Wednesday, 23 July 2014

New Series, New Doctor

This is an unashamed Doctor Who post, and before I continue, let me state that this is just an opinion and I'm quite prepared to be proved utterly and totally wrong.  OK. Here we go...

Series 8 of Doctor Who starts exactly a month from today (23rd July 2014), and as is usual in such cases there is a ton of speculation, hyperbole, hype and hope in the on-line fan community.  Admittedly there's a lot for fans to be excited about - a new Doctor in Peter Capaldi, a new starting date (Autumn) and allegedly a full season of 13 episodes - but will any of these affect how many people actually watch?
To be honest, these are all fan concerns.  How will the general viewing public react to a new series, and a new Doctor?  Well probably not much differently to how they've been reacting since the series came back in 2005.  So I feel it's time to make some predictions.  How many people will watch the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who?

Looking back to 2005 when Series 1 started, here are the Final viewing figures for the opening story of each season, including the timeshift (that's the percentage of viewers who recorded the programme on the night, but watched it up to a week later).

Note I've ignored the 2009 Specials as they're not really representative of a "normal" season of Doctor Who.

New Season openers

Season 1    10.8 million (timeshift 8%) *New Doctor

Season 2    8.6 million (timeshift 7%)

Season 3    8.7 million (timeshift 6%)

Season 4    9.1 million (timeshift 8%)

Season 5    10.08 million (timeshift 20%) *New Doctor

Season 6     8.8 million (timeshift 26%)

Season 7     8.3 million (timeshift 23%)

The first thing to notice is that the number of viewers for a new season opener are remarkably consistent.  Between 2005 and 2013 they've been between 8.3 and 9.1 million.  

Ah but what about Seasons 1 and 5 you say?  Yes, and now we get to the second noticeable thing.  A new Doctor draws more viewers.  About 2 million more.

Season 2 was a bit unusual as David Tennant's 10th Doctor was actually introduced in the preceding Christmas Special, so the first story of Season 2 didn't have that "new Doctor" boost.  Let's look at New Doctor Story Final viewing figures then:

New Doctor Eps

Season 1    10.8 million

Season 2    9.8 million

Season 5    10.08 million

OK, not many to go on, but still fairly consistent with a 2 million increase on an ordinary season opener.

The third thing to notice is the timeshift.  The difference between people who watched on the night and who  saved it for later has gone up from around 8% in 2005 to 23% in 2013.  This is across the board for all TV, and is not peculiar to Doctor Who.  In fact the timeshift hasn't been steadily increasing since 2005.  Rather there was a dramatic jump in 2010, which was probably down to SKY providing all new subscribers (and upgrading existing customers) with a SKY+ box that included the facility to record.  The timeshift has only increased very slightly since then.

So can we make a prediction of Final Viewing Figures for the first story of Doctor Who Series 8 on August 23rd?

Well, as a standard new season opener I would expect it to be somewhere between 8 and 9 million.  Notice this has nothing to do with the time of year it is being broadcast (August during one of the UK's hottest summers).  That's what the timeshift is for.  Regardless of when a season of Doctor Who has started (Seasons 1-6 began in April, Season 7 in September) the opening episode always attracts the same amount of viewers.  In fact Seasons 6 and 7 are remarkably similar, considering they both start at opposite ends of the year.

However as a New Doctor opener I would also expect it to have 2 million more viewers. it would therefore likely be more around the 10 million mark. 

And the timeshift?  When the weather is warm there is often an increase in people who would rather stay out in the sun and record Doctor Who instead, so I'm going to predict a timeshift of about 26%.
Right.  So I'm going for an overnight of 7.82 million, a final of 9.85 and a timeshift of 26%.  And if I'm wrong...I predict the actual figures will be lower. 

Roll on August 23rd!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

"DAZE OF FUTURE PASSED” - Sue Markham talks to Dave Levett of The Haize

He sprawls in a decidedly ragged armchair, giving me a decidedly ragged smile. The sun shines through the half-drawn curtains, illuminating a decidedly ordinary face.  Indeed, there’s nothing spectacular about the guy at all.  Nothing to indicate that I’m sitting opposite the rhythm guitarist\song-writer\driving force of one of the most influential rock bands of the Seventies, The Haize.

Dave Levett peers at me from behind that smile.  “Come on, ask me a question.”

It’s difficult.  What do you ask a legend?  I glance at my notes.

How about the recent split from Private Plastic?

Dave scratches his nose, looking thoughtful.  “I think all I could say about was inevitable...”  There is a long pause as Dave frowns, staring at a large purple patch on the left knee of his jeans.  I begin to wonder if he’s forgotten the question, when suddenly he glances up and, grinning jovially, continues (I have since learned that he does this a lot when being interviewed, seemingly without realising it!).

“Yeah, inevitable.  Like, in the early days, it wasn’t a record company, it was just a couple of guys we knew who had the right equipment to press up a few hundred copies.  I mean, we didn’t have licences, we didn’t have anything.  Christ, most of the money went on bribing people, like the printers!”

But you got your first licence in 1976?

“Yeah.  January the seventh!  We were legal at last!  The General Election was June the previous year, and we waved bye-bye to the right honourable Sir Hamilton more ways than one!

He was assassinated.

“He was, and before you ask, it wasn’t me!  Anyway, they scrapped DM in November, but it still took till the next year to get the licence thing sorted out properly.  And then we became a limited company.  And I was f----ing chairman!

“That was when it started, the trouble.  I mean, it was great at first, having total control over our own product.  But we just couldn’t devote enough time to the company.  The band would have suffered, and suddenly we had all these gigs!  Legit ones!  So over the next couple of years it got handed over, till we had less and less control.  Eventually I think I had two percent of the voting shares!  Anyway, it’s not as if Private Plastic needed us anymore, they’ve got some good acts on the label - Sigma-Z, Nouveux Riche, and they’ve got some of the Gene Hawkins Band back catalogue.  They’re doing okay.”

Have you seen Gene recently?

Dave laughs.  “That wanker?  He’s out on bail.  Been round to see us, but I told him we didn’t want to see him!  We made it plain there was to be no drugs involvement else you’re out on your ear.  Let’s face it, the drug scene was almost non-existent over here up till ‘76.  Then the Americans came back over, all the big US bands, and the hard stuff just seemed to follow.  A lot of people thought they could take it, and couldn’t.”  He pauses.  “Pete couldn’t.” [Pete Story, Haize's bass player from 1973 until 1977] 

Your third single, “SMACK”, was written after Pete Story’s death at the first Knebworth Festival in June 1977, dedicated to him, I believe?

“Yeah, I felt so sick after that.  Just plain sick.  He was a good mate, but I never knew.  None of us knew.  Though, to be fair, it could’ve been his first time on heroin.  Christ knows.  Anyway, prats like Gene deserve all they get.”

Sounds like you don’t think much of him.

“Christ, no, he’s a brilliant vocalist!  I mean, we really peaked when he joined, although there was a lot of bad feeling from the fans at the time.”  Dave laughs, “ I think everyone reckoned we were gonna emigrate to Florida after the US tour went so well, and then popping up with an American vocalist!  Nar, I respect him as an artist, sure, I just don’t want to see him.  That’s it.  Mind you, he sure left his mark on the band when we collaborated on the Techronomicon thing.  I was really pleased with that.”

Critics have said that the Techronomicon Road show was a particularly “overblown” period for The Haize.

“Oh yeah!  Amazingly so!  But it was great!  And yet I’m glad we can still play the smaller venues...both ends of the scale, y’know?  Like the Stonehenge thing this year.  I haven’t enjoyed a gig so much in years.  We had Johnny Balso on guitar, and did mostly old stuff.  After all, a bit of nostalgia never hurt anyone!”

Johnny Balso used to be with The Mutual, didn’t he?

“Yeah, they all got busted back in ‘74, after the French film came out.  Johnny’s got folks over in Australia though.  I didn’t know he’d got out until around Christmas the same year, when he came back for a few months and did some gigs with us.  In fact he’s on the Traffic Jamming single - not a lot of people know that.  Good guitarist, Johnny.  Wrote most of The Mutual’s stuff.

Is the new line-up permanent?

“Ha!  Is it ever?  I dunno.  We’re in a bit of a flux at present, what with Barry buggering off again, so no drummer [Barry Bueno, intermittent Haize drummer since 1972].  But Marc says he knows a bloke who knows someone.  We’ve got a couple of gigs lined up next month, if we can get a f-----ing band together!”

Do you think you’ll ever regain the stability of the 1978 to 1980 period?

“I don’t believe in stability.  You have to have a little bit of uncertainty to make everything spark.  Sort of dynamic tension, if you like!  Hopefully we’re getting back to a less polished, more basic approach.  Alright, so we were a success on the foreign market after Techronomicon, we were slick, we were professional...but so what?  I personally wasn’t happier.  Nar, it’s the end of another era.  Let the past bury itself.”

Speaking of the past...

“Oho, I know what you’re going to say...the RCA thing, right?”

Why did you bring out the injunction? Surely the tapes are still valid, even after three years?

“The injunction was an attempt to stop the release as quickly as possible, to give us time to negotiate some kind of licensing deal.  Sure, the recordings are valid.  They’re very good quality, and the gigs were good too.  But what we’re against is where the money’s going.  You see, pre-’76 we weren’t legal, we had no licence.  So, effectively, anything recorded before ‘76 is sole property of whoever eventually releases it.  In this case, RCA.  What’s the price of the album?  Three, four quid?  Most of that money is going straight back into RCA wallets!  That money could be put to better use.”

Some people might Dave Levett’s pocket?

“Bollocks.  Most of what we grossed from the Techronomicon live album went straight back into the music business.  I mean, Christ, this country’s poor!  There’s a bit of money available from local Government, entertainment grants and such, but it’s not enough to just lift all the restrictions and say “Okay, the law’s not against you, go ahead and play”, because like everything else in this world, it costs!  Christ, we could be millionaires if we’d stayed in the States!  RCA is solely US-owned now, anyway, and all the money from that album, a British group, recorded live in Britain, is just sailing out of this country!”  He pauses, smiling resignedly.  “Anyway, it’s water under the bridge now.  The injunction failed, and they released it.  Come on, I’ve had my gripe, change the subject!”

Any news of a record deal?

“Well, Jeff's been nosing around [Jeff Hoffman - The Haize's long-suffering agent/manager/fall guy].  There’s some London-based Indie labels who’d jump at the chance, but we’ve got to choose the right one because I don’t want loads of distribution hassles.  It’s got to be British too, there’s no question of signing to EMI or Polydor.  Actually, we’ve got some good demo material in the can - mainly me, Taylor [Taylor Sindon, keyboards/synth since 1974], and Barry - so as soon as we get some kind of deal worked out there’ll probably be an album on the way.  Need a drummer first though.  Can I put an ad in your paper?”

Be my guest.  Male or female?

“Ho ho, a leading question! I like girls in the band. I’m not on this big male ego trip that women can’t play rock music.  I mean, Donna McKenzie was a f----ing good guitarist, and Maxine was one of the best drummers we’ve ever had.  Her old man played bass with us for a while too. The only difficulty with women in the band though, is that they gotta habit of getting pregnant and leaving, at the worst possible two months before a world tour!”

What about Judi Delaney [The Haize's original bass-player]?

“Ah, shit, Judi couldn’t play worth a damn!  But that was back in ‘71...and I don’t think I was that great myself!”

Wasn’t she arrested?

“We thought so.  But she wrote to me about six months back.  She’s living in Switzerland now.  Seems she had to split really fast towards the end of ‘71, and couldn’t even let us know without putting the rest of the band at risk.  She got hold of a copy of War Zone last year, you know, one of the re-pressings, and there’s a song on there we wrote for her ["Song For Judi"].  She’s married now.  Cheered me up no end, you know, hearing from Judi.  Like, events from the past suddenly turning up rosy like that.  Sort of makes the future brighter, don’t you think?”

I did indeed.  And then the phone went, and it was Jeff Hoffman.  The interview was over and I left.  Dave’s last words behind me...”Hi Jeff...a drummer? Great...what’s she like?”

- Sue Markham
(originally published in New Musical Express 31st May 1980)