BastardChef: MasterChef Music

 

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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



This is the comedy event of the year
that is

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This is a brief history of things that have been…

Here’s the deal: back in the dark ages of modernity, about half a century ago in what must have been the late 1950s, a guy called David Paradine Frost went to Cambridge University and was a member of The Footlights. The Footlights was a student club dedicated to humour, which nobody could join – you had to be invited. Other people went to Cambridge University and were members of The Footlights. People like John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle, who went on to be members of Monty Python. People like Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie, who went on to be Goodies. People like Clive James, Douglas Adams, Griff Rhys Jones, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Germaine Greer, Miriam Margoyles, Eleanor Bron, Alexander Armstrong, Ben Miller, Michael Frayn, Jonathan Miller…

One of the most revered people to have been a member of the Footlights was a guy called Peter Cook. He had graduated in the years before people like John Cleese and Clive James even got to Cambridge, but he was still highly revered and spoken off respectfully by people who had known him, seen him or heard of him, who were still present. While Cook was still an undergraduate he had written professionally for established comedians. He’d written two whole shows for Kenneth Williams of Carry On infamy.

One of Cook’s creations was a character called E. L. Wisty, who essentially delivered stream-of-consciousness monologues in a lugubrious monotone – kind of a forerunner of The Sandman. After Cook graduated, he and another Cambridge/Footlights veteran, Jonathan Miller, had been recruited along with two Oxford University graduates, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett, to appear in an Edinburgh Fringe Festival show entitled Beyond the Fringe. It was important because it was a new kind of revue that more-or-less launched what became known as the British satire boom – a new wave of contemporary absurdist humour, dealing with contemporary absurd life, came to the fore and, like contemporary music, fashion and art, took a firm hold. People describe the transition from the 1950s to the 1960s in England – the pre- and post-Beatles age – as being a shift from black and white to colour.

As events unfolded, the person who made the most of the so-called satire boom was not Peter Cook – even though he helped fund and launch a live venue, the Establishment, featuring live, cutting edge comedy; and came to be associated with an important satirical publication, Private Eye – but someone who bloomed later than Cook, and sustained that later bloom: David Paradine Frost. Employing the best comedy writers to follow, he established a weekly satirical show entitled That Was The Week That Was – or TW3 for short – which would provide a satirical wrap-up of the week’s events. Frost also did serious journalism. He is the same Frost upon whose interview with President Nixon the film Frost/Nixon is based. But fronting TW3 (and later, The Frost Report), is how Frost first made a name for himself.

Frost gave so many comedians their professional start – employing many as researchers on his serious show, employing many as writers in his satirical shows. He was instrumental in ensuring the Pythons – and Tim Brooke-Taylor – got their pre-Python/Goodies breaks with the shows Do Not Adjust Your Set and At Last The 1948 Show. And when he got wind of Monty Python’s Flying Circus taking off, he apparently asked if he could be a part of it, providing the links between sketches. “Piss off, David, you can’t be in this one,” is how Eric Idle summed it up in the doco Life of Python. By Monty Python: The Complete And Utter Truth – The Lawyers’ Cut, the only reference to Frost comes from John Cleese, and it is utterly reverential.

Fact is, some people seem to resent Frost his success. Or at least, they once did. And it’s possibly because he never seemed as talented as genius Peter Cook on campus (but then again, who did?) whereas, after university and initial success, Cook seemed to be permanently stalled while Frost was amazingly successful. Adding insult to injury by seeming to deliver every line in a kind of lugubrious, E. L. Whisty monotone. You can hear it in action in the theme song – Frost provides the ‘brilliant wordplay’. (Note use of inverted commas; also note that the youtube clip of the themesong sometimes fails to load – in which case, it lives here.)

The main vocalist was Milicent Martin, and it was produced by George Martin (any relation, I wonder?), head of the Parlophone label and producer of a lot of comedy records – Goon Show albums, as well as albums and singles by Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, albums by Flanders & Swann (who are sent up by Armstrong & Miller as ‘Brabbins and Fyffe’) not to mention the cast recording of Beyond The Fringe – prior to signing and producing The Beatles.

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Britain’s That Was The Week That Was had an American equivalent. It went by the same title. One of the regular contributors to that show was a Harvard Mathematics lecturer who had already written to volumes of satirical songs of his own. His name was Tom Lehrer. He would provide a topical song each week. At the end of the year, the best songs were compiled for an album that proved very popular indeed. It was called That Was The Year That Was. Every sophisticated Aussie household with a sense of humour had a copy. A generation or so later, Tom Lehrer proved one of the inspirations that helped launch Sammy J.

There is a new tradition of satirical shows going by the name That Was The Year That Was. It started a few years ago and is now an annual event at the Sydney Opera House, featuring a host of brilliant comics giving their take on the year that was (who better, eh?!) The third one is upon us. December 29, December 30. Go buy tickets. Then come back and read some of the interviews with comics…

Tripod; (and again; and again; and again;)
Fiona O’Loughlin
Jeff Green

 


World’s Funniest Island

Island promo

While a multitude of comics are tense with the opening of the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it’s worth noting that Sydney’s just scored itself another comedy festival.

I know what you’re thinking, as you tick them off –  those Sydney Comedy Festivals of 1998 and 1999,  the Cracker Comedy Festival, the Sydney Comedy Festival that was really just Cracker under a different name, the Big Laugh Festival  that  used to run parallel to  Cracker once  Cracker was up-and-running… not to mention attempts at Sydney Fringe festivals, Bondi festivals, cabaret festivals, all giving a home to comedy… as well as festivals established or in development for the Central Coast and Bowral – pretty soon there’ll be enough for each and every comedian in New South Wales to have his or her very own festival.

Indeed, the Prime Minister got wind of it and has threatened to take comedy festivals over from the state governments, in order to ensure each adheres to a national standard of comedy. Here’s his National Address on Comedy:

Of course, in this instance, the role of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been played by comedian Anthony Ackroyd. It’s a little eerie how much he looks, having donned KRudd hair, like the bastard offspring of Graham Kennedy and Charles Firth. Kind of fitting that the Prime Minister is a cross between those two, I guess.

All righty, the important question is, what sets this new Sydney Comedy Festival apart from all the others?

For starters, World’s Funniest Island boasts “one ticket, two big days, 18 venues, 200 shows” because it is built on the rock festival template. That is to say, it’s built on a carnival template. With good reason: one of the people behind it is John Pinder, who has a long history in comedy and a great love of circus.

When Pinder was first pointed out to me at a taping of a comedy show, for which he was executive producer, he was described as ‘the Godfather of Australian Comedy’, a description he has forbidden me to use since it fails to acknowledge any of the people who broke comedy ground in this country before him. When I’d finally met him, Pinder was Director of the Big Laugh Festival. I wrote an article about him at the time. I present it here with a portrait of him, painted by Bill Leak.

Pinder


Comedy Pinderview

John Pinder has been involved in comedy, as well as music and theatre, pretty much throughout his life. In addition to managing acts, owning venues and touring talent, he has had a hand in the founding of such important institutions as the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the Comedy Channel. Sounds like he’s just the man to be launching a new comedy festival.

“Comedy’s a bit like pop,” Pinder explains. “If pop didn’t re-invent itself, nobody would ever write another good four-chord pop song. It’s the same with comedy. It becomes very easy after a long time to say, ‘I’ve heard that before’. You have to bite your tongue because it’s important that people actually do explore and experiment.” In addition to not wanting to over-analyse what should remain in and of its moment, John Pinder is loathe to talk about comedy because, he says, “comedy ought to be funny” and as far as he is concerned, he is not. He also eschews memorabilia. “There’s no point in keeping it; somebody has to re-invent it all again and if you collect all that shit they’ll look at it and go, ‘it’s been done it before’.” And yet, get him started, and he is a wealth of humorous anecdotes, a store of imaginative memorabilia housed in his own museum of recollection.

One of John’s tricks is to date you by the kind of comedy you first started listening to. If your first love is Monty Python’s Flying Circus, you’re in your mid- to late-30s; if it’s The Goodies you’re about 40 to 45. The Goon Show means you’re old enough to lie about your age if you don’t want to confess to being in your late-50s. “You get your comedy chops about the same age as you first start listening to music,” John explains. The Goon Show began when he was just hitting puberty. For a kid whose family didn’t have a television, hearing The Goons on radio was very ‘rock’n’roll’. “My father liked funny shit on the radio and we listened to it as a family because at seven o’clock on Sunday night we used to turn the radio on like people turn on the television. The Goon Show came along and my parents hated it.” Which succeeded in making John like it all the more – just like rock’n’roll!

Of course, John’s anecdotes and knowledge betray a much broader love of comedy. For starters, his favourite act at the recent Adelaide Fringe was, essentially, a juggler. “I’m really tired of people who say, ‘not another fucking juggler’. There’s something really astonishing about someone who hasn’t even opened his mouth and you’re wetting yourself laughing.” All the great stand-up comics, he points out, incorporate some sort of physicality in their mode of performance. A lot more “would benefit” from being able to mime or juggle. And, logically, “a lot of jugglers would benefit from having some jokes.” Pinder’s love of this other form of comedy also dates back to his childhood, when his family lived next door to a circus lot where Ashton’s and Bullen’s would set up their circuses when they were in town. “I wanted to run away with the circus from the time I was very young,” he says. Fact is, he pretty much has.

For updates and information, visit the website and follow World’s Funniest Island on Twitter.