Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Vale Rik Mayall

Yet another icon of Gen-X has shuffled off the mortal coil: Rik Mayall, cast member of the satirical, and bordering on psychotic, comedy group The Young Ones.

A lot of my peers were right into his work in The Young Ones and Bottom. I, for one, missed it all, due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time: being too young to stay up late enough to watch them, and not old enough to convince my parents to let me record them and watch them later.

I did, however, get to hear a lot of his contributions to music (if you could call them that).

In 1986, it was very difficult to escape the ubiquity of the charity single issued by Cliff Richard and the Young Ones, a remake of Cliff's 1959 million seller "Living Doll". It took a rather pallid original and pushed it far over the line into the ridiculous. It went to number 1 in both the UK and Australia. This would have pleased Rik's character in the Young Ones, Rick, no end, being a huge Cliff fan himself.

Like most of the great parody or comedy items we all know and love (i.e. The Blues Brothers, Spinal Tap), these characters got their start in smaller, sketch-based shows. The Young Ones grew out of a revue the guys started called The Comic Strip Presents, before making their way into television. One of their many other character sketches that, beginning in the same sketch show and becoming somewhat famous later on, was Bad News. A garishly bad heavy metal band, trying hard to exhibit genuine authenticity by trading in typical metal stereotypes.

In 1987, Bad News got the gig of a lifetime - making a record for EMI with Queen guitarist Brian May as producer. Rik Mayall starred as the hapless bass player Colin Grigson. Colin always tried to be the voice of reason and usually got mecilessly was put back in his box, usually by Adrian Edmonson's egotistical lead singer Vim Fuego.

The Sydney Morning Herald described Rik as "the King of Crude, the Rumplestiltskin of Rude" in a gushing opinion piece this morning. The Bad News excursion is no exception. It is very difficult to find an excerpt from the record that isn't laden with expletives.

There are two moments from the album that can be mentioned on a family program. Firstly is the band's the eponymous song, complete with solo breaks from each member. Note Vim Fuego's lead guitar solo: it sounds alot like two other famous guitarists, don't you think?

And secondly, the Freddie Mercury-endorsed cover of Queen's magnum opus "Bohemian Rhapsody".

We've seen a lot of pop culture greats leave us this year and I'm sad to commemorate the passing today of yet another one. Vale Mr Mayall, you will be missed. Thanks for your good fun.

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