Oh dear. I thought we were past this… I thought we had waded through the easy-listening swamp and made it out alive… I was wrong. Des O’Connor sticks out an arm and drags us back in…
I Pretend, by Des O’Connor (his 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 24th – 31st July 1968
If I’ve learned one thing from the two hundred fifty three songs I’ve covered so far it’s that no matter the leading sounds of the day – be they rock ‘n’ roll, Beat, baroque, or folk – you are never more than seven feet away from an easy-listening #1. It is the genre that never dies, mainly because it isn’t a genre at all. It can adapt, morph, mimic and ultimately survive, like the cockroaches that will rule following the apocalypse.
And I have nothing against easy-listening. Nothing at all. I am here for every single one of these chart-topping hits. I approach each one with an open-mind. I loved Petula Clark’s ‘This Is My Song’, and enjoyed Engelbert’s ‘The Last Waltz’, but this… This does nothing for me. This is bland. Where’s the hook? I’m trying to find something to grab hold of, something to appreciate, but find myself clutching at thin air.
It’s a velvety, cutesy, saccharine fart of a record. Something about how the the lady he loves is cheating on him, so till then I’ll just pretend… Blah, blah, blah who cares? One day our love must end, Till then I’ll just pretend… He’s literally sitting alone, pretending that his wife is still in love with him, simpering over an empty chair, while she’s out gallivanting. God’s sake man, have some self-respect…
I have never heard this record before. I truly wonder if anyone has listened to this song in the past twenty years. Is this the most forgotten #1 ever? Maybe that’s because it’s surrounded by monster hits by The Beatles, Stones, Cliff and more. Maybe. But, tellingly, ‘I Pretend’ sneaked a week at the top after an eleven-week climb – a disc that slipped in to pole position when nobody was looking. (It did also spend a full year on the chart, though, so there clearly was an audience for it…)
To be fair, Des O’Connor was – even years later when I was a kid – a household name in the UK. He had a fanbase. He hosted chat shows and game shows throughout the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties. He was warm, family-friendly, slightly too tanned… A kind of male Cilla Black, though her music was much more credible. I was amazed to just find out that he’s still alive… I could have sworn he’d died years ago.
Apparently he’s in pretty poor health, though, so let’s wish him the very best. His one and only number one single may be terrible, and completely out of place in mid-1968, but it’s one more number single than most of us will manage. Next up, I believe, normal service will be resumed.