A little guy with a funny beard who's irredeemably funky, a multi-instrumentalist who wrote, played and sang a string of hit singles, an international sex symbol. It could be Prince, but actually it's Bill Oddie. (Apart from the sex symbol bit.) In a parallel universe at this very moment VH-1 is dedicating a whole month of broadcasting to Bill Oddie, one of the great survivors of 60s rock and the man who brought the jazz-funk fusions of Miles Davis and Parliament to a mass audience. Meanwhile, in the real world, videos of the best episodes of The Goodies are available from all good retailers.
On the TV series The Goodies were a three-piece, but when it came to the records Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden took a back seat and let Bill indulge his love and mastery of pop music. The result was a series of hits in 1974/75 that started with 'The Inbetweenies', a piss-take of glam, and included 'Nappy Love', a piss-take of teen-pop. Most successful of all was 'The Funky Gibbon', a record that hinges on a fantastic clavichord part by Dave Macrae (ex-Matching Mole) and that would - if it had been an instrumental - now be remembered as a classic bit of Britfunk.
These weren't Bill's first recordings. In the 60s he'd made some demos produced by George Martin and featuring the cream of the era's session-players, musicians like Mitch Mitchell and John Paul Jones. (If you've got any of this stuff, do share it with me.) He claims to be relieved that none of this was successful and that he found a more promising career in comedy. Certainly it was more fruitful - he wrote all the songs for the very wonderful radio series I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, including a re-work of 'I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside' in the style of 'A Whiter Shade of Pale', and 'On Ilkley Moor Ba'tat' in the style of Joe Cocker's 'With A Little Help From My Friends'. The latter was subsequently recorded by Bill and most of The Grease Band (including Sunny) and released on John Peel's Dandelion label.
Oddie reckons he wrote more than a hundred songs for ISIRTA, but he had to wait for The Goodies' more mainstream appeal before he made the charts. 'People used to say: frustrated pop star,' he remembers, as he sits in a music room lined with his own silver discs and with posters of his musical hero, Prince. 'I'd say: "What's frustrated about it? I've had more bloody hits than you have." I certainly wasn't frustrated at all.'
1974 The In Betweenies/Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me (#7)
1975 Funky Gibbon/Sick Man Blues (#4)
1975 Black Pudding Bertha (#19)
1975 Nappy Love/Wild Thing (#21)
1975 Make A Daft Noise For Christmas (#20)
the making of 'The Funky Gibbon'