BastardChef: 4 Cryin' Out Loud!

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Aren't you pleased MasterChef is making a return! And with such a groundbreaking, non-gimmicky new format. We're particularly happy here at Stand & Deliver! because we get to compile another bunch of food-related songs. For now, Volume 4 of this series will be a slow-release degustation menu of food-related songs.

  1. Peaches En Regalia - Frank Zappa
  2. Wild Honey Pie - The Beatles

1: Peaches En Regalia - Frank Zappa


As the story goes, FZ encountered one of his blues heroes while touring with the Mothers of Invention. Rather than living it up as a well-regarded superstar, the old bluesman was scratching out a living painting a music studio. Some kind of despair must have ensued, as Zappa promptly disbanded the Mothers and recorded and released his first 'solo' album – featuring a supporting cast of virtuosi. 'Peaches En Regalia' is the track that kicks it off.

The title makes it sound like a juicy dessert or a delicious cocktail –but we’re talking Zappa here, so assume his intent regards a different variety of peach altogether. Or at the very least, the other variety of tail. Since it’s an instrumental, it doesn’t really matter. However, if you do consider it to be part of the genre, it is one of the more subtle of the euphemistic ‘yummy dessert=delicious woman’ songs. And if you dig that kind of thing, check out the cherry-related songs that appear in Bastard Chef III: Just Desserts.

Since Zappa did reconvene the Mothers - well, not the Mothers, but other line-ups of musicians under that name ('Others'?) - and toured them extensively while releasing albums prolifically, there are a number of live versions available on various collections. The most interesting is 'Peaches III', so-named because it was the third version released up to that time (the second was the live version on Fillmore East - June 1971, credited to 'The Mothers'). Located on the mostly live Tinsel Town Rebellion, 'Peaches III' is delivered with mostly synthetic instrumentation and squared-off rhythms, sounding as though it was inspired by Devo, who were big at the time.

Find it: opening the album Hot Rats as well as the compilation Strictly Commercial: The Best Of Frank Zappa. ('Peaches III' will appear on a later BastardChef compilation.) 

Listen it: on Youtube.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Wild Honey Pie - The Beatles

A cynical observer once suggested Paul McCartney’s first solo album, McCartney, marked the point where the erstwhile Beatles bassist finally achieved something he’d been attempting as early as Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: he’d finally produced an album upon which only he appeared, performing everything himself. By the time of Sgt Pepper there had been songs that featured one Beatle and session musicians – George Harrison fronting an Indian musical combo, as on ‘Within You Without You’, Paul and the string quartet on ‘Yesterday’. But The Beatles (aka ‘The White Album’) frequently featured songs created by the Beatles working in pairs or solo.

Thus, while John Lennon and Ringo Starr were enconced in another studio and George was away on holiday, Macca doodled for the sheer fun of it on this little ditty. The short song, described by McCartney as “an experiment”, sounds like a novelty: silly, over-the-top multi-tracked voices in American accents, spring-like sound effects of bent guitar strings. ‘Wild Honey Pie’ was apparently included on The Beatles  because, like the song’s protagonist, Patti Boyd (Mrs George Harrison at the time) happened to like it.

More than a precursor to the similarly doodled-for-the-sheer-fun-of-it McCartney, ‘Wild Honey Pie’ seems in the first place to be yet another cross reference to the Beach Boys: bass players of both bands seemed to inspire each other’s subsequent albums throughout the ’60s, Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper famously upping respective antes until Smile failed to appear, the Beach Boys ending 1967 with the album Wild Honey (the title track was its lead single). It could be a passing reference.

In the second place, it is also a pre-emptive defence of ‘Honey Pie’, a song that came later on ‘The White Album’ – but more of that later.

Find it: on disc 1 of The Beatles (aka ‘The White Album’).


BastardChef: MasterChef Music

 

Matt-Preston-420x0

Here's the thing: after the initial success of Masterchef, they got Matt Preston to put his mug on the cover of a compilation CD.

It had a nice title with a pun in it: Music from Another Platter.

It had a varied line-up of artists old and new.

It claimed to be music for cooking and eating.

I think it was a missed opportunity, particularly given that Matt Preston set out as a music journo and ended up a food critic.

I reckon he should have compiled the best collection of songs about food.

But he didn't.

So I've done it for him: what with the premiere of the 2012 season of Masterchef, I present Bastard Chef.

It’s actually a boxed set.

This is the track listing of volume one:

  1. Yummy Yummy Yummy I Got Love In My Tummy - Ohio Express
  2. Watermelon Man - Herbie Hancock
  3. Vegetables - Beach Boys
  4. St Alfonso’s Pancake Breakfast/Father O’Blivion - Frank Zappa/Mothers
  5. Cook of the House - Linda McCartney & Wings
  6. Crawfish - Elvis Presley
  7. Cook Cook Blues - Rolling Stones
  8. The Raspberry Song - The Goons
  9. Popcorn - Hot Butter
  10. Beans & Cornbread - Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five
  11. Chewy Chewy - Ohio Express
  12. Agita - Nick Apollo Forte aka Lou Canova

If you want, you can listen to the album below. While you read through the track list in better detail. Go on, you know you want to. If you like them very much indeed to the point of wanting to own them, there are links to Amazon. You may prefer to keep your own local music store alive if you still have one; if you don’t, the Amazon purchase will aid the upkeep of this blog, which is nice.

By the way, the cover artwork is by Alex E. Clark. (If you can only see an expanse of white immediately below, check this out on a computer rather than your phone or tablet.)

 

Bastard Chef from standanddeliver on 8tracks.

 

 

1: Yummy Yummy Yummy - Ohio Express

Bubble gum’ is a genre of pop that came into being in the late ’60s when the kid brothers and - more importantly - sisters of the swingin’ youth were getting to a record buying age. So it mostly consists of producer- and session-musician driven, sickly sweet ditties designed for tweens and teens buying singles. ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’ is a prime example – but don’t dismiss it. Fundamental truths are often communicated in the simplist aphorisms.

Even if ‘Yummy yummy yummy/I got love in my tummy’ doesn’t resonate with the authority of a quote from Shakespeare or Dylan – the ‘Love, you're such a sweet thing/Good enough to eat thing’ might get us into Rochester territory – often the truest food of love is, in fact, food. And there’s no denying that the love of food is one of the truest loves there is. (Just ask Matt Preston and his fellow judges.)


Find it: on the compilation Yummy Yummy Yummy: Best of the Ohio Express. Download it here.

 

2: Watermelon Man - Herbie Hancock

If there’s one thing you learn from MasterChef, it’s the importance of fresh ingredients and the value of establishing relationships with providores: going to growers markets when you can’t grow your own. Of course, back in the day, they used to come to you – hence the 16-bar blues of ‘Watermelon Man’: inspired, according to composer Herbie Hancock, by the memory of the watermelon man who made his way through the backstreets and alleys of Hancock's neighbourhood in Chicago. He distinctly recalls the rhythm of the wheels on the cobblestones, apparent in the groove of the piece.

Recorded for Hancock's first album, the 1962 Blue Note album Takin’ Off, ‘Watermelon Man’ proved a modest hit before Mongo Santamaria turned it into a massive Latin pop hit the following year. It soon became a jazz standard. Hancock reworked it into an altogether funkier tune for his early ’70s album Headhunters. There is a vocal version that makes obvious use of the unmistakeable ‘watermelon man’ cadence.

Find it: on the remastered Takin’ Off. Download it here.

 

3: Vegetables - The Beach Boys

‘Vegetables’ – not only delicious, but good for you too. The hippies knew it. Hence this paean to the edible parts of plants. Originally intended for Smile, the long, lost Beach Boys masterpiece that was meant to be a follow-up to Pet Sounds. But Smile was shelved with much drama, intrigue and subsequent denials and recriminations, thought never to see the light of day again. Until Brian Wilson released a solo version of it earlier this millennium. And then the original Smile sessions were excavated for a mammoth boxed set that included a reconstruction of the lost masterpiece in 2011.

However, back in the day, when for whatever reason the original was shelved (Wilson’s paranoia, stoked by summer of love chemical refreshments; the rest of the band’s disinterest; the record label balking at the mounting costs of hippies frittering away their money…), the song was salvaged for the less spectacular album that was eventually released:  Smiley Smile.

Apparently the ‘tuned percussion’ of munched vegetables include the chomping talents of Paul McCartney, who happened to pop in to the studio during the Smile sessions.

Find it: On the remastered 2-albums-on-1-CD collection Smiley Smile/Wild Honey. Download it here .


4: St Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast/Father O’Blivion - Frank Zappa/Mothers

In the early-to-mid-’70s Frank Zappa led his most jazzy line-up of the Mothers of Invention. They were (like all of Zappa’s bandmembers) musicially brilliant, irrespective of the silly lyrics they were called upon to underscore – and I say that as someone who digs the silly lyrics!

To give you some idea of how well-rehearsed the band was, it’s been told (by a local muso who hung out with Zappa’s trumpeter, Sal Marquez, on the 1973 Aussie tour) that at any time, Frank could call upon a bandmember, naming a song and a bar. The musician was then expected to hum their corresponding part.

‘St Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast’ and ‘Father O’Blivion’ are two songs that make up the four-song suite that opens the album Apostrophe (’) (it begins with ‘Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow’, followed by ‘Nanook Rubs It’). Another track, ’MAH-JUH-RENE’, was recorded, but edited out of the final master before it was released; it may have fitted between ‘St Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast’ and ‘Father O’Blivion’ but it’s hard to ascertain – a live recording from Sydney 1973 puts it after ‘St Alphonso’, but that rendition opens with ‘Father O’Blivion’ before proceeding to ‘Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow’ and ‘Nanook Rubs It’.

I’ll leave it up to you to find the deeper meaning; I just love listening to that band play - Ruth Underwood's percussion especially - with Frank up front, singing lead.

Find it: on the CD Apostrophe (’). Not available for download.

 

5: Cook of the House - Linda McCartney and Wings

This song, essentially a low-fi blues jam, was written in Australia during – or perhaps just after – the Wings tour of 1975. It was recorded in early 1976 for the album Wings at the Speed of Sound. The album came out in March, giving the band an album to tour behind when they went back on the road (their ‘Wings over the World’ tour culminated in the US in 1976).

The story goes that Paul and Linda were staying in a house whose kitchen had everything they could possibly need, laid out around them pretty much as described in the song. The white noise of frying oil that opens and closes the song is a nice touch.

Wings at the Speed of Sound has always stood out as a particularly ‘group’ album - with everyone getting a go on lead: Denny Laine sings lead on ‘Note You Never Wrote’ and ‘Time To Hide’; Jimmy McCulloch sings lead on ‘Wino Junko’; Joe English sings lead on ‘Must Do Something About It’.

‘Cook of the House’ was Linda's contribution. It also appeared on the flipside of the 1976 single ‘Silly Love Songs’. And hardcore fans of Linda McCartney will know ‘Cook of the House’ also appears on Wide Prairie, a posthumous compilation widower Paul put together in 1998.

Irrespective of your thoughts on Macca's missus, ‘Cook of the House’ has a certain charm. Matt Preston please note: it is the most cooking of cooking songs.

Find it: on Wings at the Speed of Sound and Wide Prairie. Meanwhile, download it here.

 

6: Crawfish - Elvis Presley

In January 1958 Elvis Presley was able to defer his entry into the United States Army to March of that year, in order to make one of his few critically and commercially successful films: King Creole.

It’s a bout a 19-year-old Danny Fisher whose mother died, and now finds himself having to help support his family after his dad dropped his bundle and the family was forced to moved to the impoverished area of New Orleans. Despite being well-meaning and diligent, Danny finds himself entangled with gangsters and two different women.

The film opens with ‘Crawfish’, a duet with jazz vocalist Kitty White on what sounds like the classic work song – the work song sung, say, by the fishmonger who’d push his icecart through the back alleys of neighbourhoods selling his latest catch. Those days are long gone, not so much because of the lack of pavement-bashing fish mongers, but because BP went and destroyed the fishing industry for good in that part of the world.

Find it: on the King Creole soundtrack.

 

7: Cook Cook Blues - Rolling Stones

As with all of the workhorse blues workouts the Stones are wont to record during album sessions, this is essentially an extended warm-up jam kept for a single flip-side. The lyrics are the customary underdeveloped sketches about sex, the music, an opportunity for the band to stretch out and have fun.

This one was committed to tape between 1982 and 1989 – meaning it could date from the sessions for Undercover (released 1983), Dirty Work (1986) or Steel Wheels (1989). Or perhaps all three, since the Stones still like to pull out an old song and finish it for a new album (or a new deluxe re-release of an old album, as the bonus discs of Exile on Main Streetand Some Girls demonstrate).

‘Cook Cook Blues’ saw the light of day as the flipside of the 1989 single ‘Rock and a Hard Place’ (from Steel Wheels), but features both the original Stones ivory tickler Ian Stewart, who passed away in 1985, and former Allman Brothers Bandmember Chuck Leavell, responsible for much ’80s Stones ivory ticklage, suggesting an early=’80s recording that was possibly polished and edited for late-’80s release.

I love the way it begins mid-song – as though what took place before the fade-up wasn't quite worth keeping. Or, perhaps, there was no initial plan to tape the jam, but it suddenly got good, so the person in charge of pressing ‘record’ suddenly did.

Find it: with difficulty! Completists will locate it on the 45-disc boxed set The Complete Singles (1971-2006), worth it for so many other hard-to-get gems!

 

8: The Raspberry Song - The Goons

In the late-’70s, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe – collectively known as The Goons thanks to their long-running radio program The Goon Show – had a reunion of sorts: they recorded a couple of tracks that were issued as a single, and then compiled on an album called Unchained Melodies. One of those songs was The ‘Raspberry Song’.

 

You know how important it is to health and diet to stick to the seasonal fruits and veges! ‘The Raspberry Song’ is about nothing, if not seasonal fruits. (That is, it’s about nothing!) Thus, just like the raspberry, that trademark sound effect so beloved of Spike Milligan, the song pretty much speaks for itself.

Find it: on the recently remastered and reissued Unchained Melodies: Complete Recordings 1955-1978.

 

9: Popcorn - Hot Butter

Popcorn is everyone’s favourite treat! And – apart from, perhaps, Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs – something that exists only in and of itself. What else can you ‘cook’ or ‘prepare’ with popcorn? Only other forms of candy, apparently. Fittingly, ‘Popcorn’ it’s also everyone's favourite instrumental – you know it, you've always known it, even if you never knew its name.

This legendary piece was originally written and recorded in the late ’60s by Moog maestro Gershon Kingsley for his 1969 album Music to Moog By . Hot Butter, an instrumental covers band who gave everything the Moog treatment, recorded it – along with other hits of the day like ‘Day By Day’ from the Jesus musical Godspell, Neil Diamond’s ‘Song Sung Blue’, the Tornadoes’ ‘Telstar’ and the Shadows’ ‘Apache’ – for their self-titled album in 1972.

It was a worlwide chart-topper, doing amazing business in unlikely countries. It was France’s fastest-selling number one single, for example. It was also number one in Australia for ten weeks. Which is why it seems to be etched into everybody’s psyche in Australia, irrespective of age.

Find it: as the title track on the album Popcorn. Download it here.

 

10: Beans and Corn Bread - Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five

Beans and corn bread sounds like everyman’s food – traditionally ‘poor people food’. The stuff MasterChef celebrates, as long as it has some sophisticated twist, or is plated up nicely. Fittingly, ‘Beans and Cornbread’ was everyman’s music, the distinctive tenor saxophone opening typifying the ‘jump blues’ genre of the 1940s: big bands have given away to smaller, tighter combos that play a faster and more furious groove. It was very popular inded, hence Louis Jordan making a name for himself as ‘The King of the Jukebox’.

‘Beans and Corn Bread’ sounds like there’s a message being imparted about friendship and getting along, but it’s all threat and bluster until they realise they belong together. Seems like there’s not enough substance to read anything into. The song proved a highlight in the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s film Malcolm X. And, it turns out, there was a tradition where the Space Shuttle launch crew were fed beans and corn bread following a successful launch.

Find it: on the compilation Best of Louis Jordan. Download it here.

 

11: Chewy Chewy - Ohio Express

Really? Two songs by the same group on this compilation? What was I thinking? But ‘Chewy Chewy’ is the companion piece to ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’. In fact, I’d argue it’s the better song – ‘a mouthful of cute things to say’ is far more erudite than ‘having love’ in one’s ‘tummy’. (The other song that is easy to lump with those is the far superior ‘Bread and Butter’ by the Newbeats – look out for it on a future compilation, I promise.)

Find it: on the compilation Yummy Yummy Yummy: Best of the Ohio Express. Download it here.

 

12: Agita - Nick Apollo Forte, aka Lou Canova

This is where the collection should have begun – the ultimate song for people who are prone to fall madly in love. With food. (Matt, this should have been on your compilation!)

‘Agita’ opens the Woody Allen classic Broadway Danny Rose, about the biggest loser of a showbiz manager there is – the title character, portrayed by Woody himself. How can he make a living when his books include a one-armed juggler, a one-legged tap-dancer, and a ventriloquist with a stutter? His one chance at the big time is the lounge singer Lou Canova – except Lou’s got a thing for extra-marital affairs, and his latest mistress is a gangster moll (played by Mia Farrow).

Lou’s signature song, the theme to the film, is this ballad inspired by over-eating and woman trouble. Both lead to the heartburn known, in Italian dialect, as ‘agita’.

Find it: on the album Legacy, available from Nick Apollo Forte’s homepage. But do yourself a favour: enjoy the song in context, and watch the film Broadway Danny Rose. Best value is the The Woody Allen Collection boxed set.

 

Check Out:

Soup to Nuts: BastardChef Too



The Beachles

A while ago I spent some time ruminating on the best course of action for the Who and the Beatles, seeing as the former band have lost their original drummer and bass player, while the latter are down to their drummer and bass player. Make way, then for the Whotles: Roger Daltry, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. In the same little blog entry, I suggested that it were far more likely that the pushy, bass playing, mutual back-slapping, musical genii of the Beach Boys and the Beatles would join together first: Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney of the Beachles.

Well, it seems someone else has liked that idea.

Make way for Sgt Petsounds, by the Beachles!

Sgtpetsoundstemporary


If I were brutally honest, I’d be forced to admit that these mash-ups are quite heavy-handed compared to, say, The Grey Album by Danger Mouse (the mash-up of The Beatles’ so-called ‘White Album’ and Jay-Z’s Black Album). Sgt Petsounds is still a worthy undertaking nonetheless.

Thanks to Michael Larson for pointing its existence out to me!


ADDENDUM

Clayton Counts, the artist behind the Beachles’ Sgt Petsounds project, writes


…Your honesty is appreciated, but I'd like to point something out to you. I am friends with a good number of producers and DJs, and like me a great number of them feel as if the Grey Album is sub-standard. I could give you examples, and even show you just how little work went into the construction of those tracks. Many of them are one or two loops set to a simple beat, and there's hardly any Beatles material on the record. You even get the impression at times that Dangermouse doesn't much like the Beatles.

Don't get me wrong... I do like Dangermouse's solo work, but this project of mine is a different sort of mashup record. I don't think of it as heavy handed, or a mashup record at all, in the sense that it is intended as an abstract reinterpretation, in the vein of Negativland, Emergency Broadcast Network, the Residents, and the like. Certainly some people have felt the way you do, though I dare say that it is really because we have grown to accept and even expect that which is most easily digested. This record is a challenge to make, especially since it's being done almost exclusively track for track, and it should be equally challenging to listen to. And anyway, it would be a disservice to the people who enjoy my original music if I were to lay a simple beat under all of it. Feel free to check that stuff out, but it's not for everyone.

And of course I'm not complaining... it’s probably best if people get a warning before they dive in. It's avant garde / noise music, but I can assure you that a lot of hard work has gone into this. It doesn't take patience to make a beat-driven record... it only takes a beat. (I do make a ton of dance music, and when I play out people dance to it, but it's far less satisfying to me artistically.)

Okay... sorry for rambling. Very funny that we would cross paths! Take care.

And so I’d like to add that I agree, Dangermouse’s Grey Album is simplistic in it’s approach, is beat driven, does resort to loops… and I realise that’s why I like it more than Sgt Petsounds — which I love in concept, much as I also like the Residents, but listen to their gorgeous, glorious noise quite infrequently.

I do like my mashups easily accessible and beat-driven rather than avanguarde and harder to ingest, and Clayton clearly knows what he’s talking about here because, on the same site, he features a Paul McCartney & Wings Vs Ne-Yo mash-up that does tick all the traditional, on-the-beat, easily digestible boxes!


2 Who or not 2 Who

Earlier this month (November 2004), Pete Townshend announced via the official Who website that he and Roger Daltrey were getting together in December, with whatever bits of song they’d managed to write thus far, in order to see if it was worth proceeding any further with plans for a new Who album. The project was apparently tentatively title Who2, clearly a reference to the remaining original members of the band.

Okay. The name sucks. But what about the idea?

A friend of mine likens the concept of new Who songs to re-animating a dinosaur skeleton.

I disagree.

When I saw The Who at the Sydney Entertainment Centre some months ago, I was impressed: despite lead guitarist Pete Townshend and vocalist Roger Daltrey illuminated by a spotlight as a duo, accompanied by a backing band who spent most of the evening in the shade, they were good. The backing band were essential to the enjoyment, providing the solid bed upon which Pete and Roger could rock.

And what a backing band: Zak Starkey, forever destined to have the middle name ‘Son-of-Ringo’, was the perfect drummer. Simon Townshend – slated to appear  downunder as The Who’s guitarist in a mid-90s tour that was, thankfully, called off (see, the world really is wonderful!) before it could taint the outlaw memory the band had created in their one and only previous Aussie tour, in 1968, when they were given the bum’s rush out of the country for being ‘unruly’ on a flight – backed up big brother Pete as rhythm guitarist. Pino Palladino, session bass player extraordinaire deputised for the most recently departed Ox, John Entwistle. But it was John ‘Bunny’ Bundrick, on keyboards, who proved his worth, playing fantastically.

Indeed, ‘Bunny’ delivered the most gorgeously majestic introduction to ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, that Daltrey had to go and ruin. That’s right. Ruin. Daltrey’s onstage ‘move’ for most of the night consisted oof swinging the microphone by its lead, often having it wrap around him and then unwrap before he’d catch it. Only, one time, it led to the ‘Spinal Tap’ moment of the evening, when he dropped the damn thing. Which resulted in a faulty connection, static, and ultimately, malfunction. But only at the most delicately dramatic moment of the evening, after that awesome introduction that reigned over ‘Love Rein O’er Me’. And there was no choice: stop the song mid-verse, pick it up again. However, rather than risk ‘Bunny’ attempting to reproduce that brilliant intro again, and failing, they chose to pick it up from the verse.

But that was ultimately forgiveable. Why? The true test of whether this version of The Who cut it was with songs like ‘Who Are You’. In fact, specifically the song ‘Who Are You’. The choruses were faultless, with perfectly falsetto’d ‘Hu! Hu! Hu! Hu!’s following each ‘Whoooooo are youuuuu?’.

Those harmonic interludes of “Whooooh-aaaaah-ooooh-aaaaah-ooooh-aaaaah” were, likewise, note-perfectly reproductions of that song. It was heaven.

The band played their token new ‘single’ – the recently recorded ‘Real Good Looking Boy’ (a tribute to Elvis and rock, based around the ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ melody) and ‘Old Red Wine’. The songs appear as ‘bonus’ tracks in the recently released singles box set and the most recent Who compilation The Who: Then & Now. It was after playing the songs that Pete admitted that they were considering recording a new album. The cheering didn’t increase noticeably, but nobody boo’d. Clearly, we’d given the idea our approval.

So back to the new album.

I think the idea is almost, but not quite right, and even though Pete and Roger don’t realise this, the people around them certainly do. Consider again their greatest hits collection Then and Now

Who2_01

Does it look familiar to you?

Who02_02

Hint: the word ‘fab’, describing the ‘new recordings’, is a bit of a give-away.

Who2_02b

If you’ll recall, The Who’s ‘The Kids Are All Right’ always was the best Merseybeat song that The Beatles never wrote. So it’s kind of fitting that The Who are ‘ripping off’ the ‘ripped’ artwork for The Beatles’ Anthology series.


Who2_03

Indeed, The Who could have gone all the way: instead of Then and Now they could have called the album Yesterday And Today, like the Beatles did, in America, in 1965. And there you have the perfect solution to the problem. With the passing of Keith Moon (drums) and John Entwistle (bass), The Who have lost their rhythm section. All The Beatles have left is Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr – their rhythm section. They should combine forces and record an album as The Whotles.

Unfortunately, another band has beaten The Who to this collaboration: former Beach Boy Brian Wilson has already let slip, in interview, that he intends to record with Paul McCartney next year. It won’t be the first time: Paul McCartney munched a carrot on the original recording of ‘Vegetables’, for the ill-fated Smile album (which, nearly forty years later, Brian Wilson has gone and re-recorded). Macca also appeared, along with Eric Clapton and Elton John, on Wilson’s album Gettin’ In Over My Head earlier this year. However, next year’s collaboration may prove to be more significant. Which is fitting: two great bass players who are also pushy song writers who orchestrated their respective bands’ best albums, who also happened to be born within days of each other, and admire each other greatly… most likely we’ll get a Beachles album before we get a Whotles album.



No, that’s crap; this is cool!

If you have any sense of taste whatsoever and even the most minimal of intellectual faculties, here is a blog entry for you – some bright spark has logged onto Amazon, looked up some of the contemporary works of cinematic, literary and musical art widely considered to be ‘classics’ and logged the least favourable reviews that have been posted.

They’re hilarious!

Here is an example of a review of the Beach BoysPet Sounds:


“This is not the Beach Boys. It can't be. Why? No beach songs! I thought it was some kind of joke. All 'Pet Sounds' offers is the opportunity to hear Brian Wilson whine for forty minutes, backed by elevator music.”

And for the film Casablanca:

“I’m pretty sure I will enjoy it a lot more when Warner Bros finally gets around to releasing the colorized version, the way this movie needs to be seen – the world is not black and white, why should our movies be?”

And finally, Norah Jones’s Come Away With ME:

“Puke, puke, puke. Can you hear me puke. This is 100% rectum. Her dull voice bodes poorly with the cheesy backing music. Sounds like a bad night club singer.”

Ready to read some more?

Strap yourself in for the Amazon.com Knee-Jerk Contrarian Game.


Adam Hills: Go You Big Red Fire Engine. Again.

Oh woe is me! Having had the utter joy of blowing all my savings (and a fair whack of those of other family members) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, I’m kind of distraught that I can’t be at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year. Despite this, it’s still nice to do the odd interview. However, as my only outlet is ABC NewsRadio at the moment, it’s a matter of choosing someone who’ll appeal to a demographic of adult professionals, who is available – while the studio’s being refurbished – for a face-to-face chat, with (until I can do this fulltime for money) flexibility. The choice came down to Charlie Pickering, late of Triple J, and Adam Hills, an ex-pat Aussie who tends to return from the UK come Festival time. Hillsy, who is presenting his new show Go You Big Red Fire Engine II, was the perfect choice.

Adam came and met me at Egg Records on a Saturday, and was as happy as a kid in a toyshop: marveling at the badges, the Japanese pressings of Kiss CDs in miniature album-replica sleeves, the other various collectible knick-knacks. Before we got down to business, I put on James Taylor’s first and self-titled album (released by Apple Records all those years ago), preceding it with a suitable lecture – (“note the song ‘Something in the Way She Moves’, the inspiration, as well as the first line, to George Harrison’s ‘Something’”) – to whet the man’s cultural appetite. Then I left him to listen, and browse, while I went about my business closing the shop.

We still couldn’t get down to the business of doing an interview until I’d played Adam a bit of the Grey Album (a remix of the Beatles’ so-called White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album, perpetrated by one ‘Danger Mouse’) and a couple of tracks from Dsico that No-Talent Hack’s album of mash-ups, Booty of Choice. The interview itself flowed easily.

I’ve been accused of ‘liking’ the comic Adam Hills – by someone who has never actually gotten around to seeing him live, of course. See Adam Hills and tell me whether or not you also like him: Hills has a broad appeal without pandering to the lowest common denominator; he entertains whole families without being innocuous. His observations are mostly spot-on, and when they aren’t the generalisations lead to such good laughs that you don’t nitpick. That’s the most important thing, of course: Adam Hills is funny. This is not merely the best, but the only reason, really, to ‘like’ any comic.

This interview was broadcast on ABC NewsRadio on Saturday 27 March 2004 (the first weekend of the 2004 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, at which Adam Hills is performing his latest show, Go You Big Red Fire Engine II) and is podcast right here.

Soundbite: ‘Feed the World’ – Adam Hills (from the CD single Working Class Anthem)

I grew up in the 80s. I grew up in an era when you could take a positive message to the world. I grew up in Australia wearing a shirt that said, ‘Relax’. ‘Choose life’. ‘Don't worry, be happy’. I grew up in an era when you were told that you could not only ‘feed the world’, but you could ‘let them know it’s Christmas time’. And I have a slight theory as to why there's such a high percentage of obesity in America as compared to the rest of the world. I think it’s because in 1985, a group of English musicians got together and put out a song that told us to ‘feed the world’. And then a year later, a group of American singers told us, ‘we are the world!’

C Adam Hills

Demetrius Romeo: Adam, you’re one of several Australian comics who base their careers in the UK. Why is this?

ADAM HILLS: There’s just so much work over there. There are at least 120 different comedy nights in London alone and I’ve done four or five gigs a night in London. You turn up at the first venue, you go on stage, and as you walk on, the club owner calls a taxi. It arrives as you walk offstage, you get in the taxi, you go to your next venue, you arrive and the MC sees you and says, “right, I'm gonna do five minutes and put you straight on”.

Demetrius Romeo: So how does that compare to Australia?

ADAM HILLS: There isn’t really a comedy club circuit here. For someone who loves doing stand-up, which I do, to be able to work five or six nights a week and in those five or six nights, maybe do up to ten gigs... that’s why I’m there. I mean, you can spend two weeks doing club gigs in Sydney. You can actually spend three weeks now, and pretty much gig every night, but then you don’t do those clubs for another six months or something because the audiences see you doing the same gear. So basically, I come back now to do the Adelaide Fringe, the Melbourne Comedy Festival and then maybe three or four weeks of the year, touring around Australia.

Demetrius Romeo: Surely when you come back, you notice differences in the comedy industry. For example, at the moment there are more comedians and locally produced comedy shows on television than there have been for possibly a decade-and-a-half. Do you ever feel that you should have been here to get one of those gigs?

ADAM HILLS: [Laughs] Well, yeah, but to be fair, I’ve been offered a lot of those gigs as well. I’ve had a fair few offers to do various bits and pieces in Australia, one of which was, the host of a re-vamped version of Sale of the Century. Oh yes, I could have been the new Glenn Ridge. But also, with a lot of the other TV shows that are on at the moment, I was approached to be on a fair few, and I kind of went, “well, no, because then that just ties me to Australia”, and at that stage I was starting to get a bit of a career going in the UK. Now I just want global domination, basically.

Demetrius Romeo: Now, you do very well in the UK: for the last three years, you’ve been nominated for a Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival, which is for the best show of the Festival. Unfortunately, you haven’t quite cracked it – ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’. How do you feel about it?

ADAM HILLS: You know what, after being nominated twice, a lot of people in interviews said, “do you think you’ll be nominated for the third time?” and each time, my stock answer was, “You know what? I’d love to be nominated for the third time and still not win it ’cause I reckon that would be really funny”. And then when it actually happened, I thought, “you know what, I really shouldn’t have said that!”

The thing about being nominated for an award in something like the Edinburgh Festival is that suddenly there’s a lot of pressure on you; every night that I’ve been nominated, I’ve had a terrible show, just through nerves, and through the audience being weird but mainly through me. I’ve just panicked and walked out on stage and gone, “um, I’m supposed to be really funny… and now… I don’t know… ahhh” and just completely capitulated. I’ve since found out that every comic goes through that. It’s all par for the course. And to be nominated for anything three times is a pretty big compliment.

Demetrius Romeo: Okay. The hard question: would you prefer to be nominated a fourth time, or would you prefer that they just leave you alone next time?

ADAM HILLS: Oooh, that’s the big question, and I don’t know the answer to it. It’s a weird one.

Soundbite: ‘Oh Yeah’ [excerpt] – Adam Hills (from the album Go You Big Red Fire Engine)

You go anywhere in Australia and you ask an Aussie to do something, and he’ll do it. Doesn’t matter where you are. You go,
“Mate, you wanna go backpacking through Europe?”
“Oh yeah. Yeah, I’ll give it a shot.”
“Do you want to bungee jump off a bridge in New Zealand?”
“Yeah, that sounds all right.”
“Do you wanna fly a paraglider into Buckingham Palace?”
“Yeah! Come on! Let’s go!”
In fact, I reckon the Australian motto on the coat of arms should just say, “Australia – Oh Yeah!”
I think this positivity came about because we were sent there as convicts. White Australians were sent there as convicts. On the worst ships you could find. The whole way, there must have been blokes in manacles going [with English accent] “It’s gonna be horrible. It’s gonna be awful. I’m gonna hate it.” And then the boats docked at Bondi Beach. Every convict looked up and went, [in Aussie accent] “Oh yeah!” And a nation was born!

C Adam Hills

Demetrius Romeo: ‘Go you big red fire engine’ has been a catchphrase for you for a few years now. How did that all begin?

ADAM HILLS: I was doing this thing where I would get an audience member up on stage and turn them into a rock star, and get them to yell their name to the audience. The audience would yell it back and they’d get a big round of applause. I was playing a thirty-seat venue, so I was trying to get some energy into the room. And this guy, instead of yelling his name, told me that he was a fireman. And I said, “come up here and we’ll do the whole thing”, and when I said, “right, yell you're name”, for no reason he yelled, “Go, you big red fire engine!” And then the crowd yelled it back, and he kept going for five minutes and I just said, “that’s the most up-lifting and pointless thing I’ve seen in my whole life”. There's no reason for it, it’s completely stupid, and yet everyone in the room had a smile on their face. And I said, “that’s it; I’m gonna name my next show Go, You Big Red Fire Engine”, partly because in Edinburgh in 2000 I was long listed for the Perrier Award and I was getting really stressed out. I decided then that I was gonna call the next show Go, You Big Red Fire Engine because there’s no way that I could get that stressed about a show with a name that stupid. And then what happened was it was nominated for a Perrier Award. But then it became a catch-phrase. Natasha Stott Despoja yelled it in Parliament at one point when she was Leader of the Democrats, as my crowning achievement. And I was gonna leave it at that, but audience members kept coming up to me after the show saying, “we were hoping you were gonna say, ‘go, you big red fire engine!’ again. We really like it when you yell that”. And I just thought, I really have to reprise it because people seem to want me to say it. And being that it came about from a mad audience member, I figured that if audience members want me to say it again, I’ll say it again.

Demetrius Romeo: Now, that title also appears on a CD!

ADAM HILLS: Yes, yes, I released a CD version of the original show, Go You Big Red Fire Engine.

Demetrius Romeo: You’ve also had another CD, which was a fundraiser for the fire brigade. It was the Australian National Anthem done in a very particular way. Tell us a bit about that single.

ADAM HILLS: When I went to Edinburgh I had an idea to play around with the Australian National Anthem and I had seen a band in Sydney do… I think it was the music of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and the lyrics of ‘Gilligan’s Island’. They combined the two, and that really stuck in my head. ‘Gilligan’s Island’ was playing around in my head and then I went, “what if you put ‘Advance Australia Fair’ in there?” And then came up with [sings ‘Advance Australia Fair’ to tune of the theme to Gilligan’s Island]

Australian’s all, let us rejoice
For we are young and free,
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea.
Our home is girt by sea.

And then I kind of played around with more. ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ worked as well. [sings ‘Advance Australia Fair’ to the tune of the theme to Beverly Hillbillies]. All of these started coming together and then they just rattled around in my head. I was actually in a shopping centre one day, listening to ‘Working Class Man’. As it was playing, over the top of the music I was just going [sings ‘Advance Australia Fair’ to the tune of ‘Working Class Man’] and started going, “Oh my God, it works for ‘Working Class Man’!”

Music: ‘Working Class Anthem’ (‘Advance Australia Fair’ to the tune of ‘Working Class Man’) - Adam Hills and the Comedy Brig-Aid (from the CD single)

ADAM HILLS: So then I got permission and put this single out with myself, the Scared Weird Little Guys, Mark Trevorrow, Paul McDermott, Libbi Gore, Tripod and then a whole chorus of people including Greg Fleet and Steady Eddie bangin’ it out like a ‘Band Aid’-type thing.

Music: ‘Working Class Anthem’

Demetrius Romeo: Adam, what can I say but ‘Go, you big red fire engine!’

ADAM HILLS: ‘Go, you big red fire engine!’ indeed.

Demetrius Romeo: Thanks very much.

ADAM HILLS: Pleasure.

Music: ‘Working Class Anthem’

Like to know a bit more about Adam Hills? Here's a bunch of other interviews – although, in hindsight, they really are three variations of the same story, more-or-less.

The following article originally appeared in the May 6 2002 issue of Revolver.

Burning Down the House: Adam Hills gives it up for the fireys.

Some time in the late ’60s, the Beach Boys’ in-house acid casualty and resident genius, Brian Wilson, chose to abandon the now legendary concept album Smile. Ever the perfectionist, Wilson had been ensconced in the studio recording infinite takes of various parts of songs, with the ‘Fire’ section of the so-called ‘Elements Suite’ proving particularly elusive. It was this section that broke him: a particularly intense recording session happened to coincide with a devastating blaze that destroyed a fair chunk of (depending which myth you choose to believe) either California, or his studio. Convinced that the Fire sessions had been responsible for invoking the flames, Wilson apparently aborted the album and binned the mastertapes, the odd song from sessions cropping up in simpler form on subsequent Beach Boys releases.

Aussie comic Adam Hills may be able to identify somewhat with Brian Wilson. On the night that he first unveiled his show Go You Big Red Fire Engine, Hills and his mates decided to adjourn for a couple of post-show bevies at a local watering hole known as Q Bar. They got there just in time to see it go up in flames. In fact, it was Adam and his mates who first spotted the fire. “We grabbed as many people as we could and went straight out the door,” he explains. “The whole place was evacuated and three people were taken to hospital with smoke inhalation. The building was completely gutted.”

Watching those big, red fire engines come and go was all too much of a coincidence, and Adam’s agent agreed. It turned out that Adam’s next gig, at the Fringe Bar, would most likely also be cancelled because that venue caught fire on the same night. “Two different clubs in one night,” Adam acknowledges, laughing off my suggestion of a ‘curse’. “It was only two; I don’t think it’s technically a ‘curse’ until there’s three.”

Ah, but there was a third. Well, almost. When Sydney’s Comedy Store relocated to Fox Studios, Adam Hills was acting as MC at its gala opening. He happened to be on stage when the smoke alarm went off. Thankfully, that time at least, it was a false alarm: a combination of too many cigarette smokers in the audience and not enough ventilation in the venue had set off the smoke alarms. So it doesn’t really count.

Despite the freakish coincidence of two fires, the show certainly went on for ‘Go You Big Red Fire Engine’: in addition to being recorded and released as a comedy CD, the show earned a Perrier Nomination for Adam at the 2001 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As is the custom, nominated shows get to play at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London.

“That was about mid-October,” Adam explains, “so I decided to donate all funds from that performance to the New York Fire Department.” That should have dissipated any remnants of a curse.

But if it didn’t, Adam’s next project will. He has just recorded ‘Working Class Anthem’, a song consisting of the words of ‘Advance Australia Fair’ sung to the tune of Jimmy Barnes’s ‘Working Class Man’. It has been in Hills’s repertoire for a while and Adam has wanted to release it for almost as long, but has been unable to obtain permission to do so until now.

“When I got back to Australia this year, Triple M asked me to sing ‘Working Class Anthem’ at the Fire Fighters concert and I thought it’d be great if we could release the single for them. Without a word of a lie, that day I got the call saying, ‘guess what, we’ve got permission!’”

Joining Adam on the song is the Comedy Brig-Aid – a horde of comedians featuring, amongst its ranks, the likes of the Scared Weird Little Guys, Bob Downe, Paul McDermott and Tripod. In addition to the single being very funny, all proceeds will be donated to the Australian Fire Authority Council. “On a selfish note,” Adam admits, “I’d love a number one song. But on an altruistic note, I’d like it to raise lots of money.”

The following interview originally appeared in Revolver in the first week of February 2002.

Adam Hills’s Happy Feet

“At the risk of sounding cheesy, September 11 made me question what I do for a living and whether I really help people,” explains comedian Adam Hills. “Three days after the attacks I was gigging in Paris, and there was an American guy in the audience. I started to do some material about how Americans are an optimistic people, and that if any country could get through this it would be America. He laughed harder than anyone in the room and I realised that he really needed to laugh about America again. Since then I’ve been doing a lot of material about the ‘War on Terror’ and how it affects us all, especially ’cos I’ve been spending time in the UK. I was on a flight five weeks ago when someone stood up and yelled that there was a bomb on board and we were all going to die. He was bluffing, and was eventually offloaded, but it was very scary. The more I talk about that flight, and laugh about it, the less scary it becomes.”

Although he should be packing for his flight back to Australia, Adam has taken time out for an e-mail interview to discuss what, at this stage, will be his next show, tentatively entitled Happy Feet. It takes its name from a song that was popular during the Great Depression. “It was a very tough time, and yet some really up-lifting songs were written to buoy the spirits,” Adam explains. “In fact, entertainment was about the only business that improved during the ’30s. When people are down or scared, they want to laugh, and that’s where I come in.”

Adam Hills is not only one of the most optimistic, happy people you will ever meet, he is also quite possibly the ‘nicest’ comic this side of Michael Palin “I love comedy, and I love comics,” he insists when pressed. “We are a breed apart, and I think we should support each other whenever we can, ’cos it can be a harsh industry. But I’ve met so many brilliant and supportive people along the way that I don’t really know why I’m supposedly the ‘nice guy’ of comedy. I don’t mind it, as long as I’m also considered to be one of the funniest.”

Hills is one of the funniest. He is utterly and irrefutably hilarious, as his 2001 Edinburgh Festival show Go You Big Red Fire Engine proved: it received a Perrier nomination for ‘most outstanding up-and-coming stand-up comedy or comedy cabaret’. Not that this has changed Adam: such an accolade “does more for your self-belief” than anything else, he says. “You’re still only as good as your next gig, and an audience will heckle you regardless of what you’ve been nominated for.”

Despite a bunch of television offers that came after the nomination, Hills is adamantly dedicated to developing his stand-up rather than using it as a stepping-stone to other show-biz gigs. “I believe that stand-up is a legitimate art form,” he says. “Television can’t really capture it; there is something magical about the live experience”

A live CD, however, is not out of the question. For those who missed last year’s Australian run of Go You Big Red Fire Engine the show was recorded for posterity. “The idea of Go You Big Red Fire Engine is to take the phrase as far as I can, so if it makes it onto the charts I’ve achieved another goal. Plus, I grew up listening to Bill Cosby, Billy Connolly and Robin Williams albums, and I love the idea of being in the same category of the record store as them.”

Although, like everyone, Hills does have “a few ideas” for film and television, and even a book, kicking around in the back of his mind, he can’t “give away too many secrets” just yet. The next big project is a “major world tour” for later this year. After that, Adam is “very keen” to break into the US circuit. In short, he sums up his plan as “world domination, my friend, and nothing less!”

The following interview originally appeared in the 2 October 2000 issue of Revolver.

Dream a Little Dream

“I wanted to be doing something in Sydney during the Olympics,” nice-guy comic Adam Hills offers as the reason for his current spate of appearances on the Sydney comedy circuit. He claims that the week of Comedy Store gigs he recently completed was “partly an excuse to be here for the Olympics, and partly to enable me to do my little bit for Sydney.” That, of course, is only partly true. Following his success at the Edinburgh Festival last month, Adam is breaking out of his standard Sydney mode – serving as MC or the twenty-minute feature act – by road-testing an hour-long show he calls My Own Little World. If ever a successful Edinburgh act would go down a treat it would be this one; providing, as it does, a kind of international humour, it can’t help but appeal to a multicultural metropolis undergoing ‘welcome, valued guest’ mode as Sydney is at present. And if ever a traveled comic felt happy to be back home, it is Adam. After four months of international success, he returned triumphant to play his first gig – in a beer garden in Bundaberg – and was chuffed. Looking skyward from the stage of the partially covered garden and being able to see the Southern Cross, he says, forced “pangs of Australian nationalism” to flood over Hills. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! And furthermore, oi, oi, oi!

Adam Hills has been dedicated to comedy for most of his life. As a kid, he listened to Bill Cosby and Billy Connolly albums while his mates were listening to music. A high school career as a debater, public speaker and valedictorian taught him that being able to make a speech that “purely existed just to be funny” constituted just about “the best feeling ever”. After beginning a journalism degree, Hills got wise to his true vocation after a mate dragged him down to the Comedy Store’s open mic night. “As soon as I saw that,” Adam confesses, “I thought, ‘oh yeah, I have to do this for the rest of my life’.” It wasn’t very long at all before he found himself writing gags for 2Day FM’s then-breakfast shift hosts, Wendy Harmer and Agro. A year and a bit later, Adam found himself heading interstate to host the breakfast shift on Adelaide’s equivalent of 2Day.

“I did that for four years,” Adam says, “until I decided I was sick of getting up at four o’clock in the morning and wanted to do stand-up again.” Adam is grateful to have made the discovery this early in his career that he doesn’t enjoy broadcasting as much as he does live stand-up. Adam thus differs from many other comics, for whom stand-up is merely the first step towards television or radio. “All I have to worry about,” he says, “is how to make a better show on stage, rather than ‘How am I gonna be more famous?’” As far as he’s concerned, the audience can tell when comics are doing stand-up “just as a step along the way” as opposed to doing it “for the art of stand-up”.

Does the fact that Hills has just returned from the Edinburgh Festival prove that he is interested in perfecting the art of stand-up? “My bank balance would reflect that,” Adam offers, laughing. “I’m certainly not doing it for the money.” The first time you go to Edinburgh, Adam claims, “you know that you’re going to lose a lot of money”. You look upon it as a business investment that “may pay off” some time down the track. It wasn’t until his third Edinburgh Festival that Adam broke even – which meant that, through contacts made and the work that followed thereafter, he finished that year ahead of the game. This recent visit, Adam’s fourth, was the best. Adam received five-star reviews and sell-out crowds, as well as the best comic training. “I ended up doing something like fifty-six shows in twenty-three days,” he says. “I learnt what you’d normally learn in a year of doing stand-up comedy.”

It’s not hard to see why Adam was so successful in Edinburgh. Not merely because of the universal appeal of My Own Little World, incorporating, as it does, national anthems and recognisable caricatures. Hills offers a distinctly happier world view than many fellow comics on the world stage. “A lot of comics are very cynical and very world-weary,” he observes. “If you’re watching that for an hour at the end of the day, it can be quite draining.” Adam’s own attitude is to have fun and to “play” with the audience. Besides, he says, when you’re doing shows in places like the Gold Coast, it’s hard to be grumpy on stage. “Everyone’s spent the day on the beach; imagine me walking out and going, ‘well, isn’t life shit!’ It just doesn’t sit right.” In Adam’s Own Little World, life is frequently filled with joyous song – each one a loving piss-take, of course.