‘The wind of change is blowing through this continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.’. On 3 February 1960, with these famous words, the recently re-elected Prime Minister Harold Macmillan served notice in Cape Town that many British colonies would have their independence returned. The speech made waves, despite the fact Macmillan was only repeating what he’d said on 10 January.
Despite the dawn of a new decade, the wind of change didn’t blow through the music world just yet. There were a few years to go before the Mersey Sound. Having said that, the charts had changed somewhat. US rock’n’roll had been largely neutered via teen-pop. Elvis was about to return from the army, but he was somewhat diminished. Buddy Holly was dead. The next few years saw many British singers and bands try to fill the vacuum, hoping to repeat the success of the current biggest star, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, who by now had given up copying young Elvis quite so much and was peddling a safe style of pop for homegrown audiences.
1959’s Christmas number 1, Emile Ford and the Checkmates’ What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For? had remained at the top for most of January 1960, but by the time the ‘Wind of Change’ speech had made an impact, it had been replaced by a star from the previous decade. Easy listening crooner Michael Holliday had already had a number 1 with Bacharach and David’s The Story of My Life in February 1958. The owner of a gentle baritone, similar to Bing Crosby, Holliday’s Starry Eyed had been written by Earl Shuman and Mort Garson. Garson later became a pioneer of electronic music, with albums featuring Moog synthesizers. The track had been released in the US by Gary Stites, but it was only a modest success.
Produced by Norrie Paramor, who was fast ratcheting up number 1s like Mitch Miller had in the first few years of the charts, Starry Eyed is so slight, it feels like the wind of change would blow it away. However, the backing vocals of the Mike Sammes Singers are hard to forget and Holliday’s vocal is lilting and as smooth as can be, making for a pretty good combination. It doesn’t set your ears or heart alight, but I can see how it would have warmed the hearts of record-buyers in the dead of winter 1960.
Holliday’s career would never reach these heights again, and the next few years would see his world collapse around him. Despite his relaxed image, he suffered terrible stage fright, and his popularity with women resulted in his marriage disintegrating, in addition to money worries. In 1961 he suffered a nervous breakdown, and in October 1963, Holliday died of a suspected deliberate drugs overdose, aged only 38.
Written by: Earl Shuman & Mort Garson
Producer: Norrie Paramor
Weeks at number 1: 1 (29 January-4 February)
British field hockey player Sean Kerly – 29 January