On 24 March 1953, while She Wears Red Feathers continued its hold on the top of the UK charts, Queen Mary, consort of the deceased King George V, died peacefully in her sleep. On the same day, the discovery of several bodies at 10 Rillington Place shocked the country. The murderer, John Christie, had moved out four days earlier, leaving several bodies hidden around the house. He had killed at least eight people, including his wife Ethel. A week later on 31 March, both the funeral of Queen Mary and the arrest of Christie took place. Mary had insisted that the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II should not be delayed in the event of her death. The trial of Christie, later in the year, revealed a terrible miscarriage of justice in which a husband and father had been wrongly sentenced to death by hanging…
The ‘comic’ stylings of She Wears Red Feathers were knocked from number 1 on 10 April, and we were back to appropriately mournful ballad territory. Only this time, for the first time, the act responsible were not a US singer. They were actually homegrown, and there were five of them. The Stargazers, went through several incarnations following their inception in 1949, but it is believed at the time of their first number one the vocal group were Cliff Adams, Ronnie Milne, Marie Benson, Fred Datchler and Bob Brown. They had lots of success on BBC Radio during the 50s, so, like the US chart-toppers that preceded them, their appearances in the media of the time no doubt helped them achieve their number 1 placing.
Broken Wings has not aged well. Written by John Jerome and Bernard Gunn, the lyrics point out correctly that with broken wings, no bird can fly. The subject of the song has been let down by their lover, who has been unfaithful.
‘With broken wings, no bird can fly
And broken promises mean love must fade and die
I trusted you, you can”t be true
My heart no longer sings
It”s wings are broken too’.
Musically, the Stargazers’ cover is a dirge, with only one point of interest, which is the sparse instrumentation, dominated by an electric piano. Very different to what had been top of the pops up to this point. A week later they were replaced by something much more memorable and light-hearted, but the Stargazers weren’t done with the charts. If you want to hear a catchier song called Broken Wings, there is of course, this track by Mr Mister.
Written by: John Jerome & Bernard Gunn
Producer: Dick Rowe
Weeks at number 1: 1 (10-16 April)
Mathematician Andrew Wiles – 11 April
Politician Stephen Byers – 13 April