Another Change of Plan, by Random Hand
Suggested by Alex Hamilton
Today, I want to talk about Blue Peter.
I’m sure the following sentences are unnecessary for most readers, but a few will have skipped this cultural cornerstone by dint of geography or ennui. Blue Peter is a British children’s TV programme, first broadcast in 1958. With over five thousand episodes, it’s the longest-running children’s TV show in the world.
It’s a live magazine show, with a rotating gaggle of presenters. Shows are split into segments, with recorded reports alongside craft segments in which viewers are taught to make trinkets from toilet rolls and sticky-back plastic. The presenting team have pets, a tortoise or a Blue Peter Dog.
At least, all these things were true, last time I saw it some thirty years ago. For all I know it’s all holograms and planking today.
Among the many memorable episodes, including crapping elephants and Cardboard Tracy Island and Joey Deacon and coke-addled presenters and garden vandalism, one recurring motif is the Blue Peter Appeal.
Each year, Blue Peter cajoles viewers into holding Bring and Buy sales or donating bottle tops or similar, to raise money for random worthy causes. They have an Appeal-o-meter, likely an eight-foot tall cardboard test tube scaled at the side with zero at the bottom and, I dunno, £100,000 at the top, with a sliding arrow that climbed each week as the money rolled in. It was quite exciting, seeing that arrow rise, getting higher and higher, threatening to fill up the test tube with funds for the needy.
Why am I waffling on about this?
I like ska, specifically ska when paired with rock or metal or funk or, well, other. You might say I’ve a pretty accommodating Ska-o-meter, starting at Zero Ska and rising to 100,00 Ska at the top. Throughout this project, more ska and ska-adjacent bottle tops have been added, more Two Tone Bring and Buy Sales held, and my arrow is climbing higher each time.
Today, when listening to Random Hand, we hit 100,000 Ska. I’m officially full.
It was quite an abrupt feeling, if I’m honest. I was enjoying the music, the deft melding of horns, ska beats and shouting vocals, when suddenly I realised I was done. I had finished. I had, in a sense, successfully completed Ska.
And there was a lot to like on this album too. The opening track, Play Some Ska, set the stall out in fine fashion, and each track added a stronger dose of rock and metal as it progressed. There are some fine songs with excellent titles, such as Dynamo Penis Death Bastard, and the swagger and venom in tracks like Scum Triumphant warm the blood with a blowtorch intensity. My standout track is likely Mr Bib Wakes Up, as it delivers a fine metal punch to the chest alongside the tickling ska sound.
No matter how much I took from the individual songs, the feeling that I’d hit my top-end Ska Cap did sour my enjoyment. As such, I rank this at 6/10. And while I’m teeming with surplus Ska today, who knows, maybe there’ll be room for more one day. Blue Peter always modified their test tube to take in a stretch target. Maybe I can hit 200,000 Ska in the fulness of time.