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1982 ➤ “Who?!” Peter Capaldi’s first interview (probably) as a green young stand-up

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Capaldi learning the ropes as a comic: Live onstage supporting Spandau Ballet in 1982. (Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s)

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Capaldi and his new Tardis: the 12th Doctor Who. (Photo © BBC/Guy Levy)

◼ “KIDS THREW ORANGES AND COINS at me in Brighton. It’s the first time I’ve tapped into that iceberg of sympathy.” Such was the welcome the 23-year-old Scot, Peter Capaldi, received on his first serious outing as a stand-up comedian supporting Spandau Ballet’s first national concert tour in 1982. I’d been bowled over by his high-octane act a week earlier in Manchester and now the tour was winding up in Bournemouth where I’d come for its Easter weekend finale. His energetic performance suggested an interview was going to be fun, and I’d snapped some onstage pictures that spookily presage an aspect of Capaldi that was to win a Bafta award later in his career.

So here we were in 1982 in the Royal Exeter hotel talking about his lucky break earlier on the same tour – being spotted supporting Spandau’s Glasgow gig by film producer Bill Forsyth who also recognised talent writ large. One result was me resting my notebook on a thumping fat filmscript titled Local Hero, and the other was Capaldi admitting: “I’m terrified of starting this film – standing in front of a camera.”

Oh the irony. Tonight Peter Capaldi, now 56, stepped into the best role in British television to play the 12th Doctor Who – a rendering as fierce and dotty as any who went before. Today too I finally found my long-lost notes from the first interview he’d given as an unknown comic, plus the cassette tape of our very relaxed conversation about his days at Glasgow School of Art, singing with a local band, and his yen to try comedy, inspired by 1981’s nationwide tour by Rik Mayall and the Comic Strip team, who a year later leapt onto British television screens on Channel 4’s opening night.

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Local Hero, 1983: Peter Capaldi with Burt Lancaster and Peter Riegert, a gentle Scottish comedy directed by Bill Forsyth

For Capaldi’s debut in autumn 1981, he had invented a dim character called Fraser Meaky after thinking “I can’t go onstage as myself!” but then Gary Kemp’s circle of Spandau friends, who did not want another band supporting their tour, asked him to be a comedy warm-up before the main event. Fraser was shed in favour of a much more frenetic onstage Capaldi wearing a distressed old showbiz tuxedo, the humour retuned to lampooning the ego maniacs in politics and pop.

Recently, he had been compering a Monday live band night at a Glasgow club. “I like fast clean idea jokes, like Steve Martin,” he said. “The trouble with Glasgow is that it’s a small audience and every time you play you face the same crowd so you have to invent new material. After three weeks I couldn’t think of any more jokes, so it fell through.” How he solved this dilemma was revealed as we spoke. More of the interview will follow soon, meanwhile listen to our chat.

AUDIO CLIP FROM OUR 1982 INTERVIEW:

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➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: How Clare Grogan’s pop entourage put Capaldi on the road, plus an audio track with his band The Dreamboys

➢ Catch Doctor Who series 8 on BBC iPlayer for two months

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Rare self-deprecation: Click pic to view Doctor gifs at thespoonmissioner

➢ Sept update: The new Doctor joins Denzel Washington and Gemma Arterton on BBC1’s Graham Norton Show, 26 Sept – Peter Capaldi’s debut alongside Jenna Coleman was the most watched Doctor Who opening episode in four years, with 9.2million UK viewers.

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1982 ➤ How Spandau put Capaldi on the road to play the new Doctor Who

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Capaldi the stand-up in 1982: onstage supporting Spandau Ballet at Bournemouth, days after Bill Forsyth saw the Glasgow show. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

❚ WHAT’S THE CULTIEST ROLE in all of television, the one that’s just been given to the cultiest madman in all of TV comedy? Yes the new Doctor Who is announced as Peter Capaldi, aka Malcolm Tucker, foul-mouthed spin-doctor from the multi-award-winning political satire, The Thick of It. The part won him the 2010 BAFTA Award for Best Performance in a Comedy Role.

The 55-year-old Scot will be the 12th actor to play the Doctor, a new hero for a new generation. It is not the first time Capaldi has appeared on the show – he played a Roman merchant in the 2008 Doctor Who adventure The Fires of Pompeii.

But few people seem to know how he got his big acting break in Bill Forsyth’s 1983 movie Local Hero. As a student at the Glasgow School of Art, Capaldi had been the vocalist in a post-punk band called The Dreamboys. He also took to stand-up comedy and was invited to support Spandau Ballet on their first UK tour in 1982. The famously anti-rock clubland band did not want the usual rock support act and decided a comedian would add piquancy to the uniqueness of their own approach to new music.

Spandau songwriter Gary Kemp is reluctant to take any credit as talent scout, but it just so happened that he spent quite some time in Scotland that year romantically smitten by Clare Grogan, the cute 20-year-old singer in the Glasgow pop group Altered Images.

WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?

➢ Doctor Who explained in 25 GIFs at Mashable – “Let’s assume you have no idea what TARDIS stands for”

Kemp, himself then 22, recalls vaguely how Capaldi came to his attention at the age of 23: “It was through Gerry McElhone who managed Altered Images. Maybe he played me a tape, or something.” Clearly he had other more important things on his mind at the time. Gig archives tell us that in May 1981 The Dreamboys played on the same bill as Altered Images at Edinburgh’s Nite Club, and in September Capaldi gave his stand-up routine, so there’s every chance Kemp met him at the bar.

The point was Grogan had starred in Forsyth’s 1981 cinema smash, Gregory’s Girl, and Spandau’s Diamond tour launched in March 1982 with three dates in Scotland and Capaldi live onstage as the warm-up.

Spandau’s brief tour ended at the Winter Gardens Bournemouth [my pix are previously unpublished] but a year later, when Local Hero was released, Capaldi told me that he got the part only because Bill Forsyth had seen him at the Spandau show in Glasgow. The rest is history: a brilliantly versatile career as an actor of comedy and drama has included a cameo dad in the 2007 series of Skins, and the repressed head of news in last year’s electric BBC series, The Hour.

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Capaldi relaxing offstage in Bournemouth 1982. Photographed © by Shapersofthe80s

Steven Moffat, executive producer of Doctor Who, described casting Capaldi as an incendiary combination: “One of the most talented actors of his generation is about to play the best part on television.”

Capaldi said yesterday: “Being asked to play the Doctor is an amazing privilege. Like the Doctor himself I find myself in a state of utter terror and delight. I can’t wait to get started.” Filming begins in the autumn.

The Thick of It writer Armando Ianucci tweeted: “There can’t be a funnier, wiser, more exciting Time Lord than Peter Capaldi. The universe is in great hands.”

➢ Peter Capaldi revealed as 12th Doctor – BBC News

REVISIT DOCTOR WHO’S 13 REGENERATIONS

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1966: The first Doctor William Hartnell becomes the second, Patrick Troughton © BBC

➢ All 13 of the Doctor’s regeneration scenes on video at Wired

LISTEN TO THE WOULD-BE BAUHAUS VOCALIST

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Peter Capaldi

Capaldi as Dreamboys vocalist

❏ PETER CAPALDI DELIVERS Bela Lugosi’s Birthday, the A-side song from the 7-inch single by Scottish rockers, The Dreamboys, on the St Vitus label about 1980 – before Craig Ferguson joined as drummer. YouTuber Ashley Harrison writes: “A little post-punk, goth and power pop, it is reminiscent at times of Bauhaus, Joy Division, Wire, The Fall, The Damned.” Scotland had a fierce underground music scene in the early 80s and I’ve often said a weekend in Glasgow felt as if you were in the trendiest city in the UK, and at least on a par with London.

Peter Capaldi

Capaldi in 1983: introducing Sade’s TV debut on Loose Talk

➢ View video of Capaldi introducing Sade’s TV debut

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