‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’

NO, THIS HAS certainly nothing to do with rabid dogs foaming at the mouth.

But it has a lot to do with Englishmen. The complete phrase goes … “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”.

That phrase is the title and refers to the refrain of a song written by English playwright Noel Coward in 1931 and also became the signature feature of his cabaret act.

Of course, we’re not going to talk about that, rather about something else also having the same title.

The phrase is satirising the unwillingness of English people to adopt the custom of taking a siesta during the heat of the day in tropical climates.

Although it has some sort of satire with a condescending or derogatory tone it has eventually become a private joke in the typical dry British sense of humor, particularly amongst English expats.

But again that’s not what we’re talking about. The mad dogs and Englishmen I’m referring to has also a lot to do with music, particularly the music of my generation, you know the “dazed and confused” Woodstock generation.

And this is what I’m talking about…

Mad Dogs & Englishmen is a live album by Joe Cocker, released in 1970.

The album’s title is drawn from the 1931 Noël Coward song of the same name. Only four songs of the 16 on the original album were drawn from his first two studio albums.

Besides the contributions of bandmate and musical director Leon Russell, it draws equally from rock (the Rolling StonesTrafficBob Dylanthe Beatles) and soul (Ray CharlesSam and DaveOtis Redding). Accompanying Cocker is a choir, a three-piece horn section and several drummers.

The single “The Letter” / “Space Captain”, recorded during rehearsals was released to coincide with the tour. The album yielded the single “Cry Me a River” / “Give Peace a Chance.” “Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen” / “Let It Be” was a non-album single from the movie soundtrack that featured Leon Russell and Claudia Lennear.

In 2005, Mad Dogs & Englishmen was released as a two-disc deluxe edition set through Universal Records to commemorate the album’s 35th anniversary.

In 2006, Mad Dogs & Englishmen was released as a six-disc box set under the title The Complete Fillmore East Concerts by Hip-O Select. Both early and late shows from March 27 and 28, 1970, were released in their entirety.

Yup, it’s about rock and roll, a two-day live concert in Fillmore East that was also released as a movie. It was one of the two most iconic music documentaries of that era; the other one being Woodstock.

I saw the movie Mad Dogs and Englishmen sometime in 1972 in what was then the “Helen Theatre” on Guanco Street. It was Woodstock all over again as the movie audience was mostly long-haired hippies and their equally stoned girlfriends.

“Helen Theatre” was air-conditioned probably. If I remember right, the very first one in “I Am Iloilo City” and smoking inside was strictly prohibited. So what me and my girlfriend at that time did was smoke a couple of joints somewhere and get in the movie house already stoned and just let Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and the rest of the band blow our minds away with the music.

What happened somewhere else after the movie is something for you to wonder and me to smile about.

Excerpts from an AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder:

Listening to this CD brings back a lot of memories. Mad Dogs & Englishmen was just about the most elaborate album that A&M Records had ever released, back in 1971, a double LP in a three-panel, fold-out, gatefold sleeve, with almost 80 minutes of music inside and a ton of photos, graphics, and annotation wrapping around it.

A live recording done in tandem with a killer documentary film of the same US tour, it was recorded at the Fillmore East, where the movie was a cross-country affair, and the two were, thus, completely separate entities – also, as people couldn’t “buy” the film in those days, the double LP has lingered longer in the memory, by virtue of its being on shelves, and also being taken off those shelves to be played.

Unlike a lot of other “coffee table”-type rock releases of the era, such as Woodstock and The Concert for Bangladesh, people actually listened to Mad Dogs & Englishmen – most of its content was exciting, and its sound, a veritable definition of big-band rock with three dozen players working behind the singer, was unique.

This record was also just as much a showcase for Leon Russell as it was for Joe Cocker – it’s almost all-bracing and beautiful. Indeed a beautiful and mind blowing experience. ([email protected]/PN)

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