A renaissance man – painter, singer, writer, comedian, TV presenter, wobble board pioneer – Rolf bestrides post-war culture like a bearded colossus, the Ayers Rock of the art world, the panting Rolfaroo of blocky strokes and sad/absurd songs. See what I did there? I anointed Rolf the antipodean Zelig of modern artistic advance. Always twinkling in the fabric, twitching the curtains of the global stage.
Rolf’s way is to find the poignant in the ridiculous – or vice versa – from Jake’s God-given travails to Miss Given’s usually ignored presence in ‘Stairway To Heaven’. He walks a fine line, but he has Kate Bush’s trust (I can just hear him against a backdrop of falling snowflakes, can’t you?) and can still make a grown man cry with ‘Two Little Boys’, a pair of facts that buys him a pass to mess about all he likes and remain a respected figure even as he emotes over a poorly chinchilla on a vet’s operating table.
His wily reach spans generations, with ‘Jake The Peg’ enjoying a canonical place in our home decades after it was recorded. It’s the first track on Hello Children Everywhere!, a 3-CD compendium of Children’s Hour classics that pulls in moth-eared but magnificent turns from Pinky and Perky, Flanders and Swann, Morecambe and Wise and other non-duo based acts. Such sustained quality, and kids today get Mr Tumble. Or, just as often in my house, Rihanna.
‘Jake The Peg’ prompts enthusiastic singing and dancing – surely another skill Rolf can master – and, from Junior alone, a lot of awkward walking about using a child-sized broom as an extra leg. “Can I touch your leg?” asks Junior 2, in a rather forward manner. Her comic timing’s great but it doesn’t quite match Rolf’s delayed pay-offs, the rhymes you can see a mile off yet they still slay you when they drop. I’m laughing; Junior’s now tap dancing, her peg leg an Astairesque cane.
“…2, 3, 4…8, 9, 10…14…19, 20, 21… … to twenty-five!”