Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"
Single by Monty Python
from the album Monty Python Sings
Released 1991
Format CD Single
Recorded 1979
Genre Comedy music
Length 3:33
Label Virgin Records
Writer(s) Eric Idle
Monty Python singles chronology
... "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life"
(1991)
...

"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" is a popular song written by Eric Idle that was originally featured in the 1979 film Monty Python's Life of Brian and has gone on to become a common singalong at public events such as football matches as well as funerals.[1]

Contents

History

Whilst trying to come up with a way of ending the film Monty Python's Life of Brian, Eric Idle wrote an original version of the song which was sung in a more straight fashion, which the other Python members agreed would be good enough for the end of the film. Whilst practising the song, during a break in filming, Idle found that the song worked better if sung in a more cheeky manner. This new version was used in the film and became one of the Python's most famous songs.

Brian Cohen (played by Graham Chapman) has been sentenced to death by crucifixion for his part in a kidnap plot. After a succession of apparent rescue opportunities all come to nothing, a character on a nearby cross (played by Eric Idle) attempts to cheer him up by singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" to him. As the song progresses, many of the other crucifixion victims (140 in all, according to the script, though twenty-three crosses are actually seen on screen) begin to dance in a very limited way and join in with the song's whistled hook. The song continues as the scene changes to a long-shot of the crosses and the credits begin to roll. An instrumental version plays over the second half of the credits.

"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" was conceived as a parody of the style of song often featured in Disney films. It may be considered an answer song to the entire genre, but particularly to songs such as "Give a Little Whistle" from Pinocchio. Its appearance at the end of the film, when the central character seems certain to die, is deliberately ironic.

The song opens with an introductory verse (half-sung with an acoustic guitar backing on the soundtrack album and most subsequent versions, though simply spoken unaccompanied in the film itself):

Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle,
And this'll help things turn out for the best, and...

This deviation from the standard rhyme scheme (with 'best' replacing the expected 'worse' to rhyme with 'curse') leads into the first appearance of the chorus, which consists of the title and a whistled tune. A second verse continues in a similar vein, and the third and fourth verses move on to discuss the situation (namely, imminent death) in which Brian now finds himself, and alludes to the Shakespearean cliché that 'all the world's a stage':

Life's a piece of shit,
When you look at it.
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
You'll see it's all a show,
Keep 'em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

The whistled hook is an uncredited contribution from Idle's frequent collaborator Neil Innes. One occurrence in the final chorus was omitted at the insistence of the film's executive producer George Harrison, so as not to obscure a pet phrase in John Altman's orchestral arrangement.

The song appeared on the film soundtrack album, listed as "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (All Things Dull and Ugly)". The subtitle does not appear in the actual song, and is only used on the soundtrack album. Confusingly, "All Things Dull and Ugly" was also the title of an unrelated track on Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album (released only a few months later), which is a parody of the popular hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful".

The song was also released on the B-side of the single "Brian Song", the film's opening theme (performed by Sonia Jones). It is likely that the claim made by Idle in the spoken fade-out that "this record is available in the foyer" was actually true in some cinemas.

The song touched a chord with the British trait of stoicism and the 'stiff upper lip' in the face of disaster, and became immensely popular. When the destroyer HMS Sheffield was struck by an Exocet cruise missile on May 4, 1982 in the Falklands War, her crew sang it while waiting to be rescued from their sinking ship, as did the crew of HMS Coventry.

When Chapman died on October 4, 1989, the five remaining Python members, as well as Chapman's close relations, came together at his private funeral to sing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" as part of Idle's eulogy. In 2005, a survey by Music Choice showed that it was the third most popular song Britons would like played at their funerals.[2]

The single

"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" became particularly popular in the early 1990s. The film had retained a cult status in the intervening years. Around 1990, the title refrain and hook (either whistled as in the original, or vocalised as 'da-dum, da-da da-da da-dum') began to gain currency as a football chant. This came to the attention of BBC Radio 1 DJ Simon Mayo, whose breakfast show had a track record of reviving old novelty songs. Mayo began playing the original version on his show, which led to EMI re-issuing the track as a single in September 1991.

The single (which was backed with two tracks from Contractual Obligation, "I Bet You They Won't Play This Song on the Radio" and "I'm So Worried") also doubled up as promotion for the recently-released compilation Monty Python Sings. (The original pressing also featured a German language version of "The Lumberjack Song", though this was quickly withdrawn and is now a collector's item.) The single reached the top ten in October and prompted a deliberately chaotic performance by Idle on Top of the Pops. Despite some perhaps over-enthusiastic predictions, it did not manage to bring an end to Bryan Adams' unprecedented run at the top of the UK Singles Chart with "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You", instead peaking at number 3. Following this attention, the song became more popular than ever. Two cover versions, by Tenor Fly (incorporating the piano riff from Nina Simone's "My Baby Just Cares for Me"), and the cast of Coronation Street, both reached the charts in 1995.

Eric Idle recorded alternate lyrics for the radio version, with the swearing censored, and the comments about the end of the film replaced with references to the end of the record, and continued rants about old people. This version was released on CD, cassette and vinyl via the compilation album Now 20 in November 1991.

Track listing

  1. "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"
  2. "I Bet You They Won't Play This Song on the Radio"
  3. "I'm So Worried"

Covers

Harry Nilsson performed the song as the closing track on his 1980 album, Flash Harry.

In 1997, the song was recorded by Art Garfunkel and included in the soundtrack of James L. Brooks' film As Good as It Gets. Jack Nicholson sings the song fleetingly in the film itself with the minor addition of "your" in "brighter side of [your] life". Garfunkel's version replaced the risqué phrase "Life's a piece of shit" with the more family-friendly "Life's a counterfeit" ("Life is hit or miss" has also replaced the lyric as with wedding bands and live radio).

It was also performed by Bruce Cockburn and released on his 1990 Live CD.

The Brobdingnagian Bards recorded it for the CD A Faire to Remember.

American musician Emilie Autumn performed a harpsichord cover of the song for her compilation album A Bit o' This & That.

Heavens Gate recorded a metal cover of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" for the album Hell for Sale!.

Green Day has used it in their rendition of "Shout" on their concert DVD Bullet in a Bible.

German fun metal band J.B.O. made a version with changed lyrics (Always Look on the Dark Side of Life) for their album Sex Sex Sex.

German fun punk band Heiter bis Wolkig also made a version with changed lyrics called "Versuch's mal von der breiten Seite zu seh'n"

In popular culture

The song appears twice in the Broadway musical Spamalot, based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail – once in Act II and again during the curtain call. It is one of two Monty Python song in the musical not taken from the original movie, along with the "Finland" song; other songs were either from Holy Grail or were new creations.

The song is used at the end of Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy), the comedic oratorio written by Eric Idle and collaborator John Du Prez. On 13 November 2008, Idle performed the song as the finale of We Are Most Amused, a comedy show at the New Wimbledon Theatre to celebrate Prince Charles's 60th birthday.

In April 2007, over 4,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square in London in a successful attempt to create a new official Guinness world record for the largest number of people playing simultaneously in a coconut orchestra (i.e. banging coconut shells together in time to the music). The song used for the record attempt was "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". A video of the event can be seen on YouTube.

References

External links


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