December 27th, 2012

Welcome to the second part of the rundown of the Festive Fifty from 1962, or more accurately, my version of what might have appeared in the Festive Fifty in that year if John Peel had been (a) in the country (b) working for the BBC and (c) compiling a Festive Fifty. Enjoy!

40. LORD BLAKIE – Maria.

Lord Blakie was one of the lesser-known calypsonians to come out of Trinidad in the late fifties. Always in the shadow of the global superstar Mighty Sparrow, this was his finest hour, winning the first official “road march” with this song. He is so damn cool in this clip, too.

39. JET HARRIS – The Man With The Golden Arm.

Debut solo hit from the former Shadows bass player.

An off-the-cuff remark by Shadows guitarist Bruce Welch about Harris’ wife’s ongoing affair with Cliff Richard(!) led to Harris quitting the band in April 1962.

A mere four months later he was in the chart with this brilliant, searing arrangement of the theme from the 1955 Frank Sinatra film.

The subject matter of the film – heroin addiction – could be seen as a statement from Harris about his own addiction problems, although these involved the bottle rather than the needle.

38. GINO PARKS – Fire.

A massive blast of angry noise which was very much out of sync with the vast majority of Motown’s early 60s output.

Gino Parks can be said to have been ahead of his time – this record certainly was, by two or three years.

Unfortunately Berry Gordy’s ideas about what the “Motown sound” should be meant no place for this kind of record , and Parks had few further opportunities at the label.

37. THE EVERLY BROTHERS – I’m Not Angry.

A B-side which would undoubtedly have received more airplay on Peel’s show than its more famous A-side “Crying In The Rain”.

In 1977 Elvis Costello included a track with the same title on his debut album, and the similarities go beyond the title to include the meaning and intent of the protagonist.

By the end of both songs, the listener is left in no doubt that the guy in the song is fooling nobody, let alone himself.

36. THE VENTURES – My Bonnie Lies
Never massive in their home country in the same way their UK rivals The Shadows were in theirs, nevertheless The Ventures laid the instrumental groundwork for the surf sound that formed the second (ahem) wave of American rock’n’roll music.

This record, a hepped-up reworking of an old weepie, was only a minor hit, but its inclusion here can be traced to another, vocal version of the song that was popular in this year (in the UK at least).

35. RAY CHARLES – Half As Much

In which Ray Charles really pulls out all the showstopping stops and creates a huge, fat middle of the road record that is a million miles away from “What I’d Say”. The piano playing and voice are more restrained but still classic.

34. GENE CHANDLER – Duke Of Earl

In a later era, the likes of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey would make careers out of doing voice exercises to music, but this was probably the first worldwide hit record to be created out of a doo-wop band’s warm-up routine.

Neither a fast doo-wop number or a slow ballad, its intermediate pacing made it stand out and it went to No. 1 in the early weeks of 1962.

33. ELVIS PRESLEY – Return To Sender

Elvis’s career was at least as much about making films by 1962 as it was about making music, and this song was one of the highlights from the bikini classic “Girls Girls Girls”.

32. BOB DYLAN – Talkin’ New York

If you can argue – and you can – that the truest work of an artist is in his early, penniless, hungry years, then how much truer is that of folk music, where honesty is the most prized, maybe the only, virtue?

This is one of the two self-compositions on Dylan’s first album, and it’s a cracker, honest and true, detailing Dylan’s experiences on arriving in the Big Apple as a 20-year-old singer and trying to get noticed.

“New York Times said it was the coldest winter in seventeen years
I didn’t feel so cold then”

31. LITTLE OTIS HAYES – I Out-Duked The Duke

Answer Records were a great tradition of the fifties and sixties, briefly being revived as a record industry stunt with “F.U.R.B”, a record which didn’t really live up to it’s illustrious predecessors of two or three generations ago.

This one is a belter. Little Otis takes the basis of the tune of “Duke Of Earl” and gleefully rips out a derogatory lyric about how he “popped the Dook’s girl” while he was out of town. Magnificent.

So, tomorrow evening it’s numbers 30-21. See you then.

Laibach and enjoy it

Croatia’s Euro 2012 came to a gallant end when they were pipped to a quarter-final place by eventual runners-up Italy, purely on the basis of having scored less goals against Ireland (but conceded less too … don’t even get me started on how wrong goal difference is as a means of separating teams level on points)

Croatia (formerly part of Yugoslavia of course) has a fine tradition of pop music – here’s a few examples.

First up is Ivo Robic. He was a singer in that fine, melancholy, Euro MOR style known as schlager. Ideally, you have to be over 40 and a little bit drunk to appreciate schlager music.

He wrote and performed this song. You may recognise the tune – it was translated for Frank Sinatra into that song about a dog.

Ivo had a massive international career, making it big in Germany and France. What a voice – if he’d sung in English then he would have been huge over here too.

Novi Fosili were a pop group from Zagreb. This was the 1987 Yugoslavian Eurovision Song Contest entry, which criminally only finished fourth. John Peel played it on the radio. I swear I am not making this up.

This actually marked the start of Peel being featured as part of the BBC’s Eurovision coverage as an ironic counterpart to Terry Wogan.

And from around the same era, Laibach got a bit of attention in the U of K with their heavily ironic (one hopes) fascistic takes on pop songs.

Once you’ve heard this take on  jaunty 80s classic “Live Is Life”, originally done by Austrian hair-metal rock/popsters Opus, you will never be able to listen to the original again.

They also did a number on Queen’s “One Vision”.

I could go on and on about Laibach … great band, and without them there would be no Rammstein.

Depends on your POV as to whether you think this is a good thing, I suppose.

Finally, for balance, a Croatian hip-hop band called Elemental.


Oh, and if you don’t believe that “Strangers In The Night” is about a dog, check out the bit right at the end when Frank sings :
“Scooby dooby doo, be dooby dooby
Scooby dooby doo, be dooby dooby …”

(* sigh *) Ja ću dobiti moj kaput …