Saturday 27 October 2012

Ian Hunter and The Rant Band at the Concorde 2, Brighton

Ian Hunter in concert, with Steve Holley on drums (barely visible)
Steve Holley a bit more visible
The final number, All the Young Dudes (with Otis Gibbs, far right, who opened for Ian, joining in)
Back stage with Steve Holley
Steve Holley with Mariah June 
Friday 26 Oct 2012: I went to see my old chum Steve Holley at the Concorde 2 in Brighton. Steve is the drummer of The Rant Band, currently on tour with rock legend Ian Hunter. It was great to see him again; we go back a long way! What a great show it was. Ian is now 73 years old - can you believe it? But he can still really deliver!

I saw Steve and Ian in Brighton in 2010 and here's a short video clip I took of All the Way from Memphis from that gig:

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Brian Gowen's Memorial Service, Cranleigh School

Brian Gowen, 1935 - 2012
Saturday 22 September 2012: Well Mr Gowen, or "Brog" as we called him (Housemaster of East House when I attended Cranleigh School, 1973-78), certainly took us all by surprise by kicking the bucket before his time. I didn't expect, when I saw him at Andrew Roberts' talk in London a few years ago, that it would be the very last time.

What a popular man he was! There must have been two hundred people at his memorial service including former Headmaster, Marc Van Hasselt. I found the memorial service in the chapel very moving, the school choir was amazing and I learned a lot about the man who played a major role in my life for 5 years (from age 13 to 18). Mr Gowen was a Biology teacher and Biology was my favourite subject, so I used to enjoy picking his brains for more information about whatever made me curious both in and out of class. In fact I used to regularly get into trouble in class for asking too many questions (as my school reports prove).

Far from the service being a somber affair, the tributes by Dick Moore, Julia Barnes and Will Fawcett were really funny! They even made reference to a "biology practical video" he once caught some boys watching, and to the dew drop that seemed to always be on the end of Mr Gowen's nose! Surprisingly, no one mentioned his inability to pronounce the "TH" sound or the letter "R"- two things never missing from our schoolday impersonations of him!

From Will Fawcett's tribute, I also learned about something very interesting which happened in 1979, the year after I left, when Monty Python's "Life of Brian" (funnily enough) was released. Mr Gowen was a committed Christian and that movie was widely considered to be blasphemous, so he banned anyone in East House (or maybe even the whole school!) from watching it. Since I am such a big Python fan, it's a jolly good thing I left in 1978, because his ban might very well have created some friction between us if I had still been there!

At the canapé reception that followed the memorial service, it was wonderful to see Mrs Gowen (Rowena) again, and to properly meet Brian and Rowena's now grown up children, Hamish and Alison for the first time.

My one big regret of the day... I forgot to wear my old school East House tie! Let's face it, there aren't many occasions in life where you would want to wear your old school tie. In fact this occasion might have been the only one, but it didn't occur to me until I arrived and saw other Old Cranleighans wearing theirs! Mr Gowen presented me with mine, because I did well at target shooting in some inter-house competition (of all things!). Oh well, here's the tie I never wore:
My East House tie, awarded to me by Mr Gowen in approx 1977
I was so glad I went along and it was so good to see many familiar faces - both teachers and pupils. Sadly, I was the only Old Cranleighan there from my year! And by the way, if you're thinking that you've never heard of a "John Wood", it's because I changed my name from John Berney after I left Cranleigh.

Here are the photos I took on the day. If there are any faces you recognise that I have not mentioned in the captions, or if I have put the wrong names to faces or if I have spelled any names wrongly, please let me know:

Hello Quo! London Premiere, Odeon Leicester Square

The panel, from left to right: Matt Letley, John Edwards, Andy Bown, Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt and Alan G Parker. The MC (in the way most of the time) was Paul Gambaccini

Monday 22 October 2012: Status Quo were a major part of my school days, and they were the first band I ever saw live (Hammersmith Odeon, 1976). I was SO into Quo! So it was quite an experience for me to not only relive the past when watching Hello Quo!, directed by Alan G Parker, but also to be sitting right in front of the band for the Q and A session after the screening. I happened to be in the front row.

I managed to get a photo with the original drummer, John Coghlan, and the original roadie, tour manager and harmonica player, Bob Young. I also had a chat with Francis Rossi's son. 

Thank you to Margarita Doyle, Hello Quo!'s line producer for telling me about this invitation-only event, and thank you to Justin Weyers (who created the film's animated intro sequence and links) who managed to get me in! Justin happened to see one of my tweets saying that I was hoping to go to the event; he had a spare ticket so he very kindly asked me if I wanted it! So I'd also like to thank Twitter! 

Monday 22 October 2012

UK Premiere of A Liar's Autobiography, Empire Leicester Square

A Liar's Autobiography flyer we were given on entering the cinema

On the back of the flyer, the words to a very rude song, for us all to sing along to 
The two tickets I won in the BFI's "Biggest Monty Python Fan" competition after the one I paid for
16 October 2012: As winner of the British Film Institute's "Biggest Monty Python Fan" competition, I felt I was on official duty to some degree during the proceedings! Many people throughout the night told me they had seen my tweets promoting the film, that they were grateful and that I was famous! 

I had been looking forward to the premiere for such a long time as I somehow knew about this project when it was just an idea. Even though I had a ticket (three actually as you can see above!), I decided to stand behind the railings by the side of the red carpet to watch the celebs arrive and the media circus unfold.

I was chuffed that Bill Jones, one of the three directors of the film (and Terry Jones's son), recognised me (from the Adobe Private Screening of A Liar's Autobiography 2 weeks earlier) while walking down the red carpet and came up to me and said hello!

Then Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland, Neil Innes, Justin McDonald, Ronald Rivron, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Barry Cryer walked the walk and the media circus was well and truly underway. To keep the fans happy, there were several Graham Chapmans wandering around in character, namely, the Colonel who kept saying "Stop that, it's too silly", King Arthur (and Patsy) with coconuts, Mr Throat Wobbler Mangrove, pronounced "Luxury Yacht" (complete with huge polystyrene nose) and Brian who later, inside the cinema, gave us Brian's speech from Life of Brian that includes the line "We're all individuals" to which someone in the audience inevitably, and exactly on cue, shouted, "I'm not!"

I went inside and took my seat and the three directors and three very well known members of the cast introduced the film in a very original way, and did a Q and A session afterwards.


It was so good to see the film a second time. There is so much to take in, it needs at least two viewings. The length of time images and scenes stay in your head from the movie you have just seen is my measure of how good the movie is. Well it's still happening, and I first saw it on 4 October! I say it's a masterpiece and Graham Chapman would have loved it!

When the Q and A session ended with a "Sit on My Face" singalong, we all had fun at the after party. It was such a wonderful unforgettable night! I was on Cloud 9 the whole time!

Sunday 21 October 2012

A Visit to Graham Chapman's Local

To Preserve and Foster the Tradition of British Comedy
Graham Chapman 
"A very naughty boy"
8 January 1941 to 4 October 1989
Comedian and writer
Member of Monty Python's Flying Circus
Drank here often and copiously
The British Comedy Society
6 September 2012
What a stroke of PR genius it was to have The British Comedy Society put up a blue plaque for Graham Chapman to help promote his movie "A Liar's Autobiography" which goes on general release in the UK in January 2013.
"A Liar's Autobiography" flyer
Instead of putting the plaque on the house he lived in (that would have been far too ordinary), it was placed on a wall of his local pub - The Angel Inn, Highgate. After all, during his alcoholic years, he probably spent more time there than at home!

The Angel Inn, Highgate (you can just see the blue plaque to the left of the angel)
Unfortunately, my Monty Python "sources" didn't manage to tell me in advance about the plaque unveiling ceremony attended by Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland and other celebs; I heard about it like everybody else did - on the news. Oh well, that's the way it goes sometimes. 
Soon to be The Chapman Corner
So, on the night of 16th October 2012, just before the UK premiere of "A Liar's Autobiography", (an appropriate night if ever there was one), I decided to go and see The Angel Inn for myself. I tried to visualise him being there in the 70s and 80s, probably doing crazy things and shouting a lot. The Angel's landlord, Ben Martin, told me he regularly got thrown out for being drunk, and would complain at the top of his voice in the street outside! Ben also told me that he will dedicate a corner of the pub to Graham, to be called (unsurprisingly) The Chapman Corner, where he will put some pictures of him. I'll definitely pop back one day for a photo of that! 
Graham Chapman as the Colonel: "Now, nobody likes a good laugh more than I do... except perhaps my wife... and some of her friends... oh, yes, and Captain Johnston. Come to think of it, most people like a good laugh more than I do, but that's beside the point."
News reports of the unveiling: 

Wednesday 17 October 2012

I won BFI's 2012 Biggest Monty Python Fan competition!

We think we've found the biggest Monty Python fan -here is the entry that won them #ll tkts to A Liar's Autobiography: 
I am over the moon about this!!

Saturday 6 October 2012

Why I think I might be the biggest Monty Python fan

This is my entry in the British Film Institute's competition:

Here are 28 reasons why I think I could win this competition:

Monty Python itself                                     
1) I first saw the Flying Circus on a black and white TV in 1969 aged 9. It meant nothing to me, plus I was disappointed there was no circus as promised. My big brothers loved it and I couldn't figure out why. Then in 1973 aged 13, a school friend played me his Python albums and I got completely hooked. Python has been a major part of my life ever since.
2) I recently visited Teddington Lock where the famous fish-slapping dance was filmed.
3) I own all 45 Flying Circus TV shows, all 4 movies, all the Python audio albums, an original copy of the "Big Red Book", the "Papperbok", "Just the Words" (the complete scripts of all 45 TV shows) as well as the scripts of almost all the movies, and I also attended  "Not the Messiah", Monty Python's 40th anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall. 
4) I have seen "Monty Python's Spamalot" 11 times since 2007 and blogged about it each time, and I was part of the Spamalot-hosted world's largest coconut orchestra in Trafalgar Square. I blogged about that too. Last month, I won Harold Pinter Theatre's Spamalot's competition for a free goody bag (because no one else entered)
5) In 2011, I saw Hampstead Theatre's Monty Python legal docu-drama play "No Naughty Bits" twice, the second time being press night which was attended by Terry Gilliam who signed my copy of the script, together with Nancy Lewis-Jones (a central character in the play and wife of Simon Jones who plays an official in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil").
6) In 1979, I transcribed the entire "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" soundtrack album - yes, on a typewriter!! - as a present to the same friend who got me hooked in 1973.
7) In 2009, I carried out some research on a voluntary basis for Bill and Ben Productions when they were putting together the "Almost The Truth" documentary. In return, they gave me a credit in the movie in the 'With Special Thanks' section. Priceless!
8) I run the Pythonesque blog and Twitter account. If you search for "biggest monty python fan" in Google, #1 of the 2.2m results is the BFI announcement of this competition, but at #2 and #3 you will see my blog post entitled, "Are you the biggest Monty Python fan of your country?" predating the BFI article by over two years. So there!

9) Python is such an important and central part of my life which has even shaped the way I see the world, I can't imagine it being possible to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't get Python. It's like being tuned into a very weird wavelength. You're either tuned into it or you're not. My ex most certainly was not. No surprise we split then. She considered Python to be infantile drivel! So in finding a new life partner, my top priority is to find someone who at least gets it. This is paramount for me, while age and looks do not matter (that is a blatant lie!) I am hoping that, out there somewhere, is a gorgeous 30-something, Python-quoting single lady. If this BFI competition helps me find her, what a story that will be!

10) I have suggested to Methuen, Python's publishers, on many occasions to bring out a book of the scripts of the albums. In many ways, I find the albums better than the TV shows as they are so polished and contain so many gems. But to this day, many have never even heard of the albums! This is sacrilegious! I'm hoping that the release of the scripts will stimulate a resurgence of interest in the albums. I'm going to keep pushing for this until the book is in print. It's unthinkable to me that this book does not already exist!

11) I was actually considering studying Python for an MA or similar post graduate qualification (but real life intervened). Photo:

12) Future Plans: Preferably not alone, if you know what I mean, I want to visit more Python filming locations such as Doune Castle and the streets where the Gas Men, Silly Walks and Hungarian Phrasebook sketches were filmed. And at this rate I shall, no doubt, want something Python-related played at my funeral... will have to think of something more original than "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" though.

Individual Monty Python members

13) I met Terry Jones and Michael Palin together by chance in 1975 when they were working on Ripping Yarns. While my brother, Steve, was giving me a lift driving through Soho, he stopped at the Nellie Dean Pub to buy some cigarettes. In the pub BY COINCIDENCE were Michael and Terry. I used to collect autographs at the time (I was a teenager, come on!) and the celeb I had just met previously wasn't particularly friendly. So my first words to Terry and Michael were: "Excuse me, are you nice famous people?" Michael's response was to say to Terry, "I'll 'old 'im," whilst grabbing the labels of my coat, "and you 'it 'im." In my autograph book, they wrote "Michael and Terry, Nellie Dean Pub, Mon-Fri 8-8.30pm". I have since met them both again on several occasions, the most recent being the signing of the recently released "Ripping Yarns" DVD.

14) In 1989, I attended the premiere of "Erik the Viking" in Brighton where I managed to say hello to Terry Jones again.  
15) I am a big fan of Eric Idle's 1990 film "Nuns on the Run", so much so that I visited its filming locations in Chiswick, London.
16) I attended the "Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball" for which the billing included John Cleese and Michael Palin. I managed to speak to John when he popped out of the theatre for a break. I asked him what the Neville Shunt sketch meant, and he explained it to me!
17) I managed to catch the Oxford performance of John Cleese's Alimony Tour last year. 

18) Astrophysicists had told Eric Idle that the figure he gives in the lyrics for the width of the Milky Way in "The Galaxy Song" was incorrect, so he changed the figure in future live performances to what they had said was more accurate. Then another astrophysicist discovered that Eric was actually right all along. I noticed that Eric was not aware of it because he was still using his altered figure. I managed to get this message through to Eric via the then administrator of Eric's response was "I wish they'd make up their fucking mind!"

19) I was given permission by the Python office in 1990 to visit the set of Michael Palin's movie, "American Friends". I met with Michael and Charles McKeown and watched a scene being filmed. I also visited the Liberal Club in London where a scene from Michael's movie, The Missionary, was filmed.
20) In May 2011, I attended Terry Gilliam's debut as an opera director. 'Damnation of Faust' by Berlioz was performed at the ENO. On the way to my seat, I bumped into Elton John's percussionist, Ray Cooper, who has appeared in several of Terry's films, including 'Brazil'.

21) When I first saw Terry Gilliam's movie "Brazil" in 1986, it was rather a life-changing experience; an epiphany. I loved it SO much, it became another major part of my life. I have been to most of its filming locations and have met more than half the cast who signed my book "Battle of Brazil". I also - out of the blue - bumped into 6 members of the cast entirely BY COINCIDENCE. e.g. Bryan Pringle came into the restaurant I was in while I was talking about Brazil with my mother; Ian Richardson walked past me in the street in my hometown, and in 1991, I spotted Terry Gilliam at Gatwick Airport and invited him to lunch (as you do). I brought along my Brazil scrapbook and we spent 3 hours discussing the film and my obsession with it. In my book, he wrote: "Thanks for keeping "Brazil" alive! - at least in your mind. It makes me feel it was all worthwhile. Thanks for letting us take over your life, Yours Terry Gilliam. From the hand of the Ministry."

22) Apart from Graham Chapman, Eric Idle was the last Python I had not yet met. I finally caught up with him at the stage door of "Not the Messiah" at the Royal Albert Hall in 2009.

23) I was invited BY COINCIDENCE to Adobe UK's private screening of "A Liar's Autobiography" in October 2012 where I met Bill Jones (Terry's son), one of the 3 directors of the movie, and was photographed with him and Graham Chapman! Not meeting Graham is such a regret for me, but I felt I got pretty close to him that night.

People who have worked with Monty Python
24) I met up with Neil Innes after his show during one of his recent UK tours. 
25) I also met Carol Cleveland at the Royal Albert Hall after "Not the Messiah".

26) Julian Doyle and his daughter Margarita have worked with the Pythons on scores of projects for decades. I got a photo taken with them at the world premiere of Julian's movie, "Chemical Wedding". Julian is probably most well known to Python fans as the policeman who puts his hand over the camera at the very end of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and Margarita was the voice of Central Services in "Brazil": "This has not been a recording."

27) In December 2011, André Jacquemin, Python's sound engineer, was kind enough to invite me (plus friends) to his studio to listen to outtakes from the Python albums as well as see an exclusive preview of the first 9 minutes of "A Liar's Autobiography" which he was doing the sound for at the time.

28) At the premiere of Chemical Wedding, I also met up with Terence Bayler who delivers the famous 'Blessed are the Cheesemakers' line in "Life of Brian": "Well, obviously it's not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products."