The (Very) Eclectic Mix of Honor Blackman, Andy Stewart and Eric Idle

Reminiscing in my last post about those shiny white boots worn by Nancy Sinatra, reminded me that in December 1990, the novelty song Kinky Boots by those intrepid Avengers Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman had made it to the top of the UK Singles Chart. Nancy had recorded the theme song to the Bond movie You Only Live Twice and Honor of course played infamous Bond girl Pussy Galore (wouldn’t get away with that name nowadays thankfully), so both ladies had a bit more in common than just a habit of wearing, and singing about, boots!

The reason that I know it was a hit in Dec 1990 is because I still have a copy of the 7-inch single in my collection! At that time BBC Radio 1 was aimed at a more mainstream audience and the Breakfast Show DJ was Simon Mayo. Every year prior to Christmas he championed an old ’60s novelty song and gave it copious amounts of airplay. Needless to say it always sold well and made it to the higher reaches of the singles chart, No. 5 in this case. I’m pretty sure my boyfriend of the time (now husband) bought it for my “hypothetical” Christmas stocking (trying to fit a record of any kind into a real stocking tended to be a physical impossibility).

Kinky Boots had been commissioned to accompany a short film about these fashionable items of footwear for the very popular early ’60s satirical TV Programme, That Was The Week That Was. The most obvious candidates to sing the song were the stars of the new spy-fi drama that was entertaining Britain at that time – The main characters in The Avengers were Steed with his bowler hat and umbrella, and Cathy Gale in her long thigh-length boots. This was a very new kind of role for a woman in television and Honor Blackman played her perfectly. The role must have led to her becoming the leader of the all-female Flying Circus in Goldfinger but there followed in her wake a string of other “Avenging” women namely Emma Peel, Tara King and in the ’70s, the iconic Purdey, who inspired a generation of girls to have their beautiful long hair cut into a bowl shape!

But back to Simon Mayo’s Breakfast Show on the radio – Unbelievably, the previous year the song he had championed was actually by our very own local hero, Andy Stewart. Andy had been a bit of an institution in Scotland in the world of light entertainment and presided over the excruciatingly embarrassing White Heather Club which ran for 10 years between 1958 and 1968. It portrayed a very tartanised version of Scotland, what with the kilts, the dancing, the accordions and all the other stereotypical falderals and although very popular with television audiences, if you were a kid like me, lapping up all the great music that was emerging from America and “Swinging London”, it was seen as very uncool.

But in his wisdom Simon Mayo must have discovered Andy’s novelty song Donald Where’s Your Troosers from 1960 and helped it reach No.4 in the December 1989 singles chart. This could be a difficult listen I grant you, but bear with it, as Andy was a great impressionist as well as a singer/comedian and his impression of Elvis (at 1:45) is still a really funny one.

Out of interest, the third of Simon’s attempts to influence the outcome of who might top the Christmas singles chart, was when he championed Always Look on the Bright Side of Life sung and written by Eric Idle. It had first appeared in the Monty Python film The Life of Brian and here it was back in the charts in December 1991, this time reaching the No. 3 spot. This song still resonates with us today and it has popped up quite frequently in the various blogs I follow of late – ‘Tis the times we obviously live in.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Monty Python:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I really miss that sense of community we used to get from all watching or listening to the same thing at the same time. If like me, you worked in an office back in the ’80s and ’90s, the topic of conversation first thing in the morning was whatever had been on television the night before (very memorable Wogan interviewees for example, and I think we all know who I’m talking about) and what the breakfast DJ had been playing as we got ready for work. Now all you get is, “Don’t tell me what happened, I’ve recorded it” or “I only watch Netflix and boxsets” or “I don’t listen to that radio station”.

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In an era with so much choice and so many ways to consume visual and aural entertainment we have lost what it was that used to bring us all together. The days of getting together for a sing-song around the piano have long-gone and now it seems we hardly ever watch or listen to the same things, at the same time. Maybe, just maybe, that is why I am enjoying the blogosphere so much – Once you are part of a little group, you end up all reading (watching and listening to) the same post at the same time and have a wee chat about it. It’s not the community of my parents generation and not even the community of 20 years ago, but perhaps it’s a new kind of community that works for the modern day world. I may not know much about any of you, but it’s nice that you take the time to drop by and leave some feedback – Whether I’m likely to get much feedback on a post featuring Andy Stewart remains to be seen, but here’s hoping!

Until next time….

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life Lyrics
(Song by Eric Idle)

Cheer up, Brian. You know what they say.
Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle,
Don’t grumble, give a whistle!
And this’ll help things turn out for the best
And

Always look on the bright side of life!

Always look on the bright side of life
If life seems jolly rotten,
There’s something you’ve forgotten!
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing,

When you’re feeling in the dumps,
Don’t be silly chumps,
Just purse your lips and whistle — that’s the thing!
And always look on the bright side of life

Come on!

Always look on the bright side of life

For life is quite absurd,
And death’s the final word.
You must always face the curtain with a bow!
Forget about your sin — give the audience a grin,
Enjoy it, it’s the last chance anyhow!

So always look on the bright side of death!
Just before you draw your terminal breath.
Life’s a piece of shit,
When you look at it.

Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true,
You’ll see it’s all a show,
Keep ’em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you!

And always look on the bright side of life

Always look on the bright side of life

Come on guys, cheer up

Always look on the bright side of life

Always look on the bright side of life

Worse things happen at sea you know

Always look on the bright side of life

I mean, what have you got to lose?
you know, you come from nothing
you’re going back to nothing
what have you lost? Nothing!

Always look on the bright side of life

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

14 thoughts on “The (Very) Eclectic Mix of Honor Blackman, Andy Stewart and Eric Idle”

  1. Ah, Purdie.. one of my first ever crushes. Although I didn’t really understand why at the time.

    But yes, I agree with your central thesis. Water cooler moments are gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I miss that – We’re all out of synch now in terms of our viewing habits and there is so much choice we rarely overlap and have those “Wow, did you see that last night?”moments. ToTP was good for that – we all discussed it the next day especially if someone like Debbie Harry had been on. As for Purdey she is still pretty fabulous today!

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  2. Interesting to read about the history of Kinky Boots. I used to watch The Avengers re-runs on Bravo. Did you watch the 60s or 70s Avengers? I saw a bit of both. Was something of its time. The series had a certain British charm and the succession of assistants reminded me of Doctor Who. The 1998 Avengers film with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman was soulless though.

    Eric Idle is multi-talented. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is a great song which I agree will never be forgotten. Would be nice to own an album with his career highlights.

    I agree the sense of pop culture community is somewhat lost in an era with so much choice. You are right the blogosphere can be a way of finding like-minded people!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even I am too young for the original Avengers Chris so only seen the re-runs and although I was aware of the ’70s New Avengers (Purdey and her haircut) our TV set seemed to be permanently tuned to the BBC – I always know if a show was BBC or ITV as I tended not to have seen it as a kid if it was the latter! And no, whenever they try to do a remake of these old ’60s shows they are never a success – Part of their charm was the low budget and how over the series you built up a relationship with the characters. Just doesn’t translate to big budgets and being compressed into 90 minutes.

      Too much choice and too much to discover nowadays – Most of it watered down or formulaic. I suppose if something is truly exceptional it does rise above the mire and we all watch/listen to it but sadly never at the same time – Arghh…..

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What an eclectic mix, as you say – Andy Stewart and Kinky Boots in the same post! – love it. I hadn’t thought before about how blogging can be like a new community for the modern world to replace the real-life conversations that used to take place about what everyone was watching on TV etc.- but yes that’s so true. It’s 17 years now since I’ve physically been with people I work with (erm, if you see what I mean!) and I remember fondly the coffee-machine conversations about latest episodes of The Fast Show or whatever it was we we had all seen the night before. I guess that doesn’t happen so much now. And when i-Player first appeared, I recall hearing someone on the radio expressing concern that we might lose that aspect of togetherness because we’d be watching different things at different times – and that’s now happened. But I think people still need and will always find a way to maintain that communal thing, and although it’s gone ridiculously OTT now with this peculiar idea that you have to ‘share’ EVERYTHING on social media (why?! I don’t need to see what anyone had for lunch last week, yesterday and today! Why would I?!) platforms like blogging do open up the chance for a little discussion on something we’re all mutually accessing. I really appreciate that. All we need now is a coffee machine….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes – Andy Stewart, quite a mix and really thought there would be no feedback but had put in the time so didn’t want to “trash” the post! I still work in an office and no-one ever watches/listens to the same thing at the same time any more so that ship has sailed in terms of bringing people together. As for me because of the blogging I am watching a lot less telly and probably only stick to one episode a night of one the excellent dramas around, and never in real time – changed days. Talking of offices, I start a new job tomorrow with longer hours so am wondering how that will affect my blogging activities but will try and keep it going – Mr WIAA has kindly offered to take on cooking duties so that’s a bonus!

      As for social media I got so fed up with the superficiality of it all, and how it could often cause a lot of upset, that I pretty much left it behind when I started the blog last year where I share ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING! An odd thing to have done but my thinking is that it’s unlikely that any of the people in the posts would ever stumble upon them and I’m getting lots of the stories down in “virtual print” before I get too old to remember them all – Something for the grandchildren (don’t have any yet though). Yes I like the idea of the virtual coffee machine or virtual water cooler – Would need a set time in the day to partake however and I have a feeling that we all have different timetables when it comes to blogging. Sunday evening used to be a good time for me but been too much good telly of late (that I can’t even discuss with anyone the next day!).

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    1. The first and last time probably – What would their love child have looked like? Honor Stewart sounds like a good name for a supermodel and Andy Blackman sounds as if he should be in a rock band!

      As for the job just a bit of a bigger one thus the extra hours but in the new LEAN office environment so not what it used to be like when we chatted about last night’s telly and what had been on the radio that morning – ‘Tis the times!

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        1. I’ll make absolutely sure I do!

          Thanks very much for the good wishes – Been staying up far too late recently browsing the blogosphere however so will have to acclimatise myself to early nights.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. What???? I can’t believe that I’d never heard of this one before. The Avengers (with Diana Rigg as Emma Peel) was my favourite show in the ’60s. (The Honor Blackman episodes weren’t broadcast here until much later, but I enjoyed catching up with them too.) By that time, I had my own TV set in my bedroom (a strategy by my mother to keep me out of her way) and I remember how much I used to look forward to this English programme. Thanks for posting the video, Alyson.

    “. . . the topic of conversation first thing in the morning was whatever had been on television the night before”, reminded me of arriving at school and joining in the excited chatter about the British bands that had appeared on “Shindig!” or “The Ed Sullivan Show” the night before! Good times!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you got the Avengers over there but I don’t think this song was ever in the show it was a one-off that didn’t actually make the charts until it was re-issued in 1990.

      Yes I miss that thing where we all used to dissect the previous night’s TV. Over here it was Top Of The Pops – If there had been a real standout performance it was the topic of conversation the next day! Good times as you say.

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  5. I loved all eras of The Avengers. I remember actually crying during Emma Peel’s last episode, when she passed Tara King on the stairs and told her how to make Steed’s tea – well I was only 8 years old! Now that was a water-cooler moment!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I so miss those kind of water cooler moments although in my case I didn’t really see The Avengers first time around as our telly seemed to be permanently tuned to the BBC – Still knew about all these strong women though. Knew Dr Who assistants better and always quite a big deal when they changed over. Always struggled a bit with our own Karen Gillan however – From about 2 streets away from us and watched her in school shows over the years – Now a big Hollywood star!

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