Wednesday, September 19, 2012


What's so funny about a man being shot to death?

I could say, the same thing that's so funny about peace love and understanding. But instead, check out that moment in the 1939 classic "Gunga Din." It inspired several 45 rpm parodies and even an adaptation below where your pal, Ill Folks impersonates three Goon Show characters to aid and abet the soundtrack to the Peter Sellers film "The Party," which also mocks the "blasted bugler."

Spoiler alert: you can skip the rest of this paragraph if you didn't see the movie and plan to. Brave Gunga Din sacrifices himself for his cause. He uses his bugle to sound the alarm when a Kali-loving death cult is about to launch a surprise attack on British soldiers. The enemy fires on Gunga to literally blow him away, but Gunga makes sure the British have heard him. Unfortunately his last gasps into the bugle are off-key and farty and...funny. You can't help chuckling, no matter how engrossed you are in the drama, or how badly you feel for the poor heathen black-faced Jew (first two terms found in Kipling's poem, the last, well, Gunga was played by Sam Jaffe)

Fast forward to 1962, and Sonny Gianotta's parody single on ABC Paramount…and the quickie cover by "Lord Didd" on the Mr. Peacock label. ABC's version had a picture sleeve!

Gianotta's "The Last Blast of the Blasted Bugler" was written by Phil Cammarata, who later produced some "funny photo caption" novelty books, including "Sex and the Single Dog" and "Who Farted." Phil does his own narration for the flip side, "Pain Set to Music."(The single has split credits, Gianotta on the A-side, Cammarata on the B-side). Tommy Cardinale, who performs the gut-busting trumpet playing (what, no bugle?) gets a mention on the side of the label, not below Gianotta's name. Why Gianotta did the narration and not Cammarata is unknown. As a narrator, Gianotta is pretty bland.

Lord Didd at least puts on a British-accent. He was actually a disc jockey, Pete "Mad Daddy" Meyers, who probably chose an alias to avoid a Payola charge for playing his own record. His almost identical script is credited to "A. Boyce." Mr. Peacock Records only managed 15 releases for that entire year, including this one-shot, and songs by The Viscounts, Betty Brye, Frankie Lettle, Nino and the Ebb Tides and Danny and the Zelltones.

Billboard, February 24, 1962, reviewed both versions. Each got four stars. "Here's the finale to the story of "Gunga Din," a reviewer declared of Gianotta's single, "a wild and woolly and funny novelty…." Especially fun for Billboard's scribe, aside from "the bugler, dying," was the lead up, "the sound of cannon, rifle fire and charging steeds…" Below this, with no reference to its rival, is the Lord Didd cover (only the flip side is credited as Lord Didd and the Didn't): "The saga of "Gunga Din" is relived here with… horses galloping, guns going off and the bugler struggling with his horn. Can grab novelty action."

Lord Didd's release had some good luck in a few regions. In March, it scraped the Top 40 in Chicago, and KLMS in Lincoln, Nebraska, alerted Billboard (March 17th issue) that the single was on their "wax to watch" list. They didn't mention if it was also on their "wax to play" list. And as often happens when an original and cover version fight simultaneously…neither song won enough airplay and sales to make it a hit. But you get the double dose here! Enjoy your Din-Din!

Six years later, Peter Sellers played a mediocre Indian actor in "The Party," and the opening scene offered the bungled bugling. Too bad Spike Milligan wasn't invited to play the trumpet for the soundrack! Rather than just give you the sound effects, Ill Folks steps up to the microphone and adapts the introduction used by Sonny & Didd from 50 years ago! I do the voices of Peter Sellers' Goon characters Major Bloodnok and Bluebottle, and Spike Milligan's Eccles. It's free, folks, as the days of buying 45 rpm (or Ill Folks being 45) are over.

PS, the Jim Croce recitation-song "Ballad of Gunga Din" has previously been posted on the blog, but in case you missed it, the new link is below, Also below, "Legend of Gunga Din" by The Crew Cuts. No comment on that one…I've simply run out of air.





Sapristi! Ill Folks impersonates the Goons, with Peter Sellers' soundtrack for The Party


Anonymous said...

You're an iller man than I. Mahalo for these, Mr. Folks. I must watch The Party again! Love your site!

Anonymous said...

So I'll meet 'im later on
At the place where 'e is gone
Where it's always double drill and no canteen.
'E'll be squattin' on the coals
Givin' drink to poor damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I've belted you and flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!