Saturday, 14 June 2014

Track Of The Day: Rik Mayall - 'Noble England' - plus tribute

In the past, my reaction at hearing of the deaths of famous people has always varied in terms of surprise. Even if we've never met them, these people are part of our lives and part of what makes the world the place that it is, so it's always something of a shock for one of them to be suddenly gone. Upon hearing the news of the brilliant Rik Mayall's death on Monday afternoon, I was hoping that it was some sort of mistake or internet hoax. I never met the man, but he has been part of my life for many years. Rik Mayall was my comedy hero.

Being about 9 years old when Bottom originally ran on BBC 2 back in the early 90s, in hindsight it's a bit surprising that my parents allowed me to watch a show featuring such chaotic violence, endless sexual references and filthy language, but thank God they did. Maybe they didn't mind because they themselves also found it very funny. Nowadays it remains the only one of my old favourites that I still find just as hilarious, and the one that I keep coming back to. Individually both Mayall and Adrian Edmondson were huge talents both capable of owning any scene, yet together they became something unique, feeding off each other's insane energy and complimenting each other's characters in a way that no other double act has done before or since. Their spontaneity made the live Bottom shows works of sheer comic genius, while the unfairly panned Guest House Paradiso is a film that makes me laugh more uncontrollably than any other. 

Of course there wasn't just Bottom, but to run through all of his other great creations would involve me writing a lot more words than time currently permits. I genuinely cannot think of anyone funnier than Rik Mayall. The expressive delivery, the unpredictability, and that face which was absolutely perfect for comedy. If you were in the same room as Rik Mayall, you'd know about it. The presence of his personality was massive, and he would easily own any scene he was part of, as perfectly demonstrated by the moment he first burst onto the public's screens in that legendary Blackadder scene. 

Back in 2010, I doubt there were many people who knew about Mayall's very own World Cup single, which achieves that very rare feat of actually being a very good football song. Featuring Rik bellowing out Shakespeare lines during the verse and the chorus providing a truly rousing terrace chant, 'Noble England' has got balls and it's got tremendous spirit. Just what the England team needs during the first week of their 2014 World Cup effort. It's fair to say that it's been many years since the public have had a proper football anthem, with 'Three Lions' and 'Vindaloo' being the last ones that had any real impact or longevity. So it's appropriate that as a fitting tribute to Rik, a Facebook campaign has been launched to try and get 'Noble England' to number 1 in the singles chart. Usually I never take part in these 'Get (insert song here) to number 1' campaigns, since there are many songs I wish would get to number 1 in the singles chart but never do. None of them even make the singles chart let alone top it. But this is for Rik, and this is to restore the tradition of the great British football anthem. You can download the song either on its own or as part of an EP, which also features five surprising remixes of the track. To download go HERE

And now a campaign has been started to get the song into the Top 10 following the comedian's death earlier this week. Jon Morter - the man behind the campaign to get Rage Against The Machine the Christmas Number One in 2009 - is now assisting a similar effort aimed at launching Mayall's track back up the charts. 

Speaking about the reasoning behind his campaign, Morter told the Evening Standard: "It would be a great thing for Rik’s memory. He was a comedy legend. Rage Against The Machine was more of a protest whereas this campaign seems to be a way of displaying respect. It's a vehicle for a lot of people to say something and it would be a great accolade. In 2010 the song didn’t do so well because there were so many others out there. It’s a cruel irony that on the eve of the World Cup we have lost him. It’s now time for everyone to wake up to this fantastic song."
The Official Charts Company reports that Mayall's track climbed from 11 to 8 overnight (June 11) and "looks to be challenging for a Top Five placing on the Official Singles Chart this Sunday". Awesome.

The original press release from four years ago reads:
Rik Mayall’s 'Noble England' blends an essence of Englishness with Mayall's deliverance of an adapted speech from the famous passage in Shakespeare’s 'Henry V' with "hard favoured force". It is backed by the catchiest of football chants and complimented by the driving music behind it. 

"Football chants are one of the great traditions of following football" says Mayall "...and Shakespeare is also part of our national heritage. It seemed only natural that they should go together. However, with such great material, we had to be careful to do justice to the language and not destroy the integrity of the passage; we think the song does just that yet still being fun and inspiring whilst capturing the nationalistic pride of the World Cup and the enjoyment of the greatest game on earth".

"Shakespeare got his hands dirty. He was a working actor and writer who wrote what appealed to a large public. Popular stuff was what he was interested in producing. If he were around today, he'd be in advertising or films - or he'd probably be writing football anthems!"

Despite the sadness of the world losing one of its brightest lights, I can't help but smile at the sheer hilarity of his work. It's almost impossible to think of the man without laughing, even though he is sadly gone. His legacy is huge. We'll never see another like you Rik, cheers for making the world a funnier place!

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