Friday 8 August 2014

Week 1 - The Grambler on novelty songs

Stewart was an amazing person -  A wonderful husband, a fantastic brother, a loving son and an adored uncle.  He was also a brilliant friend and colleague and will be missed by so many people. His family are determined that his death will never be in vain and are doing their part to beat bowel cancer for good.  We are fundraising for the Bobby Moore Fund which is part of Cancer Research UK and specialises in research into bowel cancer.  If you wish to donate to the fund, you can via .


If you haven’t already done so, please read the article which appeared in the Daily Record and learn from Stewart’s story that you must never be complacent.  It makes grim reading for us, his family, even though we were beside him throughout his ordeal, or battle; call it what you will.


His wish was that The Grambler should continue after his death and I have been happy to oblige.  Welcome to The Grambler, the most ill-informed blog you are ever likely to see. Read on and enjoy…


I was listening to the wireless last Sunday - Tom Robinson on BBC 6Music, in case you are interested - and he was playing the listeners' requests for 'unusual' records.  The programme ended with the Thin White Duke doing his best Anthony Newley impression on The Laughing Gnome.  If you haven't heard it, lucky you.  Ha ha ha, hee hee hee, I'm the laughing gnome and you can't catch me.  Ye gods and little fishes!
Anyway, while listening to this awful song a thought occurred to me - Whatever happened to novelty records?  There used to be novelty records aplenty.  In the seventies we had the Wurzels, the Wombles, Benny Hill, Black Lace etc.  Further back in the sixties there were the likes of the Barron Knights, R*** H*****, Ronnie Hilton and others.  But the golden era for novelty records had to be the fifties.  There always seemed to be some amusing (you reckon?) novelty songs on the go.  Charlie Drake had a string of hits with such titles as Please Mister Custer and My Boomerang Won't Come Back.  Danny Kaye was the king of novelty songs in the 50s with such 'classics' as Little White Duck, The Ugly Duckling, The King is in the Altogether now, Mommy, gimme a drink of water, I'm Five and, of course, Tubby the Tuba. 
Britain also boasted it's own novelty song specialist in the 1950s - Max Bygraves gave us songs like Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellen Bogen By The Sea. I wish he hadn't bothered. Other 'hits' included When You Come To The End Of A Lollipop, What Noise Annoys An Oyster and You're a Pink Toothbrush. Classics one and all (he said without a hint of sarcasm). 
In those days everyone wanted in on the act.  Even Tommy Steele, at one time considered to be
Britain's answer to Elvis Presley [If he was the answer, what the hell was the question? - Ed.], released a song from the film Tommy the Toreador called Little White Bull.  I was but a nipper when that came out and it had to be explained to me what he was singing, because Tommy (from Bermondsey in sarf Landon, jast noof uh de woo'a) had an impenetrable London accent.  To me he was singing 'Wance apon a toym there was a li'ul waht boo.'  I'm sure Dick Van Dyke used Tommy's accent as his template when researching his role in Murry Pappuns.
All the popular comedians of the day had a go.  Frankie Howerd was to my very young ears hilarious with his take on Bing Crosby's own novelty song Three Little Fishes.  I have tried listening to it more recently and have realised that I was mistaken. Tommy Cooper gave us Don't Jump Off The Roof, Dad and Terry Scott had a modicum of success with My Brother.  Towards the end of the 50s Bernard Cribbins had a couple of hits with Right Said Fred and Hole In The Ground; both reaching the top ten.  Less successful was his Gossip Calypso which peaked at number 25.
Britain's most successful chart act of the time, Lonnie Donegan turned to the genre with Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (on the bedpost overnight) in 1959 and My Old Man's A Dustman in 1960.
Yes, you say, all very well giving us this history lesson, but what point are you making?
Well I did begin by asking what happened to novelty records.  Perhaps I should be asking - What is a novelty record?  What is added or removed to make a song a novelty?
Humour seems to be the first factor.  A song with an amusing storyline a la Ernie (the fastest milkman in the west).  Failing a good story, a play on words can be used; anything by the popular duo
Flanders and Swann might fit into this category - Have Some Madeira M'Dear, I'm A Gnu etc.  Then there are those songs which rely on a silly voice; the already mentioned Three Little Fishes by Frankie Howerd is a perfect example. Silly words can also be used - See Gilly Gilly blah blah blah.  Combine silly voices and silly words and you have the recipe for every song the Goons ever did.
Innuendo (no, not the Queen song) is often used to good effect in a novelty record in a way that couldn't happen otherwise.  Remember My Ding-a-ling from Chuck Berry?  It was basically filthy, but there wasn't any allusion to anything rude. It all depended on the listener's interpretation.  It annoyed the hell out of Mary Whitehouse, so it couldn't have been that bad.  Meri Wilson had a hit with Telephone Man which was of the same ilk; the double meaning was obvious but nothing lewd was ever said.
Double entendre is nothing new in songs, most of George Formby's songs were filthy for the time.  The most famous perpetrator of naughty songs came even earlier; the great Marie Lloyd got into trouble with the lord chamberlain (who could censor anything he thought to be licentious) on many occasions. She was famously censured for a song having the line 'she sits among the cabbages and peas' and was ordered to alter the words.  This she did and changed the offending line to 'she sits among the cabbages and leeks'.  Apparently, that was deemed to be acceptable!
Parody is often used as another form of novelty song. Weird Al Wankovic has made a career out of parodying popular songs. I'm sorry to say that he is a guy who just doesn't even raise a smile from me.  I think I take issue with his calling himself weird; it is as if he is saying, 'Look at me I'm funny'.  Well, you're not. Neither weird nor funny, mate!  To me, his wordplay is no cleverer than me sticking the word Grambler into a song; it doesn't make it in the least bit amusing (I know, but that won't stop me persevering with it.). The Barron Knights used parody to good effect in the 60s and the Wurzels were pretty successful with it in the 70s. 
Another idea is to take a famous piece of music and put amusing words to it.  Not so very different from parody.  One example that I still think is one of the best of that ilk is Alan Sherman's Hello Mother, Hello Father (a letter from camp). 50 years on, it can still amuse. 
Billy Connolly did some excellent parodies early on in his career.  His brilliant version of Nobody's Child is perhaps only amusing if you know what a typical
Glasgow party singer (this is pre karaoke) sounds like.  He barely alters the words; he doesn't need to; it's all about his rendition.
However, there are songs that are termed 'novelty' which don't really follow any guidelines.  Some songs are different from anything around at a given time, but should they be classified as novelty?  I've already mentioned R*** H*****; he had a huge hit with Two Little ****.  It was called a novelty song, but really it was just an old-fashioned song which didn't fit in with the other styles of the day.  Ditto Granddad by Clive Dunn. It was another old-fashioned song, but again it got the label 'novelty'.  Sometimes it just takes a 'singer' recording a song that is not in their usual style for the word to be used.  Remember Paul McCartney and the frog chorus singing We All Stand Together?  Best thing he did post-Beatles. Okay; maybe not.  In the nineties, Mike Flowers Pops took the Oasis song Wonderwall, slowed it down and gave it a 'lounge' style. It was given the label 'novelty', but had it been done 25 years earlier by someone like Andy Williams or Perry Como, it would have been accepted as the norm.
Generally, novelty records do not age well.  Some, we listen to now and wonder what on earth were people thinking to buy such dreadful examples of humour/music.  Others stand up well.  Although I never really liked Benny Hill's brand of comedy, I have a grudging admiration for Ernie.  It covers a number of the areas I have cited - it had a story, the joke being that a milkman and a baker should have a wild West type shoot out using their produce as weapons.  It used clever wordplay with alliteration to the fore such as 'Two ton Ted from Teddington' or 'she lived all alone in lily lane at number twenty two'. It had the occasional double meaning - 'he didn't half kick his horse'. Maybe you don't agree, but, in my view, it is one of very few novelty songs that stand the test of time.
That doesn't mean I think much of novelty songs in general... however, there is one singer/songwriter, sadly no longer with us, who I believe was one of the greatest wordsmiths there ever was. He wrote the occasional serious song, but his output was mainly of the daft/novelty song. He is one of those singers who you either love or hate - a real Marmite type of guy.  He is, or was, Jake Thackray.  His songs covered birth, marriage and death, but his favourite topic was an earthy obsession with good old sex. Nothing wrong with that, says I.  He is cited by Morrissey as one of his greatest influences.  Put it this way, anyone who can begin a song with the line 'I love a good bum on a woman, it makes my day' deserves to be honoured as one of the English language's greatest writers.


And now…FOOTY!

The new footy season is about to start.  Huzzah!  Hence the title and reversion to week one.  Forget some arbitrary date in the middle of winter being the start of a new year, this is the only reason for calling it a new year.  So happy new Gramble year to you all!

No more gee gee bets…well, maybe a few (not this week, though).  And no trying to make the dull competition that was the World Cup interesting.  Honestly, it really was one of the cagiest competitions ever.  Let’s face it, apart from the occasional cracker, it was pretty dull fayre.

No, this is the real thing; club football when we can all cheer on the wee teams that hump the big teams such as Man U/Man City /Chelsea /the Arse /Selik.  Marvellous stuff.

Of course there have been big changes since last season; teams have been promoted, others relegated, new managers in, managers out, players in, players out, shake it all about.  It would be impossible to list all the changes here.  Well, it wouldn’t but, you know what, I can’t really be bothered.  So, we will just have a look at a few of the more intriguing ones.  Well, the ones that intrigued me.

From my own point of view, I would like to wish Andrew Robertson all the best in his new club, Hull City.  His career so far seems more akin to Roy of the Rovers than real life.  A little over a year ago he was playing for Queen’s Park as an amateur before heading for Scottish Premier side Dundee United last season and immediately making an impact.  He got his first (of many, I am sure) cap for Scotland and has now been transferred for a £3 million fee.  Fairytale stuff?  Not really.  Andrew was snapped up by Selik when he was just a kid.  He worked hard and perhaps expected to one day make it in the first team.  It didn’t happen and he was ‘let go’.  It was then that he headed for Queen’s Park and the rest…as they say… is history.  Had he stayed with Selik, he may still be trying to get into the first team, so it looks like leaving them was the best move he ever made.

Why Hull, you may ask.  It’s obvious to me.  They are unique, are they not?  See Week 12 Results - Why Hull City are unique .

Sticking with events in Scotland, I am at a loss to understand the shenanigans at Hibs (Hoibees! Hoibees!).  Manager, Terry Butcher got the chop in June having only taken over the previous November.  Alan Stubbs, formerly a coach at Everton, was brought in to replace Tel.  Stubbs is the 10th manager to accept the poisoned chalice since 2001.  Ten managers in 13 years!  No wonder the team can’t show any consistency.  You could argue that they were pretty consistent last year; losing most of the time.

Another Scottish club, St. Mirren, said goodbye to their manager; Danny Lennon paid the price for a slump in form by getting the heave ho in May.  St Mirren replaced him with his assistant…how can I put this without seeming to be ageist?...a more ‘experienced’ coach, Tommy Craig aged (whisper it) 63.  Craig seems to have been coaching forever; he has been to various clubs in a career of getting on for 30 years.  He has always tended to be assistant rather than manager, though.  It will be interesting to see if there is any change to St Mirren’s style of play; particularly in the first game of the season when they visit Fir Park, home of the Mighty ‘Well.  Did I ever mention that I am a Motherwell supporter?

Most people are agreed that the best football in the coming season will be in the Scottish Championship – that’s division 2 in old money – which has three of Scotland’s bigger teams in it this year; Rangers being promoted from Division 1 (3!!!) and Hibs and Hearts being relegated from the SPL (division 1!).  Rangers have had a pretty easy couple of years as they worked their way back from the lower divisions.  I reckon they will be promoted next year, but it might not be such an easy ride for them.

I see Selik have managed to get back into the Champions League thanks to Legia Warsaw getting kicked out of the competition for fielding a non-eligible player.  Should we congratulate Selik on their good fortune?  Should we wish them well in the next round?  Maybe, we should just echo the thoughts of every non-Selik fan…Lucky fn b******s!

How did last week’s bet fare [Stop advertising! – Ed.]?  We won.  Yay!  But, once again, not enough to cover the stake money.  Boo!  We won one quid and seven pees to be precise.  This grambling seems to be not about winning money, but losing money slowly.  Never mind.  Let’s crack on with our first gramble of the new season.  What has The Grambler picked for us?  He/she/it randomly selected from 49 senior games being played on Saturday the 9th of August at 3pm.  No Premiershit games yet; they always get a long lie in after their busy summer.  So The Grambler has chosen and here are the predictions…


Game - Result - Odds


Derby County vs Rotherham – Prediction Home win – 4/7

Well, would you believe it?  First prediction of the 2014-15 season and it is the town I was born in.  Derby.  That spelling doesn’t do justice to the way it is pronounced.  The accent is quite nasal-sounding, so it comes out as ‘Dnaaarby’.  It’s a place where you can get an extension on yer arse.

Any road up, to The Grambler’s prediction.  We head to Pride Park and he/she/it has predicted that the Rams, the home team who narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premiership, will take all three points in this encounter with newly promoted Rotherham.  Hmm.  Never too sure about newly promoted teams; they tend to start the season with all guns blazing before settling down to some place in the lower half of the division.  If Rotherham don’t actually win this, I can envisage them getting at least a point.

Wigan Athletic vs Reading – Prediction Home win – 5/6

For our second match of the season, The Grambler takes us to the DW Stadium where the Latics play host to the Royals.  Again, The Grambler has predicted that this game will go the way of the home side.  The teams have met four times in the past two seasons and Wigan have taken maximum points from all four games.  If they keep up the same form, then The Grambler should have called this one right.

Here’s a ‘did you know’ about Reading.  Did you know that prior to acquiring the nickname of the Royals, they were known as the Biscuitman due to the town’s association with biscuit manufacturer Huntley & Palmer?  You didn’t?  Well, you do now.

Sheffield United vs Bristol City – Prediction Home win – Evens

Game number three and we head east to Bramall Lane where the Blades play host to the team that gave us the rhyming slang term for breasts, the Robins [Robins?  Breasts?  I don't get it. - Ed.].  The Grambler reckons that Nigel Clough’s United will take all the points in this one.  The two sides have only met twice in recent times and the Blades won on both occasions.  As with his/her/its last prediction, The Grambler looks to have called this one right.

Oxford United vs Burton Albion – Prediction Away win – 15/8

For our fourth game we head south to the Kassam Stadium in Oxford where the Us play host to the Brewers.  The Grambler has predicted that Albion will take all the points in this encounter.  Hmm.  Given that they finished last season only two places higher than United, I am thinking that this prediction might be a little bit…wrong.  Over the past four seasons, the sides have met nine times; Burton have won three, Oxford two and four games drawn.  I reckon a draw is the most likely outcome from this game with two such closely-matched sides.

Cowdenbeath vs Falkirk – Prediction Away win – 4/5

And finally, Cyril?  And finally Esther, we head north to Central Park in Cowdenbeath where the Blue Brazil play host to the Bairns.  The Grambler reckons this will be an away win for Falkirk.  Falkirk narrowly missed promotion last season, finishing third.  Cowdenbeath, on the other hand, narrowly missed the drop, finishing ninth out of ten.  Based on that, I would have to agree with The Grambler on this one.

I was hoping to be able to give a ‘did you know’ about Cowdenbeath.  Like, how they got the lovely nickname of the Blue Brazil.  Well, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer.  The blue part is easy; they play in blue shirts.  Brazil?  It may just be down to Scottish football supporters’ wonderful sense of irony.  Cowdenbeath are a team that have never exactly set the heather on fire.  In other words, they aren’t very good.  Isn’t it just like football fans to compare a pretty naff team to one of the greatest teams in the world?


So, these are the predictions; the bet (ten 20 pee doubles and one 20 pee accumulator) has been placed.  If the predictions are all correct, how much will the Kicking Cancer’s Backside Fund be giving the Bobby Moore Fund for research into a cure for bowel cancer?


Not a bad amount, it has to be said [Why does it have to be said? – Ed.].  But can you really see it happening?  We went through the whole of last season and the bet never came off.  Indeed, it wasn’t until we moved onto gee gees that we started to show some profit.  I will happily find and consume my most edible hat, if it does win.  However, I reckon my headgear is pretty safe, don’t you.


And now…Teaser time.

Last week I asked you which team, currently in the English senior leagues, went belly up in the 1960s and was reformed 6 years later?  Only the club with the best name ever; Accrington Stanley.  Altogether now… Everybody Stanley.....

What about a teaser for this week?  Which Premiership player (past or present) has the longest surname?  Easy peasy lemon squeezy, it’s… answer next week.

I mentioned Jake Thackray earlier.  I think you might enjoy seeing and hearing the master at work.  I give you On again on again.

Did you enjoy that?

Happy grambling.

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