Christmas time is here again



When I was a kid, there was a guy called Bruce Hamlin - or ‘Beatles Bruce’ - who used to broadcast regularly on Radio Manly Warringah, a community radio station based in Narrabeen.

He used to produce a half-hour show each week, playing songs around specific themes.

One week he played flip sides of Beatles solo singles that hadn’t made it (at that stage) to albums.

That’s how I first got to hear ‘C Moon’, the dub reggae flip side of the Wings single ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’. (The a-side was included on the album Wings Greatest, but the flip side didn’t make it to an album until a decade later, when it appeared on the double album Paul McCartney: All The Best.)

Beatles Bruce was the guy who informed me of the existence Beatles’ Christmas records. Each year, from 1963 to 1969, the Beatles released a flexidisc (a flimsy plastic record) housed in a proper cover, to members of their official fan club, as a Christmas present. Initially, they were ‘thanks for the support’ messages. Later on they became surreal stream-of-conscious ‘sketches’. In the end they were separate messages from four estranged musicians, edited together by their mate and fellow Scouser, Kenny Everett. The ‘sketches’ were very Goon Showesque. At times a bit Pythonesque. But crazy.

And interestingly enough, their producer, George Martin, who was also boss of the Parlophone label when the Beatles signed to it, had actually pioneered producing excellent comedy records – by the Goons, Beyond the Fringe, and Flanders & Swann. Indeed, one of the reasons the Beatles were happy to be signed to Parlophone was because of their love of the Goons.

The most annoying aspect of the Beatles Christmas records is that they have never been made commercially available. Except for the musical theme – and extended excerpt, if you will – of the 1967 Christmas record, entitled ‘Christmas Time (Is Here Again)’. It finally appeared, officially, as the flip side of the Beatles ‘reunion single’ that kicked off the Anthology project, ‘Free As A Bird’.

The records were pressed by an independent operation called Lyntone. It wasn’t a label, but a manufacturer. Decades later, someone had the bright idea to check the warehouse. Turns out there was a storeroom that still had piles of each year’s record. It was a simple matter to purchase the excess stock. Oh, to have had that idea first and to own copies…

Instead, I have to be content with stumbling across the odd bootleg.

If this is all news to you, it gives me great pleasure to pass on the baton. Just as ‘Beatles Bruce’ introduced me to the Beatles Christmas records, I am doing the same for you. Tune in to ABC 702 (hopefully it'll be broadcast around Australia) at 11pm EST on Christmas Eve (tonight) to hear me discussing – and playing excerpts from – these records, as Rod Quinn’s guest. (I normally talk comedy with Rod once a month at 4am on the ABC Local Radio network; over the Christmas break, Rod’s hosting The Night Life.)


(PS – check out other upcoming gigs and broadcasts on my homepage. And PPS, Bruce Hamlin is still alive and well and keeping his mail list informed about releases and events in the Beatle universe. Find him at all the major Sydney record fairs.)



Comedy Duos – Twice the Fun?


I’m on ABC Local Radio Overnights tomorrow (Sunday) morning across Australia. As Rod Quinn’s guest, I’ll be bringing in a bunch of samples as we discuss comedy duos. I’m on from around 4 am EST (which I think is 2am in Western Australia and somewhere in between, when you’re somewhere in between the eastern states and WA). Since I’m doing it live, and there’ll be talkback, if you’re an insomniac do listen and phone in. Don’t make the questions too hard – I’m working off the top of my head.

My playlist will be drawn from the following:

1. ‘The Cuckoo Song’ - Laurel & Hardy (sort of)

A logical place to start: Laurel & Hardy are a – perhaps the – seminal comedy team and this ditty – which existed independent of them – became their signature tune.

2. ‘Smokers’ – Fry & Laurie

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie were Cambridge students who graduated to Edinburgh Fringe shows as part of the Footlights (the student club that gave members of Monty Python and The Goodies there start along with so many others I shan’t get caught up listing here), like so many university revue-educated wits before them. They first came to prominence in episodes of Black Adder before landing their own excellent sketch show, A Bit of Fry & Laurie, which is where this sketch originated. Nowadays Fry continues to write books and make documentary series while serving as Twitter’s biggest celebrity user, while Laurie enjoys massive success as the main character in the US medical drama series House.

3. ‘Pregnant Women Are Smug’ – Garfunkel & Oates

How’s this for a ‘comedy duo’? Their name itself is a joke on ‘duos’, referring to the ‘lesser sidemen’ in music duos. The point, in comedy, is that even if it looks like only one comedian in the duo is doing the work, the other one is still necessary for the comedy to work: it’s all about the dynamic. (“What was it that Dudley Moore used to do?” the question has been posed. “He made Peter Cook look funny” is the standard answer. He did much more than that – without him as a foil, Cook was more-or-less lost; his work never shone as brightly after cuddly Dudley made it in his own right in Holywood.)

Garfunkel & Oates are two young Californian actors, Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci – Kate’s a regular in later episodes of Scrubs. Their sideline are these cute satirical songs. I’m hoping they become popular enough to visit some Aussie comedy festivals, in time.

4. ‘Six of the Best’ – Peter Cook & Dudley Moore

I could bang on about the genius of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore for days. Suffice to say, as a duo, what they did on stage was magic, and in many ways I see Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh as their present-day equivalent. For its time, groundbreaking social commentary, since Moore plays the elderly schoolmaster, Cook, the arrogant and disrespectful student, reversing the power structure just as the young generation appeared to be taking control – or at least becoming the dominant element in popular culture – in the ’60s. It’s funny because it was revealing the unspoken truth. Of course a lad on the threshold of manhood could intimidate an elderly schoolmaster, but respect for age, experience, intellect, class and position prevented it from taking place. It’s less funny now that the scenario being enacted is one that more-or-less takes place in schools all the time now.

5. ‘Chocolate’ – The Smothers Brothers

The Smothers Brothers – Tom and Dicky – illustrate why the comic song works so well within the parameters of ‘comedy duo’. The ‘straight man’/‘funny man’ dichotomy creates humour through the straight guy trying to deliver the song as it should be performed, while the clown continues to subvert expectations. Within this song, many of the traditional elements of the folk song are turned on their head.

6. ‘Bob Geldof’ – Mel Smith & Grif Rhys Jones

After working on the sketch show Not The Nine O’Clock News with Pamela Stephenson and Rowan Atkinson, Smith & Jones continued to work with each other on the sketch show Alas Smith & Jones (the title’s a piss-take of the early ’70s cowboy series Alias Smith & Jones). One aspect of their work together were their ‘chats’, naturalistic dialogues derived, no doubt, from initital improvisations, not unlike the work  Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in ‘Pete ’n’ Dud’ mode – two old mates talking bollocks over beer.

7. ‘Sarah Jackman’ – Allan Sherman

Allan Sherman was mostly a solo act, coming out of a Jewish television/showbiz background (the titles of many of his albums began with the words, ‘My Son…’ like My Son The Nut and My Son The Folk Singer – as though his parents were still disapproving). He was a producer of the classic Tonight Show ever so briefly – but not good enough at it. After he was sacked, he returned as a performer, doing what he did best: song parodies. Indeed, the first time you watch the Walt Disney animated masterpiece Fantasia, you may think yourself a little crazy when you realise the melody of Ponchielli’s ‘The Dance of Hours’ (ostriches doing ballet) sounds almost exactly like ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Fuddah’; that’s because Sherman took ‘The Dance of Hours’ melody and wedded new lyrics to it. And he did it well – every syllable is where it should be.

For the duration of this song  – a parody of the French children’s song, ‘Frère Jacques’ – Sherman’s part of a duo with Christine Nelson. The song takes the form of a ‘catch-up’ phone call, one imagines by someone who has grown up and left the old neighbourhood, catching up with all the comings-and-goings. There’s a good deal of social commentary from its time – the early ’60s – with cousin Shirley ‘married early’, brother Bentley ‘feeling better mentally’, cousin Ida a ‘freedom rider’ and – my favourite – Sonja’s daughter Rita, now a ‘regular Lolita’!

8. ‘Who’s On First’ – Abbott & Costello

One of the seminal pieces of comedy from a classic comedy duo. Essentially the Abbott & Costello signature piece, it was recorded a number of times – in various films and on radio and television shows. This is an excerpt.

9. ‘Hawk Hawkins’ – Smart Casual

Ben and Nick Mattick are Roger David and Fletcher Jones (I may have the charaters in the wrong order), AKA Smart Casual. They first appeared on the Sydney comedy scene a few years ago, getting to the national final of the Raw Comedy competition on the strength of songs that had the good sense to be more than one gag repeated ad infinitem accompanied by 12-bar blues, or all of their jokes, delivered to opened-ended chordal vamping – which is how so much ‘musical comedy’ is unfortunately presented. (See what I’m saying, comedy n00bs? The tokenistic inclusion of music will fool the masses as easily as any other comedy corners you may find a way to cut. But people who ‘know about’ music and ‘know about’ comedy won’t be be impressed.)

Part of what makes Smart Casual’s material work is something that Garfunkel & Oates also know full well: if the joke is a quickie, so too must be the song. This year Smart Casual featured in Comedy Zone – the show the Melbourne International Comedy Festival puts together from the best new talent around Australia. ‘Hawk Hawkins’ was their Raw Comedy finale and has served them well. I suspect they’ll soon be ‘resting’ it as they move on to new material.

10. ‘Happy Darling?’ – Eleanor Bron and John Fortune

Eleanor Bron and John Fortune came to the fore as part of England’s so-called ’60s satire boom. Bron went to Cambridge University and was a contemporary of Peter Cook’s. She also has a major role in the Beatles film Help! – among other things, she’s the woman being sung to in the clip for ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’. During the 70s Bron and Fortune developed a series of sketches about relationships under the title Is Your Marriage Strictly Necessary? which John Cleese cites as one of the inspirations for Fawlty Towers.

11. ‘The Phonebook Song’ – Scared Weird Little Guys

The Scared Weird Little Guys are another two-guys-and-a-guitar comedy duo specialising in genre pardies and clever-silly songs. They comprise Rusty Berther and John Fleming, who met in a capella groups, having cut their teeth in barbershop quartets and the like. (Their first shared project was a five-piece a capella combo, ‘The Phones’.) ‘The Phonebook Song’ is a classic live number that demonstrates vocal prowess. At the very end, it refers to another novelty song built around clever rapid-fire syllables.

12. ‘Sweet Fanny Adams Part 2’ – Mel & Sue

Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins were (and possibly still are) an English comedy duo who, earlier this century, were likened – and perhaps burdened by the comparison – to ‘French & Saunders’. The BBC Radio 4 show, The Mel & Sue Thing, and subsequent Edinburgh Fringe shows, demonstrated a clever, funny approach to sketch comedy. ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’ was a regular feature of the show – the serialisation of Jane Austen’s last – and lost – novella, the perfect antidote to the costumed period dramas that still occupy BBC television broadcast schedules. Part of their ‘Mel & Sue’ persona sees them share a bed in their pyjamas in a very ‘Morecambe & Wise’ manner. Mel pops up in a Vicar of Dibley Christmas special.

13. ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ – Morecambe & Wise

Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise met as kids in a touring vaudeville troupe and perfected their comedy in partnership very early on. Being in the right place at the right time, they were the ones who made the transition from the vaudeville stage to television most successfully, becoming the most watched comedians of their age as they broke viewing records, particularly for their Christmas specials, in which regular non-comedic television personalities – news readers and the like – would appear in guest roles. ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ was, by the end of their long career, established as their signature tune.

Boxing clever

I am going to be Kara Kidman’s guest on Out of the Box, on Radio FBi Sydney, 12pm Thurs 25 June. Tune in: 94.5 on your FM dial or, if you’re not in Sydney, hear it streamed online via

The format for Out of the Box is that the listener chooses a playlist of about ten meaningful songs, plays them, talks about them.

I went through a bunch of different choices before landing on my final list – a list I still thought could have been improved upon as I headed out the door, armed with the discs, to head to the station. One thing that could have been included was ‘El Paso’ by Marty Robbins.

Robbins was a ‘singing cowboy’ who specialised in ‘outlaw ballads’ and I grew up listening to him because my mother had a K-Tel compilation tape of his greatest hits. ‘El Paso’ is my favourite: a cowboy fancies Salina, a Mexican girl who works in Rosa’s cantina ‘out in the west Texas town of El Paso’ (El Paso being Mexican for ‘The Pass’ – it is, as you’d expect, on the border of Texas and Mexico – and New Mexico, as it happens). In time, the protagonist realises he has a rival for Salina’s affections, a flash young man who is far more enticing. A gunbattle ensues, the protagonist shooting ‘the handsome young stranger’ dead. The protagonist rides out to ‘the badlands of New Mexico’ to evade rightful retribution for his crime But he misses Salina, so brazenly rides back. But there’s a posse waiting. You can guess how it ends.

Another song I wish I’d had room for was ‘You’re A Good Man Albert Brown’ by the Dukes of Stratosphear – a band I became aware of by stumbling upon the most gorgeous record cover ever, for their first album, 25 O’Clock. They were a psychedelic band. A mock psychedelic band, it turned out. They were in fact XTC trying to recreate the psychedelia of their youth. I still didn’t know this when, years later, they released their follow up album Psonic Psunspot. The lead single was ‘You’re A Good Man Albert Brown’, a song with the aftermath of World War I as its setting. Lord Kitchener was on the cover.

I didn’t know why psychedelia involved Victoriana – vintage army costumes like the ornate ones worn by the Beatles on the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I do now: apparently amongst the images and sensations unlocked by the drug in the form of hallucinations are memories of youth – it encourages a retreat to childhood. And for many young musicians in the 60s, this entailed memories of Granny’s house: photos of uncle so-and-so who never managed to return from the Somme, and so forth. Well, that’s English psychedelia; in the US, it was often cowboys and indians or civil war regalia.

My copy of the ‘You’re A Good Man, Albert Brown’ was pressed on ‘psychedelic’-coloured vinyl. Instead of black, it was multicoloured. It looked like vomit, actually. I can’t remember when I discovered the Dukes weren’t a new band who liked sounding old, but a less-new band who liked sounding older. It didn’t really matter. They created that ‘vintage sound’ quite well. And they gave rise to my own cod-psychedelic band, Psychedelic Spew.

Anyway, neither of these made my list. Here’s what I went with:

1. ‘Favourite Pack Of Lies’ – Steve Kilbey, The Slow Crack

I was a late-comer to Sydney band The Church, but I fell in love pretty early with the solo work of their bassist Steve Kilbey, for two reasons – the album The Slow Crack with its elaborate psychedelic cover art, that I stumbled on while filing records away behind the counter at the record shop I worked at – and this song, ‘Favourite Pack Of Lies’, that stood out when I put the record on while working back one evening. I was hooked. Eventually I got into the band as well. In fact I worked briefly with Peter Koppes, the lead guitarist of The Church, about 15 years ago. He still invites me to gigs. Awesome local talent, still going strong!

2. ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ – George Harrison, Brainwashed

This really should have been the single from Harrison’s posthumous album. It should have been included on the recent compilation Let It Roll, and issued as a single. As it is, it’s an excellent, under-rated song that captures George and his love of ukalele. It also betrays a love of ‘granny music’, an accusation often leveled at Paul McCartney, by John Lennon.

3. ‘My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama’ - Frank Zappa and the Mothers – Weasels Ripped My Flesh

I became a Zappa fan(atic) after someone I worked with in a record shop (it was the late-’80s, we still sold records) told me if I ever see Zappa albums secondhand, I should buy them. They were hard to get. I’ve blogged about this before.

I had a hard time deciding what song to play. It’s a matter of balancing the humour, the ribaldry and the musical chops. This has the first and third without so much of the second quality.

4. ‘My Name Is Nobody’ – Ennio Morricone, Film Music

One of the really popular CD sets I used to sell when working in music retail was a collection of film themes by Ennio Morricone. One day I found a single-disc compilation that was kind of a ‘best of’; let’s face it, for the novice, all you really want is ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’ and ‘The Mission’; anything else is a bonus. Fist Full Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More… either, or, or both, whatever.

So I used to bung this on, listen intently to the opening track – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – and then let it fade into the background. Sure, I’d notice it again when ‘Chi Mai’ came on. In the UK, it was the theme to The Life and Times of David Lloyd George, which means nothing to me. In Australia, it was the musical accompaniment to one of those short interstitials that would fill time between shows in the afternoon on the ABC. Maybe it was a hot air balloon, or people ice skating? I don’t remember.

Then I discoverd the deliciously dark sitcom Nighty Nighty, written and starring Julia Davis. The theme music seemed so familiar, but just out of my reach. I thought it was maybe the instrumental break of a late-’60s pop song. And then I somehow remembered it was one of the Ennio Morricone themes that I didn’t recognise, most likely to a spaghetti western I’d never seen.

5. ‘Rhubarb Tart’ – John Cleese, – At Last the 1948 Show

At Last the 1948 Show is one of two immediate precursors to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It featured Cleese, Graham Chapman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Marty Feldman, while Do Not Adjust Your Set featured Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and, eventually, Terry Gilliam. Both date from 1968. The following year the six began working together as Monty Python.

‘Rhubarb Tart’ is a foolish novelty song set to the tune of one of John Philip Sousa's marches. It prefigures a lot of Python interests, including the name-checking of philosophers, artists and Lionel Bart (writer of the musical Oliver!, among other things). Sousa made a career of composing marches, one of which was ‘The Liberty Bell’. Which went on to feature as the theme to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And the ‘Every Sperm Is Sacred’ sequence in The Meaning of Life is one of the best parodies of Oliver! ever perpetrated (think: ‘Consider Yourself’.)

6. ‘From Beginning To End’ – Psychedelic Spew

When I was in Year 8 my English teacher was a cool guy called Steve Green who wore the widest, psychedelic ties and, up until that year, a big handlebar moustache. He looked a bit like Dave Crosby, before Crosby became a walrus. That year, Mr Green set an assignment for students to work together and create a package – writing, artwork, video and recordings if possible – of a band. Some people chose real bands. Some mates and I came up with Psychedelic Spew. We were into the Beatles, and I was particularly into psychedelia (and Steve Green’s ties).

The first time I created this track, it was with a record (The Beatles Rock’n’Roll Volume 1; the song’s ‘Twist & Shout’ if you haven’t guessed) recording onto a blank cassette on a Sharp three-in-one hifi unit. For some reason the tape mechanism was so precise that when paused, there was no slippage at all. I must have pressed pause and then lifted it off just before the very end of the song. The end result sounded impressive. That tape has long since disappeared, and while this re-creation sounds as impressive, there’s no skill involved in manipulating and cross-fading digital files. The idea’s still funny.

7. ‘No Wucken Furries’ – Dom Romeo

One Christmas in the mid- to late-’80s my brother convinced me that we should convince our parents to invest in a four-track recorder for the ideal Christmas present. They did. I started work on my ‘heavy concept album’ to be entitled From the Sublime To The Ridiculous – And Back Again! Unfortunately I ran out of teen angst long before I completed the work. There may be a bunch of C60 and C90 tapes with the songs on them somewhere in the house still, but I doubt it. The only one I could lay my hands on was this, which was written and recorded to serve as the theme to a derivative, undergraduate, university sketch comedy show, some of which was actually video taped. The title was someone else’s suggestion.

The best comment it’s had is, ‘it’s so bad, it’s almost good’. I know things aren’t quite in tune, but it was recorded with real instruments, in real time, long before your basic computer came with all the instrument pre-sampled and ready to go, indeed, before every computer was a recording studio. In fact, before most people could afford very much more than a Commodore 64 or Vic 20. 

Actually, the best compliment came from a mate who said it sounded a bit Flaming Lips-ish. I’ll take the compliment.

8. ‘Broad Lic Nic’ – The Doug Anthony Allstars, DAAS Icon

The Dougs are probably my first real contemporary, local comedy love. They were regulars on The Big Gig, a weekly cabaret comedy show directed by Ted Robinson. They were funny, there were musical, the three-part harmonies  – often singing offensive lyrics – were brilliant. For a while, I’d see every Sydney show I could get to. I interviewed them a few times towards the end; I should find those and put them on my blog!

Choosing a song shouldn’t have proved so difficult but I was torn: the popular funny favourite, ‘KRSNA’? The gorgeous, tortured ballad, ‘Bottle’? ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’? In the end I went with the drinking song. I’m fairly certain there’s a Scotish phrase – though I don’t know its original context; it may be the poetry of Robert Burns! – that goes ‘it’s a broad licked moonlit nicked tonicket’. Translated to English, it is in fact ‘it’s a broad, light, moonlit night tonight’ with all the consonants pronounced. So this song is, ‘Broad Light Night’. Possibly inspired by time spent at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

9. ‘Gummy Bear vs Dracula’ – Joe Romeo

As a kid, my big brother was a bit of a dag – he grew up loving classical music and understanding it and knowing how to compose, arrange and orchestrate it. But he never was allowed to pursue it totally – my father’s plans for him were to become a doctor. So now he’s a country doctor with a home studio and when not serving as doctor, psychologist, confessor and everything else a country doctor has to do, he mostly writes and records songs of praise. But he’s started dabbling in electronica. The retro simplicity of this track reminds me of Giorgio Moroder’s stuff in the early ’80s, like the soundtrack to Electric Dreams, with a touch of the classic synthesizer tones of Jean Michel Jarre.

10. ‘Suicide Bomber’ – Tripod, Songs From Self Saucing

I’m always a bit surprised that Tripod can still divide an audience. There are those who think, ‘well, the music’s sound, why do they have to go and ruin it by trying to be funny?’ and likewise the people that would like them better if they were real comedians, and didn’t resort to songs. I say, rubbish. If you know anything about music and comedy, you’d see these guys are brilliant exponents of both. Early on, they had to politely tolerate constant comparisons – warranted or not – to the Doug Anthony Allstars. A shallow comparison to make, but not helped when Ted Robinson revived The Big Gig as The Sideshow and Tripod became the musical trio in residence. But if you are not moved by their music and amused by their comedy, only bring up the issue if you want me to yell at you.

Irrespective of all of that, Tripod’s Self Saucing proved that they had moved on to the next step. It is almost objectively clear that the music and the humour was the most effective and clever it had ever been, taking on a wide bunch of topics including the expected geeky take on popular culture, and, in this instance, modern politics. Great stuff.

11. ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ – David Bowie, Aladdin Sane

There aren’t many Bowie songs I dislike, but among the several that I love, this one stands out for his faultless falsetto, Mike Garson’s excellent piano, and the flamenco guitar. (I should know who the guitarist is, but I don’t.) A gorgeous song from a faultless – in my humble opinion – album. Bowie himself quite likes the song, too – he chose it for a compilation he recently put together called I Select Bowie.

12. ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Alone In Iz World

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was a Hawaiian lad with an awesome voice. Unfortunately also an awesome girth. I don’t know much more about him other than he died of a respiratory illness related to his obesity. This is one track that you cannot play in a shop or on air without at least one person wanting to know more.

Radio Satire

Early last week it was announced that Aussie television weatherman (and spouse of Miss Helena, former host of kids show Romper Room and fellow long-term employee of the 7 Network) Mike Bailey was giving up his meteorological map-poking prognostications in favour of politics. The course of action was obvious: Bailey had to be subjected to a political interview, one where his answers consisted entirely of weatherman jargon. All in the name of satire, of course. James Carleton agreed, and had this conversation with the man, as broadcast on ABC Radio National Breakfast (hosted by Fran Kelly).

I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with James previously. Just before the NSW state election, when Labor politicians were being likened to The Sopranos on account a’ their Eye-talian names. This is what we came up with.

Token Post

Just posting my latest 2GB Good Life segment online, for two reasons:

  1. because I rarely post anything these days;
  2. so that anyone still ‘subscribed’ to this site will actually receive a ‘podcast’ (really, I’d prefer everyone to subscribe to Radio Ha Ha instead — see the info in the left margin for details);
  3. and a third reason — having discovered the html for lists, I can’t help but construct them at every opportunity!

I’ve finally relaxed into the Good Life segment; I know this because on Saturday I was totally relaxed about it — but utterly nervous about providing a ‘comedy in clubs’ guide for Peter Graham’s Club Show after Murray Wilton’s Good Life shift had ended.

I suppose I’d better list what I played:

  • An acoustic version of ‘Imagine’, by John Lennon and a bunch of long-hairs, from the forthcoming Imagine: John Lennon double disc set coming out in March. You can read my review of it in the forthcoming issue of FilmInk.
  • A live version of ‘Loves Me Like A Rock’ by Paul Simon and the Jessy Dixon singers, from
    the Dick Cavett Show Rock Icons triple DVD set, available through Shock from early March. Again, I review it in the next issue of FilmInk. I also lifted a bit of an excellent Mick Jagger interview from this package; Dick Cavett is my new hero; I’d love to host a hip, intelligent chat show like that some day.
  • ‘I Walk the Line’, by Johnny Cash from the At Folsom Prison/At San Quentin - 2 Classic
    Prison Concerts
    box set. I would have picked ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ to play, so I could talk about comedian Rich Hall’s excellent Otis Lee Crenshaw character, whose take on that song’s opening lyrics — “I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die” — is, “man, you’d have to be pretty bored, even in Reno, Nevada, to shoot a man just to watch him die…”. Or words to that effect, ladies and gentlemen, as Sir Leslie Colin Patterson would say. Murray chose ‘I Walk The Line’, I think, because it is the title of the current Cash biopic.
  • Finally, Murray ended with John Farnham’s ‘Don't You Know It's Magic’ from the excellent For Pete's Sake compilation, that gathers together a heap of legendary Aussie songs with which Peter Dawkins had some hand in recording and releasing. Dawkins was a legendary artiste and repertoire man in the Australian music industry, and of late has suffered from Parkinson’s disease; the album is a fundraiser for Parkinson’s research.
  • Somewhere along the line, I plugged the new Arctic Monkeys album, which I love a lot.

All of this stuff either is, will be or should be available from Mall Music, the shop that sponsors my segment on Murray Wilton’s Good Life shift, and in an ideal world I’d have fixed it so that you could click on each item and be transported to the Mall Music website, ready to enter your credit card details and purchase each item (with a percentage going to me, of course). But that technology is still a bit beyond me, unfortunately.

My other radio gig...

Last year I was approached by Geoff Bonouvrie, proprietor of Mall Music (and hence, for many years of my youth, my employer) after he'd heard me be James O'Loghlin's occasional music nerd on 702. He wanted me to deputise for him as a reviewer on the weekend edition of Murray Wilton's The Good Life on 2GB. He was even willing to pay me - which is a lot less common than you'd imagine in this game ('nuff said)!

This year I was offered the gig again, and today was my first go doing it live (last year I pre-recorded them all because I was busy on Saturdays).

Have a bit of a listen.

Where to go for Tim Brooke-Taylor

This post originally contained a link to what I felt was a substandard execution of a great interview with Tim Brooke-Taylor of the Goodies. I had promised to produce a better edit of the interview, and I have. It now forms part of Episode 1 of Radio Ha Ha.

To hear it, you can click here.

To read a transcript of the interview, the entire episode can be read at the Radio Ha Ha website — as part of Episode 1.

And, if you like what you hear and read, go here and copy and paste the appropriate link into your podcastcher to have Radio Ha Ha downloaded to your computer every week.

Music Nerdery

A regular Tuesday night feature on James O’Loghlin’s evening show on ABC 702 is the presence of a music critic who plays a bunch of songs around a specific theme. Listeners phone in with more suggestions along those lines, and generally chat about music. I’ve had the opportunity to play the role of the music nerd a couple of times, I’m happy to say, I’ve picked a few interesting themes. I’ll try and list them from memory, but the examples are in no way exhaustive.

Songs of Youthful Innocence

‘Happy Jack’ – The Who

‘Games Without Frontiers’ – Peter Gabriel

‘Effervescing Elephant’ – Syd Barrett

‘Itchycoo Park’ – The Small Faces

‘There Is A Happy Land’ – David Bowie

Songs about Cars and Driving

‘Helen Wheels’ – Paul McCartney and Wings

‘I’m In Love With My Car’ – Queen

‘Roadrunner’ – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

‘You Can’t Catch Me’ – John Lennon’s Rock ’n’ Roll cover of Chuck Berry, so I could tell the story of Morris Levy, and how that Jewish mafioso on The Sopranos, Hesh Rabkin, is based on Levy

Songs by Singers Begat by Other Singers

‘These Boots Were Made For Walking’ – Nancy Sinatra

‘My Mother Is A Space Cadet’ – Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa

probably ‘Hallelujah’ – Jeff Buckley

You get the idea.

The most interesting one was a bunch of songs about monkeys. Do you think you can fill an hour with songs about monkeys? To be fair, with the news that tops and tails the hour plus chatting and listeners’ feedback, you only need about six songs. But can you even name two off the top of your head?

Here are a few examples: ‘Mickey’s Monkey’ – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles; ‘Monkey To Man’ – Elvis Costello and ‘The Monkey’, by Dave Bartholomew, who inspired the Costello song; ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man’ – The Travelling Wilburys; ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey’ – The Beatles, ‘Funky Gibbon’ – The Goodies; ‘Ape Man’ by The Kinks. And to be honest, I didn’t actually play the last two, so there are actually more than you imagine.

From this brief overview, I admit that there is a broad pattern forming: there’s almost always going to be a Beatles song, a Bowie song and an Elvis Costello song. That’s because they are among my favourite artists, and so their work comes to mind rather easily.

I’ve been asked to provide a segment for Tuesday 26th, and I’m thinking of trying a theme I’ve tried once before, that’s been knocked back on grounds of taste. I’d like to play songs inspired by madness. I think it can be done tastefully, and I think that it is particularly significant at this time, when newspaper headlines are telling us that police are arresting and locking up the mentally ill because sufferers are not being adequately taken care of by the healthcare system. Maybe charity helplines should be advertised between tracks.

I know this is going to be a hard sell, but I think the arts have always been an outlet by creative people exploring the workings of their minds, for better or worse, tastefully or otherwise.

Here are some samples I have come up with:

‘Brain Damage/Eclipse’

Apparently Pink Floyd were drawing inspiration from their departed founding member and former lead guitarist Syd Barrett, for whom the mind-altering chemicals became too much. The song is the last on the masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon, a concept album that ends – if you turn the volume all the way up to catch it – with these depressing words: “there is no dark side o’ the moon, really; matter of fact, it’s all dark”.


I forget who sings the original, although I’m sure I own – or at least listened to a lot with a view to owning, when I was working in a High Fidelity-type record shop – a seven-inch single of the original, repressed on Glenn A Baker’s Raven Records label. I also have the Beasts of Bourbon’s version on their debut album Axeman’s Jazz as well as Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ live version from either of the expanded, re-issue versions of Almost Blue. I love the song because it is dark, foreboding and a prime example of a genre known as ‘Southern Gothic’ – kind of all that dark Eastern European superstition, taken from the sheer mountaintops of countries tormented by mad barons who turn into vampires or build Frankenstein’s monsters, and relocated to the deep south of the United States.

David Bowie

I name the artist rather than the song because this particular artist has so many examples to choose from. It turns out that Bowie’s half-brother Terry, who exerted a lot of influence – as big brothers do — on the developing talents of young David Robert Jones, died a tragic death connected to the mental anquish he suffered. At least, that’s how I understand it, never having spoken about it first hand with Bowie. Yet madness features throughout the Dame’s oeuvre. It’s a hard choice, but I’d easily overlook the textbook ‘All the Madmen’, or ‘Aladdin Sane’ (despite the latter’s gorgeous grand piano, couresy of Mike Garson) – and ‘Jump They Say’ probably doesn’t even come close – for ‘Kooks’, a delightful little ballad that appears on breakthrough album Hunky Dory. I like it because it is an eccentric ditty welcoming a new child to the eccentric family – you can imagine that Bowie wrote it specifically to welcome the birth of son Zowie.

‘Beware of Darkness’

Whenever I listen to this thoughtful number from All Things Must Pass, George Harrison’s first solo album proper recorded as the Beatles fell apart, I picture him lying awake after one hippie joint too many has sent his mind wandering in circles, not just helplessly, but unhelpfully. Apparently the early draft was called ‘Beware of ABKCO’, the company headed by Allen Klein (‘Allen and Betty Klein and Co, in fact) who was representing Harrison, Lennon and Starr while Paul McCartney sued for the disolution of the partnership that had been Beatles Ltd. “Watch out now, take care, beware of thoughts that linger…” (except that brilliant Liverpudlian accent renders ‘take care’ and ‘beware’ as ‘take kerr’ and ‘bewerr’…)

And one of my personal favourites: ‘Uncorrected Personality Traits’

This is another eccentric little ditty by Robyn Hitchcock, the last of the great British eccentrics. I can’t remember what album it’s from, but it’s certainly a solo effort – something that came between the passing of his punk band The Soft Boys and his later band The Egyptians. It deals with more Freudian concepts of unwellness: “Uncorrected personality traits that seem whimsical in a child may prove to be ugly in a fully grown adult.”

Any other suggestions? Feel free to comment.