The early months of 1955 saw freezing weather conditions across much of the UK. The plunge in temperature began in January, and despite a thaw at the end of the month, an icy blast returned. Sport and rail services were cancelled, the RAF were forced to drop food and medical supplies, and many communities became completely isolated.
During this extremely cold spell, Ruby Murray, a young rising star from Northern Ireland, had a three-week stint at number 1 with Softly Softly. It was written by Mark Paul and Pierre Dudan, but the English lyrics were provided by Ivor Novello Award-winning songwriter Paddy Roberts. A former child star with a distinctive voice due to an early throat operation, her debut single, Heartbeat, had reached number 3, but Rosemary Clooney and the Mellomen’s Mambo Italiano had run its course, so Murray hit the top.
We’re back in the realms of slushy ballad here. With syrupy strings as her backing, Murray is in fine voice. She sounds quite sensual at the start, to the extent you wonder if it’s going to get quite saucy. Alas, it’s merely another tender love song. It’s pleasant enough I suppose if you like that sort of thing, which 1955 record buyers obviously did.
Ruby Murray’s career peaked that year, with a Royal Command Performance, and a single in the charts every week for a full year. She had a few more hits as the decade drew to a close, but sadly it seems Murray’s lasting legacy is that her name became Cockney rhyming slang for going for a curry. It was adopted in the classic sitcom Only Fools and Horses, and seems to have stuck ever since. It’s even in the Oxford Dictionary of English now.She spent her last few years, after a battle with alcoholism, entertaining staff and fellow guests at a nursing home. She died of liver cancer in 1996, aged only 61.
Written by: Mark Paul & Pierre Dudan/Paddy Roberts (English lyrics)
Weeks at number 1: 3 (18 Feb-10 March)
Singer Howard Jones – 23 February