Category: music

Gertcha!

10 of my recent posts featured Comedy Songs – this hyperlink will take you to the first of them. They seemed to go down well so here’s another amusing ditty – Chas and Dave with a slightly cleaned-up version of their cheerful anthem to an archetypal cockney dad.

The words are printed below. Omitted from the original lyrics, the word ‘cowson’ – a mild term of abuse for one born out of wedlock – and the phrase ‘When the dog’s left a message on the step’ – a gentle enough euphemism, you’d think, but clearly too racy for dear old Auntie Beeb back in the day!

As for the line ‘Sister’s boyfriend put his sister up the club’, well, that suggestive ‘put’ is replaced by a more innocuous ‘take’.

Never mind, plenty left to enjoy! And a timely reminder that once upon a time we Brits could make the world smile – on purpose rather than just by accident …

 

Gertcha

Now there’s a word that I don’t understand
I hear it every day from my old man
It may be Cockney rhyming slang
It ain’t in no school book
He says it every time that he gets mad
A regular caution is my old dad
Rub the old man up the wrong way, bet your life you’ll hear him say
Gertcha, gertcha
Gertcha!
When the kids are swinging on the gate
Gertcha!
When the paperboy’s half an hour late
Gertcha!
When the pigeons are pecking at his seed
Gertcha!
When the barber starts digging up his bean
Gertcha!
Gertcha, gertcha
Bar stool preaching
That’s the old man’s game!
Now the old man was a Desert Rat
Khaki shorts and a khaki hat
How me mother could have fancied that
I just don’t know
But when the enemy came in sight
They gave up without a fight
They rubbed him up the wrong way
This is what they heard him say
Gertcha, gertcha
Gertcha!
When me rock and roll records wake him up
Gertcha!
When the Poles knock England out of the cup
Gertcha!
When the kids are banging on his door
Gertcha!
When the barman won’t serve him any more
Gertcha, gertcha
Bar stool preaching
He’s always been the same!
Gertcha!
Gertcha, 
Gertcha!
Gertcha!
Gertcha!
Gertcha!
Gertcha!
When me mother says he can’t go down the pub
Gertcha!
Sister’s boyfriend put his sister up the club
Gertcha!
When the tomcats, when they’re kicking up a din
Gertcha!
Tottenham Hotspur couldn’t get one in
Gertcha!
When me mother locks him out of the flat
Gertcha!
When it’s raining and he can’t find his hat
Gertcha!
In the mornings when his motorcar won’t go
Gertcha!
Next-door neighbour, when he won’t give him a tow
Gertcha!
Gertcha!
Gertcha!
Gertcha!
Songwriters: CHARLES HODGES / DAVID PEACOCK
Gertcha lyrics © Kobalt Songs Music Publishing, Snout Music Limited
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But is it normal, Doctor?

I don’t know about you but I reckon there are times when the world around us gets so downright peculiar that it’s only really strange music, the weirder the better, that can hit the spot.
None stranger, of course, than Don Van Vliet – aka Captain Beefheart. Here are two live performances, both recorded in Paris, the first at the Bataclan in 1972 and the second at the Théatre De L’Empire in 1980.
I’ve included the published lyrics if only to show how far Don departs from them. The personnel may differ but both bands are superb, from the train-coming-down-the-track polyrhythms of Click Clack to that uncanny sound of a car windscreen-wiper – faithfully copied from life – which provides the riff to Bat Chain Puller. The good Captain’s car was stopped at a railroad crossing with an apparently endless goods-train trundling past … 
Two trains
Two railroad tracks
One goin’ ‘n the other one comin’ back
There goes my baby on that ole train
I say come back come back baby come back
Click clack click clack
There’s my baby wavin’ her handkerchief down
My ears stand up when I hear that sound
This time it sounds like it’s for keeps
Click clack click clack
I get down on the ground
With the gravel around
I pray t’ the Lord
That the train will stop
Turn right around
‘N never stop till it drop my baby off
Now I had this girl
Threatened ‘n leave me all the time
Maybe you had uh girl like that
I-yuh all time cryin’
Well I had this girl
Threatened ‘n leave me all the time
Threatenin’ t’ go down t’ N’Orleans-uh
‘N get herself lost ‘n found
Maybe you had uh girl like this
She’s always
Bat chain
Puller
Bat chain puller
Puller, puller
A chain with yellow lights
That glistens like oil beads
On its slick smooth trunk
That trails behind on tracks, and thumps
A wing hangs limp and retreats
Bat chain puller
Puller puller
Bulbs shoot from its snoot
And vanish into darkness
It whistles like a root snatched from dry earth
Sodbustin’ rakes with grey dust claws
Announces it’s coming in the morning
This train with grey tubes
That houses people’s very thoughts and belongings.
Bat chain puller
Puller puller
This train with grey tubes that houses people’s thoughts,
Their very remains and belongings.
A grey cloth patch
Caught with four threads
In the hollow wind of its stacks
Ripples felt fades and grey sparks clacks,
Lunging the cushioned thickets.
Pumpkins span the hills
With orange Crayola patches.
Green inflated trees
Balloon up into marshmallow soot
That walks away in faulty circles,
Caught in grey blisters
With twinkling lights and green sashes
Drawn by rubber dolphins with gold yawning mouths
That blister and break in agony
In zones of rust
They gild gold sawdust into dust.
Bat chain puller,
Puller puller

Melodious Mirth 10


Image result for yellow kitten

I know what you’re thinking. Desperate for people to read his posts, he’s finally flipped his lid and started to post pictures of appealing baby animals. Admit it, you wouldn’t be at all surprised to read this corny caption: ‘Aw, just look at that cute liddle puddy-tat!

Well, frankly, I’m hurt. Do you really believe a respectable site like this one would court easy popularity by providing gratuitous eye-candy for people to gawk at? Rest assured, A Nomad in Cyberspace is a kitsch-free zone with a zero-tolerance policy on anything too soft and/or fluffy.

(NB  This policy may be changed without notice if the cat pic produces a sudden stratospheric viewing spike in my WordPress Stats.)

Joking aside – what do you mean, you didn’t know I was? – the above picture wasn’t there for entirely gratuitous reasons. It shows a yellow cat like the one that features in a funny song I recorded from the radio – Children’s Favourites, as I recall, introduced by Uncle Mac – on our brand-new Grundig-made reel-to-reel tape-recorder all those years ago.

It wasn’t the best song on there, by any means. So why is it here, I hear you ask, in the final post of my Melodious Mirth mini-series?

Well, that’s down to the National Film Board of Canada who in 1988 made a great little film out of it. The film took over 15 awards, including a Genie Award for Best Animated Short as well as an Academy Award nomination. It appeared in animation historian Jerry Beck’s 50 Greatest Cartoons, placing at #32, and was included in the Animation Show of Shows.

Anyway, cat-critics, I’m not the only one to sell his soul to the highest bidder. Mr Johnson and the cat were later used in two adverts for Hula Hoops …

 

Kitten Image: Pinterest

Melodious Mirth 9

My mini-history of comedy music is coming to an end.

That’s not because I’ve run out of material – on the contrary, I’ve never produced so many draft posts, each with a musical comedy gem waiting for me to add some words of introduction. I just think it’s time to wind things up.

My previous post took a turn towards a harder edge of humour with satirical sideswipes at the Vietnam War (Country Joe MacDonald) and Cult Religion (Frank Zappa), so how about keeping the satire sizzling with this splendid spoof from Down Under that kicked new life into the semi-comatose novelty-song genre?

It’s also, by my standards, bang up-to-date – well, more recent than most of what I listen to! – which may improve my somewhat shabby street-cred and help me get down with the kids and stuff. So for now I’ll leave Chas & Dave and The Two Ronnies, not to mention The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band … [You just did! Ed.] … though of course I’m always open to reader requests … [So much for street-cred! Get on with it! Ed.]

Yeah, right, don’t want to alienate the younger element … future of blogging and all that … so it’s over to “New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo” for something or other hot and happening from where it’s at … [Where’s that? Ed.]

 

Melodious Mirth 8

Post 8 already?

The previous 7 have, for the most part, featured jolly music – cheery tunes you could whistle when your mum asks you what you’ve been up to – although the lyrics may sometimes be darker than a jaunty melody might lead you to expect. A good example of this is Tom Lehrer’s So Long Mom in ‘Melodious Mirth 4’ where the meaning is deliberately at odds with an upbeat air.

Such mismatches can make satire sharper. They add bite when the satirical targets are war and the gung-ho public attitudes that can, all too easily, lead us into it. Country Joe MacDonald set his acerbic song I Feel Like I’m Fixin To Die to the upbeat tune of Louis Armstrong’s Tiger Rag. The film of his 1969 Woodstock appearance provides powerful and moving evidence that he’d read the zeitgeist right.

Er, have I posted this clip before? Never mind, here it is again, just in case anybody reading this hasn’t seen it. And who knows, some of you who have seen it might fancy another look.

Me, well, 50 years on and I’m not tired of it yet ….

Flash forward five years and we find Frank Zappa taking aim at self-styled spiritual teachers who used bogus ‘healing’ methods to defraud gullible and often vulnerable people. But his contempt is for con-artist and con-victim alike. The persona he adopts is the guy who sees through all the hocus-pocus.

Zappa always satirised without fear or favour – hypocrisy and stupidity were his targets, no matter who you were. Nothing seemed to escape that eagle-eye, whether right-wing bigotry or fuzzy ‘New Age’ thinking. An outspoken critic of mainstream education and organised religion, he was a passionate advocate for freedom of speech, self-education, political participation and the abolition of censorship.

But humour is always his weapon, deployed here in the range of voices that he adopts – including a prototype rap-style delivery – and the clever match between a chaotic subject-matter and a musical arrangement that sometimes appears on the verge of collapse – though, of course, it never does!

It’s a bit like discovering a circus for grown-ups … with a decent band, for a change!

Melodious Mirth 7

The Barron Knights are a British humorous pop-rock group, originally formed in 1959 as the Knights of the Round Table.

They started out as a straight pop group and spent a couple of years touring and playing in English dance halls. Bill Wyman, later of the Rolling Stones, has written that the Barron Knights were the first group he saw with an electric bass, at a performance in 1961, inspiring him to take up the instrument. In 1963, at the invitation of Brian Epstein,  they were one of the support acts on the Beatles’ Christmas shows in London and later became one of the few acts to tour with both the Beatles and the Stones.

They first came to fame in 1964 with the number “Call Up the Groups” (Parts 1 and 2). It overcame copyright restrictions to parody a number of the leading pop groups of the time including the Searchers, the Hollies, Freddie and the Dreamers, the Dave Clark Five, the Bachelors, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

The Barron Knights have continued to tour over the years and indeed perform to this day, with some personnel changes, having the occasional hit record along the way and earning from their fellow-musicians an admiring nickname – The Guv’nors. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but having the micky taken out of you could be better proof that you’ve really arrived!

Would current performers relish being sent up like that, I wonder? And with such a homogenous product, would anyone actually bother to try?

Nowadays the scene is awash with tribute bands and their word-for-word/note-for-note imitations – enslaved to the originals and forbidden to go beyond their frozen example. Flies in aspic, you might say, stuck fast in a heritage model …

OK, rant over! Oh, perhaps it’s just that old people have all the money and are choosing to spend it on the past. Old people? Hey, that’s me! And where am I up to in this not-so-little survey? 1964!

Aspic, or what?

Steady on, I am looking at the real thing and not a bunch of clones … or puppets … aren’t I? I mean, sure, this has it’s cheesy moments … all those Xmassy references … and any satire is pretty soft. Frank Zappa it ain’t.

Mind you, it soon will be! How could I cover musical comedy and miss out the Mothers?

And now, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado I give you – THE BARRON KNIGHTS!

 

Melodious Mirth 6

Well, I don’t need Wikipedia – did I just say that out loud? – to help me introduce this next genius of musical comedy.

But let me go back to the beginning. My cultural education began one day in the late 1950s when the family bought a smart new Grundig reel-to-reel tape-recorder.

For starters, this opened up a whole new world of creative opportunity – recording daft improvised conversations and roughly-scripted ‘comedy’ sketches, singing like the Chipmunks (using that handy 3-speed function knob!) or sometimes surreptitiously leaving the machine on when my parents were arguing about everything or nothing in the vain hope of shaming them into silence.

But the big thrill was being able to record stuff off the radio and play it back whenever you wanted.

Those were the dog days between Elvis and the Beatles when some of the best things on the air were novelty songs. And nobody performed a novelty song better than Bernard Cribbins.

Quite apart from his comfortable and completely natural singing voice, he brought a wealth of other talents and experiences to the job. Now 90 years old he has been an English character actor, comedy actor, voice-over artist and musical comedian with a career spanning over seventy years. Who could forget his hilarious portrayal of a loud, fussy and pretentious guest in the Hotel Inspectors episode of Fawlty Towers?

Image result for bernard cribbins fawlty towers

Two of his songs, presented below, were particular family favourites. In lieu of live footage – he was very much a studio man – these recordings are accompanied by charming amateur animations.

And if they fail to charm, well, you can always close your eyes and imagine. After all, you are in the hands of a master storyteller …