Tag Archives: Gits

Steve Bowditch on music, The Gits, the Greatest Show on Legs and performing comedy at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe

Steve in Rotherhithe docks, London

Steve after surviving The Gits – in Rotherhithe docks, London

This is a blog, partly, about how people’s memories fail them.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned The Gits in a blog.

I had been listening to an unreleased 9-song CD by the punk band from around 1990 which comprised English comedy performers Steve Bowditch, Stephen Frost and Canadian Alan Marriott. (These UK-based Gits are not to be confused with the Seattle band The Gits.)

One of my favourite tracks on the album is Albert Einstein. Part of the song is posted on YouTube.

I phoned up ex-Git Steve Bowditch to talk about their unreleased album.

“Could you do me a copy?” Steve asked. “I don’t have it. I used to have copies. I dunno what happened to them.”

Steve Bowditch was and is a member of The Greatest Show On Legs, the comedy troupe whose claim to fame is the Naked Balloon Dance. Performer Martin Soan started the Greatest Show On Legs as an adult Punch & Judy show. Then he was joined by the late legend Malcolm Hardee. And Steve Bowditch joined later.

“How did The Gits start?” I asked Steve.

“It was Stephen Frost,” he told me. “Stephen phoned me up and said Do you want to be the bass player in this punk band? and that was it. We practised in Alan Marriott’s flat in Mitchum. Steve was a punk fan and one of our first gigs was supporting the UK Subs at the Amersham Arms.”

“I thought I saw The Gits perform at the Astoria (since demolished) in Charing Cross Road in central London,” I said, “when Malcolm and I worked for Noel Gay TV.”

“No,” Steve told me. “But I remember we did perform at the Astoria, supporting John Otway. It was great to be playing to a packed Astoria.”

“I thought,” I said, “that we must have booked you to play on Jools Holland’s The Happening for BSB.”

“No,” said Steve. “The Greatest Show On Legs performed on that, but not The Gits.”

“What was the idea?” I asked. “A semi-comic punk band that might catch on and you might become millionaires?”

“I don’t know about being millionaires,” laughed Steve. “It was just really for the punk ethics. Stephen Frost wanted to have a punk band and that was that. He quite liked the Ramones. The first few gigs, we did the Ramones’ Suzy Is A Headbanger.

“I had always written comic songs for my act, so we started writing our own songs. Stephen wanted to write something about how you never see the drummer in a rock ‘n’ roll band. So he wrote a song about that. I had a thing about Albert Einstein and Stephen was keen on pub quizzes. So we wrote songs about them. Alan came up with God Squad because he couldn’t stand people banging on his door on Sunday mornings selling God.

“And, years ago when you got a packet of tea, you used to get a picture card in it showing animals and butterflies. I found this card in a drawer with a warthog on it, so just decided to write a song based on the back of a teabag card.”

“And what a fine song Warthog is,” I said.”

“Hog!” sang Steve, impressively remembering the lyrics from all those years ago.

“We played Glastonbury,” remembered Steve, “and at the Hope Festival a couple of times – and St Ives. We stayed in Taunton. Stephen’s parents lived in Penzance at the time.”

Comedian Stephen Frost’s father was Sir Terence Ernest Manitou Frost – Sir Terry Frost – a very highly-regarded artist and Royal Academician.

“His brother’s a famous artist, too,” said Steve. “Anthony – He lives on the edge of a cliff.”

“Don’t we all,” I said. “You’ve always been musical. You usually have a guitar in your act.”

“Right,” said Steve. “I play the violin now.”

“You do?”

“I do.”

“On stage?”

“Well, I bought the violin to do a sort of Jack Benny with it: always promising to play it but never doing it. But then I realised I quite enjoyed playing it. I practise about 2-3 hours a day now. Mainly Irish folk songs – The Irish Washerwoman, Jackie Tar, Chicken Reel, stuff like that.”

Steve at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1993

Steve performs with guitar & strawberry at the Fringe – 1993

“You were always guitar-based,” I said. “Was that because you wanted to be a musician or was it just another prop?”

“Just a way of getting through the act,” said Steve. “I was never really a stand-up comedian. I’ve always mucked around with props and music. Stand-ups have a certain something.”

“Madness,” I suggested. “Your musical career’s going even further at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.”

The Dickie Richards and Steve Bowditch Comedy Show,” said Steve. “The idea is to write a new ukelele song every day, using suggestions from the audience, featuring The Two Yuris.”

“Your act as two Russian generals?”

“Of course.”

“How long is your show’s run?” I asked.

“The 3rd to the 24th of August,” said Steve.

“So,” I said, “at the end, you’re going to have written 22 songs?”

“Hopefully.”

“As an album?” I asked.

“If someone can explain this iTunes malarkey to us,” said Steve. “You told me we can’t talk to Steve Jobs because he’s dead.”

“Don’t let that stop you,” I said. “After Edinburgh, are you and Dickie being a duo?”

“No,” said Steve, “we’re just going up there for the Fringe and, after Edinburgh, it’s hopefully full steam ahead with a Greatest Show On Legs tour and we’ll get work. We’re at the Spiegeltent on the South Bank in London again this coming Saturday – at Wonderground – supporting Al Murray. That’s what we want to do. The high profile things. Well, we want to do ANY shows, really.

“The Greatest Show On Legs was really just… One minute you were on stage at the Astoria or the Montreal comedy festival and it’s a big, packed theatre and the next week you were performing in the fireplace at some pub in somewhere like Ramsgate with 30 or 40 drunk people and afterwards you were at the bar and you’d made friends with everybody. It was always a big variety from top to bottom. That was what Malcolm thrived on. We all enjoyed that.”

Steve Bowditch pays homage to the late Malcolm Hardee

Steve Bowditch pays homage to the late Malcolm Hardee

“Is the story in Malcolm’s autobiography true?” I asked. “that you joined the Greatest Show On Legs in a sound recording studio.”

“That’s right,” said Steve. “I knew Jacki Cook who had a shop in Greenwich – she now has The Emporium. I had a cine camera and used to make little films and she and her friends starred in one.

“Malcolm used to pop into Jacki’s shop. You know what he was like: larger-than-life and getting to know everybody everywhere. He told her: We’re looking for someone else to join in cos I can’t do that skinhead gag any more cos I’ll have a heart attack if I do it one more time. Someone who’s young and up for it.

“She said: Oh, you gotta meet Steve. He’s up for most things. So Malcolm came round and said: Oh, Jackie sent me round. She said you might wanna be in the show. Do you wanna fag?

“I said: Alright.

“He said: Can you dance?

“I said: Erm. Yeah.

“He said: Go on, then.

“So I did two steps sideways, two steps forwards, two steps backwards.

OK, he said. Come round Saturday and meet the others.

“And that was my audition.”

This story is completely different to the one in Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake. In that, he wrote:

Steve Bowditch was recruited when I was walking along the road by my house and saw this bloke sitting inside a recording studio, where he was making the tea. I just liked the look of his face. I went in and said to him: 

“Do you want to be in a show?” 

“Yes,” he said.

So he came round that afternoon, rehearsed about three numbers and next day he was in Rhyl, North Wales, performing with The Greatest Show on Legs.

Malcolm Hardee drowned in 2005.

“So the Greatest Show on Legs now,” I said to Steve Bowditch, “is you and Dickie Richards and Martin Soan. Why aren’t you all performing as the Greatest Show on Legs during your show in Edinburgh next month?”

“Martin couldn’t do it,” explained Steve, “because he’s got his own thing happening in Peckham – The Village Hall Experience – on 17th August, right slap-bang in the middle of the Fringe dates.”

The GSOL as they are today (from left) Dickie, Steve, Martin

The GSOL today (from left) Dickie, Steve and Martin

“And then all three of you,” I said, “are performing in the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on the final Friday of the Fringe…”

“Are we?” asked Steve.

“Oh dear,” I said. “Aren’t you?”

“Is Martin coming up for that?” Steve asked.

“Oh dear,” I said. “Yes, he’s travelling up specially to do that one night performance.”

“Right,” said Steve. “We’ll be there, then.”

“Oh good,” I said. “Do you have any photos of The Gits?”

“No,” said Steve.

“Have you got any publicity photos for your Edinburgh show with Dickie?” I asked.

“No,” said Steve.

“Or a Facebook page or anything?” I asked.

“No,” said Steve.

The Dickie Richards and Steve Bowditch Comedy Show is not listed in the Edinburgh Fringe Programme, but it runs 3rd-24th August at 2.10pm daily in Ciao Roma on South Bridge.

Steve still makes short films. Look for WeShouldGetABoat on YouTube. Here is one of Steve’s films, featuring comic Harriet Bowden: Internet Stalker.

This blog is posted later than normal, because I was interrupted by The Scottish Sun wanting naked photos of The Greatest Show On Legs as they will appear in the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – for the Women’s section of tomorrow’s newspaper.

It has had a terrible knock-on effect on the rest of my day but, for The Greatest Show On Legs, nude photos in the Sun is just an ordinary day for them.

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Glastonbury, Comics, Gits, Canadians and the fire on Anarchist Mountain

The Glastonbury Festival in 2003

The Glastonbury Festival ten years ago – back in June 2003

As I write this, the annual Glastonbury Festival is in full swing.

I wish I were there. It started  last Friday. My father died last Thursday, back in 2001, twelve years ago. So it goes.

Last night, in my car, I listened to an unreleased CD by The Gits, a punk-like band from around 1990 which comprised English comedy performers Steve Bowditch, Stephen Frost and Canadian Alan Marriott. (These UK-based Gits are not to be confused with the Seattle band The Gits.)

They played at Glastonbury.

The UK-based Gits.

Alan Marriott returned to Vancouver in 2008.

I was going to blog about them this morning – the UK-based Gits.

Once heard, never forgotten.

But, when I woke up this morning, I received an e-mail from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. Like Alan Marriott, she lives in Vancouver. She has been having medical problems, as previously mentioned in this blog. Today she wrote:

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Anna Smith in her Vancouver hospital

Anna Smith, recently blogged-about, in a Vancouver hospital

It is so dull here at the moment.

I am in an apartment near the edge of Stanley Park.

In the summer, the cacophony is zoo-like… gulls screeching, small dogs yelping, noisy joggers, cyclists and skateboarders yelling, patio party drunks roaring with loud laughter, drunker heart-broken young people howling as they run down the echoing corridors of 1970s apartment buildings, women cackling, toddlers wailing, cars pumping out disco music, horns honking, motorcycle engines roaring….

Soon we will have the Gay Pride Parade and the Festival of Fire (a fireworks competition) and the whole of downtown Vancouver will be clogged with suburbanites with toddlers pissing down their necks.

The bear attacks in the suburbs have subsided and the surgical mask bank robber has been captured, after about fourteen hold ups.

The navigator who was in command of the Queen of the North ferry, when it sank four years ago, has been sentenced to four years in jail. But his ex-lover is still on the loose. New laws are being drafted to prevent ex-lovers from being alone together on the bridge of a ship. There is no evidence that they were ex-lovers, though, as nobody has a clue what they were doing when the ship ploughed straight into the rock.

All the excitement at the moment seems to be occurring on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, where the floods have detached much of the city of Calgary and a city called High River is still under water, despite the ring dykes which are dotted across the prairies. Most of the water is draining into the Hudson Bay.

Too bad none of the floods wash through the civic governments in Toronto, Montreal and Laval, which are having so much difficulty cleaning themselves up.

Ottawa is making too much money to even bother.

On this side of the Rockies, it is just more of the usual summer accidents – people getting lost in the woods, drowning in waterfalls, small planes and gliders crashing into mountains.

Anarchist Mountain caught fire several weeks ago and more fires are expected, as we become engulfed by heat waves from the south. It all is very satisfying for the pine beetles.

It has suddenly become quiet outside. I think the sun must have set.

My health is OK.

Did you ever meet or speak with Arabella Churchill?

She very kindly used to telephone performers in the early spring to ask if we wanted to do the Glastonbury Festival. She died not too long ago. She was very encouraging to young comedy performers and had very kind and disarming manner.

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Arabella Churchill in 1967

Arabella Churchill in 1967; she is remembered fondly

Arabella Churchill died on 20th December 2007. So it goes. She ran the Theatre and Circus fields at Glastonbury, which included the Children’s and Comedy areas.

I wrote back to Anna this morning:

“I talked to Arabella on the phone a few times but never met her, despite walking past her organisers place at the Glastonbury Festival a few times. A pity.”

And, after I read Anna’s e-mail, I checked out Anarchist Mountain.

It was named after Richard G. Sidley, a settler from Ontario who arrived in 1885 and was appointed the first postmaster of the town of Sidley in 1895. He was later made Justice of the Peace and Customs Officer, but he was often called an anarchist, and the plateau previously called Larch Tree Hill became known locally as “the anarchist’s mountain”.

The name Anarchist Mountain was officially adopted on 6th June 1922.

Richard G. Sidley is remembered only as the origin of the mountain’s name.

So it goes.

I wish I were at Glastonbury. But, on the other hand, I am going to the World Egg Throwing Championships in Lincolnshire today.

So that is good.

There is a clip on YouTube of the fire on Anarchist Mountain.

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