Stavely Makepeace was formed by three schoolboys in Coventry, including erstwhile pop hero Rob Woodward – aka Shel Naylor, purveyor of a brace of classy Decca singles in 1963.
They released a number of unsuccessful singles and decided a side-line novelty band may help their careers.
They plumped for the name Lieutenant Pigeon and recorded Mouldy Old Dough – dominated by a heavy honky-tonk piano which was played by frontman Woodward’s piano teacher mother, Hilda – in a front room.
The single took eight months to reach the top of the charts (it reached #1 in 1972) and had almost no vocals, except for the words “mouldy old dough” repeated over and over again in a gruff voice (derived from an adaptation of a 1920s jazz phrase, “Vo-De-O-Do”).
Mouldy Old Dough has since been used as the British Banger Car racing theme song, been played over the tannoy at the beginning of Oldham Athletic Football Club matches to herald in the teams, been heard on a BBC TV nature programme in which Kate Humble presented a show about pigeon breeding, and – maybe most surprisingly – was chosen by Jarvis Cocker, leader of the band Pulp, as one of his songs when he was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 2005.
Their next single, Desperate Dan, featured more of the same and peaked at #17 in 1973.
Lieutenant Pigeon scored a further hit in the autumn of 1974 when they reached #3 in the Australian charts with a cover version of I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.
They broke up in 1978, although bassist Stephen Johnson re-formed the band (in name only) in the 1980s, touring to notable success in Scandinavia.
Drummer Nigel Fletcher explained their recording process in an interview with NME in 1972: “Hilda’s front room in her semi in Coventry was the scene of the crime. We didn’t use the best equipment – it was recorded on a domestic machine. We find we get a better sound using the front room.”
Hilda Woodward died, aged 85, on 22 February 1999.
Piano, guitar, tin whistle
Bass, tin whistle