This December celebrates 40 years since the hit single Day Trip to Bangor (Didn’t We Have a Lovely Time) was released.
The novelty song was recorded by the folk group Fiddler’s Dram and peaked at number 3 in the charts at the start of 1980. The song was written by Debbie Cook and recorded by the lead singer of the band, Cathy Lesurf. The single was the group’s only chart entry in their career, making them one hit wonders.
“Daytrip” was included on Fiddler Dram’s debut album, To See The Play, which was released in 1978. The band then re-recorded the song after it was suggested that this track be released as a single. It was redone at a faster tempo than on the original album, with the acoustic instruments augmented by bass guitar, synthesizer and drums.
The single entered the UK Singles Chart at number 26 on 13 December 1979 two weeks before Christmas. It rose to number 4 for the following two weeks and at missed out on the Christmas No.1 slot to Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ – other Top Ten singles at the time included I HAVE A DREAM by ABBA, WALKING ON THE MOON by THE POLICE and I ONLY WANT TO BE WITH YOU by the TOURISTS.
The single reached its peak at Number 3 on 5 January 1980, spending two further weeks in the top 10, dropping to number 4 and then number 9 a week later. It was in the top 40 for one more week at number 24, and two final weeks in the top 100. It also became a sizeable hit in Australia where it reached the top 10 in February 1980.
Bangor v Rhyl
The release of the single was shrouded in controversy after reports that the song was actually inspired by a trip to Rhyl, rather than Bangor. The controversy ruffled the feathers of local councillors and businesses in Rhyl, who were unhappy about the missed opportunity for tourism which could have been generated.
The lyrics would suggest the song was about Rhyl, “Do you recall the thrill of it all as we walked along the sea front” – “Then on the sand we heard a brass band” – “We took a paddler boat” – “Wasn’t it nice eating chocolate ice as we strolled around the fun-fair”.
Fiddle and concertina player Ian Telfer told Mojo magazine January 2010 that Bangor was chosen as it slipped off the tongue easier: “She (Debbie Cook) was originally thinking of Rhyl, the resort, not Bangor,” he said. “But clearly Rhyl has got no scan. The mayor of Bangor was a bit perplexed when it was a hit, but they were quite happy to accept the publicity.”
Debbie Cook, however has always insisted that the song was specifically written about Bangor.
When Cook was interviewed for a BBC Radio 4 documentary in 2011, she said the song was “absolutely yes” about the Bangor in Wales. She added “I was so ignorant at the time that I didn’t know that any other Bangor existed, so it was categorically this Bangor, and it was Bangor because it scanned and for no other reason than that. And it was the only place I knew along the North Wales coast.”
In the documentary, when interviewer Jonathan Maitland reminded Cook that there was a furore about the song really being about Rhyl, Cook laughed and called it “a great piece of nonsense”.
Debbie Cook went on to become a successful scriptwriter penning scripts for The Archers and EastEnders.
Use in popular culture
A version of the song, with altered lyrics, was used the following year in a TV commercial for Anchor butter. The band received no royalties for this, and the story was featured on the BBC TV series That’s Life!. Also in 1980, a spoof version, “Daytrip To Barnhurst” by Jackie & The Commuters, was released on a single and much played on Capital Radio though without any chart success.
The song was also adapted by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer for their BBC sitcom House of Fools which began in January 2014. The opening scene of each episode sees the duo sing a song to the tune of “Day Trip to Bangor”.
The song was also parodied by the comedian Jasper Carrott, with his version renamed “Daytrip to Blackpool”. Paul Dakeyne did a mash-up of the song at the Radio One Big Weekender in Bangor in 2010.
The Barron Knights also did a parody version of the song called “Didn’t we have a lovely time (At the office Christmas party)”.
What happened to Fiddler’s Dram
Fiddler’s Dram hurriedly recorded a second album to follow up on their unexpected success in the UK Singles Chart. The band was unable to achieve subsequent success however and they disbanded soon afterwards.
Telfer told Mojo the single was issued “for amusement. The label liked the song, so why not? We were charmed that anyone would put a single out. Naturally, we got back together – put the money in our pockets and thank you very much.”
The band did perform the song in Bangor, at a special concert arranged in Theatr Gwynedd. Debbie Cook and singer Cathy Lesurf also returned to Bangor in 2011 for the Radio 4 documentary, and Lesurf sang the song on Bangor Pier.
Fiddler’s Dram sing Day Trip to Bangor
Chorus (after each verse):
Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Bangor?
A beautiful day, we had lunch on the way and all for under a pound you know
But on the way back I cuddled with Jack and we opened a bottle of cider
Singing a few of our favourite songs as the wheels went around
Do you recall the thrill of it all as we walked along the sea front
Then on the sand we heard a brass band that played the diddlely-bump-terrara
Elsie and me had one cup of tea, then we took a paddler boat out
Splashing away as we sailed round the bay and the wheels went around
Wasn’t it nice eating chocolate ice as we strolled around the fun-fair
Then we ate eels on the big ferris wheel as we sailed above the ground, but then
We had to be quick ’cause Elsie felt sick and we had to find somewhere to take her
I said to her lad, what made her feel bad was the wheel going around
Can’t you still hear the noise on the pier as we took a breath of sea air?
Having a go at every sideshow we passed along the way, we had a
Our fortunes told, when it turned a bit cold and a go on the tombola
It was such a surprise when I won a prize when the wheels went around
Elsie and me, we finished our tea and we said goodbye to the seaside
Then on the bus, Flo said to us, “Oh, isn’t it a shame to go
Wouldn’t it be grand to have cash on demand and to live like this for always
Oh, it makes me feel ill, when I think of the mill and the wheels going around”