475. ‘Shaddap You Face’, by Joe Dolce Music Theatre

Giving us a three-week break from the Lennon-love-in, even if we didn’t ask for it… Joe Dolce and his Musical Theatre.

Shaddap You Face, by Joe Dolce Music Theatre (his 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, 15th February – 8th March 1981

Giuseppe is in 8th Grade, and he don’t want to follow no rules. He shoots pool, flunks school. What does his mother think about this? Well, mama’s not happy: Whats-a matter you, Got-ta no respect… Luckily for her, Mama’s got a catchphrase. Altogether now: Ah… Shaddap You Face!

What comes immediately to my mind are those adverts for Dolmio pasta sauce, with the ridiculous Italian puppets (‘Whens-a your Dolmio day??’) Dolce gets away with it (just about) as he is Italian-American. Plus this tune is so dumb, the contents so lightweight, only the professionally offended could actually complain about the caricature.

What you may well want to complain about is the music itself. Giuseppe grows up, becomes a big star… All he can hear is Mama’s catchphrase. We are treated to an accordion solo, and then a raucous call-and-response section: One more time for Mama! (Oh, must we…?) This record is a load of crap; but it’s not abhorrent in the way that the very worst novelty songs can be. I’m not sure what the joke is, or why it became such a big hit, but as I suggested in my previous post maybe the world was just desperate for something light after The Great Lennon Mourning Period.

‘Shaddap You Face’ was, for many years, the biggest-selling single in Australia (a fact that says much more about Australians than it does about the merits of the song.) Actually, I should say it was only the best-selling single by an Australian act, as Dolce had moved to Melbourne in 1978. This was his first hit – the only single he had released before this was a much more worthy number about the struggles of Vietnamese boat people.

In the UK he is a one-hit wonder of the purest kind. A chart-topper, then nothing else. Zilch. And he’d have probably faded into even greater obscurity, if it wasn’t for the record he kept off #1. Any bore with a passing interest in the charts can tell you two things: that Bryan Adams holds the record for most consecutive weeks at #1, and that Ultravox’s stark, synth classic ‘Vienna’ was held off the top by ‘Shaddap You Face’. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, so I’m going to come out and say it: ‘Vienna’ is overrated, and more than a little pretentious. I’m glad that it was outsold by this Joe Dolce trifle, causing the snobs to fume.

Anyway, has ‘Vienna’ ever been translated into an Aboriginal dialect? ‘Shaddap You Face’ has… Joe Dolce is known more these days as a poet and an essayist. He’s doing alright for himself. Mama would be proud. Meanwhile, coming up next, one final tribute to John Lennon.


11 thoughts on “475. ‘Shaddap You Face’, by Joe Dolce Music Theatre

  1. Well said, sir. It’s not a great record by any means, but we have had worse No. 1’s than this. (Are you listening, J.J. Barrie, St Winifred’s School Choir and Spitting Image, for a start? Not to mention Teletubbies and Mr Blobby – I could go on but…). And Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’ is indeed a tad overblown and overrated. In fact I hate to say this, but 1981 is not a year I remember that fondly as regards No. 1’s, but I won’t pre-empt things for you (apart from hinting at a Scottish singer dressing up in Japanese costume to come).

    • I must admit a very soft spot for Blobby (in my defence, I was 7…) and that I contributed to the Teletubbies chart-topping reign… As for 1981, there are some real high points (that I won’t give away) but yes, I am looking forward to getting in amongst all the bits in between. 1979-80 have been such strong years that whatever followed was likely to suffer in comparison.

  2. Its cute if you dont hear it too much. Me i love Vienna, im very happy its famous as a result of being kept off the top 🙂 midge had already topped with Slik anyway and had the fab visage fade to grey to his credit, not to mention rich kids, and ghe top of the pops theme with phil lynnot upcoming so its not like he needed the number 1 🙂

    Joe dolce has always reminded me of the fab Chico Marx – just not as funny, scheming or full of one liners…..!

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