The Fall documentary: my (very minor) involvement

The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith – closing titles

After the recent death of Mark E Smith, tonight BBC4 are repeating The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith. I’m reminded of a fortuitous encounter in 2004 that led to my (very minor) involvement and credit for ‘archive’ on the documentary.

I was at the ResFest, a festival of experimental film-making at the BFI. I’d got talking to a woman about my favourite band, The Fall and mentioned I’d compiled and directed some videos and sequences for the Beggars Banquet VHS8489 video compilation. This had led to a couple of drinking encounters with Mark E Smith and subsequently the making of an unofficial promo for the White Lightning single I’d filmed from side of the stage at 1990s Reading Festival. I’d told her I’d also tried, unsuccessfully, to make a documentary about The Fall back in the early 90s. To my surprise she said her flatmate was working on a BBC documentary about the band and she’d introduce me to her but I thought this might be just merrymaking talk.
Continue reading

Coronation Street: Gangster Soap is Murder

Pat Phelan  —  Guns, violence and murders

It was in the early 1970s that I first started to regularly watch Coronation Street (the UK’s longest running soap opera). This was after my school drama teacher said it had some of the best acting and script writing on television. Acknowledged at the time as the ‘classic’ era, with its strong, distinctive female characters such as Hilda Odgen, Bett Lynch and Elsie Tanner, ‘Corrie’ has been a part of my life ever since. While there have been several short periods over these past 40-odd years when the plot and story lines lost their way, it’s always managed to come back strong and keep delivering great drama with memorable comedy moments.

Yet recently I’ve become somewhat disillusioned with Coronation Street’s direction. It has morphed into a chaotic ‘gangster soap’ where every character’s life appears to be in a perpetual state of turmoil. Such is the rise in brutality that episodes now regularly begin with the ominous voice-over warning, “Now on ITV with some violence and scenes some viewers might find distressing…”. This changing scenario has meant that the soap now incorporates police stations, prisons, courtrooms and hospitals as regular extensions of the street’s scenery and set. It’s seems no coincidence that these changes coincide with Kate Oates’ elevation to series producer in early 2016 with a mission to produce “greater breadth of story lines”. This ‘greater breadth’ takes the form of increasingly inconceivable and ludicrous story lines given, in particular, to the career criminal character with gangster tendencies, Pat Phelan, expertly played by Conner McIntyre. But it is not the obsession with gangster story lines that bothers me the most, it’s that the mystery and humour has disappeared. Coronation Street plots and resolutions were always difficult to second guess and they were peppered with witty lines and humorous quips. Nowadays story lines have become predictable, where you fear the worst and the worst always happens.
Continue reading

Rescued: Snub TV titles – Series 3 1991

I recently rescued the Snub TV titles, which I’d worked on with the prolific graphic and record sleeve designer, Vaughan Oliver, from a ropey VHS tape found in the dark recesses of my attic. Back in the late 1980s, early 1990s I worked as a motion graphic designer for a company that provided digital compositing facilities; a much sought after service in the early days of digitally produced graphics. Consequentially, the company was very popular with print and album covers designers.

SnubGrab1One of the heavy users was Vaughan Oliver, who produced some of the most inspired, distinctive and striking album art of the period through his company V23. A large portion of album covers were commissioned by 4AD, one of UKs most exciting and experimental record companies. I was an admirer of his work and his creativity. I also enjoyed the music contained on the discs inside the covers he designed too, particularly music produced by bands such as Pixies and the Cocteau Twins.

Continue reading