May 08

JJ BARRIE – “No Charge”

FT + Popular/381 comments • 12,967 views

#389, 2nd June 1976

I was aware of this song long before I heard it – as a young boy it was quoted at me by my Dad should I ever object to tidying my room. Since my room was rarely tidy, I became very familiar with the central notion of “No Charge”. Like my Dad, I can find immense amusement and pleasure in this style of song – talking country with a sentimental edge – but this is far from a great example.

You might think, at first, that the style stands or falls on the strength of its concepts: not so. “No Charge” has a fine concept – mawkishness and moralising are assets here! – but where JJ Barrie falls down is on development and details. Once our young entrepreneur has presented his list, and been slapped down by Mom, the track has nowhere to go, and explores that nowhere thoroughly for two minutes. Contrast it with something like “Teddy Bear” by Red Sovine, where tears are ruthlessly jerked right up to the final words. Barrie, on the other hand, adds no new details and just repeats himself. This is partly because “No Charge” is a cover version, and you can hear what I assume is the original melody being hollered in the background: it sounds rather as if it’s trying to escape.



1 11 12 13 All
  1. 361
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 28 Apr 2011 #

    You were chuckling about that when I saw you last, Marcello — I wish I had seen it, the New Thing’s belated Bill Grundy moment!

  2. 362
    enitharmon on 28 Apr 2011 #

    Quoth marcello @ 360:

    “Grumpy Old Men” bang on about how great things used to be, whereas I’m more concerned about how things are going to be. Hence vinyl fetishists etc. have more in common with GOM than I do”.

    Erm, Mr Child-Prodigy-Who-Went-To-Oxford, did they not teach you Logic amongst those dreaming spires?

  3. 363
    punctum on 28 Apr 2011 #

    I done moral philosophy innit.

    I gave up quothing in 2003 on doctor’s orders.

  4. 364
    flahr on 28 Apr 2011 #

    So you will quoth nevermore?

  5. 365
    enitharmon on 28 Apr 2011 #


    Bravo, my little caramel wafer! I was a bit of an Ethics Girl myself at one time.

  6. 366
    Billy Hicks on 13 Jun 2011 #

    Can I be a bit controversial and say I actually quite like this song? Maybe it’s bad for 1976 standards, but given some of the crap that’s been at number 1 in the 35 years since, I don’t think it’s as bad as people claim. Maybe because JJ Barrie seems like a genuinely nice person (having never heard of him before the recent TOTP repeats), a friendly uncle type, yeah it’s overly sentimental but it’s written at least with some heart. There are records much, much worse than this to have graced the top spot, I’ll listen to this over some dire manufactured boyband ballad/X Factor winner any day. It wasn’t even the worst record on tonight’s TOTP, that honour went to Our Kid.

    Wikipedia page reveals that Mr Barrie is still alive and well, and approaching his 78th birthday in a few weeks. He’s also an ex-comedian, so I wonder if he’d have appreciated the Billy Connolly parody.

  7. 367
    wichita lineman on 14 Jun 2011 #

    1. Tonight’s TOTP??

    2. Better than Our Kid??? I haven’t heard their sole hit in years but in my mind it sounds like a Spector-lite pre-pubescent smash.

    3. No Charge better than most Westlife no.1s???? Err, yes, of course you’re right.

  8. 368
    Mark G on 14 Jun 2011 #

    1. Yup, watch on the iplayer!

  9. 369
    wichita lineman on 15 Jun 2011 #

    Bye bye JJ… never to be seen again after this week’s TOTP.

    Our Kid… memory playing tricks. Wafer thin production.

  10. 370
    Cumbrian on 5 Aug 2011 #

    Mojo this month has an article advertised on the front cover about “Why Punk Had To Happen” written by Jon Savage. Not read it yet – bought it for a flight later on this month (it came complete with Suze Rotolo’s book on Bob Dylan, which I imagine will help kill the time too). I wonder whether he’s bothered reading this epic thread to get some ideas.

  11. 371
    wichita lineman on 7 Aug 2011 #

    Ha! I’d like to think so. But sadly it’s mojo selling the mag with their usual exclamation mark-ridden front page. The piece has little to do with “why”. No mention of JJ Barrie. Or Third World War for that matter.

  12. 372
    wichita lineman on 7 Jun 2012 #

    The Guardian’s ‘Euro 2012 Of Pop’ omits JJ’s duet with Cloughie:


    …which I’d never heard til just now. The song’s lousy but Cloughie’s spoken part is really quite touching.

  13. 373
    punctum on 7 Jun 2012 #

    “Why Punk Had To Happen” – so that ageing hacks could earn a crust writing articles about it 36 years later.

  14. 374
    lonepilgrim on 8 Jun 2012 #

    Why punk had to happen:


    Thanks to LondonLee for the link

  15. 375
    cliffpost on 4 Apr 2013 #

    what was on the ‘B’ side of no charge?

  16. 376
    cliffpost on 4 Apr 2013 #

    looking for a song called love is all around from the mid to late 70s, so not the wet wet wet version.

  17. 377
    Lazarus on 6 Apr 2013 #

    # 375 the B side is called ‘Till I’m Loving You Again’ and you can hear it on Youtube. Someone is selling this record on eBay at the moment, asking £6.49, seems a trifle optimistic, but you never know I suppose …

    # 376 that song was originally recorded by the Troggs in the 60s and it’s been covered many times, so no doubt a few artists did it in the 70s. Or do you mean a different song?

  18. 378
    weej on 24 Apr 2014 #

    Watching the video for the first time I’m struck by how much JJ Barrie reminds me of the young-people hating third juror in 12 Angry Men – “Rotten kid! You work your heart out…”

  19. 379
    Inanimate Carbon God on 17 Jan 2015 #

    Can’t believe this bloke’s got another film adaptation in the works. Peter Pan wasn’t even that good a book!

    That joke might be cast adrift from the best, but it never gets old.

    Psalm 51:3

  20. 380
    lonepilgrim on 13 Nov 2019 #

    lest we forget the rubbish that clogged up the charts, here’s this cynical, passive aggressive product delivered with self satisfied smarm. I’m not sure that this in particular was why punk had to happen but along with a lot of the number ones of the previous years it does embody a culture where young people were neglected and patronised – thank goodness that changed

  21. 381
    Gareth Parker on 6 May 2021 #

    I would go along with Tom’s 2/10 here…..

1 11 12 13 All

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page