84. Buddy Holly – It Doesn’t Matter Anymore (1959)

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Ah. Now, unlike Russ Conway’s Side Saddle, here is a number 1 that I can clearly understand. Buddy Holly’s It Doesn’t Matter Anymore is the first posthumous UK chart-topper. The infamous plane crash had occurred on 3 February that year, and had tragically cut short the lives of Holly and fellow stars Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson, aka The Big Bopper.

Before then, Holly was already well on the way to being a bona fide musical legend. Since the Crickets had their sole number 1 with That’ll Be the Day in late-1957, Holly had achieved success with the group and under his own name, thanks to Peggy Sue, backed with Everyday, and Rave On. In early 1958, he joined the rest of the Crickets to tour the UK and Australia. Later that year he met and fell in love with María Elena Santiago. the romance was swift – he asked her out when they first met, and proposed on their first date. Producer and manager Normal Petty didn’t approve, and asked Holly to keep their wedding quiet to avoid upsetting his fans. She pretended to merely be his secretary, but the damage was done – there was dissension in the ranks, not helped by the other Crickets also having their doubts in trusting Petty with all the money they were earning. Despite money troubles, Holly had various interesting ideas about the direction his career would go, including making an album with Ray Charles and Mahalia Jackson. This alone suggests the 1960s could have been a very different decade had Holly not died. He and Santiago settled in Greenwich Village, where he recorded acoustic songs including Crying, Waiting, Hoping. That October saw Holly’s final recording session take place. Four songs were recorded with an 18-piece orchestra, including It Doesn’t Matter Anymore and the B-side Raining in My Heart.

It Doesn’t Matter Anymore had been written by Paul Anka, whose Diana had been number 1 directly before That’ll Be the Day. Still a teenager, Anka was, like Holly, prodigiously talented. Obviously the song’s title became eerily prescient, but it actually concerned the end of a romance. Chirpy pizzicato strings belie the singer’s bitterness at the break-up, as do Holly’s occasional trademark vocal stutters (which can be irritating to modern ears, it has to be said), but it’s lush production hinted at the future direction of pop, and displays Holly’s desire to experiment with his sound. Also, is it just me, or does this sound very similar to John Kongos’s He’s Gonna Step On You Again – later known as Step On by Happy Mondays?

As 1958 drew to a close, Holly parted ways with Petty. Despite the rest of the Crickets’ concerns, they decided to stay with him, so Holly left the band. Due to Petty withholding his royalties, Holly was forced to immediately form a new band (featuring Waylon Jennings) and get out on the road. They began their ‘Winter Dance Party’ tour’, joined by Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, but the tour was beset with problems, with buses breaking down and performers suffering from flu and even frostbite. Tired of being on the road, Holly decided to charter a plane to Fargo, North Dakota. The story goes that the Big Bopper was suffering from flu particularly bad, and asked Jennings if he would consider giving up his seat for him. When Holly found out his bassist wasn’t travelling with him, he quipped ‘Well, I hope your ol’ bus freezes up’. In a response that was to haunt Jennings for the rest of his life, he replied ‘Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes’. Valens used to be terrified of flying, but asked Holly’s guitarist to toss a coin to decide who got to fly, and Valens won. The plane took off safely in light snow, but five minutes later, contact was lost. The plane had somehow cartwheeled across a frozen field, and Holly, Valens and Richardson had been thrown from the craft, with the pilot caught in the wreckage. All four had died instantly.

The incident shocked the music world, and of course was later immortalised by Don McLean as ‘The Day the Music Died’ in American Pie. Anka kindly gave the royalties of the song to Holly’s widow, who suffered a miscarriage when she was told of her husband’s death. It was the first of many shocking and untimely deaths in the world of rock and pop, and It Doesn’t Matter Anymore showed that posthumous singles offered music fans a way to mourn the heroes they had lost. It also showed record company bosses that it was a great way of making money out of dead artists.

Written by: Paul Anka

Weeks at number 1: 3 (24 April-14 May)

Births:

Singer Sheena Easton – 27 April 

Comedian Ben Elton – 3 May 

Echo & the Bunnymen singer Ian McCulloch – 5 May 

Director Deborah Warner – 12 May

83. Russ Conway – Side Saddle (1959)

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By the spring of 1959 it had been three years since Winifred Atwell had last topped the charts, with The Poor People of Paris. Despite the changes in musical tastes since then, there was still a market for jolly old honky tonk instrumentals that you could have a jolly good knees-up to. Who could fill that gap? Step forward, Russ Conway.

Born Trevor Stanford (the name his self-penned songs would be credited to) in 1925, his mother had been a pianist but died when he was only 14. His two brothers had formal musical education, but no real talent to speak of, whereas Conway was the opposite. He served in the Navy during World War Two, where he was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for ‘gallantry and devotion to duty’. During the war his many health problems began, which saw him discharged due to a stomach ulcer. During his service he had lost one of the tips of a finger in an accident with a bread-slicer, but that didn’t stop him taking his friend’s advice, and upon his return, he agreed to stand in for a holidaying club pianist. He then began performing in pubs and clubs, before being spotted by the choreographer Irving Davies. He signed to EMI’s Colombia label, where he would play piano for stars including Gracie Fields. Eventually Conway made it on to the Billy Cotton Band Show, and it was Cotton who was instrumental in persuading Conway to loosen up and develop the style that made him a solo star. His first solo single, Party Pops, was released in 1957, and was a medley in the vein of Atwell’s 1954 Christmas number 1, Let’s Have Another Party. However, it was by composing that he made his breakthrough. When writing a score for a TV musical version of Beauty and the Beast, Conway was asked at the last minute to write a tune for a ballroom scene. He hastily came up with one and called it Side Saddle.

This has to be one of the strangest number 1 singles so far. I’m really struggling to grasp how it happened. At least with Atwell, her number 1s were covers of familiar tunes played at a manic pace. I’ve now listened to Side Saddle several times and I can’t remember the tune, let alone work out how it spent a month at the top. It has a certain quaint charm I guess and will have reminded the oldies of the time of their youth, perhaps. That’s the best I can manage, I’m afraid.

During Side Saddle‘s stint at number 1, an early CND rally took place in Trafalgar Square on 30 March that saw 20,000 demonstrators attend, and on 2 April, United Dairies merged with Cow & Gate to become Unigate. You might say, ‘So what?’, and it’s before my time too, but Unigate are fondly remembered for their ‘Watch out there’s a Humphrey about’ adverts in the 1970s… My mind is wandering… can we have a number 1 I can understand next, please?

Written by: Trevor Stanford 

Weeks at number 1: 4 (27 March-23 April)

Births:

Actress Emma Thompson – 15 April

Painter Peter Doig – 17 April

The Cure singer Robert Smith – 21 April 

82. The Platters – Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (1959)

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Although originally written in 1933 by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach (co-writer of Rose Marie, which was a huge hit for Slim Whitman in 1955) for the musical Roberta, the 1959 number 1 version of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by the Platters is widely considered to be the definitive version, and was the highest-selling, spending a week at the top of the charts.

The Platters had formed in Los Angeles in 1952. Originally the line-up consisted of Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunter, David Lynch, Joe Jefferson, Gaynel Hodge and Herb Reed, who came up with their name. Several line-up changes occurred, most notably the addition of a female vocalist, Zola Taylor. Taken under the wing of entrepreneur Buck Ram, they were eventually signed, but only as part of a deal in which the Mercury Records took on the Penguins, the act they really wanted. The Penguins never scored a hit once signed.

The first track they recorded with Mercury was Ram’s haunting Only You (And You Alone). It had been rejected by Federal Records, but the group were convinced it could be a hit, and they were right. Also in the summer of 1955, follow-up The Great Pretender performed even better. The Platters appeared in the 1956 film, Rock Around the Clock, performing both tracks, which of course are now considered classics. A string of further hits followed, and the group hit upon the notion of recording old standards. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was a natural choice, a classy, tortured song about the way love can make you blind.

There was some controversy upon the song’s release, as Kern’s widow claimed Jerome would have balked at his composition becoming a rock’n’roll number. She even threatened legal action to prevent its distribution. Harbach, on the other hand, congratulated Ram and the Platters in covering his song ‘with taste’, according to Ram himself. Harbach was right and Kern’s widow seems to have been some sort of over-the-top idiot. To react the way she did, you’d think the Sex Pistols had covered it. The Platters’ version is respectful to the original, and an interesting bridge between rock’n’roll and the soul music that would later follow, and Reed’s lead vocal is particularly effective. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes hit number 1 both in the US and the UK, where despite only spending a week at the top, it spent 20 weeks in total in the top 30.

1959 saw the Platters at their peak, before the four male members were later arrested on drug and prostitution charges alter that year. Nobody was convicted, but it caused irreparable damage to their reputation in the US. From then on it was downhill all the way, as members were sacked and formed their own versions of the group. Buck Ram also formed his own version, so there are now probably more members or ex-members of the Platters in the world then there are people who have never claimed to be a Platter.

Ironically, when I think of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, I think of Shirley Bassey performing it on The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in 1971. It was Bassey’s As I Love You that the Platters had usurped. Despite not being a fan of hers, she gave an excellently-timed comic performance alongside Eric and Ernie, gamely soldiering on as the scenery collapsed all around her.

Written by: Jerome Kern & Otto Harbach

Weeks at number 1: 1 (20-27 March)

Births:

Actor Steve McFadden – 20 March 

Boxer Colin Jones – 21 March 

81. Shirley Bassey – As I Love You (1959)

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23 February 1959: As the winter drew to a close, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan visited the USSR to meet with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. Macmillan was the first British leader since Sir Winston Churchill during World War Two to visit the country. At the time there had been a slight thaw in the Cold War. The atmosphere at the meeting was cordial, and the two discussed expanding cultural ties, but a few days later, the famously volatile Khruschev snubbed Macmillan and his entourage.

In the same week, Shirley Bassey became the first Welsh artist to have a UK number 1 when As I Love You knocked Elvis Presley from the top. Born on 8 January 1937 in the large multi-ethnic area of Tiger Bay, Cardiff, Bassey’s father was Nigerian and her mother was English. grew up in a nearby community – the fantastically named Splott. She was equipped with that famously loud singing voice (more on that later…) before she had even hit her teens, but it made her teachers and fellow students feel uncomfortable and she was often being told to, in her words, ‘shut up’. She left school at 14 to work in a steel factory while singing in pubs and clubs on evenings and at the weekend.

Her pre-fame life was tough and eventful, with the whole family struggling to afford to eat. Bassey was only in her teens when she began performing, but dirty old men in the crowd would be shouting at her to get her clothes off. She became pregnant with her first child at 16 but never revealed the name of the father. In 1955 while appearing in the West End, she was offered a record deal with Philips. Her first single, Burn My Candle, was banned by the BBC in 1956 for its slightly saucy lyrics. Bassey had her first hit with her rendition of The Banana Boat Song the following year. In mid-1958 she recorded both As I Love You and Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me, with both reaching the top 3 simultaneously.

So, Bassey’s voice. I have to confess I am not a fan. I think you either love her powerful bellow or hate it, and I’m the latter. This made me reticent to try As I Love You, but fortunately, the shouting is kept to a minimum. Jay Livingston and Ray Evans’ (the duo behind Doris Day’s Whatever Will Be, Will Be) tune is a chirpy love song, and it sounds ahead of its time. It’s hardly innovative, but to me it’s comparable to the type of tune Bacharach and David were writing in the 1960s, complete with some catchy brass sounds in the chorus. It’s ultimately not as impressive though, and rather throwaway, but not as bad as I was expecting. And so, Shirley Bassey was the last female artist to have a number 1 in the 50s, and it was a full two years before a woman would be number 1 again.

Written by: Jay Livingston & Ray Evans

Weeks at number 1: 4 (20 February-19 March)

Births:

Field hockey player Richard Dodds – 23 February 

Philosopher Simon Critchley – 27 February

Zoologist Mark Carwardine – 9 March

Poet Ben Okri – 15 March 

Deaths:

Scholar Kathleen Freeman – 21 February

80. Elvis Presley – I Got Stung/One Night (1959)

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Elvis Presley was drafted into the US army on 24 March 1958. He became a private at Fort Chafee, Arkansas. Back then, all men under 26 were required to register for the draft, and Elvis had done so in 1953, a few months before he first recorded for Sun Records. As the press gathered, Presley told them ‘the Army can do anything it wants with me’, and his trademark quiff was subsequently shorn, giving birth to the famous headline pun ‘Hair today, gone tomorrow’ being used for the first time. While training, his mother died, She was only 46, and she and Elvis were very close. Nonetheless, the training continued and he joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany that October. While there he was introduced to amphetamines, which he took to using often, and also learned karate, which he would later become fond of showcasing at live shows.

Fans were obviously concerned about his career. What would happen to his music for the next two years? Luckily for them, RCA producer Steve Sholes and publisher Freddy Bienstock had it all mapped out. They had gathered plenty of material to be released during his hiatus. People would hardly notice his absence.

I Got Stung had been written for Presley by Aaron Schroeder and David Hill. Hill had released his version of All Shook Up before Elvis did, but had more success writing for ‘The King’ than releasing the same material as him. Elvis had recorded I Got Stung at his final Nashville session before leaving for Germany. It’s a slight but fun rock’n’roll track. Beginning with the cry of:’Holy smokes land sakes alive I never thought this would happen to me’, Elvis likens falling in love to being stung by a bee. I hope whoever was responsible (it wasn’t Priscilla, she met him in September 1959) didn’t die after releasing their sting… The lyrics are fairly cheesy and pedestrian, but Elvis’s vocal transforms it. He performs with rapid-fire delivery, and uses all his trademark mannerisms to lift the song. His backing band also do an admirable job, too.

One Night was granted double A-side status and featured on the flip side. It had been written by Dave Bartholomew (a collaborator with Fats Domino; together they had written Ain’t That a Shame) and Pearl King, and had first been a hit for Smiley Lewis in 1956. Originally concerning a night of sin, Presley recorded a version in 1957, but RCA and Colonel Tom Parker had reservations due to the lyric, ‘One night of sin is what I’m now paying for’. Elvis was keen on the song, though, and with Anita Steinman he reworked it to become ‘One night with you is what I’m now praying for’. Blander, but more palatable for conservative audiences. Fortunately, it doesn’t really matter, as Elvis’s performance is raunchy enough to suggest he’s planning on sinning anyway. It’s another great vocal, and once more he lifts the whole song. I’m beginning to get why he’s considered such a legend. Neither I Got Stung or One Night are up there with Jailhouse Rock, but they’re pretty good and certainly better than some of the star’s future number 1s.

Upon what would have been Elvis’s 70th birthday, a glut of his most famous singles were re-released in January 2005. I Got Stung/One Night was among them, and knocked the re-release of Jailhouse Rock from the top, earning it the honour of being the 1000th UK number 1. It also became the fourth track ever to be number 1 twice, and it was the third time that an artist has replaced themselves at the top of the charts.

Written by: I Got Stung: Aaron Schroeder & David Hill/One Night: Dave Bartholomew, Pearl King & Anita Steinman

Weeks at number 1: 3 (30 January-19 February)

Births:

The Cure keyboardist/drummer Lol Tolhurst – 3 February

Deaths:

Physicist Owen Willand Richardson – 15 February 

79. Jane Morgan – The Day the Rains Came (1959)

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The new year began with no change at the top for some time, as Conway Twitty’s It’s Only Make Believe kept its grip at number 1. This finally changed on 23 January when US singer Jane Morgan toppled him with her version of The Day When the Rains Came. This was a cover of a French song, Le Jour où la Pluie Viendra, written by lyricist Pierre Delanoë and singer and composer Gilbert Bécaud. The duo were responsible for some of France’s biggest hits of the time, but this was their first to be translated into English and become well-known. The Day When the Rains Came’s lyrics came from Carl Sigman, who by now had a formidable reputation for adapting music from overseas and turning them into UK hits (see Answer Me and It’s All in the Game, number 1s in 1953 and 1958 respectively). Jane Morgan was a beautiful bilingual singer who performed in English and French, and was the perfect performer for this new version. She even threw in the French version on the B-side.

Morgan was born Florence Catherine Currier in 1942 in Newton, Massachusetts. Born into a talented musical family, at the age of five she was taking piano lessons and singing. Her mother taught her Italian and French. As she grew older she was accepted into New York’s prestigious Juilliard School of Music, and intended to become an opera singer. To pay her way she began singing in nightclubs. Orchestra leader Art Mooney hired her, and came up with her stage name Jane Morgan from two of his other singers, Janie Ford and Marian Morgan. Morgan’s knowledge of French came in handy when bandleader Bernard Hilda hired her to perform two shows a night at his new club near the Eiffel Tower in 1948. She began with US songs but quickly took to performing French songs as her language skills improved, and soon the audiences were flocking to her gigs. By 1949 she had her own television show in France, and later she moved between Europe, Canada and back to her own country, in the hope of becoming more famous, but agents feared her skills were too specialised. Eventually she was signed to the fledgling Kapp Records and released her debut album, appropriately named The American Girl from Paris. Her cover of Fascination was released in 1957 and remained in the charts for over six months, and it became her signature song.

The Day When the Rains Came was one of those throwbacks to the pop sound of several years previous. My initial thoughts were of how similar it sounds to previous number 1, The Garden of Eden, by Frankie Vaughan, which sounded old-fashioned when it hit the top in 1957. This isn’t a criticism, as that was a serviceable enough tune and so is this. Usually in love songs, rain is used as a metaphor for loss, but Sigman’s lyrics take a different approach, comparing the beauty of rainfall bringing plants to life with the wonder of a developing romance:

‘The day that the rains came down
Buds were born, love was born
As the young buds will grow
So our young love will grow
Love, sweet love’

Morgan’s vocals are worthy enough – she hits all the right notes, but ultimately there’s nothing about the song, lyrics or performance to lift this above average. January has often historically been a quiet month for new number 1s after the madness of Christmas – it seems The Day When the Rains Came may be an early example of this phenomenon. Nonetheless it brightened up that last week of the first month of 1959, in which the most dense fog to hit the country in seven years caused havoc.

Morgan carried on releasing music into the 1970s, and appeared in numerous TV shows over the years. She has also performed for five US presidents –  John F Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush. Unlike many stars of the time she survives to this day, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011.

Written by: Pierre Delanoë & Gilbert Bécaud/Carl Sigman (English lyrics)

Weeks at number 1: 1 (23-29 January)

78. Conway Twitty – It’s Only Make Believe (1958)

On Christmas Eve 1958, the south of England was covered by a blanket of thick fog. BOAC Bristol Brittania 312 had left Heathrow on a test flight. After completion, the crew requested to land at Hurn Airport instead, probably due to the poor conditions. Three minutes later, the plane hit a ploughed field, bringing down telephone lines and trees. All seven passengers were killed, and two of the five crew also died.

The Christmas number 1 that year was Conway Twitty’s It’s Only Make Believe. Much like Andy Williams, Twitty was somewhat of an Elvis copyist to begin with, before developing his own style. Yet sounding like Elvis is what garnered him a number 1 single (Butterfly by Andy Williams was nothing like his later work but his sole number 1). Twitty had been born Harold Lloyd Jenkins in 1933 in Coahoma County, Mississippi. The family moved to Helena Arkansas when he was ten years old, where he formed his first group, the Phillips County Ramblers. He later served in the Far East where his new group, the Cimmerons, would entertain his fellow troops. After his return, he heard Presley’s Mystery Train and became determined to follow in his footsteps, travelling to Sun Studios in the process.

Depending on which story you believe, he either took the name Conway Twitty from a map (Conway is in Arkansas and Twitty is in Texas), or he stole it from a man who his manager served with in the army, upon his suggestion. He switched from Sun Records to MGM Records and began releasing singles. It’s Only Make Believe had been quickly written by Twitty and his drummer Jack Nance between sets at the Flamingo Lounge in Hamilton. Taking a whole year to climb the charts, it reached number 1 in the US and and subsequently 21 other countries. To begin with, some listeners assumed the performer was Elvis, recording under a pseudonym, the vocal was so similar.

I didn’t cover It’s Only Make Believe during my blog on my mammoth listen to every Christmas number 1, here, but I was impressed by the intensity of the performance, and even more so since then. As the song began, I was ready to dismiss it as a sub-standard Elvis ballad rip-off like Pat Boone’s I’ll Be Home. However, as Twitty proclaims his wish that his lover felt as strongly as he did, he moves out of the croon and really lets rip, and it’s a great vocal performance. He sounds genuinely pained by the time he reaches the song’s title at the end of each verse. I still think it’s a shame Lord Rockingham’s XI’s Hoots Mon didn’t stay at number 1 for another week to become the festive chart-topper, though.

Twitty failed to set the charts alight again for some time, until he decided to move from rock’n’roll to country music in 1965. Country radio stations were sceptical at first, but Twitty seemed genuine, and his career took off once more. His biggest country hit became Hello Darlin’ in 1970, but he maintained his country chart success until 1990, and achieved an incredible 55 number 1s in total. On 4 June 1993 he collapsed on stage in Missouri and subsequently died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm the following day. He was 59.

1958’s number 1 singles definitely showed rock’n’roll taking control of the record-buying market. A number of future classics hit the top, and the easy listening ballads largely took a back seat. Unfortunately, so did the female artists, as once again, with the exception of Connie Francis, the top of the charts was dominated by men.

It’s Only Make Believe stayed at number 1 well into 1959. During that time, Tyne Tees Television, the ITV franchise for the north east, began transmission on 15 January, and a week later, racing driver Mike Hawthorn died after his car hit a tree on the A3.

Written by: Jack Nance & Conway Twitty

Weeks at number 1: 5 (19 December 1958-22 January 1959)

Births:

Singer Sade Adu – 16 January 

Deaths

Racing driver Mike Hawthorn – 22 January

77. Lord Rockingham’s XI – Hoots Mon (1958)

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On 13 September 1958, Oh Boy!, the first all-music show for teenagers began on ITV. Producer Jack Good had previously worked on the BBC’s Six-Five Special, but had wanted to make it music-only. When the BBC declined, he resigned. The show featured top stars and future hit-makers, including Cliff Richard, Shirley Bassey, Conway Twitty and Billy Fury. The show’s house-band were Lord Rockingham’s XI, a group of session musicians led by Harry Robinson, who had also worked on Six-Five Special. Other notable members included Benny Green on saxophone (he later became a Radio 2 presenter) and Hammond organ player Cherry Rainer.

In addition to backing artists on the show, they began recording novelty instrumentals for Decca. First single Fried Onions didn’t chart, but Robinson was on to a winner when he decided they should record a jazz-rock’n’roll hybrid version of traditional Scottish song The Hundred Pipers. The lyrics were ditched and replaced with four terrible over-the-top Scottish dialect outbursts, namely, ‘Och aye’, ‘Hoots mon’, ‘There’s a moose loose aboot this hoose’ and ‘It’s a braw, bricht, moonlicht nicht’. As Robinson was Scottish he decided he should be the one to perform these, risking inciting hatred from his fellow countrymen. All in all, it sounds like a terrible idea, doesn’t it?

It wasn’t. Hoots Mon is an excellent novelty single and I love the fact something like this was once able to make it number 1. The band are having a whale of a time, and it’s infectious, you really can’t help but enjoy it too. It’s also surprisingly heavy sounding for its time. Apparently, the engineer wasn’t happy with the bass and wanted the band to re-record it. Record buyers with lightweight needles even complained that the vinyl would jump, and it became banned in some factories as workers couldn’t stand the noise. It would have made a great Christmas number 1 and nearly was, but Conway Twitty’s It’s Only Make Believe overtook it after three weeks at the top.

Oh Boy! was replaced in 1959 by another Good project, Boy Meets Girls. Lord Rockingham’s XI hadn’t been able to maintain their fame, and also had to settle out of court with the real Lord Rockingham (hang on, there’s a real Lord Rockingham?), so they disbanded at the same time. Robinson moved into arranging and conducting songs for musicals, and subsequently became a noteworthy string arranger for several folk artists of the late 1960s. In particular, his work on Nick Drake’s River Man is sublime and sometimes I think it might be the best use of strings I’ve ever heard in a ‘pop’ song.

I first heard Hoots Mon, like lots of 50s and 60s songs, in an advert. Maynard’s Wine Gums used it in 1993 and rewrote the most famous line, coming up with ‘There’s juice loose aboot this hoose’. A mad caricature of a Scotsman manically chews sweets while items around the house come to life courtesy of Aardman Animations (incidentally, this very track was number 1 when Nick Park was born. Clearly, it was meant to be). If only all adverts were as ridiculous and fun as this. I hope Robinson enjoyed this remake. Sadly he passed away in 1996.

One of my favourite groups of all time, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, reformed in 2006 for an amazing anniversary gig at the London Astoria. One of the live highlights of my life, they decided to carry on for a while, and released an album, Pour l’amour des Chiens in 2007. It was patchy, but one of the highlights was Hawkeye the Gnu (get it?) a reworked version of Hoots Mon, featuring vocals from Stephen Fry. An inspired decision, and I’m only surprised the band never recorded it in their original incarnation.

While Hoots Mon was riding high, The British Electronic Computer Exhibition, the world’s first of its kind, was held at Earl’s Court in London. It ran from 28 November to 4 December. On 30 November, viewers of Armchair Theatre were left puzzled when actor Gareth Jones disappeared inbetween scenes during the play Underground. The drama was broadcast live, and Jones had suffered a fatal heart attack. Bizarrely, his character was supposed to suffer one later in the programme. The rest of the cast were forced to improvise an ending, which I imagine was a bit of a mess. As winter began, the country’s first motorway, the Preston Bypass, was opened by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on 5 December.

Written by: Harry Robinson 

Weeks at number 1: 3 (28 November-18 December)

Births:

Animator Nick Park – 6 December

Deaths:

Actor Gareth Jones – 30 November

76. Tommy Edwards – It’s All in the Game (1958)

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10 November 1958, and Donald Campbell breaks the world water speed record in his Bluebird K7. This was the fifth time he had done so. Campbell seemed to be invincible, but eventually his luck ran out in the worst possible way.

Sitting at number 1 at the time was a song with an unusual history. It’s All in the Game dates back to 1911, when banker Charles G Dawes wrote Melody in A Major. It soon also became known as Dawes’s Melody, and followed him into his political career, and he came to hate it. Dawes eventually became Vice President of the United States under Calvin Coolidge from 1925 to 1929.

In 1951, Brill Building songwriter Carl Sigman decided to write lyrics to this melody. He had a knack for adapting songs, and specialised in writing English lyrics to songs composed in other languages. For example, in 1953 he wrote lyrics for that year’s Christmas number 1, Answer Me. Bizarrely, on the day Sigman took his finished work, It’s All in the Game, to Warner Brothers publishing executive Mac Goldman, Dawes died of a heart attack. Goldman quipped that Sigman’s lyrics must have killed him.

Tommy Edwards was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1922. He began performing at nine years old, but it was in 1946 that he began a recording contract with MGM. He began making inroads into the charts three years later, before hitting number 18 with his waltz-time cover of It’s All in the Game. By 1958 however, MGM were ready to drop Edwards. In a last-ditch effort to save his career, he hit upon the idea of re-recording  his hit in a doo-wop style. One of the first stereo singles to ever be recorded, the new version struck gold.

The number 1 version suffers by comparison to some of the other songs covered in 1958. On the whole, it’s been the year with the highest quality of number 1 singles I’ve covered so far. It’s serviceable enough though. Edwards is being philosophical to some poor broken-hearted girl, informing her that love is all one big daft game and all will be well eventually. I don’t want to sound cynical, but I think his optimism might be slightly misplaced. If her beau doesn’t call once in a while, he’s not necessarily soon going to be by her side once more. A harsh dose of reality might be better advice. It’s very well produced, and it’s great to hear a stereo recording finally. The song also works well in a doo-wop style, but the problem is, Edwards kept his vocals largely the same as his 1951 version, so they sound a bit too mannered for my liking, and it drags the whole thing down.

Edwards tried to repeat the trick and re-recorded other past songs in the same style, and they did okay, but not well enough. It’s All in the Game was later covered by acts including the Four Tops and Cliff Richard. Tommy Edwards died in 1969 of a brain aneurysm, believed to have been brought on by alcoholism. He was only 47.

Written by: Charles G. Dawes (music) & Carl Sigman (lyrics)

Weeks at number 1: 3 (7-27 November)

Births:

Model Kim Ashfield – 25 November

Deaths:

Politician Lord Robert Cecil – 24 November 

75. Connie Francis – Carolina Moon/Stupid Cupid (1958)

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Thanks to Who’s Sorry Now? Connie Francis had become a star. MGM changed their minds and offered her a new contract. The problem now was, how do you follow it up? Her next two singles, I’m Sorry I Made You Cry and Heartaches, sank without trace. Francis needed another track that would appeal to both young and old listeners. As luck would have it, she got one of each.

Yet again, her father suggested wisely when he picked Carolina Moon. Like Who’s Sorry Now? it was an oldie. It had been written by Joe Burke and Benny Davis in 1924, and was a hit for Gene Austin four years later. Both songwriters were responsible for a number of famous tunes – Joe Burke came up with Tiptoe Through the Tulips and Davis wrote Baby Face with Harry Akst.

Carolina Moon is a sweet, wistful ballad, tenderly sang by Francis. She’s missing her love and is hoping the moon will find him and tell him she’s ‘blue and lonely’. They can’t have had a decent postal service near Francis, I guess. Crap joke aside, it’s a good showcase for the singer, and the plaintive harmonica solo is a highlight. On it’s own though, I doubt it would have reached number 1 Luckily for Francis, her luck turned once more.

Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka were still in their teens and struggling to get their foot in the door of the world of songwriting. Eventually they wound up at the office of Aldon Music, a new company formed by producers Don Kirshner and Al Nevins. I say office… by all accounts the tiny room was a piano, two desks and lots of boxes as they had only just moved in. Nonetheless, Kirshner was impressed (Nevins less so), and he contacted Francis to say the boys could help her out.

Kirshner, Greenfield and Sedaka were surprised to see Francis was still living in humble surroundings, in a small house with no carpet. They played ballad after ballad to her and Bobby Darin (the singer had started in music as Francis’s songwriter). She later recalled in an interview for DISCoveries Magazine that hours later, after Kirshner had left, she said, ‘Look, fellas. I hate to tell you this and don’t get me wrong, your music is beautiful, but it’s too educated. The kids don’t dig this kinda stuff anymore. You guys are putting me to sleep. Don’t you have something a little more lively?’ Greenfield told Sedaka to play a sample of a new song they had written for the Shepherd Sisters. Sedaka was horrified. He considered Francis way too classy to even suggest such a thought. He relented, played her Stupid Cupid, and finally Francis, Kirshner, Greenfield and Sedaka got what they looking for. A big hit.

Stupid Cupid was inspired. Sedaka might not have thought it was classy, but music didn’t need to be anymore. It had witty lyrics, a memorable tune and great production from Morty Kraft. The bass player remains unknown but whoever it was, their work is considered some of the best in rock’n’roll up to that point. The guitar twang every time Francis reaches ‘Stupid Cupid, stop picking on me’ is clever or annoying depending on your mood, but the way Francis sings that line is perfect. She certainly had a knack of owning the songs she worked on

Spending six weeks at number 1, Carolina Moon/Stupid Cupid finally established Francis, and although she never reached the top again, the hits continued. Lipstick on Your Collar is still considered a 50s classic. She continued her winning ways around the world for years to come, and had further number 1 success in the US into the 60s, but the 70s were tough on the singer. She was raped and nearly suffocated in a motel in 1974. The attacker was never found, and Francis became reclusive and addicted to medication. In 1977 she completely lost her voice following surgery. When it returned, she had to learn to sing all over again. She began performing again, but in 1981 her brother was murdered by Mafia hitmen, and she was diagnosed with manic depression before being committed to 17 different hospitals. Having led such a rollercoaster life, she decided to release her autobiography, Who’s Sorry Now? in 1984, and it became a bestseller. Despite her tribulations she is remembered as one of the biggest stars during a time that was mainly male-dominated. Greenfield and Sedaka of course became very successful, and Sedaka later a star in his own right, and Kirshner earned himself the nickname ‘The Man with the Golden Ear’, managing, among others, The Monkees, before they broke free.

On 1 October the sovereignty of Christmas Island is transferred from the UK to Australia, and two of the BBC’s longest-running television series also began during Francis’s second reign at the top. 11 October saw the start of sports programme Grandstand, which lasted until 2007, and five days later, Blue Peter began, which continues to this day. 21 October saw the first women take to their seats in the House of Lords, and a week later, the State Opening of Parliament was broadcast on TV for the first time.

Written by: Carolina Moon: Joe Burke & Benny Davis/Stupid Cupid: Howard Greenfield & Neil Sedaka

Weeks at number 1: 6 (26 September-6 November)

Births:

Novelist Irvine Welsh – 27 September

Musician Thomas Dolby – 14 October

Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon – 27 October 

Deaths:

Birth control advocate Marie Stopes – 2 October

Cricketer Charlie Townsend – 17 October 

Philosopher GE Moore – 24 October 

Physicist Stephen Butterworth – 28 October