The Fifth Monkee


For a time in the early 60s I called Hamburg my home. I earned my keep by bagpiping in cafes, bars, public toilets, prisons and Scotch-Germanic heritage centres. Hard to believe now, but at the time the bagpipes were peerlessly cool, and its exponents musical Gods.

Pioneers such as Jock McHamish, Jocky Jockson, Hamish McHamish, and of course, Hamish McJockson, courted global fame, drove tartan Cadillacs, and enjoyed sex with up to a dozen supermodels a night (often in front of their star-struck husbands and children).

I'll be honest. As a bagpiper, I was no Hamish McJockson — few are — but having studied under Jocky Jockson, I could certainly hold my own with the likes of Jock and Hamish McHamish (no relation), and overrated pretenders like Blind Willie McJock.

My talent wasn’t long attracting the overtures of Brian Epstein, then manager of the little-known Beatles. The Liverpudlian quartet had been gaining terrible reviews (one german tabloid labelled them 'Krap', which translates loosely as 'Awful'), stinking up the cabaret clubs with dreadful, sloppy rock’n’roll.

Brian begged me to become the band's musical director. I reluctantly agreed on the grounds that he paid me handsomely, and barked like a dog for several minutes (I can’t remember the ins and outs of the dog thing). I also demanded complete artistic control, which Brian consented to by giving me the paw. He then rolled over, enticing me to tickle his belly, which I reluctantly did amidst blood-curdling awkwardness.

It wasn’t long before I’d remoulded The Fab Four in my image:

  • John Lennon: Lead Vocals, rhythm bagpipes
  • Paul McCartney: Harmonies, rhythm bagpipes
  • George Harrison: Lead bagpipes
  • Ringo Starr: Drums

Though pretenders followed (George Martin, Billy Preston and Apu from The Simpsons to name but three), so it was I became the original ‘Fifth Beatle’. Disaster loomed though, with the great crash of 63: a series of events that led to the spectacular, almost overnight decline of bagpipes,

First, the legendary Jocky Jockson was convicted of attempted rape upon a highland woman. Though ultimately she turned the tables, overpowering and brutally raping him, Scottish law frowns upon the instigator of the initial offence. Jocky, a piper’s piper, was inconsolable to be separated from his pipes, and hung himself the very first night of his incarceration.

In the world's largest ever assembly of bagpipers, over ten thousand Scotsmen marched behind Jocky's coffin through the hills of Aberdeen, filing the air with a music that permanently drove away 90% of the indigenous wildlife.

Soon after, Hamish McJockson was caught miming to a backing track on Top of the Pops. What viewers thought was live bagpiping, turned out to be nothing of the sort when the vinyl record backstage began to skip. Incensed audience members stormed the stage, forcing the powerfully built Hamish to defend himself. The sight of him beating a young fan to death with his bagpipes is one of the most shocking, iconic images of 1960s Britain.

Amidst this harrowing fall of the noble bagpipe, my position as musical director of The Beatles was terminated. Naturally, it seemed logical that I would take up the equivalent position with The Monkees, which I briefly did. It just wasn’t the same though. Being The Fifth Monkee lacked glamour (if anything, it probably got me beaten up once or twice) and I tendered my resignation within six months.

Mickey Dolenz took the news very badly, and overdosed in his hotel room on sleeping pills. I vowed that day to never touch a bagpipe again. And I only ever did, eleven or twelve more times.

Old Rants

Rant by www.rant.ie is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Copyright © 2009 Flann O'Coonassa