17 March 2010

Second Hand Record Dip Part 49 - Buster Gobsmack Eats Filth - We Wanna Be Famous

Buster Gobsmack Eats Filth - We Wanna Be Famous

Who: Buster Gobsmack Eats Filth (aka Grant Baynham and Adrian Mills off TV's "That's Life")
What: We Wanna Be Famous
Label: BBC
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street, London
When: 1988
Cost: One pound

Ah, BBC Records and Tapes... so much to answer for...

Readers of a non-British origin may require me to brief them with some background about this single, and I'll do my best. "That's Life" was a British consumer programme which thrived in the seventies and eighties with its absurd and jarring approach of highlighting members of the public who had been wronged by bogus companies, spivs and ne'er-do-wells, then juxtaposing them with "light hearted" segments where they'd show clips of talking dogs or old ladies yodelling in the street. I'm not making any of this up or exaggerating for effect, incidentally - they really did. The shades of light and dark within the show were so extreme that it was a wonder the format succeeded for one series, much less the countless numbers which were eventually commissioned. Clearly somewhere out there a demographic existed for people who wanted to hear stories about people who had been left brain damaged after being run over by an articulated supermarket lorry and watch meerkats do some skateboarding. In essence, the show occupied the same kind of territory that the numerous oddball 50p grief-magazines which occupy newsagents shelves do now, and it's actually quite surprising that it hasn't been revamped and relaunched on that basis.

In 1988, towards the show's twilight years, one of their investigative items focussed on a dubious character who was apparently ripping off bands in Manchester by directing appalling videos for them for unreasonable amounts of cash (and in case you're wondering, the videos for The Inspiral Carpets "Joe" and The Stone Roses "She Bangs The Drums" were self-produced band efforts, so whoever he was, we can't blame him for those). To show the gentleman up for the rogue he was, presenters Grant Baynham and Adrian Mills promptly went forth and formed a dreadful punk band to highlight his activities. "Eats Filth" were born (being an anagram of "That's Life", in case this needs to be highlighted), a terrible video was created, and the man was humiliated and shamed on national television, with John Peel joining in by making his annoyance known. Job done. Or so we thought...

The story didn't quite end there, although it really should have done. It would seem that somebody at BBC Records and Tapes decided that the deliberately dreadful record - all one and a half minutes of it - should be issued as a charity single for MENCAP. As executive decisions go, the weakness of this one should not be understated. "Buster Gobsmack Eats Filth" were essentially a satirical parody of a struggling punk band, which in terms of humour was ten years out of date by 1988. A modern equivalent would be a joke band set up to parody the Teen C movement now. It's true to say that the "That's Life" audience still seemed to find punks disproportionately hilarious in the late eighties - the shrieks of laughter from the studio audience whenever a London punk was vox popped by Mills or one of his cohorts proved a baffling noise to hear - but they really weren't going to bother their stereograms with this nonsense. It sold next to no copies, and as in my opinion this is probably one of the worst songs ever committed to vinyl, it deserved to, charity or no charity. After all, there are very few people who would even give a homeless man making this sort of noise any cash.

Because let's not forget that the song in question is so utterly, mindlessly bad that it may be a work of genius. It's a squawking piece of drivel with scattergun lyrics a petulant six year old could have penned which starts and stops very quickly and without having made any particular kind of melodic point. To all intents and purposes, this is the celebrity equivalent of The Legend's singles for Creation Records - it's that atrocious.

The B-side "The Toreador From Japan" takes a different tack, but seems quaintly racist instead - you sense that all concerned probably thought they were having a light-hearted laugh, and that no harm was done, but ultimately the fake "Japano Spanish vocals" will cause people who dwell in the year 2010 to cringe (indeed, they probably caused quite a few people living in 1988 to blush as well). And please don't ask me what the B-side was connected to in the world of "That's Life", if indeed anything. I don't know, and I don't know if I want to know.

Still though - at least you can all now see what I meant when I said a few entries back that Kenny Everett's World's Worst Record Show should probably be updated and relaunched by someone.


Simon said...

I know you didn't want to know, but tough - surely the B-side would have been a reference to the running joke, such as it was one, of Mills' celebrated inability to do a Spanish accent when called upon to play the role of a timeshare villa salesman. To think we could have had Grant Baynham's 'I've Given Up Smoking' immortalised instead. Or even one of Doc Cox's about foreign sweets with rude-in-English names.

The Confused said...

"That's Life!" OMFG... You did a pretty good summary of that show in the first paragraph bringing back the extremes of that show which I found unbearable and sickening. Indeed there would be long solemn faces from all onscreen as they droned on about some nasty piece of neglect or abuse and in the blink of an eye there would be Ivor Biggun with some absurd item or the presenters would all try to be really funny.

Come to think of it this show was like a televisual simulation of Bipolarity.

Problem was Adrian Mills was as funny as a tube of toothpaste. Least said about Gavin Campbell and Esther Rantzen the better. Grant Baynham was in the right company and I do remember that smoking song he did... talk about a poor man's Jake Thackray. The late great Thackray appeared during the 1977 series in a weekly spot having been in the precursor to "That's Life" in "Bradens Week" who featured a certain Esther Rantzen who then proceeded to steal Bradens' format and smother it in goo and vomit.

No wonder I hated weekends. Saturdays I would be subject to all manner of physical and verbal abuse from my father with Meat Loaf, Rod Stewart and DLT's radio show in the background and on Sundays after being forced to eat whatever roast meal with the ever ghastly Brussel Sprouts, the "reward" would be to sit through another edition of "That's Life."

It is not missed by this poster. I do remember this record vaguely but I'll pass on giving it a listen since it was more than enough to be reminded of it and the show from which it was spawned! But hey... "Eats Filth!"

23 Daves said...

Simon - thanks for clarifying that. Believe it or not, somebody sent me a private email saying much the same thing, and it did bring the (mostly unpleasant) memories flooding back. Your comment, however, shall act as a factual record for people who happen to stumble on this blog entry in years to come.

Confused - I have to confess to being strangely hooked into the ridiculous world of "That's Life" at the time, largely because the format was so utterly bemusing, and the studio audience seemed so peculiar, shrieking as they did at any vaguely amusing thing Esther and the gang shoved their way. And I have to confess, there were one or two biting pieces of consumer journalism which stood out amidst the chaos, and I seem to remember the case which spawned this particular record was one of them.

Still, an utterly ridiculous format on the whole, and a show which seemed to have any number of waifs and strays presenting on it who seem not to have worked in broadcasting much since - the kind of people in some cases you could find at open mic nights. Even Esther seems to have largely disappeared off to focus on her charity work. We may never see its like again.

FeedbackReport said...

To put you out of, or more likely into, your misery, this originated from an investigation into Spanish timeshare swindling, for which Adrian Mills was called on to affect an 'in character' accent. The problem was, he sounded more Japanese than Spanish, leading to deafening audience hysteria and, if I remember rightly, one of the other 'Nancies' having to finish his bit of the script as he was incapacitated with embarrassment...

The Confused said...

Now you mention it, I do have vague memories of Adrian sat there grinning and blushing as he was sent up for his shortcomings. Jeez... it is absolutely scary what one remembers of this show.

That dog that kept saying "sausages!"

Unknown said...

Not forgetting the bloke who ran an evening class teaching people to make a noise like a Trimphone!

Andy said...

For some reason unbeknownst to me, this magnum opus came to me in the pub yesterday. Completely agree with your summary of the "song" and That's Life. I actually enjoyed the programme at the time, though in my defence I was about 13 at the time.