Time for another quickie with Adam Faith? Oo-er, that came out wrong. What I mean to say is that, for the second time in three months, Adam Faith has come and gone in less than two minutes. (That didn’t sound much better…)
Poor Me, by Adam Faith (his 2nd of two #1s)
2 weeks, from 4th – 17th March 1960
His first chart-topper – ‘What Do You Want’ – clocked in at one minute thirty eight seconds; this one goes on for a much more leisurely one forty-six. Two #1s that take less time combined than many songs do on their own. And the similarities between the two don’t end there – ‘Poor Me’ rollicks along at the same tempo, and borrows the exact same lightly plucked strings (which were, lest we forget, nicked from Buddy Holly), as Faith’s first number one.
And yet… This is a different beast altogether. ‘What Do You Want’ was a standard pop song: a perky verse-verse-bridge kind of number. ‘Poor Me’ has a much darker edge to it. For a start there are the ghostly backing singers: AaaahAaaahAAAAAAhAaaaaah, their voices rising and falling like the soundtrack to a fairground’s haunted house. Then there are Faith’s vocals. He sounds grumpy, angry even, and he mumbles his way unwillingly through the opening lines. It’s a song about a lover cursing both his luck and his ex, a man wallowing in his misery. Sorry thoughts leaping around my head, It’s been heard and it’s been said that, You tried, To date another guy, Didn’t hide, Didn’t even try, Cheating me with lies again, Making me remember when… Brutal stuff, eh? No sugar-coating here! Poor me, indeed.
In fact, Faith is so pissed off that he may have been hitting the sauce in an effort to forget. I mentioned in my post on his previous #1 that his pronunciation was unique at the best of times; but here he’s also slurring his words like a man on day five of a three-day-bender. I had to check online to make sure I had the lyrics quoted above correctly (I did) and had to give in completely when it came to the bridge: I used to hold you baby, So tight, Each night, That’s right… Because that’s not what it sounds like on record (Try ‘I used to hold you by the, Soft hands…)
Come the end, Mr Faith has really given himself over to despair and is possibly reaching for the shotgun under the bed: Why oh why, Do voices say to me, Sit and cry, That this was meant to be, Love’s unkind and love’s untrue, Oh why did love pick out you, For me, For me, Wa-ha, Poor me, Poor me… Jeez. This is by far the mopiest, whiniest, most depressing record we have met on our countdown. We’ve had some heartbreak up to now; but nobody has wallowed quite as long or as deeply as Adam Faith here. The first Emo chart-topper, decades ahead of its time? Maybe I wouldn’t go that far; but it is a fascinating record. On first listen it sounds like a hastily knocked-together and derivative follow-up to a debut #1; but repeated listens reveal it to be a much more complex and, dare I say, challenging song than ‘What Do You Want’.
And that’s that as far as Adam Faith’s chart-topping career goes. By the mid-60s he had moved into television work and made a good career out of it – acting steadily until his death in 2003. According to Wiki – and God I really hope this is true – his final words, uttered on his deathbed following a heart-attack, were: “Channel 5 is shit, isn’t it? Christ, the crap they put on there. It’s a waste of space.” As final words go they are up there with the very best, alongside “Kiss me, Hardy” and Oscar Wilde’s quip about the wallpaper, and anyone who has spent any time watching British television will surely agree with the sentiment.
The very eagle-eyed among you will perhaps also have noticed that, while ‘Poor Me’ had a fortnight in the top-spot, if you add up the days between the 4th and the 17th March you get…thirteen. Unlucky for some. There’s a simple enough explanation: on 10th March the ‘official’ chart switched from the NME to Record Retailer, which was published one day earlier, and so Adam Faith lost twenty-four hours at the top. Poor him.