Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy

Starting from 8 March 2018 BBC Radio 4 is marking the 40th anniversary of The humorous science fiction novel Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams by broadcasting a new series featuring The original cast. The New series of the intergalactic comedy also stars Lenny Henry, as a Mephistophelian character called The Consultant, alongside Simon Jones and Geoffrey McGivern, the original Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect. The befuddled, pyjama-wearing Dent is, the quintessentially English hero of the series, is one of the few survivors when Earth is destroyed by the Vogons, who are constructing a hyperspace bypass. Dent is rescued by Ford Prefect, a know-all alien who works as a researcher for the Hitchhiker’s Guide, an electronic encyclopedia which full of useful (and sometimes bizarre) information. Mark Wing-Davies also reprises his role as Zaphod Beeblebrox [the narcissistic two-headed galactic president]. The new series also features Marvin the Paranoid Android, the depressed super-robot with a brain the size of a planet, voiced by Jim Broadbent and Dirk Maggs, one of the producers on the original Hitch hikers guide, is also in charge of production for he new series.

The new series combines previously written but unpublished material, dug out of Adams’ notebooks by archivist and superfan Kevin Jon Davies, and newer plotlines drawn from And Another Thing, Eoin Colfer’s book continuing the saga. In The new series Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect visit the tiny planet of Nano, where they find an Irish community run by a chancer called Hillman Hunter (played by the comedian Ed Byrne). The colony is getting unruly, so Hunter wants a God to supply a few rules – however the lack of one proves a problem so he begins conducting interviews for the role. Meanwhile, the Vogons have also discovered the existence of this unlikely Irish colony and are naturally sending a force to eradicate it.

The entrepreneur Elon Musk is also a huge fan of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. When Musk shot one of his Tesla Roadsters into space recently attached to a Falcon rocket in order to test the payload capabilities, it had the words “Don’t Panic” emblazoned on the dashboard – echoing the cover of the original Guide – and there was a copy of the book in the glove compartment. Musk also included a towel, which the guide states can be very useful in defeating the Fearsome bugblatter beast of Traal, which is permanently ravenous but mind bogglingly stupid (Hitchhiker fans also celebrate Towel Day on 25 May each year). The guide and Adams’ farsightedness anticipated many innovations including ipads and the idea of the Babel fish – a yellow creature that, when placed in the ear, provides an instant translation service (allowing Arthur to understand Vogons when he hitches a lift from the disintegrating Earth on their spaceship). There is now a translation site called babelfish.com.

Mark E Smith

best known as the lead singer, lyricist and only constant member of the post-punk group The Fall, the late great English singer and songwriter Mark Edward Smith was born 5 March 1957. The family moved to nearby Prestwich when he was six months old, occupying the house they inherited after his grandfather’s death. Smith’s father died suddenly in 1989 of a heart attack. He has said that he didn’t become interested in music until he was about 14, when he discovered Captain Beefheart. He had early memories of The Beatles but remembered thinking that it was all a bit effeminate. He attended Sedgley Park Primary School, and later Stand Grammar School for Boys before quitting aged 16. That year, he left home and moved in with his girlfriend and future Fall keyboardist, Una Baines, later of the Blue Orchids. He subsequently took an evening class in A-level Literature. His first job was in a meat factory, before he became a shipping clerk on Salford docks.

Smith formed The Fall, named after the novel by Albert Camus, with friends Martin Bramah, Una Baines and Tony Friel, after attending a Sex Pistols gig at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in June 1976. After Smith dropped out of college at the age of 19. Originally they were named The Outsiders, after another Camus work. He subsequently gave up his job as a shipping clerk at Salford docks shortly afterward to devote his full energies to the band. The early Fall line-up came of age during the 1970s punk rock movement, although their music underwent numerous stylistic changes, often concurrently with changes in the group’s lineup. The band’s 40 year career can be broken into five broad periods, based on the band’s membership. These include their early late 1970s line-up, the classic Fall period of Hanley and dual drummers, the Brix years of 1984-89, their early 1990s revival, and everything after the on-stage fight in New York, after which Hanley quit and Smith was arrested.

Smith married the American guitarist and Fall member Brix Smith on 19 July 1983, after they met in Los Angeles during the band’s American tour earlier that year. They divorced in 1989, and he remarried twice after this. His second wife was Saffron Prior, who had worked for The Fall’s fan club; their marriage ended in 1995. He married Eleni Poulou, also called Elenor or Elena, in 2001. Poulou joined the band in September 2002 and left in July 2016. Smith and Poulou divorced in 2016, and Smith’s partner at the time of his death was his manager Pamela Vander.

Referring to the Fall’s 60-odd former members, Smith claimed that he had “only” fired around half the number of people he is said to have dismissed, and that some left of their own free will. He would fire musicians for seemingly trivial reasons; he once dismissed a sound engineer for eating a salad, later explaining that “the salad was the last straw”. Founding member Marc Riley was fired for dancing to a Deep Purple song during their Australian tour, although the two had had many arguments beforehand. Smith said that he often changed musicians so that they would not become lazy or complacent. When the influential British DJ and Fall supporter John Peel died in 2004, Smith made a notorious appearance on the BBC’s Newsnight show in which he seemed stunned and incoherent, and which he afterwards put down to a rare incidence of stage fright.

While the Fall never achieved widespread success beyond minor hit singles in the mid and late 1980s, they maintained a loyal cult following throughout their career. The widespread misunderstanding that the Fall was just a bunch of guys lead by MES is disproved by the reliance he had on a number of band members. In particular Steve Hanley is regarded as one of the most talented bassists of his generation, equal to Peter Hook, Andy Rourke or Gary Mounfield. During their 42-year existence, the Fall’s line-up included some 60 musicians who, with Smith, released 32 studio albums and many singles and EPs. His best-known recordings include “Totally Wired” and “Hit the North”.

A long-term heavy drinker, Smith had a difficult and complex personality. He was celebrated for his biting and targeted wit, evident in his acerbic but highly quotable interviews, for which he was much in demand by music journalists throughout his career. He was deeply suspicious of the trappings of fame, and largely avoided socialising with Fall associates. The dark and sardonic aspect of Smith’s personality often seeped into his lyrics, and he especially sought to avoid music industry people, who were the frequent targets of his diatribes. His vocal delivery included a characteristic of ending every line with “-ah” or “-uh”. Smith’s approach to music was unconventional; he did not have a high regard for musicianship, believing that “rock & roll isn’t even music really. It’s a mistreating of instruments to get feelings over”; a tendency that contributed to the Fall’s high turnover of musicians.

Mark E Smith tragically died 24 January 2018. However The Fall are regarded as one of the premier post-punk bands. Smith was notoriously difficult to work with but was revered by fans and critics during his lifetime, and was described as a “strange kind of antimatter national treasure”.

John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

John Frusciante, on/off member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was born March 5th 1970. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were formed in Los Angeles in 1983 and The Peppers’ musical style incorparates a mix of funk, alternative rock, hard rock and punk rock. The band’s influences include Defunkt, Parliament-Funkadelic, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Gang of Four, Bob Marley, Big Boys, Sly and the Family Stone, Ohio Players, Queen, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Black Flag, Ornette Coleman, Led Zeppelin, Bad Brains, Fugazi, Fishbone, Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, Santana, Elvis Costello, The Stooges, The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Devo, and Miles Davis. Live. They also incorporate many aspects of jam rock due to the improvised nature of much of their performances. Currently, the band consists of founding members Anthony Kiedis (vocals) and Michael “Flea” Balzary (bass), longtime drummer Chad Smith, and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who joined in late 2009, following the departure of John Frusciante. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have won seven Grammy Awards and sold over 80 million albums worldwide. In 2012 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The band’s original line-up featured guitarist Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons, alongside Kiedis and Flea. Cliff Martinez was the drummer for the first two records (Irons played on the third), and guitarist Jack Sherman played on the first. Slovak performed on two albums Freaky Styley (1985) and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987); but died of a heroin overdose in 1988, resulting in drummer Irons’ departure. Parliament-Funkadelic guitarist DeWayne McKnight was brought in but he was replaced by John Frusciante in 1988. Former Dead Kennedys drummer D.H. Peligro was brought in to replace Irons but was soon replaced by Chad Smith that same year. The line-up of Flea, Kiedis, Frusciante and Smith was the longest-lasting, and recorded five studio albums starting with 1989′s Mother’s Milk.

In 1991, the group released the album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which became the band’s first commercial success. However Frusciante left abruptly in 1992, in the middle of the album tour. so they recruited guitarist Arik Marshall to complete the tour, Kiedis, Flea, and Smith employed Jesse Tobias who was replaced by Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction for their subsequent album, One Hot Minute (1995). Although commercially successful, the album failed to match the critical or popular acclaim of Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Navarro left the band in 1998 and Frusciante, rejoined the band that same year at Flea’s request. The reunited quartet returned to the studio to record Californication(1999), which became the band’s biggest commercial success with 15 million copies worldwide. That album was followed three years later by By the Way(2002), and then four years later by the double album Stadium Arcadium (2006), their first number one album in America.

Following a world tour, the group went on an extended hiatus. Frusciante announced he was amicably leaving the band again to focus on his solo career. So Josh Klinghoffer, who had previously worked both as a sideman for the band on their Stadium Arcadium tour and on Frusciante’s solo projects, joined as lead guitarist in 2009 and the band spent the next year and a half recording their tenth studio album, I’m with You, which was released in 2011 and topped the charts in 18 different countries. The Red Hot Chili Peppers eleventh Album The Getaway was released in 2015 and features the songs the Getaway, Dark Necessities, We turn Red, Goodbye Angels, Longest Wave, Goodbye Robot, Sick Love, Feasting on the Flowers, Detroit, This Ticondaroga, encore, The Hunter and Dreams of a Samurai.

Gloster Meteor

Goster Meteor

The Gloster Meteor jet fighter plane made it’s maiden flight on March 5 1943. It was the first British jet fighter and the Allies’ first operational jet aircraft during the Second World War. The Meteor’s development was heavily reliant on its ground-breaking turbojet engines, pioneered by Sir Frank Whittle and his company, Power Jets Ltd. Development of the aircraft itself began in 1940, although work on the engines had been underway since 1936. The Meteor first flew in 1943 and commenced operations on 27 July 1944 with No. 616 Squadron RAF. Nicknamed the “Meatbox”, the Meteor was not a sophisticated aircraft in terms of its aerodynamics, but proved to be a successful combat fighter. Several major variants of the Meteor incorporated technological advances during the 1940s and 1950s. Thousands of Meteors were built to fly with the RAF and other air forces and remained in use for several decades. The Meteor saw limited action in the Second World War. Meteors of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) provided a significant contribution in the Korean War. Several other operators such as Argentina, Egypt and Israel flew Meteors in later regional conflicts. Specialised variants of the Meteor were developed for use in photo-reconnaissance and as night fighters.

The Meteor was also used for research and development purposes and broke several aviation records. On 7 November 1945, the first official air speed record by a jet aircraft was set by a Meteor F.3 of 606 miles per hour (975 km/h). In 1946, this record was broken when a Meteor F.4 reached a speed of 616 mph (991 km/h). Other performance-related records were broken in categories including flight time endurance, rate of climb, and speed. On 20 September 1945, a heavily modified Meteor I, powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent turbine engines driving propellers, became the first turboprop aircraft to fly. On 10 February 1954, a specially-adapted Meteor F.8, the “Meteor Prone Pilot”, which placed the pilot into a prone position to counteract inertial forces, took its first flight. During the 1950s, the Meteor became increasingly obsolete as more nations introduced jet fighters, with swept wing instead of the Meteor’s conventional straight wing; in RAF service, the Meteor was replaced by newer types such as the Hawker Hunter and Gloster Javelin. As of 2013, two Meteors, WL419 and WA638, remain in active service with the Martin-Baker company as ejection seat testbeds. Two further aircraft in the UK remain airworthy, as does another in Australia.