Broken Wings, by The Stargazers (their 1st of three #1s)
1 week, from 10th to 17th April 1953
And so, in one fell swoop, we have our first ever British chart-toppers! And our first ever group! Hurrah! Now, if only there was something interesting to write about this landmark hit…
Unfortunately, there isn’t. This is dull. Dull, dull, dull… To think of all the British acts – all the huge, legendary acts – that we will go on to cover in this countdown. And it all begins with this. From every little acorn, as they say. I’m sorry, though. If this acorn were drinking alone at a bar, you’d give it a very wide berth. He would more than likely be suicidal, and wanting to tell you all about his ex-wife’s newer, younger, less-balding husband. This is slow. This is hymnal. Nay, this is a dirge.
Picture an old, run-down working man’s club. In Doncaster, perhaps. A couple of wrinkled geezers sup their ale in the corner. A door opens, and a band steps onstage. No one claps. Someone coughs. A lonely Hammond organ strikes up. The drummer picks out the simplest rhythm imaginable. The Stargazers, with their hit song ‘Broken Wings’.
With broken wings, no bird can fly… The premise of the song is that your lover’s infidelities leave you broken: broken-hearted, broken-winged, just… broken. The singers don’t sound like they’re enjoying themselves at all. They sound broken. There in your eyes, I saw lies in disguise, you broke my heart in two… And then, just as you think it cannot get any sadder, a desolate trumpet parps out a miserable little solo. The saddest solo ever. Remember when I was asking for heartbreak, when all these glossy American singers were singing about love lifting you up, stars getting in your eyes, and bluebirds? I regret it now.
Looking back at the previous six number ones, I can see why they were all chart-toppers. Whether they were good (Kay Starr, Perry Como), silly (Guy Mitchell) or simply over the top (Al Martino) they all sounded like big hits. This doesn’t. How this became the biggest selling single for a week in April 1953 I simply can’t understand.
But then, I wasn’t around then. These were days of smog and rationing and fears that the commies were going to start yet another world war. People needed some escapism, no? And they did so mainly through buying glamorous songs by sexy US stars. But every once in a while, being British, they needed to indulge their miserable sides, and buy a record that sounded like their grandparents, or Clement Attlee, or that lonely old guy down the pub.
So the Stargazers obliged with this morose anthem. Featuring a Hammond organ. And is there anything more British than that?