My first reaction upon seeing the title of our next #1 was: “Oh God, not another song based on a popular sci-fi series!” The scars from having to write about ‘Star Trekkin’’ still cut deep…
Doctorin’ the Tardis, by The Timelords (their 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 12th – 19th June 1988
But wait… Is that glam classic ‘Block Buster!’ mixed with the ‘Dr. Who’ theme? And is that a refrain based on ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Part II’? Plus lots of obnoxious punk chanting? Is this not actually quite great? Stupidly brilliant? Brilliantly stupid?
It takes two very separate strands of music – the sample-heavy house scene that has already given us a classic #1 (‘Theme from S’Express’) and a couple of others (‘Pump Up the Volume’ and ‘Jack Your Body’) and the glam scene of fifteen years previous – while throwing a TV theme into the mix. It shouldn’t work, they shouldn’t be able to meld, but it does. In fact, it sounds incredibly like Muse. Genuinely – and I say this as someone who loves Muse – as if Matt Bellamy has based his band’s entire recent output around this novelty song.
The Daleks are a bit much, mind (I say that as someone with next to no interest in ‘Dr. Who’) but I suppose they’re the most identifiable thing from the programme, and so we need an Exterminate! or two. Oh, and we haven’t mentioned the fact that the You what? chant is from Harry Enfield’s ‘Loadsamoney’ character, and so we have an added undercurrent of Thatcher-era social commentary thrown in too: Loadsamoney presumably being as cheap and as vacuous as this song is meant to be. (Enfield had also taken a single based on the Loadsamoney character to #4 just a few weeks before ‘Doctorin’ the Tardis’ made #1. ‘Enjoy’ that here…)
And then… ho boy, this is a real cluster bomb of a record… Gary Glitter jumped on the bandwagon and helped record a new version, called ‘Gary in the Tardis’ with chants from his big glam hits: He’s the leader, Of the gang… Do you want to touch me…? and so on. That version featured on some of the various 12” mixes, but he wasn’t officially credited. He performed it live though, I’m guessing on TOTP. (And I’ve just realised the twisted irony in Gary Glitter deposing a record that had been raising money for Childline…)
This has so many strands running through it that we haven’t yet mentioned the Timelords themselves. This was their first and only hit under that name, but we’ll meet Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty again shortly, as The KLF. They had released a few underground sample-heavy hits before, as The JAMs, but this was the big time. The song’s title was presumably a nod to Coldcut’s recent sample-tastic hit ‘Doctorin’ the House’. Drummond called their first big hit ‘nauseating’, and then released a book based on making the song called ‘The Manual: How to Have a Number One the Easy Way’.
But hey, never has a cynical grab for chart glory sounded so catchy. Glam is back! For one week only, Britain’s pop past and future – glam, punk and house – mix in a riotous mess of a chart-topper. And I love it! If nothing else, it’s flushed the last remnants of ‘Star Trekkin’’ out of my system…