393. ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’, by Elton John & Kiki Dee

And so, Sir Elton John belatedly takes the stage. Much like Bowie, who finally made #1 a few months before, we’ve already missed a lot of his best stuff. But hey – better late than never. Plus, this is still a pop classic.

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, by Elton John (his 1st of eight #1s) & Kiki Dee (her 1st and only #1)

6 weeks, from 18th July – 29th August 1976

Don’t go breaking my heart… I couldn’t if I tried… It’s a proper duet, with the singers taking different lines. Finishing one another’s lines, in fact, like an irritatingly cute couple. Oh honey if I get restless… Baby you’re not that kind… It’s the first duet to top the charts since, um, Windsor Davies and Don Estelle. Or, if you’re looking for a non-novelty duet, you’ll have to go back to Serge and Jane, or Esther and Abi OfarimAhem. The point being – genuine duets like this don’t come along too often.

I’m surprised, to be honest, just how disco this record is. It’s usually background noise, a seventies ‘Best Of’ staple, and I’d have put it down as pure pop with a nod towards classic Motown. But listening properly, you can hear that the guitars, the drums and the strings are all set to ‘Disco’. Plus, it’s got the perfect rhythm for hand-jiving.

Woohooo… Nobody knows it…. That hook cements ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’s place as a gem. Is it as good as, say, ‘Rocket Man’? No, obviously not. Unlike David Bowie, Elton isn’t breaking his chart-topping duck with an all-time classic. (In fact, like Bowie, and Queen, who we’ve also met recently, Elton John is very poorly served by his #1 singles.) Still, it’s a fun record, and a karaoke classic, despite being much longer than it has any need to be, at four and a half minutes.

As for Elton’s partner in this… Who was Kiki Dee? Turns out she was the first British female to sign for Tamla Motown, which is pretty impressive. She had scored a few minor chart placings before this mega-hit, then she scored a few more minor ones in the years that followed, until she re-teamed with Elton in 1993, for #2 hit ‘True Love’. She’s still around, releasing albums and working in musical theatre. (Apparently her part in ‘Don’t Go Breaking…’ was written with Dusty Springfield in mind, but she was too sick to record it. No offence to Kiki, who sings it very well, but just imagine how darned iconic this would have been as Elton & Dusty…)

Then there’s the artist formerly known as Reg… Wonder what became of him? Well, amazingly, we won’t meet him again atop this countdown until 1990, when he will finally get a solo chart-topper! It’s not that he lacked hits – this record was his 10th Top 10 hit since breaking through with ‘Your Song’, and he would continue to have hits throughout the eighties – just that for whatever reason they rarely made it all the way to the top.

Till then, then, Elton. Before we go, though, it’s worth pausing to remembering that, as the follow-up to ‘True Love’, ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ returned to the charts, at #7, in a very ‘90s house version. Elton’s duetting partner on that occasion: RuPaul Charles.

231. ‘Somethin’ Stupid’, by Nancy Sinatra & Frank Sinatra

We are still stuck in the seventh circle of easy-listening hell, it seems. In calendar terms, it’s now getting on for a good half-year of dullness…

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Somethin’ Stupid, by Nancy Sinatra (her 2nd and final #1) & Frank Sinatra (his 3rd and final #1)

2 weeks, from 13th – 27th April 1967

And I have to admit that I thought this latest chart-topper would be better. It’s a song I know, one that’s ingrained in popular culture, and one which had a second wind thanks to a certain ex-Take That singer and an Australian actress when I was at high-school, but one that I’d never really paid much attention to.

The main problem with it, I think, is that Frank and Nancy both sound pretty bored. I know I stand in line until you think you have the time to spend an evening with me… Strings swirl and Latin guitars strum, much like they did in Petula Clark’s ‘This Is My Song’. And if we go someplace to dance I know that there’s a chance you won’t be leaving with me… It’s a wordy song, and the lines are well constructed – the alliteration in the see it in your eyes you still despise the same old lies… one is great, to give credit where it’s due. And the hook of ‘I love you’ being a stupid thing to say is cute.

But beyond that I’m left feeling a bit underwhelmed. Especially remembering how fierce Nancy sounded on ‘These Boots…’, and knowing the swagger that Frank was capable of. Both recorded far, far better songs in their careers. Perhaps they felt they had to meet in the middle, cancelling one another out. It certainly sounds like they’re holding back.

Or maybe they’re just feeling uncomfortable singing, as father and daughter, a duet clearly written for a pair of lovers… I mean, it could, maybe, be seen as song in which the father is lamenting how little time his kid spends with him… I practise every day to find some clever lines to say to make the meaning come true… That could speak of a strained inter-generational relationship, right? Of course, lines like The time is right, Your perfume fills my head… would be more difficult to sell in that way… Nancy has, apparently, gone on record to say she thinks it’s sweet that people refer to this as ‘The Incest Song.’

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By the end we have some very-sixties horns thrown into the mix, and the pair are mumbling I love you… over the fade-out. It doesn’t end with a bang. It’s not the worst disc from our half-year of easy-listening (hello, Engelbert), but it’s not the best either (hello, Petula). It’s a shame that both Nancy and Frank are bowing out of their chart-topping careers with this slice of meh.

Perhaps the big problem with this duet – and this has just come to me – is that it’s not a duet. They sing each and every line together. A duet should have a bit more give and take, call and response, you know? Nancy especially is relegated to little more than breathy backing vocalist here. Anyway, she was about to go on to make some of the best recordings of her career, with a more suitable partner: Lee Hazlewood. Here’s a link to their version of ‘Jackson’, proving that boy could she pull off a duet, under the right circumstances.

And what of her dad? A star since the late 1930s, now into his fifties. One of the legendary figures of 20th Century popular music. He isn’t very well-represented by his three UK chart-toppers, to be honest. The bland and now forgotten ‘Three Coins in the Fountain’, the much more famous, but hated by Frank himself, ‘Strangers in the Night’, and now this limp duet with his daughter. But he wasn’t done yet. In a couple of years he will record the biggest hit of his whole career, ‘My Way’, and he’ll go on scoring Top 10s through to his version of ‘New York, New York’ in 1979, aged sixty-four. If only that could have been his final chart-topper… They were still playing that as the ‘lights-up’ song in nightclubs when I was a kid!