James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 1: Attack Of The Grey Lantern

James Proclaims (4)

And so here we are in April, which means I can stop writing about the terrifying worldwide pandemic and start writing about some albums I liked when I was young (and mostly still like now if I’m honest).

Because today is also the beginning of the 2020 version of the A-Z Blogging Challenge, which is an annual blogging event that, for some reason, I seem to only take part in every other year.

Last time around I wrote mostly about cartoons and this time around I’ll mostly be writing about music.

But it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t throw in some mawkish nostalgia, so I’m mostly writing about music I liked in my teens/early twenties. Which puts us back into the last millennium for the most part and the decade known to many as the nineties.

Although because it’s specifically an alphabet challenge I have had to commandeer the year 2000 a little bit.

But nothing after that and some people think the current millennium anyway didn’t start until 2001 so they’ll forgive me.

And most people won’t care either way.

But to kick off, we’re going to revisit an album from 1997.

1997 was not a great year for me for many reasons, but I did spend a lot of it listening to music.

And this album made the playlist a lot that year (or more accurately occupied one of the three available spaces in my CD player, which is how we listened to music back in the nineties).

So without further ado, allow me to introduce the album that will be representing the letter ‘A’:

A2020

A is for ‘Attack of the Grey Lantern’

Mansun_-_Attack_of_the_Grey_Lantern

Mansun’s debut album was definitely a quirky affair. Sort of, but not entirely, a concept album notionally about a superhero called the Grey Lantern, and with periodic references to the characters within said hero’s world, most notably someone called Mavis, who pops up in quite a few songs. The song titles are nothing short of bonkers, including ‘The Chad Who Loved Me’, ‘Egg-Shaped Fred’ ‘Stripper Vicar’ ‘She Makes My Nose Bleed’ and not forgetting the finale of ‘Dark Mavis’.

The things is though, in spite of it’s eccentricities (or possibly because of them) Attack of the Grey Lantern is completely brilliant from start to finish. It garnered the kind of critical acclaim and commercial success that perhaps should have seen Mansun become a much bigger band than they ever actually were.

While there’s nothing particularly wrong with their subsequent output, Mansun never really lived up to the promise of their debut and seemingly imploded just a few years later while recording their forth album.

But in 1997, Mansun were legitimately being hailed as a potential ‘next big thing’, and Attack of the Grey Lantern is worth an hour of anyone’s time.

But, if you don’t have an hour to spare, then the track that still features most heavily on my playlists today, and is arguably their best song, would have to be ‘Wide Open Space’.

Enjoy.

Alphabetical Albums

James Proclaims (4)

boombox-2138198_640
Two years ago this blog was positively thriving. Between November 2017 and May 2018, I wrote a post everyday for 200 consecutive days.

I write a lot less these days.

I would like to write more, but the time to do so is rather less available.

Because my 19-month old daughter has been occupying a lot of that time.

I could, and probably should, write about her. She certainly gives me enough material and indeed I do plan to write about some of her exploits in the near future.

Much as I love her however,  this blog has always been primarily about me. It’s my little space on the internet for my own little brand of narcissism.

But it’s no good having a blog if you never actually, y’know, blog.

So I need to start producing more content.

This is my second post in two days, so I’m heading in the right direction, but I’d need to produce another 198 to match my record.

I feel that may be stretch at the moment.

But part of how I achieved that previous double century was by taking part in blogging challenges and adhering to specific themes.

And one such challenge was the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Which does exactly what it says on the tin.

In April 2018 I wrote about my favourite cartoons from the eighties, because for me the eighties was all about watching cartoons.

This year I thought I might look at another period of my life. The ensuing decade in fact, when my life was less about cartoons (although obviously still a bit about cartoons) and more about music. Mostly listening to music if I’m honest, as I have nothing in the way of actual musical ability. I did own a guitar in the nineties but I couldn’t play it very well. I believed I might get good at playing the guitar and go on to be an international rock star.

I did not.

But I did listen to a lot of bands.

I also went to a lot of gigs.

So this year’s A-Z challenge will be entitled:

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young

Tune in on April 1st to see which indie album beginning with A that I liked to listen to when I was young.

A to Z Challenge 2020: 2009-2020

 

 

 

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Final Thoughts

James Proclaims (4)

a2z-h-small (1).jpg

It’s been a week since I finished my A-Z of Cartoon Characters as part of my participation in the annual A-Z blogging challenge. As part of the challenge, I’m supposed to write a post reflecting on the whole experience, and never one to overlook my responsibilities, I am doing just that today.

So, what did I learn?

Well, I learned that some of the cartoons I watched when I was a kid were genuinely as good as I remember them being, while others were, perhaps not quite so good.

I enjoyed revisiting them all, but it was definitely a mixed bag in terms of quality. The most disappointing show in terms of really not being as good as I remembered was definitely The Getalong Gang. I can see why I enjoyed it as a kid, but it’s really best lost to the annals of history. If I had to pick a favourite (and I’m not sure that’s possible) then Danger Mouse might well be the one that tops the list, but ask me tomorrow and it’ll no doubt be a different one.

There were, of course, a lot classic cartoons that didn’t make the it into my A-Z and perhaps some of those deserve a brief acknowledgement now, as well as my reasons for overlooking them:

Battle of the Planets/ G-Force Guardians of Space

400px-G-Force_-_group_shot2.jpg

I really wanted to include this one, but the problem was, although Battle of the Planets was essentially the same show as G-Force Guardians of Space, it also wasn’t. They were  both English-language adaptations of a Japanese cartoon called Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. So the animation was the same but the names of the characters, their voices and quite a lot of the plot was different. And I was a small child when I watched this show. I’m pretty sure the version I watched as a kid was G-Force Guardians of Space, but truthfully it was all just noise and moving pictures at the time so I might have watched both versions. I couldn’t tell you much about either without re-watching them, and with there being two identical-looking but essentially different cartoons doing the rounds on YouTube, I decided to leave well-enough alone.

Brave Starr

hqdefault

Brave Starr was on at the same time as something I wanted to watch on a different channel, so I never really watched it much. I liked it when I did watch it, but I’d be hard-pushed to tell you much about it. Other than the fact that Brave Starr’s horse could walk and talk, which was pretty cool.

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors

JWW-heroes-jayce-and-the-wheeled-warriors-39849396-619-474

Literally never heard of this one until it started coming up in a lot of the searches I was doing for other cartoons of the era. Seems it was really popular and looks like one I would really have enjoyed. Not quite sure how I missed it.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold

mco3

I remember this was really popular, but like with Brave Starr, I’m sure I was watching something on a different channel when this was on. I think I would have liked it but fate would not allow our paths to cross, so it remains unwatched by me.

Droids/ Ewoks

 

That there were two Star Wars spin-off cartoons in the 80s and I didn’t see fit to include either of them, does seem an oversight. Because Star Wars is my favourite thing of all. But, while I didn’t hate these shows, neither captured my imagination as much as the 26 shows I did write about. Honestly, at the time, I preferred the Getalong Gang to either of these. I was wrong to feel that way obviously, but I was just a child. That neither the droids nor the Ewoks were ever my favourite thing about the movies possibly had something to do with my indifference. Had there been a Darth Vader cartoon, I’d have been an avid viewer, I’m sure.

Voltron

maxresdefault

I had a Voltron toy. I really liked it. But I never saw the cartoon. Was it even on in the UK? My toy came via my cousins from the US, so there’s every possibility that I genuinely never had the opportunity to watch this when I was a kid. There’s a reboot on Netflix at the moment though and I am tempted to give it a go. Because I did like that toy.

I’m certain that there are many more cartoons of my childhood I’ve forgotten – maybe some people can berate me in the comments below.

Who knows, with a bit of research I might find enough for another 26 cartoon-themed posts for next year’s A-Z challenge…

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 26: Zummi Gummi

James Proclaims (4)

And so we come to the end of our journey. And what a journey it’s been. But, as part of this whole A-Z journey, I’m supposed to publish a post in a week, to reflect on all of this, so today I won’t dwell on the previous entries in this collection of cartoon characters, conveniently alphabetised for ease of consumption. But just who is our final entry? The letter today is ‘Z’, but I can assure you that this is no ‘Z-list’ cartoon character.

Z.jpg

Z is for Zummi Gummi

d1ff97fc67965f33edc70864c934b40e

For how could any compendium of cartoons be complete without including the fantastic Gummi Bears?

One of Disney’s earliest 80s TV show offerings, with a theme song that matches the best of them, Gummi Bears was precursor in many ways for the some of the other Disney greats of the 80s and 90s, such as DuckTales and Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. But it wasn’t really the same as those shows. It wasn’t really like anything else.

Set in a fairy-tale land, it was evocative of Arthurian legend, and other such tales of yore. It was also charming and funny and full of energy. And bouncing bears of course.

I first saw Gummi Bears in the cinema, the first episode was shown as a featurette before the main film. I can’t even remember what the main movie was that day, but the Gummi Bears cartoon made quite an impression.

I can’t think of a better cartoon to finish my A-Z of cartoon characters that I liked as a child.

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 25: Yumi

James Proclaims (4)

Sometimes you just have to ask ‘Y’. But ‘Y’ rarely offers an answer. ‘Y’ is just a letter. But it is a letter that can, and today will, represent a cartoon character in my nostalgic, alphabetical trip down memory lane.

Y.jpg

Y is for Yumi

yumi-ulysses-31-82.7 (1)

Yumi is from the cartoon Ulysses 31. She is blue. Because she is an alien. She’s from the planet Zotra.

Which is all well and good, and you might think Ulysses 31 was just a cartoon show set in space with aliens and stuff, and to me, as a child, that’s exactly what it was. But it turns out it was so much more than that.

Ulysses, is, of course, the name of a book that is notoriously hard to read, by James Joyce. And it turns out that Ulysses 31 took the plot of that novel, but set in the 31st century and, y’know, in space.

And if that sounds improbable, it’s because, well it’s not true at all. But Ulysees 31 was a re-imagining of Homer’s Odyssey. Although, in its own way, so was Joyce’s novel, so actually maybe you could argue the parallels of an 80s space-based cartoon and one of the most lauded works of twentieth-century literature. But you probably shouldn’t

Actually the idea of Homer’s Odyssey being set in space is a bit mad too. And quite a hard concept for a small child to understand.

So I didn’t understand it at all.

But I did really enjoy it.

Because it was set in space, with aliens and stuff.

Also, it was really good.

And the theme tune, when it got going, was pretty catchy too.

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 24: X

James Proclaims (4)

X was always going to be the toughest letter in my A-Z of cartoon characters. It’s generally the toughest letter in an A-Z of any subject. Fortunately, the world of cartoons offered me a solution from a time when I thought I’d grown out of cartoons.

X

X is for X

unnamed

Professor X that is, otherwise known as Charles Xavier, and founder and leader of the X-Men. When X-Men, the Animated Series first hit our screens in the early nineties, I was already a teenager, and to be fair, not really a big viewer of animation. Some of my friends were into the Japanese Manga cartoons that were doing the rounds back then, but, while I acknowledge there are some excellent Japanese animations out there, it wasn’t really my kind of thing at the time.

No, I’d long sinced moved on from watching cartoons. I was vaguely aware of Batman the Animated Series (a show I would later come to love) but I hadn’t really given it much consideration. Then, one Saturday morning, quite by chance, I caught a few seconds of the new X-Men cartoon. Then I caught a few seconds more. Then I was hooked. Everyone was talking about it in school the following Monday. At first it was brought up surreptitiously, one of my mates dropped it into conversation. Did anyone happen to catch the X-Men on Saturday morning? Turns out we had. Everyone had. And slowly it became apparent that we’d all really got into it.

It was official – cartoons were back on the table.

X-Men: The Animated Series, along with Batman: The Animated Series, paved the way for lots more in the way of superhero offerings, the excellent 90s Spiderman cartoon, The Incredible Hulk, Superman, the list goes on. Obviously there were superhero movies before these cartoons became popular, but I’m pretty sure the current plethora of movies owes a lot to the cartoons of the early nineties recruiting a load of new fanboys who had never even considered picking up a comic book before.

Obviously I’ve chosen Professor X to represent the letter ‘X’ in my little series on cartoon characters, but the character that really resonated with all of us was, rather predictably, Wolverine, and this was when he was depicted wearing yellow spandex, which just goes to show what a cool character he was.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 23: Willy Fogg

James Proclaims (4)

Who, what, why, where and when? They are all words that being with ‘W’. So are ‘wonderful’, ‘witty’ and ‘wise’. I’m sure you knew that already though. I don’t know what point I’m trying to make really. Except that today’s letter in our A-Z compendium of cartoon characters, from a time period in which I was younger than I am now, has happened upon the letter ‘W’. So let’s see which whimsical creation we’re dealing with today.

W

W is for Willy Fogg

willy2

Brought to you by the same people who brought you the amazing Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, Around the World with Willy Fogg was another adaptation of a literary classic, with anthropomorphic animals as the protagonists. In this case, the novel in question was Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne. I haven’t read that book any more than I’d read The Thee Musketeers so I can’t comment on the fidelity of the animation to the original story. There were subtle changes that anyone could spot obviously. For example, the protagonist of the novel being called Phileas, whereas (fortuitously for this ‘W’ themed post) the protagonist of the cartoon was called Willy. Also the protagonist of the cartoon was an anthropomorphic lion, and I don’t believe that was the case in the novel. I could be wrong though, maybe he was a lion. Maybe I should read the book. Or a book at the very least. It might be a more suitable pastime for a man of my age than watching old cartoons.

Around the World with Willy Fogg was a fairly diverting cartoon. I remember watching it regularly and I remember enjoying it. It was very similar in tone and aesthetic to Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, but it didn’t quite capture my imagination in the same way as that cartoon did. But, the theme-tune, if not quite as instantly catchy, certainly grows on you after a few listens.

 

 

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 22: Venkman

James Proclaims (4)

It’s the 25th day of April and victory is in sight. Well that’s if you can count the the act of writing 26 cartoon-themed blog posts in alphabetical order, within a thirty day period as something it’s possible to be victorious in. Perhaps it is, or perhaps there are no winners in this race. Or more pertinently we’re all winners. Perhaps I should avoid talking about winners until tomorrow, as that is the ‘W’ post. Today I should stick to the term ‘victory’ as the designated letter is ‘V’. But, in the battle to represent ‘V’, just who was victorious?

V

V is for Venkman

rgb_cels_peter2b.jpg

I love everything Ghostbusters. I loved the original 1984 movie, I loved the slightly inferior, but still great 1989 sequel and I liked the 2016 reboot, which was not as good as it could have been but much better than perhaps it should have been.

But more than all of those, I loved The Real Ghostbusters, the spin off cartoon that ran from 1986-1991.

Sorry, did I say I loved the cartoon more than the original movie. Obviously that’s not true at all. It was nowhere near as good as the first film. Let’s not lose our heads in all this nostalgia.

But it was a good cartoon, with some notable deviations from the movie. The most obvious of these was that the Harold Ramis character, Egon, had white hair in the cartoon. Also Slimer, the green ghost who was primarily a minor, though memorable, antagonist in the movie, was part of the team. Because a loveable ghost made it easier to sell merchandise probably. The show was called The Real Ghostbusters rather than just Ghostbusters, was because there was a different Ghostbusters cartoon around at the time, which had nothing to do with the movie. I didn’t watch the other Ghostbusters cartoon (I don’t know anyone who did) but The Real Ghostbusters was an after school favourite for many years.

Peter Venkman was my favourite character. He was obviously played by the brilliant Bill Murray in the movies but he was voiced by Lorenzo Music in the cartoon (who was also the voice of Garfield – so perhaps appropriate that Bill Murray would later go on to voice Garfield in the movie version of that particular franchise). Apparently Lorenzo Music was replaced after season 2, which I don’t recall, although that could be because I was just a kid and didn’t notice such things. Lorenzo Music did have a distinctive voice though, so more it’s likely that I didn’t watch too many episodes after season 2, which is entirely plausible given that together, seasons 1&2 totalled 78 episodes. I definitely don’t remember the show changing it’s name to Slimer and the Real Ghosbusters, but apparently this happened from season 4 onwards. I’m not sure how I feel about that; Slimer was a great image for lunchboxes, but I’m not sure the character contributed as much to the show as the actual Ghostbusters.

Having re-watched a few episodes of the first season in preparation for writing this, I can say they hold up pretty well after all this time. Definitely a fitting homage to one of the greatest movies of all time.

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 21: Uni

James Proclaims (4)

Today I’m looking at ‘U’. Because that it the letter we’re up to in my A-Z of cartoon characters of my childhood. But, and I know this seems grammatically incorrect (even though it isn’t) – who is ‘U’?

U

‘U’ is for Uni (the Unicorn)

fauna_lizard_fish

Dungeons and Dragons was a pretty dark show as kids cartoons went. It was also brilliant. And slightly horrifying.

The premise is that some kids go on a ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ ride (whatever that was supposed to be – I’m not sure a fantasy role-playing game really lends itself to a roller-coaster but who am I to judge?) at a theme park, and rather than the thrill of a quick adrenaline rush, they get transported into an alternative reality called ‘The Realm of Dungeons and Dragons’. And it’s a pretty scary place, with a five-headed dragon and an evil wizard called Venger who wants to do them harm. Fortunately they meet someone called the Dungeon Master, who gives them magical weapons and they also meet a unicorn called Uni (brilliant name for a Unicorn no?) who seems to be more of a liability than anything. With these new weapons they set about trying to find a way out of the realm, and back home to their lives.  After many adventures, and one false dawn after another, they finally do get home.

Except, they don’t.

There was never a concluding episode to Dungeon and Dragons, so as far as we can tell those poor kids are still trapped there. Although it’s been, what, over thirty years, so they won’t be kids anymore. That’s if they survived.

Allegedly there was going to be a final episode, where the kids did all have the opportunity to leave, but it never got made.

Which is a bit rubbish really.

But it was a still an amazing cartoon.

 

On a completely separate note, it turns out that this is my 500th post on James Proclaims. That seems like quite a lot, so I should probably be congratulated for achieving this. Feel free to praise me to excess in the comments section below!

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Cartoon Characters That He Liked As A Child – Part 20: T-Bob

James Proclaims (4)

Is it really time for ‘T’?

Well, in that case I’ll have an Earl Grey. Hot. Like Captain Picard used to have on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

And while I’m sipping on my Earl Grey, I’ll write today’s contribution to my catalogue of cartoon characters from a bygone age, as I head closer to the endgame of my A-Z Blogging Challenge. Because it really is time for ‘T’.

T

T is for T-Bot

5bf58ead02f427f99b63a89e0c5975da

One day, I imagine, two executives at Kenner, the toy company which made many of the toys I loved as a child, sat down for a conversation. In my head, it went something like this:

Exec 1: Those Transformers toys over at Hasbro are doing pretty well, we should totally do something like that.

Exec 2: But we can’t just copy them, that would be unethical and as a major corporation, operating in the nineteen-eighties, ethics are at the cornerstone of everything we do.

Exec 1: I completely agree. But we should do something similar.

Exec 2: But what would be like Transformers, but not actually be Transformers?

Exec 1: Well, as far as I can tell, the bit the kids like is the transforming bit. They aren’t too bothered about what the thing is transforming from or to.

Exec 2: You mean like how originally Transformers were robots who transformed into vehicles, and were quite literally ‘robots in disguise’ but later on they became robots who transformed into dinosaurs, which makes no sense at all, because a giant robotic dinosaur would stand out as much as,  if not significantly more than, a giant robot.

Exec 1: Exactly, and the kids still love all that right?

Exec 2: Yes, kids are stupid.

Exec 1: Have we turned into Harry and Marv off of Home Alone?

Exec 2: What’s Home Alone?

Exec 1: I don’t know. I imagine it’s a film that will be really popular in the early nineties, but as it’s currently the early eighties, I couldn’t possibly know what it is.

Exec 2: Hmmm, this is all getting a bit strange. Have we turned into Vladimir and Estragon from Waiting for Godot?

Exec 1: What’s Waiting for Godot?

Exec 2. I don’t know. I imagine it’s a surrealist play by an Irish playwright who wrote a lot his plays in French and then translated them into English, and was an influential figure in the theatre of the absurd movement. I could feasibly have heard of this play given that it was first performed in 1953, but I haven’t because I’m an executive for a toy manufacturer, and it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing I would be into. Anyway what were we talking about?

Exec 1: Well, as I was saying, it’s the ‘transformy-ness’ of the toy rather than the fact that it’s a robot that makes Transformers so popular.

Exec 2: I think it’s a bit to do with the robots.

Exec 1: No, it’s definitely not the robots that make the toy work. So I reckon if we just copy the transformy bit, but make it ‘not robots’ we could have a hit on our hands.

Exec 2: So what? We’d have dinosaurs transforming into vehicles then?

Exec 1: I love that idea, but no, I think dinosaurs and vehicles is still too close to Transformers. What we need is something else changing into something else.

Exec 2: What? Like a helicopter that changes into a plane?

Exec 1; I mean that does sound a bit stupid, but essentially yes, why not vehicles that turn into other vehicles? No-one would think we were copying Transformers if we did that.

Exec 2: And we could give all the people that drove those vehicles really boring names like Matt Tracker, or Alex Sector.

Exec 1: This is going to be huge!

Now I don’t know if that is exactly how the conversation went, I wasn’t there. But that is, I think, a reasonable summary of what M.A.S.K was (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, if you’re interested. Any yes, they did just change the spelling of the word ‘command’ to suit their needs).

And you might make the reasonable supposition that M.A.S.K was such a bad idea that it was one of the key contributing factors that eventually led to Kenner  being taken over by Hasbro.

But you’d be wrong. M.A.S.K was huge, and for a period of time it was my favourite thing ever. Seriously, I loved it more than He-Man, ThunderCats, Transformers, even Star Wars. I had a T-Bob birthday cake one year and it made me insanely happy.

But my whereas my love for all those other franchises has endured, my love for M.A.S.K burned bright for a time and then disappeared.

Because, really, it wasn’t very good.

And T-Bob was totally a robot who changed into a vehicle. He changed into a scooter. A scooter that still looked like a bloody robot. So he was like the worst Transformer ever really.

But the helicopter that changed into a plane was pretty cool.