Monday, 24 May 2010

The Timelords 'Doctorin' The Tardis'

Chart Peak: 1 (1 week)


Glasgow, J.A.M.M., Dagenham, Hayes (Middx), The BBC Stereophonic Workshop,{sic} Banbury, Enfield... Put 'em all together & you get "Doctor in'{sic} the Tardis"... Materialised at No. 22 on 29/5/88, had swept to No.1 by 12/6/88...
Materialised... see what they've done there?
This was a record that I had a certain fascination with when I was ten. Like many boys of my age I loved Dr Who even when I didn't understand it (and some vestige of that interest is presumably why I spent two hours reading Wikipedia articles about old episodes last night instead of writing this post) and I was rather keen on the idea of a car making a record. In fact, I remember reading the back cover of I think the 12" single in WH Smith, although it doesn't seem to have occured to me at the time to buy it, or any other record for that matter. I think I've made up for it since...

Perhaps I should clarify for younger or non-British readers what this actually is: the first mainstream (if pseudonymous) hit for the KLF and arguably the first mash-up Number One, over a decade before anybody called them that. As that sleevenote suggests, it combines the classic sci-fi theme with the chanted refrain from Gary Glitter's 'Rock And Roll Part II' [which is presumably one reason you don't hear it much nowadays], another glam riff which I didn't recognise at the time but now know as 'Blockbuster' by The Sweet, the "You Wot!" chant popularised by Steve Walsh (who died while the single was on the chart) and other British culture references. Allegedly, they'd started out with the intention of making a serious club record based on the Who theme, but found the time signature was unsuitable, although Orbital later had a go. Either way, they ended up heading right for the lowest common denominator, producing something probably best appreciated by ten-year-olds; well, ten-year-olds at the time, anyway, I don't suppose people who were born in 2000 would get the joke.

It's obviously wrong to criticise this record for being inane or greedy when that was clearly the whole point, but like a lot of highbrow novelties, the requirement to be in on the joke (at least if you're an adult) leaves a slightly nasty taste behind, irrespective of what we now know about one of the people who has a writing credit. Compared to other prank singles by the KLF, it at least works as a novelty, but it's possibly more a source of nostalgia now: you can imagine the years of lawsuits and pages of extra credits this track would have to have now. And the video's quite funny too, though oddly it's a minute shorter than the actual record.

Available on: Doctorin' the Tardis

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