Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Chok There

I once saw Apache Indian in concert. It was at the Barry Island leg of the Radio 1 Roadshow during that reggae-obsessed summer of 1993. Snow's Informer had already climbed to the top end of the charts, no doubt helped by the song's promise that he would "lick your bum bum now" (at least I think that's what he said). Chaka Demus And Pliers had teased us with their rhythm 'til we lost control and Inner Circle had made us sweat (a la la la la long) 'til we could sweat no more.

Many still believe that the defining moment of that era was Louchie Lou and Michie One trying to teach Mark "Joe Mangle" Little to Bogle on The Big Breakfast. For me, it was the hot summer lunchtime that day in Barry Island's Square when Gary Davies (or was it Jackie Brambles?) announced that Apache Indian was about to take the stage. The atmosphere was electric - the last time a crowd reacted so wildly was when The Beatles first arrived in America.

As the opening bars of Boom-Shack-A-Lack boomed out, everything was right with the world. When Apache told us to "wind our bodies" and "wriggle our bellies" we obeyed him. Oh yes, it was first class. He even did the extended mix of the track. By the end, everybody was satisfied. If he'd had the sense, Apache would have been too. Instead, he announced that he was going to perform another song. A ditty called Chok There, which was to be his new single. To quote Weezer at the end of the Buddy Holly video, this new song was "not so good, Al." Never have I seen a crowd go from rapturous applause to sheer dismay so quickly.

I swear I even heard somebody yell "Judas!" in the direction of the stage.

Suffice to say, he made me Boom-Shack-A-Leave and he never troubled the Top 20 again.

That's not to say that he didn't find other ways to make his presence felt. Some years later, I was watching late night television when I stumbled across a documentary on Channel 4 called Apache Goes Indian. It turned out to be a truly classic series that followed Birmingham's own Apache Indian as he visited India for the first time in his adult life. For me, the highlight of the documentary was a scene in which we see him being driven around on the back of an open-top jeep (a bit like that scene in Good Morning Vietnam where Robin Williams thinks he keeps seeing the same girl walking down the road). As Apache takes in the sights and sounds of the city he is moved to say "This reminds me of a song I wrote back in the UK called AIDS Warning." Once again, if he had any sense, he would have left it at that. Instead, he cleared his throat and, in his best half-Birmingham/half-fake-Jamaican singing accent (which was nothing like his actual speaking voice), he began to sing:

"This is a warning, across the nation..."

The picture then fades, not before giving us a final view of Apache's tour guide who by now has the most bemused look on his face that I have ever seen. Yes friend, I know how you feel - I've been there too.

Channel 4 really need to repeat this series for a new audience. I have a theory that watching Apache Goes Indian in these post-Ali G days would be like watching one of the Airport movies after seeing Airplane. You just couldn't be sure if it was supposed to be serious or intentionally funny. I like to think that maybe Apache was a comedy genius and a master of surprise. Instead, I'm more inclined to believe that he just had a talent for saying completely the wrong thing at exactly the right time. Thankfully, it doesn't make it any less entertaining.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Minority Sports

I love the way Sky Sports try to make everything as attractive and extravagant as their football coverage. I once watched an hour of Ten Pin Bowling followed by an extended session of Carp Fishing. I didn't even have any interest in either event, the coverage was simply so appealing. From the flashy graphics to the hard-rocking opening theme (and the obligatory Poker company sponsorship), I was on the edge of my seat. However, it wasn't the sporting action that kept me engrossed to the end, but the Class A commentaries.

Rolling The Ball

For almost the entire duration of the bowling show, the two commentators discussed the merits of wearing a well-fitting glove. The Finnish competitor was apparently setting a new trend by wearing a black leather glove on his right hand which left his thumb and two fingers exposed. His American opponent, on the other hand (literally - he was left-handed), wore a glove that only left his thumb exposed. Completely ignoring the actual bowling action, the commentators debated at length about the various pros and cons of such attire, before deciding that perhaps the American competitor had the right idea. Unfortunately, they decided this at the exact moment that the Finnish competitor took the lead with his third strike in a row. Thus the debated raged on. The American bowler really opened a can of worms (which is quite a difficult feat when you're wearing a leather glove) by pulling a roll of masking tape out of his bag (disappointingly, the bag was not covered in Wigan Casino patches in true Northern Soul style). He proceeded to tape up his exposed thumb so that he could really get a feel for the ball.

That's what the commentator said anyway. Personally, I had visions of him getting his hand stuck in the ball and going sliding down the lane after it in true Fred Flintstone fashion. Sadly, this didn't happen but his plan worked and he went on to win the game.The commentators were astounded. So astounded that they never did come to a final conclusion about the right kind of glove and just repeatedly discussed how it was a most amazing comeback. I'm sure that kids all over the country were rushing to B&Q for masking tape supplies before their weekend trip to SuperBowl.

We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat

The fishing show came across like an extended sketch from The Fast Show, but was the most rivetting thing I've ever seen. Having never been fishing myself, I was amazed at the things they use for bait. It's not just simple maggots anymore. It's peach scented pellets and bouncy little plastic balls and all kinds of fancy kit. I suppose if you get stranded out at sea, or in the middle of a lake, you at least have a tasty supply of fruity snacks and a toy if things get really desperate.

You don't get that kind of entertainment with worms. Unless you're a cat.

It all seemed to work though - I actually saw them catch a 30LB Carp - truly a monster of the lake. It would have made quite the feast with a bag of a chips, but they threw it back in.

Who needs mainstream sport when you can watch that?

Prawn Cufflinks on eBay

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