The Novelty Is Wearing Off, Round Three: Eight More of The Oddest Songs In UK Chart History

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In each of the last two years, I’ve offered for your elucidation a round up of some of the finest / worst novelty songs ever to have breached the UK charts:

I left with a warning: that there’s still plenty more where they came from.

So here I go again.

Rather than a one-off, this time I’m going to rewind back through the decades to shine a light on the weird and the odd. 

Kicking off with the 00s and 10s; overall the 21st Century has seen a decline in this noble tradition but TV singing contests and streaming has still allowed for a new batch of oddities. 


Hampenburg:
Duck Toy 
#30 – 2002

For much of the first minute it’s a standard continental happy hardcore banger. Then the squeaking really kicks in. There’s even 15 seconds where the music drops out leaving nothing but squeaking. Anyone driven to distraction by a dog that just won’t leave that squeaky toy alone may be triggered by this. Or may find themselves wishing the dog could chew it in time.

l’d quibble that rubber ducks don’t make that squeaky noise, not the ones I or my daughter had as a child but pedantry is one of the few things more annoying than the unstoppable sound of squeaking.


Jonny Trunk and Wisbey:
The Ladies’ Bras
#27 – 2007

At 36 seconds this is the shortest top 40 hit ever. Once you’ve heard it you might think 36 seconds is too long. 

Jonny Trunk has run Trunk Records since 1998, releasing forgotten film scores and soundtracks, jingles and weird ephemera. Duncan Wisbey is his sometime comedy partner. While performing at the Edinburgh Festival they came up with this while messing about in their downtime. 

A set of lyrics that don’t exactly speak to the human condition are set to The Gonk, a piece of incidental music from Dawn Of The Dead. Looking for some extra filler for Trunk’s 10th anniversary compilation it got the release they never knew it deserved. 

From where it got picked up by BBC Radio London DJ Danny Baker and entered the charts at #70.

A few weeks later, Scott Mills on Radio 1 brought it to it national attention and it re-entered the charts at #27. 

I could say its in a fine British tradition of whimsy and being a bit rude – see the Carry On films of the 1960s – or, then again, it really is just two blokes dicking about.


British Royal Legion:
2 Minute Silence 
#20 – 2010

Exactly what the title suggests. A charity release tied in with the annual Remembrance Day commemorations on November 11th. 

There’s not much that can be said about the ‘tune’. It’s a timeless classic. The video features a host of well known British personalities staring solemnly into the camera, along with current and ex-servicemen. Oh and the then Prime Minister David Cameron for retrospective pantomime villain status. If only he had kept his mouth shut instead if announcing his bright idea for a referendum on EU membership. 

If two minutes silence wasn’t sufficient, lovers of tranquility were in for a treat a month later. Following the success of the 2009 campaign to beat X-Factor to the Xmas #1 which resulted in Rage Against The Machine taking top spot, John Cage’s 4’33” was promoted as 2011s contender. Maybe 2 minutes silence was enough, 4’33” charted a position lower at #21.


The RSPB:
Let Nature Sing
#18 – 2019

Now, for something else to soothe the soul: two and half minutes of birdsong. Though as an Eddie Izzard routine had it, is it really so soothing given that what they’re actually vocalising is a warning to stay off their territory? As Eddie said it; “You know that song, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square?” He actually sang, “F*ck off out of Berkeley Square!” 

RSPB is the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The track features an all star line up in the vein of Band Aid and USA For Africa. 

* Keen ornithologists may wish to listen first and see how many birds they can identify. For everyone else these are the vocal talents present:

  • Cuckoo
  • Nightingale 
  • Wren 
  • Blackbird 
  • Robin 
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Crane 
  • Curlew 
  • Lapwing 
  • Swift 
  • Bittern 
  • Snipe 
  • Blackcap 
  • Swallow 
  • Great Tit
  • Sedge Warbler 
  • Grasshopper Warbler 
  • Skylark
  • Song Thrush 
  • Nightingale 
  • Nightjar 
  • Tawny Owl 

Big Ben:
Millennium Chimes
#53 – 2000

 

If you like repetitive beats, this one is for you. Though it is a ponderous 12 BPM (bongs per minute) so not one for raving too.  US has the Times Square ball drop to mark midnight at new year. Britain has the sound of Big Ben to ring it in. For the Millennium, someone had the bright idea of releasing the sound of the ‘bongs’ on CD and 7″ inch. The Official Charts and Discogs confirm its existence but Google, streaming services and YouTube fail to locate the actual 1:28 length single. 

Essential if confusing trivia: The clocktower is officially called Elizabeth Tower and the bell is The Great Bell. Though the bell acquired the nickname Big Ben which also became what most people refer to the tower as. 


One Pound Fish Man:
One Pound Fish
#28 – 2012

 

One that came about thanks to the streaming age. The One Pound Fish Man is Muhammad Nazir. He came to Britain from Pakistan in 2011 and worked on a market fish stall, hence his alter ego. He came up with the lines to entice customers, some of who uploaded videos of him to YouTube where it went viral. Some people are easily entertained. 

From there he raised his profile further, auditioning for X-Factor and although he didn’t progress in the competition he did get a record deal with Warners. Which is where this EDM version of One Pound Fish came from. It was touted as a challenger for the 2012 Christmas #1 but the millions of views (36 million and counting) didn’t translate to actual sales and he finished well down at #28. 

Not that that was his biggest concern. His new found fame brought him to the attention of the Home Office. Its unclear whether he was actually deported for breaching the terms of his student visa or he left voluntarily because it was about to run out but a week after making his chart debut he was back in Pakistan. From where he applied for a new visa to return to the UK which was refused due to breaching his previous student visa by signing a record deal.   

He’s still in Pakistan and like many a pop star still trading on past glories. In 2023 he released a new video with the One Pound Fish lyrics adapted to sell vapes for One Pound. 


Cheeky Girls:
Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum)
Four weeks at #2 – 2002

 

Singing shows aren’t just there to find the best talent. For some the audition process  with their series of bewildered hopefuls, lack of self-awareness and plain terrible singers out for even 15 seconds of fame is where the entertainment lies.  

The Cheeky Girls are identical twins; Gabriela and Monica. Along with their mother/manager/songwriter; Margit, they moved from Romania to UK in 2002. They auditioned for X-Factor precursor; Popstars: The Rivals, with a prototype Cheeky Song. 

Despite not getting past the auditions and not being the most accomplished singers (to be fair they were singing in a second language) they were the unlikely other breakout act, along with winners: Girl Aloud.  

To say its simplistic would be an understatement. Never mind a narrative: feel the repetition. 

Sledgehammering home the theme it features the word Cheeky 52 times. With ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ coming up 20 times each. 

You might think that doesn’t leave room for anything else but they do make a reach for profundity, or is it problematic, by requesting that the listener:

“Come and smile, don’t be shy,
Touch my bum, this is life”

When you consider that their mother co-wrote this, the phrase you may be reaching for is “Ewwwww”. 

Maybe it was their trademark hotpants that accentuated their ‘cheeks’ but these were no one hit wonders. There were another three top 10 hits in 2003 and a final top 40 sign off in 2004. 

For added unlikeliness, Gabriela became engaged to Liberal Democrat MP; Lembit Opik, 18 years her senior.

Like their career that relationship generated plenty of column inches but wasn’t built to last. Gabriela broke off the relationship a few months later. 


The K**ts
Boris Johnson Is A F**King C**t 
#5 – 2020

 

It won’t be a surprise to you that this is really not safe for work. While Ladbaby were stealing all the headlines with their series of Sausage Roll puns another act was using the same one week and done targeting of the Christmas charts. Crashing into the top 10 and disappearing the week after. 

This act had a message, a very blunt one and not one that allowed for any radio play. Or even to be mentioned on the chart countdown. 

You can full in the blanks for yourself in the name. Their first effort came in at a lean 56 seconds but it packed in a lot of profanity, around one expletive per second.  If you think that doesn’t leave time for much else lyrically, you’d be right. Keeping on message, like all the worst politicians. 

It’s a commendable assertion of British values and the way the chart works that such frank expressions of distaste for the political status quo can invade the top 10. 

They’ve managed another three top 10s and a top 20 hit attacking the government and monarchy. Those subsequent chart entries have expanded their musical horizons and way with words. The profanity remains but with more exposition.

They might not change the world or be as eloquent as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger or other classic protest singers – but they pack a punch and raise a smile.  

Next time: It’s back to the 90s and another selection of the bad, the terrible and the ‘what the heck was that?’

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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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DJ Professor Dan
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April 24, 2024 3:57 am

I shall dig out this list next time I find myself caught in a “British music is better than American music” debate.

Zeusaphone
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April 24, 2024 11:46 am

The US let this chart, so they haven’t got much room to talk

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

Phylum of Alexandria
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April 24, 2024 1:03 pm
Reply to  Zeusaphone

I forgot about that classic.

Last edited 22 days ago by Phylum of Alexandria
Phylum of Alexandria
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April 24, 2024 6:36 am

A whole nation of people with my terrible sense of humor? Surely that can’t be a good thing.

And yet it feels so right…

Phylum of Alexandria
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April 24, 2024 7:37 am

I was hoping for a more obnoxious gabber remix of “Duck Toy” but alas, I can’t find one on YouTube. New submissions welcome.

I did find this progressive trance one, which is actually kind of nice:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRFgcMUP5KE

As for RSPB, Let Napoleonofbirds Sing…le out every nuance of this track for us.

Virgindog
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April 24, 2024 9:57 am

Agreed, I think I like “Duck Toy” the best out of all of these, though “Cheeky Song” is enjoyably stupid, too, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Fun article, JJ!

Phylum of Alexandria
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April 24, 2024 10:02 am
Reply to  Virgindog

Of course, the Best of the Best for me remains this gem from the first installment:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MqMZ6XqMfc

cstolliver
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April 24, 2024 4:51 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

The music to the “Cheeky Song” sounds really familiar… It kinda resembles “Gangnam Style” but that came out much later. I can’t quite … hmm, I was going to say “put my finger on it,” but that doesn’t sound right. 🙂

Virgindog
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April 24, 2024 9:55 am

The YouTube link for the Boris Johnson song isn’t available in the US, but this one is. If you’re inclined to listen to it, that is, but I’ll say this much, it’s exactly what you’d expect.

https://youtu.be/uGwCykQwgTU

cstolliver
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April 24, 2024 4:45 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Wow. That makes Da, Da, Da sound like a masterpiece.

lovethisconcept
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April 24, 2024 2:14 pm

Oh my. I did quite enjoy the birds singing, and the two minutes of silence felt appropriate. What can you say when there’s nothing adequate to say?

cappiethedog
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April 24, 2024 7:59 pm

That list of birds mock me.

I regret not buying the Utopia reissue with the fourteen bird whistles. The original price seemed kind of steep. In retrospect, all I had to was skip a couple of meals. Or be like Vladi Divac and eat two Taco Bell bean burritos every night for a week.

Now it’s selling in the $2K range.

Now I’d have to sell the Honda Civic.

I did, however, buy the Bruce Springsteen in the multiverse poster.

Both items were featured as article subjects on the mothership.

Aaron3000
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May 1, 2024 6:02 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

Sadly, there was no picture of a Great Tit on the bird poster. I’d like to see one of those.

Last edited 14 days ago by Aaron3000
stobgopper
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April 25, 2024 2:12 pm

What a bonanza! All these make ‘Disco Duck’ sound like Beethoven’s Ninth. Well, not really. Bad taste and horrible ideas truly are universal. And I say this as a Rick Dees stan.

Ozmoe
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April 25, 2024 8:28 pm

I have to say, I can see the appeal of Two-Minute Silence and Millennium Chimes as a radio programmer, although I doubt I’d purchase them. Thanks for including these, I never knew about them until now!

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