To some, it was a forgettable parody song about bogan cliches that accidentally broke through. To others, it was a strong candidate if we ever decide to replace ‘Advance Australia Fair’ as our national anthem.
In 2000, Australian comedian Chris Franklin had the biggest song in Australia with ‘Bloke’, a parody of Meredith Brooks’ classic feminist siren call ‘Bitch’, which took you into the life of the song’s titular bloke.
“I’m a bloke, I’m a yobbo, and me best mate’s name is Robbo”, Franklin famously sang on the tune, which debuted at number 15 on the ARIA charts before making its way to number one, selling more than 120,000 copies.
As noted by News Corp, who recently caught up with Franklin to celebrate the song’s 15-year anniversary, the song ended up being the third biggest single released by an Australian that year and put a platinum record on Franklin’s wall.
“The idea was actually that of another comedian, Pommy Johnson,” Franklin tells News Corp. “He and I wrote songs and he said, ‘I’ve got this idea for a song. I either want to do ‘Bitch’ and do it about Pauline Hanson, or do the male response to the ‘Bitch’ song and call it ‘Bloke’.”
“So I wrote both of them and he used the Bitch one on stage for a while and then I started doing comedy and I said, ‘Do you mind if I do that Bloke song?’ He said, ‘You wrote it, go for it’.” Franklin performed the song for two years before he got a call from EMI.
“Meredith was quite keen for me to do the song apparently but Shelly [Peiken, songwriter] said her music was like a masterpiece that hung on the wall and she didn’t want anyone altering it.”
“I told him (record company executive) to go back and tell her that I’ve gone over her masterpiece in crayon and I didn’t stay within the lines.” Peiken eventually agreed and soon Franklin was on the set of his first music 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,” the comedian explains.
“I just had a group of friends at my manager’s house 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 fucking storyboard’.”
The success of the tune surprised many and none more so than Franklin. “I can’t sing or play a note but I’ve got a platinum record hanging on my wall,” he says. According to the comedian, the song’s success kept him in flannelette for a while.
“I got about a dollar a copy. It bought a few beers,” he says. “The normal split back in the day for a $10 single was $4 would go to the record company, $4 would go to the shop that sold the CD and $2 would go to the artist. Mine being a parody, I had to share my $2 with Meredith Brooks.”
But as nice as it was to get a sweet payday, Franklin says he would’ve preferred some freebies from VB, who play an integral part in the song’s lyrics. “I was a bit dirty about that,” says Franklin, “But I’m still drinking the VBs.”
“We approached them when we were releasing the song and said, ‘Look, we mention your products so how about you jump on board and help us out?’ And they said, ‘How do we know it’s going to be a success?’”
“When it did go to number one we approached them again and said, ‘What about now?’ And they said, ‘Well now we don’t have to put any money into it’.” And sure enough, Franklin is still performing the song to this day.
“I’m still performing live but it’s not until I do the song that you see the recognition in people’s faces and they put two and two together,” he says. “People will come up and say, ‘Are you really the guy who did that?’ And I say, ‘Why would I be doing someone else’s song?’”
And there may be more parodies on the horizon. “I’ve got one that I’m playing with at the moment,” he says. “It’s Robbie Williams’ song, ‘Better Man’, but once again I’ve got to get his permission and I don’t know if it’s worth all the trouble if it’s not going to get played.”