12 September 2011
Fred Walking-Stick - Well I Ask YEW!
Year of Release: 1961
There is a general belief that the Bonzo Dog Band were the first artists to parody the polite English absurdity of the old homegrown shellac sounds, and you can fully understand how that viewpoint has become the accepted one - there really wasn't anyone prior to the Bonzos who had any great commercial visibility taking on peculiar dance records like "I'm Gonna Bring A Watermelon To My Gal Tonight".
Here, however, is a very rare flop example of somebody not only doing a very neat parody of that era, but also beating the likes of Mike Flowers and Richard Cheese to the punch by a fair 35 years with an easy listening version of a rock and roll record. Eden Kane's "Well I Ask You" sounds rather ordinary and wet by modern standards, but at the time Kane's Elvis styled vocalising and swagger seemed rather daring and modern. What better way to deflate that unspeakable arrogance than with a polite English version, complete with lyrics referring to the lady's rejection as being "a beastly thing to do"? I can't think of one. "Naughty, naughty, naughty you", sings Fred with the minimum of emotion to the sound of a restrained and reedy brass section, and you can't help but think that whilst some of the humour within the grooves of this record has been lost by the present-day irrelevance of Eden Kane, the approach itself is actually the first vinyl instance of an ironic easy version of a rock song. There may be others - and I would be very interested to hear from somebody if there are - but the approach here proves that some jokes are older than you'd think.
The identity of Fred Walking-Stick is a complete mystery. Peter Sellers had apparently referred to Eden Kane as "Fred Walking-Stick" before this record came out, and this has led to some speculation that it may be him behind this record - but if so, that fact has bypassed numerous Sellers biographers, and above all else the disc fails to appear on his contractual home of Parlophone Records. It seems far more likely that Fred was a Sellers fan with a similar keen ear for the joy of musical parody. Had this record been a hit we might have heard more about the man behind the pseudonym. As an extremely obscure flop, however, it's likely to remain a riddle unless (or until) somebody comments to put me straight.
The B-side is a version of "Ain't She Sweet" by Brother Jim Walking-Stick, and no, I don't know who he is either.
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