Monty Python’s Total Rubbish: The Complete Collection (2014)

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When thinking of the groundbreaking comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus, one automatically recalls their BBC show and their classic films Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and Meaning of Life. (Some may also remember their first film And Now for Something Completely Different.) Newer fans may not be aware that the group also released several comedy albums, mostly featuring sketches already aired on the show.

Collectors can now rejoice: all nine UK albums are now available in a box set entitled Monty Python’s Total Rubbish: The Complete Collection. Stuffed with extras including demos, radio ads, and the rare 1974 flexi-disc Monty Python’s Tiny Black Round Thing, the set will particularly delight avid fans and completists.

The collection consists of the group’s nine UK releases Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1970); Another Monty Python Record (1971); Monty Python’s Previous Record (1972); Monty Python’s Matching Tie and Handkerchief (1973); Monty Python Live at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (1974); Monty Python’s Holy Grail (1975); Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979); Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album (1980); and Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life (1983).

Of particular interest are the early albums, since so many of their classic bits are present: “Nudge Nudge Wink Wink,” “Lumberjack Song,” and the “Dead Parrot Sketch” are all present. However, lesser-known but hysterical skits should not be overlooked. “Are You Embarrassed Easily?” features Michael Palin instructing how to properly react to rude sounds and words, still inspiring laughter. Surrealist bits such as “Cheese Emporium” and, of course, “Spam” translate surprisingly well into the audio-only medium. Although even funnier on the show, “Argument Clinic” still elicits snickers on record alone.

Not to be missed are their hilarious original songs. The nonsensical “Eric the Half A Bee” somehow makes perfect sense, with John Cleese enthusiastically paying tribute to his unusual pet. Eric Idle “nudge nudge, winks winks” his way through “I Bet You They Won’t Play This Song on the Radio,” where the bleeping sounds are just as funny as the naughty lyrics. Speaking of naughty lyrics, “Sit on My Face” demonstrates how Monty Python could straddle the line between offensive and tasteful.

Live albums shed light on how Monty Python interacted with audiences. While today’s crowds recite every line from the now-familiar skits, this was seemingly not the case in 1974. Hearing Cleese break up during “Election Special” is a rare treat, as he generally kept his composure even in the silliest bits. In “Four Yorkshiremen,” Graham Chapman, Idle, Palin, and Terry Jones play old men reminiscing about their supposedly tough upbringings, each trying to outdo the other with tales of hardship. The four resemble jazz veterans trading solos, all improvising yet working together; the same could be said for Monty Python and its six members.

The soundtracks for the films are less effective, as hearing the Meaning of Life scene where Cleese gives schoolboys a hilarious sex education lesson does not have the same impact as in the film. Listeners most likely laugh at the Holy Grail tracks because they vividly recall the visuals. Some TV sketches also suffer, such as the “gumby” skits. Hearing the artfully weird skits without seeing the characters with their ridiculous galoshes, rolled-up pants, and handkerchief-covered heads erases much of the laughs.

All nine albums (plus the seven-inch single recreation of the 1974 flexidisc) may be too overwhelming for casual fans. Longtime enthusiasts, however, will appreciate having all their UK albums in one package. After all, will anyone ever tire of hearing “the Parrot Sketch” or “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”? The deluxe Total Rubbish CD and vinyl box sets include a slipcase designed by Terry Gilliam; a book containing liner notes and a forward by Palin; original Python artwork and photos; and a Total Rubbish poster also designed by Gilliam. Both include the Tiny Black Round Thing single.

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Kit O'Toole
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