Mar 10

THE FIRM – “Star Trekkin”

Popular107 comments • 7,667 views

#592, 20th June 1987, video

Sometimes there is no gulf wider than the one between the 12 and the 13 year old boy. I remember meeting up with a friend – 18 months or so younger – in the school holidays and him absolutely bouncing with delight over this record, which made me shudder. For him this was priceless observational comedy; for me, a cringing reminder of the kind of thing I would have been into a summer or two before.

So ripe for reappraisal, then? Well, not really: this is rank. It’s the cheapest sounding record I think we’ll ever meet; the impressions are disasterous; the jokes were old then and are now so stained into the upholstery of Star Trek they barely register as jokes. Every now and then someone will throw out the insult “music for people who don’t like music”, for some record which commits the great sin of being pleasant or boring: “Star Trekkin'” isn’t really either of those things but it fits the diss better than most songs – more so than with any other comedy record we’ve encountered the music is a crushed, weak, thing: a disdainful, perfunctory vector for the poor gags.

I hope I’ll never have to hear it again without a drink to hand, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing of interest in “Star Trekkin'”. Wikipedia offers a way in by hinting that it’s the only filk record to top the charts, and the song is knowing and affectionate enough to come over as validation if you wanted it to be. But even as a non Trek fan* it seemed dumb to me, taking the most obvious drinking-game Trek tropes and working them ragged. What it reminds me of more, though, are fandom-driven internet memes – it’s stupider and less sophisticated than most of what gets passed around these days but especially with its plasticine video it has something of the have-you-seen-this oh-go-on-then spreadability of modern online pop culture. Of course back in 1987 there were precious few people online to spread anything much (though I bet they all liked Star Trekkin) and we had to rely on Radio 1 DJs to be our filters. Step forward the villain of this piece, Simon Bates, dropping his usual m.o. of tear-jerking populism to show that, hey, he knew how to have fun too. Bastard.

*and alright, yes, this is relevant to my hating the record: I disliked Star Trek. As a young Doctor Who fan I had happily taken sides and have broadly speaking stuck to them, for all the exotica-drenched charm of the original Trek series. At the time this song came out the Star Trek franchise was undergoing a rebirth, thanks to the successful films – the Next Generation series had been announced and I knew people who were excited for it. As for Doctor Who, it was at its lowest ebb – cancelled, then reprieved, then subjected to a run of stories that suggested the cancellers knew their jobs pretty well. “Star Trekkin” might have been an embarassment, but to admit liking Doctor Who in 1987 would have been far worse. A Who-based number one record seemed a distant prospect indeed…



  1. 1
    thefatgit on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Scrape it off Jim.

    I’m guessing the toilet humour appealed to a certain pre-pubescent age group. You can’t even credit it with a catchy tune. No redeeming factors at all. A richly deserved 1 (for want of a zero).

  2. 2
    MichaelH on 15 Mar 2010 #

    I used to work with someone, a man in his 30s at the time, who would recite jokes from this song in the way other boring people recite Monty Python jokes.

    That said, whatever happened to the unfunny comedy smash hit single? Did the national sense of humour get more sophisticated? I see that these days, this kind of thing would just be a viral – too cheap and nasty to be worth buying, not funny enough to merit more than a single play. But didn’t unfunny comedy records – the 80s seems to have been a golden age for them – disappear before the viral phenomenon?

  3. 3
    Rory on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Thank Spock for that. Part of me was worried that this might garner an affectionate few points out of UK nostalgia. Not from me – it’s awful. And the plasticine video doesn’t even respect its own logic: one of Uhura’s lines is voiced by the McCoy figure.

    Points to the creators for getting their self-pressed 500 copies to snowball into a million-seller, I suppose. But that’s it. 1987’s nadir by a long shot.

    Number 3 in Australia. 1 from me.

    (But au contraire, thefatgit: the tune is all too catchy. Stand by for Earworm Factor 9.)

  4. 4
    thefatgit on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Rory, you mean the “There’s Klingons on the starboard bow” bit? Yeah I suppose that could rattle around in my head for a bit.

    But even the Etch-a-Sketch-a-Spock sleeve looks cheap and that’s about the best thing about it.

  5. 5
    Tom on 15 Mar 2010 #

    #2 I’d guess Comic Relief and Matthew Banister about equally to blame: the former providing a sanctioned outlet for them, the latter cutting off their oxygen by firing all the people who encouraged them.

    (Though shit novelty records championed by DJs survived into the 00s to some extent)

  6. 6
    Kat but logged out innit on 15 Mar 2010 #

    5 years old = I absolutely bloody loved it of course.

    Listening back today I have just twigged that it’s actually the same tune as ‘I Am The Music Man’, isn’t it? Did Black Lace get the idea from this?

  7. 7
    Rory on 15 Mar 2010 #

    thefatgit: Yeah, that and/or the chorus. Arrggh, let’s get onto the next one, quick.

    That’s quality 1987 desktop publishing, that sleeve. MacPaint, by the looks of it.

    I always wondered how The Firm got away with using their name when Jimmy Page’s band predated this by a few years. But it turns out these guys had an earlier 1982 hit, “Arthur Daley ‘E’s Alright”, which peaked at number 14 and was performed on TOTP. I can imagine how it goes – some kind of geezer knees-up, I’m guessing. Which is what this one is, isn’t it? Knees up Mister Spock, knees up Captain Kirk…

  8. 8
    Izzy on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Sometimes there is no gulf wider than the one between the 12 and the 13 year old boy

    Ouch. Nice observation, but slightly painful to recall being cursed with local friends who were all a year or so older than me, and who accordingly always had slightly different interests and perspectives, a gap which no doubt swelled to a gulf around this time. Particularly as they had older siblings to leech off, while I did not. And then being doubly cursed by my schoolfriends mostly seeming a little silly in comparison.

    Nowt to say about this record, other than that the hook is still buried deep – I was never a fan of this, or Who, or any of that stuff, which is a little odd as I’d devour fantasy literature for years.

    The only real Star Trek memory I can boast was happening to see a Next Generation episode when I was 17 or so and mentioning it next day at school, and being astonished to find that people got hyperenthusiastic and took it all very seriously! As I’ve got older and less cynical I would normally applaud that, but something there still seems rather creepy.

  9. 9
    wichita lineman on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Re 7: I’ve got a feeling these are three different Firms. The man behind Star Trekkin’ is Brian O’Shaughnessy, who, a little later, engineered Primal Scream’s Loaded and has been the producer of Felt/Denim Lawrence’s Go Kart Mozart records. Shame that GKM’s Sailor Boy wasn’t the Simon Bates-backed novelty number one.

    The sleeve for Star Trekkin’ looks EXACTLY like a 1979 DIY photo-copied A4 sleeve – the Thin Yogurts! Danny & The Dressmakers! Hornsey At War! – which makes me warm to it a little more than I ought.

    Will I be the first person to mention Spizz Energi’s Where’s Captain Kirk? The first indie mega-hit not to trouble the Top 40: great tune, love the hiccupy vocal and all, but the lyrics confused me then and they confuse me now.

  10. 10
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Tom just emailed this to the FT elves:

    The Firm’s one and only album, Serious Fun (1987)
    A1 Star Trekkin’
    A2 Girls Got Feelings Too
    A3 Arthur Daley (‘E’s Alright)
    A4 Snookered
    A5 Heavy Metal Robot
    (Written By – O’Connor/Tenney)
    A6 Start Wrekkin’

    B1 Superheroes
    B2 Strawberry Ice Cream, Jelly And Cake
    B3 Monster Rap
    B4 Cash In Hand
    B5 Summertime On 42nd Street
    B6 Pop Stars

  11. 11
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Serious Fun!

  12. 12
    wichita lineman on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Pop Stars?!

  13. 13
    Rory on 15 Mar 2010 #

    The man behind Star Trekkin’ is Brian O’Shaughnessy, who, a little later, engineered Primal Scream’s Loaded

    *brain explodes*

  14. 14
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 15 Mar 2010 #


  15. 15
    Rory on 15 Mar 2010 #

    yer freakin’ me out, man.

  16. 16
    JimD on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Um, this was the first single I ever bought. I’ll never forgive myself.

  17. 17
    Billy Smart on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Hm, haven’t heard this for 23 years. Here goes.

    God, that was depressing. If I was trapped on dancefloor with a lot of people who were enjoying this and finding it funny, it would push me over the edge. At least ‘No-one Quite like Grandma’ exploits an admirable sentiment.

    I do quite like ‘Arthur Daley E’s Alright’, though. If only the “Propping up the bar, at the Winchester Club” line, not the poor quality impersonations of George Cole and Dennis Waterman.

  18. 18
    Birdseed on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Another one I’m too young and too geographically distant to remember, but I actually really like the sound production work on this one, especially the last, chorus-warped sci-fi section. A decent dance tune with that kind of texture would be awesome.

  19. 19
    lord darlington on 15 Mar 2010 #

    They said it couldn’t be done… this is currently overtaking (undertaking?) St Winifreds on the Readers’ Worst Top 100.

    Thinking about it, the whole “we wanna be free to do what we wanna do” sounds like something from a Star Trek episode where the whole crew accidentally swallows some ‘space’ pills – cure Spock in tears, Scotty drunk, Kirk and Uhura in illicit clinch. It all makes sense. Oh my gosh.

  20. 20
    Alan Connor on 15 Mar 2010 #

    You are not qualified to find this difficult unless you have been egged into standing up en famille in the stalls at the Reading Hexagon to join Keith Chegwin and the actor who played Mr Sulu for a singalong towards the end of IIRC Aladdin. That we are discussing Star Trekkin’ suggests The Firm had considerable powers; how sad that they chose to use them for evil.

  21. 21
    Tom on 15 Mar 2010 #

    I’m seeing 2.1 which is over Winifred’s – Grandma’s position is safe for now!

  22. 22
    wichita lineman on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Re 18: Arthur Daley is a Chas n Dave knock-off, but a proper earworm. I get odd lines from it popping up in my head on a daily basis – same goes for Ernie, She Wears Red Feathers, old Pepsi ads, FA Cup results from 1974/75, Andre Agassi mumbling “sure is coffee at its best”, and other gibberish which blocks out all the important stuff. “In a right two and eight”, you could say.

  23. 23
    MikeMCSG on 15 Mar 2010 #

    #5 Tom -absolutely right about Bannister and his cohort Dann. You couldn’t have fun on their Radio One unless it took the form of pretending to understand Danny Baker’s “inventive torrents of thought”/self-indulgent grandstanding (delete according to preference).

    Another explanation comes from Haircut-turned-A & R-man Mark Fox as quoted in Tony Hawks’s “One Hit Wonderland” – “At the time of Stutter Rap (probably the last self-sufficient big novelty hit-Mike)most of the kids who were buying records were watching either Top of the Pops or The Chart Show or both.Now they are watching hundreds of different programmes on cable – or pissing about on the Web.”

    My recollection is that it was actually Simon Mayo (Bannister’s golden boy ironically) that started bigging this up on his Saturday evening show but maybe Batesy was the first of the daytimers to pick up on it (sadly I was working by this time and wouldn’t know).

    I don’t think it’s that bad- it’s a lot funnier than “Arthur Daley”, Rory, so approach that with care ! I agree with Tom vis-a-vis Doctor Who although that actually makes me warm more to this record because of the disrespect it shows (though I think most Trekkies were just delighted to think they might be fleetingly a part of mainstream culture and bought it). Blake’s Seven I thought was a great antidote to Star Trek – Avon’s ultra-cynicism the perfect riposte to Kirk’s indigestible moralising.

    And it gave us Brits a look in after a trio of US artists at the top.

  24. 24
    AndyPandy on 15 Mar 2010 #

    I always thought this was quite a superior comedy record – clever production like someone above just said, quite imaginative and you actually had to at least be a fan of the 1960s series (about the only science fiction along with pre about 1977 Dr Who that I ever really liked – wouldn’t wanna watch the former now tho)to get all the jokes.
    It’s easy to slag off but its one of the few of 1000s of comedy to ever get to Number 1 – and unlike most of the others did it without the boost from Comic Relief/being featured on a television show.

    1000 times more intelligent than “the Chicken Song” and some of the 90s/00s comedy records for instance.

    I didn’t know Simon Bates played it – I remember hearing it for the first time on one of the afternoon shows on Radio 2.

    @19: they were all down on a planet after breathing in spores from a plant that gave you complete happiness for ever and then Kirk had to ruin everything by refusing to completely give into the idea of not having to strive or something – it really annoyed me at the time!

  25. 25
    lonepilgrim on 15 Mar 2010 #

    I liked it then and I quite like it still – sure it’s silly and irritating and you wouldn’t want to listen to more than once but it’s made in a good spirit. I certainly prefer it to The Young Ones and Spitting Image.
    I’m hoping that Marcello can reveal the free jazz connections to this one ;-)

  26. 26
    Rory on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Made in a good spirit, I’ll grant you – its almost accidental climb to the top was hardly a Cowell-like contrivance – and silly I don’t mind, but it’s the “irritating and you wouldn’t want to listen to more than once” that makes it a 1 for me. Especially as – having lived through 1987 – I’ve heard it so many more times than once.

    It’s worse than that, he’s loaded, Jim, loaded, Jim, loaded, Jim, we come in peace, have a good time, have a good time, have a good timeNOOOHHHHHHHHH

  27. 27
    enitharmon on 15 Mar 2010 #

    Well, well! Until five minutes ago I was blissfully unaware of this little, er, gem isn’t quite the word I’m groping for I think.

    I don’t feel my life is particularly enriched as a result.

    Dreadful, isn’t it!

  28. 28
    Alan on 15 Mar 2010 #

    re the populist bottom 100, there is something odd going on with new popular entries that i haven’t nailed down. it seems to be when there are a low number of votes in. anyway, it’s settled down level with Grandma. Sounds about right.

    I’m pretty sure there was a copy of this in the house at some time, and it was not of my doing. But I recall finding this hilarious at first — and would have dropped to gritted toleration of it much like (as MichaelH puts it) a repeated Monty Python sketch off an LP, within days.

    Unlike Tom, though I was a Who fan, I could barely comprehend that ST:TNG was actually happening – it seemed impossible that there could be NEW star trek. They were bringing something extinct back to life. It turned out very disappointing of course, and then college got in the way, which turned out to be a blessing. While studying to be a teacher in spring 92, my landlady was an advanced and stereotypical ST:TNG fan — I recall her going to a convention to the US for the weekend and came back covered in Federation badges. My weekends were filled with marking, gin and watching her VHSs of the stuff I’d missed.

    awful song – i bet they get a ton of usage payments from being used in compilation videos for fans tho.

  29. 29
    swanstep on 15 Mar 2010 #

    So, what’s the final, ghostly, white, space-head image in the video? Is that (spitting image) Reagan with Mickey Mouse ears?

    If it is then, notwithstanding the overall shittiness of the vid., I’d say it does finally get somewhere (perhaps matching the slight uptick in the music at the very end).

    Approached from a slightly different angle, while the song does indeed use even-at-the-time shop-worn Star Trek one-liners, some of those one-liners – ‘ya canna break the laws of physics’ (always said just before something supposedly truly exceptional happens), and ‘we come in peace, shoot to kill’- do code up attitudes that Americans particularly on the right have: that America is (i) an exception to every rule, and that (ii) it is uniquely, even supernaturally a force for good and peace in the world, hence that all of the shooting to kill it regularly does is never less than fundamentally innocent/well-intended/justified etc..

    The song isolates some of those near paradoxical ideas as they showed up in the original show, mocking them but also enjoying them as part of the original show’s guilty Team America: Galactic Police charm. The song’s pretty unlistenable, but I think it nonetheless captures something (which the vid. may pick up on in the way I began by describing). Maybe this deserves a low 2 rather than a 1.

    [Note that if you follow how Obama gets criticized and suspected in the US these days, the ideas that he may not sufficiently fervently believe in (i) and (ii) are never far from the surface (see this nytimes blog from last year for some examples).]

  30. 30
    will on 15 Mar 2010 #

    I was always quite fond of Arthur Daley (E’s Alright). And yes, in the intervening quarter century large swathes of it have continued to rattle around my head too. I seem to recall there was a ‘posh version’ on the B Side with an interpreter with a RP accent translating the rhyming slang into ‘proper’ English.

    Star Trekkin’ though is rubbish. Didn’t DLT have a hand somewhere in making it a hit?

  31. 31
    anto on 16 Mar 2010 #

    -Homemade beats.
    -High-pitched vocals.
    -Attention-seeking videos.
    -Idiotic repetition.

    Hmmmmm in other words the sort of thing Liam Howlett and the Prodigy would be making a packet from within 5 years.

    Never under-estimate how thin the line between novelty and credability actually is.

  32. 32
    Tom on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Haha first ever toytown techno record – good angle anto!

  33. 33
    Doctor Casino on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Wow, wow, wow. Never conceived of this as a #1, in fact never conceived of it really as a song that would have been recorded and packaged and sold – – – I knew it as a summer camp novelty song much as Tom knew “Lily the Pink” – just this odd thing that would get thrown into the campfire setlist. This would have been around 1992 or 1993, I think. Haven’t heard it, or even heard of it, since then. I think it gained a lot in its campfire version, without the dinky production and the bad impressions, and with the repetition working to help you learn the lyrics to sing along. Everybody! “Starrr Trekkin’ across the universe – HEY! On the Starship Enterprise, under Captain Kirk…”

  34. 34
    taDOW on 16 Mar 2010 #

    have never heard and am now disappointed to find that it is not in fact by jimmy page’s the firm (knew it wasn’t foxy brown’s the firm).

  35. 35
    LondonLee on 16 Mar 2010 #

    “We come in peace, shoot to kill” used to make me laugh anyway. And, like #29, I too was thinking that it’s a very succinct description of American foreign policy.

  36. 36
    scrogghill on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Can’t get more distant from number one than this Who-based record surely:


  37. 37
    Garry on 16 Mar 2010 #

    I turned ten about that time. I loved it then, and for the pure reason of nostalgia, I love it now. Being ten, such records as this helped me get into pop music, scary as it is. I mean I can remember Europe, Whitney etc etc but they were about things I didn’t understand, which meant to me they meant absolutely nothing.

    They were tunes to bop to and with lyrics I didn’t listen to. This was one of the first song I remember knowing the words to because it meant something to me. The first was probably Stop the Cavalry. It’s the same reason why I love Oh Yeah by Yello – in it’s case there are no verses really, so I didn’t need to worry about lyrics except the title ones.

    All that said, I was and still am firmly in the Doctor Who camp. I still have all my books too.

  38. 38
    Vom on 16 Mar 2010 #

    I liked this enough as a five-year old to get the Serious Fun album in my Christmas Stocking that year, making it the joint-first album I ever owned. Luckily the other tape in my stocking that year was Thriller, which makes up for it somewhat!

    Start Wrekkin’ was a “heavy metal” version of the same song, disturbingly. In fact I think most of the other songs on the album were more annoying than this one, so it’s lucky there were no other #1 singles taken from it or we would have to review the rating system!

    edit: Actually Wikipedia says that Start Wrekkin’ was a Beastie Boys pastiche, although I obviously had no idea who they were at the time. I wonder if I still have this album somewhere…

  39. 39
    punctum on 16 Mar 2010 #

    A sort of comedy spin-off from the Rubettes, the principal Rubette ingredient being their guitarist Tony Thorpe, The Firm had previously had a Top 20 hit in that bleak summer of 1982 with the Chas and Dave soundalike “Arthur Daley (‘E’s Alright)” and applied similar precepts to their strange Star Trek parody. “Star Trekkin'” could essentially be described as an electro-vaudeville nursery rhyme, with its mock-pompous chorus alternating with various impersonations of various quality of various of the show’s characters, each of whom is given a catchphrase which develops into a kind of roundelay or fugue as the record progresses; as each character is added the song becomes progressively higher in tempo and key and therefore more frantic, cumulating in “Scotty”‘s yelps, following which the song explodes and we are left with strange, Chipmunk* (or the ghost of I Hear A New World?) speeded-up vocals floating into a psych-out meets ambient fade.

    In comparison with Spizz Energi’s “Where’s Captain Kirk?” which occupied the indie chart throughout most of 1980 and 1981 and managed to sell well into six figures without ever crossing over to the main chart, “Star Trekkin'” is crass, flat and juvenile. The question is whether all of this was intended. Given the involvement of other members of the Rubettes in the subsequent work of the KLF (as confirmed in The Manual), the probability that the Tony Thorpe who fronted The Firm is the same Tony Thorpe who went on to form the pioneering British house act The Moody Boyz and later became “Groove Consultant” to the KLF, and the uncanny vocal resemblance of “Scotty” to Bill Drummond, it is hardly surprising that some people at the time suspected “Star Trekkin'” to be another JAMMs stunt. But compared with the genuine wit and verve of “Doctorin’ The Tardis” the record would seem to belie this; it was 1987’s obligatory gruesome summer novelty hit, and should be regarded and left alone as such.

    *Chipmunk as in “David Seville/Alvin and the…” rather than “Oopsy Daisy.”

    #23 – Respect the Dan!

  40. 40
    MikeMCSG on 16 Mar 2010 #


    ” Hmmmmm in other words the sort of thing Liam Howlett and the Prodigy would be making a packet from within 5 years.

    Never under-estimate how thin the line between novelty and credability actually is.”

    Esp. when you recall what Prodigy’s first single was.

  41. 41
    Gavin Wright on 16 Mar 2010 #

    For many years I had this filed away next to ‘The Chicken Song’ and ‘John Ketley Is A Weatherman’ in the back of my mind, a vague childhood memory of novelty pop – however I had the, er, pleasure of hearing it again recently (twice) on one of the music channels (this was the same 1980s no. 1s run-through I mentioned on the ‘Reet Petite’ entry).

    It really is a terrible record – I hadn’t remembered that there weren’t any actual jokes in it, just a set of catchphrases (well, ok, there’s “only going forward ’cause we can’t find reverse”, which is just rubbish).

    Tom’s “cheapest record I think we’ll ever meet” assertion is food for thought – I think he may be right and I’d say this ties into the notion of records being ‘dated’ (something of a thorny issue I reckon). It’s worth imagining what the same single produced a decade earlier or later on an equivalent budget would have sounded like…

  42. 42
    MikeMCSG on 16 Mar 2010 #

    #39 “Respect the Dan!”

    I thought that would flush you out, Mr P !

  43. 43
    Vince Modern on 16 Mar 2010 #

    I was eight when this topped the charts; and that summer I got taken by the folks to a holiday camp in Bideford, Devon.
    One of my over-riding memories was this record dominating the kids disco hour – I’m pretty sure it got played every night (along with the Birdy Dance, Nelly the Elephant etc.)
    Even at my young age, I found this song grating. I also didn’t like the effect it had on some of my peers; the increased tempo towards the end sent them into an unpleasant, hyperactive rage.

    Late last summer I had a week away with my wife and two young children to Majorca. After our first dinner we found the not unplasant open-air stage and disco area, got some drinks and sat down in the warm Mediterranean air. “This is alright” I though. Then The Kids Hour started, and my son asked me to go and join him on the D-Floor. And before long (I think sandwiched in between ‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua and ‘Hey Baby’ by DJ Otzi) Star Trekkin’ got played.

    My point is, the last time I had the misfortune to attend a kids disco at a holday resort, Star Trekkin’ was still getting played (alongside other ‘kids disco anthems’ mentioned above). I therefore believe that for certain DJs, Star Trekkin’ is viewed as dancefloor gold.

  44. 44
    Slim Finn on 16 Mar 2010 #

    I may have heard Star Trekkin’ back then, but I can’t remember if I did. However, it was played in a pub in early 00’s, and I told my friends “this is the least funny South Park song I’ve ever heard”.

  45. 45
    Steve Mannion on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Maybe my favourite ‘annoying novelty’ #1 – at least I have great memories of it. The first (and only I think) 7″ my brother bought (by the end of the decade we just bought cassingles and the odd 12″). I’d seen little of the show but enough to “get” it. I did like how it ‘takes off’ (and nods even more vigorously towards Toytown Techno/Happy Hardcore with the increasingly high-pitched vocals) at the end and sounds like it really is drifting off into deep space. Annoying tho, yes, and I may never hear it again (I certainly don’t feel the need to) but for old times sake a charitable 5.

  46. 46
    Tom on 16 Mar 2010 #

    #41 John Kettley is worse than this even. (I don’t intend to listen to it to back this up.)

  47. 47
    thefatgit on 16 Mar 2010 #

    This thing with “The Firm”, is this the only example of multiple artists using the same monicker? Normally this kind of thing is frowned upon isn’t it?

  48. 48
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 16 Mar 2010 #

    There were two Nirvanas and (I believe) three Popol Vuhs! There are several other less striking double-ups which currently escape me…

  49. 49
    Rory on 16 Mar 2010 #

    I expect what happened was these guys got there first with their minor novelty hit in ’82 (Arthur Daley), then when Page & co. chose the name in 1984 their lawyers were able to buy off any protests (if there were any) from this lot; then when this Firm reemerged they could claim priority on the name and keep using it, especially as Page’s Firm was defunct by then. Or they just used it regardless for their 500 self-pressed copies, and the lawyers sorted it out after the event once this hit number 1. As for the 1996 hip-hop Firm, those were still the days when US and UK acts of the same name could co-exist and get tweaked for their opposite markets (e.g. the London Suede), before the internet made that impractical. And both the UK Firms were finished by then, anyway.

  50. 50
    Tom on 16 Mar 2010 #

    #47 anyone who uses last.fm for a while will soon realise that the multiple-acts thing is the norm not the exception except for the very famous.

  51. 51
    Rory on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Another example: the “U.K. Squeeze”, so-called in North America because of the U.S. band Tight Squeeze, and so-called in Australia because of the Sydney band Squeeze.

  52. 52
    Steve Mannion on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Re #47 & #48 also two Stardusts – a notoriously woeful edition of Guiness British Hit Singles from around ten years ago credited 1977’s ‘Ariana’ and 1998’s ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ to the same act.

    Whenever I see ‘The Charlatans UK’ and ‘London Suede’ I cringe (you may now josh heartily that hearing them has the same effect, if you wish).

  53. 53
    punctum on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Of course there are also two “Sugababes” – the original, brilliant group and the current horrendous troupe of imposters whose pitiful excuse for a new album has limped into the midweeks at a sturdy number eleven.

  54. 54
    thefatgit on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Thanks all, I had in mind the two “Show Me Love” singles by Robyn and Robyn S. Obvious really.

  55. 55
    col124 on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Wow–had no idea this made it to #1. It mainly was confined to “morning zoo” types of radio programs in the US, though it got plenty of airplay there. Just awful.

    Tom, the Doctor Who equivalent (in mortifying embarrassment) would’ve been if “Doctor In Distress” had hit the top. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1yW8FrrXAA

  56. 56
    wichita lineman on 16 Mar 2010 #

    And there are two Go Kart Mozarts – the UK one are sadly not on Spotify.

  57. 57
    Billy Smart on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Of course, there were two Oasises too, the original being an easy listening supergroup; Mary Hopkin, Julian Lloyd Webber and Peter Skellern.

  58. 58
    Erithian on 16 Mar 2010 #

    As discussed in a recent thread, there were also two Mel and Kims, potentially confusingly – and two separate acts called Kenny had teenybop hits in the early 70s. The two incarnations of Brotherhood of Man were essentially two different bands.

    Incidentally, Vince at #43, the last kids’ disco I attended, a few weeks ago (with my school PTA hat on) certainly featured DJ Otzi, but was notable for my being nearly bowled over in the rush to the dancefloor when the intro to “Thriller” came on. The sound of high-pitched 10/11-year-old voices bellowing the chorus of “Sex On Fire” created quite an impression too. (At that equivalent age, if we’d had a school disco, I’d have been bellowing “School’s Out”.)

    Moving regretfully on to “Star Trekkin’” – yes, the “we come in peace, shoot to kill” line was nicely satirical, but that was just one line. And the Klingons line was a fun smutty joke, but fairly old. The record was one you might chuckle at when you first hear it, but the more often you hear it the more drunk you’d have to be to find it funny. I caught it on the same 80s no. 1s run-through as Gavin at #41, and found it pretty cringeworthy, especially in the context of what surrounded it – mind you my 10-year-olds loved it.

    Given the acclaim for Tony Thorpe’s previous appearance on Popular, has there been a greater divergence between ratings for two contributions by the same person?!

  59. 59
    Kat but logged out innit on 16 Mar 2010 #

    #46 The B-side to JKIAWM is worth a listen though, “Festive Frolics From Four Fellows” which is all about watching Julie Andrews on telly. Alas it’s not on Youtube.

  60. 60
    TomLane on 16 Mar 2010 #

    No chart action in the States, but enough airplay that I was very familiar with this. Exposure on Dr. Demento’s radio shows helped.

  61. 61
    Gavin Wright on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Re: #50, Yes – Last.fm initially attributed the Swans tracks on my iPod to a doo-wop group of the same name. There’s a potential covers album there I reckon…

  62. 62
    Birdseed on 16 Mar 2010 #

    #55 Not sure there’s any point mentioning it, but I think he’s alluding to another record entirely which went #1 about a year later than this…

  63. 63
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 16 Mar 2010 #

    One of the responses that regularly amuses me here — probably because I have already been all the ages of man up to and importatly including SECOND CHILDISHNESS — is the outraged “The charts so belong to agegroup xx-yy” and concomitant huffpuff denunciation of records that appeal immensely to xx- and/or yy+ groups, as unacceptable intrusions into proper pop. Suppose a record is great if you’re seven but rubbish if you’re 15? Does that really mean it’s “really” rubbish? What about when you’re 35? 85? What is the league table of age-trumpage? At what age does objective and infallaible evaluation kick in, and when does it kick out? (I think I asked this question before, equally unclearly…)

    (I find Star Trekkin mildly amusing.)

  64. 64
    Tom on 16 Mar 2010 #

    It doesn’t kick in, but while you can (and should) acknowledge these shifting reactions in a response to a record, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to make your current one the most important.

    i.e. the fact of self-knowledge here is more useful than its specific application.

    Actually I say “it doesn’t kick in”, but it seems to for some people. I remember Simon Reynolds announcing once that by the time you’re 30 you should know what you like and what you don’t. This seemed (and seems) a silly position but it probably reflects his own responses and experiences. As for me, I would happily revise the marks on Popular on a weekly basis, which is the main reason I don’t allow myself to.

  65. 65
    Mark G on 16 Mar 2010 #

    two separate acts called Kenny

    Ah, I wonder:

    Both were on RAK, one being an irish guy called Tony Kenny, the other being an all-brit group that weren’t on “their” firsthit “The Bump”.

    All sound suspiciously like the first guy.

  66. 66
    Mark G on 16 Mar 2010 #

    re: Loaded.

    I thought at first that the speech samples were from that Star Trek episode where they got invaded by hippies. Spock joined the sit-in on bongos, if I remember.

  67. 67
    Steve Mannion on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Indeed most people act like they know better now than they did before. I would say ‘I liked this because I was the right age for it’ but then what did my age have to do with loving some so-called sophistopop from the same time, or indeed those early house hits? It just comes to the facets and dimensions of a piece of music I guess, whether there’s enough in a song to appeal to a child, adolescent and adult alike (this seems a reasonably good marker of pop quality but not exclusively so…it would indicate an increase of facets and dimensions in a song but otoh grown-ups still seem to like ‘Popcorn’ or even 1994’s most monotonous and seemingly inane #1). As alluded to upthread, The JAMs would soon create something that could thrill a huge number of pop fans at least 20 years apart.

    Oddly ‘Star Trekkin’ sounds ‘designed for kids (read ‘an audience not consciously concerned with musical sophistication’) but this wasn’t a kids show (I know there was an ST cartoon but I never once saw this on TV when I was growing up) so there’s no cash-in connection there unlike with Roland Rat or whatever. To put it another way, I didn’t like this because it was about Star Trek, but because I thought it was funny and somehow unusual (in ways that The Chicken Song didn’t).

  68. 68
    MikeMCSG on 16 Mar 2010 #

    #67 Steve, the ST cartoon was in the 70s and was the most boring humourless kiddie-unfriendly thing I can remember from that era.

  69. 69
    thefatgit on 16 Mar 2010 #

    @ 66…(Just what is it that you want to do?

    We wanna be free
    We wanna be free to do what we wanna do
    And we wanna get loaded
    And we wanna have a good time
    That’s what we’re gonna do
    Away baby let’s go
    We’re gonna have a good time
    We’re gonna have a party)

    Quoth Peter Fonda from the film “The Wild Angels”.

  70. 70
    Mark G on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Yeah, I know..

    The episode of STrek where they sang some song that basically consisted of whatever, followed by “Yayyyy Brother!”

  71. 71
    Tom on 16 Mar 2010 #

    #67 Star Trek in the mid-80s was essentially a kids programme, wasn’t it – repeats on BBC2 (?) at lunchtimes/early afternoons, opposite Pebble Mill At One. I definitely associate it with being ill off school or rainy holiday days.

  72. 72
    Steve Mannion on 16 Mar 2010 #

    I don’t think I ever even watched it. I liked the films. By the 90s I loathed ST generally esp. the new shows (changed my mind later, always enjoy TNG more than I expect to when I catch the odd repeat).

    There was an ardkore tune that sampled the opening fanfare of the original theme but I have no idea what it is. In my memory, because they were on the same pirate show tape my brother had acquired, I confuse it with another track that sampled Richard Nixon’s “Pat doesn’t have a mink coat…” comment. Better than it sounds!

  73. 73
    wichita lineman on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Re 64/65: Danny Kelly isn’t someone I’d quote too often but I remember him saying in his NME days that you don’t grow out of music, you grow into music. Embarrassment at 12 about something you liked aged 11 is a moody teenage response. I hated being called “Bobby” by the time I was 13 because I thought it made me sound like a little kid; by the time I was 17 I wished people called me Bobby again (and still do, but no one does).

    My tolerance for some types of music – pre-rock, novelties, MOR – has increased dramatically since I turned 40. I always assumed that would be the age when I ‘got’ jazz, but instead I ‘got’ Lt Pigeon and Guy Mitchell.

    Re 66: The first guy was sacked as ‘Kenny’ but Mickie Most retained the hit name – that’s definitely not him on The Bump or the utterly great Fancy Pants (with the deepest bassman voice ever). Wonder what happened to Tony Kenny? A falsetto to give even Paul Da Vinci the fear.

    Oh, on my own here but I really loved Star Trek (the original series) and pretty much no other sci fi ever. It was deffo programmed for kids. In my mind I associate it with The Monkees – similarly eccentric caricatured characters, and funny to boot.

  74. 74
    Steve Mannion on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Bobby it is! Nobody called me Steve until I went to college, much to my moody adolescent chagrin.

  75. 75
    sean on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Glad someone mentioned Doctor Demento. I’m fairly certain this was never in danger of cracking #1 here in the states (and it certainly got nowhere near a dancefloor – imagining a DJ playing this is truly hilarious), but I did have an old cassette tape of this song that I taped off the aforementioned radio show. In fact, I think that same tape also featured the Beastie Boys riff ‘Squirrels’ and that song about fish heads (fish heads, fish heads/eat them up, yum!).

    Maybe it was a result of my mother being a big Star Trek fan, but this has always given me a chuckle (not a big one, mind you). I grew up with repeats of The Animated Series on Nickelodeon, so I at least understood the jokes at the time, even if they were a bit lazy.

    As far as a Doctor Who equivalent, wasn’t ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’ just a bunch of Doctor Who sound effects played over Gary Glitter? I’m not sure either show was destined for greatness in pop music, although Information Society did a pretty good job.

  76. 76
    AndyPandy on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Billy @ 57: and there was a third Oasis – well sort of as it was spelled Oaysis -’92 hardcore act.

    Erithian @ 58: I thought most of the lines were very funny if you were a fan of the series as they all seemed to hit the nail on the head re what each of the characters seemed to say in every other episode eg “you cannot change the law of physics – if I give her anymore she’ll blow”, “it’s life Jim but not as we know it”. I can still raise a chuckle at it.

    Tom @ 71 I could be wrong but I seem to remember the original “Star Trek” being on a weekday evening at around 5.30-6.00 on BBC 2 in the early/mid 80s although not sure if it was still shown at that time in 1987.It was the last time I remember watching I’d previously been scared to death by it as a very young kid in the early 70s when it was on in the evening.

  77. 77
    wichita lineman on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Yes, 1985/86 it was on BBC2 at 6. Also in that slot, slightly before or after, were the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films. Fun for all the family! I mean it! We can’t have been the only family to wait with baited breath for the inevitable “He’s dead, Jim”, or to mimic the swoosh of the doors on the Enterprise, or the whistle of the communicator… I’ll stop right here.

  78. 78
    Jimmy the Swede on 16 Mar 2010 #

    I think all bases have been covered on this one. “Star Trekkin” is either for small children or very pissed up adults. That’s quite a demographic when you think about it.

    Whilst we are discussing one uber-famous TV Jim (Kirk), may I pay tribute here to another; Jim Phelps, who really does have an impossible mission now, alas. His mini-recorder has gone up in smoke for the last time. Great, great series. Peter Graves RIP.

  79. 79
    AndyPandy on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Wichita at 77: and the fact that early in most episodes when a landing party had been beamed down to a planet if there was an unknown actor in the group you knew that this character would be dead in a few minutes.

    And sort of fitting for this thread there were 2 acts called Space – French electronic group who had a hit in 1977 with “Magic Fly” which in 1987 was about a year from getting revived on the dancefloors and a group who had some hits in the late 90s and who were quite popular with some of the students when I finally got to university in the late 90s. I remember it vaguely annoying me that this bunch had nicked the earlier act’s name.

  80. 80
    Tom on 16 Mar 2010 #

    3 acts AndyPandy – the KLF’s Jimmy Cauty did an ambient album under that name – was meant to be a team up with The Orb’s Dr Alex Paterson but Dr AP pulled out and wouldnt allow his stuff to be used, so the released work is (kind of aptly!) very sparse.

  81. 81
    Jimmy the Swede on 16 Mar 2010 #

    # 79 – AP is so right about those landing parties:

    “Captain’s log, stardate, blah-blah-blah. I have decided to send a delegation onto the planet surface to investigate. Myself, First Officer Spock, Doctor McCoy and Ensign Phillips…”

    Hey, tough break, there, Phillips!!!

  82. 82
    swanstep on 17 Mar 2010 #

    The recent Star Trek film was pretty awful in my view (I felt very burned by all the critics who praised it), but it did have a good joke about the disposability/doom of red-shirted away-team members in the Trek universe. Kirk, Sulu and an unheralded red-shirt Olson jump from space into the atmosphere to land on a drilling platform that they wish to destroy. Olson speeds ahead of the others (out-cowboying Kirk, which is no mean feat), misses the platform, and is immediately flambeed by the drill beam underneath. Haw haw. I checked wiki just to see that I’d remembered the plot point right. It says just: Kirk and Hikaru Sulu perform a space jump onto the drilling platform, disabling it.

    That’s the spirit!

  83. 83
    thefatgit on 17 Mar 2010 #

    Ha! The disposable red-shirts of the Enterprise, yet Kirk still has a crew of 400 (oft quoted in several early episodes). I remember an episode where an away-team investigate some underground cave network, and are stalked by some lava-blob creature that only strikes when its victims are alone. Star Trek and Scooby Doo fused for one marvellous moment, into that “No, don’t split up! That’s what it wants you to do!” audience reaction. High red-shirt body count. Spock mind-melds with the creature in a tense denoument. Cracking stuff.

    Still think the single sucks.

  84. 84
    inakamono on 17 Mar 2010 #

    There, and I was expecting a really geeky conversation on the lines of “You know, Dr. McCoy never actually says It’s worse than that, he’s dead Jim: The closest he comes to it is…”

    Kinda disappointed really, in an vaguely embarrassed way.

    So, undeterred, I thought I’d search the googles to see if Dr. McCoy ever really did say it, and after browsing some fascinating articles using “It’s worse than that, he’s dead Jim” as a headline*, I discovered the holy grail**, as follows:

    “The phrase “He’s dead, Jim” was a classic line from the television series, spoken by Dr McCoy to Captain Kirk, in at least five different episodes (if you must know: ‘The Enemy Within’ (about a dog), ‘The Changeling’ (about Scotty), ‘Wolf in the Fold’ (about Hengist), ‘Spectre of the Gun’ (about Chekov), and ‘Is There in Truth no Beauty?’ (about Marvick))…
    “The “It’s worse than that” part of the quote did not originate with Star Trek itself, but with the 1987 song ‘Star Trekkin’, by The Firm, which was a huge novelty hit set to a simple ‘London Bridge is falling down’ tune.”

    I’m so relieved — I can smirk happily about compulsive Trekkies after all.

    And how come no one analyzed the ‘London Bridge’ connection…

    * ranging from the failure of e-democracy in Scottish elections, the likely whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, the future of the Anglican Covenant, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) detectors, and the history of Routemaster buses, to (unsurprisingly) a CETI message board, (as well as some quite disturbing photographs)

    ** (from something called “The Annotated Pratchett File v9.0”)

  85. 85
    AndyPandy on 17 Mar 2010 #

    Punctum @ 39 – surely two different Tony Thorpes though? – ie one a black Londoner who became known in 1988 with an early-ish acid track with the Moody Boys and the other the white guitarist of Rubettes fame who now teaches at Blackburn College and plays and promotes a blues night in my town, Rawtenstall, Lancs.

  86. 86
    punctum on 18 Mar 2010 #

    I’ve always wondered about that. The reason I get confused is that at least two other former Rubettes, or Rubettes associates, were closely involved with the KLF. I thought it was rather cool that their guitarist might have gone on to be a UK Acieed pioneer but, as you’ve just confirmed, it’s a different Tony Thorpe altogether. Ah well…

  87. 87
    mike on 18 Mar 2010 #

    I’ve long considered “Star Trekkin” to be the most irritating Number One of all time – so it was with some surprise that, on playing it again yesterday, I felt the corners of my mouth twitching upwards. Viewed from a safe distance, its gleeful determination to be as annoying as possible on every level now seems almost admirable. I hadn’t spotted the proto-toytown-techno connection before, but there is something happy-hardcore-ish at its core, and even the faint rudiments of a banging donk.

    The mantle of Most Irritating Number One Ever duly passes to a certain chart-topper from the second half of 2009.

    I’m not pushing my luck by playing “Star Trekkin” a second time, though. Once in 22 years is quite enough.

  88. 88
    punctum on 18 Mar 2010 #

    A fair number of candidates there, it has to be said, Mike…

  89. 89
    LondonLee on 18 Mar 2010 #

    #82 – That joke about the disposable crew member was done before in the spoof Galaxy Quest (which is great if you haven’t seen it)

    “I’m not even supposed to be here. I’m just “Crewman Number Six.” I’m expendable. I’m the guy in the episode who dies to prove how serious the situation is. I’ve gotta get outta here!”

  90. 90
    Erithian on 18 Mar 2010 #

    Oh I really enjoyed “Galaxy Quest”. Wasn’t that the one where they landed on a planet where all the aliens looked cute and cuddly, but as soon as you upset them they bared ultra-sharp teeth and brutally tore their victims apart? I was reminded of that planet at the time of the last Lib Dem leadership contest.

  91. 91
    AndyPandy on 18 Mar 2010 #

    Punctum @86:There was something almost as bizarre as a Rubettes guitarist making an early Acid Track though –

    Barry Blue was behind Cry Sisco’s “Afro Dizzi Act” which was one of biggest, most all-pervasive (and from over 20 years hence one of the most evocative of that time) tracks from the M25 acid house parties of 1989.

  92. 92
    mike on 18 Mar 2010 #

    And then there was Rob Davies from Mud, going all Balearic in the summer of 1988 with Electra’s cover of “Jibaro”… but more of him when the times comes, eh?

  93. 93
    punctum on 19 Mar 2010 #

    #91: Beyond the hits (and maybe including some of his hits – “Hot Shot” is, to put it mildly, bizarre) Barry Blue’s done some pretty out there stuff in his time. But then of course he also produced and mentored Heatwave and therefore Rod Temperton, who did a great lost single for BB in 1987: “Change It Up.”

  94. 94
    MichaelH on 19 Mar 2010 #

    @82/89 A phenomenon known to Trek fans (my wife is one) as the “expendable ensign”, since that is always the rank of the crew member who dies.

  95. 95
    Jimmy the Swede on 20 Mar 2010 #

    # 84 – And how come no one analyzed the ‘London Bridge’ connection…

    I for one never analysed it because I associated the tune, such as it is, with “I am the Music Man” as was outlined by someone else further up-thread.

  96. 96
    Doctor Casino on 20 Mar 2010 #

    “I Am The Music Man” was another campfire favorite at the same summer camp. We had a pretty limited range.

  97. 97
    Conrad on 24 Mar 2010 #

    in response to a comment much earlier, the Firm’s 1982 single Arthur Daley’s e’s alright…the b side was indeed the posh version, credited to the firm’s solicitor, Devious Des

  98. 98
    Billy Hicks on 19 Jan 2011 #

    Back in 1998, nine year old me and a host of other kids were being entertained by a clown in the summer holidays in Devon. He was singing both this and Black Lace’s ‘Superman’. You could feel a slight sense of bewilderment across all our faces as clearly none of us had any idea what these songs were – even then they predated our births. I wonder to this day if that clown’s setlist remains in the 80s, or whether he’s moved onto, I dunno, Mr Blobby or something, bemusing a whole new generation of kids.

    It’s enjoyable, harmless fun to me, maybe because I’ve never been overexposed to it. This also coming from someone who avoids Star Trek like the plague and instead a massive Doctor Who fan!

  99. 99
    DanH on 2 Aug 2013 #

    Well, when I perused the U.K. #1’s for the first time, this was a jawdropper. “What the hell is this Dr. Demento song doing at #1?” Yeah, that’s where I knew it from. I really don’t even hate it, except knowing that this made #1 in the U.K. and none of the Joshua Tree songs could.

  100. 100
    DanH on 27 Feb 2015 #

    It was life, Jim, but not as we knew it.

    RIP Leonard Nimoy

  101. 101
    Jimmy the Swede on 28 Feb 2015 #

    Yep, he’s dead, Jim. Boldly gone.


  102. 102
    Lazarus on 6 Aug 2015 #

    Given that their only other hit was ‘Arthur Daley (‘e’s alright)’, perhaps this is also the place to bid adieu to George Cole, who made the role of the said Arfur his own for some 15 years. Has any other British TV series spawned as many as three hit singles? Eastenders is probably the champion here, I admit.

  103. 103
    Kinitawowi on 6 Aug 2015 #

    #102: featured in it or written about it? As If had a crapton of chart music in it and qualifies under bo-*headshot from bunny*

  104. 104
    Andrew Farrell on 7 Aug 2015 #

    Well there’s this show called the X Factor… limiting it to drama, Soldier Soldier has a good record (in, er, one sense) – three singles three #1s.

    What’s the third Minder single?

  105. 105
    Jimmy the swede on 7 Aug 2015 #

    Yep, a hearty round of applause for Arfur. From ‘er indoors, he’s gone to ‘im upstairs. The old rogue will probably try to flog St Pete a dodgy second hand Rover… RIP.

  106. 106
    Mark G on 7 Aug 2015 #

    #104 You’ve clearly forgotten “What are we gonna get for Her Indoors” by George Cole and Dennis Waterman.

  107. 107
    AnotherPete on 7 Aug 2015 #

    #104 Auf Wiedersehen, Pet does quite well too.

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