Monday, 25 June 2012

Vintage Video

Last week Jeremy revealed that he'd bought us a vintage VCR through Ebay. It's an amazing machine - wonderfully clunky, with a remote control the size of a page-a-day diary attached by a ten footlong umbilicus. And, though for the past seven years I've been wanting to get rid of the many boxes of hundreds of videotapes in the cellar, this weekend I was glad we hadn't.

Out came the old shows...

Lots of the tapes are pre-recorded ones, and have been bought again on DVD. But there are lots of home-recorded tapes with all kinds of surprising things snuck away on those dark, tightly-spooled reels. Long-forgotten adverts, continuity announcements, strange-looking presenters. Fragments of shows that have dropped out of my memory altogether. Whole episodes of ludicrous reality shows from the 00's ('House Xchange' being the best ever), obscure documentaries about Anais Nin, Marlene Dietrich, Thora Hird. It's going to take a lot of exploring and digging around...

Yesterday we were looking at obvious things to transfer to dvd. First of all, for me, was a tape that turned out to contain seven episodes of the 2001 Crossroads revival. Now, you can laugh all you want, and history has it that the second iteration of the Midlands soap as a resounding failure. Not round our house it wasn't! I thought it was marvellous - with the perfect mix of oldstyle Crossroads and a bit of Home and Away and Dynasty. The seven episodes I've kept in the cellar for eleven years are from March 2001, only a little way into the new show and they are the ones where the star of the original show - shareholder and dipsomaniac Jill Mortimer-Chance-Harvey - goes on an almighty bender, attacks all the new characters and tries to do herself in with a mixture of vodka and pills.

Then, last night, it was time to see if my single remaining tape from Live Aid in 1985 was still working. It was! And, luckily, it seemed to cover about five o'clock to eight o'clock in the evening of that long-ago Saturday. It was so sunny! Everyone looked so happy to be there - on stage and in the crowd. They all looked so young! And there was a real feeling - that still comes off the screen - that they were doing something new and revolutionary and important. Just that little, battered videotape is like a time capsule from a more optimistic era.

And there was Freddie Mercury, giving it his all. And David Bowie - fabulous in a lilac suit and quiff.

So - I'm hoping to dig a bit further through the cardboard boxes of tapes this week, if I get some time. I'll let you know what other treasures I unearth...!


  1. I've got LOADS! And only last week, a friend turned my video of me doing Shirley Valentine into a DVD for me (I've got to relearn a bit of it for a show). I'm sure I've still got an old VCR in the attic somewhere. I shall have to send an offspring up there to rootle around. Still have 25 year old tapes of the kids favourite programmes. Gosh.

  2. hi Lesley,
    I'd love to see you playing Shirley Valentine! You must find out what you've got up in the attic. Apparently loads of shows that were broadcast as late as the 90s have been junked and home recordings are the only place some things still exist.