In 1997 American performer Meredith Brooks and songwriter Shelly Peiken were responsible for creating the mega-hit Bitch, a sassy, girl power-boosted, alternarock single which traded heavily on the guitar-slinging Brooks sounding like the then-popular Alanis Morissette, it stormed the charts globally and sold over 1.5 million copies.
Unbeknown to both Brooks and Peiken, three years later, on the other side of the world, a tattooed, mullet-haired Australian comic by the name of Chris Franklin had written two parodic comedy songs inspired by Bitch. One lampooned politician Pauline Hanson and the other was a bogan parody which celebrated ocker culture. Fellow comedian Pommy Johnson decided to take the Pauline Hanson version for his live gigs and Chris Franklin sought permission from Brooks and Peiken to re-imagine Bitch as his bogan opus.
Brooks apparently got the joke and agreed, but Peiken was more reserved, she is one of the most successful go-to songwriters in the US in the past twenty years, and takes her self very seriously, having created hits for Christine Aguilera, Britney spears, Brandy, and others, including several Australians – John Farnham/Human Nature’s Everytime I Cry, and The Veronicas Hook Me Up.
A comparison of the lyrical content of the two songs may have caused Peiken to doubt the artistic integrity of the song that was to be called Bloke:
Bitch– “ I’m a bitch/I’m a lover/I’m a child/ I’m a mother/ I’m a sinner / I’m a saint/ I do not feel ashamed – when dumbed down by Franklin it became Bloke – “ I’m a bloke/I’m an ocker/ And I really love your knockers/ I’m a labourer by day/ I piss up all my pay”. What the Americans would have made of references to Winfield Blues, Victoria Bitter, and a shearer’s blue flannelette is anyone’s guess, but in the end she agreed, the commercial reality of getting a share of royalties has been known to compromise artistic integrity in the recording industry over the years.
The video accompanying Brooke’s song was directed by Paul Andressen and shows Meredith on guitar while performing the song on a shimmering floral background, throughout the course of the song several objects typically associated with women are shown floating around the singer, it was that rare combination of angsty, artful and feminine.
By contrast Chris Franklin has revealed the background to the shooting of the Bloke video “I’d never had any experience with making a video before and the director wanted to know if there was a storyboard and what shots he was going to get, I just had a group of friends at my manager’s house in Tuggeranong (ACT), and we were in the backyard and I said, ‘Listen. There are a few cartons of VB here. We’re gonna drink those and you’re gonna film us. There’s your f**king storyboard.”
The video is completely consistent with the song, a group of bogans and their partners, plus one token Sensitive New Age Guy, attend a backyard barbecue, copious amounts of VB are consumed, grown men sit in a kids paddle pool drinking more beer, an impromptu line dance commences but disbands after Chris Franklin progressively attempts to “goose” the females in the line, beer guts abound, men wear mullets and drive utes, and it was yet another bogananza of a barbie.
When released, Bloke was a hit, debuting at #15 on the charts before working its way to number one, it sold more than 150,000 copies and ranked at #15 on the annual best-selling singles chart for 2000, the highest-rating local act that year was Killing Heidi at #3 with the double-A side hit Mascara/Leave Me Alone.
Franklin did however bemoan the fact that his proceeds from the sale of a $10 single was severely reduced after the record company took their $4, the record shop deducted their $2, and he had to share the rest with Brooks and Peiken, and worst of all, Carlton & United Breweries didn’t even sling him a slab or two of VB after all the free plugs he had given to their product in the song.
Franklin toured with the cerebral-palsy afflicted comic Steady Eddy in 2001 on the live show imaginatively-titled Guess Who’s Pissed, and also released a follow-up single entitled Mullet Head, which was a parody of the Radiators song Gimme Head, but it failed to chart. In 2006 he released a collection of his stand-up routines and parodic songs in a DVD entitled Let Bogans Be Bogans, but by then the one joke that was Chris Franklin’s comic repertoire was showing signs of tiring and failing to resonant with a broader audience.