Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Ex nihilo or ex-Parrotface? a note on the tangled origins of Monty Python's Parrot sketch

The origins of Monty Python's Parrot Sketch have been well documented, but on the eve of the team's imminent reunion I think they could stand a little more examination. And as the cowriter of Freddie Davies' autobiography Funny Bones, to be published by Scratching Shed on July 31st, I may be able to add a further note.
The essence of the joke has been traced back to Ancient Greece but let's begin a little later, with Michael Palin's supremely evasive car salesman (above) in a sketch in the one-off pre-Python show How to Irritate People; if you are unfamiliar with it you can see it here.

As is well known to aficionados, that situation was reworked for a Python sketch with the garage replaced by a pet shop and, at Graham Chapman's suggestion, a parrot replaced the car as the faulty object. (At one point a toaster had also been mooted, which suggests it took a while for the shop's identity to settle.)

 You will find occasional references online to the idea being stolen from Freddie "Parrotface" Davies. That would be getting rather silly, as the late Colonel Chapman might have put it. Nevertheless, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that Freddie's standup act may have made a small contribution towards this enduring sketch.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Gerry Goffin Pt 2

 (headline on Sky News website)

Two points as a follow-up to the previous post. I have found suggestions online that the singer of the demo of Up on the Roof is Tony Orlando. Think I assumed it was Goffin himself, without knowing or bothering to investigate whether he had any kind of voice: yes, that's the kind of attention to detail which this blog offers as standard. If it is Orlando, then that would certainly make sense: if you want your song to be recorded by Ben E King, then get someone who can make a demo in his style.

Secondly, thanks to the magic of the internet (or wundaweb, as we Bernard Cribbins fans cry it) I find myself transported back to that gig at the Jazz Cafe in Camden - or rather twenty fours earlier to the previous night's performance, but close enough - and Ben E King does sing Up on the Roof. The arrangement borrows from a later recording by James Taylor or Carole King, possibly both, and as I've remarked earlier his voice isn't what it was, but it's still worth hearing.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Gerry Goffin and The Man with the Golden Ear

The recent death of Gerry Goffin has been widely reported, and the importance of his contribution to popular music appropriately acknowledged in the British newspaper obituaries and articles I have looked through. You will find plenty of detailed obits online, and this post is not intended to compete with these, only to add a few personal notes.

One is very personal indeed: the memory of an evening in 2003, walking home from work, when the verse from It Might As Well Rain Until September popped into my head for some reason, and I was struck afresh by its simplicity and perfection: it's not particularly clever or witty but it sets up the song as well as any equivalent introduction crafted in pre-rock'n'roll days by the sort of writers who used to throng the Brill Building.

I immediately thought of the person I could share that thought with, the friend who would undoubtedly get it, and understand why it was important. Then I remembered that from now on it was no longer possible to do that.

Which is probably why those words of Gerry Goffin's had come to me in the first place. They said everything without a word wasted.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

It approaches is nigh.

Another videocap from the clip of What a Crazy World in the previous post, out in a month's time.  From left to right, Marty Wilde, David Nott, Alan Klein and Barry Bethel (I think).

Go to the Reel Streets website, here, for six pages of comparing locations as they were at the time of filming with today.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

What a Crazy World DVD release delayed?

It looks as though the Network DVD of What a Crazy World has been delayed - the popular online shopping site where I ordered it now says it won't be delivered until July 7th, and that's the date now given on Network's own site.

But the good news is that Network have recently put up a clip on youtube which suggests that the transfer will, indeed, be as good as hoped: the above is a screengrab from that clip which is far sharper, and more subtle tonally, than the ropey off-air version I bought from a well-known auction website.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Breakfasted he is, and yet he's breakfastless

After the demise of my favourite record shop Cheapo a few years back (see here), another blow: I learnt this morning that the cafe in my local supermarket is to close at the end of this month. As I told the assistant, now I'll have to start making my own breakfast.

Alright, in some ways this will be no bad thing - and I have made my own breakfast in the past, I hasten to add. (Yes, really.) But the cafe was more than just a place to eat a meal prepared by other hands. It was a kind of refuge, providing an uncluttered table top when my own desk was messy (yes, yes, maybe I ought to address that too sometime), and over the last three years I have written or planned a substantial amount of my forthcoming book there.

Why? Well, unlike other local cafes - whose competition has, I'm told, finally proven too much to bear - once you sat down with the contents of your tray you were left alone: no passive-aggressive enquiries about whether you were finished; no whisking away of cups and plates, necessitating a mumbled "thank you" or an awkward and guilty silence - either way, something which you had to deal with, drawing you back to the workaday world.