Posted in books, films & DVD, Television

The White Princess

Having enjoyed Pillars of the Earth, Wolf Hall, the Hollow Crown and many other historical epics, I would like to watch The White Princess, an eight episode British-American historical fiction television series based on Philippa Gregory’s 2013 novel of the same name. It is a sequel to The White Queen, a 2013 BBC-produced miniseries adapting three of Gregory’s previous novels. It features the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York which effectively ends the Wars of the Roses by uniting houses of Lancaster and York. However, the sinister political machinations of their mothers Elizabeth and Margaret continually threaten to tear both the marriage and the kingdom apart.

It begins with Henry Tudor Arriving triumphantly in London after defeating Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth, and Marrying Elizabeth of York to join the warring houses of Lancaster and York. Unfortunately Henry despises Elizabeth and Elizabeth despises Henry especially after he gets her pregnant before committing himself to marry her. So Lizzie decides to play the part of dutiful wife while she and her mother, the former Queen consort Elizabeth, secretly plot against the Tudors.

Henry tours the kingdom to assert his sovereignty. Planning to accompany him to secretly rally York supporters, Lizzie’s mother Elizabeth is instead locked up in Westminster Palace by Henry’s own mother Margaret. Henry survives an assassination attempt by Yorkist Francis Lovell but suspects Lizzie’s involvement, however Lizzie denies any involvement, and wins favor with the common people by seizing funds from the Royal Treasury to aid those threatened by the sweating sickness. Lizzie eventually gives birth to Prince Arthur. Meanwhile Jasper Tudor visits Margaret of Burgundy seeking an alliance but peace negotiations are suddenly aborted by an incident at the Burgundy court. In the meantime, Lizzie’s mother Elizabeth is exiled to Bermondsey Abbey.

The York princesses plan to marry Tudor loyalists, Margaret of Burgundy raises an army behind a peasant boy she has declared is Teddy Plantagenet. So Henry releases the real Teddy from the Tower, however Margaret, the King’s Mother, conspires to sends Teddy back to the Tower and declares the Dowager Queen Elizabeth complicit in the conspiracy, although Henry refuses to execute his wife’s mother. Margaret of Burgundy is rallying European support around a boy she recognizes as the true heir to the English throne, Lizzie’s brother Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York. Henry sends Margaret, now Lady Pole, to prove that the boy is an impostor. Henry and Lizzie name their own son Henry as the Duke of York, but Lizzie’s mother, the Dowager Queen informs them that her son, the rightful King of England, is alive in Burgundy. Meanwhile Margaret causes more trouble for the Tudors.

William Stanley is executed for his support to the imposter Perkin Warbeck. Lizzie and Henry travel to Spain to seek for an alliance, but Queen Isabella of Castile refuses to help the king until his traitors are dealt with. After the death of the Dowager Queen Elizabeth, Lizzie insipires Henry’s men to fight against the pretender Perkin Warbeck, who finds sanctuary in a monastery and refuses to renounce his claim to the throne. Margaret spies for her aunt, Margaret of Burgundy. Lizzie is convinced that Warbeck is her brother and tries to help him. Henry finds out from Lizzie what happened to the Princes in the Tower and points out that if Henry kills Warbeck—who she believes is Richard, Princes Arthur and Henry could find themselves in danger. So Henry tries to find out what Lizzie and her mother Elizabeth have been up to. (Perkin Warbeck eventually died 23 November 1499)

Posted in music

Malcolm Young (AC/DC)

Malcolm Young, Scottish-born Australian guitarist and founding member of Rock Band AC/DC sadly died 18  November 2017. He was born 6th January 1953. AC/DC were Formed in 1973 by Malcolm and his brother Angus Young, who have remained the sole constant members. The band are commonly classified as hard rock and are considered pioneers of heavy metal, though they themselves have always classified their music as simply “rock and roll”. To date they are one of the highest grossing bands of all time. AC/DC underwent several line-up changes before releasing their first album, High Voltage, on 17 February 1975.

Bass player Cliff Williams replaced Mark Evans in 1977 for the album Powerage. Within months of recording the album Highway to Hell, lead singer and co-songwriter Bon Scott died on 19 February 1980, after a night of heavy alcohol consumption. The group briefly considered disbanding, but Scott’s parents urged them to continue and hire a new vocalist. Ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson was auditioned and selected to replace Scott. Later that year, the band released their highest selling album, and ultimately the third highest-selling album by any artist, Back in Black. The band’s next album, For Those About to Rock We Salute You, was their first album to reach number one in the United States. AC/DC declined in popularity soon after drummer Phil Rudd was fired in 1983 and was replaced by future Dio drummer Simon Wright, though the band resurged in the early 1990s with the release of The Razors Edge. Phil Rudd returned in 1994 (after Chris Slade, who was with the band between 1989–1994, was asked to leave in favour of him) and contributed to the band’s 1995 album Ballbreaker.

Since then, the band’s line-up has remained the same. Stiff Upper Lip was released in 2000 and was well received by critics, and the band’s latest studio album, Black Ice, was released on 20 October 2008. It was their biggest hit on the charts since For Those About to Rock, reaching No.1 on all the charts eventually. As of 2010, AC/DC had sold more than 200 million albums worldwide, including 71 million albums in the United States alone. Back in Black has sold an estimated 49 million units worldwide, making it the third highest-selling album by any artist, and the second highest-selling album by any band, behind Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The album has sold 22 million units in the U.S. alone, where it is the fifth-highest-selling album of all-time. AC/DC ranked fourth on VH1′s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock” and were named the seventh “Greatest Heavy Metal Band of All Time” by MTV. In 2004, AC/DC were ranked number 72 in the Rolling Stone list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. In 2010, AC/DC were ranked number 23 in the VH1 list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time

Posted in music

John Parr (St.Elmo’s Fire)

Grammy nominated English musician, John Parr was born 18 November 1952 in Worksop, England. He first entered the music scene when he was 12 years old and formed a band with two fellow schoolmates, which they named The Silence. The band had achieved some success. They eventually became professional and started to tour Europe. He then joined a band named Bitter Suite who were a huge success in the working men’s clubs in Yorkshire, he then formed a “Super Band” with musicians from other working men’s club bands, and named the band Ponders End after a Railway Station in North London. Parr secured a publishing deal with Carlin America in 1983, and in the same year Meat Loaf asked him to write some songs for his new album. That led to the fateful meeting with John Wolff, who was tour manager for The Who. Foreseeing the initial demise of The Who, Wolff was looking for a new venture and considered Parr to be a suitable partner. Parr first visited America in 1984 and worked with Meat Loaf on Bad Attitude. Meanwhile, Wolff secured Parr’s solo Atlantic recording deal in New York.

Naughty Naughty was Parr’s first U.S. Top 40 hit record,In 1985 Parr toured with his band “The Business” supporting Toto, his first show with Toto at Carowinds Paladium (Charlotte NC). Parr was then asked by David Foster to record a song for the film “St. Elmo’s Fire”. Parr and Foster wrote a song in honour of wheelchair athlete and activist Rick Hansen., “St. Elmo’s Fire” also became the theme for the film St. Elmo’s Fire (a “Brat Pack” film unrelated to Hansen’s life or achievements) and became a number one hit for Parr around the world and garnered many awards, including a Grammy nomination. Parr went on to tour with Tina Turner on “The Private Dancer” tour and also with Heart and The Beach Boys. In his charity work with The David Foster foundation, Parr has shared the stage and the sports field with stars including John Travolta, Michael J. Fox, Celine Dion, Paul Anka and Rob Lowe.

Parr later wrote “Under a Raging Moon” with Julia Downes for Roger Daltrey, a song that paid tribute to Keith Moon and told the story of The Who. The album became Daltrey’s biggest solo success in America. Parr’s last concert in the U.S. was a duet of the song with Daltrey at Madison Square Garden, joining them on stage were Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon, John Entwistle and Zak Starkey. Parr also sang with Marilyn Martin on the song “Through the Night”, from the Quicksilver soundtrack (1986) and wrote and produced further tracks for Martin’s debut album, including the hit “Night Moves”. Parr also wrote and sang the title songs “The Minute I Saw You”, from Three Men and a Baby soundtrack, and the power ballad “Restless Heart” (a.k.a. “Running Away with You (Restless Heart)”), from The Running Man soundtrack (this song was re-released on “Man With a Vision” album). Following the success of Meat Loaf’s album, Parr contributed to the next album with the hit duet “Rock & Roll Mercenaries and also began work with Albert Magnoli (director of Purple Rain) on the film American Anthem for which he wrote and performed the main theme “Two Hearts”. Parr’s other film credits include “Naughty Naughty” from the cult horror film Near Dark and “Love Grammar” from the Karen Black movie Flight of the Spruce Goose. He has also written songs for Tom Jones, The Monkees, Tygers of Pan Tang, Romeo’s Daughter and Bucks Fizz. The Pepsi Company and Jack Calmes Satellite TV Corporation hosted a gig from London beamed live across America, Japan & Australia. Parr was the featured act, having done two similar shows (one from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum where the flame was lit for a special performance of “St. Elmo’s Fire”, and was beamed live for Japan, and the New Year Christmas Show from London).

Parr was signed by US clothing designer “Chams De Baron” to promote their sports leisure range, and he featured in fashion magazines and poster campaigns. Parr also co-presented the UK leg of the “American Music Awards” with Phil Collins. In 1988 Parr was offered the opportunity to collaborate with “Mutt” Lange; (co)producing an album for Romeo’s Daughter. In 1989, Parr played the lead role in the soundtrack album for Paris, an epic rock opera written by Jon English and David Mackay. Paris is an epic love story of Paris and Helen of Troy set against the Trojan War. Parr performed with the London Symphony Orchestra alongside Harry Nilsson, Demis Roussos, Francis Rossi and Barry Humphries. Parr is also known for co-authoring “The Best (A Man Can Get)”, the theme used in a series of highly successful Gillette razor commercials from the 1980s onwards, also spawning the company’s chief slogan. A solo acoustic version appears on the album “Letter to America”. In 2006 St Elmo’s Fire was sampled for a dance remix of “St. Elmo’s Fire”, entitled “New Horizon” and In 2007, Parr joined Canadian pop-rock artist Bryan Adams on his tour” Parr released “Walking Out of the Darkness”, a tribute to Doncaster Rovers F.C. In 2007 ahead of the club’s appearance in the Football League Trophy final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Parr also returned to Canada to perform at the Man in Motion 20th anniversary. Parr’s song “St Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” was wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen’s anthem, helping him wheel 25,000 miles around the globe and raising awareness and money for spinal research. To date the Rick Hansen foundation has raised $200 million and helped build a research centre, ICORD, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

In 2007 Parr wrote and recorded the main title for The Brothers Solomon and Also opened for Bryan Adams at the Keepmoat Stadium in Parr’s home town Doncaster. In 2008, Parr was a special guest for the U.S. rock band Journey on their UK Tour and in 2011 Parr performed an acoustic set as Special Guest of Richard Marx on his UK Tour and also released a double album titled “Letter to America” before touring America. Parr was a guest on ESPN show SportsNation where he sang a special rendition of “St. Elmo’s Fire” replacing the words with Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. A reworking of the song’s lyrics, sung by Parr and titled “Tim Tebow’s Fire”. Throughout 2012 Parr toured America as ambassador for the USO playing concerts and benefits for American servicemen and women. In 2012 Parr wrote and produced a new studio album The Mission. The funds went to The USO, USA Cares and Military Families charities. In 2014, Parr reunited with The Who, Jeff Beck, Mick Hucknall and other rock musicians for Kenney Jones’ Rock & Horsepower concert to raise money and awareness for prostate cancer. Parr joined forces with Guns and Roses producer Mike Clink, Slash and Nikki Sixx, to collaborate on the forthcoming Pete Way album. At the O2 Parr joined producer Tony Visconti, Woody Woodmansey (Spiders From Mars), Glen Gregory (Heaven 17) and many members of the original Bowie band to perform in the “Man Who Sold the World” concert. Parr continued his work with the military playing concerts and fund raisers for “Help For Heroes”.

Christmas 2014 saw the release of “Ring Out The Bells”, a charity single produced by David Mackay, which featured Charlie Norman and the children of St Catherine’s School along with guest performances by Parr and Meatloaf duetist Lorraine Crosby (I Would Do Anything For Love). The proceeds went to The Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. Parr toured during 2015 alongside Bonnie Tyler, Kenney Jones, Cockney Rebel and also wrote and recorded “Man of Steel” for the late International rugby hero Steve Prescott. The 88th Academy Awards (Oscars) included the launch of Google’s Android campaign featuring John and St Elmo’s Fire as the theme tune. It’s Ironic as the song was tipped as the favourite for the “Best Original Song” Oscar in 1985 but had to be withdrawn as John had told the media that although the song was written for the film he was inspired by Rick Hansen’s attempt to circumnavigate the globe in his wheelchair. 31 years later the song is back at the Oscars as the theme song for “Rock Paper Scissors” Androids’s new campaign.

Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD, Science fiction

Alan Dean Foster

Prolific American fantasy and science fiction novelist Alan Dean Foster was born November 18, 1946. He is known for his science fiction novels set in the Humanx Commonwealth, an interstellar ethical/political union of species including humankind and the insectoid Thranx. Many of these novels feature Philip Lynx (“Flinx”), an empathic young man who has found himself involved in something which threatens the survival of the Galaxy. Flinx’s constant companion since childhood is a minidrag named Pip, a flying, empathic snake capable of spitting a highly corrosive and violently neurotoxic venom.

One of Foster’s better-known fantasy works is the Spellsinger series, in which a young musician is summoned into a world populated by talking creatures where his music allows him to do real magic whose effects depends on the lyrics of the popular songs he sings (although with somewhat unpredictable results).

Many of Foster’s works have a strong ecological element to them, often with an environmental twist. Often the villains in his stories experience their downfall because of a lack of respect for other alien species or seemingly innocuous bits of their surroundings. This can be seen in such works as Midworld, about a semi-sentient planet that is essentially one large rainforest, and Cachalot, set on an ocean world populated by sentient cetaceans. Foster usually devotes a large part of his novels to descriptions of the strange environments of alien worlds and the coexistence of their flora and fauna. Perhaps the most extreme example of this is Sentenced to Prism, in which the protagonist finds himself trapped on a world where life is based on silicon rather than carbon, as on Earth.

Foster was the ghostwriter of the original novelization of Star Wars which had been credited solely to George Lucas. After two other writers had declined his offer of a flat fee of $5,000 for the work, Lucas brought to Foster the original screenplay, after which Foster fleshed out the backstory of time, place, planets, races, history and technology in such detail that it became canonical for all subsequent Star Wars novels. Foster wrote the novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, a Star Wars sequel published in 1978, two years prior to the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Foster’s story relied heavily on abandoned concepts that appeared in Lucas’s early treatments for the first film. Foster was stunned when Return of the Jedi revealed the characters of Luke and Leia as brother and sister; in Splinter, the characters exhibit quite a bit of romantic and sexual energy. Although Splinter was contradicted by later entries in the Star Wars film canon, it was the first “Star Wars expanded universe” entry written (although not the first published—a Marvel Comics story holds that honor). Foster wrote the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Foster is also credited with writing the story for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He also wrote 10 books based on episodes of the animated Star Trek, the first six books each consisting of three linked novella-length episode adaptations, and the last four being expanded adaptations of single episodes that segued into original story. In the mid-seventies, he wrote original Star Trek stories for the Peter Pan-label Star Trek audio story records. He later wrote the novelization of the 2009 film Star Trek, his first Star Trek novel in over 30 years. He later wrote the novelization for Star Trek’s sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness.