28 April 2005

Alvin Stardust - Be Smart Be Safe


What the fuck was going on in 1975? A nation badly in need of the punk revolution. People talk about how we needed it to rescue us from prog, but they forget about the other twaddle. The dreadful childish novelty element, from stage-school twats like Brotherhood Of Man to one Wombles hit after another. Bill Oddie was the fourth most successful songwriter in the UK in 1975.

And Alvin Stardust issued a strange looming cover of Cliff Richard's Move It. But that's not quite what we're looking at here today. We're flipping that single over to find its B-side, Be Smart Be Safe (The Green Cross Code Song).

In the early-mid 70s Alvin was a mean moody glam rocker. He also fronted a big advertising campaign promoting road safety for kids.

Alvin's followed on from the success of the one with Mud in where they all leave the house - dressed in their trademark sky blue and gold outfits with a clear implication they just wore them all the time - then Les Gray spots kids crossing the road between parked vehicles and goes and puts them straight.

Alvin is walking down the street in his leathers when he sees kids crossing the road without looking first. Grabbing them by the scruff of the neck he bellows 'you must be out of your tiny minds!'.

I remember it struck me as incongruous at the time. He was pretty sinister to us under-10s, frankly if he'd appeared next to me on the street I'd have bolted into the road to get away from him. He certainly seemed an awful lot more threatening than a beige Allegro.

Tufty the road safety squirrel was a much better idea; equally authoritative but not half as scary.

Still, for Alvin it wasn't just an advert it was a way of life, and he penned this song himself. Throwaway dirty glam guitar and ludicrous lyrics about road safety. Focus on the words and try not to laugh, see how far you get.

Network, the same cool folks who are issuing The Sweeney on DVD, have released Charley Live, a compilation video of loads of those hilarious 70s Public Information Films, including Alvin's 'you must be out of your tiny minds!'. The DVD version amalgamates it with 'Charley Says', a collection of animated PIFs.

Aside of the celebrity-fronted ones, this stuff is really creepy. They start with some innocent scene - kids playing, someone getting in their car - but with the ominous certainy that within 30 seconds something very horrible and probably fatal will have happened. Then when you watch the Charley Says compilation you get one after another with a chilling cumulative effect. Imagine if David Lynch directed 30-second episodes of Man About the House, Grange Hill and The Sweeney rolled into one.
It's really far out when you're bonced, the maddest weirdest stuff you'll see all year.

Be Smart, Be Safe - always use the Green Cross Code.

[MP3 deleted to make way for new ones. Sorry!]

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