Thursday, 8 December 2016

Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

It seems ridiculous to follow a piece about my depressed mind with one with the word 'chirpy' in the title but the contrast was unavoidable as you will see as this progresses.

This story starts with me locking myself out of my house. I dropped Emma off at college on Wednesday night and returned home before I'd realised that she had the only key between us. As we normally travel all the way home from work together we'd forgotten that we'd both need a key and left the other one on one of Moewinckel's scratching posts. Our house has more cat-related furniture than it does wheelchair access features. No doubt Moewinckel would find it easier to get up into our loft than I would. Anyway, Emma had emailed me at work earlier in the day to tell me she had also left her phone at home so having forgotten to take the door key from her when I dropped her at the college I was out of options in terms of getting into my house.

Fortunately, like a character from Carla Lane's 'Bread' I live on the same housing estate as most of my family. My mum and dad, Helen and her boys and three of our aunties all have houses on the block. Sadly auntie Pat passed away in July but her husband, my uncle Phil, still lives there. So I'm surrounded by family which makes being locked out a bit less stressful than it might be for others. Which is handy when you have just bashed out 1,000 words on the subject of your depression.

So over tea me and my mum and dad were talking about someone who they knew when they were young who had recently died. They're at that age now when people they knew when they were young might start to die with more regularity. I've been watching people my own age die since I was about 13 and I don't expect the rate at which that happens to slow now. But however old you are it always seems to shock when someone of a similar age leaves this world. It forces you to confront your own mortality.

The conversation turned to others who had grown up in the Whiston and Prescot area at that time which threw up the name of Lally Stott. He also is no longer with us having been killed in a road accident in 1977, but not before he had written one of the top forty best selling singles worldwide. Stott was the man behind annoying 1971 number one hit 'Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep' which soared to the top of the UK charts when it was recorded by Middle Of The Road that year. Stott's own version had topped the pops in Australia and Italy previously, but it was the Middle Of The Road version which sent his mind-sapping ditty into the stratosphere in terms of physical record sales. Now you might be right in thinking that Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep would clear the floor if it were played nowadays, but the fact remains that it is one of less than 40 records to sell more than 10 million physical copies worldwide. That's an astonishing musical achievement whether you like it or not. To put it in some sort of perspective it outsells The Beatles best effort 'Hey Jude' by some two million physical copies worldwide. If Stott were alive today he'd probably own half of Thailand, such would be his level of wealth just from that one hit.

He'd also be able to confirm or deny my uncle Derek's claim about who the song was written about. You'll remember uncle Derek from my pieces about my granddad's recent death? He's my dad's youngest brother who I haven't seen since Helen's wedding in 2008. He says that Stott's lyrics for Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep are directly linked to my dad. There's no conclusive evidence for this but if we take a look at the lyrics we can see that Derek's theory is entirely plausible;

Where's your mama gone? (where's your mama gone?)
Little Baby Don (Little Baby Don)
Where's your mama gone? (where's your mama gone?)
Far, far away.

My dad's name is Don, and he would have been a young child at around the time that Stott was growing up in the area. Stott was born in 1945 which makes him six years older than my dad but my dad reckons it's quite conceivable either that Stott wrote the song much earlier than it's 1971 release (by which time my dad was 20 and so hardly a baby) or that Stott was drawing on memories of my dad and his family from earlier when he wrote the song.

When you consider that Stott substitutes 'mama' for 'papa' later in the song it offers up yet more suggestion that the song could actually be about my dad and his family. Papa could refer to his father, my granddad, who was hardly ever in one place throughout my dad's childhood. He and my nan were a little on-off, you might say, all of which might warrant the enquiry about where Little Baby Don's papa has gone. No?

Incidentally, if you're scrambling around for the melody you can either YouTube it or you can bring to mind that tune you used to sing to your mates when one of the players from his favourite football team buggers off to Barcelona. 'Where's your Gary gone (where's your Gary gone?). You know the one.....?

Not everyone believes that the lyrics relate to my dad as a baby. Further delving into facts about Stott took me to a website featuring an American named Michael in which he analyses song lyrics. Michael is a teacher from Ohio and rather brilliantly has a partner named Don. Here's a taste of his analysis of the song...

"It's a cute...well....chirpy...little song about a baby bird. Or so I thought. Is this a horifically sad song about a little boy named Don whose parents are no longer around? Are they dead? Did they get drunk and stay the night somewhere else? Have they broken up and forgotten about Don?"

Michael's all questions and no answers and well....frankly....he doesn't have the insight offered by growing up in the same small part of what used to be Lancashire with the song's writer, Lally Stott. The accident in which he died occured on Windy Arbor Road in Whiston in June 1977 when Stott was just 32. Reports differ as to whether he was riding a small commuter bike or a Harley Davidson when he met his end but what is not in doubt is that he left one of the most popular if grotesque songs in history as a legacy.

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