472. ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma’, by St. Winifred’s School Choir

There has been a lot of talk in recent years that 1984 was ‘The Best Year’ for pop music, ever. I would disagree and, from the chart-toppers POV that this blog takes, 1984 is in truth a far from vintage year which we’ll hear all about soon enough. No, my vote for best year of the ‘80s, in terms of #1s, would be 1980 itself. Blondie, ABBA, The Jam, The Pretenders, The Specials, Bowie, Lennon and ELO. Yes, yes, yes. A done deal. Except…

There’s No One Quite Like Grandma, by St. Winifred’s School Choir (their 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, 21st December 1980 – 4th January 1981

1980 had to go and ruin things with its final #1. For, ladies and gentlemen, I present this year’s Christmas Number One, and the record that kept the late John Lennon from scoring an unprecedented three consecutive chart-topping singles: the sweet, sweet tones of St. Winifred’s School Choir.

Whichever way you try to approach this record – as a novelty, as a camp curio, as a nursery rhyme, as a cynical attempt to cash-in at Christmas – one thing’s for sure. It’s a God-awful piece of music. The budget kiddies-TV backing track, the choir, the little girl who sings the lead… Grandma we love you, Grandma we do…  The key-change! (Oh Christ, the key-change…) The stench only intensifies when you find out that this was originally written as a tribute to the Queen Mother for her eightieth birthday!

It’s so bad that it’s almost not worth elaborating. The bit where the lead girl sings about ‘potty time’ (I presume it’s actually ‘party time’) and the bit where grandma is killed off towards the end… We’ll look back and say, There’s no one quite like grandma, She has helped us on our way… It’s all terrible, and you don’t need me to tell you why. Just listen, shudder, then go about your day as best you can (after liking and commenting, ta…) It would also be whacking some very low-hanging fruit to make fun of these seven and eight-year-olds, singing their little hearts out for their dear old grannies.

This song storms instantly into my Top 3 worst chart-toppers so far (alongside ‘All Kinds of Everything’ and ‘No Charge’, in case you’re wondering). But I’ve never bothered properly ranking them because I don’t want to really remember that they exist. It has also caused me to reassess this song’s obvious counterpart, Clive Dunn’s ‘Grandad’, the (almost) Xmas #1 from 1970. Compared to this, ‘Grandad’ is quite the sharp-eyed satire.

This isn’t actually the first time we’ve heard from St. Winifred’s School Choir – the school is in Stockport, Greater Manchester, and they provided uncredited backing vocals on Brian & Michael’s Mancunian anthem ‘Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs’. It is though, thankfully, the last time we’ll hear from them. The choir has released eight (8!) albums, and if you’d like to hear their takes on ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘Rivers of Babylon’ then you’ll have to search for them yourself cause I ain’t linking!

So there we are. The first year of the 1980s finally draws to a close. Though its final chart-topper was a complete and utter howler, I am still ranking it among the very best years for the quality of its number ones. I fear I may not be so generous about what remains of this decade…

(I’m breaking my rule on not posting ‘live’ versions here but, to be honest, each one’s as bad as the next…)

16 thoughts on “472. ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma’, by St. Winifred’s School Choir

  1. Susie Mathys (one of The Paper Dolls, as in ‘Something Here in my Heart’ in 1968) was a vocal coach for the youngsters on this record.Sorry Susie, I loved your old single, but if I was you, I think I’d have kept quiet about this one! Like ‘No Charge’, one record we could happily live without hearing again.

  2. I dont hate this one as much as some yet to come. I dont need to hear it ever sgain though! I dont think either of my grandmas were fans of it at the time, but we all liked clive dunns grandad. My grandma loved abba into her 90s. Which says s lot about abba appesling to all age groups. She also lived rene and renata, which is sorta fun. Look forward to your post on that one! 🙂

  3. This one song alone disqualifies 1984 from any ‘best year’ suggestions. Those who say that clearly weren’t around in the 60s – every year from 1963 on deserves that claim more than anything from the 80s!

    • Not 1984 yet… But, yes, this travesty almost ruins 1980’s claim to be one of the ‘best years’. I have to say that the easy-listening 1976-77 years were not as strong as the early eighties.

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