Charisma Records were keen to produce a second Monty Python album, and to that end the team sorted out a selection of favoured sketches for recording. The majority of these had been written and performed for the third and final series of ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, broadcast at the end of 1972.
Classic television Python, destined for ‘Monty Python’s Previous Record’ including John’s lupin-obsessed highwayman, Dennis Moore, Eric’s wealth-obsessed host of ‘The Money Programme’ and Mike’s customer service-obsessed client in the Argument Clinic. The Happy Valley Fairy Tale had originally been written for ‘Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus’, a special episode for German television. This particular sketch, as far as the record version was concerned, also allowed a Python to utter the ultimate swear word for the first time. The honour went to Terry Jones who screams: “because she’s a fucking Princess, that’s why!” Eric Idle too was able to fly in the face of BBC restrictions. His holiday-maker with the inability to say the letter ‘C’ casually admits that’s he’s a “silly bunt!” Although included in the television sketch, the line was cut at the insistence of the BBC and just the raucous laughter of the studio audience was left as evidence.
As with ‘Another Monty Python Record’ the very nature of vinyl is all part of the joke. The very first thing you hear is Terry J. screaming “Not this record!” several times, before the needle is thankfully scratched away from his manic ranting. Once again, side one ends with Mike signalling that it’s now time to flip your platter. Here it is in reaction to Eric’s relentless holidaymaker sharing his never-ending gripes about the perils of package holidays. Mike’s anguished “For God’s sake, take it off!” brings relief as the needle is forcefully removed from the groove.
However, one technique was even beyond the expertise of Andre Jacquemin. For the time being, at least. “We tried to have three grooves on one side of the record, so depending on where your needle landed you would have got one of three different sections of Python. This is why Graham says ‘And now a massage from the Swedish Prime Minister’ three times. That was to add to the confusion. You were supposed to hear that, then one of three alternative grooves. We just couldn’t make it work. The three grooves ran into each other towards the middle of the record, so we decided to just join them up. The massage from the Swedish Prime Minister is the indicator as to where each of the three grooves would have started”.
Still, away from all these attempts at studio wizardry, the entire soundscape is richer than before. For the first time, Python material is funnier because of the recorded medium. The Wonderful World of Sound couldn’t work any better. Neither could the embarrassing noises with Carol Cleveland’s saucy “I’ve got something to show you” driven home with the enticing ‘Zip. Thud. Thud. Roll’ that follows.
The majority of the sketches included here were recorded during the elephantine session for ‘Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album’ in 1980. Produced by Eric Idle, the album leaned toward musical numbers resulted in great swathes of sketch material being jettisoned. Baxter’s finds John Cleese, as a senior government minister, in the commercial voice-over studio. Mortuary Visit has a tolerant Graham Chapman guide Michael Palin’s staggeringly dim dignitary. Graham’s Flying Fox of the Yard is a memorable shade from the past, mocking the very structure of comedy itself. Four sketches (Meteorology, Blood, Devastation, War & Horror, The Great Debate and Is There?) also nostalgically hark back to ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ and its deconstruction of the television discussion programme. Meteorology was a particular loss to ‘Contractual Obligation’, with Terry Jones’s faintly condescending interviewer chuckling to himself at John Cleese’s calm and reasonable scientific explanation. Teach Yourself Heath, in which Eric Idle offers instruction on how to sound like the then Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, was included on a bonus flexidisc with the initial pressings of ‘Monty Python’s Previous Record’. It was also given away free with the December 1972 issue of ‘Zigzag’ magazine. This bonus selection concludes with three radio adverts for ‘Monty Python’s Big Red Book’, first published by Eyre Methuen in 1971.