The Marvellous 12th Man
Written by Ryan Stevenson on 12 January 2021
When you think about the Kent Music Report, Go-Set and ARIA charts and all of the artists who have made to it Number One, you would think of the likes of INXS, Tina Arena, John Farnham, Delta Goodrem, Guy Sebastian, Shannon Noll and Billy Birmingham.
Now you’re probably wondering who on earth is Billy Birmingham? Billy Birmingham is a satirist and sports fans would know him for being on Foxtel’s “The Back Page” from 1997 to 2012 but the public would know him as The Twelfth Man.
Billy (as The Twelfth Man) is the only Australian performer to rack up seven No. 1 albums in a row (not counting compilations) in a golden run of spoken word albums from 1987 to 2012 and he even had No. 1 singles.
The Twelfth Man parodied the action at Channel Nine with his impressions targeting the cricket commentary team and the show Wide World of Sports with Billy receiving a critique of each album by Richie Benaud, the star of the commentary team and he wasn’t a big fan of the profanity used in each release.
The 1992 single “Marvellous!” was a proper music song compared to what The Twelfth Man listeners were used to so that’s why The Twelfth Man is today’s focus of attention.
“Marvellous!” the second single by The Twelfth Man was released in April 1992, an odd time as the Cricket season was over by April and the AFL and NSWRL (now NRL) seasons were underway but then again any time is a good time for anything sport in Australia.
Jimmy Barnes, John Farnham, Glenn Shorrock and Diesel were some of the artists who worked on the song that had also sampled the Sherbet hit “Howzat!”, ironically “Howzat!” is not about cricket but instead it is about being caught cheating.
You can also hear the theme of Channel Nine’s cricket coverage, you knew it was cricket time by the third note of the theme and it is recognizable in this song.
Richie Benaud, Tony Greig and Bill Lawry are the main commentators who Billy does impressions of during the song with The Twelfth Man delivering the catchphrases that viewers are used to hearing from the three commentators.
The word marvellous is one of Richie Benaud’s catchphrases and the song’s release reportedly made him try and change it to “Glorious!” though Richie continued to use marvellous up until his death in 2015.
In the end, “Marvellous!” was another No. 1 hit for The Twelfth Man and he would continue to release No. 1 albums until December 2006.
Richie Benaud died in 2015 but before his death he participated in the famous Australia Day campaign supporting the eating of Lamb, Billy Birmingham makes an appearance in the ad calling Richie on the phone about the BBQ he heard about was taking place at Richie’s house, Richie answered “Nope”.
Viewers thought the ad was nothing short of being…..Marvellous.