NO STILETI'OS FEATURE
Alive Alive 0h
BBC Scotland are back in the business of booking bands for network TV. Fiona Shepherd joined the audience for the new live music programme No Stilettos but found everyone strangely subdued.
0 smoking. No alcohol. No stilettos. No Suede.
Such is the lot of the television music show audience, for such is the sign greeting the ticket holders ﬁling through the doors of Cottiers theatre in Glasgow’s West End, expecting close encounters of the poptastic kind, recorded for posterity and BBC Scotland’s latest musical venture No Stilettos, their ﬁrst since the very wonderful FSD. However, it quickly transpires that a much-coveted ticket for the ﬁrst night of recording is not the passkey to an evening of orgiastic rock ’n’ roll consumption, signs saying ‘hello mum’ and ‘Glasgow luvs you, Evan’ and that all- important opportunity to, y’know, get close to your favourite twinkling little stars.
Firstly, no smoking and no alcohol. Plain enough. You will adhere to these sub- draconian measures to ensure that as clinical a time as possible is had by all, including performers, who have to emote as best they can in front of a po-faced, inhibited crowd. But this is TV after all and, anyway, more adequate attempts to replicate yer typical gig environment would have been scuppered by the imposing presence of cameras, sound and some huge sci-ﬁ monster crane contraption dipping low and long for those embellishing swooping stage shots.
Secondly, no Suede. After a period of ‘will they, won’t they?’ oscillation, the Cockney heartbreakers decide they won’t. They’re in the middle of a hysterical tour and Brett’s giving it vocal laldy almost every night. His dicky throat cost the band a Top Of The Pops appearance; a No Stilettos appearance might cost the band his throat, so instead Aztec Camera and The Lemonheads are joined by The BMX Bandits, who perform forthcoming single ‘Kylie’s Got A Crush On Us’, a slice of pop genius too cuddly for its shirt, which compensates for the glam deﬁciency. (Later in the week Pulp redress the cocky, camp balance admirably.)
Which brings us, ﬁnally, to No Stilettos, the name of the show, cribbed from the 505 adage ‘no stilettos on the danceﬂoor’. The idea for the programme, a sort of ‘dei Reader and friends’ affair, had been ﬂoating around in the ether for a couple of years before the go- ahead and Eddi’s participation was secured. Conforming largely to Eddi’s tastes, various acts were approached and booked and the Cottiers location put forward by The Late Show’s Scottish producer, Andrea Miller. The converted church, previously used for Test Dept’s Soul Machine venture, was decked out with hanging tapestries, erroneous table lamps and evocative lighting and, lo. the ﬁlming commenced. Over the course of ﬁve nights the two stages were graced by Scottish stalwarts like Edwyn Collins and Trashcan
Eddl Reader: your host for lio Stilettos
‘These hands would not appear anywhere else. We’re achieving something - good live music is actually going to have a platform on television.
Sinatras, new kids on the block J umpin’ The Gun and Thrum, introspective soloists Ani DiFranco and David Gray and rootsy American The Jayhawks and American Music Club, with a set from Eddi and her band heading each show, and Ms Reader playing the reluctant hostess.
‘l tried to do “hello and welcome” and all that business on stage,’ she says, ‘but i couldn’t quite do the Bob Monkhouse trip. I’m really uncomfortable with that.’
This is no great calamity according to producer May Miller who bemoans ‘that awful thing when a personality hijacks a music programme and then it’s not about music anymore.’
For Miller, whose CV includes work on the
latter days of Whistle Test, the medium for music on television has to be live performance, which creates a fresh set of problems. ‘The whole week was a huge busk. Obviously it’s not going to be perfect. it’s always going to have that edge of “so-and-so’s singing out of tune”. if people do like their music antiseptic they’re not going to like it, but if it’s not live . . . it’s dead really,’ she laughs.
This business of raw, spontaneous performance doesn’t quite accord with my experience of a No Stilettos recording and, as a performer, Eddi was only too aware of the artiﬁcial conditions. ‘If i was doing it again, l’d make it a real gig, no stopping. if you want to ﬁlm it, ﬁlm it, capture it, that’s your gig. i did a proﬁle for the BBC and they ﬁlmed us at the Riverside. That was excellent because what was really important was the audience and us ﬁrst.’
However, doubts about the atmosphere are dissipated when Miller plays back some of the uncut footage of Ian McNabb’s set and TV’s magical distorting powers take full sumptuous effect. What a daunting prospect, though, to venture into a genre with as dubious a heritage as ‘music TV’.
‘Either you accept that and you do your best, or you don’t do it at all,’ shrugs Miller, when confronted with the inevitable ‘music shows are crap - discuss’ gambit, ‘and i think it’s tragic if it’s not done at all.
‘There’s been a huge resistance to No Stilettos,’ she continues. ‘lt’s extremely difﬁcult to get music on the network because music shows don’t get high viewing ﬁgures. There’s a lot of snobbery about it as well. You can justify opera but it’s harder to justify rock music although it’s much more expensive to cover opera. But I think the ﬂoodgates are already starting, with Later popping up off the back of The Late Show.’
Miller ﬁrmly believes that No Stilettos, which will be networked in June or July but for now remains the viewing privilege of the Scots, has an important agenda to uphold.
‘These bands would not appear anywhere else. We’re achieving something — good live music is actually going to have a platform on television. Sounds of the Seventies has been getting fantastic viewing ﬁgures and most of it’s early Whistle Test stuff. Whistle Test did break acts. They got them at a stage when they were not famous and it was their ﬁrst time on television. So perhaps in twenty years they’ll show excerpts from No Stilettos and lan McNabb will be mega.’
PS. If you do tune in, l’m the one standing at the front to one side during The Lemonheads set, saying ‘rhubarb rhubarb’ constantly during those embarrassing between-song audience shots. Hello mum.
N0 Stilettos begins on Mon 1 7 May on BBC 1 at 10.40pm.
The List 7—20 May 1993 11