Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hope and Keen - A Flight Of Fancy Stairs Leads Up To The Sky...

Hope And Keen, Comedy

Although the past few years have seemed to have offered little more than daily stasis, anxiety, depression and angst for so many people - as grounded on the clinical destruction of vintage career and property ownership pathways in the United Kingdom - it is perhaps the sense of gathering disassocation from our own communal past that truly levels the soul. Indeed there is a tangible feeling now that the past decade alone has concertinaed a half-century of social change into a fifth of that timeframe - that as encapsulated with the blanket toxification of London life and the imbecility of much social media usage.

Since the last General Election in fact British life feels like nothing more than waiting in a foreign airport terminal for a severely delayed plane to take you home that will in fact never ever arrive - and with no money in your pockets for that eternal duration. Just indeed as the Northern Ireland international football squad in the Seventies would hopelessly scour the skies the evening before the ubiquitous Big Match for the possible arrival of The Playboy of the Western World himself.

The late Gerry Anderson's acclaimed BBC documentary A City Dreaming about the modern history of Derry captured this mood perfectly in terms of memory interfacing with a terminal loss of  working class heritage, culture and place. Was thinking about this recently on the news of the actor George Cole's death - having been very familiar with the streetscapes of the Minder locations in the Eighties and Nineties.

I actually walked down one of those very West London thoroughfares only two months back and the differences were extraordinary in terms of the number of small businesses having changed hands or folded in the interim. Those radical changes I saw - which included the old record shop Spinning Disc (that for years had a cardboard cutout of Elvis in his gold suit in the window and where I recall buying a Jay and the Americans CD) having been replaced by some commercial nothingness  - were easily on the scale of the lost Lambeth and West End to be seen in  Jack Wild's wonderful 1971 Melody.

On a less melancholy note I was speaking to a friend last week about old television schedules from the golden years of Sixties and Seventies British television. Thinking back to programmes like Graham Kerr's  The Galloping Gourmet, Paint Along With Nancy and Kim Marshall's Yoga For Health that are embedded so deep in our tribal memory banks of daytime transmissions. The talk came around to children's programmes and Hope and Keen's Crazy Bus - which I can just about recall from the early Seventies growing up in Northern Ireland.

There is little on the internet about the comedy duo of Mike Hope and Albie Keen but what I could source confirmed that the two series they made in 1971-72 - Hope and Keen's Crazy House and Hope and Keen's Crazy Bus - followed on from a period when the Scottish comics were heralded as being the next Morecombe and Wise no less.

Crazy House was set in a house where anything could happen and where some of the rooms contained cool musical guests like Freddie and the Dreamers   - Crazy Bus had the duo on the road around Britain being stalked by a sinister villain in black known as The Shadow. I almost certainly recall one episode where they visited spooky Loch Ness though am absolutely sure the eponymous omnibus never visited my own Belfast hometown during that sad sad period of even darker shadows. The Hope and Keen Scene was their final series in 1975.

IMBD notes that three of the original seven episodes have been lost by the BBC however some kind soul has uploaded the gloriously catchy theme tune from the first series onto youtube. A public comment attached to this in turn recalls how the song was used in a pub scene in the fourth episode of the seventh series of Thames Television's  Public Eye drama in 1975 - They All Sound Simple At First. Alfred Burke with dimpled half pint glasses, car brochures, HP sauce, Carling Black Label and cuntish barmen.

The missing link no less between The Small Faces' Ogden's Nut Gone Flake and a Ringo vocal from The White Album period. There is a fantastic blending of vocal styles here  - Seventies transatlantic lounge eliciting a clearly Glaswegian echo.

Happy memories indeed of a more contented Britain....I would certainly rather be back in that crazy house now rather than in this fucking Common Purpose austerity asylum.

Please play this song at my funeral...

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