The Very Finest Columbian Extruded Polyvinyl

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.

Monty Python Instant Collection 06

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.

Monty Python Instant Collection 05

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.

Monty Python Instant Collection 04

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.

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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.

Monty Python Rolf Harris

417 Down.

*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.


19 thoughts on “The Very Finest Columbian Extruded Polyvinyl

  1. This is the only Python album I don’t own on vinyl. Big big fan, blah blah blah, used to quote them at length, blah blah blah paved the way for Not The 9 O’clock News, Alas Smith & Jones, Blackadder, Alexei Sayles Stuff, The Young Ones, Bottom blah blah blah also led me backwards to discover The David Frost Show, Derek & Clive, The Goon Show, Spike Milligan, blah blah blah……
    The only thing different I can add here is about the book “SPY CATCHER” by Peter Wright. He was the former Assistant Director of MI5 and apparently greatly angered Margaret Thatcher when he wrote this book. So I HAD to read it. Nothing truly shocking in the way of spy revelations, but I found myself recognizing certain characters and situations from Python sketches. “This war has become far too silly” e.g. The more I read, the more credit I gave Python for subversive humor- In the finest tradition of Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw, they were mocking Secret British Government actions that the general public had NO way of knowing about!!


  2. I’ve often attempted a love for Monty Python, and while I do love what they did to advance and reinvent the sketch comedy scene(they paved the way for my favorite sketch comedy show, ‘Mr. Show with Bob and David’, I could never become obsessed with it. I think the fact that my older brother was like you in that he memorized all of ‘Holy Grail’ and ‘Life of Brian’ and loved MP deeply, I wanted to see what he saw in it.

    I did, however, become a fan of Terry Gilliam’s work post-Python. Time Bandits, The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys are all some of my favorite films. ‘Brazil’ is absolute genius and madness.

    Love that you still have this set after all these years….and I also love the fact that you love Bill Hicks. I find him to be just as much a philosopher as a humorist.


    1. Gilliam is a deeply talented dude, I really like all the history stuff that Terry Jones does too.

      I was lucky enough to see Hicks live, not long before he died, at the time of the LA riots – he used Enter Sandman as his intro tape.


      1. You got to see Hicks live? Man, what a treat that would’ve been. He’s yet another artist that had to leave his home(US) in order to be truly appreciated. It’s like he was just more understood in the UK at the time.


  3. Love this album. My mate had it and when we’d exhausted the punk frenzy, we’d play this into the early hours of the morning. Being a working class lad,without a Uni education, some of it went straight over my head – but what is not to like about summerising Proust, the Oscar Wilde sketch and – not sure if it’s on this one, The Piranha Brothers sketch. ‘In a fit of pique,he napalmed Cheltenham’, one of my all time fav lines on a comedy record! (Apart from most of the lines on Alexei Sayle’s CAK! of course. ‘Standing on the windswept concrete piazza discussing Chekov… fuck off you cunt. Wallop!’)
    On that note I’m of to Margate to meet some of my folky mates to rehearse ‘a song about whale smuggling in the late18th century.’


    1. Margate folk? you’ve sold out!

      Was that the Alexei Sayle LP with ‘Ullo John’ on it? from memory the one I knew was about a radio station at a place called Milton Springfield – excellent stuff.


      1. Yep. And Dr.Martens boots. It’s funny looking back now, but the whole album was one big rant against the trendy left he found himself amusing, and becoming part of. The whole Jongleurs, Comedy Store set, which went lentil over him. (Poor pun. Bedtime for Johnny. Excuse me. I’ve been in casualty all afternoon. Again.)
        Well worth a youtube listen, as I’m about to. Thank you. Goodnight.


  4. PS. I should mention that, in the 70s, the number of times I had segments of the ‘Bruces’ sketch recited at me was beyond counting. Eventually I’d say, with a tight Cleesian smile, ‘Please excuse me if I don’t laugh’.


    1. I assumed, of course that you’d been named in tribute to the sketch. Are you in fact the last Australian to have been named Bruce? the Australian table wines sketch is pretty funny, but more ironically now given how great Aussie wines are; no more Chateau Chunder.


  5. Ah, the memories. Being (just that bit) older, I am of the generation who watched the first airings of later series then listened to each new record on high rotation. I remember just loving the double-tracked side of ‘Matching Tie and Handkerchief’ where you get a different ‘side’ depending on where you place the stylus. Try that with a CD, disc-boy!

    So when I saw the entire Python collection in a box some years back I bought it. It may never get played, but it’s still a nostalgic treasure.

    PS> We got that recently made TV show where actors ape the Python boys around the time of Life of Brian. It’s one of the few shows I’ve ever turned off in disgust. Entirely, bottom-clentchingly awful. This is a show to lay down and avoid.


    1. Thanks Bruce. Jack White was clearly paying attention to that trick. There are as many flashes of genius as there are flat bits – wonder what your son will make of it all one day?

      Incidentally, this was one of my faves:


  6. Cheers! I think the films are much better quality, possibly just because they had longer to make them and got better at what they did. I also loved that series Michael Palin did later, ‘Ripping Yarns’ (?) they were great too.

    This LP could have done with more of their songs, I think.


  7. I had four Python records on vinyl and three of their films either on video or DVD. They have always been brilliant and I still laugh my ass off. True, not all of their TV sketches were great but you remember the ones that are. Kudos for bringing them up.


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