Big John Little John

 

Big John Little John (NBC, 1976)
Big John Little John, a 1976 American body-swap sitcom about a middle-aged man who stumbled across the Fountain Of Youth and, after taking an idle swig of magic water because he was thirsty, gained the unfortunate ability to turn into a twelve year old boy at random moments, was one of those shows that burned itself into the memories of UK viewers in a way that it they never seemed to quite do in their homeland. Shot on that weird garish yet washed out 16mm film stock that made it feel as though bracing outdoorsy weather had somehow got inside your television set, and offering loud visuals, loud music, loud cuts and loud sassy youngsters answering back to those pesky adults - not to mention ridiculously catchy theme songs that explained the plot of the shows in way too much detail - these weren't so much a glimpse of impossible glamour like adult-favoured imports in the Dallas mode offered as they were glimpses of impossible full stop. They are shows remembered with extreme clarity and yet very little detail, and it's hardly surprising that Richard Herring has made his knowledge of the Big John Little John theme lyrics a recurring staple motif in his comedy, nor indeed that the majority of American websites you'll find covering Big John Little John note with no little bafflement that it seems to have been more popular in the UK than it ever was in the USA.

Big John Little John was picked by Round The Archives hosts Lisa Parker and Andrew Trowbridge when they appeared on Looks Unfamiliar, where we discussed our hazy yet vivid memories of this seemingly outrageously funny show and plenty more besides, including Matchbox Cascade and the tie-in game for Jaws. You can find Lisa and Andrew's appearance on Looks Unfamiliar here.

The Alternative Anthology - A Collection Of Rival Beatles Covers

 

Pinky And Perky's Beat Party (Columbia, 1965)
All too often, people tend to think of The Beatles as though they were not just the most important cultural phenomenon of the sixties - which of course they were - but the only one, as if they were operating in complete isolation from everything else that was going on around them, and indeed that all of that everything else, from The Wednesday Play all the way to Pinky And Perky, was really just a more or less irrelevant sideshow. In reality, you can only really understand the effective social and cultural revolution of 'Beatlemania', and to an extent their music itself, if you consider them as the pioneering, game-changing creative centre of a social and cultural revolution that was going on all around them and with which they were intrinsically linked in all directions. All of which is an extremely long-winded way of saying that The Fab Four might not have been quite so fab if it wasn't for all of the influences they took from elsewhere, and the manner in which everyone else caught up in the excitement tried to replicate a little piece of Beatle magic for themselves, whether it was Joe Cocker boring his way through a histrionic chart-topping mauling of With A Little Help From My Friends or, well, Pinky And Perky sending them up as 'The Beakles', in a sketch that must have absolutely delighted the nasally-advantaged Ringo and John.

All of which is an even more extremely long-winded way of getting round to the fact that a lot of The Beatles' best-known songs were only over b-sides or album tracks, and a lot of other artists understandably thought that they should try and score an actual hit single with them instead. Early on these tended to be uninspiring carbon copies where you may as well just have put on the original and stood in another room, but during the mid-sixties and into the psychedelic era, things started to get a little more interesting. Modern Jazz quartets, world music ensembles, early electronic pioneers and many many others tried their hardest to get into the Top Ten with the songs that The Beatles forgot, and that's not even getting started on the buzzsaw guitar and swirly organ-toting Mod and psychedelic acts.

The Alternative Anthology is a playlist of some of my favourite Beatle covers released in direct competition with the originals, featuring the likes of The London Jazz Four, George Martin, Lord Sitar and someone who may or may not be David Bowie, with sleevenotes for each track and artist, and you can listen to it here. If you're in the mood for my thoughts on The Fab Four, then you might also want to listen to me on the I Am The Eggpod podcast talking to Chris Shaw about the Yellow Submarine album - with particular emphasis on the side given over to George Martin's score - which you can find here.

Doctor Who - The Sensorites

 

Doctor Who - The Sensorites (1964).

To a certain kind of viewer and enthusiast of 'old stuff', there are few things more exciting than early black and white Doctor Who, particularly at the height of 'Dalekmania'. Unfortunately, there are also a handful of stories that for various aren't quite as exciting, and 1964's The Sensorites is one of them. After a spooky and atmospheric first episode, it never really gets going and I have to admit that, despite the fact that it's got pretty much everything I'm looking for in sixties television and I really, really want to like it, it fails to hold my attention to the extent that whenever I try to watch it, I usually end up forgetting which episode I'm up to and have to look it up; sometimes even when I start watching the same episode again by mistake, I don't even notice until halfway through.

There's Not An Ounce Of Curiosity In Me! is a light-hearted feature on my attempts to make it through The Sensorites without losing my place, and to find out if there are actually reasons worth persevering with it after all, which you can read on my site here or find in a longer form in my book Can't Help Thinking About Me here. If you're interested in early Doctor Who, you can also listen to me debating its supposed 'problematic' reputation with Emma Burnell and Steve Fielding on the politics-meets-pop-culture show The Zeitgeist Tapes here.