153. Frank Ifield – Confessin’ (That I Love You) (1963)

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The 1963 Merseybeat marathon at the top of the charts took a brief pause that summer to allow two huge-selling artists return stints. The first was Australian yodelling country singer Frank Ifield, who prior to Merseybeat was the top music sensation. He’d had three number 1s, I Remember You and Lovesick Blues in 1962, and The Wayward Wind earlier this year, making him the first UK-based act to score three in a row.

Ifield’s schtick was to take an old song (usually a country one), make it sound (slightly) more modern, yodel as and when he saw fit, and then stick some harmonica over the top. Confessin’ (That I Love You) was more of the same, but this time Ifield was covering a jazz standard.

Originally credited to Chris Smith and Sterling Grant, the song was called Lookin’ For Another Sweetie and was first recorded by Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller & His Babies in 1929. The following year it was rewritten as Confessin’, with new lyrics from Al J Neiburg and the music credited to Doc Daugherty and Ellis Reynolds.

By now, you’d think this formula would have looked stale, but Confessin’ (That I Love You) was popular enough to keep Ifield at the top one last time, for a month. It’s the least listenable of a mixed, occasionally bizarre bunch of tunes. It sounds very old-fashioned… but it’s not terrible. I’m always a sucker for some harmonica, and I love the unusual, which is probably the best way to describe Ifield’s yodelling on this song. A strange part of me enjoyed it, but I doubt I’ll be listening to it again.

By and large, the record buyers out there at the time were thinking the same thing, and Ifield became the first (and most recent) star to feel the effects of the sea change in the pop world.  Which was kind of ironic, as John Lennon admitted The Beatles used harmonica so much at the time because of Ifield. Bizarrely, both acts featured together on a cheap US compilation from Vee-Jay Records called Jolly What! England’s Greatest Recording Stars: The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage. The ‘copulation’, as it was accidentally called in the sleeve notes, featured Ifield hits alongside the second and third Beatles singles, plus their B-sides. Needless to say, the title was misleading, and the acts were not performing together.

Ifield’s singles started to perform badly by the middle of the decade, and he began appearing in pantomimes and faded into obscurity, eventually returning to Australia.

In 1991, a bizarre dance remix of She Taught Me How to Yodel was released and credited to Frank Ifield and the Backroom Boys. I’m not sure I’ve heard the correct version, but several remixes are on YouTube, and they’re all predictably odd. Nowadays he tours Australia with  performances of his hits and memories of his years as a pop star.

This song also marked the end of an era for his producer Norrie Paramor. He had first produced a number 1 back in 1954 – Eddie Calvert’s Oh Mein Papa. Back then, the term ‘producer’ didn’t even exist. Paramor had been behind over 20 number 1s at this point. His story wasn’t over yet, but his peak years now came to an end, with George Martin taking over as the most important producer in the UK.

Written by: Al J Neiburg, Doc Daugherty & Ellis Reynolds

Producer: Norrie Paramor

Weeks at number 1: 2 (18-31 July)

Births:

Chess player Julian Hodgson – 25 July
Norman Cook, aka DJ Fatboy Slim – 31 July

152. Gerry and the Pacemakers – I Like It (1963)

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Brian Epstein would eventually lose his battle with depression, but in the summer of 1963 he must have felt on top of the world. He was managing the two biggest pop groups in the UK, who were involved in a to-and-fro at the top of the charts. Gerry and the Pacemakers’ How Do You Do It? was usurped by The Beatles’ From Me to You, which in turn was replaced by Gerry and co’s follow-up, I Like It.

Like their debut, their second single was written by Mitch Murray. Buoyed by his previous success, Murray came up with more of the same. This cheeky, knockabout young love song was tailor-made for the happy-go-lucky Marsden to sing.

Wisely sticking to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ formula that made Merseybeat such a phenomenon, I Like It is an improvement on How Do You Do It?. It’s squeaky-clean pop with a wink – the lyrics may state that the ‘it’ in question is referring to harmless acts such as chin-tickling and tie-straightening, but the teenagers buying the song were probably thinking of something a bit more saucy. The lyric ‘And I like the way you let me come in/When your mama ain’t there’ hints at this too. The chorus is a real earworm – basic but in a very catchy manner. Merseybeat to a tee, all in all.

Murray would have further chart success with similar songs such as You Were Made for Me by Freddie and the Dreamers. His 1964 book, How to Write a Hit Song, inspired Sting, then 12, to begin writing. Nowadays, Sting refers to Murray as his mentor. In 1968, he scored another number 1 with his sometime collaborator Peter Callander, namely Georgie Fame’s The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde.

Written by: Mitch Murray

Producer: George Martin

Weeks at number 1: 4 (20 June-17 July)

Births:

Scottish golfer Colin Montgomerie – 23 June
Singer George Michael – 25 June
Comedian Meera Syal- 27 June
Boxer Errol Christie – 29 June
Film critic Mark Kermode – 2 July 

Artist Tracey Emin – 3 July 

Meanwhile…

12 July: I Like It spent four weeks at number 1, and would no doubt have been played at dances across the country that summer. One such dance was taking place in Gorton, Manchester, on this night, but 16-year-old Pauline Reade never made it there. Just after 8pm, a van pulled over in front of her. Myra Hindley, her friend Maureen’s big sister, got out and asked Pauline for her help searching for an expensive glove on Saddleworth Moor. She told Hindley she was in no big hurry, and agreed to help. Later that night, Pauline’s mother Joan and brother Paul were searching the streets for her when Hindley’s van drove by. Hindley and Ian Brady were inside. Pauline Reade had become their first victim, and was dead and buried on the moors.

151. The Beatles – From Me to You (1963)

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‘Where are we going, lads?’
 ‘To the toppermost of the poppermost, Johnny!’

When The Beatles were feeling in need of a pep talk, Paul, George and Ringo would ask this question to John, and that would be his answer. The Beatles. The biggest and best-selling band of all time. A gang of four that changed popular music and culture for the better. A rare time for the charts in which the mainstream was a showcase for some of the most inventive, innovative and intelligent pop music the world has ever known, and that’s in large part thanks to John, Paul, George and Ringo. Beatlemania and Merseybeat conquered the number 1 position of the charts like nothing before or since, and in total The Beatles scored 17 number 1s – more than any other group to this date. They also conquered America and changed music there too, something no UK act had yet done. By the time the Fab Four split, pop had grown up and become an art form. Their break-up left a void that took some time to fill.

As a teenager, 1963 was my musical year zero, and as a 16-year-old in 1995, I was envious of anyone that was my age when the Beatles were ruling the charts. Working on this blog has, if anything, made that envy more intense. Up to this point, bar the classics, many of these artists and songs have been new to me. I’ve been looking forward to blogging about The Beatles for so long, and now I’m here – what do you write about a band that’s been written about more than any other?

I’ve already covered many key aspects of The Beatles’ pre-fame years, and the story has been told countless times in books, film and TV, but for those who are unaware, 16-year-old Liverpudlian John Lennon formed a skiffle group with school friends known as The Quarrymen in 1957. That summer, Lennon met Paul McCartney for the first time, and soon after he became their rhythm guitarist. The following year, his friend, George Harrison auditioned for them on a bus and became their lead guitarist. By 1959 the other band members had left, and the trio became known as Johnny and the Moondogs. In January 1960, Lennon persuaded his art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe to buy a bass guitar, and he suggested they become the Beatals, as a tribute to The Crickets. In May they became The Silver Beetles, by July they were The Silver Beatles, and finally in August they settled on The Beatles. That month they hired Pete Best as their drummer and their unofficial manager Allan Williams arranged a residency for them in Hamburg, Germany.

For two years they would return there, and perform through the night, often relying on the drug Preludine to keep them going. Sutcliffe preferred to focus on being an artist and left the group early in 1961, so Paul McCartney became the bassist. Sutcliffe later died of an aneurysm, aged only 21. 

Later that year they made their recording debut as The Beat Brothers, backing Tony Sheridan. That November, Brian Epstein saw the band performing at the Cavern Club. The canny local record store owner saw an inherent star quality in the foursome, and he became their manager in January 1962. He began trying to organise them a UK record deal, but Decca told them guitar groups were ‘on their way out’. Three months later they signed to Parlophone and got lucky in finding a sympathetic producer in George Martin, who, like Epstein, knew there was something special about this group. However, he wasn’t sure about the drummer, and neither was Epstein, or the others, so Best was sacked and replaced with Ringo Starr from Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.

Finally, things fell into place, despite a shaky start between Martin and Ringo on debut single Love Me Do.  On Martin’s advice the band sped up their song Please Please Me and it became their second single, and it was a smash-hit, reaching number 1 on several charts in early 1963 – but not the chart that is now considered to be official (see my blog on How Do You Do It? for further info).

Around this time, Epstein encouraged the foursome to clean up their act if they wanted to be really big, and they became more family friendly by dressing in suits, and ceasing swearing on stage. Parlophone wanted to capitalise on Please Please Me‘s success, and they swiftly recorded their debut album with the same name in one long session, climaxing in their raw version of Twist and Shout.

Paul and John had written From Me to You on a coach while they were on tour with Helen Shapiro. They had been inspired by ‘From You to Us’, the name of the letters section in the New Musical Express. Back then, McCartney and Lennon’s songs (this song dates from before they swapped their surnames around in their credits) were often written face to face and From Me to You was no exception. Lennon later recalled coming up with the first line, in the famous Playboy interview shortly before he was murdered in 1980. He also said it was originally much bluesier, and it seems they weren’t too enamoured with it at first.

Neither was singer Kenny Lynch, who was also on the coach. When he heard the band performing their falsettos – soon to become one of their trademarks, he allegedly branded them a bunch of ‘fucking fairies’.

Nonetheless, Martin asked the band for a song as strong as Please Please Me, and they presented him with this. He suggested the harmonica, and for the vocal addition to the opening lick, and this achieves something rarely (if ever) achieved by a number 1 up to this point. The recording starts with the entire group performing its raw opening with the catchy refrain presented upfront, almost as if the listener has walked into the song halfway through its performance.

From Me To You is for me their least impressive single. It’s not as effective as the bluesy Love Me Do and deceptively filthy Please Please Me (have another listen if you don’t believe that’s a song about oral sex). Lyrically it’s okay, but pretty basic lightweight pop by their later high standards. However, it is structurally unusual, which is something The Beatles were good at doing without even seemingly trying, and although I’m no musician and am poor on musical terms, it is something recognisable even to idiots like myself. The Everly Brothers-inspired harmonies are in place and a stand-out, and the falsettos add a layer of excitement that teenage girls understood, even if Lynch didn’t. From Me to You became the band’s first officially recognised number 1 single, and stayed there for seven weeks – longer than any other song that year. During its reign, their debut album also went to number 1. They were toppermost of the poppermost, but they were only getting started.

Written by: Paul McCartney & John Lennon

Producer: George Martin

Weeks at number 1: 7 (2 May-19 June)

Births:

Actress Natasha Richardson – 11 May
Actor Jason Isaacs – 6 June

Deaths:

Novelist John Cowper Powys – 17 June 

Meanwhile…

7-13 May: National Service ended, with the last servicemen released from conscription.

5 June: John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, admits to misleading Parliament over his affair with the model Christine Keeler. The UK wasn’t used to political scandals like this yet, and it’s believed the Profumo affair caused the Government irreparable damage.

11 May: Everton won the Football League First Division title.

15 May:  Spurs became the first British team to win a European trophy when they defeated Atlético Madrid 5-1 to take the European Cup Winners Cup.

25 May: Manchester United beat Leicester City 3-1 in the FA Cup final. An emotional victory for a team which was nearly wiped out in the Munich air disaster five years ago.

150. Gerry and the Pacemakers – How Do You Do It? (1963)

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And so the first Merseybeat number 1 was by… hang on, it wasn’t The Beatles? No… at least, not officially speaking. Confused? I was.

By this point, there were several weekly singles charts, including those by Record RetailerNew Musical Express, Melody Maker, Disc and Record Mirror. As I’ve mentioned previously, the NME was the first, and the Official Charts Company treat this as canon from the chart’s inception through to 9 March 1960. From that point until the end of the decade, the organisation recognises Record Retailer. This has become a bone of contention for many chart aficionados and Beatles fans alike. There is a belief that Record Retailer’s chart was too much of an outlier to be treated as the official source. The NME‘s chart took it’s information from a much bigger reach of record shops, for example. Hardcore chart fans lay the blame at The Guinness Book of Hit Singles, originally published in 1977. This authoritative publication opted for Record Retailer, mainly because of the fact it was the only chart that covered the best-selling 50 songs for most of the decade.

The Beatles’ second single, Please Please Me, knocked Frank Ifield’s The Wayward Wind from number 1 in March, according to every chart but the Record Retailer one. Therefore, as far as the Official Charts Company are concerned, this didn’t happen. You can understand the annoyance of Beatles fans, and I agree with them. But this blog covers the official charts, and, well, The Beatles have no shortage of number 1 singles, do they? So, the first Merseybeat number 1 is indeed How Do You Do It? by Gerry and the Pacemakers, who were The Beatles’ main competition in 1963.

Gerry Marsden was born in Toxteth, Liverpool on 24 September 1942. One of his earliest memories involved him standing on top of an air raid shelter and singing to impressed onlookers. He formed the skiffle group Gerry Marsden and the Mars Bars in 1959, with his brother Freddie on percussion. From there they became The Gerry Marsden Trio when bassist Les Chadwick joined, and with the addition of Arthur Mack on piano, Gerry and the Pacemakers began honing their act. They did this at home and in Hamburg, Germany, just like the fledgling Beatles.

In 1961, Mack left to be replaced by Les Maguire, and the group became the second act to sign with Brian Epstein. Despite having the same manager, the two groups were rivals, and Gerry and the Pacemakers signed with Columbia Records, meaning both groups were with EMI.

How Do You Do It? had been written by Mitch Murray, who had offered the song to Adam Faith, among others, but he kept being turned down. George Martin thought the song would make a great debut single for The Beatles, but the Fab Four were not keen, and wanted to push their own McCartney and Lennon compositions instead. So they duly recorded How Do You Do It? for Martin, but deliberately put in a lacklustre performance, and so they got their way and Love Me Do was issued instead.

Martin still clearly thought the song had worth, and Marsden and his group were happy to make it their own debut single, and were right to do so, as the song went to number 1 and stayed there for three weeks.

In the first half of 1963, there seemed little to distinguish the two groups. Both were happy-go-lucky Scouse four-pieces in suits, permanently beaming away for the cameras. The tunes were catchy, upbeat pop numbers, with a somewhat raw, fast sound, and of course the key element was the Liverpudlian accents, which were accentuated rather than hidden away. Unlike the wave of cockney number 1s a few years back though, the accents didn’t seem exaggerated, they seemed natural, and the music was more natural and earthy than the conservative approach of Cliff Richard and The Shadows.

The Beatles version of How Do You Do It? was released on Anthology 1 in 1995, so their version can be compared with this recording, and sure enough, it’s Gerry and the boys putting the effort in and delivering a more assured performance. They leave out the ‘ooh-la-la’ backing vocals but add an impressively bluesy piano interlude.  Ultimately of course, The Beatles were right to go with Love Me DoHow Do You Do It? is a catchy but lightweight tune, and this first Merseybeat number 1 didn’t suggest the seismic shift in pop it ultimately caused. But it was a welcome change to Cliff and Elvis to my ears and must have been the same to many in the spring of 1963.

Written by: Mitch Murray

Producer: George Martin

Weeks at number 1: 3 (11 April-1 May)

Births:

Scottish footballer Mo Johnston – 13 April 

149. The Shadows – Foot Tapper (1963)

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The movie Summer Holiday had been out for months, but its popularity was still very high in March 1963, leading to an unusual chart occurrence. For the second time in three months, Cliff Richard found himself knocked from the top of the charts by his backing band, The Shadows. Summer Holiday had been at number 1 for a fortnight, but Foot Tapper replaced it for a week, only to be overtaken by the film’s title track once more.

Foot Tapper was also from the film’s soundtrack, and Bruce Welch had co-written both. The Shadows final number 1 was also written by its most famous member, bespectacled guitarist Hank Marvin. It’s another uptempo piece of incidental music, in a similar vein to their previous bestseller, Dance On!.

It’s a bit better than Dance On!, but only a bit. Once more, you can imagine it working as incidental music for a film score, after all, that’s what it was. But Foot Tapper jangles along for just over two minutes and leaves little impression – it lives up to its name and that’s it. The best bit is the drum work from Brian Bennett, but compare it to Jet Harris and Tony Meehan’s Diamonds and Foot Tapper just doesn’t stand up. The Shadows had been an inspiration to many aspiring musicians, many of which would ultimately outdo and replace them, but their own well was starting to look very dry, and after backing Cliff Richard on seven number 1s, and achieving five in their own right, the group never topped the charts again.

Bassist Brian Locking left the group that October to concentrate on being a Jehovah’s Witness and was replaced with John Rostill. The hits began to dry up as Beatlemania conquered all in its path, and they starred alongside Cliff in another film, Finders Keepers. This 1966 movie features the bizarre premise of the boys arriving in a Spanish town to perform, only to find that the locals have fled in panic because a small bomb has landed nearby. So Cliff and The Shadows decide to find the bomb and get things back to normal. What a lovely set of lads. The Rolling Stones wouldn’t have done that, would they?

The 70s began with the group featuring as regular guests on Cliff’s variety show for the BBC, It’s Cliff Richard!. Rostill left the group and sadly committed suicide in 1973, prompting yet another line-up change, and it wouldn’t be the last. The group took part in the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest, coming in second place with Let Me Be the One. Onetime guitarist John Farrar, who came and went in the mid-70s, went on to write You’re the One That I Want for John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, one of the biggest-selling number 1s of all-time.

The 80s saw keyboard thrown into the mix but like so many bands from their era, an attempt at sounding contemporary just made them look more old-fashioned. The band reunited with Cliff for live shows several times, and Hank Marvin helped on his collaboration with The Young Ones on a remake of their first number 1, Living Doll in 1986, which was the first Comic Relief single. The band’s most famous rhythm section, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, joined them on stage in 1989 for a special performance of Move It at Cliff’s The Event show. In 2004 they announced a farewell tour, and each of the band’s line-up at the time received an OBE, but Hank Marvin gave it back (fair play). Despite the tour, they have continued to perform and record, with Singing the Blues, their last collaboration with Cliff, reaching the top 40 in 2009.

It may be easy to sneer at The Shadows in the 21st century, but if you can look past the white-than-white image and the quaint walk they would famously perform together on stage, Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch and various members ably assisted one of rock’n’roll’s biggest ever stars for years, had a hand in making some of his biggest records, became huge stars in their own right, and released Apache, one of the greatest instrumentals of all time, which would go on to influence hip-hop artists decades later. And if it wasn’t for The Shadows, there would perhaps be no Merseybeat. And after lots of teasing, we’ve finally reached that era.

Written by: Hank Marvin & Bruce Welch

Producer: Norrie Paramor

Weeks at number 1: 1 (28 March-3 April) 

148. Cliff Richard and The Shadows – Summer Holiday (1963)

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Summer Holiday marked the last time Cliff would make it to number 1 with The Shadows. He would continue to work with them occasionally, and obviously, further solo number 1s were to come, but the film, album and song sharing this name were the high watermark of Cliff’s career, and like Elvis, from here on in he was no longer guaranteed a number 1. He had to work for it.

Cliff’s latest film was a massive money-spinner at the box office, eventually becoming the biggest of the year. The Next Time/Bachelor Boy were both from the movie, and had been the first number 1 of 1963. The title track, written by rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch and drummer Brian Bennett, was so catchy, it must have been a shoe-in to be their next single, and two months after the film’s release, it rocketed to the top.

I’ve not been shy of criticising Cliff Richard in my blogs, because I feel he’s let me down somewhat. I was hoping some of these early chart-toppers would be similar to Move It, but too many have been bland, generic and safe. But it’s impossible to dislike Summer Holiday, even after all these years of exposure to it, on countless TV shows and adverts. You can find it amusing, sure, but in an affectionate way. How can you tire of a song that looks ahead to getting away from all your troubles, even if it is just ‘for a week or two’?

The lack of edge to Cliff, Hank and co works in their favour on this track, and with its release coming straight off the back of one of the longest winters this country has ever seen, there’s no wonder the public took it to so much. It’ll probably always be considered Cliff’s best song, and is now a part of British culture, subject to countless spoofs. My first exposure to it came via Kevin the Gerbil in 1984. Kevin was the companion of 80s puppet superstar Roland Rat, and this version was one of my first ever pieces of vinyl. Summer Holiday was also interpolated into the terrible but highly amusing Holiday Rap by Dutch duo MC Miker G & DJ Sven in 1986.

After a fortnight at the top, Cliff found himself in the unlikely situation of being knocked off the top by his backing band, for the second time in a few months. More on that in the next blog.

Written by: Bruce Welch & Brian Bennett

Producer: Norrie Paramor

Weeks at number 1: 3 (14-27 March, 4-10 April)

Births:

Actor Jerome Flynn – 16 March
Actor David Thewlis – 20 March
DJ Andrew Weatherall – 6 April
Musician Julian Lennon – 8 April 

Deaths:

Economist William Beveridge – 16 March 

Meanwhile…

22 March: The Beatles came one step closer to conquering the world when they released their debut album, Please Please Me. Their label, Parlophone Records, were keen to capitalise on the success of Love Me Do, and their follow-up single that shared the album’s title. To this day, it angers many Beatles fans that the single Please Please Me is not considered an official number 1. That’s a story for another time, however…

27 March: The charts weren’t the only place in which change was coming. Dr Richard Beeching, the Chairman of British Railways, issued a report on drastic cuts to the rail network. This infamous report predicted the closure of over 2000 railway stations, plus the scrapping of 8000 coaches and the loss of 68,000 jobs. This was not the age of the train.

147. Frank Ifield – The Wayward Wind (1963)

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Aussie-born yodelling superstar Frank Ifield’s third and penultimate number 1 was a step back from the unrestrained lunacy of Lovesick Blues. Unlike that and I Remember You, The Wayward Wind was a cover of a more recent track. Written by Stanley Lebowsky and Herb Newman, it was first recorded in 1956 by US singer Gogi Grant, who took it to number 1 in the US. The Beatles had recently featured it in their live sets of 1960 and 61, but no versions survive. By reaching number 1 once more, Ifield became the first UK-based act to have three chart-toppers in a row, and he momentarily broke up the seemingly endless Shadows-related number 1s of early 1963.

You can see why The Beatles would cover this, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was one of their early singles at the start thanks to the earthy harmonica refrain. It’s catchy and easily the best element of the song. Then the swirling strings begin and you know this must be produced by Norrie Paramor. I’ve lost count of how many number 1s he’s been responsible for by now but it’ll be by far the most to date. However, he would soon be overtaken by George Martin. Then Ifield starts singing… I enjoyed his barmy performance of Lovesick Blues, but he misjudged this one. His overly-mannered performance is reminiscent of something 10 years previous. He sounds like Frankie Laine, or Jimmy Young on his awful The Man from Laramie. It’s no surprise to see he released a version of his own in 1956.

With a title like The Wayward Wind, it’s tempting to make a joke about Ifield having some sort of stomach issue, which would possibly explain his yodelling too, but I wouldn’t do that… no, this song is about a roamer who’s left a broken heart behind. It may be Ifield’s worst number 1 yet, but you’ll be humming that harmonica part for a while afterwards.

Written by: Stanley Lebowsky & Herb Newman

Producer: Norrie Paramor

Weeks at number 1: 3 (21 February-13 March)

Births:

Labour MP Baron Andrew Adonis – 22 February
Actress Alex Kingston – 11 March