Before Spinal Tap, there was Bad News, the Comic Strip ensemble beating the Hollywood troupe to the punch by a full year. Whilst the Americans may have had the Stonehenge-sized budget, the UK’s own self-styled Heavy Metal Heroes were a much grittier prospect, born from the DIY era when the NWOBHM threw up (possibly literally in the case of Bad News) countless bands with great ambitions but lesser talent.
Bad News – Every Mistake Imaginable (Cherry Red)
The Complete Frilly Pink Years 1987-1988
Release Date: 18 August 2023
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Spinal Tap may have had history, harking back to their formative days in Squatney, but the London quartet were just in their nascent days when Channel 4 picked them for a warts and all (again, possibly literally in the case of Bad News) rockumentary.
As with This Is Spinal Tap, the Bad News show was an, at times, painfully accurate reflection of the real experiences of rock and Metal bands rather than just purely hyper-exaggeration of warring egos and life on the road.
Brilliantly written by Adrian Edmundson (aka Bad News vocalist and lead guitar player Vim Fuego), it was a treat for all headbangers and with the rest of the outfit made up of Rik Mayall (bass player Colin Grigson), Nigel Planer (guitarist Den Dennis) and Peter Richardson (drummer Spider Webb), the much-loved comedians created something bigger than they could have guessed.
With songs written for the show and the patronage of Queen guitarist Sir Brian May, the natural extension of the project was to record a proper album and eventually tour with it some years later.
There was the usual sense of anarchic fun with the Bad News debut, the brief running time reflecting this spirit, with five originals and a cover of Bohemian Rhapsody thrown in for good measure due to May producing the album.
Like a lot of comedy albums, this was something that worked well with visuals, but the repeat play value was something that diminished in time. The whole thing was a satire, but a very loving one, and with the writing and production all skilfully done, this had an unusual quality that gained some credibility.
Of the original tracks, it’s the titular Bad News that wins the crown for the most memorable, and its execution pulled off with aplomb, the naming of fictional bands in its lyrics presciently foreshadowing the word salad method that a lot of New Wave Of Classic Rock bands took up.
While the album as a whole is not going to be considered a classic, up there with debuts by Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses or Montrose, it’s a fun way to spend your time and would soon be augmented with a number of additional tracks, including the inevitable seasonal track Cashing In On Christmas.
Released the following year, 1988’s Bootleg was a series of ‘outtakes’ from the studio during the recording sessions for the eponymous debut.
With very little music, this is much more like something that Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore crafted for their famed stream-of-consciousness Derek & Clive albums or the infamous tape of The Troggs singer Reg Presley exhorting, “put a little bit of fucking fairy dust over the bastard” in the studio.
It’s fascinating to hear them riffing off of each other in character, the voice of the late, great Mayall always a poignant reminder of what a tragedy it was to lose him but a welcome record of his wit.
Every Mistake Imaginable brings together these two documents of madness, and the results are rougher-edged but much sharper than most parody bands, bringing together rock and comedy that many have tried to imitate.
This writer experienced the power and glory of Bad News at a special Hammersmith Odeon show when they opened for Iron Maiden on the Somewhere In Time Tour in 1986, with Brian May and Jimmy Page joining them for a guitar duel. I’ve never been the same since.
Buy this, revel in the absurdity, bang your head, laugh and just remember, this was a band of comedy actors who had the balls to play Monsters Of Rock in between Warlock and Motörhead when clouds of urine-filled plastic bottles were hurled at the stage for anyone not meeting approval was de rigour. Absolute legends.
For order details, visit Cherry Red Records.