John Challis: “The rhythm section of the Rolling Stones were big fans of Only Fools and Horses” | Movies


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Johnny and the bandit

I grew up with 1950s skiffle artists like the Vipers and Lonnie Donegan. You could play most of the songs if you had a guitar, so we formed a band: Johnny and the Bandit. This kind of music was forbidden in my school, so we had to practice in the locker rooms. The acoustics were good because it was quite resonant. We had a few guitars, a banjo, and even a washboard. I was the singer. We thought we were the company. Plus, we were doing something illegal which made it even more exciting.

Our music teacher was still encouraging us because he saw these children – who had not shown much interest in classical music – suddenly playing musical instruments. Eventually things relaxed and we got to play at a parents’ concert. We did House of the Rising Sun by the Animals, on the New Orleans Red Light District, and we got banned again. How we suffered for our art.

Jacques Tati in The Holidays of Monsieur Hulot

There were two cinemas in Epsom, the Odeon and the Granada, so we always had the big movies. I loved Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront. I couldn’t take my eyes off him; I thought he was absolutely fascinating. I loved Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life; the ordinary man, struggling alone against impossible obstacles. I was fascinated by films. I thought it would be the most amazing thing to be on this screen, to tell these stories.

When I was very young my parents would let me on Saturday morning shows to see comics like Charlie Chaplin, but I didn’t find them very funny. I loved The Goon Show on BBC Home Service. When I was 11 or 12, I saw this French comedy, Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot with Jacques Tati. I thought he was hilarious. He was a comedic genius who left a trail of destruction wherever he went. I owe him a lot of my comedy.

Argyle Theater for Youth

I was fascinated by the accents. I found it easy to impersonate people and always tried to get noticed. I was not an A level student; I wanted to hit the road as soon as possible. But everyone put me off by saying – and rightly so – that acting is very insecure with a lot of rejection. So I was an intern with a real estate agent, a stable and pleasant job where we studied while gaining practical experience.

Sitting in an office in the middle of Surrey for six months bored me to tears, and I was eventually fired. I responded to an ad in the scene and ran away with the Argyle Youth Theater. Five of us crammed into this little blue van with lights, costumes and a pop-up theater. We traveled the country doing Pinocchio and The Nightingale in two schools a day. I didn’t live anywhere for years because we were always on the road, but it was fine with me. I loved being able to have fun doing silly characters and get paid for it.

Tom graveney

The other thing I was pretty good at in school was sports. I had good hand-eye coordination and was on all the teams in the school. I was a big Arsenal supporter from the age of five and loved cricket. My hero was Tom Graveney. He had a large visor on his cap and stood casually with his legs crossed at the crease. He just had a wonderful style and artistic flow for his staff. I was born in Bristol so we shared a West Country connection. A relative of my grandfather picked me up to see him play for Gloucestershire, where he scored a lot of points. I just held onto him like he was my man. I was brought in to meet him afterwards and was completely speechless.

I used to sit and watch it on TV, but I was so full of that childish desperation that it succeeded that I couldn’t bear to see these horrible bowlers – my enemies – trying to do it. bring out. At school, I tried to emulate him, which I did with more style than scoring points. I could be away for nothing – but in a pretty attractive way.

The first Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones were the house band from 1963 to 1964 at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, South West London. I went with a friend of mine. It was packed and hot. These oiks came out and did American blues covers like Chuck Berry. It was just electrifying. The following year I was doing repertory theater in Kidderminster and I saw them again. People were throwing themselves from the balcony. They were just amazing.

Many years later, I took my wife to see Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. Someone pointed at me and said, “Mr. Wyman would like to meet you backstage. Apparently he was a huge fan of Only Fools and Horses, but I was completely stunned. Ronnie Wood wanted to meet me. The Stones played on a big soccer field in the United States in the 90s. I went to the host zone. Charlie Watts walked in and said, “What are you doing here? I never met Richards or Jagger, but at least I did meet the rhythm section.

Ten days of Christmas by Rentaflop

I wanted to be a solo guitarist – I’m still waiting for the Stones to call. I would have loved to have spent a century with Lord. I could have been a good footballer, but I was too lazy. Acting seemed right to me. I joined the repertory theater and wrote some comedy sketches for the magazines. Writing is hard work, even though I managed two autobiographies and two novels. At the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s, I met this actor called Andrew Jack. He had the same insane sense of humor and we recorded the worst record ever, Rentaflop’s The Ten Days of Christmas – which was just full of ridiculous noises: quack quack in a pear tree ”. Kenny Everett put us on Radio 1 and described us as “a real creepy grandma,” and we must have been on TV even though we were awful.

I was very lucky with my acting. I just made this DVD – Boycie in Belgrade – about why Only Fools and Horses is so popular in this part of the world. Belgrade has been attacked from left to right, but people are still very enterprising. Everyone is trying to make a living, so they particularly identify with Del Boy. He never gives up and I think it’s very inspiring, especially after all that the Serbian people and the rest of what was once Yugoslavia have gone through.

Boycie in Belgrade is on DVD and on digital now

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About Elizabeth Smith

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