Nov 06

CLIVE DUNN – “Grandad”

FT + Popular53 comments • 11,951 views

#295, 9th January 1971


The KLF’s The Manual famously details the steps required to have a number one hit – but with a caveat: the method outlined will only work once every several years. The dark – though somewhat obvious – marketing arts behind “Grandad” are similarly timebound. If you make a record about how great a relative is, runs the logic, and give it a very obvious name, and release it around Christmas time, then it will be bought as a present for said relative by huge swathes of children. It worked in 1970, it worked in 1980, and I’m sure there are plenty of horrible examples that didn’t get to No.1 (Was there ever an “Aunts are the best” hit, I wonder).

It only works every so often, though, because this sorry affair leaves everyone (except the record label) a loser. Middle-aged actor Clive Dunn firmly sets the seal on his typecasting of ‘doddery old boy’ – fully 14 years later he was still peddling Grandad in a (pretty wretched) kids’ comedy programme. The children who bought it waste their present money on something the recipients won’t like. The Grandads themselves have to listen to a record which paints them as suet-minded idiots lost in a perpetual nostalgic twilight, scared of cars and unable to cope with “telephones and talking things”. Even the pretty melody is spoiled by the ham-fisted introduction of a children’s choir, though this melody – and the fact that the songwriters blessedly step back from saying the old days were better – stops the record being entirely unbearable.




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  1. 31
    Marcello Carlin on 3 Nov 2006 #

    Arnold was Blackburn’s. Stewpot’s equivalent was the kid cackling “‘Ello darlin’, wuh huh huh hur huh huh” who may or may not have grown up to be Jude Law.

  2. 32
    Dadaismus on 3 Nov 2006 #

    So did Blackburn have a kiddies’ spot on his show? No, hold on, he used to do “Junior Choice” too occasionally?

  3. 33
    Marcello Carlin on 3 Nov 2006 #

    He took over Junior Choice when he was taken off the Sunday Top 40 show in 1982, and I think still regards it as the nadir of his career.

  4. 34
    Dadaismus on 3 Nov 2006 #

    Smashy and Nicey or what?

  5. 35
    Marcello Carlin on 3 Nov 2006 #

    I think the “sensational new sound of Durren Durren” was the last straw for the authorities.

  6. 36
    Erithian on 3 Nov 2006 #

    I remember around that time Blackburn played Status Quo’s “Rock and Roll” which included a line about Radio Caroline, and said “Radio Caroline… that’s something no-one can take away from me…”

    Personally I never forgave him for getting the Sweet’s “Turn It Down” banned…

  7. 37
    intothefireuk on 3 Nov 2006 #

    I imagine Junior Choice would have been responsible for many of the hits from the late sixties through the seventies when the show was so to speak at its peak. I hesitate to venture a list but if pushed ….. Anyway Grandad – pretty feeble even at the time – it was never really going to get any better. Still it kept Mr Flowers in Bass strings for a good few years.

  8. 38
    Johnboy on 12 Mar 2007 #

    Dunno about Ride A White Swan, but this load of sentimental tat probably kept McGuinness Flint’s splendid When I’m Dead And Gone out of the No 1 slot – or so Tom McG always reckoned.

    There’s nothing lower than zero so I’ll have to settle for giving it that.

  9. 39
    Waldo on 5 Oct 2009 #

    I’m afraid my older brother bought this, which was a bit strange since both our grandads were safely in the ground by 1970 – one in fact had played on as early as 1961, three months before I was born. I can only think, therefore, that his purchase was simply a nod to “Jonesy”. The B-side, “I Play The Spoons”, was over in less than two minutes, which was just as well. As for “Grandad”, I too think back to Dunn sitting in his chair surrounded by that group of grown women dressed as nubile, doe-eyed and clearly sexually-charged schoolgirls, ingenues, if you will, who were quite clearly capable of deflecting grandad away from being frightened of telephones by administering to him a programme of exciting and entirely gratifying… (Continued on P94)

  10. 40
    Dispela Pusi on 22 Dec 2010 #

    Johnboy, you took the words right off the tips of my keyboarding fingers. It would have been such a nice macabre touch to have had CD’s seedy crap followed in the top slot by a title like When I’m Dead And Gone.

    Rather off-topic, but … McG-F are one of the very few bands whose reunion gig I’d have bothered to go to, had they ever actually staged one. (Can never happen now, since irreplaceable lead vocalist Dennis Coulson is no longer with us.) They’d have been playing for the joy of it, rather than the cash or the ego, and it would have shown.

    [Semi-irrelevant factoid: Clive Dunn was playing an 83-year-old in a 1960 TV sitcom when he himself was only 38. What a peculiar career trajectory.]

  11. 41
    wichita lineman on 22 Dec 2010 #

    In the nineties I came across a housing estate which had a foundation/memorial stone that read “this estate was opened by Clive Dunn in 1975”. Somewhere around Archway. Pretty sure I didn’t dream it.

    When I’m Dead And Gone was, rather aptly, a ghost number one – a single week in the NME chart. Making Clive Dunn our very own pompitus of love.

  12. 42
    Lena on 24 May 2012 #

    Spring at last: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/energy-burst-trex-ride-white-swan.html Thanks for reading everyone!

  13. 43
    weej on 7 Nov 2012 #

    RIP Clive – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-20239694
    I hope he’ll be remembered for Dad’s Army, not this terrible song.

  14. 44
    Mark G on 8 Nov 2012 #

    there is talk of this being a ‘tribute’ Xmas hit, but seeing as how ‘some’ of us are l51′, what would we update the lyrics to?

    ‘Johnny Rotten made us laugh’ etc…

  15. 45
    punctum on 8 Nov 2012 #

    See my comment #4; do you think that’s wise, Britain?

  16. 46
    hardtogethits on 8 Nov 2012 #

    #44. Clive Dunn had a hit, bemusing
    Acted older than he really was, confusing.

    I’ll get my people onto Professor Green’s people. A number one in the making; pop will have eaten itself.

    #45. Indeed. Britain should have panicked.

  17. 47
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Nov 2012 #

    #45 – No, I for one think it’s less than wise. At least they can’t load up poor old Lord McAlpine for this one on Newsnight…

    Oh, RIP, Jonesey!

  18. 48
    speedwell54 on 10 Nov 2012 #

    *46 here in poetry corner

    Corporal Jones,
    and the Smiths, titanic,
    course of action is organic,

  19. 49
    Jimmy the Swede on 12 Nov 2012 #

    Corporal Jones
    Reached old bones
    A lifetime of Crown service
    ‘gainst fuzzy-wuzzies,
    Twice the Bosh
    And never once was nervous.

    He sang a song
    Surrounded by
    Grown women, not one kid,
    Twas a tad perverse
    But the firm reverse
    From what Savile ever did.

    RIP George Entwistle

  20. 50
    seekenee on 9 Apr 2014 #

    I’ve been reading and sometimes commenting on and off for about five years now and still have nt caught up with you in real time so here is as good a place to say a belated hello Tom. Hello! Great blog full stop..anyway it’s taken me decades to sit down and listen to this wholly and I like the verses which remind me of something better and he was in dad’s army which is fine but I’ll be scouring that week’s top ten for a better soundtrack to my birthday. Catch you later. :)

  21. 51
    lonepilgrim on 17 Jul 2018 #

    Even as a kid I found this cloying and would never have considered buying it for either of my grandads. I’m pretty sure that neither of them owned a record player anyway. Both were complicated men shaped by experience of the War and the Depression so I never viewed them as utterly warm and fuzzy although I loved them both.
    I saw Herbie Flowers play a daytime gig in a club in Brighton in the late 90s and he was a genial and self effacing man but even he seemed a little embarrassed by this (though probably grateful for the royalties).

  22. 52
    Travis McKenna on 25 Apr 2021 #

    I have to say this is is a 1/10 for me!

  23. 53
    Gareth Parker on 6 May 2021 #

    An easy 1/10 in my view, I’m afraid.

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