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May 11

VIC REEVES AND THE WONDER STUFF – “Dizzy”

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#669, 9th November 1991

Student idol Vic Reeves teams up with student favourites The Wonder Stuff for a student disco friendly cover of “Dizzy” which – going to University a year later – I unsurprisingly became utterly sick of. It was inescapable, or at least if you didn’t get “Dizzy” it was only because you’d been treated to the wretched “Size Of A Cow” instead.

Listening to it now it’s better than I remember: certainly at least as good as Tommy Roe’s oddly polite original. On one of Vic Reeves’ sketches he and Bob Mortimer imagined the home life of Slade, and Reeves’ bellowing good humour here has more than a bit of the Noddy Holders about it – he is clearly having a monster of a time, jumping into each “DI-ZEE!” like a kid in a puddle. He also quite upstages the full-time pop singer he’s replacing – Miles Hunt gets a few rotten backing vocals near the end (“Like a whiiiirlpool….”) and almost sours the entire thing. His band clodhop their way through an arrangement not built for subtlety – just as well, since the Stuffies have none to offer. It was a brutish, ruthless kind of single, meant for red-faced hollering and floors slicked with cider and black, and it filled that role all too well.

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Comments

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  1. 76

    “Stand the test of repetition” is actually more accurate, if I want to state my own — certainly never very popular- theory correctly: I don’t mean if you read something in Chaucer and burst out laughing, that it isn’t funny; I mean that the things you hear over and over, as being classics, are the things that actually aren’t.

  2. 77
    Mark G on 16 May 2011 #

    Yeah, I’d go along with that:

    “What’s on the end of your stick, Vic?” – a ha ah ha we’re all saying the same thing at the same time!!

  3. 78
    Conrad on 16 May 2011 #

    Les and his fear of chives, and his liking of spirit levels. Well, I found it entertaining, I liked the pens in his lab coat pocket. The setting – the suits, the studio, the live audience, the catchphrases, to me evoked light entertainment. Unedgy and surreal both.

    And cruel to poor man with stick’s kids….

  4. 79

    Obviously repetition is pretty central to humour, but it scales counter-intuitively: ritual catchphrases are very often genuinely funny, though timing of deployment is also central. And they’re also a shorthand — sometimes very quickly — for the “idea of funny” in the hands/mouths of people without any sense of timing.

    And once they stop being funny, once the ritual fails, I’m not sure the effectiveness can ever grow back. Uvavu!

  5. 80
    Conrad on 16 May 2011 #

    79, Is it me or has the phrase “counter-intuitive” suddenly become uber-ubiquitous?

    Anyway, it sounds fine you using it p*nk s lord. It’s all these media types trying to sound dead intelligent that concern me.

    Trying to get a handle on your theory here, what are your favourite don’t stand the test of time/repetition comedies?

  6. 81

    Oo good question! I will have think a bit about it.

  7. 82
    Alan on 16 May 2011 #

    i don’t agree that the R&H(D) revival was ill advised. fantasy was an unusual genre for telly at the time, and its mix of comedy and drama has since become the norm but it didn’t sit well with many. (i enjoyed it obv). it gave early work to people who went on to work on new who, and (at a stretch) may even have been instrumental in opening commissioning editors minds to reviving Who too. it was a great thing to want to revive too – the original had only run to 1 series.

  8. 83
    Mark G on 16 May 2011 #

    Mike Pratt, the not-dead partner Randall, (ironically, etc), Didn’t know he wrote or co-wrote a bunch of Tommy Steele’s hits (Little White Bull, AHandful of Songs), and was the brother of Guy Pratt, of Pink Floyd…

  9. 84
    AndyPandy on 16 May 2011 #

    I never realised there was only 1 series of the original R&H(D)made – it was such a part of Sunday afternoons along with ‘the Big Match’ and ‘the Flaxton Boys’ between the ages of about 4 and 7 that there seemed to be loads of them – having said that 27 is a pretty long series!Great late 60s harpsichord theme tune too.

    PS Guy Pratt the Pink Floyd/Orb/Madonna/Roxy Music etc session musician is Mike Pratt’s son not brother.

  10. 85
    Alan on 16 May 2011 #

    yeah more eps than the 2 series remake for sure. great theme tune – i’m sure broadcast would agree ;-)

  11. 86
    23 Daves on 18 May 2011 #

    I’m not going to dispute the fact that R&M were tapping into old school northern comedy in the slightest. I have a couple of comedy 78s I played to a friend of mine recently, and he insisted that I was winding him up and they were parodies because they “seemed too surreal”. I think there’s this modern assumption that all the comics and variety acts of the first half of the twentieth century were straight gag-merchants, but in fact repetition of unusual catchphrases and bizarre off-the-cuff comments were common.

    On the other hand, I don’t think this retro slant to R&M – mixed as it was with knowing references to the likes of Morrissey, Leonard Cohen and Terrance Conran “the Habitat man” – made them bad at their roles. A lot of art revives and adapts redundant or forgotten techniques, equipping them again for the modern age, and mixed in with that material were some parodies and caricatures so extreme as to be almost frightening (the Masterchef sketch being a case in point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=towd9vZWDJg)

    Paul McCartney is apparently a fan of the duo, which if you consider their northern humour and “randomness” and The Beatles’ own attempts isn’t really terribly surprising. But I honestly believe that besides the obvious LOLrandom “Caramac under a rabbit” references, there was some real invention going on as well – there are usually tons of ideas going on in the “car lunchbreak” sketches, for example, which are neatly understated. But they remain a comedy duo that you either love or hate – and I’ve never known anyone to change their minds about their output no matter how many arguments are made in their favour. I do get a bit sick of “Shooting Stars” being brought up as the prime example of their schtick when it’s the real red herring of their career, though.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ4ZVsRSQQA

    http://youtu.be/Csrx6cKslNc

  12. 87
    Kit on 23 May 2011 #

    Did Hunt not “go grunge”?

    He did! In partnership with: The Third Drummer From The Clash; The Guy From The Senseless Things Who Went On To Be M. Organ And Play In Delakota/The Streets/Gorillaz/Muse; and Billy Duffy From The Cult, the latter of whom jumped ship very early on. Meanwhile, the rest of the Wonder Stuff recruited The Bloke With No Willy from Eat as their lead singer in weknowwhereyoulive, a name that took longer to say than their career lasted.

    Here in Oz, I had no idea Vic Reeves was a comedian and thought Vic Reeves and the Wonder Stuff was an actual band. I wondered why this was their only song. It took me years to realise the truth.

    Counterpointedly, as an Oz schoolboy The Wonder Stuff were one of my favourite bands, and I thus found it frustrating that I couldn’t explore the oeuvre of this bloke they were allowing to front their hit single! Certainly their records were amply stocked in both indie and suburban mainstream record shops, whereas to this day I’ve only seen the Reeves album once, as a sold-on promo.

    Garry might correct me, but I believe that Reeves and Mortimer weren’t seen on Oz TV in any manner, means, shape or form till about five or six years ago when three or four episodes of “Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased)” appeared on a weekday afternoon slot, then vanished forever.

    Late 2003, IIRC. And by this point it’s probable that Charlie Higson’s involvement was what got it an airing, as The Fast Show had enjoyed several runs on SBS, and maybe even migrated to commercial for a spell?

    That said, I think some of the late-90s R&M stuff, eg Bang Bang, might have run on pay telly.

    So, like one or two others here, one was able to assess it without any baggage attached (I don’t think a lot of Stuff was played either). It was OK.

    The Stuff definitely had a decent profile here, though I couldn’t speak to how much their records were played outside of Sydney-based radio. But JJJ – by this stage networked interstate – played them plenty, including a bought-in concert on Live At The Wireless and then recording another on their 1991 tour – which played to improbable numbers by today’s standards: they arrived in the country with something like five shows around Sydney, went around and played the rest of the country, and added another three in Sydney before leaving, including an all-ages at a 2500-capacity theatre. As noted above, their records were released here and widely available, and the final album even had an exclusive-to-Australia cover and bonus disc.

    it’s certainly the case that (like most of the chapter 22/grebo bands) a lot of their records were produced by an actual woman, which still seems to be a very, very rare thing.

    Pat Collier, who produced the Wonder Stuff records, is a bloke (as is Mick Glossop who did the third album).

    [PWEI’s were variously self-produced, done by John Rivers (who seems to have been something of a Chap22 house producer?), or in most cases handled by (Warp Records founder, fact fans!) Rob Gordon, expanding on his work with the Age Of Chance (whose sleeve designers the Poppies nicked when they dropped their producer). Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s second Chap22 single was produced by “Jessica,” though, and I’m not familiar with the rest of the roster.)

    the two live an opulent life as gentleman farmers in Kent

    Love the possible inference here that they share a farmhouse, ambling out together daily to plow pound notes into a field! Doesn’t Mortimer have crippling arthritis, though? Imagine that would impede his farming activities.

    This was possibly the second-worst Wonder Stuff single ever, and discovering Hunt’s rhyming slanginess in recent years makes me uninterested in listening to the old records again. But they really were joyfully teenage-friendly at the time.

  13. 88
    pink champale on 23 May 2011 #

    jessica corcoran is who i was thinking of. from a quick google it looks like she engineered rather than produced 8LGM (not that i have any real idea of the difference between engineering and producing) but did produce most of the early neds stuff plus various records by senseless things, mega city four etc. but possibly this isn’t directly relevant to what miles said to shampoo.

  14. 89
    Kit on 23 May 2011 #

    she engineered 8LGM

    ah, good spot. my WS records have been stashed away for too long to know where they are, let alone be able to look up anything, but I’m ashamed of my young self for not remembering hard enough to carry that through to the present day, especially with the Neds cross-reference

  15. 90
    Wheedly on 23 May 2011 #

    Re: #88 – engineers place microphones, align tape machines, and so on. Essentially they take care of all the nuts and bolts of sound transduction, and are responsible to the producer. In certain cases (esp. further down the music industry ladder) the engineer may assume the role of producer, which may or may not be to the artist’s liking. At the unsigned level, the band is hiring the engineer directly and he/she would be overstepping their bounds if they started producing the session without prior agreement with the band.
    Producers (hired at the behest of labels, paid for out of the artist’s own advance money) focus more on performance and end result than actual sound engineering. In a nutshell, their job is to make the most commercially viable record they can. They do such things as pick the studio to work in, decide what sort of instruments and sounds will be employed, whether to half the length of the bridge going into the first chorus, and so on.
    A producer is kind of like a film director, with an engineer being somewhat more analogous to a camera operator.
    Some producers like to engineer their own recordings. Some are reliant on technically minded people to do that for them, depending on whether their background is in engineering (someone like Ken Scott), arranging (eg, George Martin) or performing.

  16. 91
    Wheedly on 23 May 2011 #

    As an addendum, that explanation applies primarily to rock and pop.
    In certain styles and musical cultures (hip hop, say, or reggae) a producer would signify someone less of an executive and more of a creative, programming beats and basslines and so on. Particularly in Jamaican music, the lines between artist, producer and mix engineer can seem very blurred to those not familiar with the culture and has lead to some interesting lawsuits (the Scientist vs Greensleeves records case, for example).
    It’s not really my field, I’m afraid, so perhaps someone else could elaborate for us.

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