The Gentleman’s Guide to Gasp! (2013) Part 2

Here we are… Part II of the album guide that takes longer to read than the album takes to listen to. But if any album deserves this treatment, it’s surely Gasp!. This covers tracks #9 to #16.

Tingler

A Rare Tingler (with Steven Vickers)

If we had to describe the Twonkey Tales in a single word, we’d say they were a bloodbath, and then argue that it’s just one word if you don’t use a space in the middle. Honestly, Vickers makes Game of Thrones look like Enid Blyton. King Evelyn, the hero of this tale, has the same fate as most Vickers’ heroes, which is a hideous, barbaric death. It’s vivid and amusing and disturbing as always. Now, we have tried to find out what a ‘tingler’ is with little success. So all we can use is the circumstantial evidence, which would suggest it’s a finger sized device used to scratch your arse with! And if that’s the case, we can only imagine that it’s a ‘tingler’ which adorns the album cover (see detail above). Don’t take that to the bank, though.

Trivia: The sonic background for this has been kicking around for some time. It was originally the backing for a Recording The Impossible era tale about Marlon Brando giving birth to a ‘man baby’ (it didn’t happen!), which was once available on a long since vanished Impossible website. (Thanks to ‘Deepthroat’ for the info).

Kiss The Gargoyle (with Roger Simian)

A short, jaunty number with a kid-friendly melody but some racy lyrics, this became a favourite around Hunchbacks HQ especially with Hunchbacks Junior. But we don’t play it out loud any more. Can’t take the risk. All we need is for little Hunchbacks to turn up at Nursery singing ‘I got a hammer for a prick, I tease the rats with my stick’ and we’ll be in front of a judge quicker than you can say ‘It’s A Knockout’.

Trivia: this is the only ‘song’ performed during a show (Twonkey’s Kingdom) that wasn’t played as an instrumental for Vickers to sing over. Instead it played with the distorted vocals intact and he just mouthed the lyrics when he felt like it. If he felt like it. Our old Primary Three school teacher used to have a word for that kinda behaviour. ‘Lazy!’ she would say to us. ‘You’ll never amount to a single thing!’ History has proved her right.

Playboys With Hunchbacks (with Steven Vickers)

At last, after probably millions of tunes celebrating man’s superstitious mental failings, evolution gets a song in its honour. Richard Dawkins should come on stage for his debates to this tune. Let his detractors come out to Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam and Dickie D is already 1-0 up. A great track which we were thrilled to see on disc. And, if you haven’t already figured it out, we named this here blog in its honour.

Trivia: Playboys With Hunchbacks comes from our first Twonkey experience, Twonkey’s Castle, although was absent from the companion album at the time. The original version had a kinda Egyptian thing going on, although this remix sounds just as good in a different way. This version – to the best of our knowledge – got a single live airing during an encore at the 2012 Brighton Fringe.

The Horror of England

This played at a few Blue Cadabra gigs, but was quickly dropped. Which is a shame as it was something of a classic. And topical as hell. But maybe he thought some Scots might take the whole thing literally. It’s a pisstake of a few Scottish stereotypes, that they are fond of a few drinks and hating the English. But the thing about stereotypes…

Trivia: The goat being milked is called ‘Laddie’, the funniest gag at the expense of the Scots in the whole track. A few little things non-Scots may not understand: ‘sat on’t bucket’ is a reference to popular D.C. Thompson cartoon character Oor Wullie. And the children ‘sat up in bed drinking pints’ is a reference to the tradition of Scottish children at home in bed… drinking pints.

Stan Laurel (with Pierre Chandeze)

We have no idea if other fans or even the creators would agree, but for us this is it – the pinnacle of Paul and Pierre as songwriters and performers, both separately and together. And there’s no way we could do it justice here. Vickers had a short history of dedicating tracks to golden age stars, and maybe this was written to order by Pierre, as opposed to being something Vickers just happened to fashion into a Stan Laurel tribute. I only say this as you can almost hear a funereal re-write of the jaunty Laurel & Hardy theme in those opening nine notes, which under-pin the entire song. And it seems unlikely Pierre is suggesting the subject matter for these tunes (“Dear Paul, here’s my latest tune which needs some words. It’s up to you, but for me the music suggests something about a kitchen appliance that just won’t shut up! Love Pierre”). This would be one of our eight picks on Desert Island Discs, no question. It’s a melancholic masterpiece that honestly would have been the highlight had it appeared on Sgt Pepper. With its mood, and Stan Laurel recently dead and appearing on the cover, it even would have fit right in. It’s probably got the best opening line of anything we can think of, soaring right out of the gate and departing from the main melody before it’s even been established with a stunning vocal. And Pierre does exquisite work on more layers than an Elton John wedding cake. Simply incredible work that should be in every collection. The fellas have made it available for free on Soundcloud and you can listen here. Use decent speakers or headphones though for the full Stan experience.

 

Trivia: The websites that sell Gasp! as a download erroneously credit this track to Paul & Steven Vickers. The song is also available on Paul & Pierre album Eggs Benedict With Mr Wu on the Seahorse Monorail. This release is technically a compilation, although as the tracks all date from 2011-13, it has a gestation period no longer than 90% of original albums these days, so you can treat it either way. We love everything Paul Vickers does and that’s why we’re here. But we’ve got to say there’s something just utterly magical about Paul & Pierre.

http://paulandpierre.bandcamp.com/album/eggs-benedict-with-mr-wu-on-the-seahorse-monorail

The Sound of the Holy Grail (with Andy Currie and Thomas Traux)

‘What does the Holy Grail sound like?’ asks Vickers at the beginning of this track. I did some digging and can you believe no one has thought to ask this question before? Is it any wonder the grail’s still missing if we can’t even ask the fundamental questions? With Vickers, archaeology’s loss has been music and comedy’s gain and the track is a classic. It’s a Vickers and Andy Currie collaboration with (I’m assuming) a musical backing track by Thomas Traux, and an outtake from Vickers and Currie’s priceless 2008 album Recording The Impossible. Currie also wheels out his first rate Harrison Ford impersonation. Great stuff. But the truth is the Holy Grail sounds exactly like the track that had just preceded this one!

Trivia: The Harrison Ford quotes are all from the first three Star Wars films. Not the so-called ‘Original Trilogy’, but the first three films. But those are the same, I hear you say. ‘Fraid not. George Lucas has written the first Star Wars sequel out of history in a way that would have made Joseph Goebells proud. The first three Star Wars films are actually thus: 1. Star Wars 2. The Star Wars Holiday Special  3.The Empire Strikes Back. The Holiday Special was a full length Star Wars film shown on TV in 1978. It featured the full cast, even including the debut of fan-favourite Boba Fett, with Han Solo and Chewbacca going back to the Wookie home world to celebrate Life Day (‘Happy Life Day’) with Chewie’s family. And Chewie’s father’s name? Wait for it….. drum roll….. Itchy!

Nose Umbrella

This short more-or-less instrumental track was used as backing music for a Twonkey magic trick during Blue Cadabra. The opening notes always make us think of the Bond theme. Hard to hear now without being transported back to the show and hearing Vickers tell his onstage assistant ‘Please pour in the hat full of heroin’ as it was playing. You had to be there.

Trivia: This tune also has its genesis back in the Recording The Impossible days, where it was introduced as ‘Socks by Honking Snout’. The current version isn’t the same and has been slowed right down.

Charabang (with Pierre Chandeze)

The second of two songs with Pierre on this album. A great little catchy number which kept its place in every single Blue Cadabra show we attended (which included the first, the last and a good few in between). As with most Pierre numbers, the production is extraordinary with all kinds of unusual sounds working beautifully in tandem all at once. And Vickers tops it all off perfectly, singing with such conviction that I assumed it was a true story. Just like The Talking Oven.

Trivia: A charabang, or charabanc to give it its most common spelling, was a proto-type turn-of-the-century open-topped bus. And when they had accidents there seemed to be an unfortunately high incidence of the death of everyone on board. Some digging to find a possible event being sung about lead nowhere. A few charabanc disasters on Moors, but none sounding remotely like ‘Oakley Moor’ which I think is what he sings. Also, I’m no social historian, but the idea of anyone in England circa 1900 going by the name of Hillary Wu seems unlikely. Weirder still though, is that I did come across a charabanc victim with the name of Sarah Ann Dunn, the name of a character in Oom-pah!

Coming soon… Part III of the album guide they tried to ban! But at the risk of curbing your enthusiasm, everyone knew we were always going to shoot our chucklemuck in Part 2.

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