Monday, 28 February 2011

46: The Timelords, “Doctorin’ the Tardis” (no.1, 1988)

Post-JAMS, pre-KLF, this Drummond/Cauty offshoot wrote the book on one-hit wonders, and the book was The Manual, Drummond’s nifty pocketsize guide to having a number one record. (Synopsis: lift your favourite riffs and beats from pop records of the time, then assemble your various elements with enough wit and intelligence to allow the consumer to feel in on the joke. Most modern chart hits adhere to the first rule, but crucially not the second.) What makes “Doctorin’ the Tardis” truly unique as novelty records go is that it follows to a logical conclusion an idea nobody else had ever had, or was ever likely to have: set the Doctor Who theme to glam rock beats lifted from The Sweet (“Blockbuster”) and the Glitter Band (“Rock and Roll (Part Two)”). (Of course!, you exclaim, upon hearing the final track: why had no-one thought of doing this before?)

The title was a play on Coldcut’s then-prominent single “Doctorin’ the House” (itself a play on words, thus making the Time lords a doubly postmodern phenomenon); the shamelessly commercial nature of the entire enterprise reflected in the brief sample from Harry Enfield’s “Loadsamoney” - truly, nothing was beyond this single’s reach. Yet “Doctorin’ the Tardis” - not just a great one-hit wonder, but one of the most brilliant, nonsensical chart-toppers of all time - remains every bit as much a conceptual art project as anything the later K Foundation would embark upon: pop with both big ideas (to get to number one in the charts) and no real ideas (what the fuck does Doctor Who have to do with glam rock, and vice versa?) whatsoever. Unremarked upon in analysis of the single’s success: the fact the track was released in 1988, at a time when no-one really gave a shit about Sylvester McCoy; the Timelords could, I’d venture, re-issue “Doctorin’ the Tardis” today - at a time when everyone’s mad for sci-fi - and they’d find themselves with another million quid to burn.

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