Thursday, 28 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 24 (1956 charts, Hullensian overtaken)

As we cruise into the second half of the fifties in this series rock'n'roll is really kicking in, though big ballads and old-fashioned razamatazz can still be found in this representative cross section of what the British public were being subjected to over the airwaves. Rock With the Caveman, an early and not wholly convincing British attempt to rock, was written by Lionel Bart. Ronnie Hilton's No Other Love is the old guard, still in good voice.
Interesting footnote: Anne Shelton's corny but cheerful Lay Down Your Arms, which features at the end of Lipstick On Your Collar, was engineered by ... Joe Meek, producer extraordinaire: the future was just around the corner. And note this volume ends with Heartbreak Hotel, which was to change the lives of the young Lennon and McCartney.
Spotify link to whole album here if you can access spotify, or click selected tracks below for youtube clips.

1. Whatever Will Be Will Be Que Sera Sera * No. 1 (Doris Day)
2. Singing The Blues * No. 1 (Guy Mitchell)
3. Rock With The Caveman * No. 13 (Tommy Steele)
4. Just Walking In The Rain * No. 1 (Johnnie Ray)
5. True Love * No. 3 (Bing Crosby & Grace Kelly)
6. I ve Got You Under My Skin (Frank Sinatra)
7. Too Young To Go Steady * No. 8 (Nat King Cole)
8. Rock & Roll Waltz * No. 1 (Kay Starr)
9. A Tear Fell * No. 2 (Teresa Brewer)
10. I'll Be Home * No. 1 (Pat Boone)
11. Memories Are Made Of This * No. 1 (Dean Martin)
12. Sixteen Tons * No. 1 (Tennessee Ernie Ford)
13. Only You * No. 5 (The Platters)
14. Hot Diggity * No. 14 (Michael Holliday)
15. No Other Love * No. 1 (Ronnie Hilton)
16. Young And Foolish * No. 10 (Edmund Hockridge)
17. Lay Down Your Arms * No. 1 (Anne Shelton)
18. The Poor People Of Paris * No. 1 (Winifred Atwell)
19. The Ying Tong Song (Goons)
20. Green Door * No. 2 (Frankie Vaughan)
21. Blueberry Hill * No. 2 (Fats Domino)
22. Be Bop-A-Lula * No. 7 (Gene Vincent)
23. Blue Suede Shoes * No. 2 (Carl Perkins)
24. Heartbreak Hotel * No. 1 (Elvis Presley)

Further thoughts:

So it wasn't all rock'n'roll in the 1956 British charts, but just look at the four tracks which conclude this year's collection.

Ronnie Hilton is a name probably unknown to American readers (unless they have already attended to the recent blog entry about songwriters Dicks and Rudge here) but he is a representative example of the British singers in the charts of the time, having success mostly with American covers. From the Guardian obituary by Michael Freedland:
Ronnie Hilton [...] was one of those 1950s vocalists whose career coincided with rock 'n' roll's 1956 onslaught on the ballad-dominated hit parade. But for a time Hilton was a star - strictly for home consumption - with nine top 20 hits between 1954 and 1957, that transitional era between 78 and 45rpm records. [...]

Hilton's approach owed much to the "nice 'n'easy" style of Americans such as Bing Crosby, Eddie Fisher and Perry Como. Together with the likes of Dickie Valentine and Michael Holliday, his was the kind of voice and style to which youngsters smooched as they edged across those dance floors not yet vibrating to Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock and Elvis Presley's Blue Suede Shoes.
The shaggin' penguin would have approved, then. But as the wikipedia page on Ronnie Hilton notes:
Hilton's light operatic style, similar to fellow Hullensian, David Whitfield, was already by the mid 1950s being overtaken by events. By the time "No Other Love" dropped off the UK Singles Chart, Elvis Presley had clocked up his first three UK hit singles.
And while his cover of Around the World, "a bigger hit than the Bing Crosby original," Michael Freedland says, may have seemed a triumph "in summer 1957, as skiffle and Elvis gripped the charts," there was only one more top twenty hit to follow, according to a comprehensive-looking singles discography on the 45rpm website, here. Windmill in Old Amsterdam has proven remarkably durable, but at the time (1965) it only made number 23. And just look at all those songs released as singles over the years which didn't chart ...

No Other Love was known to me in recent years as he used it as the theme of his BBC Radio 2 programme Sounds of the Fifties. The arrangement's opening bars always sounded very odd to me: was it meant to be an OTT joke - or was I born too late, too much a child of rock'n'roll to get it?

I am certainly too much a child of doo wop to let Pat Boone's cover of I'll Be Home pass without drawing the reader's attention to this Flamingos biog on the Black Cat Rockabilly here:
Nate Nelson [...] catapulted "I'll Be Home" into the top 10 of the R&B charts in 1956. As so often happened in those days, Pat Boone recorded a blander version and enjoyed a top 10 pop hit with the song.

"We got very hurt by that song," Zeke Carey says in the liner notes to "The Chess Masters." "He [Pat Boone] sold many times more records than we did. We had worked so hard to get through and we knew that it was going to be a bona fide hit. We had done a show with Alan Freed in New York, and Pat Boone was also on the show. Our song had been out about three weeks. About two weeks after that show, his record came out and swamped ours. It was a devastating, painful experience."
See also Unca Marvy's excellent Flamingos page, here (which is where I found the above image). You can listen to the Flamingos' original here and the original recording of Just Walking in the Rain by the Prisonaires, a group of actual convicts recorded by Sam Phillips, here.

Ronnie Hilton's widow runs a website here where you can buy remastered recordings which will be of far better quality than the public domain CDs. The site also has a detailed biography.

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