On one of several previous incarnations of Out On Blue Six, an appeal would occasionally go out for contributions to ‘Guest Week’, which as the name so subtly implies were weeks composed entirely of uncommissioned guest posts submitted by readers. Unfortunately a lot of what was submitted turned out to be unusable agenda-strewn ranting about nothing in particular (though a lot of them seemed to be unduly irate about Bagpuss for some reason), and so the concept never really took off, but all the same there were a few great guest contributions that did end up being used, from the likes of Ben Baker, Suzy Norman, Dave Bryant, Matt Rudd, Catherine Tate et al. One of the most well-recieved of these was Garreth F. Hirons‘ dismantling of a certain epic-length ’infomercial’ that was then currently driving him up the wall, and due to popular demand – no, really – here it is again. What’s really interesting is that since this was first written and published in 2007, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing has gained an unexpected surge in popularity as a result of its use in Glee, and The Doctor really has achieved a verbal sparring partner called Amy. Sadly, Garreth’s predictions about the Large Hadron Particle Collider were somewhat less accurate.
Teleshopping – can’t live with it, can’t watch it without puking in sheer rage. But even in this stultifyingly meandering medium, the cream rises to the top; and sure enough, amongst half-hour presentations for such pointless buys as Window Wizard, Brickie, Paint Runner and Gene Hunt’s Garden ‘Oopla, a king has been born; the greatest half-hour of television ever broadcast – The Half-Hour Infomercial For TimeLife’s Ultimate Rock Ballads Eight CD Set!
TimeLife are a worldwide company dedicated to selling CDs and DVDs, usually in themed packages such as this one. TimeLife infomercials are invariably presented by a gentleman and a lady. Often the gentleman appears on the album, and here it’s no different – your lead presenter is Kevin Cronin, frontman and songwriter for the inimitable stadium rock phenomenon that is REO Speedwagon! Other examples include Kenny Rogers on Superstars Of Country and, in an almighty act of barrel-bottom-scrape-ology, Bobby Rydell for Juke Box Memories. Kevin’s co-host(ess) for this rollercoaster ride is actress Amy Motta, best remembered for her seven-episode run as Shannon in US soap opera Passions, and soon to appear as Woman In Airport in Ashton Kutcher’s non-awaited sex comedy Spread.
Evidently the scriptwriter for this infomercial is not good at writing strong parts for women; her vocabulary is largely limited to the word “WOW!!!” and slightly disturbing hints that she carries a torch for both her co-host and Poison’s Bret Michaels. Could an appearance on Bret Michaels And The Rock Of Love be too far off? Meanwhile Mr Cronin isn’t just a master musician (witness his exclusive, extremely-awkward acoustic rendition of two bars of Keep On Loving You for proof), but by the sounds of it he knew everyone on this album personally. Who better to recommend it but an ‘old touring buddy’ of Nazareth, or the good friend of ‘ex-New York City policeman Eddie Money’? Unlike the antagonistic and frankly adversarial relationship shared by many co-hosts, Kevin and Amy fall into a pattern much more reminiscent (wait for it) of The Doctor and his companion; with Kevin the grizzled veteran who’s seen it all and done it all, and Amy as the mere human for the viewer to relate to. For is she not voicing the question on all of our lips when she asks: “how would you even put something like this together?”. Kevin really hits a Doctor-ish note with his mysterious reply: “Well Amy, you couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it, but guess what – TimeLife have!”.
Of course, even material this good can only stretch so far, so to pad it out and give you a taster of the rock classics on offer, snatches of music videos – though not always the correct ones – are included. It’s here that we get some of the greatest moments of the whole affair: witness an unfortunate out-of-context clip of Toto’s Bobby Kimball looking like a stalker for Rosanna; Blue Oyster Cult’s guitarist looking particularly smug for Don’t Fear The Reaper; Eric Carmen ageing about fifty years in the eleven-year gap between All By Myself and Hungry Eyes… the advert claims that this collection contains some of the most inspirational rock songs ever recorded, then plays a clip of Eye Of The Tiger, having somehow missed the chance to get hold of that David Hasselhoff song that brought the Berlin Wall down. To make up somewhat for this oversight, the similarly culturally-significant Scorpions classic, That One With The Whistling, is included.
You also get Elton John in his pre-hair days for Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me; Extreme accidentally killing their heavy metal careers with More Than Words; the diminutive (but apparently very nice) Steve Perry halfway up a staircase in a desperate attempt to look taller than the lead actress for Oh Sherrie; Boston putting in a late bid for world’s hairiest band with More Than A Feeling; Bonnie Tyler’s absolutely insane video for Total Eclipse Of The Heart (beware the shiny-eyed child!)… but that’s not all! Order in the next ten minutes and you’ll also receive a bonus CD, Rock Dreams, featuring Michael Bolton, Bread, Rick Ast… RICK ASTLEY? Hang on a minute! The Thompson Twins? Cathy Dennis? This isn’t rock music at all? Ahem. Sorry. Anyway, if you want the bonus disc, but your nearest telephone is eleven or more minutes away, I wouldn’t worry too much, since their definition of “ten minutes” seems to be “until we make a new advert”.
And then there’s a particularly cringeworthy clip of Whitesnake’s Is This Love? a punishing FOUR TIMES OVER; Kevin Cronin (yes, he himself) looking hugely ridiculous in a pink pastel ensemble for Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore; the diminutive (but apparently very nice) Steve Perry standing on the drum riser in a desperate attempt to look taller than his bassist for Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing; Cher wearing little more than a net curtain for, well, just about all of her videos, really; the drummer from Cheap Trick – good God, the drummer from Cheap Trick… look, just watch the damn thing, OK? But for God’s sake, make sure you don’t have your credit card and phone nearby, because this once-in-a-lifetime offer will never be repeated! [CITATION NEEDED]