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Video interview: Shopper Bus (July 2013)

In this video interview, Rita Alderton talks about the benefits of using Rotherham Community Transport‘s Shopper Bus service.

A version of this interview was shown at Rotherham Community Transport’s management group meeting on Wednesday 18 September 2013.

Many thanks to Dave Cooper for co-conducting the interview.

Video Interview: Shopper Bus (July 2013) from Chris Ledger on Vimeo.

Ten of the most successful video game-related singles

‘SuperMarioLand’ was a Number 8 hit for Ambassadors of Funk featuring MC Mario in 1992.

You might think that singles based on video games are likely to become one-hit wonders, but that is not entirely true.

In fact, a number of these records were released by some unlikely names with good track records.

And some musicians have a close relationship with video games. For example, in 1992, the Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield told the New Musical Express:

“Spiderman [for the Sega Mega Drive] is the perfect metaphor for my life, much more than any records of the past five years.”

Plenty of video game singles have also charted in Europe. Rayman Contre Les Lapins Encore and Crétins’ 2007 single, ‘Making Fun (Of Everyday Life)’, attained a chart peak of Number 49 in France and spent 16 weeks in the Top 100.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ by 50 Grind and Pokémon All Stars, and Pokémon’s ‘Pokédance (Remix)’ and ‘Un Monde Pokémon’ were also French Top 50 hits in 2000 and 2001.

Pokédance (Remix)’ was particularly successful, peaking at Number 21, while ‘Pokémon Welt’ by Noel Pix reached the Top 50 in Austria and Switzerland.

There were ten other singles, though, that charted in the UK Singles Chart.

1. ‘Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)’ by Yellow Magic Orchestra (1980)

The majority of video game-related songs from the late 1970s and 1980s were included on albums, such as ‘Space Invader’ by The Pretenders (although it was also the b-side to ‘Brass In Pocket’ in Canada, Japan and the USA) and ‘Ivan Meets GI Joe’ by The Clash.

One notable exception, however, was Yellow Magic Orchestra’s ‘Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)’, which sampled arcade sounds.

David Toop’s book, ‘Exotica: Fabricated Soundscapes In A Real World’, said that it “factored the technological ‘folk art’ of arcade game soundtracks into the history of electronic music”.

But, given their long association with video games, this wasn’t much of a surprise.

Principal member Ryuichi Sakamoto, for example, composed the start-up sound for the Sega Dreamcast, and their 1979 track, ‘Rydeen’, was sampled in four games: ‘Super Locomotive’, ‘Trooper Truck’, ‘Ocean Loader’ and ‘Stryker’s Run’.

Although the Japanese group’s export sales were limited, ‘Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)’ became their only hit in the UK Singles Chart when it peaked at Number 17 in July 1980.

The single – which was originally released as an album track in 1978 – also had good chart longevity, as it spent 11 weeks in the Top 75. Furthermore, eight of those weeks were spent in the Top 40.

2. ‘Pac-Man’ by Powerpill (1992)

A number of dance singles were based on retro children’s television programmes in the early 1990s – such as Smart E’s ‘Sesame’s Treet’, Urban Hype’s ‘A Trip To Trumpton’ and Shaft’s ‘Roobarb And Custard’ – and many of them became Top 10 hits.

Unsurprisingly, due to the success of the Sega Mega Drive and Super NES, dance records were also based on video games.

But the big surprise is that Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin, was the man behind Powerpill’s ‘Pac-Man’.

James was no stranger to the UK Singles Chart as ‘Digeridoo’ became his first hit single when it reached Number 55 in May 1992.

Four weeks later, ‘Pac-Man’ went one better with a chart peak of Number 43.

In fact, it was James’ highest chart placing until ‘On’ made a Top 40 breakthrough in November 1993.

3. ‘Pacman’ by Ed Rush & Optical (2002)

Ed Rush & Optical have released five albums, but ‘Pacman’ remains their only single to have charted in the UK.

It reached the dizzy heights of Number 61 in May 2002.

Unlike Powerpill’s happy hardcore style, this is a much more sinister version that only sporadically samples Namco’s classic game.

4. ‘Tetris’ by Doctor Spin (1992)

The Really Useful Group are associated with the likes of Jason Donovan’s ‘Any Dream Will Do’ and Marti Webb’s ‘Take That Look Off Your Face’, but it was also responsible for Doctor Spin’s ‘Tetris’.

The single – which was released by Polydor and Carpet Records in September 1992 – was co-arranged and executive produced by Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber, and peaked at Number 6 within its first month in the charts.

It is a mildly catchy slice of Eurodance, and the involvement of Lloyd Webber remains strangely appealing, but its real success was down to some strategic market positioning.

For example, in the early 1990s, the core age groups in the UK singles market were nine to 12-year-olds and young teenagers, while nearly 40% of all UK Top 75 hits were dance singles in the first quarter of 1992.

While the ninth edition of The Guinness Book Of British Hit Singles claimed that video games were outselling singles by a 5:3 ratio, Virgin Games’ General Manager, Nick Garnell, stated that British children bought music AND video games. He also said that game centres were a “parallel development to music stores for Virgin”.

When you consider the popularity of video games and singles among children – and the fact that the Eurodance stylings of ‘Tetris’ would be more accessible to a pop audience than Powerpill’s ‘Pac-Man’ – it is easy to see why it was such a big hit.

Inevitably, more recent versions of the game’s soundtrack by the likes of DJ Joystick and Doctor P have failed to replicate Doctor Spin’s success.

5. ‘Playing With The Boy’ by Technician II (1992)

Inane is the best word to describe Technician II’s ‘Playing With The Boy’, which was used in a series of Nintendo Game Boy adverts in 1992.

The sound effects are plonky at best, and its breakbeat style sounds contrived, but it defied the odds by making a minor dent in the UK Singles Chart.

It spent one week at Number 70 in November 1992, which was more than it deserved.

Technician II member Ben Keen attained modest solo chart success as BK, though, with six Top 75 entries between 2000 and 2003.

High Score Warrior’s ‘Will You Ever Reach The End?’, meanwhile, was given a European release in 1993, after being used in a Super NES advert.

Although it was a more tuneful effort, it never charted.

6. ‘SuperMarioLand’ by Ambassadors of Funk featuring MC Mario (1992)

Ambassadors of Funk weren’t the first act to release a Mario-related single, as Turntable Hype’s ‘The Mario Brothers’ was released in 1991, but it was the first to reach the UK Singles Chart.

And, just like Doctor Spin, they had a big hit on their hands, as ‘SuperMarioLand’ reached Number 8 in November 1992. In fact, it entered the Top 10 just as ‘Tetris’ fell out of it.

The charming thing about ‘SuperMarioLand’ is that it was faithful to the game.

The song referenced Princess Daisy – who, rather than Princess Peach, was the hostage in Nintendo’s ‘Super Mario Land’ – and killer bees, who also featured in the game.

It was clear that it was a song made by video game fans for video games fans.

And the video’s setting was Chessington World of Adventures. Which is awesome.

An album, ‘Super Mario Compact Disc’, failed to chart in the UK, but Simon Harris and rapper Einstein were not one-hit wonders.

They had previously collaborated when their single, ‘Another Monsterjam’, reached Number 65 in November 1989.

Einstein featured in two other singles: ‘Turn It Up’ by Technotronic [featuring Melissa and Einstein] and Snap!’s ‘The Power ’96’. Both of them charted at Number 42 in December 1990 and August 1996, respectively.

Harris, meanwhile, released four further records between 1988 and 1990, which included two Top 40 singles: ‘Bass (How Low Can You Go)’ and ‘Here Comes That Sound’.

He also founded the Music of Life label, whose rooster of hip-hop starlets included chart acts MC Duke and She Rockers.

7. ‘Street Fighter II’ by The World Warrior (1994)

Believe it or not, ‘SuperMarioLand’ was not the only video game-related collaboration between Harris and Einstein.

They teamed up again in April 1994 to release their take on the ‘Street Fighter’ franchise.

Once again, it was faithful to the series, but the cheese of ‘SuperMarioLand’ was replaced with a dollop of slickness.

Harris and Einstein’s attention to detail remains admirable, and it’s hard not to get affectionate about it.

‘Street Fighter II’ struggled to break into the charts, unfortunately, and could only manage a chart peak of Number 70.

Additionally, another beat-em-up spawned a single in the form of The Immortals’ ‘Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat)’ in 1993.

It failed to chart in the UK but, nonetheless, they released ‘Mortal Kombat: The Album’ a year later.

8. ‘Lemmings’ by SFX (1993)

Can you imagine recording a song about the video game, ‘Lemmings’?

I thought not and, despite their enthusiasm and energy, SFX didn’t quite make the grade with this single.

This was a shame, as it was co-written and produced by Ian Richardson and Nick Coler.

Both of them were secondary members of The KLF, and Coler was also a member of Xenomania.

It might have worked if it had been an instrumental but, seeing that ‘Lemmings 2: The Tribes’ always had a wafer-thin storyline, lyrics were always going to be an implausible addition. Even if the Lemming puppets in the video are adorable.

The public’s reaction was very predictable, though, as it failed to peak beyond Number 51 in May 1993.

As far as British strategy simulators go, though, it fared better than DuBerry featuring Elaine Vassel’s ‘Mega-Lo-Mania (Goin’ All The Way)’, which flopped.

Steve DuBerry, the song’s writer and producer, was also a member of Definitive Two.

They were best known for releasing ‘I’m Stronger Now’, which was used as the theme music to Channel 4’s ‘Gazzetta Football Italia’.

9. ‘Supersonic’ by H.W.A. featuring Sonic The Hedgehog (1992)

This single, rather disappointingly, didn’t feature Sonic The Hedgehog, but H.W.A. were another act with chart pedigree.

Jeremy Healy – a former member of Haysi Fantayzee, who attained four Top 75 singles in the early 1980 – co-produced the track.

And, after teaming up with Amos in the mid-1990s, Healy achieved two further Top 30 hits with ‘Stamp!’ and ‘Argentina’.

However, the techno production and vocoder samples of ‘Supersonic’ were rather uninspired. Unlike ‘SuperMarioLand’, the love of video games was not apparent and it sounded soulless.

In fairness, though, all of Sega’s proceeds from the single were donated to the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre.

The track, despite its failings, still performed fairly well in the UK Singles Chart, as it reached Number 33 in December 1992 and spent an impressive five weeks in the Top 40.

Interestingly, a number of Sonic The Hedgehog singles were released in Germany, Austria and Switzerland during the 1990s such as ‘Super Sonic Dance Attack’ by Inter Galactica Dance Club, ‘The Better One Wins’ by T.I.C. featuring Michelangelo and ‘King Of The Ring’ by Sonic.

10. ‘Wonderman’ by Right Said Fred (1994)

Right Said Fred’s ‘Wonderman’ is unusual in that it wasn’t originally influenced by a video game. Hence why Hydrocity Zone was inexplicably portrayed as an abandoned warehouse in the video.

Prior to its release in March 1994, it had already been included on their second album, ‘Sex And Travel’, in November 1993.

‘Wonderman’, however, was rearranged so that it could promote the release of ‘Sonic The Hedgehog 3’ on the Sega Mega Drive.

For instance, “[h]e’s number one, he’s double cream/[h]e’s the naked truth in magazines” was rewritten as “[h]e’s number one, he’s el supremo/[a]ttitude and power sneakers”.

Although ‘Wonderman’ was featured in a television advert for the game, it stuttered at Number 55 in the UK Singles Chart.

However, it was a faint improvement on their previous single, ‘Hands Up (4 Lovers)’, which flopped at Number 60 in December 1993.

Along with various clips from ‘Sonic The Hedgehog 3’, Steven O’Donnell, best known for starring in ‘Bottom’ and several Sega adverts from the early 1990s, also appeared in the video.

Amusingly, his ‘Bottom’ co-star, Rik Mayall, fronted a number of Nintendo adverts during the same period. It’s a small world, isn’t it?


This feature was self-published in July 2013.

Non-web sources

Clarke, D. (ed) (1998) The Penguin Encyclopaedia Of Popular Music. 2nd edition. London: Penguin Books.

Cole, M. (ed) (1992) Kids Stuff. Music Week (Record Mirror Dance Update), Saturday July 18 1992, p.2.

Collins, Andrew et al (1992) Complete Console. New Musical Express, Saturday February 1 1992, p.20-21, 41.

Gambaccini, Paul et al (1993) The Guinness Book Of British Hit Singles. 9th edition. Middlesex: Guinness Publishing.

Gambaccini, Paul et al (1996) The Guinness Book Of Top 40 Charts. 2nd edition. Middlesex: Guinness Publishing.

Jones, A. (1992) Singles Saviour. Music Week (NMS 92 Supplement), Saturday June 20 1992, p.7-8.

Larkin, C. (ed) (1998) The Virgin Encyclopaedia Of Dance Music. London: Virgin Books.

Roberts, D. (ed) (2004) The Guinness Book Of British Hit Singles & Albums. 17th edition. London: Guinness World Records.

Toop, D. (1999) Exotica: Fabricated Soundscapes In A Real World. London: Serpent’s Tail.

Collapsed Lung – ‘Connection’ (1995)

‘Connection’ by Collapsed Lung was released as part of the Deceptive Christmas Singles 1995 series.

The pop culture website, Freaky Trigger, published a poll about Britpop bands yesterday, which got me thinking about the genre and its cover versions.

While there have been plenty of cover versions by Britpop bands – The Bluetones’ version of TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ and Sleeper covering Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ spring to mind – I can’t recall many covers of Britpop songs that weren’t by Blur, Oasis and Pulp. [EDIT: one of the few was Elvis Costello’s fine cover of Sleeper’s ‘What Do I Do Now?’, which delighted Louise Wener on ITV’s ‘The Chart Show’; thanks goes to Simon Tyers for reminding me about it.]

Even discovering covers of the biggest Britpop hits – such as ‘The Day We Caught the Train’, ‘Wake Up Boo!’ and ‘Alright’ – would be difficult.

That’s a shame, to a certain extent, because many Britpop acts – including the likes of Shed Seven, Sleeper, Space and The Bluetones – were similar in that they had a number of good singles to their name, but struggled to come up with an equally good album.

Some of their worst moments were formulaic at best but, in essence, many of their singles had strong beats and structures. Songs such as ‘Nice Guy Eddie’ and ‘Slight Return’ would make good cover versions – by the right artist, of course.

One exception to the above was Elastica’s ‘Connection’, which was covered by Collapsed Lung in 1995.

I wouldn’t lump Collapsed Lung into the Britpop genre – interestingly, their Wikipedia entry describes them as “Rap rock” and “[B]ritpop” – but I can see why people would want to.

When you think about it, the definition of Britpop is so broad, and subsequently vague, that any British guitar band from the mid-1990s could – rightly or wrongly – be described as Britptop.

But, even if this cover doesn’t work particularly well, it doesn’t suffer by comparison to Elastica.

This is because ‘Connection’ isn’t a good song to cover in the first place.

Not because it’s a bad song – far from it – but because its success was based on a limited number of unique qualities: the sample of Wire’s ‘Three Girl Rhumba’, the aggressive groans during the breaks, and the presence of Justine Frischmann.

It initially sounds very robust but, when you take away those three elements, substance really isn’t the song’s strongest point. And, because it is such a simple and distinctive song, ‘Connection’ is difficult to reinvent.

To be fair to Collapsed Lung, this cover has some depth and intrigue – even if it isn’t as fun as the original. Adding a gritty electro element is a nice twist, but it really lacks Elastica’s slickness.

The main problem lies with its muddled approach: Collapsed Lung’s attempt to change the dynamics of ‘Connection’ is conflicted by going for damage limitation and staying faithful to the original.

It never sounds sloppy or awkward, but the song’s confused state of mind lingers throughout. And, even if the structure of Elastica’s version is more throwaway, at least its signal of intent is clear from the very start.

It’s not a fantastic cover version, and it’s also one of Collapsed Lung’s lesser moments, but it remains faintly worthwhile.


This review was self-published in June 2013.

Sheffield Wednesday vs. Liverpool: what a strange match!

Three different Sheffield Wednesday footballers played in goal during their match against Liverpool in May 1997.

There were some odd matches during Sheffield Wednesday’s tenure in the Premier League.

For example, during Wednesday’s game against Nottingham Forest in March 1996, Chris Woods picked up an injury and Steve Nicol ended up donning the gloves for the final 45 minutes.

Unsurprisingly, they lost 3-1 after Forest’s Paul McGregor and Bryan Roy scored in the second half.

Also, in February 2000, the Owls were beating Derby County 3-1 in stoppage time. However, with minutes to spare, they ended up drawing, thanks to goals from Craig Burley and Malcolm Christie.

Booth is a goalie

But there was an even stranger match in May 1997, when Sheffield Wednesday drew 1-1 with Liverpool.

I’m not talking about O’Neill Donaldson’s goal; I’m talking about their goalkeeping dilemma.

Firstly, after making a string of fine saves, Kevin Pressman pulled his hamstring and was replaced by débutante Matt Clarke.

However, within ten minutes, Clarke was given his marching orders, after being judged to have handled outside the penalty area.

Striker Andy Booth – who was hardly the most agile footballer – wore Clarke’s jersey for the reminder of the match, and Jamie Redknapp immediately equalised with the awarded free kick.

The phrase, “strange but true”, is very apt in this instance.

Has ‘The Football League Show’ improved?

‘The Football League Show’ is presented by Manish Bhasin. Image courtesy of Eamon Curry via Flickr.

I don’t like to use the word infamous lightly, but it is a word that I would use to describe BBC One’s ‘The Football League Show’.

The programme was launched in 2009 – after the BBC obtained the rights to show live Championship matches and highlights from the Football League – and the remit was very much focused on offering something new.

Unlike ITV’s Football League highlights package, which included ‘Football League Extra’ and ‘The Championship’, it was presented in a studio rather than an empty ground.

It certainly wasn’t seen as a low-key affair; the package was a big thing for the BBC and the programme’s producer, IGM Sports Media.

The early days

Even the opening titles were different. Again, unlike ITV’s offerings, there weren’t any shots of crests and managers in 2009. There were fans wearing their replica shirt over a Hi-Viz jacket, and doing cartwheels outside a train station. It was meant to be real football for real fans.

The opening minutes of the very first edition were bold, too. Take, for example, presenter Manish Bhasin’s introduction on 8 August 2009.

He proclaimed:

“Yes, good evening and a warm welcome to the brand new ‘Football League Show’ as we aim to bring you every goal across all three divisions. By the way, there’s only 95 just to squeeze in tonight. Over the next 40 weeks, we’d also love to hear from you. Have you got the right manager in charge? Have you got the right players in the team, perhaps? What about your result this afternoon? Here’s Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes as to how you can get in touch.”

And the second edition was no better, with Bhasin saying:

“The best opening day attendance figures for nearly 50 years show exactly what the Football League means to its fans. And, if that first week threw up some extraordinary results, then let me tell you, today was no less dramatic.”

The attitude taken by the programme – and Bhasin – was overzealous and condensing. They felt that the Football League was exciting; so exciting that it should be alike forcing half a dozen chicken balti pies down your throat at once.

Other elements of the programme were just as preachy. Steve Claridge was recruited to act as the programme’s pundit. During the first edition, Bhasin described him as “a man who knows the Football League inside out”.

But, at best, he has been unbearable to watch during its tenure. Clichés were often, and incoherently, bandied around with a swagger of arrogance. For a show that is broadcasting beyond midnight on a Saturday, it was the wrong tone.

There was also an ‘interactivity’ element, where Greenwood-Hughes read out texts and e-mails from viewers.

As a troubled indictor of this segment’s quality, the first five messages were about Newcastle United: four of them stated that Alan Shearer should become their manager, and one was about Tim Krul being stung by a wasp. A further two messages, during the first edition, supported Shearer.

Greenwood-Hughes also patronisingly said “well done” to a Peterborough United fan, who thought that their defeat at Derby County was a “starting block for a good season”.

During the first series, there was a slight obsession with Newcastle; on most occasions, their matches were shown first.

Within just a few minutes of the first edition, Bhasin said:

“Well, you [Claridge] mentioned the big teams, no doubt the big talking point of the Championship is Newcastle. Who’ll buy them? Who’ll be their manager? And can they bounce back at the first time of asking? Well, we got some sort of pointer to that last question, at least, when they travelled to West Brom, a game you might have seen a little earlier on BBC One.”

And then there was Mark Clemmit, a man who was equally enthusiastic talking about Torquay’s “postcard image” or about “Cardiff City’s swanky, new, £15 million stadium”.

That’s perfectly fine, but there was no light and shade to his presentation – the joviality felt like a façade, at the very least.

He presented two items: a feature about a team in the Football League – particularly if they had changed stadiums or managers – and ‘Potted History’, a collection of ‘wacky’ facts about another team.

These two segments rarely lasted more than a few minutes, but listening to Clemmit often felt like being forced to down a couple of pints after vomiting on the balti pies.

However, the amount of actual football shown was proportionally low. Over 22 minutes of the 75-minute time slot was spent on Championship football, and just under half of that was used for two games: Newcastle United v West Bromwich Albion and Derby County v Peterborough United.

Over 11 minutes was dedicated to League 1 highlights, while nearly nine minutes was used for League 2 football.

The format factory

In a way, you could say that ‘The Football League Show’ was an experiment during its earliest editions. Before 2009, there were two other similar experiments that flopped: ITV’s ‘The Premiership’ and the launch of Channel 5.

The former, which started in 2001, had a number of new features including a teatime screening, Townsend’s Tactics Truck and Terry Venables’ ProZone analysis. All three of those items were scrapped within a matter of weeks.

Channel 5’s launch in 1997 was also troubled. Its flagship programme, ‘Family Affairs’, wasn’t originally a soap about a community, it was pitched as a soap about just one family.

Its early schedules were also “stripped”, a tactic that was normally reserved for digital television. In fact, it often felt like a satellite channel.

Furthermore, two of its main sport presenters were Dominik Diamond, best known for presenting Channel 4’s ‘GamesMaster’, and Gail McKenna, a former Page Three model and future ‘How 2’ presenter.

The channel quickly obtained broadcasting rights for the Poland versus England international, but it was transmitted from a London sports café with stars from ‘Family Affairs’ and ‘Gladiators’. Claridge was also given his own role, in the form of providing betting news and analysis.

Channel 5’s reputation for its sports coverage never recovered from this moment – even if they managed to take an interest in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, Eredivisie and Primeira Liga.

The problem with these two examples, and ‘The Football League Show’, is there was an eagerness to please that went too far. They tried to add too many new gimmicks at once, while failing to get the basics right.

A slow improvement

But changes have been made to ‘The Football League Show’. The show is now pre-recorded, which led to the interactive element and Greenwood-Hughes being dropped in 2011.

Clemmit remained, despite the quiet axing of his ‘Potted History’ segment, although the insufferable enthusiasm remains.

Claridge’s role has also been reduced, being partially replaced by Leroy Rosenior. His gentle tone is suited to the programme’s late transmission time, and he also comes across as intelligent and well informed on occasions.

Bhasin’s interest in the Football League seems more genuine in 2013 than in 2009, and the programme’s overzealous attitude has been toned down.

For example, Bhasin introduced an edition, on 23 February 2013, by saying:

“Good evening, and we’ve become increasingly used to managerial chopping and changing in the nPower Football League. But this week, though, it seems to have stepped up a gear. Out went Paolo Di Canio and Dean Holdsworth, while in came Paul Ince, Simon Grayson and Andy Scott. Not to mention Alan Knill, now covering for Martin Ling over at Torquay. And they’ve all, of course, got to hit the ground running with points becoming more precious by the week. A warm welcome tonight to Steve, as we reflect on a busy day across all three divisions.”

This change in tone is seen in the new titles sequence, which was introduced in 2012. The focus is on the past – with images of Brian Clough and Glenn Hoddle – to remind viewers that football existed before 1992.

It isn’t ideal, but it is a sight more preferable than a John Westwood-esque figure dancing around in a circle.

Also, in 2013, ‘The Football League Show’ is now broadcasting more football than in 2009.

For example, on 23 February 2013, nearly 28 minutes were dedicated to Championship matches and nearly 15 minutes were spent on League 1. Furthermore, there was over ten minutes of League 2 football.

By comparing the editions on 8 August 2009 and 23 February 2013, the amount of actual highlights being broadcasted has increased by 20.32%. It must also be mentioned that both shows were 75-minutes long.

The programme’s quality has slowly improved to an acceptable level and, for the most part, it is now perfectly watchable.

The future?

But there are still doubts of whether the programme requires a punditry element, particularly when Claridge is at the helm.

A back-to-basics format is recommended, where just the goals are shown, à la ITV’s ‘Football League Extra’.

If its length remains at 75 minutes, then more action can be shown – particularly as its coverage of League 2 feels rushed – but the producers would be wise to reduce the running time by 15 minutes or even half an hour.

It may look like a step backwards, but it would get the most out of a format that is difficult to produce with such short lead times.

‘The Football League Show’ may have its critics, and there is still room for improvement, but it has changed since 2009. And it is all the better for it.


This feature was self-published in April 2013.

Finland: the connection between pension systems and national culture

Finland’s economy has struggled to recover from its 2008/2009 recession. Image courtesy of Chrisser via Flickr.

Finland’s economy is stuttering.

After all, it fell into a recession in December 2012.

Also, during 2012, the Finnish economy shrunk for three successive quarters with an overall contraction of 0.2% for the full financial year.

Its economy is very export-dependent, and the recession can be attributed to a slump in demand among its trading partners in Europe.

But while Finland’s budget deficit is small, its ageing population and early retirement schemes are straining the government’s fiscal policy.

A shortage of workers, for example, could contribute to a fall in government revenue, with a subsequent rise in both pension claimants and government expenditure.

The consequence of this would be further economic fluctuations and an increasing budget deficit.

Previous pension reforms

There were major pension reforms in 2005, which led to the introduction of a flexible pension scheme.

The qualifying age for a pension was increased from 60 to 62 years, and it also became possible for workers to receive a pension between the ages of 63 and 68.

And some further progress has been made. For example, the average pension age in 2011 increased from 59.6 to 60.5 years.

However, it is expected that the working age population will suffer a decrease of 150,000 by 2025 with an average retirement age of 61.

The government had aimed to adopt the Swedish model of retirement by 2011, through raising its effective age to 65, but this fell through as employers and trade unions could not come to an agreement.

Amendments, however, have been made, as the rules regarding the Farmers’ Early Retirement Scheme were tightened. Now, the only way that farmers can receive early retirement aid at 59-years-old is to sell their entire farm to a younger successor.

Despite these developments, though, a YLE news agency survey stated that only 16% of Finns supported the idea of increasing its retirement age.

The survey also highlighted the political and demographic divides that surround this issue.

Geert Hofstede’s culture

Although Geert Hofstede’s study, of how national culture affects workplace values, has been accused of being overly singular and simplistic, it can explain some of the hostility towards further reforms.

Between 1967 and 1973, Hofstede compared four dimensions of culture – power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and masculinity – across 40 countries, by collecting data on employee attitudes and attributes for over 100,000 individuals, while working as a psychologist for IBM.

He later added a fifth dimension, long-term orientation, after surveying Chinese managers and employees.

Short-term orientated

Finland scored 41 out of 100 in the latter dimension, which means that Finland’s culture is more short-term orientated.

Countries that scored low in this dimension, such as Finland, respect their traditions greatly, and can lack the ability to adapt these traditions to changing circumstances.

With little tenacity in obtaining long-term results, Finland’s workplace culture reflects the insignificant support for increasing the statutory age of retirement.

This is also backed up by Finland’s medium to high levels of uncertainty avoidance, after scoring 59 in Hofstede’s study.

This generally means that codes of behaviour and beliefs will be inflexible, in addition to resisting risks and unusual ideas.

Finland’s age of retirement is traditionally low – for example, in April 2001, those who were born before 1944 could still receive an early retirement pension at 58-years-old – so any calls to increase the effective retirement age further could be seen as unorthodox.

Highly individualistic

Additionally – with scores of 33 and 63, respectively – Finland’s power distance is low with relatively high levels of individualism.

The Finnish style of working can, therefore, be characterised by independence and decentralised power. And, if there is a hierarchy, it is used for convenience only.

Employees from highly individualistic cultures also tend to just take care of themselves and their immediate families, rather than others.

Furthermore, Finland’s low masculinity score of 26 suggests that negotiation and compromise would normally resolve conflicts, and there is a strong focus on well being and equality.

This can provide an explanation as to why Finland’s current pension system does not prevent work force mobility, and also includes joint decision-making between employees and employers.

No wonder 70% of Finnish employers and 86% of employees feel that the current retirement schemes are sensible.


This opinion piece was self-published in March 2013.

Non-web sources

Chrystal, K. Alec and Lipsey, Richard G. (1997) Economics for Business and Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hill, C. W. L. (2007) International Business: Competing in the Global Marketplace. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hofstede, G. (1991) Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. London: McGraw-Hill.

McSweeney, B. (2002) Hofstede’s model of national cultural differences and their consequences: A triumph of faith – a failure of analysis. Human Resources, 55(1), p.89-118.

Metal Mickey – ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ (1983)

‘Metal Mickey’, the popular family sitcom, was networked on ITV between 1980 and 1983.

The act of a fictional robot covering The Beatles sounds abnormal and fey.

It even sounds slightly deranged.

But what remains even stranger is that this cover was not Metal Mickey’s début single.

He had already released FOUR singles prior to the release of ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’.

His first single, a version of the Chordettes’ ‘Lollipop’, was issued by EMI in January 1979, just months after the robot made one of his earliest television appearances on Southern Television’s ‘The Saturday Banana’.

Meanwhile, on BBC One’s ‘Nationwide’, John Stapleton described him as a “friendly and an occasionally tuneful robot to keep you company while you work”. Yes, quite.

After the arrival of London Weekend Television’s family sitcom ‘Metal Mickey’ (produced and directed by Micky Dolenz, fact fans) in 1980, three further flops were released on Mickeypops Records: ‘Metal Mickey Magic’, ‘Sillycon Chipp’ and ‘Do The Funky Robot’. They all, quite frankly, sound terrible.

And then came ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’, a cover that doesn’t have any right to be good.

The problem with covering this particular song is that some artists can easily fall into the trap of coming across as needy and desperate, or just plain creepy.

Even worse, they could be dealt with a triple whammy of sounding needy, desperate AND creepy.

And this problem can be multiplied by a hundred if it involves a robot of some kind – especially one that has most likely uttered the words “[c]all my baby lollipop” on vinyl.

But, to be fair, this is a sweet – albeit extremely dated – version, and its relaxed tone certainly prevents it from becoming sinister.

More pressing issues, however, lie with the song’s production. Not only is it flimsy and sluggish but – astonishingly, for a song that lasts just over two minutes – it starts to outstay its welcome at the end.

The production ends up being far too weak to make any long-lasting impression, and it really lacks the glam rock fun of the theme music to ‘Metal Mickey’.

As a cover, ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ just about makes the grade but, in all honesty, it offers nothing more than a brief fling of intrigue.


This review was self-published in March 2013.