I am, again, indebted to Mick Dillingham for bringing the following 45 to my attention. For some strange reason this little nugget completely passed me by when it was first released – probably because I was spending just about every penny I had at the time on solo Beatles records…what a waste!
Those of you who are either under 40 or didn’t live in the UK during the 70s and 80s may not know of the TV phenomenon that was That’s Life: a Sunday night magazine programme which mixed humorous stories with crusading campaigns (such as establishing the Childline charity), light entertainment, a witty song and a handful of rude-looking vegetables. For 20 years presenter Esther Rantzen, her jolly band of male sidekicks and an ever-changing musical guest (including Pam Ayres, Jake Thackeray, Victoria Wood, Richard Stilgoe and Doc Cox, aka Ivor Biggun) fronted one of British TV’s highest-rated shows – vilified by the upcoming wave of ‘alternative’ comedians but absolutely adored by the great British public.
Talented pets were That’s Life staple: often, after a hard-hitting exposé of some dodgy bloke and his Page Three girlfriend knocking out fake slimming tea, a cute puppy, cat, ferret or other cuddly critter would be dragged on by its owner to the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of an adoring public. Each of these animals would possess a talent of some description – playing a musical instrument, for example – but when forced to perform in front of a live studio audience could usually to do nothing more than pee over Esther’s ghastly frocks or chase Cyril Fletcher (famously portrayed as “a camp old twat” by Griff Rhys-Jones in a hysterical Not theNine O’clock News sketch) around the set.
Not so Prince or, as he’s credited here, Prince the Wonder Dog. A small, scruffy terrier whose owner insisted he could talk. Only he couldn’t. Basically he’d make a growling noise (like pretty much every other dog on the planet) and his owner Paul Allen would manipulate his throat and lower jaw to make ‘words’.
Quite simply the pair were the world’s worst ventriloquist act, but the public lapped it up; Prince and Paul became, for a very short time, Leeds’ biggest stars (this was a good few years before the birth of the brilliant Wedding Present) and, obviously, the next thing for them to do after finding a huge audience of pensioners with nothing to spend their money on but gin and bingo, was to release a record.
Enter Columbia who, in 1979, decided to get Paul and Prince into the studio to record a version of the Joe Loss 1961 hit Wheels Cha Cha, renamed for the occasion Sausages (naturally) and given a set of Prince-specific lyrics. The result, as you can now hear for yourselves, was – unsurprisingly – awful, but not as bad as the B-side, Paul’s own winsome composition We’ve Got a Dog. Unfortunately, according to Paul’s nephew Antony (writing on www.sheffieldforum.co.uk): “Prince died by accidentally falling down a hole dug during house renovations. The resulting injuries claimed his life. A shame; as a child I loved to play with him.”
A shame indeed - and a loss to the family and Prince’s many fans. Luckily we still have his one solitary single and a well-word YouTube clip to remember him by.