Manchester


"Tony Wilson, who around this time was regularly featuring punk and New Wave acts on his Granada Television arts show So It Goes, was well known for his aesthetic tastes, interest in futuristic design, and fervent belief that Manchester could become a leading city on a global platform, and Factory’s output and indeed general outlook inevitably began to reflect his obsessions, with its eclectic and cerebral roster of artists encompassing arty funk outfit A Certain Ratio, classically-influenced guitar pop band Durutti Column, and confrontational stand-up comedian John Dowie, whilst the label’s musically diverse releases were given a unifying style by the minimalist and industrial-influenced designs of artist Peter Saville, and in turn by Wilson’s insistence on appending 'FAC' production codes to every project from album and single releases to the purchase of new office equipment; given his political sympathies, the absence of the second part of the word may not have been coincidental. By the early eighties, now with Joy Division's manager Rob Gretton and producer Martin Hannett as partners, and a recently-acquired nightclub, The Hacienda (FAC 51), as a base of operations, Factory was both as successful and as influential as an independent label could hope to be, particularly following the release of New Order’s acclaimed 12” only single Blue Monday in 1983"

When I think of Manchester, I tend to think of Tony Wilson. True, if you grew up in the Granada region, where he kept on fronting regional news and arts shows even when operating on a national and even global platform, and had a liking for the bands signed to his Factory label (yes, even Northside), this is hardly exactly a shocking revelation, but there's a little more to it than that. During some pretty dark and directionless times when the city was struggling every bit as much as any of its industrial neighbours, and beaten down so much that in many ways it had started to fight itself as much as it was being fought, he never ever lost his faith or his vision. The art, culture, inclusivity and rich creative and industrial history of the city, he argued, would always win out - the people would always win out - and one day Manchester would become an example to the entire world.

Although this never quite happened in the way he envisaged, and the numerous false starts and near misses must have frustrated him deeply - although the early nineties bid for Manchester to host the 2000 Olympics was both entertainingly over-ambitious, and a worthwhile show of strength and defiance towards those that preferred to write off Manchester and its neighbours as grey, derelict relics of a bygone age full of uneducated flat-capped Neanderthals; it's also entirely possible that the London 2012 bid might not have been quite so successful without its example to go by - there's a sense in which, way way beyond 'Cool Britannia', the nineties saw the entire UK become something at least vaguely in line with what Tony Wilson always believed Manchester to be. Not that he would really have conceded that, though. As nor indeed would Liam or Noel Gallagher, but we'd need to go too far into the history of alternative music to explain that.

From the collapse of Factory, which he breezily told fellow Granada Reports reporter Bob Greaves would "come back and carry on, but maybe not in the form everyone's expecting" (and in a sense it did with Oasis, which really wasn't what anyone was expecting), to his own later health struggles which he used to highlight the problematic and seemingly arbitrary allocation of NHS treatment funding, Tony Wilson faced pretty much anything that was thrown at him with optimism, practicality and wit, never suggesting there were easy answers to difficult questions and strongly believing that it was incumbent on all of us - including him - to work towards addressing issues that the authorities seemed unable to. Most of all, though, he loved to root for his hometown, and recent events have underlined just how much he and several others like him are missed in the social media age. There are modern-day equivalents around, of course, but they really don't get the exposure. It's them we should be listening to, though, rather than furious didactic combatants for the coveted 'Green Jumper' award for being Best At Being Right-On 1983, braying weasel-word Watch With Mother puppet bigots in suits that would shame someone drinking Special Brew on a bus at 10am, or shrieking car alarms salivating about how many comments they will get on their 'thinkpiece' the next morning.

Shaun Ryder, whom most eighties record companies would not have allowed past reception but whom Wilson was convinced was a 'poet' and didn't care who laughed at that, once recorded a song for Factory that ended - at least in its superlative 12" reading - with an exhortation to "think about the future". Which is what we should all do, frankly, and leave the shock value hatemongers famous and non-famous who've bored us senseless for too long now where they belong, and where too many people once thought Manchester itself belonged - the past.

There's So Much More In TV Times Part 11: Here's The Curtain Track You've Been Waiting For


So you're all set. You've cut that page out of TV Times, you've got your leftovers all nicely stored in the fridge, you've got your oversized novelty chef's hat on, and it's time to make whatever that recipe with Brucie was. There's only one problem, though - your kitchen looks grey, spartan and shabby even by the standards of the days of black and white TV, and doesn't even have a single shred of showbiz razzle-dazzle. To see it is definitely not nice.

Fortunately help is at hand. If you flick back a couple of pages through the magazine that, erm, you've cut a page out of, you can find all manner of cost-effective dazzling new utilities and decorating supplies to help turn your kitchen into a suitably hip and happening pop-art hangout for making a snack during the ad break of Fire Crackers...


It's On (Dr. Dre) 37°F Killa! Passive-agressive cross-utility smackdown time as a Bobbie Gentry-alike snorting a Rum Swizzle bemoans the fact that her fridge isn't quite as good as her sewing machine. Quite what indignity had caused Ian Singer to take so bitchily against the good people at Electrolux is sadly lost to history, but you really would worry about her ability to operate a sewing machine safely with all that booze flowing through her sinuses anyway.


No such chlorodifluoromethane-targeted outrage for Mrs Jacki Boardman, who apparently goes 'all the way' with her small artillery of white goods from Frigidaire's SheerLook 67 range; apparently the 'most stylish, most spacious, most 1967 fridges you ever saw'. Presumably they had a plaque commemorating Steve Chalmers' European Cup-winning goal for Celtic on the front, and played Sorry Mr. Green by The Walham Green East Wapping Carpet Cleaning Rodent And Boggit Extermination Association when opened. Meanwhile, we would never under any circumstances suggest that there is any direct correlation between her pose, her frenziedly delighted expression, and the rickety juddering mechanism of old-skool twin-tub washing machines. Because we get letters. We really do.


If you needed more time to devote to brow-furrowing over whether your fridge was literally orgasmic or just a poor substitute for a Ronco Buttoneer, you could always invest in some Marley Consort flooring. Boasting 'locked-in shine' in an early incarnation of that infuriating 'Such R.3! Many Hardluck Hall!' speech meme thing, it all but legally bindingly guaranteed that you would never ever need to actually clean it. A cat would probably like a word, then.


Out into the hallway, and you too could win a Big, Big Carpet! There are a mathematically bewildering array of prizes to be won, and no guarantee that if you sat down and worked it all out with a set square and graph paper, you wouldn't find that it essentially all added up to mean that absolutely nobody would end up winning absolutely anything whatsoever. Note also that said carpets are offered by a carpet cleaner manufacturer, who would presumably have reached straight for prizes that required you to deploy their product every three minutes, regardless of position on the 'big, big' scale.


Alternatively, you could opt for Polyflor, which probably requires more regular cleaning but at least is simple and straightforward enough for teh menz to work out. That's quite an extravagant way of congratulating him for successfully working out how to wield a mop, though.


An opportunity for a tacky observation about curtains matching carpet? No, because what we're concerned with here is the actual curtain track. It's strong, almost invisible, easy to fix, silent gliding, easy to clean, non-corroding, and presumably taken as read that it will also hold up your curtains successfully. Is, after all, the curtain track you've been waiting for, and despite the suspiciously keen look of the lady in the half-hearted John Squire-decorated t-shirt, almost impossible to contrive an untoward gag out of. Almost.


If you were looking to emphasise that revolutionary new curtain track with a nice fresh lick of paint, longstanding purveyors of finest substrate adherent Crown were hoping to attract your custom with this conspicuously modern-looking will-they-won't-they-choose-soft-khaki literally decorative couple. Quite what was amusing them in the first example of the campaign is sadly left unclear, while in the second one they appear to have wandered on to the set of The Trip. Touch the scream that climbs the walls... but make sure the second coat has set first. Yes, about three of you got that, didn't you?


Bizarre to think that it's now necessary to specify that the above gag referred to the highly banned Jack Nicholson-scripted 1967 big-screen freakout The Trip and not that thing with Coogan and Brydon sodding off to BSB in a go-kart or something, but there we are. Anyway, one thing that definitely won't be climbing any walls - providing they've been coated in the requisite quantity of confusingly named Walpamur Emulsion - is flies. This is the paint with the in-built 'Insect And Fly Control Agent', which probably did send a few winged buzzers tumbling undignified to the floor, but also quite possibly left three percent of your face attached to it if you ventured too close. Legal Disclaimer: this presumption is based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Apart from general alarm at the overall quite unnecessary wording and illustration of the advert.


Anyway, all the decorating is done, and it's time to move on to the furniture. And here's one of those standard-issue sixties foxy redheads pushing the need to replace old sofas with new with an almost propagandist zeal. Well, if there's one thing that Ian Furniture and the Furniture Industry Fatcats are going to have to come to terms with, it's the fact that we're all too psychologically robust and resilient to fall for cheap and tacky attempts to coerce us into parting with cash simply by deploying a str... sorry, was just looking at swivel chairs... am I supposed to be writing about Skiboy or something?


At a guess, I'd say that the mystery was why he considered this any more 'portable' than any other penny, especially considering the size of it. Anyway join us again next time, when we'll be looking at how TV Times plugged its very own small-screen stars in the most tenuous of tie-in features. At least two of whom appeared in programmes covered in entertaining depth in my book Well At Least It's Free, hint hint.

Looks Unfamiliar #6: Emma Burnell - Jessica Wakefield Is Jessica Fletcher Writ Large


Looks Unfamiliar 6 - Emma Burnell

Looks Unfamiliar is a podcast in which writer and occasional broadcaster Tim Worthington talks to a guest about some of the things that they remember that nobody else ever does. Joining Tim in this episode is broadcaster, columnist and standup comic Emma Burnell, who is banking on somebody else remembering Miners' Strike fundraising album Whose Side Are You On?, the Sweet Valley High novels, short-lived playground craze Scoubidou, children's horror novella The Patchwork Monkey, undistinguished Rutger Hauer vehicle Split Second, and the Ever Ready 'Power To The People' advert. Along the way we'll be discussing the sociocultural ramifications of an earnest man talking to some earnest men, assessing the risks of hiring videos from 'a van', and speculating on the possible psychotropic effects of smoking a Fanta Yo-yo.

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Looks Unfamiliar is hosted by Podnose. If you've enjoyed it, why not buy one of Tim's books? We can particularly recommend Well At Least It's Free.

There's So Much More In TV Times Part 10: The Trousers That Look After Themselves


Unlike the square old Radio Times and its inset photographs of well-turned out broadcasters with smart haircuts and nice ties, TV Times was always right at the cutting edge of fashion. And never more so than back in the days when 'Swinging London' was ram-packed with blokes in top hats trying on military jackets and women dressed as Capable Caroline from Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush. Unless you've got a 'neo-history' show on BBC2, of course, in which case you should loudly announce that this never happened over footage of it actually happening.

Although they never quite managed to forge a fashion craze out of Bruce Forsyth in an oversized novelty chef's hat making something out of 'leftovers', TV Times was an ideal vehicle for anyone looking to promote their far-out crazy sixties fashions, with its captive audience of television viewers keen to emulate the stylish razzle-dazzle of the Ready Steady Go! audience, or at the very least that geezer talking to Viv Stanshall about how 'the longer shirts' were old fashioned. Here are just a few of the ingenious ways in which peddlers of non-natural psychedelically-shaded fibres attempted to harness the spending power of people looking to see when Sixpenny Corner was on.


Here's one hip and with-it young trendsetter explaining how top wash-and-wear synthetic mod favourite Crimplene is ideal for driving go-karts and failing to impress haystack-dwelling blondes. Either that, or this is some kind of low budget recreation of the Bank Holiday Mods And Rockers showdowns, with crash barriers, a safer mode of transport, and no Rockers.


Crimplene's even less flexible known associate Terylene receives a similar plug courtesy of this disconcerting tale of dating, cricket and weirdly possessive symbolic demands as apparently related by TV's Tom Chance. Note how the most positive thing they can find to say about Terylene trousers is that they are 'very okay'; meanwhile, we are probably best not knowing why he wanted Diana - who seems to have a 'thing' for synthetic trousers - to sponge them down after.


Meanwhile, it's 50% Fortrel Polyester and 50% Combed Cotton for wonderful new Wescoteers, the trousers that 'look after themselves'. Whatever scientific miracle this entails, it apparently results in them standing upright of their own accord, to the visible lack of delight of two awkwardly-slumped dolly birds. Note however that they are manufactured by Koratron, which sounds suspiciously like the sort of name you would have given to a rubbish villian in an early Doctor Who comic strip. So when you see a Policeman shouting "The trousers - they're walking - AND NOTHING CAN STOP THEM!" into his radio while standing at a weird eighty degree angle, you'll know exactly what has happened.


One size is slightly larger, and one size is too small, and the ones that mother buys you at the start of the 'school year' don't sodding well fit at all! You'd never have believed it but here's square, dependable and literally straight-laced Clarks jumping on the mod-psych bandwagon to flog their Flamingo-friendly wares to 'young women of tomorrow', presumably to replace their last pair which began dissolving in the waters that they trod. Quite where that young man of tomorrow lurking in the background fits into the equation, meanwhile, is anyone's guess.


Many of the raw synthetic materials for these Deptford Draylons-friendly fashion revolutions were provided by defunct chemical behemoth ICI, who took the unlikely opportunity to reposition themselves as bloke-behind-desk-led Carnabetian Trendsetters with a block-booked advert break plugging Crimplene, Terylene, Bri-Nylon and all the rest of them. If you wanted to know more about any of the featured clobber, then your luck was in courtesy of this handy form in TV Times; judging from the accompanying artificial fibre-sporting ladies, and in particular 'C' who was alarmingly racy even by tacky old ITV standards of the time, it's a fair bet that a few readers sent off for the free brochure for entirely the wrong reasons. You had to make your own XXXBunker in those days. Let's hope they all got a good kick out of those detailed diagrams of Astronlon-C and Astralene-C being immersed at high temperatures, then.


Of course, if you wanted to see real far-out game-changing sixties fashions on television, then you couldn't do much better than The Avengers. Once they'd got rid of Ian Hendry and his decidedly side-vent-five-inches-long-deficient mac, that is. Needless to say, TV Times were always more than happy to get a few wardrobe-centric words and photos out of the famously sharp-dressing series regulars, and here are literally just a handful of the dozens upon dozens of features the series inspired. First up, in amongst the standard deluge of weak puns and spurious statistics, Patrick Macnee reveals that in sharp contrast to his never less than dapper small screen persona, he hates ties with a vengance, and it turns out Harry H. Corbett's not dramatically keen on them either. Except if they involve something to do with pie, apparently. Honor Blackman, on the other hand, knows it's better simply to sing the praises of her designers and just generally look insanely hot in their creations without even trying. John Bates, who designed her successor's outfits, clearly wasn't impressed by this feature as he spends his interview pouring scorn on Honor's endless variations on a leather theme and detailing how he tried to counter this with a series of practical yet feminine op-art designs. And, despite talking quite forcefully about how men know nothing about women's fashion and it pays to listen to the suggestions of those who will actually have to wear them, still somehow fails to avoid sounding as, erm, 'sixties' as they come. And finally, as someone who has clearly never watched The Avengers says, Diana Rigg is set not on 'violence and vengeance' but on helping YOU to win a big money prize. Apparently this involves deciding which photo of her in full Emma Peel regalia you like best and... then... a panel of judges decides which of you was the most right? No us neither.


Not to be outdone, Fenella Fielding from ATV's Mrs Quilley's Murder Shoes participates in more or less the exact same competition, only with a decidedly Audrey Hepburn-influenced slant and some trademark 'exquisite, dahling!' commentary. The rules are really still no clearer, mind.


The face of Associated Rediffusion's youth magazine show That's For Me!, Ann'i'e Nightingale - apparently writing about herself in the third person - presents an extra-curricular feature on the return of the beret as a fashion item, with tips on cost-consciously repurposing your old school one by jumping up and down on it and throwing it in flourescent paint. Thankfully you don't have to rank the photos in order of something or other this time, though.


And finally, here's Jon Pertwee with an early example of his, erm, 'debatable' self-aggrandising jet-setting showbiz anecdotes. Now we're not saying that Radio's Man Of A Thousand Voices didn't personally think the silk was 'special', mind. Nor indeed are we denying that it may have been in the same square mile as the word 'Italy' at some point. It's just that the explanation sounds very very like "The Ghosts Of N-Space is number one in the hit parade!". Can Do, incidentally, was a game show that sounds to all intents and purposes exactly the same as You Bet!. Wonder if his anecdote about the lion on the Wall Of Death was put to the test?


Well Playmates, here's Arthur Askey giving you his cheery personal guarantee that you can buy all the latest fashions from your armchair with comfort, credit and confidence. Of course, there's no guarantee of any of the above if you buy my book Well At Least It's Free. It's what all the hip swingers are reading though. And better than a sodding catalogue!