122. Eden Kane – Well I Ask You (1961)

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Eden Kane’s time at the top of the charts came swiftly, and ended almost as quickly. Kane was born Richard Graham Sarstedt in March 1940. His family lived in New Delhi, India, and two of his younger brothers, Peter and Clive, would also become musicians. Peter even reached number 1 too, in 1969, with the ballad Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?, and Clive had a number 3 hit in 1976 with a cover of My Resistance is Low, under the name Robin Sarstedt. The family moved to Kurseong to run a tea plantation, but when his father dies, Richard, his mother, brother and three sisters moved to the UK, settling in Norbury in Croydon. He became a big Bill Haley fan, and he and his brothers started a group called the Fabulous 5.

The next step towards fame came when Richard won a talent contest at Kings Road in Chelsea. The prize wasn’t very rock’n’roll – it was the chance to record an advertising jingle for Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate. The song, Hot Chocolate Crazy, is a funny little ditty now, but it got him noticed due to plenty of airplay on Radio Luxembourg and it became the B-side of his first single, You Make Love So Well, on Pye Records. Sarstedt was a handsome man, so his looks would appeal to girls, but what about his name? His new management team, Philip Waddilove and Michael Barclay, christened him Eden Kane. The forename was due to the fashion for biblical names at the time, ie Adam Faith, and the surname came from Barclay’s love of the film Citizen Kane (1941). Kane moved to Decca, and his first single for them, Well I Ask You, had been written by Les Vandyke, a pseudonym for Johnny Worth, who had written both of Adam Faith’s number 1s, What Do You Want? and Poor Me. Overseeing production was Bunny Lewis, who had worked on three number 1s – David Whitfield’s Answer Me, Cara Mia, by Whitfield and Mantovani, and Only Sixteen by Craig Douglas.

Kane’s number 1 is your average slice of early 60s pop, and you can easily imagine it being sang by Faith, or Anthony Newley. It would also be at home as the TV theme to a cheeky sitcom. I can picture Sid James or Paul Shane winking at the camera when I hear the bawdy-sounding main hook. The cheeriness belies the fact Kane is mightily pissed off at this girl, who has treated him like crap and now expects to get him back. I’m not sure about the way Kane sings ‘Well I ask ya’, but at least he isn’t doing a Buddy Holly impression. I haven’t heard the follow-up single, Get Lost, but I really hope that it’s his answer to his relationship conundrum.

Kane’s next few singles all performed well, but his last hit came in 1964 during the height of the beat boom. He appeared on television shows with new acts like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but he saw the writing on the wall, and following a stint with his own TV show in Australia, he moved to California and became a producer. In 1972 the Sarstedt Brothers released an album, Worlds Apart Together, but it didn’t set the world alight the same way some of their solo singles had. Weirdly, in the 90s he became contracted to play several small parts in the various Star Trek spin-offs, – Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, and was credited as Richard Starstedt. These days he occasionally pops up on the nostalgia circuit alongside other stars of the era.

The drummer on Well I Ask You was Clem Cattini, who was a member of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates when they hit number 1 with Shakin’ All Over. Cattini’s name will be popping up many more times in this blog, as the session drummer holds the record for most appearances on UK number 1s – at least 42, some sources say more. The list of his best-selling appearances is simply staggering – an eclectic mix of artists including the Tornados, the Walker Brothers, Thunderclap Newman, Ken Dodd, T Rex, Benny Hill and Hot Chocolate, and his number 1s date right up to the (Is This the Way to ) Amarillo, the 2005 Comic Relief single by Tony Christie featuring Peter Kay. He was also considered by Jimmy Page as a possible drummer for Led Zeppelin. This man surely deserves some kind of award?

Written by: Les Vandyke

Producer: Bunny Lewis

Weeks at number 1: 1 (3-9 August)

Births:

Comedian Brian Conley – 7 August

21. Kitty Kallen with Orchestra directed by Jack Pleis – Little Things Mean a Lot (1954)

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David Whitfield and Mantovani’s Cara Mia took up the number 1 spot for virtually the whole summer in 1954, somehow. As the nights started to grow darker, US singer Kitty Kallen finally got a look in with Little Things Mean a Lot. It had been written a year earlier, with lyrics by Edith Lindeman, a newspaper editor, and disc jockey Carl Stutz, both residing in Richmond, Virginia.

Kitty Kallen, born Katie Kallen to Russian Jewish immigrants on 25 May 1921 in Philadelphia, New Jersey, would impersonate famous singers as a child. She had her own local radio show before she became a teenager.

She joined the Jimmy Dorsey Band at 21 and sang the vocals for his US number 1 Besame Mucho, later covered by the Beatles on Beatles For Sale. Her recording of Little Things Mean a Lot saw her career go up a notch, hitting the top of the Billboard charts before doing the same in the UK.

It’s a rather sweet little number, and a move away from Kallen’s big-band stylings to something approaching pop. She sings a list of ways in which her lover can make her happy, and luckily for him, they’re all easily enough done. She’s a very low-maintenance partner. Beating Lennon and McCartney by 10 years, she points out expensive jewellery isn’t important to her. Money can’t buy her love. Was this their inspiration? Possibly.

By the end of 1954 the song had sold over two million copies, and with her beautiful voice and striking looks, she found herself topping polls to be the most famous female singer around. It all went wrong from there.

In 1955, her throat began to seize up, but only affected her when performing live. This convinced her the problem was psychological, and she spent five years with psychotherapists, none of which helped matters. Instead she found relief in religion, and returned to performing for a few years before retiring in the mid-60s.

Bizarrely, after she retired, several other women tried to pass themselves off as Kitty Kallen. In 1978, she and her family were baffled by reports of her death. It transpired one of her impersonators had died. Frank Sinatra wasn’t having it though. ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ (whose Three Coins in the Fountain took over at number 1 the week after Little Things Mean a Lot) called the family to offer his condolences, but wouldn’t take no for an answer when Kitty’s husband explained and said she was just sleeping (perhaps a bad choice of words, in retrospect). He refused to hang up until he could hear her voice. Kallen actually lived until 7 January 2016, dying at the ripe old age of 94.

Written by: Edith Lindeman & Carl Stutz

Producer: Milt Gabler

Weeks at number 1: 1 (10-16 September)

20. David Whitfield, with Chorus and Mantovani and His Orchestra – Cara Mia (1954)

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Doris Day’s Secret Love had a second, lengthy eight-week stay at number 1 after toppling Johnnie Ray’s Such a Night. Eventually Day ran out of steam and on 2 July, Hull’s favourite soprano David Whitfield returned to number one with his version of Cara Mia, with dual credit going to popular conductor Mantovani and his orchestra.

Both were at the height of their fame and had previous chart-toppers to their name, Whitfield with Answer Me and Mantovani had The Song from The Moulin Rouge. This track easily outdid the success of both, and stayed top of the pops for a mammoth 10 weeks, a UK record at the time.

Cara Mia, Italian for ‘My Beloved’, was credited to Tulio Trapani and Lee Lange. In fact, Trapani was Mantovani, who had arranged the song, and Lange was producer Bunny Lewis. Why did they use aliases? I’m not sure, but it’s the first time we’ve seen a number 1 with credits for pseudonyms. Why am I mentioning it? Because there’s not a lot that can be said about the song itself, unfortunately.

After a run of interesting tracks, we’re back in the rather’dull, overblown sludge territory that seemed so popular in the early 50s. Whitfield can hold a note, that’s for sure, but once more I find myself asking how this could be number 1 for so long. Then again, I did the same when Bryan Adams reigned for so long in the summer of 1991, so perhaps it’s going to be a common theme with the biggest sellers.

Neither artist had a number 1 again, although Mantovani came close with follow-up Swedish Rhapsody, and continued to enjoy huge sales figures, as well as presenting his own TV series in 1959. The composer ceased recording in the mid-70s, and died in a Kent care home on 8 April 1980, aged 74.

As for Whitfield, he too had further success for a few years, and his top 10 entries continued until 1957. including recording the theme music to the TV series The Adventures of William Tell, he fell out of favour when rock’n’roll took hold. It also didn’t help that he would turn down offers to go to America, preferring to stay put in Hull.

Whitfield recorded two further versions of Cara Mia, in 1966 and for his final album in 1975. He too died in 1980, of a brain haemorrhage while touring Australia on 15 January, aged only 54.

Written by: Tulio Trapani & Lee Lange

Producer: Bunny Lewis

Weeks at number 1: 10 (2 July-9 September)

Births:

Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant – 10 July
Singer Joe Jackson – 11 August
Singer Elvis Costello – 25 August

Deaths

Physician Henry Valentine Knaggs – 11 July

Meanwhile…

4 July: Meat rationing came to an end in the UK.

11. Mantovani & His Orchestra – The Song from The Moulin Rouge (1953)

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Tired of reading about easy listening crooners? Well, here’s something slightly different. Eddie Fisher and Sally Sweetland’s I’m Walking Behind You was knocked back off the top slot by Frankie Laine’s mammoth I Believe, which stayed there for a further impressive six weeks.

On 14 August, for the first time an instrumental became number 1. The Song from The Moulin Rouge (also known as Where Is Your Heart) came from, predictably enough, the 1952 movie Moulin Rouge, which starred José Ferrer and Zsa Zsa Gabor. The music was written by distinguished French composer Georges Auric, with French lyrics by Jacques Larue.

However, this version, by Anglo-Italian conductor and composer Annunzio Paolo Mantovani, ditched the words, with the main melody played on an accordion by Henry Krein. As well as being the first instrumental number 1, it was the first time the number 1 sounded anything other than British or American. The wistful tune conjures up an air of French melancholy and a rare European sophistication, by 50s singles standards, anyway.

Mantovani’s signature style of cascading strings (known as the Mantovani Sound) made him hugely popular on these shores. He was Britain’s most successful album artist until a band called The Beatles started making a noise.

Born 15 November 1905 in Venice, Italy, Mantovani had music in his blood. His father Bismarck was concertmaster at Milan’s La Scala opera house. The family moved to England in 1912, and the youngster studied at Trinity College of Music in London.

By the 40s Mantovani was famous, and he helped keep morale up during World War Two on BBC Radio, so it was perhaps inevitable that he would reach number 1 sooner rather than later. He was more than just your average conductor though. He innovated.

Mantovani was one of the early pioneers of stereo recording, and his tunes were often used in record shops to demonstrate the exciting new sound. In 1952 he became the first artist to sell a million stereophonic records.

In 1953 he was on top of his game, and although The Song from The Moulin Rouge was only top of the charts for a week before I Believe began it’s final, three-week stint at the top, Mantovani would return in 1954 with that year’s longest-running number 1 single.

Written by: Georges Auric

Producer: Frank Lee

Weeks at number 1: 1 (14-20 August)

Births

Journalist Carol Thatcher – 15 August

Meanwhile…

19 August: The England cricket team defeat Australia to win the Ashes for the first time in 19 years.

9. Frankie Laine with Paul Weston & His Orchestra – I Believe (1953)

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US singer, songwriter and actor Frankie Laine’s cover of I Believe stayed at number 1 for nine weeks, equalling the previous record held by Al Martino’s Here in My Heart. However, following a week at number 1 for I’m Walking Behind You by Eddie Fisher and Sally Sweetland, it returned to the top spot for a further six weeks. Mantovani’s The Song from The Moulin Rouge then topped the charts, but once again, I Believe went back to number 1. A staggering feat, this cover of a religious power ballad notched up 18 weeks as the nation’s bestseller. It still holds the record for most non-concurrent weeks at number 1.

I Believe was written by musicians Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl and Al Stillman for Jane Froman. Froman was a big stage, TV and radio star who had suffered chronic injuries in a 1943 plane crash. Troubled by the Korean War in 1952, she asked her songwriters to come up with a tune that would offer hope to the audience of her TV show, Jane Froman’s USA Canteen. It’s fair to say that Drake, Graham, Shirl and Stillman delivered. But back in 1953, such a big song required a big voice, and a big star. So Frankie Laine was a natural choice.

Francesco Paolo LoVecchio arrived in the world on 30 March 1913, the son of Sicilian refugees. The LoVecchios had links to organised crime, and Francesco’s father had even worked as Al Capone’s barber.

Little LoVecchio got his first taste for singing as a member of a church choir, and acquired his astounding vocal prowess through high-school sports. As a teenager in the 20s he found himself performing for thousands at a charity ball. Clearly, a star in the making.

But fame didn’t come instantly. With influences including Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday, Frank LoVecchio spent much of the Great Depression performing at dance marathons. 1937 saw him briefly replace Perry Como in the Freddy Carlone band, and a year later he took on the stage name Frankie Laine.

It wasn’t until World War Two ended that his career really took off. He began recording for Mercury in 1946, and initially listeners thought he was black. Laine’s version of That’s My Desire established him as a force to be reckoned with. Soon he was working with Mitch Miller, and together they were a formidable team. Hit after hit followed, particularly when they jumped ship to Columbia. 1952 saw Laine begin working his magic on film and TV western themes, with High Noon being his first.

While cynical non-believers may balk at the lyrics, I Believe, by comparison to its predecessors at number 1, screams ‘I am a hit and I am important’ at you. For a nation of churchgoers in the 50s, this grandiose ballad was bound to do well. It could partly be that it’s already registered in my mind as a success due to Robson and Jerome’s bland cover (their follow-up to Unchained Melody) from 1995, which cashed in on the elderly’s memories of the song and fans of the duo’s characters in the ITV drama Soldier Soldier. Their cover remains an early warning of Cowell’s evil reign of terror over the charts for years to come.

Beginning with the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar, Laine builds the song into a display of righteous power, bellowing at the end with a performance that is still impressive today. After 18 weeks of chart dominance, he still had more to come. 1953 was truly Frankie Laine’s year.

Written by: Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl & Al Stillman

Producer: Mitch Miller

Weeks at number 1: 18 (24 April-25 June, 3 July-13 August, 21 August-10 September) *BEST-SELLING SINGLE OF THE YEAR*

Births:

Prime Minister Tony Blair – 6 May
Musician Mike Oldfield – 15 May
Comedian Victoria Wood – 19 May
Actor Alfred Molina – 24 May
Politician Michael Portillo – 26 May
Dr Hilary Jones – 19 June
Racing driver Nigel Mansell – 8 August
Bucks Fizz singer Bobby G – 23 August

Deaths:

Footballer Alex James – 1 June 

Meanwhile…

24 April: Prime Minister Winston Churchill received a knighthood from the Queen. Recognised officially for his part in leading the nation during World War Two, Churchill would then suffer a stroke on 25 June. It began a period of ill health that would begin the decline of the great wartime leader.

2 May: Blackpool win the first televised FA Cup final with a 4-3 win over Bolton Wanderers.

2 June: Elizabeth II’s Coronation took place. The public holiday inadvertently saw the start of the television revolution in the UK, with many families purchasing one specifically to watch a crown be placed on the head of somebody who’d already been Queen for over a year. Also that morning, news reached the world that Mount Everest had finally been conquered. It actually happened on 29 May, but the news travelled slowly.

25 June: The serial killer John Christie was sentenced to death for the murder of his wife Ethel. However, he should have been sentenced for more. A further seven bodies were uncovered at 10 Rillington Place in Notting Hill. During the trial, Christie confessed to murdering Beryl Evans. Beryl, her husband Timothy and their baby daughter Geraldine had lived at the flat in the 40s, and in 1950, Beryl’s husband Timothy was hanged for murdering Beryl and Geraldine, despite him insisting Christie had been responsible. Christie had even been a witness for the prosecution. He was hanged on 15 July. Yet another instance of tragic errors in the justice system that helped lead to the abolishment of the death penalty. The whole shocking, terrible story was made into a film starring Richard Attenborough in 1971 and a BBC television series starring Tim Roth in 2016.

18 July: Influential sci-fi drama The Quatermass Experiment began on the BBC.

20 July: Nostalgic (yes the BBC loved looking to the past even then) music hall series The Good Old Days began. It would run for 30 years.