69. Perry Como with Mitchell Ayres’ Orchestra and the Ray Charles Singers – Magic Moments (1958)

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Michael Holliday’s The Story of My Life, a wistful easy listening ditty written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David in which a man looks back at his life with his loved one, was replaced at the top of the charts by – another wistful easy listening ditty written by Bacharach and David in which a man looks back at his life with his loved one. They both even contained whistling. Magic Moments, sung by mega-crooner Perry Como, is regarded as a classic of the genre, shot Bacharach and David into the big time as songwriters and reigned at number 1 for a full two months.

Perry Como had already had a number 1 here back in 1953 with the largely forgettable Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes. Since then he had begun donning his trademark cardigans for The Perry Como Show in the US. In 1956, a poll in Life magazine revealed he was considered to be the ideal husband material among young women. The ideal choice to perform a song as sweet and cosy as Magic Moments, then.

It’s hard to review Magic Moments seriously, and it’s an easy target for spoofing and poking fun at now, but at the time it must have come as a blessed relief to older record buyers and conservative types who may have been put off by all the rock’n’roll that had invaded the charts. Serene Dominic said this in his 2003 book, Burt Bacharach, Song by Song:

‘Combined with the quizzical bassoon, the whistling and the ghastly white shadings of the Ray Charles Singers, these distant recollections must seem like occurrences on another planet to later generations.’

It seems a tad harsh to me but I take the point. However, as far as this type of song goes, and compared to some of the others I’ve put myself through for this blog, I can’t help but like it. A bit. I take exception to this lyric, though:

‘I’ll never forget the moment we kissed the night of the hay ride
The way that we hugged to try to keep warm while takin’ a sleigh ride’

You can’t rhyme ‘ride’ with ‘ride’! And this is from two of the greatest songwriters of all time!

To me, Magic Moments means former Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band hero Neil Innes in the 1980s adverts for Quality Street, lampooning Como, or brings to mind Terry Gilliam’s screen version of Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, when Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) arrives at a Vegas hotel full of police with a large arsenal of drugs in his possession. But in 1958, it boosted Como’s image and success even further. Whether it was music, film, radio or TV, he won many plaudits, including several Emmys and Grammys. Like most singers of his ilk, his career suffered in the 60s, but he enjoyed a revival of sorts in the 70s and continued to perform for years after. The world mourned when he died in his sleep in 2001, just six days short of his 89th birthday.

Como’s second number 1 reign takes us into spring 1958, and during this time, a British team led by Sir Vivian Fuchs completed the first ever crossing of the Antarctic on 2 March, using caterpillar tractors and dogsled teams over 99 days. On 19 March, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh officially opened the London Planetarium, the first of its kind in Britain. Four days later, work began on the M1, the first full-length motorway in the country. Lovers of pioneering sonic experimentation (such as myself) will take note of the fact the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, later responsible for such magic as the Doctor Who theme tune in 1963, was first created on 1 April, and three days later, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, better known now as CND, began its first protest march, from Hyde Park, London, to Aldermarston in Berkshire.

Written by: Burt Bacharach & Hal David

Producer: Joe Weisman

Weeks at number 1: 8 (28 February-24 April)

Births:

Singer Nik Kershaw – 1 March
Actress Miranda Richardson – 3 March
Singer Andy Gibb – 5 March –
Singer Gary Numan – 8 March
Writer and composer Neil Brand – 18 March
Actor Gary Oldman – 21 March
Echo & the Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant – 12 April
Actor Peter Capaldi – 14 April
Musician Benjamin Zephaniah – 15 April

Deaths:

Cricketer Phil Mead – 26 March
Footballer Billy Meredith – 19 April

2 Replies to “69. Perry Como with Mitchell Ayres’ Orchestra and the Ray Charles Singers – Magic Moments (1958)”

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