8 September 2010
Second Hand Record Dip Part 60 - Singing Corner meets Donovan - Jennifer Juniper
Who: The Singing Corner (aka Trevor and Simon) and Donovan
What: Jennifer Juniper
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street, London
Comedy double-act Trevor and Simon will probably always be regarded as a rather peculiar anomaly. Originally jobbing circuit comedians, they were spotted by the BBC and asked to perform a regular turn on children's Saturday morning show "Going Live". Strict instructions were issued to the effect that they should not make their act too rude, but otherwise not make any effort to tailor their work specifically to children. "Be yourselves, lads," seemed to be the mantra emerging from Shepherd's Bush.
As absurd as it sounds, that's how their fictional duo The Singing Corner, who parodied the twee excesses of the sixties folkies (not least Peter and Gordon, I'd have thought) crashed down into the nineties morning television schedules. What on Earth nineties schoolchildren got out of their versions of Donovan's "I Love My Shirt" and "We're Going to the Zoo" is a question which doesn't seem to have bothered very many people before or since - but absurdly, the whole venture worked. "I Love My Shirt" was quoted in playgrounds by children you suspect would otherwise never have heard it, repeated endlessly at the behest of keen viewers, and eventually Donovan himself was persuaded to release a novelty single with the pair.
Sadly, a redux version of "I Love My Shirt" was not forthcoming, which was surely what the public wanted. A new version of "Jennifer Juniper" was recorded instead, which wasn't as effective. Donovan's presence in the studio also shatters the impact of the piss-taking somewhat, given that Trevor and Simon played up the drippy hippy-ness of the tunes in a tremendously cartoonish, Austin Powers way. When placed next to Donovan's hushed vocals it seems too extreme, too laboured, and not subtle enough. It in fact highlights the strengths of the original song and makes it seem as if two gimps have broken into the studio, grabbed some master tapes, and made silly comments over the top of a Donovan recording for three minutes. It was a move that caused Rowland Rivron on "Jukebox Jury" to argue that they'd "bastardised" the song. If the three had taken "Shirt", a song so enjoyably ridiculous it's almost hard to understand how it existed in the first place, then a top ten hit would have been assured. This, on the other hand, was an attempt at vandalism on something which was never that absurd or risible to begin with.
All three artists are still going to greater or lesser extents, with Trevor and Simon still doing podcast work and occasional BBC broadcasts, and Donovan thrilling live audiences with his slightly fey form of folk. This single, however, is unlikely to feature high on the CVs of any of the individuals concerned. Maybe they genuinely were on drugs at the time...
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