Neil Delamere’s Flights of Fancy
How soon is now?

If you play it backwards, do they fix it?

There’s a joke that goes:

Q: What do you get if you play a country record backwards?

A: You get your wife back, you get your farm back, your dog comes back to life…

I’m grateful to comedy writing legend Graham Linehan for tweeting the link to this clip with the words  “1,000,000 times better than a complaint letter”. It’s a YouTube clip by country musician Dave Carroll who was, as all country musicians are, done badly by someone. His guitar was damaged by airline baggage handlers.  On his YouTube page he explains how his band Sons of Maxwell

were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss.

So he’s written a song about it: ‘United Breaks Guitars’. If you play it backwards, I’m not so sure that he gets his guitar back. But just enjoy playing it, cos that’s how he gets United back.

The following day Linehan tweeted the link to this story, announcing that the airline is now ready to behave better. Nice ending.

Country and folk music (nowadays usually conflated with blues as ‘Folk, Roots and Blues’) has always had the ability – perhaps even the duty – to document events. A recent event struck me, though, for having been inadvertently documented about thirty years ago, give-or-take. It’s unrelated to the broken guitar story, but I’ve no other segue so just bear with me.

I’ve always loved the Smothers Brothers’ brand of musical comedy, their sibling rivalry somehow adding to the beauty and simplicity of their genre-parodies. I particularly love their song ‘Chocolate’, which I always dragged out when asked to present some examples of recorded comedy on air. The delayed punchline, put on hold for the typically folky ‘lolly-dooo-dummm, lolly-do-dum-day’ repeated refrain, produces greater humour when it finally comes. Since folk (and country) songs frequently lament – in ballad form – tragedies, the ‘death-by-chocolate’ scenario is perfect for the folk parody.

Now a tragedy has occurred that reminds me, with each news update announcement of the event, of this song. I don’t mean to be a heartless bastard – well, I guess I must when I refer to the event as ‘an Augustus Gloop impression’, I suppose… but again, Augustus Gloop was so obviously a comedic device because nobody ever drowns in chocolate!

So I still can’t think of the event without thinking of the comical aspects of it. It’s all down to the incongruity. Indeed, there used to be a restaurant I’d pass daily on the journey between my house and the city, called ‘Death By Chocolate’. You think of it in terms of extreme and deliberate gluttony. Dying in a huge vat of it is not the ideal way to shuffle off this mortal coil. And yet part of me can’t help thinking – what a way to go!

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