Pop Music From A Kiddie POV – 1962 Part 2

SPEEDY GONZALES – Pat Boone (1 week)

Another novelty track from the painful balladeer: ol’ Pat used to take rock’n’roll songs and bland them out, but he was a bit of a clean-cut teen idol to boot – he even starred in a good film Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, though it didn’t lead to a new career. I enjoyed the movie in my early teen years, and enjoyed this song in my early years. It had Speedy Gonzales, the superfast Loony Tunes Mexican mouse who has disappeared entirely from history, cos it “reinforced stereotypes”. No more than, say, The Magnificent Seven did, but that wasn’t a kids cartoon with a Thuffering Thuckertash speech-impediment prowling cat – who was clearly the baddie anyway. Anyway, I loved Speedy and if anything it made me root for the Mexicans as much as The Magnificent Seven did. Andale! Arriba! It says little for Pat Boone’s recording career that this catchy little ditty is far and away his best record, though I might be biased.




TELSTAR – The Tornadoes (2 weeks)

Only two weeks for this ground-breaking instrumental record, the Joe Meek futuristic soundscape production years ahead of its time – and what a tune! In 1966 dad was posted to Aden, so mum and brother and me lived in a basic one-bed flat in a rundown area of Liverpool. Dad came back with a new portable record player and some 45’s – including this one, and I played both sides to death (B side Jungle Fever is also good). Prior to that, I knew the tune, but as with most 60’s instrumentals I didn’t know the title or artist – they just got used a lot as backdrops to TV items and the like, so they eased into the subconscious as knowing I liked them but no idea on how to find out who they were or what it was called. Has it dated? Well, in one sense it sounds of its time, but in another sense it inhabits an aural universe all of its own. There was no record like it before, and the nearest I’ve seen to it since is the fab affectionate pastiche by Saint Etienne, “You’re In A Bad Way”. Sheer brilliance, both.






Another tune I adored as long as I can remember, what a melody from the greatest female pop songwriter of the 60’s. Very teen late 50‘s, love the drip-drop effects, and a good vocal, but it’s all about the tune. Normally she gave away the songs to hit groups and acts, and hubby Gerry Goffin did the lyrics against all expectations – but no it was Carole who did the Brill Building melodies, always, always top notch and a huge list of classy classic songs to point to as proof. For this one though, she stepped out on her own and had a huge UK hit out of it – and then nothing for 9 years till she entered her singer-songwriting blockbuster phase after splitting from Gerry. It was a hit all over agin in the UK in 1972, after Tapestry put her at the centre of contemporary music, with an all-time classic album and nothing less. This song? In the US peaked at only 22: outrageous!




VENUS IN BLUE JEANS – Mark Wynter (2 weeks)

Talking about late 50’s teen pop, here’s another one of that genre, albeit a UK teen cover of a US top 10 1962 hit for Jimmy Clanton which outdid the original’s popularity in the US in comparison. Smooth and polished, and not at all rock’n’roll, this one was on the British airwaves quite a lot, and was another one dad purchased for his record player. My brother Mark loved it too, he had the same Christian name – these things matter to kids! Mark Wynter was another kiddie fave, though in his case, he was pretty much only remembered (by me) for only this one – even the follow-up Go Away Little Girl meant nothing to me till I heard Donny Osmond do it. So how does it compare with the Jimmy Clanton version which I’m playing now for the first time ever? Basically identical arrangements and vocals, but the UK version is more polished, sung better, but lacks a bit of the charm of the original, but that also lacks a bit of the oomph of the UK cover. Take your choice. Howard Greenfield co-wrote it, he of Neil Sedaka co-writing fame: he wrote Oh Carol with Neil for Carole King (they all worked in the Brill Building songwriting factory in New York). Amongst his loads of hit songs? Amarillo. Love Will Keep us Together. And, err Crying In The Rain with Carole King. I love a circular link.




BOBBY’S GIRL – Susan Maughan (8 weeks)

Talking about UK covers of US hits, here’s the very first record I went gaga over as I was about to turn 5 years old. I was obsessed with it. From the pounding intro, the soaring hook, and the non-feminist teen-lyrics which kind of washed over me, I couldn’t stop singing “I wanna be Bobby’s Girl” without even thinking about gender stereotype roles. I was a kid and it was just a fab record with a fab tune you could sing easily. What more do you want at 4 or 5?! Susan got a bit of a TV career out of it for a while, and was my fave pop star into early 1963, but in the States it was Marcy Blaine who had the equally big hit version. So how does that compare? Teen girlie vocals, instead of the mature foghorn of Susan’s, so the song makes more sense – I really don’t believe Susan wants to be Bobby’s Girl, I think she’d tell him what’s for, whereas Marcy would pine, simper and know her place – at least till she grew up. Production-wise? Again the UK hit version has more oomph, but again it suits the song less. I’ll stick with my first love though….




SUN ARISE – Rolf Harris (1 week)

Sneaking in at year’s end, it’s the once-beloved children’s and family Aussie entertainer who was HOOOGE in the UK in the 60’s and beyond, bearded Rolf exported Aboriginal music culture on this sort-of novelty song, with his didgeridoo often on TV and highly featured on this low-key but catchy bit of World Music. Like nothing heard before in the UK, and little since chart-wise, pretty much every kid knew it at the time – and nowadays it’s forgotten, not least because of the court case and prison-time for Rolf which has tended to not make him a fave of radio stations (at least the few that bother to play any 60’s at all, which is precious few these days in the first place). Rolf of course went on to further chart success, topping my actual charts in 1969 with Two Little Boys, another (anti-war) Aussie-themed ballad. And of course there was his 1990’s sheet-music-read version of Led Zep’s Stairway To Heaven which became a hit on the back of a popular Glastonbury set as a generation of kids-now-grown-up let their residual affection for Rolf loose. Not been a lot of that these days….




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.