Silly songs become a radio turn-off

Just as I was beginning to admire new Tory leader David Cameron as a gentleman of sound judgment, he revealed a surprising side to his character that I found rather worrying.

Just as I was beginning to admire new Tory leader David Cameron as a gentleman of sound judgment, he revealed a surprising side to his character that I found rather worrying.

It had nothing to do with tax, education, health or proving his green credentials by sledging around the North Pole with a pack of huskies. Or even his ill-advised TV appearance with Jonathan Ross, though that was hardly the most glorious moment for a potential premier.

The boy David's big mistake, in terms of credibility and charisma, was to reveal his liking for Benny Hill's hit single Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West). Oh dear. A political leader aiming to command respect in modern Britain and "connect" with millions of potential voters - young and old - should never associate himself with an awfully passé 1971 novelty record, particularly such an annoying one.

Mr Cameron chose Ernie as one of his Desert Island Discs, explaining that it was the only song he knew all the words to. Apparently he learnt the saucy lyrics at the age of five and can still trot them out as a party piece. Bless.


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I've always been intrigued by the appeal of novelty singles that capture the public's imagination. Why do we buy them? They become more tedious with every playing and the joke wears off faster than you can say "Two-Ton Ted from Teddington and he drove the baker's van".

Marooned on a desert island, I can imagine nothing worse than enduring Benny Hill's laboured double-entendres on a daily basis. By the time Ernie's ghostly gold-tops were rattling in their crate for the 426th time, I'd have concocted a potion of poisonous exotic berries and swallowed the lot.

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As if my life isn't stressful enough, Julie recently bought a thoroughly irritating Junior Choice CD with which to entertain young Gregory on long car journeys.

And, goodness me, journeys certainly seem long when I'm at the wheel being driven to distraction by this collection of 20 of the world's most mind-numbing children's songs.

According to the sleeve notes, they evoke happy memories of Tuesday teatimes spent listening to Uncle Mac and Auntie Vi on the wireless. Anyone admit to remembering them?

Tracks on the CD include Max Bygraves's curiously named Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellenbogen By the Sea, the Robin Hood TV theme by Dick James, Nellie the Elephant by Mandy Miller, and The Runaway Train by Vernon Dalhart.

I wasn't born until 1963, so my memories of such radio days are from the Ed Stewart period when cheery "Stewpot" enjoyed a huge UK following with his weekend Junior Choice show.

For some reason that I still struggle to understand, I always felt Stewpot's show was one big joke that I wasn't included in. What was so funny, for instance, about that cheeky "Allo Darling" jingle he used to keep playing?

Why did we need to spend every weekend listening to Rolf Harris's interminable Jake the Peg and the shrill screeching of I've Lost My Mummy?

Old Rolf has done a commendable job in recent years to help reduce cruelty to animals through his Animal Hospital TV work, but boy did he cause cruelty to human eardrums in the 1960s and 70s with those painful novelty ditties.

Did any EDP readers, I wonder, ever succeed in getting a request played on Stewpot's show? As a schoolboy of about 12, I decided to get in on the action and carefully crafted a letter to the BBC.

"Dear Stewpot, I really love your show," I wrote, disingenuously, in my best joined-up writing. "Please play Summertime City by Mike Batt for me and my family as we will be travelling to Dorset for our holiday and it would really make our day."

As you can imagine, we all listened carefully to Stewpot that morning and cursed every time the car radio crackled or temporarily lost reception. Eventually we parked in a layby so we could give Junior Choice our full attention.

So we listened, and listened. And guess what? Miserable old Stewpot never read out my request. What a meanie! He was too busy being a chirpy chappy, playing those silly jingles, twittering on and doing requests for all the "important" listeners.

Call it a typical Bullock over-reaction, but even now the sound of Puff the Magic Dragon or Morningtown Ride brings back painful memories of the day my junior choice was not featured on Junior Choice. Perhaps I should have requested that awful Ernie tune instead …

ianb@ianbcommunications.com

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