Who: Manuel and Los Por Favors
What: Cheryl (b/w "Ode to England")
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Cost: One pound
It may not be the case that every single comedian or comedy character had their own single out in the seventies, but Jeez, it certainly feels like it. Very, very few of them actually sold in encouraging quantities, so why the music industry continued producing spin-off singles is a bit of a mystery. It wasn't even as if they had Comic Relief as an excuse yet (although some kind of low cost CD compilation of many of these tracks would be a neat fund-raiser, now I come to think of it, as well as giving all those flop efforts some sort of purpose).
"O Cheryl" by Manuel and Los Por Favors was almost entirely ignored on its 1979 release, despite launching during the same year as the final series of "Fawlty Towers". The positive feelings surrounding the series could have turned any old average ditty into a medium sized hit at the time, so it's disappointing to report that "O Cheryl" is dire, and therefore never stood a chance. Lacking in good humour, good melody or indeed good sense, it just consists of Andrew Sachs delivering a Manuel-styled performance about an English lady whom he loves. You could argue that Manuel always was supposed to be daft and incompetent, and he was merely being "in character" by dishing out a fairly tuneless piece of work, but what - ultimately - was the point if there were no laughs to be had? The best we can hope for is the triumphant delivery of the line "Now I am boss of fish and chip shop!", and even that won't have the whole of the world wide web rocking in the aisles.
The B-side "Ode to England" is much better, focussing on the benefits of this fine isle in a rather glib and ignorant way, and seemed like enough of a good idea at the time to feature on "The Secret Policeman's Ball". One could hardly call it comedy gold, but there are enough amusing lines and ludicrous misunderstandings to prevent this effort from being a waste of seven inches of vinyl.
Sidestepping dull news items involving the man in recent history, Andrew Sachs was last seen on "Coronation Street" playing the long-lost brother of the petulant, jowl-shaking Norris, before being written out within a matter of months. An emotive version of "Waltzing Matilda" was one of the last things viewers heard before the credits rolled after his character's death had been announced, and I'm relieved to say that a version of Sachs doing this is not on the release schedules of any record label at the moment.
Sadly, however, Sweeping the Nation have informed us that yer man did try to release a rival version of "Shaddap You Face" in Britain to steal the thunder from Joe Dolce's world-beating original. He failed miserably again, as the version climbed to 138 in the charts - although the fact that Dolce's label slapped an injunction on him preventing his single from seeing a release until theirs was on the market can't have helped. If anyone has a copy of this single to hand, I'd be keen to hear it.