David Tynan O'Mahony (6 July 1936 – 10 March 2005) was – certainly until the 1980s - Britain's most controversial comedian. His relaxed, intimate style (on TV he would sit on a high bar stool, smoking and sipping from a glass of what looked like whiskey, but was in fact ginger ale) charm and besuited respectability allowed him to get away with more than any other comedian had dared do before – especially on prime time television. A religious sceptic, religion (and especially Roman Catholicism) was an important subject for his humour, mocking church customs and rituals rather than beliefs.
So it’s a bit of a surprise to discover that the great man released this piece of sentimental claptrap.
Called a ‘somewhat whimsical but certainly sincere counter-cultural contribution timed to coincide with the moon landing’ by Allen’s biographer Graham McCann, The Good Earth uses the image of an astronaut looking down upon our planet, a very contemporary message at that time. Written by Ben Nisbet, The Monkees also recorded the song during sessions for their 1969 album the Monkees Present, although their version remained unreleased until Rhino Records reissued the album on CD in 1994.
The B-side, A Way Of Life, is worse: to the tune of Greensleeves, Allen recites a ridiculous poem which offers up such homilies as ‘listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant: they too have their story’. The writer credit on A Way Of Life reads ‘Martin/Kelsey’ however the words are actually by the American poet Max Erhman and, correctly named Desiderata, would provide an enormous international hit a couple of years later for Les Crane. Calling it Spock Thoughts, Leonard Nimoy also performed the poem on his 1968 album Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy.
Unsurprisingly the record was not a hit. Allen went back to comedy, leaving this sole disc an obscure footnote in an otherwise remarkable career.
Goodnight, and may your God go with you.