It would be a tough ask to have created the underlying attitude of
Pwürg from music alone. The influence of other aspects of our
way of life all came together to inspire the band to reach a deeper
esoteric sense of obscurity. Therefore, simultaneously with the formation
of the band, we founded a "company" based on the age old
philosophies of Robin Hood. The only difference was that we didn't
steal from anybody, and we also didn't discriminate in who we chose
to reward. As I believe Roger Waters once said (albeit on a critically
slammed record) "We were all equal in the end." Our mission
became Gratis Surprise Incorporated (or GSI for short). Confused?
Probably. So, let's cut to the chase - and begin with a newspaper
article - published by the Maidenhead Advertiser in late 1993...
Bob has right idea for our 'hamper of joy'
has always had an interesting and varied postbag, but we never expected
to receive anything from outer space.
staff received a "hamper of joy" from Gratis Surprise Incorporated.
Included in the contents were a selection of Kylie Minogue records,
a shirt, a fencing mask, an apple, a waistcoat and a broken joystick.
was delivered by a strange-looking man with a foreign accent. He screeched
a greeting at our receptionist before dumping the box and leaving.
letter claimed the senders were not of this earth (the Advertiser's
circulation has obviously rocketed). It said: "Gratis Surprise Inc.
is an organisation that rewards dedicated individuals in the community
for their outstanding service and bravery.
we have a campaign targeting the Maidenhead area. Many parcels have
been distributed to the worthy citizens of your burgage borough."
travellers, signed themselves - Gladys Surprise, Jacob Branthington,
Harold, Egon Pilchard-Brethh, Genitt Rentson, Ingo Von Huehnerbein,
Sarah Fftaang!, Lucas Manghope (son of) and B.B. Ghali, then wished
us love and doses of a rather nasty disease.
also received two bizarre telephone calls. But as the callers, after
asking if we liked our gift, could only manage a screech, we can only
assume that our alien admirers were too shy to talk to any of those
to look a gift horse in the mouth, we asked P-c. Bob Walker at Maidenhead
police station if he knew of anyone else lucky enough to have received
such a splendid present.
were amazed to discover that, to his knowledge, we were the only people
bestowed with the honour. Our next dilemma was what to do with this
wondrous gift. Strangely enough, P-c Walker's suggestion was "bin
it." Wonder why…?
yet? Well, this tale begins one night outside the CRCMH in Cliveden.
On a typical abandoned hospital visit, Prof. Isaac Mangang noticed
a tatty bit of wood about one metre square at the end of someone's
drive opposite the hospital. Scrawled upon it in felt-tip pen were
the words "A + E Hyde. 2 Winkipop Cottages, Cliveden." He thought
it was a bit sad that people had to resort to such a miserable introduction
to their house, so with nothing but generosity in mind, he took the
sign home with him. He stayed up all night and turned it into a psychedelic
masterpiece using bright acrylic paints. When he'd finished, it looked
like the kind of thing you might hang outside a Carnaby Street kaftan
shop in the late sixties. (see below).
Mangang's actual sign that started it all. The writing
bottom says "Gratis Surprise Sign Redevelopments Inc."
which was a meaningless afterthought - and where the
company name would come from. If only all things were that
easy. (the green things are quite obviously "winkipops")
as dawn hit (and having photographed the finished article), he drove
back and placed the sign lovingly where it was originally found. Nobody
knows what inspired all of this, but Bones and Mangang found it amusing
enough to record a song called "Winkipop Surprise" when they were
messing around with some new studio equipment a few days later. This
was pretty much based around the tune from "Blankety-Blank" with chipmunk
vocals about what a wonderful surprise it was and how grateful they
should be to receive it. And with this song - Pwürg was born - with
a mission to create further madcap music.
noticed that the sign had been (presumably) taken inside the house,
and felt that perhaps the Hydes (if that's who they were) might like
to hear the song written especially for them. The band could have
just mailed a tape to them, or put it through their letterbox. But
that wouldn't be in the spirit of the whole thing. So they came up
with a company letterhead - Gratis Surprise Incorporated. The
accompanying standard letter went like this:
You have been carefully selected by us here at Gratis Surprise Incorporated
to receive this splendid gift from us to you. We forage around the
galaxies looking for kind and deserving persons such as yourselves
so we can leave wonderful surprises to brighten up lives.
founded in 1979 by German entrepreneur Mrs Gladys Surprise. Since,
the corporation's act of kindness and love has been repeated throughout
this and other universes now known or yet to be discovered by man.
GSI is not a charity, we go far beyond the realms of human gratitude
and offer caring gifts as a token of respect to mankind.
found YOU and you will be highly rewarded. Please accept on behalf
of GSI, the following smashing gifts:
a list of wonderful presents would be handwritten - in this case:
A bag of delightfully scrummy banana flavoured fruity bon-bons and
a copy of the song "Winkipop Surprise" as performed by a famous pop
that you take great pleasure in receiving these wonderful prizes and
that you will spread the word of our good deeds across a vast amount
of avid listeners. Be nice to everyone. PRAY FOR INTERGALACTIC PEACE.
Gladys Surprise (chairwoman/founder)
Genitt Rentson (receptionist)
Sarah Fftaang! (fashion designer)
Jacob Branthington (creative director)
Isaac Manghope Jr (son of I Manghope)
Cedric Moldavia (fitness instructor)
B.B. Ghali (activist)
Stumper O'Mulligan (check-out assistant)
Bob Mouldie (geriatric)
Dr Structure (dustman)
letter, along with a copy of the tape was packaged in a huge box,
which was painted white. It had stars and glitter added along with
white tassels along the edges and a roof was added. For a grander
effect it was mounted on stilts, so that the finished gift looked
like a little white house on four legs, about head height. It was
finished off by inserting a flashing roadwork light so the whole thing
pulsated in the dark.
off they went, creeping up the gravel drive of 2 Winkipop Cottages
in the snow. It looked magic, this otherworldly inanimate object beaming
an eerie orange light over the crisp white surrounds (it was snowing
at the time). Without ringing the bell (because it was half-past dark
by this point), Pwürg disappeared off into the shadows...and never
heard anything more about it.
knows if they listened to the tape because to this day, they have
never come forward. Perhaps it's still there in the drive and they're
too scared to go outside and retrieve it. Maybe the sign is hanging
over their mantelpiece. Who knows?
by this stage, word spread and all sorts of people became interested
in what Pwürg were doing in the twilight hours. They decided to "Gratis"
(as it is became known) on a mass scale. The band and their helpers
spent ages constructing huge cone shaped packages with glitter & pink
stars and tassels all over them. In the name of publicity, the Maidenhead
Advertiser's phone number was discreetly written inside the package.
They made about thirty cones in all, then set about finding goodies
to fill them with. People helped out with all sorts of crap - clothes
they didn't want, broken appliances, records, tinned food, ANYTHING
- as long as it wasn't dangerous, cruel or unhygenic. Every recipient
also got the standard letter, informing them why they're being "Gratissed".
When all was ready, Pwürg loaded up the van and headed off into the
dead of night.
All over Maidenhead they roamed - Holyport, Bray, and as far as Twyford.
They even did a few teachers houses who nobody liked at school - this
time ensuring to ring the doorbells before they sped off. Pwürg were
particularly pleased to have targeted Mr "Dick" Whiffen, a Desborough
maths teacher who truly deserved it. They also made sure that Rolf
Harris was a recipient too - heading down his very swank road on the
Bray fisheries estate. They couldn't get to the front door, but somewhere
on his security camera footage, you would've seen a giant gleaming
white cone being lobbed onto his doorstep (Nobody recalls if they
shouted out "Can you guess what it is yet, Rolf?" or not). The whole
night was absolutely pointless, but good fun - especially when a much
hated PE teacher was legging it down the road after them. That taken
care of, there was one last GSI mission left …the Maidenhead Advertiser.
must be said here that, until now, this incident has remained a complete
mystery - published here for the first time is the truth about that
infamous "Hamper of Joy."
recruited a funny looking lanky German exchange student (no - seriously
lanky and very tall) and got him to wear full national dress (using
lederhosen lying around from Mangang's uncle's time in the Royal Artillery
band based in Dortmund). They got an extra special big present with
extra tassels hanging off it and a big bow on top. In addition to
the objects mentioned in the article (we can but assume that the Advertiser
was too embarrased about this one), they received a King Kong Bundy
wrestling figure (i.e. big bald guy in a leotard) with "Maidenhead
Advertiser editor" scrawled across its chest.
pulled up outside their offices in Bell Street and the German (nobody
can recall his name - Matt, help us out here) hopped out carrying
the parcel and he did a John Cleese silly walk into the foyer. After
letting them know the joys of rhinoceros flavour strudel or whatever
he was crapping on about in his native tongue, he screeched "Gratis
Surprise" at them (a feat he'd later reproduce on the phone) then
did a knee-slapping Bavarian dance for the reception staff, before
bolting out the door and into our waiting getaway car.
involved do not know exactly what happened next, but if the article
is anything to go by, it wouldn't have been surprising if they had
evacuated the entire building (something I don't think they'd have
given us the gratification of printing). At any rate, they clearly
brought P-c Bob over for a look…and the rest, they say, is history.
Ironically, Prof. Isaac Mangang now lives within a stone's throw from
"Winkipop Beach" in Australia. It's a small world...