Doctorin' the Tardis
"Doctorin' the Tardis" is a 1988 electronic novelty pop single by the Timelords ("Time Boy" and "Lord Rock", aliases of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, better known as The KLF). The song is predominantly a mash-up of the Doctor Who theme music and Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll (Part Two)" with sections from "Blockbuster!" by Sweet. The single was not well received by critics but was a commercial success, hitting number one on the UK and New Zealand singles charts, and reaching the top 10 in Australia, Finland, Ireland and Norway.
|"Doctorin' the Tardis"|
|Single by the Timelords|
|Released||23 May 1988|
|Length||3:37 (radio mix)|
|Label||KLF Communications (UK)|
|The Timelords singles chronology|
The Timelords followed up their chart-topping record with a "how to have a number one" guide, The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way).
The release of "Doctorin' the Tardis" followed a self-imposed break from recording of Drummond and Cauty's sampling outfit, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (The JAMs). The single continued The JAMs' strategy of sampling and juxtaposing popular musical works. However, unlike the cultish limited releases of The JAMs, in which Drummond's Clydeside rapping and social commentary were regular ingredients, "Doctorin' The Tardis" was an excursion into the musical mainstream, with the change of name to "The Timelords" and an overt reliance on several iconic symbols of 1970s and 1980s British popular culture, including Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Parts 1 and 2", the Doctor Who theme song, Doctor Who's Daleks and the TARDIS, Sweet's "Blockbuster!" and Harry Enfield's character 'Loadsamoney'.
"We were going to make a dance record", Drummond explained, "a house recording using the Doctor Who theme tune... Jimmy had been working on some rhythms for it and he played it for me in the car when we were driving down to the studio... and I said 'that's a Glitter beat, we can't have a Glitter beat on a house record, that won't work at all'... [by the] third day [of working on it] we realised we'd got a number one single". "We just had to go with it in the end" agreed Cauty. Drummond recalled the experience in a BBC Radio 1 interview with Richard Skinner in late 1990. Skinner called the record an "aberration", to which Drummond pleaded "guilty", adding that "we justified it all by saying to ourselves 'We're celebrating a very British thing here... you know, something that Timmy Mallett understands'".
In a KLF Communications information sheet, Drummond called "Doctorin' the Tardis" "probably the most nauseating record in the world" (a claim also made on the label of the record itself) but added that "we also enjoyed celebrating the trashier side of pop".
Credit for the "Talent" behind the song was attributed not to Drummond (Time Boy) and Cauty (Lord Rock) but to "Ford Timelord", Cauty's 1968 Ford Galaxie American police car reg plate "WGU 18G", formerly known as the JAMsmobile. The car, which had previously appeared on the cover of The JAMs' album Who Killed The JAMs?, was thematically tailored to The JAMs, depicting their 'pyramid blaster' emblem on its doors and the number 23 on its roof; it was also Cauty's daily driver. Cauty and Drummond claimed that Ford gave them instructions on how to make the record. Ford featured prominently on the sleeve of "Doctorin' the Tardis", where he is quoted as saying "Hi! I'm Ford Timelord. I'm a car, and I've made a record", and "...I mixed and matched some tunes we all know and love, got some mates down and made this record. Sounds like a hit to me". Promotion of the single centred around Ford Timelord who was even "interviewed" on television.
The "Doctorin' the Tardis" music video features Ford Timelord driving around the countryside in pursuit of some rather crudely designed Daleks, his wailing siren audible throughout. The music video was filmed in Wiltshire, England. Two of Wiltshire's landmarks, the Cherhill White Horse and the Lansdowne Monument, can be seen in the video. The video was filmed in part at the now defunct RAF Yatesbury, a Royal Air Force base in Wiltshire, and—according to The Timelords—cost in the region of £8,000 to make.
Melody Maker described "Doctorin' the Tardis" as "pure, unadulterated agony ... excruciating". Sounds reasoned that it was "a record so noxious that a top ten place can be its only destiny", calling it a "rancid reworking of ancient discs".
In a retrospective look at novelty records and a defence of the genre, Peter Paphides wrote in The Observer's music monthly that "the one novelty record most people admit to liking is 'Doctorin' The Tardis' by The Timelords... The reason for this, presumably, is that it's nice to be in on the same joke as arch pop ironist Bill Drummond. Fine, but let's not forget that if The KLF weren't passionate about how brilliantly dumb pop can be they wouldn't have got to Number One." The "reason we purport to hate novelty records", he argued, "is because we continue to romanticise the creative process. We feel that our intelligence is insulted by novelty."
Music critic Tom Ewing, writing for Freaky Trigger, later gave the song a 9/10 in a series where he individually reviews every UK number one single ever, saying it mixes the Doctor Who theme tune "with the pop sounds of 1974, the year of glam rock and Davros, scarves on the Rollers and scarves on the new Doctor, glitterbeat and “Blockbuster” airhorns. It’s a companion piece to "Theme From S'Express" in that sense and just as good – part of the same rediscovery of the 70s, beckoning the boy gangs of yobs and nerds onto the dancefloor, the ones Mark Moore didn’t invite to his party. You could put it in a line of descent from “Hoots Mon” and “Mouldy Old Dough” too – novelty monsters which catch a time more truly than some of the serious songs do."
The Timelords released one other product on the strength of "Doctorin' the Tardis", a 1989 book called The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), in which they candidly described the logistical processes and efforts that sealed the record's commercial success.
After The Timelords, Drummond and Cauty became The KLF. An American CD reissue of the single in 1991 lists the artist as The Timelords/The KLF, and features both a KLF track (the original Pure Trance version of "What Time Is Love?") and "Gary In The Tardis" (retitled "Gary Joins The JAMS" on this release), a version of "Doctorin' the Tardis" with vocals by Gary Glitter referencing his own songs.
Later attempts of Drummond and Cauty to top the charts were less successful: The KLF's "Kylie Said to Jason" failed to achieve the chart success for which it was designed, peaking outside the Top 100, and Cauty's novelty project Solid Gold Chartbusters with Guy Pratt, which was designed to achieve a Christmas number one single, did not reach the UK Top 40. However, The KLF's string of "Stadium House" singles, beginning with "What Time Is Love?", found popular appeal and worldwide chart success.
Formats and track listingEdit
"Doctorin' the Tardis" was given an international single release on 23 May 1988. In the US it was re-issued in 1991, containing The KLF's "What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance Original)". The formats and track listings are tabulated below:
|Format (and countries)||Track number|
|7" single (except US), 10" picture disc single (UK)||DR||DM|
|7" single (US)||DR||GT|
|12" single (KLF 003T)||DR||DM||DC|
|12" single (KLF 003R)||GT||GM||GJ|
|CD Video single (UK)||DV||DM||DC|
|Cassette single (US)||DC||GT|
|1988 CD single (US)||DR||DC||GJ|
|1991 CD single (US)||DR||DC||W||GT||DM|
|CD single (Canada)||GT||GM||GJ||DR||DM||DC|
|CD single (Benelux)||DR||DC||DM||GT||GM||GJ|
- DR - "Doctorin' the Tardis" (radio edit / 7" Mix) (3:37)
- DC - "Doctorin' the Tardis" (Club Mix / 12" Mix / Mega Mix / Extended Mix) (8:15)
- DM - "Doctorin' the Tardis (Minimal / Instrumental)" (4:28)
- DV - "Doctorin' the Tardis (Video Mix)" (2:20)
- GT - "Gary in the Tardis" (3:26)
- GM - "Gary in the Tardis (Minimal)" (4:08)
- GJ - "Gary Joins The JAMs" (usually 6:22)
- W - "What Time Is Love? (Pure Trance Original)" (7:06)
- Drummond, Bill (10 March 1988). "1988 Info Sheet One". KLF Communications. Archived (via the Library of Mu) on 16 September 2016.Wikipedia:WikiProject The KLF/LibraryOfMu/502
- Sharkey, Alix (21 May 1994). "Trash Art & Kreation". The Guardian Weekend. Archived (via the Library of Mu) on 16 September 2016.Wikipedia:WikiProject The KLF/LibraryOfMu/384
- The KLF interview, Snub TV, 30 January 1989
- Drummond, Bill (December 1990). "Saturday Sequence" (Interview). Interviewed by Richard Skinner. BBC Radio 1. Archived from the original on 24 May 2006.
- Doctorin' the Tardis (Label). The Timelords. KLF Communications. 1988. KLF 003T.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Drummond, Bill (6 July 1988). "1988 Info Sheet Two". KLF Communications. Archived (via the Library of Mu) on 31 July 2018.Wikipedia:WikiProject The KLF/LibraryOfMu/503
- Wilkinson, Roy (28 May 1988). "...Ford Every Scheme". Sounds. Archived (via the Library of Mu) on 16 September 2016.Wikipedia:WikiProject The KLF/LibraryOfMu/81
- Doctorin' the Tardis (Sleevenotes). The Timelords. KLF Communications. 1988. KLF 003T.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Wilson, Hugo (1 September 1991). "Last Triumph to Trancentral". Road Rocket. Archived (via the Library of Mu) on 16 September 2016.Wikipedia:WikiProject The KLF/LibraryOfMu/473
- Houghton, Mick (2 July 2019). Fried & Justified: Hits, Myths, Break-Ups and Breakdowns in the Record Business 1978-98. Faber & Faber. ISBN 9780571336845.
- "The KLF". Rip It Up Unwrapped. Season 1. Episode 5. BBC. BBC Scotland.
- Cauty, Jimmy; Drummond, Bill (1988). The Manual (How To Have a Number One The Easy Way (KLF 009B). UK: KLF Publications. ISBN 0-86359-616-9.
- "Doctorin' the Tardis". Melody Maker (review). May 1988.
- Paphides, Peter (22 February 2004). "Making the law". The Observer Music Monthly. Archived from the original on 23 February 2004.
- Ewing, Tom (17 June 2010). "The Timelords - Doctorin The Tardis". Freaky Trigger. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
- "The White Room - Information Sheet Eight". KLF Communications. August 1990. Archived (via the Library of Mu) on 5 October 2007.Wikipedia:WikiProject The KLF/LibraryOfMu/508
- "The World's First Novelty Supergroup present: 'I Wanna 1-2-1 With You'" (Press release). Virgin Records. 1999.
- "IT'S CRAPMASSSSSSS!!!!". NME. 10 November 1999. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
- "Solid Gold Chartbusters". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
- Longmire, Ernie; et al. (2020) . "Discography: The KLF (including The JAMS, The Timelords, 2K etc.)". Archived from the original on 29 February 2020.
- "Australian-charts.com – The Timelords – Doctorin' The Tardis". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
- "Ultratop.be – The Timelords – Doctorin' The Tardis" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
- Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Doctorin' The Tardis". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 29, 1988" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved 18 March 2019.
- "Dutchcharts.nl – The Timelords – Doctorin' The Tardis" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
- "Charts.nz – The Timelords – Doctorin' The Tardis". Top 40 Singles.
- "Norwegiancharts.com – The Timelords – Doctorin' The Tardis". VG-lista.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 147.
- "The Timelords - Billboard Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
- "Offiziellecharts.de – The Timelords – Doctorin' The Tardis". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
- "ARIA Charts - End Of Year Charts - Top 50 Singles 1988". ARIA. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
- "Jaaroverzichten 1988" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
- "End Of Year Charts 1988". Recorded Music NZaccessdate=18 March 2019.