Sunday 31 July 2022

Poem: 'Aquatic Encounters Under The Dark Moons'



Luna blue flares give aquatic guises 
to submerged deserts, 
plastered on light it melts me in delicious numbers. 
Bearing strange fish thru the French quarters 
eyes lisp smoke in throb-runs, 
they spark with delicious guises 
of dark neurosis. 
Luna blue sparks of glacial flame 
melt me in lisping smoke 
bearing strange aquatic numbers, 
dark forms borne thru submerged throb-runs 
in the guise of delicious deserts. 
Fish eyes plastered on blue flame beat 
thru the strange Luna guise 
of the French quarters, 
submerging me in the aquatic neurosis 
of melting deserts. 
Glacial eyes melt in blue 
lisping sparks of Luna smoke, 
bearing delicious neurosis 
thru the aquatic dark of the French quarters 

Published in: 
‘MOCKERSATZ no.1.6’ (USA – June 1986) 
(UK – October 1988) 
‘NOVA no.1 (UK – March 1990) 
‘FUR-LINED GHETTOS no.7’ (UK – October 2015) 
and my collection: 
Unibird Publication (UK – October 1988)

Mungo Jerry: After The Summertime




It’s strange that this starts out with a ‘find your own space’ TV-ad for Linkedin. The concept of work has changed, so where do we fit in? Apparently, in vibrant street communities where a healthy diversity of people meet and debate in an open and accepting way. And the thumping theme that choregraphs it all – ‘Oh I’ve been thinking ‘bout my life, what’s been wrong and what’s been right, some say that some say this, some say no, some say yes.’ That’s Mungo Jerry. Always a community band. Although maybe this twenty-first-century commercial tie-in wasn’t quite what they had in mind at the time of its release. “Alright Alright Alright” – their July 1973 no.3 hit record, was not the first time they’d soundtracked a TV commercial. Although mostly the sponsors had gone for the biggest most recognisable hit – “In The Summertime”. Nevertheless, each slight enhanced visibility afforded by such tacky sponsorship ventures, tweaks the back catalogue yet again. 

“In The Summertime” itself was the kind of hit song that a band is both fortunate, and unfortunate to enjoy. 

Mungo Jerry were a constantly reshuffled line-up of Skiffle revivalists, dominated by the personality of big-Afro-haired and luxuriantly side-whiskered lead singer-writer Ray Dorset, born in 1946 in Ashford, Kent. He’d been performing since he was just fourteen. Originally named Good Earth – Dorset (guitar, voice & ‘stomper’), Colin Earl (piano), Paul King (banjo & jug) & Mike Cole (string bass), were a popular live travelling band with a high-energy blend of Rockabilly, Blues and Skiffle. Ray had paid his song-writing dues when the group played back-up to Ska-artist Jackie Edwards (who co-wrote hits with Steve Winwood for the Spencer Davis Group). Ray claims he sketched out the “In The Summertime” riff one night in 1969 on a second-hand Fender Stratocaster, jotting the lyrics the following morning during his day-job as a Lab Researcher at Timex. 

There was a new-decade buzz in the air. The old sixties gods were stumbling or crumbling. The seventies would inherit their underground progressive vibe and take it into yet more amazing highs. Early in 1970 Good Earth cut several tracks at the Pye studios with producer Barry Murray – who also functioned as their first manager. The label was impressed. By serendipitous good fortune, it happened just as the group were a hit at the June 1970 Hollywood Festival, pitched outside Newcastle. Despite a bill that listed Traffic, Free, Black Sabbath and the Grateful Dead, their Saturday night set created such a spontaneous buzz they were promptly added to the Sunday night bill too. 

They were crowd-pleasers. The convention of virtuoso guitar soloing had started out with Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Winwood and Jerry Garcia, musicians of innovative skills who knew how to extemporise and had the dexterity to justify doing it. When the solo fell into lesser-gifted hands and became a mere expectation, a degree of tedium sets in. With the festival stage dominated by band after band playing leaden extended po-faced improvisations, the unpretentious appearance of Mungo Jerry’s brand of organic up-tempo good-time music was greeted with ecstatic dance-along enthusiasm. No drums, just Ray stomping his boot to establish the rhythm, a grassroots reversion to the natural energies of raucous stamping, kazoo-tooting, honking jug-band Folk-Blues boogies at their most gleeful. They were not Rock gods, they were one with the audience, but with just a mischievous glint, ‘we’re no threat, people, we’re not dirty, we’re not mean, we love everybody, but we do as we please…’ 

Still known as Good Earth, until the very last moment, a hasty group-meeting resulted in a name-switch to that of one of the mischievous ‘Mungojerrie & Rumpleteazer’ cats from TS Eliot’s 1939 ‘Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats’ verses. But ‘mungo’ was also a rag-trade term once used to describe scavenged cloth made from recycled woven or felted material. While simultaneously, also by serendipitous good fortune, Pye Records were in the process of launching a new subsidiary aimed at the counterculture audience. And ventured a new technological innovation – which could be read as ‘gimmick’, in the form of the maxi-single. 

Since the introduction of the first vinyl 45rpm single, the high-profile plug-track A-side was matched to its flipside. A format that worked really well when two strong numbers were twinned, with classic pairings such as Elvis’ “His Latest Flame” c/w “Little Sister”, Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou” c/w “Travelin’ Man”, Cliff Richard’s “The Next Time” c/w “Batchelor Boy” or the Beatles “We Can Work It Out” c/w “Day Tripper”, but it could also consist of a throwaway filler. Royalties were split down the middle, so a hasty number cobbled together by the producer or astute manager would generate as much revenue as the hit side. Phil Spector adopted the technique of focusing all radio play on the designated A-side by placing disposable instrumentals on the B-side. Brian Wilson did pretty-much the same by taking the epic “Heroes And Villains” and sticking the 1:07-minute “You’re Welcome” on the flip, a simple repetition of the lyric ‘you’re welcome to come.’ During later decades the B-side became merely a ‘remix’ of the A-side, often an ‘instrumental version’ which consists of the plug-track with the vocal omitted!


Dawn’s promotional idea was to reverse that mentality and carry two tracks on the B-side… making it a good-value Maxi-Single. So the “In The Summertime” package also includes Ray’s bragging kazoo-driven “Mighty Man” plus their down-dirty harmonica-led cover of Woody Guthrie’s “Dust Pneumonia Blues”. The contagious hit-track uses breathy interjections of vocal rhythm effects, with just a lyric hint of Hendrix, ‘you can stretch right up and touch the sky’ but in summertime, when the weather is hot, ‘you got women, you got women on your mind.’ There’s a teasing nudge of class distinction between ‘if her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal, if her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel,’ and a bridging motorcycle sound (actually sampled live from the studio engineer’s Triumph sports car!) placed at the false ending. Carried on high-rotation radio-play, accelerated by press coverage of their Hollywood success, the massive-selling “In The Summertime” (Dawn DNX 2502) debuted at no.13. It rapidly reached no.1, 13 June 1970, where it stayed put, hogging the top spot for seven weeks. Ray had to wangle time off work for a ‘Top Of The Pops’ debut performance, after which he quit the nine-to-five for music. The song went on to top charts around the world, peaking at no.3 on the American Billboard Hot 100. 

Becoming known – on such a spectacular level, for just one catchy song, is a gift delivered in a tainted chalice. Singles, in general, were not considered as serious creative entities without the support of an attendant album. With their own multi-million-selling debut single Procol Harum had discovered that “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” set an impossible benchmark, and that no matter how good subsequent work was – and there were some wonderful albums, they would always be known for that one Summer Of Love classic. “In The Summertime” was a cross-over hit that everyone knew, sung by all and sundry from schoolkids to the morning milk-delivery man. Everything that followed would be unfairly measured against its success. 

The album ‘Mungo Jerry’ (August 1970, Dawn DNLS 3008) was wrong-footed from the start, it was even issued on Pye’s other label ‘Janus Records’. There were five original songs by Ray. Three written by Paul King. “Daddies Brew” credited to Colin Earl, and “Mother *!*!*! Boogie” listed as a group composition. There were also strong covers of one-man-band Jesse Fuller’s “San Francisco Bay Blues” and “Baby Let’s Play House” – a song written and first recorded by Arthur Gunter but a 1955 Rockabilly hit for Elvis Presley. For some foreign editions “In The Summertime” was hastily tacked onto the album as an afterthought. While the music scribes of ‘New Musical Express’ and ‘Melody Maker’ were extolling the virtues of the latest Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple twelve-inchers, they tended not to apply the same level of critical attention to Mungo Jerry. Rock music was intensely serious. Mungo Jerry were fun, and fun, even when it was grounded in genuine Folk-Blues roots, did not figure on their radar. 

Yet there were even opportunistic spin-offs, The Mixtures issued an Australian cover of “In The Summertime” which topped the chart there, while “Seaside Shuffle” by Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaurs (UK5), was an early fun project for Jona Lewie which pinched the zob-stick percussion and seaside effects with an unmistakably catchy “In The Summertime” vibe which took it into the UK charts 15 July 1972, and all the way up to no.2. Later there a Rap-reggae revival of “In The Summertime” by Shaggy, which did very nicely, while the song’s lyric ‘have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find’ led to its use in an anti-drink driving TV campaign. 

There was a time-lag between the first two Mungo Jerry singles. They took the collective decision to delay unleashing the follow-up until the massive international sales of “In The Summertime” died down. “Baby Jump” had been written during the 1968 overlap into 1969, and was already a concert favourite under an alternate title. When the band agreed this was to be the vital second single Dorset re-drafted the lyric and devised the new title – “Baby Jump” (Dawn DNX 2505). Recorded initially at the sixteen-track Pye studio, they weren’t happy with the result, so they re-recorded it at the same eight-track studio they’d used for “In The Summertime”. To confront head-on the accusations of lightness, this was a full-on heavy assault with Beefheartian yelps and a lyric both cleverly lustful and literate, ‘I dream that she was Lady Chatterley, ’n’ I was the game keeper, I dream that I was Da Vinci and she was the Mona Lisa, I dream that I was Humbert and she was Lolita.’ At a time when DH Lawrence and Nabokov were both hot topics. Sting would later flaunt his intellectual credentials by referencing ‘just like the old man in that book by Nabokov’ on the Police hit “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” – but Ray Dorset had got in there first! The thumping snarling beat false-closes, then roars back for a repeat verse. When it rose to no.1 – for two weeks, from 6 March 1971, Mungo Jerry became one of a select few acts whose first two releases both topped the charts. 

Mungo Jerry were always the instant party. Where other bands were striving for credibility, they were grounded in the Rent Party ethic, yet drew from an equally deep reservoir of traditional music. A third single, the catchy “Lady Rose” (Dawn DNX 2510) with a sequence of swapped-vocal repetitions in the wind-down, peaked at no.5. It might have gone higher but its upward surge was arrested when a moral panic ensued over its inclusion of “Have A Whiff On Me”. Lonnie Donegan had scored a no.11 1961 hit by craftily reshaping the same song into a more acceptable “Have A Drink On Me”, but Mungo Jerry revert back to Woodie Guthrie’s original words about ‘Cocaine Sue’ and ‘who wants friends when you can have snow?’ The track was hastily switched to one from the album (“She Rowed”), but by then the momentum was lost. 

That second album also fell foul of moral disapproval. The risqué nudge-nudge wink-wink title ‘Electronically Tested’ (April 1971, Dawn DNLS 3020) was a claim prominently displayed on each packet of Durex condoms. It was a degree of playful cheek that did not escape the diligent guardians of the nation’s standards of decency. Leading to all manner of tut-tut-tutting radio bans. Despite a strong track-listing, with a high hits quotient – including both group no.1’s, the set is made up of all Ray Dorset originals but for a lengthy cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Wanna Make Love To You”, known predominantly through its Etta James interpretation, but which stands up well to comparison with the Rolling Stones own version on their 1964 debut LP. A contrasting gear was supplied by the slower “Coming Back To You When The Time Comes”, while a later expanded CD edition adds Paul King’s hoedown “The Man Behind The Piano” (one of the “Baby Jump” B-sides) with twanging jaw-harp break. 

There’s some wonderfully atmospheric video footage of the Weeley Festival held just outside Clacton over the 1971 August Bank Holiday weekend – later chronicled as ‘The Great British Woodstock’, in which the Faces and T Rex play on a bill with Edgar Broughton Band and the Pink Fairies who simply turn up and play for free. Quintessence might have been pushing the boundaries of East-West world music, Colosseum were extending and extemporising into Jazz-Rock fusion. But Mungo Jerry were there to party. Arriving in the ‘Fun Bus’ they were scheduled for the Friday noon slot, augmented for their set by Joe Rush on washboard. The video is soundtracked by an energetic version of the next hit – “You Don’t Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War” (Dawn DNX 2513), a clever rootsy song using war as a metaphor for the rigours of outsider misfit living. He’s thrown out the door by his girlfriend’s parents because his hair’s too long and ‘you’re not their kind of bloke,’ he’s fired from his job ‘because your punctuality’s poor,’ then he’s barred from the hotel ‘because your shirt ain’t white.’ The song closes with ‘you’re tired and you’re hungry and you cannot walk no more… ain’t no money, ain’t no woman, ain’t no roof above your head, so you lay down in the park and you wish that you were dead, the fuzz says you are trespassing and kicks you in the jaw.’ It’s a full picaresque underground comic-strip complete with the ‘fuzz’ (police) terminology, and although the single enters the charts at no.48 in September 1971 it peaks at no higher than no.13 the following month. Although to this listener – alongside “Baby Jump”, it’s one of their strongest sides. 

Following an Australian tour, there’s a dispute over whether or not they should recruit a conventional drummer to augment Ray’s signature footstomp percussion. Paul King had always provided the counterbalance to Ray’s more jaunty energies. When the dispute resulted in he and Colin Earl quitting, it had the effect of weakening the interactive cohesion of the Good Earth personnel, and focused the group’s core more tightly around Ray (although Colin would later return). The cover-art for ‘Electronically Tested’ shows the full group playing uproariously together on a festival stage, but by the time of the cartoon-art for ‘Boot Power’ (October 1972, Dawn DNLS 3041) Ray stands prominently in the foreground while the other members are grouped around a table in the background. 

Yet the slower crawl of the swamp-Rock “Open Up” (Dawn DNX 2514) gets no higher than no.21. Followed by the smooth summery-harmonies and phased guitars of “My Girl And Me” (Dawn DNX 2515) which fails to chart at all. Although this proved to be a temporary set-back. Ray Dorset was back in time for a last hurrah hit with “Alright Alright Alright” (Dawn DNS 1037). This was not only the first Mungo Jerry single to be issued in standard 45rpm two-track format, but it was also a version of a French hit “Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi” originally done by Jacques Dutronc (written with Jacques Lanzmann) with English lyrics provided by Ray Dorset. Retaining all the shambling energies that hallmark Mungo Jerry’s best, after entering the chart at no.23 (14 July 1973) it leaps to no.5, to peak at no.3 beneath Gary Glitter’s “Leader Of The Gang (I Am)” and Peters & Lee’s anodyne “Welcome Home”! A huge high-energy hit, it would return in 2022 as a TV-ad! But by then the brief Mungo Jerry chart summertime was drawing to a close. The echoey Rock ‘n’ Roll sound of “Wild Love” (Dawn DNS 1051) had less impact, despite power-lyrics ‘she walks like a tiger, sounds like a lion, roars like a wildcat, hits you like thunder, grabs you like lightning, truly like morrow, she is like Monroe...’ 

The hits and visibility grind to an eventual halt around summertime 1974 with the choogling “Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black” (Dawn DNS 1061) with drumkit, and a lascivious catchily repetitive ‘everytime I make a move, she tells me no.’ By this time the line-up was Ray Dorset (guitar, vocals), Dick Middleton (guitar), Bob Daisley (Australian born bass-player, later with Ozzy Osbourne), Ian Milne (keyboards) and Dave Bidwell (drums). Briefly they were billed as Ray Dorset & Mungo Jerry. After which Dorset remained a very active part of the music scene. When critics attack the group’s music for its occasional sameness he had released a solo album – ‘Cold Blue Excursion’ (1972, Dawn DNLS 3033), which experiments with forays into a variety of styles from Gospel to one track using a Trad Jazz Band, with dubious success. 

Always a big seller across Europe, Ray retained that popularity and scored a Euro-hit with “It’s A Secret” (Polydor 2058 713), which also gave him a South African no.1, although most of the familiar Mungo Jerry trappings had been discarded along the way. Then he wrote Kelly Marie’s breakthrough hit. Strip away the tacky Disco trappings of her “Feels Like I’m In Love” and it’s recognisably a Ray Dorset composition. Although he’d written it with the intention of sending the demo to Elvis Presley’s management, the King’s death meant the song was relegated to the B-side of a French Mungo Jerry single. Before it was spotted by Elliott Cowen of Red Bus Music as the perfect vehicle to launch the Scottish-born singer’s career in the UK. It was no.1 for two weeks from 13 September 1980. Ray also wrote the Channel 4 TV theme tune to the Gary Olsen comedy-drama series ‘Prospects’ (1986), and Paul Daniel’s ‘Wizbit’ BBC children’s fantasy show (1986-1988), as well as for the official Wigan football team anthem. 

While each slight enhanced visibility afforded by tacky commercial ventures helped tweak the back catalogue yet again… 

6 June 1970 – “In The Summertime” + “Mighty Man” c/w “Dust Pneumonia Blues” (33-&-a-third rpm, Dawn DNX 2502) no.1, in the charts for 20 weeks. 

25 July 1970 – “In The Summertime” (Janus 125) USA, no.3, in the charts for 11 weeks. 

8 August 1970 – ‘MUNGO JERRY’ LP (Dawn DNLS 3008) no.13, in the charts for 6 weeks. With side one (1) ‘Baby Let’s Play House’ written by Arthur Gunter, 2:32, (2) ‘Johnny B Badde’, Ray Dorset, 3:00 (3) ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’, Jesse Fuller, 3:38, (4) ‘Sad Eye Joe’, Paul King, 2:50, (5) ‘Maggie, Dorset, 4:10, (6) ‘Peace In The Country’, Dorset, 3:05. Side two (1) ‘See Me’, Dorset, 3:37, (2) ‘Movin’ On’, King, 4:14, (3) ‘My Friend’, Dorset, 2:36, (4) ‘Mother *!*!*! Boogie’, Earl-Cole-King-Dorset, 2:48, (5) ‘Tramp’, King, 5:05, (6) ‘Daddies Brew’, Colin Earl, 3:40. 

6 February 1971 – “Baby Jump” + “The Man Behind The Piano” (King) c/w 9:50-minute ‘Live From Hollywood’ medley with excerpt from “Maggie”, “Midnight Special” & “Mighty Man” (33-&-a-third rpm, Dawn DNX 2505) no.1, in the charts for 13 weeks. 

10 April 1971 – ‘ELECTRONICALLY TESTED’ LP (Dawn DNLS 3020) no.14, in the charts for 8 weeks. With Side one: ‘She Rowed’, Dorset, 3:15, (2) ‘I Just Wanna Make Love To You’, Willie Dixon, 9:01, (3) ‘In The Summertime’, Dorset, 3:30, (4) ‘Somebody Stole My Wife’, Dorset, 2:53. Side two (1) ‘Baby Jump’, Dorset, 4:09, (2) ‘Follow Me Down’, Dorset, 3:17, (3) ‘Memoirs Of A Stockbroker’, features Roger Earl on drums and Tony Bissiker’s recorder, Dorset, 4:00, (4) ‘You Better Leave That Whisky Alone’, Dorset, 3:55, (5) ‘Coming Back To You When The Time Comes’, Dorset, 3:38. 

29 May 1971 – “Lady Rose” + “Little Louis” (Paul King) c/w “Milkcow Blues” + “Have A Whiff On Me” (substituted by “She Rowed”) (33-&-a-third rpm, Dawn DNX 2510) no.5, in the charts for 12 weeks. 

18 September 1971 – “You Don’t Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War” + “The Sun Is Shining” c/w “We Shall Be Free” + “O’Reilly” (33-&-a-third rpm Dawn DNX 2513) no.13, in the charts for 8 weeks.

October 1971 – ‘YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE IN THE ARMY’ LP, Music-cassette, 8-track (Dawn DNLS 3028) with Side one: (1) ‘You Don’t Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War’, Dorset, 3:27, (2) ‘Ella Speed’, Dorset-trad, 3:12, (3) ‘Pidgeon Stew’, Dorset, 2:52, (4) ‘Take Me Back’, Dorset-trad, 3:28, (5) ‘Give Me Love’, Dorset, 3:50, (6) ‘Hey Rosalyn’, writer-&-vocals Paul King, 3:49. Side two: (1) ‘Northcote Arms’, Dorset, 3:17, (2) ‘There’s A Man Going Round Taking Names’, Dorset-trad, 3:09, (3) ‘Simple Things’, Dorset, 3:54, (4) ‘Keep Your Hands Off Her’, Dorset-trad, 2:49, (5) ‘On A Sunday’, Dorset, 3:19, (6) ‘That Old Dust Storm’, Guthrie, 3:31. With Ray Dorset (vocals, electric & six-string acoustic guitars, accordion, stomp), John Godfrey (bass guitar, electric piano), Colin Earl (piano), Paul King (vocals, banjo, twelve-& six-string acoustic guitar, jug), Joe Rush (washboard). 

February 1972 – ‘COLD BLUE EXCURSION’ solo album as by Ray Dorset (Dawn DNLS 3033), with Side one: (1) ‘Got To Be Free’ 2:50, (2) ‘Cold Blue Excursion’ 4:09, (3) ‘With Me’ 3:15, (4) ‘Have Pity On Me’ with Joe Rush on washboard, John Godfrey (bass) and Colin Earl (backing vocals) 2:57, (5) ‘Time Is Now’ 3:30, (6) ‘Livin’ Ain’t Easy’ 3:30. Side two: (1) ‘Help Your Friends’ 4:11, (2) ‘I Need It’ 3:23, (3) ‘Because I Want You’ 4:17, (4) ‘Hightime’ 3:30, (5) ‘Maybe That’s The Way’ 3:04, (6) ‘Always On My Mind’ 2:53. Features Mike McNaught (piano), Dave Markee (electric bass), Mike Travis (drums), plus Sue & Sunny backing vocals. A quote by Woody Guthrie is used on the inner sleeve, ‘A song was just a song to me... in my own mind, a song is just a song...’ “Cold Blue Excursion” c/w “I Need It” (Dawn DNS 1018) spun off as a single. 

22 April 1972 – “Open Up” + “Going Back Home” c/w “I Don’t Wanna Go Back To School” + “No Girl Reaction” (Dawn DNX 2514) no.21, in the charts for 8 weeks. 

October 1972 – ‘BOOT POWER’ LP, Music-cassette, 8-track (Dawn DNLS 3041) with Side one: (1) ‘Open Up’, (2) ‘She’s Gone’, (3) ‘Looking’ For My Girl’, (4) ‘See You Again’, (5) ‘The Demon’. Side two: (1) My Girl And Me’, (2) ‘Sweet Mary Jane’, (3) ‘Lady Rose’, (4) ‘(Going Down The) Dusty Road’, (5) ‘Brand New Car’, (6) ‘Forty-six dOn’. With Ray Dorset (lead), Tim Reeves (drums), Jon Pope (keyboards), John Godfrey (bass), Barry Murray (producer). 

3 November 1972 – “My Girl And Me” + “Summer’s Gone” c/w “Forty-Six And On” + “It’s A Goodie Boogie Woogie” (Dawn DNX 2515) did not chart. 

7 July 1973 – “Alright Alright Alright” c/w “Little Miss Hipshake” (Dawn DNS 1037), no.3, in the charts for 12 weeks. 

10 November 1973 – “Wild Love” c/w “Glad I’m A Rocker” (Dawn DNS 1051) no.32, in the charts for 5 weeks. 

6 April 1974 – “Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black” c/w “Gonna Bop ‘Til I Drop” (Dawn DNS 1061) no.13, in the charts for 9 weeks. 

September 1974 – ‘LONG LEGGED WOMAN’ LP, Music-cassette, 8-track (Dawn DNLS 3501) with Side one: (1) ‘Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black’, Ray Dorset, (2) ‘Glad I’m A Rocker’, Barry Murray, (3) ‘Gonna Bop ‘Til I Drop’, J Strange aka Barry Murray, (4) ‘Wild Love’, J Strange, (5) ‘O’Reilly’, Dorset-trad, (6) ‘The Sun Is Shining’, Jimmy Reed, (7) ‘Summer’s Gone’, Dorset. Side two (1) ‘Don’t Stop’, Dorset, (2) ‘Going Back Home’, Dorset, (3) ‘No Girl Reaction’, Dorset, (4) ‘Little Miss Hipshake’, B Murray, (5) ‘Milk Cow Blues’, Dorset-trad, (6) ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Back To School’, Dorset, (7) ‘Alright Alright Alright’, J Dutrone, J Lanzman, J Strange. 

15 November 1974 – ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll With Mungo Jerry’ (EP, Dawn DNS1092) with “All Dressed Up And No Place To Go” + “Shake ‘Til I Break” c/w “Too Fast To Live And Too Young To Die”. 

23 May 1975 – “In The Summertime” c/w “She Rowed” (seven-inch 45rpm single, Dawn DNS 1113). 

4 July 1975 – “Can’t Get Over Loving You” c/w “Let’s Go” (Polydor 2058 603). 

10 October 1975 – “Hello Nadine” c/w “Bottle Of Beer” (Polydor 2058 654). 

February 1976 – ‘IMPALA SAGA’ LP, music-cassette (Polydor 2383 364) with Side one: (1) ‘Hello Nadine’ 3:22, (2) ‘Never Mind I’ve Still Got My Rock ‘n’ Roll’ 1:40, (3) ‘Ain’t Too Bad’ 3:15, (4) ‘Too Fast’ 2:30, (5) ‘It’s A Secret’ 3:14, (6) ‘Impala Saga’ 4:45. Side two: (1) ‘Bottle Of Beer’ 2:55, (2) ‘Get Down On Your Baby’ 7:53, (3) ‘Hit Me’ 5:21, (4) ‘Quiet Man’ 3:58, (5) ‘Never Mind I’ve Still Got My Rock ‘n’ Roll: Reprise’ 0:56. There was a German and French single “It’s A Secret” c/w “English Girls” (Polydor 2058 713), with a South African release as Polydor PS445. 

30 July 1976 – “Don’t Let Go” c/w “Give Me Bop” (Polydor 2058 759). 

1977 – “Sur Le Pont D’Avignon” c/w “Feels Like I’m In Love” (Polydor 2058 847), recorded in Dick James Studio with Alan Blakley of the Tremeloes, released in limited territories including Canada, Belgium and France. 

15 April 1977 – “Heavy Foot Stomp” c/w “That’s My Baby” as Ray Dorset & Mungo Jerry (Polydor 2058 868). 

May 1977 – ‘LOVIN’ IN THE ALLEYS FIGHTIN’ IN THE STREETS’ as Ray Dorset & Mungo Jerry, LP, music-cassette (Polydor 2383 435) with Ray Dorset (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Chris Warnes (bass), Pete Sullivan (drums), Colin Earl (keyboards). 

10 June 1977 – ‘Mungo Rox’ EP as Ray Dorset & Mungo Jerry, with “All That A Woman Should Be” + “Dragster Queen” c/w “Get Down ON Your Baby” (Polydor 2230 103). 

11 November 1977 – “We’re OK” c/w “Let’s Make It” (Polydor 2058 947). 

March 1978 – ‘RAY DORSET & MUNGO JERRY’ as Ray Dorset & Mungo Jerry, LP, music-cassette (Polydor 2383 485).

Thursday 28 July 2022

Brian Stableford 'The Werewolves Of London'



Book Review Of: 
(Simon & Schuster UK, July 1990, 
Pan Books, March 1992, ISBN 0-330-32267-2)

Brian Stableford’s ascent describes a rising curve of breath-catching acceleration. From the inventive Space Operatics of his lift-off to the amazing ‘Empire Of Fear’ (1988), and more recent. Until now – in one feral bound he metamorphoses from vampirism to lycanthropy into quite possibly his most startling performance yet. ‘The Werewolves Of London’ is thick as a brick, densely and deviously constructed, and luminous as predatory wolf-eyes gleaming in the Whitechapel night. The opening sequence is set in Egypt – terrain familiar to the point of cliché at least since Boris Karloff wound on the bandages, and even those elements already re-stir-fried by George Lucas. But by cunningly conniving the Gothic voice and mist-shrouded perspective of 1871, Stableford pre-empts prior texts by the simple manoeuvre of predating them. And as soon as his protagonist suggests ‘we have allowed the romance of Egyptology to infect us like a mild disease’ we know there’s more to the sinister simile than he realises. 

But this is not simple slash and rip. Overloaded to the seams with a tumult and turmoil of incident and characters and descriptions as pure as adrenalin, as addictive as uncut Peruvian cocaine, the story rapidly expands to include an orphan possessed by a demon, a levitating Nun, arcane knowledge in forbidden tomes, and an Aleister Crowleyesque sex-magik ritual that turns ‘the design of nature upside down, multiplying perversity in as complex a fashion as ingenuity might permit.’ It goes to the very brink of Hell through Black Mass, brooding apocalypse, the Beast of Revelations, nightmares of destruction… and yes, the lyncanthropic Vargr-folk too who are ‘unquiet for ever’. ‘If there was a truth hidden in the myth’ muses Elinor ‘it is that all men are wolves beneath their masks of painted politeness.’ While ‘the dark streets of London are the greatest wilderness of all and the most perfect hunting grounds’ – a setting for Stableford’s compelling struggles between David Lydyard – infected in Egypt, the Santanist Jacob Harkender, the manwolf subculture, and the conflict of deities they summon or are controlled by in their occult struggle for the powers of the possessed foundling. 

And there’s more to the novel than strange narrative. Each elaborate segment is interrupted by fascinating mock-academic side routes into Shapeshifter folklore, for example – did you know that a female werewolf can take human lovers, but a manwolf’s tendency to transmute at the height of passion limits his opportunities? Quoting artfully bogus books and broadsheets, disquisitions on Mr Darwin’s new theory of evolution, René Descartes ‘Suppressed Meditations’, or searingly surreal dream sequences out of fever nightmare, Stableford builds and builds. Perhaps, as he suggests, there really ARE deep-rooted legends of London feral-folk – Warren Zevon’s near-hit single “Werewolves Of London” (also recorded by the Flamin’ Groovies), and the John Landis/ Jeff Goldblum FX-shocker ‘An American Werewolf In London’ (1981) obviously aren’t mentioned, but offer themselves as collaborative evidence. 

Pitting Tallentyre’s rational ‘Age Of Reason’ atheism against Stableford’s pseudo-religious concept of ‘enormously powerful entities’ the vortex goes out well beyond regulation horror-fantasy, redefining manwolf mythology as ‘Empire Of Fear’ did to vampirism. He rewrites world history from a bizarre new ‘origin of the species’ populating antiquity with a pantheon of form-changers, ‘Others’, chimeras, gods and demons, until even the prose liquefies, becoming pliable with lyrical convulsions, mind journeys, visions and induced phantasmagoria from impossible worlds. ‘All history is a kind of fantasy’ states Tallentyre, and ‘all fantasy is in its own fashion a kind of history… All fantasy reflects that knowledge, just as all knowledge partakes of fantastic speculation.’ 

‘The Werewolves Of London’ is a novel that expands your consciousness by grabbing you with a power-prose of feral teeth that won’t let go. 

The ‘David Lydyard’ trilogy continues with: 
‘The Angel Of Pain’ (Simon & Schuster UK, August 1991, ISBN 0-671-71727-8, and Pan Paperback) and 
‘The Carnival Of Destruction’ (Pocket Books UK, October 1994 ISBN 0-671-85198-5) 

1966 – “The Man Who Came Back” (‘SF Impulse no.8’, October 1966) Edited by Harry Harrison. Brian had made his pro debut in ‘Science Fantasy no.78’ with ‘Beyond Time’s Aegis’ under the joint alias ‘Brian Craig’, this is his first under his own name, in just over three pages, William Jason’s ship ‘Stella’ was captured en route to asteroid Vesta by alien Slugs and transfigured him. Is he still Jason? Is he still human? What had they done to him? He eventually confesses ‘they killed me…’ 

1967 – “Inconstancy” (‘SF Impulse’ no.12, February 1967), ‘a brilliant and evocative fantasy by a powerful new writer’, a self-consciously arty symbolist story of three figures on a beach where a village is eroding into the sea, none of them know why they are there or have memories of other lives, they question each other in inconclusive dialogue. Stableford is skilful enough to make this Samuel Beckett strangeness work. 

1990 – ‘INTERZONE no.39’ (September 1990), includes “The Invertebrate Man” by Brian Stableford, when Patrick O’Connell’s father says ‘he just ain’t got no backbone’ he takes it literally, and devotes himself to studying invertebrates, which takes him to Baltimore, County Cork in West Ireland to do research with respected expert John McBride at what the locals call the Frankenstein Factory, only to learn that McBride is secretly breeding giant insects in a basement lab. When local rivalry breaks out and the lab catches fire Patrick discovers his spine by heroically rescuing a baby and McBride from the blaze. 

1994 – “The Unkindness Of Ravens” (‘Interzone no.90, December 1994) a brief charming tale in which ravens intelligence-levels are experimentally raised to the point they devise their own escape. One named Edgar (one of a number of Poe references) returns to ask if the changes will be genetically passed down to their fledglings. It will not. 

1997 – “The Pipes Of Pan” by Brian Stableford (‘Magazine Of Fantasy And SF’, June 1997) Wendy had been thirteen for thirty years, now she’s been unthirteen for four months. In a future of immortals, children do not grow beyond a specified age, until the Progeria virus causes a disturbing – and possibly illegal puberty. A clever and sensitively-told tale.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Gig Review: Anti-Nowhere League, Chron-Gen & Chelsea



Gig Review of: 
at ‘Unity Hall’, Wakefield, Yorkshire 
16 May 1982

A chronic degeneration ago Sid Vicious died that we might live. Gene October was there in that first furious thrash of Punk and he’s here now, slogans and chants still intact, a shouting artefact, a tenacious strand connecting the then to the now. Not that it’s fair to overstress genealogies but this moving lumbering Punk ghetto is being loudly promo’d as the logical successor to the Sex Pistols Anarchy package of 1977, and comparisons – if odious, tend to present themselves unbidden. Chelsea, for example, bellow “War Across The Nation” with the sharpest cleanest new wave chords in the skrewed-up Steve Jones surgical-strike tradition – and it persists in coming on just as multi-volt electrifying, Nic Austin’s lead and Linc’s bass are worn low-slung with October draped over the mic, powerfully built, short ragged black hair, patterned shirt half out of his pants, ignoring the gob-hail like the seasoned campaigner he is. Even his lengthy harangues against Margaret Thatcher, and his part-patronising unemployment rant during “Right To Work” is historically in context. ‘I know a lot of you out there aint’t got no jobs, right? And they call you scum, don’t they? But they don’t fuckin’ understand, they don’t understand.’

Yet if this diatribe-ing overextends the numbers, once they’ve quit the stage leaving dropped guitars howling and shrieking metallic feedback… then the Hitchin band Chron-Gen redress the balance. They ram each jab short and fast from “Prophets Of War” through to the encore of Chinn-Chapman’s “Living Next Door To Alice” (what price New World now, eh?). ‘I’m a member of the chronic generation, it’s getting me nowhere, it’s full of complications.’ There’s a look of early Sham 69 about vocalist Glynn Barber, from sweatband on down, the same cocky Jack-the-Lad rapport, an easy insult taunting with the front couple of rows that comes across well, and the numbers, all careening and riff-based, manage to inject a freshness into what, from lesser plectrums, can be a stale and limited form. Stand-outs are “Subway Savage”, “Outlaws”. And Captain Sensible’s humorous “Jet Boy Jet Girl”. 

They also do one called “L.S.D.”, while the Anti-Nowhere League do a cocaine anthem “When The Snowman Makes Me Happy” – so where exactly does a hippie and a snob’s drug slot into Gene October’s ‘we’re all working class, right’ scenario? Top of the bill, and currently greediest in Indie chart-grabbing stakes, the League themselves are farthest from roots. Crude, mindless, filthy, horrendous, degenerate, wrecked, perverted, snarling, vomiting great mouthfuls of lager over the audience, f’-ing, lycanthropic, moronic, grotesque, spasming and writhing, there’s Animal (Nick Culmer) biting, crunching and chewing what purports to be lyrics – ‘we shout but no-one cares, we shout but no-one listens’ he apes, but ‘for you – I’ll be your SAVIOUR!’ The kiss of a comic-book Satan. A cross between a Hammer films Black Mass manifestation and a deranged fanged Muppet. “We Are The League”, a manifesto of over-acted outrage. Top-hatted guitarist FS Magoo (Chris Exall) gurns and scowls, a villainous Dickensian idiot. “I Hate People”, “Let’s Break The Law” has Animal stroking his metal-studded codpiece with mock-lecherous lewdness. And then, casually and with ease, they drop the hand-grenade that is “Streets Of London” into the lacerated landscape. Is this an ironic retread of the every precinct busker’s standard, or a bizarre recognition that just perhaps Bedsit poet Ralph McTell was onto something after all? Their tedious attempted menace slots more easily – visually and vacuously bombastic, into the Heavy Metal overkill of the Ozzy Osbourne’s, Ted Nugent’s and Iron Maidens. 

Yet the gob goes on, even after two hours the kids can still not only generate fresh saliva, but also achieve a quite a respectable trajectory angling into the lights in a rain of silver constellations. We walk on crushed beer-cans, beer foam explodes and ejaculates across the floor. From the history of Punk in microcosm, this is Punk 1982, with Sid Vicious a long time dead…

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Classic Movie: Spike Milligan's 'The Bed Sitting Room'



Review of: 
with Ralph Richardson, Rita Tushingham, Marty Feldman, 
Arthur Low, Michael Hordern, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore 
(DVD-Blu-Ray, April 2019, BFI Flipside)

‘Well, things were going swimmingly until that… 
until they dropped the ol’, well now, you know. I slept 
 through it alright. Yes, in fact, I was in England, still 
 a-bed, albeit in a club chair, the Third World War took place. 
 I didn’t get a chance to join the regiment’ – Lord Fortnum

Nuclear war is no laughing matter. Yet the world of 1969 was consumed by the Cold War Doomsday threat, suspended on the precarious “Eve Of Destruction” – ‘if the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ away, there’ll be no-one to save with the world in a grave.’ How does the rational mind, growing up in the Atomic Age, contemplate that prospect of imminent thermonuclear obliteration? The existential Beat Generation celebrate the moment. Live for now, because there will be no tomorrow, while listening for that Crack Of Doom On The Hydrogen Jukebox! Jeff Nuttall writes in his luminous overview of the sixties counterculture, ‘Bomb Culture’ (1968), that ‘people who had not yet reached puberty at the time of the bomb were incapable of conceiving of life with a future,’ the only certainty is what he calls ‘the crackling certainty of Now.’ The CND oppose the Superpower End Of The World stand-off with Protest Marches and Trad Jazz. While Science Fiction runs a number of fictional simulations as a terrible warning, from John Wyndham’s ‘The Chrysalids’ (1955) to Walter M Miller’s ‘A Canticle For Leibowitz’ (1960). So is Spike Milligan’s film SF? Is it speculative fiction? Perhaps surreal absurdity is the only logical reaction to an illogical ‘Mutual Assured Destruction’ megaton impasse? Duck… and Cover. 

The film opens with the sound of wind. The sun blurred through a hazy sky. Flowing magma. A burning plastic doll. A JG Ballard flooded landscape. A pylon. Survivors wander amidst a ‘Mad Max’ dereliction of debris. Caught in a kind of post-traumatic state of derangement they attempt to continue elements of their former lives in bizarre replications, trying to pretend nothing has happened, while never mentioning the ‘bomb’, preferring allusion… ‘since the thing dropped – this rude thing.’

An underground tube station on the Circle Line. The train slows to a stop. No-one gets off. It accelerates away as litter blows across the deserted platform. Arthur Lowe is ‘Father’ to a dysfunctional family unit who travel endlessly around the loop. He leaps from the train onto the platform to retrieve a chocky-bar from a slot-machine. Mona Washbourne – a serious actor with a movie career going back to 1934, is Mother. She attempts to recreate normal married life, with the wonderful Rita Tushingham as their very pregnant daughter, Penelope. ‘I wish there were more people her own age on the Circle Line’ coos Mother. ‘There are no friends left’ says Lowe firmly. Armed with a red hatchet and leather patches on the sleeves of his jacket Arthur Lowe steps out of the carriage looking for missing Penelope – only to be stranded on the platform. When he fights his way back aboard he discovers his daughter writhing in a sleeping bag with naked fiancée Alan (Richard Warwick, who had been rebellious ‘Wallace’ in Lindsay Anderson’s classic 1968 film ‘If’). 

As a smart Mod commuter, Alan is then grudgingly accepted into their party. Mother smiles approvingly. Father is suspicious. ‘Actually, sir, I’m a commuter chap. You know, backwards and forwards’ Alan explains. ‘That’s nice’ says Mother. ‘Forwards and backwards’ he emphasises. ‘How dare you!’ protests Father, sensing innuendo. ‘Does it get boring?’ she enquires innocently. ‘How really dare you say such things’ says Father, on full Captain Mainwaring mode, he glances at his pregnant daughter, adding ‘And do them.’ Penelope sniggers. When Alan suggests ‘I’d be interested in joining your party. I’m sure you could use another pair of hands,’ Father chastises ‘You keep your filthy commuter hands to yourself!’ This is straight ‘Carry On’-era double entendre. 

Two man carry an unexploded bomb suspended from the pole they shoulder, through a desolation of wrecked cars on a former motorway. 

Frank Thornton is the actor known for playing Captain Peacock in the department-store sitcom ‘Are You Being Served?’, and as ‘Truly’ Truelove in ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’. Before either of those roles he was the BBC announcer who squats behind an empty TV-set frame. ‘On this the third – or is it the fourth?, anniversary of the nuclear misunderstanding which lead to the Third World War, here is the last recorded statement of the Prime Minister, as he then was, who had just succeeded his illustrious father into office, ‘I feel I am not boasting when I remind you that this was, without a shadow of a doubt, the very shortest war in living memory. Two minutes twenty-eight seconds, up to and including the grave process of signing the peace treaty, fully blotted. The great task of burying our forty-million dead was also carried out in great expediency and good will.’ The Prime Minister in the flashback clip is intended to resemble Harold Wilson, even down to using his ‘without fear of contradiction’ soundbite. He meets Chinese Premier Mao Tse Tung (Chairman Mao Zedong) on the steps of no.10 Downing Street, to announce ‘peace in our time’, in a conscious echo of PM Neville Chamberlain’s claim concerning the Munich Agreement directly before the outbreak of World War II. 

The movie dialogue catches the full alternate logic of madness. Captain Bules Martin – played by a dishevelled Michael Hordern, holds a ‘Defeat of England’ medal, as he was unable to save Buckingham Palace from total devastation. ‘Your Majesty, I’m sorry that I’ve failed you. I tried to catch the thing before it hit the Palace, but one of your corgis bit me!’ As he explains ‘I was standing by, ready to face the enemy, whoever they might be, and I couldn’t find them’ he blusters. ‘Tell me, do you know, who was the enemy?’ 

‘I haven’t the least idea’ responds Lord Fortnum of Alamein (Ralph Richardson) who wore a Top Hat with a miniature revolving radar on top, ‘I tell you, it’s the latest early-warning hat. It gives you that extra four minutes in bed.’ He refers to Bules Martin as ‘Doctor’ – ‘are you a doctor, Doctor?’ and asks for a prescription for malnourishment. ‘I’ve not been eating anything’ he explains. ‘Why is that?’ asks Martin. ‘I can’t get the stuff.’ ‘I thought, Doctor, I thought you might give me breakfast as a prescription against malnutrition.’ ‘Aw, yes, well, take, um, thirty-milligrams of egg on toast.’ But Fortnum confides he also has ‘a terrible morbid feeling’ that he’s turning into a Bed Sitting Room. When Martin confirms it, ‘eh, eh, that’s probably atomic mutations. There’s a lot of it about,’ he suggests ‘my advice, charge twenty quid rent, be mindful of drafts...’

Lord Fortnum decides he needs a second opinion, first demanding ‘what class of person are you? I am top-drawer, to put it mildly,’ but then he insists ‘I want it privately, on the National Health Service.’ The male nurse is a manic Marty Feldman wearing a short dress uniform and a bandolier of ammunition. He tells Fortnum ‘you’re not well enough to have a condition.’ Then, with trowel in hand, ‘in my opinion you need re-pointing. A full-scale conversion to a maisonette.’ ‘My god’ protests Fortnum ‘I’ve dropped a brick!’ He tries to find what is left of Belgravia, a more suitable address for his eventual transfiguration. 

He studies a bottle of green milk. ‘The radiation’s rising. Still, one shouldn’t grumble too much.’ 

Writing the ground-breaking scripts for ‘The Goons’ radio series had driven Spike to the brink of nervous breakdowns, while bending the medium of sound into mental images of magnificently epic silliness. His comic-satiric novel ‘Puckoon’ (1963) preceded his semi-autobiographical series of war memoirs beginning with ‘Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall’ (1971), while his absurdist poetry, in the tradition of Edward Lear was always a ludicrous delight. But it was while Spike was appearing as a tatterdemalion ‘Ben Gunn’ on a stage presentation of ‘Treasure Island’ during winter 1961 into 1962, produced by Bernard Miles, that they began talking around the idea of a one-act post-nuclear play to be called ‘The Bed Sitting Room’. 

Co-written with John Antrobus it premiered at Canterbury’s ‘Marlow Theatre’ 12 February 1962, only to be expanded and staged by Bernard Miles at London’s ‘Mermaid Theatre’ (from 31 January 1963). Revived in 1967 it toured successfully and played the prestigious ‘Saville Theatre’. Critic John Brosnan observes that ‘the play on which the film was based was a much-improvised piece of slapstick, and what remains of the original material clashes awkwardly with chillingly bleak settings showing the realistic aftermath of an atomic war – the shattered dome of St Paul’s Cathedral protruding from a swamp, a line of wrecked cars along a disembodied length of motorway, a grim landscape dominated by great mounds of sludge and piles of discarded boots, broken plates and false teeth’ (in ‘The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction’ edited by Peter Nicholls, 1981 edition). To me, the two elements – the comedic and the chillingly bleak, not only elide together perfectly but reinforce each other. 

Dick Lester had begun his directorial feature-film career with the modest Pop-exploitational ‘It’s Trad, Dad’ (1962), enlivening the Helen Shapiro musical with clever sight gags, characters who talk back to the narrator, plus sequences where the action stops, accelerates, then runs backwards. That kind of low-budget innovation made him the perfect catalyst to direct the Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (1964), but by then he’d already discovered the Goons – another sympathetic four-piece of co-conspirators, with Spike Milligan in particular sharing an affectionate mockery of militarism and lost imperial greatness. They’d worked together on the short eleven-minute sketch-film ‘The Running, Jumping And Standing Still Film’ (1959), providing credentials that fell into place when it came to reuniting them for ‘The Bed Sitting Room’. ‘The really awful thing’ said Lester later, ‘is that we were able to film most of those scenes in England without having to fake it. All that garbage is real. A lot of it was filmed behind the Steel Corporation in Wales… endless piles of acid sludge where every tree is dead. And there’s a place in Stoke where they’ve been throwing reject plates since the war and it has become a vast landscape of broken plates.’ 

Nuclear weapons irradiate sixties Pop culture with the glow of radioactive isotopes. There’d been H-Bomb tests throughout the fifties – weapons with the power of multiple Hiroshima’s – with the world coming within a hair’s-breadth of all-out nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. And what Peter Watkins bleak documentary-style account of a nuclear strike – in ‘The War Game’ (1966), filmed for the BBC, and then banned by them as being too horrifying to broadcast, Spike Milligan achieves through the medium of ridicule and absurdist comedy. I watch both with an equal degree of skin-crawling fascination. They scare and mesmerise in equal measure. Was this all my tomorrows? Is this the world I would one day walk? Or at least, a fractured through-the-looking-glass version of this? 

Ken Thorne’s soundtrack succeeds in delivering the impossible remit of being both jaunty and poignant, but he already had a track record of collaborations going back to Richard Lester’s ‘It’s Trad Dad!’ and the Beatles ‘Help!’ (1965), as well as for Peter Sellers ‘The Magic Christian’ (1969). He had an unexpected hit record of his own with the stately trumpet-led instrumental “Theme From The Legion’s Last Patrol” (HMV POP 1176), a no.4 on the 29 August 1963 chart beneath Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas, Freddie & The Dreamers and the Searchers. 

Ex-Goon Peter Sellers had made his own contribution to satirising Cold War madness with ‘Dr Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb’ (1964), the blackest of black comedies which ends with the start of nuclear Armageddon. It could be argued that Spike Milligan’s movie resumes from the aftermath of that appalling climax. The fulfilment of the promise that we’ll meet again… 

Meanwhile, Arthur Lowe’s family determine to leave the tube-train as Penelope’s seventeen-month pregnancy extends. Alan wears a white suit. There’s a ‘The Sound Of Music’ movie-poster on the tube wall. Breaking into the Left Luggage office the family discover comic-actor ‘Professor’ Jimmy Edwards lying on the shelving. He’s been waiting there for three years ‘to be collected.’ Oddly enough, the up-escalator is still operating, although it deposits them one by one into an endless waste of desolation. The family carry a trunk between them, which they salvaged from Left Luggage, through mounds of smashed ceramics and crockery. ‘He’s not a bad lad’ concedes Arthur Lowe, as he and Alan discuss Penelope’s figure. ‘She’s got big busts, hasn’t she, for a girl her age?’ comments her father approvingly.’ Alan agrees. When Daddy observes that ‘well, this bust, especially, it seems the nipples stand out more on that one’ Mother points out that ‘Father’s very observant. He was in the Corp!’ When Penelope protests that ‘I wish you wouldn’t talk about me in front of Alan. He doesn’t want to know about my busts’ Alan protests that ‘I do! I do!’ And Penelope smiles a conspiratorial smile. All the while they’re unaware they’re being stalked by Feldman’s NHS. 

Two policemen – Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore, hover overhead in the wrecked shell of a Morris Minor Panda car suspended beneath a makeshift balloon, addressing any survivors they see through a loud-hailer to ‘keep moving.’ Urging ‘you can’t stop anywhere, Sir, as you very well know. We don’t want to stay in one place long enough for the enemy to have another chance at us, do we? Not until our pre-emptive strike is launched. Do we Sir? Do we Sir!’ in the unlikely event of a renewed outbreak of hostilities.

Spike Milligan himself attempts to pedal a pushbike through a fetid lake of tyres and garbage. He delivers a slapstick pie-in-the-face. 

Former fellow-Goon Harry Secombe – who had bizarrely hit no.2 on the ‘NME’ Pop chart as recently as April 1967 with his quasi-operatic rendition of the Charlie Chaplin composition “This Is My Song”, appears with a kind of Speak & Spell toy in a fall-out shelter. He’s listed in the credits as ‘Shelter Man’, and first emerges with rifle and tin hat demanding ‘Have they dropped it yet?’ As a surviving Regional Seat Of Government he spends his time searching through spools of old film he claims carry evidence proving that the military infected the bombs with germs, to inflict measles on the population in order to kill them off. Then he reminisces about the time he shot his wife and his mother as they plead with him to let them into his shelter. His current ‘wife’ Doris is a picture of a topless woman attached to the wall, concealing a food-supply which they share. ‘I was in the Army, actually. I’m a Captain’ he tells Bules Martin. ‘Oh, I say! What regiment?’ ‘Oh, we didn’t know, owing to the Official Secrets Act.’ And later he prefigures Marlon Brando in ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979), with ‘Oh, the horror. Oh, the horror! I can’t look!’ although it could reference back to Joseph Conrad’s novel – ‘Heart Of Darkness’ (1899) on which the movie was based?

Feldman’s crazed NHS Nurse stalks Penelope and her family, in order to present Mother with her death certificate. ‘What I have here, Sir, is your wife’s Death Certificate.’ Father politely thanks him, while Penelope protests ‘but, Mum is alive!’ ‘I’m afraid not, Dear’ he tells her firmly as he hands Mother the certificate. When Penelope insists ‘Mother’s alive’ Mother corrects her, ‘well, I thought I was, Dear. By rights, I should be. But how can you tell if it’s here in black and white?’ When Feldman insists ‘it’s your wife being alive that seems to be all the trouble, Sir,’ they apologise, ‘oh, I’m sorry. We don’t want to cause any trouble’ and Mother chides ‘don't argue with the Nurse, Dear. She’s bound to know best what’s best for us.’ Their blind acceptance and unthinking respect for authority overrides the evidence of their own senses. ‘Do I lie down or something?’ Mother enquires helpfully. 

When Feldman attempts to snare her with a net, Mother falls into Secombe’s shelter. She opens a drawer in her chest to take out a handkerchief – perhaps a conscious reference to Salvador Dali’s surrealist painting ‘Lady With Drawers’ (1936)? She can no longer move. Her legs are becoming stiff. Hideous mutation caused by chromosomal damage inflicted as a result of atomic radiation was a symptom gleefully seized upon by both gory SF and Horror comics alike. But transformations had never happened like this before. Mother becomes a cupboard, crying plaintively ‘I’m a cupboard. Will nobody close my drawers?’ and later, as Bules Martin climbs inside her, ‘be gentle with me.’ While Father begins to exhibit birdlike traits. And Lord Fortnum calls Martin to inform him that he is now a Bed Sitting Room, with a 29 Cul de Sac Place address. The lease-terms ‘No Coloureds. No Children. And definitely no coloured children’ seems grossly offensive in the light of twenty-first century sensitivities – as well as the words ‘No Wogs’ smudged into the dirt on the window, but this was another time. As the title of John ‘Johnny Rotten’ Lydon’s autobiography ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’ (1994) indicates, this was regrettably a far from uncommon attitude. 

Bules Martin enters the Bed Sitting Room. Then the Mao Tse Tung figure pushes the cupboard-that-is-Mother into the room. Finding himself alone, Father is measured by Peter Cook & Dudley Moore of the Police, ‘I must say, they seemed rather impressed by my inside leg’ he gloats as he guiltily attempts to conceal the chest taken from the Left Luggage department. After attempts to dispose of the incriminating trunk it is retrieved by the Police flying car. Only to discover the fugitive Jimmy Edwards inside the trunk! 

Penelope hunts for missing Mummy, assisted by Alan who climbs a pylon but only succeeds in short-circuiting the man who cycles to generate the existing electricity supply. Milligan – as ‘Mate’, confronts Ronald Fraser – as ‘The Army, to demand ‘are you the bloke officer what was in charge with the nuclear detergent in the last atomic war?’ ‘I am he’ admits Fraser. ‘Bad news. It has been returned to sender’ says Mate. ‘Sixty-five million pounds it costs to develop that bomb... We could have won, you know. Damnable bad luck!’ In another ludicrous mime with all the comic precision of old silent comedy, Roy Kinnear sets up a barber’s chair in the desert. He holds up a photo in place of a mirror.

Bules Martin asks Father’s permission to court Penelope and she follows him reluctantly along the seashore where he makes a heart for her in the sand. Father agrees, believing it will help him in his ambition to become Prime Minister. There’s a mock-wedding ceremony held using the submerged dome of St Paul’s Cathedral as an appropriate backdrop. An underwater Vicar reads extracts from the DH Lawrence novel ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ as the new Bible. The book had achieved notoriety following its celebrated obscenity trial at the Old Bailey. Once the ceremony is over Milligan places a parking meter beside the marital bed. But as Bules Martin runs off to get his virility test, Penelope is soon writhing around with Alan in a bed on the roof of the Bed Sitting Room itself, where she goes into labour. 

‘What she has need of is medical science’ advises Feldman’s NHS midwife, he recommends that the baby stays inside her womb, ‘we have this new system. Instead of moving the baby out, we move the furniture in.’ And ‘we should have asked ourselves, ‘Is it really necessary for people to leave the womb nowadays? That’s when most of the trouble seems to start in this wicked world.’ She’d already told Alan ‘I can’t go through with this. Having this monster,’ but by now it’s too late, she delivers it. Father, who has moved into the Bed Sitting Room, is selected to become Prime Minister, ‘I always knew my inside leg would lead to power.’ While she pushes the unseen baby in a supermarket shopping trolly, but by the time she goes to show Father the baby, he has been mutated into a green parakeet, only to be cooked and eaten. Lifting the serving dish on the silver salver and carving the tiny bird-body. ‘We’ve never had it so good’ gloats Milligan – quoting Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s optimistic 1957 speech. ‘In the hurly-burly of post-atomic living’ people head back inside the Bed Sitting Room. 

In a sequence that vaguely prefigures the Barry Hines-scripted TV-movie ‘Threads’ (1984) in which atomic war results in a nuclear winter, and Jane (Victoria O’Keefe) gives birth to a presumably disfigured baby which she looks at with an expression of sheer revulsion, Penelope and Alan find their baby dead in its carrying bag.

When Pete & Dud begin to demolish the Bed Sitting Room Fortnum speaks up seemingly as the voice of god, but is promptly disabused by Bules Martin’s ‘here, hold on a second. You don’t sound like god. You sound like Lord Fortnum.’ Who admits, ‘I – eh, I also do impressions.’ Radiation mist swirls around them. ‘Do you think we’ve come to the end of it all?’ queries Penelope. ‘We’ll just have to keep going’ says a stoic Alan, ‘we’re British.’ 

In a seeming fantasy fast-forward Penelope has a normal healthy child and they walk in fields of flowers. Peter Cook delivers a spoof-inspirational Churchillian speech of hope and optimism, ‘the lion shall lie down with the lamb, the goat shall give suck to the tiny bee...,’ while holding out the promise that surgeons have developed a mutation-cure that entails full-body transplant. Finally, a military band pays homage to Mrs Ethel Shroake (Dandy Nichols) of 393A High Street, Leytonstone, who’s been traced as the last survivor in succession to the throne. Nuclear war is no laughing matter. The Cold War thermonuclear stalemate would continue. ‘God Save Mrs Ethel Shroake, Long Live Mrs Ethel Shroake, God Save Mrs Ethel Shroake...’

‘That, I’m afraid, was the end of the news. Our next 
 scheduled program will be on August Bank Holiday, 
when Charlton Heston will wrestle his Holiness, the Pope, 
 for the sportsman of the year title. Until then, all walk 
 backwards into long shot while ‘Good Night’ is given’ 
(BBC announcer)

‘THE BED SITTING ROOM’ (United Artists, June 1969, Berlin, 25 March 1970, UK) Produced by Oscar Lewenstein & Richard Lester. Directed by Richard Lester. Written by Spike Milligan & John Antrobus, adapted from their play and with additional dialogue by Charles Wood. Ralph Richardson (as Lord Fortnum of Alamein), Rita Tushingham (as Penelope), Michael Hordern (as Bules Martin), Arthur Lowe (as Father), Mona Washbourne (as Mother), Peter Cook (as Police Inspector), Dudley Moore (as Police Sergeant), Spike Milligan (as Mate), Harry Secombe (as Shelter Man), Marty Feldman (as NHS Nurse Arthur), Jimmy Edwards (as Nigel), Roy Kinnear (as Plastic Mac Man), Ronald Fraser (as The Army), Richard Warwick (as Alan), Frank Thornton (as The BBC), Dandy Nichols (as Mrs Ethel Shroake), Jack Shepherd (as Underwater Vicar), Henry Woolf (as Electricity Man), Cecil Cheng (as Chinaman ‘Mao Tse Tung’), Bill Wallis (as The Prime Minister), Ronnie Brody (‘Ronald J Brody’ as The Chauffeur), Gordon Rollings (as Drip-Feed Patient), Edward Malin (‘Eddie Main’ as Club Waiter), Chris Konyils (as Policeman). Music by Ken Thorne. 91-minutes. 
(DVD-Blu-Ray, April 2019, BFI Flipside, presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition, with original trailer, three ‘Bernard Braden Now And Then’ interviews from 1967, Richard Lester (18-mins), Spike Milligan (41-mins) and Peter Cook (31-mins), with fully Illustrated booklet with film notes, contemporary review, original promotional materials and biographies.