Get Your Act Together, Channel 4

by | Apr 10, 2007 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

We are confused. While we admired impresario Harvey Goldsmith’s alchemy in reviving the career of “pedestrian” 80s metal band Saxon, we resented the methods that essentially packaged Saxon as a billion-and-one other bands who sell records not through talent but through relentless, shameless plugging. But on the other hand, if Saxon could no longer write a decent tune, albeit, a metal one then they deserved to rot in the metallers’ graveyard and leave room for a band that can (but if Saxon selling one more album means Enter Shikari’s Westlife with guitars plastic sells one less, then welcome back Saxon).

What was good about it?

• Harvey’s bristling rivalry with Saxon singer, spokesman, dictator, mouthpiece Biff Byford. Harvey antagonised Biff by his repeated observation that Saxon were “pedestrian”, to which Biff always countered that Saxon had a heritage and a legacy to protect and that embracing a new, modern style would lose them their existing fanbase. And we also like the fact that Biff continues to call himself ‘Biff’, even at 56 years old.

• Saxon managed to retain their dignity, while also reviving their career somewhat (well, we saw their new album in HMV). And this was thanks to Biff’s surly intransigence in not letting Harvey manipulate away all Saxon’s credibility, but he was also willing to filter through Harvey’s more enlightened suggestions.

• The free gig at a Lincoln pub became a triumph even though the young crowd were expecting The Cure, while Harvey brought in two producers to help modernise Saxon’s “pedestrian” new single.

• Saxon’s manager Thomas who seemed utterly hopeless at ‘networking’ to raise Saxon’s profile as he hardly said a word, and instead stood around looking wide-eyed and warily at the camera as if he expected it to gobble him down at any moment.

• Saxon’s new album reached number four on the rock chart – but we weren’t told how high it got in the national album chart.

What was bad about it?

• The sly editing of Saxon as they ploughed through a support slot on a humdrum festival in Spain. Harvey said: “A group like Saxon should be headlining this show and closing it.” As he did so, the camera selectively panned around the fringes of the youthful audience as some chatted idly, some were on the phones, while others looked on with derision. Yet when Saxon were shown performing a significant section of the crowd were head banging with gusto, giving a lie to Harvey’s conniving dismissal of Saxon’s appeal.

• Biff’s assertion that “we don’t take risks anymore”. This was not risks in the conventional musical terminology of employing samplers for instance, but a refusal to alter from making stodgy, grimy English metal for a breed of teenager who would take a week to realise he had been decapitated to making aural vomit that is lapped up by perma-grinning US disc jockeys and moulded into towering obelisks of solid-hairsprayed bouffants that could be used as sanctuary by termite colonies from raiding army ants.

• Harvey’s ignorance of heavy-metal. He claimed: “Iron Maiden are still kicking arse and doing it today. What’s the difference between your music and Iron Maiden?” Which is essentially stating a blindness to differentiate between two bands who play the same style of music, but who have differing levels of talent and popularity (but Iron Maiden are utterly dreadful, too, give us Godflesh or Deftones any day).

• Harvey then went on arrange a free secret gig in a Lincoln pub, but leaked that it was The Cure playing. Again, this showed his ignorance of music as The Cure resemble Saxon the same way Adonis resembled Medusa, but also demonstrated how redundant Saxon have become. Despite releasing their best album 18 years ago, before many of the audience were born, news of a Cure show had teenagers snaking through the streets of Lincoln like a mildly-depressed oil slick.

• The visit to the Classic Rock Awards was akin to swimming in the guts of zombies. Old men ambled around and ‘glad handed’ other old men in a kind of geriatric Masonic gathering for the terminally uninspired.

• Harvey’s claim that his “neck was on the line”. No it wasn’t. Even if he failed to resurrect the fortunes of a moribund British metal act, it would not have any lasting damage on his reputation (if it had he wouldn’t have agreed to do the show), so this was a gratuitously cynical device to ratchet up the tension.

• The dispiriting flow of the music industry, which took Saxon by their grey locks and dragged them to a stylist, then abasingly yanked them around all the local radio stations in the country (it is a fact that local radio stations are the root of all evil in the world, not Satan with their daily dose of asinine, soulless pap that causes liquid malice to form in every crevice of the brain), before forcing them to play at half-time in a Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland match at Hillsborough with the Owls two-nil down. They were jeered off.

• When Saxon played their new single to the assembled press, we were told that the hacks were “dyed-in-the-wool” metal journalists, and fiercely loyal to the old style metal that Saxon once churned out. Yet if they are so influential and so adoring of traditional metal, why is that style of rock now universally considered a tepid anachronism? If they really were that influential, popular metal would still be stuck in the early 80s.

Get Your Act Together with Harvey Goldsmith, Channel 4, Tuesday 17 April 2007

Did we like it?

An hilarious blind-leading-the-bland exercise in which Harvey (“Let’s have an embarrassing stories phone-in.”) tried to sort out some freaks in Frinton-on-Sea running a radio station called BigL.

What was good about it?

• Although Harvey hardly showed much genius, suggesting that BigL’s slogan should be “Growing Old Disgracefully”, it was amusing to see him blustering and clashing with the idiots behind a radio station that loses £50,000 a month.

• The funniest moments came from a version of The Young Ones (The UnYoung Ones) featuring house-sharing middle-aged quartet Chris Vezey, the supersmooth station “manager” who was full of misplaced arrogance, washed-up Mike Read, wigged-up Diddy David Hamilton and a DJ called Ray who put on a Beatles costume to host his show.

• Seeing the humiliation of the awful Read. His claims that he was an ideas man were laughable and his appearance at a BigL roadshow in a grey carpark was car crash TV at its best as he did a feeble Riverdance while long-forgotten comedian Jimmy Cricket “entertained” a handful of toothless pensioners. We would say this was a case of the mighty fallen, except we never thought much of Read’s insipid broadcasting style.

• Hamilton thinking he’d struck advertising gold with his suggestion that BigL’s slogan should be “More Music, More Fun”

What was bad about it?

• Harvey never landed any killer blows to knock the self-satisfied BigL mob into shape.

• The way that lousy breakfast show DJ Windy Willows was humiliated by having to sit anonymously at a focus group meeting while his appalling programme was picked to pieces.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

10/04/2007

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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