Development corporations have been, for good or ill, a big part of the growth and regeneration of UK urban areas and new towns in the late 20th century (and beyond): many areas had their fortunes turned around, if not necessarily for the original inhabitants, and they’ve given us some bizarre non-places like Canary Wharf and Milton Keynes.
But we also have to development corporations to thank for some absolutely brilliant (not absolutely brilliant) pop music!
Energy In Northampton
Back in 1980, someone at Northampton Development Corporation’s marketing department was struggling to work out how to they could get the message out the world that Northampton was now The Place To Be. Presumably this person then sustained some sort of head injury and decided to recruit the lady who sang on Video Killed The Radio Star to record a song about aliens.
The result, Energy In Northampton, tells the beautiful story of a lost starship fleeing a ‘neutron war’, its crew seeking somewhere to start a new life: luckily their scanners light up and direct them towards… NORTHAMPTON, a town of energy, a town where they could be free! Indeed.
“Calling planet earth! Calling planet earth! Stop beaming this song into space!”
The host of the promotional video that accompanied the song theorises that the aliens were mainly attracted by the lager produced by the local Carlsberg brewery, just another absolutely brilliant thing brough to you by the Northampton Development Corporation.
“A love affair with Northampton is a journey into space.” Is it? Is it, indeed. Image: This Is Of Interest.
Is the idea of lager-swilling aliens off-putting? Don’t worry, there’s a more down-to-earth track on the B-side, which economically uses exactly the same tune with different lyrics. It tells a love story for the ages, about how all the singer’s fantasies have come true since she met a guy from Northampton, which is only 60 miles by road or rail!
“I just can’t wait to be in Northampton!”
But Northampton was not the only development corporation to release some plop pop.
We Are Teesside
In 1995 the Teesside Development Corporation made the questionable decision to celebrate its achievements by releasing “We Are Teesside”, a recording by New Ground, a group which apparently included members of Middlesbrough FC (the name presumably referencing their then brand new Riverside Stadium, built on Development Corporation land.)
The football team were relegated the following year, presumably as karmic punishment for their involvement.
“Teesside – we’re the future, we’re the pride!” boast the saccharine lyrics, before explaining that “the gift we leave behind is the promise of tomorrow for our children”. Also this bucket of vomit. The Teesside Development Corporation was disbanded three years later; a local MP later condemned it for “often inappropriate and threadbare development”, presumably referring to this musical tragedy.
You’ve Never Seen Anything Like It, Central Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes, the archetypal new town, had to get on the crap urban pop train as well. The opening of the town’s shopping centre, developed by Milton Keynes Development Corporation, was celebrated with a promotional silver flexi-disc. The song largely consists of ambiguously ambitious claims all the lines of: “You’ve never been anywhere like it, Central Milton Keynes!”
This was, inexplicably, written by the drummer from The Troggs.
“Sunny CMK! Wouldn’t mind staying all day!” sings a man who has presumably never been.
Come on modern day development corporations, raise your awful song game. Hey, London Legacy Development Corporation – we’ll give you “If you need a lark/Head to the Olympic Park!” for free.