Tag Archives: Dad’s Army

December 2nd 1972

“City 1 Ipswich 1” / “Sold records – Beatles + Grandad – 50p”

Our newsagent used to have a display board in its front window where local residents – for 2 or 3 pence a week, or something silly – could post hand-written cards advertising things for sale.

Indeed, the very same newsagent continues to offer the service. The last time I flew over and stayed with my Dad in England, the board was still in the window. The cost had gone up – 50p I believe – but it was nice to see the tradition remains.

I used the newsagent’s service to advertise records for sale. LP or singles that I’d got bored with or no longer wanted, as well as 45’s I’d picked up cheap and then sold for a small profit. Yes, I was doing that kind of trading at the age of 14! Talk about prescience!

I have no idea what the Beatles record was. Knowing my luck, it was probably one which sells for oodles and oodles of cash on eBay nowadays!

I know what “Grandad” was though.

Yes, it’s embarrassing.

In the 70’s, the UK singles chart was virtually awash with novelty hits. Many of them the famous “wonders” of the one hit. 

Clive Dunn’s “Grandad” was such a record.

Clive Dunn is an actor who found fame playing a doddery old butcher in Dad’s Army, a British TV sitcom about the home guard during World War II. The series’ huge audience (18 million weekly) almost guaranteed that anything involved with the show would also be loved by the public.

Dunn met famous session bassist Herbie Flowers (it is his bass line that opens Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”) whilst at a party and challenged him to write a hit single for him.

Flowers contacted his friend and fellow songwriter, Kenny Pickett (former member of 60’s freakbeat combo Creation) who turned up a little later ringing Flower’s doorbell. The doorbell’s simple ‘ding-dong’ apparently gave the pair the hook for the song! (“Ding” + “Dong” = “Gran” + “Dad”)

(How do I know this story? Permit me a “brush with the stars” moment. Flowers was an unlikely member of Marc Bolan’s T.Rex for (what turned out to be) their final tour, just months before the tousle-haired pop pixie died in a horrible car crash.  Along with several friends, I attended the final date of the tour in Portsmouth and we were all able to get backstage and into the changing rooms after the show.  We never met Marc, but Herbie was an extremely affable gent, sharing his wine with us and regaling us for a while with his tales of the music business… including his involvement with “Grandad“)

Anyway, Clive Dunn recorded the song with a children’s choir and its awful cheese (“Grandad, Grandad, you’re lovely“)  made Number 1 in early 1971 (incongruously sandwiched in between Number 1’s by Dave Edmunds and George Harrison!) and stayed on the charts for a mind-boggling 27 weeks! 

Now, let it be known – to my wife’s repeated horror – that I am something of an aficionado of ‘novelty hit singles’. However, even I think Clive Dunn’s “Grandad” is a novelty just TOO far!

Judge it for yourself… if you dare!



Filed under 1972 Diary Entries