The one-hit wonder is common to most fields of endeavour. Charles Darwin came up with the evolution thing, but after that, what?
Tuesday 05 September 1995
This particular film-showing was at the Warner West End, a brand new multiplex equipped with a state-of-the-art sound system in which high- quality speakers are spread all around the auditorium. However, sometimes too good a stereo set-up can be distracting. In this case, such was the complexity of the system that there seemed to be a single speaker somewhere towards the back of the theatre solely dedicated to the voice on the soundtrack of one large frog. Three or four times during the film Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep have scenes on one of the eponymous bridges and each time while the scene was going on there would issue a raucous croaking from a spot at the rear of the cinema. Somewhere between Bonnie Langford and Tania Bryer there seemed to be a giant bullfrog shouting its head off every time the action went outdoors.
After the movie, there was a party at a restaurant. As we got out of the cab, all the paparazzi started shouting, "Can you get your kit off, Alexei? Get your kit off. Can you take your nose off, Alexei? Take your nose off and give it to Sting, Alexei." This made perfect sense, as gratifyingly, they were doing a bit from my TV show, a bit where I play a particularly irksome paparazzo. There can be no more satisfying event for a comedian than when a bit of your work slides out of the television box into real life. (Of course, the people I was supposedly mercilessly satirising were the ones who have adopted the bit most enthusiastically - but that's something you have to live with.)
My major contribution to the outside world has been the title of my 1984 novelty hit single "Ullo John, Gotta New Motor?" There is seldom a magazine or newspaper article even loosely connected with cars or the transport industry in general that doesn't use some variation of that title. Only last week there was a piece in the London Evening Standard about powerful in-car stereos entitled, "Ullo Jon, Gotta New Woofer?" In fact sometimes the articles don't even have anything to do with cars. There was the ad campaign "Ullo Tosh, Gotta New Toshiba?" - remember that one? And the economist and historian JK Galbraith recently wrote a long reflective piece in the Economist entitled "Ullo Slobodan, Gotta New UN-Protected Safe Zone?"
The only other contribution I think I might have made to enriching the cultural and linguistic life of the English-speaking world is the football chant "You fat bastard, you fat bastard, you fat bastard" - I think this chant first appeared around 1988, just after my writers coined the catchphrase "Who's that fat bastard?" in my TV series Alexei Sayle's Stuff. As a gift to the language it doesn't rank with "All that glisters is not gold," or "To err is human, to forgive divine," but I like to think I've done my bit.
"Ullo John, Gotta New Motor?" came out in 1984 and got to number 12 in the NME charts. Although I released several more singles, none of them got into the Top 50, so I suppose that makes me a one-hit wonder. But I am not the only one. Most comedians only ever have their one novelty hit - Billy Connolly, Jasper Carrott, Nigel Planer all had one-offs, and no matter how hard we all tried, we couldn't repeat it. However, the one-hit wonder is common to most fields of human endeavour - Charles Darwin came up with that evolution thing early in his career and it was a big hit, but after that, what? He tried coming up with all kinds of other stuff but in the end was forced to start issuing remixes of his earlier triumph. In quick succession he stated that man was descended from peanuts, that ocelots were descended from Sky News reporters and that the Hardware Department was descended from the Perfume Department via the escalator, which was at least true, but obvious.
In the end he semi-retired, occasionally appearing at Royal Society parties doing his version of "Mule Train" played on a tin tray.
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