Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Pursuit of Crappyness

As I said in a previous post, I've spent many happy hours surfing the Museum of Bad Album Covers - Not just for the album covers, but for their radio station full of terrible songs. I can't help it. I have a strange penchant for things that are shite. But I'm sure that I'm not alone in this. Stephen Pile, the unfortunately named author of The Book of Heroic Failures (1980 Futura Books), certainly agreed when he wrote:

'Success is overrated. Everyone craves it despite daily proof that Man's real genius lies in quite the opposite direction. Incompetence is what we are good at: it is the quality that marks us off from animals and we should learn to revere it.'

Pile started a club called The Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain to celebrate cruddiness but was then sacked from the President's post because his book was such a big success.

I am pretty damned sure that most of us watch ice-skating in the desperate hope that someone will suffer an unexpected crotch-crunching splits and careen into the audience. I reckon that most of us who watch Formula 1 and other fast-metal-things-racing-around-a-track-type sports do so in the fervent hope of a big, weltering smash. And, let's face it, your favourite part of programmes like The X Factor and Pop Idol is watching the auditions of all those no-hoper care-in-the-community delusionals who think that they sound like Perry Como when they actually sound more like Peristalsis. We love bad music! How else do you explain the success of the terminally untalented William Hung? When he made his atonal first appearance on American Idol, people loved him. Yet he sings like a duck.

The late and loony Kenny Everett used to run a programme on London's Capital Radio called The World's Worst Wireless Show (Later called The Bottom 30) in which he introduced us to such gems as the bizarre Kinky Boots by Patrick McNee and Honor Blackman, the incomprehensible Paralysed by the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, the delicious I'm going to Spain by Steve Bent, and I want my baby back by Jimmy Cross; the ballad of a man so distraught by the death of his loved one that he digs her up. Everett's show was one of the most listened-to shows of the decade and, to my delight, I recently discovered that you can hear all five of his shows online here at Chronoglide's brilliant site.

I love bad films too. One of my favourite films ever is Plan 9 from Outer Space, cross-dressing maverick director Ed D Wood's almost impossibly bad magnum opus. Tim Burton loves Wood's films so much that he made an Oscar-winning biopic about the man. But even the biggest and best directors can do as badly. Check out Orson Welles' version of Macbeth if you don't believe me. The one with the Red Indian soothsayer and the Atilla the Hun look-alike. Eh? Welles apparently added new characters and dialogue to 'improve' on Shakespeare's original. Yeah, in the same way that evacuating your bowel onto a Baba Ganoush will improve the flavour.

As you may have guessed, I do have a startlingly large collection of shite stuff in my house. Maybe one day I'll get it all up onto the web - if I can sort out the various copyright issues that is. But while you wait for that incompetent treat, I implore you to search YouTube and similar sites for these gems. To start you off, I'll point you in the direction of the very worst pop video of all time - Bobby Conn's Never gonna get ahead. A comedy writer could agonise over their script for weeks and still not come close to producing something this funny. Conn's agonised facial contortions, bad dancing and dodgy wig are a delight, surpassed only by his appalling attempt at miming to the cleaned-up-for-television version of the lyrics (the original song suggests that 'You're never going to get ahead by giving head to the man'). And those incredible backing dancers. Where did they get them?

A crueller man than me might suggest that the audience's lumbering, uncoordinated attempts at syncopation are the result of spending long periods of time on mind-altering drugs. Or electro-convulsive therapy. Something found in an Institution anyway. But not me.

Finally, let's salute the world of fine art. Well, wank art. I ask you to pay a visit to MOBA - The Museum of Bad Art and to drool uncontrollably over the anonymously painted treasures like Lucy in the field with flowers (below), Circus of Despair and Red Figure with Braids.

Celebrate the inept. Salute the incompetent. Enjoy rubbishness because bad is funny (Especially if it makes anything you do look good).

One last note - Stephen Pile may be able to reclaim his tarnished and not-terribly-good crown. I see that The Book of Heroic Failures is available on Amazon.co.uk ... for a penny. Yay!

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