158. Brian Poole and The Tremeloes – Do You Love Me? (1963)

Brian-667382.jpg

Decca Records, the label of Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, must have been relieved when their act toppled The Beatles from number 1, as they had famously opted for them and turned the Fab Four down at auditions held on the same day – New Year’s Day 1962. As a London-based band, with a radio following, it had made commercial sense to do so.

Singer Brian Poole (born 2 November 1941) grew up in Barking, east London. He met two Alans, Blakley and Howard, at secondary school, and a shared love of rock’n’roll saw the original formation of The Tremeloes in 1956. Poole took on vocals and guitar, with Blakley also on guitar and Howard on bass. Guitarist Graham Scott also joined up, with the line-up completed by drummer Dave Munden in 1957.

Then known as just The Tremeloes, they quickly amassed a strong local following. Upon signing with Decca, the label insisted the band became Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, to follow prevailing fashions. Like other Merseybeat acts, they were in awe of rock’n’roll, Motown and other soul records, and their first single was their version of The Isley Brothers’ Twist and Shout, which came after The Beatles made it their album-closer on Please Please Me. They decided to cover similar ground with their follow-up, taking on The Contours’ classic from 1962.

Motown CEO Berry Gordy Jr had written Do You Love Me? with The Temptations in mind, but was struggling to find them. In the meantime he ran into The Contours and they performed a run-through. They were on the verge of being dropped, so were keen to make it theirs, but some band members believed it to be a pale imitation of Twist and Shout. They soon changed their tune when it became a huge hit.

Brian Poole and The Tremeloes clearly saw no problem in Do You Love Me? being so similar to their debut and were right to do so. The similarity is too close for my liking though, particularly near the end as they scream and shout their way into the chorus in exactly the same way The Beatles did in Twist and Shout. Ultimately, this number 1, although fast-paced and a very good facsimile of the Merseybeat sound, is a little bit too like a karaoke version for my liking. Poole doesn’t have the vocal prowess of Billy Gordon, and his spoken-word introduction is a little cringe-worthy. There’s some nice flourishes from the rhythm section, though.

The original has of course remained popular due in large part to its appearance in 1987 hit film Dirty Dancing. For me though, it tends to conjure up images of a young Jason Bateman as a werewolf in shoddy sequel, Teen Wolf Too, which came later that year.

Written by: Berry Gordy Jr

Producer: Mike Smith

Weeks at number 1: 3 (10-30 October)

Births:

Northern Irish footballer Alan McDonald – 12 October 

Meanwhile…

10 October. The Conservatives were plummeting in opinion polls, thanks in large part to the Profumo affair, and Harold Macmillan had only just scraped through a parliamentary vote on his leadership. The 69-year-old had been struck down with prostate problems on the eve of the Conservative conference a few days earlier, and was operated on for prostate cancer. Although his doctor said he would be well enough to continue to run the country, Macmillan decided he had been offered a way out.

18 October: Harold Macmillan officially resigned from his hospital bed, and was succeeded a day later by Alec Douglas-Home. This proved controversial, as Douglas-Home was sitting in the House of Lords. To become Prime Minister, he renounced his peerage. A rather stiff, old-fashioned figure, like Macmillan before him, Douglas-Home looked decidedly outdated compared to Labour leader Harold Wilson, who was quickly gaining popularity.

138. Ray Charles (Orchestra & Chorus Conducted by Marty Paich) – I Can’t Stop Loving You (1962)

Concert -Olympia, Paris, backstage, portrait, Ray Charles - 1962.JPG

Soul pioneer Ray Charles achieved his only solo number 1 single with his cover of singer-songwriter Don Gibson’s I Can’t Stop Loving You. He had already brought jazz, gospel and blues sounds into soul, and here was a successful attempt to draw on elements of country and develop the genre further. The original version had been a hit for Gibson in 1958.

Born into poverty in Greenville, Florida on 23 September 1930, Ray Charles Robinson was blind by the age of seven due to glaucoma, but it didn’t prevent him studying composition and learning to play various instruments, including of course, the piano, at the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind. By the time he became a teenager, both his parents had died, and he used his savings to move to Seattle in 1947, where he performed in two different bands, and adopted his trademark sunglasses. Back then however he modelled himself on Nat ‘King’ Cole, and his early recordings were fair facsimiles of his softer sound. It wasn’t until he joined Atlantic Records in 1952 that he began experimenting with mixing genres, and he began to score his first R&B hits, including Mess Around and the mighty I Got a Woman. In 1959 he reached his pinnacle for the label when he released perhaps his finest song. What’d I Say combined Latin rhythms with soul to create a racy classic that made him a pop star.

By 1962, Charles had moved to ABC-Paramount Records as they offered him greater artistic freedom. He had further pop hits, including Georgia on My Mind and Hit the Road Jack, but following a near-death experience in a plane, he decided to try something new. Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music was the result, and is considered by many his finest album.  I Can’t Stop Loving You became its first single after a version by Tab Hunter, who had previously hit number 1 with Young Love, enraged Charles. ABC-Paramount quickly edited the album version down and had a hit on their hands.

My ears were crying out for something a bit more mature after Come Outside, but I must confess to being disappointed by this. It could be down to my lack of appreciation for most country music, but I don’t feel I Can’t Stop Loving You hits the mark like his aforementioned hits. Charles is in fine voice as always, his weathered tones belying the fact he was only 31 when he recorded it, but the backing vocals from the Randy Van Horne Singers are shrill and date the production. The album version is also overlong, but at least the single edit shaves off some of the excess fat. It’s another number 1 that is perhaps easy to respect, less easy to enjoy, these days. But this single did open the doors to the further blurring of boundaries. They didn’t call him ‘The Genius’ for nothing.And to think he managed to do all this while nursing a heroin addiction!

However, in 1965 he was arrested for possession for a third time, and went into rehab. This time he kicked it for good, even though two subsequent hits sound like statements of defiance – I Don’t Need No Doctor and Let’s Go Get Stoned. By the 70s his star was on the wane.

1980 saw a cameo in much-loved musical comedy The Blues Brothers, and this would definitely have been the first time I became aware of Charles, as I was obsessed with this film for years in my childhood. In 1985 he made another appearance at number 1 when the charity supergroup USA for America topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic with the mediocre We Are the World. Charles acted as bandleader, trying his best to coax better performances out of those who couldn’t be arsed (I’m looking at you, Paul Simon). His health declined as the new millennium dawned, but after hip surgery in 2003 he was ready to hit the road once more. Sadly ill health took hold, and at the age of 73 he died of complications from acute liver disease on 10 June 2004. Several months later, the biopic Ray was released, starring an Oscar-winning Jamie Foxx in the title role.

From humble beginnings and personal struggles, Ray Charles went on to not only become one of soul and R&B’s most important figures, whose music was enjoyed by millions, but he was also an inspiration to a diverse range of legendary artists, including Stevie Wonder, Elvis Presley, Steve Winwood and Roger Waters. He also contributed to the civil rights movement, and will be remembered as one of the 20th century’s brightest talents.

Written by: Don Gibson

Producer: Sid Feller

Weeks at number 1: 2 (12-25 July)

Deaths:

Historian GM Trevelyan – 21 July

Meanwhile…

12 July: Blues singer Long John Baldry performs at London’s Marquee Club. His support act for the night are performing their first gig. The Rollin’ Stones consisted of Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ian Stewart and Dick Taylor. They would become the Rolling Stones shortly after, but it would be nearly another year before the first classic line-up fell into place.

13 July: Prime Minister Harold Macmillan sacked a third of his cabinet. Panicking after poor polling results and Liberal gains in by-elections, the speed and scale of the dismissals saw the press refer to it as the Night of the Long Knives, which was the name of a purge in 1934 Nazi Germany.

95. Michael Holliday (Accompaniment directed by Norrie Paramor with The Michael Sammes Singers) – Starry Eyed (1960)

78964385.jpg

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 slightest breeze would blow it away. However, the backing vocals of The Michael 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 on 29 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)

Births:

British field hockey player Sean Kerly – 29 January

Meanwhile…

3 February: ‘The wind of change is blowing through this continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.’. 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.