Bradford-born comedian Edmondson switches to music

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Adrian Edmondson with his mandolin Adrian Edmondson with his mandolin

The press release said that Ade Edmondson was hanging up his comedy boots to become a musician with his own punk/folk band The Bad Shepherds.

Could the Bradford-born man who made a name for himself as anarchic nutters Vyvyan, Eddie Hitler and Sir Adrian Dangerous really be swapping comic-Ade for live-Ade?

When I questioned him about the press release, he laughed. “You shouldn’t believe press releases,” he said.

Good advice, as it turns out. The press release proved to be wrong in every aspect. Two days before the 27-date tour was due to start at Pocklington Arts Centre near York, another press release from a London PR firm arrived. For the record, this is what it said: “I’m really sorry to say that the Adrian Edmondson & Bad Shepherds tour has been cancelled. I have no further information at the moment regarding this situation…”

The former madcap in The Comic Strip, The Young Ones and Bottom, was said to be playing mandolin and singing. In his time, Ade Edmondson has sung on record with Kate Bush, Nick Cave and Sir Cliff Richard. In 1986, The Young Ones’ version of Living Doll reached No.1 in the UK. In 1993 he played the part of Sid Vicious in The Comic Strip’s TV comedy Demonella.

Folk-punk seemed an unusual combination until I remembered The Pogues – gap-toothed singer Shayne McGowan was a pal apparently. Those who had bought tickets for The Bad Shepherds could have expected folked-up versions of I Fought The Law (And The Law Won), London Calling, Teenage Kicks and God Save The Queen.

When Ade Edmondson spoke to me, there was no hint that the tour wasn’t attracting ticket sales. While explaining why the tour was starting in Pocklington, he said sales were going well.

“Troy Donockley (he plays Uillean pipes in the band) lives just outside Pocks and we had our first rehearsal at in the Arts Centre. It used to be the dirty little cinema when I was there. I think it has sold out,” he said.

Again, for the record, Ade Edmondson, one of four children, was born on January 24, 1957. His family left Bradford in 1958 and moved to Cyprus and then Africa. He attended public school at Pocklington from the age of 11 to 18. In the mid-1980s, his father was deputy head at Drummond Middle School, when controversial head teacher Ray Honeyford was in charge.

The nearest The Bad Shepherds were scheduled to get to Adrian’s home town was Leeds next Tuesday and Holmfirth on November 12. Would he like to play Bradford?

“I certainly would. This is a taster tour. I didn’t want to do everything at once in case it was a disaster. We will do it all next year, that’s the plan.

“I have emptied my diary for 2009. We have started to pencil in a tour for the spring, some festivals and then a tour in the autumn. I want to have fun. Long-running things tend to stop being fun,” he added.

The tour could not have been cancelled because The Bad Shepherds had not been road-tested. This is what Ade Edmondson told me when I asked him that question: “We did a series of low profile gigs. We had a bit of a holiday in St Lucia. It rained all week, you’ll be glad to hear. We did six gigs in local bars. There were people on holiday and ex-pats – a weird audience. It was good fun.”

He said he was not bothered that people might come along to see him act the fool as Vyvyan “I don’t really care, it doesn’t worry me. It is a very obvious project – very easy to understand and get the mood of it. I don’t think people will come along for an episode of Bottom. They will come along to get something of me and I will give them something of me.

“I am like most people; most people are quite complex. You act differently if you’re with your parents than if you’re with your best friend. Vyvyan was based on a version of me when I was drunk. I was a fun drunk,” he added.

I suppose he could have been made a better offer, out of the blue, to do something else. Perhaps advance ticket sales other than at Pocklington were insufficient to cover costs.

Not long after the interview, Ade Edmondson’s wife Jennifer Saunders and Lenny Henry’s wife Dawn French announced their ‘divorce’ from the BBC.

The two comediennes accused the Corporation of dumbing down programmes and not investing in the kind of elaborate sketches associated with the French & Saunders shows.

Now the tour that Ade said he was looking forward to doing, to celebrate the punk and new wave music he grew up with in the Seventies, has been scrapped.

Perhaps he had another look at his suited self on the Jools Holland Show, playing trumpet and singing a laid-back lounge version of The Sex Pistols’ wrathful Anarchy in the UK.

As a satire on big band, middle-of-the-road music it was amusing, for a while; but not in the same class as the American lounge singer Richard Cheese, I was told.

There was no indication in what he said about his passion for punk that The Bad Shepherds were going down that road “I grew up with punk and new wave in the 1970s. I think they’re really good songs. They were written by untrained people and out of passion and for their own sake.

“I would like it (The Bad Shepherds) to be a really exciting live act…I cannot think of anyone who was male who hasn’t wanted to be in a Rock band,” he said.

Well, he had the opportunity and for reasons unknown won’t be taking it. I dare say explanations will follow in due course, in the fullness of time.

If Adrian Edmondson & The Bad Shepherds ever reach the point where they do decide to go out on the road, journalists throughout the land should treat the press release with caution.

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