Python at 50, and my Life of Brian story…

Inspired by Calmgrove’s Python post, posted on the actual anniversary of the first ever episode, here’s my own Python tribute a few days late. I was only 9 when Monty Python was first broadcast so was too young to catch it the first time around, but when they repeated it in the later 1970s I fully embraced their absurdity and became a big fan. Over the years, many of their books have passed through my hands – and some have stuck in my collection – see the photo above, which includes:

  • 3 volumes of Michael Palin’s diaries (only the first 2 pictured as the 3rd concentrates on his travels)
  • The Monty Python Encyclopedia by Robert Ross (Batsford 1997)
  • The Very Best of Monty Python (which is a compilation of the 5 ‘Pocketful of Python‘ books, each of which featured one of the crew’s favourite python moments (except Graham) (Methuen 2006)
  • Gilliam on Gilliam, edited by Ian Christie (Faber, 1999) – in the long-running Faber Film series – interviews with TG about his work.
  • Gilliamesque by Terry Gilliam – his memoir (Canongate 2015) – written with Ben Thompson – larger format and lavishly illustrated.
  • The Pythons Autobiography by the Pythons. (Orion 2003) The original big hardback, lots of colour pix, written partly in documentary interview style by the Pythons with Bob McCabe.
  • The Fairly Incomplete and Rather Badly Illustrated Monty Python Songbook (Mandarin 1995) – which has guitar vocal for most of the songs – sort of! I treasure this one.
  • In recent years I’ve also read, but not kept, memoirs by John Cleese and Eric Idle (the latter reviewed here).

I also have all the films, the BBC DVD The Best of Monty Python, the compilation CD Monty Sings (which is just amazing – personal favourites include Decomposing Composers and The Noel Coward Song!), I also own the CD Single of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life with the Lumberjack Song in German.

Ich bin ein Holzfäller und fühl mich stark
Ich schlaf des Nachts und hack am Tag (…)

Ich fälle Bäume, ich ess mein Brot, ich geh auf das WC
Am Mittwoch geh ich shopping, kau Kekse zum kaffee

And finally, my prized vinyl picture disc of The Galaxy Song         b/w Every Sperm is Sacred – which  I’ve  never played! (right)

But I promised you a Life of Brian story…

In 1979, I was at Imperial College in London, and one day at the end of March, we went into the Students Union office and there were loads of tickets for a test screening of the new Python film at an address is Wardour Street in Soho. So my pals and I snaffled tickets and off we went the next week – consulting Michael Palin’s diaries, it was either Mon 2nd or Tues 3rd April.

The screening cinema was in the basement of one of the film distributors, and there were no conventional rows of seats but tons of bean bags! There was one row of big comfy chairs though.

The film started. The title song ‘Brian’ played – but they hadn’t yet finished the title sequence, so showed a series of slides à la Gondolas sketch: ‘Title’, ‘Another title’, Yet another title, ‘Another effing title’ you get the picture – and we were already laughing. Similarly they’d temporarily used the Star Wars theme to back the bit where Brian is rescued by aliens (which fitted very well). We also saw the original Otto sketch which explained Otto’s suicide squad from the Judean People’s Front who meet Brian hiding in a backstreet. The scene was cut from the final film – it was funny, but a bit close to the bone. (I think it’s now available as an extra on some DVD versions).

And those comfy chairs – they were for the Pythons! The screening we went to, the two Terrys, Palin and Idle were all there, I distinctly remember no John Cleese and can’t recall Graham Chapman either. The film, of course, was hilarious.

What a treat that was!

3 thoughts on “Python at 50, and my Life of Brian story…

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Lovely! I adore the Pythons and Chapman and Palin were always my favourites. Having said that, Eric Idle is an immense talent – if you’ve never seen Rutland Weekend Television, do try to track it down!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I used to have The Rutles and RWTV but on video, didnt get around to replacing them with DVDs.

  2. ThoughtsBecomeWords says:

    Great snapshot of UK film history! I was thrilled when Vanity Fair TV series aired in Australia and I saw Michael Palin as William Makepeace Thackeray in the intro. That face, those memories 🙂

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