Dec 08

ST WINIFRED’S SCHOOL CHOIR – “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma”

FT + Popular62 comments • 6,706 views

#472, 27th December 1980

For every pop lover there comes a moment of reflection and perhaps even self-doubt, when they turn on the telly and see that for the first time their contemporaries are top of the charts. There on the screen are people your own age who spat in the face of caution and jumped two-footed into the pop life, living the dream while you sit at home in your lonely fandom drawing cheques on rock’n’roll you know deep inside you can never cash.

Of course, when it’s St. Winifred’s School Choir up there this painful realisation is a little bit easier. In fact I think my reaction was one of contempt and pity, and perhaps – as a gawky kid trying to fit into a new school – a certain gratitude that “Grandma” had brought together every playground faction in mutual disgust. “Though you may be far away, you stink of poo”….

For a few seconds I’m tempted to say it’s not so bad: then the choir come in, and then simpering soloist Dawn Ralph, and there’s no re-evaluation needed. “Grandma” is genuinely dreadful; a miserable, curdling experience. There’s not even any chutzpah to its awfulness: producer Gordon Lorenz knows all the tricks but they’re somehow even cheaper and more rotten in his hands, like when he starts a chorus, then decides to go with a key change and starts it again after just one line.

But the worst thing about it is its simple laziness: at least “Grandad” took the time to sketch in the outlines of a human life, no matter how clumsy and hackneyed. The grandparent in this song is simply a mechanical cuddle and gift dispenser, utterly inert: she might as well be a teddy bear. Such flaccid universality of course helped the song shift monster units, but the bottom line is that each copy of this record sold was an old woman cheated out of some rightful chocs or sherry. Shame on everyone involved.



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  1. 51
    wichita lineman on 12 Dec 2008 #

    Those one-pointers. If I’d remembered them all I’d have been quite scared. My two cents (or one cent), starting with the least worst:

    Don McLean – Vincent (a 7 from me, but I’ll leave it at that)

    The Stargazers – I See The Moon (this one has haunted me, I’d never heard it before I started looking at Popular. Genuinely weird and impenetrable, it’s the pop equivalent of Carry On Up The Khyber’s slapstick enactment of the death of the British empire. Andy Pandy has re-started the thread on this one. I think I love it)

    Lonnie Donegan – My Old Man’s A Dustman (worth at least one more point for the phrase “gorblimey trousers” – very Martin Amis circa London Fields)

    Engelbert – The Last Waltz (stymied from the off by emotionally dead delivery, but the la-la-la verse is quite a fine UK attempt at sounding “continental”)

    Little Jimmy – Long Haired Lover (worth just the one point for being, incredibly, ten years late in making a Beatles gag)

    Petula – This Is My Song (blah’ed on at length on this one before. It’s appeal, beyond its fake Euro-chic production, completely baffles me. And while it sat at no.1, Harry Secombe’s even worse version was at 2)

    St Winifreds (no redeeming qualities)

  2. 52

    wow, i made my goons “death of empire” argument before i read mr lineman’s comment here! this is totally an under-examined area of critical enquiry (except for a tiny bit on popular on the “whispering grass” thread)

  3. 53
    Billy Smart on 18 Dec 2008 #

    A particularly blatant attempt to repeat the hit formula was April 1981’s one week at number 27 smash ‘My Mum Is One In A Million’ by The Children of Tansley School.

  4. 54
    Tom on 12 Oct 2009 #

    Mankind’s crazed urge to meddle in things best left alone threatens civilisation yet again:


  5. 55
    wichitalineman on 23 Oct 2009 #

    There’s no one quite like Grandma. Except other Grandma.

  6. 56
    flahr on 7 Jun 2011 #

    RIP Gordon Lorenz, writer of “Grandma”.

  7. 57
    Mark G on 27 Sep 2012 #

    There was a recent TOTP2 “SchoolDays” themed show, this was on.

    I would add to the top review, none of which I’d disagree with except to say this is the definition of a “it’s really not meant for me is it?” record. Who is it for? Small girls with grandmas. That’s about it.

    Watching the show, after the AliceCooper and the Weezer, a number of “schoolchild fancies teecher” themed tunesa, this was on and our Alice was all “awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww……”

    This morning, she found this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP9DIablJb0
    and we all laughed a bit. Then she found the original and played it in full, and we were all “can you stop now or we leave the room?”

  8. 58
    hardtogethits on 1 Apr 2013 #

    Trawling through old copies of Music Week during this weatherbound Bank Holiday Weekend, I was staggered to learn that the parent album “Songs About My Family” sold over 1,000,000 copies in 1981 but was excluded from the chart because “MFP [Music For Pleasure] stuck doggedly to their maximum dealer price of just 99p … considerably less than the minimum dealer price for chart eligibility.” >60% of its sales were on cassette anyway, which would have prevented it being a proportionately large chart success. As ungooglable as the British Rock and Pop Awards, I can’t believe I’d never even heard of the album before. Anyone willing to admit they took the plunge?

  9. 59
    phil6875 on 13 Apr 2015 #

    Erithian #24

    A more accurate best sellers of 1980:-

    1 “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” The Police 1
    2 “Woman in Love” Barbra Streisand 1
    3 “Feels Like I’m in Love” Kelly Marie 1
    4 “Super Trouper” ABBA 1
    5 “D.I.S.C.O.” Ottawan 2
    6 “The Tide Is High” Blondie 1
    7 “Geno” Dexys Midnight Runners 1
    8 “Together We Are Beautiful” Fern Kinney 1
    9 “Coward of the County” Kenny Rogers 1
    10 “(Just Like) Starting Over” John Lennon 1
    11 “Working My Way Back to You” The Detroit Spinners 1
    12 “9 to 5” Sheena Easton 3
    13 “Baggy Trousers” Madness 3
    14 “Ashes to Ashes” David Bowie 1
    15 “Theme from M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)” MASH 1
    16 “Going Underground”/”Dreams of Children” The Jam 1
    17 “Crying” Don McLean 1
    18 “The Winner Takes It All” ABBA 1
    19 “Dance Yourself Dizzy” Liquid Gold 2
    20 “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma” St Winifred’s Choir 1
    21 “Atomic” Blondie 1
    22 “Upside Down” Diana Ross 2
    23 “Use It Up and Wear It Out” Odyssey 1
    24 “Start!” The Jam 1
    25 “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” Stevie Wonder 2
    26 “Funkytown” Lipps Inc. 2
    27 “I’m in the Mood for Dancing” The Nolans 3
    28 “If You’re Lookin’ for a Way Out” Odyssey 6
    29 “One Day I’ll Fly Away” Randy Crawford 2
    30 “The Special AKA Live!” EP The Specials 1
    31 “What You’re Proposing” Status Quo 2
    32 “Take That Look Off Your Face” Marti Webb 3
    33 “No Doubt About It” Hot Chocolate 2
    34 “Stop the Cavalry” Jona Lewie 3
    35 “Brass in Pocket” Pretenders 1
    36 “Oops Up Side Your Head” The Gap Band 6
    37 “What’s Another Year” Johnny Logan 1
    38 “Xanadu” Olivia Newton-John and E.L.O. 1
    39 “Special Brew” Bad Manners 3
    40 “King”/”Food for Thought” UB40 4
    41 “And the Beat Goes On” The Whispers 2
    42 “Turning Japanese” The Vapors 3
    43 “When You Ask About Love” Matchbox 4
    44 “I Could Be So Good for You” Dennis Waterman 3
    45 “My Girl” Madness 3
    46 “Never Knew Love Like This Before” Stephanie Mills 4
    47 “Enola Gay” Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark 8
    48 “Call Me” Blondie 1
    49 “More Than I Can Say” Leo Sayer 2
    50 “Embarrassment” Madness 4

  10. 60
    wichitalineman on 19 Feb 2016 #

    Children of Tansley School on this week’s TOTP repeat make Grandma sound like a Pet Sounds outtake. Social services should have been called.

  11. 61
    Adam Puke on 20 Feb 2016 #

    I had no idea “Grandma” had a cash-in single till I saw the TOTP repeat, but business-wise it’s such an obvious move there’s no way there wouldn’t have been, logically.

    I suppose we should be thankful this micro-trend happened way back when there was only Mother’s Day and Father’s Day available for music industry exploitation after Christmas. Nowadays with brother’s, sister’s, auntie’s, grandparents’ etc etc days we’d be drowning in the emotionally manipulative wee bastards’ efforts all year round.

  12. 62
    hardtogethits on 8 Aug 2017 #

    Richard X is back. There’s No-one Quite Like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

    Jokes are copyrightable, btw.

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