Do you remember those rubber face puppets you could buy whereby you would put your fingers in and then make the face contort into all sorts of gurning shapes? David Whitfield’s singing is like that. I can barely think of anyone whose mannerisms are more upfront and more grotesque (for an anachronistic comparison, Whitfield makes Brian Ferry sound like he’s in the Stereophonics). After chewing each word 32 times, Whitfield ends the song with a mighty bellow and I have a terrible feeling that his whole schtick is meant to be ‘operatic’ somehow. Whitfield was a Brit apparently: oddly enough while listening to this I was reading this Dave Q thread on ABC, and though I love ABC it seemed apposite.
At this point you might be suspecting that Popular is an excuse for getting some cheap and lazy rises out of ‘golden oldies’ and I promise nothing was further from my mind when I started it, but 1953 I feel fairly secure in saying was not a vintage year for chart pop.* I will admit to a lack of empathy with a lot of this stuff, even though most of the basic tools of pop (ballads, mannered voices, instrumental novelty, lovin’, lyin’, cheatin’) are present. At some stage this pop will turn into a pop I recognise better, and at some stage after that it will become the pop we live with right now. There are meanwhile some wonderful records on the horizon (not neccessarily ‘rock’ ones either), there’s just a few more foothills to get through first.
*I’m trying to avoid historical trivia because I’m writing as an ignoramus but it could have been even worse! It was coronation year and dread-sounding records like ‘In A Golden Coach’ were sniffing around the charts until beaten back by Frankiemania, which is probably for the best.