10 November 1958, and Donald Campbell breaks the world water speed record in his Bluebird K7. This was the fifth time he had done so. Campbell seemed to be invincible, but eventually his luck ran out in the worst possible way.
Sitting at number 1 at the time was a song with an unusual history. It’s All in the Game dates back to 1911, when banker Charles G Dawes wrote Melody in A Major. It soon also became known as Dawes’s Melody, and followed him into his political career, and he came to hate it. Dawes eventually became Vice President of the United States under Calvin Coolidge from 1925 to 1929.
In 1951, Brill Building songwriter Carl Sigman decided to write lyrics to this melody. He had a knack for adapting songs, and specialised in writing English lyrics to songs composed in other languages. For example, in 1953 he wrote lyrics for that year’s Christmas number 1, Answer Me. Bizarrely, on the day Sigman took his finished work, It’s All in the Game, to Warner Brothers publishing executive Mac Goldman, Dawes died of a heart attack. Goldman quipped that Sigman’s lyrics must have killed him.
Tommy Edwards was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1922. He began performing at nine years old, but it was in 1946 that he began a recording contract with MGM. He began making inroads into the charts three years later, before hitting number 18 with his waltz-time cover of It’s All in the Game. By 1958 however, MGM were ready to drop Edwards. In a last-ditch effort to save his career, he hit upon the idea of re-recording his hit in a doo-wop style. One of the first stereo singles to ever be recorded, the new version struck gold.
The number 1 version suffers by comparison to some of the other songs covered in 1958. On the whole, it’s been the year with the highest quality of number 1 singles I’ve covered so far. It’s serviceable enough though. Edwards is being philosophical to some poor broken-hearted girl, informing her that love is all one big daft game and all will be well eventually. I don’t want to sound cynical, but I think his optimism might be slightly misplaced. If her beau doesn’t call once in a while, he’s not necessarily soon going to be by her side once more. A harsh dose of reality might be better advice. It’s very well produced, and it’s great to hear a stereo recording finally. The song also works well in a doo-wop style, but the problem is, Edwards kept his vocals largely the same as his 1951 version, so they sound a bit too mannered for my liking, and it drags the whole thing down.
Edwards tried to repeat the trick and re-recorded other past songs in the same style, and they did okay, but not well enough. It’s All in the Game was later covered by acts including the Four Tops and Cliff Richard. Tommy Edwards died in 1969 of a brain aneurysm, believed to have been brought on by alcoholism. He was only 47.
Written by: Charles G. Dawes (music) & Carl Sigman (lyrics)
Weeks at number 1: 3 (7-27 November)
Model Kim Ashfield – 25 November
Politician Lord Robert Cecil – 24 November