Thursday, February 15, 2018

The "F" word in pop songs (1966 -1978)

Just over fifty years ago (1965), theatre and film critic, Kenneth Tynan, a well respected if not rather cynical reviewer, was invited to partake in a debate in the BBC's late-night satirical show BBC-3. He was asked to comment on whether he would allow a play to be staged in which sexual intercourse was represented on the stage. Tynan replied , “Well, I think so, certainly. I doubt if there are any rational people to whom the word 'fuck' would be particularly diabolical, revolting or totally forbidden. I think that anything which can be printed or said can also be seen." This was the first time the word "fuck" had been spoken on British television and for a time it made him the most notorious man in the country.

Billy Connolly later commemorate this event in his song "A Four-Letter Word".

Tynan campaigned tirelessly to break down linguistic inhibitions on the stage and in print. He had previously managed to get ‘fuck’ into an Observer article about the Lady Chatterley Trial in 1960. A decade after the "angry young men" of British literature, the critic’s utterance had Parliamentarians and censorship advocates up in arms. Later Tynan wrote an erotic revue called Oh! Calcutta! which debuted in 1969 and became one of the most successful theatre hits of all time.

Until this time the “F” word had not featured in recordings and certainly not pop songs. But this was the 60s and soon all that changed. During the recording session which produced the The Troggs hit ‘With a girl like you’ in 1966. Unbeknown to the band an unknown sound engineer caught an in-studio argument between the Troggs which later appeared as a bootleg known as "The Troggs Tapes." Many believe the dialogue was the inspiration for the movie This Is Spinal Tap. The band members' vocabulary barely extends beyond repeated usages of "fuck," and the behind the scenes attempt at actual music is hilarious in its demonstration of just how musically incompetent the Troggs actually were.

In 1967, Country Joe and the Fish, released an album called I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die. It was the group’s second album. The title track remains one of the most popular Vietnam protest songs from the 1960s. The group used “The F-i-s-h Cheer” at concerts but when they appeared at Woodstock, Country Joe had the crowd yell F-U-C-K instead of F-I-S-H.

Ray Davies wrote Apeman as a protest song against polution and the modern world. The Kinks caused some controversy in 1970 because in the line "...the air pollution is a-foggin' up my eyes...", the word "a-foggin'" sounds too much like "a-fuckin'", they had to re-record it prior to its single release. The original lyric remains intact on the album.

In the same year John Lennon released Working Class Hero on his first post-Beatles solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Working class hero is as also a protest song decrying the class system and how working class individuals are being processed into the middle classes. John plays acoustic guitar with basic progression of chords as his backing. The lyrics include "But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see." The song was banned from many radio stations and in Australia, the album was released with the expletive removed from the song and the lyrics censored on the inner sleeve.

In 1977 Ian Dury and the Blockheads released the New Boots and Panties album in the UK. The album did not enter the top of the British charts but it did go platinum. The album includes "Plaistow Patricia," with the wonderful introduction “Arse holes, bastards, fuck’en cunts and pricks.”

The Who were never far from controversy and in 1978 recorded “Who are you,”
Which included the line, "Who the f**k are you?" Who Are You was the eighth studio album and peaked at number 2 on the U.S. charts and number 6 on the U.K. charts. It is The Who's last album with Keith Moon as the drummer.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Jim Diamond (1953 - 2015)

Jim Diamond was born in Glasgow in 1953. His father was a fireman and he attended St Mungo Academy, Glasgow. His first band was called The Method and he joined them when he was 15, later he played with Jade, a Glasgow band who moved to London. In the lineup was Chris Glen (bass and "The Sensational Alex Harvey Band") and Jim Lacey (lead guitar) who later joined The Alan Bown Set. Diamond left Jade to join Gully Foyle and toured Europe until he was discovered by Alexis Korner. For the next two years Jim Diamond was a member of the Alexis Korner Band.

He left in 1976 to form Bandit with Cliff Williams (ACDC) and signed for Arista Records. Their debut album failed to chart and Diamond left to join the Japanese band BACCO as their lead singer in 1979. Later he went to LA and formed Slick Diamond with Earl Slick to tour and perform. Back in the UK Jim linked with Tony Hymas (drums and former Jeff Beck Group) and Simon Phillips (piano/keyboard), to form PhD . The name came from the first initial from each of their surnames. The band signed to WEA Records and their debut album in 1981 contained the single "I Won't Let You Down." It peaked at number three in the UK Singles Chart in early 1982.

The follow up single "I Didn't Know," failed to chart in the UK but sold well in Europe. The group disbanded and Jim pursued a solo charting with ”I Should Have Known Better,” in 1984.

In 1986 he released his last top five hit, “Hi Ho Silver” (Theme tune from TV series Boon).

Jim Diamond continued to work and often features as a guest vocalist on other artist’s songs. Laterally Jim Diamond dedicated a lot of time to the Cash for Kids charity appeal in Scotland The singer died suddenly at his London home in 2015.

Worth a listen

I Should Have Known Better (1984)
Hi Ho Silver (1986)

Ph. D.
I Won't Let You Down (1982)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (The Swampers)

"Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers;
And they've been known to pick a song or two.
Lord they get me off so much.
They pick me up when I'm feeling blue
Now how about you?"

"Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section was the resident band at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, Alabama. Like the Wrecking Crew in Los Angeles, and the Funk Brother at Motown, they were the backing band on dozens of gold and platinum hits. The four founding members were Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger G Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass and trombone), and Jimmy Johnson (guitar) . Originally they had worked at Rick Hall's FAME Studios in Florence, AL., then in 1969, left to start the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. At Fame, the rhythm section had gained a reputation working with Arthur Alexander’s 1961 hit "You Better Move On; " Wilson Pickets’s "Land of 1000 Dances (1966) and Mustang Sally (1966 ); "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Percy Sledge (1966); and Aretha Franklin’s "I Never Loved a Man" (1967).

According to Hood, the name, Muscle Shoals Sound was intended as a joke. The group felt Detroit had its sound (Motown); Nashville and Memphis had theirs, so Muscle Shoals would have its own too. The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, was the first rhythm section to own its own studio and, eventually, its own publishing and production companies. During the late 60s and throughout the 70s the cream of rock, pop and soul found their way to 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, AL. Other session musicians joined Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Their sound was unique and singer/songwriter Leon Russell dubbed them "The Swampers" and the name stuck. The Swampers included Pete Carr (lead guitar, sound engineer and producer). He played on almost all the sessions throughout the 70s, and can be heard on Bob Seger’s "Main Street," and Rod Stewart’s "Tonight's The Night," and "Sailing

Randy (piano) penned several hits including: Eddy Rabbitt’s "Suspicions" (1979 ); Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ "Real Love" (1985); Kim Carnes’ "Crazy In Love"(1988 ). Will McFarlane (guitar) joined the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section in 1980 after playing with Bonny Raitt and Dewey Lyndon "Spooner" Oldham (piano) came from FAME. “Spooner “ was an accomplished songwriter and together with Dan Penn wrote The Box Tops’ ‘Cry Like a Baby’(1968), "I'm Your Puppet" (James and Bobby Purify) (1966), and "It Tears Me Up" (Percy Sledge) (1966). Muscle Shoals Sound was a unique blend of country, gospel and R & B. Jerry Wexler (Atlantic Records) liked the sound from the Alabama studios and brought artists like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin to record with the Swampers. The initial successes led to the arrival of more mainstream rock and pop performers among them The Rolling Stones, Traffic, Boz Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Dr. Hook, Elkie Brooks, and Millie Jackson to work at the studios. The Staple Singers (from Stax Records) enjoyed their greatest crossover successes with "Respect Yourself" (1971) and "I'll Take You There" (1972) and which were recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. In 1973 Paul Simon's collaborated with Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section to produce the hits "Kodachrome" and "Loves Me Like a Rock." The Sound studio also produced hits for Mary MacGregor ("Torn Between Two Lovers" 1976) and the brilliant "Smoke from a Distant Fire" by Sanford-Townsend Band in the same year.

The studios were not set in the most salubrious area and more often than not artists were put up in mobile homes at the local trailer park. In 1978, the facility moved to another building in Sheffield but by the early 80s the Swampers had broken up. They had from time to time gone on tour but gradually solo projects overtook their interest. The Rhythm Section partners sold the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1985 but as new technology took over and the studio finally closed.

Worth a listen

Wilson Pickett

Hey Jude (1969)

R.B. Greaves

Take a Letter, Maria (1969)

(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me (1970)

Boz Scaggs

Loan Me A Dime (1969)

Aretha Franklin

This Girl's in Love with You (1970)

Call Me (1970)


Oh Me, Oh My (1970)

The Rolling Stones

Brown Sugar (1971)

Wild Horses (1971)

The Staple Singer

Respect Yourself (1971)

Paul Simon

Kodachrome (1973)

Love me like a rock (1973)

Bob Seger

Katmandu (1975)

Dr Hook

Pain and Pleasure (1978)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Scottish Australian Rockers

The Young Brothers
Alexander Young was born in Cranhill, in the east end of Glasgow, in 1938. His parents William and Margaret had eight children and four boys became musicians Alexander (Grapefruit), and younger brothers George (Easybeats), Malcolm and Angus (ACDC). The family immigrated to Australia in 1963 and settled in Sydney but Alexander (aka George Alexander) stayed in the UK and continue his career as a professional musician. He played with The Bobby Patrick Six before forming (The) Grapefruit with three former members of Tony Rivers and the Castaways, (John Perry, Geoff Swettenham, and Pete Swettenham). He had been signed as songwriter with Apple Music Publishing Ltd and Grapefruit became a pet project of the Beatles after Lennon named the band. They released two albums and several singles on the Apple label. Despite Beatle patronage the band had little commercial success and split in 1969. George Alexander continued to work as a session musician and later collaborated with brother George Young and Harry Vanda (The Easybeats) as Paintbox and Tramp.

George Young

George Redburn Young was born in 1946 when the family moved to Australia they stayed in Villawood Migrant Hostel, Sydney. There he made friends with Johannes Hendricus Jacob van den Berg (aka Harry Vanda) a fellow immigrant (from the Netherlands). Inspired by the "British Invasion" George and Harry formed the Easybeats in 1964. The line-up was Stevie Wright (lead singer); Gordon Henry "Snowy" Fleet (drummer) and Dick Diamonde Bass) with George (rhythm guitar) and Harry (lead guitar). They soon became a popular Sydney group and were signed to Albert Productions. By the end of 1965 the Easybeats were the most popular pop band in Australia with a string of hit singles co-written by Young and Wright. In 1966 the group signed to United Artists Records and relocated to London. The Easybeats released "Friday on My Mind" which rocketed up the charts in the UK and US. Due to a combination of factors the Easybeats failed to make much headway after their initial success and returned to Australia. The band began to drift apart and by1970 the Easybeats were no more. To pay off debts Vanda & Young stayed in London and concentrated on writing and producing pop and rock songs for other recording artists. One of the bands was 'Marcus Hook Roll Band', which was made up of Malcolm and Angus Young and Harry Vanda. In 1973 they returned to Australia and with Ted Albert became the house producers for Albert Productions. They wrote and produced several major hits for John Paul Young including "Love Is in the Air" and "Yesterday's Hero." As Flash and the Pan, they had Australian hits with "Hey St. Peter" and "Down Among the Dead Men". In the70s "Waiting for a Train", "Midnight Man", "Early Morning Wake Up Call", and "Ayla", all sold well and charted in Europe. Meantime when Angus and Malcolm Young formed AC/DC in 1973 Vanda and Young recognized AC/DC had potential and co-produced their early successful albums.

Malcolm and Angus Young

Malcolm Mitchell Young was born in 1953 and is younger sibling, Angus McKinnon Young two years later. Growing up the Young brothers were all influenced by 50s rock and roll, and blues-based rock guitarists of the 1960s. Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Freddie King, loomed large with John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, and Keith Richards all seminal to their playing style. Encouraged by Alexander and George, Malcolm learned to play rhythm guitar Angus first played banjo but re-strung them with six strings. The teenage brothers were soon playing with local bands and in 1973 when Malcolm founded AC/DC he invited Angus to join the line-up. The original group was Angus on lead guitar, Malcolm on rhythm guitar, Colin Burgess on drums, Larry Van Kriedt on bass guitar and Dave Evans on vocals. After building a loyal following in Sydney as a glam band they started touring Australia in 1974. Keen to stamp originality on their live performances Angus dressed as a schoolboy on stage wearing an Ashfield Boys High School (Sydney) cap and uniform. His guitar antics on stage became a focal point for the band. Later in the same year Bon Scott replaced Dave Evans as lead singer. The band had several successful albums before relocating to the UK and embarking on a European tour in 1976. The bands popularity grew internationally and their 1979 album Highway to Hell reached the top twenty in the United States. In February 1980 Bon Scott suddenly died and AC/DC briefly considered disbanding. However they recruited Brian Johnson (Geordie) and completed the album Back in Black, as a tribute to Bon Scott. It went on to become the second best-selling album in history. The band continues to record and perform.

Bon Scott (1946 – 1980)

Ronald Belford Scott was born in Forfar, Scotland. His family immigrated from Kirriemuir to Melbourne in 1952. Ronald attended the Sunshine Primary School and the kids called him Bon because he had recently arrived from ‘Bonnie’ Scotland.’ The name stuck. In 1956, the family relocated to Fremantle, Western Australia and Bon joined the associated Fremantle Scots Pipe Band where he learned to play the drums. Bon was a rebel and dropped out of school and soon got into trouble with the police. In 1964 he formed his first band The Spektors who eventually became The Winstons. Bon shared the lead vocals with Vince Lovegrove when he joined The Valentines. Before disbanding the band had a couple of hits with "Every Day I Have to Cry" and "Juliette." In 1970 Scott moved to Adelaide to become the singer with Fraternity and soon after the group changed their name to "Fang". The band continued to work in Australia and had a UK tour but when they returned in 1973 Scott began singing with the Mount Lofty Rangers. Scott liked to drink and after a boozy session at the Old Lion Hotel in North Adelaide, in 1974 had a motorcycle accident and suffered head injuries. Whilst recovering he was introduced to ACDC and joined the band replacing Dave Evans as the lead singer of AC/DC. In 1980 he passed out after a night of heavy drinking in a London club. Left to sleep it off in a friend’s car Bon Scott died from inhaling his own vomit. Five months after Scott's death, AC/DC finished the work they began with Scott and released Back in Black as a tribute to him with two tracks from the album, "Hells Bells" and "Back in Black", dedicated to his memory.

John Paul Young

John Paul Young was in Bridgeton, Glasgow, in 1950. His family immigrated to Australia in 1962 and settled in Sydney. He left school when he was 15 to work as an apprentice sheet metal worker. He and some school mates formed a band called Elm Tree in 1967. The group consisted of Robert (Slim) Barnett (bass), Ollie Chojnacki (guitar), Phillip Edwards and Andy Imlah (co-lead vocals), Dave Kaentek, Ron Mazurkiewicz (keyboards) and Geoff Watts (drums). The made one record, a cover version of “Rainbow” (Marmalade) in 1970 but it failed to make an impact. Simon Napier-Bell, heard them in a pub in Newcastle and persuaded John Paul Young to sign as a solo artist to Albert Productions. His first single "Pasadena," under the name John Young was a hit in Australia and was co-written by George Young and Harry Vanda (The Easybeats) and UK actor, David Hemmings (Blow Up). In 1972 he joined the Sydney cast of Jesus Christ Superstar and played Annas until 1974. Keen to rekindle his solo career he signed for Albert Productions and liked up again with Vanda & Young. "Yesterday's Hero" was released in 1975, and gave him another Australian single and album chart topper. The single sold strongly in the United States, and reached No. 44 in 1976. John Paul Young became a popular fixture on Countdown in Australia and regularly featured as a performer or guest. Presenter Molly Meldrum christened the singer “Squeak,” and he toured as John Paul Young and The All Stars. Other chart success came with "Love Game", "I Hate the Music", "I Wanna Do It with You," and "Standing in the Rain". John Paul Young had already proven himself to be popular outside Australia with several European and South African hits. Standing in the rain was a disco hit which led the way for his biggest international success, “Love is in the Air." By 1989 JPY had stopped recording to concentrate on a career as a DJ with New Fm (Newcastle) but when the film Strictly Ballroom was released in 1992 with a new version of “Love is in the air” it catapulted the singer back into recording and performing. He was a featured performer at the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He continues to perform and remains active participant in children’s charities

John ‘Swanee.’ Swann

John Archibold Dixon Swan was born in 1952 and his younger sibling James Dixon Swan four years later, both in Glasgow. The family immigrated to Australia in 1961and settled in Elizabeth, Adelaide. Jim and Dorothy Swan divorced soon after and their mother remarried to Reg Barnes. Dorothy encouraged her children to change their surname to Barnes. All of them did except for John who kept his natural father’s name, Swan. He became know as ‘Swanee.’ Initially Jim (Barnes) had little interest in music but John learned to play drums and joined his first band, Happiness when he was 14. After serving time in the army he took up his musical career by playing in a few bands until he joined Fraternity and for a short while Jim sang with the group. The previous singer was Bon Scott (ACDC), but . Jim left to front Cold Chisel and Swanee took over as lead vocalist. He later left to sing with Feather in 1977 and recorded one single, "Girl Trouble." A year later Swanee decided to break with the band and go solo. He had a minor Australian hit with his version of "If I Were a Carpenter." Then in 1982 he released the album This Time is Different which gave him two hit singles, "Temporary Heartache" and "Lady What's Your Name." Whilst John did not achieve the same success as brother he did earn the respect of the Australian rock music industry. Swann continues to perform.

Jimmy Barnes

Jim Barnes left Fraternity to front Orange, The group consisted of organist and songwriter Don Walker, guitarist Ian Moss, drummer Steve Prestwich and bass player Les Kaczmarek. The group quickly changed name to Cold Chisel and build up a loyal fan base before moving to Melbourne in 1976 and then three months later shifted base to Sydney. The group had an on- off attitude but eventually live performances convinced them to stay together. Cold Chisel signed to WEA and by 1980 became the biggest band in Australia. They were the perfect pub rock outfit but try as they might to crack the US market they failed to make an impact. After a disastrous tour in 1981 Cold Chisel returned to Australia ready to break up. A second chart topping Australian album followed and by the next year the band were touring Germany. Constant touring caused many arguments and Jim was drinking heavily. They decided to call it a day on return to Australia and The Last Stand farewell tour became the highest-grossing concert series by an Australian band. The group's final performance was in Sydney in December 1983. Jimmy Barnes launched his solo career and signed to Mushroom Records. Each of his first six solo albums debuted in the Number One position in Australia, a record unsurpassed by any other act. Determined to break into the US market he signed to Geffen Records and his second album, "Working Class Man," sold well. The song featured in Ron Howard’s film Gung Ho. Jimmy toured Canada and US with ZZ Top. More and more he worked with US artists producing highly commercial rock albums. Depite his successes he continued to battle drug and alcohol addiction which led to artistic differences causing him to switch labels. In 1990 he was signed to Atlantic for worldwide release. Jimmy’s love for soul music saw him release Soul Deep, an album of soul covers which became his most successful album. He returned to his hard rock roots with subsequent albums and continued to sell well in Australia and New Zealand. In 1993, Jimmy Barnes did a duet version of (Simply) The Best with Tina Turner. By the mid 90s Jimmy faced financial ruin in Australia and relocated to Europe. He toured with the Rolling Stones and continued to record. His albums sold well in Australia and eventually Jimmy Barnes returned to the country to pursue his career. He underwent heart surgery in 2007, made a full recovery and continues to work and record both as a solo artist as well as with a reformed Cold Chisel. Jimmy Barnes remains the most popular and best-selling Australian music artists of all time.

Colin Hay

Colin James Hay was born in 1953 in Kilwinning, Scotland. The family moved to Australia when Colin was 14. He met Ron Strykert and formed a duo in 1978 then later they expanded to become Men at Work. The group line up was complete with Jerry Speiser (drums), Greg Sneddon (keyboards) who was quickly replaced by and Greg Ham (flautist/saxophonist), and John Rees (bassist). The group released their debut album Business as Usual in 1981 on the Columbian Records. It topped the Australian and New Zealand charts. The album was eventually released in the USA and the UK. Men at Work toured the USA to promote the album, supporting Fleetwood Mac."Who Can It Be Now?"and “Downunder” topped the American charts in 1982. Their second album “Cargo” produced three chart singles in the USA: "Overkill“, "It's a Mistake", and "Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive". In 1983 the band toured the world extensively. By 1984 Jerry Speiser and John Rees left the band and Hay, Ham and Strykert) recorded a third album “Two Hearts.” The single from the album "Everything I Need", was a minor hit in the US. Line-up changes followed with Hay and Ham to only remaining original members. Eventually Ham left the group and Men at Work folded in 1986. Following the breakup Hay followed a solo career as singer and actor. In 2002 Hay appeared as the Troubadour in the Scrubs episode, "My Overkill," and made a cameo in the season 8 finale of Scrubs, "My Finale. . His music is a feature of the series. Back in Australia Hay established his own record label, Lazy Eye Records, inspired from his own strabismus (lazy eye) condition. Men at work did reform briefly in 1996 to tour South America, and they continued to play until 2000. Men at Work performed "Down Under" at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Colin Hay continues to perform and record as a solo artist and has played with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.

Eric Boogle

Eric Bogle was born in Peebles, Scotland in 1944. His father was a woodcutter and played the bagpipes. He started writing poetry when he was eight-years-old and as a teenager taught himself to play guitar and started a skiffle group called Eric and the Informers. After leaving school at 16 he odd jobbed until he immigrated to Australia in 1969. By day he worked as an accountant and joined the local folk music scene. Many of his most successful songs have political connotations and have been recorded by other international artists. He continues to perform and record and has established myself as an international folk musician.

Worth a listen


High Voltage (1974)

TNT (1975)

It’s a long way to the top (If you want to rock and roll) (1975)

Dirty Deeds (1975)

Jailbreak (1975)

The Jack (1975)

Let there be rock (1977)

Highway to Hell (1979)

Jimmy Barnes

No second prize (1984)

Working class man (1985)

Many rivers to cross (1991)

Simply the best (1992) with Tina Turner

Cold Chisel

Khe Sanh (1978)

My Baby ( 1980)

You Got Nothing I Want (1981)

Flame Trees (1984)


She's So Fine (1965)

Friday on My Mind (1966)

Colin Hay

Waiting for my life to begin (1994)

Are you lookin’ at me (2007)

Men at Work

Who can it be now (1981)

Downunder (1981)

Be Good Johnnie (1982)

Overkill (1983)

John ‘Swannee’ Swan

Temporary Heartache (1982)

Lady What's Your Name (1982)

John Paul Young

Pasadena (1972)

Yesterday’s Hero (1975)

I hate the music (1976)

Where the action is (1977)

Love is in the air (1978)

Eric Bogle
And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda (1971)
No mans land (1976)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A brief history of pop music and movies (1950-1959)

By the end of the Second World War popular culture changed forever with a broader availability of records and turntables, and a proliferation of dance halls. Singers, not the bandleaders, became the focus of attention and by the early 50s records out sold sheet music . Published leagues of best selling recorded music dominated the popular music press and whoever held the number one position became pop aristocracy. Keen to be part of this new economy and developing culture, the movie industry in the US and UK continued to play up the musical elements (the scores) of their film in the hope the public would see the movie and buy the record. A significant number of the 50s Top Ten singles in the US and UK came from movie scores. Covers also charted and sometimes displaced the originals in sales. In 1950, the first chart topper from a movie was ‘There’s no tomorrow’ from ‘Two tickets to Broadway’. It was recorded by Tony Martin and written by Al Hoffman, Leo Corday, and Leon Carr. The song was based on the Italian song "O Sole Mio" (music by Eduardo di Capua). A second, more popular interpretation came in 1960 with "It's Now or Never", sung by Elvis Presley.

Possibly the most reluctant film score chart topper was Anton Kara with the ‘Third Man’ Theme. Carol Reed (director) happened to see Kara play zither in a night club. Reed convinced Kara to return to England and record the score for his 1950 film, ‘The Third Man’. Both movie and the score became a gigantic success.

Film genre which dealt with Post war Europe was especially popular and many writers were fascinated with the aftermath of war. Captain Carey, U.S.A. (After Midnight) was a box office success and starred Alan Ladd, Wanda Hendrix, and Francis Lederer. Based on the novel No Surrender by Martha Albrand, it told the story of an American returning to post-World War II Italy to bring a traitor to justice. The theme song ‘Mona Lisa’ became a major hit for Nat King Cole. A couple of years later, Nat King Cole would have another hit with Blue Gardenias (1953).

‘Three Little Words’ (1950) was a musical film biography of the Tin Pan Alley songwriting partnership of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. The film starred Fred Astaire and Red Skelton. The movie was incredibly popular and spawned two major chart successes ‘Thinking of You’ and ‘Nevertheless’. The songs were recorded by several artists with chart success and on release of the movie both songs reached first and second place respectively, in the U.S. charts.

The last movie inspired top ten of 1950 was a double A side, ‘Blind Date’/’Home Cookin’. Performed by Margaret Whiting and Bob Hope, the song came from the film score from ‘Fancy Pants’.

In 1951 the romantic musical comedy ‘Two Weeks with Love, ‘starring Jane Powell, and Debbie Reynolds was a box office success. ‘Aba Daba Honeymoon’ was originally written by Arthur Fields and Walter Donovan in 1914, but when it appeared in the movie it became an instant favorite. Recorded by Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter the song reached #3 in the US.

In the same year, Jane Powell had a hit single with Fred Astaire with possibly the longest title of hit single ever, ‘How could you believe me when I said I love you when you know I’ve been a liar all my life.’ The song came from the highly successful musical comedy ‘Royal Wedding’ (Wedding Bells).

The fabulous tenor, Mario Lanza sang ‘The loveliest night of the year’, in the film, ‘The Great Caruso’. The tune was originally a waltz called "Sobre las olas" ("Over the Waves") and written in 1888 by Juventino P. Rosas. Irving Aaronson adopted it and Paul Francis Webster added the lyrics. ‘The loveliest night of the year’ became one of the most popular songs of 1951.

‘Come on-a My House’ was a major hit for Rosemary Clooney. The melody was based on an Armenian folk song and written in 1939 by Ross Bagdasarian and William Saroyan. The singer despised the song and almost refused to record it. It appeared in the movie ‘The stars are singing.’

Tony Bennett had a number one hit (his first) with ‘Because of you,’ from the film, ‘I was an American Spy’. The last movie hit for 1951 was the classic ‘My resistance is low,’ sung by Hoagy Carmichael. It came from ‘The Vegas Story’ in which Hoagy Carmichael played Happy, the eccentric pianist at the bar, where the singer used to work.

1952 was low year for movie inspired hit records and the only one to break through to the charts was ‘Zing a little zong,’ from the movie ‘Just for You’, sang by Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman.

The following year saw a return starting with the successful movie ‘Moulin Rouge’ which met with great critical success in 1953. ‘Where Is Your Heart’ came from the movie and was recorded by several artists. The best selling version was by Percy Faith and his Orchestra with vocals by Felicia Sanders. The music was written by Georges Auric and the original French lyrics were by Jacques Larue, the English words by William Engvick. In the movie the song is called ‘It's April Again’ and the theme song was sung by Muriel Smith, dubbing for Zsa Zsa Gabor. The Percy Faith version remained in the US chart for 24 weeks and reached Number #1. In the UK a version by Mantovani topped the UK Singles Chart.

King Vidor’s ‘Ruby Gentry’ starred Jennifer Jones, Charlton Heston and Karl Malden and the theme song "Ruby," was composed by Heinz Eric Roemheld. The pop standard was covered many times but the biggest commercial success came from Lex Baxter and his Orchestra.

Dean Martin established himself as the 50s coolest pop singer, with ‘That’s Amore’ from the Lewis Martin movie ‘The Caddy’. On screen, the song is performed mainly by Dean Martin, with Jerry Lewis joining in, followed by the other characters. The hit version was rerecorded and peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts. The song remains closely identified with Dean Martin.

Guy Mitchell had a hit with ‘Chicka Boom ‘from the movie, ‘Those redheads from Seattle’. The big screen success of the year was ‘Calamity Jane’ starring Doris Day. The singer enjoyed a number one hit with "Secret Love," then a year later a second chart topper with The Black Hills of Dakota .

In 1954 Guy Mitchell was once again riding high in the charts with, ‘A Dime and a dollar’ from the movie ‘Red Garters’. Billy Eckstine also had a hit with ‘No one but you’, from the movie ‘The flame and the flesh’.

Eddie Fisher was no stranger to the pop charts in the 50s and enjoyed great success with ‘Count your blessings (instead of sheep),’ from the film ‘White Christmas’. The Four Aces had a hit with ‘Three Coins in the Fountain’ from the movie of the same name. The song was written by Jule Styne and lyricist Sammy Cahn and Frank Sinatra’s version topped the UK Singles Chart for three weeks.

In 1955 there were three recorded versions of the Ballad of Davy Crockett in the top 30. Bill Hayes' version was the most popular, and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks. ‘The Ballad of Davy Crockett’ was written by George Bruns and Thomas W. Blackburn. Fess Parker, brought out the first recording which was quickly followed by versions by Bill Hayes and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White ("Cereza rosa")’ was a number one instrumental hit for Percy Prado his Orchestra . Alan Dale scored a top twenty hit with a vocal version in the same year and Eddie Calvert topped the UK charts with his instrumental version. ‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White’ featured in the adventure film ‘Underwater!’ starring Jane Russell and Richard Egan.

‘Prize of Gold’ sung by Joan Regan was used in main credits of another adventure film, ‘A Prize of Gold’. It became a hit. ‘Ready willing and able’ was another hit for Doris Day and was taken from the film score from ‘Young at heart’. Frank Sinatra had previously had a hit with,’Young at Heart’. ‘Battle Cry’ starring Van Heflin and Aldo Ray featured ‘Honey Babe’ by Art Mooney and His Orchestra which became a Top 5 hit in the United States. ‘There's No Business Like Show Business’ was featured in the movie of the same name and sung by Ethel Merman as the main musical number. The popular hit from the film was ‘If you believe’, and sung by Johnnie Ray.

In the same year the McGuire Sisters had a top five hit with their version of ‘Something gotta give’, from the movie of ‘Daddy Longlegs’. Fred Astaire sang the original on the film score but Sammy Davis Jnr also had a hit with the same song in 1955. Morris Stoloff and his Orchestra played ‘Moonglow’, the theme from ‘Picnic’. The movie was a huge success when it was released in 1955 and launched the career of Kim Novak.

In 1956, Bill Haley and His Comets had a hit with ‘See You Later Alligator,’ it was originally entitled ‘Later Alligator.’ The song was featured in ‘Rock Around the Clock’. Another hit for Bill Haley was ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ which came from the same film. The title song ‘Rock Around the Clock’ had previously been used in the soundtrack of the film ‘Blackboard Jungle’, (1955) but when it was featured over the film's opening credits, and at the close of the movie, it became an instant classic and topped the singles charts. In the UK another song to catch popular attention from Rock around the clock in the UK was Giddy up a ding dong by Freddie Bell and the Bell Boys (UK) it topped the charts in the UK and many other countries but was not a hit in the United States.

Doris Day was back in the singles charts again with ‘Que sera sera (Whatever will be will be)’ which appeared in the film score of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The man who knew too much’. Doris Day reached number two on the U.S. pop charts and number one in the UK. ‘A Woman in Love’ was written by Frank Loesser and appeared in ‘Guys and Dolls’. The biggest hit version of the song was recorded by The Four Aces, but Frankie Laine also recording a version that scored a big success in the United Kingdom, reaching #1 on the UK Singles Chart in the UK.

Elvis Presley’s screen debut was in the drama ‘Love Me Tender’ in 1956. The title song was a hit. Another civil war drama was ‘Friendly Persuasion’ and starred Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire. The movie featured the song Thee I love, music by Dimitri Tiomkin and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. The best-known version of the song was recorded by Pat Boone.

True love was a massive success for Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly, written by Cole Porter the song appeared in the musical film ‘High Society’.

‘The Girl Can't Help It’ was a comedy musical film, shot in Technicolor and starring Jayne Mansfield and Edmond O'Brien. It was intended as a satire of teenagers and rock ‘n’ roll music but unintentionally featured the “most potent” celebration of rock music ever captured on film. Little Richard sang the title song but it was Fats Domino who rode high in the pop charts with ‘Blue Monday’ which featured on the musical score. It became one of the earliest rhythm and blues songs to make the Billboard magazine pop music charts, peaking at number five and reaching the number one spot on the R&B Best Sellers chart. Bill Halley and his Comets were back in the top ten with ‘Don’t Knock the rock’, taken from another teen movie by the same name. The film was an immediate follow-up to ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and although the Haley recording was played over the opening credits, it is Alan Dale who actually performs the number on screen.

By 1957 the rock’n roll musical had become well established Elvis Presley was certainly box office and made two movies in that year. ‘Loving you’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock.’ The title song from the former appeared on the B side of ‘Let me be your teddy bear,’ and became a number one hit in the US. This was quickly followed by ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ from the movie of the same name. The song ‘Jailhouse Rock’ was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and released as a 45rpm single to coincide with the motion picture, Jailhouse Rock. The song became a US #1 hit for 7 weeks in the autumn of 1957, and a UK #1 hit for three weeks early in 1958.

In the UK, Skiffle a type of jug music had taken hold and the Chas McDermott Skiffle Group scored a top 5 hit with ‘Freight Train.’ The song appeared on the soundtrack for ‘The Tommy Steele Story.’ Tommy Steele also had a trio of top ten hits which appeared on the same soundtrack i.e. ‘Singing the blues’, ‘Butterfingers’, and ‘Water/Water/Handful of Songs.’ Only ‘Singling the blues’ held the number one position.

Debbie Reynolds had a massive international success with the Tammy films i.e. a series of four light-hearted American films about a naive 18-year-old girl from Mississippi. Needless to say ‘Tammy’ sung by Reynolds was a top ten single in 1957.

‘All the Way’ was written by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Sammy Cahn. It appeared in film ‘The Joker Is Wild’ and Frank Sinatra had the best-selling recorded version of the song. He also sang "Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)" for the movie and it was on the flipside.

Elvis Presley was back in the singles charts with ‘Hard Headed Woman’ and ‘King Creole’ in 1958. Both songs featured on the sound track of King Creole. ‘Hard Headed Woman’ was written by African American songwriter Claude Demetrius. The Royal Teens had a novelty hit with ‘Short Shorts’, from the movie ‘Keep it cool.’

In the UK in 1958 Frankie Vaughan had a hit with ‘The heart of the man’ taken from the movie of the same name.

The big Hollywood musical in 1958 was Gigi and despite being a much awarded movie, the music did not appear to catch the single buying public. Then in 1959 Billy Eckstine recoded ‘Gigi’ and had a UK success in the singles chart. Cliff Richard was also aspiring rocker and sang Living Doll in the film Serious Charge (1959); the song peaked at #1 on the UK singles chart for six weeks.

Paul Anka had a hit in the US with Lonely boy which he wrote and sang in the film Girls Town. A second hit from the same film was, "It's Time to Cry." Anthony Newly played a pop star in the UK comedy ‘Idle on Parade’. He scored a UK top 5 hit with ‘I’ve waited so long.’ Tommy Steele was back in the charts with ‘Little White Bull’ which was taken from the UK musical comedy ‘Tommy the Toreador’ starring Tommy Steele, Janet Munro, Sid James, Bernard Cribbins, Noell Purcell and Kenneth Williams.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

"Sunshine" Sonny Payne RIP

Benny Hill (1924 –1992)

Alfred Hawthorne Hill was born in Southampton, Hampshire. During World War II, he was evacuated to various towns along the West Coast of England. When he left school he did various casual jobs including a milkman, before becoming an assistant stage manager. He worked as a comic from age 16 but always in the provinces and never London. His early comic style was based on American comedians like Danny Thomas and Danny Kaye. Alfred particular loved Jack Benny, so he took the stage name ‘Benny’ Hill.

He progressed to becoming a straight man for Reg Varney, and then tried radio. Benny was never happy with live work and found TV the medium that suited him best. His first appearance was on Hi There (BBC) in 1951. On television he excelled in vaudeville styled gags with heavy slapstick, innuendo, and parody. He had a long career on television and appeared in several movies. His film debut was Who Done It? (1956 film).

Later he confined his film works to short cameos: such as in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965); Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968); and The Italian Job (1969).

Benny Hill was a modern master of double entendre. During Victorian Times because concerns were expressed at the open lewdness of public performers in music halls, censorship was introduced. In an attempt to clean up reference to bodily functions and sex were all banned but clever comedians derived double engenders (double meaning) avoided breaking the law whilst at the same time was plain to all, what was being referred to.

Benny loved comic songs and parodies, and combined these with double engenders. Most of his recordings which were done in the 60s, lampooned the popular pop music of the time with several of his comic records ironically reaching the UK singles charts.

‘Gather in the Mushrooms,’ (1961) was produced by Tony Hatch and reached Number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. In the same year this was followed by ‘Pepys Diary, another song written and performed by Benny Hill. This was one if his personal favourites, and featured a restoration-style arrangement with harpsichord and woodwind.

Later the same year Benny Hill recorded ‘Transistor Radio’, written by himself and produced by Mark Anthony (a pseudonym of producer Tony Hatch). The song told the story of a man whose attempts at intimacy with his girlfriend are constantly thwarted by music played from the girl's transistor radio. The song reached the UK Top-20.

Another chart success came with "Harvest of Love" (1963) co-written by Benny Hill and Tony Hatch (aka M. Anthony). The backup singers were called the Kestrels (Roger Greenaway, Tony Burrows, Jeff Williams, and Roger Gullane) but instead of singing they provide a vocal back-up of farmyard impressions.

The B-side was Bamba 3688 which was parody of La Bamba.

Throughout the 60s Benny released a series of humorous singles most of which originally appeared on the Benny Hill television shows. By far the most successful of Benny Hill’s recording was "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)," written again by the comedian. It rose to top the Christmas charts in 1971 and remained there for four weeks. The lyrics were purportedly inspired by his early experience as a milkman and the song was composed in 1955.

Worth a listen
Gather in the Mushrooms (1961)
Pepys Diary (1961)
Transistor Radio (1961)
Harvest of Love (1963)
Bamba 3688 (1963)
Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West) (1971 )