Shirley Bassey on TV Review

Hey big spender, won’t you spend a couple of hours with me?

Dame Shirley Bassey was born in 1937 in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, of a Nigerian father and an English mother, She had her first hit single in 1957 with “Banana Boat Song”. She epitomises the kind of MOR singer (invariably performing someone else’s songs) that tended to be sidelined the following decade by songwriter/performers like Lennon/McCartney and Jagger/Richards. (Like many other singers, she could certainly cherrypick their songs when she wanted to: for example, on this disc she performs two Beatles numbers.) Not that that should matter: she found a secure niche, appealing largely to an older demographic, and became a fixture on light entertainment shows, either her own or other people’s, her mixed-race heritage giving her an air of exoticism, with a dress sense that many a drag queen might find over the top, and a trademarked crescendo-dominated singing style that made a ballad into a big production number into an epic. She also has the distinction of performing the theme song for three Bond films.

Shirley Bassey on TV collects performances from 1971 up to 2005 from a variety of TV shows, though the majority are from the Seventies and Eighties. I don’t know if anything earlier exists, which could have been included. Anything much earlier would be in black and white, and monochrome doesn’t really suit Bassey. Two hours of this will no doubt delight her many fans, though it left me wondering if Bassey was unable to do subtle if she tried, or if she’s simply providing what the punters want. Non-fans may end up feeling punch-drunk.

Show and Song Listing:
The Royal Variety Performance (1971): Till Love Touches Your Life; Where Do I Begin (Love Story); Yesterday, When I Was Young; Love, Look at the Two of Us; Something
The Engelbert Humperdinck Show (1971): The Joker; The Sea and Sand; Medley with Engelbert
The Dickie Henderson Show (1971): Flattery Will Get You Everywhere; Where Do I Begin (Love Story); Big Spender; There’s No Business Like Show Business
Whittaker’s World (1971): What About Today; Where Do I Begin (Love Story)
Sez Les (1972): Till Love Touches Your Life; Diamonds Are Forever
The Rolf Harris Show (1972): Till Love Touches Your Life; I’ve Never Been a Woman Before; Did You [duet with Rolf Harris]
Tarby and Friends (1984): I Am What I Am; Send in the Clowns
Tarby and Friends (1986): When You’re Smiling; What I Did for Love
Live from the Piccadilly (1986): There’s No Place Like London; My Way
British Academy Awards (1987): Goldfinger/Diamonds Are Forever (mix)
Live from the Palladium (1987): A View to a Kill; Goldfinger; Diamonds Are Forever
The Royal Variety Performance (1987): There’s No Place Like London; I Could Have Danced All Night; Hey Jude
After Ten With Tarbuck (1988): New York,.New York; The Rhythm Divine; As Long As He Needs Me
Live from the Palladium (1988): Almost Like Being in Love; Kiss Me Honey, Honey Kiss Me; The Greatest Love of All
The Royal Variety Performance (2005): Goldfinger; The Living Tree; Music Was My First Love

The Disc: Shirley Bassey on TV is distributed by Odeon Entertainment on a dual-layered disc encoded for all regions. There are fifteen links on the main menu, enabling you to pick an individual show. The caption cards for each show and the introductions to each song are separately chaptered from the songs themselves so you can skip them if you like.

As everything on this DVD comes from British television, everything except the 2005 material is in 1.33:1 with mono soundtracks. The original materials are analogue PAL videotape, but it’s been well preserved (or well restored). It’s certainly colourful and sharp enough – in short it looks like what television video productions of the time looked like. The 2005 material is in 16:9 anamorphic and has a Dolby Surround soundtrack.

There are no subtitles for the hard-of-hearing, nor are there any extras.


Updated: Jul 26, 2010

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