Some of our AAA members aren't just talented at singing, writing or playing an instrument. No, some of them are truly gifted comedians, ready with a witty phrase or an off-the-cuff remark that's either very fitting for their situation or simply very very funny. Thankfully many of the best AAA one-liners have been preserved for us on live records, filmed concerts or bootlegs. Here's a top fifteen sample, listed in chronological order:
1) The Beatles
The American record market loved doing things differently to the UK one. By taking three or four songs off an album and adding non-album singles Capitol - the fab four's US label - managed top gain another album every year compared to EMI and there was nothing the band could do about it. This is Lennon's in-concert remark whilst introducing 'Baby's In Black' and suddenly realising that it might not be on the album titled 'Beatles For Sale' in America despite being on that album in Britain:
"This one's off...err...Beatles V or VI or whatever on earth it's called...I don't really know to be honest, 'cause I haven't got it!"
2) The Beatles
(1965, 'Blackpool Night Out' - available on Anthology Two)
Another classic Lennonism, this time from the band's appearance back in Britain and their latest TV appearance plugging new LP 'Help!' He introduced the title track with the following phrase designed to widen the generation gap as mums and dads were likely to be watching this variety show too:
"This is taken from our latest LP...or latest electronic noise, depending on whose side you're on!"
3) Otis Redding
(1967, Monterey Pop Festival)
Otis' greatest half-hour, the Monterey Pop Festival catapulted him to fame and glory, at least for the six months he still had left to live. Near the end of the set the crowd have been adrenalin-rushed into such a frenzy that the organisers are frightened about safety (no crowd of this size has ever got together before) and someone has just passed a note to Otis to try and get him to quieten things down. This is his great, still quoted, ad libbed reponse:
"This is the love crowd, right? We all love each other don't we? Am I right?! Then it's time for a ballad..."
4) Grateful Dead
(1967, Monterey Pop Festival)
Figuring that the festival is nearly over - and upset that they've just been interrupted by Monkee Peter Tork, haplessly roped into telling the record audience not to tear down the stage after rumours that The Beatles are about to perform - this is guitarist Bob Weir's witty response to getting the crowd back dancing again:
"You know what folding chairs are for, don't you? They're for folding up and dancing on!"
5) Neil Young
(1968, Canterbury House - hear it on 'Sugar Mountain')
Neil's on top rambling form on his first solo concert after the demise of the Buffalo Springfield, with practically every song he sings that night prefaced by a 'rap' on some subject or another. This is 'Songs Rap' heard before Neil sings his first solo version of Springfield classic 'Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing'
"I don't know what to do...does anyone want me to do anything?...Songs I mean!...This is Sunday night, very impromptu - and if it hasn't been in the past it's a new policy we're starting tonight...They're just all so down, man, I think I'm going to sit down and right some happy ones before I do anything else!"
6) The Beach Boys
(1968, London - hear it on 'Live In London')
Mike Love is on mischievous form during the Beach Boys' short stay in England, which for many fans is the peak of the band's live career, even if the turnout from fans was at it's lowest in this period. Say what you will about Love's reputation within the band, he really is a very funny emcee when he's on form. The official live CD - taped in the middle of a particularly nasty British Winter - features several classic Mike Love-isms including this gem introducing 'And Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring':
"It's the only song we do in a personal appearance that is done a capella, which means nude...No, it doesn't mean that, I forgot, lost my head again...Anyway it really is done without instruments so you can hear all the mistakes if everyone's very quiet, it's a beautiful Spring time which we thought particularly appropriate due to the time of the year (it's January!)"
7) The Beatles
(1969, Saville Row Rooftop)
We couldn't miss out the greatest off-the-cuff quip of all time, even if it is by far the best known on the list. This is John Lennon, at the end of the Apple Rooftop gig, which the band clearly know is likely to be the last thing they'll ever do. What a neat way to go:
"We'd like to say thankyou on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we passed the audition!"
8) Jefferson Airplane
(1969, Altamont - available on DVD 'Gimme Shelter')
Every music fan knows that a member of the audience was stabbed to death during the Rolling Stones' set at Altamont by a Hell's Angel. What less people know is that even before the Stones' much-delayed set there was panic and edginess in the air as the 'good vibes' of Woodstock disintegrated for every performer that December weekend. The Grateful Dead were so shocked by the vibes that they refused to play, while others like CSNY struggled to keep the crowd quiet after several interruptions. It was Jefferson Airplane, though, who bore the brunt of the bad atmosphere, with hero-of-the-singer Marty Balin so incensed at the sight of a Hell's Angel beating up a girl who gets too close to the stage that he dives in, only to be knocked out and unable to perform for much of the rest of the set. The band try their best to quiet down the crowd, but rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner can't help adding a touch of sarcasm to the proceedings:
"To the guy whose just knocked out our lead singer while we were trying to play....umm, gee, thanks for that!"
(1971, Los Angeles - released as 'Another Stony Evening')
Being a Crosby-Nash fan in the early 70s meant being able to make the switch from corny jokes to deeply serious music in a matter of a seconds. Billed as 'the loosest gigs on Earth', all of the chat is improvised and often the arrangements are too. While Crosby-Nash played better gigs in a musical sense, their repartee is particularly swinging on this concert, released officially in 1998 as the 'sequel' to a famous bootleg 'A Stony Evening' which is a recording of a gig from the night before...This is Crosby's witty response to building the audience to a peak of spooky revelry, only for his partner to make some bad pun:
"I'm trying to take us to Church - and he takes us straight back to Disneyland!"
10) The Who
(1971, Dayton Hara Arena - hear it on '30 Years Of Maximum R and B')
Following a particularly barnstorming version of 'Won't Get Fooled Again' Pete Townshend responds to a wag in the audience asking him to 'play some rock and roll'....
"Play some rock and roll? What did you think that was? Mantovani?!"
(1977, London - released as 'Live and Let Live')
10cc's big return to the live circuit after the loss of Godley and Creme has gone rather well. With four new players on board to replace the missing duo and lots of new arrangements to old songs, the crowd clearly love it. Unfortunately somebody loves it a bit too much and keeps screaming in the middle of every introduction. The band are having fun throughout, even introducing drummer Paul Burgess as 'the man singlehandedly responsible for the Windscale disaster' for reasons best known to the band (you'll know it better as Sellafield today). This is guitarist Eric Stewart's response after the band have called back for an encore:
"We love you all - yes, even you with the big mouth!"
12) Neil Young and Crazy Horse
(1996, venue unknown - hear it on 'Year Of The Horse')
Cleverly edited so that it begins the CD, a bored patron in the audience yells out to Neil that 'it all sounds the same!' Neil's quickwitted response:
"It's all one song!"
(1996, Unplugged Studio)
As we've mentioned a few times on this site, Oasis' MTV Unplugged appearance is remarkable. Liam Gallagher pulled out of the gig at the absolute last minute with a throat complaint (although he still had enough of a voice to heckle his brother from a box near the stage for most of the gig). Freed from his intended setlist, brother Noel goes back to some of his earliest songs that he knows best, playing many tracks Oasis never again do live. Clearly loving the informal vibe of the gig, after a full two years of playing stadiums, Noel is on top repartee form too. This quote comes after he's strummed a single chord and momentarily pauses, trying to remember the next line. Instead he asks the audience...By the way both songs mentioned do start with the same chord!
"I bet some of youse knew what I was going to play then? Talk tonight? Yes - a tenner to the woman in the black dress there. Well, actually, I was going to play 'It's Good To Be Free', but now I've embarrassed you I might as well do 'Talk Tonight' instead..."
14) Paul Simon
(2012, Rosemont Theatre)
Paul Simon pauses to say hello to the audience - and tick them off for reminding him about passing the age of 70 the month before - but is interrupted by a fan with an unusual song request...
"We're not taking any requests...Cecilia, huh?!....Look, I'm trying to stay in the range of songs from the age of, like, 19 to 21 as opposed to 14 to 17 here"
15) Rolling Stones
(Hyde Park, 2013)
The Stones' shock return to a venue that will be forever associated with them during their free concert there in 1969 (commemorating Brian Jones' death the same week) brought back a lot of parallels. Back in 1969 it was feared it would be their last show after the death of their founder and ended up being Mick Taylor's first. In 2013 it was Mick Taylor's return to a band he'd only played with once in 29 years and there are still fears it might turn out to be 'the last time', as the gaps between Stones tours gets longer and longer (this is their 50th year after all). Sweetly the band are in nostalgic mood for their finest gig of the year, Mick Jagger even sporting the same 'dress' he wore in 1969 with the following comment:
"I found this in the back of my wardrobe of clothes from 1969 and look - it still fits! Well, if I loosen it a bit it does anyway..."
More quotable quotes and a whole lotta music next week with more news, views and music - see you then!