(WARNING: THIS WEEK’S BLOG POST MAKES FREQUENT REFERENCE TO ADULT LANGUAGE AND THEMES)
The names Peter Cook and Dudley Moore may mean little to many of you reading this today, and there’s no reason why this is necessarily a bad thing. As comedians, they belong firmly within a timeframe that predates many (myself included), and whose unmistakably reactionary comedy defines an entire generation of comics, including Monty Python, and their influence can be felt right up until the modern day through individuals such as Ben Elton. The majority of Cook & Moore’s more well-known material can be found within mainstream comedy programmes on the BBC. But some of their more controversial – and, I would warrant, most brilliant – material can be found on a number of CD’s released during the late 1970’s under the handle of Derek (Moore) & Clive (Cook).
Eagle-eyed authors will notice that this week’s choice is not from the 80’s/90’s. So I am technically breaking my own rules here. But I think this album is worth a mention, for so many great reasons: for one, the work sits firmly within a genre that has (in my view) yet to be matched in terms of wit, genius and vulgarity; secondly, the album is contained within an important and defining point within British history, before the 80’s, before Thatcherism and in the tumultuous period of the cold war. From this, we can learn a great deal about the social anxieties and concerns of the period (hooray for History!); and lastly (and perhaps most importantly) is that this is my own blog and I can write about whatever I want to about. So there. Pfft.
The first three track’s – ‘The Worst Job I Ever Had’, ‘This Bloke Came Up To Me’, and ‘The Worst Job He Ever Had’ – start as the album means to go on; by comprising of utterly brilliant, hilarious, filth. In ‘The Worst Job I Ever Had’, Clive tells us about his time when he used to retrieve lobster’s from the backside of veteran hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield. It gets better though. Turns out he had to retrieve them while she was asleep. ‘They were big lobsters’, claims Clive. But that’s ok, says Derek, because ‘she had a huge bum’. She ‘Not so much brought them on herself’, Clive claims, ‘as so much encouraged them by the flagrant display which she got up to’. Quite sordid, I’m sure you’ll agree, and I share Derek’s sentiments on the subject: she was ‘a dirty cow’.
The inane hilarity of all the entire conversation is complemented by the next conversation in ‘This Bloke Came Up to Me’, where an unprecedented torrent of foul-mouthed genius emerges. Cunt is used frequently, and to great effect, and the ensuing conversation – concerning ‘this bloke’s’ apparent disdain with Derek – is a personal highlight (and the track, in its entirety, can be heard in the video below; almost definitely NSFW!).
In the final part of this trio of conversations, ‘The Worst Job He Ever Had’, we find out more about Clive’s time working for Winston Churchill, collecting ‘all the phlegm what Winston Churchill had gobbed out into his bucket’. Not only that, but Winston, the dirty bugger, was also ‘a secret bogier’. The plot thickens when it is revealed that we can thank Winston for the Titanic, which was actually one of his bogies. Those without a rather skewered and borderline sick humour may well be turning their noses up at this point; but for those, like myself, with a perchance for foul-mothered filth and bizarre banter will find themselves in a strange short of heaven.
The next two tracks see Cook & Moore adopt two new personalities. ‘Squatter and the Ant’ is a conversation between two cantankerous old men about the unfortunate case of Squatter, a man who ‘had this incredible quality which was, um, I don’t know how you can define it but I would, er, say it was, um, I’d say it was stupidity.‘ Things are flipped on their head during “In the Lav”, which takes the form of two unmistakably working class blokes discussing the disadvantages of squelching around with turds in your trousers and Clive’s unfortunate run-in involving a massive turd and the Queen Mother. Although similar in topic and sheer crassness to the previous three tracks, both of these tracks nevertheless in demonstrating Cook & Moore’s versatility when it comes to comic characters.
The rest of the album – save for ‘Winky Wanky Woo’, my own personal highlight of the entire album, which involves an insalubrious gentleman of the night intent on committing a ‘sex crime’ – comprises parts of Cook & Moore’s live shows, which includes some musical elements. Whilst some of them are undoubtably funny (‘Blind’, ‘Top Rank’ & ‘Jump’ are definitely worth a listen), the rest tend to either be too short in length & content or tend to base their humour on contemporary aspects, which may seem confusing to modern listeners.
Even by today’s more liberal standards, Derek & Clive (Live) still has the power to offend and shock. It is, however, very much a product of its time. The frustration at the social restraint and conformity of 1970’s Britain can be read plainly throughout the album, and in this the beginnings of later counter-cultural movements of the 80’s can be heard plainly. What Cook and Moore have crafted here is far from normal, by anyone’s standards; but what is left plain evidence of the sheer breadth of comedic genius shared by this famous double act and a clear example of how ad-libbing can sometimes produce by far the best material for comedy and satire. Though that still doesn’t change the fact they are both foul-mouthed fucking cunts.
(Image courtesy of amazon.co.uk; for those interested in reading complete and unabridged transcripts of all the Derek & Clive albums, you can check out this website: http://www.phespirit.info/derekandclive/)