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All You Old Bastards Should LEARN Something From This - The Cult Of Chris Needham
The Quietus , June 4th, 2008 10:32

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An appreciation by Taylor Parkes

In the old days, when ordinary people got on TV, it was as murder victims or game show contestants. Humiliated by circumstance, or by some wig-wearing mansion-dweller. After a decade of docusoaps and dubious reality shows, little has changed: the general public are interchangeable (except for those whose mental problems might amuse you), there to be sniggered at by gutter-press gutbuckets, sworn at by jumped-up cooks, exposed in the limelight as peons who don't know their place. It's always been the way.

Except that in 1992, there was a series called Teenage Diaries. The BBC handed high-end video cameras to mouthy adolescents, told them to film their lives, then edited the results into 45-minute shows, each subject getting final approval of the finished product. No one was dropped into some contrived situation and poked until they cried, although some cried anyway; Teenage Diaries lurked in the everyday lives of averagely-extraordinary young people and just... watched. The results were painfully real " that is, hilarious, touching, absurd, worthwhile. There was, however, only one star: the unforgettable Chris Needham, whose astonishing programme passed instantly into legend. If anything better has been on TV " ever " I must have missed it.

Everyone between the ages of 14 and 25 watched In Bed With Chris Needham, or that's how it seemed at the time (when the BBC repeated the show shortly afterwards, heavily trailed, anyone who'd missed out caught up). We all recognised Chris, or thought we did, the heavy metal freak in wire-rimmed specs, skinny jeans and jumbo trainers, taking A/S levels in Loughborough and struggling to put a band together with his loyal, hapless mates. Of course, it was easy to laugh. That hair, hanging in clumps like spaniel ears; the proto-moustache, frothy and diaphanous. The callow pomposity and self-importance of youth...

...The full version of this article is available in Point Close All Quotes: A Quietus Music Anthology. Buy it now in the Amazon Kindle store.

Chris Needham
Jun 4, 2008 11:57am

Thanks for the appreciation Taylor mate. Twat savant indeed! Heh-heh..I like that....

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Big Stu
Jun 4, 2008 2:08pm

Another piece of gold standard writing from Mr Parkes. I remember watching this program after coming back from the pub late one night in teh early 90's and getting all wistful for my recently departed adolescence.

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simmo
Jun 4, 2008 4:34pm

Great article. Always a delight to read Parkes.

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Simon Price
Jun 5, 2008 11:00am

"Flat lighting brings out bad skin and hair grease; wintry-pale on unprocessed video, Loughborough looks like Krakow in the 1970s. Chris lopes through a hideous shopping precinct, under skies the colour of a switched-off TV screen"

That's proper writing, that is. And Chris Needham is a legend.

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Joe Taylor
Jun 5, 2008 2:05pm

great to see you in print again Taylor

P.S. the YouTube vids have all been removed sadly

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Nottingham's 'Mr Sex'
Jun 5, 2008 4:08pm

Loughborough now looks like Krakow in the 1980s.

Blinding piece, Taylor. I feel sudden death from your keyboard.

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The Iron Duke
Jun 6, 2008 10:51pm

Everyone was Chris Needham once.

Thanks Chris - for giving voice to everyone who, like me, was nearly moved to tears the first time they heard megadeth's "Darkest Hour". Keep it real
!

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Ron
Jun 6, 2008 11:47pm

Excellent piece. Had never heard of this before and have just been converted into a Chris Needham fan. Its cool to see a pre big brother Britain where cameras were a novelty and a real chance to make something unique.

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Nightsod
Jun 6, 2008 11:52am

Great article about what was one of the best documentaries from British TV I've ever seen...

There is one other you MUST find.... I have been completely unable to track down "Trouble at the Top: Making Your Mind Up. The Story of Bucks Fizz"
It might sound an unlikely subject for "best documentary of the 1990's" but I promise you, it was!

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Stuart
Jun 6, 2008 1:01pm

I remember that one. David Van Day was invited in and basically tried to take over and make them more "raunchy". He was kicked out and then launched his own "Bucks Fizz" with poor, damaged Mike Nolan. A very bitter rights war ensued...

Great Chris Needham piece.

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Sam C
Jun 11, 2008 10:24am

Good piece. You're right about how kids were once embarrassed to be confronted with a video camera. Maybe loads still are, they're just the ones we don't see...

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graylord
Jun 12, 2008 1:10pm

Genius! Brilliant piece, Taylor.

"Neighbours - all blowjobs and rape"

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Justin Quirk
Aug 1, 2008 10:47am

Fantastic piece of writing - everyone went on about this so much at the time (probably because it was uncomfortably close to home for me and my friends) that I can't actually remember if I ever saw it at the time, or just pieced it together from people recounting it endlessly. Headline of the month, hands down.

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John Tanner
Aug 5, 2008 4:34pm

Wow! What a blast from the past. There's porn in that. More communication through porn please Chris.

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Richard Hutt
Sep 16, 2008 9:39am

Excellent work Taylor. The only thing that can match Needham for poignancy is the Beaver Trilogy - like Needham, best watched not on the Interweb but on a treasured third generation VHS. The format of the 90s.

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Edward
Jul 30, 2010 10:30am

I wrote an article on my blog about Needham recently (http://blog.wordwrites.co.uk) and he got in touch there too. He's not quite the shadowy and illusive figure you'd expect, considering his cult status. I felt a bit bad too, because he stumbled upon my review the same week some people from his village had decided to leave nasty messages about him on YouTube. His assertion at the beginning of the documentary that there's 'always someone 'aving a go at yer', is clearly still accurate. But then, they say prophets have no honour in their own country…

Anyway, apparently, there's a big screen version of the documentary coming out soon though. Pretty sweet.

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