15 May 2016

Barron Knights - Mr Rubik

Label: Epic
Year of Release: 1981

The Barron Knights are that very rare deal - a successful British comedy group who actually broke through in the USA as well (albeit only briefly). Starting life in the sixties as a "straight" rock group, their first hit "Call Up The Groups", a parody of various British beat groups of the time, saw them taking their comedy elements much more seriously for future releases.

The Knights fell in and out of favour throughout the coming decades, making a fine living as a touring act (which they continue to do) but having mixed fortunes in the charts. "Mr. Rubik" came out on the back of a bit of a purple patch for them, with recent numbers such as "A Taste of Aggro" and "Never Mind The Presents" being big sellers, and their version of Supertramp's "The Logical Song" - retitled "The Topical Song" - managing to break through in the US.

The lyrics to "The Topical Song" were penned by the American poet Robert S White, and they pressed him into action again here in the hope that his observations on the fiendish puzzle of the Rubik's Cube would push them up the charts in both countries again. Sadly, it failed. "Mr. Rubik" is an oddity in their canon, being a piece of Buggles-ish synth-pop. It's not entirely unfunny, with some choice lyrical punchlines on the obsessive behaviour of many cube players at the time, but the public clearly preferred their parodies to their observational comedy material.

They never did manage another hit in the UK charts, although their "Buffalo Girls" parody "Buffalo Bill's Last Scratch" did manage to climb to number 49 in 1983. I'm sure they're not overly fussed. Most groups are lucky to manage to score hits in more than one decade, never mind multiple decades, and that applies doubly to comedy or novelty groups. Whatever your feelings on the Knights, there's no question that they kept up with modern musical styles and adapted their approach, and definitely had a keen ear for musical parody. Some of the jokes layered on top of the parodies have aged poorly or lost relevance, but the fact that classrooms in the eighties and the sixties were filled with small children talking about The Barron Knights on "Top Of The Pops" is an impressive achievement and possibly unparalleled. I can't imagine that Weird Al Yankovic has had the same mainstream impact since the eighties.

Sadly, their original lead singer Duke D'Mond passed away in 2009, but the rest of them are still out there somewhere, though only one original member (Pete Langford) continues to tour with the name.

Apologies for not uploading the flip side of the single, by the way - it really is quite badly scratched. By Buffalo Bill, I'll warrant.

1 comment:

Webbie - FootieAndMusic said...

A completely forgotten single immediately remembered as soon as I saw the title.
My memory of what it sounded like was gone though.

*Presses play*

Well then. The Buggles. As I said completely forgot about that.