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Chas and Dave: how we made Rabbit

‘It sounded like gibberish at first’ … David Peacock, left, and Charles Hodges.
‘It sounded like gibberish at first’ … David Peacock, left, and Charles Hodges. Photograph: ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

Chas Hodges, singer-songwriter, piano

We booked a cottage in the middle of nowhere to write some songs. Dave had this idea that involved an old phrase for someone who talked a lot: “jaw-me-dead”. I wanted something less obscure, so suggested “rabbit and pork” – cockney rhyming slang for “talk”. So we worked on that till we had our chorus: “Rabbit, rabbit.”

We then wrote some verses about a girl who’s really beautiful but talks too much. I came up with the line: “You’ve got more rabbit than Sainsbury’s.” It was an expression a mate used to say. Apparently, it originated during the war. Meat was so scarce, people ate rabbit. They used to hang them over the butcher’s counter for people to inspect. They still had their heads and tails – so people knew they weren’t buying a cat.

As we were getting ready to do the final mix, Dave suddenly started going: “Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.” It sounded great so I told the engineer: “Add that in!” But it was much too fast for Dave to do on his own in time with the song, so I suggested we both do it, singing “rabbit” alternately. It sounded like gibberish at first, but then it all came together and was the icing on the cake.

We played the song on the kids’ TV show Tiswas. The presenter Sally James interviewed us wearing a rabbit costume, holding a giant carrot. Then it turned out that there was still time left before the end credits rolled, so Chris Tarrant asked us to play until they went off air. The place went wild: people in rabbit outfits were jumping up on each other’s shoulders, dancing around the studio. It was chaos.

My wife phoned me afterwards. I thought that she was going to tell me it was terrible, but she said: “That was fantastic – a massive party!” The next day, Rabbit rocketed up the chart.

Dave Peacock, singer-songwriter, bass

I was in Spain on holiday and just had these lines in my head: “You won’t stop talking. Why don’t you give it a rest? You’re nothing to me but a jaw-me-dead.” Later, Chas came up with the Sainsbury’s line. He didn’t actually like it – he still doesn’t – but I said: “No, it’s great! Keep it in.” After that, the lyrics just poured out.

We added the odd “jabber” and “yap-yap” to the chorus but, when we first sang it live, we couldn’t remember how it all went. So we wrote down a load of letters in order: R for rabbit, J for jabber, Y for yap-yap. But our mischievous roadie used to get a pen and add an extra R. In the end we just had to memorise it all, like a pair of parrots.

‘Cliff Richard wanted to know how we did the double rabbit.’
‘Cliff Richard wanted to know how we did the double rabbit.’ Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

One college we played at said they thought the song was sexist. There was going to be a demonstration to disrupt the concert. The protest never happened but we still got a lot of publicity out of it. The girl in Rabbit isn’t real, though – the song’s just a bit of a laugh, something that could apply to men as much as women. I know loads of blokes that can’t shut up. They drive me barmy.

It’s our best-loved song. We’ve had letters from primary teachers saying: “The kids love Rabbit. Can we have a photo for the class?” Cliff Richard wanted to know how we did the double “rabbit” and when we played a Royal Variety Performance, Camilla Parker Bowles told me: “I do love that Rabbit song. We used to dance to it at parties.”

At a show in Abu Dhabi, there was a man sitting there in the audience with his two wives, one on either side. Every time we sang “Rabbit, rabbit”, he’d point to them.

  • Chas’n’Dave play the Royal Albert Hall, London, on 20 April. Full tour details: chasndave.net.
This article titled "Chas and Dave: how we made Rabbit" was written by Interviews by Dave Simpson, for The Guardian on Monday 12 February 2018 02.50pm

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