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...
In honour of MasterChef: The Professionals, and following on from Soup to Nuts: BastardChef Too, here’s the latest edition of food music compiled for your listening and dining pleasure – BarstardChef III: Just Desserts. Though not consciously intended, this edition is even more of a novelty than previously, thanks to the heap of instrumentals, silly lyrics and spoken word. Enjoy.
We know how hard it is to pull off a dessert: it has be not just
delicious and indulgent, it has to complement dinner without spoiling
it. It’s a delicate balancing act. As is genuinely engaging instrumental
music. We start Bastard Chef III:Just Desserts with a Miles Davis instrumental entitled 'Chocolate Chip'. Yes, of course, we acknowledge that the chocolate chip is no dessert in and of itself. But how much charm, fun and class does it bring to more staid post-dinner offerings? Add them to everything - from fruit salad and cream, to coffee, to ice cream - to make them a little more exciting. (Although, let's face it, every chocoholic knows a handful from the stash of choc chips in the back of the pantry will tide you over in times without your favourite candy bars!)
This 'Chocolate Chip' certainly brought a little more fun and excitement to the world of jazz, along with the album that contained it: Doo-Bop. It was the last platter Miles Davis embarked upon before he passed away and although it sounds rooted in its early-90s sound now, like so many of the albums Davis released, it was brave and daring in its time.
Again, we acknowledge: despite a long and varied career that involved frequent abrupt turns that led to the development of whole new genres, Miles Davis isn't to
everybody's taste. Or is he? Work your way through his monumental
output, you'll find something that appeals. And like fusion food, that takes something familiar and creates something new by adding something exotic, Doo-Bop was the latest jazz-fusion experiment that Miles Davis cooked up before he died.
As the story goes, Davis was hangin' in his New York apartment in the summer of 1991, listening to the world outside. Inspired, he decided to create an album that captured the sound of his neighbourhood streets. He approached his buddy Russell Simmons (who, with Rick Rubin, founded the hip-hop label Def Jam) for some recommendations: Davis wanted a hip young producer to help him make this foray into jazz/hip hop fusion.
The producer was Osten Harvey, Jr, AKA Easy Mo Bee, who'd cut his teeth producing early work of Wu-Tang Clansmen GZA and RZA.
Davis and Easy Mo Bee worked on a series of sessions before Miles Davis's death in late September 1991. The album was completed by building tracks around some incomplete trumpet performances, resulting in a cohesive work that was released, some nine months later, to mixed reviews. Had Davis lived, the album would probably have been more daring; it may have been disconcerting for polite jazz circles back in 1992 - it was certainly too 'urban' to play in the Classics & Jazz music store I worked in - but it's quite straightforward now. Still, Doo-Bop took out the 1993 Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance - not a bad way to finish an amazing career.
Find it: on the album replete with sampled street sounds, vinyl crackle and spoken rap known as Doo-Bop. Or download it here.
2: Rubber Biscuit - The Chips
Ben Elton once pointed out the division that arose when airlines offered bread and butter pudding as part of the in-flight meal: the first class passengers loved it, since it reminded them of boarding school, where it was a popular dessert. The economy class passengers weren’t impressed at all: they’d paid good money for their flight - why should they put up with the cheap muck they could have at home? Nowadays, in the age of discount airfare, virtually anyone can afford to fly - though few can afford to pay extra for the most meagre and unsatisfactory of meals.
Meanwhile, we live in an age where less food is being produced than being consumed and national economies all over the world are in crisis. Knowing how to cook well at a lower cost is essential. Hence, we suppose, the MasterChef/Coles synergy.
With all of that in mind, the natural progression from the 'Chocolate Chip' is to a biscuit. But not just any biscuit: it's the well-loved nonsensical vocals of ‘Rubber Biscuit’, that encapsulated the current food predicament of today, way back in the mid-’50s.
They consist of scat singing based on co-writer and lead vocalist Charles Johnson’s parody of the marching calls imposed upon him during his earlier internment at the Warwick School For Delinquent Teenagers. Beyond them are the seemingly foolish 'recipes' that break up the verses. They speak of poverty: the 'wish sandwich', where you have two pieces of bread and "wish you had some meat"; the 'ricochet biscuit' that bounces off the wall and into your mouth… unless it fails to bounce back, in which case "you go hungry"; and the "cold water sandwich". The result is beautiful art created from hardship.
The song endures, predominantly, as a ‘novelty’ staple, frequently featuring on children’s compilations. And yet, like the posh folk who loved bread and butter pudding in boarding school, the ‘kids’ who first heard it when it was new carried it through life and still remember it fondly.
While the Blues Brothers covered it successfully on Briefcase Full of Blues, the original features in an excellent scene in Martin Scorsese’s crime flick Mean Streets, in which a party is thrown for a returned Viet Nam vet: it ends with Harvey Keitel’s character passing out. Because the camera is attached to him, as he collapses, his head remains upright while the room spins around him. ‘Rubber Biscuit’ adds to the disorientation.
Frank Zappa had, at one stage, intended to compile an album of his favourite doo-wop and early rock songs, with ‘Rubber Biscuit’ included. Although it never eventuated, another artistic freak who, like Frankie, hailed from Baltimore, Maryland with idiosyncratic facial foliage compiled an excellent album of such songs: that freak was John Waters and the album was the soundtrack to his film Cry-Baby. ‘Rubber Biscuit’ is one of the stand-outs.
Find it: on the soundtrack to John Waters’ film Cry-Baby Download it here.
3. A Taste Of Honey - Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass
If ‘Honey Pie’, a Beatles (well, let's face it, Paul McCartney) song that comes later in this compilation, is too much honey as well as too much pie, perhaps you’ prefer just a taste. ‘A Taste Of Honey’ was written by Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow as the recurring instrumental theme in the 1960 Broadway production of a 1958 British play of the same name. Bobby Scott won a Grammy Award for his recording of it. A vocal version followed, though the more popular version of it wasby the Beatles, who recorded it for their debut album Please Please Me. You gotta dig the Beatles’ version: when Macca reiterates its quality, of “tasting much sweeter than wine”, his sibilance renders the word “shweeter”, making him sound like a slurring drunk who knows full well the qualities of wine, as well as the honey.
Alpert is an interesting person in his own right. Apart from leading this instrumental combo, he was the ‘A’ in A&M Records, a label he founded with business partner Jerry Moss. (After selling it to PolyGram [now Universal], he and Moss start AlMo Sounds whose title is also derived from their surnames. Not as spectacular a label. But then, no record nowadays is as spectacular as when records were still the primary delivery vehicle for music.)
In more recent years, Alpert has taken to painting and sculpture. However, his contribution to popular music is massive, both as a label executive and as a musician.
The dessert more chefs appear to make a mess of than get right on MasterChef is ice cream - even though, when they get it wrong they can pretend it’s some other posh desserty substance like parfait. But Tom Waits ain’t talkin’ about no genteel delicacy.
Once, many years ago while visiting a cute girl who really, really tolerated me, I was engaged in an intense conversation with her incredibly sexy flatmate. We were discussing music, and she was of the opinion that “Tom Waits is just ‘sex-on-a-stick’.” Which went some way to explaining the raggedy-assed hobo of a backpacker she was seeing at the time. They more than merely tolerated each other. They’d more than merely tolerate the hell out of each other quite loudly, most of the night, I seem to remember. ‘Ice Cream Man’ is about sex-on-a-stick's sex-on-a-stick, as the lyrics clearly outline, and he’ll “sure taste good to you.”
In 1970 Waits would play every Monday night at the legendary Troubadour in LA, delivering Dylan covers and a handful of original compositions, of which ‘Ice Cream Man’ was one. Hence its inclusion on his 1973 debut Closing Time – its languid opening giving way to an up-tempo jazz rendition replete with hot guitar licks and snazzy snare shots. Personally, I prefer the demo version Waits recorded a couple of years earlier, when he first landed a management deal. It starts slightly faster, but maintains that pace throughout, with the guitar and drums sticking closer to rock than jazz. Furthermore, the initial piano motif better evokes the tinny chime of the ice cream van. The demo surfaced, against Waits’s wishes, on the first of two volumes of demos entitled The Early Years.
“As if you’d buy that – what does it even mean?” The question thrown at me one morning in 1991, in the café on the ground floor of the Manning Building at Sydney University. I’d just purchased ‘Chocolate Cake’ on CD, the lead single off the new Crowded House album Woodface. Given the success and excitement of its predecessors, the self-title Crowded House and its follow-up Temple of Low Men, album number three – with the added treat of Neil Finn’s brother Tim on board – seemed promising. Perhaps even a return to – whisper it – Split Enz.
To answer the annoying question, I assume the song’s about indulgence, consumerism and conspicuous consumption – with a chorus about Tammy Baker, wife of disgraced TV evangelist Jim and Andy Warhol laughing in his grave at ‘cheap Picasso fakes’. The recording certainly offers a rich production with the wild harmonica interlude and almost buried vocoder…
Although, in hindsight, it may well have been inspired by how to slice up the cake of royalties, responsibility and influence now that there was one more band member. It certainly seems that way now, considering the way in which the album came about and Crowded House evolved subsequently.
Turns out the brothers Finn had gotten together to start recording a new album. Before its completion, Neil had another due with Crowded House. Unfortunately, Capitol, their label, rejected it considering some of the tracks to be a little weak. So Neil asked Tim if he could use some of the material they’d written together. Tim was happy for that to happen, on condition that he joined the band. It wasn’t the ideal situation – tensions arose, Tim left before they’d completed touring behind the album. Now he says he was joking at the time. Even if the album proved to be neither flesh nor fish – not quite as good as previous Crowded House albums, not quite as good as the Finn album that followed later that decade – Neil and Tim’s harmonies are always a treat. They really are our Antipodean Everlies. The first fruit of their new collaboration was ‘Chocolate Cake’, whose chorus fittingly opens mid-decadence: “Can I have another piece of chocolate cake…?” Go on. Indulge yourself.
6. Tra La La (Banana Splits Theme) - The Banana Splits
Way back in the earlier part of the 20th Century, Aussie writer Norman Lindsay maintained that kids loved reading about food far more than they did fairies and the like – even though ‘fairy tales’, in the most literal sense, were the popular form of children’s literature. Lindsay proved his point in 1918, with the publication of The Magic Pudding, which remains in print today.
Why is this relevant? Because chocolate cake may be an indulgent pleasure for most (and wild honey pie, for a more discerning group that includes Patti Boyd), but the real treat is the banana in the presence of ice cream: the dessert known as the banana split. Which most people will remember as the name of a show they loved as kids: The Banana Splits Adventure Hour.
The show was hosted by another manufactured band aimed at the kids.
The Monkees were manufactured to be like the Beatles, but, proving hard to control, were superseded by the Archies, animated version of the same (and discussed at length in the notes for BastardChef 2). The Archies couldn't rebel like the Monkees…
The Banana Splits couldn't rebel either, but weren't pure animations. They were actors in animal costumes, based on both the Beatles and Monkees. Fleegle the Beagle played guitar, gorilla Bingo took the drum duties, Drooper the lion was on bass and Snorky the elephant played keyboards.
The show was the first produced by Hanna-Barbera to mix live action with cartoons. It employed the services of Sid and Marty Krofft to provide the costumes – serving as a precurs0r to the Krofft-produced HR Pufnstuf. Like HR Pufnstuf, The Banana Splits was a so-called kids' show that appealed to adults - at least the ones who indulged in certain chemical refreshments. Which kind of makes sense, in a drug-addled, conspiracy theorist way:
Among the various varieties of puffin' stuff was the banana skin, or 'banana spliff', that led to the 'Mellow Yellow' high that Donavan sang about. And certain controlled substances, LSD in particular, seem to lead to users reverting to the security of childhood. You see this especially in British psychedelia. When you consider that British kids born just before or during the post-war boom would, when visiting grandma's house, see the remnants of Victoriana - posters of Lord Kitchener, antique spinning tops, photos of tragic Uncle Wilfred in uniform, who was never the same after he came back from the trenches… these were the childhood memories young, hip cool people of the mid- to late-'60s.
The psychedelic sound of the ’60s - phasing, Indian instrumentation, backwards vocals and guitars - isn’t evident in 'The Banana Splits Theme' (though traces of the ‘Strawberry Fields’ mellotron flute are discernible), but it is still childishly simple. The bubblegum sound was provided by an array of fine studio musicians. Coupled with the show’s popularity, it made for durable hits, not least of all the theme song. Sing along: ‘Tra la la, la la la la…’
Not too loudly, though! While loved by many, the few who particularly despise the song sometimes have good reason. Like the neighbours of seemingly indulgent Brighton resident Amanda Millard, for example. They were driven to distraction Amanda’s endless playing of it, along with the Animals’ ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and Bob Marley’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’. (The chorus of the latter, some have pointed out, shares similar notes as ‘Tra La La’.) While Amanda’s 250-pound fine means she continues to enjoy banana splits rather than being subjected to the bread and water of a custodial sentence, she has to do so at a more considerate volume.
Let’s just take a moment to catch our breath after all the desserts. We will resume gorging on food songs in a moment. For now, a spoken word piece - to music accompaniment - for everyone who loves their food more than they love their physique, courtesy of portly comedian Allan Sherman.
You may profess not to know him, but you certainly know at least one of Allan’s recorded works.
Sherman’s professional calling was as a comedy writer and producer of television game shows, having devised several successful formats that proved long-lived on the small screen. His sideline was in devising parody lyrics to popular tunes. Initially a party trick, it was a very good one. His next door neighbour Harpo Marx used to invite him over to entertain party guests with his songs. One guest, comedian George Burns, made the call that led to Sherman’s first album, My Son, The Folk Singer, in 1962 – in which old folk tunes were given new lyrics based on Jewish shtick. Like his phone conversation with Sarah Jackman, to the tune of ‘Frère Jacques’: “Sarah Jackman, Sarah Jackman, how’s by you? How’s your sister Rita?” “A regular Lolita!”
My Son, The Folk Singer was the fastest selling album for its time, certainly aided by the fact that President Kennedy, for example, was overheard singing ‘Sarah Jackman’ to himself in a hotel foyer.
Other popular parodies include ‘A Waste of Money’, about consumer debt, to the tune of ‘A Taste of Honey’, and ‘Pop Hates The Beatles!’ to the tune of ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’. But the song you’ll know is Sherman’s ‘Hello Muddah! Hello Fuddah!’ from his third album, My Son, The Nut. And you know it in its own right, without realising it’s a parody. So much so, you’ll do the aural equivalent of a double take when you finally hear composer Amilcare Ponchielli’s ‘Dance of the Hours’ (featuring, as it does, in the Disney masterpiece Fantasia, for example) and marvel at how much this piece of classical music reminds you of ‘Hello Muddah! Hello Fuddah!’
But enough of the musicology lesson.
‘Hail To Thee, Fat Person’ is Sherman’s justification of his girth: the result, he insists, of forever being told to “clean his plate”, as there were “children starving in Europe”. We fat people (Sherman, Preston, me, etc) are merely performing a community service. The social imperatives of being a fatso became a big issue recently when a TV anchor made the news for facing down a camera after receiving some feedback from a viewer, proving the timelessness of this piece of social satire.
Don’t think for an instant that the absence of the seemingly obvious choice – for this volume – of Warrant’s ‘Cherry Pie’ is an oversight. The best thing about that song has always been the image adorning both the single and album cover: pendulously-bosomed, pigeon-toed, redheaded waitress on roller skates (a ‘rollerskaitress’?) who’s accidentally dropped the dessert off her plate. Oh, but look where the slice happens to be situated in the photo, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Pete ’n’ Dud would probably marvel at all the rejected covers, in which the the slice was in the wrong place (it's a classic sketch, should you choose to persevere with the reference…)
But heavy metal riffs and fond memories of having a bit of a think about the cover late at night during an ’80s adolescence notwithstanding, the song kinda sucks. Big time. So apologies if you’re currently shaking your head in disbelief that there’s no, no cherry pie. Instead there's ‘No, No Cherry’, a 1950s doo-wop song originally recorded by The Turbans. It’s based on the same euphemism Warrant called upon for ‘Cherry Pie’. And if you're wondering where this euphemism comes from, research dates it back to at least the 15th Century, where a folk song that tells of “the cherye with-outyn ony stone” is said to be about virginity. Or lack thereof.
You'll agree, it’s fitting then that this happens to be another Frank Zappa song! His version of ‘No, No Cherry’ was performed live as a medley with his own ‘Man From Utopia’, this recording dating from the 1984 tour.
There may be 'No, No Cherry', but there is also ‘Cherry Pie’, and it's another ’50s doo-wop song. It comes replete with the “fairly redundant piano triplets” (to quote Frank Zappa’s notes on his own nostalgic tribute to the genre and period, Cruising with Ruben & The Jets. Which, incidently, has been given the deluxe reissue treatment more recently as Greasy Love Songs).
‘Cherry Pie’ was written by Joe Josea and Marvin Phillips and originally performed by Marvin & Johnny, but the version included here is by Aussie band Daddy Cool, fronted by local legend Ross Wilson.
The thing about Daddy Cool is that their embrace of vintage American rock’n’roll was authentic. Rather than mere nostalgia, even with the arched eyebrow of irony so beloved for Frank Zappa, the most novel aspect of Daddy Cool’s approach was their sincerity. Hence their securing such gigs as opening for the Everly Brothers. They really did do doo-wop (or perhaps they 'did-wop') better than most. It’s all over their debut album, Daddy Who? Daddy Cool! which features brilliant original compositions along with a wealth of '50s covers.
Daddy Who? Daddy Cool! was such a fine album that it was the first Aussie long play platter to sell over a 100,000 copies in this country – helped, no doubt, by the inclusion of such strong single cuts as ‘Eagle Rock’ and ‘Come Back Again’. The local success, coupled with their accurate reproduction of an essentially American musical idiom, meant the album got a Stateside release – albeit with a revised tracklisting that did not include ‘Cherry Pie’.
Find it: on the re-mastered, re-issued (with additional tracks!) original debut, Daddy Who? Daddy Cool!. If you’re just dabbling, grab the compilation The Essential Daddy Cool. It’s the most comprehensive ‘dabble’ you could hope for.
10: Honey Pie - The Beatles
Enough with the cherry pies already. Time to move from the cheap innuendo and old-time '50s music to virtually the same innuendo, and slightly more modern-time music of a '60s song. Except that it is itself a pastiche of a much older music hall style. It seemed to be one of Paul McCartney’s passions, from about 1967, to produce at least one sweet ballad mimicking an older musical idiom, per album: 'When I’m 64' on Sgt Pepper, 'Your Mother Should Know' on Magical Mystery Tour and 'Honey Pie'.
Although John Lennon derided Macca, dismissing his ‘granny music’ as uncool, fact is, its underpinning is as authentically 'swingin' '60s' and cool as any acid drenched masterpiece Lennon created at the time. Recall, as discussed above, the tendency for users of LSD to revert to the comfort of childhood. For Paul McCartney, childhood comfort was a time when his mother was still alive and his dad played in a big band, delivering the sort of songs that Paul would become so adept at recreating a generation later. And it's not as though the 'granny music' was without its charm. That second line, for example, with its super-imposed crackle, as if from the shellac of an old 78 (which in fact it was - a fine bit of sampling) and heavy top-end equalising, is a device still popular today in advertising: think of the amount of radio ads that alternate normal tone with distorted tone throughout the narration.
The protagonist of 'Honey Pie' is bemoaning his beloved's departure from his side to the showbiz stage across the water. It's a love letter to an absent – feared wayward – partner, most likely inspired by McCartney’s own relationship with young actress Jane Asher, whose career was leading her further away from Macca. The song doesn't tell more of a story than that because it doesn’t contain much more than a couple of verses and choruses. At the time, there probably wasn't a lot more to tell - seeing as Macca wasn't the kiss-and-tell type (some of his erstwhile conquests were, however; see Francie Schwartz's Body Count, for example).
Although the lyrics and story stop, the music continues. The syncopated Charleston rhythms speak volumes: Macca embracing the old music that takes him back to a happier place. As he maintains in the spoken line over the instrumental break, he likes that kind of music. Take that, Lennon!
Nearly 45 years later, it’s fitting to note the Jane Asher – effectively responsible for ‘Honey Pie’ in the first place, now has another string to her bow that enables her to be responsible for honey pie still. Since 1990, Asher has run a posh cake company which her website boasts as being “Britain’s foremost cake and sugarcraft supplier.” And, let's face it, also nearly 45 years later, it’s fitting to note that Jane Asher is still quite a tasty dish.
Moving on from the cherry and honey pies via Jane Asher’s “foremost supply of cake and sugarcraft” comes this evocative instrumental, ‘Wedding Cake Island’, named not for a massive wedding cake that resembles an island (for no man-and-wife is an island), but for an island allegedly resembling a wedding cake, lying off Sydney’s Coogee Beach. ‘Allegedly resembling a wedding cake’ is correct: there aren’t many accounts of how the island got its name. In fact, there are only two: once claims it looks like a wedding cake, but it clearly does not. The other suggests it’s the thick layer of predominantly white seagull guano, resembling a smooth icing, which leads to the cakular allusion.
If not a wedding cake, what does the instrumental evoke? It’s described as a ‘surf instrumental’, inspired as it is by an ocean formation. And it certainly shares a big, broad twang beloved of surf music. Consider, for example, the Atlantics’ ‘Bombora’. A bombora, or ‘bommie’ is a submerged rock, reef or other formation creating large, crashing waves over a shallower area beyond where the surf normally breaks. The surging surf music perfectly evokes those impressive, surging surf waves.
The calmer ‘Wedding Cake Island’ doesn’t seem to speak of the mighty surf that the island in question often produces, having more in common with the spaced-out sounds of recording pioneer Joe Meek (responsible for the likes of ‘Telstar’ and ‘I Hear A New World’). Bent notes courtesy of the wammy bar may sound ‘Hawaiian’, and therefore irrefutably ‘surfy’, but coupled with the high-pitched vibrato, suggests a very different seascape – almost otherworldly.
If you reckon not many cakes can transport you out of this world in everyday life – well, not legally, anyway – you don’t have a sweet enough tooth.
We started with an instrumental, we're gonna almost end with one. Almost, because it's not quite an instrumental. But it's certainly an excellent closer: phased synths, surging guitars, crashing drums… it’s almost surf music – certainly closer to the blueprint than Midnight Oil’s ‘Wedding Cake Island’. But it’s got nothing to do with the ocean. In fact, it’s almost got nothing to do with anything at all.
The reason it’s here is not for composer Paul McCartney’s grunts, but for the one vocal refrain: “I still have not had any dinner!” As everyone knows – you have to finish your dinner before you get to enjoy your dessert. Or, as that mean old school master put it in Pink Floyd’s The Wall, “how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” (“You! Yes you! Stand still, laddie…!”)
George Harrison may have invented the charity rock-on-athon with 1971’s Concert for Bangladesh, and Bob Geldof, taken it to its supreme conclusion with Band Aid in 1985. Paul McCartney’s own version was the Concerts for Kampuchea that involved the likes of The Who, Queen, The Clash, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Rockpile and The Pretenders. The finale was an all-star jam with members of the various groups, combined in one supergroup called Rockestra, delivering the classic rocker ‘Lucille’, modern-day rock’n’roll hymn ‘Let It Be’ and their very own ‘Rockestra Theme’.
McCartney had the melody that makes up the theme for years. There’s a rough work tape from about 1974 – bootlegged under the title The Piano Tape – that features Macca at the piano, banging out snatches and fragments of various works–in–progress, many of which would be finished and recorded during the subsequent decade-and-a-half. ‘Rockestra’ appears on that tape. The studio version was recorded at Abbey Road with Paul McCartney fronting not just Wings, but a megaband similar to the one captured live as the final to the Concerts for Kampuchea. It was, indeed, a ‘Rock Orchestra’. Or, if you will, a Rockestra, and it included members of The Who, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
The 'Rockestra Theme' was included on Wings’ final album, 1979’s Back to the Egg. A fitting title, given this 'BastardChef' project. But it's a little ironic that the piece of music became the signature tune for a fundraiser to aid a starving people in war-torn Cambodia, given the vocal refrain about still not having had any dinner. To say the very least, it is of questionable – ahem – taste.
Paul Weller's gone and recorded a cover of the Beatles' 'Birthday' for Paul McCartney's 70th. Which is nice. Amazon's selling it online as a fundraiser for 'War Child' (a charity that provides aid to children affected by war).
First, some background.
You may recall the existence of the Smokin' Mojo Filters - a 'supergroup' that included Paul Weller, Paul McCartney and Noel Gallagher. They recorded 'Come Together' (from whose lyric the group took its name) for the album Help, an all-star compilation album released in 1995 to raise money for War Child.
I remember selling a lot of copies of The Beatles' 'The White Album'back in the day, because people wanted "you know, that rocky version of birthday - the one that goes…" - and they'd sing the riff - "nah nah nah nah nah nah - you say it's your birthday". And as I was the resident Beatle nut, I'd be the one who'd know it was the Beatles and point them to the album it was on. (Note: it was also on the compilation double album Rock'n'Roll Music - which, by that stage, was two single, budget albums in Australia. So you could find it on Rock'n'Roll Music Vol 2.)
Nick O'Sullivan, a buddy I've known for about a million years, is a fine artist who creates awesome caricatures. I'll take every opportunity to bring his work to your attention, and today's the day for Paul McCartney.
But before we get to that, here's a classic clip from early on in the Beatles film A Hard Day's Night (1964):
People who recognise Paul's granddad, Wilfred Bramble - who also played 'Albert Steptoe' in the sitcom Steptoe & Son - will get the references to his 'cleanliness' (he was forever the 'dirty old man!' as far as his 'son' was concerned in Steptoe & Son).
However, the 'who's that little old man?' motif will have developed a new meaning for Paul McCartney fans and avid Grammy Awards watchers. For, as Paul McCartney and a supporting cast of superstars presented the big side-two-of-Abbey-Road finale of the 2012 Grammy Awards, it had an interesting, hitherto unseen effect: it was confusing ignorant Gen Y brats.
Because suddenly, around the world, the blogosphere was filled with people wondering out loud just "who TF" this old dude called Paul McCartney was:
Well, finally, today, on his 70th birthday, we can now answer both questions effectively:
Who the hell is Sir Paul McCartney? He is that little old man. And who is that little old man? He's Paul McCartney.
Happy birthday Sir Macca. Here's Nick O'Sullivan's brilliant caricature.
Beatles Anthologywas a mammoth project begun in 1992 that involved a mutli-part television documentary – later expanded for DVD release – plus three double-CD sets with unreleased songs and alternate versions of Beatles favourites, coming to fruition from 1995. The project actually began in 1970 with a 90-minute documentary entitled The Long And Winding Road. It was constructed by Apple boss (and former Beatles road manager) Neil Aspinall from all the Beatles footage he could get his hands on.
It appeared nothing would come of it until John Lennon referred to it in a court case brought against the producers of a stageshow entitled Beatlemania! in 1980. Lennon claimed that the Beatles were intending to stage a reunion concert that would form the ending of the Long And Winding Road doco. Yoko Ono concurs that it had been Lennon’s intention to return to England after he’d come out of retirement with the album Double Fantasy. His subsequent death put an end to the reunion and The Long And Winding Road.
In 1982, a two-hour documentary entitled Compleat Beatles appeared. It was not just an amazing revelation. At the time – when the remaining Beatles hated being described as ‘former-’ or ‘ex-Beatles’ and were so keen on retelling the story – Compleat Beatles told it through in-depth interviews with the likes of producer George Martin, Liverpudlian contemporaries like Gerry Marsden, Bob Wooler and Bill Harry, snippets of news footage and clips from throughout the ’60s, narrated by Malcolm McDowell. It was brilliant. So much so, it even had a brief cinema release in 1984.
Not that I ever watched it in its entirety. Not in one sitting anyway. Or rather, one standing. Because there was one summer when it was the hot video for Christmas, and was playing on endless loop on the biggest television the David Jones department store at Warringah Mall had at their disposal. It sat at the front of the audiovisual section, near the records (or ‘vinyls’ if must – but I prefer you didn’t) and on my regular pilgrimage – taking place more frequently than weekly, but not quite daily – I’d begin in the David Jones record department and end at the Mall Music Centre (one of the best independent record stores, in its time; my first summer job was at Mall Music, as was my first full time job).
I’d stand there for between 10 minutes and half an hour at a time – always at different stages (though never at the beginning or end, it seems) – utterly transfixed. I remember hearing George Martin divulge the way in which Paul McCartney’s ‘Got up, got outta bed’ interlude was inserted into John’s ‘A Day In The Life’, how the orchestral freak-out part was constructed and recorded to comply with Lennon’s desire that it be “orgasmic”. In a time before the Internet, this information, this footage and this detail was just not available anywhere else.
It was a massively successful video release, is my point, and my family did not have a video cassette recorder and would not, still, for some years. And when it got its limited cinema release, my area (possibly my country) wasn’t so blessed.
But it’s probably why EMI attempted to release The Beatles Sessions – a single album collection of the best completed but unreleased Beatles songs – in 1985.
Eventually, Compleat Beatles (and The Beatles Sessions) were superseded by Anthology. Yet, while Anthology was far more comprehensive, it was the official, sanctioned story, as approved by all the interested parties. Compleat Beatles provided an objective approach and a particular charm.
I know you can still get the Compleat Beatles VHS video from some sources. And I’m sure it’s doing the rounds as a bootleg DVD. But people've ripped their LaserDisc and VHS versions, and uploaded them YouTube, which is much nicer (ie cheaper). Enjoy it in all its un-remastered glory while you can.
If you want, you can listen to the album below. While you read through the track list in better detail. Go on, you know you want to. If you like them very much indeed to the point of wanting to own them, there are links to Amazon. You may prefer to keep your own local music store alive if you still have one; if you don’t, the Amazon purchase will aid the upkeep of this blog, which is nice.
By the way, the cover artwork is by Alex E. Clark. (If you can only see an expanse of white immediately below, check this out on a computer rather than your phone or tablet.)
‘Bubble gum’ is a genre of pop that came into being in the late ’60s when the kid brothers and - more importantly - sisters of the swingin’ youth were getting to a record buying age. So it mostly consists of producer- and session-musician driven, sickly sweet ditties designed for tweens and teens buying singles. ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’ is a prime example – but don’t dismiss it. Fundamental truths are often communicated in the simplist aphorisms.
Even if ‘Yummy yummy yummy/I got love in my tummy’ doesn’t resonate with the authority of a quote from Shakespeare or Dylan – the ‘Love, you're such a sweet thing/Good enough to eat thing’ might get us into Rochester territory – often the truest food of love is, in fact, food. And there’s no denying that the love of food is one of the truest loves there is. (Just ask Matt Preston and his fellow judges.)
If there’s one thing you learn from MasterChef, it’s the importance of fresh ingredients and the value of establishing relationships with providores: going to growers markets when you can’t grow your own. Of course, back in the day, they used to come to you – hence the 16-bar blues of ‘Watermelon Man’: inspired, according to composer Herbie Hancock, by the memory of the watermelon man who made his way through the backstreets and alleys of Hancock's neighbourhood in Chicago. He distinctly recalls the rhythm of the wheels on the cobblestones, apparent in the groove of the piece.
Recorded for Hancock's first album, the 1962 Blue Note album Takin’ Off, ‘Watermelon Man’ proved a modest hit before Mongo Santamaria turned it into a massive Latin pop hit the following year. It soon became a jazz standard. Hancock reworked it into an altogether funkier tune for his early ’70s album Headhunters. There is a vocal version that makes obvious use of the unmistakeable ‘watermelon man’ cadence.
‘Vegetables’ – not only delicious, but good for you too. The hippies knew it. Hence this paean to the edible parts of plants. Originally intended for Smile, the long, lost Beach Boys masterpiece that was meant to be a follow-up to Pet Sounds. But Smile was shelved with much drama, intrigue and subsequent denials and recriminations, thought never to see the light of day again. Until Brian Wilson released a solo version of it earlier this millennium. And then the original Smile sessions were excavated for a mammoth boxed set that included a reconstruction of the lost masterpiece in 2011.
However, back in the day, when for whatever reason the original was shelved (Wilson’s paranoia, stoked by summer of love chemical refreshments; the rest of the band’s disinterest; the record label balking at the mounting costs of hippies frittering away their money…), the song was salvaged for the less spectacular album that was eventually released:Smiley Smile.
Apparently the ‘tuned percussion’ of munched vegetables include the chomping talents of Paul McCartney, who happened to pop in to the studio during the Smile sessions.
4: St Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast/Father O’Blivion - Frank Zappa/Mothers
In the early-to-mid-’70s Frank Zappa led his most jazzy line-up of the Mothers of Invention. They were (like all of Zappa’s bandmembers) musicially brilliant, irrespective of the silly lyrics they were called upon to underscore – and I say that as someone who digs the silly lyrics!
To give you some idea of how well-rehearsed the band was, it’s been told (by a local muso who hung out with Zappa’s trumpeter, Sal Marquez, on the 1973 Aussie tour) that at any time, Frank could call upon a bandmember, naming a song and a bar. The musician was then expected to hum their corresponding part.
‘St Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast’ and ‘Father O’Blivion’ are two songs that make up the four-song suite that opens the album Apostrophe (’) (it begins with ‘Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow’, followed by ‘Nanook Rubs It’). Another track, ’MAH-JUH-RENE’, was recorded, but edited out of the final master before it was released; it may have fitted between ‘St Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast’ and ‘Father O’Blivion’ but it’s hard to ascertain – a live recording from Sydney 1973 puts it after ‘St Alphonso’, but that rendition opens with ‘Father O’Blivion’ before proceeding to ‘Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow’ and ‘Nanook Rubs It’.
I’ll leave it up to you to find the deeper meaning; I just love listening to that band play - Ruth Underwood's percussion especially - with Frank up front, singing lead.
This song, essentially a low-fi blues jam, was written in Australia during – or perhaps just after – the Wings tour of 1975. It was recorded in early 1976 for the album Wings at the Speed of Sound. The album came out in March, giving the band an album to tour behind when they went back on the road (their ‘Wings over the World’ tour culminated in the US in 1976).
The story goes that Paul and Linda were staying in a house whose kitchen had everything they could possibly need, laid out around them pretty much as described in the song. The white noise of frying oil that opens and closes the song is a nice touch.
Wings at the Speed of Sound has always stood out as a particularly ‘group’ album - with everyone getting a go on lead: Denny Laine sings lead on ‘Note You Never Wrote’ and ‘Time To Hide’; Jimmy McCulloch sings lead on ‘Wino Junko’; Joe English sings lead on ‘Must Do Something About It’.
‘Cook of the House’ was Linda's contribution. It also appeared on the flipside of the 1976 single ‘Silly Love Songs’. And hardcore fans of Linda McCartney will know ‘Cook of the House’ also appears on Wide Prairie, a posthumous compilation widower Paul put together in 1998.
Irrespective of your thoughts on Macca's missus, ‘Cook of the House’ has a certain charm. Matt Preston please note: it is the most cooking of cooking songs.
In January 1958 Elvis Presley was able to defer his entry into the United States Army to March of that year, in order to make one of his few critically and commercially successful films: King Creole.
It’s a bout a 19-year-old Danny Fisher whose mother died, and now finds himself having to help support his family after his dad dropped his bundle and the family was forced to moved to the impoverished area of New Orleans. Despite being well-meaning and diligent, Danny finds himself entangled with gangsters and two different women.
The film opens with ‘Crawfish’, a duet with jazz vocalist Kitty White on what sounds like the classic work song – the work song sung, say, by the fishmonger who’d push his icecart through the back alleys of neighbourhoods selling his latest catch. Those days are long gone, not so much because of the lack of pavement-bashing fish mongers, but because BP went and destroyed the fishing industry for good in that part of the world.
As with all of the workhorse blues workouts the Stones are wont to record during album sessions, this is essentially an extended warm-up jam kept for a single flip-side. The lyrics are the customary underdeveloped sketches about sex, the music, an opportunity for the band to stretch out and have fun.
This one was committed to tape between 1982 and 1989 – meaning it could date from the sessions for Undercover (released 1983), Dirty Work (1986) or Steel Wheels (1989). Or perhaps all three, since the Stones still like to pull out an old song and finish it for a new album (or a new deluxe re-release of an old album, as the bonus discs of Exile on Main Streetand Some Girls demonstrate).
‘Cook Cook Blues’ saw the light of day as the flipside of the 1989 single ‘Rock and a Hard Place’ (from Steel Wheels), but features both the original Stones ivory tickler Ian Stewart, who passed away in 1985, and former Allman Brothers Bandmember Chuck Leavell, responsible for much ’80s Stones ivory ticklage, suggesting an early=’80s recording that was possibly polished and edited for late-’80s release.
I love the way it begins mid-song – as though what took place before the fade-up wasn't quite worth keeping. Or, perhaps, there was no initial plan to tape the jam, but it suddenly got good, so the person in charge of pressing ‘record’ suddenly did.
In the late-’70s, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe – collectively known as The Goons thanks to their long-running radio program The Goon Show – had a reunion of sorts: they recorded a couple of tracks that were issued as a single, and then compiled on an album called Unchained Melodies. One of those songs was The ‘Raspberry Song’.
You know how important it is to health and diet to stick to the seasonal fruits and veges! ‘The Raspberry Song’ is about nothing, if not seasonal fruits. (That is, it’s about nothing!) Thus, just like the raspberry, that trademark sound effect so beloved of Spike Milligan, the song pretty much speaks for itself.
Popcorn is everyone’s favourite treat! And – apart from, perhaps, Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs – something that exists only in and of itself. What else can you ‘cook’ or ‘prepare’ with popcorn? Only other forms of candy, apparently. Fittingly, ‘Popcorn’ it’s also everyone's favourite instrumental – you know it, you've always known it, even if you never knew its name.
This legendary piece was originally written and recorded in the late ’60s by Moog maestro Gershon Kingsley for his 1969 album Music to Moog By. Hot Butter, an instrumental covers band who gave everything the Moog treatment, recorded it – along with other hits of the day like ‘Day By Day’ from the Jesus musical Godspell, Neil Diamond’s ‘Song Sung Blue’, the Tornadoes’ ‘Telstar’ and the Shadows’ ‘Apache’ – for their self-titled album in 1972.
It was a worlwide chart-topper, doing amazing business in unlikely countries. It was France’s fastest-selling number one single, for example. It was also number one in Australia for ten weeks. Which is why it seems to be etched into everybody’s psyche in Australia, irrespective of age.
Find it: as the title track on the album Popcorn. Download it here.
10: Beans and Corn Bread - Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five
Beans and corn bread sounds like everyman’s food – traditionally ‘poor people food’. The stuff MasterChef celebrates, as long as it has some sophisticated twist, or is plated up nicely. Fittingly, ‘Beans and Cornbread’ was everyman’s music, the distinctive tenor saxophone opening typifying the ‘jump blues’ genre of the 1940s: big bands have given away to smaller, tighter combos that play a faster and more furious groove. It was very popular inded, hence Louis Jordan making a name for himself as ‘The King of the Jukebox’.
‘Beans and Corn Bread’ sounds like there’s a message being imparted about friendship and getting along, but it’s all threat and bluster until they realise they belong together. Seems like there’s not enough substance to read anything into. The song proved a highlight in the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s film Malcolm X. And, it turns out, there was a tradition where the Space Shuttle launch crew were fed beans and corn bread following a successful launch.
Really? Two songs by the same group on this compilation? What was I thinking? But ‘Chewy Chewy’ is the companion piece to ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’. In fact, I’d argue it’s the better song – ‘a mouthful of cute things to say’ is far more erudite than ‘having love’ in one’s ‘tummy’. (The other song that is easy to lump with those is the far superior ‘Bread and Butter’ by the Newbeats – look out for it on a future compilation, I promise.)
This is where the collection should have begun – the ultimate song for people who are prone to fall madly in love. With food. (Matt, this should have been on your compilation!)
‘Agita’ opens the Woody Allen classic Broadway Danny Rose, about the biggest loser of a showbiz manager there is – the title character, portrayed by Woody himself. How can he make a living when his books include a one-armed juggler, a one-legged tap-dancer, and a ventriloquist with a stutter? His one chance at the big time is the lounge singer Lou Canova – except Lou’s got a thing for extra-marital affairs, and his latest mistress is a gangster moll (played by Mia Farrow).
Lou’s signature song, the theme to the film, is this ballad inspired by over-eating and woman trouble. Both lead to the heartburn known, in Italian dialect, as ‘agita’.
Find it: on the album Legacy, available from Nick Apollo Forte’s homepage. But do yourself a favour: enjoy the song in context, and watch the film Broadway Danny Rose. Best value is the The Woody Allen Collection boxed set.
I know ‘Kick Out The Jams’ is a song – and indeed, an album – by the MC5, a call to arms, a proselytising of the youth-, counter- and sub-culture to rise up against ‘The Man’. But I didn’t always.
Initially, I knew it as a lyric from a David Bowie song called ‘Cygnet Committee’ – an epic saga of a song that lives at the end of side one of the album Space Oddity. Now I realise it’s kind of a reply to ‘Kick Out The Jams’ – painting a bleak image of the kind of cult that follows an out-of-control messianic figure advocating slogans such as:
Kick Out The Jams Kick Out Your Mother Cut Up Your Friend Screw Up Your Brother or He'll Get You In the End.
And even though I didn’t recognise the reference to MC5, there were other references and influences close to Bowie’s own heart. For example, when
If ‘Cygnet Committee’ didn’t seem to be so obvious a reply to ‘Kick Out The Jams’, I would cite the reference as a nice little tribute also. I don’t know that Bowie was a particular fan of the MC5, but he was fond of other Detroit-based punks, like Iggy Pop and the Stooges.
But as I say, at the time I didn’t realise the line ‘Kick out the jams’ had any life beyond the Bowie song. Now I’m kind of surprised I didn’t see – or imagine – some sort of link between the line in the Bowie song, and a line in a Beatles song: the John Lennon-penned ‘Come Together’ refers to ‘toe jam football’. Toe jam is the gunk that accumulates between dirty toes; kicking a football may lead to jamming your toes; neither of them amounts to ‘kicking out the jams’. But ‘Come Together’ seems, like ‘Cygnet Committee’, to be another ‘answer’ song to ‘Kick Out The Jams’, albeit a much more peaceful one. Recall that although Lennon identified, to a degree, with revolutionaries, he was never quite sure if, when the time came to lay it on the line, he wanted to be counted ‘in’ or ‘out’. His ambivalence is outlined in the different versions of the song ‘Revolution’.
The most interesting version of ‘Kick Out The Jams’ I ever heard was so unexpected…
Back in 1995 the angelic-voiced Jeff Buckley appeared out of nowhere charming the world. He visited Australia on a promotional tour, and, serving at the time as the music reviewer for an independent newsweekly called The Sydney CityHub, I managed to blag my way into his gig at the Phoenician Club. That venue, originally situated on Broadway, is long gone, but I still remember that day well: the venue crammed well beyond capacity, me surrounded by a heck of a lot of chicks making out (who knew that was his demographic? Well, the chicks did, probably.)
Everyone was in thrall to Buckley’s softc*ck shtick as he woo’d them with those gorgeously wussy ballads like ‘Grace‘, ‘So Real‘ and ‘Hallelujah’. But he won me over when he returned for his encore, because he hit the stage with guns blazing as he led with his version of ‘Kick Out The Jams’. You can hear him do it on the expanded Legacy Edition of the album Grace, but here he is delivering it live at Sin-è:
When I got to write about Super Detox Foot Patches for my job at JigoCity Australia, ‘Kick Out The Jams’ was the obvious cool reference to drop. Since the product is about jettisoning the toxins and stuff that jam you up via the feet, you are more-or-less kicking ’em out – so it’s the perfect call-to-arms. Or, in this case, call-to-feet.
A buddy pointed out that she leaves detoxing to her liver – politely telling me that, as far as she’s concerned, this product appears a bit dodgy. I’m not interested in engaging on that level – but when I do have a liver cleansing product to write copy about, I know that my starting point will be ‘Liver Let Die’.
Although, judging by the product image, it looks more like a case of ‘Kick Out The Teabags’!
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.