RIP Cilla Black 1943-2015

The week began with news that Cilla Black had passed away at 72 years young. She'd had an awesome career, considering she was a singer delivering a series of charting hits throughout the 60s, hosted a chat show in the '70s and fronted a dating game show for almost two decades from the mid-'80s. I wasn't a massive fan, but knew a number of her songs that still stand as classics, as enduring and recognisable as her ranga bob and prominent choppers.

The first time I was aware of Cilla was when she appeared on The Don Lane Show, the long-running Australian tonight show hosted by the 'lanky yank' of the title. During her appearance, she happened to refer back to her previous visit downunder.

"I'd just given birth, and was all poofy," she said, in her Liverpudlian accent.

"You mean 'puffy'," Don corrected her, in his American accent.

"Yeah, 'poofy'," she repeated. "What's the difference?"

"Oh, believe me," Don explained, "there's a difference."

It was still the '70s, and Australia, so if making fun of people who speak differently or are in same-sex relationships was neither funny nor inoffensive, who could tell? (Or, more to the point, who would tell?)

In time I'd learn more about Cilla Black in passing: contemporary - and friend! - of the Beatles, who helped get her noticed by their manager Brian Epstein; real name Priscilla White, gaining the stage name she kept as a result of a gig booker muddling her name.

Some of her enduring hits include fine Burt Bacharach songs like Alfie and Anyone Who Had A Heart (or, as Peter Sellers delivers it in the sketch A Right Bird, Anyone 'Oo 'Ad An 'Art); Lennon/McCartney songs like Love of the Loved, It's For You, and Step Inside Love (the latter, the theme to her chat show, Cilla), and You're My World.

At its height, her dating show Blind Date rated around 17 million (if you were ever a fan of Ben Elton's stand-up, you'll recall the phrase 'strictly for the birds, Cilla; strictly for the birds…'; I can't remember the context).

And she maintained the respect of the next generation(s) of viewers doing a sterling job of hosting episodes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks: "Hullo and welcome to the Boozcocks…" (Thanks for the reminder, Cat!)

 

 

If I were a cartoonist, my tribute to Cilla would be a single panel with St Peter at the pearly gates, welcoming her with the words "step inside, love". Failing that, I figured I'd photoshop the same with some judiciously pilfered images.

However, in the process of locating suitable imagery, I cam a cross this lovely photo of Cilla hamming on the sofa as a guest of Jonathan Ross:

 

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So I figured there might be a different 'tribute' to Cilla, a different song title:

 

IT'S FOR YOU

 

You'll no doubt recognise the grim reaper from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. I think it's fitting, since my first glimpse of Cilla Black's Cilla was as a visual 'quote' in a season 4 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. It's an episode of Cilla featuring Ringo Starr as a guest, so fittingly, the graphic brings Cilla, Python and Beatles back together (It's For You being one of the Lennon/McCartney songs she recorded).

However, my search revealed this gem: Cilla, when she was smoking hot!

 

Cillablack

 

Finding a suitable St Peter was more difficult than finding a God, and there's an awesome God in Monty Python and the Holy Grail - so again Cilla, Python and the Beatles come together:

 

STEP INSIDE LOVE

 

Admittedly, the Old Man n the Sky comes across as a Dirty Old Man in the Sky, but… well, can you blame him?!

I apologise for my efforts failing to do justice to Cilla Black. The best tribute to her, of course, is the miniseries Cilla. Made in 2014, it's utterly brilliant, not only for the presence of Sheridan Smith in the title role - she's a knock-out and, apparently, supplied the vocals herself. That's the facsimile - imagine how amazing the real thing must have been in her own time.

 

 

 


Nuts about the Nutcracker

Polyphon 2542 007_Tchaikovsky Nutcracker

Another one of the records from the Epping St Vinnie's. Only, I liked this stupid cover enough to splash out and pay 50¢ for it.

In the first place, I'm not one to collect classical music on vinyl or otherwise. I own the odd disc (vinyl and CD) but it's down to the composer and/or performance ensemble. So there's quite a bit of 'modern' composer in my collection: Michael Nyman - and not just the Peter Greenaway soundtracks; Stravinsky - particularly the recordings he conducted or supervised; Webern because I felt like I should; stuff conducted by Pierre Boulez and Kent Nagano because they'd worked with Zappa so I felt I could trust their choices; Varese, of course, because of Zappa; heaps of Philip Glass, some John Cage and Gavin Bryars; even some Ades when he was the Next Big Thing in the serious literary mags towards the end of the last millennium - but mostly because he was my age and a celebrated genius while I was just some schmuck reading about him on public transport to soul-destroying day jobs… I never could get through a whole Ades disc.

 

 

 

What I do know about classical music, from a lifetime in music retail and my brother's own extensive collection, is that classical releases typically have artwork on the cover, or serious photos of the performers - either in performance, or in high quality portraits.

This record was different. It's cover was a photograph that was ironic and silly. It was on the 'Polyphon' label, of which I know nothing, except that, since the second part of the word is 'phon' rather than 'phone', it's probably European. (The Parlophone label, for example, was 'Parlophon' is non-English parts of Europe.) The rainbow motif above the name reminded me of a local cheapie classical label, 'Rainbow'. What does cheap classical label mean? Old recordings, probably not remastered, on thin vinyl pressings with not a lot of dynamics when it comes to volume or frequency range.

Nutcracker detail_cat and comp

But I don't care: I'd never listen to it. I was buying it for the cover.

Which is awesome: crosseyed dude in a '70s perm, buried up to his head in walnuts, with one in his mouth. Get it? He's just vomited a mountain of walnuts. He's sick. He's nuts. He's crackers.And it's a recording of a popular ballet, Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker Suite'.

Nutcracker detail_dude

It's a 1972 recording of the Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ferdinand Leitner (of whom I'd never previously heard). It's distributed by  Phonogram, which by the late-'80s, would become PolyGram, the Australian distributor of Polydor and Phonogram and associated labels. (This company would eventually become the Universal Music Group conglomerate). The sleeve notes are in English, but not particularly well-written. There's a reference to Tchaikovsky bucking the nationalistic trend of his time, "prefering to follow the German symphonic tradition", but the 'p' has been left off; so he spent his career "refering to follow…".

There's some illustration crowbarred into the top of the back cover, of a mouse attacking a toy soldier, in as much space as the poorly written sleevenotes allow.

Nutcracker detail_back cover illo

I don't know terribly much about Tchaikovsky, although Monty Python tells me he was homosexual. Cartain parts of the sketch that traces his life (a 'special episode' of 'Farming Club') makes me cringe now, but what I can say about it is Michael Palin's particularly camp arts show host is a parody of someone who dressed as flambouyantly and had as fluffy hair (and as fluffy and flambouyant a voice) who was presenting such programming on the BBC at the time. Don't remember his name. I've just seen footage of him in old docos, and can see why he'd be a perfect character to send up. Palin's characterisation is funny without knowing the original.

Given this profile of Tchaikovsky, I can't help but want to make a comment about the dude on the cover whose got the composer's nuts in his mouth.

Meanwhile, comedy lovers may well be familiar with the idea of the cover. There was a very popular comedy album by Allan Sherman called My Son, the Nut.

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I should probably point you to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite online. Here's my favourite version of it - a musical comedy version by Spike Jones that adds lyrics to tell the story (cos while you can listen to the music, you can't 'hear' the story the ballet is illustrating). Again, the dated material makes me cringe in some places, rather than laugh; that racism is not funny anymore.

To complete the post, here's Allan Sherman's complete My Son, the Nut. It's chock-full of foolish lyrics added to recognisable tunes and styles. Like the letter home from camp, to 'The Dance of Hours', that we now know better as 'Hello Muddah, Hello Fudduh!' (This album also has one of my favourite comedy tracks ever, certainly my favourite by Sherman, which I've blogged about before: 'Hail to Thee, Fat Person'.)

 

 


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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You're a vision of excellence

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I still don't know that I 'get' Eurovision. On the one hand, it can launch careers - or at least lead to hit singles - despite the high-camp pantomime silliness of it all (ABBA's 'Waterloo', Sandie Shaw's 'Puppet on a String', Celine Dion). On the other hand, that career is often more high-camp pantomime silliness (Bucks Fizz 'Making Your Mind Up', Brotherhood of Man 'Save Your Kisses For Me' and, let's face it, ABBA).

I mean, seriously. Bucks Fizz. Look how silly the choreography is… particularly at 2:15 into the clip… Apparently three different bandmembers and a choreographer all claim credit for the 'skirt rip'. That's nothing compared to the cheesy actions accompanying the 'from behind' lyric soon after. In fact, the whole song is ordinary. Cretinously repetitive. The only way it can keep your interest is by modulating to yet another key at the end of each chorus. This was the winning performance. Of the winning song. In 1981. Courtesy of the United Kingdom. And then it was a massive hit  around the world. Hard to believe, I know.


One thing you can say is that in the two decades since the Bucks Fizz win, the filming and production values have improved massively - even if the songs haven't.

Although, I shouldn't generalise. Some have been quite impressive indeed: Serge Gainsbourg's 'Poupée de cire, poupée de son' - performed by French yé-yé singer France Gall as Luxembourg's winning entry in 1965 - was a postmodern piece of dramatic self-referential artistry. It sold some 14,000 copies as a 7-inch single in France the day after the broadcast, going on to sell half a million in a short period of time. (I was unable to embed the clip, but watch it here. And then watch her controversial and ambiguous follow-up single, also written by Gainsbourg though not a Eurovision entry, 'Lollipops'.)

What I love most about Eurovision is the paradox it embodies. It's a competition designed to unify the disperate nations of the European Union with the so-called 'universal language' of music. Impossible! Mostly impossible... that's why the winning song is frequently seemingly nonsensical.

Spain's 1968 winning entry, 'La La La', for example. Sung by Massiel, it was dismissed as 'a piece of rubbish' by thwarted songwriter Bill Martin. Martin co-wrote Sandie Shaw's 1967 winning entry for the United Kingdom, 'Puppet on a String', with Phil Coulter. The pair also wrote 'Congratulations', performed by Cliff Richard. 'Congratulations' was the favourite to win in 1968, and was indeed in the lead for most of the 1968 competition - until Germany gave Spain enough points to get ahead of the United Kingdom. So the universal language only unites if its speaking nonsense, and only unites some contries, in the strategic voting to block others. Or perhaps they just didn't dig Cliff Richard's frilly pirate shirt.

Anyway, the United Kingdom took notes. The following year, Lulu delivered a song with a stupid title: 'Boom Bang-a-Bang'. And it won. Although, 1969 was the first year that countries tied in the top spot, and because it hadn't happened before, there was no provision in place for the high-camp pantomime equivalent of a 'penalty shoot out', 'sudden death' or 'golden try'. So the United Kingdom won. And so did Spain, Netherlands, and France.

But take the time to appreciate how much of an over-the-top novelty song 'Boom Bang-a-Bang' is - the orchestra raises its eyebrows at 0:40 in:

 

 I wonder if they chose Lulu deliberately for the song with 'bang bang' in the title - since 'Lulu Bang Bang' is a folk song no doubt familiar to musical insiders, much as 'the aristocrats' is known to comedians. It's a crude folk song. No musical euphemisms with the horn section raising its eyebrows, though.

The ridiculously titled winning entry was suitably parodied - along with Eurovision itself - by Monty Python's Flying Circus, in the Europolice Song Contest, won by Inspector Zatapathique (Graham Chapman), Forensic Expert with the Monaco Murder Squad, with his rendition of 'Bing Tiddle Tiddle Bong'. Before you get there, however, marvel at how pretty Eric Idle is when he frocks up - and also at the racist humour that just wouldn't be tolerated today.


Thus admonished, you'd think Eurovision contestants would have wised up and avoided the rubbish titles. But no, there were more foolishly titled songs to come. Teach-In won for the Netherlands in 1975 with 'Ding-a-Dong':



And Eric Idle had another go at Eurovision on behalf of the Pythons. In the 'Story So Far' section of The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where the convoluted re-telling of the plot references Sally Lesbitt who "is now the half-brother of a distant cousin of Ray Vorn Ding-ding-a-dong, the Eurovision song, and owner of the million-pound bidet given by Hitler to Eva Brown as a bar mitzvah present during a state visit to Crufts..."


I'm not quite sure whether 'A-Ba-Ni-Bi', Israel's winning entry in 1978, qualifies for a nonsensical title. In fact, I'm not sure Israel qualifies as a European nation… Although they won again in 1979 and in 1998.


No mistaking 1984's winners as coming from a legitimately European country, singing a song with a legitimately nonsensical title. Swedish trio of brothers Herrey's - not quite a precursor to Hanson - delivered 'Diggi-Loo, Diggi-Ley'.


I almost wish there was another song with a foolish title this year. Never mind. Instead, we'll finish with the best Eurovision parody thus far. Neil Innes (you know, the seventh Python, writer of the Rutles' songs, former member of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) has a song that could almost serve as virtually any nation's Eurovision entry: 'Mr Eurovision'.


Tig Notaro's new live 'album'

Artwork
Tig Notaro reclaims the hand bra on the 'cover' of her new 'album'.


Given the choice, I'd always prefer to own the CD or the record instead of the digital file. If you want to make the digital download a bonus for buying the CD or the vinyl, thank you, it'll save me ripping the CD or hooking my turntable up to my computer. But if I'm going to pay for the download, I'd rather pay a couple of dollars more for the CD - than just buy the digital file. Because the physical artifact comes with stuff: there's the artwork on the cover, the sleeve notes, perhaps an inner sleeve with more jokes.

Consider the delicious artwork and bonus inserts that meant that almost every Monty Python album was an extended satirical take on the record industry itself .

Matching Tie Handkerchief
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief


The artwork, for example, that made The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief appear three-dimensional, as if you'd just purchased a matching tie and handkerchief in the box. The actual black polyvinyl chloride disc housed within the 'box' was labelled as a 'Free Album' that came with said tie and handkerchief. And when you removed the inner sleeve from the cover, it turned out the matching tie and handkerchief were on the recently hanged corpse depicted thereon.

Matching Tie Hand Inner
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief inner sleeve.

The other really cool thing about Matching Tie and Handkerchief was that it was 'three-sided': side 2 of the record consisted of two concentric grooves, each with half the material from that album. What you heard when you played side two would depend on where the stylus fell on the record. Confusing, until you worked it out.

Matching Tie Hand Label
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief free record label.


The Monty Python Instant Record Collection
was a compilation album. So it was an 'instant record collection' because it gave you the best bits of the back catalogue in one go. But it was also an 'instant record collection' because the original cover had extra flaps you could fold and connect so that it resembled a stack of records, the spines of which contained music industry jokes.

Try doing that with digital downloads!

But, some people would argue, it's all about the comedy, not the packaging. Particularly with stand-up: who needs all the frills and overheads? Cut out all the guff, the middlemen, the nonsense, and just bring the funny. Particularly in the digital age.

Louis C.K. makes a fine case for the digital download. For starters, he charges a flat five bucks, via paypal. The download system is simple. In the ten days of his making Live at the Beacon Theatre available, he made a million bucks - about a million bucks more, it would appear, than he was ever paid royalties for previous releases through the usual outlets. Furthermore, he makes the download method straightforward.

Now he's gone and released Tig Notaro's latest set.

I say 'latest set', but it's not the neat, polished show a world-class comedian might deliver after several months of developing material, breaking it in, having exposed it to a broad range of audiences in different cities and/or countries. It's her 'latest set' as delivered by a world-clash comedian, raw and fresh, while big, important events have just happened and she's still dealing with them - still exploring without necessarily having finalised her conclusions. It's happening 'in-the-moment' - or as close to that as live comedy will ever be.

But I'll let Louis tell you in his own words, from the email sent to subscribers earlier today:

Greetings to the people and parts of people that are reading this. Hi. This is Louis. I'm a comedian and you bought a thing from me. Well, I'm writing to tell You that there is a new thing you can buy on my website louisck.com. It's an audio standup set by not me but another comedian named Tig Notaro.  Why am I selling someone else's comedy on my website?   

Well, Tig is a friend of mine and she is very funny. I love her voice on stage. One night I was performing at a club in LA called Largo. Tig was there. She was about to go on stage. I hadn't seen Tig in about a year and I said how are you? She replied "well I found out today that I have cancer in both breasts and that it has likely spread to my lymph nodes. My doctor says it looks real bad." She wasn't kidding. I said "uh. Jesus. Tig. Well. Do you... Have your family... Helping?". She said "well my mom was with me but a few weeks ago she fell down, hit her head and she died". She still wasn't kidding.   

Now, I'm pretty stupid to begin with, and I sure didn't know what to say now. I opened my mouth and this came out. "jeez, Tig. I. Really value you. Highly." She said "I value you highly too, Louie." Then she held up a wad of note-paper in her hand and said "I'm gonna talk about all of it on stage now. It's probably going to be a mess". I said "wow". And with that, she went on stage.   

I stood in the wings behind a leg of curtain, about 8 feet from her, and watched her tell a stunned audience "hi. I have cancer. Just found out today. I'm going to die soon". What followed was one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw. I can't really describe it but I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life.  Here was this small woman standing alone against death and simply reporting where her mind had been and what had happened and employing her gorgeously acute standup voice to her own death.
 
The show was an amazing example of what comedy can be. A way to visit your worst fears and laugh at them. Tig took us to a scary place and made us laugh there. Not by distracting us from the terror but by looking right at it and just turning to us and saying "wow. Right?". She proved that everything is funny. And has to be. And she could only do this by giving us her own death as an example.  So generous.

After her set, I asked Mark Flanagan, the owner of Largo (great club, by the way) if he recorded the set. Largo is set up for excellent recordings. He said that he did.

A few days later, I wrote Tig and asked her if I could release this set on my site.  I wanted people to hear what I saw.  What we all saw that night.  She agreed.  The show is on sale for the same 5 dollars I charge for my stuff. I'm only keeping 1. She gets the other 4. Tig has decided to give some of that to cancer research.

Tig, by the way, has since undergone a double mastectomy. She is doing well. Her doctors say her chances of survival are excellent. So she went there and came back. Her report from the frontlines of life and death are here for you to... Enjoy.

Please go to my site louisck.com and buy her show.  You can buy it here:

http://buy.louisck.net/purchase/tig-notaro-live

Thank you. Have a terrific afternoon. 

Louis C.K.

The show is available as an MP3 or FLAC. I've bought it. (Both MP3 and FLAC - the latter is a non-lossy format and I'm a nerd; whatever!) It comes with a digital booklet - which isn't the same thing as having cover art to fetish, but it exists. And it's brilliant.

You should buy it.


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

 


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.


Found the Fish(es)

A friend had recommended a John Fante book to me, and so, with some hours to kill, I took a walk from the CBD to Glebe to check some of my favourite book shops. The book I was after had a title that was something like Fellowship of the Grape or Brotherhood of the Grape (or perhaps Lord of the Grape or The Grapemarillion) but all anyone seemed to stock was the one that had been turned into a film a couple of years ago, Ask the Dust. Well, that’s the big, new release bookstores I encountered: Dymocks in the Broadway Shopping Centre, a messy, less well-organised, certainly less well-stocked store than it used to be when it was a Collins bookstore; and Gleebooks, a far more pleasant shopping experience (though invariably more expensive), but strangely more cluttered and yet less extensively stocked by books or staff than I remember it in my student days, skipping lectures and wandering over from Sydney Uni.

Eventually I came to The Cornstalk Bookshop; I knew I wouldn’t find what I was looking for, but it’s always a pleasure to get lost amongst their piles of stuff. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this hardcover little number – an old humorous novel of yesteryear, by Madge S. Smith.


FishesAllAlive  

A bit of googling reveals an author who wrote a lot of children’s books, mostly around the middle of last century – but not a lot more. Do you suppose some of her work may have sat on bookshelves within the households of Messrs Chapman, Cleese, Idle, Jones and Palin? (Not likely that Terry Gilliam would have owned any, being the American of the group….) It’s just that it does seem very similar to that scene that opens Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life:

Here’s some detail of the artwork from the back cover of the soundtrack album, inspired by that opening scene:

Meaningoflife  


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.