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.
"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:
So I figured there might be a different 'tribute' to Cilla, a different song title:
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!
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:
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.
Regarding Macca's snippet of phone conversation, that 'Hey Jude' was a typo and was meant to be 'Hey Dude', note the press surrounding a promo clip he made with Ringo for a handful of Stop & Smell the Roses tracks ('Private Property', 'Sure to Fall' and 'Attention' - of which, Macca wrote a couple and produced and played on all three). Titled The Cooler, it was a short film that saw Paul in cowboy clobber and fake moustache:
(What's that? Why, yes, they are straight out of one of the several Beatles scrap books I compiled as an adolescent during the '80s... well spotted, you!)
Like all Ringo albums, Stop and Smell the Roses featured an all-star cast including whichever other Beatles were available. Unfortunately, John Lennon had died, so he didn't appear. But because Paul and George did, in some countries, the opportunity was taken to market the album as an ersatz reunion. "Mit Paul McCartney und George Harrison," my German Bellaphon pressing proclaims - not on a removable sticker, but actually printed on the cover in writing not quite as big as the title. (The Threetles appearing as part of the Beatles: Anthology project was still a very long way off.)
To finish this post regarding Paul McCartney's accent, here's a clip of Macca singing 'Accentuate the Positive', from his last album Kisses on the Bottom (filmed as Live Kisses).
It was a collection of old songs (whose copyright, I assume, are all owned by MPL Communications - aka McCartney Productions Limited). His next album, due any minute, is a collection of new songs. Called New. (Which, if I'm to be honest, sounds old; not as old as Kisses on the Bottom, but '60s-feel-good-ballad old.)
Oh, but, look!
While dipping into stuff around the net to illustrate this post, I found... The Cooler! Enjoy. If you can...
Muffins occupy an interesting place on the food spectrum. Or perhaps two — since on the one hand, they’re that bready substitute you toast for brekky, to have hot with butter and the spread of your choice or with sausage and egg. But then they’re also a kind of cake – sometimes with fruit, so you can kid yourself that you’re having something healthy with your coffee or tea.
Although it takes its name from an innocent nursery rhyme (“do you know the muffin man/Who lives on Drury Lane?”) Frank Zappa brings a different muffin conundrum to the fore:
Girl, you thought it was a man But it was a muffin. The cries you heard in the night Was on account of him stuffin’.
The tack piano that accompanies the mad narrative, reminiscent of the original soundtrack to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis). But combined with Zappa’s declamatory narrative, it is a b-grade horror movie – about the Muffin Man in question, ensconced in his Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, working on “that prince of foods: the muffin”.
Every chef’s been in a similar situation. And not just chefs: every creative identifies with the archetypal ‘Frankenstein’ scenario of the mad scientist bringing their creation to life. Even Zappa himself – who’d use horror movie nomenclature for his work: follow-up songs and albums may be titled ‘Son of… and ‘Return of the Son of…’ (as in the Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar series). He also named his home studio the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen.
It’s significant that the song graces Bongo Fury, the live album commemorating the mid-’70s tour undertaken with Captain Beefheart. The good Captain – entangled in contractual purgatory at the time – was a childhood friend of Zappa’s and they shared a love of music and cinema. Indeed, early on they sought to collaborate on a b-grade movie their own: Captain Beefheart vs the Grunt People. Beefheart’s dad used to drive a bread van, which the teenage pair would break into in order to steal pineapple buns. Muffins of their time, no doubt.
So – d'ya reckon anyone in the MasterChef utility research kitchen will have a stab at ‘that prince of foods, the muffin’? Who cares. It’s more exciting when the monstrous culinary equivalent of Frankenstein rises from the slab.
The Mind Games album dates from the beginning of Lennon’s ‘lost weekend’, its origins lying in Yoko Ono’s album Feeling the Space. Lennon dug the musicians her assistant May Pang had assembled. Turns out Lennon dug May Pang: by the time he’d written a bunch of songs and was ready to record, he’d split from Yoko, who’d somehow given her blessing on his taking May as his mistress. How did this affect John? Take a look at the album cover: Yoko still looms large over lonely Lennon.
So rather than wholesale butcheries with massive cool rooms featuring acres of fresh flesh on display, it would seem ‘Meat City’ is about Lennon’s visit to the world of singledom: pick-up bars, swingers parties and the massive hotbeds featuring acres of fresh flesh on display.
True to that period of unfocused rage, there are still elements of random political activism left over from previous album Sometime In New York City: that weird interlude that sounds like a synthesised chipmonk speaking alien is in fact Lennon’s own voice, sped up and run backwards, suggesting all pigs ought to be loved very much (my paraphrasing). The version on the flip side of the Mind Games single is a slightly different mix, where the synthesised chipmonk turns out to be saying “check the album” backwards.
Whomever said, 'the way to a man's heart is through his stomach' wasn't lying. All men are hungry men. But none more so than late-’60s David Bowie: hungry for success, and, to look at him – ‘Biafra-thin rabbit-in-the-headlights’ as one cultural commentator described him – literally hungry.
The hunger to make it as a recording artist meant the former David Robert Jones toyed with various styles and genres including cockney music hall, mod beats and whatever category this vision of a future dystopia fits into. The song opens with a Kenneth Williams impression (so it’s not meant to be taken so seriously, clearly), delivering the bleak news of over-population. Then Bowie takes on the role of a young, charismatic, crackpot leader offering more-or-less the same Modest Proposal as Jonathan Swift as a means to overcome the multitude of starving poor.
The early ‘hungry’ – or ‘lean’ period – of Bowie’s work includes a stack of songs that have been repackaged in various compilations over the decades. While the artist has all but disowned his oeuvre from that time, the collection was finally given its rightful release as a deluxe double CD collection, much to fans’ pleasure. Bowie himself cherry picked his favourites and re-recorded them for an album called Toy earlier this century – that still remains officially unavailable.
Following on from the high-camp Bowie song about infantricide, ‘We Are Hungry Men’, comes the darker, down-beat bad acid trip of Funkadelic.
Are they proclaiming, on a metaphoric level, that America has failed its youth? The dark mutterings don’t quite lend themselves to transparent interpretation.
Instead, sit back and enjoy – as best you can – the grunted insinuations and squealed backing vocals as they slowly build to a grinding, faded frenzy. It helps if you imagine it the soundtrack of Matt Preston discovering the fish is still raw, the omlette contains eggshell and the rice hasn’t been fluffed; time to send the dish back, and the chef away in tears.
And if it gets too much, relax: a far more upbeat food-related funk will follow, courtesy of Mick Jagger’s ‘Too Many Cooks’.
If it’s a Rolling Stones song about anything other than getting some nookie, you can bet that it is in fact a metaphor for getting some nookie. This is also the case with almost all of Mick Jagger’s solo oeuvre. ‘Too Many Gooks (Spoil the Soup)’ appears to be a more explicit reading of ‘Cook Cook Blues’. 'Cook Cook Blues' is an ’80s Stones blues jam that took a long time to prepare - finally served as a single flip side in 1989 (and features on BastardChefVolume 1) that uses food as its metaphor. But the funky ‘Too Many Cooks’ was not written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and its recording predates ‘Cook Cook Blues’ by about a decade – even though it took even longer - almost another decade! - to see the light of day. It has a far more interesting pedigree.
The song was produced by John Lennon during his ‘lost weekend’ – some 18 months of separation from Yoko Ono that involved revelry, debauchery and recording with various buddies. The sessions for ‘Too Many Cooks’ must have been quite debauched indeed, since Mick Jagger claims to have had no recollection of them, unaware the song existed until an acetate of it turned up many years later (and, knowing Mick, then taken back into the studio for tweaking, polishing and finishing properly before subsequent release).
If the food-as-sex metaphor is annoying, play this song on and on; what with the strange eroticism on display when you watch Nigella Lawson taste everything she’s preparing, and Matt Preston tasting absolutely anything, the appetite may sicken and so die…
Stepping out first with an unlikely collection of old-time crooner’s standards, Sentimental Journey (“recorded for me mum!”) and then the country album Beaucoups of Blues, by his third album Ringo the erstwhile Beatles drummer had hit upon a system that’s pretty much served him well ever since: treat each album as a party and invite all your mates to rock up with a song (or, in Ringo’s case, ‘easy listening' up with a song).
Hence John Lennon’s contribution for Ringo’s 1976 album, Ringo's Rotogravure: a party song about getting through life, with Lennon himself guesting on piano.
Initially, the ‘cooking in the kitchen of love’ metaphor sounds as though it might reside in the same region as the Stones’ ‘Cook Cook Blues’ or Mick Jagger’s ‘Too Many Cooks’ (and more specifically, whichever Kiss song demands “let me put my log in your fireplace”). But by the second metaphor, "truckin’ down the highway of life” and subsequent philosophical exposition “It’s got to be high, it’s got to be low/’Cause in between we just don’t go” it turns out that there's no hidden message or any depth to these words whatsoever. Lennon saved that stuff - in songs like ‘Imagine’, ‘Instant Karma’ and ‘Power to the People’ - for himself.
Don’t hold it against him. It's been noted that Lennon – and Lennon & McCartney for that matter – were, more often than not, 'dozy lyricists' when tossing off a ditty for Ringo. And besides, by this stage the working class hero was about to go into musical hibernation; he’d spent his ‘lost weekend’ being high and was about to settle into being low for the next half-decade, the sessions for this song proving his last until he started recording Double Fantasy.
And remember: Lennon’s time away from the music industry as househusband and dedicated father would be marked by such domestic activities as baking bread, about which he’d speak at length when he finally came out of retirement. Cooking in the kitchen of love, indeed.
After John Lennon handed the hitherto ‘unreleasable’ Get Back tapes over to legendary ‘Wall of Sound’ producer Phil Spector – who refashioned them into Let It Be – both Lennon and George Harrison were keen to have him produce their post-Beatles solo albums.
Sessions for a proposed solo album for Spector’s wife – and former Ronette – Ronnie Spector followed on from George Harrison’s triple album All Things Must Pass. Unfortunately, the album was shelved after only a handful of songs were recorded, the total official result being the 1971 single ‘Try Some Buy Some’.
While that song had been demoed by Harrison for All Things Must Pass and was given the Wall of Sound treatment, the flip side, ‘Tandoori Chicken’ sounds, lyrically, musically and instrumentally, pretty much as thrown together as the dinner arrangement that gave rise to it: Harrison sent Beatles roadie Mal Evans out for some takeaway during the recording sessions. Suddenly it’s a blues based b-side. It’s nice that Harrison’s Indian influences aren’t limited merely to instrumentation.
Find it: on the flip side of the ‘Try Some Buy Some’ 7-inch single; sadly not available on CD right now…
8: Saturday Night Fish Fry - The Coasters
The Coasters’ ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ is another hard-to-get food hit. The original version by the song’s author, Louis Jordan, and his jump blues backing band the Typany Five, is considered by some to be the very first rock’n’roll record. It’s the story of a party that gets out of hand and ends with an arrest.
A ‘fish fry’ is a kind of poor folks fundraiser – the person throwing it will cook and anyone willing to pay for the feed (and, no doubt, sly grog) is welcome. (The song takes place “down in New Orleans”, which, enjoying an excellent fishery until the BP oil spill pretty much killed the Gulf of Mexico, had access to excellent cheap seafood.) If you can help provide the food and drink, or serve it, or present some live entertainment, you get in free. In this song, the protagonist is the singer of the song, telling of a Saturday night fish fry that was so good, it had to be shut down by the cops. Although the protagonist never wants to hear about fish again, listening to it makes you hanker for a piping hot fish burger.
Jordan’s original version was over 5 minutes long, so it had to take up two sides of a 78rpm record. The Coasters’s version lived on the flip side of the single ‘She’s a Yum Yum’, dating from 1966 so part of the material recorded when they were signed to Atco – making it harder to get your hands on.
9: The Rhubarb Tart Song - John Cleese/At Last The 1948 Show
Some people have never been subjected to the [dis]pleasure of rhubarb, but apparently it’s good for you, which is why it doesn’t taste particularly nice. And it’s used to make dessert-type foods, despite being a bitter vegetable that’s allegedly good for you. This alone makes it the perfect subject of a silly song, and who better to deliver it than John Cleese? The song gives the rhubarb tart a great deal of pomp and majesty, not just by listing great historical personages as fans of the food, but by accompanying the doggeral with one of John Phillip Sousa’s finest marches.
The song dates from 1968 sketch show At Last the 1948 Show, in which Cleese partook with fellow Python-to-be, Graham Chapman, and future The Goodie Tim Brooke-Tayler as well as Marty Feldman, with whom they’d all written for David Frost’s various satirical shows. (Frost in fact produced At Last The 1948 Show and was later slighted that he couldn’t be part of Monty Pythong’s Flying Circus.)
At Last the 1948 Show contains many elements that would go on to be seen as prime Python characteristics. Inded, The Four Yorkshiremen Sketch, so beloved of Python fans, originated in At Last the 1948 Show and the fact that it is still identified as a Python sketch continues to irritate Tim Brooke-Taylor, who co-wrote it.
As opposed to parodying a popular song with a new set of lyrics, ‘The Rhubarb Tart Song’ specifically takes a pre-existing instrumental and marries it to foolish words. This is a motif to which John Cleese would return. The song ‘Oliver Cromwell’, for example, appearing on the 1989 album Monty Python Sings, began as Frederic Chopin’s ‘Polonaise No. 6 Opus S3 in A flat’. The borrowing of a Sousa march also becomes a motif: the Pythons borrowed Sousa’s ‘The Liberty Bell’ to serve, this time wordlessly, as the theme to their television show.
Find it: ‘The Rhubarb Tart Song’ lives on the original album tie-in of sketches and songs from the television program, At Last the 1948 Show.
10: Sugar Suger - The Archies
Pure bubblegum pop at its best, ‘Sugar Sugar’ is said to have been offered to the Monkees, who turned it down as being too cheesy just as they were maturing to a point of playing their own instruments on far more mature albums. Although there are rumours of Monkee Davy Jones having sung lead on an instrumental backing recorded by session musicians (as most of the earlier Monkees songs were constructed) and Mike Nesmith punching a hole through a wall in anger at being expected to record the song, nowadays both stories are considered myths. Indeed, it’s more likely the Monkees resisted recording an entirely different song entitled ‘Sugar Man’, but over the years their dummy spit at ‘Sugar Sugar’ has proven the more entertaining anecdote.
Irrespective, Don Kirshner, the producer behind the launch of manufactured band The Monkees was also behind the manufactured band The Archies, which he prefered more since, being cartoon characters, they were far more easy to control than The Monkees. The Archies were never gonna complain that they should be writing their own songs, and playing their own instruments on the recordings. Although the session musos behind The Archies might have wanted to ark up, especially after ‘Sugar Sugar’ proved a massive hit.
Although Ron Dante’s lead vocals melt in the mouth more like fairy floss, they live up to the sweetness promised by the song title. And as any chef worth his weight in… well, weight, really, will tell you: there is no substitute, in the end, for cooking with sugar. When the recipe calls for it, use it; none of that chemical substitute, thank you!
You most likely won’t remember him as Gareth Blackstock in the BBC show Chef! irrespective of how fitting it would be for our purposes here. And just as likely you don’t remember Lenworth George Henry – or ‘Lenny’, as he’s better known – for his daliance with the music hall standard ‘Boiled Beef And Carrots’.
Fact is, Lenny would also prefer you don’t remember it. But it shouldn’t be so surprising that he had a go with a novelty hit, given his rise to showbiz success began on a telly talent show (New Faces) and included regular appearances on kids show TISWAS. The synthesiser arrangement dates this recording but also adds to its charm.
It’s fitting that Lenny would make the cut of BastardChef given his former Missus, Dawn French, is currently appearing in ads for MasterChef sponsor Coles. Part of me is asking, does she really need the money so badly? Maybe. She couldn’t afford to get her hair cut evenly on both sides. Could it be terms of the divorce? Does Dawn need to pay Lenny off? What’s a Lenworth after all? Maybe he is back to living on boiled beef and carrots…
Find it: alongside far more novelty songs by British comedy and light entertainment types than you’ll ever consume in one sitting, entitled You Are Awful But We Like You.
12: Bread and Butter - The Newbeats
If food can be a tool of seduction, it can also be the cause of a break-up, as evidenced in the Newbeats’ hit single of 1964, ‘Bread and Butter’. It sounds like another bubblegum hit with its precise and economic instrumentation, but it predates that movement by a few years. Indeed, in 1964, all pop was bubblegum pop; there was no sophistication to it just yet, so rock’n’roll hadn’t given way to rock. And besides, unlike ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’ and ‘Chewy Chewy’, there’s a lot more going on in ‘Bread and Butter’.
The protagonist is a simple man, given to simple needs, which his “baby” provides perfectly: “bread and butter… toast and jam”. But one day he comes home to the ultimate betrayal: his baby “with some other man”. Not caught in flagrante delicto, as such. Or rather, yes, caught in the very act: if bread and butter and toast and jam are the proof of true love, then “chicken and dumplings” with the other guy is gross infidelity.
Lead vocalist Larry Henley (who would go on to serve as a co-writer of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’) has a voice so thick you’d have to leave it out a while before you could spread it on a piece of bread; brothers Dean and Mark Mathis – if aliens attempted to replicate the Everly Brothers, this’d be them – provide the perfect bed for it.
For a limited time, if you really want it, you can download a free MP3 file of the song ‘Great Day’ from the Paul McCartney album Flaming Pie, now scoring the title sequence of the new Adam Sandler film Funny People. All it’ll cost you is being added to a Paul McCartney mailing list.
Okay, maybe you think a free Paul McCartney song isn’t the coolest thing to have, or to admit to having (you’re not quite wrong; it’s not the coolest thing, but it’s certainly not the most uncool – although you’re welcome to think that if you must). And perhaps being on the receiving end of regular Paul McCartney info updates is too big a price to pay to have it. But rest assured, the most uncool Beatles-related thing is not a Paul McCartney song. Not even – as so many people seem to want to cite as evidence for the prosecution – the one about Rupert Bear (‘We All Stand Together’). Nor the other one about Rupert Bear (T’ropic Island Hum’)!
I wish I had the foresight to copyright the idea and name of the Whotles when I first came up with the idea and blogged about it. Now the Whotles – Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr – are all over the place. For example, a ‘live CD’ was recently listed on Ebay. Understandably, nobody was keen to shell out the ‘Buy It Now’ asking price of US$10,000. But the set list was interesting:
When I Was 64
Won't Get Fooled On A Hill Again
Hello… Who Are You… Goodbye
Sgt. Pinball Pepper
Behind Yellow Eyes
PS I Love Your Squeezebox
Lady Madonna, Who Are You
See Me Help Me
Here Comes The Magic Bus
Call Me Beethoven
Tommy, You Won't See Me
You Better Get Back
Hey Jude I Can See Your Eminence Front
She’s A Bargain
Baby, You’re A Substitute
The Ballad Of John And John And Keith And George
Closer inspection shows more care could have been taken, however. From a comedy point of view, chose which Baba O’Reilly gag you want to make and use it (preferably, the best one – although it’s a hard call between Baba O’Rigby and Ob-La-Di, Ob-Baba-Da; Ob-La-Di, Baba-Da sounds just a bit better than the latter, but I think I like Baba O’Rigby better). The Magic Bus reference never worked in either instance – in fact, most of the offerings are a bit ‘first draft’. Here are some that I came up with:
Come Join Together (this should be the ‘title track’ of the album, clearly) Magical Mystery Tour Bus One After 515 Who Are You? I Am The Walrus You’ve Got To Hide Your Eminence Front See Me Feel Fine I’m Looking Through Your Pictures Of Lilly Come And Get Fooled Again
ADDENDUM - November 20, 2008
At the time of writing this blog, I had no idea – that is to say, no recollection – that I’d already come up with some of the song titles some months earlier in reply to someone who commented on the initial Whotles-related blog. I only discovered it now in the process of copying the URL of that blog for a publicist who has just announced the Who’s latest Aussie tour! Who knows – I may have even inspired the e-bayer.
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 PaulMcCartney; 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:
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;
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.
Earlier this month (November 2004), Pete Townshend announced via the official Who website that he and Roger Daltrey were getting together in December, with whatever bits of song they’d managed to write thus far, in order to see if it was worth proceeding any further with plans for a new Who album. The project was apparently tentatively title Who2, clearly a reference to the remaining original members of the band.
Okay. The name sucks. But what about the idea?
A friend of mine likens the concept of new Who songs to re-animating a dinosaur skeleton.
When I saw The Who at the Sydney Entertainment Centre some months ago, I was impressed: despite lead guitarist Pete Townshend and vocalist Roger Daltrey illuminated by a spotlight as a duo, accompanied by a backing band who spent most of the evening in the shade, they were good. The backing band were essential to the enjoyment, providing the solid bed upon which Pete and Roger could rock.
And what a backing band: Zak Starkey, forever destined to have the middle name ‘Son-of-Ringo’, was the perfect drummer. Simon Townshend – slated to appear downunder as The Who’s guitarist in a mid-90s tour that was, thankfully, called off (see, the world really is wonderful!) before it could taint the outlaw memory the band had created in their one and only previous Aussie tour, in 1968, when they were given the bum’s rush out of the country for being ‘unruly’ on a flight – backed up big brother Pete as rhythm guitarist. Pino Palladino, session bass player extraordinaire deputised for the most recently departed Ox, John Entwistle. But it was John ‘Bunny’ Bundrick, on keyboards, who proved his worth, playing fantastically.
Indeed, ‘Bunny’ delivered the most gorgeously majestic introduction to ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, that Daltrey had to go and ruin. That’s right. Ruin. Daltrey’s onstage ‘move’ for most of the night consisted oof swinging the microphone by its lead, often having it wrap around him and then unwrap before he’d catch it. Only, one time, it led to the ‘Spinal Tap’ moment of the evening, when he dropped the damn thing. Which resulted in a faulty connection, static, and ultimately, malfunction. But only at the most delicately dramatic moment of the evening, after that awesome introduction that reigned over ‘Love Rein O’er Me’. And there was no choice: stop the song mid-verse, pick it up again. However, rather than risk ‘Bunny’ attempting to reproduce that brilliant intro again, and failing, they chose to pick it up from the verse.
But that was ultimately forgiveable. Why? The true test of whether this version of The Who cut it was with songs like ‘Who Are You’. In fact, specifically the song ‘Who Are You’. The choruses were faultless, with perfectly falsetto’d ‘Hu! Hu! Hu! Hu!’s following each ‘Whoooooo are youuuuu?’.
Those harmonic interludes of “Whooooh-aaaaah-ooooh-aaaaah-ooooh-aaaaah” were, likewise, note-perfectly reproductions of that song. It was heaven.
The band played their token new ‘single’ – the recently recorded ‘Real Good Looking Boy’ (a tribute to Elvis and rock, based around the ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ melody) and ‘Old Red Wine’. The songs appear as ‘bonus’ tracks in the recently released singles box set and the most recent Who compilation The Who: Then & Now. It was after playing the songs that Pete admitted that they were considering recording a new album. The cheering didn’t increase noticeably, but nobody boo’d. Clearly, we’d given the idea our approval.
So back to the new album.
I think the idea is almost, but not quite right, and even though Pete and Roger don’t realise this, the people around them certainly do. Consider again their greatest hits collection Then and Now.
Does it look familiar to you?
Hint: the word ‘fab’, describing the ‘new recordings’, is a bit of a give-away.
If you’ll recall, The Who’s ‘The Kids Are All Right’ always was the best Merseybeat song that The Beatles never wrote. So it’s kind of fitting that The Who are ‘ripping off’ the ‘ripped’ artwork for The Beatles’ Anthology series.
Indeed, The Who could have gone all the way: instead of Then and Now they could have called the album Yesterday And Today, like the Beatles did, in America, in 1965. And there you have the perfect solution to the problem. With the passing of Keith Moon (drums) and John Entwistle (bass), The Who have lost their rhythm section. All The Beatles have left is Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr – their rhythm section. They should combine forces and record an album as The Whotles.
Unfortunately, another band has beaten The Who to this collaboration: former Beach BoyBrian Wilson has already let slip, in interview, that he intends to record with Paul McCartney next year. It won’t be the first time: Paul McCartney munched a carrot on the original recording of ‘Vegetables’, for the ill-fated Smile album (which, nearly forty years later, Brian Wilson has gone and re-recorded). Macca also appeared, along with Eric Clapton and Elton John, on Wilson’s album Gettin’ In Over My Head earlier this year. However, next year’s collaboration may prove to be more significant. Which is fitting: two great bass players who are also pushy song writers who orchestrated their respective bands’ best albums, who also happened to be born within days of each other, and admire each other greatly… most likely we’ll get a Beachles album before we get a Whotles album.