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Jul 12

MR BLOBBY – “Mr Blobby”

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#698, 11th December 1993

“Mr Blobby” is something of a first. We’ve met terrible records before – worse than this, in many cases – but their terribleness has been down to incompetence or cynicism (or in Jive Bunny’s case both). Blobby is doing something different: his single is best understood an extension of the Blobby M.O., the gag which made him a star on Saturday night TV. Celebrity is given to understand Blobby is a harmless kids’ TV character; Blobby then deliberately annoys the sleb, destroys the set, etc.

In other words the awfulness of “Mr Blobby” was a given. More, it was an aim. By Christmas 1993 Blobby was a national figure so his effectiveness as a prankster was long over, but there was enough time for one last great prank – get to number one with a record designed to infuriate, but that people would buy anyway because it would be funny to see it at the top of the charts, especially at Christmas. Hardly anyone had heard of “trolling” but here it was.

If you were being melodramatic – or keen on a bit of trolling yourself – you might say that this is the moment when the British public give up on the charts, turn their back on the one-shot dance hits, the first-week price-fixing, the return of boybands, et al. “Sod this,” the public cry, and vote for a deliberately stupid single by a pink jelly monster. Except I don’t think there was any malice in it – this isn’t a “Killing In The Name” type of incident, where one species of pop was pitched against another with plenty of sneering on each side. Nobody stood to win or lose. It was – like Blobby in general – just slapstick, corporate Dada, highly merchandised nonsense. It’s true that Blobby struck an awful lot of nerves – he was a lodestone for a wider debate about “dumbing down”, the BBC’s shift to an internal market under John Birt, a lurid, shambling “why we can’t have nice things” symbol for a vaguer sense of cultural decline.

But he was also a man in a rubber suit who fell over a lot. And this is his single, coming on like a megamix of previous novelties – the tinny Casio rush of Bombalurina, a chorus of kids a la St Winifreds, three-line-whip jollity (not quite as gritted-teeth as The Stonk), and plenty of parping and farting because, er, Britain. And what do you know – it improves on its sources.

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  1. 1
    punctum on 3 Jul 2012 #

    Well, I don’t get to write about this anywhere on TPL, so here goes:

    “Human Behaviour” by Bjork; “Cannonball” by the Breeders; “Her Jazz” by Huggy Bear; “Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana; “Call It What You Want” by Credit to the Nation; “Into Your Arms” by the Lemonheads; “Cherub Rock” by the Smashing Pumpkins; “Stutter” by Elastica; “Open Up” by Leftfield and Lydon; “Regret” by New Order; “What’s My Name?” by Snoop Doggy Dogg – these are just eleven 1993 singles, off the top of my head, that I would much rather be writing about here than “Mr Blobby” by “Mr Blobby” but that’s the way this story goes (“White Love” by One Dove). Only in Britain, and perhaps only at Christmas, would records like this have any chance of becoming a hit (“You’re In A Bad Way” by what was their name again?). Though not 1993’s last number one – that comes next – “Mr Blobby” did return to the top for the festive season (“The Gift” by INXS). It represents the first of the BBC’s highly profitable children’s brand maximisation, and prior to his extremely dubious resuscitation in Deal Or No Deal, the last triumph for the brand of Noel Edmonds.

    Although he played no part in the writing or performing of the song, and only appeared in the video, Mr Blobby was the instantly identifiable mascot of Edmonds’ peak-time Saturday show Noel’s House Party; set in a fictitious country house named Crinkley Bottom to which various C-list celebrities would pay scripted weekly visits, the programme epitomised just how and why Edmonds was so easy to appeal to Middle England – those who believe in nineteenth-century good manners and manicured lawns, who chuckle at a lightweight double entendre but don’t want the boat rocked too wildly, whose idea of multiracial integration ends at the benign buffoon of a proto-Teletubby pink and yellow plaster cast which was Mr Blobby (note the song’s rather disagreeable racial double entendre of “Though he’s unconventional in hue”), whose toleration of anarchy and disorder was defined in its boundaries by Mr Blobby thrusting himself helplessly and causing slapstick wreckage around whatever room in which he happened to be standing, or thrusting. Perhaps the Blob also represented Edmonds’ own extremely belated response to the seventies ITV children’s show Tiswas, whose surrealistic and shameless custard pies and grunge-filled cages of baffled viewers’ parents stood out in stark contrast to the benign, patronising 1953 paternalism of Edmonds’ Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, playing on the BBC in direct (and losing) competition. Or to prove to himself that disaster could always be conquered (“Oh, Mr Blobby, when disaster strikes you never get depressed”) after a viewer was killed while preparing for a stunt on his eighties Saturday teatime programme The Late, Late Breakfast Show.

    After a misleading and copyright-vaulting “Thus Spake Zarathustra” takeoff intro, the song, as such, is derived in equal measures from “Lily The Pink,” “The Bucket Of Water Song,” “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma,” Bombalurina and SAW in general; maybe there would have been a case for it had the KLF been covertly involved, but its ghastliness (“No bridge too far – he’s got a car!”) is thrown into even sharper relief when contrasted with something of genuine danger such as “Sesame’s Treet,” the Smart Es’ 1992 number two hardcore rave breakdown of guess which children’s programme theme tune. When performed on TOTP, in accordance with the programme’s then blanket rule that samples must be performed “live,” the band assembled a roughshod cast of young kids who danced and moped around the stage in complete anti-coordination, humming or trying to sing something which may have been either the Sesame Street theme or Noye’s Fludde. It looked and felt like real anarchy, and is one of the greatest of all TOTP performances. Whereas “Mr Blobby” with dreary eagerness seeks to maintain the status quo – and if this looks too hard a judgement on a record made specifically for young children, then the various signifiers scattered hurriedly through its duration (“if humanity’s a question of degree” etc.) suggest that its composers were engaged in a particularly hamfisted act of pseudo-subversion.

    (“Mmm…Skyscraper, I Love You” by Underworld)

    (Simon Cowell – “Congratulations. We shall need the body for evidence.”)

  2. 2
    punctum on 3 Jul 2012 #

    (did I mention that this is where Simon Cowell comes in to derail the Popular story?)

  3. 3
    Kat but logged out innit on 3 Jul 2012 #

    I watched Noel’s House Party every week but I hated the Blobby single (poss due to the Will Carling association?). I remember going round to some friends of my parents’ between Xmas and NY and one of their kids proudly displaying me her shiny new Blobby single she’d got as a present. I pitied her, reader, I pitied her.

    I myself got a cassingle of Moving On Up by M People.

  4. 4
    Steve Mannion on 3 Jul 2012 #

    The cover intrigues me. Was there actually more than one Mr B? A potential legion of blotchy buffoons ready to unleash hell on Noelly E’s signal? A cloned clown for all to see, no severer a science scandal oddly obscured by the more palatable presentation of a sheep named Dolly?

    Clearly.

  5. 5
    Lazarus on 3 Jul 2012 #

    Quite the most unpleasant sound to emerge from Noel Edmonds’ Crinkly Bottom, this was greatly enjoyed by our daughter, who, at two and a quarter, was squarely in the Blobby demographic. Worse, she got his video for Christmas, so we had to endure repeated playings of that between Rosie & Jim and Tots TV (Spider in the Bath was good, though, and that had kids singing on it as well). Mr B was interviewed in Q, by the way, in the late Tom Hibbert’s “Who the Hell …” feature. Thankfully the man in the suit, whose name I don’t now recall, soon broke off from going “Blobby blobby blobby!” – possibly under threat of violence – and gave quite a sensible interview in which he basically said he just liked making kids happy. 2 seems charitable but I take the point that it was supposed to be rubbish anyway.

  6. 6
    punctum on 3 Jul 2012 #

    I would have given it a zero but Popular customs dictated that I had to give it a one, ooer missus, etc.

  7. 7
    Cumbrian on 3 Jul 2012 #

    If anyone tries to tell you that TV used to be so much better in the old days, especially if they are only old enough to formulate proper memories from about 1990 onwards, Noel’s House Party should be thrown right at them. Watched by millions because it was that, Blind Date, a documentary on Roman Roads on BBC2, a random French film on C4 or turning the TV off (and why would anyone do that?), it stands out as being cheap, occasionally nasty and utterly lightweight. Were we really better off with families watching this on Saturday night instead of Strictly, X Factor or what have you? Never mind that the Beeb were in the middle of their self imposed Dr Who exile. There really could have been something a hell of a lot more entertaining on than NHP – but why bother eh? The proles don’t have any choice so they’ll lap it up. It’s not like I think we’re in a golden age of Saturday night TV now (though I suppose in some senses we might well be) but at least it’s better put together than Noel’s House Party.

    Tosh anyway. Utter tosh. Lucky to get 1 – though marginally better than Bombalurina and Hale and Pace, so that much I agree with.

  8. 8
    Pete on 3 Jul 2012 #

    @4 There was certainly a Mrs Blobby and baby Blobby: at least according to the Amiga game:
    http://www.emuparadise.me/GameBase%20Amiga/Extras/Boxscans/M/Mr%20Blobby_Front.jpg

  9. 9
    thefatgit on 3 Jul 2012 #

    Tom and Marcello have nailed it. I wondered, as the dreary Major years rolled on, whether the Great British Public’s appetite for schadenfreude (Noel & Blobby for BBC, Beadle and his elaborate disguises for ITV) could ever be satiated. I found that Saturday Night’s TV watching started to become a chore rather than a delight.

    I was settling into a family routine with my future ex-wife and her 6 year-old daughter who thought Mr Blobby was for “toddlers”. Her obsessions were unsurprisingly, Barbie and Ken. The Blobby single never passed our threshhold, for which I am eternally grateful.

  10. 10
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 3 Jul 2012 #

    It’s a daily mail link so I won’t give them traffic, but if you’re in the market for reverse schadenfreude, google-image the strangely poetic phrase “abandoned ruins of mr blobby theme park”

  11. 11
    flahr on 3 Jul 2012 #

    The first eponymous number one single and – if I remember my Kutner & Leigh correctly – the tallest ever occupant of the top spot. It’s certainly a single seemingly tooled to be ultimately perverse, though Tom’s analysis seems a bit wishful thinking to me – the song has a certain bounce to it, never stays the same for too long and was, after all, a Christmas hit, so surely it’s more a case of the kiddies liking it than it is some lowbrow gag on the part of its buyers?

  12. 12
    lonepilgrim on 3 Jul 2012 #

    If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever. A pink boot, with yellow spots.
    I have done as much as I can to avoid exposure to this piece of sh!t with it’s crushingly enforced ‘hilarity’. The video appears to include Carol Vorderman and Jeremy Clarkson as well as parodies of Shakespear’s Sister’s ‘Stay’, Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted to Love’ and ZZ Top videos which may be designed to ‘amuse’ the adults but probably reflect the director trying to window dress the hideous void at it’s centre.

  13. 13
    will on 3 Jul 2012 #

    I have to say the Blobby phenomenon rather passed me by. At this stage I was more likely to spend my Saturday nights mashed up on ecstasy pipes than watching TV.

    A man in pink and yellow dotted suit that falls over a lot whilst crying ‘blobby blobby blobby’…don’t know about you, but I always thought it sounded rather fun. I could never work out why people got so annoyed by him/ it.

  14. 14
    wichita lineman on 3 Jul 2012 #

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard it.

    I’d imagined Blobby himself taking the lead vocal, which would have made it more “corporate dada” (nice phrase) but maybe far worse. As it is, Mr Blobby reminds me of the Skippy theme, which almost makes me feel warmly towards it. It’s nowhere near as awful as The Stonk (no dreadful gags, at least not that I noticed) or Bombalurina (take one of the most irritating hits of the sixties and make it ten times more irritating).

    Think how many ways this could have been worse. The kids chorus isn’t sickly. There’s no “ah yeah! ch-ch-check this out!”. And Noel doesn’t do a creepy Phil Spector-styled Christmas message.

    But it’s no I See The Moon.

  15. 15
    Steve Mannion on 3 Jul 2012 #

    #7 I think that’s quite unfair on Noel’s House Party really – 20 years ago time it seemed like perfectly pitched early evening family-orientated light entertainment and relatively imaginative and innovative with it e.g. ‘NTV’, ‘Wait Til I Get You Home’, introducing guests (regular or not) literally through the front door(bell). Blind Date good fun too. That said ’93 or not long after is probably around the time both were starting to seem tired.

  16. 16
    Tommy Mack on 3 Jul 2012 #

    I cringe when I remember how much I liked Mr Blobby: his brand of coporate Dada I guess appealed to my 12 year-old (christ, was it that late, I must have been pretty backward) self: a no-brow personification of chaos and destruction, destroying all in his wake, trashing the bourgeious pretentions of Noel’s C-list guests.

    At least that’s how I saw it at the time. But yes, in retrospect, utter, utter shit. Once more, deep and deserved shame at my younger self…

  17. 17
    Richard Buckley on 3 Jul 2012 #

    I’ll join the semi-defenders. I remember at the time feeling rather pleased that this cheap throwaway gag became such a phenomenon, conquering the carefully researched and market-tested products of the international toy and entertainment brands – proving once more that nobody knows anything.

    If the BBC had actually intended this to happen, the character would surely have been slicker and better-written, with more than one joke to offer. Auntie would surely also have made more than one costume – I remember that nasty rubbery thing becoming more grubby, creased and decrepit with each week’s antics. I can only imagine what it must have smelt like.

    And the commercial windfall must surely have helped the BBC keep the licence fee a fair bit during the hard times of the early 90s; the fad may even have helped save the BBC, which was at the time under threat from the Government like never before. So perhaps this is actually one of the most politically important number ones of the nineties. Would we really prefer that it had never existed?

  18. 18
    speedwell54 on 3 Jul 2012 #

    Tom you mention “a record designed to infuriate”. I never thought of it like that at the time. I never thought of it deliberately trying to annoy. I am reconsidering. When you look at the video cast list, Noel, Carol Vorderman, Will Carling, and Jeremy Clarkson, I guess it’s difficult to come to any other conclusion. TV sports bloke Garth Crookes is also featured, and laughs SO much when Mr Blobby knocks over some goalposts. I don’t know if he is a good actor or genuinely thought it was funny, actually, I struggle to believe either option. Bizarre.

    It’s hard to find ways to be positive about this single (and I don’t know if this counts either) however, Snoop Dogg debuted in the UK singles chart the same week as Mr Blobby and they can both be described as offensive, all be it in different ways. At gunpoint I could sing Mr Blobby in a reasonably recognisable rendition, but I couldn’t save my life with Snoop’s first NINE credits. I have just listened to them and just five minutes later, I’m still a goner. (eventually ‘Still Dre’ has a memorable hook)

    I don’t mind this record or it being at No1. You need chaff to get wheat.3

    Being 25 at the timeI can appreciate I wasn’t his key demographic, BUT the fact it’s a bloke in a costume is just so… His legs come out of something akin-in shape- to a jumper, there is no attempt to disguise this. He is not cuddly. He is not an heroic figure. He is not charmingly clumsy, but rather he is aggressively destructive. The electronic/robot voice doesn’t fit with the visuals or movement.. ok too much.. I’ll move on.

    @11 flahr – I’m thinking “Theme from S’Express” was close but no cigar.

    Finally thanks Izzy and Erithian for the warm welcome on the last one, and Punctum please don’t stop.

  19. 19
    swanstep on 3 Jul 2012 #

    At the time in the US NPR (National Public Radio) did a ‘The UK charts are crazy/The UK has lost its mind on bleep and E’ story that used this track as its terminus. IIRC, the commentator played a couple of (alien to the US) things including 2 Unlimited’s big hit then presented Mr Blobby as the bottom of an inanity slippery slope.

    Anyhow, hearing it now in the context of Popular, Mr Blobby feels entirely continuous with prior (The Stonk, We love you Grandma, Do The Bartman) and subsequent (Krazy Bunny) novelty songs rather than any sort of identifiable cultural moment or trend:
    1

    Unwanted consistency check: TomScore(Mr Blobby) = TomScore(Imagine) = TomScore(Mull of Kintyre) = TomScore(I’d like to teach the world to sing).

  20. 20
    Billy Hicks on 4 Jul 2012 #

    Right, yes, if you were an adult this was crap, yep, totally accepting that. And if, I dunno, the cast of ‘In The Night Garden’ had a massive hit with their theme tune now, it may well irk me as well.

    But in 1993 I was five years old and THIS WAS THE GREATEST THING EVER.

    * It’s my earliest memory of Top of the Pops. Watching the top 10 countdown, asking my Mum what all the arrows and numbers meant, and this song riding high.

    * It seemed completely understandable to my mind. Of course he’s ‘number 1’, he’s Mr Blobby. Maybe The Riddlers or the cast of ‘Tots TV’ will be number 1 next? After all they’re on TV all the time too.

    * There are contemporary photos of me, wrapped in a massive pink towel, pretending to be the Blobby in question. There are also photos of me *next* to the yellow-spotted creature, sadly not in reality but thanks to those early trick photo-booth machines.

    Some call it the end of an era, a new low, etc, for me this is just yet another notch forward to me in my introduction of music, which grows ever further from hereon. And whenever I hear it I get a giddy little thrill of extreme nursery-school era nostalgia. It’s meant for small kids and I fit into that demographic perfectly. At *least* a 5 for that sake.

    Pleasantly surprised this got more than a 1, to be honest. :D

  21. 21
    Weej on 4 Jul 2012 #

    I watched and enjoyed Noel’s House Party every week, but the introduction of Mr Blobby just baffled me. He knocks over something, annoys someone, yes, but it just isn’t funny, not in the slightest.
    Then he’s suddenly at number one with a song which also isn’t funny, not in the slightest.
    Yes, it could be worse, it could have more bad jokes and more novely sound effects, but then at least it would have something.

    Also, fantastic quote from that Daily Fail article – ”
    “The ravers should have more respect for Mr Blobby. He was a hero to a lot of kids and the thought of them taking drugs and having all-night raves in his house is completely disrespectful.”

  22. 22
    Cumbrian on 4 Jul 2012 #

    #15. Fair enough – YMMV and all that – but I’m definitely sticking to my guns on this one. You might say NHP was innovative but the question for me is not whether it was innovative but whether its innovations were to be welcomed. NTV and Wait Til I Get You Home were both formats relying on shock and then embarrassment of the victim/parents. Then you’ve got the gungings and what have you and the central plank of the show is about laughing at the misfortune of others. Even the Gotchas – great to puncture the considerable egos of DLT, Eddie Large and Will Carling – but why is it amusing to set up Jill Dando or Carol Smillie? NHP and Beadle (kudos to thefatgit for mentioning him) are responsible for mainstreaming a lot of this – and it’s still around today, what with the humiliation of people during the X Factor auditions and what not.

    Inclusion of the public for large sections of the show means you don’t have to pay writers or actors but gives a cosy sense of inclusion for the audience. Hence it is cheap TV. Laughing at others’ misfortune (admittedly not in every segment) means that the show was occasionally nasty. Being lightweight is not in and of itself a crime but add it up to the other stuff and it doesn’t help (the reason I find the Brasseye set up of celebrities funny and Gotchas not so much, is that there is a point to Brasseye – and often, there wasn’t with the Gotchas).

    I regard the whole thing with due suspicion. In my view, it’s no wonder that there was Grab A Grand during NHP and Noel Edmonds felt the need to run his annual Christmas gift giving programme – it’s to remind everyone that he’s actually human.

  23. 23
    Steve Williams on 4 Jul 2012 #

    The most interesting thing about Mr Blobby is that he started as a parody of a children’s character and then became an actual children’s character.

    Of course, there was a follow-up – with Noel on lead vocals!

  24. 24
    will on 4 Jul 2012 #

    What? There was a follow up? I really wasn’t paying attention, was I?

  25. 25
    thefatgit on 4 Jul 2012 #

    Despite NHP, Blind Date and Beadle’s About, 1993 TV was changing.
    The Word and The Big Breakfast had Channel 4 surfing some kind of televisual zeitgeist. Brookside was probably the best soap out there. Quentin Crisp’s contribution to the first Alternative Christmas Message. It seemed to me all the exciting stuff was happening on the fourth channel.
    BBC1 ended Going Live and replaced it with Live And Kicking, which was almost identical. BBC2 launched the marvellous Shooting Stars.
    ITV was busy with it’s new independent franchises, but they slapped us about with Cracker, and tickled us with Dale’s Supermarket Sweep.

  26. 26
    Cumbrian on 4 Jul 2012 #

    Big thing on TV for me in 1993 was The X Files starting. Shame about the last 3 or 4 seasons but, at least initially, was required watching in our house. I think I remember it getting big enough that they started sticking episodes on BBC1 (until the Beeb realised that it wasn’t pulling in quite the audience that they expected on the flagship channel and moved it back to BBC2 or a much later slot on BBC1 – again, only my memory on that though).

  27. 27
    ottersteve on 4 Jul 2012 #

    AND HERE IT IS!!!

    Officially the worst ever No.1 for me in the history of the universe.

    TOM! How can you give this absolute piece of tripe a 2? I would rather listen to the dreadful “grandma” song 10 times over than hear this again just once. “Mr. Blobby” is the worst example of something just thrown together for a quick buck while riding on the back of a temporarily popular – and then increadably annoying – childrens character. Admittedly this has been done since music began, but at least future No 1’s of a similar ilk sounded like some work had been put into them.

    This record alone made Xmas 1993 my worst one ever – mainly because the mental scares it inflicted on me remain to this day – and are all I CAN remember of that particular Xmas.

    Phew!! Glad i got that of my chest…..

  28. 28
    ottersteve on 4 Jul 2012 #

    #19
    Consistency check. Yes, Toms credibility is at stake here.

  29. 29
    Another Pete on 4 Jul 2012 #

    Late 1993 for me was when the phrase “comedy is the new rock and roll” gained momentum. Radio 1 around this time featured people like Alan Davies, Chris Morris, Lee and Herring and recent recipient of an OBE Armando Ianucci in their 9pm comedy hour. The Day Today made it’s TV début the following January.

    I will say this about Mr Blobby. Even if it took the duration of a pub lunch to write there is far more craft in this than some of the X-Factor finalists’ Christmas number 1’s.

  30. 30
    Tom on 4 Jul 2012 #

    My credibility died a long time ago! I love Swanstep’s consistency checks because in his Charlton-Heston’s-Stone-Tablets-Of-Quality universe they are a GRAVE INDICTMENT and I usually read them and think “Hmm, would I want to listen more to Blobby or Imagine? Nah, too close to call.” and give myself a pat on the back for getting it right so often. ;)

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