England’s Glory (BUY 12) was Max Wall’s first single, released at the princely age of 69. He’d spent the 30s and 40s working the music hall circuit and, by the 70s, was enjoying quite a renaissance. John Cleese openly acknowledged Wall as an influence on him and the Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. He found a new, younger audience when he joined Mott The Hoople’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus tour. And he won rave reviews for his forays into straight acting, with The Guardian declaring “Max Wall makes Olivier look like an amateur.”
A true eccentric, Wall played King Bruno the Questionable in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky. And right up until his death in 1990 he never owned a telephone, preferring instead to attend his local phone booth at 1.00pm every weekday should he receive an incoming call.
England’s Glory - written by Ian Dury, one of his ‘list’ songs à la Reasons To Be Cheerful - was Stiff’s first venture away from punk and pub rock. The first physical evidence that this record label could do something other than surf a musical wave or try and break new acts. It was the single that first defined Stiff as a variety act in itself. But for all this, it failed to sell in spectacular fashion, the label’s first true stiff. But it was revived soon after to appear on a compilation album, the appropriate titled, Hits Greatest Stiffs.