The Prisoner: 1 gem, 1 ITV show and some very strange 80s rock

Portmeirion in less weird times

I’ve finally managed to watch The Prisoner (the new one).  Did you see it?  What did you think of it?  Hmmmm, I hated it at the start, then got over my prejudice a little and finally was caught up in the action through the second half.  All they had to do was pull a Lost, a ‘polar-bear-in-the-jungle’ moment, ‘Korean-man-who-can’t-speak-English-suddenly-speaking-English’, ‘unexpected-coconut-in-your-bed’, whatever unusual, freakish combination works.  The prisoner had ‘massive-anchor-in-the-desert’, and from then on the hairs were raising on the back of my neck even though I didn’t like it all that much.  A little touch of the weird is all it takes.

The use of the endless desert in the 2009 remake of The Prisoner with no sea or any places besides ‘the Village’ that anybody’s ever heard of is reasonably good in terms of creepy (there was also something a little League of Gentlemen about it, but that’s the Prisoner for you).  It obviously doesn’t match the brilliance of the original Prisoner of 1967 for sheer bizarre surreality and the strange-fest that is the real Welsh village of Portmeirion at the best of times.

But let’s not be too hard on it: it’s not as if the markers of this new Prisoner took all copies of the old and burned them, or added stupid CG elements that we all hate.  We still have the classic and it remains untarnished.  So let’s view this new one’s spurious connection to the classic as an opportunity and nothing more.  The makers of the 2009 Prisoner were out to remake something famously weird, and so they had license to make something weird-ish.  And weird-ish is okay.  A start.  Better than Lark Rise to Candleford!

But enough of that!  The real reason for mentioning all this was to share two good recollections besides the original Prisoner, both tributes to it.  The second is better than the first, but it takes a little more effort.

1. Iron Maiden, The Prisoner

A classic metal track from the 1982 Number of the Beast Album; a classic NWOBHM tribute to a classic. Love it.

2. Devil Doll, The Girl Who Was… Death

Bear with me on this one; there’s a gem on the way, I promise!!  Back many years ago before there were shops, I used to spend a lot of time as a nerdy teenage musico, browsing distribution lists of CDs, tapes and vinyls other nerds made available for nerds like me to swap or order through the post.  This postal method did not normally carry the technology to facilitate listing to a sample (although some of the nerds used to make mixtapes for their nerdy pen-friends for this precise reason).  What I’m trying to say is that you ordered most of your music blind!  (Or deaf?)  Whichever.  Possibly the best result I ever got from this gravy train was the intriguingly Italian-Slovenian band Devil Doll and the album was The Girl Who Was… Death.

What was immediately bamboozling was that the entire album was on a CD with only one track!  Furthermore, the band had eight members lead by the memorably named Mr Doctor.  And there was the sound of the thing!  To be honest I’m disappointed that the youtube reproduction is split into sections, contra the original spirit off the low-budget CD, but there you are.  Here is how the moody, atmospheric album starts (not as important as the next part, though):

Reasonably conservative stuff, I assure you.  If you think that was in any way odd, AT ALL, forget about it!! It’s just about to get interesting, and excellent!  Listen if you dare:

I love it.  I can’t fault it at all!  So weird, so good!  “…the ironic waters of the cosmos”?!  And was that Eddie Van Halen with a fiddle?!  Weird.

Weird like The Prisoner? Well, as it happens, the freak-show that is The Girl Who Was…Death indeed has a lot to do with The Prisoner, because just when you think you’ve finished, when you’ve seemingly reached the end of that single 60-minute-plus track, there’s a bonus track!  (All on the same, single CD track of course.)

Devil Doll took that one step Iron Maiden didn’t dare: they recorded a strange rock version of the theme music from the 60s classic!  And here we are.  Enjoy the hell out of it.

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