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Monty Python - a Brief History | Graham Chapman - Comedy Writer and Actor | John Cleese - Comedy Writer and Actor | Terry Gilliam - Writer, Animator and Director | Eric Idle - Comedian, Writer and Actor | Terry Jones - Writer, Director and Actor | Michael Palin - Writer, Actor and Traveller | 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' - the Television Series | Monty Python's 'Dead Parrot Sketch' | 'And Now For Something Completely Different' - the Film | 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' - the Film | 'Monty Python's Life of Brian' - the Film | 'Monty Python's The Meaning of Life' - the Film | Monty Python - The Books | Monty Python - The Records | Monty Python - The Stage Shows | Monty Python - The Best Bits | Almost Pythons - Important 'Monty Python' Contributors
After the first series of Monty Python's Flying Circus finished in 1970, the initially-cautious BBC realised they were onto a good thing and decided that they would release a soundtrack record, also called Monty Python's Flying Circus.
In front of a live audience, the team rehashed all the usual suspects from the first series - the 'Dead Parrot sketch', the 'Lumberjack song', 'Nudge Nudge', 'Albatross' and so forth. Never ones to miss an opportunity, the team played about with the sketches a little, adding extra sound effects and highlighting the fact that this was a record by referring to 'side one' and 'side two'.
Here Comes Another One
Feeling that BBC Records were not allowing them to develop, the team moved to Charisma records in 1971 for their first independent album. With Michael Palin and Terry Jones overseeing production, Another Monty Python Record was produced. The album consisted mainly of sketches from the second series of Flying Circus, including the 'Spanish Inquisition' and the 'Architect's sketch'. It also included some new material, including 'Be a Great Actor', which originally came with paper inserts containing material related to the sketch. These were removed from later issues of the record.
The following year, a third album, Monty Python's Previous Record, was released, made up of roughly equal amounts of new material and sketches from the third Flying Circus series, with a version of the 'Fairy Tale' sketch from the second German episode of Flying Circus rounding things off.
Another Record and the Previous Record were later repackaged together as The Worst of Monty Python.
Three Sides to Every Record
The Python's next album was 1973's innovative The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief. The album is mainly new material, with a few sketches from the third series of Flying Circus thrown in. More importantly, it was the world's first 'three-sided' LP - the second side had two grooves cut into it, the material that played depending on which groove the needle fell into. To further confuse matters, both sides were labelled 'side two'.
The design of record sleeve was also noteworthy, consisting of a hole in the cover through which the Terry Gilliam-designed inner sleeve can be seen. This shows a man on a gallows wearing the tie and handkerchief of the title. It also states that the record is being given away as a free gift with the tie and handkerchief set. Sadly, later releases of the record did away with both the design and the second groove.
The next three Python albums were soundtracks of either films or stage shows. The first, Monty Python Live at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is a straightforward recording of the group's 1974 live stint in London and was only released in the UK. Two years later they released the recording of Monty Python Live at City Center, a recording of their New York show. This album was only released in the USA and the sound quality is very poor.
Between these two albums, the group were having their first taste of film success with Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The film was closely followed by The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film Of..., which included clips from the film together with some new linking material.
In 1977, the Pythons released their first greatest hits album, The Monty Python Instant Record Collection, subtitled 'The pick of the best of some recently repeated Python hits again, Vol. II'. The original packaging was designed by Terry Gilliam to fold out into a box resembling a stack of records, hence the title. Unfortunately, the package kept breaking open in shops and was later replaced with a more conventional cover.
The release of Monty Python's Life of Brian in 1979 was followed by a soundtrack album. Essentially a simple recording of the most record-friendly moments from the film, it does contain some new material with Eric Idle as the producer and Graham Chapman as a voice-over artiste failing miserably to record the links for the record.
In 1980, the Pythons were contractually obliged to produce one more album for Charisma records and, naturally, called it Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album. Consisting entirely of new material1, the album was half songs and half sketches, making it the most musical Python album up to that point.
The album got the team into trouble on two counts. Firstly, the song 'Sit on My Face' was sung to the tune of an old Gracie Fields song called 'Sing as We Go'. Despite legal threats, the song remained on the album, unlike the sketch 'Farewell to John Denver'. Simply a few bars of 'Annie's Song' followed by the sounds of someone being strangled, the sketch was removed from later versions of the album and replaced with silence and an apology from Terry Jones.
And Now The End is Near
The soundtrack to 1983's Monty Python's The Meaning of Life was the simplest yet, with very little new material. The album did, however, contain the 'Martin Luther' sketch that was deleted from the final cut of the film.
After freeing themselves from Charisma with the Contractual Obligation Album, the Pythons moved to Virgin records in 1987 and released another 'greatest hits' album: Monty Python's The Final Rip-Off. This was a double-record set and contained many old favourites, with brief linking material by Michael Palin.
Nothing with Python is ever simple, and the Final Rip-Off was anything but final. As part of the 20th anniversary of the Flying Circus, and as a tribute to Graham Chapman, the group released Monty Python Sings, the first Python album to be entirely made up of songs. The album included one new item, 'Oliver Cromwell', a longer version of Graham's 'Medical Love Song' and a version of the 'Lumberjack Song' that was produced by George Harrison2 and had previously only been available on the 1976 double-single, Monty Python on Song.
The almost complete works of Python were released in 1994 as The Instant Monty Python CD Collection, which also contained a booklet with items from the Python books. At the same time, another 'greatest hits' CD was released: The Ultimate Monty Python Rip Off.
As well as the On Song mentioned above, the Pythons also released several other singles:
- 'Lumberjack Song'/'Spam'
- 'Eric the Half-a-Bee'
- 'Spam'/'The Concert'
- The Single - a promo for the Matching Tie... album
- 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life'/'Brian'
- 'I Like Chinese'/'I Bet You They Won't Play This Song on the Radio'
- 'The Galaxy Song'/'Every Sperm is Sacred' - a picture disc showing the fish from Meaning of Life
- Monty Python's Tiny Black Round Thing - given away free with music newspaper NME
- Teach Yourself Heath - given away with magazine Zigzag
- 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life'/'I'm So Worried'/'I Bet You They Won't Play This Song on the Radio'
- 'Spam'/'Lumberjack Song' - included with The Fairly Incomplete and Rather Badly Illustrated Monty Python Song Book
- The Best of Monty Python's Flying Circus - given away free with The Independent newspaper