Ten Incredibly Strange Singles Released By BBC Records And Tapes

BBC Records And Tapes released some really, REALLY weird singles in their time, spanning the entire spectrum of 'popular' music all the way from from the That's Life team posing as comedy punks about ten years after punk happened, to the sound of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop hitting a phone. At least they were interesting, though; here are ten singles where you can't help but wonder who anyone in their right mind thought might actually buy them...

RESL172 Wimbledon Break Point/New Balls Please - Bass Line

Originally commissioned as backing music for the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage, this upbeat electropop track was extended and bolstered by samples of top tennis ne'er-do-well of the day John McEnroe for single release, to no particularly beneficial effect. The b-side was a remix of the a-side, as if one was in any way actually needed.

RESL185 'Heroes'/A Long Way To Go - The County Line

Billed as featured ‘Essex Artistes for BBC Children In Need’, this rather theme-misinterpreting cover of David Bowie’s 1977 hit was one of the less inspired contributions to the mid-eighties vogue for multi-handed charity singalongs, and featured contributions from Suzi Quatro and members of The Kinks, The Rubettes and Bronski Beat amongst many decidedly less famous others.

RESL187 Boss O'The Black/Willie Thorne, King Of The Maximum Break - Jed Ford

UK country music star Jed Ford wrote and performed this bewilderingly-targeted snooker-themed song, regularly used at the time in the BBC’s television coverage of the sport, with the b-side paying oddly specific tribute to the popular snooker player who had won the previous year’s Classic Tournament. Released, it should be noted, in direct competition with Snooker Loopy by Chas'n'Dave And The Matchroom Mob.

RESL189 It's 'Orrible Being In Love (When You're Eight And A Half)/Big Sister - Claire & Friends

In 1986, Saturday Superstore launched ‘Search For A Superstar’, a lengthy contest in which viewers voted for their favourite of a group of talented youngsters. The eventual winner, narrowly beating a band of teenaged Duran Duran wannabes, was ten-year-old Claire Usher from Stockport, who sang humorous pop songs in a broad accent. In the final, she had performed It’s ‘Orrible Being In Love (When You’re Eight And A Half), written by Mick Coleman and Kevin Parrott (who, as Brian & Michael, had a number one hit with Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs in 1979), and this became a surprise hit, reaching number 13 in the charts. The 12” also included a ‘Megaminormix’ of the a-side, though is now notorious as one of the lowest-selling 12”s of a hit single for the entire eighties. Usher went on to record REB606 Super Claire.

RESL194 The Wedding Song/Sad Movies – The True Love Orchestra


Issued to commemorate the wedding of HRH Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson on 23rd July 1986, this synthesiser medley of Wagner’s Bridal Chorus and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March was largely the work of BBC Radio Clyde presenter John MacCalman, who had a sideline in composing library music to order. The Wedding Song was used several times in television coverage of the event. It clearly served the happy couple well.

RESL196 Superman/Rainbow – Claire

A second single outing for a now friendless Claire Usher, with another two songs lifted from REB606 Super Claire. Perhaps predictably, it failed to repeat the success of the earlier single (though more surprisingly, given what happened that time, there was a 12” featuring an extended version of the a-side), and Claire retired from pop music to pursue a successful career in stage musicals.

RESL198 Power From Within/Power From Within (Instrumental) - International Athletes Club with Steve Menzies

A fundraising effort for the International Athletes Club, this charity singalong featured bona fide athletes Sebastian Coe, Roger Black, Phil Brown, Kriss Akabusi, Todd Bennett, Tim Hutchings, Eugene Gilkes, Myrtle Augee, Kim Hagger, Sharon McPeake, Mary Berkeley, Linda Keough, Lindford Christie, Shirley Strong, Jane Parry, Paula Dunn, Kirsty Wade, Christina Boxer and Wilbert Greaves, and was written and produced by eighties chart star Phil Fearon. You can probably start humming it as it is.

RESL205 You Know The Teacher (Smash-Head)/Don't Stop - Grange Hill Cast

While others recognised its obvious novelty status, the success of the Grange Hill cast's anti-drug anthem Just Say No convinced BBC Records And Tapes that it would be worth issuing an album by the cast of their popular school drama. REB609 Grange Hill The Album featured one side of middle-of-the-road pop covers, and one of original schoolroom-themed songs with lyrics by series creator Phil Redmond. The lead single's bafflingly titled a-side – largely performed by series regulars George 'Ziggy' Christopher and John 'Gonch' McMahon – was drawn from the latter, and the ensemble Fleetwood Mac cover on the b-side from the former, with the 12” also boasting Redmond original Girls Like To Do It Too and actor Ricky 'Ant Jones' Simmonds’ cover of I Don’t Like Mondays. Despite the show’s huge popularity, and the single being afforded the rare privilege of a specially-shot video (oddly featuring the vocalists walking about in silence rather than miming), it failed to chart.

RESL206 Soapy/Al's Way - Top Of The Box

Alan Coulthard, a remixer responsible for many a chart-topping 12” Extended Version in the mid-eighties, was the man behind this peculiar medley of soap opera themes, taking in EastEnders, Dynasty, Dallas and Howard’s Way, and doubtless issued in an attempt to capitalise on the success of certain recent soap-related singles. However, club patrons were to prove to be not quite so keen on soap themes and the record failed to find an audience, despite the presence of – what else? – an Extended Version on the 12”.

RESL226 We Wanna Be Famous - Buster Gobsmack & Eats Filth/ The Toreador From Japan - El Shaftit & The Timeshares

One of the most convoluted stories behind a BBC Records And Tapes single release started early in 1988, when the production team of That’s Life! received several letters from struggling Manchester-based musicians complaining about a local video producer who hadn’t captured their act to their satisfaction. As part of an investigation, the show sent presenters Adrian Mills and Grant Baynham to make a video with him posing as punk rockers ‘Eats Filth’ (an anagram, in case it wasn’t obvious, of That’s Life!), ‘parodying’ a long outdated youth cult that the show still seemed to find inexplicably hilarious; as the excellent Left And To The Back blog put it, "the shrieks of laughter from the studio audience whenever a London punk was vox popped by Mills or one of his cohorts proved a baffling noise to hear". Though the video they produced was hardly likely to win any MTV Awards, the ‘expose’ on the hapless aspirant film-maker responsible was possibly a little unfair and the story was conspicuous by its failure to progress beyond one edition. We Wanna Be Famous, however, had more staying power, performed on the show – with the instruments actually played by the That’s Life! team, led inevitably by Doc Cox and including Gavin Campbell on drums and Esther Rantzen on percussion, for an authentic ‘punk’ sound – to huge gales of audience laughter, and inspiring so much viewer correspondence that it ended up on a single, which surprisingly failed to chart. It has since become, by virtue of its sheer ineptness both as a piece of music and as a lyrical parody, something of a cult classic. And as if that wasn’t all confusing enough, the b-side related to another That’s Life! Investigation into dodgy timeshare deals, which had resulted in Mills’ strangely Japanese-sounding attempts at a Spanish accent becoming a running joke. This has not quite become as much of a cult classic.

Top Of The Box, the story behind every single released by BBC Records And Tapes, is available from here.