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This programme contains strong language
This year is the 10th anniversary of the 20th anniversary
of the non-release of Brian Pern's musical version
of The Day Of The Triffids.
To celebrate, Brian plans to stage the entire album
live from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa
with a host of special guests.
Brian has allowed multi-award-winning documentary maker Rhys Thomas, OBE,
unlimited access backstage to this groundbreaking show.
This is Brian Pern: A Life In Rock.
Right, Brian, a couple of things before we get down to business.
Who Do You Think You Are, the genealogy programme, has been in touch.
They seem to think they can get a very good show out of your ancestry.
What have they discovered?
It turns out you are related to the first official lesbian.
And the bloke who invented the top hat.
Yeah. That's what I thought. Anyway, I turned it down for you.
You're too busy. You'll be rehearsing the greatest hits tour.
-Oh, I wanted to talk to you about that, John.
You see, I was remastering some old tracks for the anthology box set,
and I came across The Day Of The Triffids album.
Do you know it's 36 years old this year?
And you still haven't fucking finished it.
John, I want to stage a one-off concert on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro,
like we initially planned in 1977.
It's so much more relevant now,
with GM crops, nature turning against man.
Brian, do understand how much a one-off concert like that would cost?
I don't care about the cost, John. This is for the planet.
Every second, a moth dies in Africa due to be effect of wi-fi on their wings.
Did you know that?
No, I didn't.
So you want me to call Live Nation, call off the tour?
And ask them to put up money for you to perform an unreleased album of unheard material,
live from the peak of one of the remotest mountains in the world?
I don't think it's too much to ask.
As far back as 1967, I always wanted to write my own rock opera. Er, yeah.
-I recall lending Brian my copy of The Day Of The Triffids, which I'd been given for Christmas,
and I'd hidden some mucky pictures inside.
I used to pass it round the dorm.
They'd borrow it for a little knob wattle
and then hand it back, you know?
Anyway, typically, Brian, he borrows the book for a week.
Doesn't look at the pictures - oh, no.
He's reading the bloody thing and then he hands it back,
and he's mapped out this entire rock opera.
Lyrics, notes, chords, the whole shebang. Yeah.
And oh, yeah, there's the mucky picture!
It's pretty tame by today's standards
but I would, wouldn't you?
Pink Floyd have recently released Live In Pompeii,
which was essentially four blokes melting
on some bloody volcanic rock formation.
So Brian thought Thotch could go one better,
and put on a musical version of Day Of The Triffids,
live from the peak of Kilimanjaro,
complete with actors,
meteor showers, 10-foot triffids - Jesus Christ.
Brian got us in to rehearse for the show, and we worked from his demos,
and, well, we improved them, frankly.
And then we saw the mock-up of the posters -
Brian Pern's musical version of The Day Of The Triffids,
and I thought, "Where the hell are our names?"
This was supposed to be a Thotch project.
Jesus, I'm not a fucking, you know, session musician.
So I told him to go fuck himself with the rough end of a pineapple.
..we haven't spoken since.
Good evening. No, I'm not Bob Harris after the operation.
I'm Anne Nightingale, looking after the Whistle Test this week.
Brian Pern appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test -
his first solo appearance -
and it was a bit of a shock to all of us really,
because he turned up as a giant triffid.
Well, since I've left Thotch, I've been spreading my wings a little.
We're now doing a full Day Of The Triffids album.
We've recorded quite a lot of music
and the way it's going, it could end up maybe, double, quadruple.
I felt that the album needed a form of verbal spine.
"Why don't we get a big film star to do the narration for the album?"
And we are very lucky to have Mr Roger Moore.
Well, to cut a long story marginally shorter,
I was in the middle of filming The Wild Geese in some sandy place,
playing the main goose, of course,
when I had a phone call from my agent
saying that a rock star called Brian Pern, of whom I'd never heard,
wanted me to narrate his musical version of Day Of The Triffids,
which happened to be one of my favourite books,
along with The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
-I mean, no-one knew what a triffid looked like, did they? Cos they didn't exist.
So I took it upon myself to just make it up.
I went down Kew Gardens in the middle of the night
and I nicked all sorts of rare plants, flora, fungi.
It's amazing what one woman, a small axe and 30 bags of speed can do!
-This can't be happening! It was a meteorite!
Am I the only one who can see?
# The triffids descend from the skies
# To sting your eyes...
Who is to blame for this catastrophe?
The Russians, or tearaway kids?
No. It's those wretched carnivorous triffids!
What you have to remember is that it had never been done before.
An actor on a rock album? Are you crazy? It was unheard of back then.
20-a-penny these days. Everyone does it.
I can think of at least... no examples.
Unheard of back then but it came at a price. Hated each other.
After we'd recorded the first two tracks we went back to Abbey Road
and he made me record every word in the English language separately,
in several different styles -
excited, scary, scared, sexy, with indigestion -
just so that he had all of the options
to stitch everything together.
In the end, he took 13 years,
cos he kept coming back and he never actually finished the album.
Well, yeah, that was not really my fault, although it was my fault.
Which is why the album still hasn't been released
and I've never been paid.
The bastard - excuse my Dutch.
Of course Jeff Wayne nicked the idea.
He was in the studio next to us all along
with the fucking cup to the wall.
He also nicked the idea of using a wild goose narrator.
We had Moore, so we go Burton.
Fortunately Jeff's a client, has been for 40 years so...every cloud.
To prepare for the Kilimanjaro concert, Brian is staging a warm-up
show at Wembley Arena three weeks before the actual performance.
I like to get involved in every aspect of the production.
I have mandate and veto on every little piece of the jigsaw,
otherwise the jigsaw will have a piece missing.
OK, I must reiterate this is completely meat-free concert.
We have a zero tolerance policy on all meat products.
I don't want any meat traded, sold in the auditorium, front of house,
in a foyer, backstage.
Only query we have from the arena management is where you
stand on jelly babies.
They contain gelatine which is a by-product of cow,
pig and other animal skin and bone.
In that case, John, they're off the menu.
Problem is Bassetts are a big sponsor.
-They have donated a heck of a lot of dosh.
-I don't think so, John.
Once you let one in, you open the floodgates, you know?
It's wine gums, fruit pastilles, flying saucers,
fireman's laces, star mix.
I don't want to get embedded with the...
Is there some kind of vegetarian jelly baby on the market?
I don't know, Brian.
I'll put that on my list of pointless things to do this week.
With weeks to go before the concert,
Brian must undergo a medical test for insurance purposes.
He has come to Harley Street for a check-up.
-So your blood pressure is rather high which concerns me.
Yep, and it sounds like you have a heart murmur
so I would like you to have an ECG scan so that we can establish
whether it's harmless or not or whether it's caused by acquired
valve disease or a congenital defect.
-Brian, couple of snags.
-Roger Moore cant make it in person at the warm-up show.
-He's stuck in New Zealand filming.
-He's gonna do it live on Skype from his hotel room.
-Big concern is the ticket sales for the warm-up show.
The promoters put sold out on the posters too soon so everybody
actually thinks the show has sold out and they stopped buying tickets.
-So the show hasn't sold out?
-No. Of course not.
You're performing your latest album in its entirety.
Nobody wants to hear that shit. They want hits. I did tell you.
But, John, it's an unheard masterpiece.
You've got to get out there, do a big publicity push.
I've got you on The Wright Stuff tomorrow morning.
Don't make me go on The Wright Stuff. I hate publicity, John.
You know I believe that the music should speak for itself.
Well, your music will be speaking to a fuckload of empty seats on Friday
unless you do something about it.
On the panel today, it's internet vine sensation,
comedian Shits and Giggles.
We have got annoying Australian author and broadcaster, Kathy Lette.
And finally, rock star, campaigner
and lead singer of the Thotch, Brian Pern.
So you want me to go on television and say the show is not sold out?
No, no, no, no. Don't do that, for Christ's sake.
-We don't want them to think we haven't sold out.
Brian, you're playing a warm-up gig, is that right, at Wembley Arena?
-And what exactly are you warming up for?
We're putting on a concert,
the first concert at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
We are raising awareness for moths that are dying in Africa.
Fantastic stuff. Where can we get tickets to see the show?
You say tickets have sold in record time
but some extra ones have just been released, OK?
-Well, I'm afraid the concert's sold out.
-I'm sorry. We've got to move on.
We've got to get to the headlines.
So what's your story from the papers, please?
Oh, this is a story from The Lancet.
It essentially ties in with the concert.
Moths are dying across the world
from wi-fi signals.
It's interfering with
their navigation systems
and they're having terrible headaches
and they're literally falling from the skies.
The article suggests that we ban wi-fi around moths
-and I just wonder what the audience thinks.
-Man at the back? Flaky skin.
-I think we all live with wi-fi today. You can't just throw it away.
I use wi-fi 60% of the day. I use a moth 0% of the day or about that.
-OK. Good point. Clearly, it's a tough issue, isn't it, Kathy?
It is a tough issue.
Moths to me are butterflies without the personality, aren't they?
So I say get out the mothballs.
-Can I just actually say that we haven't sold out?
-The man in the front.
Yeah, I think it is a bit of a joke, actually,
him saying that he's going to save the moths
but he finds it apparently impossible to just
sign a photo of himself which I've sent to him
with a stamp-addressed envelope and he can't even do that
and then pop it in the post or get one of his many minions to put it
in the post for him.
This is typical, Matthew,
of the attitude that these rock'n'roll stars have to all
the fans who dedicate their time and their money to their careers.
Let me tell you, Brian Pern, I've spent
thousands of thousands of pounds on you over the years - the albums
and the singles and the bass player's shit solo albums, right?
And incidentally, you owe me an apology for all the sex that
I missed out on before I got married cos women would come back
to my house, I'd play your music - taxi home. That was it.
And if I'd played them something like Simply Red, I would've been
boffing them every which way. It's not funny.
I got up at five o'clock this morning, come from Basingstoke just
so I could maybe catch you on the way in for a little selfie, right?
But no, you couldn't spare five poxy seconds
for one poxy little photograph.
Cos you were too busy coming in here
and sitting down and probably having some croissants or something.
I'm telling you what - you've sold out. You're just...
-Get off it.
What did you bring your manager in for, Brian?
-Brian, good news.
-Just wait. I'm just on the phone.
We've got great sponsorship offers from Millets, Lilywhites, North Face
and Blacks for the Kilimanjaro show
and all they want in return is a few free tickets.
I don't want anything to do with Blacks, I'm afraid.
-I'm not a fan of Blacks, to be honest.
I'm sure they're perfectly decent people. It's just a personal thing.
Blacks are donating a lot of money and equipment, Brian.
John, if you want the truth,
Steph had a thing with a member of staff at the Oxford Street branch
and it's all a bit raw so I'd rather just stay away from Blacks, if possible.
Later that day, Brian's come to Wembley for a tech rehearsal.
-There he is. Racist.
-Oi, you tosser!
What are you doing? They're egging me.
Fuck off, Brian!
What's going on, John?
There's protestors outside throwing eggs at me.
-I've been calling you all morning. Have you seen Twitter?
Look at this.
I'm not a fan of Blacks, to be honest.
What is this?
This one's quite funny, as it goes. They've put music with it.
I'm not a fan of Blacks, to be honest. What is this?
Some sound fuck-up on The Wright Stuff.
Your mike was still live when you said you didn't want anything to do
with Blacks whilst promoting your benefit concert in Africa.
-This is terrible.
-I don't know.
Bad publicity is better than none at all.
And the show's sounding like shitcakes.
-I need to issue a statement.
-Fine. Do it live on The One Show.
They want an exclusive with you. Make sure you plug the show.
We've got just 24 hours to fill seats
and buy some Calpol to save some moths.
-I'm not comfortable with this, John.
It's the only way we'll sell out.
-Oh, it's the triffid.
It's nice, isn't it?
# One, one, one. #
Brian, before we talk about The Day Of The Triffids concert,
I have to ask you about this footage that's been leaked online,
because it's pretty shocking, isn't it?
Yes, the whole thing's been a huge misunderstanding.
I was on the phone to...Blacks. Not Blacks. Blacks the clothing store.
So we have released some more tickets for the show, some seats aside
and both sides actually, so please come.
Come on, come all.
Now here's Gyles Brandreth with his report
on the hidden benefits of starch.
-Finally, it's the night of the show
and with the eyes of the world watching,
Brian is about to unleash
his Day Of The Triffids rock spectacular
into the universe.
These days, obviously, one can download an album onto an iPod
but can one download a live experience?
The warmth, the crowd, the interaction, the swaying hands,
the mosh pits, the sweat, the heat, the body odour, the lager fumes.
I'm actually feeling a little sick now.
-Mark and Paul have come to see you.
-Oh, they haven't, have they?
-Hi, Brian! How's it going, son?
-Good luck tonight, mate.
-Fancy a few beers after the show?
-Well, I don't drink.
Paul's got an idea.
Yeah, we were thinking that perhaps, we could get up at the end
and do like a funky Jailhouse Rock kind of thing.
Yeah. I've got my bass.
I don't think so. Thank you.
Anyway, nice to meet you and I hope you enjoy the show.
-Have a good one, mate.
-Thank you very much.
Sorry, guys. He's a bit nervous.
CROWD CHEERS AND WHISTLES
-Brian, good luck. Have a good show.
I'd like to thank you all for coming.
Nature has always been at war with man.
This is the Day Of The Triffids.
And I'd just like to say that I'm not a racist.
Come in. HE CHUCKLES
Jesus Christ, somebody wake him up.
Oh, bollocks. Oh.
Oh...on a day that you happen to know is Wednesday
starts off sounding like Sunday,
there's something seriously wrong somewhere.
I woke from my sleep, my eyes covered in bandages,
to the sound of silence.
I took off my bandages and looked out of the window
and to my horror,
I saw hundreds of people swarming around,
all bumping into things like morons.
Had they lost their minds?
No - they were blind!
Bloody blind! Blind!
This can't be happening!
It was a meteorite!
Am I the only one who can see?
# The triffids descend from the skies
# To sting your eyes...
Who's to blame for this catastrophe?
The Russians? Or tearaway kids? No.
It's those wretched carnivorous triffids.
# The triffids descend from the skies
# To sting your eyes
# And take our lives...
The triffid wreaked havoc as it shat poison from its pores,
squirting blindness left and right
like a psychotic green berk with stems but no mercy.
All around, people screamed in fear.
Within seconds, the whole of Essex was blind.
Billericay, Whitford, Shenfield.
Oh, shit! Bollocks!
Who are you? What?
-I first met Brian
when he was working on his Day Of The Triffids song.
He had this wonderful backing track
for a song he wanted to call Vegetative Lovers.
But Brian was never great on lyrics.
He was under pressure to get the record finished
so his manager called up and asked me to have a go.
Whoosh, whoosh! Oh!
What an ugly beast!
-It was very controversial, of course.
Brian's adaptation of the story included a love-making scene
between the female protagonist and a triffid.
# Plant or man, what is this?
# Plant or man?
# Plant or man, what can you be?
# Who are you to hurt me?
# No! What will our issue be?
# Man or tree?
It was the seventies, after all.
Everyone was pushing boundaries in taste, and in horticulture.
I was very keen to explore the sexuality of these plants.
They had desire to kill, to feed on flesh.
Surely, they had the same desire to reproduce.
# Oh, don't synthesise me!
# Your tendrils, like a beanstalk, are all around me...
The triffid held her delicately as it eased in the stamen
and hammered his bulbs away with ape-like ferocity.
# Oh, vegetative lover
# Oh, vegetative lover...
Who'd have known that making love with a plant
would be so exciting, yet so devastating?
But it didn't go down well with Germaine Greer or Percy Thrower,
I can tell you.
HE PLAYS SOLO
OK, so during the drum solo, one Triffid crack down,
I would like to run to the back of the auditorium
and appear amongst the audience,
give the people in the cheaper seats a bit of a thrill, make them feel part of the show.
DRUM SOLO CONTINUES
Where the fuck is it? They're walking out!
Excuse me! What are you doing?
-You have ticket?
-No, of course not - I'm on stage!
You have pass for get in?
No - I am Brian Pern, I'm the lead man here!
To get through here, you must have ticket pass.
-But I must be back on stage! This...
-I don't make the rules.
Get Paul and Mark on, quick!
-It's me - look!
-Are you saying I'm stupid?
-No! That's me, there!
-That is you?
-Then I must see your bottom.
-I must see your bottom!
Bottom is like fingerprint - I see on National Geographic.
The crack of your arse be like a fingerprint.
-I will identify you from this.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mark King!
-Let me see your arse!
-I can't show you!
-I want to see your bottom! Give me your bottom!
-Get out the way!
# Every time you go away
# You take a piece of me with you
# Couldn't take his eyes off Joe and me
# Looking back, it's so bizarre
# It runs in the family
# All the things we are...
# Looking back, it's so bizarre
# Hey, hey...
LOUD MUSIC, CHEERING
Oh, God - aftershow parties these days,
they're just...they're dreadful.
We used to have them, you know, at places like Kensington Roof Gardens.
Somewhere like that. They were fantastic.
These days, it's either in the bloody Ramada Inn
with a cash bar
or some shitty hospitality room down in some fucking basement
next to the bogs which reeks of roadies' arseholes.
Ha, well, aftershow parties, they were crazy.
The old cliche - dwarves with cocaine on their heads.
That's all true.
Yeah, it was a company called Short Snorts
who were the go-to people for dwarves and cocaine.
They provided both, with the dwarves at half-price.
I mean, you couldn't do that now,
it's not politically correct, of course.
And also it's very difficult
because the little buggers kept moving around.
You'd be...like that.
This is aftershow party, yes?
Yes, but you must have gold wristband. Only for cool people.
Hello. Ned. Come on. I want to go.
Hey, Brian! Brian, Brian! Come here. I have something for you.
Yes. Thank you. Goodnight.
See you, Brian.
Oh, you prick.
That was a good show tonight, Brian. Well done.
-I don't want to talk about it.
-You sure you want to go?
It's just getting warmed up back there.
Yes, I don't really like parties, as you know.
I could have got my nuts wet, though. Did you see that bird?
The prospect of you getting your nuts wet
-doesn't really appeal to me very much, Ned.
-It does to me.
-Put the radio on, Brian.
It's a bit boring in the back.
-So, Brian, your ECG results are back.
-You do have a heart murmur.
But it's probably harmless.
But I'd like you to keep an eye on things
and avoid all stress for a while.
So I'm not going to die any time soon, then?
-No, not for a good while yet.
But you could have a stroke.
At any moment.
So, seriously, Brian, take a rest.
But I have a charity gig to do at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.
-I can't tell you what to do.
At the end of the day, it's your choice,
but I would strongly advise against the trip.
Brian, Millets came up trumps
and have donated a huge whack to the Kilimanjaro concert.
They're supplying all the camping equipment.
Blacks have forgiven you
and they've offered a generous donation to the charity
and BBC1 have agreed to broadcast the show live.
That's great, John. When do we fly out?
Well, we fly on Friday but I'm afraid you don't.
-So I'm flying out on Saturday?
-You want me to fly on Sunday?
-Brian, you don't fly at all.
Ah, you want me to go by boat?
Lower carbon emissions, good thinking.
Brian, please don't make me spell this out.
I don't know how to say this so I'm going to do it in French.
HE SPEAKS FRENCH
Oh, I see.
Who's going to replace me?
-Is it Jeff Wayne?
-Don't...don't torture yourself.
No, it's OK. I can take it.
It is, isn't it?
Was that a nod? I can't see you.
-I've got my hand in front of my face.
Jeff and Sting.
And Mike Batt.
It was either get somebody as famous as them
or they'd broadcast the show on BBC4 rather than BBC1
and I knew you'd do whatever it took
to get the biggest audience possible for the moths.
Of course. Of course.
On the plus side,
Madame Tussauds in Antwerp
have just delivered your waxwork for approval.
Oh, is it any good?
I'll have a look.
Yeah. It's very good.