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Sep 03

DORIS DAY – “Secret Love”

Popular14 comments • 2,606 views

#18, 16th April 1954

A gay reading of “Secret Love” is fairly hard for a current listener to avoid. But to suggest that any credibility that lends the song is undeserved would be wrong: it adds some extra depth to a record that was powerful already. The ingredients of “Secret Love” are fifties cupboard staples: a sweet-voiced singer who can belt it out when she needs to, and a lush and trebly arrangement. But this time the mix is just right – the trills and washes underlying Day’s wandering verse are fairytale pretty, and when she lets rip on “Now I shout it from the highest hills” I can’t help feeling her triumph. Even the awful daffodils rhyme can’t kill the joy.

Crucial to the song’s success is that there’s no suggestion of why the love had to be secret, and certainly no hint of shame – the very nature of love is that you can’t keep it hidden; it must and will come out. Other songs and later singers would find thrills in the secrecy, or invert “Secret Love”‘s innocent bliss to produce fate-haunted epics like “Dark End Of The Street”. But for these three and a half minutes that bliss is the strongest and most natural thing in the world.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Lena on 30 Oct 2006 #

    I only know this from (gasp) Sinead O’Connor’s version, but it is a fine song and no, you can’t keep love hidden…:-)

  2. 2
    Marcello Carlin on 30 Oct 2006 #

    I’ve always loved this song, and yes it means something even more to me now…of all the number ones from the pre-rock era this is the only one I’d consider giving an 8 or a 9.

  3. 3
    Pete on 30 Oct 2006 #

    Crucial to the song’s success is that there’s no suggestion of why the love had to be secret. Well from the musical it comes from, Calamity Jane, there is context – namely that Day plays the spunky tomboy who hangs around with Wild Bill Hickock, and he did not see her as a potential love match. “Clam” soon brushes up, dresses gurly and shows why, on the whole, I prefer Annie Get Your Gun. Though both have killer soundtracks.

  4. 4
    Marcello Carlin on 30 Oct 2006 #

    The soundtrack album also being the first record ever bought by Pete Waterman, which might explain a few things…

  5. 5

    i have a bi friend — who i haven’t seen for an age, must call her — who, aside from being ms total techno-rave girl 9/10ths of the time, was IN UTTER HOTT LOVE with tomboy doris day

  6. 6
    intothefireuk on 10 Nov 2007 #

    Heavenly harps, a lush orchestral arrangement and Doris’ stirring vocal help lift this beautifully written song above the very ordinary around it. Even when the song breaks into a canter (presumably a reference to the musical Western it comes from) it doesn’t detract and indeed adds interest & charm. The lyric is ambiguous enough to serve as a reference to love of either sex or even a religious awakening.

  7. 7
    Hillary on 6 Feb 2008 #

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  8. 8
    rosie on 26 May 2008 #

    I first encountered this in the version by Kathy Kirby some time in the early 60s. It never occurred to me then that it was an original song and Kathy Kirby was a big name in them days, before she seemed to vanish without trace. I haven’t heard mention of her for years but I seem to recall her having a good crack at Eurovision. Somebody will be along shortly to confirm this or otherwise. Anyway, I saw Calamity Jane at some point soon after. At that age I assumed that CJ was a film that had come out of the Ark, so was surprised to find this ‘contemporary’ song in it.

    It is a bit of a cracker, and a song I am wont to sing to myself when I’m fairly sure nobody I care about is within earshot! Doris’s delivery, powerful but with minimal histrionics, would put many a 2008 singer to shame.

  9. 9
    wichita lineman on 29 May 2008 #

    I love Kathy Kirby’s version just as much as the original (wonder if that’s Jimmy Page on guitar?). Especially for the extra kick of “now-now-now-NOWWWW I shout it from the highest hills”.

    Kathy was briefly Britain’s number one female singer (she topped the 1963 NME poll). She came 2nd with I Belong in the 1965 Eurovision, pipped only by France Gall’s fabulous, galloping Poupee De Cire Poupee De Son (written by Serge Gainsbourg) which in retrospect sounded far too good to win.

    The secret of KK’s famous image? She used shiny lipstick with extra lipgloss on top. Impressive!

    Her career nosedived when manager and mentor Ambrose (of ‘and his orchestra’ fame) died in 1971 and her mental health has apparently been fragile ever since.

    A show has opened this month in Leeds based on her life story, called Secret Love.

    http://www.secretlove.info/

    As for Doris’s version, on the flip side was the equally great Deadwood Stage!

  10. 10
    Erithian on 29 May 2008 #

    Kathy Kirby made an attempt at a comeback in 1982, but made a particularly unfortunate choice of vehicle for a TV appearance – she was the next guest on BA Robertson’s live show “BA in Music” after Annabella Lwin’s famous “I fink it’s a bit of a shit show” strop and walk-off. Kathy Kirby was on next and was as nervous as a kitten, BA’s nerves were shot by what had just happened, and it was excruciating.

  11. 11
    DJ Punctum on 29 May 2008 #

    KK really is sorely underrated as a singer, largely I guess because the story has taken precedence over the music she actually made but also because stylistically she fell smartly between two stools – not quite old school Joan Regan/Dorothy Squires, not quite new school Cilla/Dusty. “I Belong” is one of the best UK Eurovision entries ever – it came second in ’65 (the winner was France Gall singing Serge Gainsbourg for Luxembourg) – and if you really want your heart broken by a performance listen to her singing (also in ’65) the song “Soon I Will Be Wed.” Such magnificent pitching, timing and timbre control.

    Also, she sang the Adam Adamant theme!

  12. 12
    AndyPandy on 4 Nov 2009 #

    Just been listening to George Michael’s swing version of this which is pretty misconceived and not a patch on this which makes me wish the scoring went up to 11.

  13. 13
    Eli on 20 Dec 2010 #

    I agree with DJ Punctum about KK – she’s seen as a bit kitsch these days, more than anything.

    I’m glad to see Popular’s readers are in universal appreciation of the mighty Doris – it’s a classic. As some talking head observed on Channel 4’s Top 100 Musicals countdown, Doris has “a voice like honey dripping down walls”.

    I wonder if the Pink Pound accounted for it’s astonishing UK success in any way? As if such a thing existed back then…

  14. 14
    Billy Smart on 23 Mar 2011 #

    Doris’ final British hit was a tremulous thing;

    http://drunkennessofthingsbeingvarious.blogspot.com/2011/03/doris-day-move-over-darling-1964-no-8.html

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