PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

The RFC Flashback: MINI SHOW Episode Four

This week we head back to mid-October, 2013, for an episode of The RFC MINI SHOW starring The Renfields. That would be West Virginia’s favorite Transylvanian punk group, The Renfields.

This special three song mini-show was recorded at Shocka-Con in September, 2013 and serves as a preview for the Radio Free Charleston Halloween specials, also shot at Shocka-Con, which will run for the next two weeks in this space.

In addition to sporting more songs from The Renfields, the Radio Free Charleston Halloween specials will also include music from The Big Bad, HarraH, Foz Rotten, The Nanker Phelge and The McGees. There will also be dancing from The Wayward Girls School of Burlesque and in a huge departure for Radio Free Charleston, interviews with some of the Shocka-Con guests.

That’s all in The RFC Flashback starting next week, but this week, enjoy The Renfields in the RFC MINI SHOW performing “The Last Man on Earth,” “Machete A Go-Go” and “Burning Revenge.”

The Mystery of Hardwicke House

The PopCulteer
July 19, 2019

Today we’re going to look at a controversial TV show from Britain that you’re probably never heard of before. To be honest, I had only heard the name of the show, but didn’t know the story behind it, and I’m a pretty huge Anglophile.

Longtime PopCult buddy, Spike Nesmith of Sky 1065 in Clarksburg fame, turned me on to the story of this show via Facebook, and it’s a heck of a tale of corporate broadcast skittishness.

Hardwicke House was supposed to be a regular sitcom when it debuted on Britain’s ad-supported, over the air network ITV in 1987. Set in a fictional London school, the show’s focus was mainly on the teachers, who were an odd lot of discipinarians, slackers and crackpots. The students had their own issues as well. The series of seven episodes kicked off with a one-hour debut, followed the next day by a standard half-hour program.

Due to public outcry and ITV nervousness, the show was yanked from the schedule, and has never been shown again. Five episodes were never aired, including one with guest stars Rik Mayal and Ade Edmondson (seen left, with Roy Kineear). Rumors at the time claimed that the master tapes had been wiped and that the show was lost forever.

This was not the case, but a planned 2018 DVD release was cancelled a the last minute.

The show is really unusual. While starring many veterans of typical “safe” and relatively harmless British sitcoms, like Roy Kinnear (George & Mildred), Roger Sloman (We’ll Think of Something), Tony Haygarth (Farrington Of The FO) and Duncan Preston (Victoria Wood – As Seen On TV), Hardwicke House was an attempt to create a show in the vein of the “alternative comedy” style which was then the hot thing in the UK with shows like The Young Ones, Comic Strip Presents, Saturday Live and French and Saunders. One notable bit of casting among the students is the school bully, Slasher Bates, played by Kevin Allen, uncle of pop star Lily Allen, and a Comic Strip regular.

The unoffical Hardwicke House website explains more about the unorthodox presentation of the show, “It was a brash, over-the-top, somewhat surreal offering with larger-than-life characters. And unusually for a sitcom, it featured no laughter track and no studio sets; it was filmed entirely on location.” This website is the source for most of my background info on the show, and you should check it out for way more details on the show than I can give you here.

Hardwicke House was filmed during the summer of 1986 for Central TV (a local ITV subsidiary) and was scheduled to be shown between February and April 1987. The show was written by Richard Hall and Simon Wright, and it was their first attempt at a sitcom. Wright had previously worked on The Comic Strip Presents and was part of the alternative comedy movement.

Characters on the show use racist, abusive, insulting language, often around children, and there are even implied pedophilic tendencies among the school staff. There’s also bits of surreal slapstick and a tiny bit of endangering students.

Judging the program by today’s standards, it’s pretty tame stuff. You’ll see darker, meaner comedy on almost any episode of Family Guy. But in 1987, in the UK, on ITV and on a program scheduled to air at 8 PM, this was a bit of a shock to the system.

For years the program was a holy grail for fans of British alternative comedy. Five of the seven episodes have never aired, and have never been officially released. After the DVD release was pulled, many fans gave up hope of ever seeing this show.

Then a few weeks ago master tape copies of all seven episodes were posted to YouTube, where you can watch them all for free…at least for now. The most shocking thing about watching these today is how inoffensive they seem. Our culture has changed quite a bit in the ensuing 32 years.

To prove that point, how about we post all seven episodes right here:

Episode One: “The Visit” The one-hour debut introduces the main characters and shows what happens when the South African Ambassador to the UK visits the school.

You can see the rest of the series after the jump…

Continue reading…

Sydney Fileen’s Birthday Bash On The AIR

Although the crew at Haversham Recording Institute are well into a two-week holiday in Spain, The AIR is going to spend a couple of days saluting legendary London DJ, Sydney Fileen, who is both our presenter for Sydney’s Big Electric Cat, and one of the principal owners of London’s leading independent voiceover studio. You can tune in at The AIR Website, or just twonk the magic ploonker right here on this embedded radio player…

Thursday and Friday from 8 AM to Midnight, The AIR will present some of the best episodes of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat, as Sydney Fileen celebrates an unspecified milestone birthday. Sydney began her career during the heyday of punk music and pirate radio, and while she transitioned to legitimate announcing and has had a long career as one of the most recognizable voices on the British airwaves,

Sydney’s roots in New Wave music run deep, and she produces Sydney’s Big Electric Cat as a labor of love for The AIR. The least we can do is run a special marathon in observance of her special day.

Listeners can get their retro jollies with the likes of Depeche Mode, M, Missing Persons, DEVO, Lene Lovich, Thomas Dolby, The Police, Duran Duran, Human League, The Clash, Romeo Void, The Dickies, The Stranglers, Hazel O’Connor, The B 52 and dozens of other artists who were cutting edge back when that phrase actually meant something.

Check out the music that made the broken promise of a brave new tomorrow on Sydney’s Big Electric Cat, all day Thursday and Friday on The AIR. Our regular schedule will return next week.

Cool Stuff To Do Outdoors This Weekend

Okay, so it’s going to be insanely and dangerously hot this weekend, and your PopCulteer isn’t even going to be in town, but there are two cool things you need to know about that are happening this weekend.

First of all, Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the day that Man landed on the Moon. The Apollo 11 mission saw the Lunar Module drop to the Moon’s surface, and Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on a celestial body. I was following along with my GI Joe Astronaut and Space Capsule (it was the wrong type of space capsule, but I was six years old, so you need to cut me a break). This changed the world and the course of history, and led to some really cool toys for a year or so.

Saturday at 5 PM at Camp Virgil Tate, The Kanawha Valley Astronomical Society and The Kanawha County Public Library will present Contact Light: 50 Years Since the Small Step, a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11. KVAS will open the doors to the Breezy Point Observatory for Lunar and other celestial viewing.

The Boone Maxwell Lodge will be open so the public can meet members of KVAS and view different types of telescopes. On top of that, a display of space memorabilia covering the space age will be on display and WVSOAR will have a display or rockets as well as a rocket building clinic where you can build and launch a rocket for a small fee.

Starting around 10:45PM a replay of the original television broadcast of the historic Moonwalk will be shown 50 years to the minute. The KCPL will be also hold it’s celebration of the finale of it’s summer reading program. Events will be held in the Brooks Daughtery Dining hall. Pre-registration may be required.

This will be a great observation of one of the great technological achievments of the 20th Century. You can find out more at the Facebook Event Page, and at the KCPL Reading Program Page and the Contact Light page.

Meanhwile, if you think it’s too hot for science and learning, you can head over to Ridenour Lake in Nitro for the Ridenour Regatta, a day-long event that will see water fun, motorbike races, vendors, inflatables and an outdoor showing of the movie, Jaws. Check out the Facebook page, and the graphic below for details.

This week, our Tuesday schedule on The AIR , PopCult’s adjunct radio station, only offers up one new show. We have a new episode of Radio Free Charleston, bringing you yet another hour of terrific local music. You can hear it if you zip on over and tune in at the website, or you could just take the easy route, and  listen to this embedded radio player…

The new RFC kicks off at 10 AM (with a replay at 10 PM– all times EDT) with a brand-new episode. . This week’s show is once-again loaded with great local music by some of the Charleston area’s finest musical artistes. We open the show with new music from Emmalea Deal, and continue with great stuff from The Cannon Sodaro Band, Todd Burge, Kevin Scarbrough, Time And Distance and more.

You should be able to click on the episode number above the playlist that follows, and go to a page where you can download and/or listen to a low-res version of this week’s show.

Check out the playlist:


Emmalea Deal “Queen”
Adam Cox “Free And Independent State”
Cannon Sodaro Band “Hard Times”
Todd Burge “The Cheerleader”
Cast of Paradise Park “Something For Nothing”
Jonathan Mason “Killing Me, Ohio”
William Matheny “Tonight and Every Night From Now On”
Farnsworth “Roll Me Up”
Geronimo “Once My Home”
Time And Distance “Cooperfield”
Kevin Scarbrough “Salamander Man”
Axis Everything “Timedog”
Blame The Day “Breathe”
Seven Minutes To Midnight “Hey John I Did Imagine”
Tim Truman “Ballad of Oscar Wilde”

Radio Free Charleston can be heard Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM, with replays Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 9 AM and 7 PM, Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight, Sunday at 1 PM and the next Monday at 8PM, exclusively on The AIR.

The rest of our schedule on Tuesday, and for the rest of the week, will be filled with encore episodes of our regular shows. The Haversham Recording Institute in London is shutting down for a couple of weeks of holiday in Spain, following a grueling schedule of engineering for Wimbledon. With yours truly still a bit under the weather, I decided that The Swing Shift, which I host, and Curtain Call, which I produce for Mel Larch, can take the week off as well.

Thursday and Friday this week, The AIR will present two days of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat, in honor of our New Wave program’s presenter, Sydney Fileen, who will be celebrating an unnamed milestone birthday on an unnamed beach in Spain. We’ll remind you of that on Thursday.

Monday Morning Art: A Tree Grows In Manhattan


Actually, that tree is growing right at the base of the Empire State Building. This is a mixed media graphite pencil/oil pastel piece, with a bit of digital tweaking. I thought it looked cool to have that splash of color against so much urban gray.  Except for the tree, the only color is on a banner showing the top of The Empire State Building, lit up in red, white and blue. I’m still mining that rich vein of images from NYC. I think there will be maybe one or two more of these before I move on to other artistic endeavors.  So that means that our NYC-themed art will continue next week.

You can click the image to see it bigger.

Meanwhile, Monday on The AIR, this week we bring you a Monday Marathon of yours truly running wild on Radio Free Charleston International. That begins at 7 AM. The reason for choosing RFC International for the marathon this week is that there won’t be a new episode of the show this week due to a two-day marathon of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. I’ll tell you about that on Thursday.

At 3 PM Herman Linte’s show, Prognosis, now holds court on Mondays. This week we bring you an encore of a recent program, since the Haversham crew are manning support positions for the international coverage of Wimbledon.

Prognosis will be followed by a classic episode at 5 PM, and then by replays of last week’s Psychedelic Shack at 7 PM, Radio Free Charleston at 8 PM and RFC International at 9 PM. Then at 11 PM we kick it back over to Prognosis, with an eight hour marathon of great progressive rock.

You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

It’s time to plug a great toy show that’s within easy driving distance of Charleston,  but alas, it’s one I have to miss this year.

The Sixth Annual Kentuckiana GI Joe Toy Expo happens next weekend in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s Saturday at the Hilton Garden Inn Louisville Airport, with an early preview package available for Friday night. This is a great show. I’ve been to a few in the past, and above and below you’ll see videos I made to document the visits. Up top it’s our clip from last year. At the bottom of this post, below the cool photo of the Apollo 11 Mission Control exclusive set, you’ll see our clip for 2017,

There will be dozens of dealers with great vintage GI Joes, plus GI Joe from the Real American Hero era and brand-new custom uniform sets and figures for 12″ and 3 3/4″ GI Joes. Plus there will be tons of other action figures and toys for sale. You might find MEGO, Big Jim, Super Joe, Johnny West, Major Matt Mason and many other great toys from the past.

This year the convention special is a box/uniform combo commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. In addition to that set, there will also be a Mission Command set, that includes a Flight Directer uniform, a office chair and Artlab’s Apollo Mission Control set.

Collectors can also expect other new sets from folks like Mark Cole and Mattsquatch Customs. This is some terriic stuff that is keeping the 1/6 scale hobby alive. I believe that there will also be more than one exclusive 3 3/4″ GI Joe-style figure for sale at the show.

There won’t just be dealers on hand. Representatives from other GI Joe shows, like ToyLanta, The Hershey Action Figure and Toy Show and The DFW GI Joe and Action Figure Show will be on hand to show their support.

Visit the Kentuckiana GI Joe Toy Expo Facebook event page for more information. It should be a great time, and your PopCulteer will be there in spirit. We plan to return for real next year.

The RFC Flashback: MINI SHOW Episode Three

At the end of September, 2013, I decided to play catch up and dropped two episodes of The RFC MINI SHOW on two consecutive days. Last week we brought you the first of those, with Zeroking. This week have San Diego’s The Dread Crew of Oddwood, a band of pirates who play progressive metal music on acoustic instruments, and call it “Heavy Mahogany.”

A few weeks eariler we had debuted music from Dread Crew of Oddwood that we had recorded at The Empty Glass. This band of musical pirates was on a rare East Coast tour, and we grabbed a ton of songs by them. We featured them on RFC 190 and in a special “Talk Like A Pirate Day” video, which you get to see below as a special bonus. In this week’s RFC MINI SHOW we brought you two more songs from Oddwood. Now you get to relive the magic of the seven seas and plundering and crap like that.

Soon we’ll be getting tot he point where I misnumbered a few episodes of The RFC MINI SHOW, which lead to no small amount of confusion. I’ll try to sort that out in this space.

The Spire Rises From The Ashes of The Bakery

The PopCulteer
July 12, 2019

Over the last couple of years I’ve been telling my readers about an exciting new project designed to bring a much-needed all-ages music venue to the area.

The Charleston Music and Arts Collective formed as a non-profit to create The Bakery, a performance venue located in the former Purity Made Bread Factory building on Charleston’s West Side. Tens of thousands of dollars were donated, as were thousands of hours of volunteer work–doing demolition, construction and painting in addition to fundraising– and after many trials and tribulations, on New Year’s Eve, just over seven months ago, The Bakery opened with their first official show, approved by the City Fire Inspector and compliant with all building codes and regulations.

About a week or so later, management of the building changed hands, and CMAC was unable to work out a lease agreement with the new ownership team. The Bakery was evicted from the spot that they had put all that work into renovating.

Rather than simply give up, the board of directors looked into other options, and a couple of months ago a benefactor purchased the former FAD Furniture building in Dunbar, with the intent of turning part of it into a new all-ages venue, to be administered by The Charleston Music and Arts Collective. Last night they held an open house to introduce the project to the public.

People of a similar age to your PopCulteer may remember FAD for their giant warehouse store, and the distinctive FAD tower, a rock-solid steel tower designed to be visible from Interstate 64, that made it easy for customers to find their way to the store. That tower is still standing, more than thirty years after FAD closed up shop, and it inspired the name of the new venue, The Spire.

Work has already begun. The interior of the building is being gutted. New steps have replaced the decaying original entrance to the building. Excitement is growing, and with some luck and a lot of volunteer work, the building may be ready to open before the end of this year. The hope is that the tower can be painted.

My observation is that the exterior walls of the building are just screaming out to play host to some colorful murals. This is a great opportunity to create an artistic oasis in the middle of Dunbar for the whole county to enjoy.

The plan is to make The Spire more than just a music venue. There will also be space for theater performances, dances, yoga, art exhibitions, poetry and lieterary readings, movie screenings, music and dance classes, and arcade area and much more. The venue will be available for all-ages parties and more. Check out the proposed floorplan…

I have to be honest. This is a real treat for me to see. One of my lottery dreams, had I ever won a huge jackpot, would have been to buy this exact building to renovate and turn into an all-ages venue. It’s the perfect use for this space. It’s easy to find. There’s plenty of parking. It’s right off the bus route. The Police station is almost within the line of sight of the building. And it’s a huge cavern of a space with so much potential. It’s a great chance to bring something to the area for local kids to enjoy.

It’s going to take a lot of money and volunteer time. The CMAC has proven that they can organize the volunteer work needed to bring a venue to life. There are several ways you can donate to help out with The Spire. You can schedule regular monthly payments via Patreon. Donation buttons can be found at their Facebook page. You can even send a one-time paypal donation HERE.

There are also a variety of corporate or business sponsorship options, ranging from social media banners to naming rights for the building. The Charleston Music and Arts Collective is a 501(c)3 non-profit, and donations are tax deductable. Contact them through their Facebook page if you’re interested. Volunteers can also contact CMAC through the Facebook page to offer up their time to help the project along.

It’s cool to see the idea behind The Bakery escape extinction. I will keep you posted on new developments.

A Quick Look Around The Spire

I took a few photos last night. The space is not much to look at yet, this early in the renovation stage, but you can get an idea of the scope of the project.


At the moment, the newly-rebuilt steps and unpainted wall may not look like much, but with fresh paint, a little cleaning up and maybe some additional work, the space next to the entrance might make a great place for a small skate park (providing the liability insurance doesn’t make that impossible).


The first impression when you walk into the building is that it’s so huge. The last time I was in here it was filled with couches and console televisions.


The dance floor, in progress.


We wrap up this quick glimpse into The Spire with a view from what will be the stage.

Sandanista on Big Electric Cat

Check out what’s on The AIR, as Friday sees a brand-new episode of  Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. At 3 PM Sydney Fileen presents two hours of highlights of the epic album the The Clash, Sandanista. You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

This week Sydney Fileen presents two hours of The Only Band That Matters, The Clash. Thirty-nine years after the release of the sprawling three-LP epic, Sandanista, The Big Electric Cat reminds all of us just how innovative and musically diverse this album was, mixing elements of Jazz, Rap, Disco, Reggae, Pop, and Gospel with The Clash’s trademark Punk rock. The album is too long to play in its entirety, but we have the cream of a very memorable crop of songs by The Clash at their most adventurous.

Sydney’s Big Electric Cat is produced at Haversham Recording Institute in London, and can be heard every Friday at 3 PM, with replays Saturday afternoon, Tuesday at 7 AM, Wednesday at 8 PM and Thursday at Noon, exclusively on The AIR.  Next Thrusday and Friday The AIR will present marathon presentations of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat, in honor of the legendary London DJ’s birthday.

And that is this week’s PopCulteer. Check back every day and all weekend for all our regular features.


We are in the second week the return of Radio Free Charleston International to its original 3 PM Thursday timeslot on The AIR. You can listen at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

With our new schedule, we now have a replay of this week’s Radio Free Charleston at 2 PM, followed by a brand-new episode of Radio Free Charleston International at 3 PM. For you old-timers who remember the original broadcast incarnation of RFC, this combination comes close to recreating the original experience, with your PopCulteer unleashed to play whatever he felt like playing, mixed with a generous helping of great local music.

For this week’s RFC playlist, plus a link for a download, check out this post.

Radio Free Charleston International is the two-hour weekly show where Rudy Panucci (that’s me, by the way) gets to play whatever he wants. It’s our way of revisiting the golden age of free-format radio, which is sort of what inspired us to go into this medium in the first place.

As for this particular episode of Radio Free Charleston International, I’m still trying to conserve my voice a bit. Hosting three other shows and dealing with allergies and a lingering summer cold make it a bit daunting to do a two-hour program at the end of the week, so this week I only talk once, and introduce a mixtape-presentation of some of my favorite music in the world. I hope you guys dig it too. Check out the rather lengthy playlist:

RFC International 069

Yellow Magic Orchrestra “Day Tripper”
Iggy Pop “Ballad of Cookie McBride”
Frank Zappa “Uncle Remus”
DEVO “Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA”
Department of Crooks “What You Wanna Do Now”
Elvis Costello “Two Little Hitlers”
Kate Bush “Sat In Your Lap”
Klaus Nomi “Total Eclipse”
Oingo Boingo “Controller”
Julian Cope “Beautiful Love”
Split Enz “I Don’t Wanna Dance”
The Beautiful South “My Book”
The Stranglers “Punch and Judy”
New Musik “Straight Lines”
Men Without Hats “Dancing In The Moonlight”
Badfinger “Icicles”
The Beatles “Baby You’re A Rich Man”
George Harrison “When We Was Fab”
Paul McCartney “Bogey Music”
John Lennon “Starting Over”
Ringo Starr “Golden Blunders”
Brian Wilson “Love and Mercy”
Heart “Bebe Le Strange”
ELP “Touch And Go”
YES “Don’t Kill The Whales”
Klaatu “Hope”
Lene Lovich “Bird Song”
The Aquabats “Robot Bird Head”
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes “I Believe I Can Fly”
The Moog Cookbook “Are You Gonna Go My Way”
Jellyfish “The Glutton of Sympathy”
The Clash “Rudie Can’t Fail”

You can tune in to RFC International every Thursday at 3 PM on The AIR. If you miss it, you have plenty of chances to catch a replay: Fridays at 1 PM and 10 PM, Saturdays at 1 PM, Sundays at 1 AM and 2 PM, Mondays at 9 PM, and Tuesdays at 11 PM, exclusively on The AIR.