Sex Pistols, Clash and Motörhead covered Celtic folk style by Vyvyan from ‘The Young Ones’

Dangerous Minds has checked in on English actor/comedian/musician Adrian Edmondson before, to talk about The Idiot Bastard Band, his group with Bonzo Dog/Monty Python habitué Neil Innes, and his beloved BBC comedy The Young Ones, on which he played the insane and violent postcard-punker archetype Vyvyan Basterd. But we’ve only given passing mention to his fine band The Bad Shepherds, and that’s just absurd. The band’s specialty is Celtic folk covers of classic punk, though songs like Elvis Costello’s “Shipbuilding” and Kraftwerk’s “The Model” have found their way into the repertoire. They’ve released three albums worth of such interpretations, 2009’s Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera!, 2010’s By Hook Or By Crook and last year’s Mud, Blood & Beer.

Given Edmondson’s history in comedy, you could be forgiven for assuming this was a joke band, an inversion of the tired old novelty punk covers trip. But before you leap to conclude that, hear Edmondson out in these excerpts from an excellent recent interview with Outline Online

The whole mechanic of taking on cover songs is a huge mantle for you to take on; has there ever been a song that’s been too difficult, that’s wriggled away from you, that can’t be tamed?

Oh, hundreds of ‘em. Loads of ‘em. Yeah, we try loads of stuff and what we do probably represents about a quarter of what we try to do. It’s not that we don’t like the ones that don’t work, it’s just we haven’t found a way of doing it. We generally take the songs completely to pieces and then put them back together again without thinking about the original and try and find instrumentation for them. Primarily they fall down on lyrics because I’m a middle-aged man and they’ve got to suit my age, and most folk and most punk songs surprisingly do because they’re surprisingly adult in content, most of the punk canon, y’know. They were written by people who were really thinking; they’re not just solipsistic, selfish kind of ‘ooh, I’m in love, I’m not in love’ songs. They’re about social commentary and social protest and things like that and it’s very exciting. But some songs, for example, we’ve tried a few songs by The Damned and none of them worked because they’re all – and I don’t mean this to deride The Damned but they’re all just a bit childish when you take them to bits and you read the lyrics without thinking about what the music’s about. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t go anywhere. We tried moving up the years as well thinking there must be a load of stuff in the 80s with Tears for Fears and OMD and stuff like that, so we scoured through those and tried to work on that and again, that kinda falls short, lyrically. It’s too childish. I mean, they’re brilliant, original things but they don’t fit the ethos of our band; they don’t become folk songs.

What is it about those genres that seem to lend themselves so well?

Because they’re forgotten songs and people all imagine that that sort of era is full of jumping up and down, shouting and spitting and it didn’t mean anything apart from anger in the performance. They’re disastrously wrong; they’re some of the most complex songs. The idea that all punk songs are three-chord wonders is completely erroneous. There are vastly complicated chord sequences and tuning in some of the songs we play.


The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The U.K.”

The Clash’s “London Calling”

After the jump, Motörhead’s “Ace Of Spades” and more…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Before the punk rock comedy of ‘The Young Ones’ Rik Mayall was investigative reporter ‘Kevin Turvey’
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The Young Ones
Rik Mayall

Rik Mayall was fearless. In the early 1980s, when British stand-up comedy was chubby blokes in too tight dinner jackets telling jokes about wives, mother-in-laws and ethnic groups, Rik Mayall would walk on stage, looking like a Bowie-fan circa Heroes and recite poetry about his love for Vanessa Redgrave and the theater. Audiences were aghast and unsure whether Mayall was genuinely an angry socialist poet ranting about theater or some kind of bizarre amateur stand-up comic taking time out from his sociology degree.

Mayall was part of the disparate group of comics who were filed under “A” for “Alternative Comedy.” Ye olde comics didn’t like these cheeky young comics, because they didn’t have punchlines, and couldn’t understand why younger audiences found them funny.

From the Comedy Store in London, these Alternative comics made their early appearances on shows such as the rather excellent Boom Boom Out Go The Lights, which launched Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Keith Allen, Alexei Sayle, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson, and (the sadly forgotten) late-nite-live entertainment series, Friday Night, Saturday Morning, hosted by amongst others, the avuncular Ned Sherrin, the man responsible for That Was The Week That Was and producing musicals like Side-by_Side by Sondheim. Friday Night, Saturday Morning gave air time to Mayall and Edmondson (as Twentieth Century Coyote) and The Outer Limits (Planer and Richardson). These four would later regroup with Keith Allen, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, and Robbie Coltrane as The Comic Strip Presents… for Channel 4 in 1982.

Yet, before all that, and even before Rik and co. “kicked in the doors of British comedy” with The Young Ones in 1982, Mayall starred as intrepid investigative Redditch reporter Kevin Turvey on A Kick Up The Eighties—the show which launched Tracy Ullman, Robbie Coltrane, and Mayall, alongside more established actors/performers Miriam Margolyes, Roger Sloman, Ron Bain and Richard Stilgoe. Produced by comedy supremo, Colin Gilbert for BBC Scotland, A Kick Up The Eighties was a mix of Alternative and traditional comedy, which set the tone for other sketch shows such as Naked Video, and (to an extent) even Ben Elton’s Alfresco (with Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Siobhan Redmond and Robbie Coltrane).

The stand-out segment of A Kick Up The Eighties was Mayall’s superb “Kevin Turvey Investigates” which presented one of the most brilliant, original and hilarious comic creations of the 1980s. The character’s success led to a one-off “mockumentary” The Man Behind the Green Door in 1982, which starred, Mayall as Turvey, with Coltrane as Mick the lodger, Ade Edmondson as Keith Marshall, and Roger Sloman as the park keeper. The story-line is simple: Kevin investigates what’s going on around in his hometown, Redditch. The answer is “not a lot.”

It’s an astonishingly original piece of television that prefigures the style of shows like The Office, and it still retains its comic brilliance more than 30-years later. Enjoy!

Bonus clip of Rik reading his angry poetry, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The disgusting punk brilliance of ‘The Young Ones’
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The Young Ones

It’s difficult to express adequately how distinctive and even dangerous the UK series The Young Ones felt when it landed on MTV in 1985. The angry, chaotic, hilarious series, which positively screamed opposition to conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, represented a timely injection of Monty Python-esque absurdism into the cultural landscape and was, in retrospect, a key purveyor of a scarcely diluted punk aesthetic to the mainstream audience. You know how your older brother was good enough to introduce you to The Clash? The Young Ones served a similar function for me in my middle school years.

What was immediately clear, to me at the age of 13 or so, was that American TV had nothing like this! There wasn’t even anything remotely like it on American TV. This show had actual punks in it! The characters were angry and profane and disgusting and seemed to pay normal bourgeois virtues no heed at all. The focus of the series was ostensibly the filthiest and least likeable set of college students in all of Britain, a premise that they carried over in thoroughly convincing fashion. Their squalid squat featured four enduring archetypes: the hippie Neil (Nigel Planer), the politically engaged poet Rik (played with emphatic genius by Rik Mayall), punk Vyvyan, and “Mike The-Cool-Person”—possibly only by comparison—who is a bit more of a ladies’ man.

Vyvyan, played with a pinched air of dunderheaded menace by Adrian Edmondson, wore torn denim and sported four painful-looking metal stars across his forehead. His key foil is Rik, a prat by anyone’s definition—in so doing the show stacked the deck in favor of the punk, even though he was himself a complete asshole. The issue of “likeability” never seemed to arise much because, indeed, none of the flatmates were in any way likable or ingratiating, evidence of courage on the part of the show’s writers, or perhaps simply conviction that they knew damn well what they wanted to express. The trio of Rik, Neil, and Vyvyan—Mike wasn’t very essential—nailed an anti-buddy comedy nirvana obscurely comparable to Kirk, Spock, and Bones.

The show frequently featured copious amounts of spurting blood and vomit, explosions, and frequent references to almost unmentionable squalor and filth, a refreshing change of pace from, say, “Silver Spoons,” an American sitcom of the same vintage. The anarchic absurdity called for many unmotivated cutaways to puppets who would offer a punchline or some other sort of mordant commentary. One of the best such characters was “Special Patrol Group,” the flat’s resident hamster. (Years later a friend of mine would name his cat SPG in homage.)

But best of all were the bands! Motörhead! The Damned! Madness! Dexys Midnight Runners! Who the hell were these maniacs!? How the hell did they find their way onto a prime-time sitcom? The juxtaposition of a raging rendition of “Ace of Spades” with a near-genius piece of sketch writing between Neil and Rik comes very close to my Platonic ideal of television entertainment:
“Bambi” episode:

More Young Ones after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Hole in My Shoe’ times two: Traffic and Neil the Hippy’s #2 hit single

Wonderful 1967 promotional film for Traffic’s acid rock classic, “Hole In My Shoe,” which reached #2 in the UK singles chart that year. Apparently Traffic leader Steve Winwood always hated this song.

In 1984, actor Nigel Planer, in character as “Neil the Hippie” from The Young Ones television program, also reached #2 with his humorous cover version.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment