Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mr Snuffleupagus

It was a hot February afternoon in 1985. Eh, maybe it was 1986.

I'm really quite certain it wasn't 1987. So, let's stick with 85 or 86.

Oh hell, for the sake of getting-on-with-it, let's just say it was 1985. It was definitely in the afternoon, and it was definitely hot outside.

I arrived home from school, and splashed my books down onto my water bed. I turned back to the kitchen for a quick snack, then settled onto the couch in the living room, the only cool room in the house.

The giant Black & Decker wall-mounted air conditioner churned away, pumping pure icy air in my direction. I turned on the TV, and flipped the dial up into the high UHF channels.

Broadcast, baby, pre-cable. UHF Channel 22, KWHY, now a Spanish-language station, back then it was a humble little local independent broadcaster trying to stay afloat. Seeking to cash in on the video music movement, the little station that could borrowed Jim Trenton, "Poorman" of KROQ fame, to host an after-school music video cavalcade. Video 22 was its name, and if it wasn't exactly "edgy," it was at least a little rough around the edges...

I sat steaming on the sofa, the cold air condensing the water vapor rising form my body, I tried to focus on the unfamiliar video playing on the screen before me. I hadn't seen it before, and I wasn't even sure who it was.

The man was tall and lanky. He had bushy blonde hair, and a British accent. A motley assortment of nurses and other various unfortunate folk seemed to be following him on some macabre parade. Admittedly, I missed the first few notes of the song, but what I heard appeared to be somewhat irritating.

There was a bass-heavy disco rhythm, and the lyrics seemed to be repetitive refrains limited to a call-and-response of:

Say Captain
Say wot
Say Captain
Say wot
Say Captain
Say wot you want...

I failed to catch the artist's name. However, I assumed the enigmatic singer held the self-imposed rank of "Captain." The song, while simple and banal, had gotten stuck in my head, much like an infection. At the very least, I wanted to figure out who the offending artist was.

The following day, around the lunch table in the cafeteria, I shared my puzzling musical experience and, based on my singular recall of the lyrics asked whether any of my comrades recognized the little ditty.

Tom, Brian, Mark and Dave all looked at me blankly. None had heard or seen such a thing, and Tom, at the very least, accused me of making the whole thing up. Tom's theory caught on quickly, and the others joined in on Tom's accusations.

It didn't help that I couldn't let it go. Nor did it help that the mystery video never aired again in the days, weeks, and months that followed.

Years passed, and while the ridicule receded, it never quite ended. Until one day, in 1989, out of the blue, Dave came up to me with a very somber face, and in a hushed conspiratorial tone, he admitted that he had come across the wayward recording, and provided the name and identity of the mystery man with bushy blonde hair.

His name was Captain sensible, and the song, "Wot" was his solo project while he was taking a break from playing with The Damned.

Well, I'll be damned.

I was not around when Mr. Snuffleupagus was outted on Sesame Street. This, I suppose was the next best thing. And as a special added bonus, here is the Captain's magnum opus, Wot:


  1. I remember dancing to that..

    Thanks, now in my head all day

  2. amanda7:16 AM

    My sister is ten years older than me (you know, your age). My command of the English language has nothing to do with Sesame Street, as I was not allowed to watch it. Rather, my sister always hogged the television after school and watched MTV. Oh, and I've danced to that song too. But it was at the Fez in Portland last summer.

  3. It's funny, I've heard this song many times since those days, and I always think of you. Not because of this story, but because there is film evidence of you also wearing a beret and sunglasses.

  4. This was merely beginning to my lucrative side career of finding lost 80's musical artists. VH-1 pays a bundle.

  5. Captain Sensible is still around. He was last seen playing with the Damned in 2006. And he actually had 4 solo hits between various Damned breakups. Sensible is also the leader of the Blah! Party, the fastest growing protest party that aims "to give all politicians a kick up the jacksie"

    Do they use the term "jacksie" in Wales, Lisa? Thats my new word for the day.

  6. They do Ryan, although its not a word that frequents my conversation.

    I prefer to kick ass

  7. You people are all seriously disturbed.

  8. amanda5:33 PM

    You say that like it is a new development, or alternatively that it's a bad thing.

  9. Who is this 'Viacom' that have deleted my video from utube? How dumb is that!

    I want a new generation of discerning music lovers to discover my fab 80s tunes and maybe (if one of you works in advertising) get me back in the pop charts where is so deserve to be..... ahem!

    Anyway, thanks for blogging me dudes - Captain Sensible, X


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