Monty Python’s Meaning of Life album cover
Monty Python’s Meaning of Life album cover (1983)
A UNIVERSAL RELEASE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK RECORDING
Record produced by Andre Jacquemin & Michael Palin.
Engineered, mixed and edited by Andre Jacquemin at Redwood Recording Studios
MEANING OF LIFE Lyrics by Eric Idle. Music by Eric Idle & John du Prez
EVERY SPERM IS SACRED
AN ACROBAT WRITES
Seldom in the history of mankind has there been an attempt to explain the Eternal Question in quite such a stimulating and provocative way as in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. It leaves Mary Poopins standing and makes Bobby Vee’s ‘Rubber Ball’ seem almost irrelevant. Who are these philosophers of fun, those wacky Wittgensteins of wit? and why does their message ring so true even in these days of hyperinflation and massive trade deficits?
Graham Chapman, a Leicester man, rose to fame in the Cambridge University ‘shitties’ team which toured Ghana in the mid-sixties in an unsuccessful attempt to popularize this skillful game*. Even as a youth Graham had been concerned with major philosophical questions. Not content to room the streets of Market Harborough abusing freemasons like normal children of his age, Graham wanted something more, something deeper, something that woukd last. As his choirmaster recollects, ‘Graham would always be asking “why?”, even at weekends. With his expressive face and arrow through the neck kit, it was always likely that Graham would go into comedy. It was through comedy that Graham met his fellow philospher –
John Cleese. John, born of Jungian stock on the seafront at Weston-Super-Mare, spent the first thirty-six years of his life perfecting a very clever
trick. But like any other healthy normal boy, John wanted to know what life was all about – why hair grew under his arms and what you would call an Archbishop if you met him in a train. ‘I remember him being endlessly inquisitive,’ recalls Arthur Sporritt, who ran a sweetshop near John’s home. He’d want to know all the constituents of liquorice and why so few toffees were cut cleanly at the end. Sometimes we’d be up until 3 or 4 in the morning answering all his questions. It must have stood John in good stead because in the 1960’s he was made Head of Comedy on the North Sea Oil Rigs and has never looked back.
His colleague Eric Idle is a philospher’s philospher. His provocative theories and super dinner parties have endeared him to thinkers the world over. Whilst most adults of his age are out windsurfing, Eric is more likely to be found at work theorising, trying desperately to get to the bottom of it all. Someone who once taught Eric is confident that he will find the answer. ‘Eric was a very determined boy . . . when everyone lese said “No”, Eric would say “Yes”. That’s how he lost his front teeth.’ Descartes is his hero. ‘Ren’ was doing what Python’s doing now two hundred years ago’, says Eric’s answering machine.’
Another Cartesian thinker is rugby-playing, non pipe-smoking gourmet and raconteur Terry Jones, who used to argue for Wales, until injury forced
him into premature retirement. Rubbing his nose ruefully, Terry recalls ‘I went in a bit hard against England I suppose. I said something about The Royal Family having less English blood than Papadopolos, and I don’t remember anything after that.’ Terry in fact fled from Wales early in his life, dragging his father and mother, much against their will, to live in Esher, Surrey. One Esher man who remembers Terry well is Laurence Phipps. Another is Ronald Cheddington. Terry is the only member of the Python team who has seen a Flying Saucer.
Terry Gilliam, who has based his philosphical method on the works of Bruce Lee, is the most active of all the Python thinkers. Born in Minneapolis, he has been imbued with a passion for knowledge throughout his life. Not content with mastering the spelling of ‘Corn Flakes’ Terry now wants to make his own film. He has an engaging air of wonderment and innocence which has endeared him to many producers. Terry is continually probing, challenging, testing himself. Never satisfied with just being good at something. Terry wants to be the best, and he can now reverse quite large family saloon cars into very tight spaces, backwards, up a hill. This is the sort of man he is.
Michael Palin, on the other hand, is often mistaken for a woman., but his soft voice and 48 inch bust conceals a hard, tough, shrewd little thinker. As his chemist says, ‘If Michael comes into the shop and asks for Interdens, I don’t stop to ask why.’ Michael comes from the tough Sheffield school of philosphy. It’s difficult to define their ideas precisely, but they regard logical positivism as ‘fucking rubbish’ and Spinoza’s definition of Substance as ‘crap’. Michael brings to the group a tight intellectual discipline and a rather shabby brown Mini.
The team wrestled for many months and weeks before they came to lay down the basic principles on which Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life is based. Now you have it in your hand. At first it may not be easy to follow the thread of their gist. Don’t worry, philosphy is never easy, otherwise everyone would be at it. Listen again and again. Buy another couple of records – it may help. Above all don’t give up. Don’t just dismiss this album as inconsequential comoc rubbish. Humour was a stage that the Python team went through on the road to self-realisation. Now they are there. Now they are prepared to share with you all the fruits of their enquiries. This is why we have asked your record store owner to stock Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life under Philosphy. Thank you.
‘Shitties’ involves the retention of coins between the buttocks and their delivery into a beer mug from a height of 24 inches or more.
Other Great Philosophy L.P’s
Ethics (after Dark) – Koo Stark and Brian Redhead
Great Motivist, Deontological and Consequence Theories (Various Artists K-Tel)
Free Will – My Way – Frank Spinoza
Deductive Logic – Richard Clayderman
Bishop Berkeley’s Theory of Immaterialism – narrated by