In 1976, Hughie Green was at the peak of his success – the former child star and cabaret artist with an accent that flitted between his native English and adopted Canadian had carved a niche as a game show presenter before striking gold with talent show Opportunity Knocks – the Britain’s Got Talent of its day, only much, much more popular. Opportunity Knocks launched the careers of many a household name – Paul Daniels, Lena Zavaroni, Freddie Starr, Little and Large and others – and was hugely popular. This didn’t do much to temper the already bloated ego of Green, who assumed that the success of the show was down to him rather than the mix of undiscovered talent and laughable no-hopers that were paraded for the nation’s delectation every week.
Green may have taken Canadian citizenship in the 1950s, but he was as patriotic an Englishman as you could ever hope to meet. His right-wing views were well known to the media, but in December 1976 he decided to share them with the viewing public. At the end of an episode of Opportunity Knocks, instead of wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, he instead performed a bizarre song/rant entitled Stand Up and Be Counted, a call to arms that urged Britain to regain its lost glories, primarily by stopping going on strike. This was generally as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool, and Green was disciplined by Thames TV for essentially hijacking his show for what was seen as Tory propaganda.
Clearly not learning his lesson, Green then issued the speech as a hysterical record that is one of the kitschiest things you’ll ever hear – delivered with obvious sincerity, yet so drenched in bathos and misplaced high drama that it seems hilarious. The fact that Green was a notorious womaniser who had something like six illegitimate children around the world (including TV presenter Paula Yates) makes his treacly sincerity and morally indignant outrage all the more delicious. The record was backed with a staggering reworking of Land of Hope and Glory, and both tracks were predictably banned by most radio stations. It was not a hit.
Green couldn’t help himself and continued to make political comments in episodes of Opportunity Knocks until Thames threw in the towel and cancelled the show in 1978. His career never recovered – and his right wing views were increasingly at odds with a left-dominated media. He slipped into obscurity, becoming an alcoholic and barbiturate abuser before dying, almost forgotten, in 1997.
Here are both sides of the notorious single. Enjoy!