23
Oct 07

RAY STEVENS – “The Streak”

FT + Popular76 comments • 7,138 views

#350, 15th June 1974

Ray Stevens - The Streak“The Streak” isn’t awful as comedy records go, in fact musically it slips down very easily, a perky country number with a few good rhymes for “streak” as its highlight. But not only does Stevens succumb to the blight of the comedy song and shove a laugh track on his record, he also insists on using it for his least funny gag, the laboured hick voice he puts on for the streak-witnesser. Goodwill in shortish supply here.

But anyway, streaking. I was nine years old when Erica Roe streaked and…. actually, I don’t remember it at all. Sorry! But I do remember streaking being a “thing”, though somehow I assumed it was specifically British – there’s something a bit Donald McGill about it, especially as it seems to happen a lot at cricket matches. A little Wikipedia research reveals that not only was I completely wrong but that Ray Stevens was highly topical – Time Magazine had only brought the word to light the year before and by ’74 the craze was full-blown. Wikipedia also confirms that streaking is with us still though these days the streakers tend to have the names of insurance websites painted on their backs. Poor show – in the metaphorical sense.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Helen Highwater on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Í Júní 1974, þegar þetta (lag) komst á toppinn á Bresku listunum, var ég á leiðinni til Kanada fyrir sumarið . Ég heyrði ekki mikið af Breskri samtímatónlist það sumarið, og ég held ég hafi verið heppin/nn í þessu tilviki. Ég fékk ekki færi á að hlusta á það í önnur tuttugu ár. Það er slíkur hlutur sem er nýbreytni tónlist, en það er þetta ekki. Meiri smámunur en lag, hvað sem öðru líður. Hinu broslegu/fyndnu viðtöl eru veikar eftirhermur af þess konar hlut sem Dick Emery gerði í sjónvarpinu á þeim tíma. 2

    ;)

  2. 2
    Lena on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Most of Doctor Demento’s weekly top ten was better than this. Don’t remember it from the time & can only conclude this is what happened when Nixon was in power for too long.

    Can’t read the above, though I don’t know who Dick Emery is, I think I know who the author is…

  3. 3
    Mark G on 23 Oct 2007 #

    By hook or by crook, I get in before Marc JUST ONCE!!!

    These past few number ones were played for ages before they even made the charts, weren’t they?

  4. 4
    Mark G on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Oh, and one of those misheard lyrics: aint got nothin’ on but he’s peein’

    I wondered if that’s what they did in the strange USA!!!?

  5. 5
    Marcello Carlin on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Ah, Dick Emery, the erstwhile part-time Goon and later the Harry Enfield of his day with his gallery of wholly unfunny “characters,” the most famous of which was the lush lady who used to slap the bloke with her handbag and say “Ooh you are awful…but I like you!” received by the starved audience as though it were WC Fields’ golfing routine.

    He had two Top 40 hits; one with a “straight” ballad called “If You Love Her” in 1969 and the other inevitably entitled “Ooh You Are Awful” in 1973, written by Martin and Coulter, based around a refrain of “come on and do the conga” (unwise in Emery’s case since at the time of its release he was in St Mary’s Hospital recovering from the first of several heart attacks) and with a humour so impoverished it makes “The Streak” sound like Richard Pryor in comparison.

    As for Ray Stevens, I couldn’t abide “The Streak” at the time and still can’t – Benny Hill with added stetson. Ditto his peculiar veering between crass novelty (“Ahab The Arab,” “Bridget The Midget”) and Moral Majority echt-gospel (“Everything Is Beautiful,” “Turn Your Radio On”). Even on a basic level, his timing here is so lousy that even the slender resources of humour available are wasted and rapidly exhausted.

    I should mention here, of course, that the biggest selling album in Scotland during 1974, and possibly still Scotland’s all-time biggest selling album, was Solo Concert by Billy Connolly which I LOVED and which rather sadly I can recite from beginning to end, from “Hello pals…” to “…your patter’s ROTTEN, so it is!”

  6. 6
    Mark G on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Back to Stevens:

    His performance on TOTP classic:

    “Pardon me sir did you see what happened?”
    (puts on moustache, flat cap, glasses, takes 20 seconds of backing track to do this, turns to other camera”
    “Yeah, I did!”

    The last of the Comedy timing dies.

  7. 7
    Marcello Carlin on 23 Oct 2007 #

    *camera cuts away to audience of bemused teenagers wondering when the Rollers are coming on*

  8. 8
    Rosie on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Though we have a while to go yet before the Rollers do arrive.

  9. 9
    Marcello Carlin on 23 Oct 2007 #

    At number one, maybe, but they were the biggest selling singles act of 1974.

  10. 10
    Erithian on 23 Oct 2007 #

    My auntie loved Ray Stevens to the point of training her budgie to say his name.

    But yes, this has dated particularly badly, and was one of the worst TOTP appearances in memory. The greatest streaking-related contribution to culture of course remains John Arlott at Lord’s: “We have got a freaker … not very shapely as it is masculine, and I would think it has seen the last of its cricket for the day … he is being embraced by a blond policeman and this may well be his last public appearance – but what a splendid one!”

    I saw Dick Emery doing that conga song on TOTP. I was too young to go “WTF?” but no doubt would have otherwise. One or two performers no doubt got on the show through Beeb connections back then – I also remember seeing Bruce Forsyth doing a ballad called “Sandra” (something else I should be sectioned for remembering). Dick Emery was one of a clutch of performers who gathered at Graftons in Strutton Ground (around the corner from my office) in the late 40s where the soon-to-be Goons held court in the bar. Spike Milligan lodged upstairs and wrote scripts hoping to get his break with the BBC.

    Number 2 Watch – at 2 behind The Streak was Showaddywaddy’s “Hey Rock’n’Roll”. A nice piece of original R’n’R, and if this had been a Number 1 they might have carried on with original material instead of hitting the top with a cover and getting into a career-long rut of retreads (see also UB40).

  11. 11
    Mark G on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Well, they kept at the (mainly) original stuff for a fair while, until the “Trocadero” albums singles stiffed, they made “Under the moon of love” and never looked um, not back!

  12. 12
    Billy Smart on 23 Oct 2007 #

    This was one of the very few number one singles of the sixties and seventies that I had never knowingly heard before today… and, by God, Sir, I wish that it had remained so.

  13. 13
    Alan on 23 Oct 2007 #

    clicky enlarge – me playin a ray stevens reckid circa 1970/71 (bridget the midget?)

  14. 14
    Rosie on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Yebbut – what’s the Apple record?

  15. 15
    Mark G on 23 Oct 2007 #

    “Early 1970” amirite?

  16. 16
    mike on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Massively popular at school, this one – and I know this FOR A FACT because we were Learning How To Conduct Surveys at the time, and so handed out questionnaire forms to everyone in the Upper School, one of the questions being “what’s your favourite pop song?” or some such. By far the most popular answer was “The Streak”. Which fits, given that I can’t imagine anyone much past the age of puberty finding much comic gold here. But if you were of age where the mere thought of middle-aged matrons called Ethel copping a peek at naughty-naked-nudie willies and bum-bums was mirth-provoking enough to make “Having A Little Accident” a distinct possibility, then “The Streak” was most assuredly for you.

  17. 17
    Lena on 23 Oct 2007 #

    The US #1 at this time was “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” followed by Gordon Lightfoot with “Sundown.” (Before that, a grateful nation wept when “The Streak” was replaced by “Band on the Run.”)

  18. 18
    scrogghill on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Is this the first number one to feature a plastic fan hooter/whistle? I think it was 1979 before anyone else followed suit.

  19. 19
    intothefireuk on 23 Oct 2007 #

    Ah yes Ray Stevens, I have to admit I do actually own a copy of Ray Stevens Geatest Hits – why you ask ? Well apart from the fact that I bought it for 50p in Camden I do actually like his countrified version of ‘Misty’ which is expertly executed by the accompanying musicians and is a mighty fine tune. Owning the album also allowed me to dip into his extensive ‘comedy’ work of which I was already familiar with ‘Bridget’ & ‘Streak’. Bridget thanks to Junior Choice & Streak well, thanks to nothing. It’s not a particularly great record but fortunately comedy singles are usually only short-lived and mostly of their time. Talking of comedy records, in 1974 there would have only been one comedy record which obliterated all others Monty Python’s ‘Live At Drury Lane’. This particular LP was so popular at our school that almost everyone I knew could recite at least one sketch word for word. Anyhow back to streaking – I remember the streaking craze, I also remember thinking ‘why?’ and I don’t think I’ve ever worked that one out.

  20. 20
    mike on 23 Oct 2007 #

    At around the same time that Ray Stevens hit #1, my friend Nigel and I actually co-wrote an entire streaking comic; it was a sort of parody of a “Streakers’ World” special interest magazine.

    Glad to see a mention for RS’s version of “Misty”, which I’ve always liked.

    I was also another Python Live At Drury Lane word-for-worder; it was bought on the strength of the promotional Monty Python’s Tiny Black Round Thing flexi-disc that was given away with the NME.

    (“What a silly bunt” confused the hell out of me, though… so, there was some sort of word which began with a C and ended with an UNT, which made people howl with laughter? OK, but what did it MEAN?)

  21. 21
    Caledonianne on 24 Oct 2007 #

    That’s three in a row for ‘Misty’, but The Streak is dross. Makes ‘Ernie’ seem Cowardesque in its wit and sophistication, after all,

    ‘He said, “D’you want it pasteurized? ‘Cos pasteurized is best,”
    She says, “Ernie, I’ll be happy if it comes up to my chest.” ‘

    is worth a smile. Unlike all that ‘Ethel’ schtick.

    And I enjoyed Dick Emery (Mandy, Hettie, Hello Honky Tonks, Lampwick, Gaylord). Not exactly the (sainted) Two Ronnies, but it always seemed to me an okay way to put in a wintry Saturday night

    I find it difficult to exorcise Connolly the luvvie friend of Royalty, the ridiculous purple goatee in the Lotto ads, the twat who used Desert Island Discs as a platform to publicly humiliate a teacher he’d disliked, to reclaim the gallus patter-merchant from 30-odd years ago.

    But it was always mostly a boy thing, wasn’t it? Can’t remember ever seeing one of les girls around the convent with “Solo Concert” or “Get Right Intae Him” tucked under their arm. Our counterparts at Gerry Rafferty and John Byrne’s alma mater across the road did seem to have the album welded to their mean-and-moody, I’m-an- intellectual,me greatcoats!

    But he was brilliant in that bank robbery play “Down among the big boys”.

  22. 22
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Oct 2007 #

    Yes, well in 1974 the Windsor mansion, purple goatee, abandonment of inconvenient first wife etc. were yet to happen; good job we couldn’t see what was coming, eh? I agree Billy was pretty much a boy thing, as was my childhood idol Alex Harvey…but he was also great in Just Another Saturday which was broadcast under the Play For Today banner in late ’74.

    The NME with the free Python flexidisc was the first NME I ever bought. Not a bad start since that week’s features included CSM ripping Sgt Pepper to shreds; talk about going in at the deep end…

    Meanwhile, apropos “bunt”; back in 1956, Tom very nearly had to write about “I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas” with its couplet “I’ve tried walking sideways and walking to the front/But people just look at me and say what a publicity stunt”…

  23. 23
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Oct 2007 #

    Good God, I remember “Sandra” by Bruce Forsyth (and his performing it on TOTP) – circa ’78 I think; it was about a bored housewife washing the dishes in the sink when she accidentally breaks a glass, cuts her wrist and bleeds to death. A strange thing indeed, like Reggie Perrin remixed by Lou Reed. Poor old Brucie; for a time he was always trying to get a hit and always allowed to jump the TOTP queue and always without success – senior readers may remember his “I’m Backing Britain” from ’68, a song which even its composer (Tony Hatch) subsequently described as “terrible.”

  24. 24
    Billy Smart on 24 Oct 2007 #

    Bruce Forsythe performed Sandra on Top of the Pops transmitted on October the 9th 1975 (the six hundredth edition) presented by Dave Lee Travis. Also in the studio that week were Sparks, Morris Albert, Chris Farlowe, Hello, Smokie and John Miles. No tape of this edition survives in the BBC Archives.

  25. 25
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Oct 2007 #

    That line-up looks more like Germany Beat Club than TOTP! I’m sure someone must have taped it and it’ll turn up somewhere sooner or later (Chris Farlowe!!).

  26. 26
    Mark G on 24 Oct 2007 #

    I don’t remember Brucie ever being on TOTP, however I do remember that particular episode quite clearly (Morris Albert! Chris Farlowe!)

    good old selective memory!

  27. 27
    Mark G on 24 Oct 2007 #

    .. for some reason, I remember “I’m backing Britain” w/ Freddie Parrot Face Davis. Am I a meringue?

  28. 28
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Oct 2007 #

    You might be a plate of semolina since Freddie Parrot Face Davies definitely did a song on that topic. No, “I’m Backing Britain” was Brucie, Pye Records ’68, and I’ve got it in the house. “In shops and supermarkets/Everybody start it/To work a little more without the PAAAAAAAAAY!”

    If mugs workers were being asked to sacrifice some of their income they probably couldn’t afford to buy the single.

  29. 29
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Oct 2007 #

    Currently I have “The Streak” on CD as part of one of those Readers’ Digest 3CD SOUNDS OF THE SEVENTIES (1974) ORIGINAL RECORDINGS NOT AVAILABLE IN THE SHOPS (well I found it in a charity shop but there you go) packages which is one of these compilations it’s handy to have to round up those elusive one-off hits, as well as other assorted oddities including Ronnie Corbett’s “Fanny,” which I distinctly remembering him performing on TOTP in ’74. Written by Herbie Flowers and double entendres were included.

  30. 30
    mike on 24 Oct 2007 #

    And then there was Ken Goodwin’s “Settle Down Now”, which turned the immortal catchphrase into a sentimental lullaby to a child, not played for laughs at all. I have a vague memory of Goodwin crooning it into a cot on The Golden Shot.

    Weirdly, I also remember Chris Farlowe’s 1975 TOTP appearance, but not Forsyth’s…

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