Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott
I wish I’d thought of the central idea in this book – it’s a classic of pedantry that had me guffawing so many times. Devised by a dad and son combo, it’s aimed firmly at others like them, especially those who grew up from the 1970s through 1990s – when Top of the Pops was still on the telly. It will make a fab Christmas present for the men in your family, and as it’s a super book for dipping into, it will make a super toilet book for them too. However, women who have grown up in that era will also find much to laugh at – it’s not just for guys – indeed some of the best bits come from the Ms Pop Stars … But what am I talking about? Let me explain…
As Derek explains in his introduction, it’s been a long road towards the book. Around ten years ago, he started writing ‘good old-fashioned letters to pop and rock stars about their songs and band names.’ Taking a lateral thinking pedant’s view, Derek would ask the pop stars to explain their nonsensical names, song titles and lyrics. They didn’t start hearing back until they set up a website for the letters and also managed to bypass official channels to get their letters seen by the targets. Then the recipients started writing back – some didn’t get it – but others did, and played the game to create wonderfully funny replies.
In one of the early letters in the book they write to Katrina and the Waves because they are ‘at odds to comprehend how you may be taking a ramble on solar rays’. The letter in full builds in puns from other K&tW songs like Love Shine a Light too and more weather related songs by other artists. Guitarist Kimberley Rew replied with instructions and a tongue in cheek safety message.
My favourite one of the whole book was the letter and reply about Day Trip to Bangor by one-hit-wonders Fiddler’s Dram. In case you can’t remember the song goes:
Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Bangor
A beautiful day, we had lunch on the way and all for under a pound you know.
Derek takes issue with the band’s ability to do a day trip to Bangor from Kent, where the band hails from, for under a pound in 1979 when the song hit the charts. Songwriter Deborah Cook replied:
Tha knows nothing, Derek Philpott! Day Trip to Bangor? It were a folk song, tha daft beggar. That means a song sung by hippies in the 70s about dead folk long gone what wore clogs and worked down t’mill and ate scraggins for breakfast and hoggins for tea and believed in fairies and suchlike. […]
And me and Elsie, we’d put on our best tippocks and scunderpinks, and we’d buy our scraggins for a penny farthing and catch t’omnibus from outside t’mill and that were fourpence if t’driver fancied his chances and sixpence if he didn’t, but mostly he didn’t so that made it more expensive. And you could gt all the way to Bangor for ninepence if Jack Allroyd were driving. Mind you, he had acne so I usually paid the whole shilling.
She carries on in this vein, to prove the song right. It’s very funny. Other recipients of letters find equally fun ways to reply – like EMF – they use loads of phrases like ‘Early Made Fashions … Ecstatic Musical Forays … Even Made Fortunes’ in their reply. There is a lovely short and sweet response from Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits about their 1960s hit No Milk Today – he explains about settling for black coffee rather than tea without milk, but finishes:
You have to remember, I once sang I’m Henry the 8th I am I am… but I didn’t mean it.
I hope Derek and Dave will forgive me, but I generally preferred the replies from the pop stars rather than their original letters. Derek comes over rather like John Shuttleworth at times, particularly when he brings his long-suffering wife Jean into the missive, but the Philpotts would be the first to admit that they’re just spurring on the recipients to be creative in their responses. I shall leave you with Fred Schneider of the B52s whose one line reply to a question from Derek about the Love Shack ‘s possibility of being mistaken by the police as a brothel is pithy and wonderfully to the point:
I ain’t solicitatin’; I’m socialatizin’. So there!
What fun this book was!
Source: Review copy – thank you.
Derek & Dave Philpott, Dear Mr Pop Star (Unbound, Sept 2018), hardback, 396 pages.
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