Why, isn’t 1968 just turning into the most eclectic year? Ballads about infamous crime duos, folk-pop about Eskimos… and now this.
Cinderella Rockefella, by Esther & Abi Ofarim (their 1st and only #1)
3 weeks, from 28th February – 20th March 1968
We start off with a trad-jazz vibe – woozy pianos, banjos and illicit cocktails – and I’m enjoying it because I’m genetically programmed to like this kind of music hall silliness. But then the yodelling starts. Yodelladayodalladay… Pure Alpine throat-bending, which turns out to actually be saying You’re the lady, You’re the lady that I love… I’m the lady, The lady whooooo…
But before the Frank Ifield flashbacks really hit, thankfully they start singing more normally. A man and a woman. Woman: I love your touch… Man: Thank you so much… The lyrics aren’t up to a great deal (Man: I love your chin… Woman: Say it again…), but at least they aren’t being yodelled.
The man, Abi, and the woman, Esther are wooing one another, in a speakeasy. Musically, this could be from the soundtrack to ‘Chicago’ – minus the yodelling – and it means that half of this year’s #1 singles so far have had a retro-jazz vibe to them. Though, for my money ‘The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde’ was far superior to this. It’s a song that doesn’t really go anywhere, and one that raises plenty of questions… What? Who? Why?
That ‘What?’ first. Rockefeller is the New York magnate responsible for The Rockefeller Centre. Cinderella is, well, Cinderella. Cinderella is beautiful and JD Rockefeller was rich ergo = the perfect couple. ‘Cinderella Rockefeller’, I know, is a school musical staple – though one I’ve neither been involved in nor seen. Any song list from the musical that I can find online does not list ‘Cinderella Rockefella’ as one of its songs. And the Wiki page for the song doesn’t mention the musical…
On to the ‘Who?’ Esther and Abi Ofarim were an Israeli husband and wife duo – the one and only Israeli act to top the British charts. Abi sings low; Esther sings high. She’s very shrill. The song had been performed on various US variety shows before they picked it up.
And the ‘Why?’ I really don’t know. Novelty hits are novelty hits and often come out of nowhere. Maybe you had to have been there, in the spring of ’68. Maybe people were getting sick of all the high-brow, forward facing, boundary pushing pop of the recent years and were ready to embrace some cheesy tosh.
I can’t say I hate it. It’s kind of fun, and I do love the musical arrangement. But… the yodelling. If, before starting this blog, someone had asked me how many #1 hits would feature yodelling I would have answered with a flat zero. But no. Slim Whitman, old Frank and now this. It’s a record that’s 20% intriguing, and 80% irritating. One things for sure, in my next recap it’s going to be difficult to choose the weirdest chart-topper from this most recent bunch…
Listen to every #1 hit so far: