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Sep 03

DAVID WHITFIELD – ‘Answer Me’

Popular8 comments • 2,461 views

#14, 6th November 1953

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.

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Comments

  1. 1
    intothefireuk on 8 Nov 2007 #

    I’m familiar with this song and I suspect only from the Babs Dixon version in the 70s. Whitfield’s AM is somewhat overwrought and he relies far too much on his vibrato for my liking. I am not a fan of operatic covers of pop songs (hello Il Divo !) so I’m inclined to give this one a miss and move onto the original (US) version.

  2. 2
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2007 #

    DW went to school in Leeds with Wally, one of my office colleagues in my first NHS job who is (a) the last person to see Jimi Hendrix alive and (b) the unknowing model for Wally Klemmer on ILx (apologies Wal if you’re still out there and accidentally come across this on Google). To my ears this type of belting canto has dated far more audibly than Al Martino but he did carry on for quite a while; he was also I think the first chart beneficiary of Opportunity Knocks (it might still have been on radio only at that time, on Luxembourg if I’m not mistaken) and certainly appeared on the programme as a guest in the seventies. Not long after that he emigrated to Australia but sadly a heart attack did for him in early 1980, aged fifty-four. He makes a couple of bizarre appearances in the Kenneth Williams Diaries; they were in the forces in Singapore together during t’war.

  3. 3
    wichita lineman on 1 Aug 2008 #

    I was in Sounds Original in Ealing last week. The owner said he knows someone in the David Whitfield fan club. They meet once a year, so this chap and his (we can assume long-suffering) wife, not being that wealthy, have their one annual holiday in Hull. Best not tell them that DW sings like a rubber puppet.

    I hope I’m not talking out of turn when I say DW apparently became a heavy drinker, as did Ruby Murray, when their careers started to slip. Just as much ‘victims of rock ‘n’ roll’ as the slightly more fabled 27 club.

  4. 4
    Matthew on 10 Jan 2009 #

    “She was mine yesterday
    I believed that love was here to stay
    Won’t you tell me where I’ve gone astray”

    Didn’t Paul McCartney crib these lyrics wholesale for a subsequent and better-known song?

  5. 5
    wichita lineman on 10 Jan 2009 #

    So it’s not just me, then! I think Paul offered Yesterday to Alma Cogan, which makes me think he heard Alma’s mum singing it at one of her legendary soirees, and that night he had a dream in which he ‘wrote’ Yesterday.

    It’s not just the lyrics, there are definite similarities in the structure and scanning. At least he’s always said that he thought Yesterday had already been written.

  6. 6
    Billy Smart on 19 Mar 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: These two TV appearances by David Whitfield haven’t survived;

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT BLACKPOOL–MEET THE STARS: with David Whitfield (1956)

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM (VAL PARNELL’S …..): with The London Palladium Girls, Bruce Forsyth, The London Palladium Orchestra, David Whitfield, Beryl Reid (1956)

    But these three have;

    VAL PARNELL’S SPECTACULAR: The David Whitfield Show (1957)

    VAL PARNELL’S SPECTACULAR: The David Whitfield Show (1959)

    VAL PARNELL’S SPECTACULAR: The David Whitfield Show (1960)

  7. 7
    whitfield1944 on 15 Dec 2009 #

    david whitfield died of a brain haemoridge not a heart attack

  8. 8
    Eli on 19 Dec 2010 #

    And there’s a David Whitfield DVD available now… eeek.

    Sometimes, with the right song, and the right backing, I find myself really enjoying a DW record. This is not one of them – I’d be glad not to hear it again.

    I have to admit, when I first began reading this blog, Tom – as a devotee of ’50s pop – I did think a lot of it was an unnecessary attack on ‘golden oldies’. However, as I’ve seen you say elsewhere, you’re just not familiar with the material, so most of it sounds completely alien to you (and probably most unacquainted contemporary listeners). Most likely, that’s because this era of pop music has been buried (because of the musical revolution that followed it?). But maybe now you can see that it is [i]pop music[/i], and there are parallels with much of today’s stuff – I’m glad the Il Divo comparison has been made, intothefireuk…

    I like your observation about ‘victims of rock n roll’, wichitalineman. Unfortunately, all hit parade stars, be it David Whitfield or Frankie Lymon, are prone to being victims of the public’s fickle taste.

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