Archive for the ‘comedian’ Tag

The Comic Strip – Stripped and ready for action

In the early 1980s an anarchic group of young comedians sought to change the world with violence, Marxism and quite a lot of swearing.

comic-strip

The Comic Strip

The Comic Strip,
The Comic Strip,
Springtime Records HA HA 6001,
1981

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Bowels aside, by and large there are no great ‘movements’ in comedy today. Today’s generation of comedians seem to be out only for themselves. As long as the country’s motorway service stations are supplied with a steady stream of hilarious CDs for sales reps to listen to, then all is well with the world and no great or establishment-challenging art has to take place. The career progression for aspiring young comedians these days is clear and easy to follow: start as a guest on a topical news quiz, chair a panel show, host an ironic gameshow, then look forward to your own regular night of compered variety fun on primetime TV and yet more DVDs for the service station racks. Along the way the venues get gradually larger, from dingy comedy clubs, via corn exchanges and provincial guildhalls, to arenas and finally stadiums. And then you’ve made it. Maybe go to America and annoy them for a bit, make a few appearances in a film few people will see, or just fill out an arena every couple of years if something in the local Ferrari dealership catches your eye.

There used to be some accepted wisdom that post-war comedy would always have groups of similarly minded individuals come along every so often. Groups who would radically change the scene they inherited and shake up notions of what comedy was meant to be. From the wartime anarchy of the Goons, through Beyond The Fringe, Monty Python, Not The Nine O’Clock News, and right on into the alternative comedy movement of the 1980s, there have always been groups of young talented people ready to evolve comedy, to react against social norms and perceived methods of working, to challenge, to dare, to experiment and rail against the madness of the modern world. Not now though. Now we have nothing. Just endless bloody panel shows and endless Russell bloody Howard. Future generations will pity us, they really will. Sadly though, we won’t even be able to take offence at their condescending patronizing pity, as we will be too sedated from the soporific effects of watching Russell Howard to even notice or care what is happening. Russell Howard. Russell Russell Howard…

The story of the young radicals who would become the Comic Strip began collectively around 1979, with a group of comedians performing in the newly opened Comedy Store in London. There, in shows compered by angry Scouse Marxist Alexei Sayle, established double acts such as The Outer Limits (Peter Richardson and Nigel Planer) and 20th Century Coyote (Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson) performed lively anarchic comedy that would soon come to be referred to as ‘alternative’. Alternative comedy as a concept and a term was invented by Tony Allen, also a regular at the Comedy Store, and came as a reaction against hackneyed gags that relied on stereotypically easy targets, those joke staples of established club comics such as ethnic minorities and mothers-in-law.

The prime mover behind the Comic Strip as a coherent group was Peter Richardson. Keen to stage a play, he found a cheap venue in the Raymond Revue Bar, a strip club that after it closed and was cleared of naked women and lecherous tourists, was suitably empty, cheap and in a prime Soho location. Soon the idea of the play was abandoned but Richardson recognised that the venue would make the ideal late night comedy venue. Luring his chums from the Comedy Store to perform at the venue, along with lugubrious stand up Arnold Brown and double act French and Saunders, the scene was set for a comedy revolution.

A lot happened very fast in the life of the collective Comic Strip regulars. Within a year of forming, a national and international tour had been mounted, followed by a TV special and the production of this vinyl artefact which all raised the group’s profile. By 1982, with the persistence and enthusiasm of Peter Richardson being the main driving force, both the BBC and the newly created Channel 4 had signed up the Comic Strip players in the shape of The Young Ones and The Comic Strip Presents…

With the faces and personalities now so familiar to comedy fans after almost forty years of exposure, it’s easy to forget just what an impact these comedians once made. The individual members of the Comic Strip are these days members of the establishment themselves. With respected bodies of work, and long critically acclaimed careers they seem somehow safe and reliable. It is easy to forget that they were once the outsiders and that their work was seen as subversive, corrupting and dangerous.

Alexei Sayle for instance is now only an occasional comedian. His career as a writer has largely taken over but anyone who needs to remind themselves why he was once so feared needs only to listen to his contributions to this record. Plucked straight from a live Soho performance in the Comic Strip with no studio finesse or post-production polish, Sayle’s contributions are visceral and raw. No effort is made to tone down his act and he, perhaps more than anyone else on this record, evokes what it must have been like to witness the arrogance and self-assurance of the Comic Strip in their prime.

Sayle in the album opener Introduction sets out his stall as an ‘alternative’ comedian from the off. Jokes referencing Marxism and Enver Hoxha sit alongside more traditional gags about beer and curry. A rudimentary ‘Ullo John! Gotta New Motor? (Sayle’s unlikely 1982 Top 15 hit) can be briefly heard towards the end of his set but his full album closer Stream Of Tastelessness has to be heard to be believed. Never mind comedians, there are few individuals lucky enough to live outside secure prison wings that could sustain such a level of insane invective, shouting, swearing and spittle for the full nine and a half minutes that Alexei Sayle does!

The other acts on the record also show glimpses of what they would go on to achieve. Nigel Planer debuts a prototype Young Ones creation on The Outer Limits track Neil At Wembley, complete with self-deprecating commentary, terrible maudlin material, and long tedious songs about depression. Elsewhere on Lenny Flowers, Planer and Richardson experiment with an extended narrative sketch about a heavy metal band reforming which must surely have inspired Edmondson’s later creation, the degenerate rockers Bad News. Performing aside, Peter Richardson’s other main contribution is showing his keenness for organising and structuring the anarchy around him. As well as producing the record, Richardson ropes in future creative partners Pete Richens and Ben Elton for script writing duties on the track Page 3 Girls.

In the performances of Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall it is immediately apparent that they are comfortable with their own brand of comedy, that now familiar blend of unbridled anarchy, social awkwardness and casual violence that would serve them well for the next thirty years of their career. Listening to Mayall recite his angry and very awful poetic verses on the two tracks devoted to Rik’s Poetry, it is clear that Rik, as with Planer’s Neil, is ready to step straight into his Young Ones role.

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders too seem remarkably comfortable in their sole contribution to the album, Psychodrama. Adopting the personas of two vapid and health obsessed American tourists, their skill at accents and subtle observant acting stands out from the rest of the more brash confrontational comedy on offer. That’s not to say their routine lacks bite or ability to shock. As the two Americans descend into ever more spiteful competitiveness and mutual loathing, the piece doesn’t look quite so out of place.

Before DVDs, VHS, and even before TV executives began to notice them, The Comic Strip as an album was a calling card for a group who were determined to forge a new style of comedy. It was a clear and bold statement of intent from the outset that didn’t compromise or make any concessions to listeners’ sensibilities. The ripples that this album caused are still around today, from the many comedy clubs that have proliferated across the country, to any mainstream TV show that bills itself as somehow edgy or dark. That all these once daring, dangerous comedians are now respected documentary makers, presenters, novelists, film stars, and in some cases just plain dead, is not their fault. They were young and they tried to change the world and I applaud them for that. The fact the modern world is such a mess is Russell Howard’s fault, and I blame him entirely for that.

So to finish on a high, here is Rik Mayall, with help from Adrian Edmondson on toy gun, reminding us why they were so ruddy brilliant and dangerous in the first place:

Tommy Trinder – You not so lucky people…

In 1959, after his stint hosting Sunday Night at the Palladium had finished, comedian Tommy Trinder bowed out with an album recorded in an Essex holiday camp.

Tommy Trinder - Tommy Trinder’s Party

Tommy Trinder – Tommy Trinder’s Party

Tommy Trinder,
Tommy Trinder’s Party,
Fontana TFL 5073,
1959
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Parties. Brilliant aren’t they? If you host a party yourself you’ll be a bundle of nerves as you spend the three months beforehand organising everything with the precision and attention to detail of an army quartermaster preparing for an invasion of Russia. The event itself will pass in an anxious few hours while you fret and worry that your guests are having the very best time of their otherwise drab mundane lives. There will also be the worry that gatecrashers are going to inveigle their way in and steal your plates of canapés, and the all too real concern that a group of boozed up acquaintances will decide to use your priceless collection of Beswick figurines of animals dressed as rustic country folk in an impromptu game of skittles.

If you’re not the host of a party, then your worries are few by comparison. If you can cope with shame, ignominy and the enduring scorn of your peers, then the party is an ideal opportunity to lose friends and indulge your inner barbarian. After you have drunk a litre or four of spirits, thrown up over various pot plants, spiked the punch with dangerous hallucinogens and used a variety of precious vases as ashtrays, there remains not much else to do but fall asleep on the toilet or pass away the night face down in the host’s front garden. The choice is entirely yours.

Why anyone would want a detailed record of a party is beyond me. Imagine all the gruesome details of a terrible party you would rather forget, committed to posterity via the means of a vinyl record. Quite a thought isn’t it? Imagine then, if you can, a record of a particular awful party that you didn’t attend and would have turned down immediately on receipt of the invitation. Imagine listening to the sort of people you would despise on sight, debauching themselves drunkenly in some repugnant orgiastic mockery of a chimpanzee’s tea party. If for some reason that does appeal, then Tommy Trinder’s Party is the record for you. Just because you weren’t born in 1959 doesn’t mean you can’t relive a terrible party you would never have dreamed of attending.

Born in Streatham, South London, in 1909, Tommy Trinder had been an entertainer since leaving school. Early tours in revues led to stints in music halls and appearances on various national variety bills. With a face adorned by a jutting chin resembling the rear end of a dredger, and a toothy grin that could swallow lesser comedians whole, Tommy seemed an unlikely movie star but in 1938 he was deemed popular enough to be given his first big screen role in the low budget farce Almost a Honeymoon. It was during the Second World War that Trinder found true fame, making many appearances in shows entertaining the troops and starring in a succession of films shot at London’s legendary Ealing Studios. Trinder’s roles encompassed both serious roles as well as comic ones and by the end of the war he was, along with the likes of George Formby and Will Hay, one of the most loved and successful film stars of the day.

Tommy Trinder’s career wasn’t exactly in the doldrums when this record was released in 1959, but he had definitely reached his career peak. In 1958, Tommy Trinder had been replaced on Sunday Night at the Palladium by Bruce Forsyth. The handover had been somewhat acrimonious with Trinder convinced the younger presenter was stealing his act as well as his prestigious job hosting the popular variety show. Giving that Forsyth was (and remains) an irritable big chinned comic with a skill for adlibbing and bullying members of the public, it is easy to see how Trinder might have thought Forsyth was copying his act. On Forsyth’s Palladium debut, Trinder physically hindered Forsyth’s first foray onto the stage of the theatre as the two men shared the stage for the first and last time only, making it clear to the young usurper that he was not welcome and that the job was being taken from him under duress. The two did not even share a stage, or speak to each other, when years later they were cast together in a pantomime production of Aladdin. Forsyth was apparently so outraged at sharing the theatre with Trinder that before the pantomime had finished, he had paid off his manager (the notorious Miff Ferrie) at considerable expense and returned to a Trinder-free life of bliss and prime-time game shows.

After his Palladium stint had finished, Tommy Trinder moved on to star in his own BBC TV series, Trinder Box, which saw him host a variety show on a much smaller scale. It was Trinder’s one and only starring role in a TV series and after it ended he retreated from the limelight, leaving the world free for Bruce Forsyth to conquer in the name of light entertainment. Before Trinder did retire ungracefully into the chairmanship of Fulham FC, he did leave the world with one more curious artefact, the 1959 recording of Tommy Trinder’s Party. The record itself is a painful exercise in inanity, a mirthless, tuneless endurance test for audio masochists and people harbouring a grudge against their own ears. Tommy Trinder barges onto the stage of the Jolly Roger Bar at Butlin’s Holiday Camp in Clacton-on-Sea, intent on bullying everyone into having a good time whether they want to or not. Luckily, filled as they are with candy floss, cockles and gallons of cheap booze, most of the crowd do. In fact they give the impression that they would applaud a bare brick wall if Tommy Trinder berated them enough.

With a group of drunken backing musicians plucked from the dingy backroom of a down-at-heel Clacton pub, Tommy launches himself into the record with gusto, leading his baying audience into singing one half remembered song after another. I say backing musicians, but in fact the only instrument that can be heard over the general din and raucous musical wailing of the drunken holidaymakers is the drums, played with a glorious tub-thumping incompetence and gusto. Sounding at times like a small child running amok in a kitchenware shop, pots and pans and other random objects are upturned and walloped heartily to a rhythm existing only in the mind of the drummer and no one else.

Highlights are few and far between. Considering that Tommy Trinder was a comedian of some note, there is a marked lack of any sort of comedy on the record. Jokes are absent and what humour there is takes the form of ‘banter’ as Tommy abuses random audience members and harangues them to join in his gruesome singalong. The audience are very obliging and sing whatever Tommy orders them to. Mainly the choices are pub standards, the sort of songs normally played on an out of tune piano with a handful of keys missing, by anyone able to hold a pint of gin in one hand and bang out Let’s All Go Down The Strand with the other, preferably without spilling a drop.

Sometimes, Tommy leads the audience out of their musical comfort zone. Tongue twisters dealing with Susie ‘sitting in a shoe shine shop’ are rattled off at great speed, an ‘around the UK’ medley of tunes is attempted, and Tommy even performs a mind reading card trick. A vinyl record is not the best medium to bear witness to magic tricks, even more so when the audience member plucked from the crowd is crippled with nerves and unable to utter a word. Tommy struggles on gamely and nags her into completing the trick before resuming the cacophonic caterwauling once again.

It’s quite a party. So in summary, parties are best avoided, especially if Tommy Trinder is hosting. Finding a highlight to play is difficult. Tommy’s tour of Britain medley is possibly it, though you would be forgiven for sending me abuse after listening to it. Please do try to be gentle. The album cover with Tommy and his massive teapot is one of the finest I’ve ever seen, so try and concentrate on that instead.

Arthur Lowe’s high point

Famous for his portrayal of blustering platoon leader Capt Mainwaring in the ever-popular Dad’s Army, Arthur Lowe’s sudden fame saw him release an album of military themed ditties.

Arthur Lowe - Bless 'Em All

Arthur Lowe – Bless ’em All,

Arthur Lowe,
Bless ’em All,
World Record Club ST 1008,
1969

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Even today in this multi-channel online age, soap operas retain the power to create sudden and instant stars out of jobbing actors, making their faces instantly recognisable to millions. Soap viewers can take to their hearts a villainous rogue, an underachieving odd-job man, a frustrated spinster or even just a plain old bumbling shopkeeper.

In 1960 when Coronation Street launched, Arthur Lowe was one of the first TV soap stars in the UK to achieve that level of instant stardom. His character Leonard Swindley, sometime lay preacher and bumbling draper, still remains the only character to have been popular enough to be granted a spin-off series from the great soap. And what is even more remarkable is that the spin-off series Pardon The Expression! was in turn successful enough to have a spin-off all of its very own, Turn Out The Lights.

When Arthur joined Coronation Street back in 1960 he, along with many other of the cast, thought it would be a short-lived regional drama, probably without much appeal beyond its Manchester heartland. Born in Hayfield, Derbyshire, in 1915 Lowe had enjoyed a successful but not spectacular acting career up until that moment. Acting only really entered his life during the war when he took the decision to mount a series of concert parties, motivated not by dreams of stardom but simply by relieving boredom with the regimented dullness of life in an army camp. A note on a NAAFI wall and some eager volunteers later and Arthur Lowe was away.

Mainly a theatre actor up until Coronation Street came calling, Arthur gradually built a reputation as a solid and accomplished character actor. In 1960 the Henry Livings play Stop It Whoever You Are, played to Arthur’s strengths in portraying pompous officials, and brought him to the attention of Granada who recruited him to their new soap, initially only on a six month contract. The nature of the six month contract suited Arthur as it allowed him to continue his theatre career for half of the year throughout his five year stint on the soap.

Arthur’s son, Stephen Lowe, states in his book Dad’s Memory that from the moment that Arthur took on the role of Leonard Swindley, everything changed. From then on, his father was not just a faintly familiar half-recognised face, he was a star, instantly recognisable to millions. Where before people may have glanced at him briefly in the street as they passed, now they stopped and very deliberately stared.

Pardon The Expression! spun-off in 1965 and ran for two series, introducing co-star Betty Driver to the world of Corrie into the process. Social-climbing, officious and out of his depth, Swindley was great preparation for what was to come in Dad’s Army. In 1967, Turn Out The Lights saw Swindley for some reason become a paranormal detective. As one does. That may have been it for Arthur Lowe and his brush with fame but for Dad’s Army, which came along a year later in 1968.

Dad’s Army would of course elevate Arthur Lowe to even more stellar heights of fame. From 1968 at the grand old age of 53, until his death he would never be short of work again. Admittedly it was not the high quality theatre work that he had originally set his sights on, but with TV series galore, as well as voice over and film work, he would never want for employment.

If you are going to wait for so long before becoming a bona fide star, then it is advisable to make the most of it. And what better way to cement your fame for all eternity than recording an album? There must have been something of a race on between the aged cast of Dad’s Army to be the first to commit their vocal talents to vinyl. Arthur Lowe and John Laurie wasted little time, both releasing albums in 1969. John Le Mesurier, in typically laid back fashion, waited until 1976. Clive Dunn of course trumped them all with his 1970 release Permission To Sing Sir, which was repackaged and released again the following year after the phenomenal success of the single Grandad.

Military music enjoyed quite a vogue in the post-war years. The same nostalgia for regimental camaraderie that ensured the success of the TV series, gave rise to a mini-industry for military music, providing a healthy income for the brass bands of various forces and regiments. Some twenty years on from the Second World War, servicemen and women of a certain age could be relied on to be avid purchasers of military music and watchers of Dad’s Army. So no wonder then that Arthur decided his first album would have distinctly militaristic air.

The album kicks off, inevitably perhaps, with Who Do You Think You’re Kidding Mr Hitler?, the Dad’s Army theme tune sung on screen by veteran comedian Bud Flanagan. That the song sounds like a genuine WW2 period piece is a great compliment to lyricist and Dad’s Army creator Jimmy Perry. Lowe gives the song a bit of welly that Bud Flanagan’s version lacks and it certainly kicks off the album with some force and gusto. Lowe nods affectionately to Bud and his Crazy Gang partner Chesney Allen elsewhere with some gentle lugubrious crooning on side two’s Run, Rabbit, Run! and Underneath the Arches.

Arthur also croons his way through Ted Heath’s That Lovely Weekend and the 1930s jazz standard I’ll Be Seeing You, both wistful songs full of longing and nostalgia which were popularised by troops journeying overseas. The title track Bless ’em All kicks off side two with a tuneful waltz, the far more bawdy words (it wasn’t ‘bless all the corporals and their blinking sons’ in the original) being glossed over by the ever upright and correct Arthur Lowe.

But it’s not all matinee idol style crooning. Occasionally Arthur is allowed to attempt something a bit more upbeat, whether it is marching purposefully in time to Herman Darewski’s The Army, The Navy and The Air Force or one of the various medleys of army favourites that pepper the album.

The two stand-out tracks, for simply being that little bit odd, are Lowe’s skip and a romp through the annoyingly catchy Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats and his interpretation of the German First World War classic Lili Marlene. More often sung by women, notably Marlene Dietrich, Arthur does quite a good job of his version. It is up-tempo and inexplicably cheerful despite its mournful lyrics and sentiment. His marching chorus singers help out on juicing up the track and even though it ends on a haunting hum, it’s a fine uplifting version of a song that normally brings a tear to the eye.

Perhaps somewhat stunned and overawed by Clive Dunn’s domination of the pop charts, as were most of the UK at the time, all of Arthur Lowe’s subsequent vinyl releases centred around the adventures of the Mr Men and what jolly fun they were too. But did they ever surpass his efforts on Lili Marlene? Perhaps the moving tale of Mr Greedy and his battle with eating disorders, but on the whole, no. Stand to attention then, here’s Arthur waiting underneath the lantern by the barrack gate:

More Dad’s Army military manoeuvres.

Freddie Starr – reaching for the heavens

Insane hamster-eating comedian Freddie Starr never quite gave up his youthful dreams of pop stardom. On this 1982 record he reminds the world precisely what they are missing by only enjoying his work as a comic.

Freddie Starr - Freddie Starr

Freddie Starr – Freddie Starr

Freddie Starr,
Freddie Starr,
Towerbell Records TOWLP 1,
1982

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Born in Liverpool in 1943 Freddie Starr isn’t a typical Scouse comedian in the Jimmy Tarbuck or Stan Boardman mould. Not for him the parochial provincial comic routines, reliance on a grating Liverpudlian accent and cheeky toothy grins to make it through a show. Starr’s act has always thrived on unpredictability and anarchy. In many respects he seems like an ‘alternative’ comedian born a decade or two too early. By the time Freddie Starr made it big in the early 1970s his repertoire of impressions included the usual reliable staples such as Norman Wisdom but his genius could be glimpsed in his inspired and energetic physical impressions of Mick Jagger and Elvis Presley. Oh and Hitler of course. Let’s not forget him…

Frederick Fowell, as he was born, always seemed destined for great things but initially his ambitions and talents were musical rather comical. Born in absolutely the right time and most definitely at the right place for a glittering 60s pop career, the young Freddie Starr (as he wisely re-named himself) was a jobbing musician from an early age. After playing in a succession of local bands and gigging around Liverpool, he soon formed his own band, The Midniters. Everything seemed to be going according to plan. He played the Cavern, gigged in Hamburg, was managed by Brian Epstein and landed a recording contract with Decca. Freddie Starr was alas, not destined to match the Beatles in appeal. Only three Joe Meek produced singles were released, and despite the competent period beat sounds he managed to commit to vinyl, Freddie Starr the pop star soon faded from view along with many other aspiring hopefuls.

That may well have been the end of the story, a few rare collectable singles as sole testimony to what might have been. But then of course, unlike many of those failed hopefuls, Starr came back, only not as a pop singer. This time he was Freddie Starr the slightly unhinged impressionist, impressing initially on Opportunity Knocks in the late 1960s with a succession of comedy musical numbers. Freddie’s true originality and manic intensity garnered much public acclaim and lit up many subsequent shows such as Who Do You Do? His talents were obvious amongst the more mundane acts choosing to play everything safe, and ensured that a long comedy career would follow. Of course, things are rarely that simple and I think it’s fair to say that Freddie Starr has been his own worse enemy for many years. His initially refreshing, anarchic, spontaneous, nature has worn out the patience of many a TV producer and his odd, often insane behaviour, has won him more newspapers headlines than his comedy ever has. The less said about the hamster eating episode the better!

After working long and hard to establish a career as a comedian, Freddie Starr has often tried to turn back time and make it once more as a straight musical act. It seems that the young rock and roller who spent all those years struggling in Liverpool to prove himself is still keen to make it as a crooner and balladeer. So like many comedians before and since, he has released record after record over the years, all without a discernible joke on them and all designed to prove how wonderfully versatile and able Freddie Starr is as a singer.

This eponymously titled 1982 release kicks off with the haunting Geoff Stephens song The Crying Game. Chosen by Starr as a single release, it is a track that is instantly at odds with his mad stage demeanour. Starr’s oddly high falsetto tones convey the same other-worldly wistfulness of the 1964 Dave Berry original, and the track is an odd laid back choice as a single with which to launch a new career. The b-side of that subdued single was the far from subdued track Spacerama, also to be found on this album. It is odd galactic nonsense with the sort of demented alien spaceship ramblings that George Clinton built his entire career around. A dogged string section follows Freddie’s inter-stellar musings around like an angry flesh-eating refrain, escaped from an old ELO album and bent on carnage. I have precious little idea what is meant to be going on with Spacerama, perhaps it doesn’t matter, but it is an odd b-side to an equally odd single release.

Freddie is allowed to showcase all of his talents on this album. On tracks such as Some Other Guy, Such a Night and Roll Over Beethoven he is every inch the aspiring rock and roller, belting away the lyrics while his backing band pound out the rhythm with energetic drumming that would not have disgraced an early Adam Ant track. There are hints of Freddie’s famous Elvis impression in these tracks, and also more than a hint of his Hitler impression, the exhortations to groove on down often sounding like the fevered instructions of a mad dictator set to a rock ‘n’ roll beat.

Elsewhere there are many opportunities for crooning. Don’t Cry Daddy is a crushingly maudlin song about an oddly insensitive child urging his grieving father to forsake mourning and find a new mummy as soon as he can. The song certainly made me cry, though perhaps for the wrong reasons. Something in the Song and The Great Pretender are two more slowed down numbers. Imagine a dimly lit nightclub with a sparse piano refrain and Freddie in sentimental mode and you have the mood he is trying to capture. Leading the crooning tracks though is Hollywood, a nostalgic wail about the heady golden era days of movie-making. Even the least cynical person would acknowledge that the song exists solely as an excuse for Freddie to trot out some interminably ancient impressions of celebrated gangsters Edward G Robinson, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart.

The album’s final two tracks are Move It, a funked up version of the Cliff Richard standard, supplemented with some up-tempo manic drumming and some strangely ethereal keyboards, and Polk Salad Annie, yet another odd choice of song. Polk Salad Annie is by the Louisiana–born musician Tony Joe White. It makes perfect sense when sung by him or anyone else with a working knowledge of Cajun food, swamps or alligators, but its redneck rockabilly blues leanings sound odd coming from Freddie Starr of all people.

So, all in all, an odd album, but then what did you expect from the ever unpredictable Mr Starr? As if this was ever going to be an easy listening classic, or a simple run through of some unexceptional songs. At times the album is like a stage school kid showing off by showcasing different singing styles and trying too hard to impress with their versatility. It’s hard to say what exactly is Freddie’s musical forte. He clearly likes the slow ballads where he can croon and warble, but he also seems to come alive for the heavier rock numbers. I don’t think Freddie Starr will rest until he is acknowledged for his singing as much as his comedy, and for those of us who haven’t yet begun to make up our minds or care very much either way, this record is a good place to start forming an opinion.

To finish then, here is Move It, a song which falls between the two camps of the rock and the croon. Move it Mr Starr:

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