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Sep 03

DAVID WHITFIELD – “Cara Mia”

Popular42 comments • 3,923 views

#20, 2nd July 1954

The other day I went out to buy some clothes. I am useless at buying clothes and have little confidence in my own tastes, so in Marks And Spencers hunting for a jumper I found myself drifting to the rack with the reassuring sign ‘ITALIAN’. Isabel took one look at the shapeless thing I held up for her and shook her head emphatically.

Blame the Emperor Claudius, or Lord Byron, or the bloke who started Pizza Express, but Britain has a history of occasional cringing envy when it comes to Italy and its culture that generally leads to further embarrassment. My impulse when buying a jumper was to go for the supposedly Italian one because Italians know about clothes and I don’t. I assume that the exact same impulse was what motivated David Whitfield to record “Cara Mia” and anyone at all to buy it. Because, after all, the Italians know about sophistication and romance and the best way to access a bit of Meditteranean class is to stick a cushion up your shirt and pretend you’re an opera singer. Either that or Whitfield was troubled by prophetic visions of the 70s Cornetto adverts and had to exorcise them on record.

“Cara Mia” is the first British song by a British artist to top the charts, according to my well-thumbed Guinness book of pop facts. It is entirely awful, except for the twinking backing vocals, but this minor claim to fame is a suitable one: clodhopping nods to the continent have been an occasional feature of the Top 10 ever since.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Mutley on 16 Feb 2011 #

    But wasn’t Josef Locke’s tax exile well after 1954? Such tax problems didn’t stop Ken Dodd performing (I should add that Ken was acquitted of tax evasion).

  2. 27
    punctum on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Virtually all of Locke’s big songs were “hits” before the chart was invented. Anyway he turned up on TOTP in 1992 so probably had the last laugh.

  3. 28
    wichita lineman on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Nice bit of trouser-related slapstick. Thanks Mutley, that’s a great link and makes me warm to DW considerably.

    Listening to the British Hit Parade cds, which put him in context, he still seems like an aberration – only Mario Lanza (much easier on the ear for me) and Harry Secombe’s horrid On With The Motley are comparable.

    Also he seemed to ease off the operatics pretty early on – something like My September Love is much less rubbery and bulging eyed than Answer Me.

  4. 29
    Vernon Brand on 25 May 2011 #

    David Whitfield is still remembered today by many fans worldwide. I know this because I run the David Whitfield Commemorative Society and have done so for over twenty years. To say that David sounds embarrassingly amateurish #5 is ridiculous, because David had singing lessons from a professor of music. His diction was second to none.Just to let everyone know that David is NOT forgotten and will never be for a long time to come. We sell a lot of material on David and the requests for more is unending. Long may it continue.

  5. 30
    Mark G on 25 May 2011 #

    We sell a lot of material on David

  6. 31
    Vernon Brand on 26 May 2011 #

    Your comment on #19 does not make sense. If David would be forgotten already, how is it that you sell lots of material on David. It just goes to show that he is still remembered.I have been a fan for 57 years.

  7. 32
    Mark G on 26 May 2011 #

    My point on #19 was that everyone will be forgotten, it just takes time.

  8. 33
    thefatgit on 26 May 2011 #

    Looks like I’ve stumbled upon the civilised, tea-and-cucumber-sandwiches source of the rabid fan river, with the Floyd Army at it’s oh-so-wide estuary.

  9. 34
    Mark G on 26 May 2011 #

    Well, it beats me, I was going to reply “No, I don’t sell lots of material on David, You do, apparently”, but I thought ach.

    Still, the Honeycombs fans are obviously at the Caversham bridge bit of the Rabid Fan River….

  10. 35
    wichita lineman on 28 May 2011 #

    Damning indictment of “material on David” – he was taken out of the Record Collector Price Guide a couple of years ago. Completely omitted. This is daft – find me a 45 of Santo Natale! But most Pre Rock (!945-55) is only of interest to people who remember it and nutty collectors like me.

    Exception that proves the rule – a copy of Lita Roza’s Doggie In The Window 45 sold a couple of weeks back for £350. Given the chance, I’d have considered it. But there’s about 3 people in the world who would’ve done.

    Oh, I still need a 45 of Endless by Dickie Valentine if anyone out there has “material on Dickie”.

  11. 36
    Eli on 6 Jun 2011 #

    David Whitfield was younger and more teen-friendly than Josef Locke. His story was quite an interesting one.

  12. 37
    Mark G on 6 Jun 2011 #

    Blimey: I wonder what my 45 of “Singing the Blues” Guy Mitchell would go for..

  13. 38
    wichita lineman on 6 Jun 2011 #

    A sad collector notes: didn’t come out as a regular 7″ in the UK; Philips didn’t press 45s in the UK til late 1957. Have you got an EP?

  14. 39
    Mark G on 6 Jun 2011 #

    No, it’s definitely a single, with “Crazy in love” on the b-side.

    It could be a 1957, I guess.

  15. 40
    wichita lineman on 7 Jun 2011 #

    Don’t make me ask for the catalogue number…. JK 1001, only the second 45rpm single Philips released in Britain (after Frankie Laine’s Moonlight Gambler – JK 1000), and then only for jukeboxes, not commercially (hence the prefix).

    Please kill me.

  16. 41
    Mark G on 7 Jun 2011 #

    Coo, might be worth a bob or two. Will have to dig it out.

  17. 42
    CriticSez on 22 Oct 2015 #

    Before you can criticise this, you must remember something VERY important.

    This might sound awful by today’s standards, but people in 1954 found this song highly enjoyable, otherwise they wouldn’t have forked out, say, 3/6d (78’s were REALLY expensive then; equivalent to a modern full-price album).

    They believed that it was a wonderful song, and tenor singers (Whitfield included) were very popular in the pre-Elvis days.

    I personally believe the same: this is pure art. It deserves the perfect 10 from me, exactly the same number of weeks it spent at the top spot.

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