Flying Lizards, Fourth Wall

Published on July 30th, 2009 in: Issues, Music, Music Reviews, Pop Culture Holy Grail |

By Matt Keeley

The title of the most important (only?) Flying Lizards fan page is “They Were a Very Different Band,” which sounds about right. They’re most famous for their deconstructed cover of “Money,” featuring a disaffected, posh-sounding English woman demanding money while speaking the lyrics over prepared piano and the sound of a bass guitar being hit with a stick. The single was recorded for a grand total of 26 pounds. Basically, the band wasn’t ever meant to be a band.

Lizards founder David Cunningham had recorded a joke cover of “Summertime Blues”—which ended up being picked up by Virgin Records and becoming a surprise hit. Virgin wanted another single, so they got “Money,” which performed even better in the charts and which you can still hear on the radio today (not to mention in soundtracks, ads, movie trailers, and whatallelsehaveyou). And, of course, Virgin also wanted an album.

flying lizards top ten

So. . . the Flying Lizards recorded an album of covers in a similar vein as “Summertime Blues” and “Money.” The only problem? That album ended up being Top Ten, their third record, released on a tiny indie long after they’d been dropped by Virgin.

The album they did release through Virgin was self-titled, with art that mirrored the feel of the single sleeves. This is where the album’s similarity to the Flying Lizards’ popular singles ends.

It’s a cliché that rock and pop music is all about sex. Everyone knows that; it’s where rock & roll got its name, blah blah blah. But the Flying Lizards weren’t really pop. My thought is that Flying Lizards is a concept album and the concept is cockblocking. Not in a literal sense, but in a metaphorical sense. The first cut on it is a cover: not one of the covers previously released however, but a deranged cover of “Der Song Von Mandelay” from the Brecht/Weill musical Happy End. From what I’ve heard, it’s a relatively faithful—if not reverent—cover. It opens with a manic piano and Deborah Evans (the vocalist on “Summertime Blues” and “Money”) shrieking the lyrics in a mock-operatic falsetto nearly as fast as she can.

It’s one of those songs where I’ve often wondered what it’d be like dropping the needle on the record for the very first time in 1979. Though I can’t recreate that, I have gone around Frat Row in a car with the windows down and this song blasting. Hilarious looks from jocks. . . but what made it great was a geek on the sidewalk who got exactly what we were doing and gave us a smile.

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2 Responses to “Flying Lizards, Fourth Wall

  1. The Legendary Pink Dots Project - Review: Basilisk - Kittysneezes:
    June 25th, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    […] atmosphere — I love the interplay between the bass and the squiggly synth.  I get a slight Flying Lizards vibe off of that — the bass has a dub sound, which probably is the cause.  It’s one of the […]

  2. Rachel:
    June 30th, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    I just found the vinyl of the Fourth Wall album at a local used record store. $7. Is this a rare find on vinyl you think? I was so shocked to see it and for so cheap. This is a band I would never think of finding…but I did, and I couldn’t be more excited. let me know what you think!

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