❉ Time for the secret life of Doctor Who spin-off records, bwoy!
As this year’s Record Store Day recedes into the distance – and into the forefront of bearded 40something males’ bank balances – we celebrate the failed rock crossovers of Doctor Who that fell by the wayside and ultimately ended up in the bargain bin of history. Prick up your ears towards these unloved gems…
Nicholas Courtney – I Think We’re Alone Now (1967, Pye)
Famously covered by mad-haired, new wave loon, Lene Lovich, and ’80s ginge mallrat, Tiffany, it’s a little known fact that the original version of I Think We’re Alone Now was recorded by TV’s Nicholas Courtney shortly after his appearance in 12-week nut-scratch-fest, The Dalek’s Master Plan. The single duly appeared on the Pye label, produced by Tony Hatch and with a guitar solo by jobbing session muso, a pre-Led Zep, Jimmy Page. It lolled in the backwaters of the Melody Maker chart and was quietly deleted in 1969.
Derrick Sherwin & The Sherwinettes – This Wheel’s on Fire (1969, Decca)
Phil Spector, apparently the world’s biggest fan of The Wheel in Space, approached its producer with an aim for making him the new Scott Walker. Unfortunately, a poor choice of songs, all with piss-poor references to The Wheel in Space, and a ratty selection of groupies (including – allegedly – Billy Ocean and a teenage Hazel Blears) meant Sherwin stormed out of the studio after three days, returning to work on Doctor Who’s seventh season. Tabloid reports at the time suggested Sherwin based the Nestene Consciousness on the famously volatile Spector, who now spends most of his time in prison watching old Barry Letts episodes.
Wendy Padbury – Bigger on the Inside (1970, Lynwood)
A surreal, surely mescaline-induced slice of psychedelia wherein Doctor Who’s Zoe (shortly after leaving the series) was persuaded, in her innocence, to recite a thinly-veiled pean to her magnificent, glittery catsuit-coated arse, with lyrics by Michael Moorcock against a noodly noisenik background by members of Soft Machine and Caravan (listen out for Robert Wyatt’s whispered “Look at the size of that thing”). It appeared on an International Times flexidisc in early 1970, and was directly responsible for Padbury turning her back on the alternative scene and marrying Melvyn Hayes. Second only to Blood On Satan’s Claw as topics that Dame Padders refuses to discuss at conventions.
John Levene – Pearl Necklace (1977, Ronco)
Disgruntled at being phased out once Tom Baker rose into ascendancy, everyone’s favourite sergeant-cum-warrant officer held onto the dream, firstly by mooting his own spin-off pilot, Benton!, to the BBC’s Light Ent department, and secondly waxing this slow-grinding, panty-peeling disc with a seductive, string-laden backing track arranged by Alan Hawkshaw and influenced by the Love Unlimited Orchestra. Failed to chart, in spite of (or perhaps because of) being Tony Blackburn’s Record of the Week for a whole week, shortly before his breakdown.
John Leeson/Peter Cook – Ball Bearings (1978, Island)
For all the talk of the punk revolution, the late ’70s saw several equally tiresome genres spring up for commercial opportunists to take advantage of for a few extra buttons in the coffer. There was the comedy duet, the tongue-in-cheek disco parody and the TV tie-in spin-off. All tedious variations were fully encompassed in an ill-advised team-up between Leeson as prissy robot dog, K9, and Peter Cook channelling his foul mouthed alter ego, Clive. It was nixed as soon as Head of Serials Graeme McDonald heard this smutty effort, and had the single withdrawn before release. Secretly said to be the real reason David Brierley replaced Leeson in the 1979 season.
Anthony Ainley – Yours Insanely, Anthony Ainley (1983, Savoy Records)
In 1983, Ainley was persuaded by naughty books publishers, Savoy, to follow in the footsteps of camp has-beens, PJ Proby and Fenella Fielding, and ‘lay down some grooves.’ As a man with a disposable income, an easily flattered ego and no public profile to speak of, Ainley had nothing to lose and threw down spoken-word makeovers of Throbbing Gristle’s Persuasion, Jayne County’s If You Don’t Wanna Fuck Me, Baby, Fuck Off and The Lord’s Prayer, in his familiar ‘chewing marbles’ diction. If you can find a copy, worth a look for sleevenotes by a pre-ZTT Paul Morley – “Anthony’s unique stylings cuts through the double standards bullshit of outdated, societal norms like an emetic emission of faeces passing through Elvis Presley’s dilated, engorged and creatively constipated inner colon into the u-bend of a spiritually moribund, new world order. That’s the way – a ha a ha – Ant likes it.”
Gary Downie – Oh, John (1985, Silvertone)
This X-rated song, banned by Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4, featured Who’s erstwhile Production Manager breathing heavily for four uncomfortable minutes, with the occasional burst of “Ooooh, John…” A distressing, bleak record, now happily deleted.
Nabil Shaban – It’s Not Easy Being Green (1987, Telstar)
As the most distinctive villain from the Colin Baker era, little Nabil had star quality in spades. Invited back for Mindwarp after his debut in Vengeance on Varos, and until late in the day anticipating a further return in McCoy’s first season, the Sil man slithered onto a bandwagon that was fast leaving Dodge City with this cringe-making cover of the Kermit favourite that hit all the wrong notes. What was he thinking? 1987, with Black Monday on the horizon, was not the right time for a gooey sentimental, Orville by way of Lecter, load of old slop asking listeners to empathise with a fictitious mollusc who epitomised greed-is-good. The b-side featured Shaban and Bonnie Langford duetting on Especially For You, which has to be heard to be believed.
Manic Street Preachers – The Rosegarden Funeral of Sores (2001, Epic)
Art-rockers and uber-geeks, Mansun, had already established their fanboy credentials in 1998 by getting Tom Baker to provide narration on one of the tracks on their prog-fest, Six. But it was more surprising when a Japanese single surfaced of Welsh wizards, the Manics, covering John Cale’s proto-goth spookfest, The Rosegarden Funeral of Sores, with Sylvester McCoy intoning the doom-laden lyrics with the same gravitas he brought to such classic lines of dialogue as, “There will be no battle here!” and “Take the survey and go!” James Dean Bradfield later recalled, while eating a Greggs pasty, “Those fucking spoons, man… Fair do’s to Richie, like, but they made me want to jump off the Severn Bridge!”
Phil Collinson – Straight Outta Cardiff (2008, Creation)
During his brief break between leaving Doctor Who and taking up residence on Coronation Street, former Doctor Who producer, Phil Collinson, made an unexpected and thoroughly unwanted attempt to launch himself as a rapper. His Welsh-flecked redo of NWA’s seminal Straight Outta Compton, with backing vocals from RTD, Julie Gardner, Andy Pryor and Tom Spilsbury, the cover featured them adopting gangland, LA poses against a ghetto backdrop of Cardiff Bay’s Sainsbury’s Local. Despite heavy backing from the NME, Q and Gallifrey Base, it failed to chart. However, Ice Cube later called the song, “Absolutely superb!”
❉ ‘Doctor Who: State Of Decay’ was released by Pickwick Records in 1982. The “Bonus beats mix” was released by Ninja Tunes in 1997.