Peter Cook and Dudley Moore as Derek and Clive
Derek and Clive were foul-mouthed, devastatingly funny, lewd characters invented by the beloved British comedic duo Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in the early 1970’s. Cook and Moore were in New York in 1973 touring Broadway with their show Good Evening, a reworked live stage version of their 1964-1970 BBC television show Not Only…But Also (many episodes of which were unfortunately erased by the shortsightedly thrifty BBC).
At Cook’s request Island Records co-founder and music industry mogul Chris Blackwell provided the two with time at Electric Lady Studios in New York simply to hang out, drink, improvise, and riff off each other, mainly to relieve the tension and frustration that had built up during their time working together in New York.
The resulting surreal improvisation birthed working class British Trade Centre bathroom attendants Derek and Clive, updated and ruder variations of their earlier Pete and Dud characters. As usual Cook managed to make Moore dissolve into helpless laughter. No plans were initially made to release the recordings of their uproarious, stream of consciousness dialogue, but Blackwell passed around bootleg copies to his friends in the music business for years.
Eventually Cook decided that the tapes should be released properly, something Moore was unsure about, not wanting his newly popular, cuddly image in America to be tainted by the taboo topics and copious profanity of his alter ego. Extra live material from an appearance at the Bottom Line was added and Derek and Clive (Live) was released in 1976 on Island Records. There were two follow-up albums on Virgin Records, Derek and Clive Come Again and Derek and Clive Ad Nauseum. During the recording of Ad Nauseum in 1978 Virgin founder Richard Branson arranged for a prank involving a fake drug bust to take place in the studio.
Director Russell Mulcahy’s documentary Derek and Clive Get the Horn, chronicling the recording of Ad Nauseum, shows the disintegration of Cook and Moore’s relationship. Cook’s cruelest, snarkiest remarks aimed at Moore played a hand in their resulting estrangement. This album, during which Moore walked out, was their last collaboration of original material.
It’s hard to believe now that jokes about erections (“getting the horn”), blasphemy, masturbation, and liberal use of the epithet “cunt” was so shocking, but at the time British officials were so outraged at the language on the Derek and Clive albums that a concerted effort was made to suppress them. A UK gas station attendant was actually fired just for owning a copy of their second album, Derek and Clive Come Again. Peter Cook testified at the man’s tribunal. A zealous member of the Greater Manchester Police confiscated and impounded several hundred copies of the original video release (it had been denied a cinematic release by the British Board of Film Classification) of Derek and Clive Get the Horn, forcing the company that released it into bankruptcy. Four years ago it was discovered that three separate branches of British law enforcement in the late 1970’s had planned to bring formal obscenity charges against Cook and Moore.
Derek and Clive transcripts are available here.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore: Seldom seen interview and sketch from 1979
Peter Cook & Dudley Moore in ‘The Glidd of Glood’