Imagine the lounge bar of a hotel that’s seen slightly better days. It’s Thursday evening. The bar’s half-full. Eden Kane struts onstage to a smattering of light applause. That’s the vibe I’m getting here.
Well I Ask You, by Eden Kane (his 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 3rd – 10th August 1961
It’s a song with a bit of a shimmy to it; a song with a knowing grin. Well I ask ya, What a way to treat a guy, What a way to cheat and lie, Because I wanted you… It’s a song about a break-up, with some no-punches-pulled descriptions… Well I ask ya, Did you have to beat me down, Did you have to go to town, And smash my world in two…?
Kane sings it well – gives it lots of little vocal flutters, puts a nice rasp into the We-e-ell I ask ya…, gives us a little Buddy Holly hiccup and an Elvis-ish Oh baby! It’s a hammy performance, which I know is an adjective usually reserved for actors but I feel it’s applicable here. The singer ain’t really heartbroken. Turns out he’s looking for revenge.
A-don’t think you’re getting’ away with it, You’re gonna pay me somehow, You cruelly wrecked my life, But oh you want me now… Maybe it’s just my sensitive little 2019 ears, but there’s something sneering in the singer’s tone as he delivers these lines, something a little sinister. Just you ask me, Get down on your knees and try… If you ask me, the girl’s probably better of out of it. Check your male privilege, Eden. We end with the song’s title on repeat: Well I ask ya… “This girl dares break up with me? We’ll see.”
Or, maybe I’m reading way too much into this little ditty. Maybe it’s an ironic study in masculine fragility? Kane is covering up his heartbreak with a shrug, a wry smile. “Her loss…” Lyrics have in general become a bit sharper recently, a little more biting, and this latest hit is simply following the trend. Think Adam Faith’s ‘Poor Me’, or Emile Ford’s ‘What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?’ Since rock ‘n’ roll came along, heartbreak has lost its allure. Faced with rejection in 1961, it simply won’t do to clasp your hands together a la Frankie Laine in ‘Answer Me’, praying for divine intervention in affairs of the heart. Now you need a shrug, a knowing wink and a sassy response. Well, I ask ya…
Musically this disc isn’t pushing any boundaries. It’s polished enough, and actually pretty funky; but it’s a slight step back to the glossy male crooners that were lining up to top the charts back in the spring of 1960: your Anthony Newleys, Michael Hollidays and Jimmy Jones’s. Kane’s stage name was even inspired by the biblical tones in Adam Faith’s. ‘Eden Kane’ sounds slightly cooler though, perhaps a little more raffish, than any of those guys. Unlike say, Holliday, he doesn’t sound like someone you’d trust backstage with your teenage daughter.
Though I should immediately state that Kane is still alive and with us, aged seventy-eight, and hasn’t had so much as a whiff of scandal over the course of his career. (Just on the off-chance that he reads this and reaches for the phone to his lawyer…) He had a decent strike-rate with his singles in the early sixties – they either made the Top Ten or they failed to chart at all. By the middle of the decade, however, he had turned to acting. As an aside, we’ll meet his younger brother, Peter, right at the end of the 1960s with his very own chart-topping single. Actually, that’s worth considering – how many other siblings have topped the charts separately? Answers on a postcard…
The fact that my mind has wandered down these lines probably suggests that I’ve wrung everything I can out of this latest #1. A funky enough, but pretty much forgotten one-weeker from the summer of ’61. Moving on…