The habit irritates me at times, but just once in a while, my inability to spend a morning at home without randomly browsing items all over the net can occasionally turn up something joyful. Those great YouTube moments when you discover that some random stranger has uploaded something you only vaguely remember existing and haven’t actually had any visual proof of for years.
In a week when it seems very likely that Fyfe Dangerfield is about to land the solo hit single that had until now eluded him with a paint by numbers cover of an old song from a TV advert rather than one of his own more superior compositions [this was She's Always A Woman, one of the first John Lewis advert hits], it seemed appropriate to think back to other occasions of rather serious-minded acts unwittingly becoming famous thanks to nothing more than a throwaway novelty. It happened to Faith No More in the early 90s, yet the tale of how they dealt with it despite being one I’ve cited many times in writing in the past yet rare are the occasions when I’ve met someone who remembers the incident in question.
The song at issue is Easy, a tongue in cheek cover of the old Commodores song that the group recorded as a late addition to their Angel Dust album and then watched as it went on to become their biggest ever hit single in many major markets (including the UK where it went Top 3). A world away from the inventive, intoxicating alt-metal with which they had made their name, I always got the feeling it was a source of irritation to the band that wherever they went this was the song that most casual audiences associated with them the most.
Hence, I suspect, this moment of live TV petulance. It was at the end of what turned out to be the last ever edition of the Channel 4 TV series ‘The Word’ which Terry Christian’s autobiography ‘My Word’ documents as having been broadcast on March 3rd 1995. Having been guests on the show the band were invited to close it with a rendition of their most famous hit, but after playing the first few bars of the song they stop dead with an out of tune chord and launch instead into a world-weary rendering of the old Bee Gees song I Started A Joke.
A deliberate inside joke by the producers? Or a genuine moment of TV spontaneity by a band who had a new album to promote but were instead being asked to deliver a ratings-friendly performance of a two-year-old cover version they intended as a b-side in the first place? Either way, it was glorious to watch, not least for the nonplussed reaction of the crowd who didn’t really understand what it was they were watching.
A proper studio version of I Started A Joke became a bonus track on their 1995 album King For A Day… Fool For A Lifetime but it did not become a single until 1998 when their label issued it as a standalone to promote their farewell Greatest Hits release.
To accompany the UK release, a video was filmed that featured no members of the group at all (although for years it was rumoured to be a cameo from lead singer Mike Patton at the start) but instead cast a selection of well known (and soon to be well known) British actors in a mini soap sink drama. The single flopped, so the video went pretty much unseen by most people. But eventually almost everything finds its way online via official channels. So we all get a chance to see younger versions of Shaun Dingwall (aka Rose Tyler's dad), Michelle Butterly (from "Benidorm") and Martin Freeman in one of his earliest “regular bloke” roles