116. ‘Blue Moon’, by The Marcels

I really want to try to transcribe the intro to this latest chart-topper – what an intro, by the way – but am unsure that I will be at all able… Here goes…

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Blue Moon, by The Marcels (their 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 4th – 18th May 1961

Bombombombombombababombabbomababamdadangeedongdangdingydongydang… There, that’s it. Give or take a couple of boms. Blue moon…! It’s certainly an intro with some life about it. A whole song, actually, that is bursting with a joie de vivre; with both vim and vigour. A real palate cleanser after *shudder* ‘Wooden Heart’. The bombombom intro-slash-refrain pops up over and over, while other voices, from dog-whistle high to comically low, shrill and soft, husky and clear, all intertwine and frolic around one another.

Seriously – this record, a set of drums and a bass-line aside, is all voice. Five voices in total, but you’d be forgiven for thinking there were more. It’s a work of art, I’d go as far to say, the manner in which these voices flirt and slide, the way in which they provide the riff and the rhythm section, as well as the actual lyrics. Lyrics that I’d guess you know quite well…

Blue moon, You saw me standing alone, Without a dream in my heart, Without a love of my own… Quite a sad song to be given such a cheery interpretation, you might think… Blue moon, You knew just what I was there for, You heard me saying a prayer for, Someone I really could care for… The singer wishes upon a blue moon (which is an actual thing, apparently – when there are two full moons in a calendar month the second is ‘blue’, though not literally) and lo! A lover appears before him… Blue moon, Now I’m no longer alone, Without a dream in my heart…

The lyrics are, in truth, pretty banal; but you don’t come to this song – to this version of ‘Blue Moon’ – for the lyrics. You come for the energy, the fizz and pop: the crazy fusion of doo-wop and barbershop. The very end of the song, where the highest note meets the final, lowest note – a doleful, drawn out Bluuuuuueeee Moon – brilliantly sums it all up. This is a mad record. And it’s only right that this song itself got to number one at least once. It’s a standard, recorded by everyone from Sinatra to Billie Holiday, Elvis to Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart to Bing Crosby, since its creation in 1934. Most of those artists took a slow an’ mournful approach to ‘Blue Moon’; but The Marcels went crazy and were rewarded with a huge, international, million-selling, rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame entering hit, and probably the definitive version of the song.

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“Who were The Marcels?” I hear you cry. They were a mixed-race (mixed-race I say! The first group of their kind to top the charts!) doo-wop group from Pennsylvania whose star burned brightly – 1961 was their year – but briefly. They split a couple of years later and didn’t have very many follow-up hits. But, as I’ve said before and I’ll say again, if you’re going to be remembered for just one song, make it a good one.

I first became aware of this song as a track on the ‘Don’t Stop – Doo-Wop!’ CD I picked up 2nd hand years ago, and that I’ve made heavy mention of already in this countdown – see the posts on ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love?’ and ‘What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?’. Alas, I think this might be the final time I get to mention that album, as doo-wop #1s are looking rather thin on the ground from this point on. It’s not on Spotify, or YouTube, but if you ever see it hanging around a bargain bin it’s well worth picking up for the oh-so-nineties cover-art alone…

112. ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’, by Elvis Presley

What is Elvis’s most famous ballad? If you were an Elvis impersonator looking to slow things down on stage, to which song would you turn? I’d say either ‘Love Me Tender’, ‘Always on My Mind’, ‘The Wonder of You’, or, perhaps most likely, this.

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Are You Lonesome Tonight?, by Elvis Presley (his 6th of twenty-one #1s)

4 weeks, from 26th January – 23rd February 1961

Are you lonesome tonight, Do you miss me tonight, Are you sorry, We drifted, Apart? This is a country-tinged record – I mean, ‘lonesome’, come on! – during which you can imagine Elvis sat on a hay-bale, gently strumming, as the embers of the evening’s fire grow weak. It’s also perhaps the most minimalist #1 yet: no drums, no bass – just a guitar, some mellow backing vocals from The Jordanaires, and Mr. Presley.

I feel that Elvis, throughout much of his career, struggled to keep things subtle. Just look at those jumpsuits for a start… He had some really beautiful, low-key moments early on (his version of ‘Blue Moon’, for a start) but come his post-army days he was becoming ever more a fan of the semi-operatic, belt-em-out at full volume type hits (see ‘It’s Now or Never’). But he really does hold back here, purring the lines like a lovesick cat. Every so often he adds a bit of oomph – shall I come back… again? – but he quickly reigns it in. And this gentle approach really teases out the emotion in each line. I’ve always loved the Do the chairs in your parlour, Seem empty, And bare? Do you gaze at your doorstep, And picture me there? line. It’s kinda deep – a step above your usual rock ‘n’ roll love song.

And then… Oh my. Elvis talks. I wonder if… You’re lonesome tonight… Elvis couldn’t half talk. I make this only the second #1 to have featured a spoken-word section, after Pat Boone’s ‘I’ll Be Home’. And this isn’t just a couple of lines we’re talking about here. In a three minute record, Elvis talks for well over a minute of it. That’s more than a third of the song, people! Only The King could have gotten away with it. He ‘quotes’ Shakespeare, and describes a love in three acts… It’s amazing, and it peaks when his voice goes all serious, like a disappointed teacher: Honey, You lied when you said you loved me… But no matter how upset he is, he just can’t get over this woman. If you won’t come back to me, Then they can bring the curtain down…

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I struggle to believe that someone like Elvis had to spend many lonesome nights over the course of his life, without specifically choosing to; but he sells it here. He sounds heartbroken and vulnerable. Legend has it that he recorded this track at 4am, alone in the studio with all the lights out. And you can believe it, you really can. Contrast ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ with Cliff’s most recent chart-topper ‘I Love You’ – another simple-as little love song. But where that came off as cheesy and trite, this one comes off as timeless, and will actually make your spine tingle if you let it. This record is all about Elvis: The Voice. And that’s true star quality. Sorry Cliff.

‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’ has a history that goes way beyond the 1960s, and beyond Elvis. Add this to ‘Who’s Sorry Now’, ‘It’s All in the Game’, ‘Mack the Knife’ and countless other songs from earlier in this countdown, as being originally written and recorded decades before. In this case it dates from 1926. Though – and I’m being kind here – Elvis’s version makes those from the twenties sound pretty darn lightweight. BUT. If you think I’m finally, six number ones into his UK chart career, giving The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll the credit that he deserves then to you I say this: ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ may be his best chart-topper so far (yes, I’m going there) but his next #1, not too long from now, will not be ‘lonesome’. Oh no. It will be genuinely loathsome.

100. ‘Do You Mind’, by Anthony Newley

100 not out! A little cricket reference for you there. And I’d wager that Mr. A. Newley – the singer involved in this particular milestone – was partial to a spot of the old leather-on-willow back in his prime. Cos he’s posh, you see. Or rather, he sounds posh – and that’s half the battle, really. Anyway… He would like to ask, if it isn’t terribly impertinent of him, another question. Fresh from asking ‘Why?’, he’s now wondering ‘Do You Mind?’

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Do You Mind, by Anthony Newley (his 2nd of two #1s)

1 week, from 28th April – 5th May 1960

He loves a polite question, does our Anthony. The title of this latest chart-topping record could be anything but polite – it conjures up, in my mind at least, images of a fearsome old lady grabbing the boy who’s just tried to push ahead of her in a queue: ‘Young man! Do you mind!?’. And yet, when you listen to the words, you realise that this is a song about being nothing but a perfect gentleman.

It begins with some finger snappin’, and a natty little bass line. If I say I love you… Do you mind? Make an idol of you… Do you mind? If I shower you with kisses, If I tell you honey this is, How I picture heaven… Do you mind? ‘I say, dearest, would it be OK if I begin utterly adoring you? Are you sure? Thanks ever so…’ Works a charm every time. He’s a clever rogue is Anthony Newley. Last time I pictured him as a sort of dandy-ish Bertie Wooster, posing soppy questions to his girl – the answer to which was always ‘Why? Because I love you.’ Here I’m picturing him as a sort of proto-Hugh Grant, bumbling his way into women’s hearts with his achingly proper advances.

As with ‘Why’, this is a fluffy little record of very little consequence. But I like it more than its predecessor. It’s got someone snapping their fingers, for a start. Plus there’s a sort of jazzy, music hall swing to the lines: I wanna whisper, whisper sweet nothings in your ear… Then there’s the oh-so-1960, tinny rock ‘n’ roll guitar which begins with the odd jab between lines, before growing in confidence and adding some cool little licks along the way. And I love the ending. Click click.

I also like Newley’s voice here more than I did during his first chart-topper: it’s not quite as reedy or as camp. He’s trying to add a spot of swagger by dropping his aitches – note the ‘love ya’ and the ‘ba-by’ in the closing bridge – but he isn’t really fooling anyone. I did my usual research, as this is the last time we’ll be hearing from Mr. Newley, and it turns out that he was a big vocal inspiration for none other than… David Bowie. Which makes complete sense, and which means you will forever picture a young Ziggy Stardust whenever you next hear ‘Do You Mind.’

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Which probably won’t be any time soon, though, as Anthony Newley and his hits seem to have been erased from the public conscience. He lived a full life nonetheless: four marriages (that loveable toff schtick must have worked!), one of which was to Joan Collins – a notch in anyone’s bedpost! He also – and this makes his disappearance from the rock and pop canon seem very strange – wrote Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ (!) and Shirley Bassey’s ‘Goldfinger’ (!!) As well as all that – and this belatedly gains him a place in my childhood heroes Hall of Fame – he also wrote the soundtrack to ‘Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory’, i.e. the one with Gene Wilder, i.e. the film I watched on VHS at least once a month between the ages of seven and nine.

Also of note here is the fact that this track is the latest in a growing list of quick-fire doubles at the top of the charts. In the past two years Connie Francis, Russ Conway, Bobby Darin, Adam Faith, Cliff Richard and now Anthony Newley have all hit the top spot twice with a gap of only two or three months in between. I’ve mentioned the concept of a shadow #1 before – a follow-up release that does well thanks to the resonant glow from an earlier hit – but it’s really been noticeable these past months. And quite often the ‘lesser’ hit has been better, to my ears, than the bigger one… Anyway, the next #1 is also a ‘sophomore’ number one, and – I don’t usually do previews but I’m indulging myself here – a complete and utter CLASSIC.

97. ‘Poor Me’, by Adam Faith

Time for another quickie with Adam Faith? Oo-er, that came out wrong. What I mean to say is that, for the second time in three months, Adam Faith has come and gone in less than two minutes. (That didn’t sound much better…)

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Poor Me, by Adam Faith (his 2nd of two #1s)

2 weeks, from 4th – 17th March 1960

His first chart-topper – ‘What Do You Want’ – clocked in at one minute thirty eight seconds; this one goes on for a much more leisurely one forty-six. Two #1s that take less time combined than many songs do on their own. And the similarities between the two don’t end there – ‘Poor Me’ rollicks along at the same tempo, and borrows the exact same lightly plucked strings (which were, lest we forget, nicked from Buddy Holly), as Faith’s first number one.

And yet… This is a different beast altogether. ‘What Do You Want’ was a standard pop song: a perky verse-verse-bridge kind of number. ‘Poor Me’ has a much darker edge to it. For a start there are the ghostly backing singers: AaaahAaaahAAAAAAhAaaaaah, their voices rising and falling like the soundtrack to a fairground’s haunted house. Then there are Faith’s vocals. He sounds grumpy, angry even, and he mumbles his way unwillingly through the opening lines. It’s a song about a lover cursing both his luck and his ex, a man wallowing in his misery. Sorry thoughts leaping around my head, It’s been heard and it’s been said that, You tried, To date another guy, Didn’t hide, Didn’t even try, Cheating me with lies again, Making me remember when… Brutal stuff, eh? No sugar-coating here! Poor me, indeed.

In fact, Faith is so pissed off that he may have been hitting the sauce in an effort to forget. I mentioned in my post on his previous #1 that his pronunciation was unique at the best of times; but here he’s also slurring his words like a man on day five of a three-day-bender. I had to check online to make sure I had the lyrics quoted above correctly (I did) and had to give in completely when it came to the bridge: I used to hold you baby, So tight, Each night, That’s right… Because that’s not what it sounds like on record (Try ‘I used to hold you by the, Soft hands…)

Come the end, Mr Faith has really given himself over to despair and is possibly reaching for the shotgun under the bed: Why oh why, Do voices say to me, Sit and cry, That this was meant to be, Love’s unkind and love’s untrue, Oh why did love pick out you, For me, For me, Wa-ha, Poor me, Poor me… Jeez. This is by far the mopiest, whiniest, most depressing record we have met on our countdown. We’ve had some heartbreak up to now; but nobody has wallowed quite as long or as deeply as Adam Faith here. The first Emo chart-topper, decades ahead of its time? Maybe I wouldn’t go that far; but it is a fascinating record. On first listen it sounds like a hastily knocked-together and derivative follow-up to a debut #1; but repeated listens reveal it to be a much more complex and, dare I say, challenging song than ‘What Do You Want’.

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And that’s that as far as Adam Faith’s chart-topping career goes. By the mid-60s he had moved into television work and made a good career out of it – acting steadily until his death in 2003. According to Wiki – and God I really hope this is true – his final words, uttered on his deathbed following a heart-attack, were: “Channel 5 is shit, isn’t it? Christ, the crap they put on there. It’s a waste of space.” As final words go they are up there with the very best, alongside “Kiss me, Hardy” and Oscar Wilde’s quip about the wallpaper, and anyone who has spent any time watching British television will surely agree with the sentiment.

The very eagle-eyed among you will perhaps also have noticed that, while ‘Poor Me’ had a fortnight in the top-spot, if you add up the days between the 4th and the 17th March you get…thirteen. Unlucky for some. There’s a simple enough explanation: on 10th March the ‘official’ chart switched from the NME to Record Retailer, which was published one day earlier, and so Adam Faith lost twenty-four hours at the top. Poor him.

91. ‘Mack the Knife’, by Bobby Darin

We kick off the next thirty #1s in the October of ’59 – four chart-toppers away from the 1960s! And this… This is a real palate cleanser after the cheesy numbers, the Cliffs and the Jerry Kellers, that immediately preceded it. This is something different.

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Mack the Knife, by Bobby Darin (his 2nd of two #1s)

2 weeks, from 16th – 30th October 1959

It begins with the softest of intros – a tickle of drum, a pluck of bass. Oh the shark, babe, Has such teeth, dear, And it shows them, Pearly white… Bobby Darin is holding back, almost sneaking the lyrics out when we’re not looking. Just a jack-knife, Has ol’ MacHeath, babe, And he keeps it, Out of sight…

The best thing about this song – and there are many great things about this song – is that the lyrics slowly unfold. You are not quite sure what it is that you are listening to, what on earth this record is about, on first listen. The title doesn’t give anything away for a start. Then the first verse alludes to ‘scarlet billows’ and ‘traces of red’. All very mysterious…

Just to make sure, then, that we’re all on the same page – this is a song, a number one selling hit no less, about a hitman. A man, MacHeath, who does murders and stuff. A proper wrong ‘un. The following verses – and this record is nothing but verses, each one ramping up the tempo both in terms of the sound and the sinister lyrics – make it clearer.

Now on the sidewalk, Sunny morning, Uh-huh, Lies a body, Just a-oozin’ life… And: There’s a tugboat, Down by the river don’t ya know, Where a cement bag’s, Just droopin’ down… We’ve got stabbings, and guys swimmin’ with the fishes. A chap that disappears not long after ‘drawin’ out all his hard-earned cash.’ And then there’s the ladies: Jenny Diver, Miss Lotte Lenya and ol’ Lucy Brown. Whether they’re MacHeath’s lovers, or his victims, is left ambiguous.

And ambiguous is a good word with which to describe this latest #1. Superficially, it’s a perky swing number with a quiet start and a loud finish. In recent years, thanks to Robbie Williams and ‘Big Band Week’ on X-Factor, ‘Mack the Knife’ has been somewhat bland-ified. Yet if you sit down and actually listen to the lyrics… They’re dark, man. How great is it, after ‘Here Comes Summer’s saccharine mulch about ‘drive-in movies’ and ‘Joe’s Café’, and Craig Douglas’s paean to puppy love, to have a chart-topper that’s about a vicious murderer. I wonder how it got past the censors of the day? If the opacity of the lyrics, or the old-fashioned big-band swing, helped Darin get away with it.

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It’s a brilliant number one; but also a bizarre one. A song that begs the age-old question: How did this end up on top of the charts? If the success of Darin’s earlier #1 ‘Dream Lover’ led to this, then that’s yet another feather in the earlier song’s cap. Both songs showcase how good a singer Bobby Darin was – one a traditional pop song, the other a brassy swing number. I mean it as a compliment when I say it sounds as if it were recorded live.

‘Mack the Knife’ had a circuitous route to the top of the UK charts. It was written, in German, in 1928, for a musical called ‘Die Dreigroschenoper’. Catchy title. The show was then translated into English and performed as ‘The Threepenny Opera’ in 1933, then resurrected in 1954, and ‘Mack the Knife’ cherry-picked from it for a single by Louis Armstrong in ’56, before Bobby Darin recorded this definitive version two years later.

It ends with a bang, and probably the song’s most famous line: Look out ol’ Macky is back! Which not only draws this swingin’ little record to an end; but also the chart-topping career of Bobby Darin. Which is a shame, as he really was great. I’ve been digging into his back-catalogue since writing the post on ‘Dream Lover’, and would recommend that you give the frothy ‘Splish-Splash’, the cheeky ‘Multiplication’, and the karaoke-classic ‘Beyond the Sea’ a listen. In fact, just delve in and check it all out. That he topped the charts with two such different, but equally brilliant, records -when a lot of his contemporaries were treading the same path again and again – speaks volumes.

90. ‘Here Comes Summer’, by Jerry Keller

Number ninety! If this was Bingo we’d be top of the shop. And to celebrate this milestone – a record I’d never ever heard before.

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Here Comes Summer, by Jerry Keller (his 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 9th – 16th October 1959

I’ve mentioned this a couple of times now, but what was quite common back when I started this blog is now pretty rare. I know more and more of these songs as we push on through the first flushes of rock ‘n’ roll and into the canon of pop and rock. So it’s quite nice to come across a disc that I have truly never heard of. ‘Here Comes Summer’? Nope. Jerry Keller? Who’s he?

Well, I think he may be related to Cliff. Cliff’s long lost American cousin, perhaps? I take it all back – what I said in my last post, and before, about US singers being intrinsically cooler than their British counterparts. Because this is a twee little number.

First things first – I quite like the riff that underpins this song. Though I’m not sure it counts as a riff, more of a chug. It’s kind of a proto-Beach Boys, gentle surf-rock lilt. If that makes any sense. And towards the end an organ comes in for emphasis, which is pretty nice. The backing singers are very ‘pre-rock’, but Jerry Keller himself is very clean-cut rock ‘n’ roll. And beyond all that… we have the lyrics.

Here comes summer… do-do-do-do… School is out, Oh happy day… It’s the summer holidays, and Jerry couldn’t be happier. He’s got lots of plans: hanging out with his girl, hanging out with his buddies… We’ll go swimming every day, Oh let the sun shine bright, On my happy summer home…

What follows are lyrics about his flat-top (which I always thought was a type of open-top car – turns out it’s a short back and sides!), drive-in movies, (double features – more time to hold her tight!), sittin’ by the lake and meetin’ the gang at Joe’s Café. It is a song that drips images of milkshakes, preppy sweaters, ball-games and sock-hops on to the floor of the juke-joint until we are ready to drown in all the cuteness.

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I guess, like so many of the cheesy sounding US-recorded hits that have topped the charts before this (I’m looking at you ‘Diana’, ‘When’, and ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’) it appealed because it sounded really exotic to British schoolkids in, say, Scunthorpe, whose dads still had an Anderson shelter in the garden and whose mums were still darning tights.

The song finishes on a romantic note. Jerry has high hopes for him and his girl: If she’s willing, We’ll go steady right away… (Aww..) And then, with a Here comes summer time at last… we reach an abrupt end. Summer is over. And summer was truly over when this reached the top of the UK charts. On the 9th of October. When the schools had been back for well over a month…

This is a perfectly harmless, kind of cute little song that zips along nicely for a couple of minutes. Beyond that I’m not sure it has much of a wider significance. There are strong notes of earlier, preppy-rock (a new genre I’ve just invented) #1s such as The Dream Weavers ‘It’s Almost Tomorrow’ and Tab Hunter’s ‘Young Love’. Looming largest of all, though, is good old Pat Boone who, if Wiki is to be believed, was Keller’s friend from church and introduced him to his manager.

Jerry Keller is a one-hit wonder in the purest sense, in that he had had zero previous chart hits – in either the US or the UK – and would go on to have zero more. A 100% strike-rate for him, then. Well done! He’s still alive – aged eighty-one – and was apparently the go-to guy for TV jingles in the ‘70s and ‘80s! Well there ya go. Next up – a recap!

85. ‘A Fool Such As I’ / ‘I Need Your Love Tonight’, by Elvis Presley

The King is back in the building. Buddy Holly replaced at the top by Elvis himself. What halcyon days!

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A Fool Such as I / I Need Your Love Tonight, by Elvis Presley (his 4th of twenty-one #1s)

5 weeks, from 15th May – 19th June 1959

One of these songs I’ve known for a very long time – since I got my first Elvis ‘Best Of’ way back when –so let’s start there. Now and then, There’s a fool, Such as I… I used to think that the scarily deep baritone that opens and closes this record was Elvis himself. It wasn’t, unfortunately. A chap called Ray Walker provided the voice, and it makes this whole track.

I really like this song. At least… I thought I did. I had it marked as one of my favourite ‘fifties-Elvis’ numbers, better than the silliness of ‘Teddy Bear’ or the mumbling verses of ‘King Creole’. Listening back to it now, though, I’m not so sure. The way Elvis sings it – he’s slightly restrained, slightly clipped… The vocals are weirdly ‘posh’, if you can imagine what I mean. There’s none of the growl he was giving us on ‘Jailhouse Rock’, and none of the saucy wink from ‘One Night’. It seems to me, listening to the song fresh after such a long absence, that Elvis might have been phoning it in here.

‘A Fool Such as I’ had been recorded before – back in the depths of the pre-rock era (AKA 1952), so perhaps Elvis had the original in the back of his mind as he enunciated, giving birth to the previously undiscovered Plummy Elvis. And while obviously everyone knows that Elvis phoned in pretty much everything he did between 1961 and ’68, it’s distressing to think that Elvis’s ‘phoning it in’ period might have started as early as 1959!

Still, the solo swings like I remember. And, to be fair, Elvis does let loose a little in the final verse. I’m a fool, But I love you dear, Until the day I die… And he just about redeems the whole thing by belting these lines out towards the end. He should, though, have been very grateful to Mr. Walker for his deep voice and to whoever was playing the guitar. They definitely helped paper over the cracks.

This record, and in fact all of Elvis’s early chart-toppers, are sometimes co-credited to The Jordanaires, AKA his backing singers. They also pick up some of the slack here (though I can’t remember even noticing them on songs like ‘All Shook Up’.) The Official Charts company don’t recognise them, however, so I won’t. But they’re there on the vinyl above, if you squint hard enough. I suppose it’s a case similar to the days when every record was ‘accompanied’ by an orchestra. I mentioned in a post a while back how the conductors of these orchestras had been airbrushed out of history, and it seems to be happening with backing groups now too.

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On then to the song I don’t know so well. Tell the truth I’d never heard this before and, when I saw that it was called ‘I Need Your Love Tonight’, I feared the worst. Maudlin ballad ahoy! But no…

The piano comes blasting in, rolling like a runaway train. And Elvis? Well, he needs your love tonight. And not in a mopey, crooning-in-the-window-at-the-moon kind of way (as we recently heard in Connie Francis’s flip-side ‘Carolina Moon’). No siree. I’ve been waiting just for tonight, To do some lovin’ and hold you tight, Don’t tell me baby you needa go, I got the Hi-Fi high and the lights down low…

This is fun stuff. This is rock ‘n’ roll. This possibly should have been the lead track. And Elvis does sound like he’s having a little more fun here. I count an ‘Oh-oh’, an ‘Uh-uh’, an ‘Ooh-ooh’, an ‘Oh Gee’, a ‘Wowee’, a ‘Wow’, and a ‘Pow-Pow’ among the lyrics. There’s even a bit of a rhumba during the bridge. But it really is the flip-side of ‘A Fool Such as I’ – they were well-placed together – as in the former he is lamenting the woman he loved while in this he’s pulled himself together and is promising her a night she won’t forget. G’wan yourself Elvis!

I still, though, get the faintest tang of him phoning it in here, even on this little rocker. I may be wrong – I may be listening for something that just isn’t there – but I can’t help but feel like I’m getting a whiff. He still isn’t quite going for it in the same way he did just a few months ago on ‘I Got Stung.’

As a little aside, ‘I Need Your Love Tonight’ is listed several times on Spotify as being ‘Live’, though there is nothing in the recording to suggest that it was performed in front of an audience. The link below is, to the very best of my knowledge, the version that topped the UK charts in the spring of ’59.

This #1 pulls Mr. Presley level with Guy Mitchell and Frankie Laine as the acts with the most UK chart-toppers. They all have four, though Frankie Laine is still well out in front in terms of weeks-at-number-one (Elvis has eighteen weeks from four #1s; Frankie Laine got that many just from ‘I Believe’). And if you think that this means Elvis will be boosting ahead any time soon you’d be wrong – we won’t be seeing him again for well over a year.

Thus, we bid farewell to rock ‘n’ roll Elvis. It’s been nice meeting him, or rather rediscovering him. He’s off into the army now; and when we hear from him next it will be with something rather different.

73. ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’, by The Everly Brothers

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All I Have to Do Is Dream, by The Everly Brothers (their 1st of four #1s)

7 weeks, from 4th July – 22nd August 1958 (including 1 week joint with Vic Damone from 4th – 11th July)

We have an opening chord, then a pause… And then those voices. Those harmonious voices. The Everly Brothers certainly could harmonise.

Dre-e-e-eam, Dream, Dream, Dream, Dream…. Dre-e-e-eam, Dream, Dream, Dre-eam….

This is undeniably a classic, and most people will at least be familiar with the dream dream dream refrain. It’s also a very simple song. A song in which a lover, starved of attention from the object of his desires, turns to dreaming about her. All he has to do is dream. When I want you, In my arms, When I want you, And all your charms, Whenever I want you, All I have to do, Is dre-e-e-eam… You know what this song is going to be about just by glancing at the title. Simple. As.

I can make you mine, Taste your lips of wine, Anytime… Night or day… The Everlys sing (Is it Phil? Or Don? Or Both? Those harmonies are so damn tight they sound like the same voice) before delivering the classic line: Only trouble is, Gee Whizz, I’m dreamin’ my life away… Can we have a shout out for that ‘Gee Whizz’! So dorky; yet so appropriate. So ‘All-American-Boy-Next-Door’.

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and make a bold statement. That this record, ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’, is the perfect fusion of rock and pre-rock. I’ve been continually mentioning that all through 1958 we’ve had a couple of rock ‘n’ roll #1s here, a couple of easy-listening, croony #1s there. Never before, though, have we had both styles melded together in the one record. This is it. This is where the previous seventy chart-topping records have been leading us. We’ve arrived. Bear with me…

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Musically, this is rock ‘n’ roll (very gentle, very country-tinged rock ‘n’ roll, but still) sung by a couple of fresh-faced young things. Don Everly was twenty-one when this hit the top spot, Phil was nineteen. But lyrically this is the same kind of schmaltz guys like Al Martino and Eddie Fisher were churning out back in 1952. Take the line: I need you so, That I could die, I love you so, And that is why… Melodramatic or what? I get that it’s trying to convey the helpless passion of a teenage crush; but I much prefer the cocksure swagger that The Crickets brought to ‘That’ll Be the Day’, or the cynical shrug of the shoulders offered by The Teenagers on ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love’.

How long have I known this song? I’ve no idea. Forever? It’s always been there; though it isn’t a song I’d ever rush to listen to. It’s just a little too much on the cheesy side for me, thanks. Structurally, it is an AABA song which I believe, though I’m no songwriter, is code for ‘a bit basic’. It will, though, always remind me of karaoke sessions from my days teaching in Thailand. Along with Andy Williams and The Carpenters, ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’ was one of the few English songs that my Thai colleagues knew. That’s quite a good barometer of a song’s fame, isn’t it? ‘It’s popular, but do they sing it at karaoke in Thailand?’

Personally, I see this record as Everly Brothers MK I. They’ve yet to hit their stride. They will be back at the top of the UK charts on three more occasions, each time with a song better than this one. They will return with a slightly harder edge, and with huskier voices. There will be no disputing that they are a rock ‘n’ roll act by then. In fact, the next time we hear from them they will be topping the charts with – hands down – one of the best pop songs ever recorded…

69. ‘Magic Moments’, by Perry Como

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Magic Moments, by Perry Como (his 2nd of two #1s)

8 weeks, from 28th February – 25th April 1958

I’ve grown so used to describing this period in popular music history as the ‘rock ‘n’ roll revolution’ that I’m growing, quite frankly, bored of typing it (‘rock ‘n’ roll’ is actually a difficult phrase to type quickly – those two commas round the n, you see – and I will be relieved when I can start typing phrases like ‘New Wave’ and ‘Disco’).

And if I were to stop calling this the ‘rock ‘n’ roll era’, I’d be very tempted to re-christen it ‘The Age of Whistling’. Because I make this the sixth UK #1 in a little over a year to be very heavy on the whistling: ‘Just Walkin’ in the Rain’, both versions of ‘Singing the Blues’, ‘Butterfly’, ‘The Story of My Life’ and now ‘Magic Moments’ (and I’m sure I’ve forgotten about a few stray whistles elsewhere…) I suppose it’s cheap and easy to do. And I suppose it’s better than humming. But to me it creates an air of fake jollity around a song, a feeling of enforced fun – a sense that some red-faced, chain smoking record executive was yelling ‘Sound relaxed, dammit!’ just before they pressed record.

But, hey. At least the whistling is fairly sporadic here – after the first few bars Perry Como comes in with some very famous lines: Magic… Moments… When two hearts are carin’, Magic… Moments… Mem’ries we’ve been sharing… While this standard may have receded somewhat into the mists of time, surely everyone still knows the chorus. I can pinpoint the first time I became aware of this song – an advert for (I think) ‘Quality Street’ back when I was a lad – and it is one of those songs, along with, say, ‘Que Sera Sera’ or ‘I Believe’, that make up the background music of one’s life. It’s also another Bacharach and David number, hot on the heels of ‘The Story of My Life’, and while it’s a bit more memorable than Michael Holliday’s record it is still pretty bland in comparison to their later hits.

The best you can say about ‘Magic Moments’ is that it’s a very safe song: super laid-back and super-inoffensive. Como sounds like he recorded it from his bed, or at least from a very comfy armchair. Which kind of makes sense, as the singer of this song is supposed to be an older gentleman contentedly reflecting on happy times. The backing singers, meanwhile, are working overtime – taking on at least a third of the lines.

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Away from the chorus, the verses flesh out just what the ‘magic moments’ were. Moments such as: The time that the floor fell outta my car when I put the clutch down… The way that we cheered whenever our team was scoring a touchdown… They are sweet little vignettes; lyrically quite modern in the way that they eschew grandiose statements about love for real life scenarios. There’s also a link here between this and Pat Boone’s ‘I’ll Be Home’ from a couple of years earlier, in the way that the song invokes cute images of small-town, suburban (super white and WASPy, obviously) America.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, how interesting it is to see the ebb and flow of the UK charts around this time; the old guard tussling with the new. You get a couple of very forward-looking, very cool, very new hits in ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock’ before the waves slowly recede and leave a saccharine blob like this beached at the top – for 8 (eight!) weeks. There are certain records that I can imagine having appealed to both young and old – ‘Diana’, for example – but I really struggle to imagine anyone under the age of forty buying this disc. Como himself was forty-five when this hit the top spot making him – and I’ve not checked this at all, but hey – the oldest chart-topper yet. Definitely one of the oldest. Probably.

Before we put the needle back into its holder for another post, let us bid farewell to the ‘King of Casual’. He has an impressive gap between his two #1s – ‘Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes’ (the 5th UK #1) and this (the 69th) – which is surely a sign of his enduring appeal. Though I do have to state that, personally, there is no contest as to which is the better song: the ever-so-jaunty ‘Don’t Let the Stars…’ all the way. Como will go on to have Top 10 hits as late as the mid-1970s – and would have had many more hits had the UK charts begun earlier than 1952 (his first US successes came in the early forties). A true titan of easy listening, he died, aged eighty-eight, in 2001.

68. ‘The Story of My Life’, by Michael Holliday

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The Story of My Life, by Michael Holliday (his 1st of two #1s)

2 weeks, from 14th – 28th February 1958

For the first time in a while, we pull up alongside a song I hadn’t ever heard before… Not since Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Gamblin’ Man / Puttin’ on the Style’ have I been able to approach a record with my ears fresh and untainted like this. What, then, do we have here…?

First things first – this is a big step back from the frenzied piano, and then snarling guitar, of the previous two #1s. It’s got the lilting acoustic guitar that sounds soooo 1957 (see ‘Just Walkin’ in the Rain’, ‘Singing the Blues’ and ‘Young Love’ for reference). It is a rock ‘n’ roll record; but super gentle rock ‘n’ roll – diluted and a little wishy-washy.

There are also some super cheesy touches – irritating whistles at the end of lines, some toodle-oohs and bum-bum-bums from the backing singers – which almost tip it over into pastiche territory. It’s very interesting, the fact that we have seen rock ‘n’ roll fragmenting before our very ears over the past few entries: Jerry-Lee Lewis and Lonnie Donegan have given us balls-out – dare I say real – RAWK. Elvis has given us superstar, super-polished rock. Paul Anka, and now Michael Holliday, are giving us what I’d call 2nd generation rock ‘n’ roll – pop music with rock touches, designed to appeal to the kids and their parents.

To the lyrics: Michael wants to write the story of his life: I’ll tell about, The night we met, And how my heart can’t forget, The way you smiled at me… Awwww. Basically his love is his life. But wait… They broke up! No wait… They made up! Safe, safe.

The story of his life isn’t quite over, though. It won’t be until – you guessed it – they get hitched. There’s one thing left to do, Before my story’s through, I’ve got to take you for my wife, So the story of my life can start… and end… with you… It’s nice. This is a perfectly nice, perfectly sweet and utterly forgettable record. I was actually shocked to discover, as I embarked on a little Wikipedia-ing, that ‘The Story of My Life’ was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the first of this legendary duo’s songs to top the UK charts. A shock because, compared to the classics they wrote later in their careers, this is very, very meh. A big contender for the ‘Meh Award’ in my next recap, I’d say.

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I’d hoped to pad this post out by delving a little into just who Michael Holliday was – as he’s someone I’d never heard – but I’ve just realised that we’ll meet him again, briefly, in a couple of years. Best hold something back for then. Suffice to say, he made the most of a short career – scoring two number ones out of only ten charting singles – before dying at the shockingly young age of thirty-eight. He has a nice, if unremarkable, voice on this nice, if unremarkable, record. Wiki sums it up best in their succinct entry on Holliday: ‘a British crooner popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s.’

Fin.