Pam Ayres won the TV talent show Opportunity Knocks with her witty poems and has remained a wry commentator on life ever since.
Some of Me Poems and Songs,
Despite what Simon Cowell would like the world to think, he did not invent the concept of the talent show or pioneer the format on television. That accolade, at least in the UK, belongs to the strangely manic and often demented TV presenter Hughie Green, a man every bit as self-centred and as arrogant as Cowell but without the plastic surgery and ridiculous trousers. His show Opportunity Knocks ran for around thirty years on TV and radio with Green at the helm, and later in a revived format with Bob Monkhouse and Les Dawson presenting.
What the likes of Cowell and Green ideally want from their talent show format (other than perhaps a chance to overthrow the government and enslave us all) is a reasonably talented singer with a non-offensive voice who can storm into the top ten with a hastily released single, and perhaps trouble the album charts with a LP cobbled together in time for Christmas. That the second album disappears without trace selling a dozen or so copies is of no concern to the talent show moguls. They will have made their money and moved on to the next impressionable ingénue, rubbing their hands in eager anticipation. Opportunity Knocks had Millican and Nesbitt, The X Factor had Steve Brookstein and Britain’s Got Talent had Paul Potts. Where once these artistes filled stadiums and appeared on television, most can now be seen singing in provincial shopping centres for loose change or tins of food. They collectively stand as much chance of scoring a future chart hit as they do of walking on the surface of the moon and should act as a grim warning to anyone who considers a television talent show to be a route to superstardom. Yet still the TV shows continue to suck in new hopefuls and spit them out once the cheques have been banked.
What the likes of Cowell and Green ideally don’t want from their talent show format (other than perhaps a half-decent lawyer pointing out that the format they make millions from wasn’t actually their invention) is a winning act that doesn’t immediately present an opportunity to release a best-selling album. To their enduring chagrin, the involvement of the general public in voting systems means that the most marketable acts are not necessarily those that win. Britain’s Got Talent seems to thwart Cowell on an annual basis with its series-winning dance acts and performing dogs. Opportunity Knocks was much the same.
Pam Ayres was one such unlikely winner back in 1975, with her recitations of self-penned humorous poems. Initially, Pam failed to win Opportunity Knocks, after the man working the clapometer’s needle decided that the pop group Pendulum were the better prospect. The show though allowed viewers to vote through the post for their favourites and with no thought for Hughie’s cut of future album sales, it was Pam they voted for in their droves. What must have poor Hughie Green have thought about a young Berkshire poet with an accent thicker than the contents of a curdled milk churn winning his show?
Pam Ayres tied for first place on her second appearance on the show and then on her third appearance placed second. And that should have probably been the end of that, were it not for the sheer dogged determination and drive of Pam Ayres. Born in the Vale of White Horse in 1947, an area struggling with rural poverty in post-war Britain, Pam Ayres had certainly waited long enough for her chance of stardom and was not going to give up her showbiz career without a struggle.
Through years of menial clerical jobs, Pam was always determined to make something of her life. Little was expected of her as a young woman and very little was demanded. A four-year spell in the Women’s Royal Air Force working in Singapore and Germany only served to further whet her appetite for adventure and excitement. Through the burgeoning folk scene of the early 70s she finally found her voice and her love of performing was born.
Though initially a singer and guitarist, Pam’s jokes and poems soon became an ever more important component part of her act, before taking over completely. Scribbled in her rented flat on an ironing board, the poems were immediate hits in the clubs. A homemade book was compiled and printed and sold at Pam’s gigs. Sales of the book proved to be more financially rewarding than the money she was actually being paid for her gigs, and provided her with enough confidence to make her first tentative entry on Opportunity Knocks.
The self-deprecatingly titled Some of Me Poems and Songs is a record of Pam’s act at that pivotal moment in her life. There are still some of her folk club songs included on the album. Don’t Sell Our Edgar No More Violins for instance is a gloriously dark Pam Ayres written comic song about the trials of a family enduring the musical scrapings of a young musical prodigy. Pam manages to falteringly pluck her ukulele through the Father Dear Father Come Home With Me Now and also sings on the bizarre whimsical tale of the lascivious cyclist Minnie Dyer, a song written by Myles Rudge and Ted Dicks for Kenneth Williams’ 1967 album On Pleasure Bent.
What of course stands out on the record is Pam’s poetical musings. Though a capable if hesitant singer Pam was, by her own admission, not willing to stay on the folk club scene as just ‘one more floor singer with an average voice’. The poems are where she excels and are after all, what cemented her enduring reputation. The album was recorded live and the first track The Battery Hen reveals Pam’s nervous state as she fumbles her way through an introduction to the hearty approval of the audience. Once in her stride she never looks back and the guffawing of the crowd is constant throughout.
Included on the record are her two Opportunity Knocks audition pieces Oh I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth and Pam Ayres And The Embarrassing Experience With The Parrot. These are now staples of her repertoire and over the years many an impressionist has grumbled about dentists and fillings in a very rough approximation of a Berkshire accent.
The album Some of Me Poems and Songs made quite an impact on the album charts on its release, climbing as high as number 13 and staying on the charts for around 26 weeks. The accompanying book, with the same title, collected together much of Pam’s work and remained on The Sunday Times bestseller list for an astonishing 46 weeks. Initially released on the small Galaxy Records label, the album was subsequently reissued by EMI and many other vinyl recordings followed for that most revered of imprints.
In the early days of her career, Pam’s accent was strange and hard for people to place. Accents of any description were not heard on television that much, certainly not those as rustic as Pam’s. Much like Tommy Cooper’s outlandish appearance, her voice was enough to make people start laughing and warming to her act before she had even started one of her recitations. That initial reaction though is disarming and belies how very clever Pam Ayres’ act actually is. Pam chooses the words in her poems precisely, each turn of phrase is apt and so very carefully considered. Don’t ever let the quaint rural tones of her warm country voice fool you though. That she has managed to pursue a forty year career as a poet is testament to her drive and determination. While many other performers and acts from the early 70s have drifted away from the public eye Pam remains as popular as ever, noting the wry peculiarities and quirks of everyday life with a rare and incisive wit.
To play us out, here is Pam Ayres demonstrating her now seldom heard singing voice on a plea to irresponsible music shops everywhere, Don’t Sell Our Edgar No More Violins:
Explore more poetical musings at Pam’s official website
Famous for his role as Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army, John Le Mesurier’s love of jazz saw him produce a wonderfully chilled and relaxed 1976 album.
John Le Mesurier,
What’s Going to Become of Us All?,
Like many of the veteran cast of Dad’s Army, John Le Mesurier had enjoyed a long and successful career before the Home Guard recruiters came calling. John’s familiar resigned, world-weary face and reassuring upper class tones can be glimpsed and heard in literally hundreds of British films from the 1940s onwards. Without ever really being a true star, John Le Mesurier carved out quite a career playing bemused authority figures and jaded members of the establishment. Butlers, police officers, judges, peers, lawyers; John Le Mesurier played them all superbly.
John Le Mesurier was born in 1912 and christened John Elton Le Mesurier Halliley. From birth, he was very much part of the establishment and much more was expected of him than the role of a jobbing actor. His father was a lawyer, there were nannies to tend to the needs of the nursery, and a life of respectability and convention seemed clearly mapped out for John. Without realising at the time, he was surrounded by the very staid and stifled authority figures that he would go on to play in his acting career.
John’s schooldays were by all accounts a dull time enlivened only by the occasional cricket match or stage play. After characteristically flunking an interview for the Royal Naval College, John was instead enrolled at the venerable institution that is Sherborne School, a famous seat of learning beloved my most of its students, with the notable exception of John Le Mesurier . Four years later after a torrid time, largely spent failing to conform in anything he did and growing increasingly disillusioned with rules and conformity, John finally left to take his place in the established order.
Easy going as ever and choosing the path of least resistance, in 1930 John joined a firm of lawyers in Bury St Edmunds, mainly it would seem to keep his despairing parents satisfied. It took another three years of boredom, book-keeping and clock-watching before John finally plucked up the courage to announce to his parents that he was leaving the law firm for ever, and contrary to all expectations and hopes for him, would be journeying to London to join the Fay Compton School of Dramatic Art. After an audition in which he recited a Jack Hulbert monologue followed by a Noël Coward poem, he was in. The former lawyer John Le Mesurier was now free to play the part of a lawyer on stage and screen .
Initial success was slow to come for the young actor. After drama school a succession of provincial repertory companies provided him with gainful and steady employment. A change in name from Halliley to Le Mesurier had little immediate impact on his career. When the Second World War rudely interrupted his acting career, by bombing to oblivion both his home and the theatre in which he was working, John cut his losses and reported to the army to sign up. Displaying his usual reluctance to follow orders or engage in anything more energetic than the ordering of gin-based cocktails, the army made the wise decision to make John Le Mesurier an officer and ship him off to India, well out of the way of Hitler and a place where John would be able to cause little lasting damage to the war effort.
After the war, the roles did start to come. Bit parts and supporting roles galore were John Le Mesurier’s career for the next twenty years, and many a classic British comedy film is brightened up by his languid tones and bewildered air of authority. Marriages to comedian Hattie Jacques and Joan Malin followed and his career seemed steady, predictable and uneventful. Gainfullly and constantly employed but not by any means the leading man he could have been. That is of course, until 1968 when John was offered the role of Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army by Jimmy Perry, himself a Second World War veteran of India and the Far East. Fame and acclaim quickly followed and at last, after a mere forty years of trying, John Le Mesurier was a star.
The album is pretty much how I imagine it would be to spend an evening with John Le Mesurier; chatting amiably away, strolling leisurely between Soho jazz clubs, occasionally reclining on a leatherette armchair, nursing a sizeable glass of whisky amidst a languorous fog of cigarette smoke as a saxophone lament plays mournfully in the background.
John doesn’t really travel out of his comfort zone on the record. Not for him the undignified novelty songs and recordings of military marches beloved of his Dad’s Army colleagues. There is jazz naturally, but in true laidback and unselfish Le Mesurier fashion, most of it is sung by Annie Ross (a particular favourite of John) accompanied by pianist Alan Clare. The songs, sketches, monologues and recitals that John Le Mesurier chose for the album are very deliberately and carefully picked, and all are clearly very dear and personal to him.
Having no doubt been gently coaxed into it, John Le Mesurier does manage to contribute a few musical numbers. With his characteristic lack of exertion they are more spoken than sung, but are tuneful and pleasing. On A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, John dismisses the song lightly as one he recently performed in a ‘show, entertainment, what have you’. He modestly fails to mention that the trifling production was the hugely popular Dad’s Army stage show which had run successfully for a year on tour as well in London’s West End. John’s stage version, sung with the assistance of Ian Lavender, can be heard on the original cast recording album. The version here is altogether more whimsical and wistful. It is subdued, sincere, sedate and delightfully warming.
There is a pretty fair and more vigorous stab at singing from John on Thank You So Much Mrs Lowsborough Goodby, a 1934 Cole Porter track that was cut from Anything Goes and remained unpublished in his lifetime. The tale of an awkward and clumsy weekend is perfect for John and he enjoys revelling in the inhibitions and discomfited manners. The themes of repression, inhibition, stifling etiquettes and stuffy convention, is also a major feature of The Awful Fate Of Melpomenus Jones, a dark and sinister comic tale from the English-born Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock. Leacock also inspires another recital from John with My Financial Career, the tale of an awkward boy with his first pay cheque, embarrassed by a bank manager into perpetual avoidance of banks.
Noël Coward provides two more spoken word performances with The Boy Actor, a tale straight from John Le Mesurier’s childhood of nervous auditions and stuttering lines, as well as I Wonder What Happened to Him, a comic vignette of retired Indian officers reminiscing over scandalous gossip from the time of the Raj. It is easy to see how both pieces would appeal to John’s wry sense of humour.
Persuaded to record the album by his close friend and fellow jazz club habitué Derek Taylor, What’s Going to Become of Us All? is a deeply personal and touching endeavour. It is an insight into the very personal moods and tastes of a justifiably much loved star. Spending time in the easy-going company of a man as wonderfully affable and relaxed as John Le Mesurier is a pleasure to be savoured. If you doubt me, relax with a choice malt and chill out to the strains of a nightingale, as interpreted by the amiable Mr Le Mesurier:
Before the Singalongamax years, Max Bygraves enjoyed a string of novelty hits, culminating in the 1961 album Nursery Rhymes For Grown-Ups.
Nursery Rhymes For Grown-Ups,
Decca LK 4401,
The chances are, if you visit any random charity shop a good many of the crusty vinyl offerings (normally entombed within a plastic tub under battered jigsaw puzzles and ceramic dogs) will be various efforts by Max Bygraves. And the chances are that most of those Max Bygraves efforts will be of the ‘singalong’ variety. Now, not many people can be credited with inventing an entire musical genre but Max Bygraves did just that when he launched his 1971 album Sing Along With Max onto a largely unsuspecting world.
The formula was simplicity itself. Invented as a birthday present for his mother back in November of 1970, Sing Along With Max was a compilation of easy going classics of yesteryear. The record was packed with the sort of tracks that appealed to the elderly and bemused, reminding them of happy carefree days warbling tunelessly away around a dilapidated pub piano as powerful incendiary devices dropped gaily from the sky like cherry blossom in spring. Max’s great innovation was to sing only the instantly recognisable portion of his chosen song and then move on quickly and seamlessly to another as the piano plonked away. If anyone disliked a song or failed to recognise it they simply didn’t have time to notice or complain. This ploy also meant that around thirty tracks could be crammed onto each album. Punters certainly got their money’s worth with Mr Bygraves.
Pye record producer Cyril Stapleton came up with the ‘Sing-A-Long’ phrase for the project and marshalled together the Tony Mansell Singers to record the album and sure enough the gold discs rolled in. For the next seventeen years Max accrued discs sprayed with various precious metals until his bedroom wall must have resembled a high-end hubcap warehouse. For the next seventeen years Max released a constant stream of ‘singalong’ records, each subsequent release glorifying in ever more unlikely and exotic titles. Max’s discography is adorned with many curiously named gems LingaLongaMax, Congalongamax and Singalongamax-mas. All of which are probably in your aforementioned local charity shop.
There was life though for Max Bygraves way before his innovative pop records kept him busy and singing along with any out of copyright material he could find for decades on end. His first taste of recording success came after a particularly triumphant 1950 Royal Variety Performance. After the show Max simultaneously signed a contract for three years of pantomimes with Tom Arnold, a five year recording deal with His Master’s Voice and took up a BBC offer to appear in a new radio ventriloquism show called Educating Archie. What a profitable day that turned out to be.
While the concept of a ventriloquist appearing on the radio may sound a bizarre concept, Educating Archie went down a storm with young listeners. At its height Archie’s fan club boasted some 250,000 members while the show regularly earned over 15 million listeners. Appearing on the show also proved an astute move for many an aspiring comedian over the years. After Max’s stint as ‘tutor’ to the wooden-headed boy, the likes of Tony Hancock, Benny Hill, Beryl Reid, Harry Secombe, Dick Emery, Hattie Jacques and Bruce Forsyth all attempted to enrich Archie’s life.
Max’s recording career with HMV had kicked off with Cowpuncher’s Cantata in 1952, and his novelty songs proved a popular part the show. So much so that Educating Archie’s resident singer, a 14-year-old Julie Andrews, was unceremoniously booted off the series to make way for amiable Uncle Max. Archie could be a ruthless employer.
The Educating Archie years saw Max release a number of annoying/inspired Wally Ridley produced novelty songs throughout the 1950s; including wonders such as You’re A Pink Tooth Brush, Tulips From Amsterdam and Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellenbogan By The Sea. The songs appealed to the show’s young audience and made Max Bygraves a regular in the music charts.
Coming in between those early novelty hits and the later singalong years, there was one remarkable album which polished Max’s silliness to appeal to a more sophisticated adult audience. His 1961 release Nursery Rhymes For Grown-Ups was an inspired contemporary appraisal of the state of the UK, much like Leslie Crowther’s Songs For Swinging Children later in the decade, but with the added wit and intelligence of lyricist Leslie Bricusse as a very definite bonus.
A star of the 1954 Cambridge University Footlights Revue, which also starred Jonathan Miller, Leslie Bricusse went on to write to a string of successful musicals and film scores. In 1961, the year Nursery Rhymes For Grown-Ups was released, Bricusse also collaborated with Anthony Newley on the musical Stop the World – I Want to Get Off. Their partnership would enjoy many successes over the years and see many triumphs such as the theme for Goldfinger and the Nina Simone favourite Feeling Good. Unlike Anthony Newley, Max contributed little to the musical or lyrical aspects of the album, but the similarities in the chirpy cockney singing styles of Newley and Bygraves are pronounced.
The songs on Nursery Rhymes For Grown-Ups come thick and fast, some such as Georgie Porgie, Simple Simon and Mary Had a Little lasting less than twenty seconds. As the album title suggests, the tracks are all based on children’s rhymes but the lyrics are uniformly adult with a recognisably early 1960s setting. The Grand Old Duke of York for instance sees the peer open his stately home to the public to pay off death duties, something which beacme all the rage in the 60s as places such as Longleat shipped prides of lions into gardens once only enlivened by topiary.
Follwing the lead of Constantine II of Greece, Ex King Cole is a Riviera-dwelling deposed head of state living a playboy lifestyle. The Three Nice Mice meanwhile are a hep rodent jazz combo and Oranges and Lemons becomes an ever so slightly sexist celebration of drunken women and their tipples of choice, employing a whole cocktail cabinet full of imaginative dipsomaniacal euphemisms.
Other contemporary takes on childhood favourites see Barbara Van Peep become a millionaire sheep magnate marrying, after ‘fleecing’, a succession of rich men for their money, while Sing a Song of Spacemen tells of a female astronaut over a jazz riff adorned with suitably stellar guitar effects. Darker aspects of society are explored too in tracks such as Rock and Roll Baby which warns aspiring young pop stars of the fickle nature of fame and fortune. Similarly Twinkle Twinkle TV Star notes the desperately limited abilities of certain media celebrities, stretched thinly over ill-conceived television spectaculars. With the problem still rife today it seems few heeded Max’s advice back in 1961.
Max Bygraves would never be this creative on a record again, although he would go on to earn a great deal of money from singing and recording. Leslie Bricusse went on to many triumphs, including Oscars for his work on Doctor Dolittle and Victor/Victoria, a Grammy for What Kind of Fool Am I? as well as nominations and praise galore.
My particular highlight on Nursery Rhymes For Grown-Ups (and there are many) is the wonderfully swinging and superbly silly Baa, Baa Beatnik, a tongue-in-cheek exploration of the thoughts and affected mannerisms of a particularly dim and pretentious hipster. Like demented hipsters from the 50s to the present day, the nuclear conflagration that bookends the song and presumably destroys him is well deserved. So here he is, swingalongamax! Like crazy man.
Glaswegian husband and wife comedy duo The Krankies are now famous mainly for falling off props and for their sexual escapades. It was all so different back in 1981.
When the comedy duo The Krankies came out as being swingers in 2011, the world, or at least the dwindling part of it that reads British newspapers, was shocked. That anybody had been even the slightest bit shocked in the first place was a trick worthy of the greatest of magicians. Whether by distraction, sleight of hand or by hiding their sexual proclivities in plain sight, The Krankies had deceived a nation for over forty years.
Who would have suspected a happily married couple in their late 60s? A slightly unconventional couple admittedly. A couple in which the wife regularly dressed up as a ten-year-old schoolboy in order to annoy her daddy (played in this scenario by her husband). Who could possibly have ever suspected anything untoward in that relationship? Who indeed. The whole stage act of The Krankies was founded on a premise so mad and improbable, that no-one suspected a thing. It is also equally possible that many people had suspected everything all along, but were too horrified to give full reign to their imagination. To imagine the Krankies making love, with other people participating, is a single step too far into a world of horror and madness. The writhing tentacles of Cthulhu have nothing on that insanity inducing image.
Janette and Ian Tough (aka The Krankies) met in Glasgow at the city’s Pavilion Theatre in 1965, the same venue which in 2004 would see Janette cheat death after plummeting from the top of a massive ten feet tall beanstalk during panto season. The production back in 1965 was Babes in the Wood and Janette was making her panto début after giving up a career as a shorthand typist (with the emphasis obviously on the short). Ian was an electrician at the theatre, desperately trying to be discovered and be given a break on stage, 42nd Street style. Sadly no-one was horrifically injured at short notice, so Ian instead turned his attention to Janette who was playing one of the Babes. The two hit it off and formed a song and dance act almost immediately, performing backstage at the panto, probably much to the annoyance of everyone.
Once the panto finished, the duo then unleashed their song and dance act on the world, playing the club circuit in Scotland and Northern England. After two years they married and relocated to England, a location more central to the heartland of the clubs. Like many a song and dance act before and since, comedy and banter soon became an integral part of the act and later, more important than even the singing and dancing. When their big break came, the song and dance act was forgotten and it was all about the comedy.
Following an appearance on The Royal Variety Show in 1978, The Krankies were hot property. A 1976 album, Two Sides of The Krankies, exists to demonstrate what the act was prior to this pivotal moment. The A-side is a record of The Krankies club act featuring ‘The Little Boy Routine’. Ian dominates the B-side with well-executed baritone recordings of traditional Scottish ballads, interrupted only by Janette singing ballads in the style of a chipmunk high on helium and unrefined cane sugar. The little boy routine came to dominate the act of course, a wee 4 ½ feet tall monster in a school cap was born, and poor Ian probably never got to sing a rousing Scottish anthem ever again.
By 1981, The Krankies were mainstays of the Stu Francis era Crackerjack, the act from the club circuit being sanitised and re-packaged for children. The appeal was obvious; Jimmy was a cheeky, irreverent and naughty little boy that said and did the things that children would only dare to. The fact that Jimmy was a 35-year-old housewife and his long-suffering father was actually Wee Jimmy’s husband seemed largely irrelevant. Children seemed prepared to forgive the deception and parents were frankly too baffled to know if they objected or not. In 1982 LWT granted the duo their own children’s TV series The Krankies Klub. The BBC tempted them over in 1985 with a tiny wee bag of money to front The Krankies Elektronik Komik, which after mutating into Krankies Television would run until 1991.
The album It’s Fan-Dabi-Dozi! was released in 1981, just as Krankies-mania was talking hold of the UK. There’s no surer way to achieve sudden massive popularity than by having a ridiculous catchphrase, the more inane and unfathomable the better. And as idiotic catchphrases go ‘fan-dabi-dozi’ is one of the best. It by turns means absolutely nothing, grates on the nerves, is instantly memorable and can be uttered by everyone from schoolchildren to the elderly and insane.
Building an entire record around one annoying catchphrase is not an enterprise to be taken lightly. The job on this album went to Scottish jazz musician Pete Kerr, long-serving clarinettist with the Clyde Valley Stompers and prolific record producer for anyone with a clan tartan and half a tune to their name. While many more serious producers would have been fazed when confronted by Ian and Janette Tough, Pete’s experience recording with the likes of Andy Stewart, Jimmy Shand and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards must have cushioned the blow somewhat. He fashioned a contemporary sounding record, writing lyrics for most of the songs, arranging a pumping glam disco backing for the demented jocular shriekings of Wee Jimmy, and crafting some clever silly novelty songs into the bargain.
There were a large number of singles culled from the album, much like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, except with an even shriller, scarier looking man-child lead singer. Although unlike Thriller there was not a sole charting entry to speak of. In 1981, before RCA snapped them up for their major label début, The Krankies released Fan-Dabi-Dozi as a single with Wee Jimmy Krankie as a b-side. The aforementioned Pete Kerr wrote and produced Fan-Dabi-Dozi which has a definite disco Wombles-glam stomp about it. The lyrics are shamelessly culled from nursery rhymes and peppered with some appallingly bad jokes courtesy of The Krankies. Wee Jimmy Krankie is a manifesto from the demonic, diminutive imp himself, and is a record of a happy carefree time when corporal punishment ruled in school. A time when canes and the occasional hefty clout achieved what understanding, love, prescription drugs and counselling largely fail to do these days.
We’re Going To Spain enjoyed two separate single releases; first in 1981 as the b-side for Jimmy’s Gang and subsequently as an a-side in its own right. The concept of Jimmy’s Gang actually existed, a fan club for the miniature mite being launched on Crackerjack as a means for misbehaving, annoying children everywhere to join in a mass movement, with the reward of free badges for their unquestioning subservience. The song sounds much like a Nazi rally would if the Bay City Rollers had been around in Nuremberg at the time and were off their heads on speed. It’s a treasure alright.
We’re Going To Spain is a holiday novelty hit that sadly never became a hit. Twice. When it first appeared, We’re Going To Spain was a catchy well-constructed holiday novelty song, capitalising on the fortuitous rhyme of ‘Spain’ with ‘on an aeroplane’. It grated certainly, but no more than many other holiday songs that became hits. On its re-release as an a-side in 1982 it became, thanks to Scotland’s qualification for the World Cup Finals in Spain, a well-constructed football song that grated a lot less than many other football songs and which also failed to chart. This despite the genius of Pete Kerr and The Krankies upping their game by rhyming ‘holiday’ with ‘Sandy’ (the official SFA mascot) as well as ‘plane’ and ‘Spain’ with ‘play the game’.
Despite being the Scottish FA’s official single for the tournament and a positive advert for the power of rhyming dictionaries, John Gordon-Sinclair had the hit with the much dourer and frankly less enjoyable We Have a Dream. Thankfully, team Scotland no longer qualifies for international football tournaments, so such terrible novelty song dilemmas will not arise in the future.
To play us out, I present The Krankie Rock, the b-side of yet another failed single. The a-side Hubba Dubba Dooby is a competent piece of pounding rock that might have graced the output of any number of 70s glam bands. Only the odd jungle noises, high pitched trilling and bad jokes give away the fact that it was recorded by The Krankies rather than Mud or The Sweet.
The Krankie Rock is a competent novelty song that incorporates improbable dance moves and the line, “rock it to me Jimmy”. How it failed to be a hit is a mystery. Like Jailhouse Rock for impressionable under 10s everywhere here is The Krankie Rock:
The official site of The Krankies – swinging from a festive beanstalk somewhere near you: