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Keith Michell dies

One of Australia’s great regal actors, who had an accidental hit in 1980, has died at the age of 88.

Keith Michell was born in Adelaide in 1926. He became an art teacher and made his first live appearance on stage in Bill Daily’s comedy Lover’s Leap in 1947.

After working for the ABC radio network in Adelaide moved to London and became a member of the Old Vic Theatre School. He made his London stage debut in 1951 and had roles in Man of La Mancha and Don Quixote. He was recruited by Laurence Olivier to play Don John, the lead character in John Fletcher’s The Chances, in its first production at the new Chichester theatre, in 1962, and also for John Ford’s The Broken Heart, in which he played Ithocles.

In 1958 he worked on the stage musical Irma La Douce, which took him to the National theatre, Washington, and then onto Broadway. He also turned his hand to television and one of his early works was playing Henry Higgins in Shaw’s Pygmalion in 1956 and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights six years later.

In 1971 he recorded the song I’ll Give You The Earth (Tous Les Bateaux, Tous Les Oiseaux). He signed to the small Spark label and took the song to number30 in the UK chart.

In 1972 he appeared in, and is best remembered for, his portrayal of Henry VIII in the BBC television series The Six Wives of Henry VIII which was split into six episodes, one for each wife.

In 1977, Jeremy Lloyd wrote some poetry about the tales of Captain Beaky and his band which was set to music by Jim Parker and each track was recited by a different actor or actress. Some of the tracks included Harold the Frog by Harry Secombe, The Haggis Season by Peter Sellers and Dennis the Dormouse by Twiggy and then volume II included Fred and Marguerite by Petula Clark, Helen the Hippo by Penelope Keith and Mandy the Mouse by Noel Edmonds. The first track on volume I was Captain Beaky by Keith Michell and Tony Blackburn had played it first on Radio 1’s Junior Choice programme. Noel, whose show followed Tony’s on Saturday and Sunday mornings, heard it and decided to play it on his show and the phone lines went mad calling for it to be released, the result was a number five hit in January 1980 where it was coupled with Wilfred the Weasel, a track from volume II. Incidentally, Captain Beaky’s band comprised of Timid Toad, Reckless Rat, Artful Owl and Batty Bat.

In 1996, he once again played Henry VIII this time in the television film, The Prince and the Pauper. He was 70 at the time and, according to The Guardian, was relieved to discover that the costumes for the rotund king weighed only a fraction of the 20 stone of those he had needed 20 years previously.

Keith had been married to his wife Jeanette since 1957 and had a son Paul and a daughter Helena. Keith died at him home in Hampstead, north London on Friday 20th November.

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Jim Diamond Dies

The Scottish singer Jim Diamond, best remembered for his 1984 chart-topper I Should Have Known Better, has died at the age of 64.

Jim Diamond

He was born in Glasgow in 1951, not 1953 as the BBC and Wikipedia advertise, is a good example of a journeyman musician who eventually breaks through. He had started his professional playing guitar and singing in a Glasgow band, Jade, and then performing around Europe in a soul and blues band, Gully Foyle. He formed Bandit and although they recorded melodic singles for Arista in the late-Seventies, they had little success as punk had become the order of the day. Jim moved to Alexis Korner’s blues band and then formed Slick Diamond with Earl Slick, who had played on David Bowie’s Young Americans. Jim and the French composer, Michel Legrand, wrote Lady Oscar for Merry Clayton and Jim also produced Zoot Money’s album, Mr. Money.

In 1978, Jim married a New Zealander called Christine Bailey and they had two children, a daughter, Sara Rosaline Diamond and a son Lawrence James Diamond.

In 1981 Jim Diamond teamed up with the keyboard player, Tony Hymas, and the drummer, Simon Phillips, to form the synth-based PhD. They had a Top 10 with I Won’t Let You Down as well as a European hit with I Didn’t Know, which featured Jeff Beck, but they never played live. In 1984 Jim contracted hepatitis and so the band broke up.

Later the same year, Jim was back and had signed a solo career with A&M records and instantly landed the number one I Should Have Known Better which was co-written by Graham Lyle of Gallagher & Lyle and was the first number one for Rondor Music. Graham recalls, “We knew it was good and very commercial. We also thought it could buried as it wasn’t danceable, it was slow, it was sentimental, and none of those things were commercial at the time. Jim did a great job, here is a man who knows how to communicate a lyric.” Jim’s follow-ups, I Sleep Alone At Night and Remember I Love You, made little impact, but in 1986 he was back with the theme song for the crime series, Boon, starring Michael Elphick, Hi Ho Silver. He also featured on two charity number ones, firstly in 1985 as part of the ensemble, The Crowd who recorded You’ll Never Walk Alone which raised money for the Bradford City stadium fire and two years later for Ferry Aid which raised money for the families of the passengers who died on the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry in Zeebrugge.

In the early 2000s Jim teamed up with Chris Davis, who had been a session saxophonist for M People and initially traded as Blue Shoes but then billed as the far more straight forward Jim Diamond and Snake Davis.

By 2005 Jim was back solo and released an album called Souled and Healed, but largely went unnoticed. Six years later be released an album of soul covers versions called City of Soul for charity with all proceeds going to the children’s charity Cash For Kids run by his local radio station, Radio Clyde. The album also featured former Wet Wet Wet drummer Tommy Cunningham and former Hue & Cry singer Greg Kane.

Jim was a very magnanimous man because when he topped the chart at the beginning of December 1984, he knew the following week that Bob Geldof was releasing the Band aid single and said, “I’m delighted to be at number one, but next week I don’t want people to buy my record. I want them to buy Band Aid instead.”

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UK singles chart changes to a Friday

Sunday 5th July will see the last time the four to seven slot on Radio One on a Sunday will reveal the UK top 40 to the nation for the first time. The music industry have decided to have a global release date for all music and that is now on a Friday, so the chart will be compiled between 00.01am on Friday mornings until midnight the following Thursday and then revealed to the nation during Greg James’ drivetime show on Radio One.

The first week will be a short week with one chart being announced on Sunday 5th and the next one on Friday 10th July.  The audience figures have dropped so much that it seems fewer and fewer people actually care what’s in the chart apart from the number one. The Independent chart, which generally has more listeners, is broadcast by Global’s Capital Radio nationwide has generally been ahead of the Radio One chart and is a good barometer as to what the top 10 will be on Radio One the following week.

The Official Charts Company issued this Statement:

In an historic move, the UK’s Official Charts, compiled by the Official Charts Company and broadcast on BBC Radio 1, will move to a new home every Friday from 10 July 2015, coinciding with the global music industry’s move to a new co-ordinated international release day for new music.

The Official Charts will be announced in its traditional Sunday slot for the last time on July 5, the end of a 28-year chapter of broadcasting history, and the dawn of an exciting new era for the chart. The Official Singles Chart and Official Albums Chart (and many other genre charts besides) have been announced every Sunday afternoon since moving from Tuesday lunchtime in October 1987. This is actually not true. The chart has been broadcast on a Sunday since 1964, but only after the chart had been reveal earlier in the week. In 1987 it was revealed for the first time on a Sunday.

Officially kicking off the weekend for pop fans all over Britain, the first Friday chart, and first Friday chart broadcast will then follow on July 10 – this will be a five-day chart, designed to bring the chart cycle in line with the new announcement day. In tandem, the weekly show will move to a new home on Radio 1’s schedule – The Official Chart with Greg James takes up a fresh residency in the high profile Friday drive-time slot from 4pm, kick-starting the weekend with the rundown of the UK’s official biggest tracks of the week.

The first full seven-day Friday chart will be unveiled on July 17, reflecting the first week of sales following the first synchronised global release day.

MTV UK, the exclusive music TV home of the Official Charts will also move the premieres of its weekly charts in line with the global release day – plans to be revealed by the broadcaster soon.

Official Charts Company chief executive Martin Talbot says, “Moving to Friday ushers in a new era for the Official Chart this summer. From July 10, every Friday night will be party night for all the artists and their UK fans celebrating their latest chart position. It is going to be a fantastic new beginning for the Official Charts.”

The printed chart in Music Week is still listed as a ‘Singles’ chart yet a proportion of the tracks are not singles, especially when a big artist releases a new album and every tracks ends up in the singles chart – Ed Sheeran is a good example. It’s really a popularity chart of whatever the kids are listening to this week.

The chart being revealed on a weekday during a drivetime show is not going to increase the listening audience figures, but it’ll probably keep the industry happy and they’ll keep telling us how it’s thriving. Watch this space.

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Irish entertainer Val Doonican has died

As I often mention at my quizzes, when playing any one of his wonderful songs, he was the man with the most unfortunate initials, Val Doonican, has died.

He crooned well with songs like Memories Are Made of This and If The Whole World Stopped Loving, he did novelty songs well like Delaney’s Donkey and Paddy McGinty’s Goat, he had his own television shows, which, at its peak, attracted 19 million viewers and his album, Val Doonican, Rocks, But Gently had the dubious distinction of knocking the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band off the number one spot in 1967.

Val was born Michael Valentine Doonican in February 1927 in Waterford, Ireland into a musical family and was the youngest of seven children. He went on to appear on Irish radio as well as on Waterford’s first ever television broadcast before moving to England in 1951 where he joined vocal group the Four Ramblers before embarking on a solo career.

The Four Ramblers’ biggest claim to fame was that they once supported Anthony Newley on tour. Newley had his own dance troupe one of which included Lynette Rae who Val took a shine to, so Newley officially introduced them and they married in the early sixties.

In 1963 he secured a slot on Sunday Night at the Palladium and as a result, the BBC’s head of light entertainment, Bill Cotton, offered him his own TV series which lasted for 22 years during which he recorded 25 Christmas Specials that commanded similar viewing figures to that of Morecambe and Wise and The Two Ronnies. But Val never used to like watching himself, He told The Express in 2013, “They became something of a national institution but I couldn’t bear to watch. It felt embarrassing seeing myself. We’d sit as a family enjoying ourselves but as soon as my show started, I’d nip off to another room.”

He was a very down-to-earth character who never took fame for granted nor seriously. He had a string of hit singles in the 1960s and early 70s including Walk Tall, The Special Years, What Would I Be which became his biggest hit making number two and his cover of Bob Lind’s Elusive Butterfly matched Bob’s chart position of number four. His last hit was Heaven Is My Woman’s Love in 1973.

Val, who was friends with the late comedian Dave Allen, retired in 2009 and passed away in his sleep on the evening of Wednesday 1st July. He is survived by his first love, Lynn and his two children Sarah and Fiona.

I certainly remember from my childhood watching his shows, they were very special years.

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Chris Squire (from Yes) has died

Chris Squire, bass player, founding member and the only member of Yes to play on all 21 of their albums.

The news was broken by Yes member Geoff Downes who posted this message on Twitter: “Utterly devastated beyond words to have to report the sad news of the passing of my dear friend, bandmate and inspiration Chris Squire.”

Chris was born in March 1948 in the Kingsbury district of north London. His path into music came via the local Church where he sang in the choir. As a teenager he took a shine to the bass guitar and, at the age of 16, joined a local band called The Selfs. Two years later, he and singer Jon Anderson formed Yes which is where he remained for the next 47 years.

His place in the band can never be underestimated because he used a distinctive Rickenbacker 4001 electric to help define his role.

Their eponymous debut album was released in 1969 made little impact on the public and even less on the UK chart. The following year they released their second album with that distinctive prog rock sound, Chris explained in Ultimate Classic Rock, “Our second album Time and a Word was where we first started to work with (new Yes engineer) Eddy Offord. He liked the way my tone was coming out of my Marshall 100-watt that I’d used ever since the beginning really, and the thing that he added to that by using certain compression and certain settings that he liked in the studio, so we just developed it really, from Time And A Word onwards and I suppose you could say that by the time we got to Fragile and Roundabout, he’d really finessed the production of my bass sound.”

Their most defining albums were 1971’s Fragile and Close To the Edge the following year but they topped the album chart twice, firstly in 1973 with Tales of Topographic Ocean and again in 1977 with Going for the One.

During their time, more than 40 members came and went including mainstays Rick Wakeman, Tony Kaye, Bill Bruford, Alan White and Peter Banks who sadly died in 2013. With Chris’ passing, that means that White is now the member with the longest tenure.

Chris did attempt a solo career which resulted in one charting album called Fish out Of Water – maybe it turned out to be prophetic. Fish was Squire’s nickname. In 2000 he joined then-Yes guitarist Billy Sherwood in a side project called Conspiracy. They released two albums – Conspiracy in 2000 and The Unknown in 2003.

Chris was married three times and obviously had a penchant for the letter as four of this five children’s names were Carmen, Chandrika, Camille, Cameron. In case you were wondering, the youngest is called Xilan.

In May this year the band released a statement explaining that Chris had been diagnosed with acute erythroid leukemia and would take a break whilst receiving treatment, however, just five weeks later he was gone. The official Yes statement on his passing concluded with; ‘Chris was a great friend of many – including each of us. But he wasn’t merely our friend: he was also part of our family and we shall forever love and miss him.’

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