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BILL ODDIE'S COVER NOTES FOR "YUM YUM"
by Alison Bean
(from C&G #21 August 1997)
Recently on Goodies-L there has been a discussion about Bill Oddie's cover notes for "Yum Yum - The Very Best Of The Goodies". And I must confess that having spent a good 15 minutes typing it for you all here (I'm a very slow typist), I've decided that you were all right. These cover notes rule - OK! and they're very funny. I still think they're ever so slightly bitchy, but these thinks we can live with. Enjoy!
Cast your eyes down the composing credits on this peerless and long overdue list of classic tracks and one name will strike you time and time again, mine. I wrote them all, words and music(*). There was a time during the Goodies hey day - or rather hey years - during the mid 1970s, when snide little journalists were in the habit of referring to me as a "frustrated rock and roller". Well folks in 1976 a reputable rock magazine - if that isn't a contradiction in terms - placed the Goodies as the sixth best-selling group in Britain, and - more to the point - I, W.E. Oddie, was the fifth most successful songwriter in the land. Frustrated? I think not! Not in any sense of the word. In those days we even had the Goodies groupies, who insisted on expressing their admiration of Black Pudding Bertha as enthusiastically as the fans of any velvet-trousered heavy metal icon of the time.
"Comedy is the new rock and roll", announce the 1990's equivalents of the same snide little journalists. Oh yeah! So show me the present day comedy group that has had five top twenty singles in one year like the Goodies did in '75. Three Lions in my booty, say I. Eat your heart out Tony Ferrino.
The irrefutable truth is that The Goodies were the first, the only, and most successful comedy rockers ever, even if I have to say it myself ('cos no one else will). "Er what about the Monkees?" I hear you mutter. Yes, but their records weren't meant to be funny. (Were they?) They make us all laugh now, I grant you - and so would we, if we were distasteful enough to make a comeback, when we're old enough to be the Spice Girl's grandads - but their music was supposed to be taken seriously.
"And, of course, the Goodies' music wasn't", you presumably deduce. Well think again Sherlock!
The fact is, you may well be surprised - or disappointed, or indeed utterly gob-smacked - to learn that my song writing and compositional endeavours were fuelled by no end of musical pretensions (not to say pretentiousness). Did you know, for example, that the rhythm track for the Funky Gibbon was influenced by Miles Davis' fusion-experiments, which were, in turn, based on the fragmented-licks approach of Sly and the Family Stone? Well they were. Indeed, so aggravated was I by the drummer's inability to get the right feel, that I ended up playing it myself by banging on the closed lid of the piano with a rolled up newspaper. It's true. Listen closely and you will hear the unmistakable sound of Evening Standard on Steinway. Or lend a discerning ear to Baby Samba, and you will surely appreciate the Roland Kirk influence on the tin whistle solo (played by me, of course). Not to mention the inescapable aural evidence that the Goodies version of Wild Thing is a tribute to Jimi Hendrix (not The Troggs). Indeed, rumour has it that the vomit on which Jimi choked was actually induced by hearing Tim Brooke-Taylor's invitation to "Come on and hold me tight". I know how Jimi felt; Tim's vocals often had the same effect on me (hence the true inspiration for Sick Man Blues).
Yes, you bet I took my music seriously. Listening to these tracks now brings back many memories of hours in the studio. I recall the lonely nights I spent replacing Tim and Graeme's backing vocals by double tracking myself, and then putting my voice through a harmoniser so that they wouldn't recognise me and get all hurt and sulky. "Yes, of course that was you two singing in perfect thirds." Not.
I hear Cricklewood Shakedown and I experience again the intense, almost orgasmic, satisfaction of overdubbing cowbell, tambourine and vibraslap, thus confirming the old musician's adage: if you can't play anything properly, play percussion. I skip to I'm A Teapot and relive the sheer devilment of isolating the bass player's track and revealing his bum note in the thirteenth bar (Not until I had eliminated his unwanted F sharp did the true inner meaning of the song emerge. Listen to it. It's so obvious when you know). The truth is that this is not a collection of Goodies songs. These are my songs. Listening to them you are hearing a large part of my life. Sad, isn't it? that they have been unavailable for so long, I mean.
I confess that, if you had told me twenty years ago that my music would one day be issued on a CD, I would have said you were crazy - I would also have said: "What the ****'s a CD?" - but, now that it has been, I realize that I am indeed a frustrated rock and roller. But my frustration is merely on behalf of a generation that has so long been deprived of a crucial part of its cultural heritage. For my own part, the very existence of this collection is satisfaction enough: it makes an old man feel very happy (and a happy man feel very old). I ask for no further reward. Except perhaps for an interview in Q. Or maybe a Brit Award for Lifetime Achievement. Or perhaps to be voted Wanker of the Week on the Girlie Show. Failing that, how about some royalties?
PS. I would like to thank the other two Goodies; but I really can't. It would have been so much easier without them.
* except 'Wild Thing' which was written by someone (#) Taylor - Editor.
# CHIP Taylor! - Keith Topping.