Sunday, August 3, 2014

Who'da thought, 40 year ago...

... we'd all be sittin' around talkin' about a new Monty Python record... sort of.


It's actually a re-issue. But it's the kind of re-issue that includes new and/or never before released tracks. We love it when that happens, don't we fellow record lovers? Monty Python Sings (Again) is the title of the re-issue. It's a re-issue of, well, Monty Python Sings, the 1989 compilation album which gathered not quite all of Monty's musical cuts.

The new Monty Python cover features multiple rows of teeth
and tongue, representing the "again" aspect of the album.

Monty Python's previous Sings album cover, featuring one set of lips,
one set of teeth, no kangaroos, and a solitary tongue.

Also lacking the word "again."

Monty Python Sings (again)
  1. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
  2. The Meaning of Life
  3. The Silly Walk Song (previously unreleased)
  4. Penis Song (the not-Noel-Coward song)
  5. Money Song
  6. Oliver Cromwell
  7. Accountancy Shanty
  8. Finland
  9. Medical Love Song
  10. I'm So Worried
  11. Every Sperm Is Sacred
  12. I Like Chinese
  13. The Naval Medley (previously unreleased)
  14. Sit On My Face
  15. Never Be Rude to an Arab
  16. Eric the Half-a-Bee
  17. Brian Song
  18. Rudyard Kipling (previously unreleased)
  19. Nudge Rap /Blackmail (previously unreleased)
  20. Bruces' Philosophers Song (Bruces' Song)
  21. Knights of the Round Table (Camelot Song)
  22. All Things Dull and Ugly
  23. Decomposing Composers
  24. Henry Kissinger
  25. I've Got Two Legs
  26. Rainy Day In Berlin (previously unreleased)
  27. Christmas in Heaven
  28. Galaxy Song
  29. Spam Song
  30. Lousy Song (previously unreleased)
  31. Lumberjack Song
Oh, and...
Monty Python Sings (again) is also available in a Deluxe 2-CD Edition (still waiting on news of a vinyl release). The deluxe set contains the full Monty Python Sings (again) tracklist shown above as well as a second disc containing -- for the first time on Virgin Records -- Monty Python's Flying Circus, the original 1970 BBC soundtrack once thought unavailable on CD then released as an audiobook and then re-released as a proper CD. Now it can be yours if you buy the Deluxe 2-CD Edition of Monty Python Sings (again)!

And that's not all!

Also available is a new 12-inch vinyl single containing a new "Unofficial England Football Anthem" -version of Always Look On The Bright Side of Life, re-sung, with some slight editing, by its composer, Eric Idle. This version of ALOTBSOL does not appear on Monty Python Sings (Again). Side two of the 45 is a spoken word sketch featuring Michael Palin in An Apology From Bernard, a beleaguered record company executive. This too features not on the new LP. The package also comes with a set of six stickers, one featuring each Python in association foosball uniform. Follow this link if you are the least bit interested in purchasing this new Python record... I know I am...

More to come. You can bet on that. (again.)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

And Now For Something Slightly Different...

Elsewhere in this blog, my two readers (one of whom is me) may recall a statement I made along the lines of "there have been many Instant Monty Python record collections, Best Of--Worst Of compilations, Final Rip Offs, Ultimate Rip-Offs, and the Pick of the Best of Some Recently Repeated Python Hits Again volumes... but there has never been a COMPLETE Monty Python record collection. And then I believe I used the word "yet." Well, Yet is nigh.

The foot of Cupid has gone all spotty over the years, I'm afraid.

Virgin Records has released or is about to release (depending on how near June 2014 you two are, or are not, reading this) Monty Python's Total Rubbish, a career spanning 9-CD box set, or if you prefer, a 9-LP vinyl set. Nice! It comes in a nice slip case with nice new Terry Gilliam-designed artwork on it, and a nice new book of liner notes and graphics. You can read all about it and PRE-ORDER or ORDER it HERE BY CLICKING ON THIS BLUE UNDERLINED LINK.

9-CD Box Set
9-LP Vinyl Box Set

Now... I have to disclaim something here... but it's a minor something: This collection is not really, truly complete, per se. Although, for the first time in any Python Virgin Records collection, it contains the first BBC LP, Monty Python's Flying Circus, it does NOT contain the US-only release of Live at City Center. This is a small something because it DOES contain Live at Drury Lane and those two performances are very similar though not identical. But, be fair, the collection does NOT claim to be Complete. It only claims to be Rubbish. Which it's not. It's Snot.

Also missing from The Total Rubbish package is Monty Python Sings! But fear not! Also released in June 2014 is a deluxe version of Monty Python's 1989 musical anthology Monty Python Sings newly entitled Monty Python Sings (again) Available in CD or LP format, the new release contains six never-before released Python songs, three of which are new Eric Idle compositions. For those of you who don't like sport, there is also a deluxe 2-disc set which includes the newly expanded Sings (again) album as well as the remastered first BBC album Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Click to enlarge

And if you order from the official website HERE BY CLICKING ON THIS BLUE UNDERLINED LINK you will also receive a new poster of the Total Rubbish cover art printed 30x30 inch (rolled, not folded) (and probably shaken, not stirred) on a nice 250gsm quality silk paper!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Pithon and the Holy Grail...

Notes on the Executive Version
*Python... not Pithon.

"Congratulations on purchasing the Executive Version of this record. You have chosen wisely, and we value your discerning taste in deciding to pay the few extra pence for a product of real quality... Everything on this record has been designed to meet the exacting standards which you have naturally come to expect. The  record itself is made from the very finest Colombian extruded polyvinyl. The centerhole has been created to fit exactly onto your spindle with all the precision of finest Swiss craftsmanship. The audio content has been quality graded to give you the finest in listening pleasure. There is little or no offensive material, apart from four cunts, one clitoris, and a foreskin, and as they only occur in this opening introduction, you are past them now. You can relax and enjoy this quality product, secure in the knowledge that it has been specially created for the lover of fine things and the man of good taste." ~G.Chapman  * FART *

Thus begins The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yes, that is the title of this album, and, like most Python records, this is a brilliant yet oft-overlooked tie-in to one of the greatest cult comedies of all time. The video version of the movie has been released and re-released many many many many times before. And rightly so: IT IS the movie. The soundtrack, well, is not the movie. But it IS (in the same sense that Mount Everest IS) a Monty Python creation based on, incorporating bits of, and every bit as funny as the movie. Yet I bet many fans of the movie have never heard it. Die-hards, yes, but even casual fans should hear it. It's lost Python.

I hear some of you saying, really? The album opens with a fart joke? Well, yes, but then Chapman asks the engineer if he can "edit that out" and the engineer -- clearly with no intention of doing so -- says, Yeah, no problem. But to me the funny thing about the fart joke is that the fart is so audible; it's not only caught on-mic, it's at the fore. Was Graham mic'd "down there" too? Silly sound effects people. Besides, Holy Grail fans seem to like fart jokes. I've seen t-shirts, after all, that say "I fart in your general direction" on them, one of the more popular lines from the movie.

The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is currently available on CD. Amazon Link here. (And yes, every time I refer to the title I will spell it out in it's entirety, like the Johann Gambolputtyetc. sketch from the television series. YouTube Link here ) but for the most part, I will be referring to the vinyl LP version.

First of all, let it be known, that ALL copies -- LP or CD -- of The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (you'd think I would just cut-and-paste the title, but no, I key it in every time...) ALL copies include the banner across the bottom left corner of the album cover which reads "Executive Version." I don't like to be the one to pee on your parade, as they say, but don't go thinking you've got something special because your copy is marked "Executive Version." I'll let you in on a little secret, though: you MAY have a rare copy of the original Arista (U.S.) release of the vinyl LP if it contains THIS sticker:

The first printing (1974) of the U.S. Arista version of The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was indeed printed wrong. The front of the album cover is a wonderful Terry Gilliam airbrush painting denoting, mostly, the title (with the first word THE appearing ten-times larger than the name of the movie!) The back cover is a not-so-beautiful wrap-around, crumpled mess, Scotch™-taped together on a black background. But look closely at the two versions:
Click image to enlarge
The Charisma (U.K.) edition on the left has the back cover wraparound with gold at the top and green at the bottom, which follows the design of the front cover. The Arista (U.S.) edition has the wraparound with green at the top and gold at the bottom, the opposite of the front cover. "It don't work!" The wraparound gimmick is lost, somewhat. I don't know how many people even noticed it when they first bought this album. (It was fixed by the time I purchased the LP, circa 1978). The joke is still obvious: the back is all Scotch-taped together while the front is slick and beautiful. Nevertheless, Arista placed the Collector's Item sticker on the back cover until they fixed the problem on the next printing. Apparently they had stickers left over because MY personal copy of the LP is printed correctly, yet it still has the sticker on the back. Only the sticker is upside down. And who IS Olive Watson? I googled her name and found an heiress to the I.B.M. fortune, but I must say I don't get the joke.

"Bloody weather" scene from the movie
As I mentioned before, the Terry Gilliam painting on the cover is a forced perspective of the album's title set against a blue sky and an orange sunset, reminiscent of his "bloody weather" animation in the movie, vis right:

Okay... so it doesn't look at all like the "bloody weather" cartoon from the movie, but they both share the same Gilliamesque airbrush feel and similar color pallet. My point is that the actual title of the movie appears so tiny at the very bottom of the album cover that many people probably didn't know this was the official soundtrack to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so again, Arista Records planted a sticker on the front cover! This LP, when it first came out, was loaded with stickers, but they were all adhered to the outside of the cellophane wrap so as not to destroy the Gilliam art underneath. Commerce before art, I always say. Well, I don't, really, but someone did.
When I first bought this album I had never before heard a movie soundtrack LP. My assumption -- age 12ish -- was that the LP contained all the dialogue and music from the movie. Never mind that a movie usually ran 90 to 120 minutes and an LP only ran 30 to 40 minutes. I assumed I was going to get the entire audio soundtrack from the film. So when I put it on the turntable and set the needle down and heard Graham Chapman's "Congratulations on buying the Executive Version" speech, I was all, "Yeah, yeah, hurry up! I want to hear the movie!" But my disappointment was short lived: I heard the fart joke.

Music by DeWolfe

Virgin Chattering Classics
CD edition VCCCD-004
In the credits for both the film and The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "additional music" is credited to, simply, "DeWolfe." DeWolfe is one of the world's largest stock music libraries. (This whole sentence is a link to their website if you wanna snoop around and learn more about how music libraries work.) Thanks to the Virgin Chattering CD edition of The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, (right) I was able to note most -- if not all -- of the music used on the album (and in the movie, but this blog is mostly concerned with the album.) The booklet that comes in the jewel case of the Virgin Chattering Classics (2002) release lists all the music credits used on the album, whereas none of the other CD releases, nor the LP version, include such a listing.

Track Listing
Since the LP version of the album is not banded (i.e. there are no gaps between the "songs,") and most of the early CD releases are simply divided into two tracks, each representing a single side of the LP, I shall use the most recent (2006) CD version as my standard guide for the track listing (minus any CD-only bonus tracks).
Descriptions depicted in gray represent music/dialogue from the film itself;
Descriptions depicted in blue represent "new" music/dialogue recorded specially for the album.

01: Executive Introduction
~ Music: "Jeunesse" by Anthony Mawer, under:
~ Graham Chapman's "Congratulations on buying the executive version..." announcement.
02: Introduction Part Two
~ Music: "Honour's List" by Kenneth Papworth, under:
~ Michael Palin's mispronounced "Pithon" announcement.
~ Also Michael's "Welcome to Silbury Hill" introduction.
~ Also Eric's Idle's tragic "Opening Night" sketch.
03: Arrival at Castle
~ Film Music: "Big Country" by Kenneth Papworth, under:
England 932 A.D. titles
~ Also John Cleese's description of film scene (left stereo channel).
~ Also dialogue from the film: "You're using coconuts..." scene, (right stereo channel).
~ Also dialogue from the film: "Bring out your dead..." scene.
04: Constitutional Peasants
~ Film Music: "Homeward Bound" by John Trombey, under:
~ Audio from the film: Arthur and Patsy galloping thru peasant village.
~ Also dialogue from the film: "We're living in a dictatorship/bloody peasants..." scene.
~ Film Music: "God Choir" by Neil Innes, under: Arthur's "Lady of the Lake" speech.
05: Witch Burning
~ Film Music: "Homeward Bound" by John Trombey, under:
~ Audio from the film: Arthur and Patsy galloping into Bedevere's village.
~ Also dialogue from the film: "Sir Bedevere/burn the witch..." scene.
06: Logician (No music used on track 06)
~ John Cleese's album-only "Sex is more fun than logic..." sketch.
07: Camelot
~ Film Music: "Fanfare" by Neil Innes, under:
~ Dialogue from the film: "Camelot!/Camelot!/It's only a model..." scene.


The Book of the Film
Imagine, if you will, a time when the only way to see a movie was if it played in a "theater near you" or was shown on telly. There were no home-video-movies-on-demand devices in the 1970s. To "experience" a movie at home, one had only the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and/or a book tie-in, if available. Oftentimes the book was an actual novelization of a movie in paperback form, or the original novel (with a new movie-tie-in cover) if the movie was based on such a thing. Another option, as was the case with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, was a scripted publication.
Later editions of the (Book) feature
a full-color printed cover rather
than the original die-cut.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail was not the type of movie one could easily write a novelization of. Or to. Or is it for? Whatever. (That was a poorly constructed sentence.) (My apologies to purchasers of the Executive Version...) The "Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Book)" is a beautiful package, produced to look like an actual movie script. My guess is that it actually IS (in the same sense that Mount Everest IS) a reproduction of the original script. The first edition was printed with a die-cut cover exposing "A First Draft" which appears to be a typewritten script with handwritten notes printed on cheap white typing paper. This makes up the first thirty or forty pages of the book and gives us a glimpse at the original idea of the sketch-based movie the Pythons had in mind before converting it into a proper storyline of the Arthurian Legend. "A First Draft" contains many sketches that were not used in the final film but were adapted for the fourth series of the TV show, and some sketches that are just plain lost, destined to exist forever only in this book. The remainder of the book consists of the final draft of the script we all know and love printed on heavier multi-colored rag stock, complete with handwritten notes, corrections, rewrites and even deleted scenes (gasp!) Also included are many still photographs (in black and white) and several Terry Gilliam doodles and storyboard sketches drawn within the margins and on the backs of the pages. The center spread of the book is a glossy full color section consisting of several pages that reprint movie theater lobby cards for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, complete with captions which have been cleverly worked into The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Which links us back to our original brief, The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pottery Corner

That's Poetry. Poetry Corner.

Helen slipped out of her slim, tight-waisted waspy
and stood naked in the moonlight before me. 

Somewhere a clock chimed three.
An owl hooted in the nearby copse.
No wind stirred the casement window,
she stood in the pale translucent light on the Persian carpet.

A minute passed.
Then another.
Then, another minute.

... another minute passed. 
Then another minute passed. 
And another. 
A further minute passed quickly, followed by another minute,
when suddenly...

... a different minute passed, 
followed by another different minute. 

And another. 
And yet another further different minute. 

A minute passed. 
I glanced at my watch. 
T'was a minute past. 
This was it! 

A minute passed. 
After a moment, another minute passed. 
I waited a minute while a minute passed quickly past.
And then, a minute which seemed to last an hour but was only a minute... 

... passed.

That was A Minute Passed, by John Finlayson. 
You can hear episode nine of A Minute Passed tomorrow night at a minute past.

From Monty Python's Previous Record. Reprinted without permission. Buy the disk here.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Monty Python Album That Never Was... and Still Isn't... Tho Some of it Is... Sort of...

What? A Monty Python Bootleg?

Don't go looking for this vinyl edition of HCTFAFB album cuz it doesn't exist.
Now wait a minute... There's a whole 'nother Monty Python album out there? Well, kind of, yes. It's not a physical album, like the one shown above -- that is just some computer-generated artwork I conjured up for my own CD-R packaging (yes, I do have too much free time on my hands, thank you very much indeed) -- but the audio files exist. They're out there on the internet SOMEWHERE!

It's called "Monty Python's Hastily Cobbled Together For a Fast Buck Album" and it contains leftover sketches from Python recording sessions of the past -- many of which seem to date from around the time of Contractual Obligation -- plus some unreleased songs, and has been floating around the internet for many years. According to a Wiki I read, it was compiled by Andre Jacquemin, the Python's Go-To Man for almost all their aural projects, at his Redwood Studios around 1981 (the year after Contractual Obligation came out).

Unofficial cover art, source unknown
The phrase "Hastily Cobbled Together," of course, is a self-effacing Python joke, but quite the contrary, this is, in fact, a very listenable and entertaining album. The bits are recorded just as professionally as anything Python released commercially (though it would be nice to hear it re-mastered and added to the official Virgin Python oeuvre) and the tracks all seem to be nicely linked (except for the third-party announcer who turns up a couple of times in the proceedings, evidently a Redwood Studios employee). Apparently the album was ready to be issued in the UK in the early 80s, and reportedly even had album cover artwork created. There exists a yellow, green, and red graphic featuring a 1978-era color-tinted group photo that is usually associated with HCTFAFB, but I don't know if this was the design they had planned for release, or if this is so-called "fan art" so as bootleggers had something to print out and slip in the jewel case when creating CD-R discs of the album. The version of the album that appears on the internet is said to be a copy of a demo tape that Andre Jacquemin had given to Michael Palin who subsequently lent it to English musician Lemmy, a Python fan whose metal band Motorhead was in the recording studio at Redwood when Jacquemin and Palin were sequencing the tracks. Citation needed for all of this.

He and Him. The Two Ronnies.
The enigma of HCTFAFB is the number of original sketches and songs it contains, considering the album "prior" to this one (Obligation) featured so many "old" sketches from pre-Python and solo projects (Bookshop, String, Rock Notes, to name but a few). One wonders why, if they had to choose between String, an old sketch from Cleese's Frost Report days and, say, an excellent previously unheard Chapman and Jones bit called Radio Shoppe, they didn't choose the newer one, especially since String had already been committed to vinyl on the 1968 Frost Report on Everything album (albeit performed by Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker, later of The Two Ronnies). Radio Shoppe along with one or two other tracks from HCTFAFB eventually found commercial release as bonus tracks on the Virgin Records 2006 re-issues of the Monty Python catalog on CD.

More about that coming up...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Bishop of Leicester

It is the dawn of time...
This earth we know so well is a smoldering, 
inhospitable place. 
No plants grow; No creature can survive. 
The hard, implacable rocks that form our mountain ranges are being crushed and folded by forces that will take millions of years to shape them. 
These are the forces! 
This is the power that drives the hand that drinks Treadmill, the mighty lager, with the world's first great taste of fish!

Mike at the Mic
Michael Palin recorded the "Treadmill Lager Sketch" in 1980 for Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album. He played the role of the Bishop of Leicester, who, for some reason, had been hired to be the corporate spokesman for Treadmill Lager. In character, Palin is in a recording studio, dramatically telling of the creation of earth in evolutionary terms with grandiose descriptions of rocks forming over millions of years. An unusual script to present a presumed creationist. But we don't know he's a Bishop until his speech is interrupted by recording engineer, Eric Idle:

Bishop, don't say "of fish."


Don't say "of fish" at the end. It doesn't mean anything.

At Last The 1948 Show album
This is one of those sketches that kinda grew on me. Actually, the whole Contractual Obligation Album had to grow on me. The album came out late in Monty Python's career and I don't think a lot of effort was put into it. How dare I make such a statement? Well, the title, for a start, Contractual Obligation Album, hints that somebody made them make this album. And the fact that many of the sketches -- not so much the songs -- were from older scripts pre-dating Python: "The Bookshop," for example, dates from 1967's At Last The 1948 Show with Cleese and Marty Feldman, and actually appears on that program's soundtrack LP...

1967 Frost Report album
Likewise, the "String" sketch also appeared on TV in 1967 but on The Frost Report with David Frost, and thus can also be found on a soundtrack album for that show called The Frost Report on Everything as "Selling String," performed by Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker, a.k.a. The Two Ronnies.

But the "Bishop of Leicester/Treadmill Lager" sketch appears to be an original, making its Python debut on the Contractual Obligation Album.

These are the forces!
This is the power that drives the band...


Of course! Sorry! Sorry! Can't think what came over me!

We'll start again, Bishop, same place.

These are the forces!
This is the power that drives the hand that drinks Treadmill, the mighty lager with the world's first great taste of fish--oh damn!

Sorry! Sorry! I remembered the "hand" but forgot the...

Yes, yes. That's alright, Bishop. John? Can we edit out the "of fish?"


With the recording session over, we cut to the engineering booth where Eric Idle and Graham Chapman discuss the performance of the Bishop of Leicester and why they couldn't, instead, have gotten the Bishop of, say, Bath-and-Wells, for instance...

He's doing frozen peas for Nigel.

Lucky bastard! He's so good!

*** STOP PRESS ***
The "frozen peas" statement above may be a bizarre reference to the advertising business. There's a phrase used in advertising, such as, "Don't go all frozen peas on me!" which means "don't mess up the commercial by constantly questioning the script!" (In other words, "read what's on the page!") The "Frozen Peas" idiom dates back to the early 1970s when grandiose actor/director/auteur, Orson "Citizen Kane" Welles was in England recording a voiceover for a television advert for Findus' Frozen Peas, in which Welles -- while reading the script -- ends up berating not only the script, but the director, the writer, the product, and pretty much everything and everyone associated with the ad. This is a blooper reel that has been circulating for years and is quite entertaining in a "This was never meant to be heard but I can't stop listening to it" guilty-pleasure-sort of way. It's probably on YouTube. At any rate, Welles reportedly walked out of the recording session claiming "no amount of money is worth this!" Perhaps the "Bath-and-Wells" statement is a subtle reference to Mr. Welles. Perhaps not.

Having said that, Michael Palin's Bishop goes a bit "frozen peas" on Eric Idle's Director by claiming, more pastorally than did Welles, that the commercial is -- my favorite line -- "Dochtrinely a bit of a mess..."


Well, all that stuff about "the dawn of time" and rocks "developing over millions of years," you know... not quite A-1 theory with our lot...

It's only a commercial.
(One wonders if anyone had the wherewithal to say these simple words to Orson Welles!)

Oh yes! Yes! Of course! Course! I'm not criticizing. It's just... well... I mean... not quite The Creation as we see it.

Well, good-bye.

Good! Good! Fine! (Oh, one more thing!) And the... uh... the check... will... be...

... with your agent on Tuesday, Bishop.

Why has the Bishop of Leicester got an agent? Why is he doing commercials for beer? Why is the Bishop of Bath-and-Wells doing adverts for Nigel's Frozen Peas? Why did the Bishop of Worcester do an entire Snippetty Dippetty Gift Catalog promo on one ski? And most importantly, why is Leicester pronounced "Lester" and Worcester pronounced "Wooster?"

Look for answers to these and other questions in our next exciting Another Monty Python Blog post.