Mysteries of Music #1: How did the dull song "Mull of Kintyre" become megapopular in Britain?

Maybe some Brit Dopers can help here.

The song:

I think the average listener of pop in the year 2013, if coming across this song by accident, would simply not notice or remember it. It's not horrible. It sounds like album filler to me.

But this is one of the biggest hits in the history of the UK:

I suppose there has to be some sort of reason. It matched the UK zeitgeist in 1977. Something. Any ideas?

Crap, meant to post in Cafe. Mods, can ye move? Thanks!

I remember when that song reached #1 in pretty much every country that kept a chart, but didn’t even crack the American Top 200. Finally heard the whole thing a few weeks ago, and understood why.

Bagpipes on American Top 40 radio in 1977? Nope, not gonna fly.

I thought it was a good song, and a beautiful video too.

I’m a yankee. Not what you asked for. But the song moves me. It’s got bagpipes. It fills me with a sense of longing. It appealed to the kids, because Paul McCartney, and the geriatrics, because it sounds like a traditional Scottish ballad someone forgot to write.

I think sometimes the public is hungry for something that sounds different.

At least not until 1983, when In a Big Country was released by Big Country. (OK, it’s not really bagpipes, but guitars that sound a little like bagpipes, but a lot of us didn’t know that at first.)

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards made #11 on the Billboard Top 40 with a bagpipe-heavy version of “Amazing Grace” only five years earlier in 1972.

Not just for 1977, it’s simply very British. (And I use the term to include the whole of the British Isles, not specifically England.) It’s got a swaying, anthemic melody, it’s infectious, it’s perfect material for a pub singalong.

Quite simply, we Brits are shockingly willing to send any manner of detritus to No 1 in the charts. Mull of Kintyre will seem like Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor alongside Mr Blobby, Bob the Builder, or St Winifred’s School Choir, all of whom have topped the UK charts (twice I believe in the case of Bob the Builder!)

Most likely though I suspect that, along with the list above, MoK falls in that category of “novelty song” which can sometimes prompt otherwise non record-buying members of the population to lose their heads and go out and buy the damn things.

Bob the Builder? WTF? I thought you were kidding.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before now. If I didn’t know the name before I listened, I would have thought he was saying “Mulligan Tire.” It would make a good jingle!

I can’t believe no-one’s mentioned Jasper Carrott’s Funky Moped (and the infamous obscene B-side, “The Magic Roundabout”).

Or the Wombles.

Couple of things we need to remember about the British charts:
–They’re based only on record sales. American charts are a mix of sales and top 40 airplay. So all those novelty or out of the norm singles that sell well but don’t get much airplay do much better in the UK than the US.
–Singles in the UK traditionally sold to all demographics, while in the US almost all sales went to teenagers and kids. This granny-friendly song probably was snapped up mostly by older folks.
Yeah it’s a treacly number but any more treacly than say “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” which did hit number one in the U.S.?

To echo those above, strange things end up on the British charts. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” was #1 there.

Truly one of the greatest songs ever, but it’s an unexpected chart-topper.

To expand on that, here is the U.S. #1 list for 1977. Decca’s Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band? Really?

Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” made #2 in the UK charts in 1981, and I don’t think anyone knows how that happened. :smiley: That was back when you had to sell quite a lot of records too.

I loved that song!

I know (and like) that song, and never would have guessed that.

“Mull of Kintyre” was an appeal to nostalgia and it’s not surprising Americans didn’t take to it - it wasn’t about our past so there’s no reason we’d feel the emotional connection with it.

I’ll take “Mull of Kintyre” any day over “The Long and Winding Road”!

Both do nothing for me, but I agree!