Saturday, January 9, 2016

This Bloke Came Up To Me - The Gravesides of Derek and Clive

Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Derek and Clive

Some weeks ago I briefly caught a few minutes of a television programme where cocky, smug and privileged presenters and junior comedians - the latter a clear oxymoron in a country now devoid of any laughter - commented on shocking examples of bad taste from British television in the Seventies. Needless to say it consisted of very predictable po-faced and PC faux-horror from a bunch of Oul Jinnys - to use vintage Belfast working class parlance from the same fraught era. None of these people of course would ever have heard of this vernacular, this city or this social demographic.

The real thing of course with regard to truly outre material - beyond Spike Milligan's late 1969 Curry and Chips on London Weekend Television or even the filthy ska nursery rhymes of Snodland's Judge Dread - are Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Derek and Clive characters.

Been recently reading William Cook's wonderful One Leg Too Few history of the comic duo - Derek and Clive's third and final album being the last professional work the pair ever completed and before their career trajectories radically diverged on either side of the Atlantic.

Derek and Clive were toilet cleaners and are a nightmarish, unspeakably foul-mouthed, pornographic and utterly obscene extension of their classic Pete and Dud characters. A stream of consciousness comedy bordering quite literally on utter insanity it is as deathly dark as any humour to ever be forged in industrial Belfast, Glasgow or Liverpool. This as contextualised by the leakage of vitriol between the two performers and Cook's alcoholism.

1976's Derek and Clive (Live) on Island Records includes material recorded at a concert given in New York's Bottom Line club. Originally circulated in bootleg format it would be followed the next year by Come Again and then Ad Nauseum in 1978 as formal recorded albums distributed by Virgin. The making of the latter is also captured in the movie Derek and Clive Get The Horn. I cannot make a call in general as to how Cook and Moore's final material is seen to have dated or not - in comparison to how their 1967 movie Bedazzled is now quite rightly held in extremely high cult regard - but the public commentary to be read on youtube uploads of various tracks alone seem highly engaged and enthusiastic to this day.

The content of the three albums do however seem to fit perfectly with the changes in musical culture abroad at the time. Cook himself played a sleazy ballroom manager on the eight-episode ATV late night music programme Revolver in 1978 which included performances from such punk and New Wave artists as The Jam, XTC, Elvis Costello, The Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees and X-Ray Spex. In particular check out the extraordinary performances of Curfew by The Stranglers and Ghosts of Princes in Towers by Rich Kids.

Although both Cook and Moore's solo film careers came to radical closure in the early-Seventies and mid-Eighties respectively - and their deaths were extremely premature in 1995 and 2002 at the ages of 57 and 66 - the comedy material they produced for stage and television itself was actually of such high quality that it is often as funny to even read on paper today as to watch it performed. Alas the BBC wiped much of their three classic Not Only But Also series which ran between 1964 and 1970 with as much foresight and acumen as Manchester United displayed in the early Seventies with regard to managing Georgie Best Superstar. Interestingly one speaker at this weekend's memorial service in Los Angeles to Motorhead's Lemmy noted how much he loved listening to them.

As for Derek and Clive - Winky Wanky Woo from the first album, Alfie Noakes from the follow-up and Sex Manual from Ad Nauseum provide a good introduction to much much worse depths of perverted, twisted and scatalogical depravity to be found over those six sides of black vinyl.

Check them out this January as you abide by government advice on alcohol moderation, keep their words to mind as you sincerely framework your yearly career objectives with your line manager and then ask yourself what Derek and Clive would have thought of the modern social constructs of both London and Britain. The answer will be obvious...very fucking obvious.

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