Graham Reid | | 3 min read
You are allowed to smirk in contemptuous admiration at British popular taste, it knows no depths to its shamelessness.
This is the nation which gave us Carry On films, cringe-inducing television (Mind Your Language, On the Buses) and thinks nothing of putting gimmick songs and weak humour to the top of its charts (Benny Hill to Bob the Builder).
This from a country which gave us the Beatles, Ken Loach, Alan Partridge, The Office and . . . ?
Oh right, miserablist Coronation St/Eastenders and Morrissey.
And in British pop music culture, novelty songs – academics could argue a lineage back through from the Kinks and Herman's Hermits to George Formby and music hall – have been a staple in the UK in a way they long since ceased to be in the US and elsewhere.
But in Britain these aberrations seem endemic.
Take the Pipkins – “Please, someone take the Pipkins.” Boom boom! – by way of example.
They went top 10 in the UK in 1970 – the year of reggae's emergence, Led Zeppelin's triumph, Layla and the deaths of Jimi and Janis – with their inane music hall pop of Gimme Dat Ding . . . and to their discredit the Canadians and Americans also fell for it.
More shamefully however it went, according to charts were available at the time, to number one in New Zealand.
Jeez . . .
And that's why we need to talk about the Pipkins, as a cathartic and cleansing experience.
But, and it is a very Big But, the idiotic Pipkins were not without interest.
Not because they released an album and subsequent singles (none of which charted in any appreciable way), but for who created this stuff and nonsense.
Behind the Pipkins' Gimme Dat Ding were the highly successful songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood.
They handed this throwaway to their writing pal Roger Greenaway who, with Roger Cook, penned such hits in the Sixties as You've Got Your Troubles (for the Fortunes), I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (the Coke ad which became a smash for the New Seekers), Melting Pot (Blue Mink and in New Zealand revived by Cats Away), Something's Got a Hold of My Heart (the final hit for Gene Pitney before his “revival”) and Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress (which advanced the Hollies' career into the Seventies).
Among many many others.
As the singer for Gimme Dat Ding, Greenaway paired up with another pal Tony Burrows who had sung for any number of acts including the Ivy League, the hippie-era cash-in Flower Pot Men (Let's Go to San Francisco) then Edison Lighthouse, White Plains and Brotherhood of Man. It's likely as many people in the UK heard Burrows' voice as heard McCartney's because for those years he was the voice on chart hits . . . although few could put a name to him.
So put together writer Hammond (who has written for so many people we daren't start, but had his own hit with It Never Rains in Southern California, and sired Albert Jnr of the Strokes) with Hazlewood (who co-wrote Southern California and also has a long list of credits)
And right there you have high quality/gold disc-standard songwriting power.
Then to that you bring in Greenaway and Burrows and you have an implosion of talent to create . . . Gimme Dat Ding?
What the . . . .
Undeterred by the failure of their follow-up singles – doubtless the mortgages on the country house and the Caribbean getaway had long been paid off and the cars were all serviced – they kept the faceless and nameless Pipkins running until the “group” released its final single in 1970, the inane bubblegum pop of Sunny Honey Girl . . . which also failed miserably.
Until Cliff Richard picked it up and took it top 20 in the UK and NZ.
That Pipkins single – written by Greenaway, John Goodison and Tony Hiller, the latter two also old mates and fellow songwriters with hits under their belts – was backed by the Hammond-Hazlewood novelty piece The People Dat You Wanna Phone Ya.
Just take a deep breath to consider all of this talent which came together as “the Pipkins”.
Now imagine, what might have happened had they used all those hit-making songwriting and singing talent superpowers for the purposes of good.
Actually, maybe we don't need to talk about the Pipkins?
For other articles in the series of strange or different characters in music, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . go here.