24 October 2021

Darby - Rocking With Snoopy/ Find Mr Zebedee

Kiddie glam-pop backed with baffling popsike about a retiring school caretaker

Label: Bus Stop
Year of Release: 1976

Once every so often I learn of the existence of a 45 and decide I must own it despite its probable naffness. It's not so much that I expect the single to defy all my expectations, more that I simply have to hear what the artist has done with the absurd concept; so when I found out that someone had put out a flop glam pop single called "Rocking With Snoopy", my credit card came out almost immediately. A bargain at any price, I reckoned.

In my head, "Rocking With Snoopy" was a Wombles clone with a thudding bass drum, handclaps, lots of "yeahs" and probably some rip-off of a Peanuts theme high in its melody, staying just enough on the right side of parody to avoid the copyright police. What it actually is, somewhat disappointingly, is a Bay City Rollers styled candyfloss melody married to facile lyrics. "Come along and be a snoopy groupie!" the group demand, which sounds a bit wrong. Mind you, they also sing "Snoopy high high/ snoopy low low/ snoopy dance fast/ snoopy dance slow" so I don't think we're supposed to be thinking about this too hard. 

As is often the case with these vinyl oddments, it's the B-side that's really thrown me for six. "Find Mr Zebedee" was actually the final flop single for one hit wonders Edison Lighthouse, and this is either an immaculate imitation or exactly the same recording - and I'm 99.9% certain it's the latter. The song focuses on the final day of a retiring school caretaker, placing him quite literally on a podium to receive an award. "How can we paint a janitor in colours of a saint?" the group sing, only to go on to do exactly that. 

"Find Mr Zebedee", for all its utter silliness, is actually a delightful bit of harmony popsike which, had it been a Bowie composition from his Deram years, we'd probably still be talking about. As it was the final record of a faded seventies group with an ever-shifting membership, though, it's been somewhat ignored since, which means hardly anybody has ever heard Mr Zebedee's audible but subdued expression of thanks on this record. Seldom has a combination of English jubilance and awkwardness been captured so well on record - you can visualise Mr Zebedee having to be coaxed out of the toilet where he was hiding to avoid making an unnecessary spectacle of himself.

Why is it even on this flipside in the first place? This is an extraordinarily good question with only two plausible answers; either Darby were Edison Lighthouse under another name, or producers Chris Arnold, David Martin and Geoff Morrow simply slipped it on to the B-side suspecting nobody would notice. The latter seems like the most likely explanation - perhaps while the pair rummaged through their vaults looking for child-friendly material to reuse they realised Zebedee could be associated with the moustachioed Magic Roundabout character and may help to sell the disc. 

If you know better, of course, drop me a line. This one-off record sold poorly and came out towards the end of the Bus Stop label's trading, so I doubt anyone involved with it remembers all that much. 

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Arthur Nibble said...

Righto, try this other conundrum for size...

Also in 1976, a track by Bobby Dazzler had the artist's name inked out and Edison Lighthouse replaced it in stamp mode...

23 Daves said...

The plot thickens! In that case, I'm possibly going to have to review my assumptions and reconsider the fact that Edison Lighthouse may have been working under pseudonyms at this point.

Is the Bobby Dazzler record a glam effort? Very late in the day if so, and some years after First Class's mocking satirical single of the same name...

Arthur Nibble said...

It gets thicker! One side of said single is also credited to Smuggler. "Disco Kid" sounds like The Bay City Rollers trying for the dancefloor (and apparently "Disco Kid" was a track on the same First Class album as "Bobby Dazzler"!) and "Night For Love" sounds exactly like that sort of pop you'd expect from the songwriters in question.