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"The Wurzels Greatest Hits" The Wurzels
(Released: 7 May 2007)

1. I Am A Cider Drinker 2007 (Paloma Blanca) - with Tony Blackburn  (Hans Bouwens/The Wurzels)
2. The Combine Harvester (Brand New Key) (Melanie Safka/Brendan O'Shaughnessy)
3. The Blackbird    (Pete Budd/T Banner/Tony Baylis)
4. Drink, Drink Yer Zider Up  (H Barter/R Barter)
5. When The Common Market Comes To Stanton Drew (Adge Cutler)
6. Don't Look Back In Anger  (Noel Gallagher)
7. Ferry To Glastonbury (Colin Thomas/Adge Cutler)
8. Farmer Bill's Cowman
  (Roger Greenaway /Tommy Banner/Roger Cook/Tony Baylis/Pete Budd/Bob Barratt)
9. Pill Pill  (Adge Cutler)
10. Ooh Arr Just A Little Bit  (Taube/Rodway)
11. Morning Glory  (Guy Fletcher/Doug Flett)
12. Somerset Jigolo  (Tommy Banner)
13. Drink Up Thy Zider  (Adge Cutler)
14. I Am A Cider Drinker (Hans Bouwens/The Wurzels)
15. Rock Around The A38  (T Banner/P Budd/T Baylis)
16. I've Got Me Beady Little On Thee  (Pete Budd/Owen)
17. Good Old Summerset  (Banner/Budd/Wright)
18. Why Does It Always Rain On Me  (Fran Healey)
19. Tractor Song  (The Pushbike Song) (Idris Jones/Evan Jones)
20. The Shepton Mallet Matador  (Adge Cutler)
21. The Combine Harvester  (Brand New Key) (2001 Remix ) (Melanie Safka/Brendan O'Shaughnessy)

- Click on a photo to enlarge.

Sleeve Notes:

0ne Sunday afternoon in the late '90s I wandered onto Brighton's Palace Pier to grab a breath of sea air. I heard strange sounds emanating from Horatio's, the tacky pub near the pier's end. Curious, I took a peek inside. In front of a half-empty room, four white haired men in thick corduroy trousers, granddad shirts and red neckerchiefs were laughing their way through a song detailing attempts to knock a blackbird out of a tree. The singer had a thick Somerset accent and as the gig progressed it became clear I was watching the Wurzels, the real live Wurzels, who I recalled from my childhood when their No.1 hit 'Combine Harvester' was ubiquitous. It also became obvious very fast that they were as snappy and entertaining a comic live act as one could hope for. This was surely a cult in the making.

A decade later the Wurzels renaissance has bloomed. They're established as one of Britain's premier student draws, a band whose jovial self-styled 'Scrumpy'n'Western' music can pull concert crowds with ease. Their 'Greatest Hits' is released to coincide with a new version of 'I Am A Cider Drinker' fronted by TV King Of The Jungle, Tony Blackburn, and, after 40 years giving free publicity to the drink, they finally have a cider named after them, Thatchers' “Wurzel Me Cider”.

Suitably, the Wurzels story begins when the chorus of 'Drink Up Thy Zider' popped into the head of one Alan John Cutler in 1958. Cutler, known as Adge after his initials, had tried many professions, including a stint as Acker Bilk's road manager, but by the mid-'60s he was at a loose end. He thought that since the Beatles had gone global with the Mersey sound, he might have a crack at representing his native West Country in comic song. Through Bristol agent John Miles his new band, clad as yokels and named after the root vegetable mangelwurzel, signed to EMI. Their single, 'Drink Up Thy Zider', became a regional hit, later adopted as the anthem of Bristol City FC, while the album, 'Adge Cutler And The Wurzels', recorded live and raucous at The Royal Oak Pub in Nailsea, did equally swift business. Longest serving Wurzel Tommy Banner joined on accordion in 1967, all the way from Scotland.

"Adge drew up a three month contract on an old jotting pad," he laughs, "I grew up in a place called Penicuk in the sticks. The Edinburgh folk called us 'tewchters' which is the Scottish equivalent of country bumpkin, so I understood what The Wurzels were about."

Fellow longterm Wurzel Pete Budd joined in 1973 but in May the following year tragedy struck. "I went for my pint on a Sunday and one of the lads I drank with said, 'Can I have a word?'," recollects Pete, "I thought, 'What's he want – to borrow money or something?' but, instead he told me Adge Cutler had been killed in a car accident'." The Wurzels went into shock. Pete continues, "Our manager said, 'You can walk away, if you want, or you can put your backs to the wheel and really go for it'." They went for it. Less authentically folky than before, the new Wurzels parodied contemporary songs, 'Wurzelizing' them, miming them for fruity comedy. The second Adge-less album struck gold in the form of its title song.

"Combine Harvester was just an album track," says Tommy, "but the recording engineer, Tony Clarke, who at that time was recording Sky and John Williams, said, 'You've got a smash hit there, a number one that shows the world what you do – it's perfect'."

'Combine Harvester' went on to sell a million and The Wurzels became pop stars, beloved of children and regulars on television throughout the mid-'70s. It was their moment in the sun. They entered the comic consciousness of the nation and have since been referred to in the humour of Bill Bailey, Steve Coogan and others –even Robbie Williams is a fan.

The '80s and '90s were not so good. "We did let it go a bit," admits Pete. "We had no management or direction." The band scraped by. Pete ran a pub and Tommy went into finance but their core fans didn't forget them.
"Farmers love our music," says Tommy, "We played a lot of farms for weddings and anniversaries, and we still do the Young Farmers' AGM every year."

As the 21st century dawned The Wurzels gained a new management team and suddenly they were back in business. Remixes and dance mixes appeared, even reaching the lower reaches of the charts, and the band started popping up on TV again. They have since become little short of a national treasure. Or at least a West Country treasure.

The songs on this album date from all three major bursts of Wurzel activity. Material such as the lovely 'Ferry To Glastonbury', and the comic gems 'Shepton Mallet Matador' and 'When The Common Market Comes To Stanton Drew' are rerecorded songs from the Cutler years, marinated in their folk heritage. Then there are the breezy pop pastiches from the mid-'70s such as 'Combine Harvester', 'I Am A Cider Drinker' and 'Farmer Bill's Cowman. Lastly comes evidence of The Wurzels transformation into a premier league student cult band, from their covers of Travis and Oasis to the Faliraki disco-bar bounce of 'Ooh Arr Just A Little Bit'.

As for me, after seeing them on Brighton Pier I bought albums from charity shops and researched their history (Did you know they had a No.1 in New Foundland, Canada, with 'The Blackbird'? Or that the Pope paid them tribute after seeing them in 1982?). I also attended more gigs, including a weird Wurzel mini-festival out in the country. They were never less than a great fun night out, usually involving lashings of scrumpy. I also noticed as time passed that the audiences were growing bigger. Finally, I recently met Pete and Tommy, still mates after all these years, overflowing with anecdotes about everyone from Bob Marley to Arthur Askey. I have to admit that in fifteen years as a music journalist, they were only the second act I've ever asked to sign an album. I am the proud owner of a 'Combine Harvester' LP marked, "To Thomas - Wurzel Fan No.1 ooh Arr – Tommy Banner & Pete Budd'. And who could ask for more than that?

Now put the CD on and have "a laugh and a good stomp" as Pete Budd would say.

Thomas H Green

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