148. ‘Summer Holiday’, by Cliff Richard & The Shadows

The doors are locked, the suitcases stowed in the boot, the dog’s at the kennels. Dad starts the car and mum turns to the kids in the backseat. We’re all going on a summer holiday… she sings… No more working for a week or two…

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Summer Holiday, by Cliff Richard (his 7th of fourteen #1s) & The Shadows (their 11th of twelve #1s)

2 weeks, from 14th – 28th March / 1 week, from 4th – 11th April 1963 (3 weeks total)

Chances are, if you had any sort of semi-regular, middle-class British childhood in the latter half of the twentieth century, you will have lived through that very scene. I know I have – more than once. There can’t be many better known #1 hits than this? I’m racking my brain to think of chart-toppers that more people will know the words to, and I can come up with ‘Hey Jude’, and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’…

We’re goin’ where the sun shines brightly, We’re goin’ where the sea is blue, We’ve seen it in the movies, Now let’s see if it’s true… It’s a horrendously twee song. The jaunty guitar ‘riff’, the glockenspiel, the strings that are apparently now a constant part of Cliff’s musical journey… And those lyrics. So we’re goin’ on a summer holiday, To make our dreams come tr-u-u-u-ue… Fo-or me and you… ‘Trite’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. Then there’s the key-change, and the humming to fade. Humming!

This should be an awful song. It is awful. And yet, it’s not. Not really. Because deep down in even the hardest, most cynical and blackened hearts there remains a kernel of the-child-that-was. And that little kid, in the backseat of his family’s Ford Escort, cares not for the sickeningly perky guitar and the vomit-inducing lyrics; to him it is simply the sound of, well, the summer holidays.

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This song is Cliff doing what he does best. Cliff at his Cliffest. Peak Cliff. This will be his last chart-topper for a while, and it’s kind of fitting that we pause here. ‘Summer Holiday’ draws to an end his teeny-bopper stage – very soon he’ll be usurped by a four-piece from Liverpool as Britain’s foremost pop-act of the age. And it’s the perfect song to do so with, as any lingering hope that Cliff was Britain’s great rock ‘n’ roll hope is finally, brutally, irrevocably snuffed out in this record’s opening chords. Looking back at his seven #1s so far, only ‘Please Don’t Tease’ came anywhere close to being a rocker; and even then it was a super-mild rocker. The coconut korma of rock ‘n’ roll records. ‘Summer Holiday’ is, of course, one of the songs that Cliff performed on Wimbledon’s Centre Court during that rain delay, a moment still commemorated every year in Middle England’s village halls…

‘Summer Holiday’ is also the second chart-topping record from the hit movie of the same name, after ‘The Next Time’ / ‘Bachelor Boy’. Which is impressive – not many movies spawn two #1s (and it’s not finished with the chart-toppers yet!)

It also, and this is something that’s just came to me, confirms ‘Summer’ as the biggest single theme in pop music, after Christmas. We’ve already had ‘Here Comes Summer’ by Jerry Keller as a chart-topper in 1959, and I can think of at least three more summer-themed number ones through the years (there are surely others…) Which makes it all the odder that winter was barely finished when this song actually topped the charts… The power of Cliff! Even the seasons couldn’t contain him!

147. ‘The Wayward Wind’, by Frank Ifield

I have to admit – I’m struggling to ‘get’ Frank Ifield, Britain’s pop-idol du jour in 1962-3. We’ve arrived at Pt. III of his chart-topping quadrilogy (that’s a word, right?) and still the key to his success is eluding me.

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The Wayward Wind, by Frank Ifield (his 3rd of four #1s)

3 weeks, from 21st February – 14th March 1963

At the very least ‘The Wayward Wind’ is an improvement on Ifield’s last #1, the demented ‘Lovesick Blues’. Largely because the yodelling (Oh God, the yodelling…) is kept to a minimum. Instead we get a harmonica riff (that sounds suspiciously like it’s from an early-Beatles B-side…) and the story of a wanderer:

Oh the wayward wind, Is a restless wind, A restless wind, That yearns to wander… And I was born, The next of kin, Ah, the next of kin, To the wayward wind… It was originally, you may have guessed from those lyrics, a Country & Western song from the fifties – the rest of the lyrics are all about ‘railroad tracks’ and ‘border towns’. Which means it’s the third hit running in which Frank Ifield and his producers have taken an old song and tarted it up to fit in with the sound of the time – i.e. the soon-to-explode ‘beat movement’.

It’s probably the best of Ifield’s three chart-toppers; though that is very, very faint praise indeed. I like the way that strings and cymbals come in on the verses as the ‘wayward wind’ – it’s a nice effect. And we make it almost a minute into the song before the first yodel: made me a sl-a-a-a-eeee-ave…! Frank clearly couldn’t help himself. Maybe it was an actual affliction – yodelling Tourettes? – and he did it even when talking…? He saves it for that line and that line only, though, for which we can all be grateful.

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Like all of Ifield’s hits, ‘The Wayward Wind’ isn’t a song I’d ever heard before. The one good thing about his year in the sun is that all these tunes are completely new to me. There is at least a novelty value to his work. It was quite the popular tune, however, especially in the mid-to-late fifties. Our old friend Jimmy Young did a version (which makes complete sense, thinking about it – this could be ‘The Man from Laramie’ Pt. II) along with Patsy Cline, Sam Cooke and The Everly Brothers. The Beatles included it in their early live shows (I knew it – that harmonica!)

Let’s look at this as a throwback. In fact, let’s view the entire career of Frank Ifield as a throwback. He sings nicely, properly (your gran would have liked him, no doubt) with good enunciation. He was the final Pre-Rock star, the successor to the likes of Jimmy Young, Guy Mitchell and Frankie Laine, and his sudden popularity was the final twitch of a corpse that had been trampled over by rock ‘n’ roll and that was about to be completely buried by beat groups.

But, at the end of the day, this isn’t a very good record. Solid at best. Competent. Maybe his final chart-topper will unlock the mystery of Frank Ifield’s success? Maybe… Anyway, to finish… I’ve really held off mentioning this, but hey… ‘The Wayward Wind’ sounds, to me, like a euphemism for a fart.

On that note…

146. ‘Diamonds’, by Jet Harris & Tony Meehan

Here’s a record I’d never heard before; and a rockin’ little record it is too. A hidden ‘gem’ (gettit?) of a record. Not to rag on the previous #1, ‘Dance On!’, too much, but this is how you do instrumental rock ‘n’ roll!

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Diamonds, by Jet Harris & Tony Meehan (their 1st and only #1s)

3 weeks, from 31st January – 21st February 1963

We start with a cool drum intro, and then a riff straight from the spaghetti-est of spaghetti westerns. Imagine the villain of the piece striding over a sun-baked hill, heat-haze rising around him. He stops and fixes the camera with a thousand-yard stare, spitting his tobacco over the dusty ground…

Then we get horns – Ba! Babababa-Ba! – and it feels as if the sixties, the ‘Swinging Sixties’ ™ are born. It goes from menacing to groovy in 0.5 seconds. First ‘Lovesick Blues’, and now this, have had what I would call a quintessentially ‘sixties’ sound – the sound that will define the next three or four years. And it’s great, the call and response from the brass section, but it’s not the best thing about this record. Because next we get…

A. Drum. Solo. In a number one hit single. I kid you not. What I thought the reserve of eighties hair metal bands and Phil Collins were around as early as 1963! I wish I could somehow describe it; but how on earth can you describe a drum solo? It lasts a good twenty seconds – one-tenth of the whole record! – and is great. That’s my official line on it. ‘Great.’

This whole song sounds familiar. But not. Like The Shadows… But not. It almost sounds as if it’s been recorded by The Shadows alter-egos, as if Hank, Bruce and the boys were moonlighting as darker, less clean-cut, slightly more evil versions of themselves…

Which may be a fitting description, as the two men playing on this record – Jet Harris and Tony Meehan – were (dun dun dun!) ex-Shadows. Harris, who we’ve heard playing bass on all but one Shadows chart-topper, had left the group in 1962 because of his drinking habits. Meehan, he of drum solo fame, had left a few months before that to go into producing. Thus, in the space of a few weeks we’ve had The Shadows supporting Cliff at #1 with ‘The Next Time / Bachelor Boy’, then going it alone with ‘Dance On!’, and now two former band members taking their turn at the top. Utter Shadows domination of the UK charts!

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I’m not sure if Harris and Meehan were on good terms with the other band members after their departures, but I do like the image of the pair celebrating their revenge in knocking their former band off the top of the charts. Interestingly (perhaps…) is the fact that Meehan left in October 1961, when ‘Kon-Tiki’ was at #1, and Harris left in April ’62, when ‘Wonderful Land’ was in the middle of its run at the top. Going out on a high, I suppose. The pair never re-joined The Shadows; but did occasionally collaborate during the eighties and nineties. Meehan died in 2005, Harris in 2011.

If we were to make this into a contest – Shadows Vs Ex-Shadows – then the latter win, hands down. ‘Diamonds’ is a clearly superior record to ‘Dance On!’. But… Harris and Meehan’s solo careers were short lived; almost at a one-hit-wonder level. While The Shadows are one of the most successful British groups of all time. ‘Diamonds’, though, stays with you: that riff and those horns running through your head long after the record has stopped.

Two interesting tit-bits before I finish. In 1962, Tony Meehan had the chance to sign The Beatles for Decca Records. He turned them down… And, the rhythm guitar on ‘Diamonds’ was played by one Jimmy Page, in one of his first session musician, pre-Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin gigs. Which is as close as one of the most famous guitarists in the history of rock ‘n’ roll will ever get to a #1 single!

145. ‘Dance On!’, by The Shadows

I might have suggested in my last post that Cliff and The Shadows utterly dominating the early months of 1963 would be a bad thing. I feel I spoke in haste; and would like to take it back. Especially when I see that The Shadows only have a handful of #1s left to come. We’ll be missing them soon enough.

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Dance On!, by The Shadows (their 10th of twelve #1s)

1 week, from 24th – 31st January 1963

Besides – this is a significant moment in British chart history. Fresh from accompanying Cliff on ‘The Next Time’ and ‘Bachelor Boy’, The Shadows now grab a week at the summit for themselves. Not content with being the first act to replace themselves at #1 – back when ‘Apache’ took over from ‘Please Don’t Tease’ – they’ve only gone and done it again!

And unlike their most recent releases, there’s neither a piano nor any strings in sight. It’s just the guitars, the bass and the drums – four boys having a tight little boogie. It’s unmistakably a Shadows record – you’d know as much when Hank Marvin’s lead guitar comes in on ten seconds. I like the bass here, and the way the main riff is drenched in echo. Plus the false endings, where the guitar crunches back to life like a motorbike revving, are cool.

These things aside, though, it is a bit of a throwaway disc. Nice enough, but you’ve pretty much forgotten how it went five seconds after it ends. It’s The Shadows at their most Russ Conway-ish: a decent melody in search of a purpose. Even the name of the record – ‘Dance On!’ – is pretty basic compared to the ‘Boy’s Own’ adventures conjured up by their earlier #1s: ‘Apache’ and ‘Kon-Tiki’They sounded as if they wanted to tell a story; this just wants you to shake your hips.

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Which, I suppose, is a fundamental aspect of pop music. That’s what it all boils down to at the end of the day: shaking your hips. And you never get the feeling that this record is trying to be anything more than something you can dance (on!) to. Which makes it kind of hard to write about…

There you have it, then. The Shadows follow Elvis in hitting a double-figured amount of chart-topping discs. Hurrah! And, if you thought them replacing themselves at the top for the second time was an impressive act of chart dominance, you’ll never believe who is about to cut short the reign of ‘Dance On!’ at the top …

144. ‘The Next Time’ / ‘Bachelor Boy’, by Cliff Richard & The Shadows

As in 1962, the first number one of 1963 is by Cliff and his gang. New year; new Cliff? Well, kind of. His sound is changing… For the worse, mostly.

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The Next Time / Bachelor Boy, by Cliff Richard (his 6th of fourteen #1s) and The Shadows (their 9th of twelve #1s)

3 weeks, from 3rd – 24th January 1963

The first thing I noticed after pressing play on ‘The Next Time’ was that there’s an awful lot of piano. Previously, no matter how bland and soppy Cliff got – and he’s been plenty bland and soppy in his five previous chart-toppers – they were all guitar-led tracks. The Shadows are here, apparently, but quite why they were deemed necessary is beyond me. If I were Hank Marvin I wouldn’t have bothered getting out of bed for this one.

Away from the instruments, Cliff is properly crooning. They say I’ll love again someday, A true love will come my way, The ne-e-e-ext time… But after you there’ll never be a next time, Fo-o-o-or me… The song unravels at a snail’s pace, the verses and chorus blending together in a soggy mush. Lord, this is dull. It sounds like something Cliff should have been releasing in his forties; not when he was twenty-two!

There are lots of recurring themes here. It isn’t the first time that The Shadows have had their name on a disc to which their contribution was minimal (see ‘Travellin’ Light’.) It isn’t the first time that Cliff – the man who just three years ago was being hailed as Britain’s great rock ‘n’ roll hope – has released bland, saccharine crap (see ‘I Love You’.) But the more it happens the less I find I have the patience to listen to it.

By the time Cliff’s gone all nineties Hugh Grant, mumbling that he’s Still so very much in love… I’m over it. Grow some balls, Clifford. I can’t think of many previous #1s that were so lacking in oomph, so in need of a kick up the backside.

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Can the flip-side of this double-‘A’ redeem it? Well, straight away I’m getting strong whiffs of ‘Whatever Will Be Will Be’, both in the lilting rhythm and in the lyrics. When I was young, My father said, ‘Son I have something to say…’ And what he told me, I’ll never forget, Until my dying day… What is it that his dad imparts, in this testosterone-fuelled ‘Que Sera Sera?’ Well… Son you are a bachelor boy, And that’s the way to stay, Son you be a bachelor boy, Until your dying day…

Why his father is so anti-marriage is not explored, which is a shame, but Cliff wastes no time in putting Pop’s wise words into action. When I was sixteen, I fell in love, With a girl as sweet as can be, But I remembered just in time, What my daddy said to me… There’s no suggestion that he is staying unattached for any kind of racy, sow-my-wild-oats kind of reasons. No, not our saintly Cliff. He concedes, grudgingly, that he probably will fall in love eventually; though he doesn’t sound thrilled at the prospect. Until then though he’s Happy to be a bachelor boy… so on and so forth.

It’s better than ‘The Next Time’, but that’s a very low bar to get over. It’s faster paced, and at two minutes doesn’t outstay its welcome. I suppose this song would have been forgotten completely in the canon of British pop, even in the canon of Cliff, if it hadn’t become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy: Sir Cliff has famously never married. Never even had a serious girlfriend, it seems. Which means that every time the ‘Daily Mail’ runs a story about Cliff and one of his female friends they will, without fail and to this very day, though he’s pushing eighty, trot out the ‘Bachelor Boy’ headlines. I bet he wishes he’d never recorded the bloody song.

Of course, there have always been rumours that Cliff is something of a ‘confirmed bachelor’, ‘not the marrying kind’, a ‘friend of you-know-who’ if you know what I mean, nudge, nudge… And people always argue that, in these enlightened times, he should just come out with it. But when you’ve been courting the evangelical Christian market for decades, and risk losing the only people that still buy your records in doing so… Anyway, all this is neither here nor there. The fact that I’ve started blethering on about this rather than the chart-topping record in question is a sign that I should wrap up.

Both ‘The Next Time’ and ‘Bachelor Boy’ featured on the soundtrack to ‘Summer Holiday’ – Cliff’s latest box-office smash (the 2nd biggest movie of 1963). And I hope you’re ready for more from Cliff and more from The Shadows, because they are going to utterly dominate the first three months of this year. Yay….

143. ‘Return to Sender’ by Elvis Presley

In which Elvis does something unprecedented and – to this very day – unmatched. Two years, eight number ones singles. Four in 1961. Four in 1962. Of the 110 chart-weeks that have passed since he returned from his army-enforced hiatus, Elvis has been at #1 for forty-one of them… The record with which The King sealed this feat…?

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Return to Sender, by Elvis Presley (his 13th of twenty-one #1s)

3 weeks, from 13th December 1962 – 3rd January 1963

…is utter, utter cheese. Elvis wrote a letter to a girl; it came back. Return to sender, Address unknown, No such number, No such zone… They had a quarrel – a lover’s spat – and no matter how much he apologises his girl ain’t having it. That’s about it.

It’s Elvis at his most unimaginative: an early to mid-sixties movie soundtrack that got to the top of the chart by default just because it had the name ‘Elvis Presley’ on the cover. But… I love this song. Have done for years. Back when I first got my much-mentioned Elvis ‘Best Of’ as a teenager this was one of the songs I would skip to first. At the time I even went so far as to list it as my favourite Elvis song… ever. I know, I know, I was young and have since seen the error of my youthful ways. It’s not my favourite Elvis song, honest. And it’s nowhere near being his best song. But it has a charm to it, a swing and a swagger to it, that is hard to deny.

For example, I love it when the backing singers – the Jordanaires – pop up with their baritone The writing on it… before every chorus. I love it when Elvis launches into the final verse, as if impatient for it to begin: This time I’m gonna take it myself, And put it right in her ha-and… And I love the line I write I’m sorry but my letter keeps coming back… for the rasp in Elvis’s voice that went missing circa-1959, and for the fact that to someone from Scotland it sounds like he’s saying ‘Aye right, I’m sorry…’ (And therefore isn’t sorry in the slightest.)

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At the very least, Elvis sounds more alive during this than he did in his last two chart toppers – the dull ‘Good Luck Charm’ and the slightly better ‘She’s Not You’. There’s a hiccup in his voice and a wink in his eye that suggest he might even be enjoying himself here. It’s a solid pop song – very jaunty without being irritating. It sounds a bit like a mellower version of a Neil Sedaka hit. ‘Calendar Girl’, maybe.

However, this doesn’t mean that ‘Return to Sender’ is signalling an upturn in Elvis’s career. As I mentioned, this was yet another movie soundtrack tie-in – this time from ‘Girls! Girls! Girls!’, which currently holds a 40% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (Sample lyric from the title track: Big and brassy, Small and sassy, Just give me one of each kind…) In fact, you could say that this hit marks the end of Elvis’s ‘Imperial Phase’. People were getting tired of the same sub-standard pop, and a star name can only get you so far – even when that star name is The One-And-Only Elvis Presley. Amazingly, after this, Elvis will score just three more UK number one singles in his lifetime!

There we have it, then. It’s weird to think that from now on every fifth number-one I write about won’t be by The King. But I’ll cope. While it’s undeniably impressive to have had four chart-toppers a year, two years in a row; when that run includes tracks like ‘Wooden Heart’, ‘Rock-a-Hula Baby’ and ‘Good Luck Charm’ then some of the shine is inevitably lost…

142. ‘Lovesick Blues’, by Frank Ifield

It had been a while since I arrived at a record about which I know nothing. Zilch. Nada. Until Frank Ifield came along. I should relish these moments of blissful ignorance. They are becoming rarer and rarer the further we move into the rock age…

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Lovesick Blues, by Frank Ifield (his 2nd of four #1s)

5 weeks, from 8th November – 13th December 1962

Upon pressing play, however, and unleashing this next #1, I find myself wishing for a quick return to those halcyon times, just two minutes back, when I had never heard this song.

‘Lovesick Blues’ could be a decent song. It’s fun, it’s up-tempo. It’s got a strong hook and a funky trumpet. It’s a record with an old-world, showtune charm (it was originally written in 1922) and a super-sixties rhythm section. It’s cheesy, sure, but that’s OK. I can imagine it as the theme to a silly sitcom, or an Austin Powers movie. I could live very easily with this as a huge chart-topping record; if it weren’t for one very big problem…

The yodelling. Oh God, the yodelling. In my post on Ifield’s first number one – ‘I Remember You’ – I was surprised to find him labelled as a ‘yodeller’. He doesn’t yodel that much, I thought. One listen of ‘Lovesick Blues’, however, and my doubts are dispelled. Frank Ifield = Yodeller.

A Brief History of Yodelling. Originally used by Alpine herders calling to their cattle, or to send messages from one village to another, yodelling was gradually incorporated into traditional songs and stage shows. And then, for some reason, it crossed the Atlantic and made it into country music. We’ve had yodelling before in this countdown – without me even noticing it! – thanks to Slim Whitman in 1955. Once you start looking, the breadth and depth of yodelling around the world is quite terrifying. Switzerland is where it started, obviously, but it can also be found in the folk music of Romania, Scandinavia, Georgia, Central Africa and Hawaii… Hank Williams was a good yodeller. As was, believe it or not, Bill Haley (he gave it up when he jumped on the rock ‘n’ roll bandwagon.) The mind boggles.

I want, as I usually do in these posts, to quote some lyrics from this song, to explore some of the themes that are present etc. and so on. But to be honest, I can’t really focus on the words. Ifield rattles through the song at breakneck speed, adding twelve notes to a word when just one would do. It’s a song, I believe, about feeling blue when lovesick.

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He’s a good singer, is Frank Ifield. He’s an excellent yodeller, if that’s your kinda thing. But when he hits that drawn-out final note… Oh boy. In the interests of fairness, I gave the Hank Williams version of ‘Lovesick Blues’ a go. But nope, I wasn’t feeling it. Little Richard recorded a version, and I love me some Little Richard, but, again, it ain’t doing nothing for me. Maybe the song’s just cursed… Plus, the ‘B’-side to ‘Lovesick Blues’ was a ditty titled ‘She Taught Me How to Yodel.’ I’ve put in a link, but I would urge you to only click on it if you are in a sound-proofed room with hard liquor to hand.

There’s clearly a reason why this is a very forgotten chart-topper; why this was the first #1 in a long time that I’d never heard before. I bet nobody’s listened to this for years… And for it to follow on from the sublime ‘Telstar’!? Talk about coming back to earth with a bump. You can still see the crater…

‘Lovesick Blues’ does, though, mark an important milestone in British chart history. Its second week at the top coincided with the chart’s 10 year anniversary. From ‘Here in My Heart’ to now. One decade; 142 chart-topping discs. That’s an average of one #1 every twenty-six days. From pre-rock, to rock ‘n’ roll, to post rock ‘n’ roll, to yodelling… If I continue at this rate I’ll reach the 1970s by next summer, the 1980s by 2022, the 1990s hopefully before the 2030s… Still with me…?

141. ‘Telstar’, by The Tornados

To fully appreciate this next #1, I want you to go back and listen to the previous chart-topper, Elvis’s ‘She’s Not You’. Off you go. Done? Good. Because we need to make sure we know exactly where we are in October 1962. We’re in a bit of a post rock ‘n’ roll slump, with lots of middling pop and quirky novelties rather than an easily definable ‘Sound of ‘62’. And after that mediocre piece of Elvis-by-numbers, this song’s going to Blow. Your. Mind.

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Telstar, by The Tornados (their 1st and only #1)

5 weeks, from 4th October – 8th November 1962

The intro alone to ‘Telstar’ has enough innovative weirdness for there to have been papers written and conferences held on it. It’s an intro that sets a scene. I imagine a dust track at night in the Nebraskan desert. What sounds like a car coming to a stop. A weird humming and hissing. Ominous music that grows nearer and nearer. Pure B-movie soundtrack brilliance. It sounds bizarre listening to it from the comfort of 2019. It must have freaked people the hell out when they first heard it in 1962.

‘Telstar’ is an instrumental, one with a pretty simple and fairly repetitive melody. I’m no musician, but I’m guessing that, looking at the music written down on paper, it’s a tune that The Shadows – the pre-eminent instrumental group of the age – could have knocked out in their sleep. But, if you study ‘Telstar’ simply as notes on a page then you are missing everything else that makes this record amazing.

This is The Shadows recast as aliens. This is The Shadows playing as the Cantina band from Star Wars. There ain’t no guitar or drums here. Or, at least, there might be; but they’re way off in the background. This is an electronic record. A fully electronic record drenched in ethereal echo and lots of effects. This is what was hinted at in the Musitron on Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’ and in the ghostly effects on ‘Johnny Remember Me’, come to full fruition.

It’s a record that tells a story. One of my major complaints whenever an instrumental number one comes along is that, without lyrics, they often struggle to be anything more than a melody looking for a home. There are exceptions to this rule, of course; and none bigger than ‘Telstar’. When the key-change comes and the backing singers join in with the tune you really can picture that car on the dust track in Nebraska, a girl clinging to her boyfriend’s arm, a huge light opening up in the sky above, ready to beam them away…

It’s also a record that is, perhaps more than any other #1 we’ve covered so far, a very specific product of its time. The Telstar Communications Satellite was a real satellite, launched four months before this disc hit the top spot. Barely a year before that, Yuri Gagarin had become the first man in orbit. The space-race had lift-off (pardon the pun) and this record sounds as if it comes from a distant galaxy compared to Elvis, Frank Ifield et al. It was also during ‘Telstar’s five weeks at the top that the world held its breath over the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I can’t think of a better song to put on the gramophone ahead of a nuclear Armageddon.

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I mentioned ‘Johnny Remember Me’ and, as many will already know, both it and ‘Telstar’ were products of the bizarrely brilliant mind of producer Joe Meek. But whereas ‘Johnny…’ was the sound of Meek flexing his creative muscles; this disc is his masterpiece. He has one more chart-topper to come so we’ll save the main bio for then (though I could reserve a whole blog post, nay a full-on book, for an overview of his brilliant, troubled and ultimately tragic life.)

The Tornados, on the other hand, only ever had this moment at the top. I have to admit that in doing my research for this post I’ve fallen down something of a Tornados rabbit-hole… They were perhaps better known as the backing band to Billy Fury – an early British rock ‘n’ roller, a cooler version of Cliff, if you will, who never quite made it to the top of the charts. They were also a vehicle for Joe Meek’s experimental flights of fancy, and released a bunch of innovative, funny and outright bizarre records throughout the early to mid-1960s. Check out, for example, ‘Do You Come Here Often?’ – the B-side to their final ever single – in which two men full-on flirt over a loopy lounge-jazz melody. It was released in 1966, when ‘that sort of thing’ was still very much illegal…

However, nothing else they ever recorded came close to matching the success of ‘Telstar’. Not only was it a huge hit in the UK; it was the first ever US #1 by a British group – beating a certain foursome from Liverpool by just over a year. You can hear its influence in, say, prog rock, the electronic acts of the late ‘70s and ‘80s, and in the ‘Dr. Who’ theme. Muse scored a Top 10 hit in 2006 with ‘Knights of Cydonia’, a song which was, how to put this, lovingly influenced by ‘Telstar’. (Muse frontman, Matt Bellamy’s father was actually the guitarist in… wait for it… The Tornados! How ‘bout dat.)

Anyway… Glancing down my list of upcoming chart-toppers, I’m under no allusions that this has been anything other than a wonderfully freak occurrence, rather than a shift in the British musical landscape. But what a freak occurrence. That this song was the 141st UK #1 single should be celebrated long and loud. Press play once more and imagine that it’s you in that car on that dusty desert road. Beam me up…!

140. ‘She’s Not You’, by Elvis Presley

Ladies and Gentlemen! For the eighth time in under two years! It’s… Oh, I can’t be arsed. Not really. Look – Elvis is #1. Again.

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She’s Not You, by Elvis Presley (his 12th of twenty-one #1s)

3 weeks, from 13th September – 4th October 1962

In my post on his last chart-topper – the soporific ‘Good Luck Charm’ – I crafted a pretty nifty (if I do say so myself) metaphor in which Elvis’s career equalled a long-haul flight. We were five hours in, meal-trays cleared, lights dimmed etc. etc. Very smooth sailing. And if you were hoping for a bit of turbulence with this latest record then you will be left disappointed. ‘She’s Not You’ is basically ‘Good Luck Charm’ Pt. II. Same tempo, same half-asleep Elvis. In fact, I’m pretty sure that both songs use the very same backing track (**stokes chin thoughtfully**)

Her hair is soft, And her eyes are oh so blue… She’s all the things a girl should be, But she’s not you… Elvis has a new girl, but still loves the old girl. Sigh. She knows just how to make me laugh when I feel blue… She’s everything a man could want, But she’s not you…

I must admit that, despite this song’s utter basic-ness and the fact that clearly very little effort went into the writing or the recording of it, I do like it. I always have liked it, ever since I got that Elvis Greatest Hits collection way back when. There are the bumbabumbabumbabums for a start, and the piano solo that always makes me imagine a bumblebee hovering over a flower. And it has a bit of a swing to it, most notable in the bridge, when Elvis slurs that line: And when we’re dancing, It almost feels the same… (For years I thought it was It’s so confusing…) There’s something cool, really, about auto-pilot Elvis. About Elvis not even trying, yet still dragging songs like this to the top of the charts just because he was Elvis Fucking Presley.

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Interestingly, this is the first time since the 1950s that Elvis has hit the top with two similar sounding discs. Last year, he was veering from opera to rockabilly to lederhosen. Maybe, then, the similarities between ‘Good Luck Charm’ and ‘She’s Not You’ – his eleventh and twelfth UK #1 singles – say it all about his mid-career malaise. And it’s needless to say that there is absolutely no rock ‘n’ roll to be found here. This song has had the rock sucked right out of it. This is pure, 100% middle of the road pop.

As I find in every post I write about Elvis these days, I’m out of things to say pretty quickly. We all know he’ll be along again soon, so let’s save it for whenever we see him next. I do want to note, however, just how quickly we are racing through 1962. ’61 took us on a variety of detours, down all sorts of one-week bye-ways, but ’62 has been marked by big records spending huge chunks of time at the top. Only twelve songs will make #1 in this year, the fourth lowest total in chart history (after 1954, 1992 and 2016, fact fans.) After just three more chart-toppers we will be in 1963: the official start of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ and modern pop music as we know it… Hold on, people. It’s coming.

139. ‘I Remember You’, by Frank Ifield

For the 3rd post in a row, we have somebody new at the top of the charts. Mr. Frank Ifield is going to burn very brightly, and very briefly, across British pop in 1962-63 and he kicks things off here with a big ol’ seven-week stay at #1.

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I Remember You, by Frank Ifield (his 1st of four #1s)

7 weeks, from 26th July – 13th September 1962

Let’s get down to business, then. What is this new and rather sudden singing phenomenon all about? On first listen… I’m not sure. There’s a nice, rolling C&W rhythm, and a lot of harmonica. This is a record that is harmonica-heavy. I remember you-oooh… You’re the one who made my dreams come true, A few, Kisses ago…

He’s got a distinctive voice, does Frank Ifield. It’s a good voice; but not what I’d call a particularly enjoyable voice. He has a tendency to launch into extremely high notes at the end of each line, for a start. Then there’s the way he takes the phrase out of the blue, and adds about eight extra syllables onto the end. Wiki describes Ifield as a ‘singer and guitarist who often incorporated yodelling’, but I wouldn’t describe what he’s doing here as ‘yodelling’ exactly. It’s more that he’s just fannying about when he should be getting on with singing the song.

Singing style aside, I’m not terribly sure what this song is about, either. He ‘remembers’ a girl, but that’s because he just kissed her. When my life is through, And the angels ask me, To recall, The thrill of them all… That’s a strange thing to think, as you kiss the love of your life – that you’ll remember it on your deathbed. Or is it extremely romantic? Kind of? Contrast these very lightweight lyrics with those of Ray Charles in the previous chart-topper. Big difference.

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If you’re getting the feeling that I’m not terribly into this record, then you’d be right. This is the first time I’ve ever heard it and, to be honest, it’s average. Even the music is a weird kind of Americana: a British interpretation of Country & Western (Ifield was British-Australian). You can imagine him on a music-hall stage, perched on a wooden fence, chewing a bit of straw. Howdy pardner…! But – and this might just be me – I’m also getting slight Merseybeat vibes. Maybe it’s the way his sentences run on – You’re the one who said I love you too, Yes I do, Didn’t you know…. – or maybe it’s the chord progression. The harmonica ‘riff’ which I complained about at the start kind of reminds me of ‘Please Please Me’ by The Beatles. The Merseybeat explosion is less than a year off, and the bands that would lead it were already around and making music, and so perhaps it’s not so far-fetched to be hearing the sounds already creeping through.

The end of ‘I Remember You’ sounds pretty cheesy and cheap, and I, personally, was glad that we got there in just over two minutes. If ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ was a Champions League kind of record; then this is solidly League One. The Scunthorpe United of chart-topping singles. It’s a cover of an old forties standard – which means that the blame can’t be heaped wholly at Frank Ifield’s door and that the people of 1962 would perhaps have already known the song, giving it a head start in its bid for the top. Yet, I remain unconvinced that this is what the charts needed. And why on earth it stayed at #1 for seven weeks, selling over a million copies in the process, is a real mystery. Maybe it shouldn’t be, though: bland and accessible sells – always has, always will.

I’ll hold off on any Frank Ifield biography for now – this is just the beginning of a big twelve months for him, and we’ll be hearing a lot more from him very, very soon. For now, let’s leave the bio at him being (half) Australian, and thus the first in a very long line of Aussie chart-toppers. To be at the head of a list that contains Kylie, The Seekers, Olivia Newton-John and Peter Andre is a proud achievement indeed…