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Python’s Finchley Circus
It seems fitting that the surrealist sextet that came up with a chain smoker called Mr Smoke-a-lot, a song about inebriated philosophers and a parrot pining for the fjords, should record some of their finest work in the unlikely location of a Finchley greenhouse.
The sunny spot in an Elm Park Road garden became the favoured home to alternative comedy pioneers, Monty Python's Flying Circus, after its fledgling sound engineer, the then 17-year-old Andr Jacquemin, converted his dad's greenhouse into a fully equipped recording studio.
For the last few years, Mr Jacquemin, now 53, has been collating these early-Seventies out-takes of surreallist banter that did not make it onto any of the Pythons' audio albums. He tracked down tapes from across the country, which contained around 12 hours of previously unheard lunacy. These recordings have been edited into an 80-minute CD which will be released on October 17 by EMI, under the title Hastily Cobbled Together For a Fast Buck! (The Unissued Python).
Mr Jacquemin became the sound engineer for the Pythons after a chance meeting with Michael Palin led to Mr Jacquemin helping to record The Monty Python Previous Album.
A year later the Pythons were regularly recording from Andre's father's greenhouse. While Mr Jacquemin Senior was turfed out of his potting parlour, the group behind the Ministry of Silly Walks worked into the twilight hours each day.
"We would work a lot of hours in there," he said. "The sessions often lasted all night. Between two to four in the morning, Terry Gilliam would catch a few hours of sleep on the couch in the greenhouse. On nice days, we would spend hours in the garden having a picnic and running through the scripts. My mum would make these great cakes and we'd sit there in the sunshine."
One of Mr Jaquemin's favourite out-takes is the Cheese Shop Sketch.
"It's about a cheese shop that doesn't actually sell any cheese," he said. In a rather typical parody, John Cleese attempts to purchase some cheese, but unfortunately, proprietor Mr Henry Wensleydale doesn't sell any. Eventually, an increasingly irate Cleese eventually shoots the shopkeeper.
"I remember them recording that sketch and having to tap dance in the background it was very funny.
Mr Jacquemin says he remains friends with the team and speaks to them regularly. "Eric Idle and John Cleese are in LA so I see them less often, but I saw Michael the other day and have been speaking to them all a great deal on the phone lately because of the album," he said.