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Romance On The Orient Express

Year: 1985 (UK)

Time: 96 mins

Written by: John Worthing

Directed by: Lawrence Gordon Clark

Starring : Cheryl Ladd     – Lily Parker

Stuart Wilson  – Alex Woodward

Ruby Wax      – Susan Lawson

Julian Sands   – Sandy

Betsy Brantley – Stacey

Sir John Gielgud   – Theodore Woodward

Barry Stokes         – Flavio

Danielle Tylke     – Alexandra

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During my much-needed time off from work last week, I stumbled across a film I first saw when I was about seven or eight; a film for old romantic fools like me – and it would appear that I started being an old romantic fool way back in my junior school days! I still remember the first time I watched Romance On The Orient Express. We were living in our first house in East London and it was a Saturday night – back in the days when Saturday night television was more varied and more entertaining than it is today and not overladen with irritating reality TV shows. Now I know it must have been past my bedtime when this film began but it might have been because it was Saturday that we were allowed to stay up late – and this film just happened to be on.

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THE STORY

The story centres around Lily, a glamorous and sophisticated American magazine editor who is traveling on the famous Orient Express train from Venice to Paris with her friend, the quirky, adventure-seeking Susan. The trip brings back bittersweet memories for Lily when she first travelled to Europe ten years earlier with her friend Stacey. It was on this trip that they met two handsome, young Englishmen, Alex and Sandy. Lily and Alex begin a relationship and their story is told through flashbacks. Their relationship ends abruptly when Alex walks out on Lily without saying a word leaving the devastated young woman to return to the States.

Fast forward ten years and the former lovers are reunited once again as Lily comes face to face with the man who broke her heart a decade ago. Alex, having tracked Lily down and knowing that she had booked a trip on the Orient Express, has booked himself on the same trip in a bid to explain to Lily what happened all those years ago. When the couple meet again, the pain and the anguish of the last ten years is still very raw, and Lily understandably doesn’t want to listen to anything that Alex has to say – but for how long can she resist him?

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And Alex’s reappearance plunges Lily into further turmoil as she now has to wrestle between her feelings for Alex and her obligation to her boyfriend back in the States. It is later revealed that her break up with Alex left Lily damaged and unable to form successful relationships with other men. And now she doesn’t know whether she should accept her boyfriend’s proposal or not – even though it’s very evident that she doesn’t love him.

Alex convinces Lily to meet him and the couple catch up on the last ten years and discover that they’d each been married and are now divorced, although Lily’s was the only marriage that produced a child. As the story unfolds, we soon learn that Alex isn’t quite the cad that we thought he was and that his feelings for Lily were genuine. We also learn that when he left Lily, she wasn’t exactly alone…

THE CAST

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When I first saw Romance On The Orient Express, the only person I recognized was Ruby Wax who was a big name in television back in the 1980s. I’d love to say that at infant-school age, I knew who actors Sir John Gielgud and Stuart Wilson were, but unfortunately I didn’t. I’d heard of Cheryl Ladd because I knew that she’d starred in Charlie’s Angels.

WHAT I LOVED ABOUT IT

Even though Romance On The Orient Express is a made-for-TV movie and not a Hollywood blockbuster, there’s something so beautifully moving and poignant about this film which has shades of Casablanca about it. You couldn’t fail to be dazzled by the luxury of the Orient Express and the stunning on-location scenes in Venice and Paris. The story, the setting, the scenery, the acting, the wardrobe… fantastic!   There is great chemistry between the lead actors Stuart Wilson and Cheryl Ladd, and I absolutely loved the riverboat scene with the significantly beautiful song, Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce.

I remember that the first time I watched Romance On The Orient Express, I found the subplot of the romance between Susan and Flavio, a staff member on the train intriguing. Even though it started off as just a bit of light-hearted fun for Susan who was looking for Mr Right -Now, towards the end of the film, Susan had a change of heart and admitted that she does love Flavio but decided to end it because there was no future in it:

“He’s Italian, he lives in Rome. I’m American, I live in New York… I finally meet someone and geography kills it.”

But there is hope for the couple as Lily convinces Susan that if she loves Flavio then they’ll find a way, and you can’t help rooting for the pair hoping that they will indeed find a way because they seem like such a cute couple.

Stuart Wilson as Alex

Stuart Wilson as Alex

What surprised me was that even though I’d only ever watched this film once, an awfully long time ago as well I may add, I was amazed by how much I remembered, including certain scenes and parts of the dialogue. I also didn’t think that anyone else would have even heard of Romance On The Orient Express let alone watched it, but was pleasantly surprised to find that there were others who had seen this film and remembered it very well.

I know that there are some that might find Romance On The Orient Express to be a little saccharine and predictable but I think it is a very memorable, romantic movie, with a simple, easy to follow yet entertaining storyline that keeps you watching til the end because you just have to know what happens to Alex and Lily. A delightfully charming, heart-felt tale about lost love, long-held secrets and second chances all bound together with the themes of friendship, family loyalty, and surprise revelations. Being a Mills and Boon fan, I feel as though I’ve just seen a classic Mills and Boon novel come to life on screen.

Will I watch Romance On The Orient Express again? Mais oui!

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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Films, This, That and the Other!

 

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Newlyweds: Nick And Jessica

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I can’t remember exactly what it was that got me thinking about Newlyweds: Nick And Jessica, the reality TV series that starred newly married couple, singers Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey as they embarked on a new chapter in their lives. But I decided to check out a couple of old episodes and soon became hooked again!

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When it came to American teen girl singing sensations in the nineties, Britney and Christina ruled. And when it came to nineties American boy bands, N’Sync and Backstreet Boys owned it. This left Jessica Simpson and Nick’s band 98 Degrees a little in the shade, which was unfortunate as they were – and still are – mega talented. I remember watching Jessica for the first time when she performed on Top Of The Pops with I Wanna Love You Forever, and I know that 98 Degrees collaborated with my then-idol Mariah Carey on her track Thank God I Found You which I absolutely loved. Both acts were well-known in the States but back in 1990’s Britain there were still many people who hadn’t heard of them.

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But Newlyweds changed everything…

At the beginning of the twenty first century, reality television wasn’t as we know it today but it was starting to gather momentum. Today The Osbournes, Donny Loves Jenny, Wahlburgers, and of course, Keeping Up WithThe Kardashians are well-known but Newlyweds was probably one of the earliest reality TV shows to feature the day-to-day lives of celebrities, especially a celebrity couple. Nick and Jessica’s MTV reality show that followed the lives of the newlywed pop stars, who married in 2002 and began filming their series in 2003.

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I remember I used to watch Newlyweds on MTV with my sister. Even though we knew who both Nick and Jessica were, we didn’t quite know what to expect before watching the first episode. We thought it would be bland, boring fly-on-the-wall stuff which we probably wouldn’t bother watching again but we thought we’d give it a go. I was especially interested because I remember that the impossibly good-looking couple’s wedding was featured on one of Oprah Winfrey’s celebrity wedding shows and I was curious to see what married life was like for them.

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Well Newlyweds proved to be anything but boring. It had me and sis in stitches! Jessica’s combination of dumb blonde-meets pop sensation meets wannabe housewife seemed to grate on Nick which provided many of the comic moments. The pairing of solid, dependable, down-to-earth Nick with scatty, dizzy but lovable Jessica who was very comfortable in the world of celebrity made for great viewing. Who didn’t love watching Jessica’s antics and listening to her ‘Jessica-isms’ which often left an exasperated Nick speechless?

But it wasn’t just the humorous aspect that kept us tuning in. Like most of Newlyweds’ fans, I just loved watching Nick and Jessica together. The love between them was evident, and although they may have been chalk-and-cheese, somehow they worked. I used to watch Nick’s romantic gestures and hope that one day, I’d find a man like that too (who didn’t?) It was a modern day fairy tale and I couldn’t wait for my weekly fix of Newlyweds. To be honest, I’m amazed that I pretty much forgot about this couple and the show. As far as memories go, they are relatively recent and both Nick and Jessica are still very much in the public eye. But I suppose it’s the fact that they’ve both moved on and created new lives for themselves and developed as people who are as far removed from their Newlyweds days as you can get, that made us forget that once upon a time, we used to be glued to this show.

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The show boosted the couple’s popularity greatly especially Jessica’s and was great publicity for her many professional ventures including her cosmetics line, Dessert, her album, In This Skin, and her first ever movie role as Daisy Duke in Dukes Of Hazard. Unfortunately as everyone knows, the marriage – and the show – wasn’t to last. At the end of 2005, Nick and Jessica separated after three years of marriage and three series of Newlyweds, despite having a seemingly solid relationship, divorcing six months later. Nick and Jessica fans hoped that the couple would reunite but it wasn’t to be. Fast forward to 2015, and both Nick and Jessica have new partners with whom they have started families, and they have both on numerous occasions expressed a desire to move on from the past and focus on their new families. Of course in the world of celebrity, the past can’t be erased  so easily but there’s no denying that Nick and Jessica both seem happy in their new lives and that’s all that their fans can wish for.

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But the show – and the couple –  will always have a very special place in our hearts.

FAVOURITE JESSICA-ISMS

  1. “Is this chicken that I have or fish?” That infamous line.
  2. “I don’t eat buffalo” – when offered buffalo wings
  3. “Twenty-three is old. It’s like almost twenty-five which is almost mid-twenties.” – on her twenty-third birthday.
  4. “You post a letter before you can send it.” – her thoughts on the prefix ‘post’ meaning ‘after’.
  5. “I feel bad for this horse but I guess it’s on wheels so it makes it go faster.” – during the romantic buggy ride for their first anniversary.
  6. “The horse knows to stop at a red lights?” – during same buggy ride.
  7. “I love this scent. What scent is it again? Oh, it’s unscented.” – on candles.
  8. “They have their own language.” – on thinking that ‘African’ is a language.
  9. I think I just broke my kidney.
  10. “It was total mayham.” – instead of mayhem.

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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in TV Shows

 

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Nul Points – No Way! My Most Memorable UK Eurovision Entries

It’s that time again. Eurovision is here. My mum no doubt is glued to the box right now and die-hard Eurovision fans across Europe – and for the first time ever, Australia (yeah I don’t understand that either) – are throwing Eurovision themed parties and trying to work out which country will be hailed this year’s winner, which will be revealed in just over an hour.

And this year’s Eurovision isn’t any old Eurovision either as the annual European song contest is in its sixtieth year. who would have thought that a musical competition that was initially created as a means of bringing peace and harmony back to post-war Europe would still be going strong today? Well it’s aim was to bring peace and harmony but as we all know that judging by the tactical voting and obvious bias towards certain countries, politics is very much at play. But it’s also a display of musical talent, fun, entertainment and over the top performances.

The Eurovision Song Contest used to be a big deal in my family, and every year we would huddle around the TV and watch all the acts. We’d even be allowed to stay up late to watch the voting. I remember one year in the mid-eighties, I really wanted Italy to win because one of the singers looked a lot like my aunt. When they didn’t win, I burst into tears – much to the annoyance of my dad!

I have to say that in recent years, I have been much of a Eurovision fan. I can’t really pinpoint why other than there have been quite a few changes over the years and it’s just not as good as it once was – in my opinion at least – and given the choice, I’d much rather be doing something else than watching Eurovision.

But I won’t knock it. I’m glad it’s still around as it brings back great memories for me. This got me thinking about some of my most memorable UK entries. The ones I’ve selected aren’t all necessarily the most amazing or my most favourite. But they are definitely the ones that are most memorable or most well-known to me, and good or bad, they’ve all stood out in some way.

1. 1981, DUBLIN BUCKS FIZZ – MAKING YOUR MIND UP 1st Place

I’d definitely entered the world by the time Bucks Fizz represented the United Kingdom back in 1981 with making your mind up. I’d either have been perched on my Eurovision nut mum’s lap or I’d have been fast asleep in my cot – either way I obviously don’t remember seeing the moment Cheryl Baker, Jay Aston, Mike Nolan and Bobby G – who had been specially put together for the song contest – performed in Dublin.

However I do remember seeing it years later, and that skirt ripping moment is definitely one of the most iconic in Eurovision history – that still gets talked about. Furthermore we were all big Bucks Fizz fans at home so they played a big part in our childhood.

 

2. 1984, LUXEMBOURG,  BELLE AND THE DEVOTIONS – LOVE GAMES 7th place

Even though I don’t remember the song very well, I did remember Belle and The Devotions. I remember them appearing on television a fair bit before they took part in the song contest. As I watched the contest, I remember wondering why Belle and The Devotions were the only act I recognized and moreover why the other acts were not singing in English. I remember very little about the 1984 show but I’m pretty certain I lost interest soon after Belle And The Devotions performance. I was still only a little ‘un and had a while to go before I entered into the Eurovison spirit of things – and under my mother’s influence I did!

3. 1985, GOTHEBURG, VIKKI – LOVE IS 4TH PLACE

To be totally honest I don’t remember the song at all but I do remember Vikki and seeing her perform on Top Of The Pops. despite finishing at a not-at-all-bad fourth place, Vikki didn’t become a household name unfortunately but she continues to work as a singer-songwriter in Los Angeles where she is now based.

4. 1987, BRUSSELS, RIKKI – ONLY THE LIGHT 13TH PLACE

I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there who would love to forget this song – Rikki included – but I think they’re being a bit harsh as listening to it years later, I actually think it’s quite catchy and a fine bit of pop music and Rikki’s vocals were pretty good. In fact it’s not just years later – I actually thought that at the time.

I remember Rikki and the track he wrote himself, Only The Light, much better than the previous UK entries because my sister and I not only used to sing Only The Light (much to the annoyance of the neighbours no doubt!) but we also came up with some choreography as well – though looking at the performance I think it’s fair to say that Rikki beat us hands down!

Although Rikki wasn’t the first UK entry to place below the Top Ten, never before had a UK entry placed so low at a disappointing thirteen – though I think this was extremely unfair as it wasn’t a bad song and Rikki, accompanied by his backing vocalists, gave it their all. I do remember this entry getting a lot of stick in the media the next day.

Then Jemini came along and all was forgiven!

5. 1988, DUBLIN, SCOTT FITZGERALD – GO 2ND PLACE

We all have our personal favourites and most memorable performances when it comes to Eurovision entries and Go, a track penned by Bruce Forsythe’s daughter Julie and performed by Scott Fitzgerald just happens to be mine. I wasn’t into ballady type numbers when I was a kid (that was more Mum’s thing) but there was something about this song that really jumped out at me. It could have been Scott’s powerful vocals, or the emotion in his voice, or just simply that it’s a great song. Naturally we always backed the UK when it came to Eurovision (even if we did sometimes secretly think that other countries had better songs and performances) but now we were convinced that Scott Fitzgerald was going to bring it home for us.

And he very nearly did.

It was nailbitingly neck and neck between the UK and Switzerland but Mum wasn’t too worried.

“That Swiss song wasn’t all that fantastic,” was Mum’s expert opinion.

By the time there was only one country left to vote, Switzerland was in the lead by only one point but we were so sure victory was going to be ours. I can’t remember who the last country to vote was but I do remember the moment when I knew it was all over:

“And finally twelve points goes to -”

Please let it be the UK, please, please…

“France.”

Cue much shouting, cheering and cartwheels from the Swiss team.

Of course the press had a field day about the unfairness of it all. Fancy the United Kingdom being beaten by just one measly point. It was like Mexico ’86 all over again – we’d come so far and victory was in our grasp only for us to have it snatched from us. But at least this time there was no cheating or Hand of God involved.

The press also commented on whether it was acceptable to have a Canadian representing Switzerland in the song contest.

Clearly the singer didn’t Think Twice about the fuss as she – Celine Dion – was on her way to bigger and better things.

6. 1991, ROME, SAMANTHA JANUS – MESSAGE TO YOUR HEART JOINT 10TH PLACE

When the future Ronnie Mitchell/Branning/Cotton was flying the flag for the United Kingdom back in 1991, I sadly was unable to watch it due to our prehistoric telly being on the blink! However I do remember a lot being said about the absolutely stunning, blonde twenty one year old then unknown, Samantha Janus,  who was going to perform Message To Your Heart, a song intended to prick the listeners’ social conscious regarding serious world wide issues. It was probably in the same vein as New Kids’ This One’s For The Children – and as everyone know New Kids On The Block can do no wrong in my eyes – but Message To Your Heart just didn’t make the same impact.

And for all those who suspected that Samantha Janus would probably end up pulling pints one day – they were right!

7. 1992, MALMO, MICHAEL BALL – ONE STEP OUT OF TIME 2ND PLACE

We just thought of Michael Ball as the Aspects Of Love bloke – the one who did a bit of musical theatre. So when we heard that he would be making a bid to represent the United Kingdom, we thought it would be a number that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lloyd-Webber production.

So sis and I were amazed when Michael Ball rocked up with an up-tempo pop song – a song we couldn’t get out of out heads for days. And we loved Ball’s choreography!

I felt disappointed at the time that the UK lost out yet again but hey, we came second (again) so not all bad!

 

8. 1993, Co. CORK, SONIA – BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW 2ND PLACE

We’d always loved Sonia ever since she burst onto the scene with You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You and my mum was a huge fan:

“Aw that Sonia. she sings all the old songs and gets to number one.” Er, really Mum???

Well the fact that Better The Devil You Know (not the Kylie classic) wasn’t an ‘old song’ might explain why Sonia didn’t get to ‘number one’ in the Eurovision charts and win. Well that’s what Mum would have said anyway. But Sonia did us proud all the same. She sang her heart out and gave a great performance with a song that’s in my head to this day. Furthermore Better The Devil You Know did well in the national charts.

Plus I loved that purple jumpsuit!

9. 1994, DUBLIN, FRANCES RUFFELLE LONELY SYMPHONY 10TH PLACE

I have to admit, I didn’t know who Frances Ruffelle was prior to her representing the UK in Eurovision. She was – and still is – star of the West End stage, and also the daughter of Sylvia Young, and the mother of Eliza Dolittle.

Frances’ song was quite different to the previous Eurovision entries as it was less pop driven, more soulful, atmospheric song with a moving melody, and definitely not as cheesy as previous offerings. It also didn’t go for the novelty factor. Definitely one of the most sophisticated entries we’ve ever had.

 

10. 1995, DUBLIN, LOVE CITY GROOVE- LOVE CITY GROOVE 10TH PLACE

For the first time ever, rap came to the Eurovision song contest via the United Kingdom. And to this day I can still remember the chorus. I know this song was heavily criticised at the time for not being ‘Eurovision’ enough but I don’t think it’s a horrendous song at all, and as urban music was the only thing I’d listen to back then, I actually quite liked it. It had that cool summertime vibe and pop beat that was typical of all mid-nineties rap that didn’t come over all gold tooth and gangsta! It did placed tenth just as their predecessor Frances Ruffelle had done the year before but it did a lot better than most people had expected. I think the truth of the matter is that Eurovision just wasn’t ready for rap from the UK.

11. 1996, OSLO, GINA G – OOH AAH… JUST A LITTLE BIT 8TH PLACE

This stunning Aussie redhead, born Gina Mary Gardiner, represented the United Kingdom back in 1996 and whereas most Eurovision hopefuls are rarely heard of again once the contest is over, Gina was very popular in Britain for quite some time. She had four UK chart hits after Ooh Aah… she also did well in America where she was nominated for a Grammy award, graced the covers of many mags, and was never off the telly!

I have to say although Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit was very catchy and something of a club anthem back then, Gina’s brand of pop, house and dance wasn’t really my thing as I was very much an urban chick but it hearing this track does bring back tons of memories of my secondary school days.

After years of living in London, Gina eventually relocated to Los Angeles where she still resides today and is still involved in the music industry.

12. 1997, DUBLIN, KATRINA AND THE WAVES – LOVE SHINE A LIGHT 1ST PLACE

I’m walking on sunshine… woah-oh, I’m walking on sunshine… woah-oh, I’m walking on sunshine…woah oh

And don’t it feel good! Hey!

It’s one of the most recognizable tracks from the eighties and the one that British rock band Katrina And The Waves were most well-known for.

But that was until 1997 when Katrina And The Waves represented the United Kingdom with Love Shine A Light. I remember watching lead singer, Kansas-born Katrina Leskanich, being interviewed just before the contest and being asked how she would feel if they ended up getting the dreaded ‘nul points’.

“But it’s not going to get nul points,” Katrina responded confidently, “come on – it’s a great song.”

Well she wasn’t wrong. That year, the UK headed to the top of the scoreboard and secured their first win since Bucks Fizz’s Making Your Mind Up sixteen years earlier.

It was the second time the United Kingdom have won the Eurovision Song Contest in my life time – but only the first time that I actually got to see and remember it.

Now if only I could see England win the World Cup…

13. 1998, BIRMINGHAM, IMAANI – WHERE ARE YOU? 2ND PLACE

Admittedly I’d forgotten this song and the singer Imaani – who still singning and putting out records – but as soon as I heard this song again, it all came flooding back. It was a very good entry and although it didn’t secure a second consecutive win for us, it finished at a very respectable place.

14. 2003, LATVIA, JEMINI – CRY BABY 26TH PLACE

OK, I’m sure there’s a lot of people who’d like to forget Jemini but how could we ever forget the only UK act ever to get the infamous nul point?

 

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Happy New Kids On The Block Day

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It’s that time of year again. The one where I get to dress up and go back to being a thirteen year old again.

No Halloween has not come early. I’m talking about New Kids On The Block Day, and as I’m a die hard fan, I absolutely love this day which remembers all that is fabulous about the most awesome boy band ever to walk this earth: Jordan, Jon, Joe, Danny and Donnie.

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New Kids On The Block

 

So come on Blockheads: don those ripped jeans, flash those smiley faces and peace sign medallions, wear your New Kids T-shirts with pride, and crank up the volume so that the whole neighbourhood hears those NKOTB tunes. Watch those videos to your hearts content, and prepare to fall in love with the Boston boy band all over again. It’s what today is all about.

Back in 1989, then Massachusetts governor, Michael Dukakis, declared 24 April to be National New Kids On The Block Day (for that alone, Mr. Dukakis should have been president!) National it may have been, but it didn’t stop fans from all over the world from honouring them. And twenty six years later it’s still a pretty big day in the Blockheads’ calendar.

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I’ve already driven the Hubby mad by singing New Kids On The Block Songs on the tube on the way to work. He should just be thankful that it was a packed carriage or I would have had to get on the floor and do the New Kids dance!

I’ve been in love with the five bad brothers from the bean town land from the moment I clapped eyes on them, and whereas most people go through phases of liking bands before moving on to the next big thing, it’s always been the New Kids for me and I’m so proud to say that they were my boy band when I was growing up.

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So as it’s National New Kids On The Block Day, I’m going to share the New Kids moments, experiences, memories and events that are special to me personally.

1.  BEFORE I’D EVEN SEEN THEM

“Do you lot like that new group, what are they called again? New Kids In The Neighbourhood?

“Oh you mean New Kids On The Block!”

“Oh my gosh, I really like them.”

“I really like them too!”

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That was a conversation that took place in my Year 7 class just as the New Kids were really starting to take off here in Britain. I can still  vividly remember this scene as we waited for our form tutor to arrive. At this point I’d definitely heard of New Kids On The Block but I hadn’t seen them and I didn’t really know anything about them. I wasn’t even a hundred per cent sure I’d heard anything by them. But I remember for the upcoming Smash Hits Poll Winners Awards many of the pop stars du jour were casting their vote for a little known band called the New Kids for Best Newcomer and various other awards so I knew there was something special about this band.

Little did I know just how special.

2. NUMBER ONE ON TOP OF THE POPS

It was Thursday night which meant that it was Top Of The Pops night, so us kids and Dad – who always likes to think he’s down with the kids – were huddled around the TV waiting to check out that week’s chart climbers and sliders and more importantly, who’d hit the top spot.

When the new number one was announced, I was thrilled to hear that it was that cool new group that everyone was talking about,New Kids On The Block with You Got It (The Right Stuff.) That was great because I’d finally get to see what they looked like – and what was so great about them. Little did I know that my little pre-pubescent self was NEVER going to be the same again.

The New Kids didn’t make a live appearance so the video was played instead, and when I tell you that it was love at first sight, I am not kidding. I’d had lots of crushes up until that point (yep, always had an eye for the boys!) but this was indescribable. I’d never seen a whole bunch of really great looking boys before. They sang and danced amazingly. I loved their style and they just had this thing… this thing that I couldn’t and still can’t quite put my finger on. And when a band or artist has this special quality, you just know they’re going to be huge. So it was no surprise when the New Kids blew up big time.

My sister and I had found our new crushes – as did most of the female population under the age of twenty five. I still didn’t know their names but the one who made the biggest impression on me was the extremely handsome, dark-haired boy who appeared to be the lead singer…

3. SMASH HITS COVER

Shortly after seeing them on TOTP for the first time, New Kids On The Block graced their first ever cover of Smash Hits magazine. And they were every bit as gorgeous as I’d remembered. I learned that their names were Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood, Donnie Wahlberg, and Jordan Knight was Jon’s brother and the hottie who’d caught my eye. I’d never heard of anyone called Jordan before (we weren’t that exotic growing up in North-West London!) but it soon became one of my favourite boy’s names and remains so to this day – although Hubby is adamant that if ever we have a son, he is NEVER going to be called Jordan!

Thanks to that issue of Smash Hits, we also got to learn all sorts of other extremely useful snippets of info about them which came in very handy for discussions with our classmates. It was long before I was buying every magazine that they featured in.

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I bitterly regret not hanging on to that issue of Smash Hits.

4. WINNING SMASH HITS AWARDS

The year was 1990, the year my baby brother was born and the year New Kids On The Block scooped almost everything at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Awards. I’ve always loved watching the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party on BBC One, and then reading about it in the following issue of the magazine.

That year the New Kids appeared at the party via satellite link (that’s kind of when you know someone’s really famous!) but for the screaming girls present and those watching at home, those boys from Boston were definitely the highlight – as was seeing their excitement every time they got an award. But oh my goodness that was nothing compared to the hysterics when Jordan Knight found out that he’d won the award for most fanciable male. I loved when he looked in to the camera and said, “It’s me, boys” and then went on to thank all us “fine, English girls” for the award. Ooh, I’ve come over all funny!

Jordan Knight winning the award for most fanciable male was hardly a surprise but as all the New Kids are hot, it’s a pity they weren’t all joint first.

5. NEW YORK GIG

OK so I never got to go to the New York concert as part of the Hanging Tough Tour but I did get to see it and I loved it! I enjoyed every second of the show and so it seemed, did the New Kids, who looked as though they were having an awesome time. The bond between the boys has always been obvious but it was even more evident here. There have been many renditions of I’ll Be There but I definitely think there’s is the best by a long shot. I loved watching Jordan pulling faces into the camera and showing off his breaking dancing skills, Wild man Donnie serenading a little girl, and the boys really working that crowd.

Awesome gig!

6. PROVIDENCE GIG

I’d never even heard about Providence, RI before (sorry to all the residents there!) But now when I hear it mentioned, I immediately think of the gig the New Kids did there back in 1991 as part of the Magic Summer Tour. A friend recorded it for me and I’d never get fed up of watching it. In fact I spent more time watching it then I did studying for end of year exams. But it was worth it seeing Jordan perform Baby, I Believe In You.

I wish I had been there.

7.THE COMEBACK PT.1

I was thrilled, thrilled, thrilled when the New Kids announced that they were reuniting but I couldn’t understand why it was taking so long to happen. There were apparent recording hitches and all kinds of other calamities that they had to contend with. And their eagerly-awaited appearance at the 1993 Smash Hits Poll Winners Party mysteriously never happened (Donnie later said that it was because the band were asked to change some of the lyrics to their very risqué hit, Dirty Dawg, which they refused to do.)

They did a feature in Smash Hits and it was awesome to hear what they’d been up to during their two year break. And I loved their lively banter with Clive Warren on capital Radio, as they promoted their new album Face The Music. It appeared that the boys were back, and us Blockheads – the real ones who never went away – were doing cartwheels.

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But this is where the memories aren’t so good. Even though I loved Face The Music, and I think it was lyrically and vocally one of the strongest out of all their early offerings, the critics and haters had it in for the New Kids. They slammed the boys’ harder, edgier street image and sound, and claimed that the lyrics in Dirty Dawg degraded women. Dirty Dawg only got as far as number twenty seven in the UK charts and the following single Never Gonna Let You Go barely made it into the Top Forty. Then Jon quit the group the New Kids soon disbanded. What I call the ‘wilderness years’ soon followed.

It is such a great pity that the boys weren’t as successful as they could have been because everything was put in place for an awesome comeback but there was so much stacked against them. But we can be thankful that they gave us another fantastic album.

8. THE COMEBACK PT.2

When it came to chart music and boy bands, no one could ever match up to New Kids On The Block. From being everywhere they were suddenly nowhere – and us fans missed them like crazy. I would get so excited if I so much as saw them mentioned in an article or if one of them made a fleeting appearance on a TV show.

And my biggest regret?

My biggest regret was that I got to see them perform live. That’s right – I might have been a fan for most of my life but I never got to go to a concert for many reasons and that did make me sad.

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I used to wish that they’d get back together if only for a little while so that I’d be able to fulfil my wish of being a hysterical Blockhead at one of their gigs. But I knew that it was unlikely to ever happen. The band had always seemed reluctant to get back together with many of them clearly stating that they’d moved on to other things.

So I was stunned, totally stunned when the New Kids reunited back in 2008. I was thrilled but apprehensive. What if this comeback was like the first one?

Luckily for us, it so wasn’t.

The group are still going strong today.

9. MY FIRST CONCERT

As soon as the UK tour was announced, I got tickets to the gig in Wembley. There are no words to describe how excited I was. For the New Kids to have gotten back together was beyond my wildest dreams. But to actually be going to their concert was a case of if-this-is-a-dream-please-don’t-wake-me. I was so happy that my dream was coming true.

But then tragedy struck when I lost my beloved grandfather just three weeks before the concert. In my grief the last thing I wanted to do was have a blast. I just wanted to curl up in a ball in a corner and stay there for a year. But my family had other ideas and persuaded me that it was what I needed.

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They were absolutely right. So a slightly subdued me went to Wembley with a very dear friend and we had an amazing time. We laughed, we sang, we danced, I may have shed a tear or two. It’ll always be very memorable for me. I loved the intro when the boys walked out on stage, and during If You Go Away, they displayed an emotional montage as a tribute to the loved ones they lost, which obviously struck a chord with me.

It was an extremely bittersweet experience and one that I’ll always be thankful to the New Kids for. I feel that they played a part in getting me through one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced, and I fulfilled my wish.

They were definitely worth the wait.

 

10. STAR ON HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME

When New Kids On The Block got their star on Hollywood Walk Of Fame it was as though they’d come full circle and there wasn’t a prouder bunch than us Blockheads. All I could think was “It’s about time!” New Kids have their place among the stars where they belong.

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Happy New Kids Day!

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Ten British TV Comedy Theme Songs We Sang Along To

The first post of 2015! yay! I hope everyone’s new year has got off to an amazing start.

One of the best things about growing up in Britain is the multitude of comedy shows that this country has produced over the years, many of which have gone on to become classics and are well known all over the world. As much as I enjoy sitcoms, comedy shows, and stand-up from any country – just as long as it’s funny – nothing beats the British sense of humour, which explains why I love so many of our sitcoms. Only Fools And Horses, Fawlty Towers, One Foot In The Grave, Keeping Up Appearances – all fantastic!

However with many shows, it’s not just the show, the characters and the actors that are memorable, but most come complete with intros, opening and closing credits and theme tunes that stick in your mind. They’ll having you singing along with the beginning and end of each show, and it’ll probably have you singing the theme song for days. I still can’t get some of these theme songs out of my head years later!

So I’ve compiled a list of ten of the most memorable theme songs from British comedy series. There are a few comedies here that have been locked away in the ‘long lost’ vault but they’ve thankfully been found and I’m sure they’ll have you going, “Oh yeah! I remember that!” And for those of you who noticed that some of your favourite theme tunes were not mentioned in Ten TV Show Theme Tunes We Loved Singing Along To, just remember there’ll be plenty more lists cropping up in the future!

1. Dear John

TITLE: Dear John

COMPOSED BY: John Sullivan (show’s writer) and Ronnie Hazelhurst

SUNG BY: Joan Baxter

YEAR: 1986

No, not the film with the delicious Channing Tatum, but the seriously underrated BBC sitcom of the 1980’s starring the late Ralph Bates as a divorcé who joins a club for the divorced and separated in the hope of making friends and finding love. Much of the humour comes from the bunch of oddballs he befriends. The Americans did a remake of this series which lasted four series but I much prefer the British version. Sorry!

Dear John is a comedy which is very dear to my heart and brings back lots of memories, not just of the show but of my childhood and the eighties in general. I recently came across some comments which stated that the theme song for Dear John was probably the most depressing and dreary of all the theme songs out there. Well now that they mention it, I suppose it is. But then when you think that the show is about a divorced man who has lost everything to his ex-wife after she ran off with his best friend and now has to live in a tiny bedsit, well we couldn’t have a theme tune that got us up and dancing now, could we? The song fits in with the ethos of the show. Because it has a 1920s feel to it, I assumed that it was a really old song but it was actually written by the show’s creator John ‘Only Fools’ Sullivan.

Fantastic song!

2. The Vicar Of Dibley

TITLE: The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23)

COMPOSED BY: Howard Goodall

SUNG BY: Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

YEAR: 1994

How I love this comedy! Beginning in 1994, Dawn French is amazing as the female vicar who takes over a parish church in the heart of a rural community – and finds that many of her new parishioners have more than a few eccentricities between them. I watched the trailer for the show and thought it looked quite funny – I wasn’t wrong and I wasn’t disappointed!

When you think about The Vicar of Dibley, you think about three things: the stunning countryside; the barmy characters, and that distinctive theme tune, The Lord is my Shepherd by Howard Goodall, who has also worked on the themes for Blackadder, The Borrowers, Red Dwarf, and Mr Bean among many others. The theme song was based around Psalm 23 and was performed by the choir of Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral. Originally Goodall had composed this song as a serious piece of church choral music – it hadn’t initially been intended for use as the theme of a hit comedy show. But more than twenty years later, viewers can see that the enchanting theme song fits in beautifully with the series.

Oh, just remembered a fourth thing: the joke between Alice and Geraldine at the end of every episode!

3. Butterflies

TITLE: Love Is Like A Butterfly

SUNG BY: Clare Torry

LYRICS: Dolly Parton

YEAR: 1974

This show was a bit before my time so I don’t remember it the first time round but I do remember watching Butterflies when it was repeated. It starred Wendy Craig and Geoffrey Palmer who were familiar faces to me, but then I saw a very young Nicholas Lyndhurst who was more than just a little familiar – he was ‘Rodders’ from Only Fools And Horses! Carla Lane’s classic sitcom focuses on a frustrated housewife and her male companion, whose friendship borders on romance, and their will-they-won’t- they antics had viewers gripped.

I had already heard the song Love Is Like A Butterfly before I realised that it was also used as the theme song for Butterflies as it happens to be one of my mother’s favourite songs and she used to sing it all the time. It was a hit in 1974 for American country music legend Dolly Parton, although the version that was used for the opening credits was recorded by British singer Clare Torry, especially for Butterflies. This version was recorded with a band conducted by well-known BBC TV composer Ronnie Hazelhurst.

4. Birds Of A Feather

TITLE: What’ll I Do?

COMPOSED BY: Irving Berlin

SUNG BY:  Linda Robson and Pauline Quirke (from third series onwards)

LYRICS: Irving Berlin

YEAR: 1923

Twenty first century kids will know Birds Of A Feather as an ITV sitcom that’s in its second series. But of course old-timers like myself will remember when the show was first shown on the BBC back in the 1980s and continued until the late nineties. Sisters Sharon and Tracy live in Tracy’s rather luxurious home in Essex while both their husbands are in prison for armed robbery. Tracy’s devastated to be separated from her Darrell, while Sharon couldn’t care less that she’s away from her errant husband Chris. It might sound like all doom and gloom but it is actually hilarious – with the girls’ man-mad neighbour providing much of the entertainment. I never missed an episode of this sitcom when I was growing up.

The show used Irving Berlin’s wonderfully moving What’ll I Do as the theme tune for the first two series. From the third series onwards, a version sung by Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson, who play Sharon and Tracy, was used.

5. Bread

TITLE: Bread Theme Song

COMPOSED BY: David Mackay

SUNG BY: The Bread Cast

LYRICS: David Mackay

Carla Lane had another hit on her hands with this classic sitcom from the 1980s. This used to be on Sunday evenings but I’m pretty certain that some series may also have been broadcast during weekday nights.

The sit-com focuses on the trials and tribulations of the Boswell family and their efforts to muddle through life with very little money – which often resulted in underhand tactics. I thought Grandad was hilarious, and the contempt of the lady from the DSS for the Boswell family was amusing

The theme song was composed by David Mackay and featured the vocals of the cast of Bread.

6. Desmond’s

TITLE: Don’t Scratch My Soca

COMPOSED BY: John Collins

SUNG BY: Norman Beaton

LYRICS: Trix Worrell

This seriously funny comedy was set in a barber shop in Peckham, owned by a Caribbean family, the Ambroses. The shop was a place for many of the local. lively and interesting characters in the show to congregate and share stories. It reminds me of the area of North-West London where I grew up. The local barber shops seemed to be the meeting point for many of the menfolk in our town, and it was very evident that there were more friends and relatives in the  shop than paying customers and it was a place where many of the male members of the community gathered together, and it had something of a social club vibe.

The theme tune was very familiar to us when we were growing up – some of my classmates knew all the words to the song. It had a soca vibe which reflected the Ambrose family’s Trinidadian roots. It was very upbeat and uplifting which reflected the liveliness of the characters and the business of the shop. There was never a dull moment at Desmond’s!

7. Streets Apart

TITLE: Streets Apart

COMPOSED BY: David Mackay

SUNG BY: Neil Lockwood

LYRICS: David Mackay

YEAR: 1988

Sylvie and Bernie were childhood sweethearts who dated and drifted apart, taking different directions in life. They meet almost twenty years later and try to pick up where they left off… but it’s not easy when you’re now different people each with a different set of circumstances.

I love this comedy written by Adrienne Conway. Almost thirty years on, it’s still very watchable – but it makes me yearn for the 1980s! It had been a long time since I first watched the show, but as soon as I heard those opening bars of the theme, it was instantly recognizable and transported me back to my childhood. The lyrics for this tender theme tune are full of longing, wistfulness and second chances. And Neil Lockwood’s amazing vocals do this song justice.

8. Just Good Friends

TITLE: Just Good Friends

COMPOSED BY: Ronnie Hazelhurst

SUNG BY: Paul Nicholas

LYRICS: John Sullivan

YEAR: 1983

Would you seriously consider being friends with your ex? Especially after he jilted you at the alter? Well that’s exactly what Penny Warrender does after her former fiancé Vince Pinner comes back into her life again. The two decide to put the past behind them and become ‘just good friends’ – but the question is, can they ever be just that?

Another one of John Sullivan’s masterpieces, it starred Jan Francis and Paul Nicholas who were huge stars in England back in the 1980s. This sitcom was a firm favourite with my parents so they would regularly tune in, and I do have memories of watching the final ever episode. Nicholas was already an established theatre actor and agreed to do the vocals for the track, written by Sullivan.

9. Watching

TITLE: What Does He see In Me?

COMPOSED BY: Charles Hart

SUNG BY: Emma Wray

LYRICS: Charles Hart

YEAR: 1987

Merseyside couple Brenda and Malcolm are very much chalk and cheese. They come from different backgrounds, have different interests, and completely different personalities. The only thing they have in common is watching: Brenda watches people; Malcolm watches people. It’s no wonder their relationship is more off than on.

I loved watching (scuse the pun!) this sitcom back in the nineties and loved the theme tune which my sister and I used to sing (quite badly!) I think the lyrics are quite fitting for the show. It sums up the fact that Brenda and Malcolm are very different, aren’t exactly consumed with lust and passion, but love each other and belong together.

 

10. Chef

TITLE: Serious Profession

COMPOSED BY: Omar

SUNG BY: Omar

LYRICS: Omar

Now here’s a sitcom I used to watch but totally forgot about! If you think Gordon Ramsay’s got a mouth on him, wait til you meet acclaimed chef, Gareth Blackstock, who struggling to balance his home life with his wife Janice and the demands of running a top restaurant, often gives in to temper tantrums in the kitchen.

The theme tune to Chef! has got to be the coolest theme tune I’ve ever heard to accompany a television show. Funky and upbeat, it’s guaranteed to get you up and dancing, not just singing along. Although of course when it features the smooth vocals of soul superstar Omar, how could it be anything other than cool?

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2015 in Comedy Shows, Name That Tune!, TV Shows

 

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Video

Bad Boys Inc. Had Us Walking On Air

Writing about The Perfect Year sung by the beautiful Dina Carroll reminded me of another song that was also released in December 1993 in the hope of becoming the Christmas number one (wasn’t that the case with all November/December single releases?) It’s by blink-and-you’ll-miss them boy band Bad Boys Inc. and it was a delightfully schmaltzy (nothing wrong with that!) ballad which I really liked at the time, and listening to it now, I’m transported back to the early nineties and my teen years. And like The Perfect Year, it reminds me of a really fab Christmas and New Year with my family.

Check out the video for Walking On Air, and look out for the post about the gorgeous Bad Boys Inc. who I think were one of the best British Boy bands – too bad they didn’t stick around for long enough!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in The Sound Of Our Youth

 

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Video

The Perfect Year Makes The Perfect New Year’s Eve

No matter where I am, who I’m with or how I’m celebrating, there are some traditions that I have to adhere to for New Year’s Eve every year: I must have a glass of something sparkling; I must make sure Hubby’s nearby for me to kiss on the stroke of midnight, and I always see the New Year in – so no getting an early night! And another New Year’s Eve must have: a listen to Dina Carroll’s The Perfect Year, which I think is the perfect song to play at the end of the year, just before we see in the new one.

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Those who are familiar with the song will also know that it’s from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard but Dina recorded her own version of it which was released towards then end of 1993. I was a teenager at the time she released The Perfect Year and I’ve always loved her version of the song. There’s something about the power of her vocals and the emotion in her voice that really adds to the song and Dina really makes the it her own. This song played a huge part in me taking voice lessons and wanting to be involved in musical theatre. Furthermore 1993 was something of a great year for me and the festive season of that year was probably one of the most memorable we’ve ever celebrated, and The Perfect Year naturally reminds me of this wonderful time and the fab early nineties. Oh how those years passed by so very quickly!

 

The beautiful Dina Carroll

The beautiful Dina Carroll

 

1993 could also be described as the perfect year for Dina Carroll too – the only British singer to have had a natural American accent! She’s worked with David Cole and Robert Clivillés of C&C Music Factory. Her album So Close, released that year, entered the Top Ten of the UK Album Charts. Her hit Don’t Be A Stranger – wonderfully soulful ballad – reached number three in the charts becoming Dina’s biggest hit. Not only that but when The Perfect Year entered the UK singles chart, Dina became the only British female singer in the 1990s to have had two singles simultaneously in the Top Ten, along with  Don’t Be a Stranger. And in February of the following year, Dina topped off her phenomenal success with a much deserved Brit award.

 

Unfortunately even though Dina had accomplished a lot and still had the potential to go much further in her career, she gradually faded from the music scene. Sure she was still in the music industry and she made a couple of comebacks, with her last release was back in 2003 but since then very little has been heard about her. It’s a shame because she was a stunning lady with a stunning voice, and vocally, she was right up there with Whitney and Mariah. Dina also acted with a great deal of grace and class – something we don’t always see from celebrities nowadays. I still remember how apologetic she was when accepting her Brit award, and a couple of semi-rude words accidentally escaped her lips. How times have changed!

I do hope that Dina will return to the music scene soon but in the meanwhile, I will forever be thankful to her for recording the most beautifully sentimental track that makes New Year complete.

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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in The Sound Of Our Youth

 

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