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.