Chain of Trivia
  • By Ben Dali
  • |
  • 17th Aug 2019
  • |
  • ★★★

BBC radio music aficionado Russell Clarke is making his Edinburgh Fringe debut in a show jam-packed with fascinating rock ‘n’ roll trivia and random connections between the stars behind the hits. His show, Chain of Trivia, focuses on ten of the biggest stars of the 1950s-80s, offering a well-paced, clear and succinct insight at each pitstop from Elvis to Queen and back to Elvis again. Each new performer of focus is unveiled with a beautiful black and white photo on an easel.

Some truly fascinating facts from Clarke’s evidently vast archive of knowledge

On his meandering journey through the annals of rock history, you can expect to learn more about Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, The Kinks and many more. Which bonafide Rock Gods went to school together? Which legendary musician performed on a '60s smash hit before becoming a star in his own right? Who was inadvertently responsible for launching Paul Simon into stardom? All these questions and more will be answered.

If you’re looking for a balanced cultural history though, this one may inspire some ire. During the 50-minute lecture, there is one mention of Stevie Wonder, one mention of Olivia Newton-John, and not a single other woman or act of colour in sight. Even when discussing Elvis’ influences, no black performer is named as a source of inspiration. And if you’re looking for an opportunity to show off your own prodigious knowledge you will also be left unsatiated. There are occasional pauses before trivia is unveiled where a quick “Does anyone know…?” would entirely fit, but Clarke dismisses these chances to engage with a live audience and continues the lecture.

There are a couple of times when he suggests “If I were to ask you to sing…” or “…to hum…”, yet he doesn’t. Only at his very final point of trivia does he open it up to the audience to chip in a connection between Queen and the song being discussed, but it is too little too late. If he were the type of performer who established a rapport with the audience that he evidently does appreciate, then a short Q&A session at the end would be an entirely appropriate way to round off what amounts to an intimate TED Talk.

The show does exactly what it says on the tin, providing some truly fascinating facts, carefully whittled down from Clarke’s evidently vast archive of knowledge. The show is a dream for quizmasters, students of musical history, or those of us who collect trivia for our own personal interest. If you don’t fit into one of those categories, this probably won’t be worth trying on a whim.

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The Blurb

How do you get from the King – Elvis Presley of course – to Queen and Freddie Mercury with only a series of amazing rock'n'roll facts as your guide? In his first Edinburgh one-man show, writer and broadcaster Russell Clarke – BBC London’s Rock'n'Roll Routemaster – takes you on a fascinating and hilarious trivia journey from Elvis to Queen in 10 steps, with each linked to the next by an awesome piece of rock trivia you never knew or never thought of.

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