144. Cliff Richard and the Shadows – The Next Time/Bachelor Boy (1963)

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1963 may have been a landmark year for the charts, but it started like any other. Elvis had been 62’s Christmas number 1 with Return to Sender, but was replaced on 3 January by the UK’s very own Elvis, Cliff. A year since he and the Shadows had ruled the charts with a film soundtrack (The Young Ones), they were at it again. The musical Summer Holiday was about to be released, and as the UK was still in the early stages of one of the longest, coldest winters of all time, it’s easy to see why this cheesy tale of escapism was about to become so huge.

Summer Holiday is the story of Don (Cliff) and his friends, who are London bus mechanics. One typically miserable summer’s day, Don tells his mates that London Transport will let them borrow a double-decker bus, to convert into a caravan and drive across Europe. This sounds like such a preposterous film, I’m almost tempted to watch it. Almost. Along the way, Don and co are joined by a runaway female singer, who initially pretends to be a man, and they are pursued by her mother and her agent. They end up in Greece, for some reason, and I assume they all live happily ever after. I’d like to see a post-Brexit version, where Don and his pals never get out of the UK due to the feared customs gridlock. Cliff and the Shadows first release of 1963 was a double A-side of tracks from the film, which was released on 11 January, a week into their time at the top.

The Next Time is an average unlucky-in-love ballad by US songwriters Buddy Kaye (who co-wrote Dickie Valentine’s 1955 Christmas number 1, Christmas Alphabet) and Phillip Springer. In the film, Cliff sings this as he wanders around Greece in a string vest, like a young, depressed Rab C Nesbitt. I’m assuming he’s just had a fight or split up with his love interest, as his friends have advised him he’ll love again some day. The problem is, Cliff’s not sure there will be a next time as he’s still in love. It seems primarily designed for Cliff to look all doe-eyed and for his female fans to swoon at, but as far as this sort of thing goes, it’s okay, and Cliff puts in a good performance.

Bachelor Boy is the more famous of the two, and became one of the singer’s signature tunes, yet it was only an afterthought for inclusion in the film. Shadows guitarist Bruce Welch wrote the bulk of it, with help on a verse from Cliff, earning him his only number 1 songwriting credit. The chorus is fairly memorable, but what terrible lyrics. According to the song, Cliff’s father told him when he was young that he’d be a bachelor boy until his dying days. Cliff remembered this ‘advice’ when he fell in love at 16, and swiftly ditched his partner. Bit over the top, no? But the worst lyric (and I’m sorry but I can’t help wonder if this is the singer’s work) contains this dire rhyme:

‘As time goes by I probably will
Meet a girl and fall in love
Then I’ll get married have a wife and a child
And they’ll be my turtle doves’

‘Turtle doves’? He then goes on to sing the chorus again, smug in the knowledge he’s not actually bothered if this doesn’t happen, because he’ll die happy if he remains a bachelor anyway. Of course, Bachelor Boy has become so identifiable with Cliff because that’s exactly what he is, and despite a number of high-profile romances in the past (and an affair with former Shadow Jet Harris’s ex-wife), the rumours over his sexuality have never gone away, and this song is often brought up ironically. It doesn’t help that in Summer Holiday, the song is performed by Cliff, the Shadows and Melvyn Hayes via the most camp skipping dance you’re ever likely to see. Take a look at the clip above, and try not to laugh…

While Cliff Richard enjoyed his sixth run at the top, the political world was stunned at the news of the sudden death of Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, aged 56. In December 1962 he was recovering from flu when he visited the Soviet Union for talks with leader Nikita Kruschev. He contracted another illness while there, and was admitted to hospital after returning home on 4 January. Two weeks later, he died from complications following a bout of lupus. Labour had been doing well in the polls and it was thought that Gaitskell had a very good chance of being the next Prime Minister, in much the same way that John Smith was considered to be the next PM before his shock death in 1994. Gaitskell’s death was so unexpected and sudden, conspiracy theories regarding his demise have remained ever since. The most popular involves an alleged Soviet KGB plot to ensure that Harold Wilson (supposedly a KGB agent) became Prime Minister. The claim returned to make news upon the publishing of the controversial book Spycatcher in 1987.

Written by:
The Next Time: Buddy Kaye & Phillip Springer/Bachelor Boy: Bruce Welch & Cliff Richard 

Producer: Norrie Paramor

Weeks at number 1: 3 (3-23 January)

Births:

Presenter James May – 16 January 
Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow – 19 January
Journalist Martin Bashir – 19 January 

Deaths:

Mathematician Edward Charles Titchmarsh – 18 January
Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell – 18 January

40. Dickie Valentine with Johnny Douglas & His Orchestra – Christmas Alphabet (1955)

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As winter 1955 dawned, Rock Around the Clock-mania had set in, and Bill Haley & His Comets were finally enjoying their stint at number 1. Although this was indeed a seismic event in music, it would be wrong to think that from then on, the UK number ones were constantly rock’n’roll numbers. Teenagers, as they had recently been named, still only represented a portion of the record-buying market. There were still a lot of older folk who were more than happy with the status quo, who liked a nice crooner to sing something warm and cosy, and especially with the dark nights drawing in, etc. Smooth singer Dickie Valentine had enjoyed a very successful year, with his collaboration with the Stargazers, Finger of Suspicion, topping the charts back in January. He was still enjoying fame at the end of the year, and must have been thinking it’d be pretty damn good to top and tail 1955’s charts with two number 1s. He got exactly that by cottoning on to an idea that would serve artists well for years to come – if you want a number 1 at Christmas time, why not do a song about Christmas time?

Christmas Alphabet had been written by Buddy Kaye and Jules Loman the previous year, and was performed by US singing trio The McGuire Sisters. Kaye liked his alphabet songs – he’d written ‘A’ You’re Adorable (The Alphabet Song) back in 1949 for Perry Como, although these days it’s probably best known as featuring in Angela Rippon’s guest spot on a Morecambe & Wise Christmas special. Valentine’s version became the more famous version, and the oldies won out, knocking Haley from his lofty perch and making Christmas Alphabet the first explicitly-festive Christmas number 1.

It’s based around a very simple idea. Valentine just lists seasonal stuff around each letter that makes up the word ‘Christmas’. He runs through it twice, to make sure it’s all sunk in, and that’s it, job done. Some of the rhyming is tenuous though…

‘S is for the Santa who makes every kid his pet,
Be good and he’ll bring you everything in your Christmas alphabet!’

Erm, sorry, what? Santa makes every kid his pet? It’s news to me. Disturbing news, at that.

Although by this stage of my blog I’ve been longing for rock’n’roll to come along and shake things up, I have to confess that I don’t mind Christmas Alphabet. Reason being, I’m a sucker for a Christmas song. Especially older ones. Christmas is of course, a time for feeling all cosy and warm, if you’re lucky enough to have that option. 50s music is often perfect at encapsulating that. So I’m quite surprised, especially considering its historical importance, that Christmas Alphabet seems to have been forgotten about. You never hear it in shops, and it’s never on compilations. John Lewis are unlikely to get someone to make one of those annoying, wet, folky covers and stick it on an advert, either. It might be a slight little number, but it deserves to be remembered.

You could say the same about Valentine himself. Despite being adored at the time, he’s been largely forgotten, and that might be a reason behind Christmas Alphabet‘s obscurity. His popularity waned in the next decade, and he met a tragic end in 1971. Aged only 41, he was driving to a gig in Wales with bandmates at over 90mph in the early hours of the morning, when he lost control of the vehicle on a bend, killing the three of them.

Written by: Buddy Kaye & Jules Loman

Producer: Dick Rowe

Weeks at number 1: 3 (16 December-5 January 1956)

Births:

Poet Carol Ann Duffy – 23 December