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.