Confessions of a rock star

TV Review: Rock Family Trees

For some rock musicians, trashing the hotel room is an integral part of the fun. Not Mick Fleetwood though, not these days at least. For him rock 'n' roll means hygiene. "I am happiest checking into a hotel, finding my nice clean bathroom, clean sheets, clean towels, little... like... free toothpaste... and a gig that night." "Hey guys," you imagine him saying as they leave the stage, "let's go back to my room and party - you can wear the complimentary shower cap as long as I can break the "Sanitized For Your Protection" band on the lavatory seat!"

Then again, after watching Rock Family Trees (BBC2, Sat), the programme in which Fleetwood made this deflating confession, you could sympathise with his desire for unrumpled bedlinen and spotless tiles. The series is based on Peter Frame's celebrated rock genealogies - meticulous maps of pop's dynastic history, Balkan in their complexity - and it makes excellent use of their manic informativeness. The graphics are used both as a guide, helping the viewer through the flurry of name-changes and new alliances, and as a backdrop for an evocative spread of bric-a-brac - from the stolid graphics of the contemporary music press to the lump of cheese that one former member noticed in Peter Green's unkempt hair ("When he left five days later it was still there. I realised then that, even for the hippy era, something was amiss.")

Peter Green was just one of those casualties, spinning off into some private twilight after being given acid in Munich. He was the group's lead guitarist at the time, a position that appears to have been particularly hazardous. At least two other guitarists succumbed to the pressure including Jeremy Spencer - the Captain Oates of rock. "I'm just going out to get some groceries," he remarked while on tour in LA; the next time he turned up he was playing happy-clappy with a religious cult. In this respect, the film was a slightly skewed confirmation that Spinal Tap is one of the most accurate portraits we have of the rock life; there it was the drummers who succumbed to mysterious catastrophes - here it was lead guitarists. Other details were exactly right though - from the exploitative genius of their first manager (he surreptitiously formed a clone Fleetwood Mac to tour while they were resting) to the sometimes violent comedy of "personality differences". John McVie recalled intervening in a fistfight between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham: "I said, 'Lindsey, why don't you just leave?' and he did. What I meant was 'Why don't you just leave the room?' " The film ended with a nicely unsettling touch - a living freeze-frame in which the cast of this tragi-comic chronicle, winners and the losers both, stared inscrutably out of the screen while their histories were brought up to date.

The best thing in "Rocket Men" (C4, Sun), Encounters' enjoyable film about the amateur space-race, was Norbert, a German rocket scientist with an Australian accent. Prompted by childhood memories of V2's lifting off "wiz flime on ze tile", Norbert had got himself involved with Australia's backyard missile programme. Ausroc I turned into an elongated barbie on the launch pad, but Ausroc II was a different matter altogether - an efficient looking device which went three miles up. Some way off orbital height, but one giant step for a bunch of hobbyists.

Unless I missed something, Susanna White's film seemed to suggest that the best Britain could offer in competition was two old gentlemen who lofted pop bottles across a municipal park with nothing more volatile than a pint of water and two footpumps. In fact, earlier this year a Manchester lab technician sent a 10ft rocket one-and-a-half miles into the air with a sugar-based fuel and another group of British rocketeers are aiming to put the first amateur rocket into space. Time to start working on stage two, I think.

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