Diaries 1969-1979

The Python Years
Narrated by: Michael Palin
Length: 4 hrs and 48 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (198 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Michael Palin's diaries begin in the late 1960s when he began writing for hugely popular programs. He recounts how Monty Python emerged and triumphed. From the success and cult status brought by Monty Python, Palin shares stories from their world tours, their stay at hotels recently trashed by Led Zeppelin, their battles over censorship, and how individually the Pythons went their separate ways. Yet at the same time they were working on the now celebrated series of films, including The Holy Grail, many of whose lines are known by heart to a considerable portion of the English-speaking world. 

The birth and childhood of his three children, learning to cope as a young man with celebrity, his friendship with George Harrison, and all the trials of a peripatetic life are also essential ingredients of these diaries. A perceptive and funny chronicle, the diaries are a rich portrait of a fascinating period.

©2006 Michael Palin (P)2006 Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Critic Reviews

"Michael Palin is not just one of Britain's foremost comedy character actors, he also talks a lot. Yap, yap, yap he goes, all day long and through the night. Then, some nights, when everyone else has gone to bed, he goes home and writes up a diary." (John Cleese)

"A wealth of fascinating stuff about Monty Python." (The Independent, UK) 

What listeners say about Diaries 1969-1979

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The Diary of a Sometime Python

Would you consider the audio edition of Diaries 1969-1979 to be better than the print version?

I haven't read the print version of Michael Palin's diaries, so I only have the audio version to go on. And that's fine with me. I've always loved Python since my high school days, which of course it the best time of life to discover Python.

I was excited to find Palin's diary on Audible, especially since it deals with the years during which Python came together up through the Life of Brian. The Meaning of Life and their post-Python projects are covered, I'm guessing, in the sequel to this diary, which is not available on Audible. (I'd be glad if Mr. Palin decided to record that diary, by the way.)

This is not a juicy, detail-rich account of Palin's life as a Python. It's a very real diary of those years, though. The story proceeds through journal entries, entries much as anyone would write. Palin references writing sessions with Terry Jones (his usual writing partner), waking up to watch the lunar landing broadcast with his wife Helen, a celebratory picnic lunch with the young Pythons and their significant others, family events.

Because Palin was using his diary as a basis, a lot of the narrative tricks biographers use were missing. There was no foreshadowing. No building up to some climactic moment of Palin's Python years. No elaborate backstories. Rather, Diaries was a restful and--as I got more involved in it--warm and likeable account of the everyday work of comedy.

Palin doesn't give character sketches of his colleagues. Why would he? This was essentially the author writing to himself. But the reader starts to form impressions as the Pythons pass in and out of the story.

John Cleese stood out as being a very tall man, who was interested in psychology and increasingly ambivalent about his role in Python. Occasionally, Cleese would announce he was quitting the group, only to come back.

Eric Idle was almost absent from the first part of the book. As the reader, I was wondering, ew, wonder if those two didn't get along. But it was more a case of whom Palin spent his time with. He seemed to have a strong friendship with Terry Jones, possibly because they were the two who came from Oxford. (Cleese, Chapman and Idle, I believe, met at Cambridge.) But Palin and Jones also seemed to be the two who were strongly attached to home and kids, low-key writing sessions and sessions in the squash court.

If you're a Beatles fan, you'll like the passages that deal with George Harrison, who financed The Life of Brian when no one else would.

Palin's Diaries isn't for you if you're looking for a thorough-going biography of the Pythons or their histories or an analysis of their comic sketches and films. But you'll enjoy the book if you're a Monty Python fan and are interested in a contemporary account of one of the greatest comedy groups of the 20th century.

What other book might you compare Diaries 1969-1979 to and why?

John Cleese has published a memoir, So, Anyway...(2015), which as of today is not available on Audible but probably will be. I haven't read it but I plan to. Graham Chapman published A Liar's Autobiography in the 1980s. In 2013, it was adapted to an animated film, using Graham's own recording of the text (which you can hear on youtube) with additional voices provided by Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese and Michael Palin.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A great romp.

What a treat to have Michael Palin read his own diary. The audio format of this book adds in another wonderful dimension to a great story of the ascension to fame, and the difficulties of keeping five incredible comedic geniuses focused and from flying apart at the seams.

The telling of his hosting of Saturday Night Live had me crying from laughter in my car. Other things such as John Cleese' apparent desire to branch out, Graham Chapman's alcoholism, and how Michael deals with the death of his father, are deeply touching and show that he is still an ordinary guy that just happens to be an international icon.

A great listen, and a great performance from Palin in the reading.

3 people found this helpful

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Disappointed

I realize it is to be a diary but it lacked emotion , which would have helped.
Very hard to not just turn it off.

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Heavily abridged

I immensely enjoyed this, but I wish an unabridged version was available. This was marked as unabridged, but it is heavily abridged. I have the paperback and was shocked at how much was cut out. Palin is, as always, wonderfully engaging, observant, and sympathetic.

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I was surprised how much I liked it

Though I've been a lifelong Python fan, I never realized how observant and interesting Michael Palin really is. I was expecting a long recitation of dates and mundane events with a few gems here and there. Instead, I was immediately sucked in and transfixed by Michael's descriptions and impressions.

Besides filling in a lot of gaps in my knowledge of the Pythons through the years, this book also reinforced my sense of just how deep the intellectual and artistic veins run through these guys.

A very enjoyable, enlightening and memorable listen. Really hope there's going to be a 1980-now sequel coming.

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Best Python biography I’ve “read”

I have always felt that Michael Palin was my favorite Python. Cleese was so sharp and witty, Chapman so fearless and earnest, Gilliam so trippy and creative, Idle so clever and musical, and Jones so carefree and philosophical. But Palin was, to me, the heart of Python. He was the Everyman or the Ego while the rest were the Id and Superego pulling in different directions. Palin was the center, holding it all together. Hearing him recount the diary entries from the start of the Python shows until the effects that Brian had on Britain is like catching up with a dear, dear friend from high school after too many years apart.

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always wanted to know what he was thinking

I really loved hearing the thoughts of an aspiring Michael Palin. I watched Monty Python's Flying Circus as a kid and loved the movies whenever I could. just hearing his adventures was fantastic, made me feel like I was having a drink with a friend.

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I have fallen in love with MP

I had no idea he was such a gentle, thoughtful person and his terse but poetic diary entries provide such contrast and depth to the Python world and priceless anecdotes.

An achingly modest genius

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Splendid daily accounts.

I thoroughly enjoyed Michael’s reading of his diary. Not only is he a sharp writer, his voice is so familiar to me that is is though a close friend is confiding in me. Well done.

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Very nice.

This was an interesting view of Monty Python from within. Palin's an excellent tour guide.