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Great Fictional Bands - MULLIGAN and O'HARE

In which we pay tribute to two of folk music's unsung heroes, Mulligan and O'Hare (aka Reeves & Mortimer).

Music's always been an important part of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's act. The pair have sung in almost all their shows, from Big Night Out right up to House Of Fools, but it's never been so prominent than in their 1993-95 series The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer. As well as opening the show with a variety of surreal numbers (Trapped In My Flat, anyone?), and closing it with a sung list of things they enjoyed the smell of (Frank Muir, anyone?) there was the occasional appearance of a rather unsettling and bizarre folk duo - Mulligan and O'Hare.

Mulligan and O'Hare first met at an African style picnic in 1963, whatever that may be? Dermot Mulligan (played by Vic) has hair like a 1970s Blankety Blank era Terry Wogan. He also has breasts! They grew thanks to a brief addiction to hormone replacement tablets. Dermot O'Hare (played by Bob) has a big beard and a very short temper. The duo have released ground breaking albums, such as The Onion Ring, Moods, Coffee Break and Pancake Day and are well known for their instrumental cover versions of popular songs - check out their 'experimental instrumental version of When A Child Is Born in the video above, with Bob playing the steam-powered barrel.

Aside from their classic instrumental covers, tracks like At This Stage I Can Not Say, Frustrated By Weeds and My Rose Has Left Me, are the types of songs that once heard can never be forgotten. The latter is about O'Hare's ex-wife Rose who he met whilst in hospital when she was having an ankle chain removed from her leg after the skin had grown over it and it had become embedded, as you do. Rose, a bald woman, clearly broke Dermot O'Hare's heart when she went "to Kenya with the bloke from Allied carpets." That's the only explanation for her disappearance as both Dermot's have an alibi. Honest.

Although the duo returned in Bang Bang, to promote their new album Tittybiscuits, they were on the run rested for several years until popping up in episodes of Shooting Stars in 2010, and in 2014 they appeared on The Life of Rock with Brian Pern. Here they explained how they never quite managed to break in to the big time, despite sending things in to John Peel. Not music mind, they never sent that, rather fruits and debris from the forest floor, along with promotional items for pizza and stuff that had come through their front door. With all that effort it's a surprise they never achieved similar success to their contemporaries, isn't it?

Talking of which, my Nan had a thing for Foster & Allen which lead to me purchasing one of their LPs to give to her as a Christmas present, this was a year or so before The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer debuted. She was staying with us that festive season, and I had the song "Maggie" burned into my psyche after hearing it, for what felt like, 500 times over the space of 3 days. It's quite a depressing song really, about an old couple near death, and it was driving me mad, but it was proof, for me anyway, that folk music can send you down a dark, dark path.

This is the path that Mulligan and O'Hare tread. Or at least they would if they hadn't just fallen off their Honda...

A jaunty folk number about losing your limbs in a traffic accident, another about killing your loved one because they gave you chocolate digestives instead of plain, it's pure folktastic. It's pure Vic and Bob at their best.

The duo are, and always will be, surrealists but with Mulligan and O'Hare, as surreal as they are, they really aren't that far removed from the darker edges of folk music. Songs about the dead rising, a mother killing her children, and dying whilst picking cockles in Morecambe Bay (!) are all genuine folk songs by renowned performers.

However, none of them have ever recorded a version of that what's she gonna look like with a chimney on her song...

Mulligan and O'Hare we salute you.

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