5
May 08

THE WURZELS – “Combine Harvester (Brand New Key)”

FT + Popular92 comments • 5,584 views

#390, 12th June 1976

Much like “No Charge”, this wears an idea too thin: but at least it’s a good idea. Spotting the potential for Wurzelisation in the ramshackle whimsy of Melanie’s “Brand New Key” was a stroke of pop genius that deserved the reward of a No.1. “Combine Harvester” kicks off with surely the best (or maybe worst) innuendo to grace a chart-topping record and rides a wave of sheer goodwill until at least its third verse.

The Wurzels had only turned to this kind of pop adaptation because original Wurzel Adge Cutler had died – his original comic folk songs had made the band a West Country hit and with no songwriters to replace him, “Combine Harvester” was the beginning of a new and narrower remit for the band. Given a national stage, the bumbling yokel humour the group trade in as much reinforced stereotypes as mocked or indulged them, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that “Combine Harvester” is one of the more thoroughly enjoyable comedy records we’ll be meeting.

5

Comments

1 2 3 4 All
  1. 76
    Dan R on 8 May 2008 #

    I’m fairly sure Kelly Monteith came later to British television. 1978/9 maybe? I always liked his show when I was young, until he did the strange meta-comedy series in which he seemed to be working through the aftermath of a messy divorce, without much comic distance.

  2. 77
    Waldo on 8 May 2008 #

    Erithian – My own diagnosis is that few modern West Indian Test players supplememnt their trade by playing County Cricket in England, whereas in the seventies, they all did. I have every reason to suppose that the sport still thrives in the islands but the skills are simply not nurtured adequately; and when rather untested (no pun intended) talent, no matter how enthusiastic, finds itself locking horns with Australia (the most sports-happy nation on earth) or even England, the slaughtering of the innocents is the result.

  3. 78
    Mark G on 8 May 2008 #

    Do you think they’re appreciating the Wurzels over at the Richie Benaud appreciation society? :)

  4. 79
    Erithian on 8 May 2008 #

    Waldo – not that I’m obsessed with Viv having mentioned him three times now, but this time last year he was on TMS during the Headingley Test, and during the frequent rain delays he talked very eloquently about his time as a youngster at Somerset, being coached alongside Botham by Brian Close. The affection was clearly very genuine, and it was great radio. (It was also possibly the coldest day’s Test cricket ever!)

  5. 80
    rosie on 8 May 2008 #

    I can recall passing through the car park of the Kelsey Kerridge Sports Centre, which overlooks the Fenners gound in Cambridge, while a match between Cambridge University and Somerset (ob. Wurzels) was in progress. Just as Joel Garner – no mistaking him – was coming in to bowl off a short run. Two steps up to the crease, and middle stump was flying towards the fine leg boundary.

  6. 81
    forum cat on 8 May 2008 #

    Heineken spot:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kbh8VzOXYEk

  7. 82
    Waldo on 9 May 2008 #

    I’m very impressed you know where fine leg is, Rosie. It was always euphemistically known as “Gooch’s Gloomy Place”.
    I loved that!

    Erithian – I’ll never forgive Sir Viv for what he and Somerset (ob. Wurzels) did to Surrey in the 1981 B&H Final. It was a demolition job, although I do have a happy memory of it. This was chiefly caused by running into Somerset fans equipped with giant containers of their home-made (ahem!) “apple juice”, which my 20 year-old self was only too happy to sample. On reflection, it is amazing that I remember anything at all!

  8. 83
    Drucius on 9 May 2008 #

    Erithian #79 “Drucius – seriously, that sounds like a lyric to an evocative song, maybe something on an early Springsteen album. Good stuff.”

    Thanks very much, good of you to say so. I was going to evoke “the smell of a teenage catholic girl’s long, lustrous hair”, but I thought that was probably too much information, as it were.

  9. 84
    Erithian on 9 May 2008 #

    Veering into Sinead O’Connor territory, but feel free to elaborate!!

  10. 85
    Billy Smart on 2 Jun 2008 #

    Light Entertainment Watch Update! I’ve found a more detailed catalogue… Other appearances included;

    THE BIG TOP VARIETY SHOW: Featuring Lionel Blair, The Wurzels, The Krankies, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Bernie Winters & Schnorbitz (1980)

    KEN DODD’S WORLD OF LAUGHTER: Featuring Ken Dodd, The Wurzels, Faith Brown (1976)

    THE RONNIE CORBETT SPECIAL: Featuring Ronnie Corbett, Jim Davidson, The Wurzels, Beryl Reid (1979)

    SEASIDE SPECIAL: Featuring Tony Blackburn, The Wurzels, Peters & Lee, Frankie Vaughan, New Edition, Roy Hudd, Larry Grayson (1976)

    SEASIDE SPECIAL: Featuring Tony Blackburn, Jim Davidson, The Wurzels, Vera Lynn, Tony Selby, New Edition(1977)

    THAT’S LIFE: Featuring The Wurzels (1977)

    3-2-1: Featuring Ted Rogers, The Wurzels, Les Dennis (1981)

    The Big Top show was a Billy Smart production, I note…

  11. 86
    Alan on 2 Jun 2008 #

    I have a performance of this on an old Cheggers Plays Pop i got off uknova.

  12. 87

    […] know as “scrumpy and western.” “Combine Harvester” features what Tom Ewing, writing at Popular, calls “surely the best (or maybe worst) innuendo to grace a chart-topping record” and […]

  13. 88
    enitharmon on 7 Feb 2012 #

    AS good a place as any, I think, to mention that I passed my NPTC Tractor Competence test today.

  14. 89
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 7 Feb 2012 #

    :) well done rosie!

  15. 90
    punctum on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Hurrah! No stopping you now, Rosie…oi, get your grips off my turnips!

  16. 91
    Jimmy the Swede on 11 Feb 2012 #

    Nice going, Rosie! Acres of land await.

  17. 92
    flahr on 5 Oct 2013 #

    Turns out, the Wurzels didn’t even write this one. The original rewriter was Brendan O’Shaughnessy, and it had been a number one hit (in Ireland) for Brendan Grace the year before.

1 2 3 4 All

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)

Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page