2007   DECEMBER 21   #355

Fit To Burst!

Fit to burst are a host of British comedians and comedy actors who all made records between 1959 and 1979. There was a tradition among British funny men (and women) to make records, not just replications of their act, but specially composed songs or comic covers of standards. Some are from singles others are album tracks. But I have opted for the more obscure. Some of these names may be familiar to you and need no introduction, others may not be so familiar.

Alan Melville was a playwright and television scriptwriter (Bernard Braden, Beryl Reid, Arthur Askey) but also wrote many comic songs. Some were collected on albums including Melvillainy, where this track was lifted from.

1. Alan Melville - There Are No Fairies At The Bottom of My Garden (2:50)

Charlie Drake was a highly successful comedian on tv in the 1960s who gave it all up in later years to concentrate on more serious roles. He also recorded a number of classic comic songs of which this is one.

2. Charlie Drake - I've Lost The End Of My Yodel (2:38)

Douglas Byng was a British comic singer in West End revue and Cabaret. Billed as 'Bawdy but British' he waas best known for his female impersonations (including pantomime dames) but in his act he also appeared as a tree and in this song as an Eygptian mummy.

3. Douglas Byng - I'm A Mummy (3:16)

Peter Sellers recorded a string of records in the 1960s and this is the flip side to the hit single Goodness Gracious Me which featured Sophia Loren.

4. Peter Sellars - Grandpa's grave (3:00)

The names Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise meant littlein the USA but in Britain they were the most watched comedy show on tv in the 70s commmanding record veiwing figures. Back in the 1960s they were still gaining polpularity and made a few records. This is the B-side to one of them fom 1963 and is essentially a comic routine set to music.

5. Morecambe and Wise - The Happiest Christmas Of All (3:01)

Comedy duo Peter Cook and Dudley Moore need no introduction. This is the flip side of their classic 1965 single Bo Dudley.

6. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore - Isn't She A Sweetie (3:00)

Carry On star Kenneth Williams recorded a lot of records in the 1960s usually under the guise of folk singer Rambling Sid Rumpo. This more serious, beautifully arranged song is from his 1967 album On Pleasure Bent, written by Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks.

7. Kenneth Williams - Minnie Dyer (3:46)

Actress Sheila Hancock started her career as part of Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop. In 1962 she made an album of folk songs with Sydney Carter for the Transatlantic label which was ignored except for this filler track (My Last Cigarette) which was released as a single and received radio airplay.

8. Sheila Hancock - My Last Cigarette (2:00)

Freddy 'Parrot Face' Davies was notable for his comic voice with its distinctive lisp. He acquired his nickname due to the comic faces he pulled on stage and because of the tv show The World Of samuel Tweet where he played a pet shop owner. He was rarely off television screens in the 1960s and 70s and made several records. This is one side of his Christmas single from 1966 and is written by Lionel Bart.

9. Freddie Davies - Give Us A Kiss For Christmas (2:21)

Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques were the stars of long running BBC sitcom Sykes where they played brother and sister (jokingly described by Eric as identical twins - the joke is they look nothing like eachother). They made an album in 1962 Eric and Hattie and Things which included this Dr Kildare spoof.

10. Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques - Dr Kildare (1:37)

Warren Mitchell will forever be associated with the loud-mouthed cockney character Alf Garnett created by writer Johnny Speight. Mitchell made a few spin off records and this was one of the singles in the music hall tradition written by Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks.

11. Warren Mitchell - The Writing On The Wall (2:36)

Actor Terry-Thomas enjoyed a long career on stage, television, radio and film and even found time to make an album of novelty songs and sketches in 1959. This track is written by Paddy Roberts.

12. Terry-Thomas - Send For Me (2:19)

Kenneth Connor was more of an actor than a comedian and is best known as part of the Carry On film team. In 1971 he recorded an album of comic love songs called Much Ado About Love including this ode to hippies sung in the style of an Elizabethan ballad.

13. Kenneth Connor - Come Shack Up With Me (2:43)

Benny Hill had a number of chart hits in Britain in the 1960s and 70s, This was a later single, the follow up to his number one hit Ernie, which lacked the impact and failed to chart.

14. Benny Hill - Fad Eyed Fal (4:11)

Dick Emery played a host of comic characters on his long running television series. Sexually frustrated spinster Hettie was one of them. Apparently the character was based on his producer's secretary although she never realised. This is from an album Emery made in 1973 with songs sung by the various characters.

15. Dick Emery - The Reddest Sports Car (2:48)

Character actor Clive Dunn made a career out of playing old men even when he was young. In the early 1960s he played dodery butler Old Johnson in the sitcom Bootsy and Snudge and recorded a spin of single Not Too Old. This was the B-side which was banned by the BBC because of its dubious lyrics.

16. Clive Dunn - Such A Beauty (2:57)

Famous for his risque songs delivered in a cut glass English accent, South African-born Paddy Roberts released this amusing anti-Chritmas song in 1963.

17. Paddy Roberts - Merry Christmas You Suckers (2:27)

Actor Keith Michell recorded a few records in the 1970s which were mainly serious ballads but some had a comic edge including this witty dig at air stewardeses.

18. Keith Michell - Tondre Boom (3:21)

Tommy Cooper was a comic who performed magic tricks which always went wrong but his facial expressions were enough to raise a laugh. He made several singles of which this is one, a comic cover of the 1920s classic The Sheik Of Araby.

19. Tommy Cooper - The Sheik Of Araby (2:48)

Frankie Howerd could record a version of almost any song and make it funny. Here is the flip side to his take of the Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin hit J'Taime is a unique reading of All Through The Night featuring actress June Whitfield.

20. Frankie Howerd and June Whitfield - All Through The Night (4:05)

John Inman is famous on both sides of the Atlantic for playing Mr Humphries in the sitcom Are You Being Served. He was also rewarded with two sitcoms of his own Take A Letter Mr Jones and the lesser known Odd Man Out where he played novelty rock factory owner Neville Sutcliffe. This is the theme song.

21. John Inman - Odd Man Out (2:26)

In a similar vein is camp comedian Larry Grayson. He didn't hit the big time until he was 50. As well as presenting the game show The Generation Game he appeared in his own shows which were a mixture of stand up and songs. Here from his only album is the song that showcased one of his catchphrases.

22. Larry Grayson - Oh What A Gay Day (2:09)

Les Dawson starred in numerous tv series between 1968 and his death in 1994. Best known for his deadpan stand up routines he also played a few comic characters one of who was the sex maniac Cosmo Smallpiece whose catahphrase was 'Knickers, knackers, knockers'! Here he appropriately tackles The Trogg's I Can't Control Myself.

23. Les Dawson - I Can't Control Myself (2:55)

Perhaps the most bizarre entry is here is by the late, great Mike Reid. For many years he played Frank Butcher in BBC soap opera EastEnders but before that he was a comedian who found fame in the 1970s on The Comedians. This led to recordings including the album The Ugly Duckling where this song is lifted from. Here Mike plays a shortsighted skinhead who falls for one of his mates in drag when they play a joke on him. The song is full of cockney rhyming slang which will be lost on anyone outside London, but I'm sure no one will understand the line 'She had a guv’nor throat’. Aside from Dracula who would notice a girl’s throat?

24. Mike Reid - That's Who (2:45)

Gruff voiced comedy actor Arthur Mullard recorded some singles as a joke. Here is his unique cover of the classic I Only Have Eyes For You done in a country style with help from Chas and Dave.

25. Arthur Mullard - I Only Have Eyes For You (3:44)

The Two Ronnies (Barker and Corbett) always ended their shows with a musical finale and regulars were country singers Big Jim Jesophat and Fat Belly Jones. This is from their only album.

26. The Two Ronnies - The Dimples In Her Cheeks (2:28)

Actors Windsor Davies and Don Estelle teamed up as a double act after their roles in the long running BBC sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum. A semi-comic recording of the Ink Spots Whispering Grass rocketed them to the top of the charts and other records followed. One of the last was a cover of the Frankie Laine classic Cool Water backed with the specially composed Muck Spreading Charlie. The record sleeve shows the duo in cowboy gear, the diminuitive Estelle supplied with a child's tricycle to ride instead of a horse.

27. Don Estelle and Windsor Davies - Muck Spreadin' Charlie (3:44)

- Contributed by: David Noades

Images: Front Cover, Back Cover