Saturday, 30 June 2012

On Television: Dad's Army - Menace From The Deep

In sight of an enemy
Dad's Army -  BBC2 Wales
In today's episode of Dad's Army Captain Mainwaring and the platoon are given the responsiblility of defending Walmington-On-Sea  from the pier for two weeks.

However even the Home Guards best laid plans dont always go to plan as the platoon find themselves marooned with an enemy on the horizon.

Dad's Army is broadcast on BBC2 Wales at 17:40Hrs, please check regional variations for other areas.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Badge Friday: GCHQ Trade Unionists Sacked!

GCHQ Trade Unionists
Sacked - Support Them - 1980s
Here's another blast from the 1980s for Badge Friday and again a badge with historical significance recalling days of strike action.

Carl Difford recalls: "I can’t believe it’s been more than 28 years since workers at GCHQ were sacked for refusing to relinquish their trade union membership."

A great example of how pin badges could be used to encourage support in political and news scenarios.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

On Radio: Dad's Army - My British Buddy

Mainwaring welcomes the allies in today's Dad's Army

When the American troops hit Walmington-On-Sea, the platoon prepares a welcoming party, except the visiting troops are more interested in the town’s lady folk. 

The radio adaptation of My British Buddy was originally broadcast on BBC Radio in May 1976.

Dad’s Army is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra at 08:30Hrs, 12:30Hrs and 19:30Hrs and available to listen again on the BBC iPlayer for a week after broadcast.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

TARDIS Tuesday: The Case Of The Missing Dr Who Actress

Green Eyed Beauty-
Weekly News, 1981
The Weekly News loved featuring pictures of up and coming actresses and models in their pages in the early 80s. Allthough very light on scandal the papers love of human interest stories always (and still does) fascinates.

Yet around 1981 hungry for items for my Doctor Who scrapbook I was tormented by this item which featured pretty actress Marianne Lawrence which boastied her TV credits that included Bergerac and Doctor Who.

I ran for my Doctor Who Programme Guide by Jean Marc L'Officier. Which episode did this beautiful actress appear in? Surely I'd remember her! Hours of study bore no fruit and for years and years I would occasionally return to this cutting still resulting in no answers.

Finally I'm in the internet age and I can IMDB Marianne Lawrence and solve this mystery that hounded me for nigh on 30 years.

Yes - she was the serving wench in episode 3 of the 1981 Doctor Who story Warrior's Gate and they didn't even give her a credit!

What a disgrace!

It appears Marianne made a few other TV appearances including Auf Wiedersehen Pet, The Fourth Arm and Remington Steele. Marianne's IMDB record expires after 1984 - if anyone knows what hbecame of the beautiful Marianne Lawrence - please get in touch!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Mono Monday: Try To Understand By Lulu

Lulu - 1960s style
I've always loved Lulu's Try To Undertand.I say always because as far as my mind stretches back to the early 1970s it seemed to be a record that regularly got played by my parents.

Later inspection showed they had the track on two Lulu albums and an original 1965 45RPM single. However it isn't necessarily Lulu's best remembered hit. Lulu was born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie in 1949 and broke the British charts in 1964 with her cover version of The Isley Brother's Shout! on the Decca label.

Over the next three years she continued to record with Decca releasing a bevvy of popular hits including Can't Hear You No More, Leave A Little Love and Here Comes The Night.

Try To Understand - Decca Records
Several of these hits were arranged by Mike Leander who started his career with Decca Records and working on some memorable recordings by Marianne Faithful and Billy Fury before arranging numbers by Cliff Richard in the late 60s and perhaps most famously She's Leaving Home by The Beatles on Sgt Pepper.

Try To Understand has everything I love about a perfect 60s record, pop piano, an instrumental break, girly backing vocals and a soulful delivery from Lulu herself. Lulu belts out a reassuring vocal to a loved one who is obviously feeling a little threatened in the relationship as a "harmless flirtation" comes on the scene. The piano introduction still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end 40-odd years from originally hearing it and I have to say I love this far more than Shout! as good as that is!

Lulu of course went on to record for EMI in the late 60s scoring even greater hits with producer Mickie Most including The Boat That I Row, Lets Pretend and To Sir With Love, but for me Try To Understand represents the Scottish songstress at her very best!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Daleks, Dancing and Tall People at Tredegar House

Seren humoring me by posing with a Dalek
Today the children's school took part in the folk dancing event at Tredegar House which was celebrating its been taken over by the National Trust.
Jon with a chap who eats his five-a-day
Have to admit there was a little more going on over there than we expected so was slightly taken aback by some of the events going on, although there weren't as many visitors as you would usually expect on a Summers Day (half the grounds appeared to be waterlogged thanks to the recent bout of poor weather).

Tom is always happy if he finds a branch or
a huge leaf
Anyhow we had a great time despite the odd downpour watching a Judo demonstration, chatting to some extremely tall people, watching Seren take part in the dancing and visiting a Dalek!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

On Television: Dad's Army - War Dance

Jones does a turn in today's
Dad's Army
In today's episode of Dad's Army suitability of Private Pike’s girlfriend is called into question as the platoon prepares a dance party.

War Dance will be broadcast on BBC 2 Wales at 20:30 Hrs.

Check listings for regional variations.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Badge Friday: Superted

Superted badge - 1980s
Ceri Garner-Jones submits this weeks Badge Friday, this time from the 1980s cartoon series Superted which ties in with the work of the late Victor Spinetti.

As everyone knows Superted was a popular children's series in the 80s with many well known actors including Jon Pertwee, Melvyn Hayes and Victor lending their voices to it.

Ceri recalls: "I've no idea where I got this badge from the early 1980s. Superted was such a popular programme when we were kids so this is no doubt one badge I really treasured!"

One wonders if a badge featuring Victor's character Texas Pete was ever produced?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Remembering Caroline John - Doctor Who's Liz Shaw

Caroline John
News broke today of  the sad passing of actress Caroline John on June 5, 2012 at the age of 71.

Caroline of course is best remembered in her role as Dr Elizabeth Shaw in Jon Pertwee's debut Doctor Who season from 1970.

The character of Liz broke all the usual trademark styles of the Doctor Who assistant by been the Doctor's equal in intellect and challenging his thought processes and although the character only appeared in one season became a firm favourite amongst Doctor Who fans.

I always enjoy watching the stories that feature Caroline as Liz, namely Spearhead From Space, Doctor Who and The Silurians, The Ambassadors Of Death and Inferno. 

After leaving Doctor Who, Caroline remained active in the acting profession and in recent years returned to the worlds of Doctor Who reading several adaptations of Doctor Who novels for audio books and providing commentary for DVD releases.

Caroline is survived by her husband Geoffrey Beevers and their three children. She will be sorely missed by fans who know of her through Doctor Who work or otherwise.

Other Caroline John Features:

On Radio: Dad's Army - Things That Go Bump In The Night

Jones gets spooked in todays Dad's Army
When Jones’ van runs out of petrol, the platoon have to take refuge in a spooky house. The radio adaptation of Things That Go Bump in the Night was originally broadcast on BBC Radio in May 1976.

Dad’s Army is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra at 08:30Hrs, 12:30Hrs and 19:30Hrs and available to listen again on the BBC iPlayer for a week after broadcast.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Is Vic There? An Appreciation of Victor Spinetti

"With this power - I could rule the world!"
Victor Spinetti with John Lennon as featured on the
front of Victor's autobiography Up Front
Again this morning I was at my work desk when news of the passing of another great Welsh actor came through.

I won't go on about the history of Victor Spinetti, everyone knows who he is and how great he was. For me he is certainly one of the highlights of The Beatles movies, A Hard Days Night, Help! and Magical Mystery Tour, I love the story that George Harrison apparently begged him to be in A Hard Days Night implying that if Victor didn't appear George's mum wouldn't come and see the film.

There were further film stage and TV appearances. His career was varied as it was diverse. While starring alongside Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Under Milk Wood he could also be heard providing voices for Fred Basset in the cartoon series of the same name and Texas Pete in SuperTed.

Among my favourite performances are the overlooked 1969/1970 comedy sit-com Two In Clover, a forerunner for The Good Life about two city gents who give up their careers to run a farm. Paired with Sid James the series is very enjoyable and rivals Sid's previous comedy partnership with Tony Hancock.

Another overlooked Spinetti comedy gem is the radio series Tony's in which he plays an Italian hairdresser. Among the cast members are Deborah Watling and John Laurie. Although the series has never been released on CD it has been repeated by BBC Radio 4 Extra, whom I'm sure will schedule another airing with the news of Victor's passing.

I remember feeling disappointed I'd missed Victor's legendary one man show a few years ago and had hoped to catch him live on stage at some point. Unfortunately that didn't come to pass but I can still appreciate the longevity of his work especially alongside John, Paul, George and Ringo in those classic Beatles movies from the 60s, as I'm sure will many people in the future.

TARDIS Tuesday - Tom Baker In Treasure Island

Look Who Is Here 
Jim Lad! - 1981
Here's a newspaper cutting from late 1981 (likely from The Sun) promoting one of Tom Baker's roles after leaving Doctor Who earlier that year.

Tom was to be playing Long John Silver in a Christmas version of Treasure Island. "It's a role I've always wanted" said Tom.

The article quipped Tom wouldn't have to learn his lines parrot fashion - he had a feathered co-star to do that!

Over 30 years on from this cutting and several stage and screen roles Tom has returned to recreating his role of The Fourth Doctor for new audio adventures for Big Finish and AudioGO.

Further Tom Baker related reading:
Audiobook Review: Douglas Adams Lost Doctor Who Adventure - Shada
Audio Review: Doctor Who - The Foe From The Future

Monday, 18 June 2012

Talon - Best Of The Eagles Reviewed

The Best Of Eagles performed by
On Saturday, Rachel and myself went along to Newport Riverfront to review Eagles tribute band, Talon.

Along with performances of tracks like New Kid In Town, Hotel California and Life In the Fast Lane there was also a rendition of Don Henley's Boys of Summer.

For my full review of the show visit The South Wales Argus website.

Visit Talon's website

Mono Monday: The Beatles - Get Back

The Beatles - Get Back 
Picture Disc 
Apple - 1989
Today's the 70th birthday of Sir Paul McCartney so I thought I'd feature The Beatles in this weeks Mono Monday post.

Recorded live on the rooftop of the Apple studios building in January 1969, Get Back would be released as a single months later and subsequently reach the top of the charts.

The rooftop session would prove to be the last Beatles public performance and was recorded for posterity for The Beatles final film Let It Be.

I particularly love Get Back as its a great rocker and a good return to form for The Beatles featuring a fabulous vocal from Paul.

The B-Side Don't Let Me Down is also a beautiful guitar-driven love song from John full of passion.

Happy Birthday Sir Paul!

Flying Picket Brian Hibbard Remembered

The Flying Pickets: 
Live At The Albany Empire LP
I was at work in the office this morning when news came through of the passing of Welsh actor Brian Hibbard.

Hibbard had become a familiar face over the last 25 years in various TV roles including series such as Emmerdale, Coronation Street and the Welsh drama Pobl Y Cwm while Doctor Who fans will no doubt remember him as Keillor in the 1950s holiday camp flavoured adventure Delta and The Bannermen which featured Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor.

Of course those with longer memories will remember Ebbw Vale born Brian as the lead singer of The Flying Pickets who shot to Number One in Christmas 1983 with their a cappella version of Yazoo's Only You. When seeing Yazoo vocalist Alison Moyet in concert a few years ago, she joked after singing Only You "People still stop me and ask why do you sing a Flying Pickets song?"

The reverse The Albany Empire LP 
- a snip at 99p from Woolworths 
in Richmond, North Yorkshire 
back in 1987!
The Flying Pickets were founded by Brian himself and a reference to mobile strikers who travel in order to join a picket. Brian formed the group with a group of actors who he had known from John McGrath's 7:84 Fringe Theatre Group who had performed a cappella in a 1981 production One Big Blow.

The group gained television exposure shortly afterwards and I remember enjoying their slots on Jasper Carrott's late Saturday night BBC1 comedy series. Each week the band would give a unique twist to a popular rock classic their rendition of the Righteous Brothers You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' been the most memorable.

Thumbing through my old record collection I have a copy of The Flying Pickets Live At The Albany Empire recorded in 1982 in London. I seem to remember finding this for 99p in Woolworths and the purchase date inside is 21/04/87. No.114 in my vinyl collection its a great listen featuring the aforementioned version of Loving Feelin', Heard It Through the Grapevine Get Off My Cloud, Not Fade Away and Lady Madonna.

A Newport Riverfront 
Flyer featuring
Brian Hibbard in 

pantomime in 2007
Jumping forward two decades I was quite chuffed when my first pantomime review for The South Wales Argus was to be for Jack and The Beanstalk at Newport Riverfront which featured Brian Hibbard as the villain. He gave a fabulous performance and it was clear the audience loved to hate him.

In the press suite afterwards while I was chatting to Fairy Godmother Jane Tucker from Rainbow with my five year old daughter, Brian Hibbard a tall almost foreboding presence strode in.

Looking at me with my daughter he challenged: "Who are you?"

"Andy Howells", I replied "reviewer from The South Wales Argus"

"Reviews?" he said with a mischievous glint in his eye, "never read 'em!"

As he moved away I just looked on, so I never got to ask him about The Flying Pickets or Doctor Who but at least he had a joke at my expense!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Music Notes: Paper Aeroplanes

Meet The Band: Paper Aeroplanes as published in
The South Wales Argus Guide section in May.
Paper Aeroplanes are a West Wales music band that have been making big waves at venues around the UK over the last few years.Consisting of Sarah Howells (no relation) and Richard Llewellyn the band's brand of acoustic music usually attracts sell-out audiences.

I had hoped to review the duo at their Clwb Ifor Bach gig in Cardiff the other week but unfortunately the gig got cancelled. Hopefully I'll catch them sometime in the future!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

On Television: Dad's Army - The Day The Balloon Went Up

Captain Mainwaring gets
carried away - Image BBC
After showing the first half of series 4 from 1974, BBC 2 have now jumped back to the second half of the third series of Dad's Army and tonight will broadcast The Day The Balloon Went Up.

The episode in which the platoon capture a stray barrage balloon and attempt to secure it before Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) gets caught up in its ropes and carried away has always been a favourite of mine since I was a small boy.

Over 40 years on and I still get laughs when Mainwaring readily sets himself up to be carried away, and the platoon give chase in Jones' van.

The Day The Balloon Went Up is broadcast on BBC2 Wales this evening at 18:00 Hrs. Check local listings for alternative regions.


Friday, 15 June 2012

Music Notes: ToyPOP!

ToyPOP! interview - 
The Guide 1 June 2012
Here's another band interview recently featured in The Guide.

ToyPOP! are a colourful girl-band based in South Wales and have a unique sound which they produce on toy instruments. I was really pleased with the answers the girls came back with and went to great pains to include as much of the interview as I could.

The girls are currently quite busy and have a new CD out - for full information on ToyPOP! and how to get their CD visit their official website.

Music Notes: The Hotel Ambush

Meet The Band: The Hotel Ambush
Here's another interview I recently compiled for the South Wales Argus supplement The Guide, this time profiling  South Wales band The Hotel Ambush.

Lead singer Lee describes their music as "Colombian Goth-core" - a made up genre but one which is probably well-suited to the band!


Badge Friday: Oakdale Navigation Lodge 1984-85 Strike

Oakdale Navigation 
Lodge 1984-85 Strike
It's back to the 80's for this weeks Badge Friday for a badge from Carl Difford's collection with some historical significance.

Carl describes the badge: "From the miners’strike of 1984-85, a badge supporting Oakdale Navigation Lodge of the NUM."

The power of strike action communicated through pin badges!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

On Radio: Dad's Army - The Deadly Attachment

Face to face with the enemy - Arthur Lowe's Mainwaring  comes
up against Philip Madoc's U Boat Captain  in today's Dad's Army

Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) and the platoon finally get to grips with the enemy in the shape of a German U-boat crew. However the situation soon gets out of control when  their captain (Philip Madoc) begins making a list.

The radio adaptation of The Deadly Attachment was originally broadcast on BBC Radio in May 1976.

Dad’s Army is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra at 08:30Hrs, 12:30Hrs and 19:30Hrs and available to listen again on the BBC iPlayer for a week after broadcast.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Paloma Faith - Fall To Grace Reviewed

My Paloma Faith review as it appeared in the South Wales
Argus - The Guide
on June 1st 2012
Following up a successful debut album is always a difficult feat, do you play safe and give the listeners more of the same or do you push the boat out and deliver something different.

Paloma Faith’s autobiographical Fall to Grace is the follow up to 2009’s Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful opts from something quite different to the first album. Whereas Paloma demonstrated first time around she can fuse pop with jazz and soul as good as the best of them. Here her style falls between upbeat power ballads and disco as it hasn’t been done since the 70s. Because Paloma writes from personal circumstances this helps the albums content endure while Nellee Hooper’s production has given the release a fabulous production deserving of Paloma’s voice and character.

Of the albums  Blood Sweat and Tears kicks off with an intro echoing the style of The Bee Gees Tragedy but that’s where the similarity ends, Paloma been very much her own artist and delivering a fabulous vocal. There’s an uplifting inspirational feel to Freedom, while  Picking up the Pieces demonstrates why she is one of the most overlooked great singers of the moment.

A collection of fabulous songs, Fall To Grace will no doubt have a longer shelf-life than most artists current output and is a must have for the summer months and beyond.

Check out more entertainment news from The South Wales Argus  and follow The Guide on Twitter

Doctor Who Memorabilia Post

1970s Giant Robot Model
Just uploaded a 10 things post to my Online Scribblings blog featuring 10 Doctor Who items from my collection.

Hope you enjoy!

The Online Scribblings of Andy Howells: 10 Things: Doctor Who Memorabillia:

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A Walk At The Wetlands

Boat heading into Newport Docks
As today was the last day of a break from work (and the first day back at school for the children), Rachel and I thought we'd go to the cinema as there were so many films we wanted to catch up on.

Unfortunately the cinema wasn't in any position to show us a film (after 20 minutes of staring at a blank screen after it was due to start  we asked for a refund) and headed for a walk across the Newport Wetlands nature reserve instead.
A view of the Lighthouse
Because the weather was nice we had a great stroll and even caught sight of a huge boat been pulled into the docks by tugboats.
Rachel and I at The Wetlands
There is also the view of a lighthouse and we also decided to sign up and join the RSPB before we left as we are now frequent visitors to the Wetlands.

Join The RSPB

TARDIS Tuesday: Peri Brown - The American Dream

Dandy! Nicola joins Dr Who
 - The Sun, 1983
Attempting to broaden the appeal of the Doctor Who series abroad in the 1980s, the  production team began writing in companions from outside of Great Britain.

Following the success of Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka, producer John Nathan-Turner thought it might be a good idea for The Doctor to have an American assistant.

And so enter Peri Brown, played by Nicola Bryant.

Nicola, in fact wasn't and has never been American, but a myth was perpetuated by the Doctor Who production office and the press that she was, and so for her debut photo call Nicola waved a star spangled banner and played a dual role of an American actress playing an American character.

Not that Nicola or Peri's nationality mattered. Peri became one of the most popular companions of Doctor Who in the 1980s and is still fondly remembered today.

25 years later, Scottish born actor John Barrowman would play American Time Agent Captain Jack Harkness in numerous episodes of Doctor Who and subsequently Torchwood.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

10 Things: Doctor Who Memorabillia

Doctor Who Sonic/Laser Screwdriver Collection
I havent done a Shimelle's ten things in over a year so I'm hoping I'll get myself into gear at least once a month from now on to highlight my top tens of anything.

This month I thought I'd feature various Doctor Who items from my large collection - hope you like!

Doctor Who DVD's
Doctor Who Novels
Doctor Who Audio Tapes
Doctor Who Collectors VHS Set
Doctor Who Time Squad Figures
Doctor Who 1978 Trump Card Set
1970s Doctor Who Giant Robot Figure
Doctor Who Magazines
1970s Doctor Who Talking Dalek

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Digital Art: Morris Minor and Retro Police Car Pop Art

Morris Minor 1
Here's some digital art inspired by the Jubilee Police Car display I saw last weekend! Let me know if you like!

1960s Police Car Pop Art
1960s Police Siren Pop Art
1960s Tax Disc Pop Art

Friday, 8 June 2012

Badge Friday: Postman Pat Called Today

Postman Pat Badge - 1980s
Here's another featured badge from Ceri Garner-Jones , this week featuring that famous children's TV character Postman Pat.

Ceri says of the badge: "A classic design. No idea how I got this, maybe it was on a birthday card given to me in the 80s!"

If you like this badge you may also like Rachel's retro Fireman Sam badge - you can view that here!

Anymore retro badges featuring children's TV characters?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

On Radio: Dad's Army - The Great White Hunter

Sergeant Wilson assists Captain Mainwaring's investigations
today on BBC Radio 4 Extra
Private Walker's purloined silk parachute has been converted into women¹s negligĂ©e, but with the prospect of an enemy parachutist at large Captain Mainwaring is keen to go to great lengths to discover the colour of the undergarments.

The radio adaptation of The Great White Hunter was originally broadcast on BBC Radio in April 1976 and was adapted from the TV episode Man-Hunt.

Dad’s Army is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra at 08:30Hrs, 12:30Hrs and 19:30Hrs and available to listen again on the BBC iPlayer for a week after broadcast.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Almost Z Cars - A Jubilee Vintage Police Display

A Humber Police model from the 60s - note Tom
peering from behind!
Further to the children contributing colouring pictures to an enormous birthday card for The Queen last Saturday there was also a splendid retro display of vintage Police equipment in Newport shopping centre including two classic Police cars from the 1960s.

A classic Morris Minor -which sported
a tax disc that ran out three months
before I was born!
I have to admit its fabulous seeing such cars as these from an era where the motor vehicle seemed to have more character. They also reminded me of the TV series Z Cars - boy that brings back memories!
This policeman was representative
of the wartime era - note his Civil Defence
Corps strap


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