Released today in 1988: Drive He Said

IRS IRM154

IRS IRM154

The novelty single is a comic song or a parody, usually referencing a current craze (such as a dance) or activity (such as a seasonal event; Christmas and the summer holidays are very popular periods for novelty records). Often the artist recording it will be a media personality or a character from a children’s television show. In nearly all cases, after some initial merriment, everyone decides they hate the song and after it has left the charts, it is only played again for “ironic” effect. Also worthy of being lumped into the novelty category are charity singles (admirable cause; terrible song that the artistes involved would never normally put their names to) and songs from film soundtracks (reasonably memorable tune from an act one would never otherwise have heard of). Novelty records are not exclusive to the British charts, but they do tend to top the British charts more than in other territories.

Some years are worse for novelty records than others. Take 1986, for example. The television programme Spitting Image managed to have a #1 with the relentlessly feeble The Chicken Song. Stars of another comedy show, The Young Ones, topped the chart with a comedy charity record featuring Cliff Richard. Berlin, having been around for donkey’s years without troubling the charts, were suddenly the nation’s favourite with the love theme from the movie Top Gun. Austrian Neue Deutsche Welle singer-songwriter Falco had the UK’s best-selling single for a week with a tribute to a long-dead classical composer, the lyrics of which were mostly in German. Only some of these records were supposed to be funny.

One other notable contribution to chart oddities that year was Doctor And The Medics. Their cover of Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky was #1 for three weeks in June. Not strictly a novelty record, the extreme quirkiness of their image (not least The Doctor’s peculiar conical hairstyle and his silent, expressionless cohorts the Anadin Brothers) and their general lack of seriousness in interviews caused them to be bracketed with the novelty set. “We only formed this group so we could record Spirit In The Sky,” singer Clive Jackson (The Doctor) told Smash Hits in May 1986. “So now we’ve done that, we can split up… let’s face it, a band that’s been on the go for four years before it has a hit record must be pretty dreadful.”

Doctor And The Medics had released occasional singles or EPs on various obscure indie labels during those four years, with no realistic prospect of them charting (although one did make a good showing on the independent records chart). No one expected them to chart again post-Spirit In The Sky but they did do so, with two more minor hits the same year, one of which featured Roy Wood of Wizzard. However, by 1987 they had disappeared back into obscurity. Despite The Doctor’s comment above though, they still didn’t split up of course: or neither Drive He Said nor its parent album I Keep Thinking It’s Tuesday would have made it to the shops.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Feb. 15
1980
BLONDIE Atomic (Chrysalis CHS2410)
The BEAT Hands Off She’s Mine (Go Feet FEET1)
UB40 King (Graduate GRAD6)
David BOWIE Alabama Song (RCA BOW5)
1982
The UNDERTONES Beautiful Friend (Ardeck ARD510)
1985
The BOOMTOWN RATS A Hold Of Me (Mercury MER184)
Julian COPE Sun Spots (Mercury MER182)
MADONNA Material Girl (Sire W9083)
1988
The ALARM Presence Of Love (IRS IRM155)
Rick ASTLEY Together Forever (RCA PB41817)
Derek B Goodgroove (Music Of Life 7NOTE12)
DOCTOR AND THE MEDICS (Clive Jackson) Drive He Said (IRS IRM154)
JOHNNY HATES JAZZ (Clark Datchler) Heart Of Gold (Virgin VS1040)
MEL AND KIM That’s The Way It Is (Supreme SUPE117)
MORRISSEY Suedehead (HMV POP1618)
Peter MURPHY All Night Long (Beggars Banquet BEG207)

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