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Oct 10

JIVE BUNNY AND THE MASTERMIXERS – “Let’s Party”

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#637, 16th December 1989

A Jive Bunny Christmas medley was at this point probably the most inevitable thing in the entire history of pop music, but that didn’t make its arrival any less painful. And honestly, little could have prepared you for how brazenly shoddy “Let’s Party” actually sounds.

Let’s start with the backing – Joe Loss’ “March Of The Mods” is a record with several fine qualities, all of which appear in the two minutes of it Jive Bunny doesn’t use. The Mastermixers lift the march-time and riff and in their hands it immediately becomes a grim press-gang, redolent of the very worst aspects of the “party season”: the heartless forced fun of Christmas. Listening to it is like being pressed against a wall by some wobbling, braying, sodden monster who excuses all offences with the sprig of mistletoe clutched in their clammy hand.

It’s an introvert’s nightmare, and we are all introverts compared to Jive Bunny. For the first time the record acknowledges his malign presence: the “March” sections are extended to make room for a satanic hypeman crying “JAAAAIVE BUNNEH!” every fifteen seconds. The producers also drop in the occasional sample – “What the hell is going on?” asks a voice, perhaps a tactic to make the record seem like a spontaneous explosion of zany hijinks to which only boring straights could possibly object. (We’ll see this kind of thing again: Noel Edmonds, for one, is taking notes)

And at last we get to the sampled records. Naturally, having a theme handed to them on a plate and two decades of festive hits to weave together, the Mastermixes use a massive three songs. This isn’t mixing so much as carving – chunks of Slade, Wizzard and Gary Glitter hacked into the track and bleeding at the edges: Frankenstein’s monster in a kiss-me-quick Santa hat. The Slade section sounds like they’re trying to get the right speed live; before the Gary bit (“TAKE IT AWAY GAZZA!”) the MC goes “Wind It Up! Wind It Up!” as the tempo lunges upwards.

These are good records, of course – well, two of them are: Glitter is showing his eager-to-please side, not his swaggering one. But I think – just maybe – you’d get to hear them in full around Christmas without the intervention of the Mastermixers and their floppy-eared chum. There may have been worse records than this at Number One, but surely none more unnecessary.

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Comments

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  1. 101
    wichita lineman on 15 Oct 2010 #

    I’m intrigued by Over To You, John (Here We Go Again), the last Jive Bunny hit.

    From the artwork it would appear the Mastermixers are making the fatal error of trying to revive the JB formula by adding another character, a dog called John, who is doomed to follow in the ignoble footsteps of Scrappy Doo and Poochie.

    ‘Jive Bunny’ is a rather catchier name than ‘John’, though. I wonder if he made any solo records?

  2. 102
    punctum on 15 Oct 2010 #

    #96: Well, I thought they made rather a nice sound. Record companies were (note the presumptive past tense) only ever there to make money. I have no problem with that, nor indeed with making money per se provided it doesn’t result in the death, injury or misfortune of others.

  3. 103
    Rory on 15 Oct 2010 #

    @98, @95: Cynical, I argue, because it is “based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest: ‘a cynical ploy to cheat customers'” [merriam-webster.com]. I see this single as just such a ploy, motivated by the self-interest of JB and their record company: to make money, to get a third number one in a row, to see how far they could take it. What I can’t believe is that they thought this was genuinely good, something their customers (let alone the world at large) needed in their lives, because it’s just a splicing together of music that was already very much in everyone’s lives. It doesn’t offer anything new; even the mixmaster gimmick was no longer new, because it had already gone to number one twice.

    As for “honest” (re the St Winifred’s kids), I meant it in the sense of marked by integrity, having honourable motives, that sort of thing. They were kids, they were in a choir, they were given the chance to make a record, they were excited and flattered, they did their best – and they had no idea it would get to number one. But does the record company’s desire to make oodles of cash by foisting it on the grandmothers of Britain as Christmas gifts from their grandchildren – not by selling it to people who actually want it for themselves – count as an honourable motive?

  4. 104
    Rory on 15 Oct 2010 #

    @102 Do you mean St Win’s made a nice sound, or JB? I find St Win’s single far more listenable than this.

  5. 105
    Rory on 15 Oct 2010 #

    @102 In terms of making money per se, it rather depends what “misfortune” involves, doesn’t it. Tom had a nice line in his St Win’s review about grandmothers being cheated out of choccies because their grandkids bought them that single instead. So that’s grandmothers, chocolate manufacturers and the general listening public nil, record company one.

  6. 106
    punctum on 15 Oct 2010 #

    Well, no, that’s just someone’s imagination running rampant rather than anything that quantifiably happened. It’s not really on a par with bankers taking bets on whether nations will starve.

    I can’t read the minds of the Mastermixers or the author(s) of “Grandma,” nor do I know them, and therefore I have no direct idea of their motivation, but, as I said above, nobody makes music for people who don’t like music. I have a higher opinion of humanity than that. Hence I’d say it was a fair guess that they acted with fair intent rather than deliberately screwing punters out of their money – which is more than you could say about, for instance, the post-Lydon Sex Pistols.

    Record companies made money because that’s what they were set up to do. Even Rough Trade. Their motives arise from the ultimate goal of profit for themselves and their shareholders. That’s the way of the world. EMI was never going to be the People’s Trotskyite Music Collective. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t listen to the Beatles again.

  7. 107

    What I meant by “how far can we take this?” was “how much can we relax what we supposed to be the norms of correct painstaking attention and still see our records tumble happily off the shelves?”

    This is an attitude of open avant-garde enquiry, if anything!

  8. 108
    punctum on 15 Oct 2010 #

    E.G.: what’s that Christian Marclay got that Jive Bunny haven’t?

  9. 109

    I was thinking of the Portsmouth Sinfonia’s mixmastered classics, but CM works just as well.

  10. 110
    Chelovek na lune on 15 Oct 2010 #

    Hmm, I suppose “Let’s Party” IS vaguely reminscient of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, probably after it has been used. Ready-made, for one thing…

  11. 111
    Rory on 15 Oct 2010 #

    @106 I have no direct idea either; I’m speculating on the basis of the work itself and the circumstances surrounding it. Another point in favour of St Win’s record company is that they had no idea “Grandma” would go to number one, they were just putting it out there. JB and their company knew by late 1989 that whatever they rushed onto the market had a good chance of selling well. That’s often when people produce inferior work (assuming they considered “Swing the Mood” to be good work, which I’m perfectly happen to accept that they did). Did they themselves consider it inferior? I don’t know, but plenty of actors and musicians have admitted years afterwards that they thought certain of their works were crap all along. So I’m not going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ll give them the doubt.

    You say “nobody makes music for people who don’t like music” – I wasn’t the one who suggested they do, and in general I wouldn’t. But I can see one case where that rule breaks down, as it does for all sorts of products: when things are made to be bought as gifts for others rather than bought by people for themselves. That’s when the idea of the market as indicator of people’s desires for the products themselves breaks down. In bookstores at Christmas we see all sorts of rubbishy “comedy” books that are produced as stocking-fillers; they sell at a price that people would never pay if they were buying them for themselves, because they’re throwaway items. So while I wouldn’t argue that people make books for people who don’t like books, people do sometimes make books for people who don’t like this book, but think that it makes a passable present for someone else (who probably won’t like it either, as it turns out).

    There are records like that, too. This is possibly one of them (although I can conceive that there are JB fans in the world who bought it on its merits), but “Grandma” is a more likely example. The present-purchasing effect has boosted the sales of many a good Christmas record, too; it skews our regular buying patterns, and so it skews companies’ marketing efforts. I don’t really blame them for that, but I wish it didn’t result in so much crap being manufactured for December only to end up in charity shops or landfill the following January.

    Or on Popular twenty-one years later.

  12. 112
    Steve Mannion on 15 Oct 2010 #

    what about “music BY people who don’t like music”. fight the real enemy…

  13. 113
    punctum on 15 Oct 2010 #

    What’s wrong with buying gifts for others – and who’s to say that the recipients wouldn’t like them? Granted, I wouldn’t buy any of the stuff you mention, either for myself or for anyone else, but that’s an aesthetic judgement on my part. And unless you can provide me with quantifiable proof of the aesthetic and marketing intent of “Grandma,” then I have to say you’re making too many lazy assumptions about what some newspapers still call “plain people.”

  14. 114
    Rory on 15 Oct 2010 #

    @110: “You’re making too many lazy assumptions about what some newspapers still call “plain people.””

    Eh? Quite the opposite. I assume that Grandmas (like Grandpas and Mums and Dads and Aunts and Uncles) are all sorts of people, not “plain people”, with a great variety of tastes and musical preferences. Some of them will even have liked “Grandma” and been happy to get it as a gift. But a great many wouldn’t have cared for the song at all, just as many of us don’t, because it’s twee and sentimental and stereotypical and all that. All they would have cared about is that it was a gift from their grandchild, and that’s fine – that’s why it would have stayed in their record collections to the end, just as my Mum still has some embarrassing records I bought her when I was a boy. But that doesn’t make it a record with universal appeal.

    “Buying gifts for others” (a good thing) isn’t the same as “an annual gift-buying season in which you are expected to buy gifts for everyone in your family on a modest child-scale budget and with an under-developed sense of what those people might like, especially relatives you see only occasionally”.

  15. 115
    punctum on 15 Oct 2010 #

    “I assume”; “twee” and “sentimental” as pejoratives. Who said it was a record with universal appeal – haven’t we just demonstrated the opposite? And why does a record have to have universal appeal?

    “expected to buy gifts for everyone in your family” – ah, but who does the expecting and who set it in stone? Wider questions there about relationships to and distances from families which probably fall outside Popular‘s scope.

  16. 116
    Rory on 15 Oct 2010 #

    Re the aesthetic and marketing intent of “Grandma”: according to Wikipedia, its writer apparently wrote it in honour of the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday (30 March 1980). He later said: “Having initially turned it down, the managing director [of EMI] rang me and said he decided to put it out because he said he couldn’t get grandma, we love you out of his mind: ‘If it’s caught in my mind chances are that it will with the public, and we’ll put it out for Christmas.'”

    So a song written about a specific person was repackaged for generic grandmas and marketed at the one time of year when it might be bought as presents for them en masse. Nothing calculated about that, then…

  17. 117
    wichita lineman on 15 Oct 2010 #

    Let’s Party’s success is akin to Portsmouth Sinfonia reaching number one. Thanks Mark, now I have finally made my peace with the Bunny.

  18. 118
    rosie on 15 Oct 2010 #

    Rory, the QM’s birthday was 4 August not 30 March. I mention this because, being just two days after mine, it tended to steal my thunder.

    I contrived to be in Dublin in 2002, while The Nation Mourned. I’ve never really understood what The Nation really means in this kind of context (and in the context of “The Nation’s Favourite this-that-and-the-other”) because The Nation never seems to include me. Perhaps I’m a changeling and should really have been French.

  19. 119
    Rory on 15 Oct 2010 #

    Whoops, yes, I was switching it with the 2002 date, which I should have noticed. 4 August 1980 was her 80th, then.

  20. 120
    Mark G on 18 Oct 2010 #

    I remember the tune forever, but was suitably shocked when confronted with a 7″ (original) copy to find it was called “March of the Mods”, I mean, how?

    It’s a vaguely ska beat, but even then, what’s ‘mod’ about it?

  21. 121
    Mark G on 18 Oct 2010 #

    Re the TOTP edition: I hooked up the radio broadcast to the video recorder for the Mondays/Roses episode, so am possibly one of the few with a stereo video recording of this. I’d crash-edited the prog to have only those two, but would be sad if I’d missed out 808State being on the same show.

    Say it wasn’t so, someone.

  22. 122
    Steve Mannion on 18 Oct 2010 #

    Billy already did. I now realise I must’ve just had two episodes on the same tape and mixed them up.

  23. 123
    Old Fart!!!!!!! on 18 Oct 2010 #

    I’m sure I’m not the only one that thought the coda, featuring an interminable bout of giggling followed by a final “YEAH!”, to be not unlike the long drawn out death gurgles of a superannuated Jive Bunny after falling off his zimmer frame!!!!!!

  24. 124
    hardtogethits on 3 Nov 2010 #

    The only Christmas song ever to reach number 1 but be displaced before Christmas. I am amazed that there seems to be an acknowledgement that Let’s Party helped highlight March Of The Mods’ genuine charms in a very direct way, but that Let’s Party itself is still despised outright. A monstrous carbuncle on the face of an elegant stranger, it accidentally reminds us to broaden our horizons, and not to be too stuffy about it. Daft pop has always been with us, and some of it should be celebrated. Of course Let’s Party is pretty horrible, but I and others have it to thank for pointing us in the direction of the March Of The Mods. There are dozens of number ones that could turn me away from the charts as a source of new listening material – or, to be more hysterical, could put me off pop music. This is not one. 4.

  25. 125
    Billy Smart on 27 Dec 2010 #

    MMWatch: Everett True, 16 December 1989;

    “Read my lips: f*** off and die, vacuous sheep-felchers.

    Jive Bunny once caused a near fracas down the Stamford one night between our inestimable Production Chief, Steve Fletcher, and myself. He claimed that the lowest form of excreta known to man (viz: a f***ing rabbit) made better records than Black Box. I, not unnaturally, pushed him, and his chair over. But perhaps, you the readers, should decide.

    Was I wrong to do this? Was I then wrong to buy him a double scotch on the rocks by way of compensation? Should we have been in the pub at all when there’s so much exciting new music out there, just *itching* to be discovered? Can anyone read Q without an instant greying of the hair? Is Christmas a load of f***ing bollocks? All these questions and more will be answered in next week’s issue of Melody Maker. Melody Maker is recorded in front of a live audience.”

    True awarded single of the week to ‘Wood Goblins’ by Tad. Also reviewed that week were;

    Madonna – Dear Jessie
    Alvin Stardust – Christmas
    Olivia Newton John – When You Wish Upon A Star
    The Christians – Words
    Frank Sidebottom – Christmas Is Fantastic EP

  26. 126
    Auntie Beryl on 18 Jan 2013 #

    The Jive Bunny Christmas album sells thousands of copies every December, so this single – fully deserving its place at the foot of the Popular rankings – is still generating income for somebody.

    Slade documentaries don’t tend to mention Noddy Holder’s involvement in this, do they?

  27. 127
    Chelovek na lune on 18 Jan 2013 #

    @126, nor Gary Glitter ones…

  28. 128
    Patrick Mexico on 9 Apr 2013 #

    If Stock, Aitken and Waterman were the Cowell, Walsh and er, Waterman of their day, Jive Bunny were the Autotune.

    It can be destroyed. It is only one “person.” It is the only cure for the country at the moment.. whoops.

  29. 129
    Philip Arlington on 25 Aug 2014 #

    I was a seventeen year old extreme introvert at the time, and I’m pleased to say that I have no memory of this whatsoever.

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