11. Mantovani & His Orchestra – The Song from The Moulin Rouge (1953)


Tired of reading about easy listening crooners? Well, here’s something slightly different. Eddie Fisher & Sally Sweetland’s I’m Walking Behind You was knocked back off the top slot by Frankie Laine’s mammoth I Believe, which stayed there for a further impressive six weeks. During that period, serial killer John Christie was hanged for the murder of his wife (there were other victims though, detailed here and here), and two notable TV shows began on the BBC: influential sci-fi drama The Quatermass Experiment and nostalgic (yes the BBC loved looking to the past even then) music hall series The Good Old Days, which ran for 30 years.

On 14 August, for the first time an instrumental became number 1. The Song from the Moulin Rouge (also known as Where Is Your Heart) came from, predictably enough, the 1952 movie Moulin Rouge, which starred José Ferrer and Zsa Zsa Gabor. The music was written by distinguished French composer Georges Auric, with French lyrics by Jacques Larue. However, this version, by Anglo-Italian conductor and composer Annunzio Paolo Mantovani, was instrumental, with the main melody played on an accordion by Henry Krein. As well as being the first instrumental number 1, it was the first time the number 1 sounded anything other than British or American. The wistful tune conjures up an air of French melancholy and a rare European sophistication, by 1950s singles standards, anyway.

Mantovani’s signature style of cascading strings (known as the Mantovani Sound) made him hugely popular on these shores. He was Britain’s most successful album artist until a band called the Beatles started making a noise. He had helped keep morale up during World War Two on BBC Radio, so it was perhaps inevitable that he would reach number one sooner rather than later. Mantovani was more than just your average conductor though, he innovated. He was one of the early pioneers of stereo recording, and his tunes were often used in record shops to demonstrate the exciting new sound. Despite this, by the time the Beatles had eclipsed him in sales, he was out of favour. When George Martin suggested a string overdub for Yesterday, Paul McCartney insisted it must not sound like Mantovani. He had become yesterday’s man.

But in 1953 he was on top of his game, and although The Song from Moulin Rouge was only top of the pops for a week before I Believe began it’s final, three-week stint at the top, Mantovani would return in 1954 with that year’s longest-running number 1 single.

Written by: Georges Auric

Producer: Frank Lee

Weeks at number 1: 1 (14-20 August)


Journalist Carol Thatcher – 15 August

2 Replies to “11. Mantovani & His Orchestra – The Song from The Moulin Rouge (1953)”

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