Monday, 24 November 2008

Ken Dodd

Whilst in Llandudno a couple of years ago besides visiting Portmerion ( where the cult TV serial The Prisoner was made ) we also got see Ken Dodd perform live, another long held ambition. We weren't disappointed. The Happiness Show started at 8 p.m. and went on until 1 in the morning with just a 30 minute interval to relieve those aching bladders! What a genius the man is - in his 80's now and still as funny as ever. The packed theatre was rolling in the aisles - tears running down their faces. The majority of the audience were over 50 and poor Archie, who is 16 now, felt like he was part of some terrible Darby & Joan Club outing!
I imagine most of the audience , like me, grew up with Doddy when he was on the radio in the 60's and 70's and became hooked on that mad world of Knotty Ash, the jam butty mines, the Diddy Men etc. The last of the great variety performers.
After the show Hazel insisted on waiting round at the stage door to get our programmes and tickling sticks ( bought in the foyer ) signed by the great man himself. Sadly he was too exhausted to come to the stage door but his secretary or assistant took our things for him to autograph which he kindly did.

Below is a short extract from The Good Old Days which was popular on BBC television throughout the 60's and 70's. and gives you just a hint of Ken's marathon stage act.

Ken Dodd - Good Old Days 1970's

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DaDs Army

Without a shadow of doubt, this is my all time favourite TV comedy, sorry, SITCOM. Oh, there have been comedy programmes that I have enjoyed over the years that have been nearly as good but nearly isn't good enough, is it?

The characters of course are what made this terrific series. Aged, Grumpy, soft around the edges, curmudgeonly and wonderfully idiosyncratic. All of them, apart from Ian Lavender, were of course actors near the ends of their careers and this seemed to give a relaxed and natural performance to the show. The scripts were delightfully silly and yet, one suspects, far nearer the truth than anyone would like to admit.
The overly pompous Captain Mainwairing and his ever brow beaten number two, Sargeant Wilson. Corporal Jones whose memory of previous wars and battles burnt ever bright. The Scottish undertaker who always had a rum tale to tell. Each character uniquely different to the other. So very British and so very funny.
They don't like it up 'em and they don't write 'em like this anymore.

A Victorian smoking hat

Here we have a lovely Victorian smoking hat. Not that I am a smoker, nothing against people who do but not for me thank you very much.
However, all of that to one side, I can visualise my self wearing one of these magnificent hats, along with a smoking jacket and settling down, not to smoke but to read. Yes, I can see me now in my velvet jacket, hat and a pair of niffty carpet slippers (never wear those either) sitting down with a good book while my family do the things that they do.


Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Michael Bentine

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Michael Bentine was actually even too zany for The Goons where he appeared for the first few shows on the radio back in the 50's. He went off to do his own thing like The Bumblies , a weird puppet show for kids featuring some rubbery aliens and It's A Square World which was a popular series on BBC in the 60's.
Also I remember him in a show for children called Potty Time with puppets and Bentine overseeing the procedings like a smart blazered giant.
This dodgy film clip is pretty typical of his anarchic and inventive style- using only a piece of chair to conjure up the possible uses it may have and creating many variants of the one theme. Tommy Cooper did a similar sketch using a box of hats which he dived into to create characters of a long and involved story. Sadly this type of physical humour has almost vanished and a distant memory along with the music hall and variety theatres where they were spawned.

Discover more about Michael Bentine HERE

Monday, 17 November 2008


Here is a word that I only recently learned and then from a fellow blogger. A fantastic, archaic word but one that has a wonderfully romantic quality to it.


1. Sleight of hand.
2. A show of skill or deceitful cleverness: financial legerdemain.

[Middle English legerdemayn, from Old French leger de main : leger, light (from Vulgar Latin *leviārius, from Latin levis; see legwh- in Indo-European roots) + de, of (from Latin dē; see de-) + main, hand; see mortmain.]


Monday, 10 November 2008


A gazebo is a pavilion structure, often octagonal, commonly found in parks, gardens, and spacious public areas. Gazebos are freestanding, or attached to a garden wall, roofed, and open on all sides; they provide shade, basic shelter, ornamental features in a landscape, and a place to rest. Some gazebos in public parks are large enough to serve as bandstands.

That, however is not why I like the word Gazebo. The reason that I am fond of it is that many years ago, when reading out loud to my wife, I pronounced it as a Gaze Bow.

Some thirty years on I still have not been allowed to forget it.

aNOtHEr dIp INtO ThE mAGpIE mUrkY pOOoL FuLl oF MUtanT TaDpOleS aNd FiSh.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett

I enjoyed John Otway and Wild Willy’s Barrett’s mega-hit Really Free in 1977 – a kind of half spoken, half sung punk record. (Hitting 27 in the charts) And I enjoyed glimpses of Otway on TV being eccentric. Then we (The Wrong Brothers) supported him at the Tramshed in Woolwich in the 80s and I came to love him and to appreciate what a total loony he was. I particularly liked the way he used microphones as percussion instruments. (In fact a rider at the gig stipulated he had to bring his own microphones as microphones generally aren’t made for whirling through the air and bashing into things. )
Jill and I then saw him at a festival a few years back – highlights a double right and left-handed guitar and body percussion – with a very funny set. He’d just had his second hit – Bunsen Burner – voted and brought into the charts by his fans making a concerted effort (it was written to help his daughter with her chemistry homework).
Most recently we saw him at the Edinburgh Festival reunited with Willy. Best bit for me was Willy’s amplifier situated in the bottom of a wheelie bin. For solos he opened the lid. And opening and closing the lid gave it a wah-wah effect.
The B side of his single was House of the Rising Sun, featuring about 900 of his fans, all of whom were credited on the single’s sleeve.
What a warm, eccentric and very, very funny performer he turned out tlo be. If you ever get the chance go and see him.
See a version of House of the Rising Sun here.

aNOtHEr dIp INtO ThE mAGgIE mIMiCkrY pOOoL.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Spike Milligan

Ofcourse I grew up listening to the Goons on the radio and loved the daft records they made. One of my first purchases was an EP with The Ying Tong Song, I'm Walking Backwards To Christmas, Bloodnok's Rock 'N' Roll Call etc.
Later he was doing Beachcomber on the telly and then the wonderful series Q6 and all the other Q's which greatly influenced Monty Python et al.
Also he wrote very funny verse for kids and fantastic comical books like Puckoon and Adolf Hitler; My Part In His Downfall , his war memiors that went on for about 8 books I think? He was in plays like the Bed Sitting Room and films. A talented and tortured genius who suffered for many years with manic depression among other things.
Here's a poem and comical prose from a great compilation called "The World Of British Comedy" that came out on Decca in the 70's.

Spike Milligan - Cold Porridge

Spike Milligan - Pontius Kak

The Goons - Eeh! Ah! Oh! Ooh!

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Sunday, 2 November 2008

Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band

Bob Kerr and His Whoopee Band from a radio show back in the 80's or 90's on a cassette that someone sent to me a while back. Not much info on it unfortunately. Bob is now touring with the re-formed Bonzo Dog Band of which he was a founder member in the 60's.

Bob Kerr continued where the Bonzo's left off after their first couple of albums. The Whoopee Band stayed true to their British Dance Band roots and old scratchy 78's and played lots of novelty songs from the 20's and 30's. I remember them on a kids programme on TV where they dressed up and had silly props to enhance the visual side of their act. Like the Temperence Seven and The Alberts etc, they were steeped in nostalgia for those far off days of the music hall, variety and a weird victorian sense of the absurd.