Before Howard Stern proclaimed himself the King of All Media, the comedy troupe Monty Python was a serious contender for the title. Starting in television with their groundbreaking and influential comedy show on the BBC, the men also made their mark on film, in books, and on records. In 2006, EMI released the Monty Python albums in their catalog with bonus material. Arista has followed suit and released digitally remastered, expanded editions of Matching Tie and Handkerchief, Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album.
MTH originally came out in 1973 between the third and fourth series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The album contains sketches that previously appeared on the show: “Dead Bishops / Rats” “Bruce’s Sketch,” “Cheese Emporium,” “Mrs. Niggerbaiter,” “Oscar Wilde,” and “Pet Shop.”
Some of the original material includes “Novel Writing,” where a sports broadcaster details Thomas Hardy starting work on The Return of The Native; during “Elephantplasty,” Reginald Crisp discusses the unelective elephant organ transplant of Mr. George Humphries; sir Edmund discusses the number of words, pauses, and the order they come in “Great Actors;” and the album’s most well-known original track, “Bruce’s Song,” an extension of “Bruce’s Sketch,” which finds the Bruces singing about philosophers and their drinking habits.
Unfortunately for the listener, all the comedic genius that went into the creation of this album can’t be appreciated on CD because the advancements in technology nullify the tricks the boys engaged in with the format. In the original pressing of the album, both sides were labeled “Side 2” and the B-side had two grooves pressed into it with different material. You had to lay the needle on each one to hear them. A couple of the tracks also had record skips inserted as if the record was damaged.
The bonus tracks are: “Psychopath”, a Chapman/Cleese sketch about a panhandling psychopath; “TelePrompter Football Results” finds Michael Palin trying to provide sports updates from a very slow machine; “Radio Tuning Radio 4: Announcer Graham Chapman / Radio Time Announcer Terry Jones” has Jones giving a funny rundown of upcoming times; and “Radio Shop” is a very familiar sketch for Python Fans as an angry Chapman tries to get his radio fixed.
Subtitled as The Album of The Soundtrack of The Trailer of The Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this album not only contain clips of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but there are new bits interspersed as the record was recorded live at the 3:10 showing at The Classic Silbury Hill. Sketches from the film include: “King Arthur and ‘The Old Woman,’” “The Witch”, “The Camelot Song”, and “The Castle of Louis de Lombard,” which is interrupted by a bomb scare at The Classic. New material includes coverage of celebrities attending the screening, of the audience’s reaction to the opening visual jokes, and from the gentleman’s room during the B-feature. There are also sketches that move away from the 3:10 showing and use the film as their starting point. For example, John Cleese plays a logician critiquing the arguments laid out in “The Witch” sketch, but it quickly unravels into the revelation that his wife screws the rancid Pakastani milkman, who she relies on for her orgasms because he doesn’t love her anymore.
Make sure you purchase the Executive Version, which has exclusive announcements, is three minutes longer, and contains little or no offensive material, but since they only occur in the opening introduction you will pass them quickly.
Bonus Tracks include “Arthur's Song” and “Run Away Song.” The reasons they were used are understandable. Also, Terry Jones and Michael Palin discuss the making of the film, which I believe is a special feature from the DVD of the film.
Contractual Obligation came out in 1980 and consists mostly of songs by the group. The two most well known from this album are “Sit On My Face,” a tribute to oral sex, and the self-censored “ I Bet You Won’t Play This Song On The Radio,” filled with sound effects throughout.
The cover is rather bland, just a picture of a record in a paper sleeve. At the bottom, Eric writes, “Can T.G. [Terry Gilliam, whose talents are shadowed by the group’s audio endeavors] do a nice eye-catching cover to help it sell?” Jones replies, “Not really worth it.” During the album’s announcement, Idle states the album “has been specially designed to sit at the back of your record collection,” which is most likely true except for the diehard Python fans. While maybe not intentional, those sentiments are accurate because even though there is some amusing material, this album doesn’t rate highly as many of their other endeavors.
Chapman’s “Medical Love Song” was originally followed by “Farewell to John Denver,” which was a short bit that had Idle as John Denver singing “Annie’s Song” before being strangled. Although it has appeared on other releases, this disc contains an apology from Terry Jones in the space. It can be found on the Internet. Another missing track is “End of Side 1 announcement," which appeared on the cassette version.
There are two pre-Python sketches by Cleese. “String,” in which a man is looking to sell 122,000 miles of it, is from The Frost Report, and “Bookshop,” about the frustrations of working retail world as a customer looks for David Coperfield, with one ‘p,’ by Edmund Wells and Rarnaby Budge by Charles Dikkens, the well known Dutch author, is from “At Last the 1948 Show.”
A great find for Python fans is the bonus track “Contractual Obligation - Terry Jones And Graham Chapman Promotional Interview,” 15 minutes of the two in discussion with an interviewer. Also included is Cleese handling “Radio Ad Obligation Promo” and demos of “I'm So Worried” and “Medical Love Song,” which is sung by Idle instead of Chapman. Trivia aficionados can look to Idle’s “Rock Notes” as the origin for the name of the band Toad the Wet Sprocket.
And now, it’s:
A FAREWELL TO JOHN DENVER
Announcer [GC]: And now, the sound of John Denver being strangled.
[The opening chords of "Annie's Song" are heard.]
John [EI]: You came on my pillow.... GAAAAAACCCCHHHHHHH..... koff...
Announcer: Thank you.