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Apr 05

KEN DODD – “Tears” / THE ROLLING STONES – “Get Off Of My Cloud”

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#204, 2nd October 1965 / #205, 6th November 1965

Jon Kutner’s 1000 Number Ones tells a story about “Get Off Of My Cloud”. The song was played on Juke Box Jury, and host David Jacobs complained that he couldn’t hear the words properly. Told of this, Keith Richards remarked that perhaps he was going deaf, and maybe he should “stick to songs like ‘Tears'”

The list of number ones is a series of snapshots, different moods flickering across the face of pop. Sometimes the moods seem to be in sharp contrast, even conflict. But is the conflict something genuinely felt in the lives and tastes of the people buying the records? The list reflects different audiences, different markets. Often those audiences must hardly give one another a second thought. When Eminem sits next to Bob The Builder on the list, there’s no sense that their respective buyers were locked in combat. In the early 90s though, when I started liking dance music, there was a sense of conflict about the charts – resentment of older stars clogging them up, suspicion and fear of the ‘faceless’ newcomers.

How far do the worlds of Ken Dodd – a Liverpool comedian with a line in old-fashioned ballads – and the Rolling Stones – a London group with a line in outrage – overlap?* The Stones were notorious. Their series of well-pitched gestures (a surly JBJ appearance, an arrest for pissing against a wall) were downpayments on a greater breakdown their music and performance promised. They had infected the wider consciousness, and part of their message was that the ideas of a ‘wider consciousness’, of ‘public opinion’ were fragile and phoney compared to an individual’s will.

And Ken Dodd? Ken Dodd was an entertainer. Hardly any Stones fans would have bothered with his record. But Dodd represented something else: ten years after rock and roll it was obvious that being an ‘entertainer’ was the acceptable ambition for pop musicians – doing showtunes and ballads, working the variety hall circuit, enjoying a comfortable income and a respectable degree of nostalgic fame. It had happened to Lonnie, it was happening to some of the Merseybeat guys, Cliff Richard was still having hits but the hits were wholesome all-ages stuff. George Melly, in Revolt Into Style, suggests that the Beatles broke the mould but it seems to me that in 1965 this was up in the air: they were Royal Variety darlings, and behind the scenes they were talking about comic songs as a way forward. Ken Dodd and his ballads and even his tickling stick were still a believable endpoint for a pop career.

The conflict between Dodd-ness and Stones-ness seems real to me, and not limited to these two records, or acts. The charts are one place it would play out; Juke Box Jury another; the radio, the music press, the shops, others still. By 1965, radio in the UK had already fractured, with Radio Caroline and fellow pirates representing Stones-ness and the BBC Light Programme holding out against it. By the time I was aware of pop music the fracture was official, had become the resolution of the conflict: light entertainment, still including Ken Dodd, did this stuff. Pop and rock, still including the Rolling Stones, did that stuff. It was hard to imagine that they had ever been opposed.

“Tears”, the best-selling single of 1965, is a 1920s tune reverently performed. Designed to send an audience home content at the end of a show, it is unashamedly nostalgic – Dodd, whose voice is unexceptional but not grating, takes no risks and there’s never a hint that this might be a pastiche. The arrangement is stately and courtly. Clearly “Tears” could have been a hit when the charts started, though as it happens the fashion for lavishly arranged ballads helps it sound not entirely out of its time. And Keith Richards is right – Dodd’s enunciation is smarmily clear.

“Get Off Of My Cloud” takes the blueprint established by the Stones’ last two Number 1s – smart-mouthed, hooky embellishments on a riff – and muddies it. The murky vocals that offended David Jacobs are deliberate, of course: mumbling is a classic threat tactic, it puts you on the back foot, forces you to let your guard down, ask what someone means, enter their world a bit more. And once you’re in Jaggers world? He kicks you out. “Don’t hang around cos two’s a crowd” – “Get Off Of My Cloud” is a second episode of the “Satisfaction” sitcom but this time Jagger’s negation is all-encompassing. So what’s a Jagger fan to do? Sympathise and pretend that he’s not in the ‘you’ Mick wants off? Worry knowing he is? Or kick Jagger off his cloud and sing the song himself? The band are having a fantastic party but the song isn’t a call-to-party, because it’s someone else’s party that keeps Mick awake. Maybe yours.

*(A question for informed readers: would the retail outlets for these singles have been the same?)

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  1. 1
    Rosalind Mitchell on 8 Apr 2005 #

    Would the retail outlets for these two records in 1965 have been the same?

    Yes, more than likely. I can’t speak for London but if you were in Welwyn Garden City you would have bought both of these from either Rumbelows, which was an electrical outlet, or from the Welwyn Stores, an independent department store with a record department. Shops selling electical goods were the major outlets in most towns

    Specialist record shops were a rarity in 1965, although in Liverpool, for example, you had Nems.

  2. 2
    Robin on 8 Apr 2005 #

    The idea of Jagger as the inventor of the New Right in Britain becomes ever more convincing when you read pieces like this.

  3. 3
    Marcello on 9 Apr 2005 #

    In Uddingston as a toddler, the nearest “record shop” to us was the branch of the RS McColl newsagents directly across the road. Certainly I can confirm that as of 1969 (though they discontinued the record retail side of things very early on in the ’70s) they sold every single and album to make the Top 40, be it Jethro Tull, Max Romeo or Donald Peers; and my mum confirms that that was the case throughout the ’60s – oddly enough, she bought both “Tears” and “Get Off Of My Cloud” at the time (though my dad was a bit pissed off about “My Generation” getting stuck at number two behind both).

  4. 4
    p^nk s on 9 Apr 2005 #

    i assume there were “head shops” (or whatever) in big big UK cities after 67-ish, and jazz or r&b specialist shops too, here and there, but i don’t think the idea of a dedicated “alt.outlet” for “stuff that OUGHT to be in the charts” existed prior to branson inventing virgin in the early 70s

    robin’s point is interesting: certainly by the late 70s, jagger was very widely considered “the enemy” (but was punk’s enemy the New Right? Or the Old Right? Or the Statist Left?) (and jagger had become the enemy by retreating from the goals Tom outlines here, not by pursuing them)

    on one of the earlier squabbles-abt-the-stones, someone suggested that bushworld today is implacably uncomprehending of stonesworld then, which i REALLY don’t think i believe – i also don’t really buy robin’s line (that jagger INVENTED thatcherism) but i certainly think jagger got some of his scary edge from tapping into the deep social ambivalence within the 60s attitude to “freedom”, which subsequently mutated into thatcherism

  5. 5
    Alan Connor on 9 Apr 2005 #

    Resurrection Watch:

    The Flying Pickets and Sheryl Crow did a “Get Off My Cloud” (but not together). “Tears”? Hmmm. I’m at a loss…

    No Thatcherites, the Pickets. ;)

  6. 6
    Alan Connor on 9 Apr 2005 #

    Resurrection Watch:

    I’d thought of it as a Jerry Butler cover, but Dionne makes sense! I presume Cilla’s and The Divine Comedy’s were both afterwards, though.

  7. 7
    Anonymous on 9 Apr 2005 #

    I have just heard “Tears” for the first and, I am sure, last time. Completely unremarkable and, yes, without the saving grace of pastiche. Won’t argue with you rating on this one. It never crossed the Atlantic, probably because Dodd was unknown on this side, but that doesn’t mean that something of this sort by someone with comparable recognition stateside wouldn’t have sold. Lord knows there were bizarre things in the US charts as well.

    But if “Tears” had sold in the US in ’65, it would have sold in the very same outlets as “Get Off of My Cloud” did. I bought the latter at K-Mart, I believe, all those years ago, and every sort of music (with the possible exception of classical–which you’d only find in specialty shops) was sold in the record section.

    As to Jagger inventing the New Right: I don’t think he actually invented it (did he actually *invent* anything?), but some five years ago I suggested (in an essay on Joe Orton) that Jagger’s pseudo-revolutionary poses comprised a trendy facade for some rather reactionary ideologies.

    “Get Off of My Cloud” a 9? I don’t think so, really. But after “Tears” one might think so.

    Doctor Mod

  8. 8
    p^nk s on 9 Apr 2005 #

    Doctor Mod is that orton essay linkable? it sounds interestin

    (hmmm i shd’ve mentioned orton in my if…. book)

  9. 9
    Anonymous on 9 Apr 2005 #

    To p^nk’s:
    The essay isn’t linkable–I think I signed away the rights to the publisher–but it’s included in a volume published by Routledge, _Joe Orton: A Casebook_. (Wish I’d thought of If . . . when I wrote it. Perhaps I have your book?)

    Doctor Mod

  10. 10
    p^nk s on 9 Apr 2005 #

    plug plus!!

  11. 11
    Anonymous on 9 Apr 2005 #

    Omigod! I own it!

    Doctor Mod

  12. 12
    p^nk s on 9 Apr 2005 #

    :D

  13. 13
    Robin on 9 Apr 2005 #

    oh, my calling Jagger the “inventor of the New Right in Britain” is debate-inciting provocation; I don’t think he invented it, but I think he brought a lot of things into the open and legitimised the Right for disenfranchised, disillusioned erstwhile Wilson-supporting (but not Labour-supporting, as such) young people, who had previously been put off by the cultural fogeyism they associated with Right-wing politics. the great unanswered question is whether those people would have gone that way if Wilson hadn’t passed the Marine Offences Act.

  14. 14
    Mark Gamon on 9 Apr 2005 #

    Ditto to Rosalind. In Bishops Stortford you had a choice between Rumbelows and a large family-run store whose name escapes me but specialised in hideous china ornaments. The records were always a sideline but they had two of those wonderful enclosed booths, big enough to hold three people, where you could audition your prospective six shillings and eightpence purchase.

  15. 15
    Rosalind Mitchell on 10 Apr 2005 #

    Possibly by 1969, certainly by 1970, I and most of my peers had given up on the singles charts and most of the output of Radio One. It was the age of the LP, and although LPs had been around for a while 1969-70 was probably the point at which album sales began to outstrip singles sales.

    So, Rumbelows in Welwyn Garden City didn’t have the space to stock significant numbers of LPs with room for browsing (there’s another difference – you asked for your single from a rack behind the counter, but albums were there to be browsed). They went under, to be replaced by Harlequin Records, which was more specialised but considered less cool than Rag Records in Hatfield.

    Welwyn Stores, on the other hand, welcomed the album market – they were already equipped for the comparatively few albums that were about, and you could always browse there, I think. Also, if you hung around the Stores’ record department for long enough on a Saturday, all your friends would pass through sooner or later, so it was a hang-out.

  16. 16
    Alan Connor on 10 Apr 2005 #

    > p^nk s said…
    >
    > plug plus!!

    I didn’t recognise you with your capitals on.

  17. 17
    Marcello on 12 Apr 2005 #

    Politically it is worth noting that Ken Dodd appeared at Labour election rallies in the ’60s and ’70s, and at Tory election rallies from ’79 onwards, so the parallels run deep (cf. “Let’s Work” and mouldering fivers behind the toilet).

    In American terms, the success of “Tears” would have been equivalent to, say, Sid Caesar or Milton Berle having the biggest single of ’65 with a cover of “Mammy” or similar.

  18. 18
    LondonLee on 12 Apr 2005 #

    There was a “hippy” shop in Soho called Dark They Were And Golden Eyed where I used to buy my Marvel Comics, I think they sold records too.

    Were Harlequin Records around in the 60s? I used to buy a lot of records there in the 70s (as well as Woolworth’s and a guy in North End Road Market who sold singles). I think Our Price bought them out.

    What’s the difference between Mick Jagger and a Scottish farmer?

    MIck Jagger says “Hey you, get off of my cloud” and a Scottish farmer says “Hey McCloud, get off of my ewe”

  19. 19
    Anonymous on 12 Apr 2005 #

    The actual buying of the music was, for me, as much of an experience , almost, as listening to it.

    When I couldn’t get a single form the newsagent and ” smoke” shop next door to our flat, it’d require a trip to downtown Toronto.

    And for as long as I remember , and still, there was Sam the Record Man. It was and still is a multi – floored music emporium. I’ve been buying there for at least 35 years ! It’s a shrine in Toronto and I still spend hours there when I go to ” town “.

    Sam Sniderman and his brother ran & owned it and were always great supporters of Canadian music. (So I guess we have them partially to blame for Bryan Adams & Sarah McLaughlin )

    Sam very nearly went out of business with the technological changes in distribution system but he ( his sons ) are hanging in there.

    He’s at http://www.samscd.com/

    Brian

  20. 20
    Lena on 12 Apr 2005 #

    It was common knowledge in my household that this was a better song than “Satisfaction” – at least that’s what my mom always insisted.

    I was going to say that maybe Jagger’s time in economics school (as opposed to art) had something to do with Thatcherism, but then do all well-off rock stars become Tories in the end anyway, no matter where they started? Sigh.

    Oh, and thanks to Marcello for giving some idea of what the Dodd parallel would be, as I had no idea…

  21. 21
    Robin on 12 Apr 2005 #

    I think Lena is onto something re. Jagger and the LSE. Not all well-off rock stars become Tories – Paul McCartney has never leaned that way unless I am very much mistaken – but the ones who do are disproprionately important because the essence of Thatcherism was the reheating of Toryism to make it palatable to those who had earlier been turned off by the association between Toryism and cultural fogeyism, and without the influence of Jagger et al Thatcherism might never have happened.

  22. 22
    Frank Kogan on 14 Apr 2005 #

    When I look at lyrics without listening, I can think of “Cloud” being “Gimme Shelter” to “Satisfaction”‘s “Midnight Rambler”: in “Satisfaction”/”Rambler” he’s on the prowl but can’t break through; in “Cloud”/”Shelter” he’s cowering behind steel-plate doors. (Not that Stones ’69 even holds a candle to Stones ’65.) I can also see “Cloud” as a precursor to “Heroin” and “Sister Ray” and “Death Trip” and “Private World” and “Sonic Reducer” and “Pretty Vacant” and “No Feelings” (not to mention “I Am a Rock”), all of which are a thousand times more relevant than Thatcher. Also – still reading but not listening – I see “Cloud” as a tossed-off comic rejoinder to “Satisfaction”‘s sociological pretensions. O! Poor me! I’m traumatized by parking tickets and detergent specials! Neither deep moat nor castle walls keep the adverts at bay! O woe! O me! – though there is the quick bit where he lets us glimpse the Jagger dagger, tells us it’s his party and we’ll cry if he wants us to. The tensions and sleight of hand here are already far more entangled than were the obvious ironies of “Heart of Stone.”

    But then, I don’t read it, I hear it, which is another universe. Jagger’s words are so smart because they tell you he knows better – knows that his stances won’t hold, that the carpet’s moving, that no stances hold, and he’ll give it a jerk just to watch himself tumble. But the singing and playing are smarter still. They know better than the knowing better, know that you feel your stance, live your pose, even when your contradictory stances rip you to pieces. You stand with conviction while you’re demolishing your own ground. So the world really is crashing in, no joke, and the Stones throw bombs in response, and invite everyone to sing along.

    Of course, 40 years later the song is a familiar standby, exceeded in bomb power by a million subsequent pre-fab explosions (though exceeded in intelligence by none), its ka-boom long since muffled.

    The political analysis on this thread makes no sense to me (too facile or truncated or cryptic), but perhaps it shows that some of you are still open to being hurt by this music. Good for the music, if it hurts you.

  23. 23
    Frank Kogan on 14 Apr 2005 #

    and jagger had become the enemy by retreating from the goals Tom outlines here, not by pursuing them

    Mark, is goals the word you want?

    I’ll bet many/most Britpunks wouldn’t’ve been at home with the old Jagger either, since he wasn’t giving them the nice Us vs. Them that they wanted.

    But the real prob so many dullhead punks had with the ’70s Stones was that the Stones hung on to their dirty glamour, didn’t forego the femme and the fame. The problem I had with the ’70s Stones was that they weren’t the Dolls or Stooges, that the sound had lost its punch and its glitter. (But I did like Emotional Rescue, when it came along, a funny little groove band hooking onto a new dance, again.)

  24. 24
    Frank Kogan on 14 Apr 2005 #

    The Kinks deserve a mention here, as the one band that could have found the “Cloud” content in a “Tears” sound. (Not that I’ve actually heard “Tears.”)

  25. 25
    Robin on 15 Apr 2005 #

    I take the last paragraph of Frank’s first posting as an endorsement of politics I despise. Instantly I’m reminded of why I left ILM.

  26. 26
    Anonymous on 15 Apr 2005 #

    I have to agree with Frank here about all the political stuff.
    I was there & at this point we/he/they/them hadn’t chosen any sides.

    It was first the music then the sex, later the drugs but forever rock n’ roll.

    Brian C

  27. 27
    Robin on 15 Apr 2005 #

    “forever rock’n’roll” = “forever Britain as the 51st State”. That’s why I’m only interested in Jagger as a symbol, a sign.

  28. 28
    Anonymous on 18 Apr 2005 #

    Sorry , Robin. What am I missing here .

    British middle class kid ( with love of American Blues ) becomes rock n roll anti hero to millions and in the process makes a gazillion bucks. And because he’s rich , and finds himself being ripped off left right and centre, gets serious about the business side of his “art”.

    In doing so finds himself at helm of big corporation. For many this means he has ” sold out”.

    At the same time, his country undergoes much needed yet painful, political overhaul . The emergence of the ” new rich’ puts him at the epi-centre of of reactionary sentiment. Rock and roller as symbol of emergence of thenoveau bourgeiosie ?

    Is that it ?

  29. 29
    Frank Kogan on 18 Apr 2005 #

    forever Britain as the 51st State

    Does this mean reggaeton will supplant grime after all?

  30. 30
    Anonymous on 18 Apr 2005 #

    Also, I’m afraid that Canada beat the UK to status as 51st State, long ago.

    American, eh ?

    Brian C

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