Observer magazine special highlighting the Top 100 Television moments in history.
The Observer, 1999-09-12


observer.990912_1.jpg (21500 bytes) IN MY VIEW

Elvis Costello takes a personal trip through his top three TV moments.


It is such a difficult question. There are the obvious ones, like Lady Di’s wedding or the moon landing, but my moments are very personal ones. When I was a kid, there was a series called The Great War, and it had this terrifying music at the beginning. As it played, you saw rostrum shots of still photographs of a tommy in a trench. The camera went in on his face, from a full-length shot to a head shot - it was just so ominous. It lasted maybe 30 seconds but it scared the hell out of me. For ages I tried to track down the music. I got it into my head that it was Vaughan Williams’ sixth symphony, but I’m still not sure. What made the moment personal was that you felt you were sharing his experience. My grandfather was captured during the first world war and there was a picture of him as a soldier in our family album. I always associated the ominous music with the picture of my grandfather.

My second moment would be even more personal. It was the 1963 Royal Command Performance. My dad was singing with the Joe Loss Orchestra and my mum allowed me to stay up late to watch him.I’d seen him on TV before, on Come Dancing where they had a slot, but he used to be at the side playing congas or some other Latin American percussion. Here he was actually up front singing - that is what made it so special. The Beatles were also on that show, which made it even more amazing that my Dad was there. I know it sounds like an awful name-drop, but when I was working with Paul McCartney, he said he remembered Dad being on the show.

For me, it is all the personal things that stick in the mind - the little dot at shutdown when they said don’t forget to unplug your set. It was so sweet. They knew it was a service.

What has gone wrong with television is that it is now a commodity rather than a service.

Observer magazine special highlighting the Top 100 Television moments in history.