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Sunday Old School: Bad News

Heavy metal has always maintained a loyal, cult like fan base. Listeners will guard the integrity of the music and the style with fierce pride, though some of the lyrical themes and imagery has often been seen as silly or outright funny by outsiders. It's no surprise then, that something so niche is also ripe for parody and would start becoming a regular source of humour for comedians and sketch shows such as Hale & Pace and Mr. Show members David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. One of the first noticeable send ups of the genre came from the popular British show, "The Comic Strip Presents..." in an episode entitled, "Bad News."

"The Comic Strip Presents..." was a series of short films for the then new TV station Channel 4 and was known for making fun of aspects of British culture, from football hooliganism ("The Yob,") to the Famous Five ("Five Go Mad In Dorset"/"Five Go Mad On Mescalin") but one of their most popular shorts was the "Bad News Tour" segment in the first series, which focused on a heavy metal band named Bad News, featuring frontman Vim Fuego (played by Adrian Edmonson,) guitarist Den Dennis (Nigel Planer,) bass player Colin Grigson (Rik Mayall) and drummer Spider "Eight Legs" Webb (Peter Richardson.)

In the episode, we see Fuego in his council flat getting up at dawn to go to work and discussing the philosophy behind heavy metal music, as well the band getting ready to go on tour, picking up Grigson from his upper class home (which he strenuously denies is his) and picking up a schoolgirl (Dawn French) to take on the road with them. The final show is ultimately a disaster, with practically nobody showing up and the promoter refusing to pay them, leading the band to argue among themselves on stage.

"Bad News Tour" struck a chord with both comedy fans and heavy metal listeners, some of whom related to the struggles of being in a young heavy metal group and finding no success. Much like Spinal Tap, which was in production at the same times as Bad News, the group soon performed in venues across the UK and eventually released an eponymous album, which was produced by Queen guitarist Brian May. Perhaps because of his involvement, the album included a cover of the Queen classic, "Bohemian Rhapsody," which reached number 44 in the British singles charts, as well as songs heard in the show, while the album reached the #69 spot on the British albums chart.

In 1986, Bad News made probably their most well known and infamous appearance, when they were booked to perform at this year's edition of Monsters of Rock in Donington alongside a stellar lineup headlined by Ozzy Osbourne and also featuring Scorpions, Motorhead, Warlock and Def Leppard, in what was their first show since Rick Allen returned following his horrendous car accident. In his autobiography, "White Line Fever," Lemmy recalls being upset at the decision to book Bad News on the show, saying that the spot should have gone to a "real" band, though he did enjoy their comedy and subsequently Motorhead would perform on the second series opening episode of "The Young Ones."

Their slot at Monsters of Rock went pretty much as one would expect, with the band being met with a barrage of bottles, many of which filled with urine, boos and when Fuego tried to get the crowd to sing, "Hey Hey Bad News," they replied with "Fuck off Bad News." The incident was turned into a sequel short, "More Bad News," which didn't receive the same recognition as the first episode but was received warmly by fans nevertheless, before a second album, "Bootleg" was released in 1989, which comprised mostly of arguments between band members, though it did feature the song, "Cashing In On Christmas."

Since then, save for a compilation entitled, "The Cash In Compilation" in 1992 and re-releases of their debut effort, Bad News has been no more, something which will no doubt remain so after Edmonson's retirement from comedy and Rik Mayall's tragic passing in 2014. While Bad News may not be as well known as Spinal Tap or even other parody acts like Weird Al Yankovic or the Barron Knights, they certainly have their place as one of comedy's best takes on the heavy metal genre, perhaps because a number of the actors were fans of heavy metal themselves (Rik Mayall recalls his excitement that Motorhead appeared in an episode of The Young Ones in an interview.) All in all, a faithful, if somewhat unflattering tribute to heavy metal, delivered in a way that only The Comic Strip could.

Bad News - "Hey Hey Bad News"

Bad News - "Warriors of Genghis Khan"

Bad News - "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Bad News at Monsters of Rock

"More Bad News"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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