Friday, November 4, 2011

Tony Hendra-Genius is Pain!

Former editor of National Lampoon, Tony Hendra, who most Americans will remember best as Ian Faith, the manager of Spinal Tap recorded this parody of John Lennon titled "Magical Misery Tour" on the National Lampoon album Radio Dinner released in 1972.  The song might require more than a cursory familiarity with Lennon to appreciate its humor, but trust me its brilliant satire.  Part of the genius here is that the lyrics are taken in large part (with allowances for repetition, paraphrase and occasional rhyme schemes- I don't think he said "pardon me sir" or "the sky is blue"), albeit out of context from a bitter soul baring interview that John did with Rolling Stone in 1970-71, not long after his experience with primal scream therapy and the break up of the Beatles and accompanying legal hassles, which goes some way in explaining the "mood" he was in.  

For maximum effect Tony Hendra and collaborator Michael O'Donoghue cherry picked the most outrageous and off the wall bits and Hendra then delivered them in a voice approximating the most anguished vocal moments from the first Plastic Ono Band album - primal screaming and all making it sound that much more obnoxious and funny, though if you listen to, or even read the actual interview in context it's surprisingly calm and reasonable and certainly makes more sense and is less obnoxious than what you will hear in the clip below. 

I'm an unabashed fan of Lennon but I've found it only increases one's love and appreciation to be able to laugh at the more ridiculous aspect of the things and people we love, their foibles if you will.  One of my favorite things about John was that he did seem to be more genuinely honest and open than most "performers" and for that reason had these public moments that run the gamut from total insecurity to ridiculous egomaniacal behavior, from thoughtfulness and insight to obnoxiousness personified, he as they say put it all out there, you know, human frailties. All that being said I suspect Lennon would have found this amusing if he ever heard it, he seemed to have a good sense of humor about himself and his failings and did reportedly love the Rutles, which was a more affectionate satire but still had its biting moments (I'm thinking of the portrayal of Yoko in particular).  Enjoy!

I've been rereading the Lennon Rolling Stone interview, eventually published in hardback, since posting this and want to point out for the record that John had many nice things to say about the Stones and to a certain extent Jagger in the course of the interview.  And Jagger and Lennon rekindled a friendship of sorts later in the 70's during John's estrangement from Yoko.  Clearly their relationship always had a fair amount of tension due to competitiveness, as this clip from the Stones Rock n' Roll Circus nicely illustrates.

Lennon is somewhat surprisingly less charitable overall to Dylan in the Rolling Stone interview, which might be due to his own self consciousness about being at one time so heavily influenced by Bob.  Speaking of tension and one-upmanship this is probably as a good an opportunity as any to post the infamous outtake sequences from Eat the Document of a very fucked up Dylan and fairly sober and uncomfortable Lennon exchanging jokes, barbs and awkward silences in the back of Limousine in England circa 1966.


  1. One of the most brutally funny pieces of musical satire ever recorded, absolutely, but credit where due - Hendra did the impersonation, but his "Radio Dinner" co-consiprator Michael O'Donoghue was the one who came up with the concept and wrote/compiled the lyrics. The music was written by Christopher Cerf, moonlighting from his day gig at "Sesame Street." And that's Melissa Manchester as Yoko at the end.

  2. Thanks for providing more information, O'Donoghue was an amazing writer and always seemed to have the best absurdist bits on SNL -the Mr. Mike stuff in particular -