Wednesday 28 December 2011

Monty Python is all around me!

Places mentioned in Monty Python sketches are all around me here e.g. one train station on the way to London is Purley (Say No More!); I used to live in Dorking ("Mr Ken Dove, the most interesting man in Dorking"); and in this sketch, "Picasso, painting whilst cycling":

I went to school in Chichester; I use the A272 regularly; Hindhead is just up the road from my mum's; I use the A3 to get to my mum's; I used to live very near Kingston; Ewhurst was the next door village to where I went to school (it's where Eric Clapton lives); I drove through Gomshall and Peaslake (which Palin mixes up - we'll never know why - and says "Gomslake and Peashall") to get to my mum's on Xmas Day; and my chemistry teacher lived in Wisborough Green. I just love it!

The three Picasso (1881-1973) paintings that Graham Chapman (as Ron Geppo, British Cycling Sprint Champion and this year's winner of the Derby Doncaster Ralley) mentions are: 

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
The Picasso Museum, War and Peace, at Vallauris
Geppo: "Well Reg, I think Pablo should be alright, provided he doesn't attempt anything on the monumental scale of some of his earlier paintings, like 'Guernica' or 'Mademoiselles d'Avignon' or even his later 'War and Peace' murals for the Temple of Peace chapel at Vallauris, because with this strong head wind, I don't think even Doug Timpson of Manchester Harriers could paint anything on that kind of scale."

And, just for the sake of completeness, here are the other artists in the race, according to John Cleese (as Sam Trench):
  1. Kandinsky, 1866-1944
  2. Braque, 1882-1963
  3. Mondrian, 1872-1944
  4. Chagall, 1887-1985
  5. Ernst, 1891-1976
  6. Miro, 1893-1983
  7. Dufy, 1877-1953
  8. Nicholson, 1894-1982
  9. Pollock, 1912-1956
  10. Buffet, 1928-1999
  11. Brancusi, 1876-1957
  12. Gericault, 1891-1924
  13. Leger, 1881-1955
  14. Delaunay, 1885-1979
  15. De Kooning, 1904-1997
  16. Kokoschka, 1886-1980
  17. Klee, 1879-1940
  18. Schwitters, 1887-1948
Monty Python is SO educational!

Observation: only 8 of the 19 painters mentioned (in bold above, plus Picasso himself) were actually alive when this sketch was first broadcast on 5 October 1969!

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Alter Bridge, Wembley Arena - 29 Nov 11

This was quite simply, the best concert I've ever been to!

I've seen Alter Bridge many times, but this was the best they've ever played in my opinion. It seems they warm to a huge venue, especially one of such significance.

I'll let the pictures tell the story (includes video clips):

Spamalot - my 9th time!

Yes, that was the 9th time I've seen the show (or was it my 10th?) On this occasion, I went with 11 friends to whom I had sold the idea, using extreme enthusiasm as a method of getting my own way! It worked!

Sorry, no pictures this time.

Needless to say, the show was excellent, with me smiling from ear to ear the whole show through, and me constantly wiping away tears of laughter, as usual. And everyone else seemed to have a good time too.

Spamalot is currently touring the UK so don't miss it

The show is SO good, you simply cannot, must not and should not miss it!

Monday 26 December 2011

Our Exclusive Preview of A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman

A scene from A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham ChapmanPhoto:
Ever since first hearing the Python albums in my teens, I have been in awe of the sound engineer who recorded them. The sound effects and editing on those albums; such excellence! I never thought, then, that I would ever meet the famous André Jacquemin. In fact, for some reason, I was convinced that it was never going to happen. However, at the premier of Julian Doyle and Bruce Dickenson's Chemical Wedding, it did, and I have been in touch with André ever since. My questions to him are usually about how he made this or that sound effect on one of the Python albums.

Then I saw him again at Not the Messiah, Monty Python's 40th Anniversary show at the Royal Albert Hall. He was given the ultimate Python accolade of being one of the Mounties in the finale of the show; the Lumberjack Song. We had a chat at the stage door.

Then it occurred to me that since André recorded all of the Python albums (such as Another Monty Python Record, Monty Python's Previous Record, Matching Tie and Handkerchief, The Album Of The Soundtrack Of The Trailer Of The Film Of Monty Python And The Holy Grail and Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album, there must have been some out-takes of those albums. So I asked him if he still had any on file. He said he had. Realising how special these out-takes are and how probably very few people outside of the Python inner sanctum will ever have heard them, (and because I'm getting pretty good at inviting myself to things in my middle age), I asked André if I, plus a few friends, could pop in to his studio to have a listen.

Not only did he say yes, but he also asked if we would like to see a preview of the 3d animated movie, A Liar's Autobiography, as he was currently adding the sound effects to it etc before its general release sometime in the new year.

2pm Sunday 27th November finally arrived and three of my Python-fan friends, Ennis Thompson, Larry Lloyd and Annie Terzoglou, trundled along to André's Redwood Studios in Great Chapel Street, Soho, London (only a stone's throw from the Nellie Dean Pub where I first met Terry Jones and Michael Palin in 1975). We were greeted by a very welcoming André Jacquemin who, generously, ended up spending two and a half hours with us!

He played us the first approx 8 minutes that he had already worked on of the film (looks amazing!), as well as all sorts of audio clips including some out-takes from the 1970s and 80s (the Pythons clearing their throats and asking André if he'd like them to read that again) as well as the complete opening song for The Meaning of Life movie, sung my Terry Jones, that was never used in the end. Similarly, we heard The unused and ridiculous Audition sketch that was only recorded because there was some studio time to kill, and we saw some very silly animated sequences from Monty Python and the Holy Grail that were also never used, but are included on the forthcoming Blu-ray version of the film.

He also regaled us with tales of how, aged only around 18, he got to work with the Pythons and the moment when it dawned on him exactly who these people were that were asking him to record albums for them! He also told us about the live Python shows he worked on such as Live at the Hollywood Bowl and Live at Drury Lane and how, during the 2002 Memorial Concert for George Harrison, a CD malfunctioned at a crucial moment where the lights come up and music is supposed to play. Miraculously, he got it working again just in time - so much so that afterwards, people congratulated him for getting the timing spot on!

Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Neil Innes singing "Sit On My Face" at the Memorial Concert for George Harrison. 0:19 into this video: the moment when, by the skin of his teeth, André Jacquemin's career didn't end!

Python fan extraordinaire and Beatle, George Harrison, even used to call him and ask for his help when he needed sound effects!

It was a fascinating day and we are very grateful to you André for giving us such an extremely special, once-in-a-lifetime Pythonesque experience! Thank you so much!

André at Redwood Studios talking to Larry and Annie

André with his pre-digital little black book of sound effects

André's little black book that listed sound effects and on which tape each could be found. I wish I had taken a photo of a page inside. It included every sound you could have imagined, including, of course, loads of door handle noises.

Gold records and movie posters like this one of Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits adorn the walls of Redwood Studios.

A Gilliam CD and a poster of Chemical Wedding

Sound engineer André Jacquemin, a master of his craft
André showing us the rope he uses, unsurprisingly, to make rope noises with, as featured in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. All the sound for that movie was done at Redwood Studios with Gilliam sitting next to André, going through every frame together.

A source of sound effects: door handles, door bells, switches and locks, plus one of the three actual microphones used to record the Python albums (top left)!

André with the other two actual microphones used to record the Python albums!

André, me, Larry and Ennis at Redwood Studios on that never-to-be-forgotten very special day

For the latest "Liar's Autobiography" News:

Monday 12 December 2011

What have Star Wars and Jabberwocky got in common?

The answer: the actor Dave Prowse who played Red Herring and Black Knights in Terry Gilliam's 1977 film, Jabberwocky and then went on to play Darth Vader in Star Wars.

He was present at the recent opening of Rebecca Grant's art exhibition which I was also attending, so, seeing as I am a bit of a Gilliam fan to say the least, it was quite a coincidence!

Me with Dave Prowse (Darth Vader)

He told me about his scene in Jabberwocky where he half falls off a horse; his foot gets stuck in the stirrup and he gets dragged quite some distance by the horse. It nearly killed him, but he said Terry Gilliam loved it and it stayed in the film. Here's the trailer. (He's the one in full armour riding a horse):

What a thoroughly nice chap he was too. His presence created tangible excitement at the exhibition, and he was more than happy to pose for photos, sign autographs and answer everyone's questions about the filming of Star Wars and about playing Darth Vader.

Dave is currently making public appearances to promote his book "Straight From The Force's Mouth", so if you'd like to meet him, click here:

By the way, a month or so ago, whilst visiting the Kamini Beauty Salon, I bumped into supermodel and actress Lily Cole who played a lead role in Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" - so this Terry Gilliam coincidence thing is pretty amazing don't you think, especially when you take into account all the unbelievable coincidences I have already had with his 1985 movie "Brazil"...

Thursday 10 November 2011

George Tilley is now 18 years old!

Happy Birthday George!

Click here to watch yourself growing up (from 1989 to now):

Lots of love - Dow

Peter Andre opening his New York Coffee Club in East Grinstead

This must be the highest profile occasion ever to take place in the centre of East Grinstead! It was crazy!

Here's that photo the paparazzi are taking (which you can just see me in, top left, taking that video!):


News coverage of this story:

Sunday 2 October 2011

Harry Wood is joint winner of The Carol Barnes Courageous Child of the Year Award 2011

Harry Wood on stage at the Theatre Royal Brighton

The Argus Achievement Awards ceremony was held on 2 Oct 2011 at Theatre Royal Brighton. The master of ceremonies was newsreader Nick Owen.

Harry Wood (appears in the last few seconds of the video), David Edwards, Rhien Browning, Charlie Allen, Maisie Smith, Millie Davis, Craig Beckett and Stephen Robinson.

And here's the link to the video Harry made to thank the doctors and everyone who wished him well after his accident and during his recovery, that earned him his award:

Each of the 8 winners of the award were given a 'front page'-style framed certificate and a cheque for £100!

Another awardee whom Harry was pretty chuffed to meet was former Chelsea FC footballer, now manager of Brighton and Hove Albion FC, Gus Poyet for his Contribution to Sussex Sport.

Here's The Argus's coverage of the awards:

These guys kept us entertained during the interval: The Iron Boot Scrapers They were great fun!

Harry Wood is 15 years old and attends Greenfields School in Forest Row, East Sussex.

Thursday 15 September 2011

No Naughty Bits: How smutty British childish humour took on corporate America and won

Read my guest blog post on TheRealGilliamFan:

No Naughty Bits Press Night #montypython #terrygilliam #michaelpalin

A very short and very loud clip of Terry Gilliam gesticulating a lot

It was a total celeb-fest! In other words, to use a Jonathan Ross term, the celeb/civilian quotient was rather high!

Nigel Franklin talking to Terry Gilliam still gesticulating

In no particular order, on Tues 13 Sept, in addition to Terry Gilliam himself, the Hampstead Theatre was graced by:
  • Emma Thompson
  • David Gilmour
  • Steve Punt
  • Larry Lamb
  • Alexei Sayle
  • Greg Wise
  • Maureen Lipman
  • Amy Rosenthal
  • Simon Jones
  • Nancy Lewis-Jones
  • Tim McInnerny
  • Alison Steadman
  • Maryam d'Arbo
  • Hugh Hudson
  • Robert Hands
  • Christopher Biggins
I had such fun that night - one of the most amazing and memorable nights of my life. Thank you SO much to all the lovely staff of the Hampstead Theatre who looked after me so well.

I gave the author of over in the US a bit of a shock during the interval. I called her up, then handed my phone to Terry Gilliam. She blogged about the experience here: I Just Told Terry Gilliam "I Love You!!".

In addition to chatting with Terry, I was very pleased to be able to see Simon Jones again. He is SUCH a lovely man. So warm, kind and friendly. I had to talk about his "This is my receipt for your receipt" scene in Brazil, obviously. I also met his wife, Nancy Lewis-Jones, who I think was very tickled for having just seen herself on stage in 1975. And I met their charming son, Tim Jones, who took this picture of his dad and I.

John Wood (me) with Simon Jones

As if that wasn't enough, I ALSO had a chat with David Gilmour. I told him that the album Wish You Were Here was a major part of my school years and that it is just an incredible album. I've got an idea I'm not the first to tell him that, but I'm really glad I did anyway. It sort of completes the circle, and it's not every day you get the opportunity to do that sort of thing now is it?

Press Night Photos/Reviews
  2. Broadway World
  3. The Arts Desk
  4. The Stage
  5. What's on Stage?
  6. The Independent
  7. This is London
  8. The Guardian
  10. The Telegraph
  11. The Financial Times
  12. The Financial Times - Arts Extra
  13. The Metro
  14. British Theatre Guide
  15. Hampstead Theatre News
  16. BBC Radio Four's Front Row
  17. Variety
  18. Pythonesque
  19. West End Whingers
  20. (As Yet Unnamed) London Theatre
  21. Theatre Voice
  22. Wall Street Journal
The Real Gilliam Fan Blog
Other links
The last page of the script, signed by Nancy Lewis-Jones and Terry Gilliam

Sunday 11 September 2011

First Look: Hampstead Theatre's "No Naughty Bits" on TheRealGilliamFan blog

Read my guest post over on TheRealGilliamFan blog about Hampstead Theatre's "No Naughty Bits" which re-imagines Monty Python's landmark 1975 U.S. case concerning the unauthorized edits by the ABC TV Network of episodes of the 4th Python series.

John Wood (me) with Sam Alexander who plays Terry Gilliam

Friday 26 August 2011

Filming Location Update: Ministry of Information in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil"

A still from Brazil with action taking place in front of the left chimney

The former Croydon Power Station was chosen as the location for the Ministry of Information in Terry Gilliam's 1985 movie Brazil.

The power station had been decommissioned and was awaiting demolition at the time of filming. The main building is, today, IKEA Croydon and its car park is where the cooling towers stood (the interior of one of which was used as the location for Information Retrieval's torture chamber). The power station's two chimneys were spared demolition and have been retained as a local landmark.

I regularly visited what was the power station as it was being demolished in the 1980s. Inside the main building, I remember seeing acres of twisted metal, and I also remember seeing the pavement that had been laid for the filming in front of the two chimneys. The enormous steps leading to the Ministry of Information's main entrance in the film had, unfortunately, already been demolished by the time I got there.

Left chimney today

Back view from 'within' the power station of the right chimney

Right chimney, top view

Me standing at the bottom of the right chimney

Right chimney, bottom view

Right chimney, taken from the road

Left chimney, taken from the road. The main entrance to the Ministry of Information would have been to the left of the lamp post.

A still from Brazil: Criterion Collection showing the right chimney

A still from Brazil: Criterion Collection showing where the main steps leading to the entrance of the Ministry of Information were constructed.

Croydon Power Station in the 1950s