The Twelfth Man
The Twelfth Man (also known as The 12th Man) is the name for a series of comedy productions by Australian satirist Billy Birmingham. Birmingham, a skilled impersonator, is generally known for parodying Australian sports commentators' voices. As befits the name (a reference to the non-playing reserve in an eleven-player cricket side), Birmingham particularly focuses on cricket commentators such as Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry and Tony Greig. This is also because many of Australia's cricket commentators have distinctive and easily identifiable voices and accents.
The parodies, released periodically on CD, are designed as a comical look "behind the scenes" of the Nine Network's cricket commentary. Birmingham traditionally plays all the roles (with the exception of Ken Sutcliffe and some minor female characters, such as Richie Benaud's secretary). Benaud himself sent a critique of each CD to Birmingham and was known to have a mixed opinion of the recordings, due predominantly to Birmingham's use of profanity. All albums were produced and engineered by David Frogatt.
The 12th Man's most popular song is "Marvellous!" featuring all the main three commentators. It was first recorded as a single in 1992, with backing vocals by Jimmy Barnes, John Farnham, Diesel and Glenn Shorrock among others. An updated version, with some of the commentators changed, was featured on Still the 12th Man. He has since released an updated version of the song entitled "Marvellous 2006" on his latest album Boned!. It can be heard at the 12th Man's MySpace. In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 November 2009, Birmingham announced that Boned! would be his last studio album as The Twelfth Man.
During the 2005-06 Australian cricket season, the free online cricket game Stick Cricket featured commentary from The 12th Man. This was returned for the 2006-07 series and included an interview with The 12th Man by Stick Cricket's fans. It features some new lines such as "And welcome back to the SCG or the MCG or the Gabba or the WACA or wherever the hell we are" and classic lines like "Got him, yes! Piss off, you're out!"
|1984||It's Just Not Cricket||#1||EMI|
|1987||Wired World of Sports||#1||EMI|
|1990||The 12th Man Again||#1||EMI|
|1992||Still the 12th Man||#1||EMI|
|1994||Wired World of Sports II||#1||EMI|
|1997||Bill Lawry... This is Your Life||#1||EMI|
|2001||The Final Dig?||#1||EMI|
- The Twelfth Man's album Boned! officially debuted on the Australian ARIA Top 50 Albums chart at #1 on 11 December 2006 and went 2x Platinum in its first week (140,000 copies). It was also the 2nd highest selling Australian album of 2006.
The 12th Man has a large following all around the world. Outside Australia, the UK probably has the most fans with South Africa a very close second. Albums have been learnt by heart by many and Billy Birmingham is often greeted with impressions of his work. There are large groups petitioning for a new album but Birmingham is reluctant as his main star Richie Benaud has announced his retirement, and with newer commentators taking more major roles.
- A single, "Bruce 2000", was released during the Sydney Olympics, with the 12th Man impersonating Bruce McAvaney.
- A promotional hits CD entitled (Some of) the 12th Man's Greatest Hits containing tracks from the official albums was available from Australian KFC outlets in 2003.
- On 6 November 2009 the 12th Man Box Set was released to celebrate the 12th man's 25th anniversary. It contains all 7 of the 12th Man's albums plus the 'Bruce 2000' CD Single. The bonus tracks on some albums however were changed, for example, Wired World of Sports no longer features "It's just not cricket" but "Bruce 2000" instead.
- On 22 November 2013, a double album entitled "Willy Nilly: The 12th Man's Biggest Hits Vol. 1" was released. It was dedicated to Tony Grieg.
- "Billy Birmingham interviewed by Shane Warne and Mark Nicholas". Retrieved 11 June 2014.
- "The 12th man finally declares". Fairfax News (Australia) (www.smh.com). 22 November 2009.
- "Billy Birmingham aka the 12th Man prepares a greatest hits and says current commentators aren't inspiring a new record for Ashes". News Corp Australia Network. 20 November 2013.