My feeling – hard to pin down – is that this record is something new under the chart sun: the birth of a different kind of novelty hit. The “novelty records” that have featured on Popular before now have been so mostly because they’re comedy songs or because they’re hits appealing to the well-established music tastes of people who don’t usually buy singles. “Ernie” might be an example of the first, “Amazing Grace” the second.
“Long Haired Lover” is something else entirely. It’s a bad record, and what’s more it’s a deliberately bad record: a record whose badness has been specifically calibrated to appeal to people who find the idea of a small child making a record endearing, but only if said child makes something this toothily, winsomely, perkily, grotesquely, exploitatively bad. To be fair there is also a market for spookily competent children as well as angelically rubbish ones – recent show Britain’s Got Talent had one of each in its final as far as I could see, though both were beaten by an opera singer. A child performer as bouncily horrible as Little Jimmy, though, manages to shame even this ignoble variety tradition, as well as being a poisonous force in pop. Poisonous because this stuff sold and taught promoters that you didn’t even need the veneer of songcraft or production quality of a “Grandad” to make a smash. Five weeks, for mercy’s sakes – and only the first of them at Xmas, so that’s almost a MONTH of Little Jimmy souring the already bleak midwinter.
(Of course, “Mouldy Old Dough” can also be taken (wrongly) as a deliberately bad novelty hit, designed to appeal to people who thought it was great that an old granny with a piano could get into the charts, a set of people which plainly includes me. So it’s not that I find the appeal of Little Jimmy inexplicable – just intolerable.)