Kid's TV wasn't like this in our day!


In the time before the internet, it took something like Clive James On Television to bring to the attention to the rest of the world the folly of weird television and unfortunate [mis]translations. But this is the time of the internet, and news travels so fast that a story can break late at night and disappear before I've even had time to blog about it.

It was Clive, if you'll recall, who let the the rest of the world in on Japan's excellent game show, Endurance, in which contestants had cockroaches stuffed in their undies while they were hung upside down above snakes, and the like, in order to compete for some prize that couldn't possibly be worth all that they'd…  endured. But it wasn't just a matter of making fun of weird foreign television to satisfy and insensitive audience; Clive gave us a context and an explanation, presenting even the most ridiculous footage with a modicum of respect:

There had been a day when young men like these would have been taking off in planes they barely knew how to fly and heading for a sky full of flak, all in the hope of a different kind ofgrand prize - the chance to crash into an Allied warship.

(as told in Clive's fifth volume of autobiography, Blaze of Obscurity)

I'm not gonna wax as erudite for this one.




This was the story: a children's show in Japan featured a host whose jumpsuit bore rude slogans such as 'I LOVE SPONSORS', 'I LOVE C*CK', 'I LOVE P*SSY' and 'LOVE F*CK YEAH'. There was footage on YouTube.

That's it.



I knew, from recent experience with Cellular Solutions ("the leading communications provider to South East England") there'd be a little window of opportunity before the primary source was removed, censored or hidden.

So I quickly shot a video of the clip playing on my computer, with my phone. And then grabbed some screen caps. Before I finished, the clip was made private.




Here it is, for as long as it stays online, before it's taken down. Sorry. It's so low-fi, you're not gonna be able to read the costume. But you will recognise the design on the shirts the kids are wearing: they're in Nirvana t-shirts, bearing the instantly recognisable  logo - the acid house smiley with the stoned eyes and flakey mouth. Fittingly, the logo was adapted "from a downtown strip club called 'Lusty Lady'". As with the tribal patterns and kanji script that have become trendy patterns on upholstery, t-shirts and tattoos, the folks in charge of wardrobe for this show are interested in what the patterns look like inshot, more than what they might mean to an unlikely audience stumbling onto the program by accident.



It Was Ten Years Ago Today – Give Or Take A Coupla’ Weeks

A decade and some weeks ago, give-or-take, I was walking past the Flinders Street Station in Melbourne and noticed far too many dour-faced sullen youth gathering under the Flinders Street Station clocks. If I had looked close enough perhaps I would have noticed the various coarse materials in shades of brown, and maybe would have connected it to the grunge movement. Instead, it was the headlines of all the newspapers that informed me of the reason for their gathering: Kurt Cobain, front man of Nirvana, had committed suicide. The growing throng of weeping kids were keeping mournful vigil.

I happened to be the music editor of my university’s student newspaper at the time, but I could no more understand those kids’ pain than I could their coarse brown material aesthetic. Ultimately, I didn’t realise that Kurt Cobain was the jongluer of that generation because I just didn’t get grunge. Sure, enough slowly aging music enthusiasts kept telling me how rock re-invents itself every half generation – how every ten years or so the next bunch of spotty teenage kids gather up their electric guitars, distortion peddles and spotty teenage angst and combine them into rapid-fire three-chord rants. ‘Grunge’, they’d argue, was my version of their ‘punk’. I may have been complacent enough to buy this reductionist argument then, but that wasn’t the reason that Cobain failed to receive a fitting obituary in the year when both Frank Zappa and Richard Nixon did; Cobain’s tragic departure, like his musical achievements, went unappraised purely as a result of my ignorance.

Thus, required to provide a news story about Kurt Cobain for the tenth anniversary of his passing, and realising that a discourse on coarse brown material would not suffice, it was clearly time to defer to a higher authority on the subject. Although this could clearly be just about anyone, it turned out to be Simon Holmes, a straight-talking musician, producer and retailer I have known for a while. “I don’t profess to be an expert on any topic,” Simon warned me the morning I met him at his aptly-named record shop, ‘Enthusiasms’. I wasn’t fazed; his general knowledge is as impressive as his modesty.

It’s worth mentioning here that Simon was in the band The Hummingbirds, and that their debut album was entitled Love Buzz. Around the same time that the album came out, imports of an American single with the same title started appearing in cool, independent record shops. Nobody in the Hummingbirds camp was too fussed about it. It was a single from a little independent label in Seattle, the first single by some band nobody in Australia had ever really heard of before, called Nirvana.

This interview with Simon Holmes was broadcast on Saturday April 10 2004.

Music: ‘Lithium’ – Nirvana

I like it,
I’m not gonna crack.
I miss you,
I’m not gonna crack.
I love you,
I’m not gonna crack.
I killed you,
I’m not gonna craaaaaack.

Demetrius Romeo: Simon, tell me a bit about ‘grunge’. Where did it come from, and why did it take off?

SIMON HOLMES: It came from Seattle, is the traditional wisdom, which is probably true because it all revolved around the Sub Pop label, which was an indie label out of Seattle, and I think that it was active in an underground sense for a year or two before it crossed over, obviously, with ‘Nevermind’. I guess you could charactise it as ‘rock’ more than anything else: 70s rock but with irony added, which gave it a kind of a contemporary feel as well. But it was a re-action against prevailing styles. And I think it crossed over because Nirvana made an insanely great record which was very exciting to listen to, an record that a twelve year-old could play, but in the best possible sense, you know.

Music: ‘Come As You Are’

Come as you are,
As you were,
As I want you to be,
As a friend,
As a friend,
As an old enemy

Demetrius Romeo: People have said that ‘Nevermind’ wasn’t really what Nirvana sounded like live. How did it differ to what they actually did when they were performing?

SIMON HOLMES: Well I only saw them once live, but by the time I saw them they were very exciting and incredibly loud and all of that kind of thing, but the record ‘Nevermind’ itself is a very produced record and a very engineered record. It’s a huge sound that is actually harnessing a lot of technology in a very subtle way to make a very enormous, exciting kind of sound which they couldn’t exactly reproduce live, and which I think they probably resented by the time it was released. It was like a shining, perfect beast of a record, an ‘immaculate conception’, if you will.

Music: ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ - Nirvana

Load up your guns, bring your friends
Its fun to lose, and to pretend
She's over bored, and self assured
Oh no, I know a dirty word

Hello, hello,hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?

Demetrius Romeo: What was it that caused Nirvana to take off and be so huge so quickly?

SIMON HOLMES: Well, you know, amazing songs, incredible production, extraordinary performances and all that goes with it. And the most important thing of all, which is, of course, being in the right place at the right time, which noone can ever really engineer. But it’s a really exciting record, and it’s a very ‘pop’ record as well as being ‘none more rock’ at the same time. It kind of covers all the bases, so I think it’s truly exceptional in every respect, and it would have been very strange if it hadn’t gotten a lot of attention. But it just came at the right time, so it just went ‘over the edge’, if you will.

Music: ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ - Nirvana

With the lights out its less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us

Demetrius Romeo: Would Nirvana have endured if Kurt Cobain had endured?

SIMON HOLMES: They certainly were returning to form in terms of making more abrasive records, which I think is what they probably would have wanted to do, and that’s obviously completely legitimate as well, but it’s never gonna appeal to as many people as a very, very accessible record. But bands, whenever they get successful, make records about how hard it is to be successful, so they were only following true-to-form in my opinion. But yes, probably if they wanted to they would have been completely valid now had they still been around.

Music: ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ - Nirvana

I gazed a gazely stare,
We walked a million hills --
I must have died alone,
A long, long time ago.

Demetrius Romeo: What are the lasting effects of Kurt Cobain’s legacy?

SIMON HOLMES: A million kids in a million bedrooms playing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, and playing it with their mates in bands. And I think that’s obviously a good thing. Certainly, ‘rock’: the whole idea of ‘rock’ became more fashionable after Nirvana came along, and I think ‘rock’ is still fashionable now. Whether or not there would be such a 70s undertone to so many things – it’s interesting to speculate whether that would actually have happened. I do think that certainly Kurt wrote accessible songs and the band played them extremely well. Everyone loves a good tune at the end of the day, and if it’s an exciting performance as well you’ve got everything, really.

Music: ‘Immodium’ - Nirvana
Instrumental introduction.

SIMON HOLMES: (referring to track): It’s the most amazing drum performance of all time. No matter if it’s been ‘corrected’ with computers or not, and I don’t know if it has been, but I do know that when Kurt saw Dave [Grohl] for the first time, he said, ‘I’ve seen the greatest drummer in the world’ and you cannot underestimate the power of that drumming along with all the other musicianship that was going on. It was a very, very powerful performance musically. That’s something that can get overlooked in terms of the big picture: the actual quality of the performance of the musicians is quite exemplary as well. Even if you don’t like them, you can’t help but admire their accomplishment.

Music: ‘Immodium’ - Nirvana

“I don't even care, we could have a tree”
She said, she said, she said, she said

Demetrius Romeo: Simon Holmes, thank you very much.

SIMON HOLMES: My pleasure.

Music: ‘Immodium’ - Nirvana

She said, she said, she said, she said
I don't care, I don't care, I don't care,
Care, care, care, care