Ted Dicks: Co-writer of 'Right Said Fred' and 'Hole in the Ground'

 

The songwriter Ted Dicks wrote "Hole in the Ground" and "Right Said Fred", comic songs whose humour and vitality reflected his own personality and interests. He was a very pleasant and gregarious man with a passion for writing about the working man.

Born in London's Muswell Hill in 1928, Ted Dicks was the son of a postman. He attended Tollington grammar school, where he was encouraged to learn the piano, and then the Hornsby School of Art. When he was conscripted into the RAF he was in demand as the pianist for the officers' mess. He returned to civilian life with a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, where he met the novelist Len Deighton: the pair shared a flat and became lifelong friends. Another close friend was the comedian Barry Cryer, with whom Dicks worked on comic material.

Dicks met Myles Rudge soon after seeing him in a West End production of Salad Days; the two became friends and decided to write songs with Rudge as the lyricist and Dicks as the tunesmith. In 1959 Dicks – with several lyricists, including Rudge – wrote a comedy revue, Look Who's Here, which was first staged at the Mountview Theatre Club. It transferred to the Fortune Theatre in the West End with a cast that included Nyree Dawn Porter, Donald Hewlett and Anna Quayle.

A second revue, this time written by Dicks and Rudge, was quickly commissioned. The cast of And Another Thing included Lionel Blair and Bernard Cribbins, whose "Folk Song" was released as a single. Despite its saucy nature, it received considerable airplay and sold 25,000 copies, thereby encouraging Dicks and Rudge to write more songs for him.

In "Hole in the Ground", a Top 10 single in 1962, Cribbins was a road worker being bothered by a "bloke in a bowler hat" handing out instructions, whom he ends up burying under concrete. The song's engaging jazz rhythms were admired by Count Basie. While the record was in the charts, Noël Coward appeared on Desert Island Discs and chose it as one of his favourite records, saying that he would pass the time by translating it into French.

After some removal men had difficulty in shifting Ted Dicks' piano, they wrote another Top 10 single for Cribbins, "Right Said Fred". The song is about three workers trying to move some unspecified, large object. Its title passed into the vernacular and in the early 1990s it became the name of a successful pop group.

Rudge and Dicks wrote most of the LP A Combination of Cribbins (1962), on which a range of talents were combined to good effect: Rudge's witty and whimsical lyrics, Dicks's ideally suited melodies, George Martin's oddball arrangements and Bernard Cribbins' personality. Martin enjoyed making these cranky records and referred to Ted Dicks affectionately as "Dead Ticks".

Their other major comic song was "A Windmill in Old Amsterdam" (1964), for Ronnie Hilton, about "a little mouse with clogs on". "I recorded that with just the rhythm section," said Ronnie Hilton, "and Wally Ridley, my producer, told me not to bother about the rest of it. I didn't know that he was going use the Mike Sammes Singers speeded up to sound like mice."

Although the duo is noted for comedy songs, they did write more conventional material, including a strong, self-pitying ballad, "Other People", for Matt Monro, which was considered for an A-side (in the end, it was the B-side of the best-selling film theme "Born Free", 1966). Val Doonican and Ronnie Hilton both recorded a delightful song about the love for a daughter, "Annabelle".

In 1967 Myles and Rudge wrote a comedy album for Kenneth Williams with the knowing title, On Pleasure Bent. Two years later, Dicks wrote a song every week for the ITV series Cribbins, this time with lyrics by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke. Dicks also wrote episodes of the TV soaps Compact and Crossroads, both created by Hazel Adair. Adair also produced British sex comedies and Dicks wrote the incidental music and title songs for some of them. The singer Catherine Howe appeared on screen with the title song for Can you keep it up for a week? (1975). (The title, in case you are wondering, referred to maintaining a job.)

Dicks wrote the music for Carrying on Screaming (1966) and supplied the theme for the popular ITV series Catweazle, featuring Geoffrey Bayldon as a peasant from the middle ages trying to cope with 20th-century life. Dicks also designed and edited A Decade of The Who (1977), an authorised, illustrated history of the rock band.

In later years, Dicks returned to art and found a demand for his paintings. After Rudge's death in 2007, he revised an unstaged musical they had written, Strip, about a cartoonist whose life is depicted in his work.

Edward Dicks, songwriter: born London 5 May 1928; married Liz Windham-Quin 1964 (one son); died London 27 January 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee