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DVD Review

DVD cover

Brian Pern
The Complete Series 1-3


Starring: Simon Day, Michael Kitchen, Rhys Thomas, Paul Whitehouse, Lucy Montgomery and Nigel Havers
Distributor: Dazzler Media
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 04 April 2016

For the first time on DVD and Blu-ray, we have all three series of the Rock spoof, Brian Pern, starring Simon Day. Each series consists of three half-hour episodes (that’s nine in all) which chronicle the many trials and tribulations of a has-been Progressive Rock singer. It features a veritable host of famous guest actors, musicians and presenters, against a backdrop of home, studio and live venues. This long-overdue complete set is released by Dazzler Media. Let the fun begin…

Some people might say that this series owes its style origins to The Office. The only thing is, those people would be wrong. Without a shadow of a doubt, Brian Pern would not exist if not for the timeless success of the brilliant This is Spinal Tap (and maybe, The Ruttles). Rather than Tap’s premise of an ageing English Metal band touring America, we get the Rockumentary/mockumentary following the daily life of a Prog Rock star from the seventies, with potted histories and flashbacks to his earlier crazy days. Although it’s never said outright, you can’t avoid the fact that the character is modelled on Peter Gabriel of Genesis and a subsequent and quite different solo career. Brian Pern is often promoted here as being the first musician to use plasticine in a video, and the originator of World Music. As this is in effect a comedy played straight, there are plenty of situations which go disastrously wrong.

Series 1 – The Life of Rock With Brian Pern starts at the very beginning, poking fun at Rock’s origins. The period dominated by LSD comes complete with weird images which includes one of the worst sequences from Doctor Who in the 1980s, featuring a character karate-kicking an alien monster. There is a recurrent piece in all three series which is stolen directly from Doctor Who’s original 'Master Theme'. The point here is that, being a BBC show, the sky is the limit as regards to which old panel programmes, music presentations and news items can be dug out, dusted-off and manipulated for spoof purposes. There are appearances over the serial by such luminaries as Roger Taylor, Rick Wakeman, Rick Parfitt, Jools Holland, Noddy Holder, Chrissie Hynde, Paul Young, Roger Moore, Paul Whitehouse, Nigel Havers, Christopher Eccleston, Matt Lucas, Michael Kitchen, Simon Callow, Martin Freeman, Peter Bowles, Tony Blackburn, Cathy Burke, and many, many more.

Series 2 – Brian Pern: A Life in Rock is primarily about charity records and concerts, a musical play a la War of the Worlds, the Christmas album and tax evasion. I particularly like Pern’s radio interview by newscaster John Humphrys, in which he is asked some very pointed questions. Pern describes his charity record to save the rain forests, which has an ape singing backing vocals. When asked what he is going to use the money for, he explains it’s for bullet-proof vests to protect the gorillas from poachers. There is also Phil Collins playing the crashing drum piece from 'In the Air Tonight' over the top of the quiet intro to Led Zeppelin’s 'Stairway to Heaven'. The musical play is about Pern’s career, except without the music! The play becomes something quite different, and he can do nothing about it, as he is arrested. I particularly like the moment when Rick Parfitt is brought in to help him with his World Music album, but contributes only Status Quo-like 12-bar riffs.

Series 3 – 45 Years of Prog And Roll covers a potted history of the band Thotch, it’s albums and solo projects. A reunion concert is organised, and this spawns one of the best lines from Pern’s manager when he is originally against the idea: ‘Did you see the Rolling Stones at Glastonbury? It was like Last of the Summer Wine directed by George A. Romero!’ We also get to learn what the original members of Thotch really think of each other, and how they justify what they have become. The culmination of the whole thing is the reunion concert itself, which has some funny and bizarre moments, including the unwelcome appearance of an original member of Thotch, played at his mad thespian best by Simon Callow.

At some points the serial does suffer from diminishing returns, because you begin to guess what will happen in certain situations. However, overall, this is a highly enjoyable piece of comedic TV which will appeal to anyone who loves This is Spinal Tap, or simply wants an insight into the ridiculousness of the music industry.


Ty Power

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