Peter Cook on the making of Derek And Clive

Created: Sunday, 06 January 2002 Written by Correspondent

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We are lost in the cunt of Joan Crawford."Sometime late in 1973 Dudley Moore and I booked a recording studio for a late night ad-lib session after performing what seemed like the millionth performance of Good Evening in New York. I never believe performers who maintain that constant repetition of the same material is not enormously tedious. Once I have got through the tension and excitement of the first night and the brief period of elation or despair that comes from reading the critical reaction, acting becomes just another job. The one redeeming factor about our show was that we had written it and therefore felt quite entitled to mess about with it to a certain extent; but there is a limit to how much one can alter a show, which in our case opened to very flattering reviews. We both fell that we really ought to offer up at least a fair approximation of what had been described in the press. I suppose we felt restrained by the Trade Descriptions Act. We had to produce the advertised goods. Moments of pleasure came when something technical went wrong. Lights would go out, teapots shatter for no good reason. . .at times like these we felt perfectly free to imrovise and guiltlessly enjoy ourselves with no text to follow.

This brings me to why we went to Electric Lady Studios, armed with several bottles of wine, just to see, what happened if we talked with no prior ideas into two microphones. We had no preconcieved attitudes or intensions.

What emerged, on the whole was a shower of filth, with no socially redeeming or artistic value. We heard it back the next day and found it to be funny, but on the other hand we had no idea what to do with it. What we did was very practical, i.e. nothing. A few weeks later we decided to try out the same sort of rambling filth on a small audience. We did and they laughed. This time we did something; we sent a whole bunch of unedited tapes to a long time friend of mine, Christopher Blackwell, head of Island Records. He and his good lady also laughed and wondered what the hell to do with them. The whole matter lapsed. Dudley and I went on tour round the States and forgot about the tapes, in our relentless pursuit of dollars.

Christopher played them to various people in pop circles, most of whom laughed. On our tour we began to meet a number of rock groups such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin etc. who all had 'Pirate' copies of the tapes. They too found them funny. I got the cynical thought that if rock groups found something funny then probably people who like rock groups would find it funny too.

Suddenly the thought of making money out of a few hours 'work' began to appeal. We left it all until we got back to Britain and, down at Island Records, listened back to the two separate sessions, one without an audience, one with. To myself, Dudley, and Christopher they still sounded very funny and jointly (pardon the pun) we thought why not put them out as an L.P.?

All of us had certain fears. Dudley and I because we thought it might destroy our 'cuddly' family image and Christopher for legal reasons and the possibility that his normal distributors E.M.I. would not distribute the record. In this he was right, but at the moment of writing we are number 12 in the L.P. charts, the highest to my knowledge that a comedy L.P. has ever reached.

Smiths and Boots have lent their traditional support in banning the record from their shops, thus ensuring it some kind of notoriety, depriving themselves and their shareholders of income and increasing sales at other outlets.

In the few weeks that the album has been out we have done a great deal of interviews. On the whole the music papers have been very favourable to the album, with its resolute 'single entendres'. The only bad reaction we had is from the impermeable 'Upper Class' (such as Emma Soames of the Evening Standard who came out with lines such as 'How could two such witty satirists, such as you, resort to material such as this?' We have a simple reply, its not resorting, its just a part of us that has always been there and what's the harm in putting it out?

Over the course of the interviews we have gradually put together a composite of what Derek and Clive are: they are probably both mechanics, strongly Tory, like a drink, are embarrassed by women, like football and think the whole world's gone f

ing mad. Life ended for them with the 'Big Bopper'. They don't like poofs or having to pay taxes when the country goes down the toilet. They've never heard of The Tatler but would prefer it to The Socialist Worker. On the other hand if the Socialist Worker offered 'reddies' instead of a cheque from the Tatler they'd probably settle for the untaxable cash. There are a lot of Derek and Clives about.

Transcript taken from the 'Sheffield & North Derbyshire Spectator' - now out of print