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ONE CHORD WONDERS RADIO 4 PLAYS
Write Dope on Pnuk part 56
One Chord Wonders Summary
The idea is that in March 1977 The Adverts played a gig in Camberley to an audience of just 27. Over thirty years later someone is attempting to reunite those punks. Each play, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce (previous work includes '24 Hour Party People') imagines what might have happened to some of those people.
Part 1 - Parallel Lines, Friday, July 11th, 2008
Julie (played by Doon Mackichan) is now the singer in the best Blondie tribute band in the south of England, booked to be supporting the actual King Creole at an 'eighties revival night in a few months time. At the moment though, they have to play weddings where guests ask for the 'The Birdie Song', and their agent wants them to think about becoming a Fleetwood Mac tribute band.
For Julie (once named the Punk Rock Barbie), the proposed reunion brings conflicting emotions. The gig was the reason why she ended up marrying Pete (then Zorba the Freak, played by Paul Viragh). Plus a chance to find out whatever happened to her contemporaries Ann (then known as Thing, played by Sian Reeves) and Margaret (played by Rosie Cavaliero) - to everyone else Margaret Marzipan, but to herself Primrose.
This started me remembering Lambsy, a strong punkette from this town (Peterborough - Ed.). I remembered at (I think) Dave Allan's birthday - Dave was a friend of a friend, our band supported his, the Zenner Diodes once - her threatening to lump a young punk if he ever took drugs. I think I heard that she married an American.
Filled with flashback music and sharp observations, I enjoyed this first episode.
Part 2 - Blitzkrieg Bop, Friday, July 18th, 2008
This episode focuses on local radio presenter Mo Motormouth (played by Pauline Quirke). The contact about the audience reunion starts to open up forgotten aspects of her past, namely that after the gig she started producing her own fanzine. She also discovers that her son is "doing punk in history" at school, and then sees all the errors in his text book. Bemoaning this, her producer asks who ever came up through the fanzines to media prominence, Mo neglects to name 'Sniffing Glue's Danny Baker, after who I suspect her character is modelled.
Mo invites car dealer Steve (who was in ep. 1) onto the show, though he admits he tends to walk or cycle (to help the environment) and finds driving isn't good for his own temper. When pushed about his memories of punk he reminisces about opening a club and booking Oi bands that he enjoyed. Continuing with the problems with the fascist element amongst the fans, he ends up having a breakdown on air.
Mo finds that her son is bidding for a set of her fanzines on eBay (they'll help his history project), starting price £5. After an accidental nationalistic outburst on her show, the price though starts to rise.
The episode concludes with Mo meeting an old associate from the 'seventies, Benny Bondage. It transpires that she owes him money that she absconded with after a gig that they both organised. Benny has some unsavoury friends. When one remembers that she once wrote, because the swastika was a Hindu symbol "Hitler was too multicultural" she can see her career evaporate if the fanzines on eBay fall into anyone's hands but her own.
A good strong follow-on to the first episode, again with plenty of punk tracks, and this time they were a little more obscure than the previous week.
Part 3 - Damned, Damned, Damned, Friday, July 25th, 2008
The third episode opens in prison with Mick (played by Richard Ridings) and Tony his counsellor. Tony wants to help Mick with "anger management issues". Mick, though, professes to be happy in prison, that he feels freer there than ever before. This is because he has found Jesus, and is willing to use his hard reputation to intimidate fellow inmates into saying grace.
When the invitation to the reunion comes through, this is a happy memory for Mick that Tony works into the feedback system of the anger management technique. Mo Motormouth had invited Mick to the gig (at that time he'd worked in a bank). There were herberts outside chucking bottles at the windows, and inside a mouthy kid named Muttley was sounding off at a guy selling tee shirts. Mick had picked Muttley up and thrown him out to the herberts. This led on to Mick helping bands (pushing The Ramones van) and working as a bouncer (The Clash through to Madonna). That though led to him being inside after taking too heavy a line with one fan.
Now, rather than taking the hardline in gaol with the young offender Lee, he attempts to reason with him, to reach out to him.
A couple of years ago a friend did some time for possession with intent to supply. Our local prison has two very different reputations. From inmates it is regarded as soft, almost a hotel. From statistics it is one of the most violent in the country. Perhaps these are linked. My friend spoke about a guy on his wing who appeared psychotic, in need of real help. They got talking one day and he found the other to be articulate and intelligent.
"What's with all the crazy stuff?"
Back in the fictional prison (where inmates are Stuart Goddard and Ray Burns - look them up) the balance of power has shifted and the authorities need the menace of Mick's violence more than ever. How he comes to terms with this is the point of the tale.
Depending on your point of view, you might like to consider offering support to those prisoners of conscience who decided that direct action was the only way forward for their various causes (Hunt Sabs, Animal Liberation, Anti-Nuke, etc.). The Black Cross organisations exist to offer that support.
Part 4 - This Is The Modern World, Friday, August 1st, 2008
This is the modern world indeed. On the day that this was broadcast the news included an item about a double arm transplant in Germany.
This was Muttley's episode, the ball of rage that Mick threw out of the gig, after arguing with Benny Bondage behind the tee shirt stall, back in 1977. The story starts with the funeral of Sharon, his partner who he met outside the police social club while The Adverts played inside. Together they spent many of the intervening years on a commune in Wales, but don't think about accusing Muttley of being a hippy. His politicisation came through Crass and the road protests. When Muttley gets the invitation to the reunion his daughter Lineel wants to go, to discover her mother's and father's roots.
So, set on going to the reunion, Lineel sets out to walk the 150 miles. Muttley, worried for his daughter (wise as she is) who knows little of the world, goes after her. And so must also journey into his past.
This is a lighter episode than the previous one, though in parts the time frame seemed a little out. Lineel suggests that her father should write to Mick while they are on the way to the reunion, yet Mick received that letter a while before the date. However, this is more than made up for by Muttley's diatribe against Sting and The Police. And Led Zeppelin. And when he gets to Blodwyn Pig...
Part 5 - Television's Over, Friday, August 8th, 2008
Earlier in the evening, august radio show 'Any Questions' included Billy Bragg as part of the panel. 'Point of View' (immediately before the final instalment of 'One Chord Wonders') included the pronouncement that habit is "what most of the people do most of the time because most of the time most of the people do it" and that our society is built on habit.
Punk was a kick against this habit. Only a few people did it for a little time so for a little time a few people did it. After that, less people did it for a long time. Tonight's show was about sons and fathers. Adam and his dad Sgt. Henshaw and Pete and his, with whom the show opened with Pete's dad showing his son the latest stock for his clothes shop. This is a pair of 23 inch wide flared jeans, not for everyone, he admits, but will tempt customers in. He knows it won't last though, and expects a gradual return to narrow trousers.
Elsewhere, Mo and Benny are trying to organise the gig after The Adverts say that they will perform for 2 catering packs of cider, 2 bottles of Martini and a PA system. In order to drum up interest Mo starts writing fake letters of disgust to the local press. Subsequent letters point out Camberley's rich musical heritage of Rick Wakeman and Richard Stilgoe. Yes, a right couple of Richards for the would-be punks of Surrey.
With the town council split over the gig, some get the original venue to cancel by having a quiet word. Another though sees the enterprise of the youth as something they should attempt to channel, so starts to help. She approaches Adam's father, who runs the police social club.
He, though, hates all youth music, seeing it as one sympton of his marital split. He even terrorises his son into destroying his old records. By the end of the show he's humming 'Candle in the Wind', even though he doesn't really like it. "Ah well," says Adam, "at least punk will mean that we'll never have to listen to that again."
You should have been able to tell that I've enjoyed this series and what it has said about punk. It allowed people to express themselves, be it through fashion, fanzines, or music. It led support to a number of political causes - anti-racism, anti-nuclear, supporting the miners, animal rights, road protests, poll tax, etc. Yes, like Mick in episode 3 or Steve in episode 2 elements could betray the initial optimism.
I read an interview with the writer Frank Cottrell Boyce saying that the series would never have been the way it was made if it had been a film or on TV. Too many people interfering and altering before it would be finished. Radio though, because it has a lower profile can let off-kilter productions like this reach an audience (though I could imagine it adapted into a comic). Perhaps that is a future, punks laying claim to Radio 4 plays...
...and I had to wonder if T.V. Smith was playing himself - sounded like him, but not credited.
© All work copyright of Cardinal Cox.
One Chord Wonders - Paul Rance's Take...
Unlike the Cardinal, I was a bit of a Johnny come lately to this series, dipping in from the third episode onwards.
'Television's Over' was set leading up to The Adverts gig, and this final episode shows how dangerous punk rock was viewed at the time - and how some people in prominent positions were embracing punk to appear street cred. Now that would never happen now, of course...
Some black comedy here, when Adam's dad - a very uptight copper - orders his punk son to smash up all his records. First for smashing is 10cc's 'Rubber Bullets' - ironically a record which was banned from the airwaves a few years before punk. Then it's a Queen record next up for destruction. As a 17-year-old in '77, 10cc were my favourite band at that time (with The Beatles), and I still loved 'em when I was into punk and new wave. Luckily, my own Father was a bit more tolerant. Anyway, Adam's dad tries to 'get into' some modern music, and pretends to like Elton John - he doesn't really. But Adam's dad does come up with this very pertinent observation: "It doesn't matter who's singing the songs, the same lot are always in charge."
There's a lot of old-fashioned sweet comedy to a lot of 'Television's Over' - how the unconventional Zorba the Greek inspired some punks, Nana Mouskouri (recently retired from singing in 2008) being called Nana Moussaka, and that "Dandelion and burdock is a proper English working class drink (unlike Coke)."
The music extracts in the series included (natch) 'Gary Gilmore's Eyes' by The Adverts, 'New Rose' by The Damned, 'Do Anything You Wanna Do' by Eddie & The Hot Rods, 'Sound Of The Suburbs' by The Members, and even some PiL.
An enjoyable series, though wouldn't it have been neat if The Adverts had really played in the final episode?
Copyright © Paul Rance/booksmusicfilmstv.com.
One Chord Wonders Cast Lists
Damned, Damned, Damned
This Is The Modern World
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