The irrepressible Guy Mitchell’s Singing the Blues knocked Frankie Vaughan’s The Garden of Eden back off the top and enjoyed one final week at number 1, before Hollywood actor Tab Hunter (how ‘1950s movie star’ is that name?) sent it back down the charts for good with the earnest pop ballad Young Love.
Born Arthur Andrew Kelm, at 15 he had been sacked from the Coast Guard for lying about his age. He met actor Dick Clayton, who suggested his teen idol looks would stand him in good stead should he choose to become an actor. His agent Henry Wilson decided Tab Hunter would be a better name. Sorry to keep bringing it up, but where I come from, a tab hunter is someone who keeps cadging cigarettes… Anyway, he spent the first half of the 50s getting noticed in a series of film roles, before hitting the big time in World War Two drama Battle Cry (1955). For several years, Hunter was Warner Bros’ most popular male star.
Young Love had been written by Ric Cartey and Carole Joyner. Cartey himself released the original version in late 1956 but got nowhere. Country star Sonny James fared better and made it a big hit, but Tab Hunter went even further. One of the top-selling singles of 1957 in both the UK and US, Warner Bros. were so impressed, they formed Warner Bros, Records as a way of preventing Hunter from releasing his freshly recorded album on a rival label. These days, Warner Bros. Records is one of only three remaining huge music conglomerates.
It’s a very safe, innocent tune, and an early attempt at getting young girls to buy records. Having noticed how rock’n’roll had impacted on teenagers, record companies were beginning to wake up to the younger market. Getting a good-looking film star to perform such a song was the perfect move. It has a certain charm – more than some of the dross similar acts like the Osmonds churned out in the 1970s*, and most 90s teen ballads too. It helps that Hunter sounds like a young Morrissey at times. Perhaps an early influence on one of my future heroes and current massive disappointment? You’d probably be hard-pressed to count it among your favourite songs of the decade, though.
Hunter’s film career continued to shine, but tailed off during the 70s. As I was born in 1979, I have to confess I hadn’t heard of him until now. However, while researching, I was delighted to discover that Hunter played geeky substitute teacher Mr Stewart in Grease 2 (1982). Slated by critics, and hated by many fans of the original, I have a certain fondness for the sequel, as do others I know. Listening again to his big cameo moment, the verses from Reproduction sound very similar to the verses from Young Love. Must have been deliberate. Hunter is still with us, and JJ Abrams’ film company Bad Robot are working on a film of his life. One question remains though – ‘Where does the pollen go?’
Staunch fans of the British Empire were dealt a double blow during Young Love‘s reign. Ghana became independent of the UK on 6 March, and the government announced on 11 April that Singapore would also breaking free. On 1 April, BBC’s current affairs programme Panorama pioneered fake news when they transmitted their infamous April Fools Day hoax, with a feature on spaghetti trees in Switzerland, that you can see here. They have inspired many inferior copies ever since.
* Now there’s an irony. Upon further research, I discovered that Young Love was not only covered by Donny Osmond in 1973, it reached number 1!
UPDATE (5/5/2019): Hunter is no longer with us, having died suddenly on 8 July 2018 after a cardiac arrest caused by complications to deep vein thrombosis. He was three days away from his 87th birthday. The Bad Robot film, Tab & Tony, about his secret long-term relationship with actor Anthony Perkins, remains in development.
Written by: Ric Cartey & Carole Joyner
Producer: Billy Vaughn
Weeks at number 1: 7 (22 February-11 April)
Actor Robert Bathurst – 22 February
Artist Wyndham Lewis – 7 March
Linguist Charles Kay Ogden – 21 March