5
May 08

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

FT + Popular93 comments • 6,599 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. 1

    cyderpunk! call it by its name

    (my memory of the wurzels at shropshire young farmers’ discos at around this date — not that i went to more than a couple, but my sister went to a lot (then best-friend = farmer’s youngest daughter) and will confirm this — is that the “reinforced stereotype” was no kind of an issue! it was considered funny and silly and the point was to get utterly blasted anyway)

  2. 2
    Tom on 5 May 2008 #

    Yes I phrased that a bit clumsily – the fault was not remotely that of the band, my experience was simply that Surrey kids liked the Wurzels partly because they thought West Country peeps were idiots.

  3. 3
    Billy Smart on 5 May 2008 #

    Yeah, you wouldn’t want to put it on to listen to, but when you occasionally come across it by chance then it does cheer rather than grate, I find. A particular pleasure is how the accents fit around the lyrics; “Wooiiygoddabrandnookombynehaaaarvestur” etc.

  4. 4

    actually it just struck me that the cartoony west country accents might also have signalled “simpleton yokel” to shropshire rural kids — the thick shropshire accents (in all their subtle variations) are easy to mis-reproduce as mummerset if you have a poor ear, but are actually quite unlike em

    even within shropshire there’s a bit of “those wem folk are odd, not like us clun people”, tho it’s more jokey than not i suppose

  5. 5
    rosie on 5 May 2008 #

    Ah well, you had to be there you see. ‘There’ in this case being the smoky back room of some Brissle pub, or preferably cider house. (Don’t know when

    Unfortunately I really only have anecdotal evidence for this because I didn’t blow into Bristol until eighteen years later, but Bristol is that kind of place and Adge Cutler is revered even now. His Moonlight on the Malago is not easily forgotten – the Malago being a river, or more like a ditch, in South Bristol full of rusty supermarket trolleys and other detritus.

    And there’s the rub – this could only really be a product of Bristol, a city that can’t make up its mind if it’s in Gloucestershire or Somerset; a hard-edged and gritty urban landscape with a popular bucolic image. The paradox is being milked, as it were, for all it was worth.

    Of course, with a novelty record like this it’s always worth looking to see what’s on the B-side – I don’t know what it is in this case, but an innocuous A-side often provided cover for something lustier on the reverse.

    Meanwhile, its first week of tenure was one of those watersheds in one’s life. On the first Saturday, which as it happens was the Saturday of the Lord’s Test against the West Indies and the day was completely washed out – an irony in view of what was to come, I was invited to a graduation party at the Reading University Boat Club. It drizzled all evening. I was being chatted up at one point by a public school type who mysteriously vanished when I revealed that I was a friend of Chris’s from Welwyn Garden City and left me wondering what the hell I had done. I was naive in the social niceties. On the following Monday, another dank drizzly day, I left Reading to go to Liverpool for the last time, to get my PGCE results (I passed, and so had a job to go to in September) and to collect the last of my belongings. I wouldn’t see rain again until August Bank Holiday, in Hull. On Wednesday I returned to Welwyn Garden City on one of those nightmare train journeys that took hours on a packed train whose air-conditioning had failed on a baking hot day and which was diverted via Leicester. No fun at all. And I was home in time to help my parents move to Reading on the Friday. Busy busy busy…

  6. 6
    CarsmileSteve on 5 May 2008 #

    perfect timing, i’ve heard this blasting from several cars full of exeter city supporters over the years (usually after a victory, and often in dagenham for some reason) and today we have reached the play-off finals for the second year in a row. “i am a cider drinker” has had more of a life on the terraces though…

  7. 7
    intothefireuk on 5 May 2008 #

    So here we have yet another folk-related comedy record. My best friend’s parents, despite not hailing from the West Country were keen followers of this stuff esp. The Wurzels & The Spinners (no not the Detroit ones). Luckily the nearest I got to seeing them were live concerts on the telly which told me all I needed to know (not being big on communal singalongs). I was just that bit too young for this to be a song you could drunk and sing-a-long to and just that bit too old to find it funny on it’s own merits (or maybe I just didn’t understand West Country ‘humour’). Certainly didn’t get the tractor/hay innuendo at the time – and that does seem to be the best bit listening to it now. Despite that it doesn’t seem much more than just ‘quaint’ now.

  8. 8
    Kat but logged out innit on 5 May 2008 #

    My primary memory of this song is New Year’s Eve 2001/2 when we were playing ‘Wurzels Pass The Parcel’ at my mate S’s house. Every time the Wurzels’ Greatest Hits stopped, you unwrapped a layer and did the forfeit. Whilst most of these involved drinking a certain beverage derived from apples or speaking in a Wess Cunnry aksen forra mainer ovva vreenin, one resulted in accidentally smearing Nutella all over the walls of S’s newly painted extension. Her mum went proper mad at us.

  9. 9
    rosie on 5 May 2008 #

    American readers may wish to be reminded that the cider spoken of here is not the innocent beverage that goes under the same name across the pond.

  10. 10
    Doctor Casino on 5 May 2008 #

    It’s hard for me to hear this as just a comedy record in its own right, rather than a parody of “Brand New Key,” a song able to be cute, suggestive, and human without simultaneously mocking any of these things. This just reminds me of the sub-sub-sub-Weird Al type re-writes that radio stations will occasionaly foist on the public.

  11. 11
    Tom on 5 May 2008 #

    I think it’s quite a loving version of Brand New Key though!

  12. 12
    Rob M on 6 May 2008 #

    Now this was a surprise, because I don’t remember this getting to number one. I remember it being everywhere at the time – I’m sure Billy Smart will let us know of appearances on Crackerjack etc – but number one? Surely not? Also at the time I hadn’t heard “Brand new key” so for me this was the original, and when I got around to Melanie’s song a few years later I was a mite confused. But then I was only 6, so… that’s my get-out clause for everything really. Anyway, always preferred “I am a cider drinker” myself.

  13. 13
    DJ Punctum on 6 May 2008 #

    In 1966 the West Country spurted forth the Troggs. Ten years of watering down later, we end up with the Wurzels.

    I am unsure whether this qualifies as a happy or sad ending.

  14. 14
    Mark G on 6 May 2008 #

    “I drove my tractor through your haystack last night”

    Take THAT, Led Zeppelin!

  15. 15
    DJ Punctum on 6 May 2008 #

    Which one, though?

    Plenty of laffs to be gleaned from the line “I threw my Pitchfork at your dog to keep quiet” I guess.

  16. 16
    lex on 6 May 2008 #

    [i]my experience was simply that Surrey kids liked the Wurzels partly because they thought West Country peeps were idiots[/i]

    Surrey kids were otm.

    I hate this song like I hate all comedy songs, when I hear it or even think about it I can feel my mouth automatically curving downwards into a grimace, the opposite of a laugh. I don’t have anything against funny shit obv, my problem is that this song ~isn’t funny in any way~.

  17. 17
    rosie on 6 May 2008 #

    Adge Cutler and the Wurzels were, I believe, around on the Bristol pub/folk club circuit long before 1966. I’d imagine an evening spent with them was an evening well-spent – that’s certainly the reputation they had. What this kind of thing does very well is prick the bubble of those who take themselves far too seriously. A bit like Viz comic I suppose.

    Rough cider was having a revival at the time and even spreading away from its roots to some degree. There was an anti-corporate consumer backlash going on – no doubt punk was part of this – and Camra were in the forefront against the bland uniformity being imposed on everything, and for the small independent breweries and local pubs with individuality and often live music by local bands who couldn’t or wouldn’t want to get a more orthodox venue booking. The backlash fizzled out in time and the megacorporations tightened the vice-like grip of the ‘brand’. This I consider a tragedy when I view the ranks of cloned ‘bars’ that have muscled the individual pub from most towns.

  18. 18
    Matthew H on 6 May 2008 #

    A primary school playground anthem, and no worse (or better) than that.

    I was a Lincolnshire sophisticate at the time, so had no idea what was going on with all those yokels.

  19. 19
    Matt DC on 6 May 2008 #

    My mum’s family are all from Bristol and my uncle went on tour with the Wurzels at some point in the late 70s. There is a story about a very drunk Wurzel being quizzed by a policeman when their car was pulled over and giving him some lip, mercifully he was in the back and not actually driving.

    It’s possible this story has been embellished into something more cartoonish than it actually was, but over the years has mutated into policeman essentially going “allo allo allo, what’s this then? Can you tell me why you’re not driving this vehicle?” and Wurzel slurring “I can’t reach the pedals from here”. I have never found this story as amusing as the people who tell it to me.

  20. 20
    Erithian on 6 May 2008 #

    Nice to see what a pleasant ride the Wurzels are getting on this thread. I quite enjoyed it at the time, bought the single (the B-side, since Rosie was asking, was “The Blackbird”, which my Dad absolutely adored: “‘E be up yon wurzel tree and Oi be after ‘ee … With a gert big stick I’ll knock ‘im down, Blackbird I’ll ‘ave ‘ee!”). But maybe we’d had one too many novelty number ones around this time, and it was good to see normal service resumed a couple of weeks later (with an absolute belter, as we’ll soon see).

    Now, something else Rosie alluded to. The official date given for the Wurzels’ arrival at number one is 12th June, but the Tuesday when the chart was announced was the 8th, so it was still at the top on the 20th, the start of the period which made this year memorable. In the words of a post on a thread I found when checking this out,
    “…on 20 June a high developed over the SE of the UK and this drew up very hot air from the Meditterenean. This was the start of a remarkable heatwave where temperatures were 30+C every day until the end of the month. The London Weather Centre recorded a maximum of 34.8C on the 26th, and Southampton recorded a maximum of 35.6C on the 28th. The weather was uncomfortably hot for those who work in offices as most did not have air conditioning. Nights were particularly uncomfortable with minima as high as 20C.”

    Anybody who “was there” will remember not only the underground summer of punk, but a sweltering period when the temperature was even taken into account when marking exams.

  21. 21
    Rob M on 6 May 2008 #

    This thread’s bringing it all back for me. I’d forgotten about the summer of ’76 – standpipes in the street, sharing baths etc. The only reason I remember the standpipes so well is that I crashed my bike into one, injuring myself quite nastily.

    My comments on here are pretty tenuous really, aren’t they?

  22. 22
    DJ Punctum on 6 May 2008 #

    More interesting than the arrant piece of tripe that was and is “Combine Harvester Open Brackets Brand New Key Close Brackets.”

    Lex OTM here.

  23. 23

    bah youm city boyz youm think youm know everthing oi’ll wurzel ee good GET OFF MOI LAND

  24. 24

    (ps not a shropshire accent, that)

  25. 25
    DJ Punctum on 6 May 2008 #

    I note that the summer of ’76 also saw a return to the top five of Somerset lad Mr Acker Bilk with his heartrending “Aria.”

  26. 26
    Erithian on 6 May 2008 #

    Indeed Punctum – and other songs that bring back that summer include Starland Vocal Band’s guilt-free pleasure “Afternoon Delight” and Jimmy James’ “Now Is The Time”.

    Meanwhile the Wurzels found diminishing returns with “I Am A Cider Drinker” (spoofing “Paloma Blanca”) and “Farmer Bill’s Cowman” (“Kaiser Bill’s Batman”). Eventually the dual cash-in on another 70s obsession that was the singles “I Hate JR” and “I Shot JR” proved that the joke had worn off. But I’d still spend a drunken night in their company.

  27. 27
    Erithian on 6 May 2008 #

    Oh, and Number 2 Watch – Macca still had to wait for a post-Fabs UK number one as “Silly Love Songs” was held off by the Wurzels.

  28. 28
    vinylscot on 6 May 2008 #

    It was a pretty terrible time for novelty number ones, wasn’t it. Maybe it’s a regional thing, but I didn’t really find this all that amusing, after hearing it once or twice. The idea of what they had done was rather more amusing than the end product. (Perhaps Melanie was being clairvoyant when she released her 1971 songle “What Have They Done To My Song, Ma”)

    DJ Punctum, talking about “Aria” were you aware of the earlier Italian language vocal version by Dario Baldan Bembo – it was played a lot on 208, but never quite made it. It was pretty powerful, and sounded like it could have crossed over, like Drupi’s “Vado Via”.

  29. 29
    mike on 6 May 2008 #

    No Adge Cutler, no credibility!

    The Wurzels-plus-Adge had been a familiar fixture on the telly prior to Adge’s passing, and so it was a surprise to see them back, Adge-less, and more successful than ever. Melanie’s “Brand New Key” was a relatively cool and funny choice, and it was a shame that they lurched downwards in terms of later source material.

    Has anyone heard the double-sided single that The Wurzels recorded with British Sea Power a couple of years ago, in which each covered a song by the other?

    (At around the same time, BSP were also collaborating with the avant-krautrock act Faust, and so there’s a pleasingly perverse path to follow there, even if it does come across as a little too self-consciously perverse on BSP’s part.)

    On her first major tour of the UK, Macy Gray performed a cover of “Brand New Key”, to baffled winces all round. Someone really should have put her in the picture beforehand…

  30. 30
    DJ Punctum on 6 May 2008 #

    Yeah, my mum’s got the Dario Baldan Bembo 45 which I think with more BBC airplay could easily have been as successful as a certain European number one that’s shortly due to come up.

    The Acker one I remember specifically because I was doing Grade IV clarinet at the time and I had to learn the tune (in two different fingerings aargh)!

  31. 31

    i think a faust-wurzels collab might have stopped time itself — it wd have been like “the enigma of kaspar hauser”

    (actually the einsturzende-showaddywaddy thing was a bit of a damp squid tho wan’t it)

  32. 32
    DJ Punctum on 6 May 2008 #

    Well yes because all that happened was that both bands came on and did their own thing in separate sets rather than working together as would surely have been the selling point of the exercise.

  33. 33
    rosie on 6 May 2008 #

    There is, of course, a world of difference between “I don’t find this song at all funny” (perfectly acceptable) and “this song isn’t funny in any way” (demonstrably untrue because it makes me smile even if others are immune.)

    Something else amusing me it at the moment is the sound of those who charge Yes/ELP/Genesis with disappearing up their own arses, muffled by their own tightening sphincters. Naturally, anybody is welcome to disagree with me but if what I say really pains them, perhaps they’d like to go off to one of the many boards where nobody will disagree with them! :)

    Melanie’s original, by the way, features one of the great mondegreens: “I don’t go to bed but I go pretty far”

  34. 34
    DJ Punctum on 6 May 2008 #

    What you have to realise is that disappearing up one’s own arse presupposes having an interesting arse.

  35. 35
    mike on 6 May 2008 #

    The Acker one I remember specifically because I was doing Grade IV clarinet at the time and I had to learn the tune.

    TOO. SPOOKY.

    (“Just think, Mike: keep practising, and you could end up like that Acker Bilk from the Pop Charts!”)

  36. 36
    mike on 6 May 2008 #

    (Also, a warm round of applause for the exchange at #33 and #34 above. That’s class, that is!)

  37. 37
    Billy Smart on 6 May 2008 #

    By popular request! (See 12) here’s light entertainment watch. I imagine that this is only a representational list, rather than a complete one. The first show sadly did not survive, but all the others did;

    GEORGE HAMILTON IV AND OTHER FOLK: Featuring Friday Brown, King’s Singers, The Wurzels (1973)

    THE BASIL BRUSH SHOW: Featuring John Inman, The Wurzels (1978)

    THE BIG TOP VARIETY SHOW: Featuring Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Wurzels, The Krankies (1980)

    RONNIE CORBETT’S SATURDAY SPECIAL: Featuring The Wurzels, Hinge & Bracket, Tony Monopoly (1977)

    SEASIDE SPECIAL: Featuring Terry Wogan, The Wurzels, Stuart Gillies (1978)

    SEASIDE SPECIAL: Featuring Peter Powell, Petula Clark, The Wurzels (1979)

  38. 38
    mike on 6 May 2008 #

    Adge & The Wurzels were also regulars on an afternoon telly show, whose name escapes me…

    *googles*

    The Great Western Musical Thunderbox.

  39. 39
    DJ Punctum on 6 May 2008 #

    Peter Powell, oh the shame (“classic Wurzellie tracks”)…

  40. 40
    David Belbin on 6 May 2008 #

    I was a big fan of Melanie’s first few albums but I wasn’t keen on the original of this, even aged fourteen, so the parody didn’t offend me, nor amuse me. It’s sad that the original novelty song is most people’s memory of Melanie as ‘Candles In the Rain’ is a cracking album. I shared Mike’s Macy Gray experience, during which at least two of our party left and went for a drink (I suspect it was Mike and I who stayed in our seats out of some perverse ‘it can only get better’ instinct). Anyway, I’m only emerging from my usual lurkerdom because it so happens that I’m going to see Melanie for the first time next Monday, in a tiny 250 seater theatre in Leicester. If she plays ‘Brand New Key’ and mentions it being a number one for the Wurzels, I shall report back here, but I rather doubt that either thing will happen.

  41. 41
    rosie on 6 May 2008 #

    I’m quite fond of Alexander Beetle myself.

    I note that CD reissues of Candles in the Rain have Alexander Beetle at track 6 instead of Close To It All as on my cherished old vinyl LP with the cheap red wine stains. It doesn’t fit, somehow. I wonder what happened?

  42. 42
    David Belbin on 6 May 2008 #

    So they do, Rosie. Most odd. I note that the 60th birthday 2cd edition gives you ‘Close To It All’ (one of my favourites) and a whole other out takes LP (‘Leftover Wine’) plus loads of bonus tracks, some of which I recall favourably, all for a fiver on Amazon. If the cover weren’t so horrible, I’d be tempted.

  43. 43
    David Belbin on 6 May 2008 #

    Ah, I’ve solved the mystery. ‘Close To It All’ first appeared on her first album ‘Born To Be’ and ‘Alexander Beetle’ is on the US version of ‘Candles In The Wind’. So it’s us Brits who have the skewed (but improved) version of her third album.

  44. 44
    mike on 6 May 2008 #

    I shared Mike’s Macy Gray experience, during which at least two of our party left and went for a drink (I suspect it was Mike and I who stayed in our seats out of some perverse ‘it can only get better’ instinct).

    I remember this clearly. I was one of the two who tried to go for a drink (during yet another “pad out a 45 minute debut album into a 90 minute show by inserting a shitty guitar jam” moment)… only to find that they’d shut the bloody bar!

  45. 45
    Waldo on 7 May 2008 #

    One risible “comedy” record follows another to the top of the hit parade. I could only put it down to the drought, which had started to take hold by now. This was to be a summer without parallel (ditto the winter of 1962-63 when Waldo was but a sweet sleeping babe). 1976 was bonkers and people were keeling over and dying. At Wimbledon (the first of Borg’s five) not one second of play was lost to rain breaks, the only time in history, I think, and I was on a school field trip to Arundel, Sussex. The farmer, whose property we visited as part of this, was almost suicidal. Ironically, his name was Snow.

    At Westminster, Premiere Callaghan introduced a “Drought Minister” in the genial form of Denis Howell, whose brief at that time was Sport. It was one of modern history’s truly great political appointments, as no soon as it was made than it started raining cats and dogs and just wouldn’t stop. Howell was sacked and then it did. No wonder they called Callaghan “Sunny Jim”, the slippery old bastard.

    Meanwhile back on the farm, the Wurzels came along and corrupted Melanie big style. Why they chose “Brand New Key”, I can’t possible imagine but the result was something which most of us could surely have done without. It always reminded me of an inferior imitation of a “Two Ronnies” sketch than a crap end-of-the-pier act striking lucky. Appalling.

  46. 46
    rosie on 7 May 2008 #

    As I’ve already pointed out, Waldo, the drought hadn’t taken hold by this time; the Saturday of the Lord’s Test was lost to rain. Pay attention at the back there!

  47. 47
    Waldo on 7 May 2008 #

    A mute point, I think, Rosie, although to be fair to you, the “Drought” as we know it probably began around Wimbledon time (Last week of June/first week of July), as you are probably suggesting. In any case, Saturday at the Lords Test lost to rain notwithstanding, I can assure you that in some parts of the country even May was dammed hot, let alone flaming June when we were infested by Wurzels.

  48. 48

    sukratic designer-perversity alert: i remember the 62-63 winter better* than the extremities of this summer — probably bcz i lived in the country, in a fairly lush rural area (probably also bcz for most of my teens and some years after i lived very much deep in my own head: i wz a very dreamy kid)

    *meaning i remember explicit winter-related events — the fountains on the campus in welwyn garden city being frozen and my mum’s dad helping me build a little duck out of snow — than ANY drought-related activity, which somehow just didn’t impact on me!

  49. 49
    rosie on 7 May 2008 #

    The winter of 62-63 – on the Wirral for me – meant sitting in the school hall for dinner time after dinner time for weeks on end because the playground was too icy. And the school milk in dinky little bottles arriving frozen, with the aluminium tops pushed out by ice. The bottles were thawed on the radiators and you had to drink it at morning break. I can feel the nausea wash over me even as I write. One of the two good things Maggie Thatcher ever did was abolishing the school milk! (The other was handbagging Iain Macleod when he was all set to strangle the infant Open University.)

    But this discussion surely belongs to the wall-to-wall Cliff/Shads/Shads-spinoffs of early ’63 – is it any wonder a film called Summer Holiday was such a success at the time?

  50. 50
    Waldo on 7 May 2008 #

    Didn’t Macleod not keel over within days of becoming Chancellor under Ted? If so, Maggie’s handbagging must have been extremely swift out of the blocks having been made Education Secretary in that first Cabinet.

  51. 51
    Billy Smart on 7 May 2008 #

    MacLeod lasted six weeks as Chancellor, so it would probably have been Anthony Barber, who served for the remainder of the Heath administration.

  52. 52
    Waldo on 7 May 2008 #

    It was indeed, Billy.

  53. 53
    rosie on 7 May 2008 #

    I refer my honourable friends to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_University

    The election of the new Conservative government of Edward Heath in 1970 led to budget cuts under Chancellor of the Exchequer Iain Macleod (who had earlier called the idea of an Open University “blithering nonsense”).

    Macleod was Chancellor long enough to introduce an incoming government’s budget, which almost led to the complete axing of the OU.

    It’s all part of OU lore. I am, proudly, BA(Hons)(Open)

  54. 54
    DJ Punctum on 7 May 2008 #

    ooer

  55. 55
    Waldo on 7 May 2008 #

    Wey-Hey-Hey, Rosie, girl!!!!!

  56. 56
    Waldo on 7 May 2008 #

    Actually, Rosie, that OU link is good reading. Amazed that Macleod squeezed in a budget so soon after the election. It appears that instead of Macleod axing the OU, he found himself being axed by an even higher school of learning himself. Silly Billy! (oh no wait, that was the Labour idiot).

    I’m thus asuming that Maggie (being in favour of the OU) then rounded on Macleod and stiffed him…

    Hmmmmmm…..

  57. 57
    Erithian on 7 May 2008 #

    Waldo (#47) – re when the drought took hold, you maybe missed my earlier post at #20 noting that the heatwave started towards the end of the Wurzels’ run. It lasted into the next number one, which must be a contender for the highest average temperature during any run at number one (any other ideas? – maybe some one-week wonder in 2003?) We can reminisce about heatwaves and the drought in the next few Popular entries as well, cos they’ll definitely bring it all back.

    Anyway, for weather info on the summer of ’76 in more detail than is probably healthy, see http://www.netweather.tv/forum/index.php?showtopic=29546 .

    BTW Waldo, good luck Eastbourne Borough in the playoff final v Hampton & Richmond tomorrow night!

  58. 58
    Waldo on 7 May 2008 #

    Thank you, Erithian. I appreciate that. Big, big night. What wonderful fixtures await us next season if they can do it.

  59. 59
    Tom on 7 May 2008 #

    Where does ’76 rank these days in the hottest summers record?

  60. 60
    Kat but logged out innit on 7 May 2008 #

    Good ‘ole wikipedia:

    Hottest June: 1846
    Hottest July: 2006
    Hottest August: 1995
    Hottest overall summer (June-Aug): 1976.

  61. 61
    DJ Punctum on 7 May 2008 #

    This is what happens when you stop the rain from falling if they ask you to.

  62. 62
    Tom on 7 May 2008 #

    Alright alright, I’ll see what I can do :)

  63. 63
    rosie on 7 May 2008 #

    But don’t start it raining yet. I’ve only just got my sandals and summer skirts out in the last two days!

  64. 64
    DJ Punctum on 7 May 2008 #

    Snow expected next Monday!

  65. 65
    Tom on 7 May 2008 #

    No, he only got to #2.

  66. 66
    Matthew H on 7 May 2008 #

    65 posts to get to the punchline. Is that a record?

    No, a record is a black vinyl disc wi…

  67. 67
    Waldo on 8 May 2008 #

    Tom – I’d do anything for you, your wish is my command.

  68. 68
    DJ Punctum on 8 May 2008 #

    Words cannot express how much regular Popular updates mean to me!

  69. 69
    Waldo on 8 May 2008 #

    Yeah, Marcello, but maybe given time you’ll have a change of heart.

  70. 70
    Waldo on 8 May 2008 #

    If it takes forever, Tom, will we be prepared to wait?

  71. 71
    Drucius on 8 May 2008 #

    “Hottest overall summer (June-Aug): 1976.”

    Ah me…playing tennis in Baxter Park with Sally Ann, burning up on Monifieth beach…happy days.

  72. 72
    Erithian on 8 May 2008 #

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

    I’ve got some of those type of memories, but they belong further on in the summer. The Wurzel weeks were more a case of sitting in a school classroom trying to cool down, or watching the Windies rack up several hundred mainly due to Viv Richards.

  73. 73
    DJ Punctum on 8 May 2008 #

    For a second I misread that as “burning up on Kelly Monteith.”

    He was a very popular funnyman in 1976 also.

  74. 74
    Waldo on 8 May 2008 #

    I know what Erithian means. As a Surrey CCC member (well, a junior member back then), I was present at the Oval Test, when the words of one Tony Greg came back to bite him seriously on his Springbok botty:

    “These West Indians are great cricketers, but when they’re down, they grovel. And I intend to make them grovel!” Cue Mr Greg crawling across the Oval turf…

    How sad the Windies are so wretched these days. Those Clive Lloyd-led sides were simply magnificent.

  75. 75
    Erithian on 8 May 2008 #

    Waldo – yes, we always yearned to beat them when they were at their peak, but it’s a lot less satisfying now they’re in their current state. And some commentators were saying last year you can’t even put it down to the influence of American sports.

    A favourite piece of commentary from Richie Benaud on Richards batting in a one-day game: “(Excitedly) It’s in the air … (long pause) … it’s still in the air … it’s six!”

  76. 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.

  77. 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.

  78. 78
    Mark G on 8 May 2008 #

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

  79. 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!)

  80. 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.

  81. 81
    forum cat on 8 May 2008 #

    Heineken spot:

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

  82. 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!

  83. 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.

  84. 84
    Erithian on 9 May 2008 #

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

  85. 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…

  86. 86
    Alan on 2 Jun 2008 #

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

  87. 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 […]

  88. 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.

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

    :) well done rosie!

  90. 90
    punctum on 7 Feb 2012 #

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

  91. 91
    Jimmy the Swede on 11 Feb 2012 #

    Nice going, Rosie! Acres of land await.

  92. 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.

  93. 93
    lonepilgrim on 13 Nov 2019 #

    i was taking my o levels in June 76 and can remember sweltering in the school hall. thankfully it meant I did not have much time to encounter this song with its self-satisfied assumption of shared bonhomie.

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