Having thoroughly enjoyed watching the first shows of The David Hamilton show being filmed a few weeks ago, I again made the short trip into Walsall to drop in on the latest recording session of the former Radio One DJ’s chat show.
Arriving at the studios just before the scheduled 1pm start I was shown straight into the studio as the recordings were about to start, however, a few minor technical issues with the microphones and cameras and an extended soundcheck from the houseband, The Parnells, meant that recording did not get started for a further hour, still, at least the studio felt a little warmer than the last visit and the audience numbers bettered the seven people that were there two weeks ago, but only just!
I was pleased to find the same friendly and relaxed atmosphere of a few weeks ago but this time with some improved general organisation around the studio floor as the crew were clearly settling into their new roles. It was a real shame that a small number of technical issues interrupted the proceedings, creating a few stuttering starts, resets and retakes, as this clearly took the edge off what would otherwise have been a more confident and assured production. That said, the crew and production team worked tirelessly to resolve the issues and managed the get another two shows recorded and ready for editing.
There were a few familiar faces from the first shows on set today, including John Henshall, who was again capturing the proceedings on camera and using his years of experience to provide ad-hoc support to the younger members of the crew.
Show host, David Hamilton, this week wearing a more conservative dark grey suit and pink tie, strode confidently onto the set to open the proceedings by introducing another medley of TV themes, again expertly played by The Parnells. Hamilton invited future TV viewers to send e-mails, tweets or post on Facebook the names of the themes, to addresses that will obviously appear on screen when the show goes out.
The first guest was auctioneer and valuer Mark Hannam, who also appears on the BBC2 show Flog It. Hannam, from Fieldings Auctioneers Ltd in Stourbridge, spoke about how his much younger self became interested in collectables and how he has built up his 25 years of experience in fine art and antiques. We also heard about how the internet has helped increase auction sales and how the online bidding process works for live auctions, where, as Hannam explained, the charisma and passion of the auctioneer alone can increase a selling price for an item.
Being a DJ, Hamilton soon highlighted Hannam’s specialism in music, of the mechanical kind, and they discussed the value of music boxes from Victorian days before chatting about the challenge and competition element of the Flog It show and how his involvement in the programme had come about. Finally we heard about his greatest and favourite find, an abandoned lead statue, and how he had used his vast experience to identify the makers, Bromsgrove Guild, as the same craftsmen that had made the cast iron gates of Buckingham Palace.
The second guest was singer/songwriter Stephanie De Sykes, who had a huge UK hit with Born With A Smile On My Face in July 1974. The conversation naturally started with this number two hit single and its appearance in the ATV soap, Crossroads. The initial discussion points covered the reasons why the song failed to reach the top of the charts, including the obvious George McCrae hit Rock Your Baby, and Holly Brown, the Crossroads character played by de Sykes, that had performed the song in the soap. The character of Holly Brown reappeared again at the 1975 wedding of Meg and Hugh Mortimer when she performed the number 17 hit We’ll Find Our Day (in a sequence filmed at Chateau Impney in Droitwich) which de Sykes also recalled during the discussion. Both songs and a third track, It’s Been A Long, Long Day, also featured in the wedding episode were written by the TV theme tune king Simon May.
The conversation then moved onto song writing and the two Eurovision songs that de Sykes had co-written with her then partner Stuart Slater. The first song, The Bad Old Days by Co-Co (featuring future Eurovision winner Cheryl Baker), did not fair well in the 1978 contest and finished 11th of 20 songs, making it the worst performance from a UK entry at that time. Undeterred the song writing duo returned to the contest in 1980 with, Love Enough For Two by Prima Donna (featuring another future Crossroads singer, Kate Robbins). The song finished a respectable third in the contest won by Ireland’s Johnny Logan’s with What’s Another Year.
Another talking point of local interest was the ATV start-up song Odyssey which de Sykes performed with backing group Rain. For those too young to remember the days when TV was not a 24 hour machine, it will come as a surprise to find that channels actually shut down for the evening before restarting again the following morning. The accompanying video clip for the channel start-up song was fondly recalled by de Sykes as showing off the best the Midlands region had to offer, mixing countryside and cityscapes during the four minute track.
I felt the interview ended on a slightly awkward note with Hamilton questioning de Sykes about her nine year relationship with TV star Angus Deayton. Fidgeting a little in her seat she seemed a little uncomfortable speaking about their bitter break up and the host did not press this line of enquiry that much further.
Guest three required a quick redressing of the set, so out came the crackers, tinsel and Christmas hats, which were all carefully placed to welcome Andy Park, the self-appointed Mr Christmas. Bouncing onto the set Park (or should I call him Christmas – I’m not sure) was full of energy and joined Hamilton on the set to perform a short boogie to the Christmas entrance music supplied by The Parnells. Dressed in a Christmas tie and hat and sporting a spring of mistletoe on his jacket lapel; Park was every inch the eccentric you’d expect from a man that has celebrated Christmas every single day since July 1993, and as the conversation progressed he confirmed this was the actual case.
The electrician explained how he has mince pies for breakfast and turkey for dinner before settling down to watch the Queen’s Christmas Day message, on tape obviously, but at 3pm prompt and of course with a tipple of sherry, every single day of the year. He explained that it started in July 1993 when he felt quite sad and decided to cheer himself up by getting out his Christmas decorations and cooking himself a Christmas dinner. It cheered him up so much that he’s now done it daily for nearly 23 years. He even writes himself Christmas cards and posts them through his own door, he has no other option as who else would be sending him Christmas cards in the middle of August?
He lovingly spoke about his pet turkey, who he has named Tinsel, quoted some ridiculously large numbers when talking about how many sprouts and mince pies he has eaten during his daily celebrations and detailed the response he got from Buckingham Place to his kind invite offering Her Majesty The Queen the use of his home in Melksham, Wiltshire to record her annual Christmas message.
I must admit that whilst he was entertaining, mainly due to his quirky and cheery persona, I was struggling to find a connection that placed him on this particular show. Just as I was about to give up all hope of working it out, the missing link was finally revealed. It transpired that Hamilton, along with fellow DJ Mike Read and Slade guitarist Dave Hill, had visited Mr Christmas at his home to record a video to a novelty Christmas charity song under the name of the Shooting Stars. The 2009 song, My Christmas Card To You raised money for the Shooting Stars Children’s Hospice but failed to make the UK Top 40 charts.
The show ended as the final interview had begun, with Hamilton and Park jiving away as The Parnells played them out.
After a short break and a quick change of suit and tie, David Hamilton was back and introducing another Parnells medley of TV theme tunes, but this time they were all aimed at a younger audience. Amongst the many tunes played I did catch a familiar burst of the Roobarb and Custard theme, and again the viewers were invited to send in their own guesses to the shows themes that were included (So those that have read this in advance will now have a slight advantage).
The TV themes played were a link to the first guest of the second show, former television producer and director, Clive Doig.
Doig explained his TV career with the BBC started in the fifties and that by 1963 he’d work his way up to the role of vision mixer on a new show called Dr Who. No one knew back then that the show would be the huge success we know it for today but the nation quickly took to the sci-fi series and Doig was right there at its inception.
He explained that after that he’d progressed into the children TV section of the BBC and he directed the Vision On series with Tony Hart. He spoke about producing the shows The Deceivers and Eureka, both collaborations with Jeremy Beadle and spoke about how his friend was often misunderstood due to the ‘prank’ style shows where he made his name. He went on to explain his ‘repertory company’ approach to his TV shows and named a few of the regular actors and actresses he’d regularly worked with on a number of shows, one of which we would meet later in the show.
He described in detail the now legendary Beadle’s About alien spacecraft stunt, that he devised, was meticulously created and set up to fool the ‘victim’ but also carefully planned to protect and care for the ‘victim’ to ensure she was not affected by the scale of extraterrestrial events. Once the show aired, it made a farmer’s wife, Janet Elford, the talk of the nation after she had sung and offered a cup of tea to the alien life form that had emerged from the spacecraft that has crash landed on their land.
As the final guest of the day shimmied seductively across the studio to join Hamilton, The Parnells belted out the James Bond theme and the audience were about to be find ourselves in the presence of a genuine, bona fide, Bond girl.
Madeline Smith had been cheerfully chatting to the other guests for much of the afternoon and had already shown that she was a charming and cheerful lady with an interest and plenty of time for everyone she enthusiastically chatted with.
Her joyful charm continued once she sat in the blue chair and she openly discussed her childhood, accompanied with pictures provided by John Hensall and how she started off in acting.
Leaving the obvious Bond discussion for later, Hamilton started with questions about Smith’s early career in Hammer Horror, Carry On Matron and Frankie Howerd. I’m not sure how many clips will be aired on the TV edited version of the interview but in the studio we got to see Smith’s brief scene in Carry On Matron, with Hattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor (Smith plays Mrs Pullitt in a scene that starts around eight minutes into film) as well as a brief excerpt from the film short The Passionate Pilgrim, Eric Morecambe’s last screen appearance before his death in 1984. We also heard about the shows that Smith had worked on as part of Doig’s repertory company, making a nice and easy link to the previous guest for this particular show.
The conversation moved onto the Two Ronnies serial, Hampton Wick, which Smith revealed was written by Ronnie Barker and not the credited G. Wiley and A Gentleman, and she seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed working with Messrs Barker and Corbett. A brief section was recorded about the 1972 Lionel Jeffries film, The Amazing Mr Blunden, which starred Diana Dors, but at the time of recording it was unclear if clearance would be obtained to show the clip so that may be cut from the TV show by the time it airs.
Finally we heard about that famous scene from Live And Let Die and the secret of the ‘magnetic watch’ and the zipper on that blue dress, and the three days spent in bed with Roger Moore. I was disappointed that, given the local appeal, the 1974, Birmingham based, Cliff Richard movie Take Me High was not discussed; in which Smith played Cliff’s girlfriend, Vicki. I did speak to Madeline about it briefly afterwards and she told me she had to ‘always tell Cliff off’ during their scenes together, but didn’t elaborate on the exact reasons why.
Madeline Smith was the perfect guest to finish a great days entertainment with and she quite happily stayed around to signed autographs and pose for pictures with the audience. I shall be interested to see how these two shows have been edited when broadcast as all guests had interesting tales to tell but unfortunately some of it will need to be cut to keep within the time allowed, which is a real shame.
Finally, I got my own souvenir of the day, thanks to John Henshall who took this picture for me.
The David Hamilton Show will air at 8pm on Tuesday evenings, starting from 3rd March of Big Centre TV, on Freeview channel 8.