Have we really replaced God with John?
John Shuttleworth – "With My Condiments" Sheffield Crucible 12/06/07
The walk from town to the crucible can be a hilly one; especially when you've spent the day in some of Sheffield's finest hostelries. Still, the wheezing and gasping for air could be allayed by the fact that this pain would have gain... yes; tonight John Shuttleworth entered his 'home' town to lay down some tunes and tell us all about cherry tomatoes. After all if Jamie Oliver can help the kids, then John may wean us off too many helpings at our local carvery.
Those not acquainted with John Shuttleworth's world may be forgiven in wondering what the fuss, (a sold out Crucible for instance) is all about. Indeed, how this fuss has developed into a cosy, almost loving acceptance of the often absurd observations John Shuttleworth makes is beyond many. Still, that's no reason for the beginner to shy away from John. His brand of keyboard-led social commentary (alright, it's a pretend retired man playing a portable Yamaha organ singing about – amongst other things - his neighbour's gastric troubles) strikes a chord with ironic "post modern" people wishing more something less ironic, maybe more spiritual, elegiac. Have we really replaced God with John?
We certainly haven't replaced him with Dave Tordoff; a self-made Sheffield builder (and first of Graham Fellows' alter-egos). Dave regales us with stories of his new-found wealth and what he does with it; namely quad bikes, riding lessons and breast enlargements. He also substitutes the word thousand with 'K' which should give you an idea of where he's coming from. The Nice Liberal audience stirs and laughs uneasily, but as with all Nice Liberal audiences they are gripped by tales of greed and shamelessness. Dave proceeds to show us his home videos and tell us he is available for after dinner speaking engagements. The film showing his antics on a quad bike and driving a monster truck is the highlight and well worth seeing.
Following that, there's a perceptible gasp of relief as we all feel that John Shuttleworth will lead us to higher moral ground. His show tonight is based on food; we are invited to participate in the swapping of recipes, and are told of the nasty accident his wife Mary had with the pips of some cherry tomatoes. John's lost faith in them. He's also surprised at the rapid acceptance of feta and olives in supermarkets, but as he says, it's a wonderful time for food in this country what with Bombay mix being available in garages... Songs like Eggs and Gammon (too much eggs and gammon on Ken's behalf...) and Dandelion and Burdock are rapturously received. Ken Worthington, his manager, also rings him at various intervals; tonight Ken & Joan Chitty seem to be making a rendezvous at the garage where Joan works...
John wouldn't be John without Pigeons in Flight. Luckily we get it as a rousing finale. This song seems to sum him up; his reappraisal of the popular underdog (or under pigeon), and his appeal to the gang show mentality and our collective better nature (even if it is sticking up for pigeons). We all reciprocate warmly. Afterwards we are brought into sharp contact with the modern world, when a disinterested (and clearly disaffected) young Crucible bar staff member tells Team Incendiary that we are "not franchised" to take drinks to another area. Ooofph. What would John have made of that?
Words: Richard Foster