13
Feb 09

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – “Oh Julie”

FT + Popular34 comments • 2,725 views

#493, 30th January 1982

Shaky’s first two number ones left us with an open question: was he attracted to rock’n’roll because of the wit and invention in songs like “Green Door”, or was he simply a hard-working stylist with decent taste in material? The shrill “Oh Julie” quickly resolves the issue: it’s written by Shaky himself, and is an excellent case study in why doing your own songs is not always a good idea. Julie/truly, baby/maybe, leave/believe – he clunks his way artlessly through the Ladybird Book Of Rhymes and the song’s one-trick melody certainly can’t save it. Nor does the Elvis imitation: it’s a source of relief when he shuts up and gets on with doing the Shaky shuffle. Short as it thankfully is, “Oh Julie” still manages to be one of the most boring number ones going: a painfully perfunctory exercise in the deliberately generic.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 13 Feb 2009 #

    A former Popular correspondent once wrote that this was the UK’s only cajun number one. My ears pricked up with interest when I read this, then I listened to it again, thought “Oh yeah, I see what you mean” but still couldn’t get excited.

    How can you find much to say about the absolutely routine? Even to Shakey-responsive nine year olds, this made less of an impression upon us than ‘Shirley’ did.

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 13 Feb 2009 #

    it’s so dull, there’s little to add to what you’ve said already Tom.
    Was this taken to number 1 on a surge of Christmas gift vouchers? I can’t imagine who would buy it other than starry eyed kids who didn’t know better and mums and dads thinking that in some ways this was trendy

  3. 3
    Mark M on 13 Feb 2009 #

    it is well cajun, isn’t it? Did Shaky pre-empt the whole Champion Doug Veitch/Boothill Foot-Tappers/Andy Kershaw roots thing? Lord S, Tim, anyone?

  4. 4
    David Belbin on 13 Feb 2009 #

    Hard to believe that this was a number one. I have no recollection of it whatsoever. That said, it’s pleasant enough. Nice accordion.

  5. 5
    Tim on 13 Feb 2009 #

    I guess that depends what you mean by pre-empt really! This came before the Boothills or any of that lot, obv, but I’m fairly sure that none of them would recognise this as an inspiration. I assumed the Boothills and Champ Doug were big into what I think of as OGWT approved country/cajun: Emmylou / Asleep At The Wheel / Rusty & Doug Kershaw / ect ect – they’d have known plenty about cajun before “Oh Julie”.

    “Ain’t That Far From Boothill” has recently come out again in massively expanded form! Hooray!

  6. 6
    Erithian on 13 Feb 2009 #

    I agree the song is no great shakes (oops – honestly, that wasn’t a deliberate pun) but musically it’s sprightly enough and I like the idea that it was our only Cajun number one. If Paul Simon’s turbo-charged “That Was Your Mother” from Graceland had been released as a single, you never know.

    New entries in the same week included “Being Boiled”, “Arthur’s Theme” and one we’ll be discussing as a Number 2 Watch shortly. Oh, and “I Wanna Be A Winner” by Popular faves Brown Sauce.

  7. 7
    Tim on 13 Feb 2009 #

    (While I think of it, when I was in Nashville last year I was introduced to a sort of music called “Cajun” which I had no idea existed: all rocked-up, it seemed to bear the same relationship to Jimmy C Newman that Toby Keith has to George Jones, or something. I had absolutely no idea – up to that point, “cajun” to me had been the kind of accordion-heavy old timey business I’d hear down the Sidmouth Folk Festival.) (The same thing happened a few years ago when Tom started going on about soca and I was expecting to hear Arrow…)

  8. 8
    wichita lineman on 13 Feb 2009 #

    My only thoughts on this when I read Tom’s comment were “cajun” (thus not a generic no.1) but I’ve been pipped to it by everyone else. Which suggests there isn’t anything else to say about it… his Give Me Your Heart Tonight, no.11 later in the year, was also accordion-based and much better.

    Oh Julie could at least attempt a key change, something, anything, when it stops and starts again. Oh Shaky.

    The title was probably pinched from a wonderful song, white doo wop classic Oh Julie by the Crescendos, featuring one of pop’s eeriest and most atmospheric background vocals – I assume it’s meant to be bobby-soxed Julie but she sounds more like Ophelia’s ghost.

  9. 9
    Mark G on 13 Feb 2009 #

    Well, I had to go to “Lyrics” to remind myself, and even then it’s a dim recollection….

  10. 10
    Tom on 13 Feb 2009 #

    I have to admit what is surely painfully obvious now to all commenters, namely that I wouldn’t know cajun if it bit me.

    It can’t all be as rubbish as “Oh Julie” though?

  11. 11
    mike on 13 Feb 2009 #

    One of my housemates had recently started dating a girl called Julie when this single came out. He bought a copy “ironically”, and it got a fair few “ironic” plays in our house for a week or so.

    Then she dumped him. And then, just to rub it in, the bloody thing went to Number One.

    He quickly went back to playing Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” at full blast, whenever he got in from the pub. Order was (woh-woh) duly restored.

    (NB – is this Cajun or Zydeco? My memory says it’s the latter, but then it’s been a long time since I heard Rockin’ Sidney’s “My Toot Toot”.)

  12. 12
    pink champale on 13 Feb 2009 #

    not many people liked shakin’ stevens at the time, but everyone who did went on to design a flavour of crisps.

  13. 13
    Mark M on 13 Feb 2009 #

    Re 5: I wasn’t suggesting that Shaky inspired the Boothills, just wondering whether that scene was active yet and he (inadvertently) tapped into something that was in the air (and if that isn’t a mixed metaphor…) But your reply suggests that was a bit down the line.
    (For anyone unaware of that mid 80s roots thing, this is what I mean (really, really 80s vocal sound there).

  14. 14
    vinylscot on 13 Feb 2009 #

    Terrible song, obviously only #1 because of the singer’s then-current popularity, but thanks for the info on the Boothill re-issue. I loved “Jealousy” when it was out, but never got around to picking it up (and it’s not on Spotify).

    While ordering the Boothill CD, I noticed “Come See About Me” is one of the bonus tracks, also covered by Mr Barrett. Can anyone remember if Shaky’s own version was particularly cajun-y (or zydeco-y)?

  15. 15
    Brian on 13 Feb 2009 #

    Cajun or Zydeco…

    I think that you’ll find that Zydeco is form of Cajun music that uses mainly acordion & washboard or feet as accompaniment.

    Cajun is referring to the orginal French settlers in Canada ( then called Acadians ) that were kicked out of now Nova Scotia by the British and sailed down the east coast of the USA to end up in and around New Orleans which had already seen some French Settlement.

    The Band has a great song about this called ” Acadian Driftwood “………

  16. 16
    Erithian on 13 Feb 2009 #

    Very useful info Brian. So is Shaky’s record anywhere near it…?

  17. 17
    Brian on 13 Feb 2009 #

    Shit, I’ll have to listen to it, now !!!

  18. 18
    Snif on 13 Feb 2009 #

    “The Band has a great song about this called ” Arcadian Driftwood “………”

    The name of which was borrowed by Howard Chaykin for a minor character in his “American Flagg!” series.

  19. 19
    peter goodlaws on 14 Feb 2009 #

    Nice dismissive write-up, Tom. And let’s be fair, it’s everything which this grim piece deserves. The bit about longing for Stevens to shut up can be procluded by not playing the record in the first place. Woeful effort.

  20. 20
    Malice Cooper on 14 Feb 2009 #

    This was a hit with a capital S .

    Totally hateful dross, knowing there were a load of women called Julie who would assume he was singing it about them.

    There came a point in some artists careers where they could put anything on vinyl and it got to number 1 and this was an example. This is worse than any imported holiday hit from Spain and probably benefited from the strange patterns in the chart when sales were being taken in before Top of the Pops and then the chart the following Tuesday had a song barely moving or going down and then shooting up the following week.

    I hated this man with a passion, which doesn’t help and can say with confidence that this is the worst number one up to that point.Worse than Joe Dolce by far.

  21. 21
    CarsmileSteve on 14 Feb 2009 #

    “woahwoahwoah julie” call it by it’s name.

    even as quite a large shakey fan i don’t think i can defend this, bless him…

  22. 22
    dickvandyke on 14 Feb 2009 #

    I was in hospital having an emergency operation on an acute Pilonidal Sinus* when this record hit No 1.

    I don’t know which was more effing painful!

    *A Pilonidal Sinus is an infected tract under the skin between the buttocks. An infected abscess (ball of pus and surrounding skin infection) develops in and around the sinus.

  23. 23
    wichita lineman on 15 Feb 2009 #

    How marvellous.

  24. 24
    peter goodlaws on 15 Feb 2009 #

    Okay, Dick, you win the prize for the most spectacular act of digressing in the history of Popular.

  25. 25
    Pete Baran on 15 Feb 2009 #

    How does an infected arse cause pus in your sinuses?

    Actually don’t answer that.

  26. 26
    Tim on 16 Feb 2009 #

    Vinylscot (#14) – I think the Boothills’ “Come See About Me” was one of the sing songs they’d do on their b-sides. Possibly even acapella. My memory of their vocal harmonies on the record is really clear but I can’t remember anything about the instrumentation.

  27. 27
    Billy Smart on 16 Feb 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Shakin’ Stevens performed ‘Oh Julie’ on Top of the Pops on three occasions – Christmas 1982 we’ll come to in the fullness of time, but these were the first two;

    14 January 1982. Also in the studio that week were; Dollar, Elkie Brooks, Altered Images, The Stranglers and Bucks Fizz, plus not only Zoo’s interpretation of ‘Don’t Walk Away’ but also the spectacle of The UK Disco Dance Champions displaying their winning moves to the sound of ‘Get Down On It’. Dave Lee Travis was the host.

    28 January 1982. Also in the studio that week were; Tight Fit, Haircut 100, The Stranglers, Stiff Little Fingers, Elkie Brooks and Alton Edwards. Simon Bates was the host.

  28. 28
    Conrad on 16 Feb 2009 #

    As underwhelming a Number 1 as we’ve had in quite some time. Really can’t think of a great deal to say about this – other than stick to the interpretations of old rock’n’roll numbers please Mr Stevens.

    And don’t go and follow this up with a record featuring another girl’s name, so you can make lots of easy sales…

  29. 29
    Matthew H on 17 Feb 2009 #

    With my head like a void, I watched Shaky perform this at Glastonbury on the Saturday morning. He’d cajunified it to the max. I was too spun out to form any solid impressions, but fondly remembered it being No.16 on that 1982 bestselling countdown tape.

    That’s not even faint praise; that’s just fact. And maybe not even that – it might even have been 17 or 15.

  30. 30
    Billy Smart on 14 May 2009 #

    NMEWatch: 16th January 1982, suitably enough, Julie Burchill;

    “Just the latest in a long line of swinging sonnets penned for moi, heh heh – much better than ‘Jools and Jim’ but nowhere near as good as the Franglais ‘Switchblade Julie’. Working on the basis of fact that whenever any of my schoolteachers called “Julie!” half the class stood up, this should sell and sell. I mean, it’s a much shrewder move than recording a song called ‘Oh Zsa Zsa’. You know what this sounds like – it’s a Shakin’ Stevens Record. If it’s not number one for at least four weeks I shall eat a large leek, which is the welsh national emblem. Thank goodness he’s not a Scot.”

    Burchill awarded Single of the week to ‘Where Do They Go?’ by Diana Dors. Also reviewed that week;

    Bow Wow Wow – Go Wild In The Country
    XTC – Senses Working Overtime
    OMD – Maid Of Orleans
    The Stranglers – Golden Brown
    Spandau Ballet – She Loved Like Diamond
    Modern Romance – Queen Of The Rapping Scene
    Diana Ross – Mirror Mirror

  31. 31
    rosie on 14 May 2009 #

    If she were a Scot she could probably get away with eating globe artichokes, which belong to the same genus.

  32. 32
    peter on 18 Oct 2009 #

    shaky was the best seller of the 1980s not bad

  33. 33
    Brooksie on 20 Feb 2010 #

    Why the hate? A straight ahead (if simple) pop song. I liked it as a kid. No better than his other toppers, but as good as a few of his other big hits. Why is this worse than ‘You Drive Me Crazy’? I give it a 6 because it’s the one Shaky single I owned, if not then I would’ve given it a 5.

  34. 34
    Mike Jones on 31 Jul 2011 #

    You drive me crazy went to number two and should have been number one! :D i like this song personally but i see what you mean with all the simple rhymes. Shaky aint the brightest spark, but hes a bloody millionaire. So kudos to him.

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