334. Peters and Lee – Welcome Home (1973)

Take Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts’ blind uncle and a Yorkshire actress and what have you got? You’ve got folk, pop and TV stars Peters and Lee, light entertainment mainstays of the 70s, who reached number 1 with this easy listening tune, most famous these days for its use in a long-running crisp advert campaign with ex-footballer Gary Lineker.

Lennie Peters, AKA Leonard George Sargent, was born 22 November 1931 in London. At the age of five he was knocked down by a car and as a result was blinded in his left eye. In a bizarre, surreal, even blackly comic turn of events, when he was 16, he was blinded in his right eye too. While sunbathing, louts began throwing stones. After admonishing them, Peters returned to relaxing, until one threw a brick that hit his face. Two operations later, the sight in his right eye was restored. However, the night before he was due to be discharged, Peters noticed the man in the bed next to him was about to fall and hit the floor. He rushed over to save him, and in doing so, the sudden strain detached the retina from his recovering right eye. He remained blind for the rest of his life. There’s bad luck, and then there’s Lennie Peters.

Peters had considered becoming a prizefighter, but following his incident, he became more immersed in music. He began singing and playing the piano in the pubs of Islington, and signed with Oriole, releasing several singles. Peters began to get noticed, appearing on BBC radio and television, and in 1966 he signed with Pye and released his version of Stranger in Paradise, a number 1 for Dean Martin in 1955. During the time he was often on the gruelling northern club circuit in 1970, he met Diane Lee.

Lee, born Dianne Littlehales in February 1949, was brought up in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. She had wanted to be a ballet dancer and moved to London to achieve fame, but was instead performing as part of a duo with her cousin Liz. Peters and Lee decided to team up, with Lee performing backing vocals. They made their debut during a Rolf Harris live show in April, originally calling themselves Lennie Peters and Melody.

1973 was to be their year. After seven winning performances on ITV’s talent series Opportunity Knocks, they released their debut single, Welcome Home on Philips Records.

Originally written by Jean Alphonse Dupre and Stanislas Beldone in French, with English lyrics courtesy of Bryan Blackburn, Welcome Home is a simple, old-fashioned but pretty likeable slab of MOR pop. A man is missing his love and imagining what it’ll be like when she returns. From the word ‘someday’ in there, I’ll wager she’s not actually ever going to return, and Peters is hoping against hope.

The verses are boring, but the chorus is a classic punch-the-air moment. ‘Come on in and close the door’ seems slightly silly though. You’ve waited who knows how long for your lover to return, and all you can do is complain it’s a bit drafty? No wonder she left…. Joking aside, I’ve been running a mile from these type of songs of late, but I can’t help but enjoy this. It’s interesting to see how Lee barely gets a look-in though, you don’t even hear her at first. It’s all about Peters.

Not only did Peters and Lee get to number 1 with their debut single, but their LP We Can Make It went to the top of the album charts in the same week, making them the first act since The Beatles to do so. They topped the bill that year at the Royal Variety Performance. Further hits followed, most notably Don’t Stay Away Too Long in 1974 (number three).

The mid-70s were a busy time for the duo on TV, with appearances on The Des O’Connor Show and The Golden Shot to name but two and in 1976 came their own show, Meet Peters & Lee. But the writing was on the wall and they released their farewell album, called, er, The Farewell Album, in 1980.

While Lee went into acting, Peters returned to a solo career, but only one LP followed – Unforgettable, in 1981. He also briefly appeared as a criminal in 1984 crime film The Hit. Two years later they reunited and released Familiar Feelings as a single. Two more albums followed, Peters and Lee in 1989 and Through All the Years in 1992, but Peters succumbed to bone cancer on 10 October that year, aged 60.

Lee went on to marry Rick Price from Wizzard and she released solo album Chemistry in 1994. She and her husband are still touring, performing old and new material.

In 1995 Walkers Crisps used Welcome Home in an ad campaign with football hero Lineker, fresh from playing in Japan. It was so successful, he starred in many more, and the company even changed their salt and vinegar flavour to ‘Salt and Lineker’.

It’s also worth noting that this was producer Johnny Franz’s 10th and last number 1. Franz, known as the ‘last of the great pros’, was one of the biggest producers of the 50s and 60s. His first number 1 was Winifred Atwell’s Let’s Have Another Party in 1954. It had been seven years since his ninth, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Dusty Springfield in 1966. He also helped his close friend Scott Walker when he first went solo in the late 60s. Franz died of a heart attack in 1977, aged 54.

Written by: Jean Alphonse Dupre and Stanislas Beldone/Bryan Blackburn (English lyrics)

Producer: Johnny Franz

Orchestra directed by: Peter Knight

Weeks at number 1: 1 (21-27 July)

Births:

Travis singer Fran Healy – 23 July
Actress Kate Beckinsale – 26 July

Meanwhile…

26 July: Parliamentary by-elections at the Isle of Ely and Ripon resulted in both seats being gained from the Conservatives by the Liberal Party candidates – media personality Clement Freud and David Austick respectively.

203. The Walker Brothers with accompaniment directed by Ivor Raymonde – Make It Easy on Yourself (1965)

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Long before Scott Walker was ordering a percussionist to punch a side of pork, he was a 60s pop idol with his pretend siblings. The Walker Brothers first found fame with this first of two number 1s, Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s Make It Easy On Yourself.

John Maus, born in New York on 12 November 1943, was a child television star. In the late 50s he was friends with Ritchie Valens, and following the La Bamba hitmaker’s tragic death, he was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral. Later, he befriended future Beach Boys David Marks and Dennis and Carl Wilson, and he helped teach them how to play the guitar. He formed a musical partnership with his sister, and they were known as the acoustic duo John and Judy. In 1961, they met Scott Engel.

Engel, born in Hamilton, Ohio on 9 January 1943, had also been a child actor and singer, and in the late 50s he was marketed as a teen idol, with Eddie Fisher (one of the first number 1 stars in the UK) pushing him for stardom. Engel had intellectual tastes from an early age, and loved progressive jazz, Beat poetry and European cinema. When he met John Maus he was in the instrumental group The Routers.

Engel and Maus briefly backed John’s sister and they became Judy and the Gents. Somewhere around this time, the 17-year-old Maus got hold of an ID card for John Walker, enabling him to perform in clubs while underage. The name stuck, and he was sick of people getting his surname wrong anyway. After breaking away from Judy Maus, Engel and Walker were briefly part of The Surfaris, the group that had recorded Wipeout in 1963. At least, they were part of the touring group, none of whom recorded their singles.

In 1964, they decided to work together as The Walker Brothers Trio, with Al ‘Tiny’ Schneider on drums. Walker was lead vocalist and guitarist and Engel was bassist and provided harmony vocals. At some point Schneider left and they continued as a duo before meeting new drummer Gary Leeds (born 9 March 1942 in Glendale, California).

All three were photogenic and soon ended up on TV shows including Shindig. They signed with Mercury Records and recorded their debut single, Pretty Girls Everywhere. It was Maus’ idea they should all take the surname Walker.

I find it odd that Engel continued to go by the name Scott Walker for the rest of his life. I guess he must have had a soft spot for his time as a pop star.

Gary Walker had recently toured the UK with PJ Proby, and convinced John and Scott that The Walker Brothers should try their luck as pop stars on these shores. It was his father that financed their first trip early in 1965. Their first single barely scraped into the charts, but they had better luck with Love Her. This follow-up featured Scott on lead vocal, and upon its success, Scott began moving into the lead spot in the trio.

They found an ideal producer in Johnny Franz. He was one of the top UK producers of the 50s and 60s, and by this point had produced six UK number 1s, from Winifred Atwell’s Let’s Have Another Party in 1954 to Juliet by The Four Pennies in 1964. Franz was very effective at lavishly orchestrated 60s pop, which made him a natural choice to produce a Bacharach and David song. Make It Easy on Yourself was a decent slab of break-up melodrama from the genius duo, and became the songwriters’ sixth UK number 1. It had first been a hit in 1962 for Jerry Butler, based on a demo from Dionne Warwick.

Make It Easy on Yourself comes out on the losing side when compared to that other big heartbreak song of 1965, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. Nobody does the Wall of Sound better than the creator, Phil Spector. Having said that, The Walker Brothers and Franz put in a decent job. The track opens with a wordless version of the chorus, and that first line, ‘Breaking up is so very hard to do’, set to Scott’s smooth baritone, sets things off nicely. It can’t keep the momentum going though, and the verses don’t have the tension and drama of the Righteous Brothers’ number 1. How many songs do, though? Oh, this song also features legendary session drummer Clem Cattini, who took part in a frankly ridiculously long list of UK number 1s over the years, the most recent of which had been The Bachelors’ snore-fest Diane in 1964.

Scott’s vocal is perhaps a little too polished and mannered to carry off the emotion… unless this is a deliberate ploy to make the protagonist sound in denial. You can easily imagine several other singers’ releasing this, such as Cilla Black, which means The Walker Brothers, in particular Scott, were still too green to put their own stamp on their releases. Their next number 1 was a big improvement.

Written by: Burt Bacharach & Hal David

Producer: Johnny Franz

Weeks at number 1: 1 (23-29 September)

Births:

Olympic athelete Phylis Smith – 29 September