Handbags and Gladrags

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"Handbags and Gladrags"
Handbags and Gladrags Farlowe single.jpg
Stateside (USA) record cover
Single by Chris Farlowe
B-side"Everyone Makes A Mistake"
Released17 November 1967 (1967-11-17)
RecordedEarly 1967
GenreRhythm and blues, blue-eyed soul
Songwriter(s)Mike d'Abo
Producer(s)Mike d'Abo
Chris Farlowe singles chronology
"Handbags and Gladrags"
"Paint It Black"

"Handbags and Gladrags" is a song written in 1967 by Mike d'Abo, who was then the lead singer of Manfred Mann. D'Abo describes the song as "saying to a teenage girl that the way to happiness is not through being trendy. There are deeper values."[1]

The demo tape of the original version of the song was discovered in 2004 in a closet belonging to bassist Mo Foster. It was amongst a collection of studio recordings d'Abo had recorded in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The collection was eventually released in 2004, on the Angel Air label, under the title Hidden Gems & Treasured Friends.[2]

Chris Farlowe version[edit]

In November 1967, singer Chris Farlowe was the first to release a version of the song, produced by Mike d'Abo.[3] It became a #33 hit in the United Kingdom for Immediate Records. This arrangement of the song featured Dave Greenslade's piano blues-scale riff. The song was included as track 13 (of 14) on Farlowe's 1969 compilation album The Last Goodbye.[4]

Rod Stewart version[edit]

"Handbags and Gladrags"
Handbags and Gladrags Stewart single.jpg
Single by Rod Stewart
from the album An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down
B-side"Man of Constant Sorrow"
Songwriter(s)Mike d'Abo
Producer(s)Lou Reizner
Rod Stewart singles chronology
"Dirty Old Town"
"Handbags and Gladrags"
"You Wear It Well"

In 1969, Rod Stewart recorded a version for the album An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down. This version of the song was arranged by Mike d'Abo, who also played piano on the recording. The song failed to garner significant sales or airplay in the United States, but when it was re-released as a single in 1972, it managed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at 42 in March. In 1993, Stewart recorded a live version of the song during his session for MTV Unplugged. This version was included on the album Unplugged...and Seated.

Although it was never a hit single for Stewart in the UK, in recognition of its renewed popularity following its use for television series The Office and Stereophonics returning it to the charts, he performed "Handbags and Gladrags" (backed by Phil Collins on drums) as his only song at the Party at the Palace in 2002.

The original record arrangement includes a "plaintive oboe phrasing".[5]

In 1989, Rod Stewart's version of the song was used in the Season One episode of the TV series Midnight Caller entitled "No Exit".

Chase version[edit]

In 1971, Bill Chase and his jazz/rock fusion group Chase recorded a version as a single. It was included on their 1971 debut album Chase. It was sung by Ted Piercefield.

Jon English version[edit]

In 1973, English-born Australian musician, Jon English, featured a version on 'Wine Dark Sea’, his debut studio album. The song was also released as a single.

Stereophonics version[edit]

"Handbags and Gladrags"
Handbags and Gladrags Stereophonics single.JPG
Single by Stereophonics
from the album Just Enough Education to Perform
ReleasedDecember 3, 2001
  • CD
  • vinyl
  • cassette
GenreSoft rock, post-Britpop
Songwriter(s)Mike d'Abo
  • Laurie Latham
  • Stereophonics
Stereophonics singles chronology
"Step on My Old Size Nines"
"Handbags and Gladrags"
"Vegas Two Times"
Music video
"Handbags and Gladrags" on YouTube

In 2001, Welsh rock band Stereophonics released a version of the song on single. It was subsequently added to their previous album's re-release Just Enough Education to Perform as track seven and on their first compilation album as the final track.[6][7] The band originally recorded their version as a demo "for a laugh", but after the record company heard it they saw the potential of it being a single and subsequently had it commissioned as one.[8] Despite receiving criticism it became one of their most successful singles: in Ireland it peaked at number three and was certified gold in the UK.

Release and reception[edit]

The song was released as a single on 3 December 2001.[9] Five different releases were made available to the public, this included: two CDs,[10][11] maxi-CD,[12] vinyl[13] and cassette.[14] The first CD released included two more covers, Ewan MacColl's "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and John Lennon's "How?".[10] The second CD contained a live version of "Caravan Holiday" and "Nice to be Out", both from Just Enough Education to Perform.[11] The 7" vinyl only had "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" for a b-side,[13] as did the cassette format.[14] The maxi-CD includes all five songs but not the live version of "Handbags and Gladrags".[12]

Following on from the "Mr. Writer" critical backlash, the song received a negative review from Drowned in Sound reviewer Anita Bhagwandas.[15] Bhagwandas described it as the "final drop in the Stereophonics' inevitable descent into pop mediocrity" and criticised the group for "selling out."[15]

Track listing[edit]

CD 1[10]
1."Handbags and Gladrags"d'Abo 
2."First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"Ewan MacColl 
3."How?"John Lennon 
CD 2[11]
1."Handbags and Gladrags" (Live acoustic version)d'Abo 
2."Caravan Holiday" (Live acoustic version)Kelly Jones 
3."Nice to be Out" (Live acoustic version)Jones 
7" vinyl[13]
1."Handbags and Gladrags"d'Abo 
2."First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"MacColl 
1."Handbags and Gladrags"d'Abo 
2."First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"MacColl 
4."Caravan Holiday" (Live acoustic version)Jones 
5."Nice to be Out" (Live acoustic version)Jones 
1."Handbags and Gladrags"d'Abo 
2."First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"MacColl 




Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[26] Platinum 600,000double-dagger

double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

The Office theme song[edit]

In 2000, a version of "Handbags and Gladrags" was specifically arranged by Big George as the theme song on the BBC series The Office. Three versions were recorded:

  • a short, instrumental piece as the opening titles theme
  • a short, vocal piece as the closing titles theme
  • an alternative full studio version

Both vocal versions feature the vocal performance of Waysted vocalist Fin Muir.

In Series One, Episode Four, a version performed by Ricky Gervais (in character as David Brent) was featured over the end credits.

Version release history[edit]

Year Artist Type
1967 Chris Farlowe Single
1967 Double Feature Single
1968 Love Affair Album
1969 Kate Taylor Album & single
1969 The Rationals Album (CREWE CR-1334)
1969 Rod Stewart Album
1971 Chase Album & single
1971 Gary Burton Album
1971 Jimmy Witherspoon Album
1973 Jon English Single
1974 Mike D'Abo Album
1975 Chris Farlowe Album (Live recording)
1977 Kirka Babitzin Album
1992 Mary Coughlan Album
1993 Rod Stewart Album (Acoustic recording)
2001 Stereophonics Single
2002 Rod Stewart Album (Live recording)
2003 Manfred Mann Album
2004 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Album
2005 Chris Farlowe Album (Live recording)
2005 Dark One Lite Album
2007 Engelbert Humperdinck Album
2007 Waysted Album
2007 Jonathan Sass Album
2008 Jackie Trent Album
2008 Ol' Cheeky Bastards Album
2008 Karl Jenkins Album


  1. ^ Goodman, Chris (9 February 2003). "From Gladrags to Riches". Sunday Express. Express Newspapers. p. 66.
  2. ^ "Hidden Gems & Treasured Friends". Angel Air Records. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  3. ^ "Chris Farlowe - Handbags And Gladrags / Everyone Makes A Mistake - Immediate - UK - IM 065". 45cat. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  4. ^ "The Last Goodbye - Chris Farlowe | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  5. ^ Butler, Jackie (3 October 2014). "A Special Audience with Mike d'Abo". Western Morning News. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Just Enough Education To Perform [Extra Tracks]". Stereophonics. Amazon.com. 1 July 2006. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  7. ^ "Decade in the Sun: Best of Stereophonics". Stereophonics. Amazon.com. 10 November 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  8. ^ "'Handbags and Gladrags' - Stereophonics keyboardist Tony Kirkham". BIMM. Archived from the original on 5 June 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  9. ^ "Handbags & Gladrags". The Stereophonics Ltd. 3 December 2001. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  10. ^ a b c "Stereophonics – Handbags And Gladrags". Discogs. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  11. ^ a b c "Stereophonics – Handbags And Gladrags (Acoustic CD)". Discogs. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  12. ^ a b c "Stereophonics – Handbags And Gladrags". Discogs. Retrieved 1 April 2001.
  13. ^ a b c "Stereophonics – Handbags And Gladrags". Discogs. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  14. ^ a b c "Handbags & Gladrags [CASSETTE]". Stereophonics. Amazon.com. 2001. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  15. ^ a b Bhagwandas, Anita (19 November 2001). "Stereophonics Handbags and Gladrags". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 1 April 2001.
  16. ^ a b c Decade in the Sun (CD). Stereophonics. V2 Records. 2008.CS1 maint: others (link)
  17. ^ "Ultratop.be – Stereophonics – Handbags and Gladrags" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  18. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Handbags and Gladrags". Irish Singles Chart.
  19. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Stereophonics – Handbags and Gladrags" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  20. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  21. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  22. ^ "Official Independent Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  23. ^ "Ireland - Top Singles For 2001". Allcharts.org. Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  24. ^ "The Official UK Singles Chart 2001" (PDF). UKChartsPlus. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  25. ^ "The Official UK Singles Chart 2002" (PDF). UKChartsPlus. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  26. ^ "British single certifications – Stereophonics – Hangbags and Gladrags". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 5 April 2019. Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Hangbags and Gladrags in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[edit]