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Bugger ...

There is no escape.
(Mon 6th Aug 2012, 7:13, More)

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» Random Acts of Kindness

GRATIS SURPRISE INCORPORATED
Long. I apologise. But, I hope, a worthwhile read.

It would be a tough ask to have created the underlying attitude of the infamously dormant pop/goth/fairground outfit Pwrg from music alone. The influence of other aspects of our way of life all came together to inspire the band to reach a deeper esoteric sense of obscurity. Therefore, simultaneously with the formation of the band, in 1993, we founded a "company" based on the age old philosophies of Robin Hood. The only difference was that we didn't steal from anybody, and we also didn't discriminate in who we chose to reward. As I believe Roger Waters once said, "We were all equal in the end." Our mission became Gratis Surprise Incorporated (or GSI for short).

Confused? Probably. So, let's cut to the chase - and begin with a newspaper article - published by the Maidenhead Advertiser in late 1993. And I quote verbatim:


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P-C BOB HAS RIGHT IDEA FOR OUR 'HAMPER OF JOY'

THE Advertiser has always had an interesting and varied postbag, but we never expected to receive anything from outer space. On Friday, staff received a "hamper of joy" from Gratis Surprise Incorporated. Included in the contents were a selection of Kylie Minogue records, a shirt, a fencing mask, an apple, a waistcoat and a broken joystick. The parcel was delivered by a strange-looking man with a foreign accent. He screeched a greeting at our receptionist before dumping the box and leaving.

An accompanying letter claimed the senders were not of this earth (the Advertiser's circulation has obviously rocketed). It said: "Gratis Surprise Inc. is an organisation that rewards dedicated individuals in the community for their outstanding service and bravery. "At present, we have a campaign targeting the Maidenhead area. Many parcels have been distributed to the worthy citizens of your burgage borough."

The inter-galactic travellers, signed themselves - Gladys Surprise, Jacob Branthington, Harold, Egon Pilchard-Brethh, Genitt Rentson, Ingo Von Huehnerbein, Sarah Fftaang!, Lucas Manghope (son of) and B.B. Ghali, then wished us love and doses of a rather nasty disease. The Advertiser also received two bizarre telephone calls. But as the callers, after asking if we liked our gift, could only manage a screech, we can only assume that our alien admirers were too shy to talk to any of those "dedicated individuals."

Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, we asked P-c. Bob Walker at Maidenhead police station if he knew of anyone else lucky enough to have received such a splendid present. And we were amazed to discover that, to his knowledge, we were the only people bestowed with the honour. Our next dilemma was what to do with this wondrous gift. Strangely enough, P-c Walker's suggestion was "bin it." Wonder why?

----------------

(old mini scan here: www.crcmh.com/pcbob.jpg)

Intrigued yet? Well, this tale begins one night outside the derelict Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital in Cliveden (see www.crcmh.com) where we used to hang out. One night on a typical visit, we noticed a tatty bit of wood about one metre square at the end of someone's drive opposite the hospital. Scrawled upon it in felt-tip pen were the words "A + E Hyde. 2 Winkipop Cottages, Cliveden." I thought it was a bit sad that people had to resort to such a miserable introduction to their house, so with nothing but generosity in mind, I took the sign home with me, staying up all night in order to transform it into a psychedelic masterpiece using bright acrylic paints. When I'd finished, it looked like the kind of thing you might hang outside a Carnaby Street kaftan shop in the late sixties. It had little green bubbles all over it, which - obviously - were winkipops.

(Ladies & gentlemen, I give you ... The Sign: www.crcmh.com/winkipop.jpg)

At the very bottom of the sign, in small lettering, I wrote "Gratis Surprise Sign Redevelopments Inc." which was a meaningless afterthought - and where the company name would come from. If only all things were that easy.

Just as dawn hit (and having photographed the finished article), we drove back and placed the sign lovingly where it was originally found. This event immediately led to the recording of a song called "Winkipop Surprise" which was pretty much based around the tune from "Blankety-Blank" with chipmunk vocals about what a wonderful surprise it was and how grateful they should be to receive it. And with this song - Pwrg was born - with a mission to create further madcap music.

We noticed that the sign had been (presumably) taken inside the house almost instantly, and felt that perhaps the Hydes (if that's who they were) might like to hear the song written especially for them. We could have just mailed a tape to them, or put it through their letterbox. But that wouldn't be in the spirit of the whole thing. So we came up with a company letterhead in the name of Gratis Surprise Incorporated. The accompanying standard letter went like this:


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Stardate:TIME2
42/176/658txn

Gleetings Earthlings,

Congratulations, You have been carefully selected by us here at Gratis Surprise Incorporated to receive this splendid gift from us to you. We forage around the galaxies looking for kind and deserving persons such as yourselves so we can leave wonderful surprises to brighten up lives. GSI was founded in 1979 by German entrepreneur Mrs Gladys Surprise. Since, the corporation's act of kindness and love has been repeated throughout this and other universes now known or yet to be discovered by man. GSI is not a charity, we go far beyond the realms of human gratitude and offer caring gifts as a token of respect to mankind. GSI has found YOU and you will be highly rewarded. Please accept on behalf of GSI, the following smashing gifts:

(Here, a list of wonderful presents would be handwritten - in this case: A bag of delightfully scrummy banana flavoured fruity bon-bons and a copy of the song "Winkipop Surprise" as performed by a famous pop group.)

We hope that you take great pleasure in receiving these wonderful prizes and that you will spread the word of our good deeds across a vast amount of avid listeners. Be nice to everyone. PRAY FOR INTERGALACTIC PEACE.

With Love and Herpes,

(signed)
Gladys Surprise (chairwoman/founder)
Genitt Rentson (receptionist)
Harold (?)
Sarah Fftaang! (fashion designer)
Jacob Branthington (creative director)
Isaac Manghope Jr (son of I Manghope)
Cedric Moldavia (fitness instructor)
B.B. Ghali (activist)
Stumper O'Mulligan (check-out assistant)
Bob Mouldie (geriatric)
Dr Structure (dustman)

REF: GS94ms03-WKPj1-


----------------

This letter, along with a copy of the tape was packaged in a huge box, which was painted white. It had stars and glitter added along with white tassels along the edges and a roof was added. For a grander effect it was mounted on stilts, so that the finished gift looked like a little white house on four legs, about head height. It was finished off by inserting a flashing roadwork light so the whole thing pulsated in the dark.

So, off we went, creeping up the gravel drive of 2 Winkipop Cottages in the snow. It looked magic, this otherworldly inanimate object beaming an eerie orange light over the crisp white surrounds (it was mid-winter at the time). Without ringing the bell (because it was half-past dark by this point), we disappeared off into the shadows... and never heard anything more about it.

Nobody knows if they listened to the tape because to this day, they have never come forward. Perhaps it's still there in the drive and they're too scared to go outside and retrieve it. Maybe the sign is hanging over their mantelpiece. Who knows?

Nevertheless, by this stage, word spread and all sorts of people became interested in what Pwrg were doing in the twilight hours. We decided to "Gratis" (as it is became known) on a mass scale. The band and our helpers spent ages constructing huge cone shaped packages with glitter & pink stars and tassels all over them. In the name of publicity, the Maidenhead Advertiser's phone number was discreetly written inside the package. We made about thirty cones in all, then set about finding goodies to fill them with. People helped out with all sorts of crap - clothes they didn't want, broken appliances, records, tinned food, ANYTHING - as long as it wasn't dangerous, cruel or unhygenic. Every recipient also got the standard letter, informing them why they're being "Gratissed". When all was ready, we loaded up the van and headed off into the dead of night.

All over Maidenhead we roamed - Holyport, Bray, and as far as Twyford. We even did a few teachers' houses (those who nobody liked at school) - this time ensuring to ring the doorbells before we sped off. We were particularly pleased to have targeted Mr "Dick" Whiffen, a Desborough maths teacher who truly deserved it. We also made sure that Rolf Harris was a recipient too - heading down his very swank road on the Bray fisheries estate. We couldn't get to his front door, but somewhere on his security camera footage, you would've seen a giant gleaming white cone being lobbed onto his doorstep (Nobody recalls if we shouted out "Can you guess what it is yet, Rolf?" or not). The whole night was absolutely pointless, but good fun - especially when a much hated PE teacher was legging it down the road after us. Anyway, that taken care of, there was one last GSI mission left the Maidenhead Advertiser.

It must be said here that this incident has probably remained a complete mystery to Advertiser staffers of the early '90s. But here is the truth about that infamous 'Hamper of Joy'.

We recruited a funny looking lanky German exchange student (and I mean seriously lanky and very tall) and got him to wear full national dress (using lederhosen lying around from my uncle's time in the Royal Artillery band based in Dortmund). We constructed an extra special big present with extra tassels hanging off it and a big bow on top. In addition to the objects mentioned in the article (we can but assume that the Advertiser was too embarrassed about this one), they received a King Kong Bundy wrestling figure (i.e. big bald guy in a leotard) with "Maidenhead Advertiser editor" scrawled across its chest.

We pulled up outside their offices in Bell Street and the German (nobody can recall his name but he was a friend of Matt's) hopped out carrying the parcel and he did a John Cleese silly walk into the foyer. After letting them know the joys of rhinoceros flavour strudel or whatever he was crapping on about in his native tongue, he screeched "Gratis Surprise" at them (a feat he'd later reproduce on the phone) then did a knee-slapping Bavarian dance for the reception staff, before bolting out the door and into our waiting getaway car.

Those involved do not know exactly what happened next, but if the article is anything to go by, it wouldn't have been surprising if they had evacuated the entire building - something I don't think they'd have given us the gratification of printing - and certainly something that would have been taken a lot more seriously these days. I think that Gratissing the media would be viewed as terrorism today. You can't get away with fun the way you used to be able to. At any rate, they clearly brought P-c Bob over for a look and the rest, they say, is history.


Interesting Factoid:
Ironically, I now live within a stone's throw of "Winkipop Beach" in Australia. It's a small world. I have since added many homes in Melbourne's eastern suburbs to our tally of Gratisses. Will I ever stop? I can't think of one good reason why I would.
(Fri 10th Feb 2012, 8:16, More)

» Worst Band Ever

The Worst Band In The World ... by quite a bit.

Oh dear. I've perused the board on at least one occasion every single week of the 8 years and 28 days that I've been a member, yet I've never actually posted anything until today. I can't for the life of me think why not. I just assumed I'd been joining in all along. Talk about a new breed of slack. I shall go and face the corner.

Am I perhaps the laziest of all B3tans?

(answers on a postcard, please)

Anyhow, back in the '90s, I was one half of Pwrg (and still am, at least on paper). Pwrg possibly don't belong on this thread, being arguably the finest lo-fi Carnival/Goth/Doom/Fairground genre crossover band ever to have come out of the Thames Valley area.

(Indeed, longtime B3tans may fondly remember my dear friend and co-conspirator, Mr Lucas Bones - aka Kallus - whose lovely spore-related artwork used to regularly pepper this very board.)

BOBO+BOBO, on the other hand, are a different kettle of fish.

As young protgs of our long-time associate and producer - the legendary Ray Hurley-Castle - BOBO+BOBO came into being solely to be the worst band in the world.

A few years back, a talented Tokyo musician, working under the pseudonym of Syntax Terror, firmly laid down his handkerchief at the feet (or possibly chin) of Melbourne-based tunesmith Bobolino and challenged him to a musical duel.

Their mission was to listen to the greatest and most popular songs of the last hundred years and observe the elements that make them so endearing and enduring ... then completely leave all that good stuff out. They were each to create what they felt was the worst song of all time - a tune that was bad in every imaginable respect.

While Syntax Terror forged ahead on his lonesome, Bobolino hooked up with Bobolina (who was either his girlfriend, wife, mistress or sister, depending on which version you believe) and together they became BOBO+BOBO. Their resultant anti-masterpiece was to unanimously beat "The Aerobic Detective" hands down. Syntax Terror conceded defeat.

"My Love Is Soft (Fluffy Puppy)" was born.



This contagiously-repetitive musical nightmare quite possibly IS the worst song ever recorded.

Indeed, the man charged with mastering the atrocity - one of the UK's top audio engineers - conveyed the following to Ray:

"When I first played it to my colleague, she was in tears within 20 seconds and still in shock 20 minutes later. The song is now firmly lodged in my internal jukebox (or ear worm, as the Germans call it). It's now a game here in the studio to try and plant the song in each other's heads, testament to how catchy and annoying it is. We can do it with just the words "like a puppy" or "my love is soft", usually to loud protestations. I hate you."

To make matters worse, an accompanying video clip was brought into being. This will very much give you the full experience - so watch at your own peril.

Friends, Romans, B3tans ... I give you
BOBO+BOBO: The Worst Band In The World:

My Love Is Soft (Fluffy Puppy)

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(Tue 4th Jan 2011, 3:08, More)