Mar 11

HALE AND PACE – “The Stonk”

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#662, 23rd March 1991

When I tell people I’m doing this blog they usually ask me what my favourite ever number one is. I have a stock answer – “Come On Eileen” – which is true often enough to pass muster. They also sometimes ask me what the worst number one ever is. No shortage of candidates, here! We’ve seen some of them already: the mawkish horror of Saint Winifreds, the gross precocity of Little Jimmy, the pathological bonhomie of Mallett. But “The Stonk” holds a special dread for me – it’s the only number one whose badness induces a reflex physical response, a kind of skin-creeping sensation of shame and repulsion. In the age of the Internet, your disgust reflexes can harden pretty easily – I’ve seen goatse and tubgirl and met them with a jaded shrug, but something about this forgotten little record just gets me in the guts.

What’s odd is that I can’t predict when the flight reaction will kick in: sometimes it’s the rhythm track built on farts, sometimes I get as far as the “come quietly” joke. In between is a hellish obstacle course – the impressions section! The comical accents! The worn-out surrealism! The grim truth is that “The Stonk” achieves a critical mass of badness for me where elements which on paper don’t sound particularly awful jump out as infuriating simply because you’re too busy guarding yourself against the worse stuff. Just now I played it and felt myself crumple inside at the “stonky stonky / conky conky” backing vocals. The record’s gravity well of crapness is so powerful that I’ve for years assumed terrible jokes from other Comic Relief records – like Right Said Fred’s 1993 effort “Stick It Out” – were in fact in “The Stonk”.

Hale And Pace were an odd case, though. What was going on in British entertainment around this time – what had been for a while – was a sort of generational handover. You saw it gathering force at Radio 1, which instigated a rolling purge of the old guard (DLT, Blackburn) and replaced them with self-consciously edgier presenters from independent radio. And you saw it in comedy, where the “alternative”, Comedy Store crowd were fast becoming an establishment, shouldering aside a lot of the old school comedians. But what people forget in these stories of overthrow was that there was also a compromise phase – people carving out careers by dressing up the old orthodoxies in the trappings of the new, and often ending up more dislikeable than both. On radio the best example was Nicky Campbell – in his own mind a fearless investigative presenter and man of substance, in most other people’s an even smugger version of Simon Bates. And I think Hale And Pace fit into this transitional bracket too – they were ordinary blokes, ex-teacher mates who made each other laugh and turned it into a career, but they’d come up via the alternative circuit.

Problem was, they weren’t funny. This Wikipedia list of “recurring sketches” from one of their final series gives a flavour of them. “London cabbies / Waiter(s) with “black pepper” / Are you nervous… nervous now? / Curly and Nige (1) in the garage (2) at the DIY shop / American sheriff and his deputy / Rappers with baggy clothes / Yorkshiremen / Crime boss and his muscle / Two redheads who copy the end of what people say / Trainspotters / Elderly gentleman who can’t swear / Meditating man who wishes for things to happen”. Now, if you boil any sketch show down to its elements it’s not going to sound great but this comes across as a particularly bum-clenching experience, a mix of stereotypes, easy targets, and kneecapped running jokes. The overall impression is one of will-this-do laziness, pervasive mediocrity, like the first idea anyone had went into the script and there was an end to it.

And this is basically what I can hear in “The Stonk”, too. Hale And Pace are cut off from even the very mild daring of an evening show – the “microwave a pussycat” line here, which sticks right out, is a reference to their most notorious sketch. Instead they’re tasked with making something fun for all the family, and so they take the most basic, shopworn elements of British comedy – bum jokes, impressions, wacky juxtapositions, silly voices – and throw them together with nothing even approximating wit or skill. Brian May gives the track a raucous lift but can’t stop the pain. If you want a record which shows how exhausted, directionless, mirthless and desperate British pop culture – and, sod it, Britain – could seem in the Major years then you won’t find a better example than “The Stonk”.



  1. 1
    fivelongdays on 31 Mar 2011 #


    You’ve been in fine form over the last two entries, a hell of a lot of fun to read. More songs you really don’t like, please!

    Aaaanyway, I remember this comic relief – I was nine, and living with my parents – and this is the only comic relief song I can actually remember. Well, the chorus, anyway. And even then, I have a feeling I have the tune and/or lyrics amazingly wrong.

    Not sure whether it ploughs the depths, and as I’ve said I’ve only the vaguest recollection, so I shall refrain from marking it…for now.

  2. 2
    lex on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Haha I had never even heard of this, even though I’d gotten into pop music (but not yet the charts) at this point! I had no idea it had even existed. Ignorance, bliss &c, it seems.

  3. 3
    Mark G on 31 Mar 2011 #

    An off-the-cuff remark from Jonathan Ross on the previous Comic Relief night, led to this.

    Good points of it: It ended the idea that Hale and Pace were alternative, and eventually ended them also. All we remember them for is the ‘sort-of’ funny takeoff of the Krays, which was done better by Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson back in the Comic Strip days.

    Also, the idea that comedy songs were actually funny by default. The idea that a bad song would still sell well and get to number one was ended with this one, the usual “one single after” offset applies.

    Will think of other ‘good things about this’ later..

  4. 4
    flahr on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Ben Elton! Punt and Dennis! Gosh!

    Sleeve gives it the appearance of a double A-side. Was it?

  5. 5
    Mark G on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Never heard the VicWood song, so, no.

  6. 6

    Best thing about this: when I er re-found it via the internet, the wag offering it had filed it under BLUES

  7. 7
    Tom on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #4 not according to Everyhit but can anyone else shed light on this? Poor Victoria Wood.

    #2 the sole mitigating feature of this is that it left SO little footprint on the charts, pop culture etc. I’m pretty shocked it got to #1 but it was a very odd year.

    I have not even dared try and find the video for it.

  8. 8
    logged-out Tracer Hand on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Referring to one’s head as a “conk” bothers me so much that I couldn’t finish listening to the song.

  9. 9
    flahr on 31 Mar 2011 #

    But they’re not, they’re referring to one’s nose :)

    Oh, right, verdict. Er, unsurprisingly I hadn’t heard it before, and unsurprisingly it’s not very good. It’s overlong, not very funny, overly repetitive, and doesn’t have Punt and Dennis in the video enough. Still I cannot take against it too much (perhaps because I wasn’t listening to the words and have no idea at all how Hale & Pace are) so we’ll say 2 or 3.

    I can OFFICIALLY REVEAL that “The Smile Song” a) did exist b) was not brilliant, though was better than “The Stonk”.

  10. 10
    Tom on 31 Mar 2011 #

    A head in this lexicon wd be “bonce” surely.

  11. 11
    Chelovek na lune on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Nicky Campbell was elected Rector of St Andrews University round about this time (a couple of years before I started there), following in the footsteps of, among others, John Cleese. By all account Campbell was a great disappointment as Rector, never getting involved in the way expected of him (essentially, in the manner of Ancient Scottish Universities – not really anything quite equivalent south of the border as far as I know: representing the interests of students in University board meetings, and preparing other iniatives for the benefits of students, all washed down, this being St Andrews, with healthy layers of often recently invented tradition, dressing up, and much Latin). Essentially it appeared that he couldn’t be arsed to treak all the way up to St Andrews to do anything and ended up resigning before his 3-year term was over (being replaced by the mutton-chopped puck-the-foping QC who(often seen on the front page of the Scottish edn of the Sun, barely even heard of England) who doubled up as the Chairman of evil incarnate FC, ahem I mean Glasgow Rangers – other nominations for evil incarnate are available).

    Clearly “The Stonk” bears the same relation to comedic records as Campbell did to rectors of Ancient Scottish Universities. Not even living up to what minor promise it might have had.

    Must point out that a fair bit of the new order at R1, etc, came by way of Bannister’s GLR days, as well as from independent stations. Although it must be said that Chris Morris annoucing that Heseltine had died, or that the Pet Shop Boys were teaming up with Myra Hindley to record a cover of “Little Children” meant that only went so far…

    Bit of a crap year culturally, 1991, innit?

  12. 12
    Chelovek na lune on 31 Mar 2011 #

    I suppose one thing to be thankful for is that Haysi Fantaysee had wrapped up their career before “Comic Relief” was invented.

  13. 13
    pink champale on 31 Mar 2011 #

    “stonk” is a really awful word for a start. and hale and pace were dreadful. and comic relief records (apart from george) are always dire. but still it’s worse than you’d guess.

  14. 14
    Matthew Perpetua on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Good lord. As an American I had never heard this before, but then went to YouTube and was just awed by how terrible this song is.

  15. 15
    Tom on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #12 mea culpa, I was thinking of GLR as an independent, which it wasn’t.

  16. 16
    wichita lineman on 31 Mar 2011 #

    I’ve been dreading this, as this is the first number one I actively avoided – I’ve never heard it to this day. Finally, for science’s sake…

    Errr… not what I was expecting. Bad Jools boogie… could go down a Chas & Dave route? No… oh, Jesus, the jokes are so lame… it’s ENDLESS!!!

    The last line is maybe the worst joke I have ever heard in my life.

    A piece of my soul just died.

  17. 17
    Alan not logged in on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Their enduring cultural contribution beyond helping to kill DrWho: they are sampled on that Colourbox track (or is it two?)

  18. 18
    Tom on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Trivia Time: Hale And Pace are one of three acts (that I can think of) who have had a number one and were in the original run of Doctor Who.

    (The star-happy nature of 00s Who means the number has shot up, and for the first time includes people who have made good records.)

  19. 19

    It’s actually pretty rigorously consistent in its non-funniness: the newsreader gag that opens makes my skin creep*, and the way it ends (which mercifully I have temporarily forgotten)** is as bad. And even without the clumsily spaced profusion of predictable novelty gags over the top of it, the music itself is impressively perfunctory. I’m pretty allergic even to the Rocky Horror Show, and in terms of rock&roll pastiche this is many many MANY hellish layers beneath.***

    *Doesn’t help that it reminds me of Sue Lawley announcing Dick Emery’s death, when she quoted one of his famous catchlines (“Ohh you are awful” etc) inadvisedly attempted to mimic DE’s voice.
    ***I do actually feel vaguely sorry for H&P, who — almost alone among light entertainers — seem to have been shown the door not for unsavoury activity, but because everyone (strangely belatedy) agreed they were just crap. It must be humiliating, like being suddenly dumped by someone who had for many years professed their total adoration.

  20. 20
    Mark G on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #18, The Beatles have appeared on Dr Who.

    Admittedly, it was a contemporary clip, but the source film got lost so that episode is the only surviving fragment of that particular Beatles performance.

  21. 21
    thefatgit on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Again, I’ve not knowingly heard this. I will give it a go after work, and report my findings. I’m now wondering if Tom would be subjecting himself to imminent torture if, unlikely as it may seem, this particular example had stayed top of the pile for 16 weeks?

  22. 22
    Tom on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #21 no! – this is actually the review where I’ve listened to the full track least – I think I’ve only managed 3 plays through and will be very happy never to play it again.

    #19 the closing joke – well, the topic of the closing joke – was probably the butt of comic routines during the Goon Show era. There’s something doggedly uncontemporary about the whole record.

  23. 23
    Chelovek na lune on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Hmm, the refs to Dr Who (of which I have *never* seen even as much as half an episode in my life, as far as I know) bring to mind Harry Enfield’s “Loadsamoney” record, with its Timelords-inspired daleks chanting “Bish! bosh! loads of dosh! exterminate…” or something like that

    That song seems like light-handed avant-garde genius compared with this, Harry Enfield as Oscar Wilde, Hale and Pace as William Hague and Ed Balls.

  24. 24
    Billy Smart on 31 Mar 2011 #

    So, picture the scene twenty years ago, quite possibly to this very day. Imagine, if you will, the figure of my eighteen year old self, depressive with slight manic tendencies, highly serious, embittered, seeing out his calamitous A-Level days at school, not knowing where he would be headed beyond that.

    I’m in the sixth form smokers’ room that Friday morning, looking out onto a fairly small grass courtyard. The school has arranged an event for Comic Relief Day, a giant game of musical chairs played by the whole lower school. And the music for this event is that year’s hilarious Comic Relief single, ‘The Stonk’ by Hale & Pace & The Stonkers;

    “Let’s STONK! Put a red nose on your CONK!”

    (Music stops. I watch some twelve year-old shove each other roughly about, while good-natured/ preoccupied teachers are unaware of how the children are using this jolly exercise to settle scores with each other. The music starts again)

    “The boyos are all stonking in the MALE VOOIICE CHOOIIR!”

    I think that this might have been the absolute low point of my entire life up to that point. Later that evening, I did go to a packed Comic Relief gig at the New Cross Venue – Lush, Blur & Moose! – so the day wasn’t completely bad.

    Hearing this again on Pick Of The Pops last week, ruining an otherwise rather splendid chart (Scritti & Shabba, Bandreas, REM, Mondays, Pet Shop Boys, Roxette), reminded me of this regrettable record’s extreme ability to leave the listener feel sullied and despondant for about quarter of an hour after hearing it.

  25. 25
    Billy Smart on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #18: Hale & Pace, Ken Dodd and… ?

  26. 26
    wichita lineman on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Also in H&P’s oeuvre: The Ginger Song, The Bollocks Song, The Scouser Song (“bit dated now, but still funny, especially if you know any Scousers!” says one youtube viewer)…

  27. 27
    punctum on 31 Mar 2011 #

    I used to bump into Hale and Pace regularly when I worked at St Mary Abbots Hospital, since they used to do their mock-vox pop filming in Wright’s Lane, just around the corner; at first outside the old Penguin Books HQ, and then somewhat further up the street following the Rushdie affair. Neither doctrinaire alternative comedy nor squarely mainstream, their rather hard-centred brand of humour was at its most popular in the first half of the nineties, with a drastic falling off in popularity more or less coinciding with Blair’s election victory. Make of that what you will.

    As you’ve probably already gathered, it was Comic Relief time again, and the heart immediately sinks as the jolly drums and Jools Holland piano make their way into “The Stonk” which, as already noted, musically sounds like a Rocky Horror Show outtake; indeed you can more or less sing “The Time Warp” to it, and Norman Pace admittedly doesn’t do a bad Meatloaf impression.

    Nonetheless the song is crammed with the usual forced merriment – as Kenneth Williams once said of the Royal Variety Performance, it is like watching the inmates of a concentration camp trying to make the best of the situation (and lines like “microwave a pussycat for your tea” indicate Spitting Image sans politics or laughs or point) – and its chorus of “Let’s stonk/To the rhythm of the honky tonk/Stick a red nose on your conk,” later joined with inevitability by backing vocals of “stonky, stonky, nose on your conky” and producer Brian May on shame-free guitar. To list the exhaustive and numerous ways in which they conspire to make the word “stonk” synonymous with “fuck,” and for you to read such a list would be a waste of both our time. In the video they dressed and pranced like a Streatham Blues Brothers tribute act. Wasn’t 1991 supposed to sound “like something out of Buck Rogers” (Dean Martin, pp Nick Tosches) rather than a polite, cleansed Max Miller?

  28. 28
    Tom on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #25 Windsor Davies plays a footpad in Evil Of The Daleks. And actually there’s a Flying Picket in the same episode as Ken Dodd, which brings the average up a little w/o recourse to Beatles footage.

  29. 29

    To dig a bit into *why* the BBC handed over so much screen-time to these two, I suspect the problem is — once again — the downside of the rise in effective nichemarketing. If old-school all-family light entertainment is dead — and whether or not it was killed by alt-comedy, it was worn utterly threadbare — what do you put in its place? Meaning: how do you fill its timeslot, to similar audience-number effect?

    H&P was an early attempt at an answer — but their employment really just demonstrated the scale of the loss of confidence in long-standing vaudeville values. Most alt.comedians utterly disdained these — and weirdly, they continue to do so, even as they colonise more and more of the equivalent viewer-share. H&P clearly didn’t disdain this ethos, but where for example Barrymore carved out a zone round his own gifts, they seemed stuck, cluelessly, between sensibilities.

    More recently — and far more effectively, numbers-wise — the answer to the conundrums has been the reality shows and celebrity talent competitions. And of course we live in an age where “the kind of music your gran likes” has to take account of the fact that your gran was a topless body-painted Hendrix groupie at the Isle of White festival, and WAY wilder than you’ll ever be…

  30. 30
    wichita lineman on 31 Mar 2011 #

    NOW! watch: The Stonk was on Now 19, disc one, placed between Kylie’s What Do I Have To Do (mmmm… nice sequencing) and 2 In A Room’s Wiggle It.

  31. 31
    Billy Smart on 31 Mar 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: Hale & Pace & The Stonkers twice performed ‘The Stonk’ on Top Of The Pops;

    7 March 1991. Also in the studio that week were; Quartz featuring Dina Carroll, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Roxette. Mark Goodier was the host.

    21 March 1991. Also in the studio that week were; Jesus Loves You, Banderas and Feargal Sharkey. Anthea Turner was the host.

  32. 32
    punctum on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Isle of WHITE????

    H&P were on ITV for most of their career; when they did move to the BBC, they flopped instantly.

  33. 33
    Billy Smart on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #29. Historically, Hale & Pace were always more of an ITV act, though, the ten (!) laughter-filled series of their sketch show between 1988 and 1998, produced by LWT, usually transmitted on Sunday nights.

    Then they moved to the BBC in 1999 for one season of the cutting edge, internet-savvy ‘h&p@bbc’

  34. 34

    My opinions stand high and unharmed above the flood of mere inaccurate facts and poor speeling.

  35. 35
    Birdseed on 31 Mar 2011 #

    I’ve always tried to find good qualities in the stuff you’ve panned, having a fresh pair of ears and without the cultural baggage I reckon I can be more objective.

    Not this time though. This is irredeamably horrendous by any cultural standard. :o

  36. 36
    Tom on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #33 didn’t the Goodies do the same in reverse? (the very thought of “Funky Gibbon” after this is paradise)

  37. 37
    Kat but logged out innit on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Was this the Comic Relief year that they handed out noses to put on the front of your car?

  38. 38
    JimD on 31 Mar 2011 #

    I’ve for years assumed terrible jokes from other Comic Relief records – like Right Said Fred’s 1993 effort “Stick It Out” – were in fact in “The Stonk”.

    Ha, similarly I was considering a very slight defence of this record on the basis of a likeable little solo by Bernard Cribbins near the end…but that was actually Stick It Out too wasn’t it?

    Last time I saw the shorter less fat one from H&P he was in a side street near the Tate Modern having a screaming row with a much younger woman.

  39. 39
    lonepilgrim on 31 Mar 2011 #

    I loathe the whole mentality that has grown up around ‘charity’ which demands that people ‘do something funny for money’ (to quote this year’s Comic Relief).

    My understanding is that Comic Relief has a good track record in delivering projects, but rather than support the self congratulating celebrity culture which this song embodies I’d rather the money went more directly to those in need.

    Adam Curtis sheds some interesting light on the history of humanitarian intervention here:


    Meanwhile Madonna seems to have overreached herself in Malawi:

  40. 40
    Mark G on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #38, A good time to ask for an autograph.

  41. 41
    weej on 31 Mar 2011 #

    As this is number three in my four-number-ones-purchased-in-a-row I guess I have to claim some reponsibility for this abomination getting to number one. I don’t really have any explanation for buying it (“I was too young to know better” probably doesn’t wash), just an apology.
    The Smile Song is quite a bit better though. It’s not funny of course, but it’s a well-crafted fairly witty thing which displays a deal of care and thought conspicuously lacking in The Stonk. I’d give it a 6 probably. It was just about worth checking out again.

  42. 42

    Victoria Wood is to me an excellent example of someone who actually retained an excellent grasp of “lost vaudeville values” (presumably not irrelevant that she’s a songwriter as well as a skit-writer), and found a way to combine them with post-alt perspective. But — like Stanley Baxter before her — she very carefully husbands the time she’s offered; is only all-singing all-dancing in deliberately limited supply. And — though she continues to be popular — she’s more niche than not.

    I should write a book about this, shouldn’t I?

  43. 43

    An excellent book.

  44. 44
    Billy Smart on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Use your contacts at Palgrave/ BFI to follow up the If monograph with a TV classic about ‘Victoria Wood- As Seen On TV’. That would be excellent, indeed.

    A Hale & Pace TV classic would be hard to justify, though.

  45. 45
    CarsmileSteve on 31 Mar 2011 #

    hold on, Ned’s were on ToTP??? how can i have no recollection of that????

    equally i honestly can’t remember how the stonk goes although 20 years ago I’m sure I was involved in some sixth form comic relief stuff, and i can sing from start to end all the other stuff on that now 19 disc (and the Ned’s album!)

  46. 46
    Mark G on 31 Mar 2011 #

    I don’t recall it, but a quick look at everyhit says it’s for “Happy”

  47. 47
    punctum on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Nobody’s ever done a Stanley Baxter monograph!

  48. 48
    Billy Smart on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Light Entertainment Watch. No shortage of guest appearances for Hale & Pace on other people’s shows;

    THE BOB MONKHOUSE SHOW: with The Harry Stoneham Band, Jimmy Cricket, Hale & Pace, Robert Guillame (1986)

    THE BOB MONKHOUSE SHOW: with The Harry Stoneham Band, Pamela Stephenson, Ray Alan, Hale & Pace (1986)

    THE BRITISH COMEDY AWARDS: with David Jason, Michael Parkinson, Rowan Atkinson, Hale & Pace (1990)

    CELEBRITY READY, STEADY, COOK: with Fern Britton, Gareth Hale, Norman Pace (1997)

    COMIC RELIEF 1991: Stonktabulous Type Stuff From Harry Enfield & Hale & Pace (1991)

    THE FUNNY SIDE: with Hale & Pace (1985)

    JACK DEE’S SATURDAY NIGHT: with Hale & Pace, kd lang, Brenda Gilhooly, Steve Rawlings, Chinese State Circus, James Doherty, Venol John, Carmine Canuso, David Kirk Raylor (1996)

    THE LAUGHTER SHOW: with Al Dean, Nik Kershaw, Hale & Pace (1984)

    THE LAUGHTER SHOW: with David Copperfield, David Essex, Hale & Pace (1984)

    THE LAUGHTER SHOW: with Lorraine Chase, Brian Conley, Hale & Pace (1984)

    THE LAUGHTER SHOW: with Su Pollard, Hale & Pace, Trevillion & Nine (1984)

    LIVE FROM THE PALLADIUM: with Dionne Warwick, Les Dennis, Hale & Pace, Elkie Brooks, Percy Sledge (1987)

    LIVE FROM THE PALLADIUM: with Donny Osmond, Joe Longthorne, Hale & Pace, Frank Carson (1987)

    THE NEW ENTERTAINERS: with Hale & Pace, Joe Griffiths, Terry Morrison (1983)

    SATURDAY LIVE: with Hale & Pace (1986)

    SHOOTING STARS: with Ulrika Jonsson, Mark Lamarr (Team Captain), Matt Lucas (George Dawes), Gareth Hale, Kathy Lloyd, Norman Pace, Patsy Palmer (1995)

    SUNDAY, SUNDAY: with Nana Mouskouri, Gene Hackman, Kelly Monteith, Gareth Hale, Norman Pace, Christopher Reeve, Mike Yarwood (1986)

    SUNDAY, SUNDAY: with Roger Whittaker, Anita Dobson, Gareth Hale, Norman Pace, Lulu, Des O’Connor, John Dominic (1986)

    SUNDAY, SUNDAY: with Gareth Hale, Norman Pace, Michael Elphick, Marti Webb, Richard Attenborough (1987)

    SUNDAY, SUNDAY: with Frank Bruno, Gareth Hale, Norman Pace, Audrey Hepburn, John Wells (1988)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates, Tears For Fears, Co-op City, Gareth Hale, Norman Pace, Muriel Gray, Terry Gilliam (1985)

    WOGAN: with Billy Graham, Hale & Pace, Sir Peter Scott, Cher, Simply Red (1985)

    WOGAN: with Clive Chaplin, Go West, Hale & Pace, Ulick O’Connor, John Gordon Sinclair, Elisabeth Welch (1985)

    WOGAN: with Beija Flor, Stefan Dennis, Hale & Pace, Redmond O’Hanlon (1988)

    WOGAN: with Lenny Henry, Tony Robinson, Hale & Pace, Rowan Atkinson (1991)

    THE WORD: with Hale & Pace, Sinitta, Warrant, Victoria Wilson-Jones (1991)

  49. 49

    Nevertheless I am tempted to pitch an h&p@bbc project for sheer wtf value.

  50. 50
    Andrew F on 31 Mar 2011 #

    I had forgotten that “The Management” (of “They do, Ron, Ron” fame) had their own 6-part TV show.

  51. 51
    Cumbrian on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Brian May is, objectively, an intelligent man. Even if it weren’t evident in some of his recorded work with Queen, the guy was studying for a PhD before he dropped it to try and conquer the world with Freddie Mercury but he subsequently returned to his studies and is now Dr May. At the minute, he’s trying to save badgers and foxes.

    At this point in his career, he’ll have been in the studio constantly on the off-chance that Freddie Mercury might be well enough to stick a vocal track down, so he obviously had the resources to hand and he must have thought – it’s for charity, let’s do something, hopefully it will do some good.

    But, strip away the “comedy” sound effects and the lyrics (which, rightly, most have pointed to as the main problem with this #1) and what you’re left with is a boogie that goes on too long with a general air of “will this do?”. Even without the lyrics, this can’t go much above a 3 because the music is not very good at all.

    Then you come to the lyrics and it’s clear that this is really very bad indeed. What’s worse though is that, I reckon, there’s a pretty decent idea at the core of this. Comic Relief is about looking a bit silly for money right? And dance songs (The Twist, Shake A Tail Feather, Willie And The Hand Jive, etc) are a good opportunity to get everyone together to look a bit silly together? So this could be a great marriage of form and function. But you stick two unfunny comedians on top of a backing that doesn’t work as well as the dance records it seeks to emulate and you wind up with something that misses the mark by so far, it’s the anti William Tell. 1 seems right – though I would say that I don’t think this is as bad as some of the other records that have got a 1 (if we got into decimals, I’d have Bombalurina at about a 0.5 and this at about a 0.6, for instance).

  52. 52
    LondonLee on 31 Mar 2011 #

    I’m sure Tom has some rule about this but surely this is deserving a zero? And I say that without (mercifully) being able to remember a second of it.

    I’m reminded of Woody Allen saying to Tony Roberts in Annie Hall when the latter is using a canned laughter machine on his unfunny sitcom: “Is there booing on that?”

  53. 53
    Cumbrian on 31 Mar 2011 #

    On the “on marks out of 10” link, Tom does mention 0 as a possibility.

  54. 54
    wichita lineman on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Is it time to try and rank the 1 out of 10s again? I’d definitely rather suffer St Wins (and Don McLean, natch) than this.

  55. 55
    thefatgit on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Having acquainted myself with this by the medium of YouTube, I’m scratching my head, wondering how on earth something as humourless and desperate as this could possibly pass muster.

    Observations on the video: is that Nick Lowe “jamming” alongside May in the studio? And the “topical” insertion of Bush Snr’s “read my lips” speech shoehorned in alongside moon landing footage, suggesting a committee of writers were each given an opportunity to stick something in for posterity.

    And yes, it goes on WAY too long, inspiring epic levels of antipathy towards everyone involved. Worse than Little Jimmy and St Winifreds School Choir, which at least have a cringeworthyness about them…something to chuckle about after enduring their all round awfulness. This, on the other hand annoys me in a “was that the best you could do?” sense.

  56. 56
    RDMcNamara on 31 Mar 2011 #

    “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s stonk”? I could have picked anything from it, but that jumped out. How is that even *supposed* to be funny?

    I remember at the age of eight most of the playground en masse trying to do the ‘dance’ for what felt like every lunchtime until the end of the academic year. Did not go over well with the powers that were..
    On that topic, the only vaguely – and I mean vaguely – noteworthy thing about this bilge is Baddiel in the video. Makes Peter Buck’s moves in ‘Shiny Happy People’ look unstilted..!

  57. 57
    lonepilgrim on 31 Mar 2011 #

    this seems an appropriate space to note that Miranda Hart seems to be the latest example of a comedy vacuum being promoted as side-splittingly funny, despite all evidence to the contrary

  58. 58
    Billy Smart on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #28 Five! Christopher Ryan from The Young Ones is Kiv in Mindwarp (1986).

  59. 59
    MikeMCSG on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #55 I must admit I found the George Bush bit mildly amusing which is the only nice thing I can say about this.

    I seem to recall that Q (back when it was good) did a “Who The Hell” on Hale And Pace to coincide with this and the first question was “Why are you obsessed with your genitals ?” which was far funnier than anything on the record. They were dire – the true heirs to Little and Large who they more or less replaced albeit on a different channel. I have to say though that I would take them above a so=called comedian that pops up later in 1991.

    And Victoria Wood. Much as I hate to diss anyone from my neck of the woods I just don’t get her at all. I sit stone-faced through her stuff waiting for a punchline that never arrives and when she’s in semi-serious mode (as in Great Railway Journeys) she’s just unbearable with the bombard of wacky similes. Dinner Ladies was the perfect vehicle for her humour because that’s exactly what she’s like, your mum’s “wacky” workmate that you just want to shut up. Rant over.

  60. 60
    abaffledrepublic on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Oh God the ‘enforced fun’ aspect of Comic Relief makes me grind my teeth in frustration. It seems to not matter if a whole evening of crap is made and broadcast because it’s for charidee. Doesn’t it occur to anyone involved that it might be a good occasion to actually raise their game?

    Musically the CR bar started low, sank lower and with one terrific exception which wasn’t recorded specially for the event, maintained a consistency of awfulness which I find weirdly fascinating.

  61. 61
    Dan Worsley on 31 Mar 2011 #

    The world of pop can be more inter-connected than you might expect. You don’t need 6 degrees of seperation to get from ‘The Stonk’ (1) to ‘Pump Up The Volume’ (10). Hale and Pace were sampled on the bonus EP which came with Colourbox’s one and only album who of course formed the core of M/A/R/R/S.

  62. 62
    AndyPandy on 31 Mar 2011 #

    awful record from awful duo

  63. 63
    fivelongdays on 31 Mar 2011 #

    OK, I’ve heard it again – seen the video, too – and it gets a 2, possibly a three, on the grounds that HOLY CRAP IS THAT TONY IOMMI? SHHIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT! Also, there’s some nice guitar noises from Brian May.

    I’m feeling very generous today – this song really, really, really goes on for approximately 2mins30s too long. YES WE GET THE MESSAGE WE NEED TO STONK, THANK YOU AND GO AWAY.

  64. 64
    anto on 31 Mar 2011 #

    While it’s true that Hale and Pace seemed neither fish nor flesh in terms of the alternative/old school comedy split I would suggest their true niche was childish comedy made by grown-ups that actual children think it is grown up to laugh at. I can vouch for this and wheter we care to admit it or not Hale and Pace were virtually cult figures to kids in my age group in so much as their sketch show generally scheduled on Sunday evenings would be much talked about in the playground on Monday morning. Their humour might have been unsophisticated but it was the sorts of things kids betwixt primary and secondary school age find funny (bums, willies, crappy stereotypes, innuendos you didn’t quite understand). Of course by the time you were 14 you were embarrassed by your 11-year old self for watching it let alone laughing at it.
    Tom refers to Hale and Pace as ordinary blokes and that was indeed what made them curious. For all the scatalogical gags their whole two-grown-men-who-can’t-get-enough-of-each-other schtick seemed rather suburban. Rik Mayall might have come across as a fiendishly filthy older brother and the Mary Whitehouse Experience crew would remind you of student show-off neighbours but Hale and Pace appeared to be two Dads mucking about. Even their Christian names (Gareth and Norman)were almost defiantly quotidian. It’s that blank charisma which is apparent in The Stonk and that’s what make it the Comic Relief song that seems to most closely match the actual dreary experience of Red Nose day – Bank Managers performing silly dance routines, Newsreaders aping whatevers in the top 40 etc. Listening back to the record I was astonished for two reasons 1) It was even more shitty than I remembered it to be 2)I actually found myself laughing at it’s rankness so as it’s a comedy record that was mission inadvertently accomplished.

    I thought The Smile Song had been released seperately. I didn’t know it was the b side. Nice to see the co-writer of Rusholme Ruffians had a number one by default.

  65. 65
    IJGrieve on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Alright, I’m gonna put my head above the parapet.

    I actually like this song. The cerebral way the review and most of the commenters here approach this misses the point in my opinion. Sure, it’s no classic. It’s a very daft song with a raucous, fun sound and ridiculous lyrics. And, it fits so well with the idea of Red Nose Day, especially compared with the dull as ditchwater covers that we’ve had since the mid-90s.

    I admit, it could be that being born in 1983 this came along at just the right time, and I might not look back on it so positively had I been a bit older when it was #1 (or missed it entirely). Still, comparing this to ‘Grandma’ or ‘Star Trekkin’ it really doesn’t deserve a 1. So, for balance, I’m giving it 7.

  66. 66
    Russ L on 31 Mar 2011 #

    It might be worth noting that “stonking” is still an occasionally-used positive adjective here in the West Midlands. I have no idea whether or not it pre-dated this record.

    (Yes yes yes, cue “lol Birmingham” in the traditional and tedious fashion).

  67. 67
    heather on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Wow, and there was that really good patch of #1s to start the decade. Dear oh dear.

    I do like some comic songs and fun pop but… no. No and verily no again. On the other hand, it’s better than the recent trend of Sincere Covers for charidee records.

    (Did I hallucinate it or did anyone else catch George Michael’s ambient cover of ‘True Faith’ for Comic Relief?)

  68. 68
    swanstep on 31 Mar 2011 #

    This is new to me. There’s a place for this sort of stuff on The Wiggles (but with better lyrics about spaghetti, and the like). Like others above I guess I don’t find Stonk quite as skin-crawling as Bombularina, but it’s still an easy 1.

  69. 69
    Special Girl AKA on 31 Mar 2011 #

    My best friend at the time (Year 6, final year of primary school) was tone-deaf and could only sing one note; she also happened to be arrhythmic. Needless to say, this was a favourite of hers and, to make matters worse, every time I think of this song I cringe at her atonal, jerky, batshit rendering. (Which I think might, in fact, have been better than By Order of The Management’s version).

  70. 70
    23 Daves on 31 Mar 2011 #

    I’m happy to put my hand up and admit that I was one of those children who found Hale and Pace funny – and I think I continued to chuckle at their output far past the point where I should have done so (I’m sure I can remember chortling with my buddies in a Chemistry lesson aged 14 about the contents of the previous night’s show – and most especially Billy & Johnny and also those stoned rock stars they used to play). I’d really need to go to YouTube and have a serious Hale And Pace viewing session to decide whether any of their output stands up, but from memory I would place it a higher comedic level than Michael MacIntyre and Russell Howard. In other words, yes, they were middle-of-the-road comedy family-pleasers, but I don’t subscribe to the common view that seems to be forming in this thread that things were so much worse for this sort of thing “back then” in the Major years. In fact, there may be a case to be made for the fact that they possibly set the alternative-yet-not-alternative template which remains in place (and some media observers felt that the shift from ITV to BBC did the most to damage their careers, the BBC shoving them in all sorts of bizarre time slots).

    “The Stonk”, however, is unforgivable by anyone’s standards. Eesh.

  71. 71
    Mark G on 1 Apr 2011 #

    maybe so, but at the time there was better stuff around.

  72. 72
    vinylscot on 1 Apr 2011 #

    Comments on youtube suggest that the dodgy line at the end was spoken by Freddie Mercury (obviously, or at least probably, lifted from an interview). I suppose it’s possible through the Brian May connection.

    Can anyone confirm this?

  73. 73
    faulknmd on 1 Apr 2011 #

    “gravity well of crapness”. Poetry!

  74. 74
    pink champale on 1 Apr 2011 #

    russ @66 dispiriting to hear that professional brummies still say ‘stonkin’ (‘bostin’ too, presumably) but i’m pretty sure the term pre-dates hale and pace. the alternative, frankly, doesn’t bear thinking about.

  75. 75
    Kat but logged out innit on 1 Apr 2011 #

    Re: state of British comedy in the early 90s: I think at this point René had started pretending he was his own twin brother (also called René) and they’d ditched the Italian dude. What-a mistake-a to make-a etc

  76. 76
    Alex on 1 Apr 2011 #

    Oh God. I suspect that 11-year old me might have actually liked it.

  77. 77
    Russ L on 1 Apr 2011 #

    @74 Oh ‘professional brummies’ yes I see those poor dears how dispiriting. Lol Birmingham.

    Ordinary people from various parts of the West Midlands most definitely say “bostin'”. It’s a local term. You’ll find it far more often in the Black Country (where I’m from) than Birmingham, but they use it there too.

  78. 78
    thefatgit on 1 Apr 2011 #

    Reminds me of that Noddy Holder joke…

    Noddy walks into Burtons and browses the shelves. Just then a shop assistant comes by and asks, “Would you like a kipper tie, Sir?”
    Noddy responds, “Oh, yes. Milk and two sugars please.”

    Coat, etc.

  79. 79
    pink champale on 1 Apr 2011 #

    @77 fair enough, professional brummies is probably not quite right (and apart from carl chin i;m not sure there’s such a thing) but i’ve got a real (if totally irrational) aversion to stonkin/bostin and similar slightly cutesy regionalisms (see geordies going to see the latest tom cruise ‘fillum’) and can’t help but hear them as affectations, even where they’re completely natural. anyway, i spent the first twenty-odd years of my life in birmingham so i can lol it if i want!
    best brummie joke:
    Q: what’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison
    A you can’t wash your hands in a buffalo

  80. 80
    Kat but logged out innit on 1 Apr 2011 #

    In a sense there is no Brummie that is not Officer Crabtree.

  81. 81
    Russ L on 1 Apr 2011 #

    @79 – Fair enough also, sorry if I got a bit arsey. We all have our irrational likes and dislikes, I suppose. I myself tend to like the regional differences and tend to assume that the generic half-RP/half-Thames-estuary studenty accent that people tend to adopt when they lose their own is the affectation, but similarly I realise that this isn’t necessarily the case.

    “Bostin’” is a really useful term, though. It speaks of something somewhere between “awesome/awe-inspiring” and “of exceptional practical function” that I can’t really think of any direct synonyms for.

    If you’re from round here then you’ll know that “fillum” is an extremely common term hereabouts too, though (although more due to the large amount of Irish-descended folk rather than whatever reason there is for it in the top-right of the country).

  82. 82
    Chriddof on 1 Apr 2011 #

    Long time Popular lurker finally making a post here. I’ve been looking forward to Tom covering this single for a while now, as I just knew it would get a good slagging, and I was not disappointed. It really is a dismal pile of crap – yet at the time I bought wholesale into it, rather embarassingly.

    Comic Relief was a big thing at school, as we got to dick around for most of the day under the pretense of raising money for charity. And the actual TV telethon was, for the first few years, a genuine event – unpredictable at times and not that much like the horrid squawking shitfest that it would quickly devolve into. Of course, even then there were lots of crap bits – the forced sketches involving celebrities and newsreaders always grated, and made you wonder when Rowan Atkinson was going to pop up again.

    I can second the claim that Hale & Pace were massive amongst 11 year olds. I liked them, and so did all my friends. Though the weird thing about me liking Hale & Pace was at the same time I also liked a lot of other vastly superior acts – Fry & Laurie, Reeves & Mortimer, Monty Python. At school nobody seemed to like or mention Python that much (one of my friends thought it was “too weird”) and I don’t think anyone even ever mentioned Reeves & Mortimer, who made their first Comic Relief appearence in 1991, to a baffled and annoyed studio audience who didn’t get them.

    Back to the record – this was the third record I ever bought, IIRC. The very first was Doctorin’ The Tardis way back in 1988, then there was a big gap of about two years until I bought an MC Hammer album (on cassette) at Epsom Our Price, and then after this monstrosity there was another big gap of two years until I bought… In Utero by Nirvana.

    The only good thing about “The Stonk” is the appearence of The Mary Whitehouse Experience’s Rob Newman in the video. While David Baddiel does the aforementioned (and possibly piss-taking) knees-and-elbows dance, and Punt & Dennis semi-enthusiastically join in, there is an incredibly brief glimpse of Newman simply standing to the side – not dancing, not moving, and burying his face in his hands.

  83. 83
    George on 1 Apr 2011 #

    You can add me to the army of pre-teen kids back in the early 90’s who used to watch Hale and Pace on a Sunday evening. However, I can’t remember anything about this and can barely bring myself to listen frankly.

    Their stock was in decline long before the disastrous switch to the BBC – infact it’s now staggering to believe that their run on ITV lasted so long in the first place (see also Noel’s House Party on the BBC).

  84. 84
    Erithian on 2 Apr 2011 #

    Never in the comedy top drawer, and yes the record does go on a bit and the gags are lame. But I’d up the mark a bit for the music itself. Obviously the players involved – May, Taylor, Iommi, Cozy Powell, David Gilmour – could have done it in their sleep and possibly did, but if you zone out the gags it’s at least a competent workout. And I did crack a smile to “stonky stonky, nose on your conky” despite myself.

    Then again, was anything Hale and Pace did – and they did have their moments – as funny as picturing their brown-trousered reaction when word reached them that Reggie Kray didn’t find “The Management” sketches very funny?

    Oh, and I still maintain, despite its being dismissed by others on here, that “Newport State of Mind” is the best Comic Relief song in years and it’s a pity it couldn’t have been released officially.

    And “bostin’” – first encountered the word in the West Brom fanzine “Fingerpost” referring to a goal by cult hero Don Goodman.

  85. 85
    Ed on 3 Apr 2011 #

    @82 Epsom Our Price seems to loom very large in this blog. Isn’t there a regular commenter who used to work there, as well? It was my local record shop when I was growing up. I am pretty sure I bought the first Doors album there (sorry, Tom), and ‘White Light, White Heat’, both of which would have been about 15 years old by then. Probably ‘Rio’ for my sister, as well.

    So I am very pleased to see that on this evidence it was cooler than Rough Trade or Bleecker Bob’s.

  86. 86
    Ed on 3 Apr 2011 #

    *Uses search function*

    I see it was wichita lineman, and I have raised this point already. I have become a confused old man, clearly.

  87. 87
    ottersteve on 3 Apr 2011 #

    Yes Tom, surely you must agree that at least one upcoming No.1 WILL be receiving a score of less than 1 from you. Even on a scale of direness, I can think of a couple of songs on the way to your shell-like (soon) that are EVEN WORSE THAN THIS!

    It seems unfair that all the really bad songs in this collection are lumped together with the same score ie 1. Please choose just a couple from the “1 point” category and award them lower marks, just so’s we know which your least favorite No 1 hit is/are. – we really want to know which they would be!

  88. 88
    Alan on 3 Apr 2011 #

    of the records scoring 1 so far, half were from the 80s

  89. 89
    flahr on 3 Apr 2011 #

    And roughly the same statistic applies to the 10s as well. I guess adolescence meant everything was either THE BEST THING EVA or THE WORST THING EVA.

  90. 90
    wichita lineman on 3 Apr 2011 #

    Re 85: Yes Ed, it was me, I was there summer ’84 to Feb ’85, possibly sold a record to the infant Tom. And I used to play White Light White Heat just because I could, and just before closing time. I liked watching people browsing the racks as if everything was quite normal while I Heard Her Call My Name played in the background. Shortly after this it was a chart albums only policy (sad face).

    Lots of great regular customers. Mr Party Records was one.

    It was probably a lot more fun than Bleecker Bobs.

    Best Our Price moment – when I worked in the Cambridge branch and MICKY DOLENZ CAME IN!!!

  91. 91
    wichita lineman on 3 Apr 2011 #

    I See The Moon – I sing it in the shower. Vincent – luv it. Dustman – fine if I don’t hear it too often. Macca/Stevie – “pyaaaaahno”. Engelbert – great compressed piano sound. The rest are all entirely awful, but The Stonk has its own pedestal of poop.

    Top to bottom, how I’d rank them:

    THE STARGAZERS – “I See The Moon”
    DON McLEAN – “Vincent”
    LONNIE DONEGAN – “My Old Man’s A Dustman”
    LITTLE JIMMY – “Long Haired Lover From Liverpool”
    THE FIRM – “Star Trekkin”
    RENEE AND RENATO – “Save Your Love”
    NICK BERRY – “Every Loser Wins”
    SIMPLE MINDS – “Belfast Child”
    PETULA CLARK – “This Is My Song”
    BOMBALURINA – “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”
    CHRIS DE BURGH – “The Lady In Red”
    ST WINIFRED’S SCHOOL CHOIR – “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma”
    HALE AND PACE – “The Stonk”

  92. 92
    Billy Smart on 4 Apr 2011 #

    From that list, I derive genuine emotional resonance from ‘The Last Waltz’ and ‘This Is My Song’, more because of the rather nifty period arrangements of both than any other reason. They’d both get seven from me!

  93. 93
    Lee on 4 Apr 2011 #

    While that is by and large a pantheon of the truly awful, Vincent doesn’t belong. Why not? Because, unless I’ve just discovered a great howling void where I thought I kept my taste, Vincent is little short of wonderful.

  94. 94
    Tom on 4 Apr 2011 #

    The only one of those I regret giving 1 to is “Ebony And Ivory”, where I think I was just in a grouchy mood.

    Still h8 Vincent :)

  95. 95
    wichita lineman on 4 Apr 2011 #

    Ebony & Ivory was a shock score, but a pleasant one. The only reason I’d give it more than one is for the unintentional comedy. It sounds like, rather than two towering greats, it was written by Ronald McDonald.

    But then I rate I Just Called To Say I Love You way lower – what is that horrible asthmatic wheeze that runs through it, some odd percussion effect? It echoes the way my heart felt whenever I heard it (ie Our Price, Epsom, summer ’84 = quite often, double sad face).

  96. 96
    Snif on 4 Apr 2011 #

    I’ll tell you what amazes me – it was FOUR YEARS ago that “Vincent” was the Number 1 being discussed.

    It certain doesn’t seem it.

    Of all the Comic Relief singles, only Cliff & The Young Ones’ “Living Doll” troubled the charts or got any airplay in Australia (that I’m aware of; Rory might correct me on that). I’d never heard of “The Stonk” till last week, and only heard it on the weekend when curiosity had me loook it up on YouTube.

    It’s not that howlingly awful that I could see – mind you, I’ve never seen any Hale and Pace (they were briefly on TV here in the early 90s), so there’s no baggage ther to deal with. Still, I could understand that hearing it more than once might drive one around the bend.

  97. 97
    DietMondrian on 4 Apr 2011 #

    BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce described West Brom’s second penalty as “stonking” on Match of the Day on Saturday. (He’s from the south coast of England – not the West Midlands.)

  98. 98
    Ed on 5 Apr 2011 #

    #90 Well at least your copy of ‘White Light White Heat’ went to a good home…. And was there an independent record shop down the other end of town, too? (Independent as in “not part of a chain”, not “indie”.) I have a memory of standing in there with the ‘Chronic Town’ EP in one hand, and ‘Script for a Jester’s Tear’ in the other. I went for the Marillion, which was probably, on balance, a mistake.

    On the record, the only point in its favour is that it reminds me of a former boss who I used to like. When I worked at the BBC, for Children in Need Pudsey Bear himself used to come round all the offices, shaking a bucket. When he appeared at our doorway, my boss, a comically misanthropic Scot, growled: “I’d rather give money to the IRA.”

    Red Nose day, of course, used to be the cool, edgy alternative to Children in Need, its passage into the mainstream mirroring that of the “alternative” comedians who were some of its leading lights.

    In general, I think the arguments against charity (“the government should be doing it”, etc) are pretty hollow. But when I hear ‘The Stonk’, I see their point.

    Like others, incidentally. I remember “stonking” being used outside the West Midlands, often as an adverb eg “a stonking good time”, well before this stupid record.

  99. 99
    flahr on 5 Apr 2011 #

    #98: In general, I think the arguments against charity (“the government should be doing it”, etc) are pretty hollow. But when I hear ‘The Stonk’, I see their point.

    MAJOR AND TEBBIT – “The Stonk”
    #662, 23rd March 1991

  100. 100
    Ed on 5 Apr 2011 #

    @99 I can’t imagine that would have been any worse.

  101. 101
    Rory on 5 Apr 2011 #

    @96: other than The Young Ones (an Oz number one as previously discussed), here are the Comic Relief singles that charted in Australia:

    Bananarama’s “Help!” spent six weeks in the charts in 1989, peaking at 25.

    The Pet Shop Boys etc. “Absolutely Fabulous” spent 13 weeks in the charts in 1994 and peaked at number 2.

    The Spice Girls’ “Who Do You Think You Are/Mama” – 14 weeks in 1997, peaked at 13.

    Westlife’s “Uptown Girl” – 16 weeks in 2001, peaked at 6.

    I suppose I’d better say something about “The Stonk” now…

    I’d never heard it before, and have still only heard it the once (viewing that very wobbly video on YouTube with the caption “Hale and Peace – The Strong”); on the strength of that, I have to say it’s a hell of an earworm.

    I remember Hale and Pace from their brief run on Oz TV in the early 1990s; MikeMCSG @59 had it right with the comparison to Little and Large, I reckon. Pretty blah stuff, and I didn’t watch them often. I can definitely see how playground-craze levels of exposure to this would inspire dark thoughts, but there are other number ones I find far more irritating – “Star Trekkin'”, the Jive Bunny trio, Renee and Renato, even Bombalurina (which was also new to me when we encountered it here). The words are ridiculous, in a not-particularly-amusing way, and the “stonky stonky” bit is annoying, but the music didn’t bother me too much, with the guitars offsetting some of the house-band-style blandness. I gave it three, but expect that repeated exposure would drive that down.

  102. 102
    Triffid Farm on 5 Apr 2011 #

    Having read the comments for a week before hearing the song, I came to the Worst Number One Ever with more relish than trepidation, and I was a bit disappointed to be honest. Its a modestly under-performing honky tonk, but not even close to a St Winifred’s style tailspin of nausea. The video at least is has early nineties face-spotting for diversion, and Hale and Pace are rather less smug than I had remembered. (The YouTube video gained about a fifth of its 17,000 views over the past week, by the way.)

    Repeated, forced listening would make the repeated, forced jokes grate far worse of course, and I really can’t work out why this seemed to make no impression at all at the time. I was very, very aware of comedy at the time – perhaps I categorized it as outside of listening material. But anyway, it didn’t, and I’m unscathed.

    It starts as a three or so for me, with points deducted for each misfiring joke. So it might get to a 1, but mainly on technicalities.

  103. 103

    There should be — perhaps there already is? – a technical term for comedy material that just gets funnier with repetition, and the stuff that collapses very fast in the other direction.

  104. 104
    punctum on 5 Apr 2011 #

    Respectively they are to hancock and to elton.

  105. 105

    Did Eltoning really induce INSTANT deterioration though? Plainly he entirely wore out his welcome, esp.his stand-up stuff.

    (Obviously I am leading up to a “yes thin blue line was INDEED reliably funny” discussion here)

  106. 106
    wichita lineman on 5 Apr 2011 #

    Hmmm… Blackadder doesn’t deteriorate with age.

    Maybe to Hancock and to Rik?

    My reckoning this to be the worst of the one-out-of-tens to date is based on repeat exposure. It certainly starts as a mediocre boogie, gets progressively less funny, and more irritating, and I really get scared at the thought of hearing it again.

  107. 107
    Erithian on 5 Apr 2011 #

    Nobody involved in Blackadder has done anything as good since – discuss!!

  108. 108

    Miriam Margolyes!

  109. 109
    Mark G on 5 Apr 2011 #

    Hugh Laurie…

    (I’m winning already)

    Stephen Fry has done a few books and TV shows and that…

  110. 110
    Cumbrian on 5 Apr 2011 #

    @107: Is this not a bit like saying: “Nobody involved in the 1966 England World Cup winning side has done anything as good since”? It’s a fairly high bar to set.

    Besides which Miranda Richardson was in the, pretty great, Made In Dagenham last year.

  111. 111
    wwolfe on 5 Apr 2011 #

    I love this phrase: “The record’s gravity well of crapness is so powerful…” I guess Thatcher had her Major as Reagan had his Bush the Elder.

  112. 112
    Kit on 6 Apr 2011 #

    “never seen any Hale and Pace (they were briefly on TV here in the early 90s” & “remember Hale and Pace from their brief run on Oz TV in the early 1990s”

    –surely they must have been on for ever and ever, as they kept touring here OVER and bloody OVER right up until two years ago? I didn’t keep track because they were awful, but I think of them having been ~around~ as a hideous cultural presence for ages.



  113. 113
    Kit on 6 Apr 2011 #

    (oh god: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BleGJWPtWXk&NR=1)

  114. 114
    Kit on 6 Apr 2011 #

    Anyway, despite that, this never made it over here at all, though I gleaned from Smash Hits or NME that it was fairly uniquely horrible. 20 years later, it’s nice to have that so roundly confirmed.

    @6 – “Blues” is actually the default genre in most ID3 tagging programs, no meta-japery there.

  115. 115
    Rory on 6 Apr 2011 #

    @112 I guess it’s possible they hung around on our screens – I just remember them as an early-90s thing. I have no memory of that “h&p@bbc” thing, and I was watching Oz TV in 1999-2000. Maybe I’ve repressed it all.

    Edit: Shudder.

  116. 116
    Kit on 7 Apr 2011 #

    Ha, there you go!

    I’m sure “h&p@bbc” didn’t make it here; the title would stuff it for overseas sales generally, and especially to AU commercial FTA, where the national broadcaster is seen as “BBC South”

  117. 117
    flahr on 8 Apr 2011 #

    I guess Tom’s work at oneweekoneband is the reason for the slight delay, but still I think it’s for this job he’s the best man ;)

  118. 118
    Tom on 8 Apr 2011 #

    Yes – the combination of OWOB, the Music Diary Project, a column and actual work has pushed poor C****** H***** to one side. Normal service resumed next week!

  119. 119
    Mark G on 8 Apr 2011 #

    Charlie Harper got to number one?

  120. 120
    Kit on 16 May 2011 #

    Just fished some spam out of my inbox for H&P – hey! – touring Australia again.


    And promising sweetly that it’ll be the last time. I don’t buy it from KISS, I don’t buy it from Farnham, I don’t buy it from a junkie boyfriend and I don’t buy it from you.

  121. 121
    Al on 10 Jun 2011 #

    Hale and Pace – as someone said at the time, ‘the only known comedy double act with two straight men’

  122. 122
    flahr on 20 Apr 2016 #

    I suppose this is the place to mark the passing of Victoria Wood. Even though she was on the B-side it feels a little inapt.

  123. 123
    weej on 20 Apr 2016 #

    As mentioned upthread, The Smile Song is about a thousand times better than The Stonk, even if it isn’t particularly funny. Since I last visited this thread someone has been kind enough to post the video on Youtube, so you can all check it out this time (though I would suggest it isn’t exactly her best work, so please don’t take it as representative if you arent familar with her)

    here it is – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF9IO6LU8cA

    Also an obligatory “fucking hell 2016, give it a rest”

  124. 124
    Gareth Parker on 3 May 2021 #

    I must admit this raised a chuckle. Sorry, but 4/10 from me.

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