Aug 11

JIMMY NAIL – “Ain’t No Doubt”

FT + Popular102 comments • 9,512 views

#678, 18th July 1992

“Ain’t No Doubt” plants its emotional flag in territories claimed and mapped by Phil Collins – that master of gangrenous wrath and bitterness lurking below blokery’s rumpled jacket. It’s break-up pop of the shabbiest kind; lies, quarrels and wilful miscommunication played out raw in front of us. On TV Nail played hard bastards, for laughs or drama or both – some of the intrigue of his pop career must have been seeing a more sensitive element in him, but I doubt the straight-talking, bullshit-calling narrator of “Ain’t No Doubt” came as much of a shock to the fanbase.

What’s rather more surprising is the music. Most of Nail’s records were thoroughly trad: gruff, measured rock and soul stylings, workmanlike performances enlivened by the odd Knopfler guest-spot. “Ain’t No Doubt”, on the other hand, is a one-of-a-kind meeting of pub rock and swingbeat: ruminative, finger-pointing spoken passages broken up by a two-fisted funk chorus that lunges at you like a closing time drunk. It would be an odd record if anyone had recorded it, but this really isn’t the style you expect a 38-year-old TV star to pioneer.

Here’s the really strange thing: it kind of works. The lurching production is so awkward, its singer so ill-at-ease, it makes Nail’s spoken passages rawer – this is a man happy to humiliate himself if it gets the message about his partner’s perfidy across. Contrast his lumbering with the smooth replies from the ever-professional Sylvia Mason-James, quite at home in this setting: it’s as if Jimmy’s barged into the disco on a girls’ night out to shame his lady, and we’re onlookers peeping through our fingers.

It’s also an unintentionally funny record, of course, and probably the most imitated of the year. And in the end it’s not a thing you’d want to listen to much: I couldn’t stretch to calling it good. But it’s interestingly, admirably bad in a way most TV-star records aren’t.



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  1. 91
    MarkG on 13 Sep 2011 #

    I read part2 of his autobio (yeah yeah sosueme..), and for all the almost kiss&tell business, he does discuss his dalliances with Geri and others without going into massive and unnecessary detail, save to state they were all for real, and not this “let’s be a celebrity couple’ that gets all the magazines atizzy but happens far fewer times in real life..

    Mind you, he does go on a whole lot about every damn car he ever bought for loadsamoney at auction!

  2. 92
    Jimmy the Swede on 13 Sep 2011 #

    Like Erithian, I too find Evans far less annoying the noo but he still suffers from simply refusing to understand that he is not broadcasting to teenagers or simple-minded adults. This might be allowed to pass on his breakfast show, to be fair, but when he did the drivetime slot it was pulpably ridiculous.

  3. 93
    Kit on 14 Sep 2011 #

    Ec’s ppl say

    Ec’s consistently declined to say anything at all, t continue bf

  4. 94
    Pete on 14 Sep 2011 #

    I am looking forward to this discussion being raised the next time Tom is invited on to Evans radio show to discuss Popular. (Was that really three years ago now?)

    “So Tom, let’s wrap up with asking what your favourite number one is, and also have the comments crew decided who is better yet, me or Christopher Ecclestone?”

  5. 95
    Tim Byron on 15 Sep 2011 #

    Eccleston recently talked at an actor’s workshop about why he left: http://badwilf.co.uk/?p=820

    “I left Doctor Who because I could not get along with the senior people. I left because of politics. I did not see eye-to-eye with them. I didn’t agree with the way things were being run. I didn’t like the culture that had grown up, around the series. So I left, I felt, over a principle.

    “I thought to remain, which would have made me a lot of money and given me huge visibility, the price I would have had to pay was to eat a lot of shit. I’m not being funny about that. I didn’t want to do that and it comes to the art of it, in a way. I feel that if you run your career and– we are vulnerable as actors and we are constantly humiliating ourselves auditioning. But if you allow that to go on, on a grand scale you will lose whatever it is about you and it will be present in your work.

    “If you allow your desire to be successful and visible and financially secure – if you allow that to make you throw shades on your parents, on your upbringing, then you’re knackered. You’ve got to keep something back, for yourself, because it’ll be present in your work. A purity or an idealism is essential or you’ll become– you’ve got to have standards, no matter how hard work that is. So it makes it a hard road, really.

    “You know, it’s easy to find a job when you’ve got no morals, you’ve got nothing to be compromised, you can go, ‘Yeah, yeah. That doesn’t matter. That director can bully that prop man and I won’t say anything about it’. But then when that director comes to you and says ‘I think you should play it like this’ you’ve surely got to go ‘How can I respect you, when you behave like that?’

    “So, that’s why I left. My face didn’t fit and I’m sure they were glad to see the back of me. The important thing is that I succeeded. It was a great part. I loved playing him. I loved connecting with that audience. Because I’ve always acted for adults and then suddenly you’re acting for children, who are far more tasteful; they will not be bullshitted. It’s either good, or it’s bad. They don’t schmooze at after-show parties, with cocktails.”

  6. 96
    MarkG on 15 Sep 2011 #

    I do get the impression that Matt Smith and Karen Gillan get worked like dogs while they are working on Dr Who. Filming, promo, ‘being seen’ etc.

  7. 97
    Erithian on 15 Sep 2011 #

    – and when they’re not filming they’re being jolly for the Doctor Who Confidential camera crew. Is the jollity forced? Answers on a postcard…

    There were parts of that Eccleston quote where I’d like to see subtitles à la “Annie Hall” to indicate what he’s really thinking. The discussion thread on “Bad Wilf” is fascinating though – thanks for the link Tim.

  8. 98
    Cumbrian on 30 Nov 2011 #

    I have just had an epiphany looking at the single cover for this. Is it meant to be an homage to Bryan Ferry? Ferry’s then current greatest hits (got large play from my Dad in my house) has a very similar photo and graphic layout on the front cover. Plus Ferry is a Geordie, etc.


  9. 99
    DanH on 31 Jan 2013 #

    I’m surprised this never made waves here in America. It sounds so 1992.

  10. 100
    benson_79 on 8 Dec 2020 #

    This is a unique song which has stood the test of time, still getting regular plays on Radio 2 to this day. Series one of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet is still one of my favourite telly shows – apparently when Jimmy walked into the audition room Clement and La Frenais looked at each other and said “God, let’s hope he can act” because he looked exactly how they’d pictured Oz in their heads.

  11. 101
    Marlon Lloyd-McKenzie on 23 Apr 2021 #

    I actually don’t mind Ain’t No Doubt, so a 6/10 from me. Sesame’s Treet by Smart E’s would have been an interesting #1 hit though!

  12. 102
    Gareth Parker on 29 Apr 2021 #

    I’m happy to admit I find this to be rather good. 7/10 imho, somehow Jimmy Nail gets away with this!

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