570. ‘The Chicken Song’, by Spitting Image

In my last post, I wondered if ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ was intended as a novelty song, a train of thought that took me down an existential route, asking if our native English bias leads us to treat all foreign language songs as novelties, regardless of the artists’ original intentions… Thankfully, this next #1 will not be inspiring any such deep philosophical debate. Ladies and Gentlemen: ‘The Chicken Song’…

The Chicken Song, by Spitting Image (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 11th May – 1st June 1986

Nor do we need to ask if this is a novelty hit. This is the ultimate novelty hit: a novelty hit about novelty hits. A meta-novelty hit. It apes mindless summer smashes like ‘Agadoo’ (the ‘wet gits’ in the lyrics are supposed to be Black Lace) and ‘The Birdy Song’, with their inane lyrics and/or their simplistic dance moves: Hold a chicken in the air, Stick a deckchair up your nose…

My first instinct is to groan and press stop. But then I remember: this is done knowingly. It’s meant to be annoying. My second instinct is still to groan and press stop. Tongue-in-cheek it may be, but that doesn’t make it any more listenable. I get the point they’re making, but… Now you’ve heard this song, Your brain will spring a leak, And though you hate this song, You’ll be singing it for weeks… Well, quite.

‘The Chicken Song’ doesn’t appear to be on streaming service because, let’s be honest, who would ever want to listen to it? After a promising start, 1986 is quickly hitting the skids. I’m starting to cast my eye towards the upcoming recap, and the ‘Very Worst Chart Topper’ award. But then, is it worth getting annoyed about a song that has set its stall out so clearly to be annoying? Aren’t you just giving them what they want…? Let’s move quickly on then, and not give them the attention they crave…

Except, ‘Spitting Image’ was a satirical TV show – ‘The Chicken Song’ had featured heavily in the programme’s third series – and you could maybe have expected something with a little more bite. There’s a video of their ‘Top of the Pops’ performance, featuring Margaret Thatcher on keys and Ronald Reagan on drums. Imagine if those world leaders had featured in the lyrics… Sadly, they went for dumb rather than edgy. The ‘B’-side was a ditty called ‘I’ve Never Met a Nice South African’, which mocked the attitudes of apartheid era, white South Africans. That would have made for an interesting number one; though it wouldn’t have been likely to make it there in the first place…

So, there we go. ‘The Chicken Song’. You might have wondered if, with this being the ultimate novelty song – the novelty song’s novelty song – people might have given up on making them after this topped the charts. Why bother? Sadly, people still did bother. There are plenty more to come. Up next, though, a recap…


20 thoughts on “570. ‘The Chicken Song’, by Spitting Image

  1. I remember it, although I try hard not to. Hearing it once is enough. There was a time when I thought ‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’ was the worst-ever No 1, but over the passage of time that seems to have developed a strange sort of nostalgic charm. But this….as they say, all copies should have been pressed on brown vinyl.

    • Do you not think, though – as terrible as this song is – the fact that it is completely aware of its terrible-ness, that it is so deliberately terrible, makes it more bearable. More bearable than other bad songs that don’t realise how bad they are…?

      • You have a good point there. But I do wonder how many times people put it on their turntable (showing my age) after buying it!

      • I often wonder that about charity records – I bet half the time they are bought/downloaded and never even played once… Yet they go down as the most popular record of the week.

  2. I remember reading at the time that a lot of buyers of ‘Candle in the Wind’97’ got it as a kind of souvenir and, it being only a CD single at the time, said they would never even take the jewel case out of the shrink-wrap. So I don’t see it having any rarity value on ebay and so on for a few hundred years yet…

  3. Pingback: Recap: #541 – #570 | The UK Number Ones Blog

  4. The Chicken Song. I hate it. I have always hated it. It wasn’t funny as a parody (after about the 3rd time of hearing) and in the truest case of irony it’s far far worse and excruciating to listen to than any Agadoo or Birdie Song – which were meant to be FUN, however inane – whereas this is just one of the greatest crimes committed to 7-inch vinyl. There is no redeeming quality. To make a genuine point you leave it as a one-off sketch in a satire show, not pollute the charts with something worse than the targets. That’s hypocrisy of the first order. Note: I may not have forgiven the musical culprit for all this – Philip Pope – for his musical jibe against the masters of melody, The Bee Gees (see his Meaningless Songs under the pseudonym Hee Bee Gee Bees) who were a previous target, unfairly, but at least that track was mildly amusing and musical. Less guilty are the lyricists Rob Grant & Doug Naylor. As they went on to write Red Dwarf, one of the greatest sitcoms of all-time, I can forgive. As long as I never have to listen to it again! Of course the greatest record to feature chickens is and always will be Ray Stevens version of In The Mood. Now THAT’s comedy….and it has no lyrics.

    • I mean, it is complete crap, but I can’t get too worked up about it… Maybe if I experienced its 3-week run in real-time I might be less forgiving. And isn’t the fact that they released it, and that it went to number one, making even more of a point about these silly summertime novelties…? If it had entered at #60 and then sank without trace you could have argued that they’d gone too far, that it was too much for the general public. And, yet…

      • I think that is more being critical of the public – who might well be kids lets be honest – rather than taking aim at the people who make the music. And then getting rich on the profits is a bit cynical. Jonathan King took the piss all the time, starting with his debut hit Everyones Gone To The Moon a pastiche of sloppy love songs, and The Turtles took the piss out of themselves with Elenore after the record company wanted another pop hit, but both were great pop songs anyway. Theres another pisstake coming with The Timelords, aka KLF, and they even wrote a book on How To Get Number One Record, which really took the piss. Then they mocked kylie and jason, then they becme classic dancefloor bangers of the toppest notch quality and burnt a million quid on film. Now THATS how you really take the piss – and the records are all fabulous! 🙂

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  6. You are now heading into the period of music I came to despise …. and still do. I think I can safely say that this, with possibly a few exceptions, will be the BEST of what’s to follow in the coming months / couple of years. 😉 😀

  7. Pingback: 592. ‘Star Trekkin”, by The Firm | The UK Number Ones Blog

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