An unassuming intro leads us, soft and gentle, into a swaying lullaby of a latest chart-topper. Please release me, Let me go, For I don’t love you, Anymore…
Release Me, by Engelbert Humperdinck (his 1st of two #1s)
6 weeks, from 2nd March – 13th April 1967
Sigh. What has happened to the charts in recent weeks? We’ve gone from the pinnacle of the swinging sixties to the easy-listening doldrums… Jim Reeves, Tom Jones, Petula Clark (who’s fab, but still…) and now this. A new level of schmaltz.
I have found a new love dear… And I will always want her near… The one redeeming thing about this record is that it’s not a love song. It should be; but it’s really a break-up plea. Which gives it a slightly OTT, unintentionally comic feel. Especially with lines like Her lips are warm while yours are cold… (Ouch!) Such is the strength of the plea, I’m assuming he’s singing to his wife, and needs a divorce. Otherwise, why doesn’t he just dump her…? Or is he just too much of a gentleman to do a caddish thing like that?
When the backing singers come in, it really is a step too far. So let’s tune out for a moment, and focus on the most interesting thing about this record (apart from the singer’s name, but we’ll get to that in a bit.) ‘Release Me’, famously, held The Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’ / ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ double-‘A’ off the top-spot. For a fortnight, one of the most innovative and respected pop singles ever was outsold by just one disc. Engelbert’s.
He turns it up a notch or two for the final chorus. We move from crooning to belting. He gives the final So….. some real welly. It goes without saying that, yes, he sings it well. I feel I’ve written that quite a lot recently. And frankly, it’s not enough to save this one. It’s like saying that a footballer kicks a ball well. He’s still got to find the goal! And the slow pace and pure blandness of this record means it’s one that bobbles well wide of the post.
Unlike ‘This Is My Song’, which just sounded old, ‘Release Me’ was a (fairly) old song. First written and released in 1949, and given the treatment by Patti Page, The Everly Brothers and Dean Martin among others. It goes without saying that Humperdinck’s version is the best-known. It was, inevitably, the highest-selling single of 1967.
And what of the elephant in the room? That name. Engelbert Humperdinck was a stage name, his real one being Arnold Dorsey. But, amazingly, it is an actual name. Engelbert Humperdinck I was a German composer from the turn of the century. Humperdinck II just wholesale borrowed the name – which seems cheeky to me. He was managed by the same guy as Tom Jones, and ‘Release Me’ was his breakthrough hit. His post-sixties career is pretty interesting, but I’ll hold off on the full bio as, joy of joys, he has another huge chart-topper coming up shortly…
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