Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Never Get Ahead (1997)

Wow, hadn’t seen this before. It’s a special clean version of Bobby Conn’s Couldn’t Get Ahead recorded for a kids television show in 1997. The singer recalled the performance on his blog many years later:

For all the people who have discovered me recently from the “Never Get Ahead” video currently posted on many blogs & You Tube, here’s some facts you make be interested in:

1. The video is from an unrehearsed live appearance on “Chic-a-go-go” in 1997 or 1998 (ten years ago, shit!). Chic-a-go-go is a brilliant children’s dance show on cable access here in Chicago; it’s sort of like American Bandstand or Soul Train but for little kids. Every week there is a random collection of kids and parents dancing to pre-recorded tracks and usually there is a special guest from the independant music scene. The guest can be local or touring acts, ranging from totally obscure noise bands to bigger acts. There is no budget and no rehearsal; they usually shoot two or three episodes in about two hours. The host is a punk rock rat puppet named Ratso and his lovely partner, currently Miss Mia Park.

2. I was asked to do a tune, and as the song was “Never Get Ahead” I re-cut the vocals to remove references to fellatio. It is a kid’s show, after all. I recut the tune the night before and really didn’t have time to rehearse the lip sync. I figured my sync would be terrible, but didn’t care too much about “fooling” people into thinking it was live.

3. The original version of the tune is on my album “Bobby Conn” available through Atavistic/Truckstop Records. I think it is on iTunes, Amazon, etc. It’s my first album; please buy a copy as I haven’t seen any royalties from those people for a long time. There is also a live version on my album “Live Classics, Vol. 1” released on Thrill Jockey Records. It is considerably more rocking than the original which may or may not be an improvement.

4. This video clip was voted “Worst Video Ever” in a VH1 contest and has been broadcast in the UK and Europe pretty consistently for the past ten years.

5. The video was shot at 10 AM on a Saturday morning; I was not “coked out of my brain” as many people have suggested. If my performance seems exaggerated, well, perhaps you need to enjoy life a bit more.

6. Micheal Jackson & Motown are a huge inspiration for me, and I’m not embaressed to admit it. I’m not really ashamed of much, really.

7. The woman in the blue dress is my friend Emily; you can see clips of her playing bass in another tune on YouTube, “Passover”. The woman in the plaid skirt is Monica BouBou; you can see her in most of my videos as she has played violin with me for over ten years and is my partner in crime. I can guarantee any dude that is interested in Emily or anyone else in the video that they are not interested a scumbag like you. Everyone else in the video, all the kids, etc. are just random people who showed up that day. Obviously, many of them were confused by my antics.

8. I am “for real.” As in I am a real person. Is my hair real in the video? Is that a measure of my integrity? These are all questions for you think about; but frankly, I am amazed at how much people seem to care about these things. It’s a sign of progress that we have the time to debate such issues over the internet. I guess that means that the larger issues confronting humanity have been pretty much taken care of. Hallelujah!

9. I have noticed that Americans have a harder time with sarcasm & irony that other cultures. We find sarcasm threatening in some way; I, on the other hand, find the emphasis on the illusion of integrity to be more frightening. The lyrics to the song both celebrate and mock political songwriting. The concept of “the man” is a juvenile simplification of oppression. But the impulse behind it is still valid.

10. Finally, thanks for watching! I am very proud of this video, as it captures almost everything I love in entertainment. It is FUNNY, even ten years later!

See here.

February 28th, 2011.

7 Responses to “Never Get Ahead (1997)”

  1. Paul Says:

    Oh lord god, Bobby Conn. I still have a DV tape somewhere – possibly the first thing I filmed with my first DV camera – of him playing to about forty people in Whelan’s and coming on like a cross between Funkadelic & Nation of Ulysses. The man is a true star, and it’s great to see his name crop up again.

  2. lordgoat Says:

    Butler as ever you brighten my dull days. We should have Booby Conn over to the west for a few days, re-work your epic croagh patrick piece.

  3. JMJ Says:

    Ahem is he able to dance in the non-clean verssion?

  4. Eoin Says:

    @ Lordgoat – there’s actually a festival called Wesht Fesht taking place in Aghamore (about five miles outside Ballyhaunis) this summer. He’d be perfect.

    @ JMJ (Jesus, Mary & Joseph?) – The original chorus was “you”re never gonna get ahead, giving head to the man etc.”

  5. emordino Says:

    “The host is a punk rock rat puppet”


  6. Lisa Says:

    I think the Guardian have robbed your Fiddy vs Gogarty concept: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/quiz/2011/mar/01/muammar-gaddafi-charlie-sheen-quiz

  7. Eoin Says:

    @ Emordino – Pajo…. Jesus, that’s a blast from the very dim and distant past. The only thing I rmemember about that is that the woman presenter went on to play the nun who helped Ted and Dougal with their Lenten vows (but turned out to have a bit of a chocolate fetish herself) in that old ep of Father Ted.

    @ Lisa – I’ve seen that in a lot of places. I should be charging commission on that idea!

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