World of Chig   

Fabulous! Fabulous! Fabulous!

You may have missed this if you weren't watching Norwegian TV last weekend. After I wrote about Alexander Rybak's victory in the Melodi Grand Prix on Saturday night, I was invited round to Glitterball Mansions on Sunday as Norwegian TV was repeating it at teatime. (Can you imagine the BBC doing that with our final?) Knowing that the Schlagerboys had gone there with their banners, I asked my host if they'd been caught on camera. "Oh, they were in it," he replied. You mean audience shots of them waving their flags? "No, they were in it." And indeed they were. I wasn't quite prepared for this. On our national final, we get Eurovision royalty (Lulu) and, er, Duncan 'from Blue' James. Norway gets two blokes from Birmingham. But they are Eurovision royalty too. Regardez. Note how little of the English the presenter feels the need to translate into Norwegian. There are two possible reasons for this. I have decided to believe it's because most Norwegians will understand their English anyway.

Two of the SIX contestants in Your Country Needs You are now wondering if they're the two who Schlagerboy D has forgotten.

I also have a feeling that the UK probably will "stem på Norge" anyway, so the host can relax. I think every country in Europe will "stem på Norge" on 16 May and it could easily be douze points from us.

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No time left for romancing

Another person from the list of UK Number One hitmakers has shuffled off their mortal coil. Mrs Slocombe's pussy and Mr Papadopoulos have yet to comment.

RIP Wendy Richard
(1943-2009). (Mike Sarne is still alive.)

'Come Outside' - Mike Sarne with Wendy Richard - #1 - 1962

This knocked Elvis Presley's 'Good Luck Charm' off the top spot and stayed there for two weeks from late June 1962. Wendy Richard, bless her, thought it was six weeks, as we've mentioned before.

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Queer As Folk 10 - how it started for Chig

For today's little shimmy down memory lane (AKA Canal Street) to celebrate Queer As Folk's tenth anniversary yesterday, I shall recount the tale of how I ever knew about it to start with. It's one of those stories which could so easily not have happened, which would then not have set in train a whole load of other things which have happened to me in the last ten years.

Rewind to January 1998. I was on holiday on Gran Canaria with two friends, staying at Villas Blancas. There was a lovely guy called Matt in one of the neighbouring apartments. We hadn't had very much of a chat until one day when I lost my friends on the beach. (Look, one sand dune looks pretty much like another, okay?) I had to come back to the apartment in a taxi with no money and no shoes as my friends had the bag with our stuff in. Luckily, I was able to borrow money for a taxi from Matt and, as I was also without the apartment keys, I sat and chatted to him outside his apartment until my friends appeared. We stayed in touch after that holiday by e-mail, so later in the year, when Matt was working as script editor on a new gay drama series, he knew that I was writing for Gay Times. He suggested me going up to Manchester for a night shoot, so I could meet the cast and the writer. I put this to the editor, sensing that this was going to be quite a newsworthy programme for the gay press, and one weekend in October 1998, off I toddled up to Manchester to meet Matt and observe the night shoot. But I hadn't quite come prepared for what followed.

Find out why later this week.


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Swiss (rock and) roll

Chig has a new favourite in this year's Eurovision. It probably won't excite a Eurovision audience very much, but I think this is fantastic! Basle band Lovebugs have been going for fifteen years and have plucked the title track from their tenth album, 'The Highest Heights', to become their country's 51st Eurovision entry. The shimmering guitar at the start sounds a bit like early U2, with vocals that remind me a lot of The Psychedelic Furs (and it's taken a frustrating 24 hours for me to work out who it was!) It doesn't have much of a verse/chorus structure, or even a key change, but still manages to be catchy. The best Swiss entry since Vanilla Ninja in 2005 - and they were Estonian. Allez la Suisse!

Eurovision 2009 - Switzerland - 'The Highest Heights' - Lovebugs

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Queer As Folk 10

Tuesday 23 February 1999.

It was ten years ago tonight that the first episode of Queer As Folk was broadcast on Channel 4. I had been lucky enough to visit the set on two separate occasions in the Autumn of 1998, to watch the filming and interview the stars (and a certain writer) for what turned out to be my first (and so far only) cover story for Gay Times magazine. You can't imagine how excited I was as I sat down ten years ago tonight, but not because I wondered what it was like. I had already seen it! I couldn't wait to find out the reaction of the press and friends and colleagues the next day. I already knew what was coming, because I had been lucky enough to be invited down to London by Russell T Davies some time before, where I had watched an exclusive screening of the first two episodes in one of those preview cinemas in Soho where people like Jonathan Ross and Mark Kermode watch films before the rest of us mere mortals. We just had Boyd Hilton, who wasn't very well-known at the time. I loved those first two episodes, but they also burst my bubble somewhat, as friends of mine know only too well. You see, I was supposed to be in episode one. I had been filmed for it. I would have been the first face on screen after Nathan, right at the beginning of the opening episode. I realised while watching in that Soho cinema, my big moment ended up on the cutting room floor, so I had to ask Russell T Davies afterwards why. I was gutted.

I'm going to drag out this tenth anniversary for the whole week, as I have a few stories to tell. If I'd had a blog at the time, they would probably have been on it, but World Of Chig was still nearly three years away at the time. Please feel free to share your memories and experiences of Queer As Folk. In the meantime, why not start off by reading the text of the Gay Times article which I wrote for that early 1999 issue. I've only just discovered that it is reproduced on a website dedicated to Charlie Hunnam, who played Nathan, so I've copied it, taken out the typos and Americanisms that they had inserted (the cheek!) and pasted it below. I've actually enjoyed reading it again myself. There'll be more QAF stuff all week.

Coming later this week:

Why QAF was responsible for Chig never drinking a certain brand of lager ever again.
Who was responsible for Chig being told off on set.
The strange story of the Nivea hand creme (or was it)?
How QAF led to Chig being treated to a meal by the Daily Mail. (Yikes!)
How QAF saw Chig get a boyfriend. Yes, really! Chig has had a boyfriend!
The wild QAF party which led to naughties in a London hotel, on a train and in Chig's house with a member of the QAF cast. On second thoughts, we'll leave that bit out.

Here's the Gay Times article on Queer As Folk that I wrote for the January 1999 issue.

Folk Like Us

The television event of the New Year will be Channel 4's ground-breaking gay drama series, Queer As Folk. Written by a gay man, the eight-part series follows the lives of three young gay men in and around Manchester's scene. With one of the three central characters being only 15, the issue of the age of consent will be tackled head-on. But this is no tub-thumping drama, as [Chig] found out when he visited the set to talk to the writer and the actors.

Think 'gay television drama' series and what springs to mind? Tales of the City and, well, that's about it. Now add 'British' to the equation and what are you left with? Nothing, that's what. But all will change next month when Queer As Folk struts onto our screens. This is a tale of a different city - Manchester. And whereas in the past we've had to make do with token gay characters in the soaps, some of whom we don't even recognise as our own (Tony Hills in Eastenders for example), this is a TV drama with familiar characters, targeted at a contemporary gay audience. Queer As Folk is different. This eight-part series is gay drama, by a gay writer - the sort of programme that we always felt Channel Four should provide, but which it's never quite delivered. It shows gay characters out on the scene, at home, with friends and family, laughing and loving. Lesbian character Romey (Esther Hall), for example, has a girlfriend, a lesbian lodger, and even - gasp! - a baby. It's a situation you don't see too often in TV drama. In other words, the characters in Queer As Folk do all the things that you and I know and take for granted as real life, but which the straight telly world still sees as weird.

Russell T Davies, the series' writer and creator, says he didn't set out with a political agenda for the drama. "Channel Four, set modern day and gay - that was the brief, so off I went." That's not to say that it didn't raise some interesting and controversial topics, but the thing that Daily Mail types will find so shocking is that all of this is played as just being so goddamn normal; no apologies but no preaching, either. The series focuses on a diverse group of gay (and some lesbian and straight) friends living in Manchester. Central characters Stuart and Vince are both in their late twenties and have been best mates since school. Their lives are changed by the arrival of 15-year-old Nathan, fresh on the scene and full of the wide-eyed naïvete, trepidation and unbridled enthusiasm that many of us remember from our own coming-out days. We follow the lives of these friends - around the scene, in their homes, at work and, for Nathan, at school.

The whole series has been filmed in and around Manchester, with weeks of night shoots in the gay village, making the locals very aware that something is going on. Indeed, some of them are in it, as the street and club scenes required lots of realistic extras. Russell T Davies, whose previous credits include ITV's period hotel drama, The Grand, has deliberately steered clear of writing an issue-based drama. But with a 15-year-old lead who has a sex life, the age of consent question is ever-present. Although Nathan has all the nervousness and insecurities of any teenager coming out, he's very clear about his sexuality and knows exactly what he wants to do with it. It's a message that those opposed to an equal age of consent would do well to take in. This might be only a drama, but there's nothing "pretend" about Nathan's feelings and emotions.

On my first visit to the set - a wet, cold October night in Canal Street - I ask Russell whether viewers will find Queer As Folk uplifting and celebratory, or does it just normalise gay life? "It is a drama, so it is uplifting and celebratory in places, because I'm not setting out to do a documentary. That would just be eight episodes of people sitting in Via Fossa having a drink. I think it gets political naturally, because it's an entirely gay drama, it's got a focus that makes it political. And there are moments in the last episodes..." he tails off, reluctant to give too much away. "It's making a statement in itself," he continues. "What it's not is issue-based, because that's dull drama anyway. I do think that's, like, infant-school drama. You get a lot of gay stuff that is issue-based, and that's because it's an emerging genre - there hasn't been much gay drama."

Our conversation is interrupted by one of the crew asking Russell what cigarettes to buy for Nathan. "Benson" is Russell's immediate answer. "You see the detail," he jokes. On what basis was that decision made, I ask? "Artistic," he laughs. "Marlboro Lights are too gay. Silk Cut are too middle-aged - they're for when you've given up smoking. It's Benson, but 10, not 20."

Nathan is the youngest of Queer As Folk's three main characters. He is played by Charlie Hunnam, who describes him as, "a 15-year-old lad who starts off quite shy and not very confident at all, a bit mixed up. Through the eight programmes, he progresses into quite a manipulating, and much more confident and cultivated, kind of gay lad on the Manchester scene." He learns about life from Stuart, Vince and the others, while dragging around his faithful sidekick and confidante, Donna - his best friend from school.

When Charlie's real-life mum was 15, one of her best friends came-out to her, and she went through the coming-out process with him, not easy in Newcastle 25 years ago, so Charlie has had useful motherly insight into the relationship between his character and his best mate. He hasn't told his Mum about absolutely everything that playing the rôle involves, though. Some of the scenes may test her open-mindedness, but that's not his concern: "It's really a fantastic role for me, because I get to play both ends of the spectrum - from shy and withdrawn at the beginning, to screaming queen at the end." How much of the character is like the real Charlie? "I think he's like me in that he is a young lad who doesn't want to do the normal kind of things in life. He's not really interested in school and all that kind of shit, which I never was, you know? He's just more interested in his dreams and what he wants to be doing and he doesn't let anything get in the way of that. That aspect is very like me but, well, I'm not gay to begin with, that's one quite major difference, but I understood the character straight away, and after talking to Russell."

Charlie is only just 18 and manages to play three years under his age very well, partly because he looks younger. He describes himself as "a relative newcomer to the game" of acting - he's originally from Newcastle, and took the traditional route into TV for any Geordie lad; via the BBC's long-running school soap, Byker Grove. But it seems unlikely that Charlie will be following the career path of those other Byker Grove graduates, Ant and Dec: Charlie is serious about acting. "I'm enjoying what I'm doing now," he tells me, "so I'll give this a go for a while." He's been "seeing a few people" about possible parts after Queer As Folk and says, "I think I'll keep on acting as long as it wants me."

His break into acting happened by chance. "I was in a shoe shop," he explains, "just being really stupid with my friends and trying on some shoes, and I just asked this lady - I had absolutely no idea who she was - what she thought of my trainers. She was kind of taken aback and just looked at me. I thought, 'oh my God', because she kept looking at me. And then I went to the till to buy them and she came over and said, 'Have you ever thought about acting?' It turned out she was the Production Manager for Byker Grove, and she took me to meet the director." That led to Charlie being in six episodes, and he hasn't looked back since, moving on to a BBC and Disney collaboration, Microsoaps; a kids' series which he describes as "quite funky, dealing with real issues but in a kind of light way". He's also done fashion modeling, including the Clothes Show Live.

It's inevitable that many young gay men, whether they're out or not, will look on Nathan's experiences as a model of coming out. Lots of young gay men will fancy him, too. So has he thought about the responsibility that comes with being a... "Gay icon?" he interjects. Actually, I was going to say "rôle model", but yes, Charlie has thought about it. "A few people had raised that point with me," he says, "and I just thought, Russell's been in the game so long, on the scene, and he's such a fantastic writer. I'll put all my trust completely in him and what he's written and how the character is. So in that respect," he laughs, "Russell takes full responsibility." He doesn't necessarily recommend that young guys follow in Nathan's footsteps: "I wouldn't suggest that 15-year-old lads should go out and pick up 30-year-old guys on the street, who they've never met, and go back to their place, you know?"

The man in question (he's actually 29 and dreading 30) is Stuart, played by Aidan Gillen, most recently seen in the British feature film, Mojo. Aidan describes his character as "a very confident, slightly enigmatic, sexy guy". Craig Kelly, playing his best mate Vince, describes Stuart's sexuality as "open, raw and in-your-face". Stuart is confidence personified. Vince is more sensitive and less sure of himself. He's another 29-year-old gay man, who's obsessed with Doctor Who almost as much as he's in love with Stuart, his best friend since they were both 14. It's unrequited love, though; and Stuart takes advantage of Vince's good nature. Craig says that Vince is "happy to be in the shadow of Stuart", and that he is not the archetypal shagger, because he doesn't have the confidence," adding, "It's left to the sexy ones to do all the shagging." However, despite his lack of self-confidence, it's clear that gay viewers are really going to warm to Vince and want to take him under their wings. When I ask Craig if he, too, is prepared for becoming a rôle model or lust object to gay men when the series is broadcast, he says "it's a surreal idea" that one can't really prepare for, and anyway, that's not the reason why he does the job. "But it is part of the job," he continues, "and if it happens, then that's flattering and fair enough, but I don't really take that seriously. I think people will really, really like Vince as a character and I think that some people mind find him quite... quite attractive". Craig says this last sentence slowly, choosing his words carefully and being unnecessarily modest. He talks as though the attractiveness of his character has nothing to do with his own boyish good looks. As he finishes speaking, we both laugh because this truly is surreal, sitting in a trailer talking to a good-looking bloke about how attractive he is, and both of us pretending it's someone else. Craig used to be in Casualty, as did Jason Merrells, formerly Matt the receptionist at Holby General, who plays Vince's friend Phil.

Indeed, avid soap watchers will have fun spotting the famous faces in Queer As Folk, with Coronation Street represented by Denise Black (erstwhile hairdresser and mother of Ken Barlow's child) and Lee Warburton (more recently the drug-dealing Tony), and Neighbours by Peter O'Brien (Shane). This line-up is testimony to the strong script and the pulling power of the production company, Red. This is Red's first production since the company was set up earlier this year by producer Nicola Shindler, whose impressive CV includes Hillsborough, Cracker and Our Friends in the North. She has brought with her director Charles McDougall, who also worked on Cracker and Hillsborough as well as the much-missed Between The Lines, a series which included several lesbian and gay storylines.

Not so long ago, aspiring young actors would have worried about playing some of these gay rôles, even if their agents had dared to put them up for the parts. Those attitudes are changing, though, and these actors, whatever their own sexuality, see this series as the opportunity that it is - juicy rôles, of a kind never seen before; a kind of script that's never been written before; all brought to life by producers and directors with a proven track record in quality drama.

My second visit to the set coincides with the filming of a party scene in Stuart's flat, a loft-type apartment, with that 'contemporary seventies' look, very brown and cream, very wallpaper*. The room, which has plenty of exposed red brickwork, is dominated by a semi-circular chocolate-brown vinyl settee. There are huge white mushroom lamps on the corner units and two sets of white fairy lights zig-zagging across wooden frames. To underline Stuart's shameless ostentation, there is a vending machine in one corner, filled with chocolate and crisps. This luxurious set, which includes Stuart's kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, was created from scratch in the old mill building which used to house the nightclub Sankey's Soap. No expense has been spared in making the flat look pretentious enough for Stuart, who works as an account manager for an advertising agency - when he isn't shagging. (Sometimes he even manages to combine the two activities, such is his confidence and success.)

As I walk into the "flat", the "realness" of the set only emphasises the weirdness of the scene in front of me. The room is full of people partying, dressed up, streamers everywhere, but something is missing - there's no noise. Sarah Harding, directing this episode, explains that all the party sounds are put on later because "it's much easier to add background than it is to take it away". The technique really tests the acting abilities of the extras when they film scenes where the party guests are dancing. As "action" is called, a few seconds of 'Finally' are played, and then the cast are on their own - shaking their butts to an imaginary beat, or, if they're clever, singing along to Ce Ce Peniston in their heads. It looks very odd.

Slumped on a sofa between takes, I chat with cute young Jonathan Natynczyk, who plays Nathan's mate Dazz. Helpfully, he informs me that he has "very good looks and a big dick, but that's not actually shown on screen". At that stage, he had still to film a bed scene, which may have involved a little nudity, so the proof may be there for all to see.

Also on set is Denise Black. She plays Hazel, Vince's Mum, who is, on the face of it, a bit mad. She's more likely than her gay son to be doing karaoke at the New Union. Denise describes her character as "massively supportive, but not the claustrophobic, protective type. She's a good-time girl, but she's got a wonderfully good heart." When I ask Denise how much of the character is like her, she puts on her best luvvie voice and gushes, mockingly: "Everything that's wonderful about her is just like me". She praises Russell T Davies, saying he is "as exciting a writer as I can imagine. We all feel excited about this because it's not like any series there has been before."

Night shoots on the streets of Manchester in Autumn dampened that enthusiasm at times, though - inevitably, it rained on some of them. (The crew presumed that it would sooner or later, and sprayed Canal Street with water even when the weather was dry, to ensure continuity with the nights when the rain was real.) Twelve hours outside on a night shoot, on consecutive nights, really tests the patience of actors, crew and drag queens alike.

For the extras, the scene queens and drag queens hoping for their moment of stardom, the reality of showbiz hits home - it's boring and repetitive. If you're lucky, your fifteen minutes of fame will, in reality, be less than a second on screen, and your own mother and close friends might just recognise you if they put the video on freeze-frame. Still, you have to admire their dedication, and I know, because on my visit to the set I became one of those extras. Between shots of us trolling along Canal Street for the umpteenth time, we relieved the tedium by making up our own, increasingly complicated, subplots, in which we swapped boyfriends, and flirted with different men in every scene. Shame that it will be lost on the viewing public, but it kept us amused.

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Eurovision winner chosen tonight?

Norway did the right thing tonight and chose the song that was already becoming a hot favourite to win Eurovision in Moscow, even before tonight's Norwegian final had been held! 'Fairytale' by Alexander Rybak (pronounced Roo-bak) won that final tonight by a monstrous margin; over 5:1 over the song in second place. As soon as the bookies open the odds, he will be right there as favourite and Eurovision will end up next year in Oslo, another city that's too damn expensive, which is the only downer.

Here's Alexander Rybak's performance in his heat two weeks ago.

He's cute and knows how to work the cameras. He wrote the song himself, sings it well and plays the fiddle. The song is instantly catchy, with universal appeal, being a bit poppy and a bit folky. There's an act to go with it, but not too much to distract from the song. But here's the clincher; Alexander was born in Minsk, capital of Belarus, so he has the advantage of being an Eastern European by birth, representing the Western country who came fifth last year. It's a done deal, and the only way I'll be happy to vote for a Belarussian until they discover the joys of democracy and human rights. As far as hosts Russia are concerned, if they can't win again themselves, their puppet state Belarus would be the favoured option, and the next best thing would be a Belarussian representing another country. Job done. Everyone's a winner!

'Fairytale' has already reached number one in Norway; the first time a song from the Eurovision selection has topped the chart before the final, apparently.

The Schlagerboys are in Norway this weekend for the final. They managed to get in early by meeting Alexander and putting this photo on their facebook profile last night.

Alexander looks a little bit scared, but they had already interviewed him (in writing). He clearly knew which buttons to press, bless him, and he has the best closing message ever.

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He's back!

Next Monday (23 February) will be the 10th anniversary of the first episode of Queer As Folk appearing on our TV screens, with the ensuing media storm. I'll be writing more about that on Monday, as I was involved with the filming and wrote about it at the time in my only cover story for Gay Times magazine.

With perfect timing though, we can get reacquainted with Craig Kelly from tonight. The actor who played Vince in Queer As Folk is one of the most charming people I've ever had the pleasure to interview. Tonight, he turns up in Coronation Street as Luke Strong, sent by the missing Carla to take over the running of the knicker factory and cause instant ructions with Tony, the murderous husband she left behind.

It's not as if Craig has been away from out televisions; if you watch much TV, you probably hear him every day, doing voiceovers and adverts, from Paul O'Grady to Shipwrecked, but it'll be great to see him again. I can't wait!

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The Natasha Bedingfield Hyperbowl award

It is now time for a new music award, chosen democratically by you, the public by Chig.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Natasha Bedingfield Hyperbowl award, to be given each year, on or around Brits night, to mark the most spectacular mangling of the English language from the previous year in the field of popular music.

"But why the Bedingfield?", I hear no one cry.

Because it's doubtful that any native English speaker has ever made such an embarrassing balls-up of pronouncing one word in a pop song as the fragrant Natasha Bedingfield did in her 2004 chart-topper 'These Words'. She managed to sing the word hyperbole [hy-per-buh-lee] as 'hyperbowl' in the line, 'No hyperbole to hide behind'. It's as if she was looking for an enormous bowl, behind which she would conceal her person, if she could find such a huge object. So, Chig has found a suitable bowl. It's not hyper, as far as I'm aware, but it does now have Natasha's face all over it (and it's ovenproof). One pound fifty well spent at Asda, I'm sure you'll agree.

It seems incredible that no one from Natasha Bedingfield's management or record company spotted the mispronunciation before the single made its way to radio and then into the shops. It's also difficult for her to blame anyone else for putting words into her mouth, when the whole point of the song is her claim that, "these words are my own". (Three other people wrote the song with her, but, for all I know, they did the tune.)

Sadly, Natasha is far from the only culprit when it comes to redefining the English language via the medium of popular song. We're all in favour of the development of language. In fact, we're fascinated by it. However, misuse of words, bad grammar and poor pronunciation will now render artists eligible to win this prestigious prize in the future.

So, without further ado, let us award the Bedingfield Hyperbowl for 2008.

[Drum roll, followed by long pause before revealing the winner.]

The winner of the Natasha Bedingfield Hyperbowl award for 2008 is...

Kid Rock, for the line, "the way the moonlight shined upon her hair" in 'All Summer Long'. Congratulations Mr. Rock, in your valiant efforts towards removing the word 'shone' from our vocabulary. Here is your hyperbowl.

Before we say goodnight, we couldn't let this inaugural award ceremony pass with just the one award. There is one act who made redefining the English language their raison d'etre in the 1970s. With a total of seven badly spelt hit titles between 1971 and 1973, including 'Take Me Bak 'Ome', 'Skweeze Me Pleeze Me' and 'Mama Weer All Crazee Now', we are proud to present the Lifetime Achievement Natasha Bedingfield Hyperbowl to.... Slade!

Thank you for your indulgence this evening. Nominations are now open for any worthy winner of the Hyperbowl this time next year. Should you hear anything that you think warrants consideration, whether it's on the radio, TV or internet, please feel free to nominate it. Having watched the Armenian final for Eurovision on Saturday night, Chig is tempted to nominate every song that was sung in English, as they all managed to invent words we had never heard before, but they'll have to go some way to beat this year's early contender from the current top five singles chart. Yes, Mister Tinchy Stryder, we are looking at you and your "sorry I misleaded you" lyric in 'Take Me Back'; a linguistic crime so heinous that Sara Cox was even heard to apologise for playing it on Radio 1. Amazing.


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Chig's pointless Brits predictions

Posted at 20:01.
My predictions and my choices if I were giving out the awards.

(Note to Mike - I've changed my mind about the international female since e-mailing these at lunchtime. Pointlessly, as it turned out.)

UPDATE: Five right and six wrong. I'll claim the two at the bottom to make it seven-six in my favour!

British Male

Ian Brown

James Morrison

Paul Weller – MY PREDICTED WINNER The actual winner! (Showing that the flurry of bets which caused the bookies to stop taking wagers at the weekend may actually have been from people who knew something.) Also proving that a number one album counts for a lot more than two singles peaking at #19 and #28 last year.

The Streets – MY CHOICE

Will Young

British Female Solo


Beth Rowley

Duffy – MY PREDICTED WINNER & MY CHOICE The actual winner!



British Breakthrough Act


Duffy - The actual winner!

The Last Shadow Puppets – MY CHOICE

Scouting For Girls

The Ting Tings – MY PREDICTED WINNERS (and my 2nd choice)

British Group

Coldplay – MY CHOICE

Elbow (My 2nd choice) The actual winners! Adding to their Mercury Prize.

Girls Aloud



British Live Act



Iron Maiden – MY PREDICTED WINNERS & MY CHOICE (I think the fanbase will have secured this, even though it’s Radio2 listeners voting) The actual winners! You can't stop the rock!

Scouting For Girls

The Verve

British Single (Nominations reduced from ten to this five by listeners to commercial radio, who have been indoctrinated already with too much Scouting For Girls.)

Viva La Vida – Coldplay MY CHOICE

Mercy – Duffy - MY PREDICTED WINNER and my 2nd choice

The Promise – Girls Aloud (An easy third.) The actual winner! Good for them. Good job they performed it earlier...

Better In Time – Leona Lewis - RIDICULOUS. It's good, but not that good.

Heartbeat – Scouting For Girls - RIDICULOUS! How could anyone tell their singles apart? They've released five versions of the same song.

Mastercard British Album

Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends – Coldplay – MY PREDICTED WINNER & MY CHOICE

Rockferry – Duffy The actual winner! A Duffy treble! Hasn't she done well?

The Seldom Seen Kid – Elbow

In Rainbows - Radiohead

We Started Nothing – The Ting Tings

International Album

Black Ice - AC/DC (Surprise winner?)

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

Day And Age – The Killers MY CHOICE

Only By The Night – Kings Of Leon MY PREDICTED WINNER The actual winner!

Oracular Spectacular – MGMT

The Annual Beck Nomination for International Male


Neil Diamond MY CHOICE (Yes, really!)


Kanye West The actual winner! How the hell did that happen?

Seasick Steve (Would be brilliant…) MY PREDICTED WINNER

International Female

Beyoncé - MY PREDICTED WINNER (Just, over P!nk & Katy Perry)

Gabriella Cilmi

Katy Perry – MY CHOICE The actual winner!



International Group
(Exactly the same artists as the international album category.)


Fleet Foxes

The Killers – MY CHOICE

Kings Of Leon - MY PREDICTED WINNERS The actual winners!


Critics’ Choice

Florence & The Machine

Outstanding Contribution to Music

Pet Shop Boys


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Music's big awards night

Coming up here after the Brits tonight...the inaugural Natasha Bedingfield Hyperbowl awards.

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Over-adherence to the rules

As the regular reader will recall, I wrote last month about the law which now requires any celebrity TV programme to include at least one person who Chig has met or photographed (or both). There's a list here. This evening's Come Dine With Me on C4 has matched the numbers on Celebrity Big Brother who adhered to this rule. Of the four celebrity hosts, Chig has met and chatted to not one, not two, but three of them:

Edwina Currie. Met once, at Birmingham Pride.

Christopher Biggins.
Met once, at a Mr Gay UK final. Told him how his name had caused me 'issues' at school. People who know me will understand that. Anyone else may be baffled.

Phil Olivier. Met three times and counting, most recently at last year's Cardiff Pride. Before that at the Nightingale and at Birmingham Pride 2006 (below).

This adherence to the rules is admirable. For the record, I have never met the other 25% of the celebs on tonight's show, TV presenter Julia Bradbury, but she looks like fun.

Phil's flat looks nice too.

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Jag älskar dig, Måns Zelmerlöw!

Monkey Man

200 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln was born. But I'm not going to write about him.

On the very same day, 49 miles from where I am now, in Shrewsbury, Charles Darwin was also born. I don't know if he ever met Abraham Lincoln.

About 170 years later, Chig was taken to a youth club hall in Warwick with his classmates to watch a cine film about the Galapagos Islands and became fascinated by turtles. And evolution. Sadly, the idea hasn't caught on everywhere and there are still people who think we are all descended from a couple who wore fig leaves, ate apples and spoke to snakes. Dinosaurs were invented by Steven Spielberg and fossils are things made by odd people called archaeologists who are really potters, making fossils out of clay and pretending that they dug them out of the ground. Whatever.

You may think the theory of evolution is complicated, but no. In a nutshell, Darwin explained how we developed from this... this...

If you're wondering how that happened, it's neatly explained in this documentary by the well known scientists, Basement Jaxx:

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Pet Shop Boys, yes!

I think this is what you call 'a return to form'. This is the new Pet Shop Boys single, Love etc. It's rather good, but it could do with being out a lot sooner than 16 March, with their Brits appearance next week. Talk about missing the boat...

Thanks Mark!

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Oh Cyprus, what have you done? (Performance video now added.)

12 points from Greece. None from anywhere else.

It's quite possible that the worst singer AND the worst song of this year's Eurovision have been chosen already. Alex Panayi had a real chance of winning Eurovision with his song in last night's Cypriot final, but no. Cyprus chose a sixteen year-old girl who can't sing instead. Here's the evidence:

Eurovision 2009: Cyprus - 'Firefly' - Christina Metaxa

Nine of us watched the Cypriot final last night. That song was joint last with me and possibly in everyone else's bottom two as well.

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Svenska: Just like old times

It's the first heat of Sweden's Melodifestivalen tonight, as they begin whittling down 32 songs to send one to Eurovision in Moscow. It's just like old times (ie. when we started watching it a few years ago), with the returns of both Alcazar (hurrah!) and Shirley Clamp (hurrah again!)

Needless to say, we're off to Glitterball Mansions to watch it the Cypriot and Maltese finals instead. The Schlagerboys are in Malta, so we'll be keeping an eye out for them.

After holding back almost completely on the national heats and finals so far this year, I threw myself into this year's Eurovision frenzy with gay abandon last Sunday by watching THREE national finals in one day; the UK, Slovenia and the Netherlands. (I was out at an engagement party last Saturday, so could only watch the final of Your Country Needs You with the sound down, in a pub. I watched it properly on Sunday lunchtime, then watched Slovenia and De Nederlands at Glitterball Mansions on Sunday night.)

All three countries picked songs which are good enough, in their own ways, to do well, but I think Slovenia may have secured themselves a place in the final at last. This is written by Andre Babic, which is something we get to say every year these days, but for different countries. (It was the Portuguese epic for Vania last year.) It taps into Europe's love of classical pop and doesn't let the tricky business of language get in the way. It takes the Secret Garden route and has no vocals for the first one minute and seven seconds of its three minute existence. When the singer does come in, she makes an enormous effort to sing some quite taxing notes, but if she can pull it off twice again in Moscow, as she did here in Slovenia, they may be onto something at last. I wonder if Graham Norton has scripted the phrase "plucky little Slovenia" yet? What do you think of this?

Eurovision 2009: Slovenia - 'Love Symphony' - Quartissimo ft. Martina Majerle

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Most amusing announcement of the day

From Radio Five Live:

Tonight's race meeting on the all weather course at Wolverhampton has been called off due to snow.

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The day the music died

It was fifty years ago today...

The Big Bopper...

Ritchie Valens...

and Buddy Holly...

All killed in a plane crash while on tour on 3 February 1959. They were only flying because Buddy Holly needed to get a clean pair of pants. (That was before the trip. I'm pretty sure they all did nearer the end.)

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The Winner's Song

It's been bugging me all day, but it's finally clicked. 'Edelweiss', from The Sound Of Music. That's what I'm reminded of by the string section in our Eurovision entry, 'It's My Time'. (Not 'My Time', which the BBC's Your Country Needs You website had all over it on Saturday.) It's only a passing resemblance though; I'm not alleging plagiarism.

Unusually, over 24 hours after the song was revealed, I haven't yet heard any plagiarism allegations from Eurovision fans about the tune, so there's hope yet. Diane Warren must have seen Geraldine McQueen though. I wasn't far off the mark with my comment yesterday that the title reminded me of Martine McCutcheon's 'Perfect Moment'. It's the same subject matter and the word 'moment' does appear in the lyric. It's very easy to imagine Shayne Ward, Leona Lewis and even Leon Jackson having a Christmas number one with it, had it been their own 'winner's song'. There's a fine line between originality and parody, which this song straddles with some uncertainty, but I think it's absolutely the right thing to do. You can't get near to winning Eurovision without a positive and uplifting lyric, so it ticks all the boxes to have one like this, with an oft-repeated title and a stirring tune with a modulation in the middle. It's exactly what I hoped for from ALW and exactly what I feared at the same time. He's been listening to what has succeeded in recent years and written a Eurovision by numbers big ballad, that sounds like it could have been in Les Mis (which he didn't write, but you get the point). Job done.

Here's the faultless, compelling, vocally perfect version of the song which might have brought us a top 15 placing in Moscow. Sadly Mark's parents aren't blind enough or poor enough and he didn't wear a spangly frock to pull in the dizzy queen vote, so he won't be going to Moscow, and we won't have the most confidence in the UK's vocals since Jessica Garlick in Tallinn. It's a crying shame.

Chart anorak corner: There has only been one top 75 hit called 'It's My Time' in the history of the UK charts since 1952. It was a #39 hit for the Everly Brothers in May 1968.

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