HOLE IN THE BUCKET – Harry Belafonte & Odetta (5 weeks)
Now this is a real oddity to modern ears, a live recording of a pioneering social activist, singer & acting Calypso singer from the 50’s and early 60’s. Dad had a Harry Belafonte album of his biggest 50’s tunes, but not including the chart-topping Mary’s Boy Child Xmas classic which topped the chart when I was born, nor this one which I was obsessed with by as a very young boy and remained so through to, ooh, about my early teens when the novelty value started to wear off. It’s essentially a chanted/sung husband/wife argument over pending chores, with the husband using circular logic to avoid doing any work, and the wife more exasperated. There’s no instrumentation, it’s mildly amusing, and The Muppets later covered it. It’s not classic Belafonte though, that’s Mary’s Boy Child, or hits such as Island In The Sun or the other kiddie fave of mine The Banana Boat Song (Day-o) from 1957. As I wasn’t born then, though, that’s ineligible, or else we’d be getting into stuff like Happy Talk and He’s A Tramp as well!
BIG BAD JOHN – Jimmy Dean (7 weeks)
Mum & Dad loved this one as I was growing up, anything vaguely country, a gruff male American singer of a story-song and it would go down very well in our house. The tale of modest hero Big John heroically sacrificing himself to save coal-mining disaster buddies struck a chord – dad, granddad and one day my younger brother would all work down a coal-mine, the major occupation in our coal-mining town – and of course he was called John, so how could I not also love it?! Jimmy Dean? The country star had loads of US singles and albums and TV shows, but I know only this track by him to this day. Sometimes one big hit is better than a string of stuff no-one recalls…..
DON’T BRING LULU – Dorothy Provine (1 week)
Dorothy Provine was an actress with a memorably quirky voice who was around quite a bit in the 60’s on US TV, notably at this time The Roaring Twenties, a period-set show from 35 years earlier – think something set in the 80’s now, plenty of those about – though the 20’s seemed positively historic in the 60’s to me. I don’t recall this show – my big memory was of 77 Sunset Strip and it’s theme tune which dated from the same time and also had a pop culture influence at the time with a spin-off hit record (Kookie Kookie Lend Me Your Comb). This very catchy song from 1925 was pure Roaring 20’s, and pretty well-played during the 60’s, and was one I recall hearing and loving sining along to. Dorothy Provine? I continued to be a fan, notably in the timeless It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the slapstick masterpiece movie with an all-star cast of larger-than-life comics and character-actors – Dorothy was the lone voice of sanity who spots the “Big Double-ya (W)” where hidden stolen loot was supposedly buried as others go manic about her. The Great Race was another good period (comedy) movie she was in, with a fab cast, and kiddie fave Disney film That Darn Cat! (I was very big on that one at the time).
WALKIN’ BACK TO HAPPINESS – Helen Shapiro (5 weeks)
Schoolgirl with the mature voice, Helen Shapiro was another early pop star fave of mine, I loved her – and this was her catchy tune that stayed me with throughout the 60’s until I managed to record it off the radio in 1970 in Singapore and boosted it all over again. Very 1961 with those backing girlie vocals, but such a joyous song it retains period charm. Moving into blues in her later career, I still wish she’d record something contemporary, maybe referencing her early teenage career when she was on TV loads and barely 16 years old.