The song flopped in the UK initially but became a hit in Belgium after it was for some reason used as the theme music for a current affairs programme. Decca then re-released it in the UK and it reached number one in October 1972 selling nearly 800,000 copies, becoming the second biggest selling single of the year and even winning an Ivor Novello Songwriting Award. Unsurprisingly it remains the only UK number one to feature a mother and son.
As for that title, it seems it is nothing to do with either bread or money but has often been seen as an adaptation of a meaningless 1920s phrase “vo-de-o-vo” which featured in songs of the period. More recently however Nigel Fletcher has said the song was actually named after a horse or possibly was an old Irish phrase. There must have been something very strong in Hilda’s tea that day! The Xmas Top of the Pops version incidentally is a hoot as the obvously well watered group mess about and sing "dirty old man" at one point instead of "mouldy old dough" and nobody claps in time!
The song’s success meant that Lieutenant Pigeon became an ongoing concern for a while releasing three albums. Though follow up single ` And The Fun Goes On` flopped being a bit too downbeat and reverb heavy, it sounds too unlike them. And is Hilda even on it? They did have another minor hit though with `Desperate Dan` which reached number 17 in the UK in 1973. They continued until 1978 scoring a big Australian hit in 1974 with a cover version of `I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen`, which sutis them perfectly though seems a bit rushed. This appears to include a bizarre high pitched backing vocal.
It's amazing what they could coax out of the same formula- the 1976 single `Goodbye` includes the flutes and pianos and no lyrics but another catchy song. They did play live on mini tours though apparently Hilda was quite prepared to tour properly but the others thought better of it! The group reformed in the Eighties and both Woodward and Fletcher continue to produce unusual music to this day though Hilda passed away in 1999.
The song still pops up from time to time on 70s compilations and if you’re a fan of Oldham Athletic Football Club you’ll know that the tune is played over the tannoy at home games. As if the whole thing wasn't bizarre enough, when the song was topping the UK charts, across the water Chuck Berry's `My Ding-a-Ling` was at number one in the US. And that happened to have been recorded in Coventry!!