C'mon Barbie, Let's Go Party

Doing the rounds right now is this clip of 'the truth behind modelling'. Why don't we just dispense with people altogether? Latest fashions will fit mannequins better than people anyway.

 

- Watch More Funny VideosPhotoshop Makes Anything Possible

 

This vintage fragment of fumetti - featuring a young John Cleese, for the magazine Help!, which Terry Gilliam worked on prior to Monty Python - seems more like reality now than every before.

 

 

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Soup to Nuts: BastardChef Too
(More MasterChef Music)

As begun last week, this is the second instalment of the do-it-yourself series of compilation CDs that should rightfully put Matt Preston’s virtually foodless music compilation to shame.

Soup to Nuts: BastardChef Too:

  1. Muffin Man - Frank Zappa/Mothers/Captain Beefheart
  2. Meat City - John Lennon
  3. We Are Hungry Men - David Bowie
  4. America Eats Its Young - Funkadelic
  5. Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup) - Mick Jagger
  6. Cookin’ In The Kitchen Of Love - Ringo Starr
  7. Tandoori Chicken - Ronnie Spector
  8. Saturday Night Fish Fry - The Coasters
  9. The Rhubarb Tart Song - John Cleese
  10. Sugar Sugar - The Archies
  11. Boiled Beef And Carrots - Lenny Henry
  12. Bread and Butter - The Newbeats

(Unfortunately, if you are reading this post on your Apple iDevice, you won’t see the player below; it’s encoded in flash.)

Soup to Nuts: BastardChef Too from standanddeliver on 8tracks.

 

 

1: Muffin Man - Zappa/Beefheart/Mothers

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’.

What’s he stuffing, exactly? (Or, as Tom Waits might ask, ‘What’s he building in there?’)

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.

Find it: closing the album Bongo Fury as well as the compilation Strictly Commercial: The Best Of Frank Zappa.

 

2: Meat City - John Lennon

There’s clearly a fine art to cooking meat well – but that has nothing to do with this song from John Lennon’s fourth post-Beatles album.

Lennon seems to be a running theme on this volume of BastardChef; in addition to this offering, from his 1973 album Mind Games, you’ll find him twiddling Mick Jagger’s knobs on ‘Too Many Cooks (Spoil the Soup)’ and bashing Ringo Starr’s keys on Lennon’s own ‘Cookin’ (In the Kitchen of Love)’.

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.

Find it: on the album Mind Games.

 

3. We Are Hungry Men - David Bowie

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.

Find it: in both stereo and mono mixes on the 2-disc David Bowie [Deluxe Edition].Download it here.

 

4: America Eats Its Young - Funkadelic

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’.

Find it: on the album America Eats Its Young . Download it here.

 

5: Too Many Cooks (Spoil the Soup) - Mick Jagger

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 BastardChef Volume 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…

Find it: along with two other previously unreleased tracks, on the Very Best of Mick Jagger compilation.

 

6: Cookin’ (In The Kitchen Of Love) - Ringo Starr

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.

Find it: on Ringo's Rotogravure.

 

7: Tandoori Chicken - Ronnie Spector

51K9qnZSw1L._SL500_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.

Find it: at the end of disc 3 of the excellent and exhaustive compilation, There’s a Riot Goin’ On: The Coasters on Atco.

 

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!

Find it: on the remastered compilation, Absolutely the Best of the Archies. Download it here.

 

11: Boiled Beef and Carrots - Lenny Henry

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.

Find it: on the compilation Bead And Butter: The Very Best of The Newbeats. Download it here.

 

Coming Soon 

BastardChef III: Just Desserts


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

 


Who Would You Eat Last?

For the last week and a half, I can say that I’ve been ‘hangin’ with Mr Rhodes’ — the full meaning of that phrase isn’t quite worth chasing down, suffice to say that Tom Rhodes is a brilliant comedian and Southern gentleman whose live performance I saw three times and enjoyed each time.

The second time, he introduced a nice new subroutine while talking about Hinduism. He has a great piece about the origins of Ganesh, the elephant-headed boy deity, which he follows with the comment that he’d love to convert to Hinduism. But of course, he can’t convert — you need to be born into Hinduism. Or ‘reborn’ into it.

So the subroutine was the comment about how George Harrison’s ‘conversion’ to Hinduism made him akin to Sammy Davis, Jr. My paraphrasing makes it clunky — Rhodes delivered it perfectly, in a concise and clever way which made a whole two of us in the audience, hip to the fact that Sammy Davis, Jnr converted to Judaism, roar with laughter. The following night, Rhodes delivered the line again, at the same point in the Ganesh piece, and again, about two people laughed. “That’s all right, nobody liked it last night, either,” he said. That got a massive laugh. Even though it was a lie: I had loved it.

As it happened, we’d gone out drinking after the second performance. That is to say, we’d stayed in drinking — since it was a Tuesday night and everything in Sydney closes early on a Tuesday night — imbibing what turned out to be an incredibly yummy Argentinian red wine that might have been called 33 Degrees (sorry, don’t know how to make the little circle on my Mac), named for the latitude at which Mendoza, the wine-making region of Argentina, is situated. In passing I mentioned the George Harrison bit, which I liked. I confessed that Harrison was quite possibly my favourite Beatle.

“Yeah, I’d eat him last,” Rhodes said.

There was what felt to me like an awkward silence that followed, but to Tom, was merely a dramatic pause before he launched into his explanation of the strange comment.

“Imagine you were on a plane with the Beatles, and you crashed in the Andes and ran out of food, and you had to start eating them…”

Of course. Given that set of circumstances, I guess George is the one I’d eat last.

“Because you’d eat Ringo first,” Tom continued, “since he’s the least necessary”.

I can’t remember if Rhodes made the observation at the time, or if it’s the standard observation that gets made at this point — “I mean, if you quite the band, and nobody notices for a few days…” — referring, of course, to Ringo’s walk-out during the recording of the so-called ‘White Album’, which led to Paul McCartney thumping the tubs for a couple of songs — “…then the band can get by without you.”

There is, of course an irony: piss pot Ringo, who at one point had to issue injunctions to prevent the release of substandard recording he’d made while muddling through life in an alcoholic haze, would be the one that would last the longest, inadvertantly pickled in his juices. Sure, you’d kill him first so as not to tax the rations of whomever you’d eat second, but you could get away with eating him next-to-last, depending upon who you chose next.

Who you’d eat second was rather contentious. Surprisingly, Tom and I agreed on this point, although for different reasons.

Popular opinion would be Paul McCartney; his post-Beatles output, though prolific, would not be described by most as prodigious. I don’t agree, of course; Rupert the Bear ditties, the 1972 ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ single and some of those painful mid-90s albums (Off The Ground in particular) notwithstanding, the time will come when everyone gives Paul McCartney the respect he deserves. John Lennon’s oeuvre, on the other hand, gets by unscathed because, ‘Imagine’, ‘Jealous Guy’, ‘Stand By Me’, ‘Happy Christmas (War Is Over)’ and ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ aside, nobody’s really heard it. He did so little and made so little. If people did try to listen to John Lennon to any extent, they’d hate most of his work. They’d be wrong, of course, it ought to be loved. But it oughtn’t be loved without being heard and understood, and it oughtn’t be loved at the price of hating Macca.

“I’d eat John Lennon second because he was a dick!” Tom announced, and I didn’t argue. There was no need to go into the finer points.

Macca was the third course on the Beatles menu and George, fourth. Although, when you think about it, there wouldn’t be much difference between them from a gustatory point of view, since they’d both spent the last few decades of their lives as millionaire vegetarians. So we’re talking organic, grain-fed, free-range Beatles. And both of them would have a fine, smokey flavour.

Having determined, logically, in which order to consume the Beatles, it became clear that this game could be applied to any collective, and the most obvious application at this point was to Monty Python.

“If you’re going to devour the dickheads first,” I offered — the change from ‘dick’ to more Aussie ‘dickhead’ made necessary by the fact that the phrase ‘if you’re going to devour the dicks first’ sounds like we’re going for specific apendages, which, even given this context, sounds downright sick… — “it would appear that John Cleese would be the first to go.”

“Which is a pity,” Tom pointed out, “since he’s the funniest…”.

“Yeah, but Michael Palin’s the nicest; you’d want to keep him around the longest…” I argued.

“So you’d eat Palin last?” Tom demanded in disbelief.

Six is a lot more difficult to deal with, but if you think it through, you can make a good case for the following:

Graham Chapman, lamented, demented genius that he was, lead actor in all the films, produced the least amount ultimately, even if you only measure up to his time of death in 1989. So he’d be the first to go, even if, like Ringo, his love of the sauce meant that he’d preserve the longest.

I stand by Cleese going next, although it’s hard to mount a strong case as to why it shouldn’t be Terry Jones. Then Cleese. Then Eric Idle, who is actually probably the funniest, albeit less successful if you only judge him by what gets to the screen. Apparently he makes a lot of money as a script doctor in Hollywood, making utter crap somewhat more palatable. Remember, he used to write alone. I reckon if he had his version of a Connie Booth, he would have cranked out a cracking good Fawlty Towers. Instead, he had Neil Innes, which isn’t a bad thing, since it led to making things like Rutland Weekend Television and The Rutles. Maybe after Eric, it should be Michael Palin and then Terry Gilliam.

At this point, having had plenty of Argentinian wine, there was a lull in conversation; while I was thinking it through I realised a few more ironies:

  1. if you were in a plane crash in the Andes with either the Beatles or Monty Python, and you ran out of food, despite their internal squabbling, their jealousies and their grudges, chances are they’d pull together and eat you first;
  2. this ridiculous conversation really should end by us playing the ‘Lifeboat Sketch’ (or whatever it]s called) from the album Another Monty Python Record. It didn’t end that way because neither of us had the recording — released on CD as Another Monty Python CD — with us. But I can at least link to it.


Podcasting Marty

Martycover

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hello

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

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

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

Thanks for your time


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

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

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

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

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

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

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