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Dec 08

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – “This Ole House”

FT + Popular46 comments • 4,827 views

#477, 28th March 1981

The last time “This Ole House” came up, a commenter on ILM quite rightly pointed out what I somehow hadn’t twigged – that it’s a song about dying. Of all songs on that theme, it’s surely one of the most stoical in its way – a joyful “whatever” in the teeth of advancing decrepitude. Liveliness was about all Shakin’ Stevens had going for him, but goodness he worked it.

Shaky sidesteps new wave and new pop and reaches back to the rock’n’roll revival that played such a part in the mid-70s’ charts. That had a cabaret tinge and so does he, but there’s an energy in his pastiche that – at this stage anyway – keeps it bearable. His other great advantage over fellow revivalists was knowing how to present that energy on video – on the clip for “This Ole House” he’s in perpetual motion and as the song cuts from room to room to roof it’s like Shaky’s dancing with the house itself.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    mike on 18 Dec 2008 #

    I remember that Jim’ll Fix It! The girl lived her Dream of being a POSH BOARDER! for a day and a night… there was a DISCO! where she and her new best chums jumped up and down a lot to the strains of an Oriental-flavoured future 1981 Number One… and Shaky made a second appearance after lights-out in the dorm, to make sure they were all tucked up snug and tight.

    A strange journey, considering Shaky’s credentials as a respected R&R performer during the 1970s, Communist Party benefits and all. During the Punk/Ted wars of Summer 77, there was even talk of a Shaky/Pistols co-headlining “unity” gig, as noted with anticipatory approval by Sniffin’ Glue.

    “This Ole House” wasn’t for me, but at least it’s executed with spirit and a sense of fun.

  2. 27
    vinylscot on 18 Dec 2008 #

    Shakin’ Stevens had been around for years by this time, and despite a relative lack of commercial success, he had always enjoyed a good deal of critical success and respect for his authentic brand of rock and roll, supporting the Stones, and getting Dave Edmunds to produce his first album.

    I think it’s generally accepted that Shaky “sold out” for commercial success, eschewing authenticity and quality for populism and a fast buck. (Oddly enough, the follow-up to this, his own “You Drive Me Crazy”, was easily his best 80s hit, despite or because of being almost a carbon copy of Rocky Burnette’s “Tired Of Toeing The Line”)

    If you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, he had paid his dues, and perhaps the success of this rather turned his head. The covers which followed over the next few years (including a G. Glitter hit!) can’t have overly taxed him, and at the time he seemed to be an ideal non-threatening idol for the under-eights.

    I’s still rather he hadn’t done it. 3.

  3. 28
    wichita lineman on 18 Dec 2008 #

    A Johnny Rotten radio interview from the Sex Pistols peak (after he’d picked a Peter Hammill song as his all time favourite song) ended with him saying he was off to see Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets that night.

    This is kind of irresistible, isn’t it? I’m not at all sure if Rosemary C’s version is clearly superior, in spite of my recent pre-rock immersion. Bounciest death disc evs. Do you think he might have covered it because it includes the line – sung with Presleyan relish – “this ole house is gettin’ shaky”? It’s certainly not an obvious cover, nor was Hot Dog, his first hit, the original of which I only heard last week. Marie Marie, TOH’s predecessor, was very good indeed.

    Lovely, elastic guitar parts – would that have been Dave Edmunds? TOH fits in with the Rockpile/Queen Of Hearts/Rocky Burnette late 70s school of r’n’r more than the emerging Stray Cats/Polecats strain which, in retrospect, seems more proto-psychobilly. A 7 from me.

  4. 29
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 18 Dec 2008 #

    while on virgin the pistols were also for a while slated to go on tour with henry cow (so a member of the latter once told me, in some amusement)

    a shaky/pistols/cow tor wd have been, erm, i’m not sure what it would have been, but audience response to itself would doubtless have been interesting

  5. 30
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 18 Dec 2008 #

    i mean “tour” — my yes addiction is obviously getting out of hand again

  6. 31
    mike on 18 Dec 2008 #

    God, I’d forgotten about “Marie Marie”. That actually was rather good.

  7. 32
    rosie on 18 Dec 2008 #

    That’s a shame, I thought the image of such a gig on a rocky outcrop on Dartmoor would have been quite something.

  8. 33
    Glue Factory on 19 Dec 2008 #

    Re: the Shaky/punk crossover, I remember seeing a TV clip from the late 70s with Danny Baker where he spoke of trying to organise some kind of meeting-of-the-tribes gig between the punks and the rockabilly/rock-n-roll revivalists and Shakin’ Stevens name was mooted. Having only been familiar with Shaky as an exponent of fluffy, friendly, music for six-year olds, the idea of him once having a kind of credibility seemed extraordinary

    Mind you, the thought of Danny Baker having some kind of credibility also seems quite wierd :-) I say that as a fan of him, but he does seem a long way removed from that era now.

  9. 34
    Erithian on 19 Dec 2008 #

    “Sprightly” and “bouncy” are two words used upthread, and they sum this up nicely. A great one for jumping around to at student discos when you’re none too self-conscious (see also “Antmusic”) and a lot of fun. So is the vid of Shaky dancing around the ole house in question, even if the backing singers get a bit cheesy.

    As I mentioned yonks ago (and got spoiler-bunnied for it) in I can’t remember which thread, Shaky and the Sunsets actually predated the rock’n’roll revival of the 70s and went back as far as the time Sha Na Na were playing Woodstock. I’d forgotten before looking it up just now that he was also in the West End production of “Elvis” in the late 70s. With that kind of dues-paying, he deserved his time among the biggest pop stars in the country, and if he did become showbiz, he was entitled to. Bit of an ornery old bugger though, by all accounts.

    (Still a fan of Danny Baker, but Six-O-Six rather than NME.)

  10. 35
    mike on 19 Dec 2008 #

    So, a respected cult figure consciously switches tack in order to become a kiddie-friendly mainstream pop star… I wonder whether we’ll be finding another such example in 1981?

  11. 36
    DV on 20 Dec 2008 #

    I can’t believe you only gave this 4 – ‘This Ole House’ is one of the greatest number ones ever.

  12. 37
    Conrad on 20 Dec 2008 #

    Actually for a 4 (or similar from most commentators) this record has generated a lot of positive comment – I guess partly that stems from the fact that Shaky had paid his dues and was a credible artist with a genuine belief in what he was doing.

    Meanwhile, Roxy Music’s one and only appearance on Popular has generated a considerably less positive response on the whole. Who’d have thunk it?

  13. 38
    Malice Cooper on 22 Dec 2008 #

    Wretched dross with a tired old rock ‘n’ roller, polluting the airwaves with his sound and the TV with his faded denim.
    This makes Captain Sensible’s “Happy talk” seem classy in comparison but the saddest thing of all is there was much worse to come from Shaky.

  14. 39
    Alyson Tamara Guard on 3 Jan 2009 #

    Someone (I forget who) on Australian TV recently told a poignant anecdote about SS, about SSs manager trying to sneak out a gig attended by 20 people at the fag end of his career by crawling along the floor only for SS to bust him and ask what he was doing…

    I just felt sad what becomes of our heroes…poor SS, although he was no Adam Ant, deserved better!

  15. 40
    MikeMCSG on 16 Jul 2009 #

    As a closet New Romantic at the time I could not believe this was No 1. It was by far the worst record in the charts so how could it top the pile over classics like Reward, Einstein A Go Go and Planet Earth ?
    I saw Shaky as a big threat (quite rightly as it turned out) to my hopes for the future charts being dominated by moody melodramatic synth-pop He was the bubble-burster on a par with General Galtieri a year later who destroyed my political hopes for the SDP.

    I never forgave Shaky for this. He was the bad fairy of the 80s marring many an otherwise classic line up on TOTP with his stupid dancing like a middle-aged embarassing uncle turning up at his neice’s birthday party.

    Of course at this distance I can appreciate that he was a very professional and hard-working entertainer who appealed to an entirely different pre-teen demographic from the rest of the charts. His records achieved high positions because he had no real competition for so long; they came through the middle when sales to teens were split between so many other artists.

    When SAW came along and targeted the younger kids with Kylie and Jason he was finished and really he was the lesser of two evils.

  16. 41
    Mike Jones on 31 Jul 2011 #

    That comment about twenty people attending a gig – bollocks. Shaky’s live shows have never faultered despite chart placing declining during the end of the 1080s. He still had a very strong fan base – and still does to this day, he still packs out Theatres, and continues to tour across Europe. Oh and from 1979 untill 1992, his manager was a woman, not a man. Well, if he’s still got it in him after all these years (He is sixty three now) then who is to argue? Especially if people are sitll willing to see him, Shaky is very good live. (For the record Marie Marie is a belter and in my opinion better than This Ole House, TOH still being a very good rnr record, it was a bit too “novelty” compared to the crisp production of Marie Marie) All in all, Shaky is and was a good entertainer, a good performer and was the biggest selling singles artist of the 1980s. :)

  17. 42
    Lazarus on 16 May 2013 #

    #28 and 31 – ‘Hot Dog’ and ‘Marie Marie’ were both Top 30 hits in 1980 but there was another single between those two and ‘This Ole House’ – the airplay-only hit ‘Shooting Gallery.’ I remember that one but not ‘Hey Mae’ which came out in the spring of 1980, after ‘Hot Dog.’ Wiki states that ‘Hey Mae’ got to 83 and ‘Shooting Gallery’ 79, although I thought the published Top 100 only appeared for the first time in 1983?

  18. 43
    punctum on 10 Jun 2013 #

    As good a place as any to link the latest TPL update, on the last K-tel compilation (but not the last album on K-tel) to go to number one: http://nobilliards.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/various-artists-chart-hits-81-volumes-1.html (as “This Ole House” is the last track).

  19. 44
    Erithian on 15 Feb 2016 #

    Re-reading this thread on the back of TOTP ’81 on BBC4, I note Mike’s reminiscence at #26. Shaky visits a girls’ boarding school dorm after lights-out to make sure they’re all tucked up … on Jim’ll Fix It?! Might have seemed OK when Mike posted that comment in 2008 but you shudder now.

  20. 45
    Pink champale on 15 Feb 2016 #

    The boarding school Shakey girl was in my class in primary school at the time!

    As far as I know she was unscathed and enjoyed the whole thing (the rest of us thought it was pretty exciting, if not exactly cool).

    But obviously it has given me some pause for thought in recent years.

  21. 46
    Pink champale on 15 Feb 2016 #

    Hmm. Closer inspection of the thread reveals that it was me who introduced the Jim’ll Fix it story in the first place. As you were.

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