Monday, July 13, 2009

 

Who Is Doctor Who? (I don’t know, but he’s groovy)

Back in the Space Year 2000, long before I started blogging, then top Doctor Who fan site Outpost Gallifrey published my review of a very silly CD, blazoned on the cover as WHO IS Dr WHO – The Amazing Musical Adventures of Dr. Who and his friends, the first and sadly only one of a ‘series’ collecting the wilder shoals of Doctor Who-inspired pop, here mostly from the 1960s (at least the fab Radiophonic Workshop music series made it to four CDs). With the disused remnants of Outpost Gallifrey set for deletion in a fortnight, here’s a terrifyingly camp reprint.

The review is as originally published (save my ‘house style’ on italics and quotation marks), overenthusiastic overuse of exclamation marks and all. It’s probably most worth tracking down – if at all – for Jon Pertwee’s infamous I Am the Doctor, a… A… A track that has to be heard to be believed, but which could be described as terrible poetry read in the most melodramatic manner possible (so much so that he almost gets away with it) over a very early ’70s cover version of the Doctor Who Theme. Another weirdly addictive highlight is ’60s companion actor Frazer Hines’ Who’s Dr Who? - earlier this year, at a rather grotty convention, I saw him do a fantastic stand-up session, including singing it (on request) for the first time in forty years. It was written by the team who penned It’s Not Unusual, he said, and he pictured hits, girls, money… A pause. “It was their only flop.” Anything by Roberta Tovey’s worth forgetting, though. Preferably with the aid of therapy. Still, on digging out this review before it vanishes from this link forever, it’s rekindled my interest. Slightly. I might even bother listening to it again one day…

“And when we both get up on Christmas morning,
I’ll kiss him on his chromium-plated head
And take him in to say ‘Hi’ to Mum
And frighten Daddy out of his bed.”
The cover of WHO IS Dr WHO is groovy (“Monaural or Stereo,” indeed!), and it’s thoroughly recommended as the campest Who purchase you can make on CD – yes, madam, even over The Rani Reaps the Whirlwind – but on listening to it, you can’t help feeling they’ve left a few things out. After all, with only 48 minutes used up, there’s surely more space on the CD! It also concentrates on tracks released as singles, which seems rather odd. Mark Ayres gives that excuse for not including much-played Who themes of my childhood like Geoff Love’s version, which I don’t find very convincing. He can’t understand the obsessional completism of those of us who’d happily pay for a whole CD of just different Doctor Who Theme versions.

No, hang on, that can’t be true – this is Mark Ayres we’re talking about ;-)

Anyhow, I quite enjoyed the CD, even the Spinal Tap glory of Frazer Hines (but more of that later). The opening Themes are excellent, of course, but I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With a Dalek is a real find – a shockingly bad but very entertaining number apparently sung by a psychopath! Landing of the Daleks is an all right instrumental which, bizarrely, appears twice (the “Morse” version is better, but not different enough to merit inclusion over Mr Love), but March of the Robots tries the patience a bit… And even Mark Ayres admits Dance of the Daleks is an unrelated cash-in.

I’d not realised Who’s Who (partly played on documentary 30 Years in the TARDIS) was Roberta Tovey (Susan from the movies); it’s nice to have, but boy, even I think she’s flat! Fun, though, and the backing “doo-doo doo-doos” are a scream. I must warn you that “horse” as a desperate rhyme may just be the most cringe-worthy moment on the whole CD… Sadly, the B-side is a waste of space – creepy and not in a good way, Not So Old wins my bet as the track which will be least-played. It’s also quite nice to have the ‘uptempo’ versions of the movie themes (and Fugue for Thought, which is based on incidental music from Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.), because I’d never heard them before, but not including the themes themselves is really a bit off. Daleks and Thals actually sounds curiously more like the James Bond Theme in places of this version…

Then we come to Frazer Hines. Phew. Well, he tries, bless him! Who’s Dr Who? starts with a little reference to the Who Theme, but really needs a high-colour, low-grade video of him singing it against a static background with lots of cardboard flowers and dear Frazer swaying out of time with lots of groovy chicks (there, you know exactly what it sounds like now, don’t you?), and it’s a surprise that his Time Traveller never previously managed a release with its low-power rockabilly style and lyrics like “I’m a time-traveller, honey, and I can’t get away from your love”. What’s that you say, children? It’s no surprise at all? Oh. Bet you never knew “Scottish Glen” rhymed with “Cybermen,” did you, though – sheer genius.

That leaves us with the one I know you’ve all been waiting for. Yes, it’s Jon Pertwee and I Am the Doctor. Listening to it straight after Frazer’s efforts, it’s startling how similar in concept the A and B sides Who’s Dr Who? / Punch and Judy Man and I Am the Doctor / Pure Mystery are. I’m forced to admit that Twerpee’s single is the classier effort all round, and quite the most exciting thing on there, with even his B-side about a performing magician surprisingly listenable. Or maybe it was just after Frazer’s. I Am the Doctor really has some ludicrously dramatic moments that only Mr Melodrama could have got away with (Tom would have pissed himself) – and I can still never get over the line, “As finglers move to end mankind…”!

To round off the collection, there’s one more version of the Who Theme, this time by Don Harper, and wins points as one I’d never heard of, let alone heard before. It’s actually rather good, though it goes on too long and gets a little strange by the end. The saxophone is where to walk out, I think. Now I can’t wait for the next one with songs from my own youth like K9 and Company or the ghastly single by Blood Donor (please, please, let there be a next one), even though it’ll drive my boyf mad.

So, certainly worth it, but I still prefer the Cybertech CDs any day…

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Comments:
Wish I'd known you were at the Fab Cafe - I was there and on my own...
 
Or at least I assume it's Fab you're talking about...certainly it was grotty enough and he sang it there...
 
Ah, I wish I'd known you were there, too - would have been nice to say hello (I don't think we've ever met, have we?). If I could have fought my way to you through the crush, that is - I was mostly standing at the back, where there was almost room to breathe. Though I did unexpectedly meet an old school friend there...

Odd how the key word 'grotty' gave it away... I saw one of the other guests there last month, and without prompting, she shuddered at the toilets. I think they've become famous.
 
No, we've never met. But in fact we would only have been feet away - I was sat in the back row.

And yeah, it wasn't the most pleasant environment. That said, I found some of the online comments afterward quite mean-spirited, especially when people were complaining about Colin Baker telling the same stories he always tells - if he *always* tells them then you know what you're letting yourself in for ;)
 
Oh, absolutely! I recognised some of his stories - though far from all - but he was still brilliant. And it's not like they've not watched every Who story again and again, is it?

As for the sad man who asked Nicola Bryant about whether she'd like to pose for a 'lads' mag', though... Sadly, I wasn't called, but I had my hand up in that session and would have asked Colin - having seen him in his sequinned posing pouch in Privates On Parade at the Buxton Opera House, many long years ago - if he'd ever posed for another kind of lads' mag?
 
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