30. Germans Who Say Nice Things – Dana Carvey Show
The short-lived Dana Carvey Show was so short-lived that I completely missed it when it was first shown. What I’ve seen of it is pretty hit and miss but there’s a few gems, including this bit of foolishness with future star of The US Office, Steve Carell. It trades on cliches but it is still so silly that it clicks with me.
29. Singin' In The Rain - Morecambe & Wise
Morecambe & Wise hark back to my days watching tv on my grandmother’s little black and white tv. She was a fan of Morecambe & Wise, so I was too naturally. Eric Morecambe had a sweet childlike spirit to him and it was never bettered than this parody of the classic musical sequence from Singin’ In the Rain.
28. F.U.N.E.X - The Two Ronnies
The writer and the linguist in me loves this sketch. It is so cool to see a whole scene from The Two Ronnies played out using only letters to communicate. The sheer quality of their writing is where they always X.L. for me.
27. Amsterdam Police - Harry Enfield & Chums
Harry Enfield and Chums was the first place I encountered the fantastic Paul Whitehouse, and I this sketch was one that stood out immediately when I saw it. Whitehouse’s accent and performance are perfectly on the money, and the premise is great and doesnt outstay its welcome.
26. Sinn Fein Interview - The Day Today
The Day Today is such razor sharp satire and this sketch was a terrific piss take of the broadcasting laws at the time which prevented members of Sinn Fein from being allowed speak on camera due to their paramilitary links, so they were dubbed by an actor (this sounds made up but it is actually true). Steve Coogan’s character takes that baseline reality and kicks it up a level in absurdity with a very light helium-based approach.
25. One Leg Too Few - Peter Cook & Dudley Moore
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were firm favourites of my dad. This was always my favourite sketch that we listened to. Simple, smart and super funny.
24. Ted and Ralph - The Fast Show
Ted & Ralph were the greatest running gag on The Fast Show. As well as being hilariously funny, there was real drama and melancholy to the unrequited love story of Ted the aristocrat and his Irish tradesman. Brilliant writing and top drawer acting.
23. Too Long Johnny - A Bit of Fry and Laurie
Hugh Laurie is a fantastic musician and has woven a brilliant gag out of a classic bluesy number. It shouldn’t work but it does thanks to Hugh Laurie’s gifted performance.
22. Booking a Flight - Absolutely
Years ago I remember getting a free cassette with some English magazine I bought, and the tape featured a compilation of great sketches that worked well in audio format. This one stopped me in my tracks. I adored the blind stupidity of the Calum character, and the spelling sequence at the end is a thing of utter genius. Genius with a G, as in G for Gnome.
21. Zoolander Sketch - Ben Stiller
The original sketch that launched the highly underrated comedy movie about vapid models. The film itself was a true high tide mark for Stiller comedies and the sketch has real flashes of that brilliance. Ben Stiller has always impressed me as an actor, director and writer, and in these early days he was also more than willing to drop Blue Steel on us.
For the past two days I have been sharing the wacky album cover and music industry satire we created for the defunct website artlick.com (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here). This is the final instalment in that oddball collection. And if you thought some of the other albums were odd, you ain’t seen nothing yet. These go deep into really unusual abstract places, but are among my very favourites of the entire series.
Albums: Futurific; Neon: The Futurific Remixes Singles: Once in my past twice in your future; Greener Grass; Eliminate your last thought
One afternoon in 2001 we headed out around the financial district to take some suitably esoteric photos of me wearing a beanie hat and some Elvis sunglasses. I remember really loving this photoshoot. The result was the Futurific album which we decided was to appear on a new record label called Electric Son. I imagine this as somewhere between heavy beats driven electronica and jazz. We had been listening a lot to the band Red Snapper during the creation process for these, which I feel are a big influence on them.
As with all popular records, you’re nothing if you don’t have a dance-y remix version of your album. So we went to Times Square one night and captured some remarkable photos in front of the neon lit NYPD outpost there to assemble the makings of this sister album to Futurific.
The singles all followed a similar theme to the Futurific album cover but are lent an added air of poignancy given the events of 9/11 a few weeks later. They now stand as a strange document of that time
The most eerie and unusual one of them all was this single, which we named before the terrorist attacks, but now seem strangely prescient given the subsequent events that unfolded. Another curious element here was the naming of Clune (David Gray’s longtime collaborator and drummer at the time) as a collaborator on the tracks. I was a huge David Gray fan, and we had been to see the band perform many times during this period. We had a huge affection for the charismatic drummer Clune in the band, so we added him in as an unlikely collaborator on these.
The Greener Grass single cover is probably the coolest of them all and might well have deserved an album of its own.
We shot so many great images of the Twin Towers, so we designed a funky foldout CD type inlay to accompany the standard album covers. These are really nicely designed I think and the glorious lines of the towers are so photogenic in these. Masterful work by Dave on the design.
Albums: The Rambler Trilogy – The Rambler; The Return of the Real; Committed to Mediocrity Singles: Slang; The Myth of Everything; Intermission
This is where we went super oddball and arty, and the results are both beautiful and slightly unnerving. It began with a photoshoot in our old office, where we were packing up to move to downtown Manhattan. So there were loads of empty office spaces, brimming cardboard boxes and a wealth of orange packing labels. Naturally enough I decided to stick them to my head to create a makeshift hat of sorts, and off we went. Given the rather unusual atmosphere and ambience of the photos, we took the album art even further out there as we manipulated the images. We also decided to put this out on yet another record label that we called And Recordings, which somehow felt suitably indie. Additionally, I quite liked the idea that the word “and” is a conjunction and it was somehow connecting radically different phases of the artist’s career
We imagined that the recording artist would forgo his usual name (Kalle Ryan- yes, I find it odd talking about myself in the third person too) and simply become a character called The Rambler and this would be a suite of three concept albums that told a trilogy story from his experimental point of view. Ultimately the idea was a series of records based around language. And if you look closely, the table of ideas has resurfaced as one of the tracks on the first album
Again for this one, we decided to a gatefold centre with a slightly unusual look and feel
The singles all followed in the same mad spirit. There’s something almost Kubrickian about them. Empty spaces. Weird characters.
I love the deliberately computer generated blockiness and cut-n-paste vibe of many of them. Seems fitting for something so artificial and contrived.
This one really looks like some kind of otherworldly painting. For some reason it harkens imagery from the Wim Wenders film Until The End of the World, which I was really taken with at the time. I remember going to see Wim Wenders do a Q&A at a legendary 4 hour version of that very movie around this time ( and it was the only print in existence of the movie) so some of that must have filtered into the influences on this one.
Album: Eventuality of Nothing
I think this one was imagined as an instrumental album along the lines of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. Dave was also a huge fan of Vangelis and I think some of that was fuel for inspiration too. The record label was again different for this one, Lösch Audio, which seemed to fit with the experiemntal soundtrack vibe. If thie artist was to fully realise his wild ambitions then of course he would release an epic lush instrumental soundtrack
Album: I was just getting into that (b-sides & rarities) Single: Toasting Paint
Any good artist worth their salt must release a B-sides and unreleased demos record (or his contractual obligation will ensure that the record label releases it). But his artist had to obviously go even bigger and release a double album of demos, and an entire record of cover versions. This is very much a Thin Raft album and the choices of acoustic guitar cover versions ranged from the possible (Bob Dylan) to impossible (Public Enemy).
Fun fact, this photoshoot was done on the same day as Dr Livingstone I Presume, but we didnt use it till much later. There is also a shoutout my friend Corrie Leane (who created the artwork for the Footsteps in Chalkdust album) who is named as co-songwriter on a few tracks. And all of those particular tracks are references or in jokes between us, although my foggy memory can’t really recall the exact reference points any more.
Album: Midnight at Donington
The metal album.?At the time on MTV we were often treated to heavy metal concerts from Castle Donington. So, in my mind that was a connection forged between a place and a genre of music. Which meant that we decided we needed a heavy metal record to capture the artist’s evolving musical development and genre defying proficiency. I think it may have also been inspired in part by Ryan Adams, an artist I adore, who had put out a trash metal record under a different moniker at the time called The Finger.
I think we imagined an epic Stairway to Heaven type track as the closer, and for that we felt we needed to ground it in metal royalty with Kirk Hammett (Metallica) as a guest guitarist on the track. The record label naturally enough had to be suited to the genre, so it came out on Darrk Source, which sounds like something a user on Reddit would call themselves these days.
Long before the mighty Ryan Adams made it popular to do a superb cover version of an entire album (have a listen to his Taylor Swift reworking of 1989 – sounds like Bruce Springsteen and The Smiths singing pop songs), I cooked up this acoustic, unplugged tribute to the seminal Zooropa album by U2. A band and an album I adore to this day.The guitar is my Takamine that I still own to this day, and the Zooropa artwork and layour is poached from the original album. I always wondered what this album might actually sound like if it were recorded this way. Over to you Bono…
And that, my friends, is that. Hope you enjoyed this odyssey through my fictional musical back catalogue (Go back and read Part 1 here andPart 2 here). I have a pile of sketches in a notebook of album titles and concepts that we never got around to creating, so I will post those at a later date.
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