21
Feb 08

TELLY SAVALAS – “If”

FT + Popular75 comments • 5,493 views

#367, 8th March 1975

Bread’s closing vision of cosmic apocalypse is curious enough to begin with and becomes frankly sinister in Telly’s hands: “and when the world was through…MMMMMM.” Savalas as the angel of death: a terrifying and somehow believable prospect. As for the rest of this, Tel’s burnished tones suit the gloopy material well and the record has an oddly narcotic effect – anyone who’s encountered a self-hypnosis tape will be familiar with this ‘genre’ though when the spell is broken I’m more than happy to hear almost anything else.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Tom on 21 Feb 2008 #

    Popular commenteers with a competitive streak (and a bit of free time) are invited to take part in Europop 2008: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2008/02/europop-2008-a-freaky-trigger-event/

  2. 2
    Matt DC on 21 Feb 2008 #

    TOP HIT NO. 1 IN ENGLAND!

    I have never even heard of this, let alone heard it.

  3. 3
    lord sukrat even more logged out then usual on 21 Feb 2008 #

    this song is based on my book!

  4. 4
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Feb 2008 #

    And, perhaps unsurprisingly, we come to the first entry on Popular which is currently unavailable on CD; it has never appeared on seventies compilations and none of Telly’s albums (yes, there wasn’t just the one) has warranted revival.

    I disagree about the root song being gloopy; I’ve always liked the original, despite or because of its mixed metaphors (erm, wouldn’t you be in one place at two times rather than two places at one time and where exactly is the magic in that?), and to give Kojak his credit he acts it fairly well to dysfunctional TV movie level UNTIL he gets to that “mmmm…” which simultaneously bothered and continues to bother me but which I think is the record’s key hook, remembering that he was a huge sex symbol at the time (it was, after all, 1975).

    Possibly the last TV cop with such a major appeal to The Ladies was Peter Wyngarde as Jason King; his own album, 1970’s When Sex Leers Its Inquisitive Head is a remarkable (and quickly withdrawn once RCA got around to listening to what he’d recorded, although it is now available again on CD) piece of work, even if it was never going to yield a chart topper.

    Unfortunately on TOTP Telly elected to “sing” some of this song and it was a truly painful experience. Worse, his follow-up, a heartrending interpretation of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” saw him “singing” the chorus. It is perhaps not startling that it stalled at #49.

    A mention also for the inevitable parody record which ensued; the double-sided “If”/”Butch Soap,” a Top 30 hit a couple of months later for a duo called Yin and Yan. Some people, me included, initially thought it was Stan Freberg but in fact it was ex-Corrie actor Chris Sandford (who scored one of the earliest soap star crossover pop hits with “Not Too Little, Not Too Much” back in 1963) and ubiquitous gravel-voiced Canadian voiceover man Bill Mitchell, the missing link between Brut 33 and Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 21 Feb 2008 #

    There’s also another parody, sung by Clive James on Pete Atkin’s patchy 1975 contractural obligation album, ‘Live Libel’. It isn’t very funny.

  6. 6
    Tom on 21 Feb 2008 #

    “Gloopy” should not be taken as a total perjorative – I enjoy my best of Bread CD a great deal! I don’t think “If…” is one of their very best moments though possibly the Bread fans in the FT staff will disagree.

    Who needs CDs when you have YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J94-_w9ARX0

  7. 7
    Marcello Carlin on 21 Feb 2008 #

    A remarkable televisual feast, that.

    Memo to Kaiser Chiefs: this is what you should have been aiming for at the Brits last night.

  8. 8
    Rosie on 21 Feb 2008 #

    It could, after all, have been a lot worse. You’re right – Telly’s voice suits the song, and although it seems to me little more than a novelty, capitalising on the popularity of Kojak (a programme I very much enjoyed watching when I got the chance.)

    There’s a whole sub-genre of “singing” non-singing actors – cf Lee Marvin earlier in this exercise, and Richard Harris, whose non-singing version of Macarthur Park knocks eight bells out of any number of versions by more accomplished singers. Do I want to count Audrey Hepburn’s Moon River in this? Why not, although Moon River is a finer song than either Macarthur Park or this one and thus it doesn’t sound embarrassing when sung properly. But these are, or were. all good actors, and I think lesser actors might not have carried off the songs a fraction as well. There is, after all, a very strong sense of theatre in pop, and it takes a skilled practitioner to do it.

  9. 9
    Andy M on 21 Feb 2008 #

    For a second there I thought you meant this track was the closing theme to hilarious scouse sitcom Bread.

  10. 10
    Mark G on 21 Feb 2008 #

    Mmmmmm, the game’s gettin’ hard!

  11. 11
    Marcello Carlin on 22 Feb 2008 #

    There are, of course, the strange cases of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy to take into account…

  12. 12
    Erithian on 22 Feb 2008 #

    Audrey Hepburn, whose singing voice in “My Fair Lady” was dubbed by Marni Nixon, whose son Andrew Gold had two hits which were guilt-free pleasures of mine, in particular “Lonely Boy”.

    Yes, the Telly Savalas Number 1 was a novelty, not one I particularly liked but one I could accept wasn’t pitched at the likes of me anyway. At least the one he reached Number 1 with was atmospheric and fairly pleasant – it could have been “Who Loves Ya Baby?”

  13. 13
    Marcello Carlin on 22 Feb 2008 #

    I wonder if he influenced “Who Loves You” (“pretty baby”) by the Four Seasons later in the year?

    Oh yes, and let’s (not?) forget another Kojak-inspired top ten hit from the end of ’75/beginning of ’76 – “King Of The Cops” by impressionist Billy Howard, wherein he also “did” Columbo, Cannon, Steve McGarrett and Ironside to the tune of “King Of The Road.” You had to be there.

    “Who loves ya baby?” also turns up as an alleged punchline on one of 1976’s many controversial chart toppers.

  14. 14
    jeff w on 22 Feb 2008 #

    The proper comparison, surely, is not with Marvin or Shatner but with Burt Reynolds

    Kojak wins, I reckon.

  15. 15
    Erithian on 22 Feb 2008 #

    Crikey, yes: “You’re all dumbos, Columbo’s… King of the Cops”!

    No doubt at all that the Four Seasons title was inspired by one of the top catchphrases of the era.

  16. 16
    henry s on 22 Feb 2008 #

    the Singing TV Cop genre is a mighty deep well, indeed…Jack Webb, both Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser broke into film with Fiddler On The Roof) and Hutch (David “Don’t Give Up On Us, Baby” Soul)…who am I missing?…William Conrad?…Karl Malden?…of course, all of this led to the monuMENTAL achievement that was Cop Rock, but surely that’s for another post…

  17. 17
    Dan M. on 22 Feb 2008 #

    Telly Savalas hitting number one on the UK charts??????? WTF!? This is a serious blow to my Anglophilia. I never even heard this song. And I hate to seem snobby, but… I don’t WANT to hear this song. Even if it’s not so bad. It’s just… wrong. Hmmm… it’s coming up on limewire… must resist…

  18. 18
    Erithian on 22 Feb 2008 #

    If that tested your Anglophilia, Dan, two or three of the next four entries will test it even further…

    Singing cops – do we include Dennis (Carter) Waterman and Jimmy (Spender) Nail?

  19. 19
    Marcello Carlin on 22 Feb 2008 #

    …and Nick Berry?

  20. 20
    Tom on 22 Feb 2008 #

    It’s a fair cop.

  21. 21
    Billy Smart on 22 Feb 2008 #

    I take your Nick Berry and raise you ‘A Copper’s Tale’ by Jack Walker of Dixon of Dock Green fame, as featured on the super 1980 LP ‘BBC Detective Themes’.

  22. 22
    Marcello Carlin on 22 Feb 2008 #

    I further raise you Actual IRL Cop turned Number One Pop Star Dave Dee!

  23. 23
    henry s on 22 Feb 2008 #

    I counter with former NYPD officer Eddie Money!

  24. 24
    henry s on 22 Feb 2008 #

    …who, er, actually only got to #4 in the states…

  25. 25
    Waldo on 23 Feb 2008 #

    Nothing to do with public school boys losing the plot in one of my favourite all time films (my “fiancé” Mark could tell you a bit about that) and everything to do with David “Whitey” Gates striking again. But whereas Ken Boothe had embellished his work so admirably, this pig-ugly, fat, coarse, slap-headed TV cop knees poor Gatesy straight in the bollocks. I’m not going to waste my time slagging this mercenary shit off. All I can say is that the Yin and Yan spoof was the perfect antidote to it, although having said that Telly’s version was high comedy in its own right. Okay, Coouchy-Coo?

  26. 26
    Waldo on 23 Feb 2008 #

    That Billy Howard record (Ref # 13) was wonderful and deserved to go higher. Top lines:

    Cannon: “One day I trailed some men. A gang of maybe nine or ten. I was alone but I didn’t need help…”

    Columbo: “I can believe that. You surrounded them yourself!”

    Cannon went on to tell the cops that he was an expert in karate chops…

    Columbo: “The only chops you know are the ones you stuff in your fat face!”

    Blinding!

  27. 27
    Caledonianne on 24 Feb 2008 #

    Oh yes, Mr Savalas was a hit with the Laydeez, and perhaps his – ahem – penetration went further than you might think.

    I was blessed to have a truly exceptional history teacher and, as we got to grips with the rise of Italian fascism, she leapt upon our text book’s description of the poet d’Annunzio as “bald, one-eyed, with a certain romantic charm”. Such a picture invoked nothing but sceptical mirth in the heaving bosoms of us, her devoted gels, so she groped for a contemporary comparison. “A bit like Kojak”, she said, somewhat dreamily. Now, our latter-day Jean Brodie was believed to co-own a house with another teacher, and both were understood to be apostles of Sappho, but old Telly seemed to be pushing some buttons somewhere.

    Perhaps it was this record that did it? The Heineken of its day…

  28. 28
    crag on 24 Feb 2008 #

    a terrible terrible record thats so bad its not even funny-1 out of 10 without a dought
    How did this guff get to the top when Jon Pertwee’s vaguely contemperaneous (and awesome) “Who is the Doctor?” didnt even chart?!

  29. 29
    Billy Smart on 25 Feb 2008 #

    “Who is the Doctor?” is not a patch on “Worzel’s Song”, which did.

  30. 30
    LondonLee on 26 Feb 2008 #

    God, I thought I was the only one who remembered Yin and Yan. Trust Marcello.

    I preferred ‘Butch Soap’ to the a-side.

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