#39: Spirit In The Sky by Doctor and the Medics
Peak Month: November 1986
14 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #1
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #69
YouTube.com: “Spirit In The Sky”
Lyrics: “Spirit In The Sky”
The Doctor and the Medics lead singer, Clive Jackson, was born in Liverpool in 1961. Richard Searle was born in 1963 in London and played guitar. The two founded Doctor and the Medics in 1981. Other bandmates included Steve “Vox” Ritchie, who was born in 1964 in Billericay, UK, and played drums with the band. Colette Anadin (aka Colette Appleby) and her sister Wendi, were known in the band as “The Anadin Brothers” to add gender ambiguity into the mix. In addition, Steve McGuire was the lead guitarist. In 1982 the band released “The Druids Are Here”. Doctor and the Medics blended psychedelia with Japanese Kabuki Theatre and make-up that resembled KISS. A 1985 single, “The Miracle of the Age”, stalled at #117 under the UK Singles Top 100 chart.
In 1985 the band recorded a cover of the 1970 Norman Greenbaum song “Spirit In The Sky”.
Norman Joel Greenbaum was born in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1942. He was raised in an Orthodox Jewish household. He studied music at Boston College, but dropped out and headed to Los Angeles in 1965. The following year his psychedelic rock band, Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band, had a single titled “The Eggplant that Ate Chicago”, which peaked at #52 on the Hot 100. Greenbaum says he was inspired to write “Spirit In The Sky” after watching country singers singing a song on television. In an interview Greenbaum stated that Western movies were the real inspiration for “Spirit in the Sky”. He thought about the cowboys and gunslingers who would get shot and die with their boots on. After their hard lives came to an end, there was confidence they would go to “meet their maker.” As the lyrics in “Spirit in the Sky” attest, they were “going to go to the place that’s the best.” And in order to be a step ahead of the game of life and entry to heaven, “you gotta have a friend in Jesus” who will recommend you (to get into heaven) to the Spirit in the Sky. Greenbaum said years later that the song “appeals to one’s inner self and the need for redemption, plus, heck, who wants to go to hell?”
Greenbaum’s recording in 1969 made the Top Ten in over a dozen countries the following year, and shot to number-one in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the UK, USA and West Germany.
In 1986, Doctor and the Medics “Spirit In The Sky” peaked at #1 in Vancouver (BC), and Hamilton (ON), and #4 in Buffalo, Toronto, and Calgary (AB). Internationally, “Spirit In The Sky” peaked at #1 in Austria, Canada, Ireland and the UK, #2 in Finland and New Zealand, #3 in Australia, #9 in West Germany, and #16 in Sweden.
However, after their hit single, Doctor and the Medics weren’t able to build on their newfound fame. The followup, “Burn” stalled at #29 on the UK Singles chart. And a cover of the ABBA hit “Waterloo” failed to crack the Top 40 in the UK. Five more single releases between 1987 and 1991 were each commercial failures. After their initial album release in 1986, Laughing at the Pieces, the band released three more albums between 1987 and 1996 with little success.
“Vom” Ritchie went on to drum for Last of the Teenage Idols, B-Bang Cider, The Boys, Wet Dog and Die Toten Hosen.
Colette Appleby later appeared in a bit parts in the 2000 film Gladiator, and again in the 2004 film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. In 2005 she played a customer in a shop in the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She also works as a camera double for both Gwyneth Paltrow and Joely Richards (Most recently in Maybe Baby).
Wendi Anadin left the band and inadvertently gave birth to the Doctors three children. Since then she has retired from the band occasionally rejoining when she feels the need. Steve McGuire began producing dance and House music with a fair degree of success and now runs “Halcyon” production, a company with a fleet of vehicles used for transporting bands and equipment around the world. In this capacity he also works as a tour manager and sound man.
Richard Searle formed a band called Corduroy. In 1989, Clive “The Doctor” Jackson started a snail farm which ended in 1991 when his entire stock of 50,000 snails died of flu-like symptoms.
In 2003 “Spirit In the Sky” was recorded by Gareth Gates and the Kumars. The cover shot to number-one in Scotland and the UK, #2 in Ireland, #3 in Hungary, #9 in Belgium, #10 in Austria and #11 in the Netherlands.
April 10, 2023
Kevin Cooper, “Interview: Clive Jackson,” UK Music Reviews, May 12, 2015.
Laura Beth, “INTERVIEW! Dr and the medics Clive Jackson stars in Poe zest at the Bloomsbury Theatre 15th 16th 17th March,” March 14, 2018.
“Doctor and the Medics,” Last.fm.
“Collette Appleby,” IMDb.com.
Tom McNichol, “A Spirit from the 60s that Wont’ Die,” New York Times, December 24, 2006.
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