Home Shows A to Z

Diary 1950s to 1990s Articles Credits & Links

TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

"Crazy music... crazy people"

By the mid-seventies many of the great and the good from the fifties, sixties and early seventies were no longer having hits in the British pop chart, that was assuming they still had a record deal to begin with. They could still play shows abroad however, usually to ex-pat audiences in southern Spain, Gibraltar, Australia, New Zealand and the Arab world, hoping that the audience wouldn't catch on that that current line-up may not have been the 'classic' line-up that they grew up listening to. Many performers would have quit the business to become office managers, tilers, betting shop owners, just anything to avoid the indignity of being in a has-been band at the wrong time. However, Richard Nader's rock and roll revival shows in America and the resurgence of rock and roll flavoured pop in the UK like Suzi Quatro, Mud, Darts and Showaddywaddy suggested that maybe people still wanted the real thing. Any managers that still had contact with their artists, or at least had the nouse to own the name, put new versions of groups together and the sixties' revival tours were born.

The revival shows quickly became good business, nick-named 'the chicken-in-a-basket' circuit due to the type of 'sophisticated' cuisine served at such venues. Bands would dress in modern-day matching suits, rolling the jacket sleeves up to the elbow from the mid-eighties onwards, they'd have a string synthesizer to emulate any orchestral backing their hits may of had, and if they were particularly daring they would include their take on a recent hit, for example The Hollies unwisely tackling Purple Rain in the mid-eighties.

From Music Week 6th September 1980

Golden Oldies TV Programme

ROCK ARTISTS from the Fifties and Sixties — including Frank Ifield, Martha and the Vandellas, Dion, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Wayne Fontana — are to feature in a new TV pop series. Entitled Unforgettable, it will be directed by Nick Abson of the promotional video company Rock Flix and produced by David Heath Hadfield. Musical director is Mike Moore. Abson claims it will be the first music light entertainment TV programme undertaken independently in Britain. The series comprises 3 programmes, all to be shot at Cinatra's of Croydon in a similar style to the old Ready Steady Go programme. Negotiations are taking place with British television companies for its release as well as for world syndication. Video rights have also been written into contracts. The producers are to back up the programme with an album from the series, and possibly books and other promotional items. "There will be an invited audience of 600 couples and it will be directed in such a way that one number will go into the next very quickly," said Abson.

Cinatra's club was owned by record producer David Heath Hadfield and Mike Morton, they were also the show's producers (HadMor). They had also owned the M&H label to release records by The Morton Music Machine. After a couple of Christmas and New Year specials with The Barron Knights the first series proper ran from 6th January 1981 to 24th February 1981 and broadcast by Thames. However, the show ran into trouble almost immediately as it was revealed by The Observer newspaper in January 1981 that Hadmor allegedly breached the ACTT (Association of Cinematography, Television and Allied Technicians) union closed shop agreement. In the subsequent court case brought by three members of the ACTT Hadmor was referred to as a 'facility' company, or independent television production company as it would be called now, and the ACTT objected to facility companies being able to hire and fire workers at will. The fact that the show boasted that it would be "the first music light entertainment TV programme undertaken independently in Britain" served as a red rag.

Alan Freeman was the host, in voice-over and in the audience, while music was provided by The Mike Morton Orchestra and Singers. Presumably the producers had export sales in mind as the venue's location in Freeman's introduction was given as "London" not Croydon. The first series broadcast by Thames used a montage of photos on a brown background for its opening credit sequence, accompanied by a version of the Nat King Cole's hit Unforgettable. Thames were a likely station to take a show like this as they were also producers of the celebrity quiz show Looks Familiar based on popular culture from the past and Lingalongamax with Max Bygraves.

From Music Week 15th August 1981

HADMOR PRODUCTIONS feels that its pop nostalgia TV series Unforgettable is being unfairly ignored by programmers following a recent court decision and Hadmor director David Heath-Hadfield suggests that other similar independent productions could be in danger. Technicians union ACTT has been granted leave to appeal to the House of Lords against an injunction preventing its members blacking the 13 part Unforgettable which Thames started screening earlier this year, and a hearing has been set down for January 11, 1982. The case is seen as the first test of the 1980 Employment Act and while TV stations are free to resume screening of the series, Heath-Hadfield says: "We are doing our best to get it shown but stations are a little reluctant about taking something with this sort of case hanging over it. "It may seem unfair on us but I can understand the stations' point of view in not wanting to get involved in internal union problems. "I feel particularly sorry for the artists and I can see a parallel with the early days of the record industry when the big companies didn't want to accept independent productions. "The album projects that were to be linked with the series have also gone by the board but we intend to keep going."

There were thirteen shows that were recorded for the first series, with five possibly not broadcast.

It would be over 18 months until the next series of shows, but this time not on Thames, but on Channel 4, a channel whose output was almost entirely provided by independent production companies. The show played on Tuesday evenings at 6.00 pm, replacing The People's Court. There seemed to be no concern about who the bands actually were. Billy J Kramer and the who? Freddie and the what? Inevitable personnel changes over the decades would mean some unfamiliar faces from the hit-making days, but as long as the lead singer was there who cared? It was surprising that so many of the original bands and singers had survived and were still working, but it was notable that some of the acts had survived with some credibility intact like The Troggs, The Tremeloes, The Searchers and The Nashville Teens, but it was also inevitable that tribute acts like The Bootleg Beatles were proving almost as popular by this time. There were several changes with the second series as the band name changed to The Morton Music Machine, while a dance troupe, Lipstick, was introduced. A version of Ottowan's Crazy Music was used to finish each show.

Many of the singers from The Morton Music Machine were also more than adept as soundalikes, so if you want Shirley Bassey, Demis Roussos, Frank Sinatra, Lulu, Elvis and others they could do it. The musicians also plainly knew their stuff, providing expert soundalike backings where necessary, while their guitarist (Mike Morton?) was an superb Les Paul copyist.

Sadly, in late January 1983 Unforgettable recorded what was likely to have been Billy Fury's last public appearance, broadcast in early February 1983, a week after his sudden death.

For reasons unknown the show went into hibernation for three years, re-emerging in early 1986. It had a different set design and computer graphics were now evident, but otherwise it was the same. The show dropped the Crazy Music outro and now had as an executive producer, Cecil Korer who had worked on Top Of The Pops in the mid sixties. This time the show caught one of Del Shannon's last UK appearances.

Despite the independent nature of the show it had very high production values, as good as Top Of The Pops or any similar studio bound offering from ITV. Like Top Of The Pops most of the acts either performed live, or to newly recorded tracks, but a few just chose to lip synch' to the hit recording instead. Some of the artists appeared along with The Morton Music Machine on the show's soundtrack double album, released in 1982.

Sixties revival shows continue to this day, many of them have moved onto cruise ships, but as time passes singers die and fewer original acts are now available, but versions of The Tremeloes, The Searchers, The Fortunes, The Swinging Blue Jeans and others who appeared on the show are still working hard around the world. Unforgettable might have provided a last good look at some of the greats.


Thames / Hadmor 22nd December 1980 - 24th February 1981

C4 / Hadmor 9th November 1982 - 31st December 1983 , 25th January 1986 - 15th March 1986