Tuesday, 7 July 2009

1986 Cliff Richard & The Young Ones: Living Doll

Charity again. This time Comic Relief. And being Comic Relief, any associated single has to avoid the brow furrowing, hand wringing, serious tone of other disaster based appeals and be....well, funny.

In 1986, The Young Ones were funny. Very funny indeed. They were the Monty Python of my generation and their antics were endlessly replayed in school the way the previous generation used to recite 'The Parrot Sketch'. So whither 'Living Doll'? Does it meet the appropriate criteria here (i.e. is it funny)? Ah, no. Not at all.

A strange pairing on the face of it, you had to be a fan of the series to understand the linking device of Rick Mayall's character being a huge fan of Cliff in a non ironic way (with the lack of irony being the source of the humour). Whether Cliff knew this, or knew that he was essentially there to be taken the piss out of is by no means apparent from this version of his 1959 number one. He delivers the song as straight as you like, almost as if he believes re-recording it for charity with old Shadow Hank Marvin on guitar is la raison d'entre for the whole project and it's a bit disconcerting to hear him sing the tune in almost exactly the same way as he did some twenty six years previously.

And do the Young Ones use this innocent ignorance and go to town on him and the song in a spectacular stitch up? Sadly not. Perhaps realising that Cliff was doing them a favour by agreeing to this in the first place, and not wanting to harm the sales figures by courting controversy (it's for charidee, remember?), they dutifully play the game and merely take turns to make 'humorous' character interjections in the background while Cliff does his thing.

The problem is, The Young Ones always relied on anarchic and violent visual humour for much of their yuks and so just having their voices on record loses something. Actually, it loses quite a lot. Enough anyway to make 'Living Doll' as unfunnily irritating as anal itch and to wipe out their anti establishment credentials and tarnish their credibility and legacy in one fell swoop. As The Clash once sang:

"But I believe in this-and its been tested by research

That he who fucks nuns will later join the church"

What a shame they had to join up so quickly.

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