The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy: Old Snakey
‘Disliked’ is probably too strong for it, but ‘Old Snakey’ on Illuminate wasn’t one of my favourite tracks when the album came out. It has a kind of B-movie narrative scenario of an Egyptologist haunted by the spirit inside a purloined statuette, and probably by the spirits inside his liver, and while it’s not as conspicuously as comedy song as some of the early Jazz Butcher material, it’s one of the lighter-hearted pieces. That would be fine, but in the chorus the vocal melody and everything else falls heavily on the beat (‘SOME-thing THAT old SNA-key FOUND a THOU-sand YEARS a-GO…’) in a way that seems intended to accentuate the comedy. Madness used to do this sometimes when they weren’t doing up-beat ska numbers, and it wasn’t funny then.
In February 1999, after Sumosonic had called it a day, Pat and Max were joined by Owen Jones on drums and Pat Beirne on harmonica for a gig in Hamburg with a laid-back, acoustic feel to it. A recording came out in January 2000, Glorious and Idiotic, and it’s well worth a listen. It’s heavily weighted towards the pre-1986 Jazz Butcher material, but the version of ‘Old Snakey’ fits in very nicely; in this version it’s light and it’s spacious and suddenly it makes sense — musical sense, that is, not lyrical.
There’s no version on YouTube at present, but if one turns up I’ll update the blog.