Today, I want to talk to you about an album. One of my favourite albums, and almost certainly the greatest cult-punk-adolescent-romance-narrative-concept-album ever released. But first, some background.
A lot of people know the song “Jilted John” by Jilted John, even if they don’t know it by name. Chances are, they probably think it’s called “Gordon Is A Moron” or “The Moron Song” or something like that. It sounds like this:
It got to number four in the UK charts in 1978, was performed live on Top of the Pops on no less than three occasions, and is rightly held as one of the greatest and most memorable singles of the late ’70s punk/new wave era. But for most people, that’s where the Jilted John story ends – as a one-hit wonder, a novelty record and nothing more. What most people don’t know, however, is that “John” actually recorded an entire album. And, what’s more, it’s a masterpiece.
Jilted John was, of course, the alter-ego of a young comedian and singer-songwriter named Graham Fellows – who would later go on to create the peerless John Shuttleworth, and appear in adverts for Yorkshire Tea. In its original form, the eponymous song was actually the B-side of a Rabid Records single called “Going Steady” – in which a not-so-jilted John told of his love for girlfriend-of-two-months Sharon – but on the radio, it was “Jilted John” that gained greater currency, and the single would eventually be re-released by EMI with the sides flipped. In the wake of the single’s success, Fellows and super-producer Martin Hannett regrouped to create an entire album. It had an absolutely fantastic romance-comics-spoof cover, came with a free gift of a “Mice and Ladders” board game, and was called True Love Stories.
Although the album was – by the standards of the single – something of a flop, it’s retained its status as something of a cult favourite. And I absolutely love it to pieces. So if you’ve never heard it – or, even, heard of it – before, allow me to introduce you to its genius…
To say that there’s been a fair bit of concern expressed by Red Dwarf fandom over recent Twitter comments from Doug and Richard Naylor is putting it mildly. And it’s only natural that, given the insane levels of optimism that accompanied the audience’s reaction to the live shooting weeks of Series X, that any kind of setback – whether it ultimately turns out to be a minor or a major one – is going to deflate things a little bit.
Nevertheless, whatever’s happening with the production at the moment – or what might be speculated as happening with the production – I still think there are a whole host of reasons to be optimistic. And, in my position as Official Red Dwarf Cheerleader, I feel it’s my duty to remind people of them.
Because the shows are great. Really, seriously, great. You can call me biased if you want, but anyone who knows me knows I’ve been plenty critical of Red Dwarf when I don’t like it. I know that due to my current role, I’d obviously have to be positive about the new series in public no matter what – but if I didn’t like the new episodes that I’d seen filmed, I’d simply avoid talking about them except in an “official” voice. As it is, though, I love them. Obviously, I can’t say too much about them without giving away things that aren’t meant to be given away, but here are just a few of the reasons why the return of the show fills me with so much joy:
That’s probably about all I’d better say, anyway (though if you want more from me on the new series, I wrote a bit more about the actual experience of a recording day in my official capacity) – there’s a delicate balancing act in talking about this series, because everyone with any kind of connection to it – whether official or fan – wants to avoid ruining the twists and turns it has to offer before its broadcast later this year. But my point is this: the recent chatter on Twitter about model shots and music is just about the first negative-sounding word that has come out from anywhere connected to the production, and it shouldn’t cancel out the immense positive feeling from the episode recordings – the feeling that, quite simply, Red Dwarf X is just about everything that a new series of Red Dwarf should be.
It’s going to be amazing. And Autumn can’t come soon enough.