Avenging The Ashes: The 12th Man

Cricket is probably a bit like jazz or religion – if it gets you when you’re young, you’re probably in for life (and yes, it can also turn people off as quickly as jazz or religion…). For me, it was seeing the touring West Indies team at Hove in 1980. Botham’s Ashes a year later sealed the deal. 

And I confess: until a couple of weeks ago, when the Ashes were relinquished, over the last few months my first waking thought had generally been: what’s the score in the cricket?

Alas, ‘we’ have been out-played, out-muscled and out-thought by the Aussies. Miserable England fans can move onto other more important things (if there are any). For now, I’ll console myself with ‘The 12th Man’, Billy Birmingham’s irreverent comedy sketch series born in the early 1980s when Australian cricket was in a less-than-cockahoop state.

Inspired by Channel Nine’s popular and extensive cricket coverage on Australian TV, ‘The 12th Man’ features Birmingham impersonating respected broadcasters (Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry) and then-current players (Javed Miandad, Geoff Lawson, Allan Border, Steve Waugh) alike, ripping the p*ss out of all and the state of Australian cricket in general. But you always feel the love and respect behind the mockery.

A ’12th Man’ tape was briefly passed around my mates at school and had the cache of something really illicit, almost forbidden. Listening back now, it still raises a titter though one wonders how Birmingham got away with some of the more un-PC stuff. Judge for yourself (swearing alert). It’s scant consolation for another Ashes mullering on their patch, but so be it..

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Stevie Nicks says Happy Birthday

cakeTwo years ago to the day, I published movingtheriver.com’s first piece on Prefab Sprout’s SwoonAuspicious beginnings, you know what I mean?

But seriously, folks, it’s been fun to focus on lots of good (and not so good) music, movies and TV shows, and also to share stories and comments with readers and fellow music-heads. So thanks for dropping by this year.

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Great Brit Swearing: Ian Dury, David Bowie & Up Yaws

487px-Ian_Dury_1Those of a nervous or sensitive disposition, look away now/cover your ears…

But I must confess: I’ve always had a penchant for good swearing in music. And long before those Parental Advisory stickers, there were some real humdingers.

Ian Dury’s oeuvre was of course an early landmark – his ‘Plaistow Patricia‘ became a kind of forbidden, blasphemous classic as did Marianne Faithful’s coruscating ‘Why D’Ya Do It‘. They both sounded like they really meant it.

David Bowie’s ‘It’s No Game (Part 2)‘ would also have us in stitches. His rather random four-letter word, sung in Iggyish baritone, enlivened many a dull afternoon. Cue the violins…

But then my uncle (it’s always uncles) passed me the following curio and the world of muso swearing was never quite the same again. Initially coming on like a first-rate pastiche of early-’80s UK jazz/funk as played by the likes of Shakatak, its gradual insertion of four-letter words, delivered Barry White-style, never fails to provoke a titter.

It’s puerile, silly and childish, and I absolutely defend it as a valid piece of music… Rumours abound as to who’s responsible – the most likely candidates have emerged as sundry members of The Damned.

And then there’s the whole sub-genre of bands-getting-it-wrong-in-the-studio-and-swearing-alot. The Troggs Tapes are of course the industry standard, but a Culture Club outtake from 1983 recently came to light on a career-spanning box set. We join our four heroes (plus poor pianist Phil Pickett) trying to record ‘Victims’ with the underlying pressures of expensive studio costs, an out-of-tune fretless bass and Boy George/Jon Moss’s corrosive love affair.

Suffice it to say, things don’t go too well. But imagine trying to produce this lot. Come to think of it, producer Steve Levine is possibly the one voice we don’t hear in this clip. Had he given up the ghost or was he all-too-aware of not getting involved and spoiling an audio verite ‘classic’?

(Ed’s note: In their infinite wisdom, YouTube have removed this video. It was obviously too ‘offensive’ for public ears…)