Monday, 28 March 2016

On The Box: Rising Damp Forever (ITV3)


My memories of Eric Chappell's Rising Damp are certainly as a must-see sitcom from the 70s. Leonard Rossiter's interfering landlord Rigsby constantly interrupting the lives of shared room students Alan (Richard Beckinsale) and Philip (Don Warrington) while constantly seeking the attentions of his other regular tenant Miss Jones (Frances De La Tour).

As unlikely as the scenario of an interfering landlord (who never knocks, just enters) may seem, the claustrophobic, greens, greys and brown slightly depressing air of Rising Damp was perfectly suited to situation comedy. 28 episodes were made between 1974 and 1978 and besides a nod to the series via a half hour documentary a decade ago, ITV have barely acknowledged the shows brilliance until this last weekend, when ITV3 celebrated the series via a two part documentary Rising Damp Forever.

I certainly came away much more enlightened about Rising Damp's back story, finding the two part documentary historical, hysterical, nostalgic and definitive. In recent years I have struggled watching similar style documentaries because of too many talking heads who maybe weren't involved with the creative process of the subject. thankfully Rising Damp Forever was worthy to the spirit of Rising Damp and its stars.

From Eric Chappell's original stage play The Banana Box via TV series success to eventual film version, all aspects of the series were covered. Don Warrington who played Philip was on hand for some important nostalgic reminiscences of the stage version and TV series while there were other interesting contributions from writer Eric Chappell, Manfred Mann's Paul Jones (the original starring name of the stage show) and Only When I Laugh's Christopher Strauli (who later appeared in the film).

Its often difficult to pull together a documentary on a classic sitcom, particularly with several of the stars no longer on hand to take part, both Rossiter and Beckinsale, sadly no longer with us and De La Tour still distancing herself from the series. Thankfully along with Don Warrington and Eric Chappell, there were plenty of co-stars  and directors on hand to recall Rossiter's work and professionalism. Actress Helen Fraser particular speaking highly of Rossiter while Richard Beckinsale's daughters Sam and Kate were also on hand to discuss their fathers work, similarly everyone was united on singing Francis De La Tour's praises.

The real star of Rising Damp Forever was the series itself, featuring much in the way of clips and important reminisences, while Rossiter, Beckinsale, Warrington and De La Tour's  biographies made interesting if not crucial side plots. The real authentication was the acknowledgement of the Yorkshire Television studio's where the series was filmed and Warrington and Chappell's return there to meet others who had worked on the series.  Neatly woven together with Martin Clunes commentary Rising Damp Forever was the perfect comedy nostalgia treat - a crowning glory for production company Shiver who produced the documentary for ITV3.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Entertainment South Wales: Top 5 Popular Posts For March 27, 2016

This week's Top 5 posts on Entertainment South Wales includes two new Q&A's with Jeff Rosenstock and Ant Law and two recently archive reviews.


1. Meet Jeff Rosenstock:  The American rocker gives a light-hearted Q&A with me prior to his Cardiff show later this week.


2. Revitalised Reef back On Tour:  My Q&A with Jack Bessant of Reef.


3. Meet Ant Law: Musician Ant Law is currently touring the UK and plays Monmouth later this week.


4: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum: Review from 2007 of Newport Playgoers production.


5: Dad's Army: The Missing Episodes review from 2007 of stage show production starring Leslie Grantham

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Entertainment South Wales Top 5 Popular Posts for March 20, 2016

Sad news this week was the death of magician Paul Daniels, so my tribute to him over at Entertainment South Wales along with my archived 2013 interview featured strongly in the most read posts.


1. Meet The Band - Heck: Heck played Swansea on Friday evening, this Q&A was published in the South Wales Argus on Friday.


2. Paul Daniels 1938-2016: My tribute to the late magician.
3. A Magical Pairing  - Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee InterviewMy interview with paul and Debbie from 2013.


4. Revitalised Reef Back On Tour - Jack Bessant Q&A: Reef play Cardiff's Tram Shed this week, here's my Q&A which appeared in The South Wales Argus on Friday.


5. On Stage: Theatr Pena - The Glass Menagerie Reviewed: My review of Theatr Pena's presentation of The Glass Menagerie

Monday, 14 March 2016

Entertainment South Wales Top 5 Popular Posts for March 14

Apologies, I didn't update this last week and I'm a day late with it this week, still, better late than never! Here are this week’s top 5 entertainment stories viewed on my Entertainment South Wales blog...


1. My Q&A with alternative comedy team Gein’s Family Giftshop, who bring their Trophy tour to Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach on Tuesday.


2. My Q&A with Steven James Adams who plays Cardiff Moon Club on Tuesday.


3. Theatr Pena’s Glass Menagerie continues to tour South Wales this week – here’s my review of the show


4. The 4Tunes visited two South Wales venues last week here’s my Q&A with Michael and Owain of the group.


 5. Flowers recently played Cardiff to promote their new album – here’s my Q&A with Rachel from the band.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Adventures In Vinyl: American Rhapsody by Glenn Miller and The Army Air Force Band


American Rhapsody (Swing World, SWS-11, 1979) consists of ten live tracks recorded by Major Glenn Miller and his Army Air Force band between October 1943 and October 1945.

Up until 1979, none of these recordings (I assume taken from 1940s live radio broadcasts) had ever been issued.  The majority of which were recorded in Vanderhilt Theatre, New York City although there is also a rare (in places scratchy) recording of Red Cavalry March made at France’s Paris Olympia made under “extremely adverse conditions” which still wins through in the end on performance.

I became aware of Glenn Miller’s music very early on in life and although have always enjoyed it actually own very few of his recordings. There is of course more to Miller than In The Mood, Chatanooga Choo Choo and Moonlight Serenade as this collection proves.

Familiar tunes such as Rhapsody In Blue and Deep Purple all get the lively Glenn Miller treatment and there's a  renditions of  Moonlight Serenade popping up in a medley with Wabash Blues, I’ve Got A Heart Filled With Love and Kilarney. The recordings themselves seem to defy the primitive recording techniques of the era coming through as both warm and vibrant.

This LP sits as a document of how the Glenn Miller Band performed live during its classic era and particularly how they maintained the quality of their performances even when their bandleader was cruelly taken from them at the end of 1944. A fine example of how Miller’s sound blurred personality into a definitive sound.

Found: Charity Shop, Newport, Gwent, March 2016.
Price: 10p
Cover Condition: Very Good
Vinyl Condition: Good (A few pops and crackles, one skip)

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Adventures In Vinyl: Ron Grainer - Themes Like


In a career spanning over well over two decades Ron Grainer was responsible for many well known television and film themes, a handful of which found their way onto this RCA International 1969 LP entitled Themes Like...

The album itself  doesn’t feature everything by Grainer (the Doctor Who theme been an obvious omission), but does give an enjoyable overview of some of his recent compositions leading up to the albums release, as well as a few old favourites.

The opening track is an up-tempo revisit to Steptoe & Son, the theme to the Galton & Simpson sitcom starring Harry H Corbett and Wilfred Brambell that had run well into repeats by the time this LP was issued in 1969.

Then follows a series of gentle film themes, When Winter Comes, The Assassination Trot (from The Assassination Bureau) and Only When I Larf.

The contrast changes to the funky beat of Andorra (from the play of the same name) and then the atmospheric theme for the 1968 BBC series The Jazz Age.

Side two kicks off with another familiar Grainer composition, Maigret, the theme to the 60s drama series starring Rupert Davies. There are further recordings from this series including Arlette, Midnight in Montmartre (almost reminiscent of the Trad Jazz style), and Along the Boulevards.

The drama continues with the theme to two further BBC series, Detective and Boy Meets Girl.  The final track is the novelty song Wild Daffodil (also a recording for Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen), which captures Grainer giving a rare vocal performance.

All in all, the album is an enjoyable release, not only bringing together some hard to find theme tunes of the era but displaying some very listenable instrumental music in its own right.

Found: Charity Shop, Newport, South Wales, December 2015
Price: 50p
Cover Condition: Good
Vinyl condition: Very Good (some pops and crackles)

Saturday, 5 March 2016

In Search Of M.W.Thackrah

I’ve always had a fascination with old photographs and have picked up a few over the years in various flea markets and old bookshops, sometimes for college projects or even curiosity value.

Around 1995, I was back visiting my family in Catterick, North Yorkshire when I ventured into Richmond one day. Popping into a flea market (now long since closed) I chanced across a selection of old photographs dating from the early 1900s.

Many of these were in the region of 20p – 30p each so I thought I’d get a selection for use in a future college project. That college project ultimately became a video short based on The Beatles In My Life song. Most of the photographs ranging from children to old men in flat caps, Victorian era ladies and old people attending tea parties or on bus outings but all fairly anonymous. All, that is, except for one.

Among all these photographs was an early 20th Century portrait photograph of a clergyman. The image signed underneath (I assume) written in his own hand, M.W.Thackrah. I gave the photo little thought other than that it was a nice image.

The photo was subsequently scanned in, used in my animation and I only came across it again a few years ago when I started blogging and used it (along with other photographs) for a Wordless Wednesday post.

However, the fact that this photograph, with a signature, has always stood out from the others for me, is that it isn’t anonymous. With the others, we can create fictional biographies of these people, unlabeled but still very real, their identities, apparently now lost to the mists of time. Anyone who knew them, or remembered them are now sadly probably dead too. Not so muchfor  M.W.Thackrah, he clearly signed this photograph. So who was he? Can I find out?

Last week, I came across the image again, and wondered if I Googled the name if any results would come up? Probably unlikely but worth a go!

I was pleasantly surprised when I found an article on the Barwick-in-Elmet Historical Society Website referring to four curates from the Barwick-in-Elmet parish in the late 1800’s / early 1900’s, one of which was an M.W.Thackrah. It is possible that M.W. Thackrah was actually a Yorkshire man, the Rev. Matthew William Thackrah?

Matthew William Thackrah gained his BA at Queen's College, Cambridge and an MA in 1905. Thackrah’s training for the ministry began at Cuddeston College where he was appointed Deacon in 1902. Later that year he was appointed curate at St Paul's, Balsall Heath, Birmingham. After becoming an ordained priest in 1904, he remained there until he was appointed curate of Barwick-in-Elmet in 1905 where he remained until 1907.

I forwarded a scan of the photograph to the webmaster of the site, Harold Smith, shortly afterwards. Harold kindly returned my email responding that he’d check the society records to see if this might be the same person.

Harold got back to me yesterday saying there isn’t anything in the Society’s records to indicate that it is the same man, although there is enough circumstantial evidence that it could be a possibility.

How the photograph found itself in a North Yorkshire Flea Market in 1995 is anyone’s guess. Maybe Thackrah had sent it to somebody in the area at some point; perhaps he’d even visited Richmond?
  • You can read the full article on The Four Curates of Barwick-in-Elmet at the Barwick-In-Elmet Historical Society website.
  • If you can help with any information regarding M.W.Thackrah from further details of his life or work I’d love to hear from you, if only to piece a little more information about him together.

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