‘Hoots Mon’, by Lord Rockingham’s XI – The UK Number 1s Blog Anniversary Special

This week marks the 1st anniversary of The UK Number 1s Blog (** Trumpet Fanfare**)! In the past year we’ve covered the period from Nov. ’52 to Nov’ 61, with 129 chart-topping songs featured. We’ve survived pre-rock, rode the rock ‘n’ roll revolution, and are now well on our way towards the swinging sixties… Thanks to everyone who has read, followed, commented and enjoyed.

To celebrate this milestone, I’m going to take a short break from the usual countdown to repost seven songs that I have really enjoyed discovering over the past year. These aren’t necessarily the best songs to have topped the charts – there’ll be no Buddy Holly, Johnnie Ray, Connie Francis, Elvis or The Everly Brothers (follow the links if you want to read about them) – as I’ve been listening to, and loving, those artists for years. This week will be all about the forgotten gems, the hits I’d never heard before, the songs that have slipped through the cracks…

My penultimate choice is one that pays homage to my homeland – Bonnie Escocia. It’s a song that, at the time of writing, I suggested should become our new national anthem. With the advantage of hindsight… I still think that’s a great idea. This is a record that sounds like it was recorded on a cocktail of Irn-Bru, soor-plooms, the Best Of ‘Oor Wullie’ and just a splash of Buckfast Tonic Wine. It’s a wild and zany chart-topper, that makes no sense and yet complete sense. One more time then… Och Aye!

Lord-Rockingham_s-XI-Hoots-Mon-1958-7”

And so on we roll towards the United Kingdom’s seventy-seventh chart topping single. And it’s a song that I’ve never… No, wait… Ah! I know this… We all know this…

Hoots Mon, by Lord Rockingham’s XI (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 28th November – 19th December 1958

Dooooo-doo-doo-do-do… Dooooo-doo-doo-do-do… It’s an intro that smacks of slightly misplaced grandeur, like an aged diva swishing onto the stage before slipping on a banana. We know what follows is going to be absurd. And, oh boy, it is…

Na-nana-na-nana, Na-nana-na-nana, Nana-nanananana… Na-nana-na-nana, Na-nana-na-nana, Nananananananana… Apologies for my woeful attempts to render this riff using the medium of ‘na’s. The minute this starts playing you will know it.

It’s an instrumental, and it’s been a while since we featured an instrumental. I make Winny Atwell’s ‘The Poor People of Paris’ our most recent lyric-less number one, and that was two and a half years back. And it is undeniably catchy. It bores its way in on the first listen and will, I’m sorry, remain for days. And days. And days. There are key-changes, oh yes! And the bass! One of my main complaints about the rock ‘n’ roll numbers we’ve heard so far is that, while there have been some undeniable classics – your ‘Great Balls of Fire’s, your ‘That’ll Be the Day’s and your ‘Rock Around the Clock’s – they’ve all sounded a bit light to modern ears. Listen to this, though, especially through headphones. It fills your ears, in a way that makes it sound like a modern record. Every instrument – the throbbing bass, the slapdash drums, the natty organs – are, if you’ll forgive the cliché, turned up to eleven. And a half.

Actually, I called this an instrumental; but it’s not quite. There are a few words, shouted out above the clatter, foremost among them being: There’s a moose loose aboot this hoose… and It’s a braw, bricht, moonlicht nicht… Then there are the Och Ayes! thrown in towards the end and the big Hoots Mon! upon which the record ends. Yes, this is, as they say in theatre circles, The Scottish Number One. All we’re missing is a ‘Help ma Boab!’

large

The ringleader of Lord Rockingham’s XI was a man named Harry Robinson, a Scot if ever there was one. But, being from Scotland myself, I’m not sure how I feel about this record, and the manner in which it reduces the culture, language and heritage of my homeland to a handful of trite, drunken catchphrases…

Actually, screw it. It’s as catchy as crabs and a hell of a lot more fun than some of the more ‘official’ Scottish songs – ‘500 miles’ (Jings!), ‘Scotland The Brave’ (Crivvens!), ‘Caledonia’ (Shudder… and boak!) In fact, I think that this song I hadn’t ever properly listened to until twenty minutes ago should become our new national anthem, in place of the dirge that is ‘Flower of Scotland’. And when I fulfil my manifest destiny in replacing wee Nicky Sturgeon as First Minister, that’ll be the first act I sign into law.

Anyway, file this record under ‘complete and utter novelty’. It’s no coincidence that it hit the top spot in the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year. Lord Rockingham’s XI wouldn’t go on to much more success and so for the first time, I think, we have two (semi) one-hit wonders replacing one another at the top of the charts. File this also under ‘British Rock ‘n’ Roll’. It’s something that I’ve long been noting – the gradual handing over of the rock ‘n’ roll baton from the US to the UK – and with this anarchic British track following soppy efforts from The Everly Brothers and The Kalin Twins the transition may be complete.

I’ll finish by reminiscing on how this song stirred in me a long-discarded, foggy memory of a commercial for something or other, way back in the late eighties or early nineties… I knew I knew this song, but I didn’t know how I knew it – if you catch my drift. I suppose whatever it was will be forever lost in the mists of time… Actually, no it won’t. The advert was for Maynard’s Wine Gums, back in 1993. Thanks, internet.

‘A Woman in Love’, by Frankie Laine – The UK Number 1s Blog Anniversary Special

This week marks the 1st anniversary of The UK Number 1s Blog (** Trumpet Fanfare**)! In the past year we’ve covered the period from Nov. ’52 to Nov’ 61, with 129 chart-topping songs featured. We’ve survived pre-rock, rode the rock ‘n’ roll revolution, and are now well on our way towards the swinging sixties… Thanks to everyone who has read, followed, commented and enjoyed.

To celebrate this milestone, I’m going to take a short break from the usual countdown to repost seven songs that I have really enjoyed discovering over the past year. These aren’t necessarily the best songs to have topped the charts – there’ll be no Buddy Holly, Johnnie Ray, Connie Francis, Elvis or The Everly Brothers (follow the links if you want to read about them) – as I’ve been listening to, and loving, those artists for years. This week will be all about the forgotten gems, the hits I’d never heard before, the songs that have slipped through the cracks…

Song number five: the King of Pre-Rock – Mr. Frankie Laine. Laine, along with Guy Mitchell, was the most consistent chart-topper before Elvis came along. His 1st #1 – ‘I Believe’ – still holds the record for most weeks at the top of the charts. ‘A Woman in Love’ was his swan song – one of his last big hits – and I remember thinking, when I wrote this post, that it felt as if it came out of nowhere. The swing and swagger of the big band on this record, and the glint in Laine’s eye as he sang it, were a world away from his earlier, painfully earnest ballads. I can’t say I’m a fan of all his work; but this is a great song…

s-l300 (2)

A Woman in Love, by Frankie Laine (his 4th and final #1)

4 weeks, from to 19th October to 16th November 1956

Look who’s back!

Almost three years since we last saw him, Frankie Laine is back at the top of the charts for one final hurrah. And it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that this is something of a re-invention.

I think this is the very first ‘big band’ #1 we’ve seen. It’s from the film version of ‘Guys and Dolls’, and I think it might be a tango, or a foxtrot (I ain’t no dancer). Either way, it begins with a bang, and then it starts swinging. Frankie Laine is a-swingin’.

Your eyes are the eyes of a woman in love, And oh how they give you away… Why try to deny, You’re a woman in love, When I know very well, When I say…

Who is this woman head over heels with? Well, Frankie of course. At least that’s what he thinks: Those eyes are the eyes of a woman in love, And may they gaze ever more into mine…

Contrast these lyrics with Laine’s last chart-topping single from December ’53. ‘Answer Me’ was all about him pleading for a sign that his lover was still, well, in love with him. In ‘A Woman in Love’ he doesn’t need any reassurance, any prayers answered. He knows she’s hot for him. The times they are a-changing.

And then we have one of the best musical interludes that we’ve heard so far in this countdown. The previous chart-toppers haven’t really gone in for solos, but this one does. The whole band gets stuck into a swinging little thirty seconds. There is a lot of swagger in this record. I’m quite enjoying sticking one-word labels on these recent #1s: Pat BooneCrooner, Anne SheltonTwee, Frankie Laine – Swagger! We’ve had an eclectic run of songs hitting the top spot recently, perhaps the most varied run of this countdown so far, but in a way they’ve all been very of their time. Popular music right on the cusp of the rock ‘n’ roll invasion.

The only thing that spoils this record is the finale. Frankie may have re-invented himself, but he still loves a big ending: Crazily, ga-aze, e-ever mo-ore into MIIIIIIINNNNEEE! Every time I hear an ending like that it sounds more and more old-fashioned. I can’t imagine there’ll be many more, though. Surely. But, overall, this is a small complaint. It’s a great song. Laine’s voice is as warm and as listenable as ever. He and Doris Day should have recorded a duet (*edit* they did – ‘Sugarbush’ back in 1952).

06cab955448883c79c5103ab82addae5--arthur-godfrey-singer

And so we bid farewell to perhaps the biggest of all the pre-rock stars. Four number one singles adding up to 32 (thirty-two!) weeks at the top. That’s pretty darn impressive, and leaves him at 5th place in the all-time list behind only…. I’ll give you a few seconds to guess… Elvis, The Beatles, Cliff and The Shadows. And, actually, I’m harping on about this being a ‘re-invention’ and a ‘comeback’ for Laine, but he hadn’t been anywhere. In the three years between his 3rd and 4th #1s he had still racked up a whole pile of top ten hits. He was huge. ‘A Woman in Love’ would, though, be his penultimate top ten single in the UK.

One final thought… This track made Frankie Laine the artist with the most UK #1s at this point. With four. It’s noticeable that we haven’t yet met an artist who has scored, or will even go on to score, more than four. These early charts were a very egalitarian place – songs only got to the top because they were… I don’t want to say ‘good’ because, well… let’s say: ‘universally popular’. The days of super-star idols, of huge fan-base acts whose every release races to the top of the charts – your Take Thats, Westlifes, Spice Girls – are still not upon us. But they will be sooner than you might think, and their arrival has a lot to do with this new-fangled thing called rock ‘n’ roll.