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Friday, May 04, 2007

THE ODDEST BANDS OF ALL TIME: TENPOLE TUDOR

One of the most "what the fuck?!!?" bands ever to emerge from Britain's punk scene, Tenpole Tudor was bizarre beyond belief and not even the slightest bit punk. But then again, exactly what the hell kind of music they put out is still open to debate.

Musically competent at the most rudimentary of levels, intentionally (?) silly-sounding, uniformly butt-ugly, and fronted by a guy whose features and overall physical appearance suggested the end result of the Joker's drunken tryst with the local radioactive/inbred gal, anti-entertainment of the highest order was guaranteed by their very existence. And as if that wasn't bad enough, lead singer Eddie Tudor Pole's "dance" moves resembled nothing so much as a gran mal seizure set to music played by a pub band comprised of the criminally insane.

And then there's his voice.

To say the guy couldn't carry a tune in wheelbarrow is an understatement; his vocals sound like what I'd imagine the Kids of Widney High would sound like if they downed a couple of bottles of Jack Daniels followed by a chaser of cheap Mexican cough syrup. In fact, you may know his unique stylings from his bid to become the new Johnny Rotten (after the esteemed Mister Lydon got the boot) and his unforgettable performance of "Who Killed Bambi?" from the Sex Pistols movie, THE GREAT ROCK 'N' ROLL SWINDLE (1980). He's the scrawny, fugly dork in a suit seen capering about in a movie theater lobby with a vacuum cleaner, warbling like a maniac. In a film full of utterly baffling non sequitor moments, that scene is a standout and my buddy John Bligh and I have been known to occasionally get drunk and sing "Bambi" at parties and cookouts, accurately and to the sheer annoyance of everyone within earshot.

Tenpole Tudor didn't amount to much, chart wise, but they did have three minor hits; "Three Bells in a Row" is a peppy little ditty that barely warrants mention, but the other two... Hoo-BOY!

"Swords of a Thousand Men" tells the rollicking story of a medieval campaign from a knight's point of view and while rather moronic, it is at least comprehensible:

SWORDS OF A THOUSAND MEN

Deep in the castle and back from the wars
Back with my lady and the fires burned tall
Hoorah went the men down below
All outside was the rain and snow
Hear their shout, hear their roar
They've probably had a barrel of ale and much, much more
Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yea
Over the hill went the swords of a thousand men
We had to meet the enemy a mile away
Thunder in the air and the sky turned grey
Assembling the knights and their swords were sharp
There was not a hope in your English hearts
When you Hear our drums, hear them sound
We're gonna fight until we have won this town
Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yea
Over the hill went the swords of a thousand men

(Instrumental)

When the knights come along at the end of the day
Some were half-alive and some had run away
But Hear our triumph, hear our shout
We'll probably drink a barrel of ale and much, much more
Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yea
Over the hill went the swords of a thousand men

Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yea
Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yea - yea

Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yea
Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yea - yea

Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yea
Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yea - yea

Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yea
Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yea - yea

This lunacy was actually supported with a video, replete with cheesy armor.

But then came the almost brain-meltingly stupid "Wunderbar," and if you can tell me exactly what the fuck this song is about I will willingly you give you my left arm (that's my 'batin' arm, so it would be a significant sacrifice). The fact that it's sung as though the singer simultaneously has a huge, dribbling cock in his mouth and his jaw is slowly being pulled off with pincers does not help matters, though it does heighten the unintentional (?) humor. NOTE: I swear to God that I did not fuck with these lyrics at all, and though I've known the song for over twenty-five years I never knew the actual words until looking them up today:

Einz zwei drei zwa!

There is unemployment misery despair
Really want to leave my trouble going to a band
Love is getting rough o yes I know
Excuse me but I've got to go

There is a man in Germany/ He can send a tool

CHORUS
wunderbar wunderbar wunderbar wunderbar
wunderbar wunderbar wunderbar wunderbar
wunderbar

Here on the risk of being bold
Tell me all about that nuclear war
God I wanna sing to herr fuhrer
God knows!

There is a man in Germany/ He can send a tool

CHORUS
wunderbar wunderbar wunderbar wunderbar
wunderbar wunderbar wunderbar wunderbar
wunderbar

wunderbar wunderbar wunderbar wunderbar (ad infinitum)

A stunning live version of this mess exists and I strongly urge you to drink a few Bud forty-ouncers to help you get into the spirit before checking it out.

Prettier than Duran Duran: Tenpole Tudor, live on TOP OF THE POPS, 1981.

It's truly awful in every way and a hell of a lot of fun, sort of like an even-less-comprehensible version of the Pogues' "Body of an American."

Sadly, Tenpole Tudor is pretty much tits-up now, but at least the recordings exist to amuse and bewilder future generations and current music collectors/masochists. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

4 comments:

Scraps said...

Tenpole Tudor were also responsible for one of my favorite song titles of all time: "Throwing My Baby Out with the Bathwater".

Anonymous said...

Jim Browski says:

Edward Tudor Pole has gone on to carve out a fairly successful career as a character actor, appearing in several Alex Cox films (Sid and Nancy) and some tv shows (Tales From the Crypt, Young Indiana Jones). He even turned up in a Harry Potter flick, but his scenes were deleted. Check out IMDB for his other credits.

Anonymous said...

you write this review in 2007 - go back to 1977 when Punk was emerging and this band fit with the scene and what was happening at the time.

Your review is rubbish and ill informed, do you even know what Punk was about?

Anonymous said...

As well as acting, Edward Tudor Pole is still playing his very own brand of eccentric British rock n roll. A smashing bloke and very entertaining. He's more punk than any of the boring leather jacketed mohawked conformists. To quote his own lyrics: "What do you mean I'm not a punk?... F*** Off You C*** !"