96. ‘Why’, by Anthony Newley

We’ve only just started with 1960, yet suddenly it’s March! Time flies! And it seems that if the early sixties is going to have an on-running theme at the top of the charts, then said theme will be ‘Whimsical’.

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Why, by Anthony Newley (his 1st of two #1s)

4 weeks, from 5th February – 4th March 1960

Because this is another gossamer light record, as ethereal and floaty as its predecessor: ‘Starry Eyed’. Here the chimes come from a xylophone, or maybe a glockenspiel, or any other instrument with bars that you might strike with a little furry ball on a stick. I’ll never let you go, Why? Because I love you… I’ll always love you so, Why? Because you love me… There are a lot of questions in this record, lots of ‘Why?’s, and the answer to every single one is that Newley loves his girl, or that she loves him. It’s a lovey-dovey song; a song to make you gag.

The lyrics to this #1 are, quite frankly, a cheesefest. And super simple. I think you’re awfully sweet, Why? Because I love you… You say I’m your special treat, Why? Because you love me… Anthony Newley’s voice is reedy, and clipped. Slightly camp. I’m picturing him as a bit of a dandy, nice mustard chinos and a tartan jacket, something eye-catching in the buttonhole, serenading his objet au desire from the lamppost outside her bedroom window. Yet somehow he just manages to keep the song from tipping over into silly territory. He is very earnest, with buckets of boyish innocence to spare, and this just about carries the day.

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A couple of moments do threaten to ruin things completely. When the backing singers launch into their couple of lines like a tipsy Broadway chorus you can really picture, and are almost blinded by, the shine coming off their manic grins. And Newley’s final lines are particularly cloying: I love you, And you love me, We’ll love each other dear, Forever… You can imagine twelve-year-olds up and down the land theatrically retching, fingers in mouths, when their older sisters dropped this 7” on the gramophone. It’s amazing to think that three months back – just five chart-toppers ago – Bobby Darin was singing about a mass-murderer. And now this. Who says there’s no variety at the top of the pop charts, eh?

At best this #1 could be described as ‘cute’; and at worst as ‘positively vomit-inducing’. But I’m willing to give Newley the benefit of the doubt as he is so very earnest, so utterly proper throughout, that he simply must mean what he says. The pictures thrown up by a quick image search don’t really show him as a foppish man-about-town, more as a bank clerk with hair slightly longer than his manager might think appropriate. He did, though, manage four marriages, one of them to no less a glamazonian as Joan Collins, and so who knows? Maybe this simple little love-ditty helped in that regard. He’ll be back at the top before long, so we’ll save any further bio for then.

One final thing of note… I just noticed that we are in the middle of another long run of male-led number one hits. Shirley Bassey was the last woman to top the charts, a year ago now (though there was a female member of The Platters after that), and we’re going to have to wait another year to hear the next female voice on this countdown! 1960 will join 1957 as a lady-less year at the top of the UK Singles charts. An interesting quirk? Or a sign of a crushing patriarchy? If today’s ‘Guardian’ had been around in 1960 there would have been opinion pieces, that’s for sure…

7 thoughts on “96. ‘Why’, by Anthony Newley

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