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Beatles bizarre

December 18th, 2009 10 comments

There are several blogs that offer any number of Beatles rarities; for Beatles fans like myself suffering under the dictate of arbitrary and cruel bandwidth limits, there is a need to be selective. So I don”t downloaded from them. And yet, I have accumulated a fair bit of Beatles curiosities, some of them actually entertaining. Here are some of them.
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The Beatles ““ Christmas Single 1965.mp3
The Beatles ““ Christmas Single 1968.mp3
The Beatles – Christmas Time (Is Here Again).mp3

Starting in 1963, the Beatles issued annual Christmas flexi discs exclusively to members of their official fan clubs. Besides sincere Christmas greetings, these consisted of a whole lot of free-associating riffing by our four friends, singing a bit in a humorous vein (the group rendition of Yesterday in 1965 is amusingly off-key), Lennon delivering his poetry, and the enactments of gags that showed the influence of The Goons on the Fabs. Some of it, such as the 1966 single, is impenetrable unless one appreciates The Goons (which I don”t).

The 1968 (notable for Tiny Tim doing violence to Nowhere Man) and 1969 singles were recorded separately, unlike all the previous offerings. The 1969 single was issued at a time when the group had virtually split already, even if the dissolution became official only on April 10, 1974. It features a giggly Yoko “interviewing” John (who always seemed to enjoy making these singles the most) and John looking forward to the 1970s (Yoko optimistically predicts that there”ll be “peace and freedom” in the new decade, John evidently takes a more cynical view), Paul is singing This Is To Wish You A Merry, Merry Christmas, George pops up briefly to deliver a quick greeting, and Ringo appears only to promote his movie The Magic Christian.

Christmas Time (Is Here Again) is a Beatles composition “” all four share the writing credit “” released on the 1967 single. There it goes on for more than six minutes. The version here is the shortened version that appeared on the b-side of Free As A Bird.

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Nilsson – You Can”t Do That.mp3
Recorded for his 1967 debut album Pandemonium Shadow Show, Harry Nilsson covered the b-side of Can”t Buy Me Love, and worked in references “” lyrical or musical “” to 20 other Beatles songs (the LP also included a cover of She”s Leaving Home). Indeed, in the beginning it isn”t entirely clear which Beatles song he is actually covering (unless, of course, one knows the title). John Lennon was a particularly big fan of Nilsson”s album. The mutual appreciation developed into one of pop”s most famous friendships.

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Mystery Tour – Ballad Of Paul.mp3
Terry Knight – Saint Paul.mp3

The initial Paul Is Dead rumour preceded the release of Abbey Road by a week. The album”s cover “confirmed” that Macca was indeed dead, but the story began with an error-filled student newspaper article publishd on 18 September 1969 by one Tim Harper for the Drake University”s Times-Delphic. From Harper”s fertile imagination sprang a wild conspiracy theory which caused quite a hysteria. There is an 8-CD series of radio recordings covering in detail the reaction to Paul”s death. The moderately talented Mystery Tour (yes, Mystery Tour) explained why the evidence of Paul” death, with reference to the Abbey Road cover, of course (apparently left-handers are incapable of smoking with their right hand). We also learn that “John Lennon is a holy man”, who “provided lots of clues” as to the conspiracy of Paul”s death and its cover-up. This site has all the answers: it was them Rolling Stones wot dun Paul in, Constable.

Record producer and general music pusher Terry Knight”s single came out before the Paul Is Dead hoax started. He had met the Beatles at a fraught time during the White Album sessions in 1968. Convinced that the Beatles would break up soon, he wrote Saint Paul. His single was released in May 1969, before Harper”s article. Once the rumour had gathered pace, however, Knight”s single was presented as an obituary to Paul, feeding the rumour mill further. Knight himself became the subject of obituaries when he was murdered in 2004 while protecting his daughter from a clearly unsuitable boyfriend.

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May West – Day Tripper.mp3
We”ve had Mae West warbling Twist And Shout (HERE). So how might the septegenarian top that? Why, by doing Day Tripper, of course. Her interpretation, as it turned out, was unnecessary, because time has shown the Beatles” original to be quite adequate, even without the sub-Jimi Hendrix antics at 1:13, which morph into a Chuck Berry-lite solo, and Ms West”s seductive moanings. Still, if Liza Minelli as Lucille 2 planned to record an album of Beatles covers, she”ll have a perfect reference point.

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Mrs Miller ““ A Hard Day”s Night.mp3
Peter Sellers ““ A Hard Day”s Night.mp3
Goldie Hawn – A Hard Day”s Night.mp3

Bless Mrs Miller. She was serious and entirely unironic about her singing, but also possessed the self-awareness to know that she was a bit of a joke. She did her limited best, and was aware that there was no consensual admiration of her singing chops. Though she never intended to create comedy”” she was motivated to disseminate her art widely as a way of inspiring others “” she knew that her cult status was based on listeners deriving amusement from her stylings. Her version of Hard Day”s Night is notable for her lapses in timing and the aggressive licence she takes with reaching the right notes.

Peter Sellers “” a Goon Show alumni, of course “” released a series of comedy versions of Beatles songs, some funnier than others. His Dr Strangelove take on She Loves You is inspired (and will feature at a later point with more Beatles curiosities). Sellers performs A Hard Day”s Night in the manner of Laurence Olivier as Shakespeare”s Richard III. Released as a single in late 1965 (backed with his take on Help, which will also feature at some point), it reached #14 in the British charts in early 1966.

In 1998, Beatles producer George Martin recorded reimagined versions of songs by his former charges, with a roster of guest vocalists taking turns to perform singing duties. Some of these invitees were not terrible good ideas, least of the insufferable Robin Williams (who admirably managed to go a few minutes without turning into a gay hairdresser). Another of these questionable ideas was to ask a giggly Goldie Hawn to sing A Hard Day”s Night, to a smoothy swinging backing track, on which she plays the piano. She feels “okey dokey”. The listener, when hearing Goldie”s vocals, probably less so.

Singing actors – Vol. 1

May 24th, 2008 6 comments

The release of Scarlett Johannson’s album of Tom Waits covers brings into focus again the question of thespians turning to the microphone, a career divergence usually as ill advised as the reverse direction. Here is the first of two mixes compiling vocal performances by actors, most of them straight efforts at assaulting the hitparades, a selected few performed in character, a couple of them novelty records. Some are pretty good, some so bad that one wonders what these people were thinking. The second part will follow next week.

William Shatner – Common People
Shatner had created a classic in the so-bad-it’s-really-bad-cult genre with his staggering cover of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. One evident admirer of Capt’n Kirk’s stylings was Ben Folds, who in 2004 produced an interesting, in parts quite good album of Shatner’s ramblings. Shatner doesn’t sing, but speak (and so I’m kicking off this compilation with a track which exposes its title as a misnomer). Over a whole album, that method of interpretation slowly loses its appeal; but on a song like this cover of the Pulp hit, it works gloriously (with the help of Joe Jackson coming over all emo). One does not know whether to laugh at this, or acknowledge that it’s all quite great.

Ricky Gervais & Liam Gallagher – Freelove Freeway
In what may well be the best scene in the original The Office, David Brent hijacks a team-building session to perform some of the songs he wrote on his abortive path to superstardom (on which he gave a leg-up to Scottish rockers Texas). Freelove Freeway sums up Brent brilliantly: it’s a cracking tune — Brent does have some talent, but invariably finds ways to undermine it. Here he does so by applying mangled clichés which he clearly didn’t think through (“because none of them was you…”). In the series, Brent eventually leaves Wernham Hogg and tries to follow his musician’s dream. As we learn in the Christmas special, he even releases a single. But even there, he typically misjudges things: the a-side is a really bad cover version of Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes’ If You Don’t Know Me By Now (Brent would probably think he is covering Simply Red), while the potential hit, Freelove Freeway, is stuck on the b-side. Oasis’ Liam Gallagher recorded this song with Gervais (did you know that in Quebec’s version of The Office, Brent’s character is named…Gervais?); we’ll have to live with that.

Jack Palance – The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived
Am I the only person who thought that the man born Volodymyr Palahniuk had died long before his actual death in 2006? This little gem is from his only album, 1969’s country set Palance, recorded in Nashville. The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived was written by Palance. One can almost imagine Johnny Cash singing it. The advantage of that would have resided in Cash’s ability to actually sing, but I doubt that Cash could have project the depth of Palance’s menace.

Marlene Dietrich – Die Antwort weiss ganz allein der Wind
How likely is the notion of proto-diva Marlene Dietrich doing US folk music in German? This is a 1964 cover of Dylan’s Blowing In The Wind. Dietrich sings it straight, and the arrangement is quite unlike the sort of treatment the Vegas-bound entertainers have given it, despite the use of strings (great flute though). Die Antwort… was coupled with a German version of Joan Baez’s Tell Me Where The Flowers Are. Imagine, the great Marlene Dietrich as West Germany’s proto-hippie!

Richard Harris – MacArthur Park
You can’t argue that actors should never sing if you know Harris’ MacArthur Park. Jim Steinman, who produced Meat Loaf in his pomp, made a career from ripping this song off. Written by the great Jimmy Webb, Harris had the first bite off this little masterpiece in 1968. It seems a strange choice, and at times Harris is warbling a bit; but then, towards the end, Dumbledore hits the falsetto, almost falls over and needs help from the backing singers, and the whole recording reveals itself as a piece of pure demented genius.

Brigitte Bardot – Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus
It was a huge hit for Jane Birkin, but Serge Gainsbourg actually wrote it for BB, who was the first to record it with him in 1968. Married at the time to German playboy Günter Sachs, the future cheerleader for animals and racists asked Gainsbourg not to release the song. So this recording remained locked away for nearly two decades. Birkin’s orgasm is better, but BB makes Serge sound like he’s doing it with a woman where on the Birkin version he sounds like a dirty old man.

Eddie Murphy – Boogie in Your Butt
The sequencing is purely accidental. Having decided to include Murphy in this mix, I was faced with the choice of posting a novelty comedy single, or one of Ed’s stabs at soulmandom. Murphy’s attempts at soul were bad, very bad indeed, and they fail to amuse. Perhaps that is so because much of ’80s soul was so banal that Murphy’s effort just don’t seem absurd. (Of course, much of ’80s soul was great, as I plan to show here in the future.) So we’re left with Murphy’s musings on how the butt can serve as a storage utility (while being quick to point out that the title does not refer to what you and I at first suspected). It’s still not very amusing, but it is more entertaining to see a man failing at what he claims to be good at than at things he had no business attempting in first place. Still, if rumours are true, it seems that a Chelsea player who used to play for another London club took the advice of one line in the final verse. Incidentally, I borrowed this MP3 from the wonderful Mine For Life blog.

Billy Bob Thornton – Angelina
Even for a very sporadic consumer of celebrity news such as myself, it is clear who the song is about. Released in 2001, when Pitt and Rachel were still happily married, Thornton proves that he has no talent as an oracle as he triumphantly proclaims: “They all said we”d never make it.” Stupid, silly them. It’s a rather disturbing song in light of the sexual antics Billy Bob and Angelina reportedly engaged in. “You walked into a wall…you were masked in tiny cuts”. I bet Brad is gentler.

Rainbo (Sissy Spacek) – John, You Went Too Far This Time
Before she became famous as an actress, including her singing role as Loretta Lynn, Spacek tried to become a singer, releasing a solitary single before being fired by her label. The John in the title would be Lennon, and his transgression would be letting it all hang out on the cover of Two Virgins. Sissy is spitting blood over this act of public nudity, and aesthetically I’m inclined to concur. John and Yoko were not attractive naked people. But if Lennon went too far on a record sleeve, then Spacek oversteps the boundaries of musical decency with that chorus (which supposedly was meant to evoke the Beatles sound). Breathtakingly bad.

Robert Mitchum – What Is This Generation Coming To
More sentiments of moral outrage are expressed in Mitchum’s generation-gap calypso opus. Though one suspects that Bob is more likely to piss into the cup of indignation as he alligns his chosen genre with the rock ‘n’ roll, both of which the young people of today (that’d be the late ’50s) are shaking their hips to as furiously as their elders are shaking their heads. Mitchum is a fine case for allowing actors to sing — as long as they remember to return to the set.

Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren – Goodness Gracious Me
One for the race relations board as Sellers does that Indian accent his racist pal Milligan possibly taught him, and applies it in a lewd way in conversation with the lovely Sophia Loren, appearing here uncharacteristically as a kitten of sex. Thing is, much as this song is objectionable, it is very catchy.

David Soul – Don’t Give Up On Us
Hutch left Starsky in the Gran Torino as he laid on some loverman action on the hitparades in ’77. David troubled the higher reaches of the charts four times within a year, starting with this song, and later with the fantastic Silver Lady (which I’m holding back for a future occasion). One final hurrah with a UK Top 20 hit in 1978, and our man’s singing career was over. A year later, his hit TV show was also over. Soul entered a decline into obscurity and, sadly, alcoholism, until he moved to England in the ’90s to become a star of the stage in the West End.

Joe Pesci – Take Your Love And Shove It
I am certain that the “Am I funny to you?” line was exhausted before Pesci’s “comedy” album was even completed. In case it wasn’t, the answer is no, Joe, you are not funny at all. You were fucking irritating in the Lethal Weapon movies, fucking annoying in that Cousin Vinny shit, fucking acted under the fucking table by fucking De Niro and fucking Woods and even Rocky’s fat fucking brother-in-law when you fucking had your chance at making a fucking impression in Once Upon A Fuckin’ Time In America, and I cheered like a fucking fuck when they fucking shot you in fucking GoodFellas, hoping they used fucking live ammunition while fucking filming the scene. Unfortunately your Vincent Laguardia Gambini comedy shtick was so fucking unfunny that we’re fucking stuck with you in the fucking movies. Fuck off Joe fucking Pesci.

Leonard Nimoy – Highly Illogical
Serving as a counterpoint to another long-faced Leonard releasing records in 1968, Nimoy recorded an amusing LP titled Two Sides Of Leonard Nimoy. Half was Nimoy singing songs such as Gentle On My Mind and If I Were A Carpenter, the other was in Spock character (following up the previous year’s Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space), as on this partly spoken, partly badly-sung track. The kind of thing the term “novelty record” was invented for.

Phyllis Diller – Satisfaction
This a contender for worst recording of all time. It’s also quite funny, possibly in an unintentional way (the “hey hey hey” had me laughing anyway). What turns out to be not funny is the sudden and brief barrage of punchlines for which Diller presumably fired her writers.

Gwyneth Paltrow & Huey Lewis – Cruisin’
Included to fulfill my contractual obligation to feature thespians who sing. Paltrow can hold a tune and even sounds vaguely pleasant, but she should not give up her day job. Now if only she could persuade her husband to stop singing…

Traci Lords – Fallen Angel
A rock-dance type of track from 1995, featuring Katharine Hepburn in character of her great 1940 film, The Philadelphia Story. On the cover, Ms Hepburn looks well-kept and striking a pose to publicise her new blonde image. Another Traci Lords, you say? I would not possibly know anything about that.

Crispin Hellion Glover – These Boots Are Made For Walking
Whatever happened to Marty McFly’s father? Diller’s Satisfaction may be a contender for worst song ever, but she won’t get past Crispin Glover’s non-comedic and description-defying cover of Nancy Sinatra’s hit. It needs to be heard. Once.

David Hasselhoff – Hooked On A Feeling
The Hoff must be included, of course, and how better to follow Crispin Glover’s artistic innovations with something entirely liberated from talent. The opening chant of “Hooga-shagga-hooga-hooga-hooga-shagga” sets up what might well have been the Hasselhoff’s 17th consecutive number 1 in Germany for the shitfest it turns out to be. Talking of Hasselhoff, why are all sorts of crap people turned into cult figures on strength of being the subject of public ridicule? Chuck fucking Norris has been revived from well-earned obscurity, Hasselhoff has become so much of a cult figure that even I refer to him as The Hoff. Give it time, and the pair of war criminals in the White House will find public acclaim on the back of a YouTube video showing them falling over each other.

Marilyn Monroe – Happy Birthday Mr President
And talking of presidents, MM’s scrotum-tickling tribute to JFK in 1962. Monroe, of course, was a pretty good singer, a talent which, like her acting, was often obscured by that breathy blonde shtick she was condemned to keep up. Listen to Kennedy’s acknowledgment at the end. When he says, “I can now retire from politics having had…”, he pauses for a bit, possibly reminding himself that he cannot exercise bragging rights at that particular moment.

TRACKLISTING
1. William Shatner – Common People
2. Ricky Gervais & Liam Gallagher – Freelove Freeway
3. Jack Palance – The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived
4. Marlene Dietrich – Die Antwort weiss ganz allein der Wind
5. Richard Harris – MacArthur Park
6. Brigitte Bardot – Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus
7. Eddie Murphy – Boogie in Your Butt
8. Billy Bob Thornton – Angelina
9. Rainbo (Sissy Spacek) – John You Went Too Far This Time
10. Robert Mitchum – What Is This Generation Coming To
11. Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren – Goodness Gracious Me
12. David Soul – Don’t Give Up On Us
13. Joe Pesci – Take Your Love And Shove It
14. Leonard Nimoy – Highly Illogical
15. Phyllis Diller – Satisfaction
16. Gwyneth Paltrow & Huey Lewis – Cruisin’
17. Traci Lords – Fallen Angel
18. Crispin Hellion Glover – These Boots Are Made For Walking
19. David Hasselhoff – Hooked On A Feeling
20. Marilyn Monroe – Happy Birthday Mr President (for JFK)

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Funny Friday

March 7th, 2008 No comments

I am so sad that the goldmine that was holygoof.com is no more, apparently zapped by the site’s host. The Holy Goof was a like a supernova: it appeared suddenly, was quite a spectacle, and disappeared as suddenly (that’s what supernovas do, right?). I have not come across a finer audio comedy site, and my life “” and iPod “” is emptier without the fine comedy which the Holy Goof shared. So, for funny Friday, a bit of comedy; some of it samples from stuff I found at the Holy Goof.

Ali G – Ali G Meets Posh Spice And Beckham.mp3
Ali G has been eclipsed by Borat, who was much funnier in small doses than in a feature film. This interview with Victoria Beckham and her little pet monkey is Baron Cohen at the height of his game. He makes Posh repeat what football fans used to allege about her supposed unlocking of the tradesman’s entrance. When he sets up David with a poor joke, it is not the punchline that makes us laugh, but the way David walked into it. And through it all, Victoria handles it with grace, making me almost like her.

Chris Rock – Real People Of Ignorance (Friend of a Rap Star).mp3
Chris Rock – Real People Of Ignorance (Tattoo).mp3
Chris Rock – Tip Your Hat To Whitey (Pineapple).mp3
Chris Rock – Tip Your Hat To Whitey (Jamaica).mp3
Chris Rock – Tip Your Hat To Whitey (Mars).mp3
Five short skits from Chris Rock’s Never Scared album, a collection of stand-up and skits. While I regard Chris Rock as the funniest and most penetrative stand-up comedian of his generation, his skits are a mixed bag. The five on offer here, however, are very good indeed. Rock’s backing vocals on the “Real People Of Ignorance” bits are total genius “” hear his comments on nightvision goggles and the purposelessness of vaginal tattooes (and those in Sanskrit). The Friend of a Rap Star one comes from an earlier post.

Jim Norton – Michael Jackson Is The Artist Of The Millennium
Be warned: Jim Norton smacks you in the face with some entirely inappropriate gags. You may laugh because it is funny, but even then you gasp and think: “He didn’t say that, did he?” Michael Jackson is, of course, an easy target. Britney Spears, another target in this bit, was not yet the pitiable wreck she is now. With Norton, one understands after a while that the offensive lines, often self-deprecating, are merely gratuitous, not representing an agenda or manifesto. By Norton ascribing shocking conduct to himself, he opens his way to be as shocking and scathing about the targets of his jokes. Still, fuckin’ hell, man!

Patton Oswalt – You Are Allowed 20 Birthday Parties.mp3
Patton Oswald is only marginally less ready to offend than Jim Norton. His CV lends him some credibility: voices for various versions of Grand Theft Auto; appearances in several movies and TV shows, and a voice appearance in the Pixar movie Ratatoullie. His routine is laced with pitchblack humour, offset by a certain self-deprecating geek charm (indeed, self-deprecation is a popular technique among contemporary comedians. Ãœbergeek Woody Allen used to it great effect in his stand-up days).

Eddie Izzard – Americans.mp3
Eddie Izzard – The Future.mp3
When I big up Chris Rock as the finest stand-up comedian of his generation, I feel a need to send an apology to that cross-dressing genius Eddie Izzard. I love Izzard’s voice and delivery, but it is his way of weaving a narrative “” not unlike that other giant of British standup, Billy Connolly “” which merits total admiration. So it was quite difficult to cull a couple of tracks out of the context of that narrative. Izzard’s humour is insightful, playing with absurd concepts and the surreal, rather than turning to aggressive sarcasm for laughs.

Paul F Tompkins – Cherry Picking.mp3
A veteran of TV comedy programming, Paul F Tompkins’ debut album Impersonal is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. Some bits, like this one, are very amusing; others seem to try too hard in their stretch for surreal humour. But Tompkins’ delivery is likable “” you feel that you are in the company of somebody who will make you laugh at some point; and sooner than later he does. And even the chuckle-free bits hold the listeners interest because Tompkins knows how to tell a story. Sides will remain unsplit, but one is not likely to regret the time spent listening to Tompkins’ brand of observational humour.

Bill Hicks – On The Bright Side.mp3
This is from the Shock & Awe album, recorded in Oxford. While Izzard is an Englishman speaking to an American audience, so is Hicks the Yank trying to explain his country to an English audience, and trying to make sense of Britain. This is not Hicks at the top of his game ““ for one thing, he’s is far less aggro and much more laid back than on other recordings “” but even Hicks not at his best is preferable to many other comedians. Just two years after this show was recorded, Hicks died of pancreatic cancer,

on February 26, 1994. While he never attained great fame, his influence on any number of contemporary comedians, including some featured here, is evident.

Peter Sellers – Party Political Speech.mp3
I have said it before: Peter Sellers is not by any stretch of the imagination a favourite comedian. I find absolutely nothing mirth-inducing about “Birdy Nam Nam”, and the Goon Show leaves me cold, other than to acknowledge the debt owed to it by Monty Python and everything that took influence from that ensemble. But when Sellers was cooking, he really was great. His satire of a political speech which is high on pomposity and empty of content might sound dated in delivery, but remains relevant today. And on the subject of politics: what is the fucking matter with fucking Ohio? Bush in 2004; HRC in ’08?

Make 'em laugh

November 13th, 2007 8 comments

I’m good at telling jokes. Which would be great, except there are only two jokes I remember. Both have been my staple for donkey’s years. This means that once I’ve told them, I’m sold out of jokes. So my stand-up routine is rather limited, and to entertain I need to rely on recordings of my favourite stand-up comedians. Some of these, and some other stuff that makes me laugh, follows below. First, however, let me share with you my two staple jokes. You will have to forgive the absence of my physical “comedy” (machines rattling, basically) and fake German accents (as opposed to my natural German accent). The first joke requires us to move back in time, to the early ’90s.

Hitler in the Amazon
The time is the early ’90s. Germany has just been reunified, but things are going poorly. In short, Germany is in terrible political and economic trouble, and the politicians can see no way of solving the problems, until some bright spark ascertains that the only man who can help Germany now is in fact still alive, living in a little hut in Paraguay. And so a delegation is dispatched to South America to persuade Adolf Hitler to return and save Germany from ruin.

And so the delegation is cutting its way through the jungle, until the group happens upon that little hut. They look at the door bell. Sure enough, it says “A. Hitler”. They ring the bell, the door opens, and there stands Adolf Hitler. The figure is a little bent now, the greasy hair with the side-parting has over the years turned white, and so has the Chaplin moustache. Nonetheless, it is unmistakably the Führer.

“Ja, vot do you vont?” Hitler barks.

“Führer,” the head of the Federal Republic’s delegation says, “we have come to ask you for your help. You see, things are very bad in the Vaterland now. We’ve had this unification, and that has created all sorts of problem. Only one man can help our Deutschland now, mein Führer, and that man is you. We have come to ask you to become the Führer of Deutschland once again.”

“Nein,” shouts Hitler. “Zis is out of ze kvetchon. Ze last time you peeple didn’t apprechihate me, and I vill never go back to Deutschland agaen.”

“But, Führer, please reconsider, for the welfare of the Volk and of our beloved Vaterland.”

“Nein, nein, nein,” Hitler replies with the kind of agitation which made him such a favourite with cartoon movie producers. “I am out of ze Füher buzinezz!”

But the delegation continues to persuade Adolf until he caves in.

“Ja gut, I vill be your Führer agaen,” says Hitler. “But only under vun condition!”

“Yes, Führer?”

“Zis time …. No more Mr Nice Guy.”

The health machine
A man sits in the bar when he notices a new machine standing against the far wall. Curious, he goes to investigate. On the machine, he reads the instructions. “Take a styrofoam cup from the dispenser, go to the toilet, urinate into the cup, insert a fiver, pour the contents of the cup into the machine, and the machine will tell you your health.”

The man is intrigued. He takes a styrofoam cup, goes to the toilet, urinates into it, inserts the fiver into the machine, pours in the content.

The machine computes and rattles, rattles and computes. Out comes the slip: “You have a tennis elbow.”

“A tennis elbow,” scoffs our friend with scornful incredulity, “really!” So he decides to really test the machine. He takes a styrofoam cup, and goes home. There, he gets his wife to urinate into it, then his teenage son, then his 14-year-old daughter, then his dog. And for good measure, he wanks into it, and gives the stew a good stir.

Next day he returns to the bar, making a beeline to the machine. He inserts a fiver, and pours the contents of the cup into the machine.

The machine computes and rattles, rattles and computes, computes and rattles, rattles and computes, computes and rattles, rattles and computes…and finally out comes the slip.

It says: “You wife is having an affair, your son has the crabs, your daughter is pregnant, your dog has fleas, and if you don’t stop wanking, you’ll never get rid of that tennis elbow.”

Thangyouverymuchyou’vebeenaterrificaudience.

And on that note, a few audio files which cause me to laugh.

Gin And Juice.mp3
A “Desiderata” style interpretation of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin And Juice”. I’ve had that file for close to a decade now, but have never been able to ascertain who might be the the genius performing it. If anyone knows, I’d be obliged to be informed accordingly. Never mind such details, though, this is a wickedly funny parody (except, the word parody sounds so lame).

Ben Folds – Bitches Ain’t Shit.mp3
I uploaded this a few weeks ago with what must be the most spectacularly unsuccessful post ever on this blog, on the subject of hip hop. So nobody downloaded it. All these nobodys made a massive error: Ben Folds interpretation of Dr Dre and Snoop’s misogynistic anthem is viciously funny. And then he turns it on its head by making his straight take so damn catchy that even the most PC among us can’t help but sing along to the appalling lyrics of the chorus. Deliciously subversive. This is a live version from Dutch radio (excellent quality though).

Chris Rock – Crazy White Boys.mp3
Chris Rock – Rap Standup.mp3
Chris Rock – Real People Of Ignorance.mp3
To my mind, Chris Rock is the best stand-up comedian in many a decade. Yeah, better than George Carlin (a mean-spirited bastard). Rock’s observations are acute, and sometimes surpringly conservative. I might have posted his piece on drugs being banned only if they come from countries with dark people, yet cigarettes are legal. But, “could you imagine if the Phillip Morris family was a bunch of jheri-curled niggas from Mississippi? Do you know how illegal a pack of cigarettes would be. You would get 60 years just for a pack of Newports.” Ouch! “Crazy White Boys” coincides with the aftermath of the Columbine massacre. Rock’s opening gambit is that he got out of an elevator, scared out of his mind, when some young white dudes got in. “You ain’t killin’ me”. The other two files I posted last month alongside the Ben Folds track. “Rap Standup” is Rock’s take on contemporary hip hop (“love rap, tired of defending it”), the other is one of the few studio bits that are actually funny: an “homage” to the rap star hanger-on. The line about night vision goggles is pure genius.

Woody Allen – A Love Story.mp3
Woody Allen is rightly regarded as some sort of (patchy) genius for his movies, so much so that his stand-up comedianship is widely forgotten. This clip, from the ’60s, shows why this is a shame. How can one not be slayed by a line like this: “They fixed the ballet. Apparently there was a lot of money on the swan to live.”

Jerry Seinfeld – Olympics.mp3
The silver medal: “You are the number one loser.” Presumably, Jerry Seinfeld will be remembered for that show about nothing. Rightly so, for Seinfeld was excellent. Happily, his stand-up tied in with the TV show, up to a point, even if they dropped the stand-up routines from the programme after a while. In contrast to the scatalogy of Rock, the patronising rudeness of Carlin, the self-deprecation of Allen, the sentimentality of Crosby, or the utter rubbishness of Robin Williams (improvisaion is not funny in itself), Seinfeld’s comedy is understated. There is no shtick to his act (other than a certain smugness), just great observational comedy delivered with impeccable timing. This bit always tickles me: “Why can”t sweat smell good? Be a different world, wouldn”t it? Instead of putting your laundry in the hamper, you”d put it in a vase. Go down to the drugstore, pick up some odorant and perspirant. You”d have a dirt sweat sock hanging from the rearview mirror of your car. And then on a really special night, maybe a little underwear coming out of your breast pocket, just to show her that she”s important.”

After he TV series, Seinfeld returned to stand-up. Good thing too. The man is a comedy genius. As Homer Simpson said: “It’s funny ’cause it’s true.”

Monty Python – The Penis Song.mp3
I’m not one of those people who recite Monty Python one lines ad nauseam. In fact, Any Minor Dude, 13, is the bigger Python fan in the family. But I do appreciate a bit of Python once in a while (though having watched the Beatles’ Help! again after a long time ““ the new DVD is fantastic ““ I am inclined to think that Monty Python weren’t quite as original as many people think). “The Penis Song”, from the very uneven The Meaning Of Life, is one of my favourite Monty Python moments, mainly because of the gormless laugh at the end. The melody is pretty good, too.

Rowan Atkinson – The Preacher.mp3
Oh the blasphemy! This sermon is full of little quotable delights. “Do you do children’s parties?” and “They didn’t have so much fun since Nazareth won the cup”, to name just two in an effort to produce a couple of spoilers for you. It is a pity that future generations (and, perhaps, present ones) will remember Atkinson for Mr Bean. If we’re lucky, also for Blackadder (another Any Minor Dude favourite). Alas, Atkinson is not going to be remembered widely for his excellent stand-up comedy. Here we can hear why that is a great pity.

Peter Sellers – She Loves You.mp3
I am not a great Sellers fan. The Goons are not particularly hilarious, though I understand their pivotal role in British comedy (Hancock is funnier anyway). I don’t like the Pink Panther thing (though the Sellers movies easily trump that horrible crap served up by the once very funny Steve Martin recently). I do like Sellers’ affecting, rather than affected, performance in Being There. And his takes on Beatles songs are fantastic. Best of the lot is the teutonic version of “She Loves You”. “She says you hurrrt her so”, pronounces Sellers in an accent you might like to use for my Hitler joke above. “Gut,” ad libs the sidekick. At which point Sellers audibly cracks up. Should I need a reference point for Sellers’ much vaunted comedy genius, this is it.

Ricky Gervais – Freelove Freeway.mp3
I am a big fan of the British original inception of The Office, and was quite prepared to hate the US version. Actually, the American take is quite good. But it cannot beat the Ricky Gervais/Steven Merchant version. The episode when David Brent gets out his guitar, recounting how he basically gave Texas their big break, is comedy at its best. On the surface, it is very funny, and in the details it is inspired. Watching the programme, you could never laugh out loud if you were busy trying to penetrate the many levels on which a gag was funny. Few comedies are like that. Off hand, The Simpsons and Arrested Development spring to mind. And so in the episode in question, David Brent sings his composition “Freelove Freeway” (with some pretty good impromptu harmonising). The lyrics are typical Brent: poorly thought out and cliché ridden. But the melody is pretty good. No, it is good. It’s a hit.

And therein lies the tragedy of David Brent: beneath the bluff and buffoonery, there resides some talent. The products of that talent ““ here a great melody ““ are however undone by buffoonery ““ the lyrics ““ and an inability to exploit the bit of talent there is. Later in the series (the Christmas special), Brent releases a single. But instead of releasing “Freelove Freeway” (perhaps with reworked lyrics) as the a-side, Brent opts for a gloriously terrible rendition of Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (the video of which is jawdroppingly, and of course intentionally, bad). Brent aims to, and believes himself able to, measure up to Teddy Pendergrass, when he has a decent work of his own which could make things work for him. Gervais later recorded the song with one of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis (the surly one wit

h the monobrow). It’s a decent version, but the song really requires Gareth Keenan’s harmony of “she’s dead” or Tim’s interruption for clarification on the potentially homosexual subtext.