After all the in-your-face sex and apocalyptic predictions of the past few #1s, it’s nice to hear the gentle piano and bass intro of ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’. The musical equivalent of closing your eyes and taking a deep breath.
I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, by Bobbie Gentry (her 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 12th – 19th October 1969
Not that this record is all sweetness and light, though. The title kind of gives that away. What do you get when you fall in love…? A guy with the pin to burst your bubble… Bobbie is convinced that she’s done with love. That’s what you get for all your trouble…
I love her voice – all tired and husky. It lends a perfect edge to possibly the best rhyming couplet ever to feature in a #1 single: What do you get when you kiss a guy…? You get enough germs to catch pneumonia, After you do he’ll never phone ya… Bacharach and David – racking up another UK chart-topper here – added the line after Burt had been hospitalised with the flu. It does make sense when you realise that this is a B&D number, with its gently soaring melody. They had written it for a musical called ‘Promises, Promises’, and Dionne Warwick had had the hit version of this song in the States.
You could add ‘I’ll Never Love Again’ to our run of recent cynical number ones – crushing the closing months of the swinging sixties – but for one line: So for at least, Until tomorrow… Who knows? She might just meet the man of her dreams tomorrow morning… And I’d argue that there’s something very late-sixties-positive about a young female artist singing about her love life in a matter-of-fact way: I’ve been there and glad I’m out… Women’s Lib reaching the top of the charts right here.
The fact that Bobbie Gentry is a woman is worth noting in itself. She’s the sole female chart-topper of 1969. In fact, in the past three years, only Bobbie, Mary Hopkin, Sandie Shaw and Petula Clark have topped the singles charts as solo females (Esther Obarim, Nancy Sinatra and Jane Birkin did so by duetting with men.) It really is surprising how few women topped the charts throughout the sixties, compared to later decades… I would work out the percentage, if I had any kind of mathematical ability.
Bobbie Gentry is also another artist whom I racially-profiled as a kid… Add her to the list along with Chris Farlowe and Georgie Fame. She isn’t black, she’s another white singer with a bit of soul in her voice, an American Dusty. My first exposure to her was through the superb ‘Ode to Billie Joe’, which was her biggest US hit – a gothic novel in a four-minute pop song – which shockingly only reached #13 in the UK… As nice as ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’ is, it’s no ‘Ode to Billie Joe’.
But it is nice. Better than nice. It’s a great, late-sixties pop song with a hint of country. Bobbie Gentry has become very reclusive in her later years, not recording, performing or giving interviews since 1982. She lives to this day, people believe, in Memphis. And with that, we reach the penultimate number one single of the 1960s…