Changing the lyrics of a song has been an effective hook for some of the most memorable adverts over the years: ‘What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a hexbug?’ It’s also been a superb form of parody with the likes of Weird Al re-immortalising old and new hits, turning “Happy” to “Tacky” and “Beat It” to “Eat it”. But for the most part it’s all just a bit of harmless fun, channelling the inner poet inside us all.
We’ve probably all been doing it since the days we were forced to sing hymns we didn’t believe or understand in school assemblies. We used to infuriate the school chaplain by changing a rousing chorus of ‘I’m forgiven’ to ‘I’m a gibbon’ complete with suitable monkey impressions.
As the Fourth Doctor memorably said, “what’s the point in being grown up if you can’t be a child sometimes.” And now for Doctor Who fans, what better way to celebrate our favourite show than by a rousing rendition of “Tall Thin Lizard” or “Don’t Let Your Ogrons Go To Town”?
These tributes to two of the Doctor’s finest adversaries can be found in the latest charity book to come from Long Scarf Books, publishers of The Unofficial Doctor Who Limerick Book (also in aid of MIND). The collection is the brainchild of Chris Stone (The Doctor Who Book Guide, The Fescan Threat) and John Davies (editor of The Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s Celestial Toyroom fanzine and Watching Books’ Blake’s Heaven). Between them, and with a little help from some friends, they’ve given a Doctor Who twist to some 40 songs.
The songbook is beautifully presented, with a splattering of illustrations from the distinctive and completely different styles of Raine Szramski and Ian Wells.
From the obvious (“Gold”, “Life on Mars”) to the more leftfield (John Lennon’s love song “Woman” becomes a rant against WOTAN, The Eagles’ “Hotel California” becomes a piece of sound advice from Tegan Jovanka – “Layby’s Are Dangerous”) the creativity and knowledge of the two writers shines through. Occasionally you will notice an awkward piece of phrasing or meter, but for the most part these songs are easy to sing along too if you are so inclined. It’s not a prerequisite for the songbook, but I highly recommend singing along for maximum enjoyment.
The choice of both songs and Doctor Who subject reflects the age and interests of the writers and whilst there are plenty of worthy classics included it would have been fun to see a wider diversity of songs on offer, particular those from the current generation of songsmiths. The book has a 60s, 70s and 80s bias, but on the plus side this makes the collection more accessible to its target audience.
Doctor Who subjects are almost exclusively handled on a story by story basis rather than general themes or subject matters, but there are plenty of behind the scenes nods, including a hilarious version of “Two out of Three Aint Bad” which turns the Meatloaf classic into a bittersweet song about the incomplete Hartnell story The Tenth Planet.
One of the unexpected bonuses about the collection are the various tongue-in-cheek prose sections. Who knew that so many famous composers and musicians were Doctor Who fans at heart? Or that Terrance Dicks was an uncredited backing vocalist on “The Bitch is Back”?
Thankfully copyright law changed a couple of years ago, excluding parody and pastiche pieces from the need to seek permission from the copyright holders. The legislation has been enforced in the UK by the implementation of the EU Copyright Directive, so regardless of where you stand on the Brexit issue – the EU has made this wonderful book possible. Without it Messrs Stone and Davies could well be facing all kinds of litigations. But you know what, I think the Doctor would most certainly approve.
The Unofficial Doctor Who Songbook is available for order now at http://doctorwhosongbook.strikingly.com/