15. ‘Answer Me’, by Frankie Laine


Answer Me, by Frankie Laine (his 3rd of four #1s)

8 weeks, from 13th November 1953 to 8th January 1954 (including 1 week joint with David Whitfield, from 11th to 18th December 1953)

There’s something rather familiar about this record…

Having read the previous post, you know what this song is all about: heartbroken guy, on his knees, turning to the Lord as a last resort… all very melodramatic. This sticks very close to the structure of the David Whitfield version – it’s exactly the same length – but I must admit I like this version better. There’s just something about Laine’s voice: warm, beckoning, a voice I want to listen to, a voice I trust. Unlike Whitfield’s plummy whining.

Musically, this version is also a little less overwrought than its predecessor. The guitar strums that play us in are very reminiscent of ‘I Believe’, and the violins have been replaced by an organ and backing singers. It’s still pretty dull, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just that little bit more listenable. It’s got an American gloss, all glittery lapels and perfect teeth, that David Whitfield’s reserved, BBC World Service delivery was lacking. And the ending is still a bit much, though Laine holds it back until the final line rather than belting out the whole last chorus.

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We’re now a year into this countdown, believe it or not, and out of the past 37 weeks, Mr. Frankie Laine has been at number one for 28 of them. In many ways it is impossible to compare the charts of today with those of the early ’50s – in terms of how the data is collected, in terms of what data is included, in terms of how wide-ranging the chart data is – but if anyone does think that today’s streaming dominated charts are dull, slow-moving and dominated by the same handful of artists, I would suggest you tell them to thank their lucky stars they weren’t around in the autumn of 1953. Not only are the same artists dominating here; the same songs are, too.

In lieu of mentioning having anything new to say about the song, I thought I might give a little shout out here to the conductors. The ‘what’, you say? The conductors! Almost every chart-topping record by a solo act, as you may have noticed from the pictures I post at the start of every entry, has been conducted by someone and their orchestra.

So far, Monty Kelly has conducted the orchestra for ‘Here in My Heart’, Harold Mooney for ‘Comes A-Long A-Love’, Hugo Winterhalter did both Eddie Fisher’s chart-toppers, Mitch Miller was Guy Mitchell’s go-to guy for both of his, Johnny Douglas did the ‘accompaniment’ for ‘That Doggie in the Window’ (apparently it didn’t warrant a full-blown orchestra) while Stanley Black guided David Whitfield through ‘Answer Me’. Mr. Paul Weston, though, has been the most prolific so far: Jo Stafford’s ‘You Belong to Me’, as well as the Frankie Laine trio of ‘I Believe’, ‘Hey Joe’ and now ‘Answer Me’ coming under his baton. Only the Stargazers (presumably because they played their own instruments) and Perry Como haven’t had orchestral accompaniment. Mantovani got the credit as conductor for ‘Moulin Rouge’ because it was an instrumental.

If haven’t included these conductors in the titles of my blog posts it’s because, well, they aren’t included anywhere else. Most listings of UK Singles Chart #1s – Wikipedia and the Official Chart Company included – don’t mention them. And so I won’t either. I understand it from the point of view that the conductor is neither playing an instrument nor singing the song, and that if the conductor gets a credit then so should the violinist, the trombonist, the harpist etc. etc. But, at the same time, Paul Weston has been heavily involved in four number one singles so far – with more to come, presumably – totalling 30 weeks at the top. That would already be enough to make him joint 7th (with Justin Bieber) for most combined weeks at number one! It seems a little harsh that he is forever banished from the chart history books…


18 thoughts on “15. ‘Answer Me’, by Frankie Laine

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