Connection with legends and music
BLOG NO.27 – IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO READ PART 7 OF THE CLOSE ENCOUNTERS FIRST, CLICK HERE
(Blue text are external links, which will open in a new browser window. If you’re looking at this in your email inbox, the videos won’t play there but will opened in a browser window from YouTube)
First, I think I must confess something: I thought I would do these Close Encounter blogs purely because I knew they would get more folk coming to my blog site and, hopefully, listening to my music too. Well, I was right on the first count, but, judging by my site and SoundCloud statistics, I don’t think it’s getting many people to have a listen to my musical attempts. Hardly surprising really, as most of those wanting to read these – include either current or budding puppeteers – are not that interested in folk-type music that is primarily about the history of a specific region of England. Just so you know, I have blogged about the other kinds of music I have done – see THIS one for example – and I will be doing more in the future. (I’ve added a couple of songs to the right-hand sidebar.) There, now I’ve done my confessional, on with the blog….
In my 40-odd years as an actor, puppeteer and movement choreographer in theatre, television and film I was fortunate and honoured enough to meet and work with some music legends – both human and places – from Elton John to Capital Record Studios in LA. It’s only recently that I realised music has been with me my whole adult working life, in one form or another, and I thought I’d share these ‘close encounters’ with you. So here is Part 8 of those encounters….
Now, I know what you’re thinking: what has Nigel Planer, Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson or a milkman got to do with music legends? Well, it’s more of a connection between legends and music really, and one I’d totally forgotten about until someone posted a GIF of the late and great Rik Mayall on Twitter (thanks you @ms_cornwall!). Of course, some of you in other parts of the world may not know about these British, anarchic comedy legends, but it’s worth staying, just for the video below. (You may know Rik Mayall from Drop Dead Fred?)
These guys had shot to fame in the early-1980s comedy series, The Young Ones, and had reached cult status. So, for me to get a small acting part on it was yet another dream come true! This is the Legend part of this blog, as that’s what they had become. The series I was involved with was called Filthy Rich and Catflap. Had I remembered it earlier it would have been in an previous blog, as this production was done in 1986. Anyway, at this point in my career I wanted to do more acting again, and even managed to get myself an agent…a move I would come to regret, but she did get me this gig (as we say) in at the BBC in Manchester. (I wouldn’t go back there again until I did Mr Bloom’s Nursery in 2011.)
I didn’t have to do much really: sit there, drink tea, eat a biscuit, be killed, then be dragged around for most of the day by Rik Mayall. The clip below only shows the first part of that involvement; there was a lot more dragging around than that! He was so lovely about it though, and constantly asked if I was OK? Having only recently been inside a Riding Goblin on Labyrinth and a fat ape in the Tarzan film Greystoke, being dragged around was, as Monty Python would say, luxury!
There maybe an audience laughing in that clip, but – I hate to break it to you – there was no audience. I wish there had been as it would have made it even more exciting.
I thought that this (brief) acting interlude might help restart my acting career…but no. The agent either couldn’t find me anymore work, did try, or both, and we soon parted company. It was back to the puppetry. I’d have to wait for my cameo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II for my next acting role. (See THIS blog about that.)
The musical connection comes via Ade Edmondson and folk(ish) music, believe it or not. Actually, it’s Punk played with folk instruments. Besides being very funny, he is also an excellent cook, and Ade has become a very accomplished mandolin player and singer, and has his own band: Ade Edmondson & The Bad Shepherds, and below is a YouTube video of them in action.
I do have another connection to Ade Edmondson, though not a musical one, as I got to work briefly with his wife, Jennifer Saunders and their lovely friend, Dawn French on an episode of Jim Henson’s 1980s tv series, The Storyteller, called Sapsorrow. I’d then get to work with Dawn again on The Adventures of Pinocchio. These connection are amazing things – which is probably why they made the great BBC tv series, Comedy Connection – and I could just about stretch them a little farther in my case (yes, I know I’m pushing it!) by saying that this bunch all met at Manchester University, and also there were Victoria Wood and Dame Julie Walter. When I moved to London from Stanley at the age of 17, my first job was at the Mermaid Theatre as office boy, printer, theatre usher and stage doorman, and it was as the latter that I got to know Dame Julie – just Julie then, of course – when she was performing in the fantastic play, Funny Peculiar with the late (and equally lovely) Richard Beckinsale. Now, in that play was also Matthew Kelly, and I would work extensively with his brother, Ian Kelly – who had a video-assist company – on many films; and then later with Ian’s daughter, Lizzie Kelly, who did the same job. I met Matthew again many years later when we were both doing separate productions at the Birmingham Rep, and we had a good old chin-wag and catch-up. There was also one Pete Postlethwaite (also now, sadly, no longer with us) in Funny Peculiar, and he would move to the English county I now live in, Shropshire. So we’ve come full circle. There, now I’ve stretched that to breaking point, I’ll leave….
If you think these stories are interesting, they will be nothing compared to those the puppeteers from The Muppets or Sesame Street could tell. They’ve worked with more musical legends than I’ve had hot dinners. Having said that, I do have more to come, and Part 9 will be about yet another Encounter I forgot all about, with the late, great British song and dance man, Sir Bruce Forsyth in 1976. (But there will probably be another blog about four more of my songs before that.) Part 10 of the Close Encounter Of The Music Legend Kind will be about singing with the legends that are Kermit and Miss Piggy on the Muppet Beach Party album, and being involved in recording the sitcom Dinosaurs‘ BIG SONGS album at Capitol Records in Los Angeles.
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Until next time,