The Flock has flown: RIP to Classic Rock’s comic strip
Illustrator, writer and Classic Rock‘s cartoonist for the past seven or so years, BP Perry, explains why Flock Of Numbskulls had to come to an end – and looks back over some of his favourite and most controversial moments…
As you may have noticed, Flock of Numbskulls has been absent from the back pages of Classic Rock of late. As much as I’d like to say this is because I’ve been far too busy whoring my way across Eastern Europe in a selfish orgy of drugs, guns, booze and big-breasted, 18-year-old strippers, something much less rock’n’roll is to blame.
Sadly – or joyously, if you hated the damn thing – I’ve had to lay down my tools and hand back my membership of the Royal Institute Of Cartoonists, Gag Writers, Wastrels & Layabouts thanks to the bane of many an artist’s life – carpal tunnel syndrome. This disagreeable little malady makes the day-to-day business of drawing lots of wee little people in boxes extremely difficult (unless you restrict yourself to stick men… ahem) and so I’ve had to call it a day.
Plus, after seven years at the crease, it’s become rather difficult to come up with new ideas for strips every month when almost everybody you write about stopped doing anything legendary halfway through the 1980s because, well, livers only last for so long if they have to splash about in a reservoir of Jack Daniel’s every day of their overworked lives.
As much as I would have loved for the titans of the industry to carry on roustabouting and carousing for the benefit of fresh comic strip material, it’s a pretty rubbish reason when the result is mortuaries full of dead rock legends. For a start, who the hell would we get to do all the tribute concerts? One Direction and Olly Murs? Christ, that’s unthinkable.
So I’m afraid that’s your lot from muggins ‘ere. But before I disappear into the ether, to be remembered by a few of you as that bloke who once managed to get away with having a strip called ‘Sparks In The Dark’ published in a national magazine thanks to the Editor In Chief going away on holiday (“What next? Kiss On The Piss?” he furiously thundered down the phone when he realised quality control had disappeared down the toilet in his absence. Why yes, as it happened. ‘Kiss On The Piss’ appeared a couple of months later), let’s take a brief trip down memory lane…
[click on strips to enlarge]
The strip began as an idea in the unhinged mind of an American. His name was John Saleeby and, tragically, he was dragged from the tin roof of the Louisiana shack where he lived by a pack of crocodiles and devoured alive after a little over a year of writing wacky scripts that could have easily graced the pages of one of those ‘humor’ publications they have over there. Highlights of John’s tenure for me were his advertisement for an emergency Dave Mustaine wig that got you girls, a look at the way it’s nigh-on impossible to tell the likes of Nazareth and Grand Funk Railroad apart until they start playing, and getting a considerable amount of flack from readers for a strip about the tumour removed from Eddie Van Halen’s tongue becoming his band’s new lead singer.
THE SALEEBY YEARS (WELL, MONTHS)
This was the first time I encountered the ire of fans, and it wouldn’t be the last. I later received a 13,000-word rant from an angry Ukrainian, damning me to the very lowest depths of Hades for having a go at Jeff Lynne. The strip that offended him to the point of writing me a novella – ‘The Flock Of Numbskulls Puppet Theatre Proudly Presents The Story Of ELO’ – was factually accurate, I thought, depicting how Jeff went disco-bonkers in the 70s, how he sacked everyone in ELO as a result and how they then all died of starvation [see The Roy Wood Trilogy, below]. That’s what happened, wasn’t it? I’d check, but Wikipedia’s down.
Anyway, the point is you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise if anything I’ve written has gotten your goat over the years. That said, I stand by what I said about Roy Wood in ‘A Year In The Life Of Roy Wood’ because it would be rubbish to discover he doesn’t live under a motorway flyover for most of the summer, waiting for his royalty cheque to arrive from that year’s sales of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday before checking into a five-star hotel and blowing the lot on lobsters.
THE ROY WOOD TRILOGY (not in chronological order)
So anyway, after John Saleeby had been eaten, I assumed writing duties and the strip bent to the will of my particularly British sense of humour. Over the years I’ve covered just about everybody that’s anyone in the world of rock and, indeed, pop (usually as foils and fall guys, I might add). From Motley Crue going down with the Titanic to Status Quo emerging from the Ark Of The Covenant, from Led Zeppelin’s legendary aeroplane antics to Slipknot on the dole, the strip’s had its highs and its lows along the way – the aforementioned ‘Sparks In The Dark’ was about as bad as it got, but let’s not forget I also did that weird thing about Meat Loaf as a mouse in the sideboard and flogged a dead horse with a second helping of the stickman pudding with ‘The Pink Floyd Story in Stickmen’ – but I like to think it’s mainly been highs.
If I had to pick a few of my favourites, I’d plump for ‘We Didn’t Die, We Just Got Old’, where the two surviving members of The Who attempt to relive their glory days of hotel-trashing and instead achieve nothing more than putting their backs out and tumbling out of a window; ‘We’ve Got A Yoko’, in which I scientifically proved that it’s impossible to function as a band if John Lennon’s wife pokes her nose in; the aforementioned Roy Wood and Kiss strips and ‘Where’s Weiland?’ – a Where’s Wally-style hunt-the-character game suggested by the CR team where readers had to track down Scott Weiland hidden amongst a cast of familiar faces. That took ages to draw, did that. I tell you, coal miners think they’ve got it hard …
I’d also like to thank Classic Rock for allowing me to have a go at that preposterous Live Earth nonsense. Next you’ll be telling me you can wipe out world poverty with a pop concert. The very idea.
Well, it’s all over now bar the shouting and a certain fat lady entering stage left. The flock has flown south for the winter, as they say, and I’m off to lick my wounds, piss about all day on social media sites and try and flog people copies of my unpopular new eBook about a drunken detective solving murders at the seaside. That’s not a plug, by the way. I would never lower the tone of a signing-off piece by besmirching it with advertising (The Mablethorpe Connection is out now – £3.99 excl. VAT from all good Amazons… cough, cough).
It’s been a blast, a pleasure, an honour and a privilege to entertain (and no doubt occasionally annoy) ladies and gentlemen of your undoubted impeccable calibre, and I hope you all go on and become fabulously successful and get more than your fair share of great big knockers and/or rippling muscles, preference depending. I hope you enjoyed the strip as much as I enjoyed writing and drawing it. And if you didn’t enjoy it, remember this – NO REFUNDS.
Tatty-bye, everyone, and thanks for all the fish.
I did tell you I was paid in fish, didn’t I …?
B P Perry will shortly be appearing queuing up in a Job Centre near you.
*WEILAND’S CELEBRITY CHUMS: THE BEATLES, OZZY, THE CAST OF LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE, HEINRICH HIMMLER, FREDDIE MERCURY, BRIAN MAY AND JOHN DEACON, BASIL FAWLTY, TONY BLAIR, THE LIKELY LADS, DR STRANGELOVE, THE CAST OF TOP GEAR, HAPPY DAYS’ THE FONZ AND RITCHIE CUNNINGHAM, THE BEE GEES, DIRTY HARRY, ROGER MOORE, THE HULK, ELTON JOHN, CLASSIC ROCK’S JERRY EWING, AXL ROSE, AMY WINEHOUSE, PETE DOHERTY, ROY WOOD, LEMMY, SHERLOCK HOLMES, GARY GLITTER, ALAN BENNETT, SATAN AND NODDY HOLDER.
Tags: Dave Mustaine, Eddie Van Halen, ELO, Elton John, Foghat, Grand Funk Railroad, Humble Pie, Kiss, Live Earth, nazareth, Pink Floyd, Roy Wood, Scott Weiland, Sparks, The Beatles, The Move, The Who, Van Halen, Wizard