Before listening to this next UK chart-topper, I would have put the house on ‘Juliet’ being a doo-wopish, soulful, Motown record and The Four Pennies a black vocal group from Detroit. And if I had, I would now be homeless.
Juliet, by The Four Pennies (their 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 21st – 28th May 1964
For this is another Beat record, and The Four Pennies a band from Blackburn, Lancashire. Which goes to show how much of a forgotten #1 single this is. I have genuinely never heard this record before. I suspect most people haven’t. This record is so inconspicuous that I missed it every time I glanced down my list of UK chart-toppers, what with its single week at the top being completely buried amongst large swathes of Beatles, Pacemakers, Searchers and Cilla.
What is it, then – this most forgotten of #1s? Well, if I had to pick one word to describe it that word would be ‘gentle’. A gentle guitar rhythm, gentle drums, and oh-so gentle vocals that give us something approaching a lullaby. There was a love, I knew before, She broke my heart, Left me unsure…. It sounds like the last number played at a spring dance in 1955, a soundtrack to which sweethearts would pair up and decide to ‘go steady’, not a hit single from the swinging sixties. Ju-li-e-e-e-et, Don’t forget… (some high quality rhyming, there.)
It’s got a pleasantly lo-fi, home-demo quality to it, and I quite like the soaring, layered you gave me… line in the bridge. It’s nice that it sneaked a week at the top in amongst all the huge hits of the time; but there’s a good reason as to why ‘Juliet’ has been well-forgotten by the collective conscience… It’s pretty dull. Kind of like The Bachelors from a few weeks back, it’s a case of bandwagon-jumping, or perhaps clever marketing, from four guys with guitars who look like a cool new Beat group, but who are recording music for mums.
Actually, the more I listen to it, and the more I look at my list of upcoming number one singles, I think this might be the final genuine, Merseybeat chart-topper. Suddenly the movement is dead. Or, if not dead then about to splinter into lots of different styles: R &B, garage, folk… especially once the Americans get involved. But what a run it’s been. I can’t imagine a similarly homogenous run of #1 singles at any other time, before or after. Since The Searchers hit the top back in August ’63 with ‘Sweets For My Sweet’ we’ve had a near flawless procession of Beat pop at the top of the charts. I make it fourteen out of fifteen #1s, with the only exception being Cilla Black’s ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, and she was from Liverpool and so was still halfway there.
The Four Pennies weren’t quite one-hit wonders, but ‘Juliet’ was their only Top Ten hit. The follow-up, ‘I Found Out the Hard Way’, could only make #14. By 1966, after only three years together as a recording group, Lionel, Fritz, Alan and Mike had gone their separate ways. Perhaps most tellingly, they were the only group from the Beat movement – and I’m talking about all the bands covered so far in this countdown and all the bands still to come over the next few years – that failed to chart for even a single week in the USA during the famous ‘British Invasion’.
Listen to every #1 so far with this playlist:
8 thoughts on “169. ‘Juliet’, by The Four Pennies”
It sounds so out of time in this period…like it escaped from the 50s and cut line.
Perfect description… Love it!
this will be featuring in my kiddie review lists 🙂 Very much of its time the main appeal was the sweet melody and that “JoooooleeeEeEeEet” hook…
It is sweet, I’ll give you that… A bit sickly. It seems a completely forgotten hit, though. Listening to it for the first time I can’t remember ever hearing it before. Which is strange as it came slap bang in the middle of one of the most celebrated periods in pop music.
Pingback: Recap: #150 – #180 – The UK Number Ones Blog
Pingback: 188. ‘I’ll Never Find Another You’, by The Seekers – The UK Number Ones Blog
Pingback: Recap: #181 – #210 – The UK Number Ones Blog
Pingback: 228. ‘I’m a Believer’, by The Monkees – The UK Number Ones Blog