CRAIG BROWN: Celebrating the golden oldies of pop

CRAIG BROWN: Celebrating the golden oldies of pop… it’s Gums N’ Roses versus Great Uncle Bulgaria!

Colonel Tom Moore, aged 100, and Dame Vera Lynn, 103, have both released hit records this year.

Dame Vera’s album ‘100’ reached number 3 in the Official Album Chart, while Captain Tom Moore (since promoted) had a number 1 in the Singles Chart, duetting with Michael Ball on You’ll Never Walk Alone.

But what of the other Oldies who have made their mark on the Top 20 over the years? Here are eight things you didn’t know about Oldie chart-busters:

1. The unexpected success of Colonel Tom and Dame Vera has prompted many ancient bands to reform, among them The Backache Boys, Vestlife, The Zimmer Sisters, Gums N’ Roses, Walk DMC, Deaf Leppard, The Mild Chili Peppers, and Earth, Wind and Indigestion.

In October, 1973, Great Uncle Bulgaria led the Wombles to number 4 in the charts with The Wombling Song

2. In October, 1973, Great Uncle Bulgaria led the Wombles to number 4 in the charts with The Wombling Song. At the time, he was well over 300 years old, or 200 years older than Colonel Tom and Dame Vera are now.

The following year Great Uncle Bulgaria enjoyed further chart success when Remember You’re A Womble rose to number 3.

Sadly, the sudden fame and fortune went to his head, and, after being arrested by police for disorderly and offensive behaviour on the premises of a hotel, Great Uncle Bulgaria spent Christmas 1974 in a drug rehabilitation centre in San Fernando, California. 

The Great Western Hotel Chain later successfully sued him for damage to their Courtesy Car, which he had driven into the hotel’s swimming pool shortly before his arrest.

3. In 1975, after an on-stage scuffle with fellow band member Orinoco, Great Uncle Bulgaria split up with The Wombles, citing ‘musical differences’. 

Subsequently, he attempted to establish a solo career for himself, recording a darkly autobiographical concept album, Womblephrenia, with The Who’s John Entwistle on bass, but it failed to chart.

Earlier this month, unconfirmed reports suggested that, envious of the acclaim accorded to Dame Vera and Colonel Tom, Great Uncle Bulgaria was planning to raise money for the NHS by duetting on a new version of his classic ‘Wombling White Tie And Tails’ with TV’s Amanda Holden. 

Captain Tom Moore (since promoted) had a number 1 in the Singles Chart, duetting with Michael Ball on You’ll Never Walk Alone

Subsequently, he attempted to establish a solo career for himself, recording a darkly autobiographical concept album, Womblephrenia, with The Who’s John Entwistle on bass, but it failed to chart.

Earlier this month, unconfirmed reports suggested that, envious of the acclaim accorded to Dame Vera and Colonel Tom, Great Uncle Bulgaria was planning to raise money for the NHS by duetting on a new version of his classic ‘Wombling White Tie And Tails’ with TV’s Amanda Holden. 

It was later reported that the two of them had fallen out, and so far nothing has come of their joint project.

4. Today, experts estimate the collective age of the four Rolling Stones at 302 years, with Charlie Watts the elder statesman, at 78, and Ronnie Wood the baby, at 72. 

Three hundred and two years ago, in 1718, King George I still sat on the throne. Notable inventions of the time included the fire extinguisher.

By all accounts, The Rolling Stones are still full of get-up-and-go. At his home in West Wittering, Keith Richards is determined to beat the record set by Colonel Tom Moore, so is busy puffing his way through 60 untipped cigarettes a day ‘to help save our NHS’.

5. When Clive Dunn performed his hit single Grandad on Top Of The Pops, he was just 50 years old, or 26 years younger than Mick Jagger is today.

6. Unconfirmed reports suggest that former MP Ann Widdecombe was the chubby little girl who sang the lead on the number one hit single There’s No One Quite Like Grandma back in 1980. 

Widdecombe’s next major hit did not come until 15 years later, when Stuff And Nonsense reached number 5 in the charts in September, 1995. Its B side, Life (Must Mean Life), was played as she strode onto the stage at the Tory Party Conference in Blackpool later that year.

7. There’s No One Quite Like Grandma was written to celebrate the 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who had topped the charts in 1965 with a cover version of Sonny and Cher’s I Got You. 

Re-titled I Shall Receive You In Due Course, at the insistence of Royal etiquette expert Godfrey Talbot, it featured the Queen Mother duetting with former private secretary, Sir Alan Lascelles.

8. The only other member of the Royal Family to appear on Top Of The Pops was The Duchess of York in 2017. At the time, the Duchess was 57 years old.

Her cover version of the old Barbra Streisand/Neil Diamond number You Don’t Bring Me Flowers was billed as a protest against what she regarded as her increased ostracisation by the Royal Family.

Coincidentally, her former husband, The Duke of York, is now said to be recording the Sam Cooke classic, Working On A Chain Gang.

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