I remember back in 1974, when the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was broadcast on the local PBS station WNET in New York. I seem to recall that there had been a bit of publicity before the series aired, and I made sure to not miss it. I was immediately hooked. Shortly afterwards, I started buying their records, which contained some of the sketches from the show. By the time the show had aired in the US, it was no longer on TV in the UK, but there were already three or four albums available.
I remember nearly memorizing some of the sketches, and I especially recall the loony way the albums were presented. There was even one album – Matching Tie and Handkerchief – which had three sides, which was particularly clever. (On side two, there were two concentric grooves, so depending on where you placed the needle of your turntable, you’d get one of two sides of material.)
Over the years, I saw all the movies, then later bought the series on DVD. While not everything stands up very well now, there remains a huge amount of wonderful comedy in the 45 episodes and three feature films that were produced.
As you may have seen, the Monty Python gang (minus the late Graham Chapman) got together recently for a run of shows in London, one of which was broadcast to cinemas, on TV, and which will soon be released on DVD and Blu-Ray. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) It wasn’t a great performance – they’re old, and they didn’t seem to really have the rhythm – but it was enjoyable.
At the same time, they released a set of all their CDs, Monty Python’s Total Rubbish. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) This lavishly produced box set contains all nine CDs, a 10-inch vinyl single, and a hardcover book with notes about each recording and track listings. I got mine yesterday, and started listening to it; it immediately brought back memories of being a teenager, and reveling in this irreverent humor. While much of the material on the records was taken from the TV series, some of it was not, and the records stand on their own; they’re not just compilations, but were programmed to be like individual performances. (These CDs also have a lot of bonus material that wasn’t released on the original LPs.)
While some of this material is dated, much of it stands up as classics, the way we can still watch or listen to Abbott & Costello do “Who’s on First.” Having the recordings on CD -actually, ripped to my iTunes library – allows me to skip over the bits that I don’t really want to hear again, but I’ll be listening to these discs when I need a pick-me-up for quite a while. There’s lots of fun on these nine discs, and if you’re a Monty Python fan, this set is worth getting.