8 March 2009

Dave Howard Singers - Yon Yonson

Label: Hallelujah
Released: 1987

If I were forced to pick any song from the last thirty years which managed to seep into the public consciousness despite never becoming even a Top Hundred hit, this would surely be it. I've already summarised the career of the Dave Howard Singers here, but this was the moment when they managed to get the attention of British schoolchildren and their irritated parents.

"Yon Yonson" reached number four in the British Indie charts, a lofty position which meant it received multiple plays on Channel Four's "Chart Show" on Friday evenings. The idea - simply repeating the endless 'Yon Yonson' nursery chant to from intro to fade - meant that a brief snippet of it was all the average listener would need to hear before it became permanently welded into their brains.

I know people who utterly detest this song, and it's easy to understand why. Its insistence could easily be infuriating to those of an easily agitated disposition. However, I actually like it - it builds impressively as it progresses, starting out as a novelty piece of pseudo-hip hop and then screeching, snarling and groaning to its beatbox driven conclusion. It's simultaneously stupid and bold, rhythmically stripped back but somehow danceable, and makes the most of its very limited template.

The degree of public exposure it received was doubtless helped no end by the fact that this was a very early example of an 'acceptable' indie video. If they even bothered to embrace the concept at all, so many indie bands of this period produced promo videos which seemed as if they'd been directed by a toddler with a Super 8 whilst high on Nerds, or looked like they had the production qualities of a bad holiday home movie - the fact that this, for all its simplicity, followed some of the basic rules of music video presentation (such as holding the camera steady from time to time) assured it got coverage. In fact, it wasn't even in the Indie Top 10 for one of the Chart Show's Chart File Updates but they still played it, proof that the show's producers had a certain amount of faith in both the video and track.

The Dave Howard Singers recently reformed for shows in Toronto, and released a compilation of their EP tracks in Canada. I can only hope it works its way over to Britain soon - I really want a copy.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this video!

23 Daves said...

Thanks are due to the YouTube user who posted it up in the first place - and I've a funny feeling that may be Dave Howard himself.