2 October 2014

Cocktail Cabinet - Puppet on a String/ Breathalyser

Label: Page One
Year of Release: 1967

Well, this is downright odd. Bill Martin and Phil Coulter were the songwriting and production team responsible for Sandie Shaw's most well-known but least credible moment - "Puppet On A String". It shot the United Kingdom to Eurovision victory, but its incessant, irritating bounciness makes it seem like one of her least interesting singles now. 

Nonetheless, why on earth either Coulter or Martin wanted to subject the song to this treatment, I've no idea. It's their production, and the A-side is a comedy novelty cover version of "Puppet…" done by somebody - and I can't find any record at all of who - attempting an impersonation of the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The concept seems to be that he's being persuaded to cut a record by some slick PR man in an attempt to make himself seem accessible to the youth. Cassetteboy's David Cameron Rap this ain't - it's a clumsy piece of satire which leaves you strangely sympathising with Wilson. So what if he wasn't sharp and down with the kids? At least he wasn't David "I love The Smiths, me, oh honestly, yes" Cameron or Tony "I love David Bo-how-ie!" Blair. It's possibly partly our obsession with grinning, presentable media and business-friendly Prime Ministers washed ashore on an oil slick which is responsible for the mess we're in. I'm not accusing Martin and Coulter of starting the problem with a strange flop novelty single, but… they were WRONG, that's all. 

This record has only really achieved collectible status due to the B-side "Breathalyser", a sharp and rapid-fire instrumental Hammond groove which still lights up dancefloors. It's commercially available on iTunes and elsewhere these days, but you can find it on Youtube too. This, really, is the stuff - cool, fresh and slightly knowing, and still loved by those in the know to this day. Its wasted on the flip side, but so many tracks in the sixties were. 


Arthur Nibble said...

May I point you in the direction of the 1980 avant garde cover of "Puppet On A String" by indie trio Big Hair?


I have this record, and I had it played as one of the first three post-dance-with-the missus songs at our wedding reception (without my wife knowing and with the DJ happily in cahoots with me), the others being "Show Your Teeth" by Tools You Can Trust" and the B-side of an Ernie Wise solo single with a tap dance in the bridge passage. Yes, really!

Anthony said...

Hello I have a Rock/Old Stuff blog. Do you want to trade links?

Please let me know if you want to and I'll like you back. Thanks


23 Daves said...

I'll listen to that later, Arthur -it seems intriguing.

Anthony - you're now on the blog list.

Steve Burdin said...

I absolutely love Eurovision covers, currently compiling a list for a forthcoming National Pop Music Quiz, this one will go nicely alongside my 'Knock Knock Who's There' by John Carter.