Pop Music From A Kiddie POV: 1962 Part 1

LET’S TWIST AGAIN – Chubby Checker (4 weeks)

In the USA The Twist was the track that started the dance craze that travelled the world and back again, but in the UK it was the follow-up Let’s Twist Again that was everywhere. By 1975, when both tracks were hits again in the UK charts as a double A Side, it was Twist Again that was a John Asher (TV presenter) hit cover version sparking the chart revisit of Chubby Chucker – not The Twist, which I’d never heard before. Culturally this track was famous, everyone was Twisting at do’s, it sparked a run of dance hits for Chubby and his Fats Domino-inspired name. A bit chubby maybe, but still pretty young.

For me, I just remember it as a bit of fun, a song everyone knew, the whole family, kids in the playground, the Queen, anyone who hadn’t been living in a derelict air-raid shelter really. The Twist eventually had it’s day in the sun with the Fat Boys giving Chubby an 80’s boost with their dance-rap 80’s version, which was pretty big – but not culturally massive like first-time round. Chubby amazingly is still in his 70’s and has outlived one of his Fat Boys colleagues…

 

 

THE HOLE IN THE GROUND – Bernard Cribbins (6 weeks)

 

TV and film comic actor Bernard Cribbins was another well-known face in the 60’s, star of many a British Carry On movie, TV sitcom, and even Doctor Who movie versions of the TV series with Daleks, another national craze of the time, including me. I was mad on Doctor Who and pop music. I loved other stuff, too, but those were the things I obsessively wrote about in my early schoolbooks of the time in 1964 – still have ‘em as proof! This novelty comedy track was on telly quite a bit, and a staple of kiddie-based radio shows. Bernard appealed to kids with his well-meaning-but-gormless roles, the bloke next door who was a bit slapstick, a bit funny.

Hole In The Ground is still mildly amusing, a sort of working-bloke wry mickey-take of the role of manual labouring working class blokes and the management toffs ordering them about. Ooh political! It ends with the news that the toff got buried in the hole with his bowler hat sticking up, the very hole causing the disagreement between the two-sides. Not sure that’s entirely get-away-able in these days where comedy has to conform to political correctness, but it’s all about the image and the annoying social classes, not the intimation he’d been murdered. It IS a kids record though, and nursery rhymes and fairy stories are just as blunt in imagery!

 

 

WONDERFUL LAND – The Shadows (5 weeks)

The Shads were very famous, they supported Cliff on his records, on TV spots, in his movies, and had their own massive twanging Hank Marvin-based instrumental career to boot. It was impossible not to know who they were, they were always on TV with their years-long run of hits. The things was, though, because they had no lyrics there was no hook, for specific songs, to latch onto for me, apart from a couple of exceptions, Wonderful Land being the obvious exception.

Laden with sweeping strings, an uplifting melody, and some great riffing, it’s their biggest-selling and best track, still sounding great 50-odd years later, albeit in a period-charm fashion. I can’t link it to any time and place, I wouldn’t have known the title of the tune, but I was aware that I liked it when I heard it, and continued to like it whenever it popped up on oldies plays on the radio – until I eventually bought it on various 60’s compilation albums, by which time I appreciated just how good it was as I revisited my childhood faves, sounding dated and very-old-fashioned they might have been with the super-speed passing sophistication of recording methods and music evolving into the 70’s, but by the 80’s 60’s nostalgia was all the rage with music, pop culture generally, and with me.

 

 

COME OUTSIDE – Mike Sarne with Wendy Richard (8 weeks)

 

I was insanely mad on this track pre-school, and post-school. What’s not to love? It’s catchy, light-hearted, semi-novelty, but tuneful and one that kids could easily sing along to. It is absolutely relevant to and mirroring of society at that time, and what going out meant for the ordinary-teens, which is not too bad for a throwaway ditty not meant to be taken seriously. I was too young to know who Mike Sarne was, or who Wendy Richard was. I wasn’t aware of either of them until I got older and Wendy popped-up on TV’s innuendo-based Are You Being Served? sitcom, and the odd later Carry On movie. Of course she went on to huge success in soap Eastenders from the 80’s onwards. Sadly, of Mike Sarne, I don’t recall ever seeing him in anything, or on TV being interviewed about his big UK chart-topper. Not ever. Which is weird as he’s been a working actor, Producer, writer & Director ever since, including TV shows like The Avengers and The Bill, and films like Les Miserables (2012). Not to mention directing Raquel Welch’s infamous Myra Breckinridge. Who knew?!

 

 

RIGHT SAID FRED – Bernard Cribbins (8 weeks)

Bernard’s back with his most-famous hit, the song that is right now being used in a TV advert (2019) and inspired a chart-topping I’m Too Sexy 90’s hitmaking group to nick the name, Right Said Fred. Very much in the same vein as Hole In The Ground, but funnier, more-upbeat, and an amusing on-going rapid story with a catchy chorus-free tune. It’s still working-bloke based, this time about one of them who hasn’t a clue what he’s doing. Never stopped being charming this one, and is Bernard at his most likable, helped in a minor iconic fashion by a mini-video that was regularly shown on TV (I assume in between US programs when the they had a spare 2 minutes to fill during kids TV slots at lunchtime or late afternoon – there was NO daytime TV in those days!! Shock, horror!) which featured claymation animation.

Bernard kept going narrating The Wombles and appearing in sitcom Fawlty Towers in the 70‘s, and had many TV guest spots into the 90‘s, but had sort-of merged in the background until 2007, when he re-emerged with his Doctor Who 60’s credits intact and starred as Wilfred Mott, a recurring character for the Tenth Doctor, and was very good. Still charming, nostalgic affection booming, and a very effective performance going on for the key episode where he inadvertently causes a regeneration of The Doctor. That means 50 years of Doctor Who, 50 years of Daleks, and a boost for him in the public eye again right up to 2019, still doing audio Doctor Who recordings aged 90. Yay!

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Pop Music From a Kiddie POV – 1961 Part 2

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.

Pop Music From A Kiddie POV – 1961 Part 1

WOODEN HEART – Elvis Presley (11 weeks)

 

 

I can’t say I have any specific memories of this Elvis singalong from G.I. Blues – I was too young for the film, though I might have caught it on TV a few years later – but it was one that was pretty well known during the 60’s (unlike some of Elvis’ other chart-toppers) – and a regular of Two-Way Family Favourites the weekly show for forces families living abroad which aired on Radio Two in the UK, I think. Other than that – obviously one to appeal to kids, what with the puppet theme, a German-styled song to fit in with Elvis in Germany, and a catchy-singalong for all the family.

 

HALFWAY TO PARADISE – Billy Fury (9 weeks)

 

 

Billy Fury was my fave male popstar when I was pre-school – mum and dad have always fondly-recalled me pronouncing his name Billy Floory – but I oddly recall few of his songs from the time, though some of them are very good indeed (Wondrous Place, for example). This song is by far his most-famous, and best, a cover of the Tony Orlando US-hit version of the Carole King-Gerry Goffin song which is better than the original, all sweeping strings supporting his unusual vocal-style. Again, no specific place-memories to it, just know it was the song of his that everyone seemed to love most. Dad bought one of his singles in 1966, amongst a batch of oldies, but sadly it wasn’t this one, it was the more-50’s-rocker-styled Collette. When Billy died far too young in 1983, I was saddened that he was having a revival of sorts, obviously aware how ill he was and making the best of things to stay occupied.

 

JOHNNY REMEMBER ME – John Leyton (8 weeks)

 

 

This Joe Meek brainchild chart-topper was an example of a record elevating itself from brilliant production, a death disc that was literally haunting, in lyric, and not so literally in sound. John Leyton was a TV star lucked-into a short pop career. I had no idea who the singer was or what his name was, but I knew and loved the song, not least because it was called Johnny – and my name is John. Kids love songs with their name in, it gives a sense of ownership and importance! Joe Meek records were ground-breaking for the UK pop scene of the time, and still impress nearly 60 years later in this case. One of those songs I still love, cos it’s still fab, but have never overdosed on from over-familiarity – always have heard it semi-regularly but never over and over and over again, which can take decades to get over sometimes when a song you love burns out. (Shhh don’t mention Bo Rap!)

Pop Music From a Kiddie POV 1960 part 2

TIE ME KANGAROO DOWN SPORT – Rolf Harris (3 weeks)

 

Banished from the airwaves these days due to a court case a few years ago, Rolf was everyones fave Aussie/Artist/novelty-singer back in the 60’s, and beyond – and sure enough I loved his records, Jake The Peg, this one, and especially two more yet to come. I even once had a page from Reveille (a newspaper way back mum bought that regularly published song lyrics) with Rolf’s lyrics printed out, a handy singalong for a kiddie. This track set forth the Monty Python “Bruce” Aussie stereotype, I expect, but it tickled young kids throughout the 60’s on the variety shows it regularly turned up on, and was an actual chart hit, setting Rolf on the path to belovedness, falling out of favour, comeback at Glastonbury with a Led Zep cover of Stairway To Heaven didgeridoo-style, and then his shock-arrest. And yet people still moan about character perception changes in the fictional Game Of Thrones when it’s a daily event in real world! I’m not overly fond of Tie Me Kangaroo these days, but I’ll still stand by Rolf’s 2 gems, those tracks and Rolf in those days had committed no crimes.

 

 

ONLY THE LONELY (KNOW THE WAY I FEEL) – Roy Orbison (3 weeks)

 

Roy was one of mum and dad’s absolute fave singers growing up, they had his Greatest HIts album, so this song featured in my childhood – though NOT as early as 1960, my first contemporary Roy fave was still 4 years away, and his amazing power vocals and melodramatic ballads were not yet honed; Only The Lonely is fairly modest vocally, and he had yet to move onto the trademark sunglasses, bar the bit 2-minutes in which stretched him up the register a bit. Ask me which song I preferred at age 5 and Rolf would win, at 10 and Roy would win. That’s called growing up and maturing, by age 10 I still liked novelty records, but a great pop song was what I really got passionate about, novelty records got boring quite quickly in comparison.

 

 

IT’S NOW OR NEVER – Elvis Presley (4 weeks)

 

Almost 60 years on it’s hard to recall a time when Elvis wasn’t everywhere – even dying at 42 did nothing to stop the juggernaut of Presley fame and success. In our household, Elvis was mum’s fave singer bar none, and now 80 with advanced alzheimers unable to feed herself or talk coherently, she’ll still get up and bop to Elvis, happy as if she was 22 again as she was when this topped the charts. Elvis is for life. So, Elvis was inescapable in the 60’s, films at the pictures, records topping the charts, on jukeboxes, on the radio, on TV: and this was one of his iconic, most-famous tracks, the big dramatic monster ballad. I can’t recall ever not knowing it, but then all of his big hits were just universally known in the company we kept, the younger generation and quite a few older – though my grandparents generation were more likely to not approve of his records, they were very much aware of them! This, needless to say, isn’t the last Elvis track on the list….

 

 

GOODNESS GRACIOUS ME – Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren (14 weeks)

 

14 weeks on top for this, this was a real aching-love on my part for this movie oddity – Sellers was starring in The Millionairess with huge movie star Sophia, as an Indian doctor having a romance with a rich European woman – in those days nobody blinked twice that a white comic could pull that off, these days of course it would be disastrous. Sadly, that kinda means this track is now also politically-incorrect along with the film. Me, I just loved the boom-buddy-booms, the title talked by the brilliant Peter Sellers, and Sophia’s Italian accent. Charming and catchy, and a huge hit in the UK, unlike most novelty records I’ve never not-loved this whimsical one, and it remained fairly popular on radio for 20 years or so. Possibly because it was impeccably produced by The Beatles’ George Martin – you can’t have better credentials than that! – and also the Sellers association, a man who remained beloved by many as he moved from his Goons-days into huge movie stardom, not least the fab Pink Panther movies. It’s also not the last Peter Sellers/George Martin track to feature in the rundown.

 

 

Pop Music from a Child’s POV: 1960 part 1

60'S 234

Me & Grandma just before 1960 started, in Gloucester in our Sunday best.

 

Right. I was born in January 1958 right at the start of the year, and Harry Belafonte topped the charts with Mary’s Boy Child in the UK. I was born in the house we lived in, in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, as was my mum, and my younger brother. Dad joined the RAF, and pretty much by 1960 we are off travelling about on postings, Gloucester and Germany first up. My earliest memories are of Germany. Just fragments. I got into music pretty much as soon as I can remember, though everything is a bit jumbled up for the first five years – I can’t place where or when I heard the records on the list for the most part, I just know that I have always remembered loving, or at least liking, them.

 

60's 367

Tin Bath time, outdoors in Mansfield, boiled from a kettle, no hot water, no central heating, outside WC, no bathroom. “You were lucky! We lived in a paper bag! But we were ‘appy!”

Obviously I wasn’t aware of the music charts in 1960 through to early 1963, but I was very aware of pop music. Dad and mum both loved it, dad had some old 78’s of David Whitfield and the like and some sort of ancient player to listen to them on. The first specific music memory I have is of a 78rpm shellac record I loved getting sat on and broken. Life can be so cruel! I was probably 3 or 4, as we were back in Mansfield again. We may have had a couple from the movie, I kind of think Some Day My Prince Will Come also featured, but I very much know we had one of them:

I’M WISHING/WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs

 

I loved the song I’m Wishing, and the echoes from the wishing well. Back in those days Disney songs were always on holiday specials devoted to keeping the back catalogue and new stuff popular on TV and resissued in the cinema. The first film I saw was Bambi, mum took me in and cried on my head when Bambi’s mum got shot, apparently – I was a toddler and have no memory of it at all!

So on with the rundown of 1960, the first year when some songs meant something to me as I grew up, most probably as oldies in the first few years afterwards. The rules? Just the one song I loved most that was in the UK charts of that week (My “Number One”) until another track came along that I loved more, or the same, or until it dropped out of the charts. This gives it a rough chronological accuracy, even if the order may be haywire and later than I think:

So the oldest record to chart that I loved first?

 

LITTLE WHITE BULL – Tommy Steele (9 weeks)

 

Tommy Steel was everywhere in the early 60’s and I’m pretty sure I saw the movie it came from Tommy The Toreador. Tommy was big in the 50’s as a sort of Brit rocker/showman, but by this time he was well into family entertainer mode. The song appealed to kids, and popped up for many years afterwards on Ed Stewart’s Juniors Choice, a show where kids requested songs they wanted to hear. Released in late 1959, and certainly a song I was very fond of, and knew well.

 

THEME FROM A SUMMER PLACE – Percy Faith and His Orchestra (3 weeks)

A theme tune I wouldn’t know about, an instrumental I couldnt have named at all throughout the 60’s and an orchestra leader I didn’t know about till the 70’s, but this gorgeous melody seems to have always been there and evokes waves of nostalgia without being associated with anything in particular. It just sounds great. Still. It’s been in The Simpsons and a myriad pop culture spots over the years, and quite rightly too.

 

MY OLD MAN’S A DUSTMAN – Lonnie Donegan (11 weeks)

 

The British skifflemaster passed me by apart from his novelty songs, as novelty songs go this one was HUGE. It was everywhere and was still being sung by kids at school years later, it was referenced by adults, sung by them for fun about me, and I don’t remember never not knowing it. Would it make my list of fave records these days? Nah. Wouldn’t even make my top 100 of 1960, but then I’m not 4-years old anymore 🙂

 

GOOD TIMIN’ – Jimmy Jones (4 weeks)

 

I didn’t know who sang it, and I still don’t know much about American black singer Jimmy Jones, I have no memories of Jimmy the singer at all, but I do remember liking this catchy falsetto pop chart-topper whenever I heard it on the radio as an oldie. Jimmy influenced subsequent singers like Del Shannon, and it still sounds fresh to my biased ears. As a kid the best bit? “Tick-a-tick-a-tick-a——TIMIN'” of course!

 

ITSY BITSY TEENY WEENY YELLOW POLKA DOT BIKINI – Brian Hyland (10 weeks)

If there’s a record that could be called my first pop record obsession, it’s this one, the kiddie-pleasing rhyming title and the subject matter about a shy girl in a bikini, a cultural thing at the time was jolly, catchy, good-natured, and gave Brian a few years of good singles success with decent ballads, such as Sealed With A Kiss, a record so good it charted all over again in 1975 for Brian and topped the charts for Jason Donovan in 1989. Sadly this song also topped the charts again for manic DJ Timmy Mallet under his pseudonym Bombalurina in 1990, doing his very best to kill all my nostalgic fondness for the original. I mean, I was glad kids got to love the song the same way I did almost 20 years earlier – I loved singing the title as pre-school and for at least a decade afterwards! – it was just a shame wholesome clean-cut wistful charm had been replaced with tacky cheese. Mind you I was 32 and not the target audience in any way 🙂