Nov 06

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD – “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”

FT + Popular68 comments • 19,335 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. 1

    i always loved that bandname — it is so “HAHA IN YOUR FACE HATAz!”

    i wonder what rainin’ and painin’ is like?

  2. 2
    Tom on 21 Nov 2006 #

    Did it mean then what it does now?

  3. 3

    i don’t know if it was an actual technical term for a niche market in the liesure industry, but it was certainly a phrase meaning “undemandingly mainstream”

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    Marcello Carlin on 21 Nov 2006 #

    They were Scottish and therefore had eight sodding number ones in Scotland, including “Rainin’ And Painin'” which was painful.

    “CCCC” allegedly written by Ken Stott’s aunt, btw.

  5. 5

    he is the hub of all human culture

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    intothefireuk on 21 Nov 2006 #

    Well yes extremely trite and undemanding if you’re an adult but great fun for kids. My two mini terrorists love this and the last number one – so they do function on at least one level, in fact thanks to this blog they have a compilation of bubblegum hits from this period that they love to bits.

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    bramble on 21 Nov 2006 #

    It was written and originally recorded by Harold (Lally) Stott, who died in the late seventies on a Harley Davidson allegedly bought with the royalties of CCCC. There was a slightly more palatable version by Mac and Katie Kissoon.

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    Tommy Mack on 21 Nov 2006 #

    Did Kenickie cover this for some sort of Lamacq-sponsored charity affair? Or is that just an indie-boy wet dream?

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    bramble on 21 Nov 2006 #

    I dont think Kenickie covered it. There was a version by Lush at some point

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    Matthew K on 22 Nov 2006 #

    My four year old LOVES the Lush version. Sings it over and over and over and over and over. Like the original wasn’t repetitive enough.

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    Tim on 22 Nov 2006 #

    This is the first #1 since “Back Home” that I can remember hearing adapted into a football chant, which seems strange.

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    Marcello Carlin on 22 Nov 2006 #

    Thanks for clearing up the Stott mystery.

    Mention must of course also be made of Denim’s song “Middle Of The Road” at the end of which Lawrence paraphrases CCCC, and I think he captures the sadness at the essence of this song very well.

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    Tom on 22 Nov 2006 #

    Even though I stand by my 4 I am gladdened by the poll support for this track.

    The quoting in the Denim track I always hear as defiantly celebratory, like the rest of the song really.

    Concealed in the blog entry (well, in the photo caption) is another content parallel, of course.

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    Marcello Carlin on 22 Nov 2006 #

    There is also a noticeable lyrical overlap (in the chorus) with another number one from a decade later.

    Don’t quite see the Vietnam subtext in “Dick-A-Dum-Dum,” mind.

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    it is a euphemism for fragging!

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    Marcello Carlin on 22 Nov 2006 #

    What the bleep is “fragging”?

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    Marcello Carlin on 22 Nov 2006 #

    Oh right, that’s what it means. Obviously punishment for the impetuous request: “Lend me a fiver, I’ll bring you back a spare one.”

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    Erithian on 22 Nov 2006 #

    Can someone confirm the Harold Stott/Harley story?

    Must say I always thought this was awful, and the band did have smaller hits with better songs (“Soley Soley”, “Tweedledee Tweedledum” – well, relatively better). Mainly, though, this brings to mind the image of TOTP dancers doing that archetypal early 70s dance best described as “trying to break out of an invisible bubble” – the one that all the dolly birds were doing in that club George Best strode into to fill the stack of champagne glasses in the clip included in every obituary. (a year ago this weekend. R.I.P.)

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    Erithian on 24 Nov 2006 #

    Number 2 Watch: a motley collection of songs stalled at 2 while Middle of the Road were at the top. “I Did What I Did For Maria”, Tony Christie’s biggest hit pre-Peter Kay; “Don’t Let It Die” by Hurricane Smith (former Pink Floyd sound engineer, bizarrely enough) and “Co-Co”, the first of the Sweet’s five Number 2s.

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    Dadaismus on 24 Nov 2006 #

    Hurricane Smith, now yer talkin’!

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    Marcello Carlin on 24 Nov 2006 #

    And future Teardrop Explodes trumpeter to boot!

    “Oh Babe What Would You Say” was bizarrely a US number one in ’72 (number four here).

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    Doctor Casino on 24 Nov 2006 #

    Huh. This pretty harmless as these things go. Catchy enough. Keep hearing “The Locomotion” in the verses. I do have to admit that each one of these minor bubblegum hits does make me appreciate Tom’s take on “Sugar, Sugar” more – the Archies still bug me, but I’m starting to yearn for that layering-up of elements and hooks. Here we just get them in steady alternation without any variation in arrangement or timbre. Good, could be better.

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    mike on 26 Nov 2006 #

    As this was the single which got me properly into “following the charts”, it will always hold a special place in my heart (“Knock Three Times” occupying the John The Baptist slot). Best bits: Sally Carr’s interjections between each repetition of the chorus during the outro. (“Let’s go now!” “All together now!” “One more time now!” “LemmehearyouallSINGINnow!”… oh OK, maybe you had to be very young.) Lally Stott (yes, male) had a solo album out later in 1971, as I recall from a half-remembered full-page review in Target

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    Marcello Carlin on 27 Nov 2006 #

    Best bit is Ken Andrews’ deadpan cymbal on every fourth beat of the chorus!

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    david b on 12 Dec 2006 #

    Re Denim’s quoting of CCCC, P J Harvey doing the same even more wrackingly at the end of the Robert Wyatt-esque “Nina in Ecstacy”

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    koganbot on 9 Feb 2007 #

    OK, first heard this song not in this version but in a mix-and-match dance remix on a cheap cassette out of Singapore. Vastly better; hearing it, you’d realize what a fundamentally great song it is. Probably wasn’t actually recorded/mixed in Singapore but in Italy or Germany, which is where the East Beat Singapore pirates pulled a lot of their material; in fact, I think the draggy old Middle Of The Road’s version was also recorded in Italy. Anyway, Tom, just want you to know there’s an amazing version out there, unfortunately I don’t know whom by. This is terrible compared to that one – no wonder Mama’s gone. She’s bored. But still, this is such a great tune it’s at least a 7 in any version not sung by barking dogs. Also, the disparity between word and melody is truly bizarre.

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    BabyBoomer1960 on 9 Feb 2007 #

    This song was all over the AM airwaves when I was a child, right about the time when the Viet Nam conflict had reach it’s boiling point and divided America into two camps. That bit said, there’s been so many covers recorded and quite a few in foreign languages, Mickie Krause’s German dance mix Riesse Die Hutte Ab to name in particular. As said above, a catchy little tune yet to appear in a TV commercial to sell soft drinks or personal computers.-Post Script: Harold (Lally) Stott did release a quirky B/W video to this song, it’s posted on YouTube and worth a peek. Yes, Middle Of The Road had their own version available on that site as well.

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    CarsmileSteve on 9 Feb 2007 #

    But still, this is such a great tune it’s at least a 7 in any version not sung by barking dogs.

    clearly the barking dogs version would be a 10?

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    johnnyf on 13 May 2007 #

    What are the thoughts of the Mac and Katie kissoon version>thatwas the hit in the US!

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    Alan Pennington on 16 Jan 2008 #

    In reply to “bramble” November 2006.
    I Knew Lally Stott having lived only a few miles away from him in St.Helens Merseyside, he came from Shore Lane Prescot between St.Helens & Liverpool. Lally went living in Italy and became a big pop star there and married the daughter of a high ranking official, possibly the head of the milatary forces,Lally had a massive hit with Chirpy in Italy but his was a much slower version. He then divorced and returned to England and lived with his mother in Prescot. He bought himself a Jaguar but on that fateful day he borrowed his mothers moped to quickly go on an errand to Prescot and was knocked off the moped and killed. The biography of Middle of the Road group going to Italy and recording the song sounds feasable considering the writer Lally was living there at the time. However, to my knowledge he never owned or rode a Harley Davidson, he was not really into motor bikes so I don’t think the story about him being killed on a Harley is correct, thinking about it,in those days you could ride a moped with “L” plates using a car licence, you only needed a motor bike one for anything over 250cc at that time.

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