Doctorin' the Tardis

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"Doctorin' the Tardis"
Single by The Timelords
Released 23 May 1988
Format 7", 12", cassette, CD
Recorded Trancentral
Genre Electronic, pop, Novelty, Trock
Length 3:37 (Radio Mix)
Label KLF Communications (UK)
Producer(s) Bill Drummond, Jimmy Cauty
The Timelords singles chronology
"Burn the Bastards"
(1988)
"Doctorin' the Tardis"
(1988)
"What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance)"
(1988)

"Doctorin' the Tardis" (About this sound sample ) is a 1988 electronic novelty pop single by The Timelords ("Time Boy" and "Lord Rock", aliases of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, better known as The KLF). The song is predominantly a mash-up of the Doctor Who theme music, Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll (Part Two)" with sections from "Blockbuster!" by Sweet and "Let's Get Together Tonite" by Steve Walsh. The single was not well received by critics but was a commercial success, reaching number 1 in the UK Singles Chart in June 1988,[1] and in New Zealand, and charting in the Top 10 in Australia, Ireland and Norway.

The Timelords followed up their chart-topping record with a "how to have a number one" guide, The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way).

Context[edit]

The release of "Doctorin' the Tardis" followed a self-imposed break from recording of Drummond and Cauty's sampling outfit, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (The JAMs). The single continued The JAMs' strategy of plagiarising and juxtaposing popular musical works. However, unlike the cultish limited releases of The JAMs, in which Drummond's Clydeside rapping and social commentary were regular ingredients, "Doctorin' The Tardis" was an excursion into the musical mainstream, with the change of name to "The Timelords" and an overt reliance on several iconic symbols of 1970s and 1980s British popular culture, including Glitter, the Doctor Who theme song, Doctor Who's Daleks and the TARDIS, Sweet's "Blockbuster!" and Harry Enfield's character 'Loadsamoney'.[2] The song features riffs from the 1973 hit "Block Buster!" by Sweet and from Gary Glitter's 1972 debut hit "Rock and Roll Parts 1 and 2". Its name is a reference to "Doctorin' the House" by Coldcut.

Drummond and Cauty often claimed that the song was the result of a deliberate effort to write a number one hit single. However, in interviews with Snub TV and BBC Radio 1, Drummond offered a more plausible explanation. "We went into the studio on a Monday, thinking we were going to make a house track, a regular underground dance house track using the Doctor Who theme tune... [but] we [then] realised it was in triplet time and you can't have house tracks in triplet time. The only beat that would work with it was the Glitter beat. By Tuesday evening we realised we had a number one and we just went totally for the lowest common denominator". Radio 1 interviewer Richard Skinner called the record an "aberration", to which Drummond pleaded "guilty", adding that "we justified it all by saying to ourselves 'We're celebrating a very British thing here... you know, something that Timmy Mallett understands'".[3]

In a KLF Communications information sheet, Drummond called "Doctorin' the Tardis" "probably the most nauseating record in the world" (a claim also made on the label of the record itself) but added that "we also enjoyed celebrating the trashier side of pop".[4]

Ford Timelord[edit]

In promotional material for the single, credit for the talent behind the song (inspiration and authorship) was attributed not to Time Boy and Lord Rock but to "Ford Timelord," Cauty's 1968 Ford Galaxie American police car reg plate "WGU 18G", formerly known as the JAMsmobile. The car, which had previously appeared on the cover of The JAMs' album Who Killed The JAMs?, was thematically tailored to The JAMs, depicting their 'pyramid blaster' emblem on its doors and the number 23 on its roof. Drummond and Cauty claimed the car spoke to them, giving its name as Ford Timelord, and advising the duo to become "The Timelords". Ford featured prominently on the sleeve of "Doctorin' the Tardis", where it is quoted as saying "Hi! I'm Ford Timelord. I'm a car, and I've made a record", and "...I mixed and matched some tunes we all know and love, got some mates down and made this record. Sounds like a hit to me".[5] The "Timelord" component of Ford's name is derived from the Time Lords, a fictional alien race from the planet Gallifrey in Doctor Who.

The "Doctorin' the Tardis" music video features Ford Timelord driving around the countryside in pursuit of some rather crudely designed Daleks, his wailing siren audible throughout. The music video was filmed in Wiltshire, England. Two of Wiltshire's landmarks, the Cherhill White Horse and the Lansdowne Monument, can be seen in the video. The video was filmed in part at the now defunct RAF Yatesbury, a Royal Air Force base in Wiltshire, and—according to The Timelords—cost in the region of £8,000 to make.[6]

Reaction[edit]

While the music-buying public of the UK embraced the single, taking it to the number-one spot within three weeks of its release,[citation needed] the music press was strongly negative. Melody Maker described it as "pure, unadulterated agony ... excruciating";[7] Sounds reasoned that it was "a record so noxious that a top ten place can be its only destiny", calling it a "rancid reworking of ancient discs".[8] The record also reached number two in Australia[9] and number 10 in Norway.[10] Select magazine later reported that "Doctorin' the Tardis" sold over a million copies.[11]

In a retrospective look at novelty records and a defence of the genre, Peter Paphides wrote in The Observer's music monthly that "the one novelty record most people admit to liking is 'Doctorin' The Tardis' by The Timelords... The reason for this, presumably, is that it's nice to be in on the same joke as arch pop ironist Bill Drummond. Fine, but let's not forget that if The KLF weren't passionate about how brilliantly dumb pop can be they wouldn't have got to Number One." The "reason we purport to hate novelty records", he argued, "is because we continue to romanticise the creative process. We feel that our intelligence is insulted by novelty."[12]

A 1994 piece in The Guardian called "Doctorin'" a "piss-take". "It was a triumph for Trash Art and it spent exactly one week at the top of the chart. Perfect."[13]

Legacy[edit]

The Timelords released one other product on the strength of "Doctorin' the Tardis", a 1989 book called The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), in which they candidly described the logistical processes and efforts that sealed the record's commercial success.

After The Timelords, Drummond and Cauty became The KLF. An American reissue of the single in the mid-1990s lists the artist as The Timelords/The KLF, and features both a KLF track (the original uncut version of "What Time Is Love?") and "Gary Joins The JAMS", a version of "Doctorin' the Tardis" with new vocals by Gary Glitter referencing his own songs.

Later attempts of Drummond and Cauty to top the charts were less successful: The KLF's "Kylie Said to Jason" failed to achieve the chart success for which it was designed,[14] peaking outside the Top 100, and Cauty's novelty project Solid Gold Chartbusters with Guy Pratt, which was designed to be a Christmas number one single, did not reach the UK Top 10. However, The KLF's string of "Stadium House" singles, beginning with "What Time Is Love?", found popular appeal and worldwide chart success while dispensing with the opportunistic sheen of "Doctorin' the Tardis".

The 2005 American Edit mash-up project combined "Doctorin' the Tardis" with Green Day's Holiday.

Formats and track listing[edit]

"Doctorin' the Tardis" was given an international single release on 23 May 1988. In the US it was re-issued in 1991, containing The KLF's "What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance Original)". The formats and track listings are tabulated below:

Format (and countries) Track number
1 2 3 4 5 6
7" single (except US), 10" picture disc single (UK) DR DM
7" single (US) DR GT
12" single (KLF 003T) DR DM DC
12" single (KLF 003R) GT GM GJ
CD Video single (UK) DV DM DC
Cassette single (US) DC GT
1988 CD single (US) DR DC GJ
1991 CD single (US) DR DC W GT DM
CD single (Canada) GT GM GJ DR DM DC

Key

  • DR - "Doctorin' the Tardis" (radio edit / 7" Mix) (3:37)
  • DC - "Doctorin' the Tardis" (Club Mix / 12" Mix) (8:15)
  • DM - "Doctorin' the Tardis (Minimal)" (4:28)
  • DV - "Doctorin' the Tardis (Video Mix)" (2:20)
  • GT - "Gary in the Tardis" (3:26)
  • GM - "Gary in the Tardis (Minimal)" (4:08)
  • GJ - "Gary Joins The JAMs" (usually 6:22)
  • W - "What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance Original)" (7:06)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 489. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  2. ^ KLF Online, Sample City toolkit. Issue 1 - Doctorin’ The Tardis (link)
  3. ^ Bill Drummond interviewed by Richard Skinner on Saturday Sequence, BBC Radio 1, December 1990 (MP3)
  4. ^ KLF Communications (1988) Info Sheet Two (link).
  5. ^ KLF Communications (1988) Doctorin' The Tardis KLF 003T, sleevenotes.
  6. ^ Drummond, B. & Cauty, J. (1989) The Manual (How To Have a Number One The Easy Way), KLF Publications (KLF 009B), UK. ISBN 0-86359-616-9. (Link to full text)
  7. ^ "Doctorin' the Tardis": Review (May 1988), Melody Maker (link).
  8. ^ Wilkinson, R. (1988), ...Ford Every Scheme, Sounds (link).
  9. ^ ARIA chart data cited in: Butler, Ben. "Interview: The KLF's James Cauty". Rocknerd.org. Archived from the original on 2007-12-10. Retrieved 2007-12-28. 
  10. ^ "Norwegian chart data for The KLF". norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  11. ^ "Who Killed The KLF?", Select, July 1992 (link).
  12. ^ Paphides, P. "Making the law", The Observer Music Monthly, 22 Feb 2004 (link).
  13. ^ Sharkey, A., "Trash Art & Kreation", The Guardian Weekend, 21 May 1994 (link).
  14. ^ KLF Communications, "Information Sheet Eight", August 1990 (link)

Other references[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"With a Little Help from My Friends" by Wet Wet Wet
UK number one single
12 June 1988
Succeeded by
"I Owe You Nothing" by Bros