BastardChef III: Just Desserts
(Still more MasterChef music)

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In honour of MasterChef: The Professionals, and following on from Soup to Nuts: BastardChef Too, here’s the latest edition of food music compiled for your listening and dining pleasure – BarstardChef III: Just Desserts. Though not consciously intended, this edition is even more of a novelty than previously, thanks to the heap of instrumentals, silly lyrics and spoken word. Enjoy.

  1. Chocolate Chip -  Miles Davis
  2. Rubber Biscuit - The Chips
  3. A Taste of Honey - Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass
  4. Ice Cream Man - Tom Waits
  5. Chocolate Cake - Crowded House
  6. Tra La La Song (Banana Splits Theme) - The Banana Splits
  7. Hail To Thee, Fat Person - Allan Sherman
  8. No, No Cherry - Frank Zappa
  9. Cherry Pie - Daddy Cool
  10. Honey Pie - The Beatles
  11.  Wedding Cake Island - Midnight Oil
  12. Rockestra Theme - Rockestra

 (If your flashless iDevice prevents you seeing the player below, go to the 8tracks site and enjoy the music directly. But read the notes provided – it’s good stuff.)

 

BastardChef III: Just Desserts from standanddeliver on 8tracks.

 

1: Chocolate Chip - Miles Davis

We know how hard it is to pull off a dessert: it has be not just delicious and indulgent, it has to complement dinner without spoiling it. It’s a delicate balancing act. As is genuinely engaging instrumental music. We start Bastard Chef III:Just Desserts with a Miles Davis instrumental entitled 'Chocolate Chip'. Yes, of course, we acknowledge that the chocolate chip is no dessert in and of itself. But how much charm, fun and class does it bring to more staid post-dinner offerings? Add them to everything - from fruit salad and cream, to coffee, to ice cream - to make them a little more exciting. (Although, let's face it, every chocoholic knows a handful from the stash of choc chips in the back of the pantry will tide you over in times without your favourite candy bars!)

This 'Chocolate Chip' certainly brought a little more fun and excitement to the world of jazz, along with the album that contained it: Doo-Bop. It was the last platter Miles Davis embarked upon before he passed away and although it sounds rooted in its early-90s sound now, like so many of the albums Davis released, it was brave and daring in its time.

Again, we acknowledge: despite a long and varied career that involved frequent abrupt turns that led to the development of whole new genres, Miles Davis isn't to everybody's taste. Or is he? Work your way through his monumental output, you'll find something that appeals. And like fusion food, that takes something familiar and creates something new by adding something exotic, Doo-Bop was the latest jazz-fusion experiment that Miles Davis cooked up before he died.

As the story goes, Davis was hangin' in his New York apartment in the summer of 1991, listening to the world outside. Inspired, he decided to create an album that captured the sound of his neighbourhood streets. He approached his buddy Russell Simmons (who, with Rick Rubin, founded the hip-hop label Def Jam) for some recommendations: Davis wanted a hip young producer to help him make this foray into jazz/hip hop fusion.

The producer was Osten Harvey, Jr, AKA Easy Mo Bee, who'd cut his teeth producing early work of Wu-Tang Clansmen GZA and RZA.

Davis and Easy Mo Bee worked on a series of sessions before Miles Davis's death in late September 1991. The album was completed by building tracks around some incomplete trumpet performances, resulting in a cohesive work that was released, some nine months later, to mixed reviews. Had Davis lived, the album would probably have been more daring; it may have been disconcerting for polite jazz circles  back in 1992 - it was certainly too 'urban' to play in the Classics & Jazz music store I worked in - but it's quite straightforward now. Still, Doo-Bop took out the 1993 Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance - not a bad way to finish an amazing career.

Find it: on the album replete with sampled street sounds, vinyl crackle and spoken rap known as Doo-Bop. Or download it here.

 

2: Rubber Biscuit - The Chips

Ben Elton once pointed out the division that arose when airlines offered bread and butter pudding as part of the in-flight meal: the first class passengers loved it, since it reminded them of boarding school, where it was a popular dessert. The economy class passengers weren’t impressed at all: they’d paid good money for their flight - why should they put up with the cheap muck they could have at home? Nowadays, in the age of discount airfare, virtually anyone can afford to fly - though few can afford to pay extra for the most meagre and unsatisfactory of meals.

Meanwhile, we live in an age where less food is being produced than being consumed and national economies all over the world are in crisis. Knowing how to cook well at a lower cost is essential. Hence, we suppose, the MasterChef/Coles synergy.

With all of that in mind, the natural progression from the 'Chocolate Chip' is to a biscuit. But not just any biscuit: it's the well-loved nonsensical vocals of ‘Rubber Biscuit’, that encapsulated the current food predicament of today, way back in the mid-’50s.

They consist of scat singing based on co-writer and lead vocalist Charles Johnson’s parody of the marching calls imposed upon him during his earlier internment at the Warwick School For Delinquent Teenagers. Beyond them are the seemingly foolish 'recipes' that break up the verses. They speak of poverty:  the 'wish sandwich', where you have two pieces of bread and "wish you had some meat"; the 'ricochet biscuit' that bounces off the wall and into your mouth… unless it fails to bounce back, in which case "you go hungry"; and the "cold water sandwich". The result is beautiful art created from hardship.

The song endures, predominantly, as a ‘novelty’ staple, frequently featuring on children’s compilations. And yet, like the posh folk who loved bread and butter pudding in boarding school, the ‘kids’ who first heard it when it was new carried it through life and still remember it fondly.

While the Blues Brothers covered it successfully on Briefcase Full of Blues, the original features in an excellent scene in Martin Scorsese’s crime flick Mean Streets, in which a party is thrown for a returned Viet Nam vet: it ends with Harvey Keitel’s character passing out. Because the camera is attached to him, as he collapses, his  head remains upright while the room spins around him. ‘Rubber Biscuit’ adds to the disorientation.

Frank Zappa had, at one stage, intended to compile an album of his favourite doo-wop and early rock songs, with ‘Rubber Biscuit’ included. Although it never eventuated, another artistic freak who, like Frankie, hailed from Baltimore, Maryland with idiosyncratic facial foliage  compiled an excellent album of such songs: that freak was John Waters and the album was the soundtrack to his film Cry-Baby. ‘Rubber Biscuit’ is one of the stand-outs.

Find it: on the soundtrack to John Waters’ film Cry-Baby Download it here.

 

3. A Taste Of Honey - Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass

If ‘Honey Pie’, a Beatles (well, let's face it, Paul McCartney) song that comes later in this compilation, is too much honey as well as too much pie, perhaps you’ prefer just a taste. ‘A Taste Of Honey’ was written by Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow as the recurring instrumental theme in the 1960 Broadway production of a 1958 British play of the same name. Bobby Scott won a Grammy Award for his recording of it. A vocal version followed, though the more popular version of it wasby the Beatles, who recorded it for their debut album Please Please Me. You gotta dig the Beatles’ version: when Macca reiterates its quality, of “tasting much sweeter than wine”, his sibilance renders the word “shweeter”, making him sound like a slurring drunk who knows full well the qualities of wine, as well as the honey.

Be that as it may, we’ve chosen the instrumental version by Herbert Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, which also earned a Grammy. Tijuana Brass recorded ‘A Taste of Honey’ for their 1965 album  Whipped Cream & Other Delights. Fittingly, it is a collection of instrumentals about food. Also fittingly, the cover offers a healthy dose of sexy innuendo – one that was popularly parodied by the likes of comedian Pat Cooper (Spaghetti Sauce And Other Delights), Soul Asylum (Clam Dip And Other Delights) and the Frivolous Five (Sour Cream And Other Delights).

Alpert is an interesting person in his own right. Apart from leading this instrumental combo, he was the ‘A’ in A&M Records, a label he founded with business partner Jerry Moss. (After selling it to PolyGram [now Universal], he and Moss start AlMo Sounds whose title is also derived from their surnames. Not as spectacular a label. But then, no record nowadays is as spectacular as when records were still the primary delivery vehicle for music.)

In more recent years, Alpert has taken to painting and sculpture. However, his contribution to popular music is massive, both as a label executive and as a musician.

Find it: ‘A Taste of Honey’ on the 2005 re-issue, Whipped Cream & Other Delights (40th Anniversary Edition). The entire album was remixed the following year as Whipped Cream & Other Delights Rewhipped. Download the original track here.

 

4. Ice Cream Man - Tom Waits 

The dessert more chefs appear to make a mess of than get right on MasterChef is ice cream - even though, when they get it wrong they can pretend it’s some other posh desserty substance like parfait. But Tom Waits ain’t talkin’ about no genteel delicacy.

Once, many years ago while visiting a cute girl who really, really tolerated me, I was engaged in an intense conversation with her incredibly sexy flatmate. We were discussing music, and she was of the opinion that “Tom Waits is just ‘sex-on-a-stick’.” Which went some way to explaining the raggedy-assed hobo of a backpacker she was seeing at the time. They more than merely tolerated each other. They’d more than merely tolerate the hell out of each other quite loudly, most of the night, I seem to remember. ‘Ice Cream Man’ is about sex-on-a-stick's sex-on-a-stick, as the lyrics clearly outline, and he’ll “sure taste good to you.”

In 1970 Waits would play every Monday night at the legendary Troubadour in LA, delivering Dylan covers and a handful of original compositions, of which ‘Ice Cream Man’ was one. Hence its inclusion on his 1973 debut Closing Time – its languid opening giving way to an up-tempo jazz rendition replete with hot guitar licks and snazzy snare shots. Personally, I prefer the demo version Waits recorded a couple of years earlier, when he first landed a management deal. It starts slightly faster, but maintains that pace throughout, with the guitar and drums sticking closer to rock than jazz. Furthermore, the initial piano motif better evokes the tinny chime of the ice cream van. The demo surfaced, against Waits’s wishes, on the first of two volumes of demos entitled The Early Years.

Find it: The original demo lives on The Early Years Vol. 1. Download it here. Or if, like Tom Waits, you prefer the band rendition as released on Closing Time, you can download that one here.

 

5. Chocolate Cake - Crowded House

“As if you’d buy that – what does it even mean?” The question thrown at me one morning in 1991, in the café on the ground floor of the Manning Building at Sydney University. I’d just purchased ‘Chocolate Cake’ on CD, the lead single off the new Crowded House album Woodface. Given the success and excitement of its predecessors, the self-title Crowded House and its follow-up Temple of Low Men, album number three – with the added treat of Neil Finn’s brother Tim on board – seemed promising. Perhaps even a return to – whisper it – Split Enz.

To answer the annoying question, I assume the song’s about indulgence, consumerism and conspicuous consumption – with a chorus about Tammy Baker, wife of disgraced TV evangelist Jim and Andy Warhol laughing in his grave at ‘cheap Picasso fakes’. The recording certainly offers a rich production with the wild harmonica interlude and almost buried vocoder…

Although, in hindsight, it may well have been inspired by how to slice up the cake of royalties, responsibility and influence now that there was one more band member. It certainly seems that way now, considering the way in which the album came about and Crowded House evolved subsequently.

Turns out the brothers Finn had gotten together to start recording a new album. Before its completion, Neil had another due with Crowded House. Unfortunately, Capitol, their label, rejected it considering some of the tracks to be a little weak. So Neil asked Tim if he could use some of the material they’d written together. Tim was happy for that to happen, on condition that he joined the band. It wasn’t the ideal situation – tensions arose, Tim left before they’d completed touring behind the album. Now he says he was joking at the time. Even if the album proved to be neither flesh nor fish – not quite as good as previous Crowded House albums, not quite as good as the Finn album that followed later that decade – Neil and Tim’s harmonies are always a treat. They really are our Antipodean Everlies. The first fruit of their new collaboration was ‘Chocolate Cake’, whose chorus fittingly opens mid-decadence: “Can I have another piece of chocolate cake…?” Go on. Indulge yourself.

Find it: originally on Woodface, or, if you’d prefer, on The Very Very Best Of Crowded House (but not Recurring Dream: The Very Best Of Crowded House; go figure!) Or download it here.

 

6. Tra La La (Banana Splits Theme) - The Banana Splits

Way back in the earlier part of the 20th Century, Aussie writer Norman Lindsay maintained that kids loved reading about food far more than they did fairies and the like – even though ‘fairy tales’, in the most literal sense, were the popular form of children’s literature. Lindsay proved his point in 1918, with the publication of The Magic Pudding, which remains in print today.

Why is this relevant? Because chocolate cake may be an indulgent pleasure for most (and wild honey pie, for a more discerning group that includes Patti Boyd), but the real treat is the banana in the presence of ice cream: the dessert known as the banana split. Which most people will remember as the name of a show they loved as kids: The Banana Splits Adventure Hour.

The show was hosted by another manufactured band aimed at the kids.

The Monkees were manufactured to be like the Beatles, but, proving hard to control, were superseded by the Archies, animated version of the same (and discussed at length in the notes for BastardChef 2). The Archies couldn't rebel like the Monkees…

The Banana Splits couldn't rebel either, but weren't pure animations. They were actors in animal costumes, based on both the Beatles and Monkees. Fleegle the Beagle played guitar, gorilla Bingo took the drum duties, Drooper the lion was on bass and Snorky the elephant played keyboards.

The show was the first produced by Hanna-Barbera to mix live action with cartoons. It employed the services of Sid and Marty Krofft to provide the costumes – serving as a precurs0r to the Krofft-produced HR Pufnstuf. Like HR Pufnstuf, The Banana Splits was a so-called kids' show that appealed to adults - at least the ones who indulged in certain chemical refreshments. Which kind of makes sense, in a drug-addled, conspiracy theorist way:

Among the various varieties of puffin' stuff was the banana skin, or 'banana spliff', that led to the 'Mellow Yellow' high that Donavan sang about. And certain controlled substances, LSD in particular, seem to lead to users reverting to the security of childhood. You see this especially in British psychedelia. When you consider that British kids born just before or during the post-war boom would, when visiting grandma's house, see the remnants of Victoriana - posters of Lord Kitchener, antique spinning tops, photos of tragic Uncle Wilfred in uniform, who was never the same after he came back from the trenches… these were the childhood memories young, hip cool people of the mid- to late-'60s.

The psychedelic sound of the ’60s - phasing, Indian instrumentation, backwards vocals and guitars - isn’t evident in 'The Banana Splits Theme' (though traces of the ‘Strawberry Fields’ mellotron flute are discernible), but it is still childishly simple. The bubblegum sound was provided by an array of fine studio musicians. Coupled with the show’s popularity, it made for durable hits, not least of all the theme song. Sing along: ‘Tra la la, la la la la…’

Not too loudly, though! While loved by many, the few who particularly despise the song sometimes have good reason. Like the neighbours of seemingly indulgent Brighton resident Amanda Millard, for example. They were driven to distraction Amanda’s endless playing of  it, along with the Animals’ ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and Bob Marley’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’. (The chorus of the latter, some have pointed out, shares similar notes as ‘Tra La La’.) While Amanda’s 250-pound fine means she continues to enjoy banana splits rather than being subjected to the bread and water of a custodial sentence, she has to do so at a more considerate volume.

Find it: all over the place, on all sorts of compilations, not least of all Best of Hanna Barbera: Tunes From the Toons! But if you love cartoon themes, the compilation Pic-A-Nic Basket is apt for this project, as well as being comprehensive. If it’s just the one song you’re after, download it here.

 

7. Hail to Thee, Fat Person - Allan Sherman

Let’s just take a moment to catch our breath after all the desserts. We will resume gorging on food songs in a moment. For now, a spoken word piece - to music accompaniment - for everyone who loves their food more than they love their physique, courtesy of portly comedian Allan Sherman.

You may profess not to know him, but you certainly know at least one of Allan’s recorded works.

Sherman’s professional calling was as a comedy writer and producer of television game shows, having devised several successful formats that proved long-lived on the small screen. His sideline was in devising parody lyrics to popular tunes. Initially a party trick, it was a very good one. His next door neighbour Harpo Marx used to invite him over to entertain party guests with his songs. One guest, comedian George Burns, made the call that led to Sherman’s first album, My Son, The Folk Singer , in 1962 – in which old folk tunes were given new lyrics based on Jewish shtick. Like his phone conversation with Sarah Jackman, to the tune of ‘Frère Jacques’: “Sarah Jackman, Sarah Jackman, how’s by you? How’s your sister Rita?” “A regular Lolita!”  

 My Son, The Folk Singer was the fastest selling album for its time, certainly aided by the fact that President Kennedy, for example, was overheard singing ‘Sarah Jackman’ to himself in a hotel foyer.

Other popular parodies include ‘A Waste of Money’, about consumer debt, to the tune of ‘A Taste of Honey’, and ‘Pop Hates The Beatles!’ to the tune of ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’. But the song you’ll know is Sherman’s ‘Hello Muddah! Hello Fuddah!’ from his third album, My Son, The Nut. And you know it in its own right, without realising it’s a parody. So much so, you’ll do the aural equivalent of a double take when you finally hear composer Amilcare Ponchielli’s ‘Dance of the Hours’ (featuring, as it does, in the Disney masterpiece Fantasia, for example) and marvel at how much this piece of classical music reminds you of ‘Hello Muddah! Hello Fuddah!’

But enough of the musicology lesson.

‘Hail To Thee, Fat Person’ is Sherman’s justification of his girth: the result, he insists, of forever being told to “clean his plate”, as there were “children starving in Europe”. We fat people (Sherman, Preston, me, etc) are merely performing a community service. The social imperatives of being a fatso became a big issue recently when a TV anchor made the news for facing down a camera after receiving some feedback from a viewer, proving the timelessness of this piece of social satire.

Find it: originally on My Son, The Nut, and now on My Son, The Greatest: The Best Of Allan Sherman. Download it here.

 

8. No No Cherry - Frank Zappa

Don’t think for an instant that the absence of the seemingly obvious choice – for this volume – of Warrant’s ‘Cherry Pie’ is an oversight. The best thing about that song has always been the image adorning both the single and album cover: pendulously-bosomed, pigeon-toed, redheaded waitress on roller skates (a ‘rollerskaitress’?) who’s accidentally dropped the dessert off her plate. Oh, but look where the slice happens to be situated in the photo, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Pete ’n’ Dud would probably marvel at all the rejected covers, in which the the slice was in the wrong place (it's a classic sketch, should you choose to persevere with the reference…)

But heavy metal riffs and fond memories of having a bit of a think about the cover late at night during an ’80s adolescence notwithstanding, the song kinda sucks. Big time. So apologies if you’re currently shaking your head in disbelief that there’s no, no cherry pie. Instead there's ‘No, No Cherry’, a 1950s doo-wop song originally recorded by The Turbans. It’s based on the same euphemism Warrant called upon for ‘Cherry Pie’. And if you're wondering where this euphemism comes from, research dates it back to at least the 15th Century, where a folk song that tells of “the cherye with-outyn ony stone” is said to be about virginity. Or lack thereof.

You'll agree, it’s fitting then that this happens to be another Frank Zappa song! His version of ‘No, No Cherry’ was performed live as a medley with his own ‘Man From Utopia’, this recording dating from the 1984 tour.

Find it: on You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore - Vol. 4, a double-disc set of some of the best live music by some of the best live musicians you’ll ever get to hear.

 

9. Cherry Pie – Daddy Cool

There may be 'No, No Cherry', but there is also ‘Cherry Pie’, and it's another ’50s doo-wop song. It comes replete with the “fairly redundant piano triplets” (to quote Frank Zappa’s notes on his own nostalgic tribute to the genre and period, Cruising with Ruben & The Jets. Which, incidently, has been given the deluxe reissue treatment more recently as Greasy Love Songs).

‘Cherry Pie’ was written by Joe Josea and Marvin Phillips and originally performed by Marvin & Johnny, but the version included here is by Aussie band Daddy Cool, fronted by local legend Ross Wilson.

The thing about Daddy Cool is that their embrace of vintage American rock’n’roll was authentic. Rather than mere nostalgia, even with the arched eyebrow of irony so beloved for Frank Zappa, the most novel aspect of Daddy Cool’s approach was their sincerity. Hence their securing such gigs as opening for the Everly Brothers. They really did do doo-wop (or perhaps they 'did-wop') better than most. It’s all over their debut album, Daddy Who? Daddy Cool! which features brilliant original compositions along with a wealth of '50s covers.

Daddy Who? Daddy Cool! was such a fine album that it was the first Aussie long play platter to sell over a 100,000 copies in this country – helped, no doubt, by the inclusion of such strong single cuts as ‘Eagle Rock’ and ‘Come Back Again’. The local success, coupled with their accurate reproduction of an essentially American musical idiom, meant the album got a Stateside release – albeit with a revised tracklisting that did not include ‘Cherry Pie’.

Find it: on the re-mastered, re-issued (with additional tracks!) original debut, Daddy Who? Daddy Cool!. If you’re just dabbling, grab the compilation The Essential Daddy Cool. It’s the most comprehensive ‘dabble’ you could hope for.

 

10: Honey Pie - The Beatles

Enough with the cherry pies already. Time to move from the cheap innuendo and old-time '50s music to virtually the same innuendo, and slightly more modern-time music of a '60s song. Except that it is itself a pastiche of a much older music hall style. It seemed to be one of Paul McCartney’s passions, from about 1967, to produce at least one sweet ballad mimicking an older musical idiom, per album: 'When I’m 64' on Sgt Pepper, 'Your Mother Should Know' on Magical Mystery Tour and 'Honey Pie'.

Although John Lennon derided Macca, dismissing his ‘granny music’ as uncool, fact is, its underpinning is as authentically 'swingin' '60s' and cool as any acid drenched masterpiece Lennon created at the time. Recall, as discussed above, the tendency for users of LSD to revert to the comfort of childhood. For Paul McCartney, childhood comfort was a time when his mother was still alive and his dad played in a big band, delivering the sort of songs that Paul would become so adept at recreating a generation later. And it's not as though the 'granny music' was without its charm. That second line, for example, with its super-imposed crackle, as if from the shellac of an old 78 (which in fact it was - a fine bit of sampling) and heavy top-end equalising, is a device still popular today in advertising: think of the amount of radio ads that alternate normal tone with distorted tone throughout the narration.

The protagonist of 'Honey Pie' is bemoaning his beloved's departure from his side to the showbiz stage across the water. It's a love letter to an absent – feared wayward – partner, most likely inspired by McCartney’s own relationship with young actress Jane Asher, whose career was leading her further away from Macca. The song doesn't tell more of a story than that because it doesn’t contain much more than a couple of verses and choruses. At the time, there probably wasn't a lot more to tell - seeing as Macca wasn't the kiss-and-tell type (some of his erstwhile conquests were, however; see Francie Schwartz's Body Count, for example).

Although the lyrics and story stop, the music continues. The syncopated Charleston rhythms speak volumes: Macca embracing the old music that takes him back to a happier place. As he maintains in the spoken line over the instrumental break, he likes that kind of music. Take that, Lennon!

Nearly 45 years later, it’s fitting to note the Jane Asher – effectively responsible for ‘Honey Pie’ in the first place, now has another string to her bow that enables her to be responsible for honey pie still. Since 1990, Asher has run a posh cake company which her website boasts as being “Britain’s foremost cake and sugarcraft supplier.” And, let's face it, also nearly 45 years later, it’s fitting to note that Jane Asher is still quite a tasty dish.

Find it: on disc 2 of The Beatles (aka ‘The White Album’).

 

11: Wedding Cake Island - Midnight Oil

Moving on from the cherry and honey pies via Jane Asher’s “foremost supply of cake and sugarcraft” comes this evocative instrumental, ‘Wedding Cake Island’, named not for a massive wedding cake that resembles an island (for no man-and-wife is an island), but for an island allegedly resembling a wedding cake, lying off Sydney’s Coogee Beach. ‘Allegedly resembling a wedding cake’ is correct: there aren’t many accounts of how the island got its name. In fact, there are only two: once claims it looks like a wedding cake, but it clearly does not. The other suggests it’s the thick layer of predominantly white seagull guano, resembling a smooth icing, which leads to the cakular allusion.

If not a wedding cake, what does the instrumental evoke? It’s described as a ‘surf instrumental’, inspired as it is by an ocean formation. And it certainly shares a big, broad twang beloved of surf music. Consider, for example, the Atlantics’ ‘Bombora’. A bombora, or ‘bommie’ is a submerged rock, reef or other formation creating large, crashing waves over a shallower area beyond where the surf normally breaks. The surging surf music perfectly evokes those impressive, surging surf waves.

The calmer ‘Wedding Cake Island’ doesn’t seem to speak of the mighty surf that the island in question often produces, having more in common with the spaced-out sounds of recording pioneer Joe Meek (responsible for the likes of ‘Telstar’ and ‘I Hear A New World’). Bent notes courtesy of the wammy bar may sound ‘Hawaiian’, and therefore irrefutably ‘surfy’, but coupled with the high-pitched vibrato, suggests a very different seascape – almost otherworldly.

If you reckon not many cakes can transport you out of this world in everyday life – well, not legally, anyway – you don’t have a sweet enough tooth.

Find it: on the EP Bird Noises. Download it here.


12. Rockestra Theme - Rockestra

We started with an instrumental, we're gonna almost end with one. Almost, because it's not quite an instrumental. But it's certainly an excellent closer: phased synths, surging guitars, crashing drums… it’s almost surf music – certainly closer to the blueprint than Midnight Oil’s ‘Wedding Cake Island’. But it’s got nothing to do with the ocean. In fact, it’s almost got nothing to do with anything at all.

The reason it’s here is not for composer Paul McCartney’s grunts, but for the one vocal refrain: “I still have not had any dinner!” As everyone knows – you have to finish your dinner before you get to enjoy your dessert. Or, as that mean old school master put it in Pink Floyd’s The Wall, “how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” (“You! Yes you! Stand still, laddie…!”)

George Harrison may have invented the charity rock-on-athon with 1971’s Concert for Bangladesh, and Bob Geldof, taken it to its supreme conclusion with Band Aid in 1985. Paul McCartney’s own version was the Concerts for Kampuchea that involved the likes of The Who, Queen, The Clash, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Rockpile and The Pretenders. The finale was an all-star jam with members of the various groups, combined in one supergroup called Rockestra, delivering the classic rocker ‘Lucille’, modern-day rock’n’roll hymn ‘Let It Be’ and their very own ‘Rockestra Theme’.

McCartney had the melody that makes up the theme for years. There’s a rough work tape from about 1974 – bootlegged under the title The Piano Tape – that features Macca at the piano, banging out snatches and fragments of various works–in–progress, many of which would be finished and recorded during the subsequent decade-and-a-half. ‘Rockestra’ appears on that tape. The studio version was recorded at Abbey Road with Paul McCartney fronting not just Wings, but a megaband similar to the one captured live as the final to the Concerts for Kampuchea. It was, indeed, a ‘Rock Orchestra’. Or, if you will, a Rockestra, and it included members of The Who, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

The 'Rockestra Theme' was included on Wings’ final album, 1979’s Back to the Egg. A fitting title, given this 'BastardChef' project. But it's a little ironic that the piece of music became the signature tune for a fundraiser to aid a starving people in war-torn Cambodia, given the vocal refrain about still not having had any dinner. To say the very least, it is of questionable – ahem – taste.

Find it: on Wings’ final studio album, Back to the Egg. Download it here.

 

 How do you feel? Utterly stuffed? Go easy, but come back for Bastard Chef 4 real soon.


Christmas time is here again

Beatles-christmas-club

 

When I was a kid, there was a guy called Bruce Hamlin - or ‘Beatles Bruce’ - who used to broadcast regularly on Radio Manly Warringah, a community radio station based in Narrabeen.

He used to produce a half-hour show each week, playing songs around specific themes.

One week he played flip sides of Beatles solo singles that hadn’t made it (at that stage) to albums.

That’s how I first got to hear ‘C Moon’, the dub reggae flip side of the Wings single ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’. (The a-side was included on the album Wings Greatest, but the flip side didn’t make it to an album until a decade later, when it appeared on the double album Paul McCartney: All The Best.)

Beatles Bruce was the guy who informed me of the existence Beatles’ Christmas records. Each year, from 1963 to 1969, the Beatles released a flexidisc (a flimsy plastic record) housed in a proper cover, to members of their official fan club, as a Christmas present. Initially, they were ‘thanks for the support’ messages. Later on they became surreal stream-of-conscious ‘sketches’. In the end they were separate messages from four estranged musicians, edited together by their mate and fellow Scouser, Kenny Everett. The ‘sketches’ were very Goon Showesque. At times a bit Pythonesque. But crazy.

And interestingly enough, their producer, George Martin, who was also boss of the Parlophone label when the Beatles signed to it, had actually pioneered producing excellent comedy records – by the Goons, Beyond the Fringe, and Flanders & Swann. Indeed, one of the reasons the Beatles were happy to be signed to Parlophone was because of their love of the Goons.

The most annoying aspect of the Beatles Christmas records is that they have never been made commercially available. Except for the musical theme – and extended excerpt, if you will – of the 1967 Christmas record, entitled ‘Christmas Time (Is Here Again)’. It finally appeared, officially, as the flip side of the Beatles ‘reunion single’ that kicked off the Anthology project, ‘Free As A Bird’.

The records were pressed by an independent operation called Lyntone. It wasn’t a label, but a manufacturer. Decades later, someone had the bright idea to check the warehouse. Turns out there was a storeroom that still had piles of each year’s record. It was a simple matter to purchase the excess stock. Oh, to have had that idea first and to own copies…

Instead, I have to be content with stumbling across the odd bootleg.

If this is all news to you, it gives me great pleasure to pass on the baton. Just as ‘Beatles Bruce’ introduced me to the Beatles Christmas records, I am doing the same for you. Tune in to ABC 702 (hopefully it'll be broadcast around Australia) at 11pm EST on Christmas Eve (tonight) to hear me discussing – and playing excerpts from – these records, as Rod Quinn’s guest. (I normally talk comedy with Rod once a month at 4am on the ABC Local Radio network; over the Christmas break, Rod’s hosting The Night Life.)

Enjoy.

(PS – check out other upcoming gigs and broadcasts on my homepage. And PPS, Bruce Hamlin is still alive and well and keeping his mail list informed about releases and events in the Beatle universe. Find him at all the major Sydney record fairs.)

 

Beatles-christmas-singles


Music Nerdery

A regular Tuesday night feature on James O’Loghlin’s evening show on ABC 702 is the presence of a music critic who plays a bunch of songs around a specific theme. Listeners phone in with more suggestions along those lines, and generally chat about music. I’ve had the opportunity to play the role of the music nerd a couple of times, I’m happy to say, I’ve picked a few interesting themes. I’ll try and list them from memory, but the examples are in no way exhaustive.

Songs of Youthful Innocence

Happy Jack’ – The Who

Games Without Frontiers’ – Peter Gabriel

Effervescing Elephant’ – Syd Barrett

Itchycoo Park’ – The Small Faces

There Is A Happy Land’ – David Bowie

Songs about Cars and Driving

Helen Wheels’ – Paul McCartney and Wings

I’m In Love With My Car’ – Queen

Roadrunner’ – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

You Can’t Catch Me’ – John Lennon’s Rock ’n’ Roll cover of Chuck Berry, so I could tell the story of Morris Levy, and how that Jewish mafioso on The Sopranos, Hesh Rabkin, is based on Levy

Songs by Singers Begat by Other Singers

These Boots Were Made For Walking’ – Nancy Sinatra

My Mother Is A Space Cadet’ – Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa

probably ‘Hallelujah’ – Jeff Buckley


You get the idea.

The most interesting one was a bunch of songs about monkeys. Do you think you can fill an hour with songs about monkeys? To be fair, with the news that tops and tails the hour plus chatting and listeners’ feedback, you only need about six songs. But can you even name two off the top of your head?

Here are a few examples: ‘Mickey’s Monkey’ – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles; ‘Monkey To Man’ – Elvis Costello and ‘The Monkey’, by Dave Bartholomew, who inspired the Costello song; ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man’ – The Travelling Wilburys; ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey’ – The Beatles, ‘Funky Gibbon’ – The Goodies; ‘Ape Man’ by The Kinks. And to be honest, I didn’t actually play the last two, so there are actually more than you imagine.

From this brief overview, I admit that there is a broad pattern forming: there’s almost always going to be a Beatles song, a Bowie song and an Elvis Costello song. That’s because they are among my favourite artists, and so their work comes to mind rather easily.

I’ve been asked to provide a segment for Tuesday 26th, and I’m thinking of trying a theme I’ve tried once before, that’s been knocked back on grounds of taste. I’d like to play songs inspired by madness. I think it can be done tastefully, and I think that it is particularly significant at this time, when newspaper headlines are telling us that police are arresting and locking up the mentally ill because sufferers are not being adequately taken care of by the healthcare system. Maybe charity helplines should be advertised between tracks.

I know this is going to be a hard sell, but I think the arts have always been an outlet by creative people exploring the workings of their minds, for better or worse, tastefully or otherwise.

Here are some samples I have come up with:

Brain Damage/Eclipse

Apparently Pink Floyd were drawing inspiration from their departed founding member and former lead guitarist Syd Barrett, for whom the mind-altering chemicals became too much. The song is the last on the masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon, a concept album that ends – if you turn the volume all the way up to catch it – with these depressing words: “there is no dark side o’ the moon, really; matter of fact, it’s all dark”.

Psycho

I forget who sings the original, although I’m sure I own – or at least listened to a lot with a view to owning, when I was working in a High Fidelity-type record shop – a seven-inch single of the original, repressed on Glenn A Baker’s Raven Records label. I also have the Beasts of Bourbon’s version on their debut album Axeman’s Jazz as well as Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ live version from either of the expanded, re-issue versions of Almost Blue. I love the song because it is dark, foreboding and a prime example of a genre known as ‘Southern Gothic’ – kind of all that dark Eastern European superstition, taken from the sheer mountaintops of countries tormented by mad barons who turn into vampires or build Frankenstein’s monsters, and relocated to the deep south of the United States.

David Bowie

I name the artist rather than the song because this particular artist has so many examples to choose from. It turns out that Bowie’s half-brother Terry, who exerted a lot of influence – as big brothers do — on the developing talents of young David Robert Jones, died a tragic death connected to the mental anquish he suffered. At least, that’s how I understand it, never having spoken about it first hand with Bowie. Yet madness features throughout the Dame’s oeuvre. It’s a hard choice, but I’d easily overlook the textbook ‘All the Madmen’, or ‘Aladdin Sane’ (despite the latter’s gorgeous grand piano, couresy of Mike Garson) – and ‘Jump They Say’ probably doesn’t even come close – for ‘Kooks’, a delightful little ballad that appears on breakthrough album Hunky Dory. I like it because it is an eccentric ditty welcoming a new child to the eccentric family – you can imagine that Bowie wrote it specifically to welcome the birth of son Zowie.

Beware of Darkness

Whenever I listen to this thoughtful number from All Things Must Pass, George Harrison’s first solo album proper recorded as the Beatles fell apart, I picture him lying awake after one hippie joint too many has sent his mind wandering in circles, not just helplessly, but unhelpfully. Apparently the early draft was called ‘Beware of ABKCO’, the company headed by Allen Klein (‘Allen and Betty Klein and Co, in fact) who was representing Harrison, Lennon and Starr while Paul McCartney sued for the disolution of the partnership that had been Beatles Ltd. “Watch out now, take care, beware of thoughts that linger…” (except that brilliant Liverpudlian accent renders ‘take care’ and ‘beware’ as ‘take kerr’ and ‘bewerr’…)

And one of my personal favourites: ‘Uncorrected Personality Traits

This is another eccentric little ditty by Robyn Hitchcock, the last of the great British eccentrics. I can’t remember what album it’s from, but it’s certainly a solo effort – something that came between the passing of his punk band The Soft Boys and his later band The Egyptians. It deals with more Freudian concepts of unwellness: “Uncorrected personality traits that seem whimsical in a child may prove to be ugly in a fully grown adult.”


Any other suggestions? Feel free to comment.


Podcasting Marty

Martycover

This is quite a long-winded introduction, but the point is the comedy that you can download as MP3 files, if you are so inclined, so stick with it.

For the last little while, Richard Fidler has been hosting radio shifts on ABC 702 during holiday time when regular hosts are on vacation. During these periods, he gets me in to talk comedy. In addition to having a general discussion about trends and developments, it’s an opportunity for me to raid my own comedy archives.

This time around, for example, I took the opportunity to play a bit of Bill Hicks, justifying it with not just the recent release of a performance DVD, Bill Hicks Live, but also because 2004 marked the tenth anniversary of Hicks’s passing. Carefully removing the cussing (“scumsucking fucks”, I believe, was the offending phrase, for the free-thinkers and free-speakers amongst you), I edited together two excellent little bits on the American Presidency. In addition to whichever albums they originally featured on, they may be found on the excellent compilation entitled Philosophy: The Best of Bill Hicks.

I also played yet another excerpt from the interview conducted with Graeme Garden in honour of the impending Goodies tour of Australia. This Goodies bit opens with the the show’s signature call-out, followed by discussion with Graeme of the perception of The Goodies as a ‘kids’ program’, and the censorship that resulted. It serves as a great reason to segue to a skit about censorship from I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, a radio show that featured, amongst its cast, The Goodies and John Cleese, prior to Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Goodies coming into existence.

My favourite artifact was a recording of the old Pete ’n’ Dud sketch ‘One Leg Too Few’, as performed by Kenneth Williams. This requires a bit of context: prior to Peter Cook graduating from Cambridge, and indeed, the university club that proved a training ground for many English comedians-to-be, the Cambridge Footlights, he was recognised as a talented writer and was commissioned to write some sketches for Kenneth Williams, already established by that stage as a comic performer. The ‘One Leg Too Few’ sketch went on to appear in Beyond the Fringe, the show commission for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, featuring OxBridge graduates Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, (Dr Sir) Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. Pete ’n’ Dud went on to perform the sketch as a duo. The interesting thing about Kenneth Williams’s version is the existence of a tag that was later dropped.

These older recordings are always a bit of a hit, as the following unsolicited e-mail shows:


Hello

I was listening to you the other night on Radio 702, so I thought (and would appreciate) if you may be able to answer this question:

I've been chasing for some years the classic Marty Feldman sketch in which he plays a ballet dancer being reprimanded by the theatre manager for a drunken performance of the Nutcracker ballet on the previous night, and it being re-counted the disgraceful things he did in performance.

Do you know of the sketch and what show it originated from (I thought it's maybe from At Last The 1948 Show)? And do you know if it is available in any current recorded medium?

Thanks for your time


I must admit that I have had trouble locating any sound recordings from At Last the 1948 Show, a program that featured John Cleese and Graham Chapman before Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Tim Brooke-Taylor before The Goodies and Marty Feldman before he emigrated to Hollywood and became a regular in Mel Brooks films. The only At Last the 1948 Show material I've found from that time is the stuff that the Pythons re-hashed either on record (the ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch comes to mind - the Secret Policeman’s Ball version is the only one I have a recording of – or ‘The Bookshop’ sketch that appears on the Monty Python Contractual Obligation album) or in print (John Cleese gave a couple of the sketches a run in his book entitled The Golden Sketches of Wing Commander Muriel Volestrangler – in which, I notice, the ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch is entitled ‘The Good Old Days’.)

I know that huge swathes of At Last the 1948 Show were wiped rather than retained; at that time it was believed that the cost of videotape was great and the chance of comedy being of interest decades down the track, minimal; a great book on the topic exists, called Missing, Presumed Wiped and covers comedy as well as drama and science fiction. Thus, not much of the mere thirteen episodes remains.

However, the ‘Ballet’ sketch comes from Marty Feldman’s follow-up show to At Last the 1948 Show. Entitled Marty, it featured Tim Brooke-Taylor as a regular contributor and performer and, significantly, Terry Gilliam provided animated opening credits. A record of this was released, also entitled Marty, a very scratchy copy of which resides in my record collection.

The ‘Ballet’ sketch is excellent, but I particularly like ‘Bishop’. “You what?!” Feldman’s cockney, workingclass Bishop of No Fixed Abode reacts to a train passenger (played by Brooke-Taylor) who has admitted to being agnostic. “You stupid git! You try telling Him that you’re agnostic when you get up there and He’ll smash your teeth in… in His infinite mercy.”

There are two other sketches I’ve decided to include. The first is entitled ‘Weather Forecast’, which is a bit unfortunate, as it gives away the punchline. (This sort of titular cock-up, when presenting comedy, should probably be defined as a ‘to get to the other side’ error!) It has a similar feel to the apocalyptic sketch, ‘The End of the World’, that first appeared in Beyond the Fringe and was featured in The Secret Policeman’s Ball.

The other is a cute little bit of nonsense entitled ‘Salome’.

In all, Marty is a great album, and, I assume, a great comedy series, if, indeed, it is still in existence in somebody’s archive.