Aug 11

JIMMY NAIL – “Ain’t No Doubt”

FT + Popular99 comments • 8,167 views

#678, 18th July 1992

“Ain’t No Doubt” plants its emotional flag in territories claimed and mapped by Phil Collins – that master of gangrenous wrath and bitterness lurking below blokery’s rumpled jacket. It’s break-up pop of the shabbiest kind; lies, quarrels and wilful miscommunication played out raw in front of us. On TV Nail played hard bastards, for laughs or drama or both – some of the intrigue of his pop career must have been seeing a more sensitive element in him, but I doubt the straight-talking, bullshit-calling narrator of “Ain’t No Doubt” came as much of a shock to the fanbase.

What’s rather more surprising is the music. Most of Nail’s records were thoroughly trad: gruff, measured rock and soul stylings, workmanlike performances enlivened by the odd Knopfler guest-spot. “Ain’t No Doubt”, on the other hand, is a one-of-a-kind meeting of pub rock and swingbeat: ruminative, finger-pointing spoken passages broken up by a two-fisted funk chorus that lunges at you like a closing time drunk. It would be an odd record if anyone had recorded it, but this really isn’t the style you expect a 38-year-old TV star to pioneer.

Here’s the really strange thing: it kind of works. The lurching production is so awkward, its singer so ill-at-ease, it makes Nail’s spoken passages rawer – this is a man happy to humiliate himself if it gets the message about his partner’s perfidy across. Contrast his lumbering with the smooth replies from the ever-professional Sylvia Mason-James, quite at home in this setting: it’s as if Jimmy’s barged into the disco on a girls’ night out to shame his lady, and we’re onlookers peeping through our fingers.

It’s also an unintentionally funny record, of course, and probably the most imitated of the year. And in the end it’s not a thing you’d want to listen to much: I couldn’t stretch to calling it good. But it’s interestingly, admirably bad in a way most TV-star records aren’t.



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  1. 61
    wichita lineman on 5 Sep 2011 #

    For what it’s worth, I remember it being a news story.

    But it also goes without saying that the media’s interest will always be more piqued if a story involves a pretty blonde, whether a mother, a student or a child (of either sex). Or also if a suspect looks like a stereotypical weirdo (there seem to be no pictures of Pask in existence).

    Anyhoo. Jimmy Nail. Would’ve made a good (if less enigmatic) George ‘Geordie’ Peacock in Our Friends In The North, wouldn’t he?

  2. 62
    hectorthebat on 6 Sep 2011 #

    I was at York University, 10 years (exactly) after the murder, living in the same building, (now part of Goodricke College). By now of course, the case has become a rumour and ghost story told to freshers, and we obviously made sure to relate it to the girl living in the room at the time. By now, the building has finally been knocked down (I think) and renovated, but the campus style of the university and ‘away from it all’-ness of being at least half an hour from York itself meant that it did all have a Midsomer feel to it.

  3. 63
    AndyPandy on 6 Sep 2011 #

    I was at York from 2003-2005 and until I read this I didn’t even know this terible thing had happened although I was commuting in from Leeds as a mature student and therefore not really in the loop.

    I think part of the reason (beside the fact that she was a blonde model)that so much was made of the Wimbledon murder was that her son was left clinging to her lifeless body.

  4. 64
    enitharmon on 6 Sep 2011 #

    hectorthebat @ 62

    Yes, it occurred to many of us even at the time (and we were studying Literature in the Modern World after all) that this was probably the nearest thing ever in Real Life to an Agatha Christie country house murder.

    York may have been some way off but there was an agreeable pub in Heslington if I recall correctly.

  5. 65
    AndyPandy on 6 Sep 2011 #

    And an old fashioned post office and a village shop – and for some reason although only a few hundred yards from the campus the village didn’t get swamped with students – probably because it was in the ‘wrong’ (non-York direction) – and inhabited by lots of Tory people in their late 50s and older – yes Heslington was a bit St Mary Mead like.

  6. 66
    Martin F. on 6 Sep 2011 #

    Rather brilliantly, the only version of “Ain’t No Doubt” on Spotify is from a compilation entitled “18 Sunny Songs For The Family Summer Holiday”.

  7. 67
    Mark M on 7 Sep 2011 #

    Re 61: considering the political nature of the project, it’s interesting how few of the Our Friends In The North cast members were actually from the North East (something that might have been less obvious at the time because the leads weren’t big names when the programme came out).

  8. 68
    Ed on 8 Sep 2011 #

    @67 Whoa: they weren’t? Ever since I saw it, I have thought of Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee, Daniel Craig and, er, the other one (Mark Strong, says Google) as Geordies. (Especially Craig, obv.)

    I suppose I should possibly have guessed that they were acting. Apparently Craig isn’t really a secret agent, either, and Ecclestone’s sonic screwdriver can’t open locked doors.

    As Mark M says, that partly reflects the cleverness of the casting of a group of relative unknowns (or at least, not big stars), but I am sure it is also a testament to the brilliance of the performances and the writing. I think it is the best thing I have seen on TV in my adult lifetime.

  9. 69
    Ed on 8 Sep 2011 #

    @68 “Adult” qualifier there to exclude a few things from my childhood / adolescence, including imperial phase Potter, and the absolute best thing I have ever seen on TV: Keith Allen doing the 1983 election live on C4.

  10. 70
    thefatgit on 8 Sep 2011 #

    Eccleston came in kind of all at once. Not sure of the chronology; OFITN, Cracker, Shallow Grave I think are pretty much around the same time. By the time we get to Gone In 60 Seconds and Dr Who, he’s pretty well established.

  11. 71
    Rory on 8 Sep 2011 #

    Was he the one in ‘Let Him Have It’? (Googles… yes, he was. 1991.) The movie I remember him most for is ‘Revengers Tragedy’ – when I heard he got the role of the Doctor, that was the one that suggested to me that he was a really interesting choice.

  12. 72
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 8 Sep 2011 #

    cracker is i think when he leapt ahead (1993): very likeable character very shockingly murdered

    shallow grave is 1994, as is OFITN

    haha he is of course in casualty and poirot and morse in like 1990

  13. 73
    Erithian on 8 Sep 2011 #

    There are some expert Whovians among the FT crew, so I’d like to know what they make of Eccleston as the Doctor – in particular what about the circumstances in which he left the show? I was pretty disappointed when the bloke who came along proudly saying that “every planet has a North” and why should the Doctor have an RP accent, left after one series apparently not wishing to be typecast, thus appearing to risk torpedo-ing the revival of the programme. After all, he’d had a wide-ranging CV before Doctor Who so typecasting didn’t appear to be a danger, and in retrospect playing the Doctor didn’t stop his successor moving on to roles from Manchester United assistant manager to Prince of Denmark.

    Yet it appears (admittedly only from Wiki) that the story was more complex than that – that the ”typecasting” quote was inaccurate, he left the show because he didn’t like the atmosphere, and RTD said he only had a one-series contract anyway because the revival wasn’t a guaranteed success. Where do others stand on this?

  14. 74
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 8 Sep 2011 #

    my view: he was a great face and name for the reboot, though ALWAYS played the role a bit broad and panto, which is not really a mode he is comfy with — i think his own shtick alienated him a bit, and this showed

  15. 75
    Steve Mannion on 8 Sep 2011 #

    I wondered if upon realising the show was a big enough success, there was a decision to sex it up to increase its popularity further. RTD may have been keen to put Eccleston into more romantic situations (with companion and/or others) but I suspect he and others thought a more conventional heart-throbber would suit that expanded role better hence switching for Tennant (Eccleston may have sensed a perceived limitation in his Doctor here and decided to quit rather than risk tension or a backlash and yes it is hard to imagine them going with him where they went with Tennant’s Doctor – not necessarily for the better).

    Had Who continued into the 90s I am QUITE SURE that Nail would’ve usurped McGann as prime candidate to replace McCoy.

  16. 76
    lonepilgrim on 8 Sep 2011 #

    Nail looks out Tardis window unsmiling and remarking ”ah can remem-bah when there were tay-am loords on Galifray”

  17. 77
    Jimmy the Swede on 9 Sep 2011 #

    It would have been pretty alarming to have seen Sylvester McCoy regenerate into Jimmy Nail, I think. And then:

    ACE: “Run, Professor. Daleks!!

    DALEKS (arriving): “Exterminate!..Obey!.. etc”

    DOCTOR: “Ahrm noot legging it from them tinny boogers, canny lass!”

  18. 78
    MarkG on 9 Sep 2011 #

    The correct line here would be “Ah, haddaway and shite, man!”

  19. 79
    Garry on 12 Sep 2011 #

    Eccleston was better than Tennent for me, both were good but the RTD era had plenty of problems in regard to the writing. Someone once wrote a great piece saying Tennent was a middle-class white guy going around patronising the human race. “You humans are WONDERFUL…” I always found it had to disagree. I’m actually not surpriced Eccleston left.

    In terms of Jimmy Nail – I love this song. Always have. Like Tom I find it funny: for me it’s all posturing faux drama, while most of pop lacks such tongue in cheekness. Nail probably intended a lack of tongue in cheek as well, but the mere fact it is storytelling and not confessional gives it an enjoyable panto quality.

    Question is will this be the last #1 I enjoyed? At the time pop me was going down hill sharply…

  20. 80
    Kit on 13 Sep 2011 #

    “left after one series apparently not wishing to be typecast,”

    he actually gave notice after or during the filming of the first episode, due to the aggressive incompetence of the director, and apparently a lack of support from the producers.

    (apparently about a third of that first episode was reshot, piecemeal, later in the production run, by other directors. although the nominal director never worked on Who again after the first year, Eccleston’s antipathy toward the entire enterprise remains, as he refuses to do any appearances or commentaries or whatnot, and has said he’d not return for anniversary episodes.)

  21. 81
    Kit on 13 Sep 2011 #

    In an initial statement announcing his exit in March 2005, the BBC said the actor was afraid of being typecast and had found the series gruelling.

    The corporation later accepted the statement was incorrect and that it had not spoken to Eccleston before releasing it.

  22. 82
    Kit on 13 Sep 2011 #

    oh and “nominal director never worked on Who again after the first year” – he was actually fired halfway through.

  23. 83
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 13 Sep 2011 #

    i: the BBC’s ppl say “Ecc left ftb type-casting”
    ii: Ec’s ppl say “Nonsense it was the aggressive incompetence of a since-fired director who will NEVER WORK IN THIS TOWN AGAIN”
    iii: sense of fairness dictates we now hear from since-fired’s ppl!

    I always assumed that CE had a steamy affair with Billy that turned horribly sour OR wanted same but was firmly rebuffed. But that’s how my sleazy mind rolls.

  24. 84
    enitharmon on 13 Sep 2011 #

    Speaking for myself, given a free choice between Chrises Evans and Eccleston, there’s not a contest; it’s Eccleston every time. There’s nowt so queer as folk.

  25. 85
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 13 Sep 2011 #

    Well, yes, but one of the main reasons for her and Evans separating was age difference, and Ecclestone is [s]900 years[/s] two years older than Evans.

    On the other hand, there was a TARDIS handy.

  26. 86
    enitharmon on 13 Sep 2011 #

    You mean that trumped Evans being a complete and utter bone-headed prat?

  27. 87
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 13 Sep 2011 #

    Actually one of the very very VERY few things that allow me to warm to Evans at all is that he and Billie P remain very obviously publicly fond of one another.

    (Nail: SHE’S LYING!)

  28. 88
    Erithian on 13 Sep 2011 #

    I wouldn’t normally leap to Evans’ defence, but Billie did say he got her through a tough period in her life and speaks glowingly of him as a friend, so fair play to him. I find him much less irritating these days too.

  29. 89
    thefatgit on 13 Sep 2011 #

    Not bad after a marriage that lasted slightly longer than their infamous pub-crawl honeymoon.

  30. 90

    Exactly: pretty much everything about the marriage screamed HORRIBLE SLEB ALLIANCE, tears and hateful recrimination at 11, and the way things actually turned out speaks unexpectedly well of both of them.

  31. 91
    MarkG on 13 Sep 2011 #

    I read part2 of his autobio (yeah yeah sosueme..), and for all the almost kiss&tell business, he does discuss his dalliances with Geri and others without going into massive and unnecessary detail, save to state they were all for real, and not this “let’s be a celebrity couple’ that gets all the magazines atizzy but happens far fewer times in real life..

    Mind you, he does go on a whole lot about every damn car he ever bought for loadsamoney at auction!

  32. 92
    Jimmy the Swede on 13 Sep 2011 #

    Like Erithian, I too find Evans far less annoying the noo but he still suffers from simply refusing to understand that he is not broadcasting to teenagers or simple-minded adults. This might be allowed to pass on his breakfast show, to be fair, but when he did the drivetime slot it was pulpably ridiculous.

  33. 93
    Kit on 14 Sep 2011 #

    Ec’s ppl say

    Ec’s consistently declined to say anything at all, t continue bf

  34. 94
    Pete on 14 Sep 2011 #

    I am looking forward to this discussion being raised the next time Tom is invited on to Evans radio show to discuss Popular. (Was that really three years ago now?)

    “So Tom, let’s wrap up with asking what your favourite number one is, and also have the comments crew decided who is better yet, me or Christopher Ecclestone?”

  35. 95
    Tim Byron on 15 Sep 2011 #

    Eccleston recently talked at an actor’s workshop about why he left: http://badwilf.co.uk/?p=820

    “I left Doctor Who because I could not get along with the senior people. I left because of politics. I did not see eye-to-eye with them. I didn’t agree with the way things were being run. I didn’t like the culture that had grown up, around the series. So I left, I felt, over a principle.

    “I thought to remain, which would have made me a lot of money and given me huge visibility, the price I would have had to pay was to eat a lot of shit. I’m not being funny about that. I didn’t want to do that and it comes to the art of it, in a way. I feel that if you run your career and– we are vulnerable as actors and we are constantly humiliating ourselves auditioning. But if you allow that to go on, on a grand scale you will lose whatever it is about you and it will be present in your work.

    “If you allow your desire to be successful and visible and financially secure – if you allow that to make you throw shades on your parents, on your upbringing, then you’re knackered. You’ve got to keep something back, for yourself, because it’ll be present in your work. A purity or an idealism is essential or you’ll become– you’ve got to have standards, no matter how hard work that is. So it makes it a hard road, really.

    “You know, it’s easy to find a job when you’ve got no morals, you’ve got nothing to be compromised, you can go, ‘Yeah, yeah. That doesn’t matter. That director can bully that prop man and I won’t say anything about it’. But then when that director comes to you and says ‘I think you should play it like this’ you’ve surely got to go ‘How can I respect you, when you behave like that?’

    “So, that’s why I left. My face didn’t fit and I’m sure they were glad to see the back of me. The important thing is that I succeeded. It was a great part. I loved playing him. I loved connecting with that audience. Because I’ve always acted for adults and then suddenly you’re acting for children, who are far more tasteful; they will not be bullshitted. It’s either good, or it’s bad. They don’t schmooze at after-show parties, with cocktails.”

  36. 96
    MarkG on 15 Sep 2011 #

    I do get the impression that Matt Smith and Karen Gillan get worked like dogs while they are working on Dr Who. Filming, promo, ‘being seen’ etc.

  37. 97
    Erithian on 15 Sep 2011 #

    – and when they’re not filming they’re being jolly for the Doctor Who Confidential camera crew. Is the jollity forced? Answers on a postcard…

    There were parts of that Eccleston quote where I’d like to see subtitles à la “Annie Hall” to indicate what he’s really thinking. The discussion thread on “Bad Wilf” is fascinating though – thanks for the link Tim.

  38. 98
    Cumbrian on 30 Nov 2011 #

    I have just had an epiphany looking at the single cover for this. Is it meant to be an homage to Bryan Ferry? Ferry’s then current greatest hits (got large play from my Dad in my house) has a very similar photo and graphic layout on the front cover. Plus Ferry is a Geordie, etc.


  39. 99
    DanH on 31 Jan 2013 #

    I’m surprised this never made waves here in America. It sounds so 1992.

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