Ladies and Gentlemen! ‘Diane’, by The Bachelors, is the UK’s one hundred and sixty-third number one single… Nope. Me neither.
Diane, by The Bachelors (their 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 20th – 27th February 1964
It’s been a good long while since we arrived at a chart-topper that I’d never, ever heard before. Yodeller par excellence Frank Ifield’s version of ‘Confessin’ was probably the last. But even before pressing play, I can kind of predict what we’re heading for here. ‘Diane’, by ‘The Bachelors’ doesn’t, to me, scream rock ‘n’ roll abandon.
And yup, the intro has a strong whiff of barbershop quartet: Smile for me-e-e-e…. My Diane… Close harmonies, and long drawn out notes. But no sooner has this opener swooped to a close than in comes a lilting country rhythm. I’m in heaven, When I see you smile, Smile for me, My Diane… It’s a song about a woman, called Diane, and how much a boy loves her. She lights the road home. No matter where he roams etc. etc. (Has there ever been a non-country and western song featuring the word ‘roam? I don’t think so…)
The Beat-invasion may have had a strong chokehold on the charts at this time, but other songs could still poke through. This had a solitary week at the top, and I have the feeling that that was because there was little in the way of competition – a default #1 because, well, something has to be number one. It’s cute, and pleasant enough, but…
I’m not too sure what to make of it. Maybe it’s insignificant enough for me to simply make nothing of it. It’s a country-ish, barbershop-ish (I do like the ah-oh-oh-ohs!) little ditty that I have to admit I was singing along to by the fourth listen. Actually, I’ve just realised that I’m also getting hints of Cliff – in both the swaying guitars last heard in ‘Summer Holiday’ and the band’s name (Bachelors, get it?)
Who exactly were these Bachelors? Well, they were Irish, which makes them the very first Irish act to top the British charts, preceding U2 and Boyzone, and the other Irish chart-dominators of the eighties and nineties. So that’s something. There were three of them – Conleth, Declan and John, and they made a decent mid-sixties career out of re-interpreting old tunes from the 1920s and ‘30s in a vaguely Beat-ish way. ‘Diane’ was originally written as the theme song to a 1927 silent movie, for example. Slim Whitman, Jim Reeves and Vic Damone all did their own versions at one time or another. The lads also scored hits with covers of songs like ‘I Believe’ and ‘Hello Dolly!’ While other Beat groups were looking forward; The Bachelor-boys were looking back.
Nothing dates this song, though, as much as the ending. Back in the dark and distant Pre-Rock days almost every song ended with a huge, soaring climax that had been signposted a mile off. And The Bachelors here do their best to recapture those halcyon days. The song slows down, the singer revs up and… Smile for meeeeeee, My… Di….AAAAAAANE! We finish all misty-eyed for the days of Al Martino and David Whitfield.
I don’t begrudge this song its week on top of the charts; but at the same time I’m not terribly sad that we won’t be hearing from The Bachelors ever again. Interestingly, not only does this record give us our first Irish #1, it also sees the name Diane (or variants thereof) sprint into the lead as the name featured in the most chart-topping singles. With two. This, and Paul Anka’s ‘Diana’. We’ve also had a Joe, a Rose Marie, a Hernando, a Josephine, a Mary, a Cathy, a Laura, a Johnny and a Michael, all on one chart-topper each. Not something I ever thought I’d keep an eye on but, now that I have done, it’s kind of fascinating. Which name will be the winner? And who’d have thought that a Josephine would have topped the charts before, say, a Sue or a Jenny?