Series Two, Episode Six: “Three and six. And that’s about what they were.”

Originally Aired on 20th October 1997

Introduction
“Hello, I’m Mark Lamarr, and welcome to Never Mind the Buzzcocks, the pop quiz that says ‘There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying a bracelet from Ratner’s’. Out two team captains have both been banned from heavy metal concerts, Sean because he’s too scruffy, and Phill because he would insist on stage-diving. Hughes and Jupitus, ladies and gentlemen, my team captains.”

Guests

Brian Molko – “Phill’s first guess is Brian Molko, singer with top five big goth’s blouses Placebo. The band are named after a type of medication, like many other groups: Brian Enos, Adam Antacid and Dexys Midnight Rennies.”
The first of three appearances for Brian, who’s winsome and sweet and has some good lines, although maybe not the best delivery. Definitely a good guest, though.

Bruce Dickinson – “Phill’s second guest is heavy metal warrior, Bruce Dickinson, former lead singer with Satanic cock rockers Iron Maiden. In the Maiden Bruce knew all too well the number of the beast. In fact, the beast has since gone ex-directory to get rid of him.”
Bruce returns, having been on the very first episode. He’s hamstrung by being sat to Phill’s right – his strong point on his previous appearance was his gameness in the Intros Round; here he comes across as quite low-energy and disengaged from the show.

Saffron – “Sean’s first guest is Saffron, lead singer with top ten techno monkeys Republica. Republica’s hit Ready to Go was played on Baywatch, the only show where both the soundtrack and the cast are available in vinyl.”
Saffron turns in what is pretty much the standard for a one-off musical guest at this point in the show. She doesn’t contribute many jokes but takes part in the Intros Round well and has a few of the answers. Nothing memorable but no disgrace.

David Baddiel – “Sean’s second guest is comedian, author and chart-topper, David Baddiel. David’s got a new video out right now. It’s called Swedish Lesbian Sauna Schoolgirls and it’s due back on Wednesday.”
Some good jokes from David, who seems relaxed and at home here. Not exactly the sort of performance that dominates an episode, but a good, solid show for a comedian.

Indecipherable Lyrics

Phill’s team must make whimsy from the Rolling Stones’ Tumbling Dice. They decide it’s about cheese. We do get some funny Stones/cheese based humour – Bruce even gets in a good (but clearly pre-scripted – stop looking at your notes!) variant on the hoary old ‘Keith Richards getting his veins changed’ story – but the actual lyrics themselves are as tedious as ever. Well, OK, it does sound a bit like he’s singing “slow down Bagpuss”, I’ll give them that. Anyway, Bruce pretty much has the right lyrics. Two points.

Sean’s team get the Happy Mondays’ Kinky Afro. Cue some nonsense about amputees. To be honest, Sean and David’s hearts seem to be more in making the standard Happy Mondays ‘what did Bez do, loads of drugs’ jokes. I don’t blame them, mind. Saffron bails us all out with a close enough approximation for two points.

Intros Round

Sean and Saffron get us started with Alice Cooper’s School’s Out. Sean, as is his wont, lets Saffron handle the tune and busies himself with mimes: golf, hanging himself, etc. Saffron does a solid enough job with a pretty recognisable riff, anyhow, and David gets it.

Next, it’s Ann Peebles and I Can’t Stand the Rain. It’s an OK version – a little too slow for my liking but they do it well enough for that not to matter. David keeps up his hot streak.

Finally, New Pollution by Beck. It’s recognisable if not quite spot-on, but David’s lost. Brian gets the artist but the wrong song, so no points.

Phill and Brian start their turn with Bachman Turner Overdrive’s You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet – quick, do your best Smashie and Nicey impressions – and do a very good job, all told. Remarkably, no-one gets it. Bruce, at least, seems ashamed not to have got it.

Next, the Stray Cats, and Runaway Boys. It’s close but not quite there – a little slow and too-sparse for my liking – but at the very least they manage to get over the visual clue of miming a double bass and Brian pretending to have a quiff. Admirable restraint in not just pointing at Mark. Bruce has the band but not the song; Sean’s team appear to have fallen asleep.

Finally, Whatever You Want by Status Quo. It’s one of those early series piss-easy ones, frankly, but you can only play the cards you’re dealt and Phill and Brian do it well enough that Bruce finally earns a point.

Connected Round

Phill’s team are first up and have to find the connection between ZZ Top and Jerry Lee Lewis. The answer, is, of course, that Steve Albini has covered both artists, with Rapeman’s rendition of Just Got Paid being the stand-out of their album, while Big Black really made the latter’s Kerosene their own. What? Oh, OK. There’s some japery involving teenage brides and beards and the like, but the actual ‘grounded in reality’ answer is the accidental non-fatal shootings of bassists, ZZ Top’s bassist Dusty Hill having accidentally shot himself in the ‘lower abdomen’, while Jerry Lee Lewis shot his bassist Butch Owens. Full points.

Sean’s team must then link Axl Rose to Cher. David has a very funny but incorrect anagram-based answer, but the truth lies in their brief marriages, both having had marriages lasting less than a month. Saffron was in the marriage ball-park, so two points are administered.

Identity Parade

Sean’s team are tasked with identifying a bona fide legend, X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene. It’s one of “number one, polyester, number two, polyunsaturate, number three, polyurethane, number four, Polly put the kettle on, or number five, Polly Wolly Doodle all the day”. We appear to have a team of X-Ray Spex fans, so it’s pretty simple stuff – number two.

From the sublime to the ridiculous – Phill’s team get Paul Griggs and Martine Howard of Guys ‘n’ Dolls. The line-up, alternated by gender, is “number one, Lenny Bruce, number two, Pam Ayres, number three, Lennie Bennett, number four, Pam Shriver, number five, Lenny the Lion, or number six, Pam-Pam-Pam-Pam [to the tune of whatever that fanfare is… sorry, I don’t know]”. Brian pulls the ‘before my time’ card, Bruce was too busy going to Poly Styrene concerts (he claims – don’t worry Bruce, you can admit you were too busy listening to Yes, this is a safe haven), but Phill has an encyclopaedic knowledge of this sort of shite. He correctly identifies them as three and six.

Next Lines

There’s an amusing moment of synchronicity when Sean and Saffron somehow simultaneously guess the wrong lyric. Otherwise, it’s a largely textbook round. Saffron and Brian are both pretty good, Sean’s team, having gone in as winners, hold onto that lead, winning 17-13.

In Closing

Standard guitar chord stuff: “I’ve been Mark Lamarr, and may I say, not in a gay way. Good night.”

How Good Is The Script?

  • The Good: I like a good silly joke, and the joke about the Stray Cats is very silly and very good.
  • The Bad: Take your pick. The introductory jokes are pretty shit.
  • Overall: A couple of decent jokes, but otherwise it’s a parade of the hackneyed, well-worn and obvious.

Proof That It’s 1997

  • Saffron’s the big stand-out guest in this regard – Republica had a handful of hits but are almost entirely remembered for Ready to Go, and the legal mandate that it be played before every football match between 1997 and 2005 (roughly). Everyone else looks very young – even Bruce, despite being close to 20 years into his career at this point.
  • Ratner’s hasn’t actually been called as such since 1993, so the joke in the introduction was already pretty dated. Still, Gerald Ratner’s ill-advised remarks were probably more fresh in the memory at the time.
  • I don’t think anyone’s made reference to going ex-directory since about 2004, while the joke about David renting pornography in his introduction harkens back to the more innocent days when obtaining grumble actually took effort.
  • There’s almost a trifecta of dated references in the introductory jokes, but seeing as a Baywatch film has just been released at the time I’m writing this, clearly some things don’t ever fully go away.

Other Observations

  • One thing the show never seems to quite get right is heavy metal. Even as a dyed-in-the-wool punk, I know that Iron Maiden aren’t cock rock. Bruce doesn’t seem to mind, at least.
  • We’ll save a big, in-depth discussion about whether or not Mark is (or at least can be) misogynistic for the Gail Porter episode – at my rate, probably sometime in 2023 – but there is an unnecessarily aggressive tone to the remark he makes to Saffron – “Put your head down then, don’t push your tits up” – when she and Sean are performing Beck in the Intros Round. It’s more in what he says than how he says it. By comparison, David was able to make fun of the same action without seeming unpleasant, because he didn’t seem inexplicably angry as he did so. Saffron, for what it’s worth, seems distinctly unimpressed by Mark’s remark and/or tone.
  • Actually, I don’t want to pile on him, but Mark’s pretty gratingly bad in this episode. He’s working off a bit of a lame script, but his off-hand jokes are crap here too, and I could have done without hearing his rendition of X-Ray Spex’s Identity, however brief. Probably the most grating thing at this point, though, is that he’s still trying to be deadpan, but can’t stop laughing, so he has a barely-suppressed smirk throughout. He’ll improve a lot once he learns to relax and actually be himself.
  • Alright, I’ll take a pop at someone besides Mark – I made a fuss over Bruce reading his notes earlier on, but he seems to do it a lot, even at times when he’s not delivering jokes. Slight shyness, maybe?

Final Verdict
Not a great episode, truth be told. The biggest problem is that no-one really takes it by the scruff of the neck. I’ve said my piece on Mark, but neither Phill nor Sean have anything memorable to contribute, David does alright but doesn’t dominate and none of the musical guests are that interesting as guests. It’s OK, but it’s not one you’d specifically pick out to watch.

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