Wow, I’m borderline topical here, having read a review of one of the first Monty Python reunion shows yesterday, I went scurrying back to the 1537-cave for The Monty Python Instant Record Collection. I first heard this on cassette as a smart-assed 13 year-old and loved it. In fact I loved Python period; my parents did too. When we got our first video* the first videos we rented were all Python ones. I had a poster of John Cleese doing his silly walk on the wall of my room in university. Even though I’ve not watched it for a decade I could quote chunks of The Life of Brian at you right here and now. Then it all faded a bit I got older and started to find their humour a bit too English public school, a bit too much of its time and started to worship the twin deities of Bill Hicks and Steven Wright and I hadn’t really thought about them in ages.
It’s interesting to go back. My parents loved Monty Python at the time because it was so anarchic and strange when it came out. I loved the series, even the crap unfunny bits and the sketches that didn’t work were made worth it by a) the occasional flashes of genius b) Terry Gilliam’s wonderful animations and/or c) flashes of Carol Cleveland’s cleavage. Looking back at it now, the England of the turn of the 70’s looks an austere, grey place, staid and regimented – no sign of the swinging 60’s here, okay so it’s exaggerated for contrast but it still resembles a, then, Eastern Bloc nation more than I’m sure we’d liked to have believed at the time.
The Monty Python Instant Record Collection is a 1977 compilation on Charisma Records culled from their previous 7 albums, with only one sketch the rather good ‘Summarise Proust Competition’ being previously unheard**. It’s a mix of the funny (Bruces), the not at all funny (Gumby Cherry Orchard) and the jaw-droppingly of-its-time (Mrs Nigger-Baiter^). Only three songs on the LP too, which I think is a bit of a shame. But is it still funny? well, sporadically, it is. The best known sketches ‘Parrot’, ‘Argument’ and ‘Cheese Emporium’ have lost whatever lustre they may have had just due to over exposure, but there are a few gems in here that made me smile again.
I love the ‘Oscar Wilde’ sketch where Wilde, Whistler and Shaw compete to insult the Prince of Wales under the guise of their bon mots ‘Your majesty is like a stream of bat’s piss’; ‘Novel Writing’ is also a good one featuring sport-style commentary on Thomas Hardy writing ‘Return of the Native’ and I’m also a sucker for the kid show spoof ‘How To Do It’ where they teach us all how to rid the world of all known diseases in appropriately breathless style. The bits pinched from ‘The Holy Grail’ are also great ‘French Taunter’ and ‘Constitutional Peasants’, but there again I always thought the films were a step up in quality anyway.
I also rather liked the introduction to Side 2 which congratulates you for buying the executive version of the LP, handcrafted out of ‘the very finest Columbian extruded polyvinyl’ before warning you that this side of the LP contains ‘4 C*nts, 1 clitoris and a foreskin’ – eerily foreshadowing Ice-T’s own ‘Warning’ from 1994. Trust me – maybe he is a big Python fan?
Overall though, if you take my misty-eyed nostalgia out of the equation it’s a bit of a rag bag of odds and sods with some dizzying variations in quality, some great highs countered with some real lows too.
But who gives a flying monkeys about the contents of any of these LP’s I own? not me! The very best thing of all about The Monty Python Instant Record Collection is the fact that it is just that, it folds out into a cardboard box showing 66 fake LPs. The care that has been taken on this is breath-taking, you get very convincing top, bottom and backs to the albums too. Best of all though are the titles. some of my favourites:
- Pet Smells -The Beach Boys
- It’s All Over My Friend – Earl K Vomit & The Metabolic Processes
- The Dave Clark Five’s War Speeches
- My Way Or Else – Frank Sinatra
- Nixon’s Solid Gold Denials
Add in a running joke about Britt Eckland / Rod Stewart and it is the best thing about this LP. Although the horribly topical ‘The Best Bits of Rolf Harris’, gave me a slight start; so of its time and yet, so very now.
*anyone else remember Video 2000, pre-dated both VHS and Betamax, I think. The machine was only about the size of a small family car and the cassettes about as thick as a brick.
**this sketch was approximately 50% responsible for me reading À la Recherche Du Temps Perdu (yes,all of it) years later.
^yes, you read that right.