Happy Birthday Out of The Blue – ELO Flashback 40

It’s a Happy Birthday to me and a Happy Birthday to Out of The Blue as I share a special Flashback 40. It’s a big 40 for Out of the Blue by Electric Light Orchestra. This peach of an album was released on same day I was born. It sadly wasn’t released in honour of me, but Im quite happy to share my my entry into the world with its release.

Out of The Blue was released as a double album and is home to a number of it’s well known tracks that we still love and play 40 years on, the likes of Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Turn To Stone and the absolutely epic mood lifter Mr Blue Sky. This track has to be one of my favourite songs of all time. They had released another two singles from the album, those being Wild West Hero and the track It’s Over. As well as the album being fantastic, their album cover has to be one of the most familiar and recognised covers over period it’s been released. The registration number on the side of the docking space craft, is the original catalogue number for the album.

Jeff Lynne wrote the album in three weeks over in a Swiss chalet, influenced by the rain lashing on the door. It is I have to say the testament to fantastic writing, to create a piece of musical joy. An album which would appear to feature some musical influences from the great names of the 20th Century ranging from the Beatles to the Bee Gees.

This album the last of the progressive/Symphonic outing created by Jeff Lynne, is certainly a fine way to end one musical direction, Im not sure there could be a finer way in doing so without doing it cheaply and of course that would not be Jeff Lynne’s manner or style.

The album sold 10 million copies and was the first double album in UK char history to produce 4 top twenty singles a hardly suprising fact given the releases from the album. The album itself was one that simply didn’t really want to leave the chart, top ten in ten different countries and in the UK and US album chart it peaked at number 4. Come the end of 1977 it was outside the top 40, only to speed up the chart come the end of 1978 to the position of number 7. The thirtieth anniversary reissue even charted in at number 18. Can’t imagine many albums charting a top 20 on an anniversary release.

Out of The Blue had six single releases of which the first single released was Turn To Stone a romantically themed song of someone struggling when their love has left them but with the hope that they will return some day. It was the lowest charting release from the album reaching only number 18 even though it is quite a catchy tune. It reached top ten in both Sweden and Canada, whilst pitching up in at number 13 on the US Billboard chart. It is another one that is still a popular play and back in 2008, Lynne was awarded a certificate by the BMI for the track reaching one million airplays.

Mr Blue Sky was the second single and  there is nothing much that needs to be said about this glorious track of foot tapping joy. It is surely hard not to enjoy this timeless track. Perfect for any moment. when the mood needs lifting or indeed you just want to play it. I guess though we should thank the change in weather for this. In a BBC interview Lynne had said that in the preceeding two weeks there was gloom and mist but when the sun finally appeared it was a case of wow at the beautiful alps. This track made it to number six in the UK charts and despite being released in the January, by the end of the year it had only just left the top 40 finishing 1978 with a position of 43.

Mr Blue Sky is for those that don’t know,  the finale of the third side of the Double Album which consists of the Concerto For A Rainy Day. It was the only track from that to be released. The opening track titled Standing In The Rain includes recordings of actual rain. The idea of wet gloomy weather continues up until of course Mr Blue Sky, but it is indeed a good piece of music to listen to all the way through.

The song has featured in many tv programmes and films including Dr Who, CSI, Waterloo Road and most recently Guardians of The Galaxy Vol.2 as well as being used in the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. I very much doubt it will ever stop being used given how joyful and cheery it is.

Sweet Talkin’ Woman was another top ten hit for the band as it hit a high of number six in the UK chart, it wasn’t as popular as the other notable releases in the other charts although it did mostly chart in the top 30.

So wrapping up, for me ELO and this album was my earliest introduction to the band and in my own opinion, it should be an album that every music lover has in their collection regardless of the music genre you like.

So happy 40th birthday to this fine album that ages so well and long may it be listened to.

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Blackadder – Flashback40

Blackadder where would we be without the character that is Edmund Blackadder and his poor unfortunate sidekick Baldrick. British greats in Rowan Atkinson as Blackadder together with Sir Tony Robinson as his dogsbody and servant  Baldrick, the show has to be without doubt one of the greatest historical based sitcoms ever to grace British tv or any tv around the world for that fact. In the following post I take a look at series together with some favourite moments, memories and quotes where some have entered everyday conversations.

The Black Adder

When the very first series appeared on tv, I was only six and too young to be watching such fine comic delights. I have to say though when I did get to watch the first series, it didn’t quite grab me as the rest would. Was it due to the fact that there were a lot of outside scenes, was it that the first series was written by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson alone? Who knows but it whilst it wasnt as funny as the rest, it still has place in my comedy collection.

The very first Blackadder series was set in an alternate 1485 where Richard IV was king and Edmund was the Duke of Edinburgh, the second and unfavoured son. Edmund decided to call himself The Black Adder and attempt to overthrow his father and get himself higher up and noticed.

Having been expensive to make a reported £1 million and Michael Grade not keen commissioning it, the likelihood of  was quite possible that it would never make it beyond series two, especially with Rowan Atkinson no longer wishing to write. It featured the first of three appearances by the late Rik Mayall Thankfully it was all to change thanks to some changes and a meeting between Richard Curtis and Ben Elton. The show was brought inside and filmed in front of a studio audience and as they say the rest is history..although the show is all history.

Blackadder II

Series two which is set in Elizabethan times, started well with the episode Bells, although it might appear that this should have been the second episode given the beard of Lord Percy appears in Head and disappearing in Bells. Series two has to be one of my favourites out of the four as we see the appearance of a sarcastic and witty Blackadder who finds himself plagued with Lord Percy and Baldrick.

It is of course one of the best series for Blackadder’s put downs and lines. Episode one sees him mock Lord Percy’s latest interest Jane Harrington who seems to be a bit popular with the men enquiring as to whether it is Jane ‘bury me in a y shaped coffin’ Harrington together with that she goes like a privy door when the plague is in town. Edmund looks like giving a bit of sympathy when he says to Percy he’ll get over her and then hits him with a knock out blow as having said that he did, that even Baldrick had got over her.

The first episode sees the first appearance of the iconic character that is Flashheart played by the fantastic but sadly no longer with us Rik Mayall. Blackadder looks certain to marry Kate (Bob) but is dashed when his very own best man Lord Flasheart appears and takes her away leaving Blackadder regretfully asking Baldrick, who is a bridesmaid whether he will honour the Bridesmaids role in replacing the bride.

Episode two (Head) has a great opening scene where Edmund is teaching Baldrick advanced mathematics much to Edmund’s dismay. He is on top form when Percy makes an appearance wearing a ruff, You can check out the scene here.

Series two continues to excel in the following three episodes with guest appearances from legend Tom Baker in Potato, Ronald Lacey as the Bishop of Bath and Wells in Money. Money is a great episode that sees Blackadder turn his debt situation into a great revenge scheme, Miriam Margoyles makes an appearance as the puritan Lady Whiteadder, who visits whilst Blackadder is trying to host a party.

Blackadder III

Series 3 which is now 30 years old this year sees Blackadder returning once more but in the reign of the Prince Regent, played by another favourite of mine Hugh Laurie. Blackadder is the servant to George. The opening episode is set around the election and the battle to keep Prince George on the civil list as the Prime Minister, Pitt The Younger, wants rid. So Blackadder sets off on another scheme and some more witty put downs. Unfortunately when the key part of your plan is one S Baldrick or Sod Off Baldrick as he was called at school, you just know things are never going to go to plan. Although for Blackadder, he seems best when he is verbally tying up someone. When he comes across Pitt The Younger, who is the recently elected PM, Blackadder launches into some fine mockery. Pitt intends to put his brother up as a candidate to which Blackadder  which Pitt this would be? Pitt The Toddler? Pitt the Embryo? Pitt the Glint in the Milkman’s eye?

Blackadder, having rigged the election for his purposes, sees the dimwitted Baldrick only going and screw things up by unwittingly voting against the Prince Regent. Fear not of course because there is no way that the lords would be happy, so step two in the plan is about to evolve. This plan is a  step into the lords for Baldrick which sadly sees the downfall in his plan. Give Baldrick some money and you know its going to end in only one thing a huge turnip for £4,000.

Episode two sees another fine outing. The episode titled Ink and incapability, sees a guest appearance from Robbie Coltrane as Dr Samuel Johnson. The Prince Regent attempts to up his intellectual standing by becoming a patron of Dr Johnson’s new dictionary. Blackadder isn’t amused and calls the new dictionary the most pointless thing since How to Learn French was translated into French. His bitterness might be to do with the fact that Johnson has ignored a novel that he has written under a pseudonym. Under the name of Gertrude Perkins, Blackadder has written his magnum opus titled A Butler’s Tale, that contains over 400 sizzling chapters of domestic servitude in the eighteenth century. Not forgetting of course the hot gypsies he has thrown in.

Not to be undone Baldrick has his as he calls it magnificent octopus which is on a piece of paper. He doesn’t like long books and his story is about a sausage called Baldrick, that lives happily ever after. Blackadder of course isn’t impressed by Baldrick’s story but adds seeing that it’s rubbish, Dr Johnson will probably like it. Enter then of course the very person as Robbie Coltrane enters the scene. Anyone can read a script but to make it seems genuine and not just a load of words, which would be quite apt,you need someone who can transform those words and Coltrane does just that.

As Johnson rifles off some long words to describe how he feels  after completing the dictionary, Blackadder opts for very much the same and starts what seems a game of one upmanship creating made up words such as contrafribblarities, that Johnson makes note of. Then of course Prince George enters the fray. Johnson becomes dismayed as George becomes disappointed that the dictionary he is patronising doesn’t have any scenes of action or anything. It is then when Johnson storms off that Blackadder’s hopes are suddenly broken. With the Prince abandoning his patronage, Johnson then informs him that he has missed out the only book better than his dictionary. That book being Edmund: A Butlers tale. Blackadder then tries to convince unsuccessfully to get Johnson to change his mind.

The nightmare then begins in earnest for our man of sarcastic put downs and scheming plans as upon returning, it turns out that Baldrick has only gone and thrown Johnsons manuscript into the fire and to make things worse, Edmund finds out that it was the only copy and to add to his troubles, the poets Shelley, Colleridge and Byron are all worse for wear in Mrs Miggins pie shop. Byron it seems is quite happy to get 50 men to deal with whoever it is.

Back at the house, when Edmund returns with bad news, Baldrick suggests they rewrite the whole dictionary. Baldrick is mocked but then upon realisation of the alternative both Prince George and Balders set to work. Not Britain’s best hope at salvaging the dictionary. We see a moment when Blackadder is dreaming with a returning Dr Johnson no longer interested in his dictionary, alas for Prince George’s servant, it is a hallucination when he notices an aunt with a dogs head. Dr Johnson does enter but this time a tad more angry and demanding his dictionary. One glimmer of hope for Edmund is when Johnson requests the manuscript by Gertrude Perkins this is when Edmund reveals that he is indeed Gertrude Perkins and has the manuscript to prove it. The world caves in for him when Baldrick reveals that its been burnt in the fire leaving Blackadder slightly upset.

Baldrick offers his book which angers Johnson once more who promptly leaves , it turns out that he had left out sausage and aardvark. Blackadder and Prince George later leave and we see Baldrick throwing more paper into the fire and completely unaware the very dictionary itself.

Blackadder Goes Forth

So to the final series and this time we see all the cast back together. Atkinson, Robinson, Fry and Laurie, McInnerney and Mayall all feature in this outing. In these final six episodes we see a Captain Edmund Blackadder trying to escape the trenches of World War One and head back to England. This series captures some more fine writing from Elton and Curtis along with the sharp tongue of Blackie as once again he is left to deal with the not so bright Captain George and Private Baldrick.

The series is strong throughout with notable highlights and Blackadder put downs throughout. The first episode sees Blackadder heading out of the trenches and into the kitchens but not before claiming that Baldrick’s idea of cooking would see him arrested for the biggest case of food poisoning since Lucretia Borgia invited 500 of her friends for a wine and anthrax party. Still though it’s a plan that is worth them getting out of the trenches albeit for a short time.

Blackadder almost becomes a cropper in episode two when he thinks that no one will miss a pigeon on the frontline, it turns out to be almost the end of the Captain. Unfortunately for Edmund it turns out to not be any old pigeon, but General Melchett’s Speckled Jim. General Melchett like with Lord Melchett in series two, is played by the fantastic Stephen Fry. Blackadder is eventually sentenced to be shot at dawn, no thanks to Lieutenant George being his defence QC. Strangely enough for Edmund, George is involved again. This time it’s his uncle that he completely forgot about until getting drunk that denies the premature end of Blackadder.

Moving onto episode four and it’s the return of the great Rik Mayall as Lord Flashheart. This time as Squadron Commander in the Royal Flying Corp. Mayall is at his best in this episode where Blackadder is using the Flying Corp as another means to escape the front line. As usual things don’t go to plan as especially when he has Baldrick as his co pilot. The two end up crashing but only it seems in German territory. Blackadder could see out the rest of the war as a PoW although with Baldrick loitering around, that may not have been so much fun. For Edmund, what he doesn’t realise is that his fellow soldier and trusty Lieutenant George is harassing Captain Darling and General Melchett for him to be rescued.

Bad news is that the eventual rescue party of Flashheart and George is on the way much to the dismay of the Captain, who along with Baldrick have already had a visit from Oberleutnant Von Gerhardt who warns them of a fate worse than death with a visit from the Baron Von Richtofen, who is played by Ade Edmondson. The visit from Von Richtofen brings a fate worse than a fate worse than death when he warns they will be sent to a convent school in Germany, where they will teach young girls home economics. Blackadder notices that the German has left the door open, for many it would be a chance to make a break, for Blackadder though wants to stay despite Baldrick’s hope to escape. For the captain the moment to get the door locked is at an end.

His hopes to escape bombs schrapnel whizzbangs and films with whoops in the title come to an abrupt end as Lieutenant George is standing at the door. George thrilled to be rescuing his chum, doesn’t quite get the reception he plans for as Blackadder pushes the door.   Blackadder feigns injury in order to remain in prison and then tries to warn the guards with a sudden ‘cough’. Flashheart though forces him to change his mind with the threat of turning the prison walls with an interesting new colour called hint of brain.  As they try to escape, they are then greeted by Von Richtofen whose moment with the finest flying fellow is short lived as Flasheart shoots him before they all go to escape.

Upon return to Captain Darling’s office, Darling is surprised to see Blackadder standing in his office. So begins a conversation where Flashy verbally lays into Darling before knowing his name where Blackadder informs him. In typical Mayall delivery of Flashheart, he tells Darling the last time I called someone darling she was pregnant 20 seconds later. Darling doesn’t make life easier for himself telling the Commander that trying to rescue Blackadder was a waste of resources. In typical response Flasheart says this is waste of my resources but Im going to do it anyway, to which he headbuts Darling.

So to the final episode. Goodbyeee!! A well written episode that sees Captain Blackadder trying to escape the front line one more time. We see more great humour and lines with put downs through the episode, the three share moments and even Baldrick’s suspect poetry. At one point Blackadder tries to use a pair of pants and pair of pencils which proves fruitless as he overhears General Melchett describing how they shot deserters for doing the same thing. He remembers that he is owed a favour from General Haigh (played by the talented Geoffrey Palmer) unfortunately it proves a waste of time as he tells Blacky to put a pair of pants on his head and two pencils up his nose. Edmund then utters the well known line of “I believe it rhymes with clucking bell”.

As the episode heads towards the end, it seems not even Captain Darling, who had once locked horns, could escape the front line as Melchett sent him packing to the front. The reality of war gets ever closer having shared brief words including where Kevin Darling had hoped to keep wicket with the Croydon gentlemen as well as marrying Doris, the bravado seems to have disappeared with everyone saying how scared they were. There aren’t many words to describe the final scene, so I will just leave it here Good Luck Everyone.

Now to leave you with some of Blackadder’s finest words, thank you for reading and pip pip Bernards your uncle.

Some Quotes and put downs

‘Baldrick, does it have to be this way? Our valued friendship ending with me cutting you up into strips and telling the prince that you walked over a very sharp cattle grid in an extremely heavy hat?’

Unfortunately most of the infantry think you’re a prat. Ask them who they’d rather meet, Squadron Commander Flasheart or the man who cleans out the public toilets in Aberdeen, and they’d go for Wee Jock Poo-Pong McPlop every time.’

‘There hasn’t been a war run this badly since Olaf the hairy, King of all the Vikings, ordered 80,000 battle helmets with the horns on the inside.’

‘Percy, far from being a fit consort for a Prince of the Realm, you would bore the leggings off a village idiot. You ride a horse rather less well than another horse would

“Oh, God. Fortune vomits on my eiderdown once more.”

“Worst idea since someone said ‘yeah let’s take this suspiciously large wooden horse into Troy, statues are all the rage this season’.”

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours Flashback 40

Here is the first album look back in my Flashback 40 series. Kicking off is Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album. The 11th studio album of their career, it was one that was to be, despite everything that was going on outside the recording studios. To be honest it was an album that was even lucky to be written and completed given the situation of a number of the band members, it in a way though it probably existed purely down to the external factors and quite possibly with its title.

It was released on 4th February 1977 and was a huge success as they achieve number ones in five different countries throught out the coming months. In the US, it had spent 31 weeks non consecutively at the top of the Billboard 200. Come March 1978 ,Rumours alone had sold 8 million copies in the US and ten million around the world. In the UK it entered in at number at number 7 before hitting the top early in 1978  giving the band their first UK number one album.

To this day the album is still selling and as recent as 2009 it had shipped 30 million album sales. That is pretty darn good for one album. There are bands who wish they could sell 30 million albums in a career let alone for one album. As at July 2016 it was the 11th best selling album in UK history.

Rumours gives us some of the bands most notable releases such as Dreams, Don’t Stop, Go Your Own Way and of course The Chain. The Chain is famous for the use of the Bass line for the BBC’s Formula One theme tune up until they lost tv rights. Upon its return to the BBC, the  track entered the charts in 2009 through downloads where it reached 94 in th charts. It did so again in 2011 reaching 89, after a facebook campaign to get it number one for the start of the 2011 season.

The album looks like it reflects the break up of Buckingham and Nicks’ relationship with each of them taking a different perspective of the break up. With Stevie Nicks it seems to be reflective, but with Buckingham there seems to be some anger and bitterness. It would seem strange that the songs written could have some great music but yet be about break ups from two sides. For example Go Your Own Way sees a bitter line, but the music to the song is catchy and seemingly more light as it were.

Whilst there are the songs we all come to know, Rumours has tracks that make this album complete. Songbird written and sung by Christine McVie is a beautiful acoustic track that has a relaxing feel to it and one that is still sounds fresh even though it’s forty years old. A song with an appeal, that it was covered by the late Eva Cassidy and featured in her posthumously released album titled Songbird. It reached number one back in 2001. Willie Nelson also covered it on his album, also titled Songbird. The song itself found its way into the charts back in 2009 when it reached 56. This was down to an X Factor contestant singing it in her audition.

The album takes a brief country feel with the track, it was a track actually written by Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham pre Rumours and is a look at a romantic break up although it was way before   their very own break up. It’s hard not to like this track with it’s uplifting beat.

Oh Daddy is one of the few tracks not about break up. There is a seeming split about who it is about. Christine McVie claimed that it was about Mick Fleetwood, who was the only father around the band at the time, although others claimed it was about the bands lighting director, who McVie was dating at the time. Regardless of who it’s about, it’s a good track to listen to.

So there we have it (at last) the first of a number of Flashback 40 album reviews.

Films TV & Music of 77 – Flashback40

I may have entered the world close to the end of the year, but I have to say it was most definitely a fine year for film and music. The notable films from that year are of course Star Wars: A New Hope, Close Encounters of The Third Kind and Saturday Night Fever, but 1977 was one that saw a wonderful collection of different film genres.

It appeared to be comedy, action and Sci Fi in 1977 with an odd horror film thrown in.  A Bridge Too Far, even Smokey and the Bandit was a hit in the states grossing second in the top ten films, surprisingly beating Close Encounters.

Ray Harryhausen’s talents were shared once more in Sinbad and The Eye of The Tiger. Eye of The Tiger was the third outing in the film franchise. Another film making its third outing in its Franchise, was Aiport 77. The final film sees a private 747 being hijacked before crashing into the sea in the Bermuda Triangle area. The year wouldn’t be the same without a Bond film and 77 had its turn with Roger Moore returning in the The Spy Who Loved Me.

If adventure appealed to you in 1977, you would have been rewarded with some fine films. Jabberwocky, Pete’s Dragon, Gulliver’s Travels and The Man in The Iron Mask.

Horror fans had a fair few films to enjoy, some well known and some not so well known. The Hills have Eyes, Exorcist II, The Child, EraserHead and The Island of Doctor Moreau.

So if people weren’t going to the cinema, they were more than likely watching tv and in the late 70’s there were many things to enjoy, some already on tv included favourites such as Corrie, Match of the Day, Blue Peter, Crackerjack, Doctor Who, to name but a few. There were some making their debut,  The guys at Ci5 and the Professionals were starting their time on tv, Krypton Factor with Gordon Burns that saw many sitting watching contestants carrying out various challenges and of course everyones favourite outtake show (well maybe not everyones) It’ll be Alright On The Night started its journey entertaining us with bloopers from various tv shows.

It was quite a year in the world of music, great albums, singles and sadly some big names departing the world. Whilst I will take a look at albums and singles separately, there were a lot of moments that took place. Some good, some crazy and then the music stars that passed away.

Kicking off 1977 in a punk rock stylee were The Clash. They were playing at the opening night of The Roxy, the short lived punk rock club. The Sex Pistols kicked off a long and controversial year. One single down and EMI terminate the contract after band members behaviour at Heathrow at the start of January. Never fear A&M to the rescue….or maybe not. On 10 March they sign the band in front of Buckingham Palace and six days later its game over. Band members behaviour towards staff sees the end of another deal.

The Sex Pistols get signed up by Virgin Records in May and last longer than six days. They didnt even get fired for trying to interrupt the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Their album Never Mind The Bollocks, here’s the Sex Pistols got to number one in October despite major retailers refusing to stock it.

Of course it wasnt just about the Sex Pistols in 77. The B-52s were making their first public performance. Yes they have been around that long. Fleetwood Mac released the album Rumours and what an album that was, still strong 40 years after its release.

Having been the victim of a technicians strike in April, the 22nd Eurovision Song Contest took place. France beat off the UK and Irish entries to win.

The second half of the year saw death and accidents. Grateful Dead drummer Micky Hart survives driving his Porsche off a canyon, injuries to Joe Perry and Steve Tyler from an explosive see a number of dates cancelled. A plane carrying the band Lynyrd Skynrd crashes. It kills lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Zaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick. Others are seriously injured. It spelled the end for the band, who had hits Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird until they reformed in the late 80’s.

On the 16th August The King Elvis Presley was dead. He was found at is home in Graceland. It was because of his death that my mum gave me my middle name Aron, which was the same as Elvis, not sure that my mum was a big fan of his though. Presley’s passing wasnt the only death of a great. Marc Bolan of T Rex was killed in a car crash he was only 29.

It was Bing Crosby’s final Christmas show in 1977, but it did include the iconic duet of Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy with David Bowie.

December 77 saw Elvis Costello make his US debut and having decided to change a song, found himself banned, quite some way to go to be honest.

Over the year of 1977 many a musical act were making their way into the music scene. Adam and The Ants, The Buggles, Def Leppard, Dire Straits, The Human League,INXS,Martha and The Muffins and Men Without Hats were just some starting off 40 years ago. The Cars, Police and Van Halen also signed deals with their respective record companies.

Well that end the look at 1977. What a year for entertainment it was. Still to come will be the years 87, 97, 2007 with a few other flashback years to come.