We’re three seasons away from ending the NMTB Watchdown, and there are still two episodes I’ve yet to see or review. One of them is S06E09, which is bloody elusive, and the other is the direct-to-video special Never Rewind the Buzzcocks, put out in 1998, and featuring four of the most trusted NMTB regulars: Sarah Cracknell from St. Etienne, Jonathan Ross, Noddy “IIIIIT’S CHRIIIISTMAAAS” Holder, and Savior of the First Four Seasons Math Priest. It was an hourlong special, harkening back to the good old days of the series. So tonight, before S26, I’m watching it down.
Plus, it’s an excuse to go back to a time when Phill, Sean Hughes and Mark Lamarr were all tight as hell as regulars, and the show could be breezy, fun, and not try too hard.
In the middle of Panelist Intros:
Mark: “Phill, I hate to bring this up, but I noticed you’re sitting down very gingerly tonight.”
Phill: “…it’s always nice, when you’re recording a video, to have your ass explode 20 minutes before….the recording, and yes, the hemorrhoids have struck, but-”
Mark: “Was that a Led Zeppelin album, The Hemorrhoids Have Struck?”
Phill: “…it was a concept album…”
Mark plays in an ad Noddy did for a fish-and-chips frozen dish, which featured the lyric ‘I’ve never seen fish and chips quite like these…”
Mark: “It’s funny, because nearly every fish and chips I’ve seen have looked like that…”
Noddy, on the Blur video: “Nowadays, when you wear a hat in pop, you’ve got to have mirrors all round…”
Mark: “Yeah, or you’d look stupid…”
Math thinks one of the Indescipherable Lyrics is “The sand of magic mushrooms up his ass.”
Mark: “WHAT SOUND IS THAT?”
Math: “No, the SAND!”
Mark: “Oh….WHAT *SAND* IS THAT?”
Noddy: “Phill’s got mushrooms up his ass tonight…”
Math: “YEAH, LOOK AT PHILL!”
Noddy: “SHOW US YOUR MUSHROOMS!”
Mark: “Is that your final answer, because between you, you have actually got all the lyrics there…but SEPARATELY, you’re fucked!”
OH YEAH, THAT REMINDS ME. This special’s completely uncensored. We get to hear Mark say the f-word in real time. Fantastic.
Also, thanks to Math’s expert arranging, Mark even exclaims that their finished guess of the lyrics is “the first time we’ve ever had it 100% right.”
Mark also gets to do jokes he couldn’t do in a primetime airing, like:
“In the summer of 1992, Damon Albarn opened a blur gig by saying to the audience “It’s gonna be fucking shit tonight, so fuck off!”…and everyone left, thinking Peter Andre was coming on…”
Even better- Phill’s bit for Indecipherable Lyrics is Slade’s ‘Bring the House Down’…so they’ll be doing it FOR NODDY. Already, this show is diabolical.
And, of course, Jonathan and Phill help tie the lyrics guess into the Fish and Chips ad from the top of the show, making it all fish themed.
Jonathan, closing up a long, drawn out rant about fish: “Pickled egg counteracts the saliva.”
Mark: “It’s an excuse I’ve given to many women…”
Again, Jonathan’s great, and Mark obviously loves having him on, but without buffering, he can take over any show, and he nearly does in the first round. Mark does have some moments of trying to get it back on track, but at this stage it’s worrysome.
Jonathan does start needling Noddy for stories, going: “i bet there was more than one occasion where you shared with Dave…”
Phill: “SHARED WHAT?”
Noddy: “You’re getting nothing out of me…”
Jonathan: “IIIIIIT’S CHRIIIIIISTMAAAAAASSS!”
(I did not think we’d be getting one of those out of this episode…)
Mark: “I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW.”
Phill, as Noddy: “DAVE, DAVE, GIMME BACK MY COPY OF MAYFAIR!”
Mark, as Noddy: “DAVE, DAVE! HAVE YOU EVER SEEN FISH AND CHIPS LIKE THESE?”
After performing the new lyrics, Jonathan goes to Noddy: “Anybody could do that! You weren’t the fucking singer, were you? Just a performing chimp in a hat! Even as a CHILD, I knew that…”
Mark: “Yeah. And it’s VERY HARD to say ‘Welcome to the Big, Big Talent Show…”
Jonathan: [walks off]
Mark: “He does this three-times a show, we always cut it out…maybe we’ll leave it in tonight…”
Jonathan, lying down: “YOU TIRE ME, LAMARR…”
After Noddy and Sean’s first intro
Mark: “Math, if you’re confused, Noddy’s doing the actual song, and Sean’s doing the same thing he does to every song week after week…”
Mark: “Johnny Kidd may not have set the chars aline, but he’ll be forever remembered for singing the King of Spain’s beard.”
The whole panel loses it here.
Mark: “Sadly, in 1981, Adam decided to get rid of the Ants. He avoided various legal procedures by just throwing boiling water on them…BUT HE’LL BE FOREVER REMEMBERED IN HISTORY…for singing the King of Spain’s beard!”
Mark: “In the early days, while on tour, Boomtown Rats guitarist Gary Roberts used to produce a fish from his flies…then, of course, they invented viagra…”
Mark: “In 1982, Bob Geldof played the starring role in the film The Wall, where he had to be stripped naked, covered in cold flour and water, and dragged down the staircase and into a swimming pool filled with blood….which coincidentally is what happened when he went ’round to Mr. and Mrs. Hutchence’s house to ask for his belt back.”
Even greater audience reaction here.
Mark: “Maybe you’re all going ‘oooh, too much’, but at least some of you are going “WELL CRAFTED.”
Mark, to Jonathan: “Look at that smug look out of you, you’re not gonna have a better joke tonight!”
Jonathan: “…I wasn’t even listening.”
Mark: “You can’t even SAY Boomtown Rats.”
As Phill gets up for intros
Jonathan: “Phill, if there’s a problem, don’t do the movements…”
Phill: “There’s only ONE kind of movement I won’t be doing tonight…”
Jonathan, like usual, doesn’t know any of the intros, but sells it. The first one, he goes “no such song.” The second one, which is OBVIOUSLY Maggie May, he still goes “No such song”, mainly because it’s a Rod Stewart number.
Jonathan: “NO! WAIT! WAKE UP MAGGIE I…YOU DID…SOMETHING!”
Jonathan: “The beginning bit scared the life out of me! I thought something was gonna pop out of his pants!”
Phill: “SOMETHING MAY VERY WELL!”
Mark: “At a gig in August 1992, the Stranglers grabbed an audience member, yanked his trousers down and used his bare buttocks as tom-toms during Golden Brown. But when this happened 3 nights running, they decided to ban Graham Norton from all future gigs…”
There’s an amusing bit where Jonathan and Noddy have to tidy up a hotel room in 90 seconds, both playing Chris DeBurgh whose spouse is on the way. It’s an odd segment, probably just added to fill time. While Noddy does a nice job in cleaning things up, Jonathan trashes the room further, flipping the bed, throwing a suitcase about and hiding in the closet.
The real shocker in this segment is the addition of MANDY SMITH, Bill Wyman’s preteen ex-wife, to judge the rooms. Mandy does commit a sin by pulling a blow-up doll out of the closet.
Mark: “I don’t think you could go looking for the things he’d put away…not really the point of the competition…”
This actually leads to some really nice moments with Mark and Mandy, trying to lead a segue into a joke about Bill Wyman as they go from Noddy’s set to Jonathan’s. Once they eventually reach Jonathan’s set, Mark goes “OH, JONATHAN’S DONE A FINE JOB!”
Mandy: “Well, where’s he?”
Jonathan, from inside the closet: “THERE’S NO ONE HERE. MR. DEBURGH, HE GO HOME!”
Mark: “I think the fact, Jonathan…that you’re hiding in the cupboard…”
Jonathan’s is great, because it leads to a very Thank God You’re Here-esque improv scene, where they’re all riffing on the vegetables that ‘Jupitus laid out’. It’s also great seeing Mark and Jonathan bounce off each other.
On Ray Davies and Thin Lizzy’s Lead Singer:
Math: “I was gonna say that they’ve both slept with Chrissie Hynde, but that doesn’t really narrow it down much, does it?”
Noddy: “Phil Linnet claimed to have plenty of kinks in his knob, and Ray Davies claimed to have plenty of knobs in his Kinks.”
Math: “Was it like…obviously Phil Linnet uses his fists there, and Ray Davies used his fists when he was in Bronski Beat…”
Mark: “Can’t believe they turned on that one!”
Math: “AFTER [MARK’S JOKE], AND NOW…”
Sean: “Do theyyy both take it up the arse?”
Mark: “WHEN HE WENT ‘ROUND TO MR. AND MRS. HUTCHENCE’S HOUSE TO ASK FOR HIS BELT BACK!’ ‘ahhhh…’ ‘Did he use his fist when he was in Bronski Beat?’ “OH, GET OFF! WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO US? OUR EARS CAN’T TAKE IN THIS KIND OF INFORMATION!”
Sean: “Phil Linnet did have some bloke in Ireland pretending to be him-”
Noddy: “Wasn’t you, was it?”
Sean: “Could have been…”
Mark: “…didn’t work out, did it?”
After the Mark Morrison introclip:
Mark: “You’ll notice there that we couldn’t actually use music in the Mark Morrison clip there, because the record company said if we used it, we’d take the piss….obviously we’re gonna take the piss now, anyway…”
Jonathan: “Would I be right if I suggested that they both attempted to singe the King of Spain’s beard?”
Mark: “IT’S THE ANSWER ON THE CARD, JONATHAN!”
Jonathan: “Wow, I’m bangin’, now…”
Mark: “BUT, when they went ’round to Mr. and Mrs. Hutchence’s house for their belt back, they stuck their hand up Bronski Beat’s ass! Highlights of the video, ladies and gentlemen!”
On Morrison’s hair:
Phill: “That’s kind of like the Mark Morrison tribute to Mark Lamarr.”
Mark: “Can I just warn you…there’s a very good opportunity later on to REALLY RIP THE SHIT out of my hair, so don’t blow it now.”
Phill: “Oh, I’ll hold back, but-”
Jonathan: “There’s nothing wrong with your hair that a good shampoo wouldn’t cure.
There’s another Rock Motel bit, where the other two from each team have to dress a naked roadie lying in the room before the timer goes off.
Sean: “HE’S DEAD!”
Several insane moments from this bit, involving Phill nearly losing sight trying to get the roadie’s pants back on, then nearly LUNGING AT THE GUY, SUGGESTIVELY, leading to the audience being insanely appalled.
Phill’s finished product.
Sean’s finished product. Math looks happy with it.
Mark: “I can’t possibly give you any points for that. All you’ve done is fooled around near a nearly naked man!”
Math: “I DON’T OFTEN GET THE CHANCE!”
Mark: “Who, for some reason, couldn’t even stand up when you’d finished!”
The group for Sean’s ID Parade had some pretty similar coifs to Mark. I wonder if this is the coif joke he was referring to earlier.
Math: “Were they called Matchbox because each of them only worked once?”
Mark: “Yeah, because Dodgy are still PUSHING OUT THE HITS!”
Noddy: “You wouldn’t think that anyone would have that retro rock’n’roll look these days, would you?”
Mark: “Yeah…it looks so foolish, doesn’t it? I wish I was dressed in LIME..”
Phill: “I must say, looking at the Matchbox boys over there…I can’t help but wonder who’s running the Dodgems tonight…”
It’s nice that Phill’s ID Parade is on the bassist from Sweet, as Sweet is pretty relevant now thanks to that very song appearing in the trailer for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’.
Phill: “I just want to say to #3, that I hope that everything at the offices of the Rick Wakeman fan club is going alright…”
Jonathan tries to see if it’s the real Andy Scott by recounting a story about how Connolly once got sperm on the ceiling of a motel. This is after a good two minutes of purely Jonathan running.
Jonathan: “I’ve been down the country, something called the ‘sweet spot’ on the ceiling, no one really knows…”
Jonathan: “Love is like…COCKsegen…you get too much-”
Mark: “JONATHAN THE POINT OF THIS ROUND…you have to guess…It’s not ‘you have to sing a medley of their hits!”
Jonathan: “I am cleverly putting them at ease.”
Mark: “What, ’til one of them goes “I CONFESS, IT WAS ME!’?”
After all of this Ross babbling, Phill admits that he’s known who it was all along, and Mark even says they both did a radio show together with Andy Scott, so they BOTH know it.
Phill: “It’s #2.”
Jonathan: “Gotta be two.”
Mark: “…it’s gotta be two, cause Phill’s met him!”
Jonathan, after he’s stepped forward: “Was it true, about the old…”
Scott, over applause: “NO!”
Jonathan: “I bet it was true…”
Mark, trying to continue the show: “So, now per-”
Jonathan, OVER MARK: “You know what? He just never told you, did he?”
Mark: “SHUT UP!”
Jonathan: “Did you feel left out-”
Mark, exploding: “SHUT THE FUCK UP, ROSS!”
Jonathan, continuing: “Everyone else went-”
Mark: “ROSS, SHUT THE FUCK UP! I IMPLORE YOU! I THANK YOU! SHUT…THE FUCK…*UP*! ON BEHALF OF THE BBC AND THE VIEWING PUBLIC, WHO SPENT GOOD MONEY ON A VIDEO, SHUT YOUR *FUCKING* MOUTH!”
THE WHOLE ROOM APPLAUDS. Even Andy Scott. All the while, Jonathan’s going “who, me?”, and smirking it off.
Mark: “Jonathan, it wasn’t you knowing that story that got it, it was Phill’s met him!”
Jonathan, harkening back: “I did the groundwork!”
Mark: “If anyone did, I introduced the two!”
Jonathan: “I’ve got another good story about Paul Young if you’d like…apparently all of them at the back of the bus were having a wanking competiton-”
Mark: “ALL RIGHT…”
Man, there’s so much room in this episode that they even have time for a Legs and Co segment. It’s the episode that keeps on giving.
On the weird alien dance thing
Noddy: “People who like to sit in pods and smell their own farts?”
Sean: “Is it…’Too Drunk to Fuck’ by the Dead Kennedys?”
Math: “Is it Tragedy by the Bee-Gees?”
Math: “It was the last time I was here…”
Mark, cracking open a bottle of water: “As you can tell, after shouting at Jonathan for so long, much as I enjoyed it, I’m losing me voice…”
He then, confusedly, looks at the bottle of water.
Mark: “…what the fuck is this?”
Jonathan: “That’s- the bloke from the Sweet left that in his dressing room…”
One more round to the motel, where they have to loot the motel room with as much stuff as possible. Even better, the room is Richard Fairbrass’s, “so don’t touch the Toblerone in the minibar.”
Again, Jonathan goes for the less subtle approach, literally chucking the television out the window, flipping the bed over and ripping apart the furniture, including kicking in the closet door, while Math and Noddy try stuffing the TV into a burlap bag.
Mark: “Am I really all that bad?”
Mark: “Phill’s team, you need 13 to win. It’s not gonna happen, but let’s have a go.”
Mark: “Relax, don’t do it.”
Jonathan: “When you wanna have fun.”
Mark: “No, it’s when you want to come…not necessarily on the ceiling.”
Overall: Judging by all that I just wrote…that was quite possibly the crowning achievement of Buzzcocks in that early era. Every segment had something worth laughing about. Every panelist, save for maybe a miscast Sarah Cracknell, had something to offer. Several laugh out loud moments, an amazing dynamic, and Mark Lamarr was on tonight like he’d never been to that point, possibly due to the lack of censorship. Heck, props go to Phill, for carrying on despite a hemorrhoid attack before the show, and to Jonathan Ross for being hysterical and not overstaying his welcome (too much)
Best Regular: Mark
Best Guest: Jonathan
Best Runner: Mr. and Mrs. Hutchence