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The Novelty Is Wearing Off, 70s Edition! Additional Examples of The Oddest Songs In UK Chart History

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On we lurch to the 70s:

The decade of my birth.

And if the childhood photos I’ve just been looking at are anything to go by: the decade the world turned brown and beige.

“Aww. And we thought we were gonna see something special.
JJ is such a tease.”

There’s plenty more colour in this selection though:

Lieutenant Pigeon
Mouldy Old Dough

#1 – 1972

There’s an inviting song title. 

This was the side project that outdid the day job. As Staveley Makepeace they never made a dent in the charts. Adding one of the band’s mother; Hilda to the band, largely doing away with vocals and coming up with a silly name did the trick. They became the only mother / son combination to top the charts, and at age 59, Hilda became the oldest woman to have a #1 single. 

Its a folk / rock / bar room crossover no one knew they wanted. Recorded in Hilda’s front room for the ultimate DIY aesthetic.


Pipes And Drums And The Military Band Of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guard
Amazing Grace
#1 – 1972

Most unwieldy band name ever. To give them their full credit as per the label (deep breath); The Pipes And Drums And The Military Band Of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys) Bandmaster W.O.I.C.I. Herbert, Pipe Major W.O.II.J.Pryde. 

Glam rock was in the ascendancy. Slade and T-Rex had two chart toppers each but this was the biggest seller of 1972.

Its been pointed out this is the largest number of trained killers to appear on a chart topping record.

Take that, Barry Sadler. 

Bagpipes are a divisive instrument. You’re either going to be transported away on a magical reverie or mentally be running across the majestic glens unable to escape the echoing wails of the banshee.  


The Goodies
Funky Gibbon
#4 – 1975

The Goodies have been described as Monty Python for children. Which does them a disservice as they were hugely popular in their own right. Their sketch show ran from 1970 to 1982, and with a peak of 15 million viewers, they were reaching more than just kids. 

This is the biggest of their five top 20 hits. As befits the title: it is by far their funkiest. So infectious, you-oo-oo will want to do the Funky Gibbon too.


Jilted John
Jilted John” 

#4 – 1978

‘Cos punk has a sense of humour too. I struggle to remember the repeated refrain of ‘Gordon is a moron’ is not the actual title. Not that John avoided that title so as not to cause offence. His anger at being jilted led him to describe Gordon and his ex Julie in ways that I can most diplomatically describe as; of their time. 

Jilted John is Graham Fellowes who has gone onto inhabit another musical comedy character: John Shuttleworth. His themes are far more mundane. Like the dilemma of whether to have leftovers of Shepherds Pie having already had dessert – I Can’t Go Back To Savoury. A uniquely British problem. 


Streetband
“Toast” 

#18 – 1978

Mundanity can be novel too. A whole song about toast.

Complete with sound effects of buttering toast. Having his first brush with fame is singer Paul Young. The one that would have trans-Atlantic #1s by the mid 80s. 

It was meant to be the B-side, but Kenny Everett (see the 80s edition) played this instead on his radio show. Though there’s only so much you can say about toast and it does feel like they’re struggling for material well before the end. 


Judge Dread
“Big Six”

#11 – 1972

NSFW Warning: This live performance from German TV does feature topless backing dancers. Then again, they’re a whole lot classier than the song. 

Everyone knows who the most successful reggae artist of the 70s was. What about the 2nd (in the UK and in singles terms at least)? 

That would be Alex Hughes.

A white man from the very definitely not Jamaican town of Snodland. 

His job as bouncer at West Indian clubs in late 60s London saw him meet the likes of Prince Buster and as a debt collector for Trojan Records gave him an in with the label. 

He took his stage name from a Prince Buster song and titled his debut Big Six in reference to Buster’s Big Five. 

Big Six borrowed from an existing reggae track Little Boy Blue by Verne & Son. The title of which provided inspiration to turn the track into an X-rated version of the nursery rhyme. 

To call it reggae seems an insult but it didn’t stop respected label Trojan Records releasing it. They even took him to Jamaica where according to the label’s website people were amazed to find he was white. I’m amazed anyone could think he was anything but white. 

It is truly hideous but there’s a grim fascination to it that stops me looking away. 

Dread had 8 top 40 hits. All of them following a similar theme, all of them varying degrees of filthy and all of them banned.  He even holds the record for most songs banned by the BBC. Which is some kind of legacy.


Mike Reid
The Ugly Duckling 
#10 – 1975

Gruff voiced London comedian covers Frank Loesser’s children’s classic. Interpreting it with the aid of cockney rhyming slang. 

In the spirit of the song I offer my opinion in kind. A right load of Eartha Kitt.


Clive Dunn
Grandad

#1 – 1970

It’s testament to Clive Dunn’s chameleon like qualities that he was only 51 when this was recorded. Which is old enough to be a grandad, but given the lyrical content and bevy of adoring granddaughters, it’s clear he was playing 30 years older. 

Just look at the natural way he pretends to nod off as the granddaughters serenade him. The guy’s a natural. 

He had form. He was already covering a similar age gap playing Private Jones in beloved WW2 comedy Dad’s Army. 

The most unbelievable part of this is that its written by Herbie Flowers. Whose bass playing credits are a who’s who of rock; McCartney, George Harrison, Bowie, Elton John, Harry Nilsson. A year later his distinctive bass line was an integral part of “Walk On The Wild Side.” I can’t say that the reason he got that gig is due to Lou hearing Grandad.

But you can’t prove that it wasn’t.


Terry Wogan
“Floral Dance”

#21 – 1978

Irishman Terry became a beloved institution in Britain. As a DJ on BBC Radio 2, his own primetime TV chat show and annual duties presenting Eurovision. 

He got his own hit recording an interpretation of the Cornish tradition of the Helston Furry Dance. 

An instrumental version had reached #2 in 1977 for Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. When playing their version on the radio Terry would sing along to it and by that staple ‘popular demand’ ended up with his own hit single. 


Quantum Jump
“The Lone Ranger
#5 – 1979

Well, this one has issues. Without paying too much attention… its pretty damn funky. 

Then it turns out to be a funkier “Mister Custer.” 

We’ve got a song about Tonto and the Lone Ranger, what better way to start than with a chant that is meant to sound Native American… But is in fact, Maori? 

The chant is actually one word.

Singer Rupert Hine had seen it listed in the Guinness Book Of Records as the longest word in the world – its a place name, referring to a hill in New Zealand.

It was inserted into the intro after the record company said they needed something more ear catching to kick it off. From that starting point it continues on its tone-deaf way. Cultural sensitivities not being much of a consideration at that time.  

It was banned by the BBC on release in 1976 due to allusions to drugs and some very questionable references to the Lone Ranger’s sexuality. Kenny Everett (him again) resurrected it within his radio show and three years later it was re-released and went top 10. 


The Wombles
“Remember You’re A Womble”
#3 – 1974

The Wombles are a (literal) underground commune of vegetarian environmentalists. Very progressive.

They live in burrows beneath Wimbledon Common on which they ‘make good use of the things that they find, things that the everyday folk leave behind.’ In other words they pick up litter. 

They’re all named by looking through an Atlas and picking a place name that suits them. Hence Great Uncle Bulgaria, Tomsk, Tobermory, Orinoco, and so on. 

Their diversion into popular music is thanks to Mike Batt who was commissioned to write the theme song for the TV series. 

Instead of being paid for his efforts, he negotiated the character rights for musical production. Which probably seemed like a good deal to the shows creators. 

11 Top 40 hits, four Gold albums and the most successful singles act of 1974 later, it worked out very well for Batt. 

Though he’s spent the rest of a very successful songwriting career trying to live down his time spent in a Womble suit. 


Sex Pistols
No One Is Innocent / My Way”

#7 – 1978

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? 

Malcolm McLaren goes all out to destroy the Sex Pistols legacy. What was once an angry response to a society that offered no future and caused offence as a byproduct from those that didn’t understand became an exercise in causing deliberate offence. 

Johnny Rotten was long gone McLaren eked out the notoriety and cash grab in making The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle movie retelling the Pistols story with himself at its heart. 

Without their frontman the remaining members along with some interlopers shared lead vocals on some uninspired covers and best forgotten original songs. 

No One Is Innocent has Ronnie Biggs as co-writer and vocals. A name that may not mean anything in America but was a tabloid staple in Britain. 

Biggs was a small time crook who made the big time as part of The Great Train Robbery in 1963. A team of 15 held up a Royal Mail train making off with around £2.6 million. 

Biggs was arrested three weeks later and received a 30 year prison sentence. He served 15 months before escaping, fleeing to Paris then Australia and finally to Rio De Janiero where he fathered a child which prevented his extradition back home. Which is where Steve Jones and Paul Cook joined up with him to record this. 

Rather than righteous fury it gives a self referential take on the Pistols and Biggs as well courting controversy with references to such wholesome characters as despot Idi Amin, Nazi Martin Boormann and most notoriously for a British audience, the Moors Murderers; Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. 

Meanwhile the double A-side had Sid doing My Way. He treats the first verse as a joke before switching to trademark punk sneer. The lyrics are twisted to meet Sid’s state of mind. It was a few months before Nancy Spungeon’s death but it may as well have been a valedictory performance. Especially when combined with the end of the filmed performance. Not necessarily done in the best possible taste. 


Cats U.K.
“Luton Airport”
#22 – 1979

A song inspired by the punchline to a TV commercial for Italian liqueur Campari. With a starting point like that how could it fail to be an artistic tour de force? 

Luton Airport isn’t exactly a byword for glamour. Which was proved 15 years later when Primal Scream refused the opportunity to appear on Top of The Pops, as it would mean flying into Luton Airport – declaring it wasn’t rock and roll enough for them.

I can’t say I’d consider any airport I’ve visited to be rock and roll, but maybe some have a separate entry lane for drug addled rock monsters that leads to the debauchery lounge.

Next stop: the 60s…

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From across the ocean, a middle aged man, a man without a plan, a man full of memories, a man like JJ.

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Phylum of Alexandria
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June 7, 2024 8:11 am

Going into it, I wouldn’t have assumed that the only song here that doesn’t wear out its welcome in a few bars is “Moldy Old Dough.”

It’s pretty bad when gratuitous nudity can’t save me from boredom. Judge Dread is too much boob for me.

On the bright side, I have a new song to try out for karaoke if I can ever find it. Thanks Lieutenant.

And thanks JJ! Keep schooling us in your best and brightest!

Zeusaphone
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June 7, 2024 10:07 am

The US had a “Lone Ranger” novelty of its own on the charts in the 70s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HS287kNQhtQ

Zeusaphone
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June 7, 2024 10:18 am

Two of these reached the Hot 100.

“Amazing Grace” reached #11 in the US the same year it hit #1 across the pond.

“The Funky Gibbon” peaked at #79 Stateside in 1975.

The Wombles did reach the Hot 100 once. “Wombling Summer Party” reached #55 in 1974

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8Gnmhjd7MQ

Zeusaphone
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June 7, 2024 11:47 am

I never saw the Wombles on US TV. I did see Wombling Free in a US theater as a child.

Ozmoe
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June 7, 2024 10:39 am

“Amazing Grace” held the title on American Top 40 during the 20th century at least for the longest official group name ever. Judy Collins would later have a top 40 vocal hit version of the tune as well. Not bad for a song written 200 years earlier.

Aaron3000
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June 9, 2024 6:11 pm
Reply to  Ozmoe

Fun fact, the Judy Collins version was sung a capella, and of course the bagpipe version was instrumental. I wonder if anyone ever tried to mash up those two together?

Virgindog
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June 7, 2024 11:09 am

I listen to Bob’s Ska Radio a lot and Judge Dread gets played regularly, so I know the song but had never seen the video. It’s, um, something. I like “Funky Gibbon” a lot, but don’t think it would stand up to repeated listenings.

All I know for sure is now I want toast.

Virgindog
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June 7, 2024 12:11 pm

Please excuse me while I go to the kitchen.

Phylum of Alexandria
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June 7, 2024 12:15 pm

A chocolate bar on buttered white bread sounds almost as horrid as the cereals I used to eat as a child.

I really feel my cultural ancestry right now.

rollerboogie
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June 7, 2024 11:34 am

I’m pretty sure my dad had that Amazing Grace album. He loved bagpipes.

I think this is the first in this series to not feature a pic with a man dressed as a woman, although with that Wombles photo, it was hard to tell.

rollerboogie
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June 7, 2024 1:32 pm

Probably a dude

blu_cheez
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June 7, 2024 7:40 pm

WHAT THE ACTUAL F**K did I just listen to? Was something released into the water at this time to cause this kind of madness? Some spore released from a lab?

mt58
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mt58
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June 8, 2024 8:12 am

😂

Aaron3000
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June 9, 2024 6:20 pm

Re: Quantum Jump…. singer Rupert Hine? THE Rupert Hine?

I suppose he managed to acquit himself with all the classic albums he produced, but just barely.

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