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Adrian Edmondson

December 2008

THEY are one of the most famous comedy couples in Britain but, before Jennifer Saunders, Adrian Edmondson was married to a Nottingham girl.
" I was very young and stupid," he says.
"We were students when we got married."
How old?
That's young. Even for the mid-70s.
"It's idiotic. I apologise to everyone involved. Including me."
They'd met while at university in Manchester. She was from Mapperley.
"It gets more stupid, this story... we used to live there in the summer holidays. With her mum and dad.
"It's a bizarre idea."
He adds: "I worked in the Horizon Players Factory in my summer holidays. I also worked at Pork Farms."
I imagine that was a bit grim.
He guffaws: "I'm partial to a pork pie."
As the marriage dissolved, Edmondson, who graduated with a degree in drama, teamed up with university buddy Rik Mayall to work the comedy circuit as 20th Century Coyote, who became an attraction at London's The Comedy Store. With fellow upcoming comedians Alexei Sayle, Peter Richardson, Nigel Planer, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, they created their own comedy night The Comic Strip which eventually led to the TV series of the same name on the fledgling Channel 4.
At the same time, the BBC signed Edmondson, Mayall, Planer and Sayle for the ground-breaking anarchic comedy The Young Ones.
It was to launch the careers of its lead actors and co-writer Ben Elton.
Edmondson would continue to draw on the violent punk character of Vyvyan Basterd for his later roles, most successfully in Bottom with Rik Mayall, which transferred from the small screen to the stage and then to the cinema in 1999 with Guest House Paradiso.
Edmondson's character of Abra Durant in the BBC's Holby City, which he's played since 2005, is also an anti-authoritarian figure.
But it's neither comedy or acting that brings him to Notts tonight, rather music and his Cajun punk band The Bad Shepherds.
They play classic punk and new wave using traditional folk instruments.
"It works really well," he says.
But isn't punk meant to be played loud?
"Well, we all get a bit older and our eardrums start to hurt. Loud guitar music gets a bit wearing."
It's been a life-long fantasy to be in a band, he says.
"I don't know anyone in the world who doesn't want to be a rock'n'roll star. I dreamt about it all through my school days. I was in a band at school. And that's all we talked about."
He played out the fantasy with The Comic Strip team in Bad News, the Spinal Tap-style rock band spoof for Channel 4 in 1987.
But this is the real thing – he's joined by Maartin Allcock (ex Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention) and Troy Donockley (ex Maddy Prior and Midge Ure's band).
"It's music from 1977-82. We do a bit of The Jam, The Clash and The Pistols. We're attacking a bit of The Specials. We're doing Ghost Town. We're also doing a bit of Talking Heads, Tom Robinson and Kraftwerk."
Is there any song that didn't lend itself to the folk treatment?
"I really wanted to do (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding (written by Nick Lowe) but it didn't work. It's bizarrely slow."
Edmondson was introduced to punk while at Manchester University at a venue called The Squat.
"The Buzzcocks were the only name that ever made it," he says of the bands he saw.
Not that he was always so cool – his first record was...?
"Val Doonican's Irish Stewpot," he says without hesitation.
"I was only ten. I had a postal order from my grandma and it had four great Val Doonican comedy songs on."
Have you still got it?
"No, I don't think so. I haven't got any vinyl anywhere. There's some stuff in the loft but I don't know what it is."
These days he's more into his folk music but his musical hero is Nick Cave.
"I absolutely adore him.
"In fact if you listen to his stuff, his stuff is actually punk done with a kind of folk style. His lead guitarist is a mandolin player, really."
And he's a great storyteller.
"Yeah, it's kind of a folk ballad style a lot of his stuff."
If there was any musician he'd like to be it's him.
"I'd just like to be that ****ing cool."
He adds: "I sat next to him in a pub once. I don't know about you, if you've met any of your idols but it's generally disappointing.
"And I thought, 'Well I'm not going to say hello because I still want him to be my idol'".
I interviewed in a few years ago and he's fine. Quite dry.
"I thought he might be a bit sticky."
"I thought he might be a bit offish."
Not at all.
So what are his all-time favourite albums?
"There are two albums I keep playing as albums.
"It's very rare you play albums these days, isn't it? Because you shuffle on your iPod.
"One of them is Sweetheart Of The Rodeo by The Byrds, when Gram Parsons was in The Byrds, which is just a fantastic album. And the other is a very early Velvet Underground record called Loaded. It's got the first versions of Waiting For The Man and Heroin on it and it's just brilliant. Much better than when they went cod dark. They went purposefully moody and they didn't need to because their songs were brilliant anyway."
Talking of not wanting to meet your heroes I interviewed Lou Reed earlier this year...
"(Laughs) Was he grumpy? He's about 80 now, isn't he?"
If you find yourself sat next to him in a pub, don't bother saying hello.
"I like a lot of naff stuff," he admits.
"A lot of 70s glam metal. Like The Sweet. Do you call Focus naff? There's a track, Sylvia, that I play once a month. It's got that good driving home feel to it."
I quite like Hocus Pocus.
"Well that is pretty naff, isn't it? And I like that, too. Yoddle-oddle-ay yoddle-oddle-loo," he adds with a chuckle.
Edmondson married Jennifer Saunders in 1985. The couple have three daughters.
"I cry when my daughter sings," he admits.
"She can sing anything, really."
She's no toddler, though, but a 22-year-old singer-songwriter.
Is she a better musician.
"She's more of an accomplished writer. I wish I could write like she writes."
He adds with a laugh: "I'm a better player than her. She knows that."

The Bad Shepherds bring The Lost Sheep Tour to The Intake Club, Kirkland Avenue, Mansfield, Friday December 19

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