I have to admit – I’m struggling to ‘get’ Frank Ifield, Britain’s pop-idol du jour in 1962-3. We’ve arrived at Pt. III of his chart-topping quadrilogy (that’s a word, right?) and still the key to his success is eluding me.
The Wayward Wind, by Frank Ifield (his 3rd of four #1s)
3 weeks, from 21st February – 14th March 1963
At the very least ‘The Wayward Wind’ is an improvement on Ifield’s last #1, the demented ‘Lovesick Blues’. Largely because the yodelling (Oh God, the yodelling…) is kept to a minimum. Instead we get a harmonica riff (that sounds suspiciously like it’s from an early-Beatles B-side…) and the story of a wanderer:
Oh the wayward wind, Is a restless wind, A restless wind, That yearns to wander… And I was born, The next of kin, Ah, the next of kin, To the wayward wind… It was originally, you may have guessed from those lyrics, a Country & Western song from the fifties – the rest of the lyrics are all about ‘railroad tracks’ and ‘border towns’. Which means it’s the third hit running in which Frank Ifield and his producers have taken an old song and tarted it up to fit in with the sound of the time – i.e. the soon-to-explode ‘beat movement’.
It’s probably the best of Ifield’s three chart-toppers; though that is very, very faint praise indeed. I like the way that strings and cymbals come in on the verses as the ‘wayward wind’ – it’s a nice effect. And we make it almost a minute into the song before the first yodel: made me a sl-a-a-a-eeee-ave…! Frank clearly couldn’t help himself. Maybe it was an actual affliction – yodelling Tourettes? – and he did it even when talking…? He saves it for that line and that line only, though, for which we can all be grateful.
Like all of Ifield’s hits, ‘The Wayward Wind’ isn’t a song I’d ever heard before. The one good thing about his year in the sun is that all these tunes are completely new to me. There is at least a novelty value to his work. It was quite the popular tune, however, especially in the mid-to-late fifties. Our old friend Jimmy Young did a version (which makes complete sense, thinking about it – this could be ‘The Man from Laramie’ Pt. II) along with Patsy Cline, Sam Cooke and The Everly Brothers. The Beatles included it in their early live shows (I knew it – that harmonica!)
Let’s look at this as a throwback. In fact, let’s view the entire career of Frank Ifield as a throwback. He sings nicely, properly (your gran would have liked him, no doubt) with good enunciation. He was the final Pre-Rock star, the successor to the likes of Jimmy Young, Guy Mitchell and Frankie Laine, and his sudden popularity was the final twitch of a corpse that had been trampled over by rock ‘n’ roll and that was about to be completely buried by beat groups.
But, at the end of the day, this isn’t a very good record. Solid at best. Competent. Maybe his final chart-topper will unlock the mystery of Frank Ifield’s success? Maybe… Anyway, to finish… I’ve really held off mentioning this, but hey… ‘The Wayward Wind’ sounds, to me, like a euphemism for a fart.
On that note…