12
Jan 05

MANFRED MANN – “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”

Popular19 comments • 2,605 views

#175, 15th August 1964

There’s so much happening in pop at this point that some records end up nudging into the canon almost by accident – they were just in the right place at the right time and got caught up in the general magic of things. “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” is an enduring ‘golden oldie’ and I assume a lot of people are deeply fond of it, which seems odd to me because it’s awful.

It’s a strange combination of baby-talk lyrics and horribly exaggerated R’n’B singing, with a guitar part that sounds like it’s being played on elastic bands and a call-and-response part straight out of a primary school assembly. It’s hard to work out exactly what it’s aiming at – throaty rock’n’roll? crossover bubblegum? It lands somewhere uncomfortable and irritating in the middle, as things turn out.

But it almost works – it’s nearly stupid enough. There’s a quality of audacious dumbness some songs have, something brazen and divisive which makes you feel like you’re in on a joke (that turns out not to be a joke at all). Glam rock harnessed it best but it’s there stirring under “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” – maybe it’s just that awful studied rocker’s voice that limits it. This and the next two number ones serve as experiments – how basic can this new music get and still work? What can it get away with? Not this, I’m saying.

2

Comments

  1. 1
    Joe Williams on 31 Aug 2005 #

    But this is brilliant! Especially the drumming.

  2. 2
    Joe Williams on 31 Aug 2005 #

    Thinking about your elastic band comment, I just noticed a particularly strange ‘boing’ noise at about 1:56, which I can’t explain. If it had been a more modern record I’d suggest it was caused by some dodgy editing, but I don’t suppose there was any editing at all on this.

  3. 3
    Doctor Mod on 31 Jul 2006 #

    You know, I really loved this song back in 1964 (when I was thirteen). But for some reason it has become the most overplayed record on US oldies radio. Thus, over the past forty-two years, I have exceeded my lifetime quota for hearing this recording. I shall simply scream if I hear it again.

    You’re quite right that “it’s hard to work out exactly what it’s aiming at,” particularly in light of the fact that the Manfreds struck jazz-snob attitudes–and enjoyed their some of their greatest successes covering US girl group songs. I think it swept to the top as part of the whole “British Invasion” that year, which is ironic because there’s nothing particularly “British” about it other than the musicians’ nationality. (And even then, Manfred himself was from South Africa…..)

  4. 4
    bramble on 8 Sep 2006 #

    Manfred Mann made some great pop records but always gave the impression they were slumming it a bit, like jazz session musicians earning a crust by playing on any song they were handed.The impression was reinforced by Paul Jone’s cleancut boyish looks -despite the maraccas he still looked like the University/CND lad he was – and Manfred Mann always looked like he probably had a book by Jean Paul Sartre propped up on his organ

  5. 5
    SteveIson on 22 Jul 2008 #

    Its a really irritating,annoying song..Forced n rubbish-i think your reviews spot on..

  6. 6
    Matthew on 12 Jan 2009 #

    Good, clean, dumb fun. I think it’s only the snobbery of hindsight that makes the Stones and the Beatles “obvious number ones” and this one a mysterious accident. This whole run of number ones feels innocently joyful, summery and great to me.

  7. 7
    wichita lineman on 12 Feb 2010 #

    B-b-but… this is a Greenwich/Barry song in the Da Doo Ron Ron mould. The Exciters’ original (Do Wah Diddy) version is simply great – driving, and with a really tough vocal. So sassy. She sounds like SO much fun:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3ep-JvUqyU

    This and Herman’s Hermits’ I’m Into Something Good (orig by the Cookies’ Earl Jean) are simplifying pop in a very different way to You Really Got Me. This is closer to the Rollers’ Bye Bye Baby or Undercover’s Baker Street – they puree the original.

    I can’t hear any guitar, only ice rink organ, pub piano, and forced jollity. They even added a “diddy” to show how much and how well they loved the song. Slumming pro’s is exactly right.

    Paul Jones always sings with a smirk. One of the most slappable records ever made is Manfred Mann’s The One In The Middle. He wrote it?!? And the guy’s a blues snob??? SLAP!!!!

  8. 8
    Mutley on 15 Feb 2010 #

    At least give Manfed Mann credit for being the First Goatee of Pop.

  9. 9
    Billy Smart on 28 Jul 2010 #

    TOTPWatch. Manfred Mann performed Do Wah Diddy Diddy on Top of the Pops on five occasions;

    15 July 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Dusty Springfield, The Barron Knights, The Nashville Teens and The Rolling Stones. Pete Murray was the host.

    22 July 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Dusty Springfield, The Barron Knights, The Merseybeats and The Searchers. Jimmy Saville was the host.

    5 August 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas and The Honeycombs. David Jacobs was the host.

    19 August 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Dave Berry, The Honeycombs, The Kinks, Dionne Warwick, Brenda Lee and The Bachelors. Pete Murray was the host.

    24 December 1964. Also in the studio that week were; Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas, Herman’s Hermits, Sandie Shaw, The Animals, The Beatles, The Four Pennies, The Honeycombs, The Kinks and The Searchers. Jimmy Saville, Alan Freeman, Pete Murray & David Jacobs were the hosts.

    None of these editions survives.

  10. 10
    lonepilgrim on 7 Dec 2010 #

    Here’s an American perspective on this achieving Number 1 over in the USA:

    http://nohardchords.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/119-manfred-mann-do-wah-diddy-diddy/

    I don’t mind the song myself and 2 seems a bit harsh.

  11. 11
    Dispela Pusi on 17 Dec 2010 #

    Comments reportedly made by some of the band members (Tom McGuinness, anyone? Mike Hugg?) a year or two after the event indicated that they were actually reluctant to record “that ‘orrible thing”. Mike H’s expression certainly became more and more morose with every successive appearance on Top Of The Pops.

    Me, I really liked it at the time, even bought it. Now, like Doctor Mod, I’ve simply heard it too, too often, and could happily go the rest of my life without ever doing so again. While disagreeing markedly from many of Tom’s assessments, I think 2 for this is pretty much on the money.

  12. 12
    enitharmon on 30 Mar 2011 #

    In the absence of 5-4-3-2-1 this will have to do for a farewell to Keith Fordyce, co-presenter (with Cathy MacGowan) of Ready Steady Go.

  13. 13
    wichita lineman on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Poor, square Keith Fordyce. He always looked like he was flinching whenever he talked to John Lennon – more of a Paul man.

  14. 14
    punctum on 1 Apr 2011 #

    Ah, poor Keith, one of the former stalwarts of sixties TV thinking which dictated that you had to have forty-pushing adults presenting/supervising pop shows because leaving it to The Kids would inspire COLLAPSE OF CIVILISATION (see also original four presenters of TOTP). The look he got from the Beach Boys when he asked them whether surfing was a sport or a pastime is priceless.

  15. 15
    swanstep on 6 Aug 2013 #

    2 is definitely harsh! I guess the track has a tough row to hoe being in the charts with prime early Beatles, and the nonce lyrics do perhaps grate in that context. But, as wichita remarks at #7, notwithstanding various Merseyside touches, it’s the pre-Beatles/Brill Building/girl-group tradition that DWDD emerges out of, and that was a tradition of (among other things) baby-talk/inarticulate joy-talk! Da Doo Run Run is one of them, but so is Breaking Up is Hard to Do (the early ’60s Carol King demo version of which is my actual impetus for posting on this now). BUIHTD has an insistent background refrain of ‘dee-doo-bee dum doo-bee dum-dum cumma-cumma dum doo-bee-doo dum-dum cumma-cumma dum doo-bee-doo dum-dum BUIHTD’- http://youtu.be/DRnAo6A7S98. Now, I don’t think DWDD is nearly as great as BUIHTD (which would be a 9 or 10) but it’s a hell of a lot of fun, great (twice-played) middle eight, just charming really. I guess that DWDD hasn’t been overplayed where I’ve been – I’ve heard it less than the The Police’s much more trying ’80s attempt to continue and comment upon this tradition, De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da. – so perhaps that’s the crucial difference here. Anyhow, for me this is a:
    7

  16. 16
    mapman132 on 13 Feb 2014 #

    Gonna have to disagree with you here, Tom. I’m not sure when I was first exposed to this song but I do remember we used it as a cadence while marching in boy scouts. Maybe the fact it appealed to a bunch of 12 year olds supports your point, but context is everything and I still have fond memories of it (ironic, since there’s a lot of scouting things I don’t have fond memories of). 8/10.

  17. 17
    DanH on 14 Feb 2014 #

    @16: Probably the only good memory I have of this song was seeing it as army cadence in the movie Stripes. I do prefer the movie’s use of “Da Doo Ron Ron” though :-)

  18. 18
    hectorthebat on 27 Mar 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 35
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 334
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  19. 19
    lonepilgrim on 20 Mar 2015 #

    in my comment on A Hard Days Night I mentioned playground chants and this has something of that quality (something like The Clapping Song). The Exciters’ version has a greater vocal richness but the Manfreds go for a pulsing stomp. It’s dumb but compelling nonetheless with more Sixties sexuality simmering under the surface

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