Brian looks at rock stars who turn to acting, charity singles and protest songs. Plus, how the Russians tried to take down the Concorde containing Phil Collins.
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This programme contains very strong language.
Over 40 years, I've been playing music all over the world,
both as lead singer of Thotch and as a solo artist.
I invented world music...
I was the first musician to use plasticine in videos...
The first musician to record with animals...
My last album had the lowest bass line ever recorded.
DISCORDANT BASS TONE
And long before Bob Geldof and Bono,
I was staging charity concerts
and writing songs to raise awareness for the helpless and the homeless.
# Why no black folk in Jersey?
# Why no black folk in Sark?
# Why no black folk in Guernsey?
# Are they having a lark? #
This is The Life Of Rock with me, Brian Pern.
MUSIC: Rock And Roll by Led Zeppelin
-# People try to put us d-down...
-Talking about my generation
# Hope I die before I get old. #
"I hope I die before I get old,"
sang a 21-year-old Roger Daltrey back in 1965.
Thankfully for his fans and family, his hope didn't come true.
He's not dead. But he is old and still singing the same song.
But Roger's sentiment back there remains just as pertinent
to rock stars of all g-g-generations
as r-r-rock music is all about y-y-youth.
It's all about discovery and adventure.
Rock will do anything to stay young.
It's Mr Tom the Jones.
Tom Jones has been trying to stay young for over 40 years.
But one thing that doesn't age is his voice.
# Yeah...! #
But not everyone is as lucky as Tommy Jones.
The average life expectancy of a rock star is 37,
which is lower than an Indian peasant or a Glaswegian.
Drugs and drink contributing factors, of course.
So, middle age hits you pretty quick if you work in this business.
However, halfway through the middle age of rock,
something came along which was to change the face of music forever.
JAUNTY SYNTH MUSIC
This was music made by men in white coats.
The studio, for them, was a laboratory.
I know this sounds crazy,
but Moog was an offensive word in those rock'n'roll days back then.
If anyone uttered the word on Radio One Rock Show
or The Old Grey Whistle Test, it was, well, it was bleeped.
It was like saying "cunt", bleep!
Or "cock fucking cock sucker," bleep!
You'd get beaten up for saying it out loud on a tour bus or in the street.
Moogism, I think it was called, was absolutely...
It was rife.
I was very resistant to the Moog. I'm a guitarist.
The Moog is a soulless instrument. "Woo-ee!"
It's knob twiddling.
I can make a guitar sound like anything I want.
I can make it cry, sing, make it sound like a chain saw.
ORDINARY GUITAR NOTE
I can make it sound like bagpipes.
-Or a seagull.
SAME NOTE AGAIN
As far as I'm concerned,
the synthesiser and other such electric devices
are only good for calling the pigeons home.
I wrote a piece of music for the synthesiser entitled Bell's End
which was performed at St Paul's Cathedral
on 4th February, 1973,
through to 5th February, 1973.
It wasn't until much later that the instrument became
accepted into the mainstream.
The breakthrough hit was Popcorn.
After the success of Popcorn,
it became accepted in certain people,
like myself and Rick, Yes, ELP, Roxy...
They all came out of the Moog closet and openly played it.
It was liberating.
Tony Pebble, a great player.
We've got this sort of rivalry because he found out
that I went to the Royal College of Music and he didn't.
Secondly, because when he discovered that I started playing at five,
he got the right hump and started going around telling people
that he started playing in the womb.
He claimed that his mum would take the bloody bump along
to piano lessons and, while the teacher tinkled on the piano,
Tony would run up and down playing on the lining of her uterus.
What utter bollocks.
I was equally outrageous.
I can remember, on one occasion, I unbuttoned my shirt,
then I put some shades on.
Yeah, I think I looked pretty cool.
# I am your automatic lover... #
It wasn't long before robots themselves were making music.
# I am your automatic lover... #
This song was a huge hit in 1978,
fusing disco, electronica and robotics.
What a lot of people don't know is that the person inside the suit
was the writer and producer, and that person was me.
-Hello? I'd like to get out now.
It's quite hot in here. It's hot in here.
Can I get out now, please? Hello?
In the '70s and '80s,
many musicians feared that robots would take their jobs.
And when you see what these guys can do, who can blame them?
But if robots can be programmed to play instruments like that,
they can also be programmed to kill, like this.
So be careful with that screwdriver, Eugene.
The next step was disco.
# Another one bites the dust. #
When Queen were number one in America
with Another One Bites The Dust,
anyone hearing them on the radio would think they were black.
It was the same with Michael Jackson.
Everybody thought he was black, too.
So, when Brian suggested he wanted to do a disco album,
I thought this was an excellent idea
and I put a deposit down on a vineyard in Malta.
But there was only one man in the '70s who could give the white man
the funk - Nile Rodgers from Chic.
I used to be called Nigel Rogers
but I dropped the G and swapped the L and the E around,
made it Nile. You know, Nile.
They all wanted the Nigel Rodgers touch
and some get-going disco.
It all started when I worked with Max Bygraves.
He was a man who had hands and sang about a homo toothbrush.
# I'm getting married in the morning
# Ding dong, the bells are gonna chime! #
He knocked around the studio for a mad couple of days.
He was real funny.
# I'm getting married in the morning... #
So anyway, I get a call from Brian Pern.
He had this track called Breakfast
and he was thinking of turning it into a disco track,
as he'd never made a disco album.
It was a debacle. This was music for drainpipes.
I got hold of it, put some funk in the trunk.
-# Disco breakfast
# When I first met you, your head was in flames... #
And then Brian made a disco album
and I remember watching him on Top Of The Pops like this.
# Inside they were dancing, gasping for air... #
I thought, what the fuck is he doing?
It's quite literally Mike Smash here,
and this week's lowest new entry in the pop chart
is Brian Pern with Disco Breakfast!
He'd spent so bloody long working on it,
by the time it came out in '85, the disco bubble had burst.
The album crashed. Not even Nile Rodgers could save it.
No matter how bad your latest album may be,
you can still shift a few million units
with endless early morning TV promotion.
These cost the best part of a million pounds' worth of injuries to us,
-the National Health Service.
-I've cut my thumb very badly on one, yes.
They were rather dangerous and I think something has to be done.
In order to appeal to the younger market and stay fresh,
rock stars often have to appear on television that really isn't cool -
And for once, they have to be on their best behaviour.
But sometimes, it's the kids who misbehave.
When I was doing Swap Shop,
it was on Saturday mornings and it was live...
Used to have quite a few pop stars come in
and maybe sometimes came in with a bit of a hangover.
They'd have a go at trying to pull Maggie Philbin or Delia Smith,
or, depending on their persuasions, even have a crack at Craven.
It wasn't the pop stars that were the issue, to be honest.
Hopefully, we have a call for you straightaway. It's live on the line,
if you'd like to pick up the phones there.
What I recall is that it was the kids.
We were live, there was no delay.
We just never knew what they were going to say.
-Hi, who are you?
Hello, Tracy. What can I do for you?
'Are you into wife swapping?'
Ah, that question.
-I wouldn't say that.
-No, I don't think I am, either.
When record sales dried up for artistes,
there was always another avenue they could go down - acting.
It's invariably an absolutely shocking move.
I think they shouldn't be allowed to act.
It should be banned.
I can think of several instances in which case
I've nearly died from cultural shock.
Mick Jagger, however, appearing in his first film since 1970,
is quite the ineffable twit that he sometimes seems.
Ringo Starr drifts in and out in a performance which suggests
that he should run, not walk, to the nearest acting school.
What opens this week is The Krays, starring Gary and Martin Kemp.
The acting, I have to tell you, is quite terrible.
David Essex, I thought, was the first successful musician
to transfer over to the world of acting.
I can't remember the name of his film. It was about a funfair.
That'll Be The Day.
Brian had noticed that I'd got a lot of my other acts into
big TV shows, films...
Sting in Dune, Bowie in Happy New Year Mr Christmas
or whatever it was called,
and Suggs into Rambo: First Blood Part Two.
So, I got him into one of the biggest soaps of the '80s.
-Look at that.
I wonder what it's like topsides.
I think I'll go and find out.
Oh, I like a man in uniform.
-Are you a passenger?
-I bought my ticket.
It's a free country.
This is a private area here. This is the cruise deck.
-Officers and crew only.
-Bugger off, I'm having a sleep.
Brian also auditioned for parts in Long Good Friday...
I put money in all of your pockets.
Which one of yous is a grass?
I'm Buster Edwards. Which one of yous is a grass?
I'm the goblin king. Which one of yous is a grass?
Thankfully, for cinemagoers everywhere,
he didn't get any of them.
Some rock stars who couldn't act decided to put
their names and faces to worthy causes.
Hey, you two! Come here. How old are you?
-Well, if you want to live to be ten,
you'd better learn to stop at the curb.
And I mean stop, right?
Look at those two! They must be crazy.
A double-decker bus could have come along
and made an eggnog out of their noggins.
Hey, you've got to be careful to look where you're going,
otherwise the only place you'll be going is heaven or hell,
or purgatory, depending on which you believe in.
So look left, look right, be smart, be safe.
In the early years of rock music, the most popular song writers
were singing about love or dancing and rocking around clocks.
Music was for entertaining.
But others were keen to send a different message
out to their listeners.
This was when the protest song was born.
# How many roads must a man walk down... #
It was Bob Dylan who kick-started the protest song
and was an inspiration to us all.
As you know, I'm a political animal.
In my solo career, I've drawn attention to certain events
and situations that would not normally have registered
to fat, white, middle-class people.
In 1982, I wrote my own protest song
when I saw this shocking footage of John Bartlett,
a man arrested by the police in Australia
for eating a Chinese meal without chopsticks.
Gentlemen, this is democracy manifest.
Have a look at the headlock here. What is the charge?
Eating a meal, a succulent Chinese meal?
I was so enraged by the footage,
I had to act upon it immediately.
# John Bartlett ate a Chinese meal
# A succulent Chinese meal... #
Get your hand off my penis!
This is the bloke who got me on the penis, people.
# ...and egg-fried rice
# Pretty soon he'd have to pay the price
# The waiter said
# You must sling your hook
# Mistaking John for a common crook
# In a headlock, they compressed his nuts
# Drove him off With no ifs or buts
# All John wanted was a Chinese meal
# Now it's dark and it's cold... #
The impact of that song was immense.
I mean, it brought down the Australian government
and no-one was arrested for eating a Chinese meal ever again,
which has been a great relief to quite a few of us, let me tell you.
# This is democracy manifest
# Get your hands off my penis... #
The protest song evolved into the charity single.
And in 1984, one man had the vision to save the starving in Africa
by making the ultimate charity record of all time.
That person was me.
It was 9:05,
October 23, 1984.
I got a call from Brian. He said,
"Are you watching the Nine O'Clock News?"
I said, "No, I'm watching Gentle Touch on the other side."
-Damn you, damn you, damn you.
He said, "Switch over." I said, "Don't be daft.
"Can't do that, it's a good bit."
What the hell's he doing, eating that pie?
And what do you think you're doing
with your collar open and your shirt hanging out?
Anyway, he told me about the famine in Africa,
which was horrendous of course.
And he suggested I call a few people,
get them down to his Poggle studios
and get some sort of charity single started.
So I did. I got straight on the phone
to some of the biggest acts I had access to at that time.
People like Big Country, Liza Minnelli,
Zucchero, Suggs, Mike Batt...
-# I'm masquerading... #
About 20% of them were engaged, 10% were out
and the rest of them were watching The Gentle Touch.
You're improperly dressed, both of you.
Your behaviour's disgusting.
It was the last episode of the series
and nobody knew if it was going to come back.
Fortunately it did, in the guise of CATS Eyes with Leslie Ash.
It wasn't as good.
The following day, I bumped into Bob Geldof.
The Boomtowns had gone bust
and he part-owned a sports shop in Chiswick
called The Boomtown Racquets.
I was purchasing a punnet of squash balls
and I relayed what I'd seen on the news
and told him about my plans to release a charity single that Christmas.
He sounded keen.
Unfortunately, I couldn't start work on it right away,
as I was booked to go skiing with the in-laws
and Lunn Poly wouldn't give me my deposit back.
When I arrived home ten days later,
Do They Know It's Christmas? was number one
and the rest is history.
# Feed The world... #
Yeah, Brian was upset for months.
Every time he heard that record, he'd break a piece of furniture.
I was never out of Habitat that Christmas.
In the end, I suppose the important thing
was that millions of pounds went to Africa.
Whoever tied the ribbon on the parcel is irrelevant.
But I will say one thing,
when I talked to Bob that day in Boomtown Racquets,
he said he'd never seen the news.
He was watching The Gentle Touch on the other side.
# Snooker loopy Nuts are we
# We're all snooker loopy... #
Do They Know It's Christmas Time? inspired countless charity singles,
including this one by Charlie and David called Snooker Crazy,
which raised money for snooker players with arthritis.
# I'll celebrate And buy another eight
# Hairbrushes for me barnet
# I always pipe me eyeballs
# Perhaps I ought to chalk it
# Cos I wear these goggles... #
Just Say No by the Grange Hill gang
climbed to number five in the pop charts,
where it stayed for one consecutive week.
# Just say no! #
I mean, if one of your friends were on drugs, what would you do?
# Just say no! #
# Everybody wants to run the world... #
Everybody Wants To Run The World told people to run the world,
not rule it.
It climbed to number 13 in the charts,
where it stayed for a consecutive week.
Sport Aid never caught on. They only did it twice.
I've got a feeling Bob was using it
just to try and sell a few more of his rackets.
But the mother of all charity records was Doctor In Distress,
which outsold all the others by millions.
# No, no, no, no... #
In 1985, the controller of BBC One threatened to axe Doctor Who
so some of the biggest musicians and actors in the world
got together to try and save it.
# You tried to exterminate
# Doctor in distress... #
The success of Doctor In Distress lead to the next step,
the global jukebox...
The biggest names in pop music,
from Elton John to Bob Dylan, from Duran Duran to Wham,
are to appear in two concerts in London and the United States on July 13.
Well, of course he was upset. He was never asked.
Brian, he invented world music. He should have been asked.
Mind you, I think he dodged a bullet with that one.
I mean, yeah, everybody remembers Queen, Bowie, U2...
but the rest of it was a bit patchy, wasn't it?
# There's more snakes than ladders
# At this point in time... #
I mean, you look at some of the other acts who weren't there,
you'd see that Brian was in very good company.
-Was it a concert?
-Yeah, I don't think we were there!
In secret documents released for the first time,
it appears that a more sinister force
was determined to bring an end to the global jukebox.
Good afternoon, Wembley. CHEERING
In a very short time, my duty is to take
one of the finest ambassadors of the British music industry
from Wembley to Philadelphia.
Ladies and gentlemen, Phil Collins! CHEERING
'Phil Collins was due to fly on Concorde to Philadelphia
'to play with Led Zeppelin.'
And the idea was I'd pick him up in my chopper,
fly him to Concorde, we'd both get on
and off to America.
As we were driving down to the helipad,
we stopped off at BP for, you know,
a pasty and a Vimto
and we had no idea we were being monitored by KGB intelligence.
I'd been seconded to MI6 in 1985 and we'd obtained intelligence
that the Russians were planning to take down Concorde,
which contained Mr Phil Collins.
The Russians were absolutely furious about Live Aid.
You know, they saw it as another classic example of Western decadence.
They'd also got wind that at least 34% of the performers
In fact, it was closer to 49%.
Apparently, the Prime Minister had been informed of the dangers
but she had promised her son Mark, who's a massive fan of Dire Straits,
that he could go backstage and meet Mark...the other Mark,
And she knew how disappointed he'd be,
so she kept quiet about the whole thing,
which on so many levels is fucking disgusting.
Welcome to a very special show
from the flight deck of Concorde Alpha Bravo.
In a moment, we're going to take you to America.
A few Russian helicopters set off armed.
We managed to intercept them in Inkst.
But one did get through and the hardest job we had
was, in intelligence, keeping it all a secret
with a billion people watching on television.
So there we were, Phil and I, sitting together on Concorde
and we were just finishing off the pasty.
And we looked out the window
and there were two Russian helicopters alongside us.
And we thought, "Oh, hang on,
"this is like something out of a Rambo film."
So I immediately ordered a gin and tonic
and some brown trousers.
When I got taken into the cockpit, the captain said,
"You're going to have a word with London now.
-"So please don't tell anybody."
-And then, the helicopter opened fire.
The pilot - he flopped on the floor like an old sock
and I saw Phil going to pieces. He was very worried cos he said,
"I don't know how to fly a plane!"
So, it was down to me.
Well, I managed to land safely at JFK with Phil,
but I think the whole experience had quite an impact on him, actually.
And I remember arriving and going into their trailer and saying,
"Hi, guys. OK, so..."
And Jimmy Page said,
"So how does it go, Stairway to Heaven? How does it go?"
So I said, "Well, you know, I know this is where I come in
"and I go da-da-da-dum, da-da-la-dum."
He said, "No!
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN INTRO
IN THE AIR TONIGHT DRUM SOLO INTERRUPTS
And I thought, "OK..."
It was like I was being taken apart.
DRUMMING BEGINS AGAIN
# ...who's sure All that glitters is gold...
DRUMMING CUTS IN ONCE AGAIN
# ..the stairway to heaven... #
DRUMMING DROWNS SINGING
After Live Aid, there were all kinds of benefit concerts
and of course, Live 8,
not that I was there.
And again, I think he missed a bullet with Live 8 too.
It was shit.
So the middle age of rock saw bands
growing rich and bored and political.
The outcome of the next age of rock is inevitable.
Rock has two choices -
go peacefully in its sleep, or out with a bang.
Which way will it go?
Find out next week on The Life Of Rock with me, Brian Pern.
Yeah, Peter Morgan submitted the first draft
of the Thotch-Pern biopic.
Tom Hooper, who did The King's Stutter, he's directing.
Did you read it?
No, I couldn't download it.
It's very good. It's all about the break-up.
-Well, hopefully they'll get my side of the story across.
The rest of the band... they're quite keen.
They've got Fassbender playing Pat,
Michael Sheen playing Tony Pebble...
and Tony Blair.
-Guess who they've got for you.
-I don't know.
Idris Elba? Well, who's playing you?
-Did you ever do the John Peel show?
-No, didn't actually do it.
We did send things in to John Peel.
Not records, of course.
Many fruits and debris from the woodland floor.
Promotional items for pizzas
and stuff that had come through our door
that were of no use to us.
-OK, Brian, repeat after me, "You remind me of the babe."
Oh, come on, Brian.
You remind me of the babe.
-The babe with the power.
-The babe with the power.
-The power of the voodoo.
-The power of voodoo.
-Remind me of the babe.
-Oh, come off it!
Oh, here are some of the sounds I invented.
This is perky avocado.
PERKY AVOCADO BUZZES
I have the largest collection of guitars in the UK...
..apart from The Edge.
But he doesn't count, because technically, he's Irish.
This particular model is worth...
..I would say probably about £175,
something like that.
And then of course, I composed demos,
you know, the little tunes you get on keyboards.
This is my personal favourite -
CHIRPY DEMO PLAYS
Just rather hurt my back!
I've got some co-dydramol and diazepam downstairs.
Would somebody...? Cos I'm stuck now.
Hello, I'm Pete and this is Martin.
We live in Worcester and we're both unemployed.
Up till now, the only things of any interest
have been rock and pop music and football.
Now, there's a new group started at our local youth centre in Worcester.
We'll be finding out how to convince the boss that we're worth employing.
In other words, how to sell ourselves at interviews.
It's about the only interesting and new thing
to do in Worcester during the daytime.
Brian looks at rock stars who turn to acting (himself included), charity singles and protest songs. Noel Edmonds reveals for the first time how the Russians tried to take down the Concorde containing Phil Collins on his way to Live Aid in Philadelphia.