Sunday, 21 February 2010

Lost Morecambe and Wise shows turn up in garage!

Perhaps the most exciting news I've heard this week concerning vintage recordings is BBC Radio 4's plan to broadcast some Morecambe and Wise sketches unheard for over half a century.

A victim of the BBC's yesteryear policy of not retaining programmes , these early recordings dating back to the early 1950s were recovered when Ernie Wise's widow Doreen decided to clear out her garage before moving house.

Doreen discovered hidden in old fruit boxes and a red suitcase was more than 45 hours of recordings of the early Morecambe and Wise recordings on acetate discs and reel-to-reel tapes, featuring sketches, songs, speeches and radio performances.

The recordings were passed on to Eric and Ernie's former agents who in turn contacted production company Whistledown to see what could be done with them.

Highlights from these recordings be broadcast on Radio 4 in an hour-long programme, Morecambe and Wise: The Garage Tapes on May 4 2010. Excerpts from the pair's first radio show You're Only Young Once, made between November 1953 and June 1954 and featured guests including Bob Monkhouse and Harry Secombe. The programme will be presented by Jon Culshaw.

Apparently Eric and Ernie (then rising stars) had to give the Studio engineer a few shillings at the time to obtain the recordings, it seems that historically their investment has finally paid off.

See the Daily Mail report for further reading!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Review: The Manfreds, Newport Riverfront

It’s 42 years ago to the week that Manfred Mann were sitting at the Number One spot of the pop charts with the Bob Dylan composition The Mighty Quinn. Remnants of that original group now known as The Manfreds proved they were still very much Pick of the Pops when they made a visit to Newport Riverfront tonight.

Original band members Paul Jones, Mike d’Abo, Mike Hugg and Tom McGuinness were joined by Rob Townsend, Marcus Cliffe and Simon Currie to recreate the sounds that shaped the 1960s charts including the hits Pretty Flamingo, Fox On the Run, Do Wah Diddy Diddy and the Ready Steady Go! "Weekend starts here" theme 5-4-3-2-1.

There were diversions into the bands individual careers too. From Jones solo 1967 hit I’ve Been a Bad Bad Boy via d’Abo’s hit recently popularised by the Stereophonics Handbags and Gladrags, to McGuinness’s When I’m Dead and Gone of which Tom informed the audience was kept from number one slot in 1970 by Clive Dunn’s Grandad!

After over two hours of Mann-made hits the concert drew to a close with an encore including an aptly timed version of My Funny Valentine and the 1965 hit If You Gotta Go, Go Now, another track which Paul Jones informed the audience was kept from the number one slot by Ken Dodd’s Tears!

I think the audience was agreed however that The Manfreds are still very much Number One performers and after nearly half a century at the top of the entertainment tree, still take some beating!

TRACKS PERFORMED INCLUDED: 5-4-3-2-1 / The One In The Middle / Sha La La / Fox on the Run / Ragamuffin Man / Just Like A Woman / Pretty Flamingo / Malt and Barley Blues / When I'm Dead and Gone / I've Been a Bad, Bad Boy / Build Me Up Buttercup / Do Wah Diddy Diddy / Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? / Semi-Detatched Surburban Mr. James / Come Tomorrow / The Mighty Quinn / Handbags And Gladrags / If You Gotta Go, Go Now

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Review: Stop Messing About, New Theatre, Cardiff

Stop Messing About is the oft quoted catchphrase associated with the late, great comedy actor and raconteur Kenneth Williams, but was also the title of a largely forgotten radio series featuring the star of several films in the Carry On series.

Williams found himself fronting his own radio series after his Round the Horne co-star, Kenneth Horne, died suddenly of a heart attack in 1969. The material that would have formed the fifth series of that show was hastily reworked as Stop Messing About by scriptwriters Brian Cooke and Johnny Mortimer.

It is this series that forms the basis of this new production, set to the backdrop of a faithfully recreated BBC studio, along with a talented cast delivering a script to a live audience as if a radio recording is in progress.

Robin Sebastian faithfully brings the persona of Kenneth Williams to life delivering responses and lines in the scripts that would delight any fan of the late star. India Fisher is the perfect compliment to Sebastian as Joan Sims, displaying a wide variety of characters and voices as Sims herself would have done. The pair are joined by Nigel Harrison as Hugh Paddick and Charles Armstrong as the announcer resulting in a replication of the chemistry displayed by the original team as the show progresses.

Sadly, it has to be remembered that Stop Messing About wasn’t the finest moment of Williams' radio career and despite the exceptional performances some of the material is either too bawdy or even dated in places.

However, sketches such as Williams’ War Memoirs, Joan Sims Driving Test and The Radio Addict are still funny enough to make this production worth a watch.

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