Ade’s folk are still kicking off

Ahead of his Clitheroe show, the former Young One speaks to Tony Dewhurst about the punk ethos, playing music and the state of modern comedy

Sunday, 8th December 2013, 6:00 am
Ade Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds
Ade Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds

From psycho punk Vyvyan Basterd on anarchic TV show the Young Ones to winner of Celebrity Masterchef, Ade Edmondson is certainly a man for all seasons.

“Punk was the backdrop to my life as a teenager,” said Edmondson, whose roustabout folk band The Bad Shepherds play punk songs on folk instruments.

“I remember watching David Essex in the movie That’ll Be The Day when I was at school.

“There is a scene when he throws his satchel off a bridge and he goes and joins a circus.

“I wanted to be that free – and join a band.

“Of all the things I’ve done in my life, the comedy and other stuff, this is by far the most enjoyable. Punk showed us that we can do it in our own way.”

The Bad Shepherds’ acoustic playlist covers seventies punk and New Wave hits, from The Clash’s I Fought The Law to the growling menace of Gary Gilmore’s Eyes by The Adverts.

Edmondson says: “People maybe imagine that era was all about jumping up and down, shouting and spitting, and it didn’t mean anything other than the anger in the performance, well they’re disastrously wrong.

“The idea that all punk songs are three-chord wonders is completely erroneous.

“Many of them are the most complex songs.

“Folk music, though, covers a wide spectrum, as does punk – but just because we do an un-amplified set doesn’t mean it is not energetic.

“I think a folk reel or a jig kicking off is as violent as any kind of punk gig I ever saw, and both types of music are all about social commentary.

“They’re visceral, thrilling and exciting.

“When you pass an Irish club and it’s kicking off in there you think, ‘Blimey, that sounds heavy.”

Edmondson, who was also the star of TV sitcom Bottom, added: “Playing music is so different to comedy – you’re not attacking the audience you meet them in the middle.”

It is all a far cry from Edmondson’s first steps in the comedy business and early television appearances.

He met comedy partner Rik Mayall at university, and the pair started writing comedy sketches together.

Quickly becoming firm favourites at London’s Comedy Store, where they met Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders – his wife – Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson, they provoked immediate controversy with their Comic Strip satire on Enid Blyton’s Famous Five Books.

So what about the modern super comics; the Michael McIntyres and Peter Kays who are raking in millions?

“Let’s talk about the ones I like,” he says dismissively.

“I don’t like the modern trend for comics to do hour-and-a-half shows.

“Even the best ones – I’ve seen Billy Connolly live – and I think it is too long.

“You want more than just one man and his ideas.

“I’d love to see variety make a come back, like when Laurel and Hardy would perform, followed by a couple of spoon benders.”

Ade Edmondson and The Bad Shepherds, Clitheroe Grand, tonight, December 7. £18.50.