The Shepton Mallet Matador

Friday, 17 February 2012
ZOMG. Zombieblog. Back from the dead, rising stinking from a muddy grave.

Alright. So. Been a while. A busy summer, festivals, life, personal criseseses and a few bits and pieces sort of got in the way of me writing here. Sorry.

But when I came back today.. well...there's over 2,000 hits.

It's pretty amazing. But..seriously.

What is WRONG with you people?

You either like the Wurzels as much as I do, which..obviously isn't beyond the realms of possibility as they are the best band who ever graced the planet, or you're into reading the deluded wafflings of someone who has a little too much time on her hands.

So..which is it? Leave a note, do.

Anyway. Now I've insulted you all, time to crack on.

Today's song, scientifically selected by a long and laborious process too complicated to mention is...

Fanfare please...

The Shepton Mallet Matador.

Wot no matadors?
Another one of Adge's, this was originally recorded at the Royal Oak in 1967 and appeared on the Adge Cutler Family Album. It was re-recorded in 1975, and a video was filmed, which featured the Wurzels dressed up as Matadors and dancing around the Market Cross in Shepton Mallet. Sadly, I have never seen this video, although after typing that, I can't TELL you how much I want to. The track was re-re-recorded in 2004 and appeared on A Taste of the West, because, well, if something is this much fun, why not record three different versions of it?

Adge's family album. And some pigs. And some Wurzels.
The song is a rather sweet little tale - a farmhand called Jacko who nipped off to Spain for a summer holiday and came back forever changed. Aaah, you know the types. You see them in the pub, skin the colour of mahogany, straw donkey tucked under one arm and ordering jugs of sangria and tapas from the bemused and impatient barman.

Tapas. And the point of this is...?
But, as we are increasingly learning with Wurzels songs, behind the jolly facade is a story of an overworked man suffering a complete mental collapse. It bravely tackles the stigma surrounding mental illness in rural areas, and a lack of provision for those who suffer.

Let's go in a little deeper, shall we?

Now Jacko was so happy, just workin' on the farm,
With the cows and the chickens, he couldn't do no harm.
For years and years he worked and he scraped and he saved,
To take one day the holiday he craved.
But now he'll never be the same again,
Since he took that holiday in Spain....

A Wur- ..uh, an actual farmer, apparently. 
So, here we have it. Jacko, our protagonist. Hard-working, but apparently not high-earning. A lifetime of supermarkets driving prices down, rising veterinary bills, subsidies running out and attemps at diversification simply to stay afloat and provide for himself. As a farmer, he's battling recession, falling incomes, foot and mouth disease and declining prices for agricultural commodities. He's up against a succession of problems including BSE, swine fever, bovine tuberculosis and foot and mouth hampering the industries ability to export with consequent pressure on prices, which have dropped by 40% in recent years alone.

No wonder the poor guy needed a break.

But poor Jacko. Those long hours. Those years without any down time, scrimping and saving every penny have clearly taken a toll. While sunning himself on the beaches of Malaga or Benidorm, something in his brain just..pops.

You're looking for a topless sunbather in this photo, aren't you? Dirty boy.
Sing-along for the chorus, folks.

Oh-ho, make way for that Timsbury torero,

..wait. What? Timsbury? That's bloody 13 miles away from Shepton Mallet.

View Larger Map

Olé for that Somerset senor!
He's a real West Country Caballero,
The Shepton Mallet Matador!

Remember that chorus. It comes up a lot.

Now the boys in the village all think it's very queer,
The way that Jacko drinks wine instead of beer;
And they say he swapped his favourite cider jar
For a bottle of sherry and a thirty-bob guitar!

So here's Jacko. Back home in the mud and sludge and grey skies of Shepton Mallet, a place best known for it's beautiful Market Cross, being the place where Babycham was born and the fact that it's residents spent much of the 18th century rioting, for one reason or another.

The first signs of his fractured mind are already beginning to show - wine instead of beer, well, ok. Probably not that big a clue, plenty of men of a certain age suddenly make the switch from Hobgoblin and Carling to a lovely Vega Sicilia and talking about "good acidity that blends well with the tannins", whatever that's supposed to mean.
Yes. It's..definitely wine. Red wine, in fact.
As well as his drinking preferences changing, he's also picked up a guitar. Not the end of the world if you're a teenager, probably, but if you haven't touched a guitar much before the age of thirty, and then suddenly sort of screams 'mid-life crisis'. Does Jacko feel his life has passed him by? Is he looking desperately to do all those things he missed out on in his youth, while he was mucking out cows and wringing the necks of chickens?

It's possible.

His friends reaction?
"Very queer."

Nice one, "friends".

Chorus goes here.

Now the pigs and chickens are diggin' up the dirt,
When Jacko comes wavin' his old red flannel shirt;
And he's always chasin' round the old red cow,
'Cos he thinks that he's a real bullfighter now!

Ah. Alright. So now Jacko, was previously reasonably well-adjusted farmer who has spent much of his life doing normal farmer-y things. Now, all of a sudden he's standing in his fields waving a red shirt around and trying to coax the animals into a bullfight - even going as far as to chase around after a cow. Which, by the way, isn't the same as a bull.

For the love of.. look. Do you SEE horns on my head? I'm a cow. Now go away.
Clearly, this is not the behaviour of a normal person. Even the most liberal of us would probably have problems classing this as the behaviour of a sane man. Perhaps he's had enough - perhaps he's going for suicide by cow. Perhaps he genuinely believes himself to be toreador. Perhaps someone needs to get him to his GP pronto, and get some drugs into the poor guy.

All stand for the chorus.

Now on the farm when you hear hoots and howls,
It's Jacko playin' Flamenco with the fowls
And every time he clicks those castanets,
Instead of eggs, the hens lay omelettes!

An omelette. Looking like something you'd find on the pavement outside your local 'spoons on a Friday night.
Is our Jacko displaying hitherto unknown traits of being a lay psychologist? Pretty much everyone has heard of Pavlov, that Russian guy who liked to make dogs dribble by ringing bells at them and not feeding them. Sounds as if, in his (apparently brilliant) madness, Jacko has taken it upon himself to train his chickens to lay when he clicks a pair of castanets.

..except they're not laying eggs. They're laying omelettes. Which are, by the way, disgusting things. All rubbery and floppy and eggy. Vile.

Presuming that they aren't actually laying omelettes, which would take some doing (unless the chickens are roosting above frying pans on a hotplate, and have also been taught how to lay peppers and mushrooms. Or, I suppose Jacko could have genetically modified the hens so they were able to lay a number of traditional omelette fillings, such as ham, cheese, onions, prawns and herbs, by cross-breeding the chickens with mutant strains of cows, fish and plants in a secret laboratory in hi- .. Alright, look, the omelette is definitely a metaphor, ok?), I'm guessing this means the eggs the chicks are laying are abnormal.

Abnormal eggs: The Phantom Menace
Why would a hen lay an abnormal egg?

Well, according to a website I just looked at, problems with eggs can be caused by anything from sudden shocks to the hens to illness, malnutrition, infection diseases and a lack of vaccination. So while Jacko's busy trying to goad his cow into a fight, he's neglecting his hens. Let's hope someones got the RSPCA on speed dial.

Heeere's the chorus. Twice.

Now the farmer's missus went wild with delight
When Jacko serenaded her last night,
And the farmer stopped him singin' Ceilito Lindo
With a bucket of summat he threw from a bedroom window!

And here's Jacko, roaming the streets in the middle of the night, trespassing on other people's homes and making a clearly inappropriate play for a married woman.

Dressed as a matador.

While singing a 19th century Mexican love song. Clearly he's not only suffering from some extreme identity issues, his musical history knowledge isn't that great, either.

In her home.

In the middle of the night.

While her husband is in bed.

With her.

She might've gone wild with delight, but if the only thing that Jacko got out of that was a 'bucket of summat', he was a lucky man. Most farmers have guns, for goodness sake.

Bucket of summat. Still preferable to a shotgun to the face, though.
There is, of course, an alternative theory that this entire last verse is a metaphor - the farmers missus representing women in general, expected by society to be receptive to any and all approaches by men. The farmer represents society as a whole, who, confronted by someone clearly in need of assistance, unwell and acting inappropriately feels the need to..well..throw things at him, mock him - fearful and aware of it's own fragile sanity.

And rather than face the sickness in our own society, we throw both metaphorical, and literal - crap at it, and hope it'll just go away.

Ladies and gentlemen, to play us out as you digest the majesty of this blog entry, I give you...

The Shepton Mallet Matador


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