10 of the strangest Doctor Who singles

23 November 2023, 10:12

Doctor Who marks its 60th anniversary on 23rd November 2023: Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee and the classic monster, the Dalek
Doctor Who marks its 60th anniversary on 23rd November 2023: Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee and the classic monster, the Dalek. Picture: WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/ColobusYeti/Getty

The nation's favourite Time Lord celebrates their 60th anniversary this week - so Radio X takes a look at some of the programme's oddest musical episodes.

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By Martin O'Gorman

  1. Jon Pertwee - Who Is The Doctor (1972)

    Pertwee was a singer and comic actor before he became the Third Doctor in 1970, so it was only natural that he should release his own pop single during his time in the TARDIS. The Pert intones some ponderous lyrics over a heavy-rocking cover of the Who theme which is kind of great if you like the man's style and toe-curling if you don't. Released on Purple Records, Deep Purple's own label, this release didn't chart - Pertwee had more success with a later character, Worzel Gummidge, who made the Top 40 in 1980.

    Who is The Doctor? - Jon Pertwee (Remastered)

  2. Mankind - Doctor Who (1978)

    Hey, it was 1978 so literally everyone was doing a disco single. Mankind were a group of session musicians led by engineer Don Gallacher, who was inspired by US producer Meco's dancefloor reinvention of the Star Wars theme. Gallacher thought Ron Grainer's classic Doctor Who theme would suit a similar reinvention and threw in some Vocodered vocals for good measure. Surprisingly for a Who record, it did quite well, resulting in a Number 25 chart placing and an appearance on Top Of The Pops. David "The Kid" Jensen is your host.

    Mankind - Dr Who - TOTP - 1979

  3. The Go-Gos - I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek (1964)

    1964 was really the peak of the TV villains' popularity in Britain, with toy shop shelves creaking under the weight of Dalek tat. Not to be confused with Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin's 80s rockers, The Go-Gos were a bunch of sharply-dressed Newcastle Mods who made this desperate bid for chart fame with this badly-judged festive toe-tapper. Had they even seen the series? "I wish to be your friend," says the "Dalek" at one point. "Please may I have some more plum pud-ding and cus-tard?"

    I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek - The Go Go's

  4. Roberta Tovey - Who's Who (1965)

    12-year-old Roberta appeared as Susan opposite Roy Castle and Peter Cushing in the 1965 big screen movie adaptation of the series, Dr Who & The Daleks. She also recorded this shameless cash-in single to try and ensnare Dalek-happy mums and dads, but it didn't do that well, so there was no follow-up single for the second big screen outing for the series Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD. Is that a shame or not? Listen and make up your own mind.

    Whose Who?

  5. Bullamakanka - Doctor Who Is Gonna Fix It (1983)

    Australia were one of the first countries outside of the UK to receive the adventures of the Doctor, with the series airing on the ABC from January 1965. So it's no surprise that Aussie country music trio Bullamakanka celebrated the Time Lord with this ditty as the follow-up to their hit Home Among The Gumtrees. They were presumably egged on by the presence of Australian companion Tegan Jovanka appearing in the series at the time.

    Bullamakanka-Who is Gonna Fix it-Doctor Who

  6. Frazer Hines - Who's Dr Who? (1968)

    Before he took up a long-running role in the soap Emmerdale Farm, Hines played Jamie opposite Second Doctor Patrick Troughton. The actor's agent thought he had a future as a pop star so convinced him to capitalise on his TV fame with this piece of whimsical Toytown Psychedelia. "He simply elevates a stone, where you and i would throw it," say the lyrics, suggesting a scene from the series that we must have missed. Perhaps it's in one of the wiped episodes. Great fuzz guitar, though.

    Frazer Hines - Who's Dr. Who?

  7. Who Cares - Doctor in Distress (1985)

    Strap yourself in - there's a lot to unpack in this one. In February 1985 the new controller of BBC-1 Michael Grade announced that Doctor Who was to be cancelled as it was no longer bringing in enough viewers to justify the expense of making it. SuperFan and record producer Ian Levine sprang into action, gathering some of his celebrity friends to record a Band Aid-style charity record to bring attention to the Doctor's plight.

    Featured in this jaw-dropping video are then current Who stars Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, Nicholas Courtney aka The Brigadier, Sally Thomsett from Man About The House, Phyllis "Move Closer" Nelson", Jona "Stop The Cavalry" Lewie, Bobby G out of Bucks Fizz, Rick Buckler from The Jam for some reason and many more, all leaning into a microphone and holding a hand over one ear in the time-honoured style. Grade later recanted and Doctor Who came back the following year, which proves what an absolute, unqualified success this single was. Right?

    WHO CARES - Doctor In Distress (Official Video, 1985)

  8. The Earthlings - Landing of the Daleks (1965)

    Another attempt to jump on the success of the metallic terrors from Skaro, this 1965 single sounds like Joe Meek's Telstar mashed up with the Thunderbirds theme. Crazed Who fans would be disappointed by the complete lack of Dalek content included within - although legend has it that the BBC banned the song from the airwaves for including a fake Morse code message in the middle that might have confused passing ships. Published by "Good Music", according to the label. If you say so.

    The Earthlings – Landing Of The Daleks

  9. The Human League - Tom Baker (1981)

    The original Human League - the all male, avant garde electronica line-up, not the Phil and the girls, Don't You Want Me pop hits version - were a group of sci-fi nerds, so it was only fitting that the departure of Tom Baker from the role of the Doctor in March 1981 should be marked in some way. The B-side of their one-off single Boys And Girls included this solemn instrumental which in some peculiar way sums up the character of the Fourth Doctor perfectly. If you look at the original single, you'll see the words "Thanks Tom" engraved in the vinyl. Sorry, we've got something in our eye...

    The Human League ''Tom Baker''

  10. Eric Winstone - Doctor Who (1964)

    The original version of the Who theme - composed by Ron Grainer and created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's resident genius Delia Derbyshire - was issued as single on the Decca label in 1964. It wasn't long before the cash-in covers began, particularly once Dalekmania began to grip Britain.

    Unlike Derbyshire's incredible piece of tape-splicing, Eric Winstone was a big band leader and his version is a more traditional take on the theme - although the guy wobbling the oscillator in the background gave Delia a good laugh. Wikipedia tells us Eric Winstone once successfully applied for a court order that banned his mother-in-law from entering his home.... which is probably the most interesting thing about this record.

    Eric Winstone & his Orchestra Doctor Who Theme TV Century 21

And, as a palate cleanser to all of the above, enjoy the original and best Doctor Who theme from 1963, written by Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire.

Doctor Who Theme (1964) - BBC Radiophonic Workshop

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