“I honestly just think we do have people in this country now who’re just a bit fucking humourless, and they just don’t know when you’re joking. ‘Is he joking, this comedian? This comedian joking up on the comedy stage at this comedy festival? Do you think he’s fucking joking?’ They’re joking, you stupid fucking cunt! Can’t take everything seriously! If we’d taken everything my gran said seriously, she’d still be alive today!” – Frankie Boyle.
OK. Having said that (well transcribed it from a DVD; Boyle said it, not me), here’s a serious question for you: what’s 30 feet long and stinks of piss, with sores and scabs all over it, is rude and wrinkled, and its veins are blue?
It’s the Thursday morning pension queue.
Of course. If that ancient joke (sure pensions probably get sent straight into bank accounts now, or stolen by Tories somewhere) appeals to your sense of humour, you’d probably enjoy the muckraking musical madness of The Macc Lads (1981-1995). Once reviled and banned up and down the British Isles, the self-styled ‘rudest, crudest, lewdest, drunkest band in Christendom’ (probably never knew about GG Allin’s various bands at the same time across the Atlantic) played 500 gigs in the UK and mainland Europe, spreading scum and filth and shit and bodily fluids and beer and hilarity wherever they went.
For a while, the juvenile-cum-philosophical band were extremely notorious, in the UK at least (though they were heard of in mainland Europe too – got banned in America and weren’t allowed in), for their sometimes-ambiguous sexism, racism, scatology, homophobia, violent ways, making a lot of the right people laugh, and pissing the right people off. They pissed on the first nascent wave of political correctness, and were as welcome with the right-on, pissed-off 80s student types as a wet fart in a spacesuit.
You may have heard of them. You may well not have. After all, they disbanded over two decades ago after putting out a mere five mad Maxonian (Macclesfield resident) mocking-macho studio albums. I am writing this for the (un)fortunates who are unaware of the spunkstained punk and metal legend of the band, who were/are one of the greatest po-and-straight-faced satires and mysteries in musical and entertainment history. They remain an enigma to this day, despite occasional lowbrow yellow journalism venues like The Guardian putting out tired ‘exposes’ of the band as (oh no, please don’t ruin it!) a massive joke and (meat) pie in the face of the audience.
The band formed in 1981 in the northern English middle class hideyhole of Macclesfield in Cheshire. They had a few incarnations over the next 24 years, but the one man(iac) who remained constant in them all was Tristan ‘Muttley McLad’ O’Neill (hereafter ‘Muttley,’ cos it’s quicker and fucking easier to write by two seconds than ‘O’Neill’), the singer and lyricist and bass player, filth merchant and sleazy wordslinger without jeering-and-leering peer.He was educated at The King’s School (not sure about the rest of the band, but there were a fair few members over the course of their career anyway), a public school founded in the 16th century whose choir won the BBC Songs of Praise Choir of the Year in 2003. The Macc Lads won no such plaudits; they would probably more have been regarded as a Choir of the Beer, if anything.
The first Macc Lads track was recorded in December 1981, the Day Tripper-riff-nicking Boddies. It wasn’t done seriously, rather as a joking offshoot of another band the nascent Lads were in at the time called Little Devils (a name that in itself tells you something). A tape of this band was sent round various British venues to try and scrounge up a gig, but the only interest the band got was from Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, asking about Boddies, and was that from a real band?
The band replied hell yes, and went off down to London to play a gig at the club. Asked how many songs they had, they replied one, and were told they – obviously – needed to have more than that. Retiring to the dressing room, they wrote the song Twenty Pints, went out, played each song twice, and were finished. All in all, a suitably (in)auspicious anarchaotic debut, as I am sure you would agree.
Now. What I find interesting about both these songs is that they are both basically one slackjawed Macc man talking to another, berating him for his supposed lack of manliness and failing ale-swilling abilities. Muttley said of Twenty Pints that he had just lifted things he had heard said in a pub conversation and stuck them into lyrics. The first verse seems a bit too stylised to just be totally random rhyming couplets, but the whole idea of this song, and its idiosyncratic execution, highlight what is absolutely best about what I regard to be the brilliance of Mutt’s nuts lyrics, namely his peerless transcription of colloquial northern English into song. The man has an incredible ear for slanguage and a real way with words, and that runs right through the band, like letters through a stick of Blackpool rock (and roll) from start to finish.
The superb theme running through each album (although somewhat faltering and intermittent by the last) is that the songs burst out from a background wall of sound, clinking-glass drinking punters muttering and singing and laughing and talking right shite. The albums are meant to basically have been recorded in a Macclesfield pub, and the songs reflect this northern English background; they’re blue jokes and songs and rhymes and conversations that people would bounce off each other on a weekend night, pissed and proud and loud, placing them in a very specific societal and artistic context. This is something that gets overlooked in any conversation about the band: these mad cunts were Really Fucking Talented, both lyrically and musically.
In December 1985, The Macc Lads released their first studio album, the not-eponymously-titled Beer & Sex & Chips n Gravy, and the shite hit the fan. Actually, confusingly, it was their second full-length album. Their first, a 1983 cassette-only release, Eh Up! Macc Lads, had to be burned because of copyright problems with the unflattering Monkees riff ripped off in the titular song, making Beer & Sex the first to reach the market. The band had been on an Enterprise Allowance Scheme, which granted wannabe-musicians an extra tenner on top of their giros. They recorded the album with this financial assistance, and when the ever-liberal Tories heard the expletives-drenched swillborn offspring of their scheme, they withdrew the grant.
The resultant furore spilled messily all over the piss-stained pages of tabloids up and down the British Isles, which is how I personally heard about them. You couldn’t buy better publicity than that. The usual. But what did they object to? Well, pretty much everything about the record, really. As the title suggests, the album is chock full of songs about drinking, fucking, eating, and basically getting up to whatever mischief there is to get up to in a small conservative English town.
As already mentioned, it’s satire; the album, and all subsequent (and indeed previous demo) releases, were done from the perspective of working class, trog-IQ, beer-drinking, skirt-chasing, homosexual-beating Little Englander neanderthals, complete with laser-pinpoint-accurate dialect and dialogue and jokes and gobservations. With nary a song about working during their entire career, the Macc Lads were archetypal wasters and wankers, near-the-knuckle-shuffle pisstakers and troublemakers.
I have to say, I will be grateful forever to Scottish shitrag Daily Record (a sentence I have never used before, and never will again, as I despise the Glaswegian yellow journalism redtop bogroll) for bringing the band to my attention in my mid-teens, the perfect age for it. I truly do regard BASACNG as one of the best albums ever made, never mind one of the best comedy and punk productions. It’s one of the very rare albums I have always owned in some form over the 30+ years since it was released, one of my absolute faves, and I used to love driving round Chicago playing it when I lived there. The album is pretty much flawless to me. Then again, given the fact that nearly all the songs on it had been floating around in some form or other on demos for the four previous years(!), it’s hardly surprising they are tighter than a nun’s nunchakus; plenty of time to practice and make them pervertedly perfect, after all.
I am sure you have personal fave albums like that yourself, something that symbolises maybe a certain moment in your youth, but that somehow never really gets old, and when you put it on it just wipes the flyblown decades away and sounds as fresh (and in this case disgusting and sleazy and crass and class) as the day you first heard it. I can’t say it changed my life or anything, but I did (and do) enjoy the talent and naughty-schoolboy-flecked humour involved, got the joke, and have loved it ever since.
Plus I love the excellent fucking guitars and powerful drumming, courtesy of The Beater (guitar, real name Geoffrey Conning) and Stez Styx (Steve Hatton).
There is truly not one bum note or bad song on this album.
Needless to say, not everyone, including the government, felt the same way. The band got banned (they said) from nearly every venue up and down England, and took to playing their gigs from the back of a lorry. I am laughing here as I write this. Talk about free speech! Can you imagine a band doing that these days? They wouldn’t have the fucking nerve. Most of the band’s young, boorish, beerish, bootboy audience didn’t entirely get the joke, to be honest, and they brought the testosterone-crazed worst out in their crowds. I saw them in 1987 in Edinburgh, with my younger brother Tony, standing down the front. Muttley took a Grolsch bottle to the forehead during Lads From Macc. Visibly dazed, he staggered back with beer-and-concussion-glazed eyes, shook his head, collected himself, then went back into the percussion breech, screaming “WE ARE THE LADS FROM MACC!” and continuing to play his bass, blood pissing down his face.
Nobody threw anything after that.
That happening today would result in a stopped gig, lawsuits, etc. A different time, and it definitely showed what the band were made of. They gave as good as they got, and, scummily, encouraged their audiences to spit on them and throw things at them, never seeming worried, despite Muttley’s encyclopedic knowledge of diseases on the albums, to consider the maladies they could potentially have suffered (and maybe did, for all I know) being gobbed on night after night by drunk, deranged, violent audiences. And having a bag of hot sick thrown at them. And beer. And piss. And a toilet seat. And bottles. Basically anything that came to fucking hand and mouth and cock.
You could almost have called the cash-from-chaos entertainment (cos the band clearly used The Sex Pistols as their controversy-copying template, complete with scummy Malcolm McLaren-like manager Slimy Git, played by Muttley himself) performance art, and they always hid behind their characters’ limited vocabularies and worldviews, but you would probably have gotten the shit kicked out of you if you had called them performance artists, unless it was piss artists you were talking about.
Performance anxiety artists or not, it was art, and it was entertainment, and it was funny, and it was all an act. Probably quite lucrative too, and made some money at the time. It had to have – they were that rare thing in the 80s, an indie band (they mostly released their own records on Hectic House records, HH being their wee shop in Macc where I met a slightly shy-seeming and bemulleted Muttley in August 1988, on a trip down there from Scotland with my uncle Gary) with a shitload of videos for every new release, and the pro look of the videos meant that there was money coming from somewhere.
They would release a video with songs from new albums, and silly scatological skits in between the songs, Muttley grinning and gurning away like a Macc Phil Cool (look him up ya lazy bastirt, I’m not doing all the work), a born entertainer, creating an insular shitcom world revolving around the same characters on each album – the follicle-challenged Al O’Peesha, the vile fuck-anything-and-everything-animal-or-human paedophilic Uncle Knobby, Slimy Git, Ben Nevis and Barrel the roadies (obese equipment-humpers were a constant source of amusement and material to the band), the band themselves (Muttley being born in Scumsville, Macc, and had his first sexual encounter at 10; The Beater was the dark-skinned “Paki” fanny merchant, and Stez Styx was a violent lunatic who liked beating up homosexuals), and on and on, like a sort of wacked-out Coronation Street for sociopaths and alkies and sex addicts and pantie sniffers and child violinists.
One archetypal female character does recur over and over, a grossly obese, sexually voracious, diseased, disgusting town bike. She recurs through the songs under different names: Sweaty Betty, Mary Queen of Pox, Fellatio Nell, Helen of Fowey, Baggy Anne, Pietaster (a play on the shit-poet-mocking word ‘poetaster,’ and a woman who doesn’t even get a ‘real’ name in the song), but she’s really just the same person. Who knows if she existed. Her most infamous incarnation is on the song Charlotte (her name coming from a piece of graffiti the band noticed in a promo photo of themselves: ‘Charlotte is the biggest slag in Macc’) who “smelled of rotting fishheads, and old and crispy sick.”
In a 1986 audio interview online, Muttley, appearing under his real name briefly (saying he is the band’s manager, obviously before he invented Slimy Git), says that he wrote Charlotte as a love song dedicated to a woman he went out with, then when he handed it over to the band they turned it into a pile of sick sonic sleaze. So who knows. Every town has a Charlotte, though, in some form or another; in Falkirk, my home town round the time of the band, our fearsome-sex-rep libertine fucked half the town before coming out as gay. Genuinely nice woman too, just a bit confused. Seems quite happy today, too, so good luck to her.
I think I took to that album (and the band in general) because it was probably the first album I heard as a teen where I could totally relate to it, speaking like the average working class person spoke, and it sounded (except for the accent) like myself and the people I hung about with: the crap-telly popcult references (“We ended up at her place/And I waded through the johnnies/She put another notch in her bedstead/WHILE I WATCHED THE TWO RONNIES!”) and just generally the smalltown fuck-this-all ambience and atmosphere. When you live in a town where they really isn’t that much to do but get drunk (“We drive around insulting every bugger in sight”) and shout and fight and fuck and eat fast food…it’s totally the same everywhere in Britain (still is), and Falkirk was (and is) no different, in many ways, than Macclesfield.
The bleary-eyed drunkenness, the threats of trouble constantly in the electric air, the lightning-strike violence, the casual kebab shop past-midnight racism, the deadeyed chestbeater misogyny, the stupid disgusto-shit done for a dareya, the cock-length contests, the urinal-set dickswinger heroes, the zitfaced boyracer dipshits, the bring your own battle football casual scum, the high-heel-staggering sweaty disco Betties, the greasy shoe-staining post-pub sausage rolls and pies sold out the back window of the bakery off the High Street, the humour, the horror, the unworking class at war with itself and everybody and everything else…from John o’ Groats to Land’s End, it’s the same smalltown primordial sea of piss and shit and come and beer and hatred and stupidity everywhere, to greater or lesser grating degrees.
You know (well, you don’t, but I’m going to tell you), I have sometimes idly wondered where Muttley’s writing talent came from, and who his writing influences were (are?). I would maybe say punk poets like Ian Dury and John Cooper Clarke with stuff like, where he puts it in Village Idiot, the same song about pensioners I started this article with: “Hobbling, wobbling, doddering, slobbering, stammering, staggering fools. Dunces, dullards, demented dimwits, imbeciles, buffoons. Shuffling halfwits interbred, simpletons with misshaped heads, rotting fossils, decomposing, ninnies with no teeth. Wronglybuilts, grinning, gurning, incontinents and freaks!” Laughing here. High end of low art, that: misanthropic, brilliant, and, above all, totally fucking hilarious.
In the song Ben Nevis, Smuttley also humourously paraphrases the laugh-a-minute poem Dulce et Decorum Est by WWI lighthearted limerick writer Wilfred Owen, which gives us a clue that there is more behind the grime-and-slime façade than he is given discredit for. Then again, shit, his whole lyrical output (too shy to use the word ‘oeuvre’) demolishes any pretence at being an oik; he’s far too clever to be as stupid as the braindead people he is ostensibly meant to be skewering. Mentions of stuff like Macc bard ‘William Shakesbeer’ (‘known for agitating his ale into frothy effervescence’) toss us off a clue or two, as does his expert and hilarious refashioning of local Macclesfield lore into a pun-laden alternate history (early violent Maxonians are known as ‘Beatermaccs’) of the place on the band’s website.
A 2004 story in the Macclesfield Express, occasioned by Muttley (whose age hilariously changes from story to story on him) finding the long-lost print of local film So Well Remembered, notes that the singer has been ‘delving into local history amid recovering from his heady punk rock days.’ Lines like ‘If you take a look in the history book’ (not a very Macc Lad thing to do) in the excellent and hilarious song Frogbashing backs up this scholarly description of the man. It’s totally fitting that he has ended up as a wilder part of the town’s wider history, because he clearly loves the place, helping to rediscover its local culture with the film, and lives there to this day.
Which is what makes this whole fucking thing so enigmatic and interesting. I mean, who the fuck was this man (well, who is he, really, cos he’s still alive) how the fuck did he learn how to write so well, and what the fuck is he doing now? The official site has nearly 50,000 words about the band, incorporating lyrics, alternate history, and extremely detailed stories (cos Muttley is a storyteller as well as smalltown-personality word-portrait painter) about the band’s stars and its drunken, scummy wallbumping constellation of hangers on and friends and enemas. Constructing an insular alternate universe like that doesn’t just happen by accident. Muttley kept the band going for 14 years, which meant it was fulfilling some urgent creative urge in him, something he needed to exorcise and exercise, and then…nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Rien. Nowt. Bugger all.
He does not have the sort of writing mentality that just goes away quickly and quietly. Is he sitting on a pile of mad lyrics and gobservations and scum sketches and jokes and verbal skewerings…right now? I mean, you have to admit it’s the absolute height of English eccentricity to come out of nowhere into the entertainment industry, musically shake friends and fans and foes and various sundry fuckers into spunkpunk-spilling frothy effervescence…and then just go fucking off into absolute zero-communication silence for the rest of your life. Never fucking mind wondering and pondering who wrote Shakespeare’s (which always sounded like a masturbation technique to me) work…what has Tristan O’Neill shat and spat out in the last two-odd decades? The world needs to know!
Or maybe it’s better not to. Might turn…bastarding nasty. As usual. The moron things change indeed. Laughing here.
Muttley is clearly somebody with a total love of words; his rhymes, pararhymes, wordplays, puns, occasional pun crocks, and jokes betray this in every single Macc Lads song. The cunning linguist (okay, I had to get it out of the way, let’s move on) explains the meaning of every single oblique northern term he uses in the songs (stuff like ‘grummidge,’ ‘clump,’ ‘sustinate,’ ‘groat,’ ‘tench,’ ‘stoppy back,’ ‘ferret,’ ‘Vauxhall Viva’) on the band’s site, and this is clearly the work of a man who cares deeply about his legacy and words.
He hilariously examines various northern phrases from Newcastle in Geordie Girl (obvious play on Georgy Girl by The Seekers) like ‘clarty’ and ‘netty’ (Clarty Netty would have been a good Macc Lads song name!) and such. It’s funny to look at this stuff from Scotland, looking at everybody below the border as being (as Muttley would jokingly put it) “southern poofs,” (people from London are, to me, from the Deep South), and to nodding indulgently at the humourous insults towards Scotland (why would I take offence at cheesy stereotype-using jokes?) in a few of the songs. Pity your compressing ‘Macc Lad’ to ‘McLad’ makes your name sound…Scottish, eh, Muttley?
Nae luck, big man!
There is an interesting moment on a 1982 demo version of Lads From Macc (which sounds funny, as it’s before Muttley refined his patented fags-n-booze gutter-mutter vocals). Muttley sings “Arthur Mullard? He’s a fucking snob!” instead of, on the 1985 BASACNG version, naming workshy-class Coronation Street character Stanley Ogden. Arthur Mullard was, of course, a working class London singer and comedian telly star known for his up-the-apples-and-pears, dahn-ta-erf style, with his songs and comedy being about Macc Lads staples like booze and birds and beatings and bovva, guvnah. His song’s rhyming couplets remind me very much of those of the Macclesfield hard bastard bard, and you can easily imagine Mullard being an influence on his younger northern counterpart.
Actually, you know what? That’s a total load of shite. I am laughing out loud here. I just made that up (although there genuinely are two different versions of the song) for a laugh to take the piss out of overly analytical writing like this. Muttley himself mocked this level of excrement excavation in the aforementioned 1986 Youtube audio interview. You’d have to be a total bloody delusional zoomer to extrapolate something as fundamental as influence from a fleeting mention of a telly comedian on an obscure (still laughing) version of a song that practically nobody has ever heard.
Mutt’s schtick is much more likely to be headspinfluenced by the likes of the hilarious Bernard Manning and not-so-hilarious Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown round his geographical area, and by blue comedians in general up and down the British Isles in working men’s clubs from the time. Fuck man, depending on how wanky you want to get, you could argue that bawdy poems and literature go back as far as Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, and Willie Shakesbeer in the 16th/17th, and probably other cunts I can’t be bothered researching cos I don’t give a fuck about English literature and poetry. Or literature and poetry from any other country, to be honest.
Bet I’m right about Arfur Mullard, though.
Bet Muttley was deeply influenced by The Two Ronnies, too.
(You didn’t expect me to write totally seriously about this subject, did you?)
After this classic start, the Lads strolled confidently along their sleazy path for another nine years, putting out another four studio albums (not counting their 1988 effort Live at Leeds (The Who?), because it’s, well, a live album): Bitter, Fit Crack(1987), From Beer to Eternity (1989), Beer Necessities (1990), and Alehouse Rock (1994) before disbanding in 1995 (though they reformed for a single private gig in 1997). The excellently-titled albums showcased songs covering a multitude of subjects pertinent to everywhere in Britain; as well as the aforementioned beer and sex and chips and gravy stuff, they covered foreign and domestic holidays; football; being bald; toilet problems; sexually transmitted diseases; drinking hours; cheating girlfriends; dead animals; dumping your partner; animal testing; zoo visits; problems finding the clitoris; xenophobia; hen nights; deranged smalltown vigilantes…and other such stuff and nonsense. Basically whatever madness was glinting behind the lyricist’s manic eyes at the time.
The band’s once-punk direction became, for some reason, more ‘evvy metal as the years rolled on, but they also did songs inspired by sounds as diverse as The Mersey Sound, country and western, glam, Phil Spector, and a few other unclassifiable sonic odd sods. But, suffice to say, by the time Alehouse Rock, the band was a shadow of its former obnoxious self, going on about what dogs think (Rockweilers is done from a canine POV!), or womens’ piles. The last album is a strange anomalous one in their career, in that it pretty much rejects the former camaraderie of the band being beery blokes out and about together for bitter solitary philosophical musings on Muttley’s (real-life?) divorce and random thoughts on stuff like Stevie Wonder’s supposed arsewiping habits (no getting away from toilet humour) and sneering at pensioners. That’s not to say there aren’t some great songs on there, and it’s an album I genuinely really like for its weirdness, but it’s just different from the others, is all. Still, you never know what’s true or not, though if you give a man a mask he is far more likely to reveal himself. And what this revealed about the band was that it was about time to call last orders and close the bar chords.
And this, much to the dismay of hardcore fans, and relief of venue owners and pious, pompous, right-on students, is exactly what happened. This remains unchanged to this day.
You know, for their faults (if viewed from one humourless angle they’re faults, that is), the band were never without a sense of humour about themselves. In a few songs, women and minorities got their own back on the inbrednecks who made their lives a misery. In Dan’s Round us ‘Andbags, Macc women in Marbella get to get laid by men who aren’t too drunk to service them, like their pissed partners back home. In Manfred Macc, Muttley gets his genitals assaulted for his ungentlemanly verbal abuse of a woman: “Dead fit, nice arse, and she knew her martial arts,” he moans and groans ruefully. The female protagonist in Two Stroke Eddie mocks her Macc man’s premature ejaculation tendencies.
In Gordon’s Revenge, the titular Chinese fast food takeaway owner (Gordon’s is a real place still open today in the town) gets his revenge on those who drunkenly give him grief in hilarious and vile fashion, even if Muttley is using a comedy ‘Chinese’ accent to do so: “Call me “Slanty” – very, very nasty/I fart on chips and piss on pasty/”Chinky cunt”? Ha! Very very funny/Jumbo sausage, chips and curry?/Gordon smiles and takes the money/’Extra gravy? (my arse is runny).’ That definitely proves the old, wise adage that you should never piss off somebody who is making you food in public. So you see, it’s not all sexism and racism, only about 97% so. It all balances out in the end, really.
You know, I truly do think you have to be a total bloody idiot to take all this stuff seriously; it’s like tilting at windmills when there’s no windmill there to even tilt at. It’s so over-the-top, and trying so hard to be offensive and shocking, that it’s impossible to take seriously. The whole thing is a cartoon strip from start to finish: I mean, you are talking about a band with a singer named (for some reason) after a fucking dog that sniggers with attitude in the 60s children’s cartoon Wacky Races, for fuck’s sake! The band were represented in the main alternative comic from that era, Viz, and in porn mags (Gary swears that he and I were featured in one after our Macc visit, but I’ve never seen it), by a comic strip, drawn by somebody n-n-n-amed Stammer, with them as cartoon thugs!
They were sometimes supported onstage by a scat-pong-song-crooner named Eddie Shit (dressed like a circus strongman onstage; real name Howard Minns, also the band’s sometime drummer and backing vocalist), and some other mad cunt named Mr Methane. This arsecrackpot, subject of a Macc Lads song, was supposedly able to heal maladies with farts, and would fart into a mike onstage to do so, like a psychotic faith healer-guff-peeler. How the fuck can you take any of this seriously? It’s scat-skits from the scatology back(side) catalogue, bawdy rowdy vaudeville, burlesque, and representation is not reality…so…COME FUCKING ON!!!! GET A FUCKING GRIP!!!!
You know, in retrospect, I must admit it’s not all levity and guffaws and heehaws. I know somebody who was resident in Macclesfield at the time the band were causing their chaos and he told me they weren’t very popular with the locals. They were regarded by some as being nice middle class boys with company director daddies they were rebelling against, sneering at the local working classes. I can see how this would be the case, to be honest.
If you feel like this (and I don’t, though I was never at the epicentre of it all) and it makes you feel better, think about the fact that they had to impersonate somebody they looked down on to be noticed, and there’s a fundamental irony there. Plus they probably wanted to be like the people they were lampooning a wee bit anyway, but had to be ‘ironic’ about it. They still haven’t let on to this day that they were middle class, for some reason. Or indeed that the whole thing was a joke: to this day they still vehemently deny this, and say they were for real. Beats me what it’s about.
But ultimately, there’s no point in getting all handwringy and preachy and moralistic about a band that hasn’t even put out an album in nearly a quarter of a century. The music and videos are the legacy they have left up for discussion, and always will be. But why dredge up all this musical madness and lyrical lechery now? Why not just let the good musical ship Venus drift slowly to the bottom of the sea of cult entertainment history and lie slowly disintegrating and being forgotten about in the ever-deepening smothering and covering silt until not a trace remains of the shipwreck of their hilarious disgraceful conduct? I can see that point of view too.
The Macc Lads have reformed. Sort of. This year they came back in a new incarnation called FILF. And yes, you can easily guess what that means. They have Muttley on bass, The Beater on lead guitar, Chorley the Hord on drums, Stez Styx on rhythm guitar, and long-term band friend and amiable graphics designer Chris ‘Bammy’ Bamford on vocals. Bammy was the singer in a punk band called The Scum (perfect punk band name!) in the late 70s in Macc with The Beater and Stez, so it’s basically back to that earlier band’s line-up in some ways.
A couple of Scum songs got noodled about with and became Macc Lads songs a few years down the line, so it’s back to ground zero all round. A punk covers band, FILF do a fair amount of gigs that make money for charity. So it’s almost like image rehab for the old band, in a way, like that wanker Prince Harry (congrats on yer upcoming Brexit-distraction wedding, fine sir!) being sent to some cushy no-danger-zone post in Afghanistan for five minutes to atone for past drunken Nazi-uniform-wearing playboy scumbag sins.
So the energy around the band has definitely changed. They even do a couple of Macc Lads songs too, and the crowd respond well to them. Why wouldn’t they? The songs are great, and beloved of a cult hardcore audience. I saw them last September on the 17th, the day before my birthday, when I drove from Falkirk down to Stockport (a 474-odd mile round trip) to The Spinning Top, where they played and, as a last song, dedicated Blackpool to me (the photo here is from that gig), making my year, and giving me one of the best times I have had in many a drunken wallbanger moon. Watching Muttley and The Beater bouncing riffs off each other and grinning widely and wildly, still clearly having a ball playing music, was great, and it does make you wish (no disrespect intended, Bammy! You know the score! Laughing here) that they would do the occasional Macc Lads gig just for nostalgia’s sake.
However there is, of course, one major obstruction to this.
And you know what it is, don’t you?
That’s right, it’s the modern political correctness-gone-fascistic atmosphere in the western world.
An album like Beer & Sex & Chips n Gravy would have to be called Craft Ale & Rape Culture Intercourse & Fries n Vegan Gluten-Free Sauce now, to cater to PC diktats from Sheltered Student Moron Central, and to reflect how speech and thought on this side of the Atlantic is being tragically changed and destroyed by the inescapable juggernaut of American mass electronic culture (the American sense of humour is no laughing matter; they take everything literally) and entitled-feeling middle class braindead ‘ideas.’ If the band were just starting out now, they’d be torn apart in online petitions and gig protests and self-righteous teen angst blogs and such shite, as a million mollycoddled spoiled bratty fartslappers and fudgegubbers wept online publicly about how ‘traumatised’ and ‘raped’ (insulting real rape victims) they felt by these sonic ‘microaggressions’ from ‘privileged’ ‘white cisgender’ males.
Which is why they should start playing occasionally as The Macc Lads again.
Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke, after all.
Ah, the hell with it. Whatever happens, we have the work to look back on. They really don’t make psyches like Muttley’s anymore, and it takes a certain kind of mind to write some of the more deranged and questionable lyrics the band had. A 2016 short documentary by Joe Conning, The Beater’s son, Coffee Sex and Johnny Bags Come Free, called the band “disturbed genius,” so you can make of that what you want. Personally, I think there’s only really two songs they did that are nearly unjustifiable: Feed Your Face (a Live Aid rip that pissed off that messiah complex clown Bob Geldof, which is fair enough) and Gone Fishin’.
The former is just about justifiable as a mocking take on hardcore racist Ukip Little Englander types, whilst the latter has some of the strangest and most disturbing lyrics I have ever read (which you can read here), especially coming from a supposed comedy band. Must have been a messy divorce. I’m not going to get into conjecture about what made the man’s feverish brain work that way (I have no idea, though I think the religion-bashing lyrics to the unreleased Verse LXIX might give us a clue)( click here to read). Hell, at least he never made a career out of singing about beating, raping and murdering women, like the wee sexually confused misogynist Eminem did.
But ultimately it’s pointless to think about that sort of stuff. The man came, told some jokes, pulled some faces, sang some songs, got covered in gob, and fucked off into the quiet dark of zero-spotlight night. I have no idea what the hell he or the band have been doing for the last 20-odd years. Would be interesting to know. I only recently learned that round 20 years ago there was going to be a Macc Lads stage play (don’t know the name), and that Maxine Peake (of Dinnerladies and Shameless) had actually been cast as a barmaid. As I understand it, some of the unreleased song lyrics on the band’s site (Ticket to Die, Musselman, Moaning Lisa) are meant to be from the aborted production.
That boggles the mind, adding yet another layer to the mystery. Just what the hell is all this stuff? But perhaps we’ll never know, and this sort of thing will remain hidden away from the light like Mutt’s prized print of So Well Remembered, until somebody digs it up, dusts it off, and sets it loose on an unsuspecting, spluttering, choking, disbelieving, nervously laughing public.You never know what might enter stage left. An exciting and frightening thought at the same time. But the one truly vexing and deeply disturbing question about the band may well never be answered:
What the hell was up with all the kazoos on some of the songs?
Special huge thanks to Fraser Philip, who rescued this article from a PC that decided to shut down on me after 4300 words. Yer a lifesaver, good sir.