You Belong to Me, by Jo Stafford (her 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 16th to 23rd January 1953
On first listen, this sounds like the music that used to play between scenes in Dad’s Army. January 1953 was less than eight years after the end of World War II, I suppose, but this song just sounds so old. On the other side of the coin – this was less than fifteen years before Sgt Peppers! It’s genuinely amazing to think of how much popular music changed in such a short time.
However, without wanting to go off down that road just yet – this is a fairly nice, sedate little after-hours number. In complete contrast to the first chart topper, this is a track that holds back. A guitar strums, and some saxophones (trumpets?) flutter between the lines. Imagine a smoky club, little tables, couples whispering sweet nothings, gangsters and their molls quaffing champagne in the booths that line the walls. Though a quick image search of Jo Stafford brings up some fairly prim and proper pictures of her in buttoned-up blouses. None of her draped across a piano for the benefit of rowdy mobsters, unfortunately.
The premise of the song is that, no matter where her lover travels – the pyramids along the Nile, the market place in old Algiers, the jungle wet with rain – he should remember that he belongs to her and that, naturally, she will be alone and pining until his return. This being 1953, I’m guessing that he’s travelling the world as part of the military, rather than simply on a jolly, and that might explain the song’s popularity in the day’s of National Service, and the Korean War.
Despite the song’s understated quality and the jazz-bar feel, though, Stafford is still enunciating the lyrics like she’s being graded on her diction. That’s what is immediately standing out as I listen to these early number ones. Sure they sound dated, and they have a simplistic take on romance (think about it, how many modern pop songs are about simply being in love, requited or otherwise?) but what comes across most is how clear the lyrics are. Rock and roll must’ve ruined the way folks sang!
While this was a one-week number one, the song actually hung in doggedly at number two for the whole of Al Martino’s run at the top. It could have all been so different! But at least Jo can hold claim to being the first ever female singer to top the UK charts, though she never did so again.