APF Chapter 4: Other Annotations [Prev Page] [Index] [Next Page]

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Johnny and the Dead

Annotations | Information | Quotes

- [p. 10] "'Singing "Here we go, here we go, here we go"?' said Johnny. 'And "Viva a spanner"?'"

For "here we go, here we go", see the annotation for p. 70 of Guards! Guards! .

'Viva a spanner' is Johnny's version of the song 'Y Viva España', an early 70s hit which appeared at about the time that many Brits were first going on package tours to Spain (see also the annotation for p. 79 of Good Omens ).

- [p. 12] "'He said the Council sold it to some big company for fivepence because it was costing so much to keep it going.'"

The right-wing Westminster council, headed by Lady Shirley Porter sold three cemeteries for 15p a couple of years ago, giving the same reasoning.

- [p. 19] "'No-one visits most of the graves now, except old Mrs Tachyon, and she's barmy.'"

A tachyon is a hypothetical faster-than-li<ght quantum particle, which has not been proven to actually exist.

- [p. 19] "'I was referring,' said his grandfather, 'to William Stickers.'"

Refers to the posters forbidding flyposting reading "bill stickers will be prosecuted". These quickly attracted the graffito "Bill Stickers is Innocent" (and similar). William Stickers is obviously this much-harassed individual.

- [p. 22] "The last thing to go was the finger, still demonstrating its total disbelief in life after death."

See the Cheshire Cat annotation for p. 142 of Wyrd Sisters .

- [p. 25] "[...] a skinny kid with short hair and flat feet and asthma who had difficulty even walking in Doc Martens, [...]"

Doc Martens (fully: 'Doctor Marten's patent Air-Wair boots and shoes', with 'The Original Doctor Marten's Air Cushion Sole. OIL FAT ACID PETROL ALKALI RESISTANT') are one of the most popular and fashionable footwear in Britain among the younger generation. Once associated with skin-heads and fascists they are now simply standard issue for almost anyone in the UK between the age of 16 and 30.

- [p. 26] "'I saw this film once, about a man with X-ray eyes,' said Bigmac."

There are of course dozens of films that this description could apply to (starting with Superman, for instance), but the best candidate would appear to be the 1963 Roger Corman movie X -- The Man With X-Ray Eyes, starring Ray Milland.

- [p. 27] "'After Cobbers,' said Bigmac."

Neighbours. See the annotation for p. 72 of Only You Can Save Mankind .

- [p. 28] "[...] the new Council named it the Joshua Che N'Clement block [...]"

A combination of Che Guevara, Joshua N'Komo, and the word 'inclement'.

- [p. 37] "Like Dead Man's Hand at parties."

One of those party games known under a dozen different names, but which usually consists of people passing various items to each other behind their backs. The idea is to throw in some really weird stuff and gross people out through their imaginations.

- [p. 38] "'His head'll spin round in a minute!'"

A reference to the 1973 horror movie The Exorcist, starring Linda Blair, which actually turned out to be a watchable movie, rather to my surprise. For a good laugh, I recommend instead that you try to get a hold of either its 1977 sequel The Exorcist II, or alternatively (if you like more intentional humour) of that one Saturday Night Live sketch with Richard Pryor ("the bed is on my foot!"). But I digress.

- [p. 39] "'The lady in the hat is Mrs Sylvia Liberty,' he whispered."

Sylvia Pankhurst was a famous suffragette (in fact it was something of a family trade), but it was Emily Davidson who threw herself under the horse.

- [p. 41] "'I saw this film,' gabbled Wobbler, 'where these houses were built on an old graveyard and someone dug a swimming pool and all the skeletons came out and tried to strangle people --'"

This movie is of course the famous 1982 movie Poltergeist.

- [p. 45] "'[...] the messages from God he heard when he played Cliff Richard records backwards --'"

This may need some explaining for people who are (a) not into rock music or religious fundamentalism, and (b) not European and therefore not in the possession of the slightest idea as to who Cliff Richard is.

To begin with, it is a particularly obnoxious popular myth that heavy metal groups (or any popular performer, for that matter) hide Satanic, suicide-inducing or otherwise demoralising messages in their songs. This is done by a technique known as 'backwards masking', which means the message can only be revealed by playing the music backwards (although the subliminal effect is supposedly in full effect when our innocent children listen to these songs the right way round).

Needless to say, this is all an incredible load of nonsense: most supposedly Satanic messages exist only in people's fevered imaginations, and even if there were such messages there is not a single shred of evidence as to their effectiveness.

To finally arrive at the main idea behind this annotation: Cliff Richard is a perpetually youthful-looking, squeaky-clean British pop singer, who's been around since the sixties and is still hugely popular today, even though (or perhaps even more so because) he found religion in the seventies. Consequently, any backwards messages in his music, will most definitely not be Satanic, but rather the opposite.

- [p. 46] "Grandad was watching Video Whoopsy."

Although obviously meant as an equivalent to shows like America's Funniest Home Videos, this is not the name of any existing show (the British version is called You've Been Framed). The word 'whoopsy' was popularised by the 70s UK sitcom Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em as a euphemism for excrement, as in "The cat's done a whoopsy on the carpet".

- [p. 54] "WHEEEsssh ... we built this city on ... ssshshhh [...] scaramouche, can you ... shssssss ..."

The "we built this city" fragment is from the 1985 hit song 'We Built This City' by the group Starship, formerly Jefferson Starship, formerly the legendary Jefferson Airplane.

The "scaramouche" line is, of course, from Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' (see also the annotation for p. 8 of Good Omens ).

- [p. 61] "'Who is Shakespeare's Sister and why is she singing on the wireless?'"

Shakespear's Sister was a female vocal duo (one of whom was a former Bananarama member as well as the wife of Dave Stewart from 'Eurythmics' fame -- but I digress), who were hugely popular in the UK in the early 90s (and a bit less popular in the rest of the world, I'm afraid) with hits like 'Stay' and 'Hello (Turn Your Radio On)'. Shakespear's Sister have split up recently.

British comediennes French and Saunders did a parody of Shakespear's Sister, called Dickens' Daughter, which has to be seen to be believed.

- [p. 63] "'You have to have three A-levels.'"

See the annotation for p. 203 of Good Omens .

- [p. 67] "The People's Shroud is Deepest Black"

As opposed to the People's Flag, which is Deepest Red, according to 'The Red Flag', which is indeed a "song of the downtrodden masses" (see p. 86/79), as used by many socialist and communist parties.

- [p. 68] "'Ghosts don't phone up radio stations!' 'I saw this film once where they came out of the telephone,' said Bigmac, [...]"

Refers to the 1986 movie Poltergeist II, starring JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson.

- [p. 78] "'It's worse than that. I'm dead, Jim.'"

Refers to the Star Trek-associated catch phrase: "It's worse than that, he's dead Jim."

The phrase "He's dead, Jim" was a classic line from the television series, spoken by Dr McCoy to Captain Kirk, in at least five different episodes (if you must know: 'The Enemy Within' (about a dog), 'The Changeling' (about Scotty), 'Wolf in the Fold' (about Hengist), 'Spectre of the Gun' (about Chekov), and 'Is There in Truth no Beauty?' (about Marvick)), and there are numerous near-miss instances where he said something similar, such as "The man is dead, Jim" or "He's dead, Captain". (This information courtesy of the newsgroup rec.arts.startrek.misc.)

The "It's worse than that" part of the quote did not originate with Star Trek itself, but with the 1987 song 'Star Trekkin', by The Firm, which was a huge novelty hit set to a simple 'London Bridge is falling down' tune, and featuring lyrics along the lines of:

It's life Jim but not as we know it
not as we know it, not as we know it
It's life Jim but not as we know it
Not as we know it Captain

It's worse than that he's dead Jim
Dead Jim, dead Jim
It's worse than that he's dead Jim
Dead Jim, dead!

- [p. 113] "'Wasn't there an Elm Street down by Beech Lane?' [...] 'Freddie. Now that's a NICE name.'"

Refers to the main character of the Nightmare on Elm Street series of horror movies.

- [p. 122] "[...] he'd never been able to remember all that 'Foxtrot Tango Piper' business [...]"

Since 'Foxtrot Tango Piper' spells FTP, this may be a reference to the computer world's File Transfer Protocol, which is a protocol (and also the name for the associated types of client software) used to transfer files between different machines. FTP used to be a very important means of data exchange on the Internet (see e.g. the section on the L-space Web in Chapter 6), and is also well-known for being rather confusing to the beginner. Cries along the lines of "I can't seem to get the hang of this FTP business" are often heard on the net.

In the NATO spelling alphabet, the actual word used to denote the letter 'p' is 'Papa', by the way.

- [p. 123] "'These aliens landed and replaced everyone in the town with giant vegetables.'"

Refers to the 1978 movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, starring Donald Sutherland. (Or perhaps to the original 1956 cult movie starring Kevin McCarthy.)

- [p. 129] "There is a night that never comes to an end..."

The idea of racing the sun around the world is used in the opening pages of Larry Niven's novel Ringworld, in which Louis Wu spends 48 hours celebrating his 200th birthday by using matter transmitter booths to stay a step ahead of midnight.

However, incredibly, Niven (who has a reputation for scientific accuracy -- not 100% deserved, but still he's better than most SF authors on that score) originally had Wu going west to east to stay ahead of midnight. Even more incredibly, no one caught this mistake until after the book went on sale. It was corrected in the second printing. The first printing is, as you might guess, a very rare collector's item.

Since we can be pretty certain Terry's read Ringworld (see Strata), and since Niven's mistake is one of the most famous SF flubs of all time, Fletcher's admonition to Stanley Roundway ("We're going west, Stanley. For once in your death, try to get the directions right.") is probably no coincidence.

On the other hand it should be noted that for some strange reason people on alt.fan.pratchett often used to annoy Terry by trying to pin Larry Niven influences on him (see e.g. the annotation for p. 59 of Guards! Guards! ). Maybe this annotation, too, is just a far-fetched coincidence. It wouldn't be the first in this document, now would it?

- [p. 130] "'New York, New York.' 'Why did they name it twice?' 'Well, they ARE Americans.'"

A reference to the 1979 hit song 'New York, New York', by Gerard Kenny, which starts out:

New York, New York,
So good they named it twice.
New York, New York
All the scandal and the vice
I love it
New York, New York
Now isn't it a pity
What they say about New York City

See also the annotation for p. 65 of Reaper Man .

- [p. 136] "In a neglected corner, Mrs Tachyon was industriously Vim-ing a gravestone."

Apparently, Vim is unknown in the USA, but in Europe it is well-known as the scouring powder for cleaning sinks and stuff. It is quite ancient, and has lately been eclipsed a bit by more modern (and less destructive) cleaners such as Jif/Cif or Mr Sheen.

- [p. 146] "'Met Hannibal Lecter in a dark alley, did it?' said Yo-less."

A reference to the cannibalistic protagonist of the 1991 movie The Silence of the Lambs (and its sequels).

- [p. 147] "'Baron Samedi, the voodoo god,' said Yo-Less. 'I got the idea out of James Bond.'"

The James Bond movie Yo-less means is Live and Let Die.

- [p. 151] "'Body snatchers!' said Wobbler. 'Burke 'n Head!' said Bigmac."

Burke and Hare were a famous pair of 'resurrectionists' who operated in Edinburgh in the 19th century. Basically, they dug up fresh bodies from graveyards, in order to supply surgeons with material for anatomical dissections. Edinburgh University is not very proud of its association with this trade, especially since eventually, when demand outstripped supply, so to speak, Burke and Hare went a bit overboard and started creating their own supply of fresh, dead bodies.

Also, Birkenhead is a town in Merseyside (the Liverpool area).

- [p. 158] "'Good Work, Fumbling Four! And They All Went Home For Tea And Cakes.'"

There was a series of children's books by Enid Blyton starring the Famous Five who managed to repeatedly avert crimes, capture gangs and generally have a Jolly Good Time.

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