Tiny Black Round Thing

D.P. Gumby presents "Election '74" / The Lumberjack Song
D.P. Gumby presents “Election ’74” / The Lumberjack Song (Charisma Records 7″ flexi, 1974)

Can I just say that this is the first time I’ve been on television?

 

 

Woefully outmoded 7″ formats in the days before girls presents a flimsy, and easily creaseable, lightly bent and smudged tiny black round thing as cover-mounted and given free with the May 1974 issue of the New Musical Express rock music weekly.

I didn’t get mine from on there as I was only thirteen years old at the time and anyway the NME was full of sixteen page dissections of King Crimson and Blodwyn Pig live albums in 10-point type and with NO PICTURES.

On the contrary, I think mine came from a record fair quite some years later, in a much more sensible stiff white card sleeve and with a hole cut in the centre to make the label visible, upon which the seller had quite correctly indicated that the item inside “plays well and is jolly funny”.

Monty Python back

He’s not wrong either.

“Election ’74” is a slightly extended version of the ‘track’ (as we long-hairs called them in those days) from the classic Monty Python Live at Drury Lane album of the same year, backed by The Lumberjack Song from the same record. Prior to this on my featured record Michael Palin does an excellent announcement exclusive to this version that is hilarious and only available here.

Well, no, that’s not strictly true, as if it was only available here nobody would have ever got to hear it as it’s pressed on a flexi-disc, a record similar to a standard 7″ single in look and size, but of a completely different width. In that on a standard 7″ the playing surface won’t crease or fold if you sneeze near it, whereas this version most likely will. And anyway the entire farrago is captured for your listening pleasure on the Tube of You just over there. I’ve just now checked. Go see.

In the meantime I shall wax romantically about the kudos one could achieve back in those acned days of yore by quoting entire reams of Pythonesque garble such as this to one’s ‘troggy’ mates in between school lessons, when warming oneself by the radiator opposite the staff room. Each of us present during those eternal hours also silently wishing for the sweet breath of the female to invade our personal space but – to quote an excellent record of quite some years later – we were getting nowhere fast.

The flexi-disc itself never did catch on, although I do have a fair few of them – eight of them in total kept in one single paper sleeve and still not as thick as a standard 45. My favourite flexi is probably my ‘Synthesized Speech’ one courtesy of Bell Telephone Laboratories, affixed to a square sheet of also flimsy plastic page, and released in the year that I was born, in 1961.

There are three bands on this other record; a band in this instance not meaning Vampire Weekend or suchlike, but actually a section of the playing surface of the record. It got confusing in them days, which is possibly why the band became the track or cut in later usage.

Band 1 on my ‘Synthesized Speech’ record is ‘The computer speaking’. Band 2 (my personal favourite) is called ‘The computer reciting a soliloquy from Hamlet’, and band 3 is ‘The computer singing.’

I’ve just now visited the excellent Discogs website and stone me if this actual obscurity / piece of nonsense plastic is listed on there with many more details and seven pictures! Man, I love the future. But don’t get excited, kids. You can’t buy this baby on there.

It turns out that the computer machine on the record, on band 2, recites the ‘To be or not to be’ speech – later covered by Python in some form or other if I’m not mistaken – and on band 3 sings us a version of the classic A Bicycle Built for Two, in all of its early Kraftwerkian splendour.

This version of the Daisy song occurred seven years earlier than the one performed by the computer HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s excellent 2001 feature film. I wonder if Stan had his own copy of my Synthesized Speech record? I’d really like to know but I’m sorry there isn’t time.

Over to you, Brian, with the results from Leicester.

You never forget it.

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