Rock of ages
Pete Frame, rock’s old father time, has been compiling his musical family trees for years. Now they’re to be televised and the result is surprisingly successful, says Eddie Gibb.
lfa detailed knowledge of who begat who in the early line-ups of the Grateful Dead or the name of King Crimson's ﬁrst bassist is the kind ofintellectual ballast that gives your universe its stability. then you‘ll already know who Pete Frame is. But for those who are about as likely to read the small print on the back of a parking ticket as study the liner notes on a Spooky Tooth LP, he is best introduced as the ‘Rock Family Trees‘ guy.
For almost a quarter of a century, Frame has been combining his encyclopaedic knowledge of music‘s highways and by-ways with the ﬁnicky penmanship of a medieval monk to provide visual histories of how bands connect in rock's rich tapestry. In modern parlance. you'd have to call him a trainspotter. (When Q magazine made this accusation recently — they can talk! — Frame denied he even owned an anorakl). But while he has made a living out of an archival obsession. there‘s something of Frame in anyone with a record collection that means something to them.
Nick Homby's recently published novel High Fidelity featured a record shop owner called Rob whose love ofobscure American R & B acts was more real than his rather unsuccessful female relationships. The character is familiar to any boy who has ever had a heated discussion about music after playing records in a mate's bedroom. and while it was assumed there was an element of Hornby in
Bock Family Trees: Blondie were theiuost
Rob. he could be anyone who's ever owned a Pete Frame book.
Now the BBC has achieved what seemed like the impossible — translating Frame's ﬁendishly complicated rock genealogies into an accessible piece of music television which will appeal to anyone — yes. girls too! — with at least a passing interest in pop music. The trick was ditching the strict chronology of Frame‘s family trees for a more random approach. The televised Rock Famin Trees flicks back and forth through time, making connections between bands as they occur. Though whole thing is illustrated with clips from the BBC's own archives. including The Old Grey Whistle Test, a programme spiritually close to Frame's approach to music.
One of the most successful programmes in the series looks at the ‘New Merseybeat‘ of the early 80s which spawned bands as diverse as ()Ml). The Teardrop Explodes and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, with a thriving music scene centred one one seedy club — Eric's. Fifteen years on. many ofthe survivors are still with us — Electraﬁxion (two former
- commercially successful band to spring from flew York's prank scene
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\ 4:4. Bunnymen who recently started working together after years of personal animosity). The KLF and The Lightning Seeds.
The Liverpool scene of the 80s was almost made to be turned into a family tree in the first place because ofthe pervading influence of an unsuccessful band whose members included Jane Casey (Pink Military). Bill Drummond (The KLF) Holly Johnson (Frankie) and a very young Ian Broudie (The Lightning Seeds).
The programme on the late 70s New York punk scene —- Ramones. Television. Blondie, Talking Heads — uses a similar device of linking the bands‘ progress to seminal art-rock hangout CBGB’s. But because New York is such a massive city. many of the linking bands which bridged the gaps have been forgotten in the mists of time.
Other programmes look at a complete history of Fleetwood Mac. Birmingham bands of the 60s and 70s (look out for Slade) and the sprawling heavy metal monster whose tentacle can be followed back to Deep Purple. Notebooks at the ready. fact fans! Rock Family Trees starts on Saturday 24 June at 9pm I on BBC2.
So they think they’re funny
After ten minutes of explaining what the new topical comedy show The Saturday Night Armistice is not going to be - not a sketch show, not a chat show, not the line O’CIock News - Peter Baynham finally gets to the point. ‘ft’ll have a That’s life-ish feel,’ he says. Then as the full horror of what he’s lust said dawns on him, Baynham swiftly adds: ‘We don’t like That’s life - obviously.’ The publicity material makes an even more alarming comparison with floeI’s llouse Party. Whatever The Saturday flight Armistice turns out to be, and its hard
Saturday Night Armistice's Iamurcci and Bayfuraa
to know at this stage because each show will be recorded the day before transmission, the vague format is brought to our screen by a team with impeccable comedy credentials.
played by Steve Coogan.
Sitting behind the studio desk will be Amanda lannuccl - the Esther Bantzen figure if you will - with sidekicks Baynham and David Schneider as Cyril Fletcher and Doc Cox. The writers and directors have combined screen credits which include Father Ted, Spitting Image and
lannuccl is a Scottish radio comedy writer who has graduated to television production with two of the most innovative series of recent years. The Day Today was a clever satire on current affairs programmes which showed up the increasing obsession with pace at the expense of analysis, while Know Me, Knowing You did much the same for the chat show format with Alan Partridge as the gauche best
There was a self-referential knowingness about these shows which relied on the audience having a grasp
of the way television works. ‘You can reach a point where it gets too inward looking,’ says Baynham. Instead The Saturday flight Armistice is intended to be far less about television, opting to go for more direct humour based on a few guys talking nonsense, off-beat news items and some filmed forays into the outside world (thus the That’s lite comparison). *
‘We’ll be putting across a lot of stupid conversations we have which we hope are funny,’ says Baynham, who recently‘appeared with lee and Herring’s Fist of Fun which also relied on the viewer tuning into a couple of mates’ banterlng humour. ‘When these things are turned into sketches they’re often not as funny as the original idea. Making huge props doesn’t make it any funnier, and often it’s actually less funny.’ (Eddie Gibb) The Saturday Night Armistice starts on Saturday 24 June at 9.50pm.
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