The KLF’s The Manual famously details the steps required to have a number one hit – but with a caveat: the method outlined will only work once every several years. The dark – though somewhat obvious – marketing arts behind “Grandad” are similarly timebound. If you make a record about how great a relative is, runs the logic, and give it a very obvious name, and release it around Christmas time, then it will be bought as a present for said relative by huge swathes of children. It worked in 1970, it worked in 1980, and I’m sure there are plenty of horrible examples that didn’t get to No.1 (Was there ever an “Aunts are the best” hit, I wonder).
It only works every so often, though, because this sorry affair leaves everyone (except the record label) a loser. Middle-aged actor Clive Dunn firmly sets the seal on his typecasting of ‘doddery old boy’ – fully 14 years later he was still peddling Grandad in a (pretty wretched) kids’ comedy programme. The children who bought it waste their present money on something the recipients won’t like. The Grandads themselves have to listen to a record which paints them as suet-minded idiots lost in a perpetual nostalgic twilight, scared of cars and unable to cope with “telephones and talking things”. Even the pretty melody is spoiled by the ham-fisted introduction of a children’s choir, though this melody – and the fact that the songwriters blessedly step back from saying the old days were better – stops the record being entirely unbearable.