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The Culture Vulture

About cultural things: music, dance, literature and theatre.

George Orwell – essayist, womaniser and fighter for the Spanish Republic
Saturday, February 4, 2023

Orwell did not figure in The Culture Vulture`s original top five writers on Spain. He sort of overlooked him because he only wrote one book on the country, Homage to Catalonia. Yet, on reflection the CV considers that Orwell is worthy to stand alongside his original fifth choice, Giles Tremlett, or even to leapfrog him.




George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on 25 June 1903 and died at the age of 46 on 21 January 1950. He was an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic. His work is characterised by lucid prose, social criticism, opposition to totalitarianism, and support of democratic socialism.

He is particularly known for the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945) and the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

His non-fiction works, including Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), about his experiences living as a dishwasher in the French capital and as a tramp in England, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), documenting his experience of working-class life in the industrial north of England, and Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences soldiering for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), are as critically respected as his essays on politics, literature, language and culture.

Blair was born in India, and raised and educated in England. After school he became an Imperial policeman in Burma (now Myanmar), before returning to Suffolk, England, where he began his writing career as George Orwell, a name inspired by a favourite location, the River Orwell.

From the late 1920s to the early 1930s, his success as a writer grew and his first books were published. He was wounded fighting in the Spanish Civil War, leading to his first period of ill health on return to England.

During the Second World War he worked as a journalist and for the BBC. The publication of Animal Farm led to fame during his lifetime. During the final years of his life he worked on Nineteen Eighty-Four, and moved between Jura in Scotland and London. It was published in June 1949, less than a year before his death.

Orwell married Eileen O'Shaughnessy on 9 June 1936. Shortly afterwards, the political crisis began in Spain and Orwell followed developments there closely. At the end of the year, concerned by General Francisco Franco's military uprising (supported by Nazi GermanyFascist Italy and local groups such as the Falange), Orwell decided to go to Spain to take part in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side.



Spanish Civil War

Orwell set out for Spain on about 23 December 1936, dining with auther Henry Miller in Paris on the way. Miller told Orwell that going to fight in the Civil War out of some sense of obligation or guilt was "sheer stupidity" and that the Englishman's ideas "about combating Fascism, defending democracy, etc., etc., were all baloney".

A few days later in Barcelona, Orwell met John McNair of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) who quoted him: "I've come to fight against Fascism", but if someone had asked him what he was fighting for, "I should have answered: 'Common decency'". 

Orwell stepped into a complex political situation in Catalonia. The legitimate Republican government was supported by a number of factions with conflicting aims.

Orwell was at first exasperated by this "kaleidoscope" of political parties and trade unions, "with their tiresome names". The ILP was linked to the POUM – Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, so Orwell joined them.

At first there was very little military action and Orwell was shocked by the lack of munitions, food and firewood, as well as other extreme deprivations.

With his Cadet Corps and police training, Orwell was quickly made a corporal.

Meanwhile, back in England, Eileen had been handling the issues relating to the publication of The Road to Wigan Pier before setting out for Spain herself. Eileen volunteered for a post with John McNair in the ILP office and with help paid visits to her husband, bringing him English tea, chocolate and cigars. 

Orwell had to spend some days in hospital with a poisoned hand and had most of his possessions stolen by the staff. He returned to the front and saw some action in a night attack on the Nationalist trenches where he chased an enemy soldier with a bayonet and bombed an enemy rifle position.

In April, Orwell returned to Barcelona.  Wanting to be sent to the Madrid front, which meant he "must join the International Column", he approached a Communist friend attached to the Spanish Medical Aid and explained his case.


“Although he did not think much of the Communists, Orwell was still ready to treat them as friends and allies. That would soon change." 

The campaign of lies and distortion waged by the Communist press, in which the POUM was accused of collaborating with the fascists, had a dramatic effect on Orwell. Instead of joining the International Brigades as he had intended, he decided to return to the Aragon Front.

There he was wounded in the throat by a sniper's bullet. At 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m), Orwell was considerably taller than the Spanish fighters and had been warned against standing against the trench parapet.

He recovered sufficiently in hospital to get up and on 27 May 1937 was sent on to a POUM sanatorium in the suburbs of Barcelona. The bullet had missed his main artery by the barest margin and his voice was barely audible. He was declared medically unfit for service.

With all the Republican in-fighting the Orwells escaped from Spain by train and returned to England. On 13 July 1937 a deposition was presented to the Tribunal for Espionage & High Treason in Valencia, charging the Orwells with "rabid Trotskyism", and being agents of the POUM. The trial of the leaders of the POUM and of Orwell (in his absence) took place in Barcelona in October and November 1938.

Observing events from French Morocco, Orwell wrote that “from the start every kind of lie, including flagrant absurdities, has been circulated in the Communist press." 

Orwell's experiences in the Spanish Civil War gave rise to Homage to Catalonia (1938).

In his book, The International Brigades: Fascism, Freedom and the Spanish Civil War, Giles Tremlett writes that according to Soviet files, Orwell and his wife Eileen were spied on in Barcelona in May 1937. "The papers are documentary evidence that not only Orwell, but also his wife Eileen, were being watched closely".

Orwell returned to England in June 1937, and settled down to animal husbandry and writing Homage to Catalonia.

Homage to Catalonia was published by Secker & Warburg in 1938 and was a commercial flop.





Following his experiences as a militiaman in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell wrote: “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism as I understand it".

In Homage to Catalonia he brings to bear all the force of his humanity, passion and clarity, describing with bitter intensity the bright hopes and cynical betrayals of that chaotic episode: the revolutionary euphoria of Barcelona, the courage of ordinary Spanish men and women he fought alongside, the terror and confusion of the front, his near-fatal bullet wound and the vicious treachery of his supposed allies.

A first-hand account of the brutal conditions of the Spanish Civil War, George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia has made a significant contribution to my understanding of that conflict, and to that of countless others.







I have also read The Road to Wigan Pier, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Down and Out in Paris and London and, of course, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

A great writer, indeed.

His contribution to the English language, in the form of words and phrases, mainly from Nineteen Eighty-Four, is astonishing: Room 101, Big Brother, newspeak, doublethink, the Thought Police, unperson and thoughtcrime are some examples.

The term Cold War is also attributed to Orwell.

He died young, at 46, after a life plagued by ill health. But what a legacy, Mr Blair!


©  The Culture Vulture








Tags: Animal Farm, Big Brother, Cold War, Culture Vulture, doublethink, Down and Out in Paris and London, Elaine O'Shaughnessy, Eric Blair, General Francisco Franco, George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, ILP, International Brigades, International Labour Party, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, newspeak, Nineteen Eighty-Four, POUM, Room 101, Spanish Civil War, The Road to Wigan Pier, thoughtcrime, Thought Police, unperson


Like 3        Published at 9:45 AM   Comments (3)

Whatever happened to ….. ELP?
Sunday, January 15, 2023

Remember them? Emerson, Lake and Palmer? The first prog-rock supergroup.



The group was made up of Keith Emerson from The Nice, Greg Lake from King Crimson and Carl Palmer from Atomic Rooster.

ELP came to prominence following their performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970. They released ‘Emerson, Lake and Palmer’ (1970) and ‘Tarkus’ (1971), both of which reached the UK top five.

The band's success continued with ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ (1971), ‘Trilogy’ (1972), and ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ (1973,)

After a three-year break, Emerson, Lake & Palmer released ‘Works Volume 1’ (1977) and ‘Works Volume 2’ (1977). After ‘Love Beach’ (1978), the group disbanded in 1979.


Keith Emerson

The exhibitionist keyboard player, Keith Emerson was also a pioneer on the Moog, Yamaha and Korg synthesisers. Keith apparently suffered from bouts of depression and was an alcoholic. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2016, aged 72.


Greg Lake

Greg Lake was the singer and bass player. He also played acoustic guitar and was the band’s producer. He is no longer with us. He also died in 2016, of pancreatic cancer, aged 69.


Carl Palmer

Carl Palmer was the drummer and percussionist. He glued the band together. He lives on. He is now 72.



ELP took a lot of stick in their heyday for their “exhibitionist” and “ambitious” work, which often “sampled” classical pieces, such as ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. “Too clever by half!” “Who do they think they are?”

For me, I was in my early twenties when I first heard them. I liked their music. It was a change from the blues I had been obsessed with for years.

I saw them perform live at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester in my final year at university in 1973 and I was blown away.

I confess I wasn’t too keen on ‘Pictures …..’, but I loved their eponymous debut album and ‘Tarkus’. I still own all three on vinyl.

In 1991, the original trio re-formed and released two more albums, ‘Black Moon’ (1992) and ‘In the Hot Seat’ (1994) and toured at various times between 1992 and 1998. Their final performance took place in 2010 at the High Voltage Festival in London to commemorate the band's 40th anniversary.

They sold an estimated 48 million records worldwide.


Take a listen to this live performance of ‘Tarkus’


© The Culture Vulture





Tags: Atomic Rooster, Black Moon, Brain Salad Surgery, Carl Palmer, ELP, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Greg Lake, High Voltage Festival, In the Hot Seat, Keith Emerson, King Crimson, Korg, Moog, Mussorgsky, Nice, Pictures at an Exhibition, Tarkus, Trilogy, Yamaha

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Whatever happened to ….. THE BEATLES?
Wednesday, January 11, 2023

We all think we know what happened to the most successful pop/rock and roll band in history. But do we really?

The Culture Vulture, who was in his early teens when the Fab Four from Liverpool appeared on the scene with their first single 'Love Me Do' in 1962, grew up with them and still considers them to be the most innovative and influential band ever. “Forget The Rolling Stones, The Monkees, Pink Floyd, Abba, Oasis, Take That and the rest!” he says.


History of The Beatles

The Beatles were only around for about ten years and only toured for four, yet their legacy is huge. Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, with the know-how of producer George Martin, produced a bewildering quantity of songs.

In the UK, they released 12 studio albums, 13 EPs and 22 singles. In all they recorded and released 219 tracks.

They also made four films, if you include the children’s cartoon ‘Yellow Submarine’ and the disastrous ‘Magical Mystery Tour’. But you can forget them really, they’re just historical curiosities, although I still have a soft spot for ‘A Hard Day’s Night’.


Solo careers

After their acrimonious split in 1970, all four went on to solo careers with differing degrees of success.


Paul McCartney

Bassist and ideas man Paul formed Wings, bringing in Denny Laine from the original Moody Blues and his wife Linda McCartney. He toured universities in the early 1970s and built up a head of steam culminating in a string of hits over 10 years. Wings released 7 studio albums, one live, 2 compilation albums and 29 singles.

Their best album, Band on the Run, sold 6 million copies and was EMI’s most successful album of the 70s.

Paul has continued to innovate and is still active at 80 years of age.


John Lennon

Lennon ploughed his own furrow from his home in New York. He had success as a solo artist but also with his wife Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band. He was also a peace-activist.

As a solo artist for around a decade, he released 11 studio albums and 23 singles. His most famous songs from this period are ‘Give Peace a Chance’, ‘Happy Christmas (War is Over)’, ‘Imagine’, ‘Instant Karma’ and ‘Jealous Guy’.

He was assassinated in December 1980 aged 40 by a fan, Mark Chapman.


George Harrison

The ‘Quiet Beatle’ and many fans’ favourite, George also went his own way musically, producing classics like ‘Something’, ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. A good friend of Eric Clapton they often jammed and recorded together. He was also part of supergroup The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty. Formed in 1988, Orbison died later that year and the group only continued until 1991.

His interest in film led him to co-found HandMade Films in 1978. The company produced a number of famous films, including ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’, ‘Time Bandits’, ‘The Long Good Friday’, ‘Withnail and I’, ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘A Private Function’ and ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’. The company went defunct in 2020.

George passed away in November 2001 aged 58. He died of lung cancer.


Ringo Starr

Born Richard Starkey, Ringo was drafted into The Beatles in 1962 when Pete Best was jettisoned.

After the break-up of The Beatles, Ringo was active as an actor and narrator, as well as continuing to drum. He met and married Bond Girl Barbara Bach (1981) and lives in California. He has remained active, principally with his own group Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band.

He wrote, recorded and released songs regularly through the decades, but few achieved commercial success in the UK.

He has also acted in a number of films and narrated the first two series of ‘Thomas and Friends’ (Thomas the Tank Engine).

Under-rated as a member of The Beatles, he nevertheless did compose a few songs and sang a few, notably ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘In An Octopus’s Garden’.

Despite the joke about his drumming skills:

US interviewer: “So, Mr Lennon. Is it true that Ringo Starr is the best drummer in the world?”

Lennon: “Look, mate, he’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles …..!”

in 2011 Rolling Stone magazine readers voted him as the fifth best drummer of all time. In 2020 he was named as the wealthiest drummer in the world, with a net worth of 350 million dollars.

Now aged 82, he is the oldest surviving Beatle.


Best ever

The Beatles’ best ever song? Blimey! That’s tough. In the frame for me, in alphabetical order, ‘A Day In The Life’, ‘Eleanor Rigby, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, ‘Penny Lane’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.

Best album? It’s between ’Abbey Road’, ‘Let It Be’, ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

Definitely not ‘Revolver’ or ‘The Beatles’ (White Album).

Best early album? ‘With the Beatles’.


In conclusion, all I can say is that The Beatles, together with producer George Martin, had it all. Talent, ingenuity and versatility.  

And longevity. Their music lives on to this day.


© The Culture Vulture






Tags: Abba, Abbey Road, A Day In The Life, A Hard Day’s Night, All-Starr Band, A Private Function, Band on the Run, Barbara Bach, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Culture Vulture, Denny Laine, Eleanor Rigby, George Harrison, George Martin, Give Peace a Chance, HandMade Films, Happy Christmas (War is Over), Imagine, In An Octopus’s Garden, Instant Karma, Jealous Guy, Jeff Lynne, John Lennon, Let It Be, Linda McCartney, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Love Me Do, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Magical Mystery Tour, Mark Chapman, Mona Lisa, Monkees, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, My Sweet Lord, Oasis, Paul McCartney, Penny Lane, Pete Best, Pink Floyd, Plastic Ono Band, Revolver, Richard Starkey, Ringo Starr, Rolling Stone magazine, Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, Rubber Soul, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Something, Strawberry Fields Forever, Take That, The Long Good Friday, Time Bandits, Tom Petty, Traveling Wilburys, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, White Album, With A Little Help From My Friends, Withnail and I, Yellow Submarine, Yoko Ono

Like 0        Published at 8:22 AM   Comments (0)

Whatever happened to BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB?
Sunday, January 1, 2023

The phenomenon that was Buena Vista Social Club began in the mid-late 1990s when the US singer and guitarist Ry Cooder was granted permission by the USA government to travel to Cuba to carry out a research project into Cuban music.

He discovered a group of elderly musicians who no longer played music and just hung around the social club in the Buenavista barrio of Havana, the Cuban capital. Cooder dragged them back into the recording studio where between them they created the eponymous album which was released in 1996.


The record was an overnight sensation and the group toured the world over the next few years. This loose collective of elderly musicians became suddenly very rich.

The German film director Wim Wenders made a documentary about them based around their concert in New York in 1998 and later interviews in Havana. The film was nominated for an Oscar and received countless other awards and accolades.

I first became aware of Buena Vista Social Club around the time of the release of their first album. I was immediately hooked together with music fans the world over. I accumulated a number of albums by other Cuban musicians who coat-tailed on the success of BVSC, among them the Afro-Cuban All Stars, Sierra Maestra and later Orishas. This music was for me the soundtrack to a beautiful love affair.

I was fortunate to see them perform live at the Royal Festival Hall in 1997. Some of the players became famous in their own right as soloists and performed independently. These included Compay Segundo, pianist Ruben Gonzalez, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo and Eliades Ochoa. The first three are now long dead, dying at the ages of 95, 84 and 78 respectively in the early 2000s. Portuondo and Ochoa are still going strong at the ages of 92 and 76 respectively. I saw Gonzalez and Portuondo live in London also.






















As the musicians died or retired, new people came on board. The name has now become synonymous with Cuban music of the 30s, 40s and 50s, a kind of brand name for the genre. As Ry Cooder, who often played along with hs son Joaquin Cooder, said, it was their calling card.

Alas, the original “group” is no longer. Indeed, Wim Wenders filmed a follow-up documentary entitled "Buena Vista Social Club: Adios" in 2017.

But, hey, what a legacy they left after such a relatively short time in the public eye - just 20 years.


© The Culture Vulture


Tags: Afro-Cuban All Stars, Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social Club: Adios, Compay Segundo, Cuba, Cuban music, Culture Vulture, Eliades Ochoa, Havana, Ibrahim Ferrer, Joaquin Cooder, London, Omara Portuondo, Orishas, Royal Festival Hall, Ruben Gonzalez, Ry Cooder, Sierra Maestra, Wim Wenders

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"DINNER FOR ONE" - A New Year's Eve Phenomenon
Saturday, December 31, 2022

“Dinner for One” is a two-hander comedy sketch, written by British author Lauri Wylie for the theatre. After featuring on the stage, the German TV broadcaster, Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) recorded the sketch in 1962 as an 18-minute black-and-white videotape recording, performed by British comedians Freddie Frinton and May Warden.

“Dinner for One” has become traditional viewing on New Year's Eve in European countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Estonia, or on Christmas Eve in Norway.

Since 1995, it has been the most frequently repeated television programme in Germany ever. Despite starting on the British stage, the sketch has only recently started to gain recognition in the UK


I came across “Dinner for One” the first time I spent Christmas and New Year in Germany with my then wife-to-be in 2009. Like most British people, it seems, I’d never heard of it, although I knew of Freddie Frinton. I was intrigued by the sketch and fascinated by how much German folk love the show, even though they watch it ritually every year.


Origin of the sketch

Lauri Wylie debuted “Dinner for One as a sketch in his London stage revue En Ville Ce Soir in 1934.

Frinton and Warden performed “Dinner for One on stage on Britain's seaside piers as early as 1945.

In 1962, German entertainer Peter Frankenfeld and director Heinz Dunkhase discovered “Dinner for One in Blackpool. The sketch was staged in Frankenfeld's live show soon afterwards, and recorded on 8 July 1963 at the Theater am Besenbinderhof in Hamburg in front of a live audience.

The sketch was recorded in English with a short introduction in German. According to the NDR, Frinton and Warden were each paid DM 4,150 (2,075€).

The show was re-run occasionally until it gained its fixed spot on New Year's Eve in 1972.



Heinz Piper introduces the story as the master of ceremonies (MC): 

Miss Sophie (Warden) is celebrating her 90th birthday. As every year, she has invited her four closest friends to a birthday dinner: Sir Toby, Admiral von Schneider, Mr. Pomeroy, and Mr. Winterbottom. However, she has outlived all of them, requiring her butler James (Frinton) to impersonate the guests.

James has to serve Miss Sophie the four courses – mulligatawny soup, North Sea haddock, chicken and fruit – but also serve the four imaginary guests the drinks chosen by Miss Sophie (sherry, white wine, champagne and port for the respective courses). He must also slip into the role of each guest and drink a toast to Miss Sophie.

As a result, James becomes increasingly intoxicated and loses his dignified demeanour; he pours the drinks with reckless abandon, breaks into "Sugartime" by the McGuire Sisters for a brief moment, and at one point accidentally drinks from a flower vase, which he acknowledges with a grimace and exclaims "Oooh! I'll kill that cat!"

There are several running gags in the piece:

  • James frequently trips over the head of a tigerskin rug; as an additional punchline, he walks past it in one instance to his own astonishment, but then stumbles over it on the way back. In another instance, he gracefully steps over it, and in the final instance, the tipsy James leaps over the head.
  • Sir Toby would like to have poured a small extra amount of each drink, and James complies with the request with initial politeness and then increasing sarcasm.
  • Miss Sophie expects James, as Admiral von Schneider, to knock his heels together with the exclamation "Skål!" (Scandinavian for "Cheers!"). Because this action proves painful, he asks each time whether he really has to, but obliges upon Miss Sophie's insistence. The gag is broken as an additional punchline when the drunk James' feet miss each other, causing him to stumble.
  • Before each course, James asks and gradually babbles "The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?"; Miss Sophie replies "The same procedure as every year, James".

Finally, Miss Sophie concludes the evening with an inviting "I think I'll retire", to which James and Sophie repeat their exchange concerning the "same procedure". James takes a deep breath, turns to the audience with a sly grin and says "Well, I'll do my very best" before the pair retreat to the upper rooms.

Watch the original 1963 version here: Dinner for One with Freddie Frinton and May Warden - YouTube


Broadcasting countries

The sketch has become a viewing tradition on New Year's Eve in German-speaking countries, where up to half the population may watch it every year on New Year's Eve. Some die-hard fans even copy the meal served in the sketch.

The full 18-minute version is typically aired in Germany on TV Channel Das Erste in the afternoon, and on the regional third channels several times throughout the afternoon and evening. In Austria and Switzerland the sketch is also aired on New Year’s Eve.

It is also a New Year tradition in Scandinavian countries.

In Finland, the show is viewed by 400,000 viewers each New Year's Eve.

In Sweden, the show was suspended for six years after its first screening, deemed unsuitable because of James' heavy drinking. However, the TV network finally capitulated to popular demand and brought it back. It has been broadcast every year since 1976 in Sweden, with the exception of 2004 in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

In 1985, the Danish television network, DR, decided not to broadcast the sketch, but received so many complaints that it returned the following year. With this single exception, “Dinner for One  has been shown on DR every 31 December since 1980.

In Norway, the show is broadcast on Christmas Eve, also since 1980.

It is broadcast annually on New Year's Eve in Australia (since 1989) and South Africa, though it is not as well known as in Europe. It was shown briefly in the USA (by HBO) in the 1970s.

The sketch is almost completely unknown in the United Kingdom, and its first national British television airing did not come until Sky Arts broadcast the film on New Year's Eve 2018 (although a year before, the film had been screened on Grimsby local channel Estuary TV). The Sky Arts broadcast included English subtitles for the German-language introduction.

Although the sketch is most popular in European countries, it is usually shown in the original English without dubbing or subtitles. It is easy to understand with even a basic knowledge of English due to the physical nature of the comedy. 


“Dinner For One” on “The One Show”

In December 2013 Gyles Brandreth presented an interesting item on BBC 1's The One Show about the “Dinner For One” phenomenon, in which he interviews British people, German fans and even Freddie Frinton’s widow and daughter.

You can view that broadcast here: The 'Dinner for One' Phenomenon - BBC 'The One Show' - Bing video


Different versions

The NDR television channel recorded several other versions in 1963.

Danish TV shows a version in which no audience is heard.

A third, 11-minute version was recorded by Schweizer Fernsehen (Swiss Television) with less alcohol drunk.

Both the 18-minute and 11-minute versions have been released on DVD in Germany.

In 1977, the Dutch public broadcasting system created a Dutch language version, but this never achieved the same popularity as the original.

In 1999, the NDR released a colourised version.

In Denmark a parody of the sketch was filmed, subtitled "The 80th Birthday", in which Miss Sophie's friends are still at the table (though the NDR version mentions that the last of Miss Sophie's friends died 25 years ago).

Other versions have been produced in different German dialects, including one in Low German (Plattdeutsch). This version, "Dinner for One Up Platt" is also aired on NDR in rotation annually along with the original.

On 24 December 2011, a digitally-edited satirical version entitled "The 90th Euro rescue summit, or, Euros for No One", produced by Udo Eling and German state broadcaster ARD, was uploaded to YouTube. It features German Chancellor Angela Merkel as Miss Sophie and French President Nicolas Sarkozy as her butler, James, and has new German, and some French, dialogue about the Eurozone debt crisis.

You can watch it here: The 90th Euro rescue summit, or, Euros for No One - Suchen (

In 2016, Netflix made a parody in which Miss Sophie's guests are replaced with characters from Netflix shows, specifically Saul Goodman from "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul", Frank Underwood from "House of Cards", Pablo Escobar from "Narcos", and Crazy Eyes from "Orange is the New Black".


Catch phrase: "Same procedure as every year"

The line "Same procedure as every year" (in the original English) has become a very popular catchphrase in Germany. The phrase has entered everyday vocabulary, and is used in newspaper headlines and advertisements. This is also the case in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.



The sketch resonated strongly with Norwegian, Luxembourgish and German audiences. The sketch is one of the most widely-known pieces of English-language media in Europe despite its relatively minimal impact in Britain.

Deutsche Post issued a commemorative stamp for the show on 11 October 2018.

In January 2021, Google added an easter-egg to their Knowledge Panel. The panel included a tiger's head, which when clicked showed James running across the screen and tripping over said tiger. It also featured sound clips from the film, chiefly the line "Same procedure as every year, James.”

In December 2022, it was announced that German studio UFA would produce a six-part prequel series, set 50 years before the original version.


So, as I sit here writing this, we are in anticipation of the “Dinner for One ritual later today, as we celebrate the arrival of the New Year with our evening meal of “raclette”.






© The Culture Vulture


Additional material:

Familie Schröder

Norddeutscher Rundfunk

The One Show – BBC1



Tags: Admiral von Schneider, ARD, BBC, butler, Culture Vulture, Dinner for One, Freddie Frinton, Google, Heinz Piper, James, May Warden, Miss Sophie, Mr. Pomeroy, Mr. Winterbottom, NDR, Netflix, Same procedure as every year, Sir Toby

Like 1        Published at 5:04 PM   Comments (2)

Whatever happened to JOAN MANUEL SERRAT?
Friday, December 30, 2022

JOAN MANUEL SERRAT was and still is “de puta madre" (the dog’s bollocks). I heard his music for the first time in 1971 during my first visit to Spain. I was 21 at the time and he had just released his album "Mediterráneo". It’s an amazing piece of work and I still listen to it regularly more than 50 years on.


Me and Joan Manuel

Since the lyrics and pronunciation of "Mediterraneo" are very clear, when I was a Spanish teacher in the 70s and 80s, I used his songs as a teaching resource in my A-Level classes. In particular La mujer que yo quiero, Tío Alberto, Barquito de papel, as well as Mediterráneo, the title track.









Here is an example of his work from that album, the title track:

Joan Manuel Serrat - YouTube



Joan Manuel Serrat i Teresa (born on 27 December 1943) is a Spanish musician, singer and composer. He is considered one of the most important figures of modern, popular music in both the Spanish and catalán languages.

Serrat became involved with music at the age of 17 when he obtained his first guitar to which he dedicated one of his earliest songs, "Una guitarra".

In 1968, Spain entered Serrat in the Eurovision Song Contest to sing "La, la, la", but he asked to sing it in catalán, to which the Spanish authorities would not agree. This would be the first time he would come into conflict with the language politics of Franco’s Spain, because of his decision to sing in his native catalán language, repressed by the dictator for some 40 years. Defiantly, Serrat refused to sing the Spanish-language version, and was hurriedly replaced by Massiel, who went on to win the contest with her Spanish-language version of the same song.

In 1969, he made his first tour to South America. He released an album containing songs with texts of the Sevilla-born poet Antonio Machado. This album brought him immediate fame in all Spain and Latin America, though, in spite of this, his decision to sing in Spanish was criticised in some catalán nationalist circles.

The release of the  LP "Mediterráneo"  in 1971 consolidated the artist's reputation worldwide.

In late 1974, Serrat was exiled in Mexico. An arrest warrant had been issued in Spain after he criticised the death penalty and the "established and official violence" of the dictatorship of General Franco. As a result Serrat lived in exile for the remainder of the dictatorship, returning to Spain  after the death of Franco in 1975 and Spain's return to democracy.

In 1976, Joan Manuel Serrat was acclaimed for the first time in the United States, while performing in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

Throughout the 80s and 90s Serrat continued to tour and to release new music.

In 2000, the Spanish Association of Authors and Editors (SGAE) awarded him one of ten Medals of the Century.

Serrat revealed in October 2004 that he had been undergoing treatment for cancer of the bladder and in November that year he had to cancel a tour of Latin America and the US in order to undergo surgery in Barcelona, where he still lives.

His signature song "Mediterráneo" was selected as the most important Spanish song of the 20th century.

His recovery was satisfactory, and in 2005 he went on tour again around Spain and Latin America with his lifelong producer and arranger, Ricard Miralles. During the tour Serrat played symphonic versions of his songs with local symphony orchestras.

In 2006, Serrat also released "Mô", his first album completely in catalán in 17 years. The album title refers to the city of Mahon, capital of the Spanish island of Menorca and the origin of mayonnaise, where he likes to get away from it all during long touring seasons.

In 2017 and 2018, he carried out a tour named "Mediterráneo da Capo" to commemorate the 47th anniversary of his mythical record "Mediterráneo".

Joan Manuel Serrat was 79 on 27 December 2022, and he had previously announced that he would cease performing live as he entered his ninth decade. Three days before his birthday he gave his last ever concert in Barcelona. On 3 January 2023 Spanish TV is broadcasting one of his last concerts, played on 14 December in Madrid.



Apart from his problems with Franco’s regime, he has also criticised the independence movement in Catalonia and the referendum of 1 October 2017, becoming a figurehead for Catalans who prefer to remain within the Spanish Republic. He has also criticised several times the economic corruption of the independentist Catalan government and the national government of Mariano Rajoy, current president Pedro Sánchez’ predecessor as head of the national government. Serrat believes that the 2017 unilateral Catalan Nationalist push for secession and the reaction from the government of Mariano Rajoy served the purpose of "covering up years of cuts and economic corruption" from both the Catalan regional government and Spanish national government. On several occasions some in the independence movement have called for a boycott of the singer-songwriter and his music.


As for me, I still love his voice and his music. It was the backdrop to my courtship of the lady who was to become my first wife and the mother of my two children. So a very important landmark in my musical life.

I wanted to go to his concert in Málaga in August 2022, but the ticket prices were through the roof. So I shall tune in to his broadcast concert on TVE1 on 3 January and reminisce.


© The Culture Vulture


Tags: Antonio Machado, Barquito de papel, catalán, Catalonia, Culture Vulture, Eurovision Song Contest, Franco, francoist, General Franco, Joan Manuel Serrat, La La La, La mujer que yo quiero, Mahon, Mariano Rajoy, Massiel, Málaga, mayonnaise, Mediterráneo, Menorca, Mô, Pedro Sánchez, Ricard Miralles, Tío Alberto, TVE1,


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Spain tops list of WORLD'S BEST TOURIST VILLAGES with three awards
Wednesday, December 28, 2022

By The Culture Vulture

Three remote Spanish communities have been named as among the best villages in the world for tourists – the most entries for a single country.


The United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) list of 32 best places worldwide for small community tourism includes villages in 18 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

For the 2022 awards, a total of 136 villages were put forward for consideration by 57 UNWTO member states (each could nominate up to three villages).

The nominated villages were evaluated by an independent advisory board, according to criteria including culture, natural resources and sustainability – whether economic, social or environmental.

All three of Spain’s nominations were accepted. They were the medieval village of Rupit in Catalunya; Alquézar, in the Sierra de Guara mountains in Aragón; and Guadalupe, famous for its monastery and its black virgin, in the Extremadura region.

Manuel Butler, director of the Spanish Tourist Office in London, said: We are delighted that the UNWTO has placed Spain as the country with the most appearances in its list. We aim to promote community-led tourism across Spain and are thrilled at the international recognition.”

The other countries receiving awards were: Austria, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethopia, Georgia, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Portugal, South Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey and Vietnam.

The accolade recognises rural destinations that are embracing tourism as a driver of development and new opportunities for jobs and income, while preserving and promoting community values.

“For rural communities everywhere, tourism can be a true gamechanger in providing jobs, supporting local businesses and keeping traditions alive,” said UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili.

The UNWTO Best Tourism Villages list showcases the power of the sector to drive economic diversification and create opportunities for all outside big cities.”

The awards ceremony will take place in Al’Ula, Saudi Arabia, in February 2023.

Spain should of course be proud of this recognition. As for the three choices, I only know one, Guadalupe. I’ve been there a few times, including just over a year ago.

It is indeed lovely, despite being unashamedly touristy. Whether it would be in my top three villages in Spain, I doubt. But then, my criteria are different to those of the UNWTO.

I adore Aragón and Catalunya, however, so both Alquézar and Rupit are on my To-Visit-List for 2023.


© The Culture Vulture



The Guardian UK


Tags: Africa, Alquézar, Aragón, Asia, Austria, Catalunya, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethopia, Europe, Extremadura, Georgia, Guadalupe, Israel, Italy, Jordan, London, Manuel Butler, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Rupit, Saudi Arabia, Sierra de Guara, Slovenia, South America, South Korea, Spanish Tourist Office, To-Visit-List, Switzerland, Turkey, United Nations World Tourism Organisation, UNWTO, Vietnam, world’s best tourist villages, Zurab Pololikashvili

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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Christine McVie (née Perfect) died yesterday, 30 November 2022, aged 79. Most famous as a member of Fleetwood Mac Mark II, Christine Perfect started her musical career with the British blues group Chicken Shack from 1968-70.

She was the Culture Vulture's first true love. Here are his thoughts on his Perfect woman.

I first heard Christine Perfect around 1968/9 when I saw the blues group Chicken Shack perform live somewhere in Manchester when I was 18 or 19. Of course, I fell in love with her immediately. She was young, around 25, blonde and sexy. Perfect, in fact. I was especially attracted to her husky blues voice and her consummate piano playing.

She was a ground breaker in many ways at that time, being a female lead vocalist in a male blues group and a talented composer to boot.

She married John McVie of the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac in 1968 and joined the band in 1970 when Green left after a massive drugs bender which ruined his life and career.

Fleetwood Mac moved to the USA in 1974 and after Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the three Brits, Mr and Mrs McVie and Mick Fleetwood, this “new” reincarnation of Fleetwood Mac went on to huge commercial success. Their most successful album was “Rumours” (1977) which has sold over 40 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Christine McVie tired of touring and the constant disagreements, affairs and break-ups in the group and retired back to England for about 16 years. However, she did rejoin the band in 2014 to record a final album and for one more tour.

A prolific song-writer she either wrote or co-wrote some of FM’s most famous songs, including "Over My Head", "Say You Love Me", “Don’t Stop!” and “Songbird”.

Another song sung by her, a cover of an Etta James track, which dates back to her days with Chicken Shack, is “I’d Rather Go Blind”. You can listen to it here.

RIP Christine McVie. You were Perfect.

©  The Culture Vulture


Tags: blues, Chicken Shack, Christine Perfect, Culture Vulture, Don't Stop, Etta James, Fleetwood Mac, I'd Rather Go Blind, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Over My Head, Peter Green, Rumours, Say You Love Me, Songbird, Stevie Nicks

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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Harmony is a 21st century company. Their recruitment methods raise a number of ethical questions, for they make extensive use of social media to assist them in the selection of employees.

“Harmony” is also the title of a one-act play which deals with this contentious subject.

The Culture Vulture and his wife had the pleasure of attending a performance of this powerful short play on Saturday evening in Ronda (Málaga).


This obra de teatro was performed by La Pequeña Compañia del Proyecto Platea in their intimate theatre studio Sala Puerta Amarilla in Calle Bulerías in the San Rafael barrio of Ronda.

As you enter this dramatic space, the atmosphere is already set. Two mysterious figures, both dressed in white, hover around the stark set, tablets in hand. Partly ushers, partly characters in the play, actress Nieves Rodríguez and the play’s director, Marcos Marcell, are there to set the scene against a soundtrack about “Harmony”, the company in question. It is clear that Marcos and Nieves are not to be addressed for they are “in character” and behaving in a somewhat sinister manner.

The set is minimalist, a white table, two chairs, a laptop computer and a white envelope. This is the interview room, the setting for this 35-minute-long piece.

We first see the interviewer dressed in a white suit and played by Charo Carrasco. She leaves the stage and the interviewee, dressed in a conventional black suit, played by Ana Belén Sánchez, enters and, facing the audience, checks her face, hair and clothing in an imaginary mirror. A very effective touch.

The interviewer re-enters, invites the candidate to sit and to present her case for getting the job. Clearly put out by this unconventional start to the proceedings, the candidate proceeds to regurgitate her curriculum vitae. She is stopped abruptly.

“No need. I can read and have read your CV.”

The candidate, clearly off her stride, then starts to describe the company, intending, presumably, then to say why she is the ideal person to fill the position.

This is also not to the interviewer’s taste.

As the interview proceeds the extremely strident interviewer informs the candidate that they have used social media extensively as part of their selection process. Text posts and pictures.

We learn that the candidate’s father died of cancer, that her mother suffered severe depression, that the candidate cheated on her long-standing partner and that she has been unemployed for months – all this purely from what the candidate has posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like.

The company even used facial recognition techniques on her photos to learn more about the candidate, who by now is getting hysterical. Her protestations that this is invasion of her privacy fall on deaf ears. After all, as the smug interviewer points out, all this information is in the public domain, posted voluntarily by the candidate.

On the table is also an envelope containing a job offer and details of the salary. The candidate is invited to open it. She does so and her face registers shock. The salary offered is apparently risible. Deductions have been made for her transgressions, as discovered on social media.

With that the candidate flees the room, hysterical. The play ends. Point made and very well. And very shocking.

This was a consummate performance; pacy with crisp dialogue and extremely thought-provoking. The three actresses are amateurs, yet director Marcos Marcell, a professional actor and director, has coaxed performances of an extremely high professional standard from these three “local girls”.

Brilliant! Well done!


Coming soon:

Look out for their next production “Novias” on 6/7 December at the same venue, Sala Puerta Amarilla. Tickets are available at Intersport Cary on Carrer Espinel in Ronda.


The Culture Vulture writes:

I’ve seen this brilliantly funny play set in a bridal shop twice before. In the patio of El Convento in Ronda and in the open air in the village of Atajate (Málaga). I shall be going again next month. I’m intrigued to see this play in the small intimate space at Sala Puerta Amarilla.

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CULTURE or SPORT? The Beatles or the FIFA World Cup?
Saturday, November 26, 2022

What’s it to be? thought the Culture Vulture. The Beatles Songbook or England v. USA in the Qatar World Cup? Both were on at the exact same time.

The FIFA World Cup only comes around every four years, and after the English team’s pulsating 6-2 win in their first match against Iran, surely this was a game not to be missed.

The concert of Beatle music was for one night only, and it did sound exciting. Six musicians, four strings, one piano and a xylophone, reinterpreting Beatles’ masterpieces.

What did the Culture Vulture choose?


I posted my dilemma on Facebook, and to a man and woman, the responses all counselled the concert – and this from football-mad Spaniards!

So, that’s what I decided to do. After all, I could watch the football highlights later on BBC1.

And, boy oh boy, did I make the right choice. The concert was brilliant and, as I was to later find out, the football match didn’t have any highlights. It was a boring 0-0 draw in which England were fortunate to gain a point. USA had dominated the match.

Back to the concert. It was free-of-charge, so I got to the Teatro Vicente Espinel in Ronda half an hour early to be sure of getting a seat. There were only six people there before me! Great. I got my pick of the seats. Third row from the stage, in the middle.

By the time the concert began the numbers had swelled to around 150. Still not many out of a Ronda population of 33,000, however. Perhaps they had all stayed in to watch the footie!

The band came on stage. Cuarteto Granada with special guests Javier Navas and José Carra made up the six musicians, five males and a female. Their instruments were piano, two violins, a viola, a cello and a xylophone. A xylophone? How does that work?

Well, it did! And how! The audience was treated to 90 minutes of great tunes re-arranged as instrumentals to suit the instruments on show. As the only percussion the xylophone really worked well and enhanced the whole performance.

They kicked off with “Eleanor Rigby”, well-suited to strings, of course. By the way, the original Beatles’ version of this iconic song is the only one on which no Beatle plays a note. Fact.

Then we sat back and enjoyed their versions of “Across the Universe”, “Day Tripper”, “Come Together”, “Blackbird” and “Norwegian Wood”, before they concluded with George Harrison’s “Something”, a track from the album Abbey Road, “You Never Give me Your Money”, and “A Day in the Life” from Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

A triumph, even without the moving lyrics of the original.

A standing ovation brought us a triumphant encore, “Let it Be”, one of their last ever recordings.

I had been sitting with my pal Emilio, who is a local lad around my age. We both agreed that this music by the Fab Four from Liverpool represents the classical music of that era, the 1960s. John Lennon, long dead, and Paul McCartney, just turned 80 and still touring, really were the Mozart and Mendelssohn of the 20th Century.


©  The Culture Vulture


Tags: Abbey Road, A Day in the Life, Beatles, Beatles Songbook, Blackbird, cello, Come Together, concert, Cuarteto Granada, Culture Vulture, Eleanor Rigby, England, Fab Four, Facebook, FIFA, football, free-of-charge, Javier Navas, John Lennon, José Carra, Let it Be, Liverpool, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Norwegian Wood, Paul McCartney, piano, population, Qatar, Ronda, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Something, Teatro Vicente Espinel, triumph, USA, viola, violin, World Cup, xylophone

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