Anarchy on Sky Arts

3rd October 2014

Anarchy in Manchester, a new series produced by Illuminations, starts tonight on Sky Arts 1 HD at 10.30pm. Producer LINDA ZUCK and editor TODD MACDONALD introduce the programmes.

LINDA: In six half-hour programmes, we bring you the very best of So It Goes, Granada Television’s music show presented by the late Tony Wilson of Factory Records and Hacienda fame. We have re-packaged live and uncut punk performance, and dragged it from the archives and into the 21st century – along with some of some of Tony’s most charmingly pretentious asides.

Tonight’s show includes The Buzzcocks, Penetration, The Jam and the very first appearance of the Sex Pistols on TV with ‘Anarchy in the UK’. Future episodes have equally terrific raw performance footage, mostly filmed in pubs and clubs around Manchester. Featured bands include The Clash, The Jam (that’s Paul Weller above), Elvis Costello, The Stranglers, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Iggy Pop.

The Sky Arts trailer is here. Let us know what you think #skyartsanarchy.

Todd has assembled a dazzling .flickr gallery of screen-grabs here.

It’s all topped off with great prose from the legend that is John Cooper Clarke – who we are thrilled to say agreed to narrate the programmes. He even looks back at himself. Enjoy his 1977 performance of ‘Majorca’ and ‘You Never See a Nipple in the Daily Express’ (which the Guardian reckoned would have been a good one for the Leveson inquiry).

Just as JCC’s poems haven’t dated (and yes indeed, editor Todd Macdonald and I have come to know him as JCC, and he is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet), the great thing about the music is that it hasn’t dated either, which is really quite remarkable, given what preceded it. To quote from Dr Cooper Clarke’s intro to our series,

Punk broke into mid 1970s Britain, and nowhere more so that in the clubs of Manchester. The summer of 1976 was hot and bothered and as the British economy declined, its cities decayed to a sad soundtrack of progressive noodlings, pub rock and the threadbare remnants of glam. But something new was happening. The young kids who were fucking shit up in smaller grungier venues went largely unnoticed.

Thanks to Tony Wilson, that all changed – and the rest is history.

Here’s Linda with JCC, and below that is Todd. And thank you to Sky Arts for commissioning the series, and to Ian Cross for his fabulous graphics.

Linda and JCC at the voice-over recording

TODD: This was a very different kind of editing job to the ones I have become used to at Illuminations. Creatively it felt a lot more like a curatorial approach rather than one that required rigorously building up the structure from scratch. It was quite like a jigsaw puzzle. All of the pieces existed in front of us and we had to fit them together into six half hour episodes in a smooth and harmonious way. However I’m not sure the words ‘smooth’ and ‘harmonious’ ought to be uttered in relation to the topic of British Punk!

Linda and I worked very closely together in the edit suite, spinning through and thoroughly enjoying watching all of the material. An hour might go by and we’d be so engrossed that we’d forget we were actually supposed to be working! We had 19 So It Goes shows to raid from. We realised quite quickly that going back to paper was in fact going to be a quicker way of building our new puzzle rather than endless dragging and dropping on screen. We needed to drag and drop for real.

We wrote all of the bands and their songs on thin pieces of paper with their running times and laid them all out on a table.  Every time we thought we had a well balanced episode we could add it all up and hope that it fell within the running times you have to meet so there’s room for the ad breaks and the contextual archive material we included at the beginning and during the show.

There were points where this became really tricky. We were trying to pair tracks with each other that loosely related in terms of feel but at the same time keep our running time on target. We would get to a point where we thought our mix of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magazine and Iggy Pop was perfect – until working out that it was 28 minutes long. After days and days of going through the puzzle of multiple outcomes, we finally made it all fit.

The outcome is a series that pinpoints perfectly the moment in Britain when punk arrived with a bang. How lucky we are that Tony Wilson had his finger on the pulse and that the material still existed in a state where we could bring it to air forty years later. It’s been a joy to work on something that – we hope – will bring pleasure to so many. I dare say it could be doing the rounds on Sky Arts for some time to come.

Special mention must go to our fantastically (over-)enthusiastic dubbing mixer at Sky, Marek Bielski, who described working on this series with us ‘a dream job.’ ‘Honestly, I should be paying you to let me work on this!’ he said after his first day. I grew up with my Dad playing a lot of this music in the house so I knew a fair bit of it, but Marek taught me a lifetime’s worth of punk trivia in one day! Meeting and working with the legend that is John Cooper Clarke was also something I will never forget. Hacienda That. 

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