'The time has come,' the Blogger said, 'To talk of many things: Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax — Of cabbages — and kings — And why the sea is boiling hot — And whether pigs have wings.' 'But wait a bit,' the Reader cried, 'Before you start your post, Consider customer fatigue Where some give up the ghost Whenever folk go rambling on With length their only boast.' 'Let's talk instead,' the Blogger said, 'Of what you really need: The benefit of minds like mine Is very fine indeed — Now if you're ready, Reader dear, You can begin to feed.' 'But not on you!' the Reader cried, Turning a little blue. 'To wade through half-baked tripe would be A dismal thing to do!' 'It's tit for tat,' the Blogger said, 'If I unfollow you!' 'Please yourself,' the Reader shrugged, 'It's all the same to me.' But deep inside, well, something cried: A blogger's heart, you see, While over in the Blogger dwelt A reader's sympathy. 'It seems a shame,' the Blogger said, 'To play this spiteful game, When mutual support so far Has been our climbing frame.' The Reader, oh, said nothing but Was thinking just the same! with apologies to Lewis Carroll
After far too long struggling with the slowness of my WordPress link, I’ve finally got around to downloading the WordPress App.
No idea why it took me so long. The difference is striking. Typing this now, letters and words appear instantly instead of several seconds later – in effect, I was writing blind and trying to marry what was in my head with whatever eventually showed up on the screen.
The link was so slow that I couldn’t access my list of followed sites, which made managing them well-nigh impossible. Now I can whizz through them – just been unfollowing those who haven’t published in a year or more. The number of these surprised me, as did the higher number that haven’t posted for several months.
I also noticed many sites with no information about when they last posted. Does anyone know if such sites are disused? It seems sensible to unfollow redundant blogs and so make it easier to concentrate on active sites.
I haven’t been visiting as much as I should and would be happy to receive heads up and links to posts you think I might like. I well remember doing just that in the early days to build up my readership.
Ah, the boldness of youth!
What am I talking about? That was only three years ago … or was it four?
Ah, the forgetfulness of age! Listen, did I ever tell you about that time at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival when everybody went skinny-dipping?
Oh well … won’t hurt to hear it again, will it? You see, in all the excitement, nobody had thought to pack their cossies …
[That’s enough excitement for today, time for your Ovaltine … Ed.]
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
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.]
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!
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!
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?
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 …