Compared to the charts in the previous two years, the number 1s of 1955 have been quite diverse, and weird at times. We’ve had standard, dreary early 50s music, ballads, novelty songs, mambo and country music. But when are we going to get to some rock’n’roll? The genre that changed everything, that shook up pop forever?
We’re nearly there, actually. Earlier that year, a film called Blackboard Jungle had been released. It featured rock’n’roll as its soundtrack, and by November, the music that featured in the opening credits, a former B-side for Bill Haley & His Comets called Rock Around the Clock, had been gathering momentum. At the same time, Rock Island Line by skiffle singer Lonnie Donegan was also released. A revolution had begun.
First though, a song from a musical. I’m about as much of a fan of musicals as I am country, bar a few exceptions. Well, who doesn’t love Grease?
Hernando’s Hideaway, by the Johnston Brothers, knocked Jimmy Young from the top on 11 November. It featured in The Pajama Game, a Broadway show by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, that had moved to the West End earlier that year and was originally performed by Carol Haney.
The Johnston Brothers were a male vocal group formed in 1949 and led by the wonderfully named Johnny Johnston. The other members were Alan Dean, Eddie Lester and Denny Vaughan. Like the Walker Brothers, they weren’t actually related. Johnston had been a singer and arranger with the BBC and had previously been a member of The Keynotes. The Johnston Brothers signed with Decca Records in 1953 and soon had their first top 10 hit with Oh Happy Day.
With The Pajama Game sparking so much interest, several versions of Hernando’s Hideaway were available, but it was the brothers’ version that ruled the roost on these shores, beating off Johnnie Ray and Archie Bleyer.
Set to a very famous tango tune (is this tune stolen from a tango standard, or is this how it became famous?), the song concerns a dodgy-sounding Spanish dive where lovers can meet in private. Featuring atmospheric castanets and shouts of ‘Ole!’, the Johnston Brothers, at least, don’t attempt comedy Spanish accents, and let’s face it, back then, nobody would have minded if they had. I’m sure it works fine in the context of a musical, but a UK number 1? Not in my eyes, or ears, but maybe I’m getting impatient for what is to come.
The Johnston Brothers had a few more singles before calling it a day, with Johnny Johnston moving into writing advertising jingles. Johnny Johnston Jingles Ltd (again, great name) came up with, among others, the famous ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ jingle.
Hernando’s Hideaway is still the nickname for the smoking room in the House of Commons.
Written by: Richard Adler & Jerry Ross
Producer: Hugh Mendl
Weeks at number 1: 2 (11 November-24 November)
Go West singer Peter Cox – 17 November
Architect Amanda Levete – 17 November
Cricketer Ian Botham – 24 November
20 November: The Milton rail crash left 11 dead and 157 injured when a speeding train derailed near Didcot.