Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

In 1988 Tony Hawks had got together with two of his mates to perform comedy songs in cabaret, when one of their compositions unexpectedly became a big international hit.

Stutter Rap (No Sleep Til Bedtime) by Morris Minor And The Majors was a parody of the Beastie Boys, and even reached number one over in Oz! You may remember it - its satirical chorus went:

Well no-one's ever seen what I mean,
From the age of n-n-n-n-n-n-thirteen,
We've all been caught in a m-m-mouth trap,
So join with us and do the st, st-st, st, st, st, st, stutter rap.

However a few weeks later, just as instantly as fame and success had been foisted upon them, it was all over. Even their well-observed sequel This Is The Chorus couldn't re-ignite the magic. Well, follow-up comedy records rarely do.

Fast forward to the millennium and 40-year-old Tony, getting belittled at a dinner party for having recently received a PRS royalty statement for 5p, decided that he didn't much like being referred to as a 'one hit wonder', and accepted a bet to somehow score a second top twenty hit, anywhere in the world, within the next two years.

By now, Tony Hawks had become an established comedian, and seized the opportunity to turn his upcoming 24-month odyssey into his latest bestselling travelogue - One Hit Wonderland.

The whole crazy adventure is still in print, but the thing that I found frustrating about reading it five years ago was the absence of any way to listen to the various songs that Tony sweated blood to interest record labels in recording. There used to be a CD of them available from his website, but sadly no more. Dang, if only I had been over at a mate's this weekend and discovered that he owned such a hallowed collector's item which he then said I could borrow.


I don't know if the above short disc - labelled 'promotional copy' - had come from said website, free with an early hardback printing, or had been simply distributed as launch publicity, but this week I've been mightily pleased to finally get a chance to listen to all of Tony's five potential second hits from a decade ago.

And what a wide-ranging collection of styles it is. In isolation from the book, this plays more like a particularly diverse sampler.

Track 1 - You Broke My Heart Like A Bird's Egg - represents Tony's initial attempts to break into country music in Nashville USA. The title says it all really, and demonstrates Tony's refusal to tell us whether or not he's also setting out to sneakily parody each genre.

You broke my heart like a bird's egg but now the yolk's on you,
You never thought when you took off I'd find someone new,
Oh! When you quit the lovenest, well you forgot that I fly too,
You broke my heart like a bird's egg but now the yolk's on you.
Yeah - the yolk's on you!

For the past five years I've known the lyrics to this song, but had to compose my own tune for it in my head. I'm therefore aware that to some extent this catchy official version is probably going to wipe 'my' version from my memory and replace it. Still, it's a fun little melody, so that's all good.

His learning curve in Nashville completed, Tony then travelled to Sudan, where he used a minidisk to record some schoolchildren singing world music (obviously). Later in London he got Jakko and Mark King from Level 42 to give it a bass-line and tart it up into the dance number We Are Happy. Still no hit record deal though.

With attempt #3, Tony wisely returned to his comic roots with the techno Shhh: What Does A Pixie Do?

I'm the only living pixie,
You can check the Pixie News,
You can ring my bell anytime,
You'll find it on my shoes.

For its sheer strangeness, and shamelessly big production, this has got to be my favourite track of the five. It's made all the more bizarre by Tony's story in the book of dressing up as a pixie to hastily shoot the video at an airport just before catching a flight to Holland, and forgetting to bring any normal shoes to change into afterwards. What a shame Holland turned out to be a country where no-one had ever heard of pixies.

After some soft words of gentle encouragement from the then-unknown Simon Cowell ("You're too ugly"), Tony tried Romania where he teamed-up with Paula Seling for the duet When All Is Said And Done.

This is a straight love song, which they even got to perform on daytime TV, but there was still no sign of a record contract, let alone a record, or the actual hallowed hit. With his two year time-limit approaching its deadline, it was time to pull-out all the stops.

Tony's fifth and final attempt was made in Albania - a country whose bootleg culture had resulted in its top ten being calculated not on the basis of sales, but instead on airplay and votes. This streamlined his campaign somewhat.

In three incredible twists, he convinced Sir Tim Rice to pen some lyrics, demoted his own status to that of guest rapper, and decided to bring in a new lead singer to front the whole thing for him. Obviously he needed to find someone less 'ugly' than himself, preferably younger, and who had enough charisma to make the Albanian public swoon before him.

The handsome young sex-symbol who he chose was 87-year-old Norman Wisdom.

Yes, that Norman Wisdom!

It goes without saying that Sir Norman's sad passing last week makes my procurement of this disc now all the more special to me.

This final track - Big In Albania - is a roving fusion of lounge and funk, endowed with the all the enchanting tenderness of an elderly gentleman's distinguished crooning…

On the hillside, in the valleys, in the forests, on the lakes,
All Albania cries out "Norman - hey you got what it takes!"

Tony's entire two-year saga is one of those uplifting triumphs of silliness over seriousness that always do the heart good, and if you want to know whether he eventually won the bet, his book is still widely available. (e.g. from Amazon here)
However as I mentioned earlier, it does suffer a bit from the near-impossibility of finding a copy of its matching CD.

Still, as you know, there are a few places on the internet where you can sometimes track these things down…

(With thanks to Bish)


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