Nov 06

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD – “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”

FT + Popular62 comments • 13,767 views

#301, 19th June 1971

Dead birds scream as they fight for life

One of the great, endlessly rediscovered truths of pop is that there are rhythms so addictive they make content irrelevant. “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”, a song about an abandoned bird performed terrace-chant style by a choir of buzz-voiced irritants, does not quite achieve this, but its handclaps and glitter beat is propulsive enough for them to almost get away with it. Certainly the reputation of “Chirpy Chirpy” as an all time pop crime seems unfair – “it’s moronic”, “it’s repetitive”, cry the detractors*, and it’s not that they’re wrong exactly, but their objections miss the point: the problem with the song is that with a bit less twang on the voice, and a bit more thunder in the drums, it could have broken through annoying into awesome.

*I researched said detraction online and found one marvellous comment box claim that “CCCC” is a song about the Vietnam War! Another great truth of pop I think is that EVERY song recorded between 1967 and 1972 is on some level (usually that of Interweb maniacs) about the Vietnam War.




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  1. 51
    Mark G on 28 May 2010 #

    Not a little baby called Don, then?

  2. 52
    Dispela Pusi on 17 Dec 2010 #

    You didn’t mean 0.4 (instead of 4) by any chance?

    My nomination for the worst No 1 of the 1970s.

  3. 53
    Dave H on 17 May 2011 #

    Saw Middle of the Road when they toured in the 70s. They were really good .

  4. 54
    malmo58 on 30 Jan 2012 #

    #51 Mark – you are exactly right, it is ‘little baby Don’.

    Online transcriptions of the lyrics that say ‘little baby bird’ are simply wrong. Every version I’ve ever heard says ‘little baby Don’. The original version by Lally Stott, who wrote the song, can be heard on Youtube and he clearly sings ‘little baby Don’. Case closed.

    It’s clearly about a baby boy being orphaned or abandoned. Oh what jolly pop tunes we used to have.

  5. 55
    ottersteve on 15 Jun 2012 #

    just did some googling of “hit singles – worldwide”. I’ve viewed various sources (not just wikipedia!). and I was staggered to find that CCCC regularly appears in the TOP 50 biggest sellers of all time, having sold in excess of 5 million. Make of this what you will.

    Quite an achievement considering a vast number of “superior” singles never even made the top 500.

    This is in the days before downloads counting as sales of course.

  6. 57
    Lena on 28 Jun 2012 #

    Chirpy but not cheap: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/where-wild-things-are-hurricane-smith.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  7. 58
    Lena on 3 Jul 2012 #

    Bubblegum vs. The Man: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/sugar-rush-sweet-co-co.html Merci for reading, everyone!

  8. 59
    klinzyk on 6 Jul 2015 #

    My interpretation is this, since the song refers to the mother, and the father (mama, papa)- the mother was killed by the father, late that fateful night, because he could not stand hearing the mama sing one more verse of chirpy chirpy cheep cheep. He took her outside where he buried her, and then he left, never to be found again.

  9. 60
    Snif on 7 Jul 2015 #

    Very good Klinzyk, we’re about two molecules away from Peter Cook’s analysis of Bo Dudley’s “Mama’s Got A Brand New Bag” :-)

  10. 61
    cryptopian on 4 Aug 2016 #

    Not quite as dreadful as I remember it being. I can deal with the repetitive, odd lyrics, but it’s the execution that sinks this one. There’s something slightly unearthly about the lead’s singing voice and I hate the way the backing singers sound like they’re straining for the final “chirp.”

    Possibly the prejudice comes from singing this as part of a junior concert, along with a load of other awful 60s (ish) music like Cinderella Rockerfella and Delaware. There were pom-poms, it was awful.

  11. 62
    Matthew Marcus on 9 Aug 2017 #

    Rediscovering this due to having asked on my Facebook for songs whose titles are other bands (and which are actually about those bands, not just coincidences) and being given Denim’s Middle of the Road.

    I actually think this is a brilliant song – 4/10? Come on Tom! Sure it’s lyrically repetitive, but it’s so sad amidst all the catchiness, it’s all about losing your parents. If pop gets more amazingly, punch-to-the-gut-and-pleasure-centres-at-the-same-time bittersweet than this I don’t know about it. I’m with Lawrence from Denim on this one.

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