25 February 2021

Toppermost of the poppermost: the charts

Occasionally a visitor to my website emails to say they are not happy about the chart placings that I list for Australian records. They are usually people who are heard on those very records. That is is to say, artists.

There are two sources of disappointment:

1. The Legendary International Hit
• Our manager definitely told us we were #10 in Los Angeles.
• We were shafted by the Aussie music business, but our record charted Top 20 in Pennsylvania!
• Oh yeah, we were big all over the world. #1 in Sweden, Greece and Czechoslovakia.

2. My Record Did Better Than That!
• But we were #5 in Melbourne! Here's the actual 3DB chart that I clipped from the newspaper.
• How could I have been only #16 in Adelaide when I was #5 in Australia overall?

These are not actual quotes. I'm improvising around the theme of emails I've had over the years from artists about the insultingly low chart placings I've listed for their records from the 50s, 60s, or 70s.

Examples of The Legendary International Hit are nearly always wrong. By now I usually spot that before I've checked the sources. You also see these quotes in old newspaper stories, and I read a lot of old newspaper stories about artists of the past.

Back then, who was going to check any of this? There were no obsessive smart alecs like me who would go online and dig around till they found an answer. There was no "online", for a start.

If you said in 1965 that a record was big in Hungary, how would an Aussie music journo or the work experience kid from Go-Set know anything different? In any case, the effort and resources needed to do a fact-check would be ridiculous for a harmless little claim like that.

I wouldn't suggest that the artist made it up, because they seem sincerely to believe the legend. It's more likely that management thought it would be a good snippet of PR, or that a creative journalist invented it to boost a story. 

My favourite hypothesis is that somebody mailed a chart (in an envelope, with a stamp) from an obscure locality in the US where our artist was racing up the chart at the local radio station, and everyone jumped to the wrong conclusion. (How about a chart from WNRI Woonsocket, Rhode Island, say?) But more later on radio station charts.

I must include an honourable mention for Sydney singer Jeff Hilder. In 1976 he told The Sun-Herald that he was back in Australia after living in Venezuela where he had been on the local charts. Yeah right, said this smart alec, we'll see if that stands up to 21st century fact-checking. 

Well, it's not easy to find archival Venezuelan charts, but I found Jeff at #6 in Venezuela in February 1972 with a song called Mañana será otro día.


My Record Did Better Than That! is more complicated.

This is partly because people have such faith in The Charts of the past, as if they were handed down in stone by some all-seeing data collector in the sky, who knows exactly how many 45s were sold in any week in 1965. So if they see #5 printed somewhere, it must be #5.

The charts that we consult today for Australia in the 50s, 60s and 70s have been retrospectively compiled from whatever data is available from those years. This pretty much means radio station charts, also known as surveys. (It makes sense, given that the rise of the Top 40 chart, and the loose genre of Top 40 music, came from American radio in the 1950s.)

Each station with a music format would publish its own chart, distributed as a leaflet by music stores, or printed in the local paper. In larger cities there could be several charts, and for several reasons they would all be different. 

It wasn't until the 1980s that Australian record charts began to be based solely on reliable sales figures, when the national ARIA chart was established, initially using data from Kent Music Report. In 1997 ARIA started collecting data electronically, direct from music stores, giving rise to the modern concept of a music chart being based on hard sales data. Set in stone, you could say.

The pool of radio station charts would change over the years, as stations changed their formats or stopped publishing charts. For example, Gavin Ryan's Melbourne chart book uses 1967 charts from the 3DB Top 40, the 3AK Top 100, and 3UZ's Official Top 40 (officially 3UZ's, maybe, nothing more).

Back then the radio charts were compiled from a number of sources. If a chart did list its sources, it might include record sales, listener requests, or audience surveys. For example, charts from 2UE Sydney and 4BK Brisbane in the 1960s cite "public survey" as well as sales. Public survey could mean anything, and would allow leeway in constructing a chart to reflect the station's playlist and its listeners' preferences.

It's not uncommon to find a song that charted at one station but not at another in the same city.

As chart collector and compiler Tom Guest puts it, At times 'hits' were played on one radio station only and thus appeared on their own charts and not on those produced by stations who, for various reasons, did not include the songs on their airplay lists.

Sales figures were based on samples rather than comprehensive data from every outlet in town. Wayne Mac, in his radio history Don't Touch That Dial, writes: To compile the 40 most popular songs, stations telephoned selected record stores in their area which reported sales figures on records and sheet music. In addition to raw sales figures, the position or ranking of the week's 40 most popular songs was also subject to overseas sales trends and a station's own predictions...

I don't believe the collection of sales data was always a rigorous process. The ring-arounds to local record stores could be as informal as asking what was selling. One of my reliable correspondents, who worked at a capital city record store, says that it depended on whoever happened to answer the phone, as it wasn't unusual for that person to boost their favourite records.

In spite of these variables, and the presence of outliers in many charts, it is my impression that popular songs tended to follow similar trajectories in and out of competing station charts.

As one example, I looked at the chart history of an Australian record from 1967, Simon Says by The Groove, as it charted at 3UZ and 3DB in Melbourne. (Chart site ARSA has an uninterrupted run of charts from these two.) It shows up how the charts could differ from each other in detail, but it also shows how close they could be.

Simon Says was on the charts from September 1967 to January 1968. It did better on 3UZ than on 3DB.

3UZ: 18 weeks on the Top 40, 4 weeks in the Top 10, peaked at #4.
3DB: 16 weeks on the Top 40, 2 weeks in the Top 10, peaked at #8.

The job of the latter-day chart compiler is to apply some kind of statistical method to reconcile the differences and come up with plausible charts for a city. 

Even the standard national Australian charts for these early decades, now published by David Kent, are based on radio surveys. As he puts it at his website, before rock'n'roll and in the earliest Top 40s, Hit Parade lists were compiled from sales of sheet music as well as records, plus other factors such as public requests and (perhaps) the opinions of radio stations’ personnel!

David Kent's own Kent Music Report provided the de facto official national charts from 1974 till 1983 when ARIA started its charts. Even then, Kent's data, which had increasingly emphasised sales figures over radio surveys, was licensed to ARIA until 1988. An earlier national Top 40 had been published in Go-Set magazine 1966-1974 and is now available online. It was compiled by Ed Nimmervol using, according to chart historian Daniel Lowe, a combination of sales figures from retails stores as well as... data from the radio stations charts from around the country. (The earliest charts in Britain were also compiled by music magazines.)

At my website I use Gavin Ryan's charts for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. For two cities there are alternatives: Tom Guest's Melbourne chart book (Thirty Years of Hits) and Top 40 Research's chart book for Sydney (The Book).

This could be confusing to a casual reader. If Gavin Ryan's Sydney chart book has The Rolling Stones' The Last Time peaking at #1 in April 1965, that's it, isn't it? Either The Last Time was #1 in Sydney or it wasn't. So how is it that the other Sydney chart book, The Book, has it peaking at #2? Has someone dropped a little typo? Sometimes the contrast is greater: down in Melbourne, Gavin Ryan has The Ray Price Quartet's A Moi De Payer (1962) at #6, Tom Guest has it at #24.

Clearly, these differences are in part because of differences in statistical methods. I'm not privy to these, but Tom Guest told me that he weighted his placings in favour of 3UZ, the highest rating Top 40 station in Melbourne during 60s, something that makes good sense to me. Even so, Tom has Simon Says peaking at #6, and it's Gavin who has it spot on the 3UZ peak at #4.

Another variable is the availability of historic charts to each compiler. Some of them can be found in newspaper and magazine archives, but otherwise it depends on chart collectors. The compilers I know of started out as collectors, but there can be gaps in the charts they can access. Gavin Ryan lists his sources in each book, with a note to the reader: If anyone has further charts that are not listed above, I would be most appreciative if you could pass them on to me for future updates of this book.

So if the retrospective charts we have now are not strictly a reflection of how well records actually sold back in the day, but seem to be based on sources that were open to all sorts of biases, are they a pointless exercise? If #10 in 1967 doesn't necessarily mean #10 as we understand it from say, the modern ARIA charts, am I wasting my readers' time by including chart positions at all?

Well, no. And no. It's possible to be too cynical about these collections of playlists, selective sales figures, and whatever the radio stations wanted to type into their charts. 

Even if they were nothing more than a collection of radio playlists, they would provide a pretty good snapshot of what we were listening to at the time. 

At the website of pirate station Radio London (The Big L), the compilers of the Fab 40 charts understand this. Not only are they explicit about the fact that the Big L charts were never compiled from figures supplied by retailers, but they consider this to be an advantage: These Radio London Fab Forty charts differ very much from the National or 'Official' sales-based charts of the time, in that they contain numerous entries from obscure recording artists. Those quotes around 'Official' almost look like a put-down.

In the 50s and 60s, we listened to radio. There was no Spotify or YouTube, no instant downloads or file sharing. There was radio, some TV, and some vinyl if you could afford it (I usually couldn't: my 45s were oddities from the cut-out bins). But mainly it was radio. Our generation had a transistor radio to an ear at every possible moment. We woke up to Top 40 radio and we fell asleep to it.

Listening in to Melbourne, I was a dial surfer, from The Greater 3UZ, over to 3DB for Barry Ferber, and on to 3AK or 3KZ as the whim took me. I became a fan of 3XY when it flipped to a pop format.

As a result, if I browse through the Melbourne chart books of Gavin Ryan or Tom Guest, compiled using charts from several stations, I am looking at a recognisable analogue of my teenage listening experience.

A final digression: My habit of switching stations must have been common, because when 3XY changed its format from adult-oriented albums to Top 40 singles, it placed its news at 10 to and 10 past the hour, an innovation from America. The thinking was that kids listening to the established stations would twiddle the dial in search of music when the news came on at the top of the hour. At that time 3XY would be playing a record, so the kids might discover the station and stay... But maybe only till 10 past when the news came on!

Toppermost of the poppermost is John Lennon's, but you probably know that by now.

Sources: I haven't used academic footnoting, but I've drawn on these sources.
Daniel Lowe's informed, concise overview of the history of Australian charts. [Offline but archived here.]
Detailed chart history at Milesago which covers Australia and other countries: Top 40 Radio and the Pop Charts
• The indispensable ARSA - The Airheads Radio Survey Archive
• Wayne Mac, Don't Touch That Dial: Hits & Memories of Australian Radio (2005)
• Gavin Ryan's Music Chart Books for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth 1953-2013, (2004-2007)
• Thomas J. Guest, Thirty Years of Hits: Melbourne Top 40 Research 1960-1990 (1991)
• Jim Barnes, Fred Dyer and Stephen Scanes, The Book, Top 40 Research Services (1986)
Website for David Kent's Australian Chart Books (includes online store)

Here is my entire collection of authentic 1960s charts:

24 October 2020

Only in Oz (16): Diana Trask - Oh Boy

Another in my series of posts about tracks that charted in Australia but not in their countries of origin.

16. Diana Trask - Oh Boy
(Tony Romeo)
USA 1974

ABC Dot single (USA) # DOA-17536
Dot single (Australia 1975) K-5808

Australian charts: #2 Melbourne, #4 Sydney, #2 Adelaide, #7 Perth

This is an American record by an Australian singer, produced in Nashville by Jim Foglesong, the distinguished country music producer, A&R man, and recording industry executive. 

By the time Oh Boy was released, Diana Trask was living and working in Nashville, where she was following a successful career as a country singer. The single didn't chart on the American pop charts, but it did better on country music charts. On Cash Box's Country Top 75, for example, it reached #16 in March 1975.

Trask (b.1940) began her career in the late 50s in Melbourne, her birthplace, but she soon moved to the US, in 1959. Before too long she was a regular on the high-rating network TV show Sing Along With Mitch. YouTube

There are parallels with Helen Reddy, another young single woman from Melbourne who successfully tried her luck in the US. She was born in nearby Warburton only a year after Trask, and moved to the US in 1966.  

Diana Trask supported Frank Sinatra on an Australian tour in 1959. He encouraged her move to the US, and later that year he took an entourage of dinner guests to her New York opening at the Blue Angel.

Oh Boy is an original song written by Tony Romeo. (The 1957 Crickets hit is a different song.) To my non-musicologist's ear, it seems to be an inventive composition with multiple melodic ideas, unusual in a popular song.

It was later recorded in Britain by Brotherhood Of Man as Oh Boy (The Mood I'm In), with an arrangement by Tony Heller (1977, #8 UK). YouTube

Tony Romeo (1938-1995) was a prolific songwriter. Wikipedia lists around 130 compositions, mainly from the mid-60s to the late-70s, and 45cat has numerous entries for Tony Romeo - composer. He was also an arranger, producer, and performer.

You might be familiar with these Tony Romeo compositions:

Other notable artists who recorded his songs include David Cassidy, Wayne Newton, The Everly Brothers, Paul Anka, and Richard Harris. As a producer he worked, for example, with Richard Harris (Slides, 1972) and with Lou Christie (Lou Christie, 1974).  

As a performer, he recorded a couple of solo singles. (I've seen a self-titled album mentioned but I can't verify it.) With Cassandra Morgan and Frank Romeo - his brother - he recorded as The Trout for a well-received 1968 album, The Trout, produced and written by Tony. YouTube

Further reading: Back at the website I have written about Going Steady, Diana Trask's first single, released in Australia in 1958. 

Update (thanks to Triman, via the Comments): In the mid-70s Tony Romeo worked for the Three Brothers label, set up by jazz producer Creed Taylor. The label's discography consists pretty much of some singles by Lou Christie, and a self-titled Lou Christie album (1974, the only Three Brothers LP until two outliers, in 1983 and 1994). Romeo was heavily involved, as writer, arranger, producer and musician. Also contributing were Cass Morgan and Frank Romeo who had been in The Trout with Tony in the late 60s. Mark Cathcart tells the full story in detail at his fan website Creed Taylor Produced.

29 May 2020

By the way, what is yéyé?

Philippe Edouard, PopArchives correspondent in France, traces the origins and aftermath of yéyé.

"French yéyé is the best music in the world."

This assessment by the Californian singer-songwriter April March is very flattering to French pop, but it may be exaggerated.

But by the way, what is yéyé?

The expression indicates a musical style that appeared in France at the beginning of the Sixties, influenced by the Anglo-Saxon pop successes of this period. Nowadays it is even applied to the whole decade of the Sixties, without distinction among musical genres.

Saturday June 22, 1963: Radio Europe1 organises what would be known as La Folle Nuit de la Nation (mad night at the Nation), a free outdoor concert of rock and twist at Place de la Nation in Paris, performed by the idols of the moment.
Europe1 hopes to bring together 20,000 young people, but there will be 150,000 teenagers. Some speak of 200,000 fans.

The next day, the government and the press are terrified. Journalists report the damage caused by the "Blousons Noirs" (hooligans, lit. "black jackets"). The organisation, the singers, and the fans all go down in flames. The event is so phenomenal that the press around the world begins to talk about it.

On July 6, 1963, the sociologist Edgar Morin publishes an article on this phenomenon, in the newspaper Le Monde. He intelligently describes the ongoing changes in youth.
For the first time the word yéyé appears in the press.

Edgar Morin is therefore seen to this day as the father of the word yéyé. Now 98 years old, he always takes pleasure in talking about his creation and nobody finds anything to complain about, except certain musicologists. Did he find it in a flash of genius? False! He visited the haunts of young people, including the famous music club Golf-Drouot in Paris.

The band Long Chris et Les Daltons are regulars at Golf. Their guitarist, Jean-Pierre Bordi, alias Peter, who spends his life there, does not stop to finish his sentences when he enthuses about it: "It's yeah, yeah..!”

(The group's rhythm guitarist Gérard François, aka “Wimpy”, says yer, yer for yeah, yeah, and so is nicknamed Yer Yer.)

In this way the interjection yé-yé was born, not spontaneously, but in the confines of Golf Drouot where the expression became part of everyday life. And the yeah! yeah! that we often hear in Anglo-Saxon rock songs is adopted by their French counterparts.

On disc, Georges Aber used it for the first time in early 1963 with ‘Des ya ya des yé yé’. However, up until mid-1963, the singers of the 60s were called simply rockers or twisters or even copains (buddies) and idoles (idols).

With the advent of the twist, the recording industry had organized itself and quickly recovered from the surge of rock.

In 1962 Claude François and Sheila, the prototype yéyé artists, appear. They sing of the twist, but also of the new trends like the hully-gully, mashed-potatoes, and Madison. It is a variété rythmée (pop music) that appeals to young people and reassures parents. Record labels promote many idols who, for one or more EPs, will discover glory in a more or less ephemeral way.

1963 marks the start of the British invasion. Rock singers and French British-beat groups have a hard time being heard, unlike during the first wave of rock and twist. Besides, the rockers are pure and hard, so there is no question of them going yéyé. It is marshmallow, a less virile form of their music, worked over by showbiz.

1966 comes around. The older generation was used to being more or less contemptuous or indifferent to yéyé.

Suddenly they are shaken by a newcomer. Antoine, with an air of folk-rock tinged with the jerk, throws everything out the window, finding his generation as old-fashioned as the old. His song Les élucubrations d'Antoine [YouTube] revolutionizes French music but also shakes up society. Talking about over-the-counter contraceptive pills in supermarkets was totally subversive at the time.

Jacques Dutronc and Michel Polnareff also disrupt the music with original lyrics that no longer speak only of love affairs but of a society of consumerism and sex. Girls are not to be outdone: Charlotte Leslie clearly says: "Girls, they are made for making love" [YouTube]

This moral revolution lands two years before the May 1968 student revolt which will lead to huge strikes and radical changes in society.

Strictly speaking, yéyé is of the period between 1963 and 1966. It could go back to mid-1962, but the name does not officially exist. And it could continue after 1966, but the term becomes more and more overused.

This musical phenomenon shines in the French-speaking world - Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Quebec - but also in Italy, Portugal, Lebanon, and even in Japan. Its influence is also felt in South America.

The other country of yéyé (as with the EP) is Spain, which will reproduce in its own way the French wave. [YouTube]

In 2013, in England, the music journalist, author, singer, and publisher Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe published compilation albums and a book of French pop singers from the 60s. He called this series 'Yé-Yé Girls'. Since then, the name has toured the world. He can be reproached for being a bit of a copycat, but thanks to him everything is finally official. Since then, other yéyé collections have appeared in Anglo-Saxon markets.

By the way, how is it written? Yé-yé or yéyé? Or yeyé as in Spain, or even yèyè as in Italy? Do you need a plural “s”?

Originally, yé-yé is a double interjection so we put in the hyphen. Interjections do not take a plural. Thereafter the attached form yéyé becomes plural, yéyés. But whatever the spelling, it remains an emblem of freedom for the youth of the 60s.


Further reading, viewing:

Christian Eudeline, Anti Yéyé (2006)
Remarkable work on singers and beat groups who had a difficult career because of yéyé and the British Invasion. (In French. The title is inspired by Pierre Vassiliu's 1963 song Twist Anti-Yé.)

YéYé Révolution 1962-1966
TV documentary (in French) at YouTube. A visual and musical treat, featuring many key figures of the period including Sheila, Claude François, Sylvie Vartan, Dick Rivers, Francoise Hardy, and Johnny Hallyday.

27 January 2015

"Softly Whispering I Love You": five versions and one that never existed.

When I looked into the history of this song I thought I was tracing the original version of a 1972 Australian single by Johnny Farnham and Allison Durbin.

That single never existed, it turned out, and the song was never recorded by Farnham and Durbin.

True, they recorded an album of duets in 1971, Together. One track on the album, Baby Without You, had been a hit that I'd already written about at the website. Softly Whispering I Love You wasn't on the album, nor did it appear as a single the following year.

Mick Robbins spotted it immediately. He's long been a friend of the website, and he's often helped me out with his knowledge of 60s and 70s Australian pop, especially of female singers such as Allison Durbin. There's no such record, he said, must be a misprint somewhere, and he was right.

The phantom version was mentioned in two Wikipedia articles (now corrected) that had been cut and pasted many times on various websites, so a Google search certainly threw up a lot of mentions. That gave the impression that this was a known record.

I finally found out that the Wikipedia article had used a source that had somehow substituted Farnham and Durbin for the name of The Congregation, the UK group that charted in Australia in 1972 with a version of the song. It was a simple transcription or cut-and-paste error that took on a little life of its own.

[If you are sceptical, try finding the record in any reliable discography, 1972 chart, official artist biography or 1972 news story. The only mentions I found online were in the erroneous source - now corrected - or had been cut and pasted from the now-corrected Wikipedia articles. So ignore passing mentions and look in the databases, contemporary sources and authoritative books. You won't find it.]

The non-existent Farnham-Durbin version is still listed in my website's index pages, but all you'll find at my page on the song is a brief explanation with a link to here, under the heading THE RECORD THAT NEVER WAS! (Get the cultural reference?)

I had become attached to the song over the two or three days that I was researching it, and I still have it playing in my head. When I rediscovered it, I vaguely recalled that it had been previously released by someone else, but I had no details.

It sounded to me like one of those pop tunes that originated with a classical piece, but that isn't so. (I was thinking of the likes of If I Had Words a 1978 record by Scott Fitzgerald and Yvonne Keeley that reggaes up a melody by Camille Saint-Saëns [YouTube]. My friend Ostin Allegro has a website devoted to these classic-to-pop cases.)

I was pleased to find that it originated with Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, examples of those powerhouse British songwriting teams of the late 60s whose songs were always on the charts, even if we'd never heard of them. Not only had they written it, but they'd recorded it in 1967 as David And Jonathan whom I recalled only as having had a successful cover version of the Beatles' Michelle (1966, #11 UK). They also charted with Lovers Of The World Unite (1966, #7 UK).

I was also taken by a YouTube video a Top of the Pops performance of the 1971 version by The Congregation. This has vocalist Brian Keith out front, with guitarist Martin Sack filling in for Alan Parker from Blue Mink (heard on the Congregation record), who was unavailable for this filming. The rest of the studio space is taken over with a choir, complete with an energetic conductor - Andrew Jackman - who I could swear is a model for the zany choir conductor in The Vicar of Dibley. (He is particularly noticeable from around 2:30.) [Updated Nov 2018]

There is also a lead quartet of young female singers up front. They could be session singers, but there is something about the encouraging smiles they give each other that suggests choristers who are not used to being in the limelight in this way, on a major TV pop show. See what you think, but they add a lot of charm to the performance.

It reminds me of Ray Davies' recent performances of his songs with a choir (try Waterloo Sunset at Youtube), and of a 2006 Procol Harum concert recorded in Denmark with orchestra and choir (try A Salty Dog at YouTube).

It seemed pointless to leave at the website the background story of a recording that didn't exist, but I didn't want to delete the whole story, so here it is, beginning with the original version and working down the page to the latest charting version.


Softly Whispering I Love You (Roger Cook - Roger Greenaway)
UK 1967 
Original version
 #15 Brisbane #16 Perth

Single on Parlophone, produced by George Martin, arranged by Mike Vickers (of Manfred Mann). Charted in Australia mid-1968.

David And Jonathan were the composers, Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. They had charted under this name in 1966 with Michelle, a cover of the Beatles song (#11 UK) and Lovers Of The World Unite, their own composition (#7 UK).

Greenaway and Cook wrote numerous hit songs together, beginning with The Fortunes' You've Got Your Troubles (1965, #2 UK, #7 USA).

Roger Greenaway was one half of The Pipkins (Gimme Dat Ding, recorded in Australia by Frankie Davidson and by Maple Lace). Roger Cook sang lead vocals with Madeline Bell in Blue Mink, a band whose repertoire was made up of Greenaway-Cook compositions, including Melting Pot (1969, #3 UK), Banner Man (1971, #3 UK) and Can You Feel It Baby (1970), covered in Australia by Sherbet.

Disambiguation: New Zealand musician Roger Greenaway is a different person.

Further reading: 1. For the extent of their output, see Hiroshi Asada's Cook &; Greenaway Song List. 2. The song catalogs of Roger Greenaway and of Roger Cook at Songwriters Hall of Fame include collaborations with many other songwriters. 3. Roger Cook: www.rogercook.comhttp://www.rogercook.com/; Roger Greenaway: www.rogergreenaway.com


Softly Whispering I Love You (Roger Cook - Roger Greenaway)
UK 1971 
 #4 UK #29 USA #6 Sydney #12 Brisbane #4 Adelaide #5 Perth #9 Canberra

Single on Columbia (UK), released in USA on Atco, as The English Congregation to avoid confusion with The Mike Curb Congregation who also covered this song. The writers, Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook, had recorded the song themselves as David And Jonathan in 1967.

Lead vocals on this version are by Brian Keith.

The Congregation was a studio band put together by guitarist Alan Parker who, along with Roger Cook, was in Blue Mink, a band that recorded Cook-Greenaway songs.

Charted in USA and Australia early in 1972.

References: 1. Chronology (go to November 1971) at Roger Cook's website. 2. The English Congregation at All Music.

Thanks to Terry Stacey for chartology.


Softly Whispering I Love You (Roger Cook - Roger Greenaway)
UK 1971

This was a track on album 9 of Hot Hits, the MFP label's budget series of cover versions of current hits.

Although the artists were unnamed on the Hot Hits albums, in this case the vocals are by Brian Keith, the singer from the band being covered, The (English) Congregation. Hear this version at YouTube.

There is another re-recorded version using the name New Congregation which may also be Brian Keith but I can't confirm that. My impression is that it exists only as a downloadable track on Internet-only compilation albums.

This is not Brian Keith the American star of TV's Family Affair, although you may notice a YouTube suggestion for a Family Affair video when you are listening to 'Softly Whispering I Love You'.

Further reading: There is a whole site about the MFP Hot Hits albums: see Hot Hits 9 or home page.


Softly Whispering I Love You (Roger Cook - Roger Greenaway)
USA 1971

Single on MGM.

[An established US group called The Mike Curb Congregation covers a record by a newer British group called The Congregation, who have to be known as The English Congregation in the US to avoid confusion.]

Composer and producer Mike Curb (b. 1944) started up the Sidewalk label as a teenager in 1963. He became head of MGM and Verve records, and from the mid-70s he ran the Curb label through Warner.

He formed the Mike Curb Congregation in the 60s. Their notable recordings include Burning Bridges (1971, #34 USA, in the film Kelly's Heroes), The Sherman Brothers' Disneyland song It's a Small Small World (1973) and their appearance on Sammy Davis Junior's hit The Candy Man (1973, #1 USA, from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory). Curb, a Republican, served as Lieutenant-General of California (and acting Governor) 1979-1983.

Further reading: 1. Biography at Mike Curb's website. 2. Mike Curb compositions and producer credits listed at 45Cat.com


Softly Whispering I Love You (Roger Cook - Roger Greenaway)
UK 1990
#21 UK #38 Perth

Single on CBS by British soul styled singer, previously lead singer of soul revival band Q-tips.

There is also a 2004 version by New Zealand singer Yulia (MacLean) on her album Into The West. No doubt there have been others.

06 July 2014

Maybe not Richard Tauber, but I can do you a decent P. J. Proby.

Over at his blog Bobwords my friend Bob writes about the joys of joining a choir. There is a shortage of men signing up, he says, and tenors are hard to come by.

Years ago I decided to join the choir at Toowoomba Philharmonic (or it might’ve been the Choral Society). I turned up on the night they were starting to rehearse an oratorio of Handel. It was Solomon or Samson or Saul, one of those cats with the initial “S”.

At the door the book monitor said, “What are you?” This was open to interpretation, but all I could think of was Bob Hudson's Newcastle SongThis nine foot tall Hell's Angel came out of the Parthenon milk bar, looked at Norm and said Arr, what are ya?

When I looked baffled, he said, “Tenor, baritone, bass…?”

I’d always fancied myself as a tenor in the mould of Richard Tauber: I could sing along with his records, no worries. I could also do a fair impression of P.J. Proby, who is probably a baritone, but I didn't mention that. On this occasion it seemed more fitting to go for Richard Tauber.

Affecting confidence so I wouldn’t look silly, I said, “Oh, right! I’m a tenor.”

He gave me a little hardcover book, the score, and pointed me to four or five blokes sitting together: the tenors.

When we started singing, I had never heard such highly pitched adult male voices, except in recordings of countertenors or Alvin & The Chipmunks, and they weren't using falsetto. I was able to follow the score, and join in up to a point, but beyond that point I had no hope. It hurt me physically, in my head, to get anywhere close to those notes. This was nothing like Richard Tauber’s range, at least as I knew it from his hit recordings.

Someone I told about this recently suggested that, back in the day, this part might have been intended for countertenors. Forgive me, I'm not really up for researching The Voice in Baroque Choral Music in depth, so I can't expand on that. In the following days, though, when telling people about my experience, I did slip ungraciously into using the word “eunuchs”. Pejoratively. Sorry. It was my disappointment talking.

I couldn't see myself going back and confessing that I didn’t know what I was after all.

Before the next rehearsal, I took the score and skulked down our street to the house of another choir member. I was glad to find that he was out, so I was able to ask his wife to pass it on so he could take the score back to the book monitor, and that was that.

The Wikipedia article on the Tenor seems to be well put together, and it doesn't carry any warnings about Wiki-non-compliance, so I'll risk using it as my source. It agrees with Bob: one nearly ubiquitous facet of choral singing is the shortage of tenor voices, and some men are asked to sing tenor even if they lack the full range.

It also reveals that my embarrassment was based partly on a lack of research. Seven varieties of the tenor voice are listed and described (Tauber is there under Lyric tenor).

I'm reassured by this: in some styles of music, tenor parts may be taken by light baritones singing in falsetto. I reckon P.J. Proby and I could both handle that.

09 November 2013

Only in Oz (15): Duke Baxter - Everybody Knows Matilda

Another in my series of posts about tracks that were more popular in Australia than in their countries of origin.

15. Duke Baxter - Everybody Knows Matilda
(Duke Baxter) Produced & arranged by Tony Harris
USA 1969 

VMC single (USA) #740.
VMC single (Canada) #740.
Festival single (Australia) #FK-3201

Australian charts: #17 Melbourne (Ryan), #13 Melbourne (Guest), #27 Brisbane, #14 Perth, #35 Go-set magazine

Duke Baxter has been something of a mystery man, but (in collaboration with  Erik Bluhm at West Coast Fog) I've established that he is James Blake, a Canadian also known as Dudley F. Baxter.

BMI's Repertoire Search will lead you to a list of 69 Duke Baxter compositions. An identical list is also found under Dudley F. Baxter, Dudley Ford Baxter, and James Blake.

More recently, James has posted  to YouTube some of his Duke Baxter songs that were recorded for an unreleased album. Using the YouTube alias Jim Shaman, he writes:
Maybe some people want to know what happened to Duke Baxter. Did he just vanish or did he keep writing songs? I am that guy after a few incarnations or iterations.

In the US, Everybody Knows Matilda [YouTube] made it to #52 on Billboard, and it was on the Cash Box chart for seven weeks, peaking at #69. In Canada it spent three weeks on the RPM100 chart, peaking at #58.

Matilda appears on some US radio station charts at ARSA. This really tells us only that it was on the playlists of at least twelve North America stations; and that out of that random sample KJRB Spokane WA (#18) and KFRC San Francisco CA (#19) rated it most highly.

So let's say that Matilda probably did better on pop stations in Melbourne and Perth than in Spokane and SF, and better than on Billboard and Cash Box. Not quite Only in Oz, but going by online comments about the song it's fondly remembered by Australians, a bit of a lost oldie down here. I hate to repeat rumour and hearsay, but one YouTube poster suggests that many American listeners believe the record is Australian (it isn't): perhaps they associate "Matilda" with Australia and, who knows, the name might have struck a chord with listeners down here.

There was an Everybody Knows Matilda album that yielded three singles including the title track.

Duke Baxter appears at West Coast Fog as a paragraph in a long and detailed story about Tony Harris, the producer & arranger of Everybody Knows Matilda. I urge you to read the whole story, which is embellished with numerous label shots and printed ephemera. Harris was active as producer, writer, arranger and performer from 1963 till 1969. His name appears as a credit on Princess, Triumph, Dee Gee and VMC labels. West Coast Fog also goes into some film music written by Harris, partly in association with his father, producer Jack H. Harris.

After the VMC album and singles, there is a further Duke Baxter single on Mercury from 1970, Absolute Zero/Wings Of Love, then in 1977 an album on AVG , My Ship Is Coming In.

West Coast Fog also discusses Baxter's work on singles by The Rob Roys (1966) and Revelation (1968 and n.d.).

The Rob Roys' single on Accent #AC 1312 was Do You Girl? / Yes I Do. This label shot of the A-side at YouTube credits Baxter with writing, arranging and A&R.

There were two late-60s singles by Revelation with the participation of Duke Baxter (and, in one case, of Mike Post!):
1. Revelation - Cotton Candy Weekend (Duke Baxter - Kerry Hatch)/Wait And See (Duke Baxter - Kerry Hatch) Single on Music Factory #412, Prod. Mike Post, Arr. Mike Post, Kerry Hatch
2. Revelation, featuring Duke Baxter and Kerry Hatch - Kiss Your Mind Goodbye (Duke Baxter)/Dorplegank (Duke Baxter) Single on Combine #45-12 Arr. Duke Baxter

It seems likely (as West Coast Fog suggests) that Kerry Hatch, Baxter's collaborator on the Music factory single, is the future Oingo Boingo bassist.

There are a few Duke Baxter clips at YouTube, most of them for Matilda (no live action, though). See discogs for sleeve and label shots (click on More images). Searching eBay can throw up a range of Baxter's singles and albums; even if you don't buy it's a good source of label or sleeve shots. 45cat.com has some Duke Baxter label shots and other data; it also lists the Rob Roy single, and both Revelation singles, with a label shot of Kiss Your Mind Goodbye (embedded here).

Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books and Tom Guest's Melbourne chart book [Tom's email].

Duke Baxter discography


Everybody Knows Matilda (1969) VMC Records #VS 138
Side 1
Everybody Knows Matilda
I Ain't No Schoolboy
Crosstown Woman
Mississippi Gentry
Pretty Heavy
Side 2:
Static Interference
Superstition Bend
53rd Card In The Deck
No Tell Motel
Don't Hurt Us
John Q. Citizen

My Ship Is Coming In (1977) AVI Records #AVL6024
Side 1:
California Rose
Sweet Sincerity*
Don't Forget How To Dream
My Ship Is Coming In
Dandy Sandy
Baby Let Me Walk Next To You
Side 2:
Dizzy Lizzy
One More Heart Beat Down The Line
Alice May*
Some Day Soon
Thank You

Everybody Knows Matilda / I Ain’t No School Boy (1969) VMC #740
Superstition Bend / Crosstown Woman VMC (1969) VMC #749
John Q. Citizen / Don’t Hurt Us VMC (1969) #V750
Absolute Zero / Wings Of Love (1970) MERCURY #73107

3. SINGLE BY THE ROB ROYS (Duke Baxter writing, arranging, A&R)
Do You Girl? / Yes I Do* (1966) Accent #AC 1213

4. SINGLES BY REVELATION (Duke Baxter writing, co-writing, arranging or performing)
Cotton Candy Weekend*  / Wait And See* (1968) Music Factory #412,
Kiss Your Mind Goodbye / Dorplegank (n.d.) Combine #45-12

All compositions by Duke Baxter except *
Cotton Candy Weekend (Duke Baxter & Kerry Hatch)
Wait And See (Duke Baxter & Kerry Hatch)
Sweet Sincerity, Alice May, and Yes I Do are not listed in Duke Baxter's repertoire at BMI but could well be his.

07 April 2013

Only in Oz (14) Al Wilson - Do What You Gotta Do

Another in my series of posts about tracks that charted in Australia but not in their countries of origin.

14. Al Wilson - Do What You Gotta Do
(Jim Webb)
USA 1968 

Soul City single (USA) #761.
Liberty single (Australia) #LYK-2111

Liberty single  (UK) #LBF 15044
Australian charts: #12 Melbourne (Ryan), #23 Melbourne (Guest).

Do What You Gotta Do has been recorded by many, but Al Wilson's version was the one I heard on Melbourne radio in 1968, and it remains the definitive version for me.

I probably heard it on 3XY which had recently switched to a pop format. If 3XY was pushing it, that might explain why it doesn't rate so highly on the chart collated by Tom Guest, whose data is purposely weighted in favour of the highest rating Melbourne station at that time, 3UZ.

Among Al Wilson's songs, Do What You Gotta Do hasn't always been easy to find. His four Billboard Top 40 hits appear often on compilations, especially The Snake (1968, #27 USA) and Show And Tell (1973, #1 USA) , the songs he is perhaps best remembered for.

Once again, a song that sounds to me as if it should have been a big worldwide hit, but even in Australia, Melbourne was apparently the only city where it made an impact. A beautiful Jim Webb composition, produced by Johnny Rivers, it has everything: smooth, wistful soul vocals by Wilson - strong but gentle, sad but collected - and a flawless arrangement, with strings and horns by Marty Paich.

It was first recorded by Johnny Rivers himself, on his album Rewind (1967), and other musicians clearly appreciated the composition. Larry's Rebels had a #6 hit version in New Zealand in 1968, and at my page about the song I also list 1968 versions by Nina SimoneBobby VeeClarence CarterPaul Anka, and Ronnie Milsap, as well as later versions by B.J. Thomas (1970), Roberta Flack (1970), Tom Jones (1971) and Linda Ronstadt (1993). A version by The Four Tops charted #11 in the UK in 1969.

Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Melbourne chart book, and Tom Guest's Thirty Years of Hits 1960-1990: Melbourne Top 40 Research