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This programme contains strong language.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Brian Pern's
record-breaking solo album Shelf Life.
The album spawned several number-one hits
and saw Brian turn from obscure prog cult to worldwide pop superstar.
He even became the face of milk.
Oi! What's your game?
Oh, it's you.
-British milk. Beautiful.
-I love world music.
But this is not just the story of Brian breaking America,
it's also the story of how America broke Thotch.
-It really was make or break time.
-It was break or make time.
-It nearly killed me.
-It nearly killed me.
-I almost died.
-It almost ruined my marriage.
-It cost me my marriage.
My marriage was fucked.
I think I'm in the wrong documentary, aren't I?
In part two of this revealing but convoluted documentary,
I look back at the making of a classic album, which led
to the making of a classic album, which led to the making
of a classic album, which led to the making of a classic album
and the impact fame had on Brian and his personal life.
You heartless bastard!
So, Brian, a couple of things. Game Of Thrones.
The producer turns out to be a fan, they've offered you a cameo
-in the series finale.
-Great, I like that show.
-I turned it down for you.
Cos of a sex scene with you, Charles Dance and a mutant unicorn.
-Is it explicit?
My tackle or Charlie Dance's?
Both, and the unicorn's.
-Do you want that on your CV?
Oh, yeah, and you've been inducted into
-the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in America.
Yeah, pulled a few strings
so it ties in with the re-re-release of the Shelf Life special edition
and you get a nice free trip to the States.
-When is it?
-September the 12th.
-Oh, God, John, I can't do that day.
Well, I've to stay in as I'm having a dishwasher delivered.
-Change the date.
-I can't, John,
I've already changed it once, they won't do it again.
-That is annoying.
-Get somebody to sign for it.
No, because the initial cardholder who made the purchase must be
present when they drop off the appliance, it's the rules.
-What a bugger.
-I just reached the point where I want to kill you.
OK, I'll do it but you'd better call Currys and they won't be happy.
Give me the fucking number.
America, for us, was very different.
We were pretty big in England at that time.
We were big fish in a small pond and we went to America,
we became small fish in a huge pond.
And that was tough to adjust to.
What kind of fish? Like a stickleback?
In America I'd say we were like a rainbow fish.
We were small and brightly coloured,
we moved quickly but we weren't poisonous.
-Whereas...in England we'd become...
-Like a shark?
-That's not a fish, that's a mammal.
There was a lot of fuss about hotel room sizes.
Pat would come with around a trundle wheel, which he took everywhere
with him to make sure we all had rooms exactly the same size.
That first tour, there were problems on the tour bus, wasn't there?
Oh, yeah, yeah, Brian was always carsick like a bloody child.
I've always had carsickness, ever since I was a small boy
and when we got on tour in America,
you were on the road sometimes 14 hours, 16 hours and I was ill.
I said, "I've got to do something with this,"
and I began my charity and
I now help people who suffer from carsickness throughout the world.
It's a little-known fact that over 50,000 people a year
die from car sickness and the related injuries.
It was during the tour that Brian dropped a bombshell
and told the band he wanted to leave.
Brian wanted to leave Thotch, not only to make a name for himself
as a solo artist but to spend more time with his family.
That old chestnut.
A week before his induction into the USA Rock And Roll Hall of Fame,
Brian has come to see his estranged family, who have lived in LA
since he left them 25 years ago.
This is the first time he has seen his children in many years
and Brian has allowed me to film this intimate moment.
-How are you feeling, Brian?
-I'm a little nervous.
-I bet you are.
-What is the most important thing to you in life?
-I would say...
Not your family?
I would say family.
-Can you cut the first one so I say family first?
Can I come in?
If you want.
-Brian's children have a funny accent. Neither English nor American.
Brian's kids are a fiasco, especially the son.
In and out of trouble all his life
and the money that Brian's chucked at therapy sessions is ridiculous.
And none of it's tax deductible.
So, I hear you've been working on some music.
-Yeah, we started a band.
-We're called RTEX.
-We've been working on some demos.
-Would you like to hear some?
We've avoided making music for years because of all Dad's, like, success.
But now we really want to give it a go.
-MUFFLED, EERIE VOICE:
-# Burning flame, full of desire. #
People say it's hard to live in the shadow of a famous parent.
-But Dad wasn't even there long enough to cast a shadow.
We never had that, like, father-and-son thing. I mean,
I can count how many times we've hung out
in the last 20 years on one thumb.
OK, so I'm going to be honest,
I'm trying to think of something positive to say about it
and I can't.
If I was going to give it a review in emoticons,
it would probably be...
a black moon, a question mark, an Easter Island statue,
some eyes that go that way
and a teardrop.
How many years have you not seen them for?
-It's not that long. It's only about...14 years.
-What did you say to them?
-They asked me to be honest, so I was.
-So you told them they were crap?
-I didn't say they were crap,
I said they were average.
You've not bothered with them for 16 years and look what you've done!
Well, I hope you're satisfied.
Well, I hope anyone watching your bloody documentary can see
what an arsehole you really are.
All they wanted from you was a bit of encouragement.
Well, you've ripped their confidence to shreds. Thank you very much(!)
And another thing, where were you on graduation day?
Picking them up from school? Birthdays, parents' evenings?
Where were you?
Off licking the bloody Dalai Lama's arse, that's where you were.
Or having cocktails with Nelson Man-fucking-dela.
Hey, you didn't mind when I paid off the house, did you?
You never wanted for any money. They had the best of everything.
Drama school, film school, clown school.
Ponies, lizards, hover boots, roller blades. I gave them everything.
Yes, out of guilt!
And all they really wanted was their dad.
The one thing you didn't provide for them.
-DOOR OPENS AGAIN
-You're just like your bloody father.
It's hard to be a parent, you know?
My father was a difficult man. And I feel he made some mistakes with me.
I didn't want to repeat those mistakes.
I wanted to break the cycle.
Make them happy again. Give them a purpose.
Get them a manager, get them a producer, release their album.
OK. I'll call John.
-I just want to say...
You didn't mind it in the old days.
Just the twice.
That's all you could manage.
You're not to use any of this, do you understand me?
-Don't worry. We weren't even filming it.
-They're not even filming.
-I mean, that's nonsense.
We were at it like rabbits.
Back in 1977, when Brian left Thotch,
the remaining band members decided to carry on without him.
Brian had left the group. We were all in a state of turmoil.
Punk had exploded in the UK, so we thought,
"Let's have a change of scene, try and break America."
LA, the city of angels. Hey, what's not to like, eh?
My neighbour was Ken Kercheval. You know, Cliff Barnes in Dallas.
Oh, we had a blast.
One time he invited the whole of Southfork over for a party
and I got up to all sorts in his billiard room with
Charlene Tilton, Victoria Principal and Barbara Bel Geddes.
I potted a few pink and browns that night, I can tell you.
While Thotch were recording their first album without Brian,
they heard an amazing voice coming from the studio next door.
That voice belonged to singer-songwriter and cokehead
We were recording at the Record Plant studio too.
Thotch were recording next door.
So Tony Pebble comes in and says, "I think you're great.
"We're looking for a new singer." And he asked me to join the band.
She became a total sensation.
She was the face of Time, Vogue, Playboy
and later the Betty Ford clinic.
Well, we were public schoolboys
and we didn't talk about our feelings and suddenly
we're writing songs about relationships and love
and our audience changed overnight.
Well, over quite a few nights, actually.
Maybe over six months of nights.
But they were good nights.
We were very much in love at that point.
You could say we were inseparable. We were like those conjoined twins.
Only we weren't physically fused together at the spine.
I mean, that would not have been much fun.
So, Pat, can we talk about Lindsay Simon
-and your relationship with her during Thotch?
-Were you in love with her?
-Did it cause a rift between you and Tony?
-Would you rather not discuss this?
SHE SINGS THE TUNE OF GO YOUR OWN WAY BY FLEETWOOD MAC
Pat was completely besotted with Lindsay. He was like a puppy.
He used to wait for her outside the toilet
while she nodded off in there, zonked out of her mind.
# Go with... # EXAGGERATED VIBRATO
I saw it from afar and I heard various stories
from different people.
Pat rang me in the middle of the night once, very distraught
and Tony rang me the same night, very happy.
Chinese Whispers gave Thotch their first US number one
and sold over 33.7 million copies worldwide
but, as the money rolled in, so did the problems.
Oh, Lindsay, she was into all sorts.
She ran out of orifices to shove coke up.
-I think it's fair to say I had a really big drug problem.
When my nose fell out, I needed somewhere else to put my junk.
These roadies each had... You know those cellophane tubes? Like...
-Clingfilm you call it?
So there's a cardboard tube like a pipe and
when I didn't have the energy, I'd be like, "Get me the tube, guys."
They would blow that up my ass.
For goodness' sake, women!
The night that my ass fell out mid-set was a low point.
That is when I decided I needed to get some real help
there and then, no messing.
So...you know, it's what I did.
Five years later.
That's when we called it a day.
It was tragic, really.
Meanwhile, back in Britain, Brian was recording his first solo album
free from the trappings of being in a band.
The results were a critical success
but a commercial failure. The biggest hit he didn't have was Worm Equinox.
# Worms are coming
# The worms are coming. #
My early solo albums received critical acclaim
but they weren't really selling.
Spurred on by the phenomenal success Thotch were having without him,
Brian took the plunge and decided to follow in their footsteps
so he set up home in LA and began work on a commercial album
which would change the face of music forever.
The man has learned over the years how to make his music
and he works when he wants to work
an out come those beautiful, magical tunes.
That album was Shelf Life.
Brian did have a number-one hit on both sides of the Pacific
with Spirit Level.
He knocked Thotch off the top spot.
He finally felt he was on a par with his old band.
The second track on the album was the emotional ballad Keep Trying.
Brian wrote the song as a duet
but finding the right person to sing with was not easy.
# You try so hard
# In your life... #
I offered that track to a load of different female vocalists.
Susanna Hoffs, Belinda Carlisle, Debbie Harry,
one of the Pointer Sisters and then the other one
when she said no, and Nana Mouskouri.
Basically a list of the women he wanted to sleep with
apart from old Nana Moussaka.
In the end, he settled for singer-songwriter Alison Swan
# Keep trying... #
The song would go on to change the face of music forever.
# That is all you need to... #
So let's talk about Keep On Trying.
I assume because, at that time, you were going through
a marriage break-up, it's a song about sort of...keep trying.
-Well, it's not about that, then?
I thought it was about you getting divorced.
# Keep trying... #
People think that song's about a relationship,
about the miners' strike, about September 11th.
-It couldn't be about that, could it? Because this song was 1985.
In fact, the song is about my friend Keith Sinclair,
who is an electronic wizard who never received the kudos
and respect he deserved from the science industry.
You mean Clive Sinclair?
-That's what that song's about? It's about him?
Keith, for me, was one of my heroes.
He came up with the C5, the electric car.
He came up with the first computer. The first television.
The first phone.
But Keith...Clive, was...
He was a bit of a buffoon.
Because he had a funny, thin face and he would stand by the car
and, of course, we all know that that is not the truth.
This is not the truth.
What you're seeing, it's not real.
-No, it's filtered.
-People will see this.
Maybe they'll see this on a computer in an office or
from a public house at the back of the TV. It's not really me.
-I don't think they'd show this in a pub.
How many pubs do you know that put BBC Four on?
I don't really go to pubs.
Brian's third number-one single from Shelf Life was
the dance-flavoured Disco Breakfast.
Though not everyone back home was a fan.
-I'm still mystified about the success of the single,
-which I think is...
-You don't think it's that good?
-No, I don't.
-I found it really repellent.
-Well, I liked it.
Yeah, I thought it was great.
And I thought she had the most... Can I...?
She had the most gorgeous bum as well. Which I...
I don't know if you're allowed to say that but...
I mean, I thought she did, absolutely gorgeous.
Did you really sit through the whole of it?
Yeah, and I'll tell you what, the dancing's not very good
but when the bum comes, it's electric, I think.
It's not even very well filmed.
I mean, it could have been better but I just enjoyed bum, really.
The final song on the album, A Song With Whistling,
won the Ivor Novello Award
for the best song with names and whistling in it.
It would go on to change the face of music with whistling in forever.
# Some I like and some I'm not quite sure about. #
The impact of the Shelf Life album was immense.
It turned Brian from a cult act to a rock and roll icon.
Shelf Life was revolutionary for many reasons.
Not only was it the first album to be released with a barcode,
it was the first to be issued on a new format
that would change the face of music forever.
Hello, my name is Brian Pern
and welcome to a special edition of Tomorrow's World.
This is a CD-ROM, a brand-new format in which you can store music,
data and film.
My new album will be released on CD-ROM on Monday morning worldwide.
The first album to be released in such a format.
If you add this to your computer, you can
then play an interactive game called Brian's World.
On there you will be travelling through space and time
and will be met by different objects oscillating and spinning.
Triangles, octagonals and rhombuses.
To this day, the album has never been out of the top 100
and has sold over 50 million copies in Guernsey alone.
He'd not experienced fame like this since the early days of
Thotch in Belgium and yes, he went crazy, yes, it went to his head.
I am so English. My Englishness is everything to me
and my work, and America began to corrode my soul.
I just wanted to get back to the grey skies, the negativity,
the weak tea.
I mean, I was out there, I didn't see any dandruff for six months.
And I missed it. I really missed it.
You went back to England but you left your family and your kids there.
I didn't leave anybody. They wanted to stay there. They liked it.
-But wasn't it...?
-So did Cindy. No, wait a minute.
Wait a minute.
They wanted all that. OK?
I said, "Come home with me."
They said, "No."
But the press got a hold of it that I left them and, you know what?
But didn't you divorce your wife by Ceefax?
Back in England, Brian began work on a follow-up to Shelf Life
surrounded by a whole new music scene
that would go on to change the face of music forever.
There were some really terrible bands at that time.
Net Atomic Dustbin.
The Wooden Tops.
And that other one.
I assembled myself a band from people I found in Manchester.
One guy played the song at half-time at Old Trafford,
another guy was a busker, another guy I met through my cousin.
Brian had seen what Bowie had done with Tin Machine
and McCartney with Wings, which was essentially to start a band
to hide behind, you know, so that you could claim credit
when things were good or blame the others when it was dogshit.
Brian did a lot of hiding in that period.
We called the band Stoned The Crows
and I got Mr Luke Dunmore to produce the album.
This is the very desk that we mixed the Get Real Quick album
in 1993, this is the original chair. These are the original faders.
Brian would sit there,
I'd sit here, sometimes Brian would sit here and I would sit there.
I actually remember a time when Brian sat there and I sat there
but, you know, that was our relationship from the beginning.
You know? Totally unpredictable.
Can you tell us about the first time you worked with him?
I can't say I was overjoyed, you know what I mean?
I mean, I was a punk when I was a kid
and Thotch were the antithesis of that.
Fucking public school, very south, very London.
You know, Brian was and is London.
You know, and the world was realising at the time that
London was dead. Manchester was where it was at.
It was electric up here then, you know, it was like being
on Venus or Mars or one of the other planets in the Milky Pass.
We came up with a song called Maraca Man.
Which was fucking dreadful but it was a massive hit.
# My face is painted on the side of the van
# I am the maraca man
# I stole some soup cups from your nan... #
-What you doing?
-Well, it's good but there are too many maracas on it
or too much maracas, whichever it is.
You're fucking musically illiterate! Get in there and do it again.
And don't fucking touch my controls!
You can't speak to me like that, Luke.
I can speak to you however I want, mate. You're in my city.
You were quite opposite, weren't you?
Oh, yeah, we were, you know, really opposite, but somehow,
it, kind of, worked, you know. Cos I think I put him into
uncomfortable areas, which he didn't want to go to.
-I have to have some control.
-So, why did you come here, then?
-What do you want from me?
-I want you to help me make my album.
It's OUR album, mate, it's not YOUR album.
I'm producing it, right, so it's OUR album.
Yes, which means I have to have some say on how...
-Do you want it to be like your last fucking album?
Which is why you're here. So, go in there and fucking behave.
And don't touch these fucking controls again!
# I am
# I am
# I am
# The maraca man
# Ha-ha-ha-ha! #
Do you think Brian had a big influence on 1990s indie music?
Undoubtedly. They'd never admit it, but without Brian,
there'd be no Oasis, no Blur, no Mondays, no Toploader,
no Ocean Colour Scene, no Beady Eye, no Shed Seven.
He's got a fucking lot to answer for.
Back in Los Angeles, following discussions with his ex-wife,
Brian has taken time out of Hall Of Fame rehearsals
to turn his children's home demos into the real thing.
Brian...what's going on?
Your band are rehearsing the Hall Of Fame without you,
-you're not answering e-mails...
-Sorry, I turned off my data roaming.
-It's so expensive.
-What are you doing here?
I found this incredible new band. They're called RTEX.
-I've flown Luke out to produce the album.
The in-flight entertainment was shite. Only thing working
was Seabiscuit. I had to watch it six times.
-These are your children.
-No, they're not!
-Yes, they are.
Yes, they are.
For fuck's sake, Brian. You know the rules.
We don't work with offspring. It always ends in tears.
You've got to understand, John. Ripple hates me.
I might lose her forever. I've got to show her my support.
Yeah, but not like this. Take her to Wagamama,
pick her up at the airport, be stand-offish with her boyfriend -
-that's being supportive, that's being a dad.
-But they've got
-something unique, haven't they, Luke?
-Well, that's one word for it.
Play him The Lion Sleeps Tonight. That's a good 'un.
DISTORTED: # In the jungle
# The mighty jungle
# The lion sleeps tonight
# In the village
# The peaceful village
# The people sleep tonight
# Wimoweh, wimoweh Wimoweh, wimoweh... #
MUSIC CUTS OUT
-I understand the vocals need a bit of work...
-A bit of work?
-They sound like frogs singing underwater.
-We can fix that
-with some auto-tuning, right?
-Well, I'll do me best,
but you know the expression, "You can't polish a turd".
No. I don't know. What is that expression?
you can't polish a turd.
I don't understand. Why would you want to polish a turd?
John, you know Ripple despises me.
I have to make some sort of show of solidarity with her.
Please sign them up...
-I understand you want a manager.
-I'll manage you.
Oh! So, like where do we go from here?
Well, if I manage to get you out that door and as far away
as possible from anything remotely resembling a microphone,
I think that would be a step in the right direction for all of us,
-Cruel to be kind, Brian. Come on, then, out you go!
A bit quicker than that, please. Thank you.
Seabiscuit's a good film.
MUSIC: New York, New York by John Kander and Fred Ebb
It's the night before the USA Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Awards
and I caught up with Brian in his hotel suite
-for an intimate chat.
-Well, despite what John said,
we recorded an EP over a few days. I made a few calls.
We've got a major radio interest from some stations -
Zane Lowe, KBR1-Easy - so I'm pleased about that.
And, hopefully, they'll get a big hit out of this song?
I think so. I'm going to invite them along to the Hall Of Fame,
so they can meet some industry figures.
And you've been getting on well with Ripple and Tallow?
Things are thawing a little.
You can't go back and change what happened.
It's very hard to be a parent. It is the hardest job in the world.
People told me that and I didn't believe them, you know?
As a human being, you are a product of genetics and your upbringing.
DISTANT MUSIC: To Cut A Long Story Short by Spandau Ballet
I can't change my genetics. It's like the shape of my toes...
or my hair.
Cut. We'll have to do that again, won't we?
-Cos of that sound.
-You are joking.
-Listen, hang on, can you do that bit
one more time? Just the bit about the genetics.
-No. I can't do that again. I'm not an actor.
-No, no, but this
is like a really key bit. We can't use any of it.
This is what's going to get awards and stuff like that.
-I'm not concerned with awards.
-No, I know, but I am.
Hello! Can you keep the noise down, please?
-I'm trying to sleep.
-It's the management.
Hello? Who's in there?
Can you keep the noise down, please?
Oh! The bear is awake!
You have come to eat my porridge pots?
Pepita! What on Earth are you doing in here?
Oi! I am doing backing vocals
for Spandau Kemp at the Hall Of Famers.
-He pay me more than you.
Hello, Brian! You all right?
You?! In the Hall Of Fame?
25 million albums, you fucker!
-But you stole my backing singer!
-Not stole. Borrowed.
Brian, him and Gary Ballet,
he take me when you not turn up for rehearsals.
-You want some, Bri?
Oh, room service is so expensive here,
I brought a case of Goodfella's over.
Here, babe...put one in the trouser press for Bri.
-Look, I don't eat that rubbish!
-Then why are you so fat?!
Actually, it's glandular.
Now, when you two children have finished messing around,
I need to get some sleep! I'm very upset with you, Pepita.
Ha! And I am very upset with you! Do you remember when we do
chaka-chaka when your wife leave you - the fishwife - huh?
Well, I piss on this, I piss on this and this.
I piss on this, I piss on this, I piss on the Tic Tacs.
And they all say the same thing - I'm pregnant!
Hey, babe... how long do I put this in for?
Eight or ten minutes, I told you!
-Are you all right, darling?
-I want some pizza.
Don't you worry. Where's your wine? Let's get your wine.
I can't drink - I'm pregnant!
You're a good man, Martin.
Put the music back on.
Finally, it's the day Brian has been waiting for.
His dishwasher has been delivered.
But meanwhile, in Hollywood,
the Hall Of Fame Awards are about to start.
Hello, there. Aren't you dressed yet?
-Got to be at the Hall Of Fame in an hour.
-We're not coming.
-You know why.
-Zane Lowe just played their debut single
-on the radio.
They're not singing on the record.
Actually, they ARE singing on the record.
They're just very, very low in the mix.
I played the track back and it simply was not fit
for public consumption.
That's not the point. We were just trying to be ourselves and you have
-stamped on our dreams again!
-Look, I know you think I did this
to spite you, but I did it to protect you
from the mauling you would have received from the music press,
-had you released the track as it was.
-Oh, just go, Brian!
Haven't you done enough damage?
You don't want to be late for your precious awards ceremony, do you?
God, how I hate this business.
Look at us. We're supposed to be a family.
-We barely even know each other.
-Then, why are you going to
the Hall Of Fame, if you "hate" this business so much?
MUSIC: New York, New York by John Kander and Fred Ebb
What about Lifetime Achievement Awards?
Yeah, it means your life's fucking over! So, mine's been over
several times now! "Well done - you have lived!"
Right, can I die now?
Brian Pern took the US by storm, ruling the stadiums of America.
To accept the award into the Hall Of Fame,
please welcome, on behalf of Brian Pern, Martin Kemp!
TV SOUND CUTS OFF
Come on, Dad, your turn.
MUSIC: Through The Barricades by Spandau Ballet
# Oh, turn around and I'll be there
# Well, there's a scar right through my heart
# But I'll bear it again
# Oh, I thought we were the human race
# But we were just another borderline case
# And the stars reach down and tell us
# That there's always one escape... #