At least once a year, I find myself watching the Peter Cook-Dudley Moore version of Bedazzled, a film I find both uproarious and poignant in equal measures. Peter Cook, playing perhaps the most charming devil figure in cinematic history, strikes a deal with hapless fry cook Dudley Moore: seven wishes for Moore’s soul (seeking reentry into heaven, Cook’s working his way to a hundred billion of ‘em). The humor is dry (Cook walks in during a Moore suicide attempt and says, “I do hope this isn’t an awkward moment.”), the direction comes via Singin’ In The Rain‘s Stanley Donen.
The Cook-Moore comedy partnership started in England in the early ‘60s with Beyond The Fringe, and then went on to reach even greater absurdist heights with Not Only…But Also. Many of those early clips have migrated over to YouTube, but just today I stumbled across a Not Only… clip I’d never seen before (above), one claiming to be part of a “prize-winning documentary made for Idaho television.”
In it, Cook and Moore perform their faux Beatles diddy, “The L.S. Bumble Bee,” a song described by the 365 Days Project thusly:
The story goes that a few DJs played the record, “The L.S. Bumble Bee,” claiming that it was an unreleased Beatles’ track, or else an advance from their forthcoming, highly anticipated masterpiece “Sgt. Pepper’s.” True or not, the song managed to sneak its way on to several Beatles bootlegs throughout the 1970s, convincing many more that it was an authentic outtake.
In a letter from December of 1981, Moore offered a bit of insight: “Peter Cook and I recorded that song about the time when there was so much fuss about L.S.D., and when everybody thought that “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” was a reference to drugs. The exciting alternative offered to the world was L.S.B.!, and I wrote the music to, in some ways, satirize the Beach Boys rather than the Beatles. But I’m grateful if some small part of the world thinks that it may have been them, rather than us!”
But what really sticks with you is how perfectly this song captures the lollygaggery of the wondrous hippie fantasy machine that was the late 1960s. Its sparse instrumentation, with distant shimmering pianos, screaming babies, and jangly, seagull-like guitar effects set it apart from other psychedelic satires, but it goes further still. Its inviting lyric is more genuinely hallucinogenic than much of what has been labeled “psychedelic” throughout the years.
Don’t miss the “surprise” guest that pops up at the end. Below you can watch Peter Cook, whom Stephen Fry called “the funniest man who ever drew breath,” singing the Bedazzled theme song.
Cook-Moore: At The Psychiatrist
Cook-Moore: At The Art Gallery
Cook-Moore: At The Doctors