Tiptop pop group the Tiptop Toofles have released a new single which is steaming towards the top of the charts. “My Monkey Has An Ague” is a sprightly yet forlorn ballad telling of the lead singer’s pet monkey, Alan, being hospitalised in a monkey hospital after contracting an ague. It is an odd sort of monkey hospital. The lyrics make explicit that it is closely based on the hospital in a Carry On film, so there are name-checks for Kenneth Williams as a doctor, Hattie Jacques as Matron, and Charles Hawtrey as a weedy patient, languishing in the bed next to the monkey’s. So vivid is the picture painted by the words, though, that we accept it and trust to its verisimilitude, even though, if we give it a moment’s sober thought, it is piffle.
As with all Tiptop Toofles tracks, it’s a toe-tapper, while at the same time being emotionally devastating. For those who have not yet heard it, I will not spoil the song by giving away its ending. All I will say is that, in the final verse, the scene changes from the monkey hospital to a monkey graveyard.
The B side of the single is more smoochy than toe-tappy. “Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto” features the sampled voices of both Hattie Jacques and Charles Hawtrey – though not Kenneth Williams – and is scored, unusually for the Tiptop Toofles, or indeed for any other pop group, for Wurlitzer organ, piccolo, and Brazil nuts. At eleven and a half minutes, it is by far the longest track the group has ever released, and it is fair to say that it outstays its welcome by a good ten minutes or so. This has not deterred top pop critic Ted Popcrit from hailing it as “the smoochiest B side ever committed to wax cylinder recording technology that I have heard since yesterday afternoon”. Maddeningly, but characteristically, Ted does not divulge what he was listening to yesterday afternoon, so I rang him up to ask.
“Hello?” I said, “Is that Ted Popcrit?”
But in reply all I heard was a Lovecraftian bubbling sound of “Glub …. glub … glub”. I surmised that Ted must be listening to the Tiptop Toofles’ previous chart-topper, the sprightly yet forlorn smoochy toe-tapper “Disgusting Seaside Resort”. Pop fans will know that this smash hit features the sampled voices of Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, and that tremendous chorus “the pollarded willows by the canal just before the level crossing”, so startling because it has nothing whatsoever to do with seaside resorts.
If you would like to join the Tiptop Toofles Fan Club, you are strongly advised to consult a qualified medical practitioner, or a man of the cloth, whichever suits your pocket.