Wednesday, 3 June 2009

268: Fag Rock 3 - The Goodies

The Goodies
“Superstar”, 7 July 1973
Written by Bill Odie and Graeme Garden, with Tim Brooke-Taylor
“I don’t want your love” by Bill Oddie and Michael Gibbs

Barbara Mitchell as "Isabel Chintz"
John Peel as Jimmy Saville, the host of "Top of the Pops"

The Goodie’s comic satire of the contemporary music business. The first half isn’t germane to my purpose. Watch it if you like, I’m not the boss of you, see if I care, but you won’t get credit either way. The basic set-up is that The Goodies decide that popular music is becoming too sexual. The upshot of assorted auditions is that only Bill gets signed to an agent. The agent establishes Bill’s image as a virile famous pop star called “Randy Pandy” (a pun on the children’s character Andy Pandy, and the word randy, meaning horny). Fearing that the British public maybe in danger of getting bored with him, she decides he needs an image change, and that he will play the lead in a new rock musical, “St Augustine Superstar”.

ISABEL: You are gonna star in a new rock musical. And this is it: Saint Augustine - Superstar.
TBT: That sounds rather nice.
ISABEL: Don't you believe it. He's Saint Augustine.
TBT (horrified): Him!
ISABEL: Oh yes yes yes. He's pure, he's good and he's holy, but above all he's unbearably sexy.
TBT: No he's not.
BO: Yes he is!
TBT: Not.
ISABEL: He's got all the girls screaming for him...
BO: Yes! Yes!
ISABEL: So what does he do?
ISABEL: He goes into a monastery.
ISABEL: Yes, along with all the fellas, you see what I mean?
(She nudges Tim suggestively.)
GG: Oh, come off it. Saint Augustine wasn't a.... nancy.
ISABEL: He is in here. To an extent.
TBT: How much of an extent?
ISABEL: A large extent.
BO: Yeah, yeah, but what about me groupies, miss? I don't want...
ISABEL: Oh, don't worry, hun. This way you get everybody going for you. See, the butch fellas like you 'cause you're not after their sheilas, the sheilas like you 'cause they want to convert you, and you even score in the twilight zone.

Starts at 1:55

So in this parody, glam rock isn’t about sexual liberation, it’s only calculatedly marketing sexual ambivalence for commercial reasons. While you can make some sort of argument that there is a degree of social comment in all this about music and sexuality - that the music titillates its audience of young girls under cover of gay insinuations - really, it’s an opportunity to make jokes about behaving camply. Which is the major problem with many of The Goodies’ attempts at satire - their idea of what is funny is too similar to what the audience for an ITV sitcom would also find funny. It doesn’t go against the grain enough, and so as time moved on, The Goodies got left behind. Hell, we’re only watching it for historical reasons. Earlier in the same episode there are jokes about money-grubbing Jewish lawyers with comically large noses. It’s all that sort of level. In the same way, later on, it’s funny to call someone a “Superpoof”, but for somebody to think you’re a poof is deeply annoying, and hence also funny. Camp men showing their attraction is also amusing. Between the three different gays played by Tim, Graeme, and Bill, you get them dressed up in leather, furs, and shiny materials. And the need to put on gruff voices, and prove you’re not really poofs.
You also get a parody of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, the film version of which had come out only a couple of months earlier the same year. It’s more a parody of the “Top of the Pops” than the musical. So here’s Bill in outrageous costume, pouting, pawing with his limp wrist, skipping about on the stage, and then stripping down to his undergarments. The Mincing Monks are neither subtle as a joke nor as a performance (though they are played by The Fred Tomlinson Singers, for Monty Python trivia fans).
Youtube is not the finest medium, and so I can’t tell whether the final joke of Tim and Graeme, still dressed as gay men, being chased off by police and sailors, is because the mob fancies them, or because they want to beat them up in frustration and disgust.
There may be little bits cut out of this. Apparently the Australians censored this quite heavily. Gay jokes were not popular in Australia in the mid-70s. When Dick Emery went on tour, some parts of the Australian media said he was disgusting for playing a homosexual.

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