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Friday, 2 May 2014

Friday's French music break - The Toy Dolls, "Nellie the elephant"

Friday's French music break this week whisks you back a few of decades - all the way to 1982 to be precise.

And it takes you once again beyond the borders of France.

It's the Toy Dolls with their rendition of the 1956 song "Nellie the elephant".

The Toy Dolls (screenshot from Top of the Pops appearance)

Agreed there's not much French about either the group or the song,  but it was a "request" so don't shoot the messenger.

Besides, although the point of these posts is to feature artists primarily from France, there has been the occasional foray outside of the hexagon to, for example, Colombia (Shakira), Italy (Puccini) and Belgium (Stromae).

As a consequence, the "Frenchness" in the choice is sometimes more than a little tenuous and most definitely always arbitrary.

Anyway, The Toy Dolls it is.

When they formed, the first burst of Punk Rockers had reached their peak.

It was 1979, the year Sex Pistols' bass player Sid Vicious died.

Art Garfunkel's syrupy "Bright eyes" was the biggest selling single in the UK.

The likes of Blondie ("Heart of glass") and The Boomtown Rats ("I don't like Monday's) were competing with disco hits from The Village People (YMCA) and Gloria Gaynor ("I will survive") and a re-invigorated Bee Gees ("Tragedy").

The Police ("Message in a bottle") and Pink Floyd ("Another brick in the wall") both charted.

The Buggles were insisting that "Video killed the radio star". Tubeway Army were asking "Are friends electric" while Gary Numan was taking to the synthesiser with "Cars".

And Cliff Richard was...well being Cliff Richard yet again with "We don't talk anymore".

Yes, it was a classic year for pop music - in the UK at least -  in all its dubious glory.

The Toy Dolls were not your typical angry young men of Punk though. Their approach, and one that seems to have lasted down the years, was to have fun. And some of their singles have reflected this.

There was "Cheerio & toodle tip" for example in 1983 with its memorable lyrics,

"Who's a pretty boy then? Your girlfriend says when she's got you wearing a tie
You're looking like a puff and you think I've had enough
Stop and take a look at yourself for a while
And you'll know it's time to say earlier

And "James Bond lives down our street" in 1985 when they sang,

"I've seen him he catches the 32 bus
James Bond lives down our street
sometimes he sits on the back seat with us
he's got a gun strapped to his chest
you can't shoot him in a bullet proof vest
a clever lad but can be a pest sometime."

But the group's that should be "only" UK chart hit (peaking at number four) was their 1982 remake of "Nellie the Elephant" - the sort of thing that was probably bound to appeal to Top of the Pops viewers and radio listeners alike for its sheer novelty value if nothing else.

So what happens after apparently being a  "one-hit wonder" - commercially speaking? Well groups such as the Toy Dolls don't go away.

They go on tour - constantly, it seems.

Their line-up has changed - frequently over the years. The original quartet soon became a three-piece group and they went on the road at home and abroad building up a steady and faithful following which seems to have seen them survive the years.

Michael "Olga" Algar is the only original member still with the band. He, along with Duncan "The Amazing Mr. Duncan" Redmonds and Tom "Tommy Goober" Blyth are currently on an international tour - entitled "The tour after the last one" with dates in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, USA, Slovakia, Poland and Spain.

And what's more, they also have nine - yes count them - nine appearances scheduled for May in France starting on May 14 in Bordeaux, passing through Cognac, Tarbes, Nimes, Lyon, Rouen, Caen and Saint Brieuc before giving their final show at Le Bataclan in Paris on May 24.

Anyway, here's what you've all been waiting for. No need for pretentious prattle in reviewing the performance. You either like it or you don't. Although apparently they're a lot of fun live.

If you want more info on the group, visit their official website.

For the moment though, here they are singing "Nellie the elephant" - and what's the betting that if you're British, you'll probably be able to sing along.

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