Although acknowledging the BBC release by it’s very title, ‘Another Monty Python Record’ was undoubtedly a new beginning for the Pythons. It was Charisma Records that made them the offer they really couldn’t refuse. The company had been established by Tony Stratton-Smith in 1969, the same year ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ was first screened on the BBC.
The Pythons had a file of sketches that were familiar from the second television series over the Autumn of 1970 and these were utilised when ‘Another Monty Python Record’ was recorded in 1971. Resurrecting familiar favourites like the Spanish Inquisition, the Camp Judges, Spam and Contradictions, in some cases the album represents the definitive version. The Undertaker sketch, that monument to bad taste, was stripped of the feigned cries of audience disgust that the BBC had insisted on to mask the most offensive dialogue. Here Graham Chapman can let rip on the boundary-pushing notion of eating the dead mother of John Cleese, although even the Pythons reined themselves in to an extent, Graham’s pepperpot still screaming: “Intercourse the penguin!” for example. Still, there were distinct signs of liberation.
The team certainly embraced the recording medium and started using it in decidedly Pythonesque ways. Terry Gilliam’s striking cover artwork, as was his wont, hungrily seized upon the readily available, rather bland, pastel packaging of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D Major and simply scribbled over that. Adding ‘Another Monty Python Record’ in scrawled black crayon. The crossed out liner notes for the Beethoven recording took a decidedly Pythonesque route too, with information concerning Ludwig’s remarkable prowess on the tennis court. Moreover, the makeshift notes on the Pythons themselves profess to having been written by 1930s Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. In addition, the record followed the precedent of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band’ and included an array of pull-out material, including instructions and plays for interaction with the How To Be An Actor sketch.
Most importantly of all, the record played with the conventions of the recording studio, just as ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ played with the conventions of the television studio. Erroneous extracts from ‘Pleasures of the Dance: A Collection of Norwegian Carpenters’ Songs’, an apology for the mistake, a burst of the ‘Liberty Bell’ theme tune, even another apology interrupting a sketch. It’s all the very essence of Python. Even the foibles of records themselves are mocked. At the close of side one, bovver boy Michael Palin, working on behalf of the Pirahna brothers, brings the Ethel the Frog section to a close with: “Sorry, Squire. I scratched the record…” which, on vinyl, skips over and over again into infinity. Even the foibles of records themselves are mocked.
Side two begins with Eric Idle’s clipped: “…ard Heath…” No matter how many times you pull the needle back to the start of the groove Eric never will say Edward Heath. You did hear a bit more of Eric, not to mention a bit more of the others, on the American version of the record. “Selling it to Neil Bogarde’s Buddha Records” was Strat’s greatest achievement, Eric insists. “It paved the way for success in America. When we first went to California they didn’t know we were a TV show as they had only heard the recordings”.
New links, longer edits of Spanish Inquisition and Gumby Theatre, as well as complete extra sketches (Penguin on the Television and World Forum), featured on that Buddha Records release which appeared in 1972. Python completists will be relieved to know that it is this version, nearly nine minutes longer than the original UK release, that has been the one officially recognised since Virgin Records acquired the back catalogue of Charisma Records in 1986. Even though World Forum does date the recording by containing the only joke dented by the passage of time. A Charisma single was also released to promote the album. This utilised the Royal Festival Hall sketch and an edit of Spam, distilled to the briefest of snatches of the Fred Tomlinson Singers Spam chant.
“Putting that record together took up so much of our time,” Terry J. confirms. “We would record hours and hours of material and nobody was making notes. We ended up surrounded by mountains of tapes with no idea where anything was. By the time we had finally finished it, it had cost Charisma Records something like £50,000. Five times what it should have done!”
All four tracks were recorded in 1980 during the sprawling sessions for ‘Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album’, the last Python record released on the Charisma label. Treadmill Lager, with Michael Palin’s eager to please religious authority figure in the voice-over studio, does actually appear on the album as The Bishop. It is included here as a precursor to Bishop at Home, an extension of the Bishop sketch which sadly didn’t make the cull. Here we meet the Bishop’s wife, Rebecca, played by Terry Jones. Who else? Graham Chapman presides over the Court Room sketch, while Freelance Undertaker has relentless door-to-door salesman Eric Idle door stepping Terry J. Both sketches remained in the vaults until the Special Edition Monty Python albums were assembled by Virgin/EMI in 2006.