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Comic Relief singles 1986-2001

Comic Relief, a charity set up by comedy writer Richard Curtis, has been raising funds for projects in Britain and the Third World since 1985. Using the talents of Britain's top comedians and writers, the charity has enjoyed great success with its books, videos, live events and, since 1988, regular "Red Nose Day" BBC telethons. It has also had great success with its tie-in singles, all of which have made the top ten.

At a glance

Entry date / position / Title & artist

22.03.86 01 (3 wks) Livin' Doll - Cliff Richard and The Young Ones featuring Hank B Marvin
05.12.87 03 Rockin' Around The Chrstmas Tree - "Mel and Kim" performed by Mel Smith and Kim Wilde
25.02.89 03 Help! - Bananarama / LaNaNeeNeeNooNoo
09.03.91 01 (1 wk) The Stonk - Hale & Pace and The Stonkers / The Smile Song Victoria Wood
04.04.92 09 (I Wanna Be) Elected - Mr Bean and Smear Campaign ft Bruce Dickinson
27.02.93 04 Stick It Out - Right Said Fred and Friends
11.04.94 06 Absolutely Fabulous - Absolutely Fabulous
18.03.95 01 (1 wk) Love Can Build A Bridge - Cher, Chrissie Hynde and Neneh Cherry with Eric Clapton
15.03.97 01 (3 wks) Who Do You Think You Are? / Mama - Spice Girls
13.03.99 01 (2 wks) When The Going Gets Tough - Boyzone
17.03.01 01 (1 wk) Uptown Girl - Westlife
22.03.03 01 (? wks) Spirit In The Sky - Gareth Gates and the Kumars

More details

Livin' Doll - Cliff Richard and The Young Ones featuring Hank B Marvin
Entered 22.03.86. Reached number 1 for 3 weeks.

Cliff Richard's eleventh #1 hit - a remake of his first (1959, 6 wks at #1), backed by a group named after his fifth. The Young Ones TV show had already ended by this point, though the characters remained popular. Neil (Nigel Planer) had already had a hit the previous year with a cover of Hole In My Shoe, which equalled the #2 peak of Traffic's 1967 original and earned him a unique BPI award for Best Comedy Record of 1985. Livin' Doll was written by Lionel Bart and originally featured in the film Serious Charge.

Rockin' Around The Chrstmas Tree - "Mel and Kim" performed by Mel Smith and Kim Wilde
Entered 05.12.87. Peaked at number 3.

Another revival, this time of a song first recorded by 13-year-old Brenda Lee in 1958 (though it wasn't a hit until 1962, when it reached #6). Kim Wilde was right in the middle of a 2-year run of hits at this point, beginning with a cover of The Supremes' 1966 #6 You Keep Me Hangin' On, which like the original was a US #1. Comedian Mel Smith, whom Richard Curtis had worked with on the 1979-82 TV series Not The Nine O'Clock News, made up the unlikely partnership. Incidentally, although Kim took her stage name from her father Marty Wilde, their family name is also Smith.

Help! - Bananarama / LaNaNeeNeeNooNoo
Entered 25.02.89. Peak number 3.

A cover of The Beatles' 8th #1, the title song from their 1965 film and album. With the pop star + comedian formula now well-established, Bananarama appeared alongside a parody version of themselves, portrayed by comediennes Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Kathy Burke. Stock Aitken Waterman produced the single, which was backed with a straight version by Banarama alone, though 12" and CD purchasers also got a sketch which included Burke's parody of the earlier Bananarama/SAW collaboration Love In The First Degree.

The Stonk - Hale & Pace and The Stonkers / The Smile Song Victoria Wood
Entered 09.03.91 Peak number 1 for 1 week.

The theme for 1991's Red Nose Day was "The Stonker", British slang for something really good or of immense porportions. Comedians Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, who had appeared with the Comic Strip in the 1980s and now had their own ITV show, interpreted the title as a parody of all those ridiculous dance crazes of years gone by. Although not usually recognised as such, the single was actually a double A side, the other track being written and performed by Victoria Wood, a British comedienne well-known for her comedy songs. This one expounded on the benefits of smiling in a range of musical styles and was accompanied by a video which spoofed many different artists.

(I Wanna Be) Elected - Mr Bean and Smear Campaign ft Bruce Dickinson
Entered 04.04.92 Peak number 9.

Rowan Atkinson was another Not The Nine O'Clock News alumnus, and had a long and successful writing partnership with Richard Curtis. So it was only to be expected that he would turn up on a Comic Relief single sooner or later. This track featured a group of session musicians led by Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson doing a passable cover of Alice Cooper's 1972 #4 Elected, over which Atkinson's normally reticent ("unaccustomed as I am to speaking...") Mr Bean character delivered his election address to the British people. Despite its non-partisan nature and its timing shortly before the real general election, the single wasn't as popular as previous Comic Relief efforts and spent just 5 weeks on the Top 75.

Stick It Out - Right Said Fred and Friends
Entered 27.02.93 Peak number 4.

The fourth and final top ten hit for Right Said Fred, and one of the funnier entries in the Comic Relief cannon. Like The Stonk this was specially written around the theme for that year's Red Nose Day, in this case "Stick It Out". The "friends" who provided vocal support included Peter Cook, Steve Coogan, Clive Anderson, Hugh Laurie, Pauline Robson and Linda Quirke (from Birds Of A Feather), Basil Brush and, popping up toward the end, Bernard Cribbins, whose 1962 #10 "Right, Said Fred" had provided the group with their name.

Absolutely Fabulous - Absolutely Fabulous
Entered 11.04.94 Peak number 6.

A dance track with samples from the eponymous TV show, produced by Pet Shop Boys. Jennifer Saunders, who was on Help! in 1989, turns up again (she wrote and starred in the show) alongside co-star Joanna Lumley. The single was originally meant to feature the show's theme (Bob Dylan's song This Wheel's On Fire, performed by Ade Edmonson and Julie Driscoll) as a bonus track, but Driscoll refused permission for its release.

Love Can Build A Bridge - Cher, Chrissie Hynde and Neneh Cherry with Eric Clapton
Entered 18.03.95 Peaked at number 1 for 1 week.

A real supergroup featuring four top acts who'd all made some great pop singles in the past, not that you'd guess it from this dreary offering, a cover of family country group The Judds' uncharted 1990 track. Without any real comedy tie-in, it seems this single probably sold to an older audience than usual. Oddly, Clapton is the only Brit among the four.

Who Do You Think You Are? / Mama - Spice Girls
Entered 15.03.97 Peaked at number 1 for 3 weeks.

Fourth #1 from four singles for the girl quintet. Although it wasn't a comedy record in itself, this was promoted with a video featuring Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Kathy Burke (alias LaNaNeeNeeNooNoo, you remember) as a spoof girl group called The Sugar Lumps.

When The Going Gets Tough - Boyzone
Entered 13.03.99 Peaked at number 1 for 2 weeks.

Those sweet Boyzone lads cover a song about being tough! A rather weak joke, but the record itself was popular enough to spend a fortnight at #1. When The Going Gets Tough was originally sung by Billy Ocean on the movie soundtrack Jewel Of The Nile, and was number one in 1986, just a month before Cliff and the Young Ones. Boyzone's connection to Comic Relief came through their contribution to the soundtrack for the previous year's Bean: The Movie, starring Rowan Atkinson, who also appeared as Mr Bean in the video for their soundtrack single Picture Of You (#3).

Uptown Girl - Westlife
Entered 17.03.01 Peaked at number 1 for 1 week.

A cover of Billy Joel's 1983 #1, originally written as a tribute to The Four Seasons and as a love song for his then-girlfriend (and later wife) Christine Brinkley. Though still very "safe", this was Westlife's first upbeat single and had an appeal beyond their substantial fanbase.

Spirit In The Sky - Gareth Gates and The Kumars
Entered 22.03.03 Peaked at number 1.

The charity's first proper comedy single release for nine years teamed spiky-haired teen idol Gareth Gates with the stars of the BBC2 comedy chat-show The Kumars At Number 42. The song became the third to reach the top for three different acts (its writer Norman Greenbaum had the first hit version in 1970, followed by Doctor And The Medics in 1986).

More Info: There's a fuller overview of Comic Relief's contribution to musical culture at the Off The Telly website.

 

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