Archives for July 2011

EVERY DAY IS LIKE SUNDAY

Post categories:

Adam Curtis | 11:30 AM, Wednesday, 27 July 2011

THE DOWNFALL OF A PRESS BARON

As we wait to see whether Rupert Murdoch will fall from power and lose control of News International, I thought I would tell the extraordinary and forgotten story of the dramatic downfall of the newspaper mogul who used to dominate Britain before Rupert Murdoch arrived.

Cecil King ran the Daily Mirror - along with over two hundred other papers and magazines - and was as powerful and influential in 1960s Britain as Murdoch would become in the 1980s. The Daily Mirror dominated Fleet Street - and politicians bowed down to its power and influence.

 

But in 1968 Cecil King became convinced that Britain was heading for disaster - and he decided to engineer what in effect would be a political coup. He was going to use the Daily Mirror to try and bring down the Labour government.

Many in the Labour Party have believed ever since that Cecil King was conspiring with members of MI5 to destroy the democratically elected government, but there appears to be no hard evidence for this.

The truth is that King was in league with more familiar "rogue elements" - senior City of London bankers, including the Governor of the Bank of England, who wanted to force the Labour government to slash the financial deficit. But the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, was refusing to bow to their demands.

At the same time as this was happening, many of the journalists in Fleet Street were filled with a terrible doom about the future of newspapers. As a result the BBC got excited and went and made all sorts of films about newspapers - recording Fleet Street before it died. Some of the material they filmed is just wonderful - it is full of both touching and silly moments of an old world of journalism.

It also forms a fascinating backdrop to the strange story of Cecil King because much of the BBC material was shot inside the newsrooms of the Mirror, the Express, and the Times at the very moment King was planning his coup. So I decided to make a documentary film which both told the King story and also let some of the archive run longer than normal because it is so fascinating.

I have no idea who most of the journalists are who appear - but I'd love to find out.

Here it is. It's still a rough cut. As well as all the BBC stuff there is also a wonderful bit from the brilliant ITN Source archive - they kept the camera running as Harold Wilson rehearsed an address to the nation.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

BETWEEN THE GUTTER AND THE STARS

Post categories:

Adam Curtis | 13:36 PM, Thursday, 7 July 2011

Ever since I read the early part of Sharon Osbourne's autobiography I have wanted to make a film about the wonderful, odd culture of the British music industry. She writes vividly about her father who was a legendary music promoter called Don Arden - and the world she describes is a mixture of "Entrepreneur spelt S.P.I.V.", British music hall and even pantomime.

It is a culture that is often obscured by the waves of Americanization that Britain goes through - but it persists. And since the most recent wave of Americanization seems to be receding - and people are now becoming interested in how modern Britain links to its more distant past - I thought I would put up some extracts from films that show that odd Britishness peeking out every now and then in the music industry.

I was going to start with three films that approach this subject from very different perspectives.

The first is a documentary made in 1969 about a struggling pop band from Brighton and what happens to them over a year.

The centre of the story is how they first of all love and trust their manager - but then how that collapses into bitterness. He is called Mike and he is a brilliant character - here he is.

 

But there is also the agency Mike takes them to who promise to create "an extra aura" around the band - but refuse to do anything practical. Plus the producer of Top of the Pops who is just great in his overwhelming cynicism - "all pop managers are mean and silly".

Here are the four band members - including Roger the bassist - who has the best quote - "my ambition is to own a racing car - and perhaps drive it"

 

It all goes badly wrong, and the band give up on pop. They get a new manager - and they reinvent themselves as a prog-rock band called Leviathan and the film has a section where Leviathan do their new, political, song. It has the immortal lyric:

"I might go to parliament
To the seat of government
And turn them on to better things
"

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

The second film was made in 1981. It is about a woman called Val Lambert who lives in Gateshead in the North-East. Once upon a time she had been a star of the music halls - her stage name was Val Ferranti.

It is a film about a wonderful woman who refuses to give up. She still sings in the local clubs - and there is a beautiful hand held shot of her doing the Twelfth of Never. Plus a fantastic wallpaper/curtain mix in the background.

 

It was shot at the very moment when Gateshead was being decimated by the massive rise in unemployment that had begun the year before - and much of the local industry was about to disappear.

Val - along with a local comedian called Bobby Thomson who also appears - are the last fragments from the world of the music-hall that used to dominate the north-east. And there is a very touching section where Val goes to see a local early eighties synth-band rehearsing in the hall where she used to sing. Now the band are singing a song about "your digital DJ"

Here they are with Val watching them - I wonder what happened to them.

 

And here's the film. It has a very moving final shot.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

The third film was made in 1969 - and it follows four days of a tour of Britain by the legendary Rock and Roll star Gene Vincent.

It is beautifully made - and it watches Vincent with a really sympathetic eye as he struggles to get promoters and TV producers to pay him - because he is broke.

 

Gene Vincent had been a massive star only ten years before, but now much of that had gone and he takes you into a very British world of small dance halls on the Isle of Wight, cheap hotels where he has to tell the woman on the desk that he will be sharing with his roadie, and a rehearsal room in the basement of a pub in Croydon - where the walls are lined with old mattresses, plus a fantastic touring van.

It is just a wonderful film, full of long hand-held takes - and at the end you watch a man completely exhausted by his performance backstage in a tiny dance hall, and he really doesn't want to do it any more. But then the promoter comes up from the darkness and leads Vincent like a child, by the hand, back onstage to do an encore.

Less than eighteen months later Vincent died - because an ulcer burst in his stomach.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

NEWS INTERNATIONAL - RUPERT MURDOCH

Because of the renewed interest in the News International scandal - I thought I would put up the link to the piece I did earlier this year about the history of Murdoch's rise to power in  Britain, and how the British establishment have disapproved of him ever since the 1960s.

As Murdoch's first mentor in Fleet Street in the 1950s put it - 'Rupert was regarded as the Supreme Satan' - how prescient he was.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2011/01/rupert_murdoch_-_a_portrait_of.html

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.