20
Aug 07

PETERS AND LEE – “Welcome Home”

FT + Popular124 comments • 13,131 views

#334, 21st July 1973

Suppose one wanted to give “Welcome Home” a low mark – what actual grounds would one have for saying it’s a bad record? It’s a catchy, memorable, uptempo song, delivered in a friendly and honest way. It’s sentimental, but a level of sentimentality is almost inevitable when you’re trying to communicate big emotions in a small song. Certainly its sense of calm and relief doesn’t transmit as phoney.

But I don’t want to listen to it again, either – I can make myself empathise with it but that doesn’t come naturally. It’s not an exciting record. It doesn’t want to be, so this is another unfair criticism, but one which gets closer to the contentedly huge gap between what “Welcome Home” offers and what I want. Pop music needs to agitate me somehow, contain questions or conflicts, provoke reactions (physical ones are fine!), build imaginative worlds – but “Welcome Home” is all resolution, a happy ending without a story to lead me to it. In the end I can’t respond to it, not because it’s bad, or poorly crafted, but because it feels too complete. Maybe later.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Rosie on 20 Aug 2007 #

    One good reason for marking it down is that it almost sounds like Bob Dylan’s Love Minus Zero/No Limit, but it isn’t.

    My mind superimposes an extra rhythm on this and the next number one. I spent the summer holidays in 1973 working for Polycell, mostly putting tins of putty into boxes and stacking them. Radio One played over the tannoy all day long, presumably to keep the workers happy although I wasn’t in the least happy being there. I hated being on the factoryt floor and wanted to be with people I knew in the offices, but segregration between office and factory was strictly enforced in 1973, even in the canteen.

  2. 2
    mike on 21 Aug 2007 #

    …and then there’s the TV talent show factor, although very few Opportunity Knocks/New Faces winners reached Number One in those days, and in fact wasn’t this the first occasion since Mary Hopkin…?

    …and then there’s the Lennie Peters “ah bless, he’s blind” factor, with Dianne Lee cast fairly overtly as his carer…

    …but then there’s also the Johnny Franz factor, with the producer bagging his 10th (and last) UK Number One, and his first since Dusty’s “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” seven years earlier…

    …and the Clem Cattini factor, the former Tornados drummer bagging his 33rd of 46 UK Number Ones (following “Son Of My Father”)…

    …and yes, much as I was generationally obliged to loathe it at the time (boring old-folks MOR getting in the way of The Great Summer Of Glam), I’ll concede a certain winning cosiness to it now. (“Come on in and close the door” vs La Hopkin’s “Take off your coat and come inside”.)

    Oi’ll give it foive.

  3. 3
    Waldo on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Oh, dear God. Duck, everyone, it’s The Blonde and The Blindy! For them, Opportunity Knocks. And I mean that most sincerely, friends. This simply had to be the cheesiest Number One of the seventies. It’s so cheddar-enriched, in fact, you could have used the disc as a topping for a shepherds pie. But even greater doses of Double Gloucester could be enjoyed when considering how Lenny Peters obtained his white stick, as contrary to popular belief (no pun intended), he wasn’t born sightless. I quote now from ‘Nostalgia Central’:

    “At the age of five, Lenny Peters was knocked down by a car and lost the sight of his left eye.

    “Another accident at 16 made him totally blind. He was sunbathing at Hampstead (sic) when louts started throwing stones. He went over and told them to pack it up. He lay down in the sun and the next thing one of them heaved half a brick at him and got him in the other eye.

    “He had two operations and sight in his right eye was restored.He was about to be discharged but the night before he was due to go home he notice the man in the next bed was about to fall on the floor. He ran over to him, tried to pick him up but as he did the sudden strain suddenly detached the retina in his eye. He hasn’t seen since. Apparently the bloke in the next bed died later anyway.

    “During the 1960’s some of Lennie’s ‘encouragement and help’ came from the infamous Kray twins”.

    I defy anyone not to digest this story without suppressing a chortle. It is an unholy mixture of horror and humour. The humour is darkest black, of course, but it is undoubtedly there, rather like as in a James Thurber cartoon. The connection with the Krays only serves to add extra piquancy to the tragic dish and, I’m afraid, even more humour. Ronnie and Reggie’s “encouragement and help” would have occured when Lennie was a sole cabaret act prior to him being paired with the extremely pleasant Dianne Lee, who was running a catering business, I think, last time I heard. Lennie, alas, has since died.

  4. 4
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Almost needless to say, experience and age(ing) have led me to approach this record from the opposite angle to Tom’s.

    Of all the number one singles in 1973, I would propose that this comes closest to evoking 1973 Britain, the Britain of Double Diamond, Dickie Davies, three-day weeks, 10:30 TV closedowns, the oil crisis (“SAVE IT!”), striking electricians and miners, Don Revie, Billy Bremner and Norman Hunter, The Changes, Charly says, hammer-to-orange road safety commercials, Donald Pleasance and the mill stream, the overarching greyness of the country (I keep thinking of Bob and Terry, in Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?, wandering around an utterly ruined and decrepit Newcastle, wondering aloud where it had all gone wrong, but also the virtual two-dimensionalism of Glasgow’s blackened buildings before it became (S)Miles Better), the beginning of my dad’s protracted (eight years) long suicide, kids from the Catholic school next door trying to run me over with their bikes…well, more information there than strictly necessary, perhaps, but “Welcome Home” for over thirty years summoned all those spirits instantly towards my mind.

    Op Knox really was a tacky programme, more akin to a British Gong Show than an X-Factor antecedent (New Faces fit the latter bill far more aptly), with the wobbly Clapometer (or, as Opportunity Knocks studio band guitarist Derek Bailey subsequently revealed, the “wankophone” as Hughie Green privately described it), the unsubtle patronisation of its audience (“If you can’t remember the name of the act, just write down ‘ventriloquist’ and we’ll know who you mean”), and the few acts who, by the law of batting averages, came through to a greater or lesser extent.

    Peters and Lee were indeed the first Op Knox act to top the charts since Mary Hopkin (though there were in the interim two near misses; the Casuals made number two at the end of ’68 with “Jesamine” and Motherwell’s own boy wonder Neil Reid similarly took second place in early ’72 with his heartrending, is this 1952 or 2002 “Mother Of Mine” – my favourite, however, was the genuinely disturbing Tyneside John Shuttleworth forerunner Gerry Monroe with his ear-splitting falsetto assaults on “Sally,” “My Prayer” etc.; no idea what became of him, but since he was already getting on in ’71 I suspect he’s long gone), and watching the girl on Saturday’s X-Factor pulled back from death on the operating table and tugging at all the right heartstrings took me right back to Peters and Lee – for those who weren’t around at the time, they kept Lennie Peters’ blindness a secret for the first 2-3 weeks they were on the show before revealing that his wearing shades wasn’t a Roy Orbison fetish; I think they won for something like eight or nine weeks in a row, which at that time was a record.

    But for the next two or three years they were huge in Britain, always on TV or at the end of Blackpool North Pier (at their peak they got to play inland, at the Winter Gardens). Unthreatening but unobjectionable easy listening with Peters doing his Ray Charles homage; in fact, as an unknown we came across him (July 1971, fact fans) playing in a Blackpool restaurant, at the organ, taking requests; my dad asked him to do “Yesterdays” (“the Jerome Kern tune, not the McCartney one”) whereupon Peters nodded eagerly at a fellow connoisseur and gave a fine performance of the song to an otherwise totally mystified audience. Can’t remember whether Dianne Lee was in attendance but the place was quite packed.

    In retrospect he probably could have carried all of these songs by himself but clearly Lee was needed in other senses; she confines herself to fragile high harmonies most of the time but the blend worked for their audience. “Welcome Home” was one of the real smashes of ’73, on the chart for six months plus, and I guess for the above personal reasons as well as its innate sense of Britishness it speaks to me where “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” cannot. In the face of glam and punk they got laughed at and sneered at but I think it’s a sweet song (though its arrangement is very 1973 with its odd mixture of Engelbert strings and choir, C&W rhythm and vaguely ominous electric guitar booming – Big Jim Sullivan?) bearing the kind of message which you really have to live to be my age before you can understand why it meant what it did to people who were the age I am now when I was just a kid; I like the way in which the third verse slowly takes the perspective out from the personal and they are singing to the world.

    I agree with Tom that if pop didn’t contain all the factors he mentions it would hardly be worth bothering with – but conflict has to be balanced by harmony (otherwise where’s the conflict?), innovation by consolidation, agitation by comfort, questions by answers. If the charts of the period had all been “Welcome Home”s (as the late ’67 charts so nearly were) then there would be cause for objection, but since they demonstrably weren’t it can be considered an extra spice, a balancing measure, another flavour to add to the diverse rainbow that the 1973 singles chart offered.

    And yes, for me “Welcome Home” symbolises a happy ending to a frequently tortuous story, but this isn’t really the place to talk about that… ;-)

    From me, an 8.

  5. 5
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    I see while I was writing the above that Waldo has confirmed the Kray story (Peters does a cameo at the beginning of The Long Good Friday, maybe to balance out Pierce Brosnan’s cameo at the end) – well, Larkin’s Law applies here (as it may or may not do with the next number one)…

    The last I heard of Dianne Lee, she was appearing as the female lead in one of Jim Davidson’s adult pantomimes at the Dominion Theatre in Tottenham Court Road (Snow White?), with music composed by Emerson, Lake and Palmer – now there’s a 1973 musical circle squared (“Welcome Home” and Brain Salad Surgery ending up in the same place – who’d have thunk it?)!

  6. 6
    Waldo on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Marcello – I loved your earlier contribution and especially reminding us all of the excellent Gerry Monroe, who did indeed keep Everest Double Glazing in business back in the day. He looked a bit like Arthur Askey, didn’t he? I seem to recall Dale thought the world of him too.

    I rather hope that your Leeds United references were aired in the pejorative sense, as I was/am a Chelsea boy/man and people of my vintage hated that Revie side like rat poison, as they did us.

  7. 7
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    I’ve recently read David Peace’s The Damned Utd. I still can’t understand why Cloughie took the job.

  8. 8
    Billy Smart on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Unfortunately, I was first introduced to this song by the Gary Lineker Walkers Crisps advetisment that was on ITV twice an hour for what seemed like six months in 1993, so the real comforts that the recording provides are always compromised.

    As always, Marcello is very acute and observant about the arrangement. I think that I’d like this less if it had been made (to the standards of the time) in 1963 or 1983.

    I have in front of me my copy of Welcome Home on the LP ‘Best of Family Favourites’ (BBC Records, 1978). The cover of this album is a very precise attempt to create a mood of reasurance on the part of the listener – a cherubic boy and girl sit at table with their rugged looking father. On the table is a steaming bowl of peas into which the butter has not let melted and a gravyboat. The mother of the family, in twinset and pearls, is entering the room, holding a joint of beef. The centrepiece of the room is not a fireplace or television, but an enormous valve radio. A clock reads 12 to 1. The picture conveys more of a Sunday lunchtime of 1953 than 1978 – the boy is even wearing a tie! The part of me that finds this sleeve laughable and corny (it’s not a good painting) is balanced by a bit of me that would despearately like to be a part of this family. I feel the same way about Welcome Home – against all the odds, it is sincere and very human in its wish for comfort.

    Incidentally, the album also features May Each Day (Andy Williams), We’ll Meet Again (Vera Lynn), We’ll Keep a Welcome (Harry Secombe), Sailing as interpreted by the Band of the Ark Royal and the Dam Busters march!

  9. 9
    Waldo on 21 Aug 2007 #

    I think Cloughie took the job because that greedy swine Revie had taken the England job, thereby leaving the best team in country managerless. Clough lasted about six weeks at Leeds, I think. Obviously it should have been Cloughie himself for England and not the Don but that was never going to happen, now was it?

  10. 10
    mike on 21 Aug 2007 #

    In a parallel universe, whereby the forthcoming 40 Years Of Radio One covers comp contained potentially listenable choices (but when do these projects ever work, eh?), I’d have Richard Hawley doing the re-make, in his best “weary traveller” mode… but who would be his Dianne Lee, beatifically ushering him into her glowing parlour? Sophie Ellis-Bextor? Tracyanne Campbell? Sarah Cracknell?

  11. 11
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Tracyanne would be my preferred choice (btw Lady’s Bridge, the new Richard Hawley album out yesterday, is a classic: in my parallel 1973 “Valentine” would have been a number one).

    Rumours that Peters and Lee returned to the upper reaches of the charts in a new guise in the early eighties with a long run of hits commencing with “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This” are of course entirely unfounded…

  12. 12
    Waldo on 21 Aug 2007 #

    As a matter of fact, their follow-up to this chart-topper had the marvellous “Dance in the Old Fashioned Way” as a B-side: “That gay, old fashioned way just makes me love you more..” Oh, yes indeedy!

    I had no idea that there was a forthcoming set of covers to mark 40 years of Radio One, but if we are offering suggestions for “Welcome Home”, surely we could not go wrong with David Blunkett and Harriet Harman?

  13. 13
    Erithian on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Another Op Knocks contestant having his day in the sun at the time was Stuart Gillies, with a ballad titled “Amanda”. His voice is perhaps better remembered as delivering the theme tune to “Love Thy Neighbour” – another iconic part of 1973 the mere mention of which opens a whole can of worms. And at the time Peters and Lee were number one, or perhaps a little later, a certain Nottingham band were preparing for their big break on the same show.

    You may remember that Op Knocks featured a “sponsor” for each act, who came on to chat to Hughie Green about what good sorts the acts were and how they deserved their chance etc. The sponsor slot for Peters and Lee might have been interesting had the Krays not already been banged up…

    That’s a lovely re-assessment of the song, Marcello, and you’re right about having to be a certain age to appreciate this kind of sentiment. Many a song from that era that I dismissed back then I’d now be filling up over, although I couldn’t quite see “Welcome Home” being one of them. I remember finding it unspeakably dreary back in the day – perhaps I need to listen to it again. I became a dad at exactly the same age as my dad was when I was born, so I’m seeing every stage of my childhood from a fresh perspective, and yes that Family Favourites image is powerful. Billy, were you talking about Two-Way Family Favourites? – the show that played requests for families separated by distance all over the Empire (or Commonwealth, depending on what era you were listening). I heard a compilation of that show one Christmas morning and was in bits…

  14. 14
    Waldo on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Surely Two-Way Familiy Favourites might be more appropriate for the next installment of this epic…

  15. 15
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    To paraphrase the title of another unlikely 1973 Top 40 hit, ooh you are awful…

  16. 16
    Waldo on 21 Aug 2007 #

    …but you like me!

  17. 17
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Dale’s comments on Gerry Monroe were unusually animated: “Now I know you think I’m going to make fun of this and slag it off, but no, it’s a happy record and I like it…so there!” That’s telling those Robert Christgau who’s boss!

  18. 18
    Waldo on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Has Dale ever given anything a particular savaging? He’s a reasonable lad, is Dale, but I’m sure kitty has claws.

  19. 19
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    He did once. See if you can guess what the record was; the only clue I will give is that it came from the summer of 1982.

    “Oh I didn’t like that at all! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE *the act in question* but how could they let them do this to them? I must apologise for playing that record… (pause) …but it was a big hit.”

  20. 20
    mike on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Well, in his unlikely role as Midlands Godfather of Early Electro, mid-82 to mid-83, as attained by presenting Radio Trent’s Monday night “Soul Show”, Dale used to play some of the starker, more arcade-game-centric stuff between faintly gritted teeth, but even then you had to listen hard for the nuance…

  21. 21
    mike on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Marcello, it’s got to be the Beatles Movie Medley…???

  22. 22
    Billy Smart on 21 Aug 2007 #

    I imagine that the album is a tie-in with the show – it has a Radio 2 logo on it – but the prefix ‘two-way’ had disappeared by 1978.

    I’ve heard Dale diss 3 records over the last year. In addition to the 1982 abomination cited by Marcello, he’s also expressed displeasure over a 1971 Top of the Pops LP of anonymous cover versions that he was obliged to play because it was number 1 and given vent to his dislike of The Temperance Seven. His catchphrase “It was a bit of an unusual one, but we loved it” might be a euphemism…

  23. 23
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Yes it was “The Beatles Movie Medley,” to date the only officially released Beatles track unavailable on CD.

  24. 24
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Come to think of it, he was in a bit of a sarky mood when he did ’68 last week:

    1. After playing “Here Comes The Judge” by Pigmeat Markham (great record!) he said “Yes, well it was a novelty hit…d’you know, that was the only UK hit single Pigmeat Markham had (meaningful pause). Now there’s a surprise.”

    2. After playing “MacArthur Park” in full: “That was Richard Harris…has he finished yet? Has he done? Oh, good.”

  25. 25
    Erithian on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Since we’re on the subject of DJ disses, a favourite of mine from a Capital DJ – forget which – playing a certain song that outstayed its welcome at No 1. He played it at 78rpm to get it over with quicker, then said “Surely there can’t be anyone left in the entire Western hemisphere who still wants a copy of that record.” I’ll use that line again in about eight Popular-years’ time.

    Pigmeat Markham – yayyy! One of the first records I remember.

    Mike’s reference to Clem Cattini’s 46 number ones – a list of 45 of them is at http://www.coda-uk.co.uk/clem_cattini.htm#Hits. Which one did they miss out, Mike? (And that’s a very obscure quiz-question link between Peters and Lee and Muse!)

  26. 26
    mike on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Ooh, wouldn’t that be a SPOILER, Erithian?! (Small clue: it was a long, long time after the 45th Number One.)

    This Cattini fellow: it does seem extraordinary that he could have played on such a broad range of Number Ones, working with producers from Meek to Visconti to Moroder to Gamble/Huff and all points in between. But it’s all there on t’internet, so it must be true…

    And having given the gorgeous new Richard Hawley album its inaugural play this morning, it does seem that something of the spirit of “Welcome Home” lingers on…

  27. 27
    Waldo on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Steve Wright (in the afternoon) once played MacArthur Park, I remember, and the funny bastard chucked in a spoiler by shouting out “Two choc-ices, please!” in the middle of it.

  28. 28
    Erithian on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Mike (and anyone else who was mystified by this) – I’ve just found out what the 46th Clem Cattini number 1 was. I thought you might have been mistaken saying 46 when the website listed 45, but that list was posted some time ago. You obviously knew, but for anyone who didn’t, it was a minor 1971 hit that took 34 years to reach the top thanks to Comic Relief. (Does that avoid the “spoiler” tag?)

  29. 29
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Aug 2007 #

    I suspect not.

  30. 30
    intothefireuk on 21 Aug 2007 #

    Whichever angle I come at this single from I cannot warm to it. It and its hideous parent programme evoke far too many painful memories to allow it any leeway for cultural or historical perspective. Neil Reid, Lena Zavaroni, Bonnie Langford, Little & *%$!ing Large & an unfeasibly huge cast of hideous cabaret/circus acts have left their mark. P & L were in essence a novelty act (could anyone actually hear her at all ?) and as such, fit in perfectly with the talent? around them on the show. Thankfully it only lasted a week at no.1.

    …and I mean that most sincerely folks.

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