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Richard E. Grant
I finally got to see a tape of this show the other day. I've been searching for it for sometime now but it's out of print for many years. I finally stumbled across a copy on eBay. I've had the CD of the show for a while and the first time I heard it, it just blew me a way. I used to play it constantly. The Lemmings, for anyone who doesn't know, was a comedy revue created and performed by members of The National Lampoon in 1971 at the Village Gate Theatre, as a parody of the Woodstock Music Festival, here called The Woodchuck Festival of "Peace, Love and Death". The show featured the then unknown talents of such performers as John Belushi, Christopher Guest and Chevy Chase. Additional writers on the show were Tony Hendra (best known for his role as Ian Faith, the manager in This Is Spinal Tap, who also co-directed the show), Doug Kenney (one of the founders of National Lampoon, co-writer of Animal House and best known for his role as Stork in Animal House) and P.J. O'Rourke. The concert portions of the show are incredible. During the show they parody some of the biggest musical acts of the time. What blew me away were not only the dead-on impersonations of these acts but the quality of the songs and the talent of the performers. I think they all really played the instruments. Belushi, Chase and Guest all took turns playing guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. Some of the tunes they performed were: Belushi as Joe Cocker doing a tune called Lonely At the Bottom, an incredibly rocking tune that could have easily been a radio hit and was supposedly the first time Belushi did his Joe Cocker impression. ("I was making musical history, now I'm working for Muscular Dystrophy"). Christopher Guest doing two great dead-on impersonations on songs that he co-wrote, one of Bob Dylan on Positively Wall Street where he perfects both the whiney, nasal Dylan (as in Stuck Inside Memphis) as well as the country-fied Dylan (as in Lay Lady Lay) in the same song, and James Taylor on Highway Toes where he taps into JT's depression, heroin use stage singing such lines as " shooting up the highway on the road map of my wrist" or " going to Carolina where I left my frontal lobes" Chevy Chase doing a terrific John Denver parody on Colorado A Crosby, Stills and Nash take off called Lemmings Lament that sounds exactly like CS&R during their Woodstock period. And one of my favorite tunes, Papa Was a Running Dog Lackey, an extremely funky Motown-style tune sung by the "Motown Manifestos". Another tune which could have easily been a radio hit. The closing song, which was supposed to help the surviving members of the audience kill themselves (as Alice Playton, the Mega groupie says during their introduction, "Did you know that pure rock sound can kill? Isn't that far out? So the thing to do is go over to the amp and put your head there.") was sung by the heavy/death metal group, Megadeath. I wonder if I the real group Megadeath took their name from this revue. And on a personal note, when I was about 14, a few years before Megadeath even started, I wrote a sketch about a death metal band trying to come up with a name. After exhausting such names as Bring Out Your Death; Whole Lotta Death; Death, Death, Death, they finally came up with Megadeath.)
There are also some great bits in between. One of which is Chevy mimicking the Hell's Angels guy who flops out during the Stones concert at Altamont. It is one of the funniest things I have ever heard Chevy do. (Regrettably it's not included on the video.)
Unfortunately the video of this show is of really poor quality. But what's worse is it's obviously not the same show as the one they recorded the album from. The music on the CD was tighter and more refined. The audience of the show on the video doesn't really seem all that receptive and a lot of the bits seemed to go over their heads. There was a lot more audience laughter on the CD then the video. I would love to see this show remastered on DVD which included the entire show. It would be, if I may say, to die for.
(8 out of 10 only for the poor video quality)
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