165. Billy J Kramer with the Dakotas – Little Children (1964)

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The winter of 1964 dragged on into a cold, dull and wet March. Electric power workers were threatening industrial action, which had raised fears of power cuts. Fears intensified on 19 March when talks broke down. Minster of Labour Joseph Godber appointed Lord Justice Pearson to chair a court of enquiry into the dispute. Also on 19 March, the government announced plans to build three new towns to act as overspill for the overpopulation problems in London.

28 March saw the first famous pirate radio station, Radio Caroline, begin broadcasting from a ship anchored outside of UK territorial waters off Felixstowe. It began as an attempt to break the monopoly of the BBC on the airwaves. Two days later, reports of violent disturbances between mods and rockers at Clacton beach hit the news for the first time.

Riding high at the top of the charts at the time after toppling Cilla Black, were yet another act connected to the Beatles. Billy J Kramer with the Dakotas had scored three hits penned by Lennon and McCartney, the most popular being their 1963 number 1, Bad to Me. Understandably, they decided if they wanted to secure a long-term future, they needed to step out of the shadow of the Beatles. The fact the Dakotas had also scored a hit with their self-penned instrumental, The Cruel Sea, only backed this belief up. And so the group found themselves doing the unthinkable when they turned down another Lennon and McCartney original, One and One is Two, and opted to record Little Children instead.

You have to admire the boldness of Kramer and co, but unfortunately it was as unwise a move as it was brave. If you’re going to try something new in 1964, don’t pick a song by former Elvis collaborators, whose best days were now behind them. Little Children is a rickety, sickly sweet slice of old-fashioned pop that not even George Martin could turn to gold. In recent years it has received criticism for its sub-paedophilic undertones. If you ask me, this is harsh. It’s a song written in more innocent times, and is actually about a teenager or young man who’s desperate to cop off with his girlfriend, but her siblings are getting in the way, so he tries to win them over and silence them by offering sweets and money. What I won’t excuse, though, is the fact this is a crap, irritating song, and Bad to Me was much better.

In the short term, the group’s move proved to be a wise one, as following this final number 1, they released another Lennon and McCartney track, From a Window, which only made it to number ten. In July, bassist Ray Jones left following an argument with Brian Epstein, which was the first in a series of line-up changes. Music was getting heavier and weirder in the next few years, and Kramer’s softer style, plus a drink problem, meant declining fortunes, and in September 1967, Kramer and the Dakotas went their separate ways. The Dakotas split a year later, with several members joining Cliff Bennet’s band. They reformed in the 80s, with Eddie Mooney on vocals, and in addition to many appearances on the nostalgia circuit, they worked with comedian Peter Kay on the excellent Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights (2001) and the dire spin-off Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere (2004), with new member Toni Baker co-writing all the music to both series with Kay. Kramer is also a regular on package tours of yesteryear, and in 2016 released his autobiography, Do You Want to Know a Secret?

Written by: Mort Shuman & John Leslie McFarland

Producer: George Martin

Weeks at number 1: 2 (19 March-1 April)

Births:

Northern Irish racing driver Martin Donnelly – 26 March

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