Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Goodies - The World of the Goodies (1973)

For the benefit of younger readers or anyone who genuinely believes there's really such a thing as a YouTube celebrity, Decca's World Of albums were pretty much everywhere in the early seventies - budget-priced compilations or reissues, usually the oeuvre of easy listening types but with a few oddities making up the numbers. My copy of Bowie's debut album is the Decca reissue as The World of David Bowie, for example, and it still seems a shame that we never had The World of Adam and the Ants collecting those early demos about rubber trousers and having a lady step upon one's bollocks, doubtless illustrated with an anachronistic stock photo of himself performing on The Basil Brush Show.

The World of the Goodies was possibly the eighth album I ever owned - following four by the Beatles, two film soundtracks, and Doctor Who and the Pescatons - costing me a Dinky Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle or similar from my friend Sean. I spent a lot of afternoons around Sean's house over the summer holidays, during which time we played this one into a flexidisc, alongside the Remember You're A Womble album and Spike Milligan's Record Load of Rubbish. It was also Sean who introduced me to the Sex Pistols a couple of years later, inadvertently inspiring the cull which led me to get rid of this one because it wasn't punky enough, and it was a comedy record, which definitely wasn't punk, or summink; but thanks to us now living in the future and the existence of the internet, I am able to correct my mistake.

The Goodies was of course the wacky television situation comedy which rewrote the King of Monsters as a giant kitten and introduced the idea of a biological weapon which turns its victims into circus clowns. It was Monty Python for kids - although for my money it seems to have aged a little better - and so this, a reissue of The Goodies Sing Songs from the Goodies, was their debut album, or - seeing as there's no point denying it - their debut novelty record.

The more one attempts to define what constitutes a novelty record, the more a consistent definition proves elusive. The crudest division, and the one I probably subscribed to when my first copy of The World of the Goodies found itself airbrushed from history, demands that novelty records lack authenticity of some sort, that they aren't real in quite the same way as the first Clash album is supposedly real. However, as I seem to recall Stewart Home writing in Cranked Up Really High, punk was mostly novelty records, or at least the good stuff was; which leaves me with a newer definition, namely that novelty records simply divide listeners into those who enjoy music, and those who principally enjoy being perceived as connoisseurs of the right sort of music - which is usually the stuff you find making up the lists in Mojo magazine. Although of course comedy records and novelty records aren't always the same thing, and we're definitely on significantly thinner ice with the comedy album, possibly because comedy is such a subjective experience. For myself, anything which introduces itself as either crazy or hilarious will always need to work at least three times as hard to get a laugh, and if you have to tell people that what you're doing is funny, then it probably isn't.

The Residents, for example, recorded an album of electronic interpretations of traditional Inuit music - a work which seems fairly typical in the context of their back catalogue. On the other hand, Weird Al Yankovic's career seems to have been mostly cover versions of established hits embellished with comedy lyrics - sort of like Mitch Benn, Richard Stilgoe, and all those other unfunny fuckers. There's a massive difference, and it is signified by the fact that the Residents chose that name rather than - titter snurf - The Weird Residents. Do you see?

There's some funny shit on The World of the Goodies - mostly comprised of songs written as incidental music for the television show - but it succeeds because Bill Oddie was almost certainly a frustrated rock star, so, like much of the Bonzos back catalogue, these are songs with a sense of humour - or wit as we sometimes call it in the trade - rather than just comedy with tunes. Not that there's anything wrong in comedy with tunes, and the faux-country misery of Mummy I Don't Like My Meat does its job well:

Tomorrow we'll curry the poodle,
He should last us a couple of days...

However, were it nothing but gags, it might become repetitive quite quickly, so thankfully it isn't. Oddie has a great bluesy voice which lends itself fairly well to everything from heartfelt gospel to growling biker anthems; and Taking You Back is in particular a magnificent beast, pounding rock bordering on acid-fuelled Hendrixisms which more or less justifies whatever price you might have to pay for a copy of this thing. Elsewhere we swerve in and out of some fairly convincing progressive pseudo-p-funk work-outs, folksy interludes, and the sort of whimsy you might associate with the Kinks and the like - notably Winter Sportsman; and most crucially of all, it sounds like a proper record rather than just three blokes smirking at you and pulling faces for forty minutes.

Most surprising for me has been how much of this thing I had forgotten, possibly because at the age of ten it was mainly the jokes which caught my attention. I suppose this means that this one has been a grower in the fullest sense of the term - aside from the fact of it being missing from my collection for at least three decades - and I'm astonished by how fresh and exciting it still sounds compared to so much of the chugging session player muso crap which emerged from the same decade, and which seems generally better remembered because most of us enjoy being seen as connoisseurs of the right sort of music, more than we enjoy the music itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment