Depending on who you are and where you live, the video above will either be a mind-blowing revelation or just another piece of Old News. For me at least, Bad News was No News At All until I discovered their music and comedy over at Blog The Jerk! recently, and I can't thank Brother Mike enough for exposing me to this somewhat obscure bit of British effluvia. Of course, the IllCon Manchester Chapter (you guys know who you are) have been well aware of Bad News since approximately 1983, but for the rest of us, this pre- (or post-, depending on who you ask) Spinal Tap mock-rock 4-piece has remained elusive of the collective global consciousness for much too long.
So where to start then, eh? Well, Bad News was a creation of the guys who also brought us The Young Ones (right), who I'm sure we all know and love already. Neil (Nigel Planer), Rik (Rik Mayall), and Vyvyan (Adrian "Ade" Edmondson), the core of the BBC's Young Ones team, actually began their television careers much earlier, on Channel 4's The Comic Strip Presents.... This was where Bad News was born.
Although Rob Reiner first explored the universe of Spinal Tap in 1979, This Is Spinal Tap didn't actually go into production until '84, a full year after Bad News had begun their hilarious adventures in the realm of heavy metal godhood. I point this out due to certain, um, "points of contention" between fans of each group, as Bad News and Spinal Tap can both be seen as incarnations of the same concept.
But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. It now occurs to me that I've never really discussed The Young Ones here on IC before -- odd, considering the high regard in which I hold this particular short-lived series. Allow me to gush for a moment: THE YOUNG ONES WERE THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE IDIOT BOX. They were punk as fuck. They were metal. They were hilarious. Can you think of another sitcom in which Motorhead could burst through a living room wall unexpectedly, launching (completely unexplained) into a rendition of "Ace of Spades" while the episode's events unfold as planned? No? Me neither. That is the genius of The Young Ones.
But what was by far my favorite part about this show was Edmondson's Vyvyan, the absolute embodiment of every punk rock ideal I hold sacred. The antithesis of Rik's poetry-and-slogan-shouting armchair "anarchism", Vyvyan was all smash and no words, a tornado of destruction and filth -- ironic that the punkest guy ever was a fictional character on a TV show, right?
Anyhoo, Vyv, earlier in his career, was just as metal (and just as entertaining). I speak, of course, of Bad News frontman Vim Fuego. But again, I'm getting ahead of myself...
fuck yeah Hawkwind.
Right: Did I say Vyvyan was the punkest character in The Young Ones? Oops. I meant to say Vyv's hamster Special Patrol Group was. FUCK YEAH SPECIAL PATROL GROUP.
So yeah, The Young Ones were brilliant. Even Bottom, Mayall and Edmondson's post-Young Ones TV show, was brilliant. Fuck man, even Drop Dead Fred was pretty sweet. But we're here to talk about BAD NEWS today. And BAD NEWS only.
.... after a couple of clips from The Young Ones.
The aforementioned clip:
... And now back to the MEAT of the subject at hand. BAD NEWS.
The band made their first appearance, as I mentioned before, on The Comic Strip in 1983, in a half-hour mock-doc called Bad News Tour. The public was introduced for the first time to Edmondson's egomaniacal Vim Fuego, as well as Mayall's primping bassist Colin Grigson, future hippie Nigel Planer's totally out-of-it guitarist Den Dennis, and Peter Richardson's drug-hungry drummer "Spider" Webb (Richardson was the only one who didn't proceed to work on The Young Ones, being somewhat replaced by Mike and Alexei Sayle's many recurring characters). Bad News' doltish lack of comprehension and common sense were immediately apparent, encapsulated in a set of quotes from Mr. Fuego himself:
"I could play "Stairway To Heaven" on the guitar when I was 14. Jimmy Page didn't write it until he was 28. I think that says a lot."
"I mean, we'd be as rich as the Stones if only we'd sold as many records as them."
Mayall, Edmondson, Planer, and Richardson had struck comedic gold mining the endless depths of heavy metal foolishness and barbarism. And their music wasn't half bad! A carbon copy of Motorhead right down to the rasping vocals, but not half bad...
Right: Bad News T-shirt, located on Amazon.UK. My birthday is May 8th.
Based on the popularity of Bad News Tour, the band (now involved with The Young Ones) was invited to play at the Monsters of Rock Festival in Donington in 1986, turning in a performance that was halfway between a disaster and a revelation. The fiasco was, of course, well-documented in both audio and video, and became the centerpiece of Bad News' hour-long Comic Strip follow-up, More Bad News, which aired in 1988.
But between the Donington performance and the airing of their second mock-doc, Bad News were recording their only proper album, 1987's self-titled affair. The rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" from the beginning of this post is from said album, and ironic too, considering the fact that Brian May himself recorded and produced it. Bad News is a monster of a comedy album, featuring not only a heaping portion of Python-esque skits but several original songs as well, among them the booze anthem "Drink Till I Die", "Hey Hey Bad News", and the metal-as-fuck "Warriors of Genghis Khan". But it's the spoken bits that truly KILL, from Vim, Spider, Colin, and Den arguing about the lyrics on "Bad Dreams" (CLASSIC) to the half-assed sound effects at the beginning of "Excalibur". Honestly, I cannot give a record a higher recommendation. Usually, comedy albums lose their luster after a couple listens, when you already know the jokes and the laughs evaporate. But not so with Bad News. Not so at all.
After a smattering of live performances and the release of their album, Bad News all but disappeared, with Mayall and Edmondson occupied by the previously-mentioned Bottom and the appeal of hair-metal (and hair-metal parody) all but dead. But the internet remembers them, and the Bad News legacy is readily accessible for those who wish to know more. Are you one of those people?
I have included associated links below. Peruse them at your leisure.
THE CLASSIC: BAD NEWS, 1987: DOWNLOAD
BONUS! Live at Donington Monsters of Rock, 1986 (bootleg) HERE
Live at The Hammersmith Odeon, 1987 (bootleg) HERE
BONUS BONUS! For fans of The Young Ones...
NEIL'S HEAVY CONCEPT ALBUM (1984)
Now go forth, and LEARN THE MAGIC OF BAD NEWS.
Watch both mockumentaries, FOR FREE, on YouTube: