Ted Chippington. True Greatness.
Did you see Channel 4ís recent "Top 100 Best Ever Stand Up Comedians"? It was well worth sitting all the way through as it counted down from 100 to number one to see just how much true genius really is appreciated. The rundown was littered with comics who would name Ted Chippington as an influence and inspiration, even the very reason why they began their comic careers. However, C4ís mainstream leanings meant they, who included Stewart Lee, Phil Jupitus and Ricky Gervais, couldnít name him on air.
Meanwhile, others in the run down, regulars (Mortimer & Reeves, you know it is you), at Tedís early gigs in and around the Midlands in the early and middle 80s, have never acknowledged the influence he had over their own careers.
Described as "both 10 years behind time and 5 years ahead of his time", with his monotone delivery, he perfected the art of the deadpan comic, paving the way for Jack Dee to launch a long and successful career. Meanwhile, the Ben Elton / Alexei Sayle / Young Ones brash, physical, in your face humour school of comedians were camped out on national TV.
His anti humour and jokes based around a very few themes had audiences the length of the country struggling to keep up (it took me over 20 years to get one joke), they didnít know what had hit them. Still recovering from one joke, the next had already hit home. Hitting the play button on his cassette player brought a brief respite as Ted launched into song, mainly covers of well know songs, most which came to brief and unexpected end. Oh no.
Tedís career as a comic, following an earlier career in bands that, as it turned out, couldnít provide him with the platform he needed to launch himself on the unsuspecting public, was launched in Birmingham in the early 1980s supporting The Fall. He remained loyal to Robert Lloydís Vindaloo label during a career with many high points. They included being picked up by Steve Wright as record of the week, a much lauded debut album and multiple John Peel sessions.
Peel lamented that the only disappointment at his 50th birthday party was the non appearances of The Undertones and Ted Chippington. He launched a nationwide radio appeal to locate Ted in 1995, trying in vain to locate him to play at the DJís 50th birthday party. The irony was that Ted was roughly a mile (no jokes at the back please) away from BBCís Broadcasting House and less than half a mile from the venue. The Wedding Present and The Fall had the evening to themselves when Ted and The Undertones failed to make it.
Tedís legendary Rockin With Rita single had a second lease of life when fronting Vindalooís "Seaside Summer Special" tour as he and labelmates, The Nightingales and "Weíve Got A Fuzzbox And Weíre Gonna Use It" gigged the length of the country. "Rita" being re-recorded by the 3 artists with a video set in a seaside theme park (complete with Pat Nevin guest appearance).
Tedís version of "She Loves You" peaked at number 42 in the charts bringing him dangerously close to fame and fortune, rumour has it, a very small four figure fortune and a curry. Vindalooís link with Warner Brothers and TV appearances, check out Youtube to see him totally bemuse a blue rinse "Pebble Mill At One" audience. Paul Coia, where are you now?
Despite a massive cult following, he didnít (want to) cross over in to the charts.
It was around this time that I first bumped into him. Half an hour earlier and I would have probably been £1,250 better off. True greatness, thatís the power of Ted.
Not much later, his second breakthrough album became locked in the warehouses of Vindalooís national distributor, Red Rhino Records, in York. It wasnít to see the light of day until 2007.
Tedís dilemma (nice cars) was that he might also regard some of his career high spots as low lights as the wheels of the music industry tried, unsuccessfully, to muscle in and take control of his career.
Although without a record deal following the demise of Red Rhino, he kept gigging until the early 1990s. Well that canít really be bad.
Whilst some of his exploits between the end of his first career and his 2006 resurrection might have been spun or lost in the mists of time, the truth is probably a bit more mundane. Watching Celtic games in London W2 before it went upmarket, following the horses, marriage and family life are probably a little nearer the truth.
The joys of married life meant Ted was lost to the stage, even more so when he and his family escaped London for a more convivial lifestyle by the sea.
One thing is for sure, if you do track him down, you are in for a treat.
Dropping his teddy boy gear for a more intellectual (some might say middle aged) "Reverend Ted Chippington" persona, even if he does forget his dog collar more often than he remembers it, his comeback cumulated in London appearances including a sell out show at the Bloomsbury Theatre in February 2007, all proceeds towards funding Tedís 4 CD career boxed set. The show proving a backdrop for much media coverage in the national press and spots on the BBC (including 10 minutes on BBC2ís The Culture Show and 30 minutes as Phil Jupitusí special guest on his BBC Radio 6 breakfast show).
The legendary bloke beside me at The Bloomsbury Theatre turned around and asked "Is That Ted?" as Robert Lloyd ambled on stage for The Nightingales opening song. "Ah silence, nothing beats a bit of silence in London" was Tedís parting shot on the night. A theatre packed full of non believers lured in by thoughts of Lee & Herring, Simon Munnery, Simon Amstell, Phil Jupitus, Josie Long and more still didnít get the joke.
If youíre quick you might get hold of a copy of the 4 CD box set, try Big Print, it includes both his "Man In A Suitcase" and the long lost "The Real Truth About Trucking" albums, live shows, plus singles, including 8, count them, versions of the Tesco Christmas single which was cruelly never saw the light of day when Tesco belatedly pulled the plug on their 1987 Christmas advertising campaign.
Some of his best live shows have been when heís been up in front of a hostile audience. "I know more songs than that one. Ted Chippington, ÖTed Chippington, ÖÖfor the third time, Ted Chippington. In fact if you learn a few more songs than that one, only 3 or 4 will do, then next time I come to Liverpool, you can support me", was his legendary response to the Scousers "Who The F*****" H*** Are You?" when supporting The Farm many years ago in Liverpool.
If you saw Ricky Gervaisí abject attempt at ad libbing at the Wembley Diana concert in June 2007, then youíll know what it takes to be a top entertainer. Someone who can ad lib for a starter.
Recently coming away from a comedy club, I heard someone say, "Thatís the worst Iíve seen in over 20 years since I saw Ted Chippington". I donít think anyone can get a higher accolade than that.
Remember it well. Especially December 18, 1987, York 1 Brentford 1, on the terraces, next to Ted, a quick cycle ride across town (no croggy for Ted) to The Winning Post and the Team 7 Xmas do, £3 a head, Ted Chippington live.
Remember it well. Encore.
Remember it well. Again. Walking past the garage on Clarence Street in early 2009, a guy came up to me (not in a modern motor car, so I wasn't in a dilemna) and in a croaky voice, asked, "What's the time?". I replied in an even more croaky voice, "6 thirty", he gave me a blank look. I fell about laughing. Philistine. I haven't stopped laughing since and if I tell the tale one more time, I might just cry.
Remember it well. Encore. 3 pints of Everards, Port Vale game postponed, 10 minutes to closing time. Bliss
Remember it well. More. Ted, when are you playing York again?