Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Funky Chicken

Image from: Marsden Cartoons

I was once sent on a training course on how to give presentations.

As part of the course, my classmates and I were told that on the last day we would be given a random title – made up on the spot by the lecturer – and we would immediately have to give a five minute talk based on that title. 

No preparation time. No thinking time. We’d just have to stand at the front of the class, be given a title, and start talking straight away.

It didn't have to be a formal talk, but talking definitely would be involved. In front of the class.

I was terrified.

Public speaking scares me at the best of times, and the thought of being stuck in front of a crowd of strangers desperately trying to think of something to say for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES left me cold.

The night before, I came up with a plan: the talks did not have to be sensible - in fact they could be as daft as you like - so I would create a story that would work for whatever title I was given. At least then I would have something to say, which surely was better than staring at the class in panic while mouthing like a goldfish.

I needed to come up with something abstract, because I had no idea what title I would end up with. So, I thought, how about a song title? I could say the presentation title was the name of a song, and then make up a long, daft story about the band behind the song.

I've heard it said that the anticipation of a dreaded task is almost always worse than the task itself. That’s good to know, but it doesn’t stop said anticipation churning your stomach and making your heart flutter like a bird in a cat flap.

As it turned out, I never actually used this idea. I ended up waffling my way through the presentation, just like everybody else in the class. That was probably for the best as the story turned out quite bloodthirsty. Perhaps that reflected my enthusiasm for the task.

So here’s the story. It never got used but, for a while at least, it made me feel like I might be able to give a decent presentation... or at least manage to say something without collapsing into a little puddle of terror on the floor.

So let’s say I get given the title “X”...


Hello everyone. Thank you for attending my talk about: “X”.

“X”... is... er... the name of a song.

This song was released a very long time ago by a band called “The Funky Chicken”.

That’s a bit of weird name for a band, as I’m sure you’ll agree. And like all weird band names, there’s a good story behind it.

You see, there were these four blokes all sitting in some really naff restaurant, getting something to eat.

So imagine you’re there. There you are, sitting at your table, and the weird thing about this restaurant is you’re surrounded by the food.

Not cooked and on plates, but like there’s all these animals just roaming around the restaurant.

There’s a few cows just wandering round, chewing at the occasional pot plant, and at your feet there’s a whole load of chickens just pecking about, and on the wall there’s a great big tank full of fish.

So one guy, he’s the bass guitarist – his name’s Marty – he’s sitting there with the menu trying to work out what he wants to eat. He looks about ready to order and so the chef waddles on over to him.

The chef asks what the guy wants, and all the animals go quiet. Like the cows, and the chickens all gather round the guy’s table and look at him. And they’re worried, because they know one of them’s for the chop, but they don’t know who. And all the fish are crowded up to the glass trying to hear what’s going on; they’re sort of peeking through the glass.

Anyway, so this guy, Marty, he looks at the menu and he goes, “I’ll have the... chicken”.

And the chickens: they’re out of there! They just run for it as fast as there little scrawny feet can move them. And they’re hiding under tables and behind customers, just trying to get as far away as they can from the chef.

And all the cows and the fish are just watching this, you know, like the danger’s over for them so now it’s just kind of entertaining.

But there’s this one chicken that’s not quite as quick as the rest. She doesn’t move. She just stands there by the chef, and when Marty orders his chicken dinner, she takes a while to process it. Or maybe she can’t be bothered with life any more.

Whatever the case, before her tiny little brain can tell her feet to get the hell out of there, the chef whips out a massive machete-type-axe thing, wields it around his head like a crazed musketeer... swings the thing down in a great arc... and he lops this chicken’s head right off.

And so now there’s this chicken’s head lying on the floor, and she looks pretty surprised by what’s happened. Well, wouldn’t you?

Meanwhile the chicken’s body still standing there. And before the chef can catch hold of it, it’s off! It’s scarpering round the tables and around the customers and all over the place.

Now I don’t know why chicken’s bodies do this when you lop their heads off, but they do. Apparently it’s something to do with nerves and things; it sort of sets their legs going. Eventually they stop, but until then it’s chaos.

So this chicken’s body is now running off around this restaurant, and its neck is gouting blood everywhere, and making one hell of a mess. Eventually the chef manages to grab it and he takes it off to turn it into a pie, but not before it’s done this funky little dance on the floor right in front of Marty and the band. And after they’d finished their pie, Marty says, “Right, we’re going to form a band, and call it The Funky Chicken.”

So they did.

And they released this song called “X”.

The song was good, make no mistake about it. It was new stuff. No one had ever churned out anything like it before. And the public went mad for it. The shops were cleared out as soon as it was released; they just couldn’t sell enough of the things. So, of course, this song went straight to number one. And it stayed there for ages. Years in fact.

The lead singer of “The Funky Chicken” could never account for the song’s success, and he never ever worked again. His life was sadly, prematurely cut off only two weeks after X’s release, due to a nasty accident involving a loose wire and a vacuum cleaner. The entire pop world went into mourning after his death, as I’m sure we all did too.

Strangely enough, only one band member survived to see “X” finally leave the number one spot.

The drummer, Crazy-man Percival, was killed, along with Marty, in a horrific motorway accident, and to this day no one has ever found out why their car span off the road that fateful night. Although it is commonly believed that it’s because they were both totally and utterly rat-arsed at the time.

Randy Straddle, the band’s bass player, found himself to be the only member of the band left alive, just two short weeks after their success. Believing himself to be under threat from some supernatural force, he vanished from the public eye and went into hiding on some out-of-the-way island somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. There are occasional sightings of him even now, although he hates publicity.

So that’s the story behind one-hit-wonder band “The Funky Chicken”. No other group has ever managed to challenge their success, and I suppose no one ever shall. Superstition carries a lot of weight in the pop music industry, and experts believe it is because of this that no one has ever dared to re-release “X”.

Thanks for listening!

Any questions?