10 January 2013

Second Hand Record Dip Part 83 - Pookiesnackenburger - Pookiesnackenburger (Soundtrack LP)

Who: Pookiesnackenburger
What: Pookiesnackenburger (Soundtrack Album)
Where: Sister Ray, Soho, London
Label: Talkback
When: 1985
Cost: £1.99

The name Pookiesnackenburger may sound naggingly familiar to you, and that's probably because of all the bands to be featured on this blog, they probably went on to be among the most successful artists. They've been applauded by Hollywood, performed at The Oscars ceremony, and had regular West End shows in London to the point where their advertising is as much the backdrop to city life as the pigeons themselves.  None of the members of Dr Marigold's Prescription can claim such wonders.

To begin with, however, they were a modest Brighton-based theatre/ street performance ensemble who mixed comedy, parody and music together to create unique live shows which began to create a stir during the alternative comedy boom.  Recordings of their shows are difficult to come by, but it would seem that they incorporated a ragbag of various elements - radical percussive dustbin clattering, live music, audience interaction and goofed-out stupidity.  This period of activity led to a cover of the "Just One Cornetto" advert emerging on Stiff Records, a manic performance involving the popular trash can bashing element of their live shows, plus an album "Pookie Beach Party".  Both efforts flopped.

However, unlike other Stiff stiffs such as Any Trouble or Department S, Pookie clearly had more to offer than just music.  As such, interest from Channel 4 was perhaps inevitable given the keen eye executives there had for any well-drilled comedy act operating on the fringes, and they were initially asked to contribute shorts to a programme called "Alter Image", then finally given the go-ahead to create their own television show.

The resulting eponymous "Pookiesnackenburger" series has been strangely under-chronicled since.  Most British comedy websites acknowledge its existence but can't seem to offer more details about its contents.  Only one show has emerged on YouTube since, the heavy metal parodying "Hell Bent" which tells the twisted story of a group of obnoxious, arrogant black metallers who travel to an obscure residential country studio to summon the devil through their music.  Whilst clearly attempting to ape "The Wicker Man" in places, this episode also offers brilliantly astute parodies of two wildly opposing musical genres, namely metal and rustic folk music.  Elsewhere in the show, some (though by no means all) of the attempts at comedy creak slightly.  The gurning and over-acting of some members clearly highlighted their roots on the live circuit, and showed that they hadn't quite got into the swing of toning their act down for the camera yet.  Additionally, the special effects are largely of a Kenny Everett Video Show quality (which may have been intentional and seemed likeably silly at the time).  For all that, though, there's a unique and peculiar feel to the show, and a sense that it might have developed into something slicker had it been granted a second series.  The combination of horror, occasionally grotesque comedy and parody on display also proves that The League of Gentlemen really weren't first on the block with these ideas, whatever we may have supposed at a later date - although on the evidence we have available to us, their efforts seem stronger.

The soundtrack album that followed the series showcased the music, and stripped of their original context some of these struggle to make complete comedic sense.  "Mysteroids Theme/ Pop Go The Asteroids" was apparently from a Thunderbirds-apeing episode, but merely feels like a likeable piece of retro-kitsch here.  Of more interest to me is the track "Be Cool", which sounds like it's taking on the stylings of Dexys Midnight Runners (or perhaps the likes of the Joboxers) and actually succeeding in being enjoyable in its own right.  Likewise, the metal parodies ("Heavy Metal Life" and "The Lost Canticle of Beelzebub") are heavy-handed, but this was the eighties - Heavy Metal itself was hardly subtle at this point, and Pookiesnackenburger do successfully highlight some of its more ridiculous excesses.

Inevitably the album flopped, and Pookie were forced to rethink their approach.  For a brief period they renamed themselves Yes/No People, shed some members but gained others, and attempted to become slick, funky, near-serious artists.  One single was released ("Mr Johnson") which enjoyed a lot of publicity but failed to break the UK Top 100.  Given this disappointment, they returned to their roots as a theatre troupe, and - whether through smart business planning or just responding to public demand - gave the dustbin bashing element of their live shows complete focus.  A final name-change to "Stomp" occurred, and guided by original members Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, they remain a serious live draw, performing all over the world to critical acclaim and large audiences.

I've offered a few clips of "Pookiesnackenburger" below, so you can listen to those before deciding whether it's worth your while downloading the album.

1. Dance With A Sexy Smile
2. Be Cool
3. Killing Time (The Work Song)
4. Mysteroids Theme/ Pop Go The Asteroids
5. River Of Love
6. Beach Party
7. Dustbin Dance
8. Restoration Scat
9. Oh My My
10. The King's Song
11. Heavy Metal Life
12. Green Man And Corn Dolly
13. The Lost Canticle of Beelzebub

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