If you grew up in the 1970s then you may well see something on the cover which, if it didn’t freak you out certainly sent a chill down your spine.
Many things that are created are invariably influenced by the life experiences of the creator. So you could perhaps argue that any “darkness” people perceive in the stuff covered here is in no small part down to what the creators lived through and dealt with.
In some ways they are a valuable social history, showing things which people have evolved to recognise are inappropriate. It is important to remember where we came from. And maybe where we are heading back to after Brexit.
But let’s leave the politics aside and focus on this cracking piece of work. Let’s open by quoting Edward van Sloan’s introduction to the 1931 Frankenstein movie:
“I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you”
Now we’ll quote Motorhead’s “Born To Raise Hell”:
“You don’t know what happened, not if you weren’t there”
Well thanks to Scarred For Life Volume One if you weren’t there you will have a far better idea of stuff that we read, watched, played with and ate.
This is not a small book. Over 730 pages should give you an indication that a hell of a lot of work has gone into this. For those of us who were there but didn’t see or can’t remember some stuff this book is an absolute belter.
The contents pages itself made Yates drool with anticipation and giggle a bit too. There are some cracking lines and titles in SFL. (Bogey)men of Harlech being one. There are lines which tv nerds will love and there are plenty of lines which will get laughs from all readers.
Johnny Main’s intro and Dave Lawrence’s prologue set things up nicely. Enough context is given about what you’re going to be reading about. Newcomers to this material aren’t just dropped in and left to fend for themselves. The last two paragraphs of the introduction really hit home with Yates. The first of many “Hell, yes” moments.
You will find yourself looking to buy or borrow DVDs after reading this. No, you will. Network Distributing will benefit. Do make sure you return any DVDs you borrow. It’s not fair to blame Steve & Dave for any friendships broken over non returned DVDs.
There’s no gentle playing yourself in here just because the first section is Childrens TV. Oh no. The Owl Service is first up and I was left wondering how the hell it got shown. Do check out the timeslot it was shown in. The first of many “WTF?” moments. And the first DVD added to the shopping list.
The classics are all here. The Tomorrow People, Callan, Doomwatch, The Guardians, 1990, Quatermass Conclusion, UFO, Blake’s 7 (lovely photo from Star One there btw), Space:1999, Star Maidens, The Stone Tape, Sapphire & Steel to name but a few. It’s the lesser known classics that deserve a further look from you, dear reader.
Each series receives a good examination over several pages. The treatment given to Callan, Doomwatch and Doctor Who meet with particular approval as Yates is a huge fan of them. The section on The Sweeney is fantastic. And I say that as someone who’s not that much of a fan of The Sweeney (gasp!).
Title sequences of some of these shows are examined. They are the often the first chance a series has to make an impression and by God there were some real belters in the 70s. Don’t think there have been too many more disturbing title sequences than The Tomorrow People. Simple but very effective.
At this point it might be worth making sure you have a stiff drink to hand. If you didn’t already. It’s going to get darker and you will get twitchy.
How We Used To Live looks at some of the things that perhaps aren’t things to be proud of. The Squalid Sitcoms are indeed squalid. Words Yates hasn’t seen or heard in a long time, words and attitudes that belong in the Dark Ages. Television programmes are products of their time, should be recognised as such and we should recognise that as a species we aren’t perhaps as civilised as we might think or claim to be if such attitudes and language persists today.
The Public Information Films section is a triumph. A night march with blazing torches and blaring trumpets kind of triumph. A Ritchie Blackmore going apeshit on a tv camera and blowing the stage up kind of triumph. A Raymond van Barneveld beating Michael van Gerwen in the World Darts Championship kind of triumph.
On the TV in the 1970s there would be a short film every so often aimed at explaining why you shouldn’t do something. Some were straight up, some in your face, some used disturbing imagery or words. Some were filmed, others were animated. Many were memorable.
Some folk of a certain age go all a tremble at the mention of Gay Ellis from UFO. Many more will feel a real chill at the mention of elements from certain Public Information Films.
His PIF on road safety scared the hell out of the young Yates. It’s only fair to share the trauma 🙂 Short and educational they were but many were memorable because of their chilling elements, intentional or not.
A few years ago when former housemates (all Home Counties softies) failed in their attempt to cook chips and set the pan alight it was Yates, armed with the knowledge from a 1970s PIF who came to the rescue of the flapping foursome. “How did you know what to do?” they asked as the wet tea towel extinguished the fiery oil. “TV was much more educational when I was a lad” came the deadpan reply.
The Paranormal section will get a giggle or two from anyone who remembers The Goodies’ lampooning of Arthur C Clarke. For those of us who didn’t see or get the UFO stuff this section is an absolute treasure trove. And if you haven’t seen William Shatner’s “Mysteries Of The Gods” programme based on the works of Erich von Daniken you’re missing out on some classic Shatner.
Books (along with the Target range of Doctor Who books, Hutson and Hassel were staple Yates reading), comics, games, films, food and drink all get the SFL treatment. Readers will see things they thought they had forgotten reappearing in their minds, making eyes widen and think “Bloody hell!” Blood pressure will rise, foreheads wrinkle and drinks may be spat out.
This is a book that folk of my age should have on their coffee table. Those of a more recent vintage might not but should have it near to their computer or tv/entertainment watching area. It will generate conversation, it will educate those who read from its pages, it will be a reference for those moments when you see something on the internet and think “where have I seen something like that before?” and it will scare the bejesus out of some of your visitors.
So dark in some places that American policemen would shoot it, Scarred For Life volume 1 is a memoir, an appreciation, a social history and above all a bloody good read.
Best enjoyed with a beverage of choice to hand. Can’t wait for Volume 2 because we all know that scary bugger Kinder egg kid will be in there somewhere.
Buy this book from the SFL website. Read it and buy the television series DVDs. And as Nick Ross used to say on Crimewatch, “Don’t have nightmares”
Scarred For Life Volume One by Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence. Published by Lonely Water Books. And yes, the publisher’s name is a PIF reference 🙂