They Could Have Been A Bit Like The Beatles: Bros 'Madly In Love'

5. Bros 'Madly In Love'

  
Sing This All Together (See What Happens): The big teenybop sensation of the day, who had a million impressionable teenage girls unhealthily affixing lager bottle tops to their shoes and developing an equally unhealthy fixation with Hitler Youth haircuts, Bros were hated like few teenybop sensations before or since, much pilloried by every publication from Viz to Record Mirror (who once ran a 'Draw A Moustache On Bros' competition). Having dispensed with bassist Craig Logan and apparently the lion's share of their at-least-commercially-sound songwriting ability, pop's top twins Matt and Luke Goss were keen to establish their credentials as 'serious' musicians, and this inevitably involved going a bit 'sixties'. FOUR POINTS.

Brought His Mellotrode And Freaked 'Em All Out: While Bros were the only act in this contest to have adopted one of the major psychedelic tropes - namely taking one existing song (in this case, aptly-titled pseudo hard-rocker Too Much) and reshaping it as another in a sort of 'Part 2' gambit - they seem to have decided that was more than enough in the way of far out-ness. There's one of those backwards fade-in intros, a smattering of wah-wah guitar and tape loop backing vocals, and... well, nothing else really. At a push you could say it was attempting to ape new-fangled 'Acid House' psychedelia, but it doesn't even do that very well. TWO POINTS.

On The Bus Or Off The Bus?: Just your standard English-as-a-foreign-language-greetings-card love song lyrics, of the sort that would have any girl with her wits about her running a mile. Absolutely nothing worth even joking about here. NO POINTS.

The Green And Purple Lights Affect Your Sight: Just when it was looking so grim for The Brothers Grim, the video is a full-on visual assault filled with floating peace and love iconography, 'time tunnel' effects, colour washes, hand-fired 'energy bolts', scary Goss Arm mandalas and priceless shots of them dancing on a rotating flower. Great stuff! NINE POINTS.

I'm Picking Up Bad Vibrations: Bros were well and truly done for career-wise by the time Madly In Love stalled at a record company-worrying number 14, as their fanbase had all but disappeared under the startling onslaught of New Kids On The Block. You kind of get the feeling they may come a poor second to Jordan and company in this here competition too. THREE POINTS.

Ha Ha Ha... We Blew Your Mind!: Bros really do deserve some grudging respect as possibly the last successful 'boy band' ever to actually bother at least having a go at writing their own songs and playing their own instruments, but while Craig Logan would later put his knack for a commercial hook to impressively good use as a massively successful producer, songwriter and A&R man, Matt and Luke never quite did manage to impress the musos while also appealing to teenage girls, their only other notable moment coming with 1991's demented eco-gospel silliness Try, by which time they were all but finished. ONE POINT, which adds up in Grolsch bottle tops to a paltry NINETEEN POINTS.

 
Next Time - step into the twilight world with Swing Out Sister (though the song's not Twilight World, erm...)

They Could Have Been A Bit Like The Beatles: Hue & Cry 'Ordinary Angel'

4. Hue & Cry 'Ordinary Angel'

 
Sing This All Together (See What Happens): Arch and sophisticated Late Show-friendly pop-soul duo from the Tony Parsons school of moaning about how pop had lost said 'soul' since the sixties finally put their money where their mouth is and throw in something to match the posturing. Yes, they'd experimented successfully with 'classic pop' stylings on previous offerings, notably inaugural hit Labour Of Love, but this was their furthest-out excursion by some distance and all the more surprising for coming soon after blander-than-bland hit ballad Looking For Linda. EIGHT POINTS.

Brought His Mellotrode And Freaked 'Em All Out: A bit of a tricky one this; it's very evidently and enjoyably in the psychedelic tradition, but it's difficult to pinpoint exactly how and why. On first glance it appears to be pitched somewhere between the sort of paisley-patterned Motown-goes-a-bit-funny 'psychedelic soul' that was common currency in the late sixties, and the jazzy stylings that characterised some MOR fave letting their musical hair down in the 'variety break' in the middle of an early BBC Daytime show. Which alone would net it a respectable score, but then there's also that sitar - a real sitar, mind - plunking away in merrily melody-disregarding fashion throughout. And, representing an altogether different strain of oddness, Craig Charles on backing vocals. SEVEN POINTS.

On The Bus Or Off The Bus?: A bit light on acid-frazzled allegory, to be frank, and while there's plenty of metaphysical imagery to choose from it's hardly going to make The 13th Floor Elevators worry about looking a bit 'square'. That said, it's one of the few songs in this showdown to take up ideological arms and lock horns with the then-current sociopolitical malaise - let us not forget that they were one of the driving forces behind Artists For An Independent Scotland, and that Labour Of Love was little more than a massive two fingers to Thatcher - and as such that's got to net them a respectable score. SEVEN POINTS.

The Green And Purple Lights Affect Your Sight: There's a bit of a misconception going on here that overindulging in retro-Americana will somehow constitute 'psychedelic' (so, just like a Lenny Kravitz record then, ho ho), and the video simply sees them driving a big old-fashioned purple taxi along the 'freeway', stopping at doughnut stands along the way etc etc. Undoubtedly this was an attempt at some sort of pointed comment about something, but visually speaking it's all a bit of a let-down, and adorning said retro-roadster with a couple of 'hippy' accoutrements (all of which are far too Yank-leaning anyway) just isn't enough. FOUR POINTS.

I'm Picking Up Bad Vibrations: Though it came in the middle of a substantial run of hits, and was everywhere on the radio for a while, something went inexplicably yet very wrong and Ordinary Angel stalled in that much-coveted (by Northside) Number 42 slot. One of the least deserving flops of the era. SIX POINTS.

Ha Ha Ha... We Blew Your Mind!: Ordinary Angel's chart-underachievement signalled the beginning of the end for Hue & Cry as a top forty act, but the brothers Kane took this merely as an excuse to embrace the status of 'cult favourites', releasing increasingly experimental albums that dabbled in funk, folk and even free-form jazz, not to mention a very weird Nu-Yorican-style cover of Prince's Sign O'The Times. In tandem with this, Pat Kane in particular upped his 'dispatches from the frontline of popular culture' ante, and it wasn't unusual to see him on late-night Channel 4 arguing that The Avengers didn't exist or something. NINE POINTS, affording them a Thatcher-baiting total of FORTY ONE POINTS.
 

Next Time - it's Matt and Luke, surrounded by visuals that really will 'make you puke'...

They Could Have Been A Bit Like The Beatles: Madonna 'Dear Jessie'

3. Madonna 'Dear Jessie'

 
Sing This All Together (See What Happens): Even in her earliest days, there'd always been an adventurous streak in both Madonna's music and lyrics that had marked her out from the average non-Madonna in the eighties pop firmament, and after splitting with Sean Penn she suddenly went diversification-crazy, flirting (in both senses) with all kinds of genres in an adventurous yet highly commercial manner. As a lot of these sponsorship-friendly experiments involved something of a 'sixties' tinge (notably Cherish), and she'd taken to showing off to all and sundry about how the first record she bought was Strawberry Alarm Clock's Incense And Peppermints, a full-on voyage to Freak Out City was only a matter of time away. NINE POINTS.

Brought His Mellotrode And Freaked 'Em All Out: Hmmm, well, it's hardly Incense And Peppermints (or even Tomorrow or Sit With The Guru for that matter), being about as far away from the sound of the ice-cream-splattered overdressed lot who produced her first pop purchase as it's possible to be and sounding more like the sort of bandwagon-jumping records that were made by tinkly High School Hop-era types like Lesley Gore and The Cascades when they realised their number was well and truly up with a paisley-patterned vengeance, with a bit of proto-Phoebe Buffay drippy-hippy singer-songwriteryness thrown in for good measure. Which probably isn't THAT far in literal musical terms, but you get the point. Still, there's loads of chimes, fairground organ, one of those things that goes 'swwwwwwwwwiiish', some guitar work that sounds like The Paul Butterfield Blues Band writing music for Camberwick Green, a waltz-time acoustic diversion, extemporising baroque string outro, and - but of course - Penny Lane trumpet. And it all fades into a 'transistor radio' sound at the end too. Gear! SEVEN POINTS.

On The Bus Or Off The Bus?: Oh dear. After years and years of grabbing international headlines by breaking lyrical taboos in a calculatedly progressive way, she gets the chance to go psychedelic and blows 'it' instead of 'our minds'. It's nursery rhyme-level references to dancing moons, mermaids, fountains of gold, candy kisses, and indeed - in the first worrying note of Disneyism to trouble us here - pink elephants and lemonade all the way here. The laughable thing is it's not even as lyrically arresting as Pink Elephants On Parade. Nice and evocative and all that but... oh Madonna, how you failed us all. TWO POINTS.

The Green And Purple Lights Affect Your Sight: And it gets worse. From 'free love' to slovenly dress to twelve hour country-rock blues soloing to murdering actresses after 'hearing' hidden messages in pop songs, there's certainly a case for claiming that on the whole America didn't quite 'get' psychedelia, and nowhere is this better exemplified than in their adoption of Fantasia, rather than The Magic Roundabout, as an unintentional yet apposite visual encapsulation of all that is far-out and mind-blowing (though whether this extends to the live action orchestra bit with hallucinatoriness' own Deems Taylor has never been established). And yes, it's said overlong animated pomp that Madonna draws her visual cues from, with cutesy 'storybook' imagery, forties-faced dancing teapots, and herself as a kind of cheaply made ripoff variant of Tinkerbell a confused relative might have bought from the local 'discount store'. As if to labour the point, she wore a pair of Minnie Mouse ears in the promo photos too. Hanna-Barbera was under your nose the whole time, you fools! TWO POINTS, granted reluctantly due to a presumably accidental echo of the opening of The Adventures Of Rupert Bear in one of the live action bits.

I'm Picking Up Bad Vibrations: Dear Jessie was, inevitably, a massive hit, and even in the midst of the Christmas market (with a load of eighties-retrospecting to overshadow it to boot) it managed to reach a more than respectable number five in the UK. It's been strangely conspicuous by its absence from Madonna's Greatest Hits-type collections, but even that in a way kind of echoes the way her sixties forebears used to conveniently 'forget' their psychedelic excursions once the pension plan compilation came along. And let's not forget Chris Morris' hilarious attempt to whip up a moral panic based on the hidden 'drug' message when the song is played backwards in On The Hour. FIVE POINTS.

Ha Ha Ha... We Blew Your Mind!: The 'sixties' thing may have only been a momentary excursion for Madonna, but it certainly gave her a commendable taste for the avant-garde. The next twelve months alone brought the avant-garde-sounding Vogue (which she originally considered too angular to release as a single), the fucking terrifying Justify My Love (let's not even get started on what happens when you play THAT backwards), and the just plain inexplicable Hanky Panky. Having sung about her arse at such length in the latter, she then went on to spend the next couple of years shoving it into every camera lens available, but still managed to rediscover her psychedelic muse, with such top-notch offerings as Ray Of Light and the not-at-all-copied-from-She-Comes-In-Colours-By-Love-Honest Beautiful Stranger. To be honest she's never really been given enough credit in this regard. NINE POINTS. Which nets her an arse-baring THIRTY FOUR POINTS.


Next Time - the Kane brothers wig out with a little help from TV 'Lister' (Red Dwarf)

They Could Have Been A Bit Like The Beatles: New Kids On The Block 'Tonight'

2. New Kids On The Block 'Tonight'

 
Sing This All Together (See What Happens): Armed only with backward baseball caps and a tendency to break into medical order-defying 'frenzied dance routines', Jordan, Joey, Jon, Donnie and 'Dave' were a chart phenomenon like few before or since, going from being nowhere to utterly unavoidable within the space of literally a couple of weeks. This they achieved with a shrewd mixture of pop-rap r'n'b posturing and seventies-style soul ballads, and by releasing about eight million singles before 1989 was even out. And then came, to the bemusement of all concerned, the Beatles pastiche. The least predictable one on this list by some considerable distance. TWO POINTS.

Brought His Mellotrode And Freaked 'Em All Out: You'd expect - and, let's be honest, want - this one to be nothing more than a nauseatingly insincere eighties A&R man's idea of 'those psychedelic sixties' decked out in the aural equivalent of rainbow colours and doves holding CND signs. But, amazingly, it's actually very well done - abrupt changes in tempo, harpsichord, heavy reverb, sitars, Penny Lane trumpet, badly-recorded audience sounds, and even a slight tinge of raga-inflection to the chorus melody. If we have to have inauthentic psych, then it should at least sound this good. Nice one, Mr Umberto Carr! EIGHT POINTS.

On The Bus Or Off The Bus?: It probably won't surprise anyone to learn that there's a distinct lack of political posturing in the lyrics, which seem to be more concerned with reiterating just how famous New Kids On The Block are and how many people come to see their live shows. Though as if to make up for it there's a nicely clumsily-done block of back-references to the titles of their past hits, not to mention a near-legendary distinction between "a lot of people" and "girls". Plus a bit where it seems to threaten to turn into the theme from Jim'll Fix It. SIX POINTS.

The Green And Purple Lights Affect Your Sight: Starts very promisingly, with a spoken word bit featuring the assembled New Kids following mysterious directions and apparently arriving at the Manson House, but it soon degenerates into a pretty unexciting run-through of the song on a small wooden stage, in which the closest thing to a far-out crazy visual is the pixelisation of an Adidas logo on Donnie's t-shirt to ensure maximum television exposure. Not even a smattering of colour-refractive glitter whirling around their heads can cut the appropriate amount of mustard. FOUR POINTS.

I'm Picking Up Bad Vibrations: Although Tonight got to number three and was seemingly inescapable on both TV and radio for a good few months, it was really here that everything started to very very slowly go wrong for NKOTB, with successive singles dipping ever lower in the top forty and by the end of 1991 it was all over bar the shouting. Which they did tend to do a lot of. On top of that, it was reviewed in Smash Hits by an audibly bewildered Phil Collins, who likened it to "one of those bands like Pilot" and declared himself unconvinced. SEVEN POINTS.

Ha Ha Ha... We Blew Your Mind!: This really was a fish out of water in the New Kids canon, and nothing else they did, aside from a misguided attempt at Spectorisms on their Christmas album, even came anywhere near it, either in sound or lack of annoying-ness. NO POINTS, as they head towards that one where Donnie did the rap about bad reviews with a grand total of TWENTY SEVEN POINTS.


Next Time - the ex-Mrs Sean Penn momentarily trades her pointy basque thing for a pair of Minnie Mouse ears...

They Could Have Been A Bit Like The Beatles: Danny Wilson 'The Second Summer Of Love'

Whatever it was that had got in the water in 1989 (and presumably it was some distant relative of that kerrazy 'acid'), you just couldn't move for music made by people trying to sound a bit psychedelic.

And not just the ultra-modern up-to-the-minute neo-psychedelia touted by the likes of The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, The Lightning Seeds and all those Euro-House outfits, which had broadsheet columnists straining at the leash to write something unfathomable about 'The Second Summer Of Love' (which, apparently, had something to do with shoes), nor indeed the
accomplished retro-inflected stylings of Julian Cope and XTC. No indeed not, as for some inexplicable reason, this extended right the way to mainstream acts of the sort that you wouldn't have expected to want to get 'a bit sixties'.

But 'get a bit sixties' they certainly did, even if most of them had virtually nothing resembling the first idea of what they were supposed to be doing, and this made for some... interesting results. But which of these 'interesting' results came closest to the holy grail of sounding a tiny bit like 'The Beatles' as they were believed to sound by someone who had spent their entire life with a bucket wedged firmly on their head and professed not to like the bits on the Red and Blue compilations where it 'goes a bit flower power'?

Well, we're going to be spending the next few weeks addressing just this pressing concern, weighing up the seven likeliest contenders against each other by virtue of the following criteria:

Sing This All Together (See What Happens): Just who were the act in question, and how did they come to arrive at this rather peculiar artistic volte-face?

Brought His Mellotrode And Freaked 'Em All Out: How heavily did they adopt phasing, sitars and other musical trappings of the original so-called 'Summer Of Love', and more importantly, how convincing did it sound?

On The Bus Or Off The Bus: Did the lyrics espouse radical counter-cultural ideas or just sound like one of their regular songs only with a couple of mentions of 'rainbows'?

The Green And Purple Lights Affect Your Sight: Was the video a far-out multicoloured assault to rival The Trip or did it just have them miming in a studio?

I'm Picking Up Bad Vibrations: Just how savagely did an uncomprehending fanbase turn on them as a result?

Ha Ha Ha... We Blew Your Mind!: And finally, how long did this hallucinogenic deviation last for? Clue: it normally wasn't very long at all...

So, join us on this Magical Mystery Tour to the centre of the Greatest Hits album - where such abberations are normally hidden in the hope of avoiding anyone noticing them - to discover just who was the most... A Bit Like The Beatles!


1. Danny Wilson 'The Second Summer Of Love'


Sing This All Together (See What Happens): Highly-touted ‘Sophisto-pop’ trio with too many hats get some sort of an inkling that there’s something in the air, and decide to jump on the bandwagon in their own special way. A bit like when people like Herman’s Hermits sang about flowers for one or two singles before they got spooked by that bloke from Procol Harum dressed as a druid on Top Of The Pops and went ‘normal’ again. Not off to a good start, then. THREE POINTS.

Brought His Mellotrode And Freaked 'Em All Out: Hmmm, there’s really not that much in this that could warrant the label ‘psychedelic’, coming across as more of an updated pastiche of sixties West Coast harmony pop outfits than their more lysergically-frazzled contemporaries. Which, to be fair, was pretty much Danny Wilson’s usual musical template anyway. Still, you have to concede it’s very well done. FIVE POINTS.

On The Bus Or Off The Bus?: "Acid on the radio/acid on the brain/acid in the calico/acid in the rain". Outstanding. NINE POINTS.

The Green And Purple Lights Affect Your Sight: A real big hitter from the days when having a ‘good video’ could still be a major selling point, this impressively realised effort sees the band mime to the song forwards whilst shoppers perambulate and bikinied lovelies leap in and out of swimming pools backwards. They also do some A Hard Day’s Night-esque spinning around on chairs and leaping about in jerky motion, and act the goat with giant L, O, V, and E letters on a hillside, ending up looking oddly like an insert from Jigsaw. EIGHT POINTS.

I'm Picking Up Bad Vibrations: Always one of those bands whose profile and critical adulation seemed to far outstrip their actual chart statistics, The Second Summer Of Love was one of only two Danny Wilson singles to chart (they were very much an ‘albums band’ of course), and only managed a paltry number 23. Not that you’d know it from how often it was on the radio. SIX POINTS.

Ha Ha Ha... We Blew Your Mind! Danny Wilson didn’t last too much longer, splitting up in 1991, and their ‘psychedelic’ phase lasted for considerably less time than that. Still, just about anyone you care to question will remember their two hits, and oddly the lesser The Second Summer Of Love in particular, which is more than you can say for most of their musical contemporaries, and which nets them a reluctant TWO POINTS. Which means they walk away – backwards – with a respectable TWENTY FOUR POINTS.


Next Time: it's the turn of Donnie, Danny, Jon, Jordan and Li'l Joe, as New Kids On The Block go puzzingly pop-psych...

Ten Nightmares Before (And During And After) Christmas

Strap yourself in for a rundown of ten Christmas movies you definitely shouldn't be circling in the double Radio Times...


A Hobo's Christmas (1987)
"The best thing about Christmas is family..."


Boxcar-hopping vagabond decides completely out of the blue to seek out the family he abandoned twenty five years ago for a life of two hours of pushin' broom for an eight by twelve four bit room, and discover the true meaning of Christmas by meeting the grandchildren he's never met. His family, however, have some reservations. You're laughing already, aren't you?

WHERE YOU'RE LIKELY TO FIND IT: 15th December, Five, kicking off an afternoon of you shouting about how they start showing Christmas Films too early.


Christmas Comes To Willow Creek (1987)
"If ever a town needed a Christmas miracle..."


Rights-troubling reunion of former Hazzardian Dukes Tom Wopat and John Schneider as a pair of good ol' boys never meaning no copyright infringement, who ensure long-haul delivery of a surprise for the whole town, through a perilous route and via a series of capers that in no way resemble the erstwhile exploits of Bo and Luke. But is it canon?

WHERE YOU'RE LIKELY TO FIND IT: 17th December, BBC1, already halfway through when you get home from your school's final half-day of term.


Santa Claus (1959)
"An enchanting world of make believe"


Jaw-dropping Latin American-sourced action adventure in which Santa takes on a present-sabotaging Devil, like some lost episode of Futurama with visuals somewhere between The Singing Ringing Tree and one of the more migrane-inducing Video Nasties. Only nowhere near as entertaining as any of that sounds.

WHERE YOU'RE LIKELY TO FIND IT: BBC4, 20th December, as part of some 11pm 'ironic films' season.


Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus (1991)
"She wanted to know... He needed to know"



Charles Bronson does the honours in a movie based on the original letter, in the tale real-life hardbitten hack Francis Pharcellus Church and his self-finding quest to answer a youngster's query about whether there really is a Santa or mummy and daddy were just very bad liars. Lord Leveson would take a dim view of his conclusion.

WHERE YOU'RE LIKELY TO FIND IT: 21st December, Film 4, two hours after the film you actually wanted to see finished.


The Christmas Star (1986)
"Two kids made a believer out of him"


Post-Lou Grant Ed Asner takes the lead in undistinguished Disney offering as escaped counterfeiter Horace McNickle, whose cop-evading tactics lead to him - you guessed it - being mistaken for Santa by some nosey local youngsters. Foiling of 'real' criminals, moral-bending child-assisted recovery of loot, and discovery of the 'true meaning' of Christmas ensue.

WHERE YOU'RE LIKELY TO FIND IT: 22nd December, Five, 3pm sharp.


Silent Night Deadly Night (1984)
"He knows when you've been naughty..."


Franchise initiating Halloween-for-figgy-pudding-scoffers stalk'n'slash ridiculousness about an axe-wielding Santa-suited madman who gets pushed over the edge when he is forced to work as a last-minute grotto-dweller in a local store. Highly banned in the home video era and not at all copied from the virtually identical made-a-couple-of-years-beforehand Christmas Evil, honest.

WHERE YOU'RE LIKELY TO FIND IT: Christmas Party, manky VHS someone got from their 'brother's mate', after you've failed to pull.


Christmas On Division Street (1991)
"The story of a friendship born on the streets of America"

The Wonder Years alumnus Fred Savage tries his hardest to shake off did-they-actually-watch-the-show-then squeaky clean image as a wealthy youngster who takes it upon himself to perform charitable acts for neighbourhood hustlers and ne'er-do-wells, with violence and 'language' aplenty. Looks like Kevin Arnold really was man enough to come down to the streets with Omar.

WHERE YOU'RE LIKELY TO FIND IT: 22nd December, ITV, just after you've rolled in hammered from the work Christmas do and are in no fit state to comprehend it.


The Christmas Martian (1971)
"Christmas with a friend from space"


French-Canadian goose-ahoy snow-sodden oddity in which discovery of green footprints in the snow (no, us neither) leads to two children being enticed into a spaceship by a chocolate-proferring alien (who has apparently stolen Martin Degville's face mask thing), and subsequent pitchfork-waving fumings of parents who don't 'get' him. Where do you get your crazy ideas from, Mr Spielberg?

WHERE YOU'RE LIKELY TO FIND IT: Christmas Day, ITV, whatever time you've been told is 'too early' to open your presents.


The Christmas Tree (1969)
"There's a feeling that cannot be put into words... it's been put on film"


Proto-eco-thriller get-knotted-Doomwatch Cold War blub-coercing tearjerker with William Holden as a heartless billionaire whose son becomes livid-blue-spot-festoonedly ill after swimming near a downed fighter plane which was, oh the irony, atomically armed by one of his subsidiaries. Atonement-fuelled quest for the perfect conifer is the upshot.

WHERE YOU'RE LIKELY TO FIND IT: 27th December, ITV, while everyone's out at the sales.


Santa With Muscles (1996)
"He knows if you've been bad or good..."


A not-remotely-typecast Hulk Hogan stars as a bodybuilding billionaire on the run from the police, who discovers the true meaning of Christmas after adopting a Santa suit as 'disguise', hitting his head and developing amnesia, and believing himself to be the genuine article. Oh, and he saves an orphanage too. Well, you were waiting for that.

WHERE YOU'RE LIKELY TO FIND IT: strip-scheduled across Sky channels for the whole of Christmas. That's not a joke either. We're really going to benefit from losing the licence fee, aren't we?

The Ninety Seventh Annual Academy Salute To Two Hundred And Fifty Three Million Years Of The BBC: Christmas Special!

Earlier this year, we ran a quite popular series of articles that celebrated ninety years of the BBC by, basically, making fun of their old continuity. This was primarily inspired by the fact that the BBC - despite what rentaquote hot air-blatherers like Anne Widdecombe might have to say on the subject - have never really been that good at blowing their own trumpet, choosing instead to mark such momentous milestones by, say, commissioning Damon Albarn to play Beagle 2 on one of those roll-out squeaker things you get in Christmas crackers.

Since then, however it's become obvious that all this was a huge double-bluff and they had something up their sleeve all along, and are celebrating their near-century of existence in fine style by dismantling themselves from the inside out, with a side order of pointlessly butchering an entirely independent and non-BBC funded DVD release of a nigh-on-twenty year old sketch show to boot. Party on, dudes!

Still, while we're all busy sleepwalking into Cameron and Murdoch's wank fantasy, let's take a moment to remember that no matter how many mistakes it makes, no matter how easily it capitulates to pressure from the right-wing press, no matter how much certain of its 'creatives' seem to put petty personal point-scoring over the good of the corporation itself, and yes, no matter how many sketches they may pointlessly yet let's face it inconsequentially insist on removing from ancient minority interest cult comedy shows, the BBC really is something to be proud of and to fight to defend against the attentions of self-interested parties at all costs, with your bare hands if necessary, and it has produced and will continue to produce works of art, works of entertainment, and works of screeching puppet rats calling everyone 'sassenachs' that will be remembered and appreciated long after here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians and power-obsessed media moguls have fucked off unmourned.

Anyway, we're here to celebrate Christmas and the BBC, and celebrate Christmas and the BBC we shall, in the only way we know how... by taking a look at some of their frankly baffling Yuletide replacements for the globe over the years. So sit yourself down, grab some Baileys and Matchmakers, pretend The Paul Daniels Christmas Magic Show is on in a minute (or, if raining, Newman And Baddiel Christmas In Pieces), and away we go...!


Our first port of call - mainly because nothing much really seems to exist from before then - is 1974, and on BBC1, the globe doesn't seem to have so much been 'replaced' for Christmas as it has been slapped in front of an untidy collage of walloped-together spray-painted cogs left over from a 'machinery' prop in an episode of The Goodies, and indeed atop some Christmas Card lettering thoughtfully rendered in a lighter frost-evoking shade of Sam Tyler Blue. It's interesting, and it's evocative, but there's not really much there that you can get humorous capital out of. Ho hum, this is clearly going to end up as something of a dry and descriptive affair...


Or perhaps not. For while BBC2 opted for a similar approach in 1974, they did it a lot more cheaply and ludicrously, embellishing a slightly-less-than-sturdy-looking variant of their standard globe-counterparting rotating colour-phasing cubic '2' with a silver bauble forcefully spewing tinselly glitter stars of ascending size into the infinite vacuum of continuity space, which vibrated alarmingly on air due to the overstuffed contraption not really having sufficient room to rotate properly in.


Meanwhile, this 1975 offering from BBC1 is... well, it's hardly any different at all, is it? You're not going to fool us with gold lettering, a nominally festively-coloured BBC1 strap, and a very slightly higher positioned globe. Honestly, this is just like they've wrapped up the tinsel-backed globe you gave them last year and given it back to you as a 'new' present.


Hang on a minute... Parky? What's he doing here?! Don't start adjusting your set just yet - unfortunately, despite extensive research, it's proved impossible to locate any visual evidence of what BBC2 may or may not have done to mark Christmas in inter-programme linking devices in 1975, nor indeed any kind of a description of what form the long-lost rotating '2' replacement may have taken, so Mr. Parkinson has generously agreed to appear as an illustration in its place. Anyway, that's the last we'll be seeing of him.


It's 1976, and BBC1 have deceptively given a cunning lick of festively red paint (well, whatever the electronic colour generation equivalent of 'paint' is) to both the lettering and the 'cogs', but nonetheless spared themselves a spate of television kicking-in tributes to that bloke from Manchester who got offended by The Sex Pistols swearing in the London region only, by temporarily replacing the globe with a gleaming - and rather finger-endangering looking - rotating snowflake. Come on, it's progress. Ish.


That said, by this time, BBC2 had swapped the rotating chameleonic '2' for a larger static one formed by lots of spinning discs slamming together from opposing sides. Normally this was rendered in light blue and slightly less blue on even slightlier less blue background in a gigantic clash of ocular irritation, and as everybody knows there's only one way to 'Christmas' this arrangement up - by swapping the background for a standard issue black one and then dousing the '2' in a nightmarish shimmering multicoloured light show borrowed directly from one of those sequences with an unconvincing psychedelic beat combo 'playing' at a club in a mid-sixties Swinging London-based thriller. And there we were thinking that punk had got rid of all the hippies.


1977 may have been ‘the year punk broke’ if you believe the 100% Official And Authorised American version of cultural history, but more importantly, it was the year in which the BBC started investing more care, attention and indeed money in their Christmas continuity. For this was the year in which the regular BBC1 globe was first sent on Christmas holiday, replaced on this occasion by a revolving pudding, complete with concave refractive brandy butter. Though subsequently scoffed on screen by Rod Hull & Emu, the actual pudding prop was later given away as a competition prize on Noel Edmonds’ Multicoloured Swap Shop, presumably won by some eager young continuity enthusiast who used it to – shudder – stage their own live action ‘mocks’.


Meanwhile, BBC2 temporarily ditched the cylinder-formed '2' - and the psychotropic colours they had seen fit to drench it in the previous year (after all, the 'punks' had by now put paid to all that leftover hippy trippy nonsense, and the poor old Waltham Green East Wapping Carpet Cleaning Rodent And Boggit Extermination Association had probably given up all hope of ever having another hit) - and replaced it with a classy-looking arrangement of quadruplexed pale red rotating '2' positioned around a rather cheap-looking green 'precious stone', and some lettering that can surely only have been employed as a means of extending seasonal inclusivity to the UK's sizeable 'robot' community.


We're concentrating mainly on the stand-in 'globes' here, as frankly a lot of the accompanying seasonal continuity involved little more than snow-topped 'Festive wishes to all your roast dinners' type lettering with the odd smattering of ye olde twee animated children, but sometimes they'd do something that just defied all explanation. Take this 1977 one, for example, where That Gold Key They Never Explained About From Heroes opens a jack-in-the-box thingy to propel a bastard terrifying puppet santa screenwards. Well, it probably would have made Sylar think twice.


And if you're not scared enough yet, here's a late seventies bit of Test Card-embellishing whimsy from the 'backroom boys', with 'Clown' surveying your pathetic 'gifts' with mocking disdain, and 'Girl'... well, where the fuck is she?!? Making a list, and checking it twice, no doubt...


Meanwhile, back in Globe-land, and continuing the seasonal-spherical theme, 1978 saw BBC1 opting for a frankly terrifying revolving Santa Head, suspiciously bearing more than a passing resemblance to latterday permanent Christmas Day resident Buster Merryfield. We all know they liked to go overboard with the promotion for Only Fools And Horses, but this is ridiculous. Not least because it was four years before the show actually started.


BBC2, on the other hand, opted for a quartet of rotating trumpeters heralding the soon-to-be-launched brand spanking new '==2==' logo, but unfortunately we can't really see what they looked like as there's no known recording of their antics in existence. All we have, courtesy of the great TV Ark, is this latterday 'Telesnap', apparently developed on Ryvita rather than photographic paper. Still, at least it stops Parky from making another appearance.


The merrie minstrels did also appear in continuity-derived animated form, however - musically bolstered by a couple of rock-posing lute strummers and a bloke playing a huge chocolate coin - so we do have a marginally-slightly-less-vague idea of what they were all about. And what they were all about was the never quite explained 'olde worlde Christmas' thing that was about to consume BBC Christmas continuity for the next couple of years...


As you might have already surmised, this emergent theme was expanded on by BBC1 in 1979, who whizzed forward a couple of centuries from the archive-averting minstrels to add a 'bawdy Victorian' slant (i.e. comically skewiff top hats to represent 'merrymaking') for a troupe of rotating lamplit carol singers accompanied by the world's longest dalmatian.


And here's those selfsame wassailers making a 'real boy' excursion into live action as part of BBC1's Christmas Trailer gambit, apparently played by leftover members of cash-strapped prog rock bands who had been financially done for by those 'punks'. Not that any of this seems to bother their 'comedy one', who gets up to all kind of instrument-based hi-jinks for the benefit of the camera. It's no wonder Thatcher got in.


The legendary stripey '2' first came to BBC2 in 1979 - if you don't count its aforementioned archivally-challenged flag-mounted cameo alongside those pesky buglers, that is - and what better way to celebrate its first Christmas on air than with a chunkly clear perspex revolving snowflake that periodically catches the light and refracts on the camera like Maggie Moone's sequinned dresses did on Name That Tune? Whereas the parent channel was still keen to denote Christmas by revelling in ye olde nostalgic imagery of days gone by, the artier offshoot was, true to form, pursuing a more arty and modernist bent. Roll on Stars Of The Roller State Disco!


1980 saw BBC1 up the Scary Rotating Victorians ante to truly alarming levels with the genuinely terrifying skaters, who spent an entire Red Hand Gang-heralding festive season whizzing repetitively around a dilapidated-looking snowman. The four errant members of Early Torchwood were later given away as competition prizes on Noel Edmonds’ Multicoloured Swap Shop, presumably won by some eager young continuity enthusiasts who used them to – shudder – create their own army of miniature ident-faithful evil Victoriana micro-bots.

  
That selfsame better-days-seeing snowman would continue the established theme of weird zigzagging between reality and hyperreality by appearing in animated form in BBC1's Christmas trailers, seen variously chewing the festive fat with his old pal 'moon', posing atop the studio set from Doctor Who And The Dragonfire, enjoying some varisized cups of tea with assorted Snowpals, and walking a high wire for no very readily obvious reason at all. The One They Called The Bishop from Play Chess was not available for comment.


Meanwhile, defiantly and doggedly pursuing their own abstractive futurist slant, that bunch of cheapskates at BBC2 simply bathed the previous year's snowflake in a sort of faintly purplish glow. Saving all their money for buying in award-winning Czhechoslovakian animations, no doubt.


Here's Ceefax making with the Festive MODE 2 witticisms back in 1981. But we've already covered that in a previous instalment, and you can read more bewilderment at Ceefax's never-explicable Yuletide antics here.


1981, and BBC1 finally gets with the times and dispenses with all that wassail wassail all over the town business in favour of a few tentative footsteps along BBC2's chosen path, not quite getting all Tate Modern on an unsuspecting audience just yet, but definitely gravitating in that general direction with this choice of a quintet of rotating vari-hued Globe-themed baubles, suspended above a possibly unwittingly Rastafari-evoking colour scheme. You don't really get your right-wing ident fanatics mentioning that, do you?


Not about to be beaten at their own game, BBC2 reached straight for some translucent holly and candles, resembling the sort of useless ‘arty but modern’ ornament you pause by for about twenty seconds in an upmarket department store while trying to find something suitably expensive-looking for that relative that’s impossible to buy for before deciding to get them a couple of books instead.


By now, there's a full-on gallery-scorching 'but is it art?' war in progress, and 1982 sees BBC1 close in on BBC2 with this squint-inducing spidery mechanical snowflake bedecked with steely stentorian glints like something out of an early eighties dystopian sci-fi thriller. Probably the only person who would consider this 'jolly' would be Alan Moore. Not for nothing did Breakfast Time run a feature on how the snowflake worked, no doubt with the same aims as those behind-the-scenes features that showed how Doctor Who monsters were just people in costumes for the benefit of easily-spooked youngsters.


Time, then, for BBC2 to move the goalposts like some sort of The Adventure Game-transmitting Young British Artist, deftly executing a cunning sideways step and aligning their arty leanings with the sort of sleek-yet-sleazy soft-edged colourful designs ushered in by the age of home video. Hence these Christmas trees in outline, looking for all the world like a robot had tried to copy ‘Christmas’ and got it wrong. Anyone hoping to see Electric Blue 007 on their televisions over the Festive season, however, would be going away, erm, empty-handed.


Possibly as some sort of ironic comment on Thatcherist economics, 1983 saw both channels' mechanical mince pie-accompaniments remain more or less the same. All BBC1 did, for example, was bend a couple of spokes of the snowflake and redeploy those Michael Caine-brainwashing lights from the 1976 BBC2 effort. Humbug indeed...


...while BBC2 just threw more light on last year's Christmas Trees from another angle and made them sort of holographic and three-dimensional. Honestly, anyone would think the BBC were trying to save money to fund the launch of a daytime service and were about to launch a series of cost-cutting measures that would include cancelling Doctor Who or something.


Yes indeed, the era of Michael Grade is now upon us, and change is very much afoot as he takes time out from cancelling Doctor Who to encourage the BBC as a whole to adopt a slicker and more unified and designer-aping approach to its visual presentation. Hence this flashily-realised trio of rotating cracker-pulling snowmen atop a gaggle of Christmas presents, which he personally approved but only after suggesting that perhaps one of them should be female. This, according to too many people who are allowed too much access to the internet and to words in general, in some way represents the worst excesses of 'the pc brigade : ('.


Those curmudgeonly gits at BBC2 are, however, grumpily refusing to do much in the way of moving with the times, and could only come up with this sorry-looking bauble surrounded by a ribbon that may be saying 'Vision On' before it turns into half of a grasshopper thing but nobody's really quite sure. But as Bob Dylan once sang, The Times They Are A-Changing. Then he went 'DOOOOO-ooo-OOOOOO'. You know, like the Test Card tone, only in a Bob Dylan voice. Oh... please yourselves.


BBC1, on the other hand, were really getting the hang of this robotics lark by 1985, and dazzled mid-decade Yule-seekering viewers with this brace of scarf-sporting animatronic robins, who fluttered and twittered in alarmingly realistic style as they rotated around gazing with awe and wonder upon the brand new BBC1 logo. Just like TV 'Kamelion' (Doctor Who) [SATIRE].


By now even BBC2 were waking up to the post-Live Aid shock-of-the-new possibilities of silicon chip-controlled visual chicanery, coming up with this 'sophisticated booze' label-esque combination of neon pink '2' and blue-and-ice-white revolving folding-in-on-itself carousel-like snowscape elaborateness. It is entirely possible that the emenating glow was capable of lighting your front room on its own.


In 1986, BBC1 went one better, and did away with all the traditional mechanical creakiness in favour of a full-on looping animated sequence, depicting some marching holly encircling a clearly delighted looking Christmas Tree/star combo, setting the tone for just about every Christmas since and paving the way for 2012's 'Matt Smith Looking Through A Circle And Trying To Get People To Remember That He Was Actually In The All-New Amy Pond Show'. And with the exciting new world of computer-assisted animation looming so close on the horizon, you can bet BBC2 - that traditional supporter of all things visual and cutting edge - will be taking full advantage of the fresh possibilities and coming up with something that will change the way we view television as an art form forever...


Oh fuck off.


And as Noel prepares to blast the Robins into 1978 Bugler Oblivion, that's the end of our not particularly brief look back at the festive inter-programming silliness of yore. There's just enough space left to admit that the Matt Smith thing was one of those 'jokes' that they have now, unless it wasn't, so instead, let's sign off by giving the first ever public unveiling for this year's actual genuine bona fide BBC1 Christmas 'Globe'...