ROLL UUUP! Roll up, and step right this way for my sixth book, and fifth work of comedy history – the first EVER comprehensive celebration of Beatles Comedy, and Rutles history – FAB FOOLS – click for original pitch!
Most importantly, click HERE to pre-order your copy right this moment!
‘The Joker Laughs’ it was, for many years, as I groped for a Beatles quote which fitted the bill. I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue of course came first, but did this idea come to me during the writing of The True History of the Black Adder, or afterwards? Whichever it was, the mind-fellating realisation that nobody had ever documented The Beatles as comedians (except, I subsequently discovered, a short article in the Elderly Comedy fanzine Kettering on which I got a few early comedy history writing gigs) certainly made this my dream book pitch from very early on this decade: such an obvious, necessary book, ready to exist at last.
It would be professional to draw a veil over the painful labours which followed, year after year – not that one could or would dream of complaining about becoming the official biographer of Douglas Adams, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, naturally; I’m deeply proud of all my books – but successive publishers somehow failed to see the point of celebrating this crucial slice of cultural history, even as the pitch was honed over the years. True, Sir George Martin’s brush-off when I contacted him in 2011 wasn’t 100% optimistic, but neither was it truly discouraging…
And so, knowing all too well how precious the memories of our surviving comedy greats are, I devoted my decade to researching Fab Comedy. I went to the pub with the legendary Joe McGrath and his wife, Rutles prop master Peta Button, I travelled to Yeovil for a touching meeting with pop TV pioneer, Vicar of Dibley star and one of the few living Beatles comedy co-performers, Trevor Peacock, I reminisced with Roger McGough (dey do dough don’t dey dough), I had encouraging chats with fellow Beatle obsessive comedy types like Kevin Eldon and Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris at this spring’s We Are Cult gathering, and of course, I basked in the kindly encouragement of Neil Innes – not to mention John Halsey, Dave Caitlin-Birch and the rest of the ersatz Fab Fools. Even the King of this area of cultural history, Mark Lewisohn, admitted that this was a totally unexplored vein of Beatleology, and kindly put me onto the Leicester University Joe Orton collection, where I got a good look at the original draft of Orton’s filthy screenplay for the boys, Up Against It. I’ve been everywhere I can get to, from Abbey Road to, erm, Shrewsbury, and it goes without – though not typing – saying that another sentimental journey to Merseyside is in the offing.
As you can tell from the very silly trailer video at the top of this page, the Lord of All Gloriously AMusing Songs Neil Innes himself has been particularly supportive and lovely throughout, which is especially kind as he’s been having his own crowdfunding nightmares of late! Despite extreme cash problems I myself have pledged for his new album twice now, and even joined another hero, Mark Steel, in pitching in for The Warm But Insecure Untidy Crowd, a fan scheme to help him out further. You can see my bit of ‘How Sweet To Be An Idiot’ HERE. Neil’s own current project, a brand new album entitled ‘Nearly Really’ can be found and supported HERE!
I’ll be interviewing Neil and co again for final questions later in the year, and have tried my best to get Eric Idle on board too, though he’s not generally given to discussing his career in this way, not least having just released his own memoir – ‘piss off’, I seem to recall was the gist of his response, but I will be trying him again. Not to mention Paul and Ringo, Yoko and Olivia – why not take this as far as we possibly can? How often does Macca get asked anything about COMEDY? These guys are scousers, laffs are in their very water!
The thing is, pretty much everyone I contacted was agreed – a book about The Beatles and comedy (if not also a documentary, a lasting celebration online, and who knows what) was the non-braineriest of no-brainers. It was an essential story, hitherto untold. And yet, the publishers continued to stick their fingers in their ears (though sadly not their eyes). Most followed publishing tradition by simply ignoring all proposals, whereas others replied to agree that it was a brilliant idea, definitely a book they wanted to read, but that ‘it does not fit in with our current schedule’, and blah blah blah.
Finally, the crowd-funding experience with Unbound taught me that, even given the many imponderables of rights clearance for both Beatles and Rutles quotes and images, I really would have to just make it happen, while I was still able to somehow keep this full-time author’s life going. Enter Candy Jar books, a small but passionate publisher of geeky delights based in Cardiff.
All I’ve ever really looked for in a publisher is a bit of PASSION, and a professional desire to actually sell books and make money for themselves and me. In the past I’ve had deals with big companies who really rack ’em up, and there’s no denying my books have barely tickled the very edges of the audiences they should have reached. A cosier company like Candy Jar can only be hungrier, and therefore, I hope, able to really push this book in the right places, and get the best quality celebration of Beatles and Rutles madness into your hands at the earliest opportunity.
And now, we need your pre-orders.
This is not crowd-funding – honest! – certainly not in the way my last two books were. I have signed a contract with Candy Jar Books which means that this book will be out in 2020 no matter what, but the truth is, the more Beatle and Rutle fans pre-order FAB FOOLS now, the higher our budget for the book will be, better photographs, more text clearance, altogether more shiny and authoritative. We are aiming at an April release (with a VERY EXCITING comedy musical launch to celebrate SIXTY YEARS OF THE NERK TWINS at the Fox & Hounds – we’ll start rehearsals soon… anybody know of an ersatz Ringo in the Bath area?), and the book could indeed arrive with just a few feeble library images, on cheap paper… or, if you pre-order now, join the campaign, follow @FabFools on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr (look our for #FabFoolsFriday every week!), and above all SPREAD THE WORD to every other Beatle, Rutle, Python, Bonzo Dog, Scaffold and comedy/rock and roll geek you know, this really will be a knock-out celebration of Beatle daftness in all its forms. This is my fifth comedy history book, and as I write it, I know it’s great stuff. We just need help with amassing a budget worthy of the subject matter.
All this pre-order money will go into the creation of FAB FOOLS, and I’ve spent the entirety of this year writing the fascinating story, living off ever-dwindling modest savings. Maybe this opus, so many years in the making, will be the last book I am able to write without a return to the sluggish progress of part-time authoring, while earning cash however I can (gissa job) 9 to 5, and we do need your help to make it all worth it.
As this is a personal blog, I will allow myself to add that 2019 has been as painful and tumultuous for me privately as it has been for everyone politically. In July, my lovely Dad died, quickly and horribly, just as I neared the arrival of The Rutles in this story. He was a fabulous bloke, two months older than Lennon but never a Beatles fan, and adjusting to his loss is one of the toughest things I have ever had to do. I’m dedicating the book to him and Mum, in thanks for never liking The Beatles, so I could discover the band for myself. The wonderful flip side of this personal pain is that my gorgeous other half is moving in with me, and I am finally having a go at this thing they call domestic bliss, sometime in the new year. I add these TMI details to give you an idea of the ups and downs which have gone into the creation of this book, and the backstory to where I find myself now – dizzied by writing the final chapter, trying to distil the last 40 years of post-Fabs fooling into a short epilogue, and I will admit, with the end of the year having into view, in rather dire straits when it comes to practical concerns like food and a roof. I’ve had to learn a lot of hard lessons in my 10+ years as an author, and this one, this FAB FOOLS, has the feel of a last spin of the tombola – surviving on comedy non-fiction (and folktale) royalties is no joke.
But if so, what a BEAUTY I have saved for last. The Beatles are unquestionably our greatest cultural monument, and FAB FOOLS provides a wholly new angle on their well-known story, a neglected side of the legend which I have scrubbed up shining and hilarious for you all. Plus, it’s the first ever book to cover the creation of the greatest comedy music outfit of all time – THE RUTLES, and the very history of rock and roll comedy itself. How has it taken this long?
And in the end, the cash we’ll take, will be equal to the book we make.
Peace and luv, peace and luv, no autographs. BUY A BOOK, YOU NIT!