Possibly NSFW since some of the lavatory designs depicted are of questionable taste. But what with the Aegis Australia call centre of Werribee in the news for docking workers' pay for loo breaks lasting over 90 seconds, here's my sustained loo break - a piece on toilets that appears in Issue 21 Apr / May 2013 of What Tradies Want in a slightly different (ie less whimsical and indulgent) form. It was sponsored by SaniFlo (in the magazine, not on this blog). The Zappa image was not part of it.
Though essential to life, the act of ‘going to the toilet’ tends to be a taboo topic in polite society, so we sanitise it with euphemisms and silly humour.
You might ‘powder your nose’, ‘see a man about a dog’, ‘drop the kids off at the pool’, ‘strain the potatoes’ or ‘splash your boots’. And you’ll do it in a ‘washroom’, ‘restroom’ or ‘water closet’ when it’s not a ‘thunder box’ or ‘stinkpot’. As for ‘loo’, from the French word lieu, it means ‘place’. Hence the folk song ‘skip to my loo, my darling’ actually means ‘stand by my side’ rather than ‘proceed in a rather flamboyant though seemingly carefree manner to the toilet’. Although, when it comes to toilets, ‘flamboyant’ is certainly making a comeback.
Since civilization has progressed enough to enable us to discuss a lot of things we never used to, we’re able to – ahem – ‘take the piss’ when it comes to making toilets. Vulgar and distasteful – but funny – urinals are a particular favourite, the bowl or trough frequently replaced with anatomy and religious iconography. Open mouths and the Virgin Mary/nuns appear to be particularly popular.
So are women, either watching from the wall, or as part of the structure.
But beware – going to the toilet should never result in getting the horn.
Not even if you’re an über-nerd and your favourite fictional characters have been incorporated in the design.
The ‘Harry Potty’ is tacky, but the bathroom in the Hang Fung Gold Technology showroom in Hong Kong has a greater inherent value. It’s solid gold.
As is the one located on the aeroplane owned by the Saudi Prince: it’s worth about US$2.88 million.
The ladies’ toilets in the Lemina Building in Shinjuki, Tokyo, aren’t made of gold, but they are certainly priceless. You sit on them, opposite giant carved heads.
That begin to sing. And start moving towards you. Good thing you’re on the loo – it’s so unnerving, there’s a chance you’d… well anyway, they stop when they’re close enough to just about kiss your knees:
If the experience is so scary as to cause an unfortunate ‘accident’, Swedish company CWS has devised the perfect solution: the toilet with the self-cleaning seat. Once you’ve finished, a small, self-contained unit automatically moves forward to cover a small section of the circular seat, rotating and cleaning it. CWS came up with a particularly ingenious ad for it, too, in which a young model attempts to ‘powder her nose’:
Another excellent application of technology is the built-for-comfort Washlet, manufactured by Toto. Its built-in bidet enables you to wash your nether regions at the touch of a button, without having to move off the seat, thus doing away with the need for toilet paper. It would be a welcome addition in those countries like Greece, where the plumbing isn’t quite suited to flushing toilet paper. That’s right – you have to place it in the bin provided; a sad irony given the ancient Minoans, on the isle of Crete, may well have invented the first flush toilet by having the loo at ground level and a reservoir of water above.
The traditional bidet – a cross between a toilet and a sink – began, in France, as a basin in which you could ‘wash yourself’. Intime, nozzles and hoses were added. But some cultures never required the bidet or lavatory paper, choosing instead to clean oneself by hand. Left hand, of course. Which is why all dining and greeting must be done with the right: it may sound poetically symbolic to be ‘unclean’ when ‘removing the body’s impurities’ with the same hand you touch your food, but in an age before antibacterial soaps, illness and death would be a likely result of such poor hygiene.
And it still is. In 2000, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that almost half the world’s population – mostly situated in Africa and Asia – did not have access to “good” toilet facilities: they had no suitable way of getting rid of excrement. The WHO solution is the implementation of simple ‘squat toilets’ – basically a hole in the ground with a plastic seat above.
Grateful as we are that such issues don’t affect our quality of life, it’s good to know we also have convenient, flexible and affordable means to place a toilet - or bathroom - virtually anywhere. Consider Saniflo’s range of macerator pump units: by grinding waste into small particles, a 20mm pipe, rather than the customary 100mm, can be used to transport waste. Which means, if you’re renovating and want an en suite in your bedroom, you can have one, no matter how far away from – or how far above – your room the sewer happens to be. It’s so cost effective, in fact, that you you’ll be able to afford the solid gold toilet (or scary giant singing head) a lot sooner.
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.
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.
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.
The interview took place in the hotel room Noel and Julien Barrett - The Mighty Boosh - were sharing in Melbourne during the Comedy Festival. They were performing Autoboosh that year, and their walk-on music - which I recognised as soon as it began - was Frank Zappa's 'Help I'm A Rock' from the very first Mothers of Invention album Freak Out.
By the end of the interview, Noel presented me with the gorgeous hand-drawn portrait of Zappa that he'd executed, in pen, during our conversation.
Nearly a decade later, I got to interview Noel again, for an issue of FilmInk. Noel remembered our earlier interview:
What I didn't know, either time I interviewed Noel, was that the Mighty Boosh had once described their work as "comedy for people who grew up listening to Frank Zappa". In fact, as that interview went on to reveal, I also didn't recognise Zappa's youngest child, daughter Diva, in her cameo in the final episode of the Mighty Boosh.
"How did you not recognise her?" Noel demanded in disbelief. "She looks so much like her dad!"
The Mighty Boosh Band went on to appear in the Zappa Roundhouse Festival in 2010, celebrating what would have been Zappa's 70th birthday - albeit a couple of months early, give-or-take.
The latest Zappa/Boosh crossover is with the Zappa Family Trust release of a 12-inch single - on red vinyl - featuring the Mothers of Invention for Mothers Day. Well, the announcement of the release is in time for Mothers Day.
The record features 'Help I'm A Rock' and 'It Can't Happen Here' in their original stereo 1966 mixes on side 1. Side 2 features the original mono release and the original basic tracks of 'Who Are The Brain Police?'
The record also features gorgeous cover art by Noel Fielding. Yep. Noel Fielding painting a portrait of Zappa for 'Help I'm A Rock'. Who'dathunkit? I love it when my nerd worlds collide. You can pre-order it here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twenty years ago on this day – more or less – American composer Frank Zappa died. Okay, it was December 4 in the US, but it wasn't announced until two days later. I had just been elected to the 1994 Editorial team of Honi Soit,
the student paper of the University of Sydney. To follow is the obituary that I wrote for the
first issue (and have blogged elsewhere). It barely touches the surface; it doesn’t do Frank Zappa
the composer justice; I was a far less experienced writer, taking myself far too seriously. I have tweaked it slightly for grammar. But first, here's a recent caricature by one of my favourite artists, Nick O'Sullivan.
December 21 1940 to December 4 1993
During Orientation Week one year, on the lawn in front of the Main Quad where all of the University of Sydney'sClubs and Societies vie for new members from amongst the student body, I found myself at the ‘Alternative Music Club’ 
marquee, where a girl with pink hair and a pierced tongue performed her
inculcatory spiel about the kind of music that ‘Alternative Music Club’
members listened to. “You know,” she said, “artists who don’t receive
much mainstream commercial radio airplay, like Morrissey, R.E.M., Sonic Youth…”
“What about Frank Zappa?” I asked her.
“Who?” she said.
I guess you can’t be much more alternative than that.
Very occasional radio play has meant that few people have heard
Zappa’s music. For most, Frank Zappa was that weird American musician
residing at the back of rock encyclopaedias; the guy frequently bearing
an unkempt mane, and always, the funny facial hair. (Simpsons creator Matt Groening
insists that the facial hair is “way cool”, and that “as soon as Bart
Simpson is able to shave he’ll have a little moustache and goatee just
like Zappa’s.”) However, during a career that lasted almost thirty
years, Zappa had officially released over sixty albums , and nearly ten times that number reached the market illegally as ‘bootlegs’. 
While the epithet ‘post modern’ has been used to label all sorts of
artistic entities engendering slight obscurity and evading generic
pigeon-holing, Frank Zappa was the musician to whom it best applied. His
work was (and remains) a universe inhabited by recurring motifs
frequently referring back, pre-empting forwards and implying sideways to
other elements within that universe. The cross-referencing, Zappa
insisted, was fully intentional from his career's inception. In 1974 he
stated: “there is, and always has een a conscious control of thematic
and structural elements flowing through each album, live performance,
and interview; the basic blueprints were executed in 1962-1963.
Preliminary experimentation took place in early and mid 1964.
Construction… began in late 1964. Work is still in progress.”
Musically, Zappa’s work embraced and transcended virtually every
genre and form known, usually for the purpose of parody. Listener
expectations were constantly thwarted. His tightly-rehearsed ensemble of
musicians (known for most of its first decade as ‘The Mothers of
Invention’ or merely ‘The Mothers’) was able to execute the complex
performances that Zappa conducted. “There are cues used on stage like
twirling my fingers as if I’m piddling with a Rasta braid on the right
side of my head - that means: ‘Play reggae’… If I wanted something
played ‘heavy metal’, I put both hands on my crotch and do ‘Big Balls’…
The band understands what the norms and ‘expected mannerisms’ are for
these different musical styles, and will instantly ‘translate’ a song
into that musical ‘dialect’.” As well as contemporary rock and jazz,
Zappa wrote ad conducted orchestral music which similarly subverted and
Entertainment was Zappa’s main task. This end was achieved through
use of subject matter that basically lambasted dominant culture and
counter-culture, very often as a form of social anthropology: what
people did, how they did it and who they did it to. He insisted that
“contemporary history is going to be retained on records more accurately
than it is in books”. During the late 60s, hippies bore the brunt of
Zappa’s saturnine wit. The 70s saw him pour scorn and derision upon
decadent rock-star sexuality, sexuality sublimated into the ‘better,
louder, faster’ guitar solo and the constant pursuit of compliant
groupies. Censorship, religious fundamentalism and sexual impropriety —
or rather, hypocrisy with regard to the particular sexual impropriety of
televangelists and Republicans — received Zappa’s attention during the
80s. He pursued his cause to the extent of registering voters at his
concerts during his 1988 Broadway the Hard Way tour. Illness precluded his own presidential bid during the 1992 United States elections.
Often criticised was Zappa's vigour and zeal when dealing with topics
of a “glandular” nature. His opinion to the end was that ‘sex looks
silly’. “Let’s face it,” he said, “even if it feels good, it looks
silly”. Yet, as entertainment, he felt that all work could be reduced to
this tenet: “Is it possible to laugh while fucking? I think yes.”
Frank Zappa developed prostate cancer, and although detected some
time during the early 90s, it was kept secret. The only official public
reference made was the insistence that ‘the press’ had diagnosed him as a
sufferer. Zappa himself claimed to be quite well most of the time. He
continued to work up to sixteen hours a day in his home studio,
composing, recording and remixing his music, only taking time off every
so often when he felt ‘really bad’. However, an aversion to flying,
owing to severe discomfort, and the more frequent press-leaks of the
true severity of his condition seemed to make it apparent that the end
was night. His latest album, The Yellow Shark, consisting of orchestral pieces performed by the Ensemble Modern,
had been out barely a month before news was released that Zappa had
died. On December 6 1993 it was announced that he had already been
interred, having passed away two days earlier. Zappa is survived by wife
and company administrator Gail, and by children Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Rodon and Diva.
His stunning oeuvre has been left in good order. Most of his back
catalogue has been re-released on CD and new work is ready for imminent,
Human foible may now emit a collective sigh of relief. Its greatest
detractor, one of this century’s most original and significant composers
and the most alternative of musicians, is no more.
This particular club no longer exists.
Album number 93 – I think – was recently released: a collection of early live recordings called Road Tapes: Venue 1.
Zappa bootlegs outnumbering legitimate releases ten-to-one is most likely a conservative estimate.
After an adolescence of knowing about Zappa from the back pages of rock encyclopaedias and the odd reference encountered as a hardcore Beatles fan (John & Yoko jammed with him in the early ’70s, their collaboration forming the majority of record two of the Sometime In New York City album - later released as a section of Zappa's own Playground Psychotics; George Harrison referenced him in the lyrics of the song 'Blood From A Clone', on Somewhere in England; the album artwork to We're Only In It For The Money parodied Sgt Pepper) I started buying and enjoying his music.
I've previously blogged about how much of a mission being into Zappa was, in the late-’80s, when so little of his work was easily available in Australia at the time.
By the time of his death in 1993, almost all of his oeuvre had been reissued on CD and I more-or-less came to own it all - all the while acquiring whatever I could on the original vinyl as well.
An interesting item is the double album Uncle Meat. Its subtitle claims that it contains “MOST OF THE MUSIC FROM THE MOTHER’S MOVIE OF THE SAME NAME WHICH WE HAVEN'T GOT ENOUGH MONEY TO FINISH YET”. I realise now the apostrophe is in the wrong place. Never mind. Dig the artwork: a collage of photography, glass, teeth and who-knows-what.
It was the first album on the 'Bizarre' label - set up by Zappa and manager Herb Cohen, and distributed by Warner Brothers/Reprise. I've read that the name of the label, 'Bizarre', was inspired by the anthology of weird writing that Barry Humphries had compiled, entitled Bizarre. A journalist claims to have spotted it, during an interview, on Zappa’s shelf. (I think it was in a piece in Craig McGregor's 1973 anthology, Up Against The Wall, America.)
The name of the album, however, was inspired by the uncle of Zappa's childhood friend Don Van Vliet. According to Zappa's autobiography The Real Frank Zappa Book, Uncle Alan had a habit of exposing himself to Don's girlfriend Laurie. He's go to the bathroom and urinate with the door open, turning around to announce that "it's like a great big beef heart". That was Uncle Meat. The event was also the inspiration for Van Vliet's stage name, Captain Beefheart.
Uncle Meat is a distinctively quirky, mostly instrumental double album. On CD, it's quirkier still: a double disc set containing most of the album on disc 1. Disc 2 includes excerpts of soundtrack dialogue from what would have been the Uncle Meat movie - as well as a ridiculous new song called 'Tegno Na Minchia Tanta' (essentially, Italian for 'I have a big dick' - or, more literally, 'I am holding a dick this big'). Those tracks really break with the feel of the late-’60s album - and have come to be referred to as 'penalty tracks'. A frequent question for fans on the forum of the Zappa homepage regarding the recent re-issue of the entire catalogue, is whether Uncle Meat would be re-issued with the penalty tracks. It has been.
Uncle Meat the movie - in its final release - was part documentary and part cheesy monster movie; like so much of Zappa's filmed work, it didn't know what genre it wanted to be and so attempted to be many things at once. Most obviously - having been completed many years after shooting had commenced - it was part documentary, part cheesy monster movie. Elements seemed to serve as a prequel to sequences that turned up in 200 Motels. And - trust me - make just as little sense, really. Perhaps even less.
A friend recalls me trying hard to make him and another buddy watch it - a good 20-odd years ago. "I remember it being very psychedelic," he says, and attributes to the other mate the phrase "Wow, that was doing my head in," but they appreciated my love of FZ - "like crack cocaine to you, I recall" - even if they didn't share it. I'm not sure if he's recalling the time I made them watch Uncle Meat the movie, the time I made them watch 200 Motels, or the time I made them watch The Amazing Mr Bickford. It doesn't matter. Our respective responses were the same each time, and I'm glad they indulged me. I probably only ever watched each one once - and yet if this were released on DVD or Bluray, I'd buy it the second it was available.
For now, someone has uploaded it, so I'm using Youtube to watch it, and that's pretty cool.
Muffins occupy an interesting place on the food spectrum. Or perhaps two — since on the one hand, they’re that bready substitute you toast for brekky, to have hot with butter and the spread of your choice or with sausage and egg. But then they’re also a kind of cake – sometimes with fruit, so you can kid yourself that you’re having something healthy with your coffee or tea.
Although it takes its name from an innocent nursery rhyme (“do you know the muffin man/Who lives on Drury Lane?”) Frank Zappa brings a different muffin conundrum to the fore:
Girl, you thought it was a man But it was a muffin. The cries you heard in the night Was on account of him stuffin’.
The tack piano that accompanies the mad narrative, reminiscent of the original soundtrack to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis). But combined with Zappa’s declamatory narrative, it is a b-grade horror movie – about the Muffin Man in question, ensconced in his Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, working on “that prince of foods: the muffin”.
Every chef’s been in a similar situation. And not just chefs: every creative identifies with the archetypal ‘Frankenstein’ scenario of the mad scientist bringing their creation to life. Even Zappa himself – who’d use horror movie nomenclature for his work: follow-up songs and albums may be titled ‘Son of… and ‘Return of the Son of…’ (as in the Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar series). He also named his home studio the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen.
It’s significant that the song graces Bongo Fury, the live album commemorating the mid-’70s tour undertaken with Captain Beefheart. The good Captain – entangled in contractual purgatory at the time – was a childhood friend of Zappa’s and they shared a love of music and cinema. Indeed, early on they sought to collaborate on a b-grade movie their own: Captain Beefheart vs the Grunt People. Beefheart’s dad used to drive a bread van, which the teenage pair would break into in order to steal pineapple buns. Muffins of their time, no doubt.
So – d'ya reckon anyone in the MasterChef utility research kitchen will have a stab at ‘that prince of foods, the muffin’? Who cares. It’s more exciting when the monstrous culinary equivalent of Frankenstein rises from the slab.
The Mind Games album dates from the beginning of Lennon’s ‘lost weekend’, its origins lying in Yoko Ono’s album Feeling the Space. Lennon dug the musicians her assistant May Pang had assembled. Turns out Lennon dug May Pang: by the time he’d written a bunch of songs and was ready to record, he’d split from Yoko, who’d somehow given her blessing on his taking May as his mistress. How did this affect John? Take a look at the album cover: Yoko still looms large over lonely Lennon.
So rather than wholesale butcheries with massive cool rooms featuring acres of fresh flesh on display, it would seem ‘Meat City’ is about Lennon’s visit to the world of singledom: pick-up bars, swingers parties and the massive hotbeds featuring acres of fresh flesh on display.
True to that period of unfocused rage, there are still elements of random political activism left over from previous album Sometime In New York City: that weird interlude that sounds like a synthesised chipmonk speaking alien is in fact Lennon’s own voice, sped up and run backwards, suggesting all pigs ought to be loved very much (my paraphrasing). The version on the flip side of the Mind Games single is a slightly different mix, where the synthesised chipmonk turns out to be saying “check the album” backwards.
Whomever said, 'the way to a man's heart is through his stomach' wasn't lying. All men are hungry men. But none more so than late-’60s David Bowie: hungry for success, and, to look at him – ‘Biafra-thin rabbit-in-the-headlights’ as one cultural commentator described him – literally hungry.
The hunger to make it as a recording artist meant the former David Robert Jones toyed with various styles and genres including cockney music hall, mod beats and whatever category this vision of a future dystopia fits into. The song opens with a Kenneth Williams impression (so it’s not meant to be taken so seriously, clearly), delivering the bleak news of over-population. Then Bowie takes on the role of a young, charismatic, crackpot leader offering more-or-less the same Modest Proposal as Jonathan Swift as a means to overcome the multitude of starving poor.
The early ‘hungry’ – or ‘lean’ period – of Bowie’s work includes a stack of songs that have been repackaged in various compilations over the decades. While the artist has all but disowned his oeuvre from that time, the collection was finally given its rightful release as a deluxe double CD collection, much to fans’ pleasure. Bowie himself cherry picked his favourites and re-recorded them for an album called Toy earlier this century – that still remains officially unavailable.
Following on from the high-camp Bowie song about infantricide, ‘We Are Hungry Men’, comes the darker, down-beat bad acid trip of Funkadelic.
Are they proclaiming, on a metaphoric level, that America has failed its youth? The dark mutterings don’t quite lend themselves to transparent interpretation.
Instead, sit back and enjoy – as best you can – the grunted insinuations and squealed backing vocals as they slowly build to a grinding, faded frenzy. It helps if you imagine it the soundtrack of Matt Preston discovering the fish is still raw, the omlette contains eggshell and the rice hasn’t been fluffed; time to send the dish back, and the chef away in tears.
And if it gets too much, relax: a far more upbeat food-related funk will follow, courtesy of Mick Jagger’s ‘Too Many Cooks’.
If it’s a Rolling Stones song about anything other than getting some nookie, you can bet that it is in fact a metaphor for getting some nookie. This is also the case with almost all of Mick Jagger’s solo oeuvre. ‘Too Many Gooks (Spoil the Soup)’ appears to be a more explicit reading of ‘Cook Cook Blues’. 'Cook Cook Blues' is an ’80s Stones blues jam that took a long time to prepare - finally served as a single flip side in 1989 (and features on BastardChefVolume 1) that uses food as its metaphor. But the funky ‘Too Many Cooks’ was not written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and its recording predates ‘Cook Cook Blues’ by about a decade – even though it took even longer - almost another decade! - to see the light of day. It has a far more interesting pedigree.
The song was produced by John Lennon during his ‘lost weekend’ – some 18 months of separation from Yoko Ono that involved revelry, debauchery and recording with various buddies. The sessions for ‘Too Many Cooks’ must have been quite debauched indeed, since Mick Jagger claims to have had no recollection of them, unaware the song existed until an acetate of it turned up many years later (and, knowing Mick, then taken back into the studio for tweaking, polishing and finishing properly before subsequent release).
If the food-as-sex metaphor is annoying, play this song on and on; what with the strange eroticism on display when you watch Nigella Lawson taste everything she’s preparing, and Matt Preston tasting absolutely anything, the appetite may sicken and so die…
Stepping out first with an unlikely collection of old-time crooner’s standards, Sentimental Journey (“recorded for me mum!”) and then the country album Beaucoups of Blues, by his third album Ringo the erstwhile Beatles drummer had hit upon a system that’s pretty much served him well ever since: treat each album as a party and invite all your mates to rock up with a song (or, in Ringo’s case, ‘easy listening' up with a song).
Hence John Lennon’s contribution for Ringo’s 1976 album, Ringo's Rotogravure: a party song about getting through life, with Lennon himself guesting on piano.
Initially, the ‘cooking in the kitchen of love’ metaphor sounds as though it might reside in the same region as the Stones’ ‘Cook Cook Blues’ or Mick Jagger’s ‘Too Many Cooks’ (and more specifically, whichever Kiss song demands “let me put my log in your fireplace”). But by the second metaphor, "truckin’ down the highway of life” and subsequent philosophical exposition “It’s got to be high, it’s got to be low/’Cause in between we just don’t go” it turns out that there's no hidden message or any depth to these words whatsoever. Lennon saved that stuff - in songs like ‘Imagine’, ‘Instant Karma’ and ‘Power to the People’ - for himself.
Don’t hold it against him. It's been noted that Lennon – and Lennon & McCartney for that matter – were, more often than not, 'dozy lyricists' when tossing off a ditty for Ringo. And besides, by this stage the working class hero was about to go into musical hibernation; he’d spent his ‘lost weekend’ being high and was about to settle into being low for the next half-decade, the sessions for this song proving his last until he started recording Double Fantasy.
And remember: Lennon’s time away from the music industry as househusband and dedicated father would be marked by such domestic activities as baking bread, about which he’d speak at length when he finally came out of retirement. Cooking in the kitchen of love, indeed.
After John Lennon handed the hitherto ‘unreleasable’ Get Back tapes over to legendary ‘Wall of Sound’ producer Phil Spector – who refashioned them into Let It Be – both Lennon and George Harrison were keen to have him produce their post-Beatles solo albums.
Sessions for a proposed solo album for Spector’s wife – and former Ronette – Ronnie Spector followed on from George Harrison’s triple album All Things Must Pass. Unfortunately, the album was shelved after only a handful of songs were recorded, the total official result being the 1971 single ‘Try Some Buy Some’.
While that song had been demoed by Harrison for All Things Must Pass and was given the Wall of Sound treatment, the flip side, ‘Tandoori Chicken’ sounds, lyrically, musically and instrumentally, pretty much as thrown together as the dinner arrangement that gave rise to it: Harrison sent Beatles roadie Mal Evans out for some takeaway during the recording sessions. Suddenly it’s a blues based b-side. It’s nice that Harrison’s Indian influences aren’t limited merely to instrumentation.
Find it: on the flip side of the ‘Try Some Buy Some’ 7-inch single; sadly not available on CD right now…
8: Saturday Night Fish Fry - The Coasters
The Coasters’ ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ is another hard-to-get food hit. The original version by the song’s author, Louis Jordan, and his jump blues backing band the Typany Five, is considered by some to be the very first rock’n’roll record. It’s the story of a party that gets out of hand and ends with an arrest.
A ‘fish fry’ is a kind of poor folks fundraiser – the person throwing it will cook and anyone willing to pay for the feed (and, no doubt, sly grog) is welcome. (The song takes place “down in New Orleans”, which, enjoying an excellent fishery until the BP oil spill pretty much killed the Gulf of Mexico, had access to excellent cheap seafood.) If you can help provide the food and drink, or serve it, or present some live entertainment, you get in free. In this song, the protagonist is the singer of the song, telling of a Saturday night fish fry that was so good, it had to be shut down by the cops. Although the protagonist never wants to hear about fish again, listening to it makes you hanker for a piping hot fish burger.
Jordan’s original version was over 5 minutes long, so it had to take up two sides of a 78rpm record. The Coasters’s version lived on the flip side of the single ‘She’s a Yum Yum’, dating from 1966 so part of the material recorded when they were signed to Atco – making it harder to get your hands on.
9: The Rhubarb Tart Song - John Cleese/At Last The 1948 Show
Some people have never been subjected to the [dis]pleasure of rhubarb, but apparently it’s good for you, which is why it doesn’t taste particularly nice. And it’s used to make dessert-type foods, despite being a bitter vegetable that’s allegedly good for you. This alone makes it the perfect subject of a silly song, and who better to deliver it than John Cleese? The song gives the rhubarb tart a great deal of pomp and majesty, not just by listing great historical personages as fans of the food, but by accompanying the doggeral with one of John Phillip Sousa’s finest marches.
The song dates from 1968 sketch show At Last the 1948 Show, in which Cleese partook with fellow Python-to-be, Graham Chapman, and future The Goodie Tim Brooke-Tayler as well as Marty Feldman, with whom they’d all written for David Frost’s various satirical shows. (Frost in fact produced At Last The 1948 Show and was later slighted that he couldn’t be part of Monty Pythong’s Flying Circus.)
At Last the 1948 Show contains many elements that would go on to be seen as prime Python characteristics. Inded, The Four Yorkshiremen Sketch, so beloved of Python fans, originated in At Last the 1948 Show and the fact that it is still identified as a Python sketch continues to irritate Tim Brooke-Taylor, who co-wrote it.
As opposed to parodying a popular song with a new set of lyrics, ‘The Rhubarb Tart Song’ specifically takes a pre-existing instrumental and marries it to foolish words. This is a motif to which John Cleese would return. The song ‘Oliver Cromwell’, for example, appearing on the 1989 album Monty Python Sings, began as Frederic Chopin’s ‘Polonaise No. 6 Opus S3 in A flat’. The borrowing of a Sousa march also becomes a motif: the Pythons borrowed Sousa’s ‘The Liberty Bell’ to serve, this time wordlessly, as the theme to their television show.
Find it: ‘The Rhubarb Tart Song’ lives on the original album tie-in of sketches and songs from the television program, At Last the 1948 Show.
10: Sugar Suger - The Archies
Pure bubblegum pop at its best, ‘Sugar Sugar’ is said to have been offered to the Monkees, who turned it down as being too cheesy just as they were maturing to a point of playing their own instruments on far more mature albums. Although there are rumours of Monkee Davy Jones having sung lead on an instrumental backing recorded by session musicians (as most of the earlier Monkees songs were constructed) and Mike Nesmith punching a hole through a wall in anger at being expected to record the song, nowadays both stories are considered myths. Indeed, it’s more likely the Monkees resisted recording an entirely different song entitled ‘Sugar Man’, but over the years their dummy spit at ‘Sugar Sugar’ has proven the more entertaining anecdote.
Irrespective, Don Kirshner, the producer behind the launch of manufactured band The Monkees was also behind the manufactured band The Archies, which he prefered more since, being cartoon characters, they were far more easy to control than The Monkees. The Archies were never gonna complain that they should be writing their own songs, and playing their own instruments on the recordings. Although the session musos behind The Archies might have wanted to ark up, especially after ‘Sugar Sugar’ proved a massive hit.
Although Ron Dante’s lead vocals melt in the mouth more like fairy floss, they live up to the sweetness promised by the song title. And as any chef worth his weight in… well, weight, really, will tell you: there is no substitute, in the end, for cooking with sugar. When the recipe calls for it, use it; none of that chemical substitute, thank you!
You most likely won’t remember him as Gareth Blackstock in the BBC show Chef! irrespective of how fitting it would be for our purposes here. And just as likely you don’t remember Lenworth George Henry – or ‘Lenny’, as he’s better known – for his daliance with the music hall standard ‘Boiled Beef And Carrots’.
Fact is, Lenny would also prefer you don’t remember it. But it shouldn’t be so surprising that he had a go with a novelty hit, given his rise to showbiz success began on a telly talent show (New Faces) and included regular appearances on kids show TISWAS. The synthesiser arrangement dates this recording but also adds to its charm.
It’s fitting that Lenny would make the cut of BastardChef given his former Missus, Dawn French, is currently appearing in ads for MasterChef sponsor Coles. Part of me is asking, does she really need the money so badly? Maybe. She couldn’t afford to get her hair cut evenly on both sides. Could it be terms of the divorce? Does Dawn need to pay Lenny off? What’s a Lenworth after all? Maybe he is back to living on boiled beef and carrots…
Find it: alongside far more novelty songs by British comedy and light entertainment types than you’ll ever consume in one sitting, entitled You Are Awful But We Like You.
12: Bread and Butter - The Newbeats
If food can be a tool of seduction, it can also be the cause of a break-up, as evidenced in the Newbeats’ hit single of 1964, ‘Bread and Butter’. It sounds like another bubblegum hit with its precise and economic instrumentation, but it predates that movement by a few years. Indeed, in 1964, all pop was bubblegum pop; there was no sophistication to it just yet, so rock’n’roll hadn’t given way to rock. And besides, unlike ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’ and ‘Chewy Chewy’, there’s a lot more going on in ‘Bread and Butter’.
The protagonist is a simple man, given to simple needs, which his “baby” provides perfectly: “bread and butter… toast and jam”. But one day he comes home to the ultimate betrayal: his baby “with some other man”. Not caught in flagrante delicto, as such. Or rather, yes, caught in the very act: if bread and butter and toast and jam are the proof of true love, then “chicken and dumplings” with the other guy is gross infidelity.
Lead vocalist Larry Henley (who would go on to serve as a co-writer of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’) has a voice so thick you’d have to leave it out a while before you could spread it on a piece of bread; brothers Dean and Mark Mathis – if aliens attempted to replicate the Everly Brothers, this’d be them – provide the perfect bed for it.
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.)
‘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.)
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
In 2000, the year the Mighty Boosh brought Autoboosh to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I got to interview them in their hotel room. They were just ‘The Boosh’ then, I’m pretty sure.
I pointed out that I recognised their pre-show warm-up music, 'Help I'm A Rock' - by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, from their first album Freak Out.
“You're a fan,” Noel acknowledged. During the the interview, he sketched freehand on a piece of paper. When the interview was over, he handed it to me. It was a portrait of Frank Zappa.
I’ve been searching for it for at least the last 8 years, thinking I’d filed it, but not knowing where. Then my girlfriend located it as girlfriends do, just casually rifling through some folders. Joy of joys.
Zappa – captured in the bowler hat in which he was frequently photographed during his 1968 English tour – is uttering ‘Help I’m A Rock’. Noel has inscribed it, ‘Cheers for interviewing us and viewing our wears. – Noel Boosh’.
You enjoy looking at it while I go purchase a frame to ensure I don’t lose it for another decade!
And enjoy listening to this interview snippet from several years later.
It’s a strange thing, how, as you get older, you somehow learn to appreciate country music. Proper country music. The outlaw variety, with – as Frank Zappa said in the song ‘Truck Driver Divorce’ – ‘steel guitars crying all over it’… sung by proper country singers like Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash. But pre-American Recordings with Rick Rubin Johnny Cash. Certainly not Shania Twain country.
Shania Twain first appeared on the scene when I was still working in a top 40 chart music store. Or rather, its Classics and Jazz department (ie ‘classical music’ and jazz, but calling it ‘classics’ meant it could be show tunes and middle-of-the-road older stuff as well…)
I couldn’t help but give her a nickname. That’s what we did with all artists. New Kids On The Block were New Kids With No Cocks. Val Doonican was Val Croonagain. The Doors were The Bores (were they ever!) Neil Young, as time went on, lived up to his nickname of Neil Old. The Rolling Stones were the Strolling Bones. Kate Ceberano And Her Jazz Sextet were Kate See-no-bra And Her Tit Sex Jizz. Bob Dylan was Baaaaaaahhhhhhb Dylaaaaaaaahhhhhn (but you had to do his voice when you said it). And Shania Twain was… well, you had to pronounce her first name like an Aussie country bloke saying ‘showing ya', so it was like ‘sho’in ya’. Her name was Sho’inya Twat.
That has no bearing on this news story, reported by The Daily Beast, about Shania Twain shacking up with Frédéric Thiébaud, the pair having consoled each other after Marie-Anne Thiébaud nicked Twain’s hubby, Robert Lange.