The Life of Rock with Brian Pern

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The Life of Rock with Brian Pern
Created byRhys Thomas
Written by
Directed byRhys Thomas
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series3
No. of episodes11 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Saurabh Kakkar/Richard Webb
Producer(s)Rhys Thomas
Running time30 minutes
40 minutes for "A Tribute"
Production company(s)BBC Comedy
Original network
Picture format16:9 1080i
Original release10 February 2014 (2014-02-10) –
29 March 2017 (2017-03-29)
External links

Brian Pern: A Life in Rock is a British comedy spoof-documentary series about a fictional ageing rock star, Brian Pern, the former frontman of the 1970s progressive rock group Thotch. Series 1, titled The Life of Rock, with Brian Pern, was originally broadcast in three weekly parts on BBC Four from 10 February 2014. A second series of three episodes was promoted to BBC Two and broadcast from 9 December 2014, retitled Brian Pern: A Life in Rock. A third series of three episodes Brian Pern: 45 Years of Prog and Roll was broadcast on BBC Four from 14 January 2016.

The series is written by Rhys Thomas and Simon Day, and stars Simon Day, Michael Kitchen, Paul Whitehouse and Nigel Havers in supporting roles alongside Day. The character of Brian Pern is an affectionate parody of Peter Gabriel.[1] "There is more than one influence in that character," Gabriel told Mark Blake, "but I am definitely one of them. I'm flattered by it."[2]


One of several lineups of Thotch. From left to right: Pat Quid (Paul Whitehouse), Mike Phillips (Philip Pope), Brian Pern (Simon Day), Tony Pebblé (Nigel Havers) and Mike Spelling (Dean Thomas)

Main cast[edit]

Recurring cast[edit]

Guest cast[edit]

In addition to Gabriel's cameos, the series features a range of musicians playing themselves including Roger Taylor, Phil Collins, Jools Holland, Rick Wakeman, Rick Parfitt, Chrissie Hynde, Tim Rice, Billy Bragg, Roy Wood, Paul Young, Mark King, Noddy Holder, Martin Kemp, Melanie Chisholm, Chas Hodges, Dave Peacock and Mike Batt.

The following actors and television or radio personalities have appeared as themselves in guest roles: Roger Moore, David Arnold, David Baddiel, Noel Edmonds, Miranda Sawyer, John Humphrys, Dan Cruickshank, Mike Read, Jack Whitehall, Martin Freeman, Kathy Burke, Alex Jones, Dan Snow, Matthew Wright, Alan Yentob, Paul Gambaccini, Tony Blackburn, Simon McCoy, Annie Nightingale, Dermot O'Leary, Kirsty Young and Ian Wright.


The commissioning of the series was announced by Janice Hadlow on 22 August 2013 at the Edinburgh International Television Festival under the name of Rock Ratatouille.[3][4]


Comedian Rhys Thomas created the character of Brian Pern in 2008 when he was asked by BBC Comedy commissioner Simon Lupton to come up with an idea for the first batch of Online-Exclusive comedy sketches the BBC Comedy Website was developing. A fan of Peter Gabriel, Thomas was a frequent visitor to Gabriel's website where the singer would post a monthly video blog about his current projects. At this time other rock musicians from the same generation were doing the same, such as Brian May and Brian Eno.

Once the idea was commissioned, Thomas approached his fellow Fast Show and Down the Line collaborator Simon Day to play Brian Pern. Day was also a fan of Gabriel. Following a successful run on BBC Online, a second batch of sketches were commissioned. With a small increase in budget, extra cast members were brought in: Lucy Montgomery as Majita (who would later become Pepita in the TV series) and Paul Whitehouse as guitarist Pat Quid (Thomas later cited he got the name from Stacy Keach's character in Roadgames). The relationship between Pat and Brian is based on that of David Gilmour and Roger Waters.

Thomas created the part of Brian's manager John Farrow for Michael Kitchen. Thomas had been developing a comedy drama for BBC One with Kitchen and offered him the part in the second series of online specials of Brian Pern. Thomas has stated in various interviews that John Farrow is an exaggerated version of Queen manager Jim Beach, whom Thomas had worked with for many years following his involvement with the band.


Musician Peter Gabriel said of the series:[5]

It made me laugh a lot, even though it was at my expense. I love to laugh. Spike Milligan was a hero to me and I was a big Fast Show fan, but I’m not sure that part of me comes across when I bore people about politics and social stuff. People can’t always see who you really are.

Episode list[edit]

Series 1 - The Life of Rock with Brian Pern[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"Birth of Rock"Rhys ThomasRhys Thomas and Simon Day10 February 2014 (2014-02-10)
In this episode, we are introduced to Thotch frontman Brian Pern (Simon Day) as he takes a look at how the genre of rock music was born.
2"Middle Age of Rock"Rhys ThomasRhys Thomas and Simon Day17 February 2014 (2014-02-17)
Brian takes a look at protest songs and charity singles including his own, "Succulent Chinese Meal", the most famous charity single of all time, "Doctor in Distress", and the most obscure charity songs like "Snooker Loopy" by Chas & Dave, which isn't a charity single at all. Brian also looks back at 1985's Live Aid concert and reveals how Russia tried, but failed, to put an end to the so-called "Global Jukebox" by almost killing Phil Collins as he travelled to the US leg of the concert via Concorde.
3"Death of Rock"Rhys ThomasRhys Thomas and Simon Day24 February 2014 (2014-02-24)
Brian looks at how aging rock bands reform after not performing for many years.

Series 2 - Brian Pern: A Life in Rock[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"Jukebox Musical"Rhys ThomasRhys Thomas and Simon Day9 December 2014 (2014-12-09)
We join progressive rock band Thotch as they stage their own jukebox musical produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by comedienne Kathy Burke. Unfortunately things don't go to plan as Burke decides to drop all the songs as they were all too long and lead singer Brian Pern is wrongfully arrested under a police operation called Operation Bad Apples.
2"The Day of the Triffids"Rhys ThomasRhys Thomas and Simon Day16 December 2014 (2014-12-16)
Brian decides to perform his unreleased rock opera The Day of the Triffids, based on the book of the same name, at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro with a warm-up show at Wembley Arena scheduled for Friday 6 June 2014 with former James Bond actor Sir Roger Moore as the narrator. Unfortunately, things take a snag when manager John Farrow (Michael Kitchen) informs Brian that Moore is stuck in New Zealand filming and cannot make it to the Wembley show but has agreed to fufil his role in his hotel room via Skype. After Brian appears on an episode of The Wright Stuff, he is accidentally racist about clothing store Blacks during a conversation with Farrow. He later effectively apologizes during a guest appearance on The One Show. At the show, during the drum solo on the song "Triffid Crackdown", Brian is busy running to the middle of the Wembley Arena floor when he is met by a Russian security guard (Tom Davis) who doesn't let him back in the auditorium until he shows him his bottom so 1980s stars Mark King and Paul Young go on stage instead.
3"Bi-Polar Polar Bear Aid"Rhys ThomasRhys Thomas and Simon Day22 December 2014 (2014-12-22)
Brian decides to release an album of Christmas songs to raise funds for bi-polar polar bears. Brian enlists the help of musicians such as Status Quo's Rick Parfitt and Melanie "Sporty Spice" Chisholm. After the album is complete, Brian suffers a heart attack and is taken to hospital where in an interview with documentary maker Rhys Thomas OBE (Rhys Thomas), he announces his retirement from the music industry.

Series 3 - Brian Pern: 45 Years of Prog and Roll[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"Festivals and Fans"Rhys ThomasRhys Thomas and Simon Day14 January 2016 (2016-01-14)
We join Brian as he prepares to celebrate his 45th year in music by performing at the 2015 Isle of Wight Festival and at the 2015 V Festival in Manchester. But when Brian, new wife Astrid (Suranne Jones) and Thotch fan club president Perry Boothe (John Thomson) are making their way to the V Festival, the train suddenly stops as a herd of cows had strayed onto the track. Eventually, Brian does perform at the V Festival.
2"Breaking America"Rhys ThomasRhys Thomas and Simon Day21 January 2016 (2016-01-21)
We look back Thotch's unsuccessful attempt to break America: following lead singer Brian Pern's departure from the group in 1977, the band were forced to hire US singer and "cokehead" Lindsey Simon, whose bottom and nose famously fell out during two of the band's concerts. While this is going on, Brian is celebrating his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Brian decides not to attend the ceremony because of the backlash that his children, Tallow (Adam Longworth) and Ripple (Shelley Longworth), receive after their purely instrumental song is played on the radio by Zane Lowe: Brian sends Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp to the ceremony in Los Angeles instead. We also see Brian influence 1990s indie music by releasing an album called "Get Real Quick" which included the songs "Maraca Man" and "Poundland Polly".
3"The Thotch Reunion"Rhys ThomasRhys Thomas and Simon Day28 January 2016 (2016-01-28)
We join Thotch as they announce they are going to reform for a Wembley Arena concert scheduled for Saturday, 10 December 2015. Brian only agrees to do the concert when manager John Farrow informs him that guitarist Pat Quid has been diagnosed with dementia. Brian then releases his autobiography and gets actor Martin Freeman to narrate the audio version of it just because he "sounds like Martin Freeman". We later learn that there was a sixth original Thotch member called Bennet St John (Simon Callow). The band eventually do the concert but during the performance of "Rock this Nation", St John appears on stage followed by a security guard and is yanked off.

A Tribute - At the BBC[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"A Tribute[6]"Rhys ThomasRhys Thomas additional material Simon Day29 March 2017 (2017-03-29)
A hastily-assembled tribute following Brian Pern's death in a Segway mistake.
2"At the BBC[7]"Rhys ThomasRhys Thomas additional material Simon Day29 March 2017 (2017-03-29)
A further tribute to Brian Pern featuring some of the musician's greatest Top of the Pops performances.


  1. ^ "The Life of Rock with Brian Pern". Radio Times. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  2. ^ Blake, Mark (December 2011). "Cash for questions: Peter Gabriel". Q. p. 46.
  3. ^ "Janice Hadlow announces raft of new BBC Two and BBC Four commissions". BBC. 22 August 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  4. ^ "BBC Four orders Simon Day series Rock Ratatouille". British Comedy Guide. 23 August 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  5. ^ Thomson, Graeme. "'I'm glad my adolescent fantasies were explored to some extent': How fame hit Peter Gabriel like a Sledgehammer". MailOnline. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  6. ^ "Brian Pern: A Tribute". BBC Four. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  7. ^

External links[edit]

Radio Times, The Life of Rock with Brian Pern