The Novelty Is Wearing Off, Revisited: Ten More of The Oddest Songs In UK Chart History


My debut feature for tnocs was to introduce some of the novelty hits that we Brits have loved to send storming up the charts.

Given that there’s a rich vein of this stuff, and you might have finally gotten the Smurfs out of your head… it’s about time we had Part Two.

Fine. We’ll sit this one out. No need to be so Smurfy about it.”

Not all of these were intended as novelty records. But there’s something about all of them that marks them out from the usual chart fare. 


Portsmouth Sinfonia
Classical Muddley
1981: #38

Beginning with the rarefied air of classical music. Though keen eared listeners may notice that something is wrong with the orchestra.

That would be because they didn’t know how to play their instruments. 

Portsmouth Sinfonia is where the avant garde meets slapstick comedy. 

It was put together in 1970 by composer Gavin Bryars from students at the Portsmouth School of Art.

All abilities were encouraged resulting in members ranging from inept novices through to actual musical geniuses.

Brian Eno joined up and produced their first album. Composer Michael Nyman and record producer Clive Langer also took part before their careers took off.

To even the playing field, those who did have musical training had to commit to an instrument they weren’t familiar with.

Hence why Eno was on clarinet.

What was originally intended to be a one-off performance: lasted a decade.

They played the Royal Albert Hall, recorded albums and attracted both rave reviews and considerable disdain.

Rolling Stone dismissed their debut album Portsmouth Sinfonia Play the Popular Classics as ‘perhaps the worst record ever made; best dismissed as an intellectual joke’.

Though they did also name it ‘Comedy Album of the Year’ for 1975. 

The marketing department played up the comedy element, and described them as The Worst Orchestra In The World™ – despite that the intention within the Sinfonia was always to play it straight. The eths was to try their hardest while recognising that the comedy element would naturally occur.

They focused on well known classical pieces, so those who weren’t encumbered by playing ability at least knew what it should sound like. 

They last performed live in 1979 and rounded off their career with this top 40 single.

Created on the back of the music medley craze and the likes of Hooked On Classics, the Sinfonia brought their own particular qualities to the genre.

As if the playing alone wasn’t bad enough, they jar badly with the distracting backing track, which changes tempo along with the painful segues into each new element.

The Ramblers
The Sparrow 

1979: #11

The late 70s / early 80s was fertile ground for choirs of fresh faced cherubs marauding up the charts. Pink Floyd got away with it by turning their choir of juvenile delinquents to the dark side.

Everyone else went for unbearably twee. Which masks the bleakness of the lyrics which feature a Sparrow having an existential crisis and worrying itself to the grave. That’s entertainment kids – that’s the 70s!

Smart E’s
Sesame’s Treet 

1992: #2

Whereas by the early 90s it was a very different landscape. I’m not sure Big Bird will have approved of this. 

The nascent rave scene of the early 90s saw a brief fad for toytown techno: taking children’s TV themes and setting them to hardcore rave. 

British kids classics, The Magic Roundabout, Roobarb & Custard and Trumpton got the treatment.

Smart E’s went the American route. 

At the same time as toytown techno, thinly veiled references to Ecstasy were all over the charts.

E-Zee Possee correctly asserted that Everything Starts With An ‘E,’ though spelling may not have been uppermost in their thoughts.

The Shamen went to #1 shouting that ‘E’s are good’ while claiming that it was a perfectly innocent reference to the titular character of Ebeneezer Goode. 

The combination of drugs references and kids TV didn’t harm its appeal. The Top of the Pops performance took the Portsmouth Sinfonia approach and featured a load of hyped up kids singing along. What they lacked in singing ability they made up for in volume.

Goldie Lookin’ Chain
Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do 
2004: #3

The Welsh answer to Wu Tang Clan. The GLC, as they are otherwise known, are an eight strong comedy rap group. So perhaps they’re the Welsh hip hop answer to Weird Al. 

They hit the limelight in the mid 00s, signing with a major label – much to their own surprise – and having a run of six top 40 hits and a #5 album.

They called that major label debut album: “Greatest Hits.”

They aren’t the most accomplished rappers, and it all sounds pretty chaotic and amateurish. But they carried it off with a sense of humour, and a genuine love for hip hop. 

This one took inspiration from the politicisation of rap by those keen to blame it for societies’ ills. It was 2004 so maybe they were behind the times, especially with the rappers they reference.

But the names would all resonate even for the casual British listener with no real interest in rap. 

Keith Harris and Orville
Orville’s Song 

1982: #4

If you thought “Disco Duck” was bad:

Orville is a large green nappy wearing duckling. With an annoying squeaky voice and equally annoying personality. Both of which are courtesy of the man with his hand up Orville’s orifice; Keith. 

Keith and Orville were TV regulars through the 80s. I was 6 when this came out so was the perfect age to appreciate Orville. Even as a 6 year old though, I had too much self respect to fall for the oversized green goofball.

Keith’s other puppet was Cuddles The Monkey, who lived his life in the shadow of Orville.

His catchphrase was; “I hate that duck”.

I empathised. I hated that duck too.

Orville’s song is a classic tale of forlorn orphaned duckling with an inferiority complex and the kindly guiding paternal love of his new dad. It would take a hard heart not to be moved by that.

In which case: call me heartless. Watch and wince. 

Black Lace
1984: #2 

Having a party and need a guaranteed floor filler? Then Agadoo is at your service. Think Macarena, but replace the ageing Spanish gents with a couple of bleach blonde blokes from northern England.

Viewers be warned that this should not be watched in a state of sobriety. To experience Agadoo in its purest form you need to be either jacked up on sugary drinks and additives til you’re bouncing off the walls or be in a group of adults inebriated to the point of derangement. 

Black Lace started out in the 70s as a normal four piece band playing unexceptional lite rock / pop. Their most notable achievement was representing UK in the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest.

They came in 7th, the single; Mary Ann, fell short of the top 40, disappearing back to touring clubs and holiday camps.

They reappeared like a virulent pestilence in 1983, down to a duo and playing horrifyingly catchy party songs, with accompanying dance moves. Agadoo was the 2nd of three top 10 hits and was inescapable for the next decade if you attended any sort of party.

If you want a measure of their oeuvre; further singles were; Do The Conga and The Hokey-Cokey. 

Oh – and there was one called Gang Bang. That one didn’t get played at children’s parties. Lets hope not anyway. I don’t know if “gang bang” translates across the ocean but in this context it refers to a good old fashioned orgy.

No comment.

Carried off with what we call here a “saucy, end of the pier” approach.

Fiddlers Dram
Day Trip to Bangor (Didn’t We Have A Lovely Time) 
1979: #3 

I believe the appropriate description for this is: “jaunty.” Folk music doesn’t often breach the upper reaches of the chart but this upbeat retelling of a lovely day out at the seaside put that right.

Different times indeed, Elsie and our narrator got lunch for under a pound and on the bus home shared a cuddle and a bottle of cider with Jack. I’m sure there were other not quite so innocent variations on what went on at the back of the bus.

No comment.

Bangor is a city on the North Wales coast. I’ve never been there, on a day trip or otherwise, though I did drive round the outskirts on the way to our holiday destination further down the coast last summer. We did have a lovely time even though we weren’t in Bangor and the holiday began with us getting trapped in the apartment when the door handle broke. That’s another story though. 

Should the fancy take you for a lovely day out in Bangor:

  • It’s the oldest and third smallest city in Wales
  • It has a 12th century cathedral,
  • The second longest pier in Wales (460 metres
  • The longest high Street in Wales (0.79 miles, you long fact fans)
  • It’s the home of Penrhyn Castle…
  • and the SAORImôr Japanese freestyle handweaving studio.

But before you rush out to book your flights why don’t you finish the rest of the article?

No Way Sis
I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing 

1996: #27 

Not quite ‘the real thing.’ Oasis were so popular here in the mid 90s that even covers band No Way Sis managed a top 40 hit of their own. So dedicated to apeing Oasis, they even included a pair of brothers.

Noel Gallagher wasn’t averse to ‘borrowing’ a melody to enhance Oasis’ music.

The band’s second single; Shakermaker helped itself to The New Seekers Coke-pushing anthem, I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.

Resulting in Oasis giving away a reported half a million pounds to settle the resulting court case. 

Seeing an angle and an opportunity, No Way Sis covered ILTTTWTS, throwing in a few yeah yeah yeah’s as a reference to Shakermaker. Sounds exactly like you’d expect it to.

Bernard Cribbins
Right Said Fred 
1962: #10 

What George Martin did before The Beatles. On taking over as head of the Parlophone label in 1955 George extended its range from specialising in classical and original cast recordings into comedy records. Peter Sellers was one of the most notable names he recorded, but it was future national treasure Bernard Cribbins who delivered three hits in 1962.

Due in part to George’s production and use of sound effects adding an extra layer to this story of good old fashioned incompetence and tea drinking. 

Bernard’s career spanned generations. He was mainly known as an actor and was a regular on kids TV in my youth. Nearly 40 years later and I found myself watching him again with my daughter in the 2010s when he was well into his 80s. This is his greatest moment, in my humble opinion. 

Obviously the title of this song will be familiar from another novelty act. But here at tnocs… we’re too sexy for that.

Rotterdam Termination Source

1992: #27 

While we wait for our friend Bill Bois to cover “What Makes Happy Hardcore, “Happy Hardcore,” we’ll make do with this.

Five and a half minutes of your brain being pummeled into submission by pounding repetitive beats and a constant ‘poinging’ sound that will be with you long after its finished – regardless of whether you make it through the whole track.

I will be impressed if anyone does report back that they got through the full five minutes.

Oh – and do not listen to this just before you go to bed. You have been warned. 

There you go; classical, folk, choral, rave, rock and ventriloquism. Something for everyone.

And there’s still plenty of prime candidates for a future entry. 

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JJ Live At Leeds

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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Famed Member
August 17, 2023 5:43 am

That “Sesame’s Treet” charted here, too (or maybe it as a different record making the same play on words). I couldn’t make it through the whole song. “Agadoo” took even less time. Thanks for the smile on my face first thing in the a.m., JJ.

Phylum of Alexandria
Famed Member
August 17, 2023 7:49 am

What a fantastic selection of songs. This stuff is decidedly up my alley. The only one that isn’t a banger is the one about Bangor. It’s got nothing on the boinger.

And I learned quite a lot too. E is for Education!

If only the Smart Es had done a rave-tastic rendition of Orville’s song. I think that would actually be amazing.

My favorite is the Portsmouth Sinfonia. Not surprised that Eno was a part. Though I believe he lacks any training or experience with actual musical instruments. Even so, Lester Bangs observed that he commanded the tape loop machine like a maestro, so that counts.

Phylum of Alexandria
Famed Member
August 17, 2023 1:44 pm


Famed Member
August 17, 2023 8:23 am

The only downside to this early morning treat:

I’ve been caught twice this morning unconsciously singing about a lovely seaside, tea, and cuddling with (that likely two-timer) Jack. Watch out, Elsie. He sounds like the guy in the original “distracted boyfriend” meme.

Resistance is futile. I’m going to have our unnamed “Bangor” narrator lilting away in my head all day.

Famed Member
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August 17, 2023 9:43 am

“Poing” is still poinging away as I type this.

I have the Portsmouth Sinfonia album on vinyl, though I haven’t listened to it in a very long time. Part of it is that, even after being in this house for eight years, I still haven’t hooked up my turntable. I remember really enjoying it though.

Still poinging.

Bangor is on my list of places to visit, if only because it’s possibly the namesake of Bangor, Maine, near where I grew up. Also, Bangor isn’t far from Liverpool, where I need to do the Beatles pilgrimage, and Llandudno, home of Britain’s longest cable car ride. It goes up the Great Orme.

Still poinging.

No Way Sis’s imitation of Oasis is uncanny. I had to look and listen really to verify who was who. And “Right Said Fred” is a hoot.

There. It finally stopped poinging. When do I get my sanity back?

Thanks, JJ, this was fun as always!

Pauly Steyreen
Famed Member
August 17, 2023 10:19 am

I can’t decide if Orville’s Song is an innocent and melancholy tale of found family and lifelong friendship…

Or a first-person narrative of a bestial, pedophile groomer with his hand up the bum of his unsuspecting victim.

You decide…

Phylum of Alexandria
Famed Member
August 17, 2023 10:35 am
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

I think it’s a sweet and innocent song.

Sung by a ventriloquist who may have been a serial killer on the side.

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August 17, 2023 12:36 pm

Nice collection! I had to download that Right Said Fred song…I liked it! And the Poing! song, too. It was on apple music, so now it’s in my collection. I couldn’t not have a song that is so absurdly annoying.

Noble Member
August 17, 2023 12:49 pm


Famed Member
August 17, 2023 4:25 pm

These are pretty bad.

The American charts have featured bad novelties, from Mrs. Miller to “Dur Dur D’etre Bebe” and so on, but they haven’t typically charted as high as they do in the UK. I think it has to with the US being so large.

Famed Member
August 18, 2023 8:44 pm
Reply to  Zeusaphone

Pikotaro shot a COVID-19 video.

It made me want to not wash my hands.

I’m absolutely thrilled with Otoboke Beaver’s indie rock-level success.

Finally, something not campy that caught on with the American public. They remind me of Suicidal Tendencies. I saw them live.

I almost danced.

Famed Member
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August 18, 2023 3:36 pm

This is the kind of hard-hitting, facts-based journalism that I show up day after day for.

That Portsmouth Sinfonia stuff is amazing. I value my sanity too much to listen to any of the others (edit: I’ve heard “Sesame’s Treet” before, and I promise you I was TOTALLY SOBER AND NOT IN AN ILLEGAL CLUB at the time).

Famed Member
August 18, 2023 8:36 pm

I unironically like No Way Sis’ version of “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”. The Seekers come pretty darn close to sounding like a novelty act. No Way Sis makes the future Coca-Cola jingle sound cool, and not a song you’d use to lure people into a cult.

I also like Black Lace’s “Agadoo”.

I’ve seen my fair share of dancing pineapples.

About Black Lace’s sartorial choices: This is how I envision Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie walking around on Waikiki Beach when they recorded their first Creatures album. Since there is no indie rock culture here, I learned about this through Spotify. The opening track blows my mind. It’s the real deal.

Black Lace is a Wham knockoff, right?


If I showed the video for “Agadoo” to anybody who lives here, within fifteen-to-thirty seconds, each person would make the exact same joke.

I have a better understanding as to why Sparks gained a following in the UK.

Great stuff.

Famed Member
August 20, 2023 12:23 pm

Another Wham! connection is that you’ve got one half of the duo doing most of the heavy lifting (seriously, guy with glasses struggles with lip syncing on the chorus, and his choreography is suspect… at least Andrew Ridgely put in some effort for his group’s videos).

And yes, “gang bang” means the exact same on our side of the pond. I’m afraid to put that song title in my search engine.

Last edited 3 months ago by Aaron3000
Famed Member
August 20, 2023 12:45 am

“Sesame’s Treet” reminded me of this one by Alpha Team that charted here not long after:

Famed Member
August 20, 2023 6:08 pm
Reply to  Aaron3000

I loved this cartoon. The Wachowski Brothers(now Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski)’s version of Speed Racer totally missed the mark.

I enjoy Miles Davis’ takes on contemporary films. He has a much higher tolerance for CGI than me. He made me realize it’s my bad. I’m comparing films across decades. I didn’t realize I was turning into the “get off my lawn” guy.

Speed Racer, for me, is when I realized that summer movies were not restricted to summer.

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