“Mouldy Old Dough”
I was horrified; it felt like an attack on the teen temple that was Top of the Pops. Of course I knew there had been other music shows – Dad was always going on about “6-5 Special” and would even sing the theme tune in the car on long journeys – but Top of the Pops was the show to watch, the one to talk about at school. My parents thought it was great and said that it was about time Mrs Mills was seen by a younger audience. I didn’t know what they were on about, and to be honest I didn’t care, all I knew was that someone looking like my granny was playing piano on Top of the Pops!
The route that led to my granny’s doppelgänger appearing on the television began in the late 60’s with the formation of the group Stavely Makepeace. Based around a core of Rob Woodward (lead singer, keyboards) and Nigel Fletcher (drums), they brought in other musicians to help them develop their music. Strongly influenced by Joe Meek, Rob and Nigel concentrated on home recording, experimenting with tape speeds and obtaining weird (but sometimes wonderful) sounds from the group’s instruments.
Releasing several singles their first taste of success came with a Top of the Pops appearance playing “Edna” in June 1970. This was followed by an appearance on “Lift Off With Ayshea” in October with their next release “Smokey Mountain Rhythm Revue”. However this was to be the pinnacle of Stavely Makepeace’s chart career and by the middle of 1971 the band had been released from their Concord contract.
Rather than a set back Rob and Nigel used this opportunity to take on a new identity. With the aim of producing primarily instrumental music with a ‘tongue in cheek’ appeal Lieutenant Pigeon was born as a two piano, bass guitar and drums combo. With Rob’s mother being an accomplished pianist her inclusion in the group was an ideal gimmick to make the band stand out from the crowd.
Signed by Decca, the first single released in early 1972 was the classic “Mouldy Old Dough” – however when the BBC declined to add it to their playlist it disappeared immediately. When the same thing happened to a new Stavely Makepeace recording it looked like Rob and Nigel had finished their assault on the charts.
Saviour’s come in many shapes and forms and for Lieutenant Pigeon it was a combination of Chris Tarrant and a Belgian News programme. While Chris was sent to interview some of Stavely Makepeace about the home recording studio they used for ATV, a Belgian programme had been using “Mouldy Old Dough” as its intro for some months. With Chris reminding the public of the group and Belgian interest in the News theme sending the single up the local charts (eventually to Number 1) the time was ripe for a re-issue of “Mouldy Old Dough”.
This time it was a success, selling in excess of two million copies worldwide, becoming the biggest selling British hit of 1972 and winning Rob and Nigel the Ivor Novello award for songwriting.
While Lieutenant Pigeon played some small tours, made further television appearances and released further singles they never truly repeated the success of their first classic release.