Throughout the short-lived but infamous Suez conflict (see below), the UK’s number 1 single was Frankie Laine’s fourth and final number 1 – this cover of A Woman in Love.
It had been written by Frank Loesser for the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls. The Four Aces had some success with their version in the US, but the golden touch of Laine surpassed this in the UK.
Despite all his UK previous number 1s happening in 1953, the hits had continued. 1954 saw six top 10 singles and three more in 1955, including Cool Water which stalled at number two.
As usual, Laine gives it his all here, over a tango drumbeat and parping, swinging brass, but I’m already struggling to remember the tune two minutes after hearing it and it’s left me rather cold. Laine is insistent that the woman he’s bellowing at is in love with him as it’s clear in her eyes. I’m not sure shouting this at her is the right way to go about persuading her, though.
Laine had many more years of good fortune ahead. He famously sang the theme to western TV series Rawhide, which began in 1959, and showed he had a sense of humour by doing the same for Mel Brooks’ spoof Blazing Saddles in 1974, which won him an Oscar nomination.
He is now considered somewhat a bridge from the pop of old to rock’n’roll, not so much because of his style, but the way he expressed his voice, putting more soul into his performances than your average swinger of the time.
He was also one of the first white performers to cover black artists. His reputation as a social activist is impressive – he was the first white artist to appear on Nat King Cole’s TV show when he was unable to get a sponsor, purely because he was black. He later performed for free for supporters of Martin Luther King, and devoted a large amount of his time to the Salvation Army and homeless charities.
His final recording, Taps/My Buddy, was dedicated to the firefighters who helped during the 9/11 terrorist attack, and he insisted all profits went directly to them.
Frankie Laine died of heart failure on 6 February 2007, aged 93, his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
Written by: Frank Loesser
Producer: Mitch Miller
Weeks at number 1: 4 (19 October-15 November)
Director Danny Boyle – 20 October
Singer Hazell Dean – 27 October
Actress Juliet Stevenson – 30 October
Screenwriter Richard Curtis – 8 November
Only eleven years after the end of World War Two, the United Kingdom’s reputation as a superpower took a battering that it never really recovered from. Suez. Nasser’s plans to nationalise the Suez Canal company had shocked the UK and France, and plans began to remove him, partly to protect what was left of the British Empire. After meeting with President Eisenhower, Chancellor Harold Macmillan misread the situation and believed the US would not stand in their way. In fact, Eisenhower was insisting on a peaceful solution.
24 October: The UK, France and Israel agreed in secret that Israel would invade Sinai. Then, the UK and France would heroically intervene, and engineer the situation so that Nasser could not nationalise the company. Pretty shameful, sneaky stuff.
29 October: The Israelis attacked expecting retaliation, Nasser’s army instead withdrew.
5 November: The Anglo-French assault began, soon overwhelming the Egyptian army.
6 November. The UN insisted on a ceasefire, and Eisenhower was furious.
There had also been a backlash in the UK, and the consensus now was that Prime Minister Anthony Eden should have acted in the summer before public opinion had turned. Before replacing Winston Churchill, Eden had a reputation as a man of peace. By going to war, and subsequently claiming the meeting between the UK, France and Israel had never taken place, Eden’s reputation was permanently damaged, and parallels were later drawn between him and Tony Blair. By mid-November, newspapers began demanding his resignation.