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 – 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 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.

89. Craig Douglas – Only Sixteen (1959)

Teenager Craig Douglas ended Living Doll‘s six weeks at pole position with this chirpy upbeat pop ditty.

Douglas was born Terence Perkins, a twin in Newport, Isle of Wight on 12 August 1941. Before he became a singer he was known as the ‘Singing Milkman’ while doing his rounds.

Winning a local talent contest at 16, he became managed by Bunny Lewis, who had co-written 1954 number 1 Cara Mia under the pseudonym Lee Lange. Perkins changed his name to Craig Douglas on Lewis’s suggestion (not the most of exciting of stage names anyone has ever come up with), and, still 16, began singing lessons for his move into professional singing.

He made his television debut on the BBC’s Six-Five Special alongside Cliff Richard and Joe Brown. He specialised in songs about teenagers, being one himself. His first single was A Teenager in Love, earlier in 1959, and second single Only Sixteen made him one of the youngest number 1 acts up to that point – he was 17 at the time. It was US soul singer-songwriter Sam Cooke’s song, but Douglas’s version eclipsed it in this country.

The most surprising aspect of this song is Douglas’s vocals. Had I not read about him beforehand, I’d have thought he was twice the age he was. He doesn’t look that young on pictures from the time either. In fact, there’s little youthful exuberance to be found here, unfortunately. It sounds leaden, safe and old-fashioned – not living up to the now risqué title. The fact the singer is only a year older than the song’s subject matter makes the record safer than originally suspected anyway. The highlight is the whistling from Mike Sammes. You’d think the singing milkman would be the whistler, but it wasn’t meant to be.

For the next few years Douglas troubled the lower reaches of the top ten, but the writing was on the wall when The Beatles started their chart domination. Now in his late-70s, he still tours internationally on the nostalgia circuit.

Written by: Sam Cooke

Producer: Bunny Lewis

Weeks at number 1: 4 (11 September-8 October)

Births:

Music producer Simon Cowell – 7 October 

Deaths:

Soprano Agnes Nicholls – 21 September 

Meanwhile…

8 October: The Conservatives won their third successive General Election, becoming the only party since World War Two to do so while increasing their majority. The election was perfect timing for Harold Macmillan’s party, due to an economic boom. Labour suffered due to Hugh Gaitskell’s claim that Labour would not raise taxes, despite their manifesto stating otherwise. It was Jo Grimond’s first election as leader of the Liberals, and the election saw future Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe and Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher enter parliament for the first time.

18 September: 47 miners died in the Auchengeich mining disaster in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

7 October: 300 people needed rescuing when fire broke out on Southend Pier.

81. Shirley Bassey with Wally Stott & His Orchestra – As I Love You (1959)

Shirley Bassey became the first Welsh artist to have a UK number 1 when As I Love You knocked Elvis Presley from the top. Born on 8 January 1937 in the large multi-ethnic area of Tiger Bay, Cardiff, Shirley Veronica Bassey’s father was Nigerian and her mother was English. Bassey grew up in a nearby community – the fantastically named Splott. She was equipped with that famously loud singing voice (more on that later) before she had even hit her teens, but it made her teachers and fellow students feel uncomfortable and she was often being told to, in her words, ‘shut up’. She left school at 14 to work in a steel factory while singing in pubs and clubs on evenings and at the weekend.

Her pre-fame life was tough and eventful, with the whole family struggling to afford to eat. Bassey was only in her teens when she began performing, but dirty old men in the crowd would be shouting at her to get her clothes off. She became pregnant with her first child at 16 but never revealed the name of the father.

In 1955 while appearing in the West End, she was offered a record deal with Philips. Her first single, Burn My Candle, was banned by the BBC in 1956 for its slightly saucy lyrics. Bassey had her first hit with her rendition of The Banana Boat Song the following year. In mid-1958 she recorded both As I Love You and Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me, with both reaching the top three simultaneously.

So, Bassey’s voice. I have to confess I am not a fan. I think you either love her powerful bellow or hate it, and I’m the latter. This made me reticent to try As I Love You, but fortunately, the shouting is kept to a minimum.

Jay Livingston and Ray Evans’ (the duo behind Doris Day’s Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)) tune is a chirpy love song, and it sounds ahead of its time. It’s hardly innovative, but to me it’s comparable to the type of tune Bacharach and David were writing in the 60s, complete with some catchy brass sounds in the chorus. It’s not as impressive though, and rather throwaway.

Shirley Bassey was the last female artist to have a number 1 in the 50s, and it was a full two years before a woman scale such heights again. Bassey would reach the top again in 1961, too, with Reach for the Stars/Climb Ev’ry Mountain.

Written by: Jay Livingston & Ray Evans

Producer: Johnny Franz

Weeks at number 1: 4 (20 February-19 March)

Births:

Field hockey player Richard Dodds – 23 February
Philosopher Simon Critchley – 27 February
Zoologist Mark Carwardine – 9 March
Poet Ben Okri – 15 March 

Deaths:

Scholar Kathleen Freeman – 21 February

Meanwhile…

23 February: As the winter drew to a close, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan visited the USSR to meet with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. Macmillan was the first British leader since Sir Winston Churchill during World War Two to visit the country. At the time there had been a slight thaw in the Cold War. The atmosphere at the meeting was cordial, and the two discussed expanding cultural ties, but a few days later, the famously volatile Khruschev snubbed Macmillan and his entourage.

62. Elvis Presley with The Jordanaires – All Shook Up (1957)

Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has entered the building. One of the biggest cultural icons of all time. 21 UK number 1s – more than any other act. Despite his star perhaps dimming in recent years, Elvis still leaves behind a hell of a legacy. Whether you’re a fan or not, you’d be a fool to argue that without him, pop music would not have become the phenomenon it did in the 50s.

Elvis Aaron Presley entered the world on 8 January 1935. Born and raised in a two-room shotgun house built by his father in Tupelo, Mississippi, his identical twin brother was delivered stillborn 35 minutes before him. He was close to his parents, but especially his mother.

This shy, unassuming boy made his first public performance at the age of 10, performing Old Shep at a singing contest. He came fifth. A few months later he was given a guitar for his birthday. Presley wasn’t that excited, but he took up lessons with two uncles anyway. It was another year before he worked up the courage to perform in public, and he would play and sing at school. He even managed a radio performance after being too frightened at the first opportunity.

In November 1948 the Presleys moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Despite ridicule from students for being a shy ‘mama’s boy’, and being told by his music teacher that he was no good, Presley grew in confidence, and by 1950 he had adopted his trademark sideburns and quiff. Three years later he wowed the audience at another talent show. And then he visited Sun Records. He paid to record My Happiness/That’s When Your Heartaches Begin, a two-sided acetate, as a gift for his mother.

Presley recorded another acetate, but failed auditions to join several bands and so he became a truck driver. However, Sun owner Sam Phillips was on the lookout for a white singer to capture the sound of black music, astutely recognising that doing so would be lightning in a bottle.

Phillips invited Presley back to Sun in July 1954 to record a ballad called Without You. It didn’t work out, but at the end of the session, Presley picked up his guitar and belted out a rendition of That’s All Right. A single was quickly pressed and the phenomenon began.

Supporting Slim Whitman on tour, Presley’s legendary leg-shaking became part of the legend, partly due to nervousness and partly through sheer energy from the music and excitement of the moment.

By the summer of 1955 Presley had acquired a new advisor called Colonel Tom Parker, and he had support slots with Bill Haley & His Comets. Rapidly gaining momentum, his first single to chart in the UK was I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone at number 21.

The following year he had signed with RCA Victor and recorded his eponymous debut LP – one of rock’n’roll’s milestones. The hits came thick and fast in the UK, yet despite Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes, Heartbreak Hotel and Love Me Tender being among his finest material, and all very popular, it took All Shook Up to finally earn him his first UK number 1.

Why? In the past I’ve reasoned that perhaps the more conservative record-buyers found him too dangerous to begin with, and considering how safe All Shook Up sounds compared to some of his earlier material, I might have had a point, but there’s also a more practical reason. To try and capitalise on his immense fame, all his previous singles were released very close to each other, and they ‘split the vote’, to steal a phrase. All Shook Up bucked this trend.

The origins of the song vary depending on which story you believe.  It was credited to Otis Blackwell and Elvis though, and was the last time ‘the King’ received a songwriting credit. Allegedly, Blackwell was in Shalimar Music’s offices when Al Stanton, one of the owners, shook a bottle of Pepsi and suggested Blackwell write a song about being all shook up. However, Elvis claimed in an October 1957 interview that he once had a weird dream and woke up ‘all shook up’, and told Blackwell. But then actor David Hess, who used to go by the stage name David Hill, released his first version of the song just before Presley, and he claims he invented the title, Blackwell wrote it, and Elvis demanded a credit from Blackwell in order to get Presley to sing it. So, who knows?

What I do know is that All Shook Up is a pretty unassuming number. Maybe it’s that I’ve never been a huge Elvis fan (despite this song being the earliest number 1 I had in my collection before starting this blog). I get his cultural significance, I can see the charisma and influence, I just don’t always enjoy his songs. Having said that, I’d be an idiot to not appreciate some of his classic material. I guess this serves as an effective introduction to Presley. All the vocal mannerisms are there, and it’s a good showcase for his voice. I find the backing vocals from The Jordanaires a little wet though, and the piano backing is very bland. But it has left me wanting to know what a ‘fuzzy tree’ is.

All Shook Up spent most of the summer on top of the charts and began Elvis’s record run of number 1s. The best was yet to come.

Written by: Otis Blackwell & Elvis Presley

Producer: Steve Sholes

Weeks at number 1: 7 (12 July-29 August)

Births:

Television presenter Fern Britton – 17 July
Figure skater Robin Cousins – 17 August
Snooker player Steve Davis – 22 August
Comedian Stephen Fry – 24 August 

Deaths:

Painter David Bomberg – 19 August 

Meanwhile…

20 July: Prime Minister Harold Macmillan coined a phrase that made history. Still less than a year into his new role, he made an optimistic speech to Conservative Party members in Bedford stating that ‘most of our people have never had it so good’. In further good news for the country, and on the same day, Stirling Moss finished the British Grand Prix at Aintree in first position, driving a Vanwall VW5, the first British Car to win a World Championship race.

5 August: The much-loved cheeky Northern cartoon character Andy Capp appeared in The Daily Mirror for the first time.

53. Guy Mitchell with Ray Conniff & His Orchestra – Singing the Blues (1957)

1957 began with happy-go-lucky crooner Guy Mitchell at the top for the third time, with his version of Singing the Blues.

Previously recorded by country star Marty Robbins, it had been written by Mervin Endsley, a musician who had contracted polio at the age of three and had been in a wheelchair ever since. From the age of 11 he spent three years in the unfortunately-named Crippled Children’s Hospital in Memphis. While there he became a huge country music fan and taught himself the guitar. He had written Singing the Blues in 1954 and taken it to Nashville in the hope of getting a hit. And a hit is what he got, several times over.

I wasn’t too flattering about Mitchell’s 1953 number 1s – She Wears Red Feathers and Look at That Girl – but Singing the Blues is a cut above both of them.

Produced once more by Mitch Miller, Mitchell is in his element here. The country element is hard to detect – this version of Singing the Blues sounds more like the older generation trying to harness rock’n’roll and put their own, safer, stamp on it. Unlike Kay Starr on (The) Rock and Roll Waltz, Mitchell and Miller pull it off. That’s largely down to the song itself, a winning tune set to effectively downbeat lyrics, rather than a naff novelty song with a new genre awkwardly shoved into it.

Mitchell, from the evidence I’ve heard, couldn’t sing a sad song if he tried, and he certainly doesn’t try here. Somehow though, it all gels, with Mitchell turning it into a cheeky come-on over a chirpy backing of whistling, ukulele and backing harmonies. He’s hoping to charm his ex into coming back.

And listeners kept coming back to Singing the Blues – his version made it to number 1 for two more week-long stints, making him one of only five acts to have the same number 1 on three separate occasions. The other artists are Frankie Laine with I Believe, Pharrell Williams with Happy, What Do You Mean? by Justin Bieber and Despacito (Remix) by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber.

At the same time as the Mitchell and Robbins versions were released, they found themselves competing with a third, by up-and-coming rock’n’roller Tommy Steele. More on that next time…

Written by: Melvin Endsley

Producer: Mitch Miller

Weeks at number 1: 3 (4-10 January, 18-24 January & 1-7 February)

Births:

Astronaut Michael Foale – 6 January
Journalist Francis Wheen -22 January
Comedian Adrian Edmondson – 24 January 

Meanwhile…

9 January: 1957 began with political change. Prime Minister Anthony Eden had struggled at the end of 1956 to recover from the debacle of Suez, and perhaps because of this he had suffered ill health. His doctors advised him to quit if he wanted to carry on living, and so he resigned. A day later, with no formal process in place at the time, the Conservative Party decided he would be succeeded by then-Chancellor Harold Macmillan. The political situation was so rocky at the time that Macmillan told the Queen he could not promise the government would last longer than six weeks.