WHAT lengths would you go to in order to express love to a relative?
Perhaps you’d shout it from the roof tops. Send it in a card? Phone them every day to tell them if they do not live with you? There are many different ways of expressing it, supposedly.
But what about a screechy number one hit? That’s exactly what St Winifred’s school choir did in December 1980, with ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma’.
Written by Gordon Lorenz, this particularly notorious track had the particular record of demoting John Lennon’s last single, (Just Like) Starting Over to number two.
However, two weeks later, Lennon would have his posthumous revenge, as three weeks prior he had been killed, leading to an outpouring of grief that would see Imagine overtake the school choir for the number one with ‘Imagine’.
But the juggernaut of Grandma didn’t stop with a member of the Beatles. For,a it would also prevent another Christmas music favourite from reaching the halcyon heights of Christmas number one in the form of Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie, which is either a Christmas song or a protest song, depending on who you ask.
After years of being consigned to the traumatic section of Christmas musical memories, it was revived in the public consciousness by none other than Peter Kay, in his show’s Britain’s Got the Pop Factor. It featured Sally Lindsay, later best known as playing Shelley Unwin in Coronation Street, who was in the original choir of the song, in a cameo role. An extract of the song was always used in the “Granny Brainiac” segment in Series 3 of the Sky One TV show Brainiac: Science Abuse.
In October 2009, the song was re-recorded by 14 members of the original choir. It was released in the UK in November 2009 as part of food company Innocent Drinks’ “Big Knit” campaign, to raise money for Age Concern.
But what was the song actually about and how did it happen? In 1980, the choir signed to Music for Pleasure, an EMI associated label also known as MFP and released “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma” in time for the Christmas market.
The song was written for the 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 1980 by record producer Gordon Lorenz and sold one million copies, most of them Christmas presents from grandchildren. It spent two weeks at number one, and 11 weeks on the UK Singles Chart in total. It was also the only UK No. 1 single for the MFP record label.
Over the next ten years after releasing ‘There’s no one quite like Grandma’, the school choir would release nine albums including in 1982, Christmas for Everyone; and in 1986 Children’s Party Time, which included 32 arrangements of songs including ABBA’s “Waterloo” and “Dancing Queen”.
The choir eventually disbanded in 2009, after 41 years of performing. After all, a fair few of those who sang on the track are quite probably grandparents themselves now.