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picture of Gulliver's Travels
Terry Gulliver (front seated) with his 1973 band Gulliver's Travels. They split up over musical differences and the use of cod pieces.

The song remains the same

Ex-rocker Terry Gulliver has been waiting patiently for Top 40 success. But will his big break ever come? PDCC talks to a man with a singular obsession.

Every Sunday at 4pm Terry Gulliver sits down in front of his radio to listen to the Top 40 chart rundown on Radio 1 ... and every time he is disappointed.

He's been doing the same thing for nearly 25 years and says he will continue doing so until the day he dies.

Once again his single Humpage Rampage is nowhere to be heard.

Not surprising perhaps: it was released in 1975 and reputedly only sold 44 copies worldwide, making it the worst selling single in the history of Decca Records.

picture of Geoff Humpage
Geoff Humpage. "He loved the song and wanted to be my manager. He lost interest when I got dropped by Decca and he moved on to Peters and Lee instead."

"I'm beginning to think that it might never be a hit," said Gulliver, 60, of Small Heath, Birmingham "but I will never give up hope."

Back in the early 1970s Gulliver was a popular singer on the West Midlands pub circuit and his energetic mixture of classic pop and cricket-based originals led to him signing a contract with Decca Records in 1974.

"Originally Decca were very enthusiastic about me and said that if the first single was a success they would let me do an album. At the time I was doing a lot of gigs around Edgbaston in Birmingham and I was a regular at the cricket whenever I got time to go. It was the era of the great Warwickshire team of the seventies - Rohan Khanai, Bob Willis, MJK Smith, Dennis Amiss and my absolute favourite ... Geoff Humpage.

"I used to know a few of the Warwickshire boys because they would often come to my gigs after a match. In fact I introduced Bob Willis to Bob Dylan's music. Before that he just liked the Eurovision Song Contest and Esther and Abi Ofarim."

picture of DLT and BLT
DLT and his lesser known brother BLT presenting Top of the Pops in 1975.

Gulliver produced a batch of songs and decided that his paean to the sturdy wicket-keeper batsman Humpage would be his best chance of achieving chart success.

"I composed a thumping back-beat to carry the song and gave it a catchy sing-a-long chorus. I didn't think it could possibly fail. Some people have said that it's a bit similar to The Sweet's Teenage Rampage but that's pure co-incidence; just like the B-side: Blockblaster.

The single was released in early 1975 and sank without trace.

"It was Record of the Week on Jack Bannister's rock show on BBC Radio Birmingham and I know for a fact that the Selly Oak branch of Discorama sold all three of their copies - my mother bought two and my Auntie Gwen the other."

Terry Gulliver is still angry about how Decca failed to support the record. He had been told that an appearance on Top Of The Pops was 'in the bag' if the record broke the Top 40.

"There was a big anti-Warwickshire bias on Top Of The Pops in those days. Jimmy Saville only wanted Yorkshire acts. He famously turned down The Beatles because they were Lancashire supporters. And as for DLT ... he refused to play anything by the John Jameson Skiffle Group out of spite."

"The Head of A&R at Decca told me that they pressed up 20,000 copies. The week they tore up my contact he told me that they had only sold 44 of them. That means that there are still 19,954 of them still sitting in record shops all over the country. It would only take a couple of spins on whatever show Tony Blackburn is doing these days to be a massive hit. I will never give up."

After being released by Decca Gulliver tried to get other record companies interested in his Beatles-influenced Warwickshire CC albums - Abberley Road and The Whitehouse Album - but to no avail.

picture of The Clash's "Give 'Em Enough Rope"
The Clash's 1978 LP originally entitled Give 'Em Enough Roope.

In 1976 he reinvented himself as punk rocker Tosh Phlegm and was one of the first performers on the Birmingham new wave scene.

"The Clash came to see me doing a gig in Dudley. I had a very angry song imploring the English test selectors to pick Graham Roope. Little did I know that Joe Strummer would rip it off for the title of the second Clash album?"

Apart from a brief reincarnation during the New Romantic era as Terry Tastique it was innings closed for the Brummie rocker.

These days Gulliver still occasionally performs in his local pub and hopes to re-release a brand new version of Humpage Rampage remixed by his son Geoff. There's even talk of entering it as a candidate for next year's Song For Europe.

"Bob Willis will be pleased but I still have high hopes for the original. If only they would give Jack Bannister his rock show back then I'm sure it would be flying off the shelves."