Hippies make the best capitalists. They are the passive-aggressive masters who use their artificial sense of moral superiority to sell you shit you don’t need. You know the kind of shit. Shit, they claim that will save the planet, or feed your soul, or flow in tune with your karmic wholewheat astrological aura, kinda thing.
In a survey I’ve just made up at random, 99.9% of all hippies are capitalist bastards. Take The Young Ones for example. Here was a household consisting of four students from four very different backgrounds. There was a punk called Vyvyan, a radical-leftie-progressive-socialist-Cliff Richard-fan called Rik, a mature student-cum-yuppie-businessman called Mike, and a hippie named Neil. There was also rumored to be a fifth roommate, but we don’t talk about him. Now, you might think out of this small group that the punk or the mature student would go on to make the most money and have say, a pop career that sold literally dozens of records across the world and lasted for days if not weeks. But you’d be wrong. It was, in fact, Neil the hippie who saw the potential in marketing his miserable lentil-stained life and selling it on to an unsuspecting public.
And very, very successful he was at this, too.
It all started, you see, when Neil the hippie (aka the divinely talented actor Nigel Planer) recorded what some might describe as a kind of “novelty record” called “Hole in My Shoe” in 1984. Planer had astutely chosen to cover a song, which in many respects, captured aspects of Neil’s miserabilist, psychedelic personality. The song had originally been a hit for the rock band Traffic in 1967.
Planer used a little help from his friends to record his single. He collaborated with Dave Stewart, a prog rock keyboardist with bands like Uriel, Egg, and National Health, and singer Barbra Gaskin. Stewart, not to be confused with the other Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics, had scored a UK #1 with Gaskin on their cover of “It’s My Party” in 1981. Neil/Nigel’s “Hole in My Shoe” reached #2 on the UK charts. Its success led Planer, Stewart and Gaskin to go one further and record Neil’s Heavy Concept Album.
Nigel/Neil sings ‘Hole in My Shoe’: Today the 45rpm record, tomorrow the 33⅓.
Neil’s Heavy Concept Album was the most splendid spoof LP since, well, The Rutles in 1978. This was a concept album that paid homage to the, er, “concept” of a concept album, but didn’t actually have any real concept other than the unifying character of Neil who riffed on a variety of surreal adventures (a trip down a plughole, a meeting with a potato, a movie advert, and reading a poem to his plant) and singing a few classic, beautifully-rendered songs.
The whole album brilliantly parodied the musical form of those trippy conceptual albums released by progressive and psychedelic bands during the sixties and seventies. From the early musings and backward guitars of the Beatles, through Gong (Pip Pyle plays drums on the record), King Crimson, Pink Floyd, the Incredible String Band and a hint of Frank Zappa. The front cover mimicked that of the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request album, while the back, in red with liner notes and four images of Neil, copied the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band but instead of a guaranteeing a splendid time for all, Neil offered that:
A heavy time is guaranteed for all.
The back cover inspired by ‘Sgt. Pepper.’
The liner notes offered up a typically long “moan-a-log” from Neil explaining or rather excusing the record’s contents:
Right, here it is, my Heavy Concept Album, which has been specially designed to ruin your Christmas, or Birthday or whatever stupid excuse you thought you needed to actually buy this record. Yeah! Right, because I don’t recognise the celebration of the western consumerism and the exploitation of the winter solstice or people’s personal astrological misfortunes by the capitalistic excesses of the multinationals and the media and anyway it gets really boring because you have to stay in with your parents and there’s only old films on the telly and carol singers keep hassling you for bread and you’ve got to eat lots of horrible nuclear food because your mum and dad’ll get really neurotic if you don’t behave like an officer in charge of a concentration camp, and anyway everyone probably forgot it was your birthday so you had to buy yourself this record, except for the person who sent you that horrible “now we are two” badge as a spiteful joke to put you down.
You get the drift…
But Neil really didn’t have to explain or even excuse anything as his Heavy Concept Album was a sophisticated and amusing aural flashback to a more psychedelic era. But don’t take my word for it, here are some of the choice words used to describe the album in a review by Lindsay Planer (a relative?) on All Music: “revives,” “highly,” “exceedingly,” “nuggets,” and last but not least, “thoroughly.” Now those are the kind of words you associate with a great review…
Neil’s Heavy Concept Album was released in 1984 and spawned two singles (the aforementioned “Hole in My Shoe” and the less successful cover of Tomorrow’s “My White Bicycle”). It’s one of those discs which should appeal to both the stoner and the music snob in your life. Cherry Red will be releasing a (heavy) 200g expanded and remastered edition of Neil’s Heavy Concept Album later this month. Bet they’re hippies. Have a listen below, then order your copy here.
MTV ad selling ‘Neil’s Heavy Concept Album’
Tracks #1. ‘Hello Vegetable’ and #2. ‘Hole in My Shoe.’
Tracks: #3. ‘Heavy Potato Encounter’ and #4. ‘My White Bicyle.’
Tracks #5. ‘Neil the Barbarian’ and #6. ‘Lentil Nightmare.’
Tracks #7. ‘Computer Alarm,’ #8. ‘Wayne’ and #9. ‘The Gnome.’