The Stoned Shambolics are back at UK Number 1 for the first time since Recycled Stale Self-Parody Live hit the top spot 16 years ago, writes Ruby Tuesday, Antiques Correspondent.
The Recalibrated version of signature heyday album Tax-Haven Exile on Mainline Street Value shot to the pinnacle of the charts yesterday, many decades after the legendary wax cylinder original was first released and publicised by telegram.
The new release features 10 previously unissued tracks discovered by lead singer Dick Bragger, 81, in the attic of his Mustique semi-detached house. "Dick was in the attic, trying to remember why he had gone up there", said one of the band's slaves. "He found the ten tracks in an old fishing tackle tin full of sepia photos of Anita Pallenberg in an opium den, Marianne Faithfull eating mars bars and Brian Jones swimming underwater.
Tax-Haven Exile on Mainline Street Value received mixed reviews when it came out in the Roaring Twenties. Critics described it as a mess, a laboured, drug-befuddled bore and crap.
However, the ensuing decades have been kinder to the 18-track double-album, as nostalgia-marketing techniques have improved and the Shambolics' mighty business juggernaut has conquered the world. It has been described as the epitome of sex, drugs and rock & roll by People's Friend magazine, and Saga have named it Album of 1999, 2020, 2007, or whatever it is now.
Dick Bragger, 96, attended the premiere of a new Tim Burton film about the making of Tax-Haven Exile on Mainline Street Value in Littlehampton Festival Hall yesterday. Famous old nancy boy Lionel Blair, who attended the premiere, said "A lovely film. Me and dear Una Stubbs loved it. It really captured the feeling of those days. We always loved Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch."
The movie stars Johnny Depp and recreates the long orgiastic house-party at the rambling Villa Dubious near Marseille, the former residence of the Marquis de Sade bought by lead guitarist Keith "Cutthroat Keef" Richardson, 87, when he and the rest of the band were forced to flee the UK and face an uncertain future of poverty in the South of France by a punitive tax system.
Dick Bragger, 112, said "I don't know if Exile is my personal favourite. I don't really recall much about it. Which one was that? Oh, that one? I think we made it in Tangiers. Oh, France? Ah, yes. It doesn't have many hit singles, apart from Tumbling Prices. I preferred my solo albums, but don't tell Keef."
We spoke to Keith "Cutthroat Keef" Richardson, 92, on the pirate ship he and actor Johnny Depp share in the Caribbean. Depp was away making a new movie version of Humpty Dumpty with Tim Burton, but Jack Daniels was aboard. "Aargh, those cats, man! It was only the snow got me through! That fucking fat chef, Fat Pierre, what a mad fucker, always going to Marseilles, and not for fucking vegetables, man, you know, aaargh!"
The recording took place in the damp basement of the Villa Dubious. "Man, it was crazy", continued Richardson, cuddling Jack Daniels. "It was just basically me and Charlie and Fat Pierre and a bunch of chicks. Slim Harpo, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters. All those cats were there, or some cats like that, man. All those cats were there, man.
"Dick used to swan in, in between getting married to fucking Princess Margaret and getting his fucking knighthood. Man, what a bunch of guys that guy is, man!"
Ron Woodenhead, the youngest member of the band at 75 and an amateur pavement artist, said "Yeah, they were great times. I'm so proud to have been there, emptying the ashtrays and Keef's commode and pimping for Pierre Trudeau". When it was pointed out that he was not in the Stoned Shambolics at the time, he said "Fuck off then. Leave me alone. Can't a guy score a cute young Russian chick in peace?"
Charlie "Charlie's good tonight innee?" Potts, 78, the Shambolics' deadpan drummer, said "I hated it. I mean, bloody France. I always hated going anywhere. I just wanted to stay at home. I was happiest when I was working as a signalman on the Bluebell Line and playing drums for Charlie "Bird" Parker on me days off."
And bass player Bill Nibbler, 132, would only say "I was really homesick. After all, it was only Dick and Keith who actually made any money. It didn't make any difference to us about taxes, 'cos we were skint anyway. God, I missed my Branston Pickle, I had to abandon my pigeons and I had to leave my Ford Anglia at my gran's house. And those French schoolgirls are overrated. They don't go like English ones."
The other guitarist, who nobody ever remembers, the one who can actually play the guitar, was unavailable for comment. He is now living in a windmill in Norfolk.
The band's slave concluded: "Dick and Keith are so pleased that in their home country, young people are still discovering their music anew. Obviously they can no longer afford to live in the UK, but that doesn't mean that they don't appreciate the profits they can still make from the old country."
***William Rees-Mogg is currently living in Leamington Spa, where he keeps a butterfly farm. He is 265, and often reminisces about Lord Nelson and Pitt the Elder, if you don't manage to get away quickly enough.