’s introduction they talked about Hull and his bird as entirely separate creatures.

(And of course now they are – Emu is apparently back on stage after four years in mothballs, on the arm of Hull’s son)