Friday, 24 June 2011

Top 5 Songs by Rainbow

At least one regular reader was disappointed to see last week's top five was about the children's TV show and not about the band formed by Ritchie Blackmore to retreat to whenever he was in a particularly bad sulk with Ian Gillan. Well, who am I to stand in the way of popular opinion.

1. Since You Been Gone (from Down To Earth, 1979) - Despite this being from the only album that featured front man Graham Bonnet (whose short hair and R&B background did not go down well with Rainbow's fans at the time) this is hands down my favourite Rainbow song. I find it almost impossible not to sing along whenever I hear it.

2. Stargazer (from Rainbow Rising, 1976) - Rising was Rainbow's most consistent album and I think probably their best too. This 8 ½ minute epic is its centre piece and pretty well defines all that Rainbow were about. Extensive Blackmore Guitar solos, Ronnie James Dio's deep powerful voice and lyrics about dragons, wizards and rainbows.

3. Kill The King (from Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, 1978) - Full on twiddly guitar intro followed by some massive riffage and RJD at his best make this my favourite song from this 1978 album.

4. I Surrender (from Difficult To Cure, 1981) - Another great track by former Argent guitarist and ace songwriter Russ Ballard (who also provided "Since You Been Gone") this time featuring Bonnet's replacement Joe Lynn Turner on vocals.

5. Long Live Rock 'n' Roll (from Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, 1978) - Bit of a timeless classic this. So much so, that I'd almost forgotten it was a Rainbow song.


Friday, 17 June 2011

Top 5 things about Rainbow

I couldn't let the passing of Roy Skelton go without comment. The actor and singer was best known for voicing puppets George and Zippy on the popular children's television programme Rainbow. He also voiced the Daleks in Doctor Who from 1967 to 1988, as well as the Cybermen, the Krotons and various other Who aliens. He sounds like a genuinely lovely man who will be sadly missed by those who knew him. Whilst I cannot claim that Rainbow was one of my favourite programmes it certainly features prominently in my memories of growing up. The series ran from 1972 (when I was 4) until 1992 which makes me suspect I spent quite a bit of my early teens still watching. What could you do, we only had four channels back then.

Anyway I tried to do a top 5 episodes of Rainbow but a) my memory isn't anywhere near good enough to remember individual highlights and b) there were over 1000 episodes produced and I couldn't find a complete episode guide on the Internet. Instead here's a more generic top five of the best things about Rainbow.

1. Zippy - No doubt that Roy Skelton's input played a large part in the success of Rainbow. Zippy was the comedy genius at the heart of the show. Always quick with an inappropriate remark and the only member of the cast to ever suggest he might not want to follow the "good path".

2. George - George provided the straight hippo to Zippy's quick fire humour. Their conversations were seamless especially considering both were voiced by the same man. At times one might appear to start talking before the other had finished. I think I'm right in calling George a hippo and not a cow, I remember the argument about what sort of animal George was being a topic of late drunken argument as a student.

3. Geoffrey - I always felt a little sorry for Geoffrey. Even as a seven year old I had a sense of a man who was not following the career path he really wanted to. Though he always appeared to be smiling there was a sadness in his eyes. A hint of a man who had failed to achieve all his dreams and had ended up wearing horribly bright clothing on a kids TV programme with no hope of moving on. He was a nice man though, and clearly had the patience of a saint.

4. Theme Tune - This was a song that would stick in your head for days on end. In fact it still can. Even without playing it I can recite the lyrics at the drop of hat. It's not going to feature on anyone's favourite songs list but like all the best pop tunes it's difficult not to join in and sing along as soon as you hear the opening bars.

5. Rod, Jane & Freddy/Roger/Matthew - Musically they were pretty lame but they had an infectious enthusiasm about them you couldn't help but like. I don't really remember Matthew (Corbett who left to replace his Dad on the Sooty Show) but do have a vague recollection of the switch from Roger to Freddy. I didn't like Freddy very much at first, an early indication that I was never going to deal well with change, but he soon became the most entertaining member of the trio. I don't think I ever had any great interest in Jane. Whilst she was certainly pretty, she never caught my young eye. However if you look at pictures of the group over the years it's incredible how Jane has remained looking very much the same whilst the boys lose their hair and age less gracefully.

Oh, and I haven't forgotten about Bungle. Always thought there was something very suspect about him, and that bear costume! Seriously, someone must have been fired for designing that.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Guest Top 5 - Simpsons episodes by Richard Howe

Time has rather gotten the better of me of late. My top five barrel is empty and I have not found the time to do justice to any of the subjects I have in the pipeline. Hooray then for the power of Twitter where I made a slightly desperate plea for assistance and recieved this brilliant top 5 from my former colleague and fellow maker of lists Richard.

Rich is a Cartographer, a Leeds United fan, a Yorkshire & England Cricket fan, a fully paid up member of the Centre-Back's Union and a lover of Indie-pop music. He tweets about most of these things @LUFCSupporter.

Over to Richard ...

There are so many classic Simpsons episode that getting it down to five was a tough ask. Honourable mentions go to “The Dead Putting Society” (where Bart and Todd Flanders play off at mini-golf whilst their fathers bet on the outcome) and Lord of the Flies parody “Das Bus” (where the schoolchildren become stranded on an island after Otto crashes the bus). However, what remains are episodes I can watch again and again, and for the most part I can recite verbatim!

1. Maximum Homer-drive

This is my personal favourite ever episode of the Simpsons as there’s an almost perfect plot and sub-plot. It’s not that often I find someone else that agrees with my first choice though.

Homer is challenged to a meat eating contest at the slaughter-house. His opponent, Red Barclay, beats him, but dies from beef poisoning in the process. On discovering he was a long distance lorry driver, Homer volunteers to drive his shipment across the country, with Bart as company. Homer and Bart stumble across the “Navitron Autodrive System” which drives the truck when Homer falls asleep at the wheel and a confrontation with the trucking fraternity ensues. Lisa and Marge meanwhile go in search of a new doorbell and are rescued from its subsequent malfunction by Sen├Ár Ding-Dong.

Best quote: ‘He called me, "greenhorn." I called him, "Tony Randall." It was a thing we had.’

2. Homer at the Bat

The mass of guest stars in this episode combined with Homer’s sense of injustice at everything make it an absolute gem. The song over the final credits is the icing on the cake.

The power plant enters a softball team in a company league. The team turns a corner from the previous season when Homer, complete with “Wonder-Bat” (made from the branch of a lightening-struck tree) begins smashing them to victory. Mr Burns, sensing a victory in the championship game, makes a bet with the owner of the Shelbyville power plant and brings in pro-Baseball players as ringers to ensure he doesn’t lose. The night before the big game all of his ringers (bar one) are struck down by a variety of misfortunes. However, the team go on to victory care-of Homer’s head when he replaces Daryl Strawberry as a pinch hitter in the final innings.

Best quote: ‘Mattingly, I thought I told you to trim those sideburns? Go home; you're off the team, for good!’

3. Last Exit to Springfield

I’ve often seen this described as the best ever episode, and although it’s not my favourite it is certainly up there. Homer, the unwitting union man with a victory over the tyrant Burns

Following the mysterious disappearance of the previous Union leader, Mr Burns proposes a free keg of beer for the union in lieu of the plant’s dental plan in a effort to cut costs. Homer is (eventually) against the idea when he remembers that Lisa needs braces. He is elected union president after passionate defence of the dental plan. Over a series of meetings with Mr Burns, Homer’s frequent misunderstandings over what’s taking place lead Mr Burns to conclude he’s a tough negotiator. The power plant goes on striker and Mr Burns eventually cedes to their demands on condition that Homer resigns as president of the union.

Best quote: ‘Smithers, I'm beginning to think that Homer Simpson is not the brilliant tactician I thought he was.’

4. Lisa the Vegetarian

Homer’s outrage at Lisa’s vegetarianism and her struggle to find acceptance bring hilarious consequences. The chant of “You don’t make friends with Salad!” contained in this episode has become commonplace amongst my family.

Following a visit to a petting zoo, Lisa decides she no longer wants to eat meat. Homer is naturally unimpressed and is in the process of arranging a barbeque with a roast suckling pig. Lisa steals the “Pig de-resistance” and pushes it down a hill where it falls into the river, gets stuck in the dam and is shot into the distance. Following an argument with Homer Lisa runs to the Kwik-e-Mart and gorges herself on what she thinks is a hot-dog. Apu advises her that it is a Tofu-dog and informs her that he is also a vegetarian and invites her to his roof garden to meet Paul and Linda McCartney.

Best quote: ‘It's just a little airborne, it's still good, it's still good!’

5. Kamp Krusty

Another classic plot and sub-plot episode. The scene where Kent Brockman reveals he’s got exclusive access to the leader of the rebellion, and Homer’s (unanswered) prayers “don’t be the boy, don’t be the boy” still have me rolling about on the floor with laughter.

Bart fakes his end of year grades to ensure he can go away to Kamp Krusty over the summer. Homer easily sees through his cheating but allows Bart to go away with Lisa anyway. When Bart and Lisa arrive they discover that the Kamp is franchised by an absent Krusty and is more in keeping with a concentration camp, complete with death marches. Unaware of Bart and Lisa’s plight, Homer and Marge are enjoying a summer alone with Homer re-growing his hair and losing weight. Bart leads a rebellion against the camp which becomes televised news causing Homer to immediately lose his hair and gain his weight. Krusty takes the children to Tijuana for the rest of the summer by way of apology.

Best quote:
Marge: ‘Homer, you do remember your promise to the children?’
Homer: ‘Sure do! When you’re 18, you’re out the door!’


Friday, 3 June 2011

Top 5 European Club Football Teams

Running low on ready to publish top fives I (stupidly) thought that picking the all time greatest Club Football team might make an easy topic to knock up in a hurry. It wasn't so apologies now for any factual mistakes as some of this has come from my less than reliable memory, and the rest from the occasionally erratic Wikipedia.

There has been a lot of talk recently about how good the current Barcelona side is and whether they could be the greatest club side ever seen. BBC 5Live discussed this and came to the conclusion it was the Real Madrid side of 1960. I have narrowed the remit down to European teams only as I know very little about football outside of the EU (if I'm honest vey little about football outside of SW6). I also went with achievements over a 10 year span, rather than individual seasons, as I felt it gaves a better perspective of the true greatness of the sides involved.

1. Liverpool (1974-1984) – This is the team that dominated football when I was growing up. Everyone at my school (my best friend and myself apart) seemed to support Liverpool. They were on telly all the time. I absolutely hated them. This was the team that Shankly built but Bob Paisley took on to greater success. They dominated English football and began a golden age of British clubs in Europe. Forgetting my schoolboy bias it was good to watch, pass and move, fast flowing, physical-when-needed British football. I knew that team almost as well as I knew Fulham. Clemence, Neal, Hansen, Kennedy.A, Thompson, Heighway, McDermott, Kennedy.R, Souness, Keegan & Dalgleish. Especially Keegan & Dalgleish. I can now admit that they were thrilling to watch at their best.

Divison One        1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984
League Cup         1981, 1982, 1983, 1984
European Cup       1977, 1978, 1981, 1984
UEFA Cup           1976
UEFA Super Cup     1977

2. Ajax (1965-1975) - The origin of Total Football. Managed by Rinus Michels and inspired by Johan Cruyff, this Ajax team took European football by storm, playing winning football with flair and panache. The first Dutch team to reach a European Cup final when they lost to A.C. Milan in 1969 they then saw their rivals Feyonord become the first Dutch team to lift the trophy the following season. Ajax fought back and stamped their mark on the tournament by winning the next three years in a row. The first team to acheive that feat since the Madrid side of the late fifties. They also contributed To Holland's achievements at international level. The Dutch being unlucky to finish as runners-up in both the '74 and '78 World Cups as well as finishing third at the '76 European Championships.

Eredivisie            1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973 
KNVB Cup              1966, 1970, 1971, 1972
European Cup          1971, 1972, 1973
Intercontinental Cup  1972 
UEFA Super Cup        1973

3. Real Madrid (1956-1966) – Much harder for me to genuinely assess as I’ve only ever seen brief scratchy black & white highlights of this side. However this was a team featuring two of the world's all-time greats in Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano and I've read enough by trustworthy reporters to believe they are definite contenders for the greatest team ever. Winning the first five European Cups is impressive whatever the standard of competition.

La Liga              1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965
Copa del Ray         1962
European Cup         1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966

4. Barcelona (2008-Now) – Is it too early to consider the current Barca side amongst these illustrious companions? I think not. Considering how tough it now is to win in European competition, their achievements in the last few years have been truly impressive. They've taken the Ajax total football template and added a resilience that makes them difficult to beat. The Frank Rijkard era from 2003-2008 was pretty successful too, but I've isolated the Pep Guardiola era as he developed the tika-taka philosophy into an irresistable force. Xavi, Iniesta & Messi are household names and the heart and soul behind the current Barca success. As with the Ajax side of the seventies it's not unrelated that the Spanish national side has won winning the European Championships in 2008 and their very first World Cup in 2010.

La Liga              2009, 2010, 2011
Copa del Ray         2009
Supercopa            2009, 2010
Champions League     2009, 2011
UEFA Super Cup       2009
FIFA Club World Cup  2009

5. Manchester United (1991-2001) - Difficult to pin down Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest period but it seems to me that the early nineties where when they were at their most dominant on the domestic front. The ban on English clubs competing in European competition restricted their ability to win as much as they might and they struggled to come to terms with the differences in style when they got their chance. The treble winning 1999 side was spectacular though. The graduates of the youth academy; Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and the Nevilles coming of age whilst Schmeichel and Keane were at the height of their powers.

Premier League        1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001
FA Cup                1994, 1996, 1999
League Cup            1992
European Cup          1999
UEFA Cup Winners      1991  
UEFA Super Cup        1991
Intercontinental Cup  1999