119 Top Toytown Tunes

Selected by Mark Frumento (with a little help from his friends)


As Mr. Churchill might have said if he hadn’t passed away in 1965 (and many maintain that he’s not dead but is writing poetry in Paris) “Never in the field of popular music has one sub-genre been so slagged off by so many and heard by so few.”

Yes, Toytown Pop. It’s not cool and never has been, but so what? If you haven’t heard it then you don’t know what you’re missing. If you’re a fan then it’s very likely that you are absolutely addicted to it. Exactly what “It” is can be argued at length and to start the argument we’ve decided to offer something of a definition:

Toytown Pop is English and is derived from aspects of British lifestyle and culture. Influences include:  Edward Lear, Alice in Wonderland, Listen With Mother (and later, of course, Watch With Mother), George Formby, Flanders & Swann, The Goons, The Wind in the Willows, Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter, English fairytales, Lord Kitchener and his pals, Oscar Wilde and Victoriana in general.

One thing that we’d like to add is that Toytown Pop is NOT the English equivalent of American “Bubblegum” music. Whereas the “Yummy Yummy” and “Sugar Sugar” brigade aim for the lowest common denominator and then go downwards from there, the Toytown creators crafted some of the most beautiful, ambitious and, more often than not, melancholy music of the 60s and early 70s (OK, OK… with some of the lowest common denominator stuff mixed in when necessary). But it’s true that some American bubblegum acts like the Lemon Pipers and others created some fantastic Toytown Pop. We’ve just decided to exclude it as an imitation of an English style of music.

So, while Toytown is quintessentially English there are no rules that disqualify American musicians or indeed, any musicians at all from creating good Toytown Pop. Think of what Brian Wilson might have achieved in 66/67 if he’d have kicked out pretentious old Van Dyke Parks and used a “Laughing Gnome” era David Bowie, or Keith West or Jeff Lynne as his lyricist instead. With all of that hokey Americana out of the way he might well have achieved his “Teenage Symphony For God”, and what’s more Mike Love would have understood the words. Maybe.

Let’s end this rant by saying that if five hour long Jerry Garcia guitar noodles, or Tommy Hall banging on that damn jug while Roky whines to infinity is your idea of musical nirvana then you’re in the wrong place and there’s no point in you reading on.

But…if you’re a fan of adventure, magic, and fairy cakes with lemonade for tea, then follow the instructions of funny old Uncle Viv. “Let’s go back to your childhood!”…  

Formalities out of the way, here’s how we selected the 119 titles in this list:

          In keeping with the theme of Marmalade Skies only songs recorded in 1966 or later were included. In an effort to keep ‘The Diary of Horace Wimp’ off the list we’ve not allowed any song after 1974.

          In general Toytown songs should be at least one of the following: light, bouncy, jangly, slightly off-key or slightly out of whack.

          There must be a prevailing sense of humour. No message songs or anything overly earnest.  

          Children’s stories, children’s voices or songs about children (especially scared children) were bound to get in.

          Songs about toys, toy lands, toy towns and trains are right in.

          Songs with the word “little” in the title got very serious consideration.

          Cookies and other confections mentioned in songs pleased us very much

          Animals are good Toytown subjects especially if they are doing something funny (like hanging around in baskets or eating people).

          Songs about people qualify especially if the people in question are somewhat out of touch with reality, have quaint jobs or are someone’s Auntie.

          Concept albums and their creators (such as the Small Faces) seem to fit other genres better so we left them off this list.

          Lastly, the Beatles and Pink Floyd were disqualified. We recognize that both Paul McCartney and Syd Barrett are two of the founding fathers of Toytown but including them in our list seemed too obvious.

Thanks to David Wells and Paul Martin for their advice and additions. Thanks also to the following folks who knowingly or unknowingly participated in the creation of this list by sharing their collections: Lewis Anderson, Erik Meinen, Luis Suarez, Fading Yellow JJ and of course let’s not forget the late fanzine Sweet Floral Albion .

We hope that you enjoy the trip, but before we embark, though he didn’t make the cut, we offer this Paul McCartney lyric to send us on our cheery way:

"Would you care to sit with me
For a cup of English tea
Very twee, very me
Any sunny morning"

The Godlike Mark Kirk has now put all 119 tracks onto a 5 CDR set, complete with wonderful artwork. You can download the discs and inserts using the following links:

Toytown disc 1.rar (151.02 MB) http://www.multiupload.com/7V0B3YA1XO
Toytown disc 2.rar (156.82 MB) http://www.multiupload.com/CONFWUR5H5
Toytown disc 3.rar (137.4 MB) http://www.multiupload.com/PPVT96LEQZ
Toytown disc 4.rar (138.73 MB) http://www.multiupload.com/Y3JMAH0W9A
Toytown disc 5.rar (140.88 MB) http://www.multiupload.com/GYWMMNOBJV




  Elephant Rider – The Hush

Fontana single, 1968

 Hammond and Hazelwood, two names you’ll see again, were behind the controls of this snappy song about…um… an elephant rider… whatever that is.







This is a recent re-issue 7"



  The Laurels - Threepence a Tune

RCA single B-side, 1968

Only two songs in and the banjo makes its appearance on this little strut of a song. Is there any instrument happier than a banjo?








  Bric A Brac Man - Bill Nile & His Good Time Band

Decca single, 1967

The identity of Bill Nile(s) remained a mystery until we received the following information from Roger Limb:

"Bill Nile was a local star bandleader in Cheltenham from the late 1950s. All us musos wanted to play in his band; I was still at school when I began playing bass for him,  Brian Jones (later Rolling Stones) was turned down.  During the 60s we moved to London and tried to break into the scene but because we were a jazz group we were always at a disadvantage. But Bill was always a good singer , he was good looking and full of charisma so we managed to open a few doors. We even recorded for Joe Meek (well, everybody did!) I wasn't on the track mentioned on your website, I left the band for a while 1965-7. I remember hearing about 'Bric A Brac Man' but  we never played it live.  Maybe Tony Hazzard was involved in the recording. He was a friend of the band at the time.
 By 1970 Bill's was one of the leading bands in the London jazz scene. Then in 1973 he quit playing and moved to Scotland but kept in touch by promoting local jazz concerts. I visited him many times. Then in the mid 1990s he disappeared again ( he did this regularly) and then in about 2002  we heard he'd died from a stroke (he lived most of his life at 20 stone). Unforgettable bloke.
Bill in middle of this pic ............."

 What we do know about this flute dominated track is that it was produced by Barry Kingston and more than likely it was recorded at Southern Studios where Kingston’s father managed the publishing branch at the time. Many thanks to Roger Limb for getting in touch. Roger was a member of many Jazz bands, including Chris Barber's, and also worked for many years at the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop.












  Piccolo Man – The Flower Pot Men

Deram single, 1968

Normally this John Carter/Ken Lewis-based band performed fairly serious harmony pop with a psychedelic twist but this track, adorned in a wonderful Neil Landon lead vocal is all toytowned out with piccolos and stuff. Favorite toytown lyric: "You’ll be on a merry go round forever with the Piccolo Man, from Allakhazam"







   Penelope – Smiley

Phillips single, 1972

When two members of the Creation get together with Shel Talmy you don't expect them to record a sea shanty with a children's chorus but that's precisely what they do on this delightful record




Miss Pinkerton – Cuppa T

Deram single, 1967

Miss Pinkerton is a bumbling secretary (sorry, administrative assistant if we’re being PC) and this flute-filled song of hers is so gosh darn catchy that we can’t get it out of our heads... take a letter Miss Pinkerton...





Constable Jones - The Decision

MCA single, 1968

Poor old Jones, he’s got blisters on his feet to prove his hard work and he still can’t get that promotion. A jaunty little track as you’d suspect from a song about a friendly sad sack of a policeman.










Smoke, Smoke – Sgt Smiley Raggs

Decca single, 1970

Sgt. Smiley Raggs is really songwriter Kenny Young and this fairytale of a song is just one of two British releases by Young to make our list.







Annies Place – Gene Latter    

Young Blood single B-side, 1974

A cover of a song that was originally recorded by Kidrock (no, not Kid Rock!) who’s version was also released on Young Blood. Later in the list we’ll cover Kidrock in more detail. The original version (properly titled ‘Auntie Annie’s Place’) appears on Circus Days under the name Stars. Co-writing credit on the single was given to Ray Davies but that was obviously a mistake. The actual co-writer is just R. Davis.



Shepherd Boy – Neil Holland      MGM single B-side, 1968

Here’s a strange little number about an illiterate (and apparently dumb) shepherd boy who is looking for love. The song is oddly appealing despite the sparse instrumentation and Mr. Holland’s lack of vocal skill. One of many collectible Eddie Tre-Vette productions from the late 60s.


Good Old Sam – Vaughan Thomas    

JAM single B-side, 1973

So endearing is the Sam in this song that it makes one wonder if it’s the same person about whom Keith West sang. Thomas also released a wonderful album and several other singles, all produced by the multi-talented Mike Batt.











Railway Jimmy – Barnaby Rudge    CBS single B-side, 1968

Is there anything sadder than a lonely railway man? Barnaby Rudge was Wilson Malone and Danny Beckerman with some regular Morgan Studios players. Malone will crop up several times on this list as will some of his Morgan companions.






Shine a Little Light into My Room - Jason Paul   

Pye single, 1969

This song is cover of an LP track by Boston’s Teddy and the Pandas. The Panda’s version has the slight toytown edge but rules are rules and no American recordings are allowed. Sorry Pandas. Jason Paul was in the band Svensk.






I Want to Go to the Overworld - Freddie & The Dreamers   

LP track from Oliver In The Overworld  1970

After the hits dried-up, Freddie earned a crust in children's TV, principally the show "Little Big Time". This long-running programme featured a psychedelic pantomime-type serial called Oliver In The Overworld (and all, apparently, wiped later). The soundtrack to this was written by hit-makers  Hammond/Hazlewood. Rest in peace Freddie. We hope you got your wish.










Barefoot And Tiptoe – Sweetshop   

Parlophone single, 1969.

Mark Wirtz and then wife Ross Hannaman created this wonderful little march that is so cute you just want to pinch the couple’s cheeks. We don’t like to gossip but Ross was Tim Rice’s girl friend when Mark Wirtz swept her off her feet… or was it her tiptoes?
















Flowers for My Friends – Joyce’s Angels   

Major Minor single, 1967

A pleasant pop number about someone distributing flowers. Information about the band is scant but rumor has it that Chris White (see entry 101) was one of its members.



Laughing Boy from Nowhere - Simon Dupree and the Big Sound   

Previously unreleased, from the retrospective anthology CD ‘Part of My Past’

A very cute track that apparently puts the talents of studio keyboardist Reg Dwight on display. The laughing boy you hear is the son of saxophonist Phil Shulman.



Trip on a Orange Bicycle – Orange Bicycle    

Columbia single B-side, 1968

Here is Wil Malone again with his Morgan Studios-based harmony pop band. This eerie little fairytale of a tune is replete with a laughing child.



Admiral Sheer – Chris White  

Unreleased (?), ca 1968

Despite the misspelling of the name, this tune appears to be about of the sinking of a German battleship that was bombed by the RAF. Chris White is best known for his excellent harmony pop album ‘Mouth Music’ but this song comes from his privately compiled, cassette only compilation Circuits & Bumps.



  Chocolate Buster Dan – Pandamonium    

CBS Single, 1968.

One man bands, street performers and has-been vaudeville acts make great subjects for toytown pop. However, it’s so much funnier when they’re introduced with the lines: “we hope you won’t be bored” or “he’s so much out of touch with the scene.”  










  Pegasus – The Hollies    LP track from Butterfly, 1967

Shorn of the classic Hollies-style block chords and tight harmonies Pegasus is quite charming. The change in sound is aided by the fact that this is Tony Hicks’ first vocal performance with the band.



  Morning Morgantown – Jude    

  LP track from Morgan Blue Town, Bam Caruso, 1988

With one chord change and the addition of a cow bell this Joni Mitchell folk pop beauty is transformed into a toytown classic. Those responsible are singer Judy Wiley and her backup band Fickle Pickle. Pickle were Morgan Studio associates Geoff Gill, Cliff Wade, Wil Malone and Steve Howden. The track remained unreleased until it was compiled by Bam Caruso. It has subsequently been issued on the David Wells compiled House of Many Windows.



Rainbow Rocking Chair - Majority One    

LP track from Majority One, 1971

Starting off as the Majority, the band transformed themselves into a classy pop psych outfit by simply adding the word “One” to the end of their name (clever!). This is the most toytownish of the tracks from their impossibly rare album. Save your money and get the CD reissue on RPM.



  Broken Hearts Brigade - Hammond Hazlewood     Columbia single, 1969

Take a moment and reflect on the fact that the co-creator of this toytown anthem also had a huge hit with ‘It Never Rains in Southern California’ only a few years later. Anyway, before that he made this clever little march that celebrates the transformation of boys to men (no, not Boyz II Men, silly).






Lydia - Blue Yogurt     

Penny Farthing single, 1970

American Brill building writer Kenny Young (Under the Boardwalk etc) is behind this charming song. Young ended up in the UK after his song ‘Captain of Your Ship’ became a hit for Reparata and the Delrons. In a recent interview Young says, “I later decided to stay in London, having met some of the mini-skirted lovelies who tempted me with their charms and parts of their bodies that were barely covered.” Lydia, indeed!


Kenny Young in 1963 and 2003



Hey Mr. Organ Grinder – Vehicle     Deram single, 1971

No toytown is complete without an organ grinder. This one is delivered to us by a mysterious writer/producer named Les Lubin



Christmas Will Be Around Again – Two and a Half      Decca single B-side, 1967

We know that we’re surprisingly short on Christmas songs but we’ve grouped two great holiday rarities together to make up for it. First up is this holiday themed B-side by the Simon & Garfunkel-ish act that was also responsible for Suburban Early Morning Station.



 A Little Smile on Christmas Morning – The Annie Rocket Band      

Jay Boy single, 1969

Here's the tale of a girl who’s father goes away to earn money for the family. The little girl is sad because she doesn’t have her father for Christmas. We’re happy to report that daddy makes it home and everyone is happy. A reward goes to the person who can tell us more about The Annie Rocket Band. (Apparently The Annie Rocket Band were Jon Plum in disguise. More about Jon Plum later on...)



Little Lesley - Alan Bown Set    

LP track from Outward Bown, Music Factory, 1968

This soul band went straight to toy land in 1968 and Outward Bown produced a number of great examples of toytown pop. This song is about 4 year old Lesley who has quite a laundry list of things to do... including mothering her toads.



Zobo (1871-1892) - Marty Wilde        

LP track from Diversions, Phillips, 1969

A fantastic song about Zobo the lion from Wilde’s sought-after pop psych LP. The Mighty Quinn-like flutes plant this track firmly in toytown.



As For Marionettes – The Marianne     

Columbia single, 1968

We cheated a little on this one. The writer/singer behind the Marianne is David Allen who was half Mexican and half Native American. Allen was a classically trained flamenco guitarist whose long and involved story landed him in the UK. This amazing track was produced and arranged by Mike Vickers









Brother Jack - Barry Wigley      

Tuba single B-side, 1972

Let’s get something straight: with a name like Barry Wigley one of this guy’s songs was going to make this list no matter what. As it is the song is perfect for the list and Brother Jack turns out to be either the nicest man in the world or some sort of major weirdo. Barry Wigley was co-writer on several Majority One songs.



Zebedy Zak - Cardboard Orchestra      

CBS single, 1969

We know it’s a bit of a downer but Toytown does have homeless people. At least this song delivers that sad fact with a bouncy beat and a catchy melody!



Mr. Nice Guy – Dragonmilk      

Young Blood single, 1972

One of many strange Young Blood projects. This one is a vehicle for songwriters/producers Geoff Wilkins and Colin Frechter who deliver the line “its survival of the fittest Mr. Nice Guy” like it’s a father and son chat.



FORWARD TO No's 85-66