Lally Stott: Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep
Lally Stott would have been 75 in 2020. “Who’s Lally Stott?” you ask. Harold “Lally” Stott was an English singer/songwriter whose best-known creation vied with “Maggie May,” “My Sweet Lord” and “Brown Sugar” as one of the biggest songs of 1971.
Stott’s “Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep,” a happy-go-lucky, toe-tapping, sing-along seemingly untroubled by deep lyricism, topped the charts in Australia (and possibly Rhodesia), and was also a hit in Argentina (No. 2), France (No. 7), the Netherlands (No. 8), South Africa (No. 9), and Italy (No. 11).
It peaked at No. 92 on the U.S. Billboard chart where it was overshadowed by a top-20 version by West Indian siblings Mac & Katie Kissoon.
The most successful version was by the cheesy Scottish boy-girl group Middle of the Road, which took it to No. 1 in the UK, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Singapore; and No. 2 in West Germany, Australia, and Israel. Stott’s label, Philips Italy, apparently had little confidence in his version, and pitched it to the other acts at the same time. Given Philips’ tacky artwork for Stott’s Italian single (at right), maybe their shortsightedness is just as well.
My introduction to “Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep” came courtesy of a greatest-hits record released in New Zealand in 1971, 20 Solid Gold Hits. The LP is basically unplayable now, riddled with scratches and loud pops. It got a real workout during my childhood, and the images from the cover are seared into my memory. It’s safe to say that my love of music and my career as a music journalist stem directly from Solid Gold and a few other compilations in my parents’ otherwise rudimentary record collection. Less proudly, I doodled all over the covers, an unspeakable crime that still makes me shudder.
A few years ago, I rescued the decrepit discs from my parents’ house and brought them to the USA so that I could glance at them during periods of creeping middle-aged nostalgia. And one weekend in March 2015, I decided it would be fun to look up the songs on Youtube and learn about them on Wikipedia.
Lally Stott was one of the first I researched because I have not heard “Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep” in decades. Unlike many of the other songs on the compilations, it does not get oldies-station airplay. One look at the title, and it’s probably considered too bubblegum, like Yummy, Yummy, Yummy or Mah-Na-Mah-Na, two more childhood favorites.
I remembered Stott’s warm smile and thick, lustrous hair from the awkwardly cropped photo on the Solid Gold album cover, and wondered whether he would still have either. Maybe I could interview him about the creative process.
“Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep,” arranged and produced by Stott, is surprisingly minimalist. There is no audible guitar, no instrumental break, no bridge. He shares the vocal spotlight with an excited female chorus. The only lyrical difference among the four stanzas is the alternation of “mama” and “papa.” The dominant instruments in the chorus, which is sung five times through to the fade-out, are a sinewy bass, a high-hat cymbal, and a jubilant trumpet.
I will make a huge leap and suggest that Stott, a journeyman musician raised in the rough-and-tumble Merseyside beat scene that also produced the Beatles, finished the whole thing in five minutes and considered it a throwaway ditty. It may even be a demo. I guess I’ll never know.
I was heartbroken to read that he had died in 1977, aged 32. All this time, and I had not known of his tragic fate, which occurred mere months before the Marc Bolan car crash and then the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash. So I jumped on a plane to England in September 2015 and made my way up to Stott’s home town of Prescot, about nine miles east of Liverpool, to do some research at the Huyton Central Library and to pay my respects at his grave (years later, by chance, I bumped into his dad’s cousin at a wonderful Commonwealth war cemetery in Beirut).
According to the now-defunct Prescot & Huyton Reporter, Stott’s motorbike collided with a car travelling in the opposite direction on the Saturday afternoon of the Queen’s 25th jubilee weekend. He suffered serious head and leg injuries, and died two days later. Full details from the news reports are reproduced at the bottom of this post. Otherwise, biographical details are somewhat sketchy.
There is a lallystott.co.uk web site that is barely maintained, and some well-meaning folk in Prescot produced a tribute video that needs some professional assistance. This blog, Bite It Deep, provides the best overview of his recording career. This site, lankybeat.com, compiled by his former drummer Sandro Ugolini, has some excellent pictures of Lally in various bands, including Lally Stott & the Black Jacks, the Vaqueros and the Motowns.
Some interesting tidbits can be gleaned from the comments section accompanying two Youtube videos of “Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep,” which I have been playing to death. Stott seems to be a local hero in Prescot, where his family and friends still live.
The black-and-white videos depict a friendly, outgoing chap with absurdly long hair, vaguely lip-syncing his song while strolling along the Kalverstraat, a busy shopping street in Amsterdam, to the delight of senior citizens and pretty shopgirls.
The angry, nose-picking toddler at the end of the first clip makes a cameo in the second. Actually, there is quite a lot of crossover. The Dutch were clearly intrigued by this flamboyant Englishman. If you were part of the cast, please contact me, especially if you are the hot, bespectacled blond wearing the unseasonal shorts in the second clip. (Oh dear. The second clip I had originally posted is no longer available. The clip below is not as crisp, but the girl is still hot.)
Playing these heartwarming clips every morning will get you through the rest of the day with a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and a song you can’t stop humming.
Just as the lack of information is frustrating, so is the lack of Lally Stott “product.” He released one LP, also called Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep (pictured at left), but it has never been reissued digitally. Nor is the song itself available on MP3. One album he did in 1976, Love Birds with his wife Cathy, is available digitally via Splash Records. The chap at Splash thought the rights to Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep were controlled by Philips Italy, which I imagine is now part of Universal Music. Or maybe the masters have reverted to his widow.
It was in Italy that Stott sought his fortune after playing with a few Merseyside groups in his younger days. In fact, “Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep” was the first English-language song recorded in Italy to be released outside Italy. Another of his compositions, Trinity: Titoli, appears on the Django Unchained soundtrack.
And that’s pretty much all I know. If you can fill in some gaps about Lally Stott, please contact me. I don’t even know what “Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep” is about.
POP MAN IN DEATH SMASH
Pop songwriter Lally Stott died two days after being involved in an accident on his new motorbike near his Whiston home. Thirty-two-year-old Lally – real name, Harold – who lived in Warrington Road, died in Walton Hospital on Monday after he had been involved in a collision on Saturday afternoon. Mr. Stott was the writer of the Number one hit of the early seventies ¨Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.¨
His Yamaha 50 motorbike [it was actually a 90cc bike] collided with a Vauxhall Cresta which was travelling in the opposite direction in Windy Arbor Road, near to its junction with Simons Close.
Mr. Stott, who suffered serious head and leg injuries, was originally taken to Whiston Hospital. He was later transferred to Walton Hospital where he later died.
The driver of the Cresta, Mr. Walter Burgess, aged 39, of Little Moss Hey Cantril Farm, was not hurt in the accident.
Police are appealing for witnesses to the accident to come forward.
(Prescot & Huyton Reporter. June 10, 1977)
MR. H. STOTT
A service was held at St. Ann’s Church, Rainhill, for Mr. Harold Stott, aged 32, of Warrington Road, Whiston, who died in Walton Hospital. Interment followed in the churchyard. The vicar, the Reverend R. Evans, officiated.
Mourners: Mr and Mrs H. Stott (parents). Mrs. J. Smith (sister). Mrs. C. Weeks (sister). Mr. P. Smith (brother-in-law). Mr. I.D. Weeks (brother-in-law).
Mr. and Mrs. Fitzroy, Mr. and Mrs. H. Roberts, Mr. E. Roberts, Mr. and Mrs. K. Smith, Mr and Mrs. J. Ryder, Mr. I. Wilson, Miss. J. Rylance, Des [Dyer] and Clive [Scott of] Jigsaw, Mr. and Mrs. G. Stott.
Bearers: Messrs. J. Boyle, Garry Roberts, J. Watkinson and Denny Seaton.
Present in church: Mr. and Mrs. W. Weeks, Mr. and Mrs. A. Stinton, Mrs. J. Stott, Miss. A. Stott, Miss. N. Stott, Miss M. Stott, Mr. M. Birchall, Mr. R. Yates, Mrs. F. Glynn, Mr. and Mrs. J. Rylance.
Miss C. Rylance, Mr. E. Tinsley, Mrs. M. Bennett, Mrs. Tinsley, Mrs. O. Jones, Mrs. E. Crawley, Mrs. R. Harrison, Mrs. L. Crompton, Mrs. M. Stockley, Mrs. S. Stott.
Mrs. Fitzroy, Mrs. E. Stewart, Mr. and Mrs. Barron, Mrs. P. Richardson, Mrs. P. Lewes, Mrs. E. Lidderth, Miss L. Lidderth, Mrs. S. Dewse, Mrs. S. Davies, Mrs. A. Thomas.
Mr. G. Thomas, Mrs. H. Fairhurst, Mrs. S. Leadbetter, Mrs. H. Warwick, Mrs. W. Warwick, Mrs. C. Watkinson, Mr. J. Cummins, Iris Belsize Music, Brent and Alan Jasmin T. Group, Mrs. A. Roach.
Mrs. A. Hurst, Mr. J. Ward, Mr. and Mrs. A. McKenzie, Mrs. J. Hayes, Mr. and Mrs. W. Cleaver, Mrs. E. Shaw, Mrs. R. Dutton, Miss Fish and Mrs. Pemberton (representing Home Help).
Flowers: Mam and dad; Jean and Peter; Chris and Iain; Peter, Jason and Craig; Jane and Mooney; Grandad; Hildith family; Pam and John; Ray and Pam; Ian and Pat.
All at Rainhill Pet Shop; Mike Logan (Milan); RCA Studio (Milan); Nebrio (Milan); dear friends in Rome. [Chas Peate, owner of Splash Records] (London). Jay and Fran.
Sandra, Joe, Eileen and Tom; aunt Elsie; Linda and John; Eric and Betty; Mr. and Mrs. W. Cleaver; Miley and Sheila; Mr. and Mrs. P. Smith and family (Thatto Heath).
Sympathy cards, Mass cards, letters, telegrams from overseas and prayers by all denominations too numerous to mention.
Undertaker: Jagger Funeral Service.
(Prescot & Huyton Reporter. June 17, 1977)
STOTT – The family of the late Mr. Harold Stott wish to thank all relatives, friends and neighbours for the kind expressions of sympathy flowers, Mass cards and sympathy cards received in their bereavement. Special thanks to the doctors and nursing staff of Whiston and Walton Hospital, the police, Rev. Bob Evans and the many friends who attended church — 36 Weaver Avenue, Rainhill
(Prescot & Huyton Reporter. June 17, 1977)
NOTE: By the way, my gossipy rock bio Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles is available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com
Copyright © 2015 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING.