One of the possibly unwelcome innovations of the MP3 age, and indeed one that Stewart Lee would presumably be both fascinated and alarmed by, is that it's now possible look through the list of tracks on your personal audio player and see just how many different versions of one song it's possible to have accumulated without realising. Seven of All Along The Watchtower. Fourteen of Mas Que Nada. And, somewhat less expectedly, three completely different songs all called The Garden Of Earthly Delights.
Presumably 'borrowing' their title from Hieronymous Bosch's fifteen and sixteenth century straddling series of Bible-depicting oil-on-canvas artworks - or, if raining, from somewhere where they'd seen it being used - the three Gardens Of Earthly Delights in question could not be further removed from each other musically, chronologically, or ideologically. Well, not exactly 'could not be', as none of them are by Skinned Teen, Bela Bartok or The All-New Nick Griffin Big Band, but you get the general idea.
The first of them, working on an arbitrarily chronological basis, is by late sixties early electronic act The United States Of America, a sarcastically-named outfit who were part of the same 'Hate Generation' as The Stooges, Frank Zappa and the equally ironically-monickered Love. Their lone self-titled album duly does away with the peace and love obsessions of the era in favour of songs about animal cruelty, middle-class sexual deviance, 'bad trip' flashbacks, Hiroshima, and an aggressive female vocalist roaring out a 'fuck you, I'm in charge here' ode to the joys of, erm, Hard Coming Love. As you can probably imagine, their The Garden Of Earthly Delights is rather light on the 'Delights', consisting mainly of a nightmarish botany lesson about venomous blossoms, blackening mushrooms, and - yikes - 'omniverous orchids'. It's safe to say Percy Thrower wasn't on their Christmas Card list.
Then it's a leap forward to the late eighties, when XTC opted to open their superlative defining moment of neo-psychedelia Oranges And Lemons with their own personal The Garden Of Earthly Delights. As you'd expect from Andy Partridge, this particular plea for human tolerance and co-operation is made up of a ridiculous volume of line-cramming words delivered at a frenetic pace, and comes with about seventeen thousand sub-clauses, but it's a mighty fine way to open one of the mightiest and finest albums ever made. And it's not even the best expression of that basic sentiment on there; if you've never heard Scarecrow People, Poor Skeleton Steps Out, Here Comes President Kill Again or The Loving, then you need to rectify that straight away.
Then, finally, it's off to the early nineties and overmanned Acid Jazz collective D*Note, of Now Is The Time near-hit infamy. This was the point at which the yellow sunglasses-wearing types started to break away from their more straight ahead raving contemporaries, substituting the Ecstasy-driven vision of a world united by one of those plinky three-chord piano riffs for a more globally-aware plea to take heed of history, ecology and ethnic tradition, which of course would pay off very handsomely for a certain gentleman in an oversized hat. Delivered over a furious modal jazz riff apparently sampled from the soundtrack of legendary big screen religious hokum The Cross And The Switchblade (bang goes my long-held assumption that it was purloined from Mike Westbrook's Metropolis (Part IX), then), guest vocalist Pamela 'Not That One' Anderson combines an urging for mankind to look to its own metaphorical 'garden' with wistful romantic whisperings to someone apparently obliviously scoffing a picnic. And they wonder why Reel II Reel Featuring The Mad Stuntman had the big hits.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why it can sometimes be fun to have different songs with the same name. Except when it's Twist And Shout.