Thanks to Who’s Sorry Now? Connie Francis had become a star. MGM changed their minds and offered her a new contract. The problem now was, how do you follow it up? Her next two singles, I’m Sorry I Made You Cry and Heartaches, sank without trace. Francis needed another track that would appeal to both young and old listeners. As luck would have it, she got one of each.
Yet again, her father suggested wisely when he picked Carolina Moon. Like Who’s Sorry Now? it was an oldie. It had been written by Joe Burke and Benny Davis in 1924, and was a hit for Gene Austin four years later. Both songwriters were responsible for a number of famous tunes – Joe Burke came up with Tiptoe Through the Tulips and Davis wrote Baby Face with Harry Akst.
Carolina Moon is a sweet, wistful ballad, tenderly sang by Francis. She’s missing her love and is hoping the moon will find him and tell him she’s ‘blue and lonely’. They can’t have had a decent postal service near Francis, I guess. Crap joke aside, it’s a good showcase for the singer, and the plaintive harmonica solo is a highlight. On it’s own though, I doubt it would have reached number 1. Luckily for Francis, her luck turned once more.
Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka were still in their teens and struggling to get their foot in the door of the world of songwriting. Eventually they wound up at the office of Aldon Music, a new company formed by producers Don Kirshner and Al Nevins. I say office… by all accounts the tiny room was a piano, two desks and lots of boxes as they had only just moved in. Nonetheless, Kirshner was impressed (Nevins less so), and he contacted Francis to say the boys could help her out.
Kirshner, Greenfield and Sedaka were surprised to see Francis was still living in humble surroundings, in a small house with no carpet. They played ballad after ballad to her and Bobby Darin (the singer had started in music as Francis’s songwriter). She later recalled in an interview for DISCoveries Magazine that hours later, after Kirshner had left, she said, ‘Look, fellas. I hate to tell you this and don’t get me wrong, your music is beautiful, but it’s too educated. The kids don’t dig this kinda stuff anymore. You guys are putting me to sleep. Don’t you have something a little more lively?’ Greenfield told Sedaka to play a sample of a new song they had written for the Shepherd Sisters. Sedaka was horrified. He considered Francis way too classy to even suggest such a thought. He relented, played her Stupid Cupid, and finally Francis, Kirshner, Greenfield and Sedaka got what they looking for. A big hit.
Stupid Cupid was inspired. Sedaka might not have thought it was classy, but music didn’t need to be anymore. It had witty lyrics, a memorable tune and great production from Morty Kraft. The bass player remains unknown but whoever it was, their work is considered some of the best in rock’n’roll up to that point. The guitar twang every time Francis reaches ‘Stupid Cupid, stop picking on me’ is clever or annoying depending on your mood, but the way Francis sings that line is perfect. She certainly had a knack of owning the songs she worked on
Spending six weeks at number 1, Carolina Moon/Stupid Cupid finally established Francis, and although she never reached the top again, the hits continued. Lipstick on Your Collar is still considered a 50s classic.
She continued her winning ways around the world for years to come, and had further number 1 success in the US into the 60s, but the 70s were tough on the singer. She was raped and nearly suffocated in a motel in 1974. The attacker was never found, and Francis became reclusive and addicted to medication. In 1977 she completely lost her voice following surgery. When it returned, she had to learn to sing all over again. She began performing again, but in 1981 her brother was murdered by Mafia hitmen, and she was diagnosed with manic depression before being committed to 17 different hospitals.
Having led such a rollercoaster life, she decided to put pen to paper. Francis released her autobiography, Who’s Sorry Now? in 1984, and it became a bestseller. Despite her tribulations she is remembered as one of the biggest stars during a time that was mainly male-dominated. Greenfield and Sedaka of course became very successful, and Sedaka later a star in his own right, and Kirshner earned himself the nickname ‘The Man with the Golden Ear’, managing, among others, The Monkees, before they broke free.
Carolina Moon: Joe Burke & Benny Davis/Stupid Cupid: Howard Greenfield & Neil Sedaka
Producers: Connie Francis/Leroy Holmes
Weeks at number 1: 6 (26 September-6 November)
Novelist Irvine Welsh – 27 September
Musician Thomas Dolby – 14 October
Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon – 27 October
Birth control advocate Marie Stopes – 2 October
Cricketer Charlie Townsend – 17 October
Philosopher GE Moore – 24 October
Physicist Stephen Butterworth – 28 October
1 October: The sovereignty of Christmas Island is transferred from the UK to Australia.
11 October: The start of BBC sports programme Grandstand, which lasted until 2007.
16 October: Legendary BBC children’s TV series Blue Peter began, which continues to this day.
21 October: The first women take to their seats in the House of Lords.
28 October: The State Opening of Parliament was broadcast on TV for the first time.