Sep 03

VERA LYNN – “My Son My Son”

Popular27 comments • 3,367 views

#24, 5th November 1954

My God My God. One of the defences of the sales-based UK charts I regularly offer is that it impartially reflects anyone who is buying singles, not just the people record labels and radios would like to be buying them. This means the charts can be regularly mugged by tots and grannies taking a fancy to a particular single. On paper this is a victory for unpredictability and punter power, in actual fact it means Dame Vera and “My Son My Son” can get to Number One.

If you asked most people with an interest in rock what pre-rock pop sounded like – the stuff that Elvis shimmied into destruction according to the official histories – they’d imagine something not unlike “My Son”. Sledgehammer production, tottering sentimentality, a complete and deliberate absence of youth: this one has it all! If there was ever a battle between this old music and that imminent new one then this was so defeated, so comprehensively annihilated that now it seems like an archaeological find, not an old enemy, not even quaint.



  1. 1
    Keith W on 21 Mar 2008 #

    The song isn’t very good, but I think you’re letting your 2003 view of Dame Vera colour your thinking on this one. She was only 37 here – she was younger than Frankie Laine, for example. If she got to number one now, you could chalk it up to Granny Power, but back then this was surely just the kind of stuff that people bought.

  2. 2
    AndyPandy on 15 Dec 2008 #

    Just what I’ve said on here too and she was also younger than Frank Sinatra and the same age as Dean Martin.

    And this tracks appearance at No 1 could well have had something to do with it being sent overseas (possibly just in time for Christmas)to the tens of thousands of National Serviceman based all round the world and who in some caese didnt see Britain again for 2 years by their mothers.

  3. 3
    wichita lineman on 15 Dec 2008 #

    And then there’s Clive Dunn, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry… actual age of the singer in this case seems barely relevant. It’s pretty gruesome.

    Good point on National Service. It ran til the end of the 50s (1959?), which could also explain Anne Shelton’s Lay Down Your Arms a couple of years later.

  4. 4
    rosie on 15 Dec 2008 #

    Well yes, wichita, and there’s also the little matter of Two-Way Family Favourites, which was mainly aimed at families separated by National Service and which was perhaps the most listened-to music radio of all at the time going out as it did at Sunday lunchtime when most families still had a traditional sit-down Sunday dinner. I’d imagine that this would be exactly the sort of thing that would be heavily requested.

  5. 5
    wichita lineman on 16 Dec 2008 #

    Absolutely, but not by the time I was listening thank gawd. When I was old enough to be aware of Family Favourites the requests were for Andy Williams’ Almost There (good), the Four Tops’ Reach Out I’ll Be There (better), and the Turtles’ Happy Together (bestest).

  6. 6
    AndyPandy on 16 Dec 2008 #

    It always seemed to be the Three Degrees ‘When Will I See You Again?’ when I was old enough enough to remember – literally every week that was on (for obvious reasons)plus Peters and Lee ‘Welcome Home’. Actually when was probably even younger I also seem to remember ‘Dedicated to the one I love’ by the Mamas and Papas and ‘Morningtown Ride’ by the Sseekers being on quite a bit.

  7. 7
    Matthew on 10 Jan 2009 #

    There are some parts of this song that are horrible to my modern ear, but also a couple of emotional snatches that I really like.

    Independently of what it sounds like, I think it’s great and refreshing to hear a pop song sung from the point of view of a mother instead of a lover, or some teenage tearaway. (The Beatles must have thought so too, given the likes of She’s Leaving.) And when middle-aged women seemed not to exist in Hollywood and the popular consciousness for such a long, shameful period in our own lifetimes, I’m all for a bit of Mum Power in the charts.

  8. 8
    Billy Smart on 19 Mar 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Vera Lynn reamined a popular television attraction until the 1980s. Surviving appearances include;

    BIG NIGHT OUT: with Mike and Bernie Winters (Hosts), Lionel Blair and his Dancers, David Hamilton (Voice Over Opening Credits), The ABC Television Showband, Vera Lynn, Dickie Valentine, Digby Wolfe, Jack Haig (1964)


    DES O’CONNOR TONIGHT: with Marilyn Michaels, Kip Addotta, Vera Lynn (1980)

    DES O’CONNOR TONIGHT: with Vera Lynn, Harry Secombe (1982)

    DES O’CONNOR TONIGHT: with Vera Lynn, Engelbert Humperdinck, Henry Mancini, Gloria Gaynor (1987)

    FIFTY YEARS OF MUSIC: with Henry Hall, Lulu, Vera Lynn, The New Seekers, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Cliff Richard, The Young Generation (1972)

    THE GOOD OLD DAYS: with Vera Lynn, Sheila Steafel, Windsor Davies and Don Estelle, Lyn Kennington, Davy Kaye, Ray C. Davis (1975)

    A JUBILEE OF MUSIC: with Vera Lynn, Acker Bilk, Max Bygraves, Petula Clark, Ken Dodd, Val Doonican, Rolf Harris, Kathy Kirby, Lulu, Matt Monro (1976)

    LOOKS FAMILIAR: with Vera Lynn, Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise (1976)

    LOOKS FAMILIAR: with Vera Lynn, Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise (1976)

    THE MORECAMBE AND WISE SHOW: with Gordon Jackson, Jack Jones, Vera Lynn, Peter Murray, Shirley Bassey, André Previn (1972)

    PARKINSON: with Vera Lynn, Sir Douglas Bader, Windsor Davies, Kenneth Williams (1981)

    THE PAUL DANIELS MAGIC SHOW: with Donuta, Meir Yedid, Graham Fletcher, Vera Lynn, Wynford Vaughan Thomas (1985)

    THE ROYAL VARIETY PERFORMANCE: with Bruce Forsyth, The Crazy Gang, Russ Conway, Frankie Howerd, Diana Dors, Vera Lynn, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Bob Monkhouse, Norman Wisdom, Jimmy Edwards (1960)

    THE ROYAL VARIETY PERFORMANCE: with The cast of Billy, Harry Secombe, Count Basie and his Orchestra, Larry Parker, Dad’s Army, Charles Aznavour, Telly Savalas, Ronnie Dukes and Rikki Lee, Michael Crawford, Vera Lynn (1975)

    RUSSELL HARTY: with Vera Lynn, Charles Pearce (1975)

    SEASIDE SPECIAL: with Vera Lynn, Jim Davidson, The Wurzels, Tony Selby (1977)

    SHOW OF THE WEEK: Vera Lynn (25 editions 1969-1974)

    SUNDAY, SUNDAY: with Victoria Wood, Amanda Burton, Joe Loss, Vera Lynn, Wendy Richard, Anton Rodgers, Omar Sharif (1986)

    THIS IS YOUR LIFE: Vera Lynn (1979)

    THIS IS YOUR LUNCH: Dame Vera Lynn (1975)

    THE VAL DOONICAN MUSIC SHOW: with Vera Lynn, George Hamilton IV, Lynsey De Paul (1977)

    VAL PARNELL’S SPECTACULAR: The Vera Lynn Show (4 editions, 1960-1961)

    WOGAN: with Angela Rippon, Roald Dahl, Vera Lynn, Kiki Dee (1984)

    WOGAN: with Steve Guttenberg, Michael Hordern, Vera Lynn (1988)

    With such a wealth of material, perhaps the lost status of these shows is easier for us to take;

    BIG NIGHT OUT: with Mike and Bernie Winters (Hosts), Lionel Blair and his Dancers, Vera Lynn, Alfred Marks, Gerry And The Pacemakers, Don Arrol (1963)

    COMEDY BANDBOX: with Vera Lynn, Clive Dunn, The Dallas Boys, Joan Turner, Hope and Keen, Lynton Boys (1963)

    THE HARRY SECOMBE SHOW: with Vera Lynn, Ronnie Barker, The New Seekers, George Hamilton IV, Julian Orchard (1971)

    INTERNATIONAL CABARET: with Kenneth Williams, Alyn Ainsworth and his Orchestra, Vera Lynn, Winifred Atwell, Robby Royal (1968)

    MEANWHILE ON BBC 2: with Vera Lynn, The Dancing Devils (1971)

    THE ROLF HARRIS SHOW: with Vera Lynn, David Nixon, Jim Ale, Cheryl Gray, The Young Generation (1969)

    THE VAL DOONICAN SHOW: with The Gojos, The Adam Singers, Vera Lynn, John Williams, Des Shawn (1968)

    VERA LYNN:with The Young Generation, Vince Hill, Labi Siffre, Roger Webb (1972)

    VERA LYNN SINGS (1977)

    WHACK-O!: Vera Lynn (1959)

  9. 9
    Tim on 19 Mar 2009 #

    Vera Lynn made a surprisingly good C&W LP (“Vera Lynn in Nashville”) in 1977.

    Also, she made it into generally accepted rhyming slang, which is probably the most hallowed of all possible conditions. Well done, Vera.

  10. 10
    AndyPandy on 19 Mar 2009 #

    Yes one of a select few people from the world of popular music who made it into generally accepted rhyming slang…along with Ruby Murray, Pete Tong, Gary Glitter, Nelson Eddy, Nelson Riddle, – are there any more?

  11. 11
    JOHN MAXWELL on 17 Aug 2009 #

    isn’t it amazing that our great “free thinking and open minded new generation” cannot understand that there are people who think differently to them. what hope of the future? God bless Vera Lynn and the followers who enjoy tuneful music.

  12. 12
    intothefireuk on 4 Sep 2009 #

    New generation ? Good heavens. Sometimes there are such disparities between pre-rock & roll music and post that it is difficult to assess the two alongside one another. The Forces sweetheart here rams home a sentimental journey into parenthood – an ode to loved ones stationed abroad. It’s difficult to argue with the sentiment but it’s a staid affair which strangely seems to stray into Russian folk song territory in the middle (replete with humming male voices) before returning from whence it began for no good reason at all.

  13. 13
    punctum on 10 Sep 2009 #

    Has Dame Vera got the last laugh? The Beatles remasters have only been out for two days but according to the midweeks she’s comfortably outselling the lot (and, apart from Jamie T, everybody else).

    Interestingly “My Son, My Son” is nowhere to be found on her compilation.

  14. 14
    weej on 16 Apr 2010 #

    You could make a truly horrific family-based mixtape if you combined this with ‘Grandad”Grandma’ and ‘Mama’.

  15. 15
    Eli on 20 Dec 2010 #

    I’m slightly inclined to agree with Mr Maxwell. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks, I guess…

    The criticisms of the record are all true – but I really like the song, and perhaps you have to be more predisposed to this kind of stuff to be able to appreciate it.

    Indeed, Vera’s Best Of did top the charts in 2009, to everyone’s surprise. And yes, this song was nowhere to be found. I don’t remember ever hearing her asked about it – all tributes/documentaries just bypass her only UK #1 completely.

    The tune was composed by Eddie Calvert, whose own recording charted briefly in the short-lived NME Bestselling Discs by British Artists chart.

  16. 16
    Lazarus on 20 Mar 2017 #

    As this appears to have been her only UK number one single this is surely the place for Popular to doff its cap and congratulate the Forces Sweetheart on her centenary. A ‘new CD’ out, as she seems to have every other week, but I suspect we won’t meet her again inn these parts.

  17. 17
    Jimmy the Swede on 21 Mar 2017 #

    The term “National Treasure” is over-used to the point where it becomes not only meaningless but a term of mockery in some cases. Certainly not the case with the Forces’ Sweetheart, the ultimate and the original NT, particularly on this the occasion of the raising of her bat. And rhyming slang for “Mother’s Ruin” too. Bluebirds over for Dame Vera for all time and many happy returns to her.

  18. 18
    AMZ1981 on 22 Mar 2017 #

    Is she the first UK number one hitmaker to celebrate a centenary? I have to admit that I’m struggling to think of another one offhand.

  19. 19
    Lazarus on 22 Mar 2017 #

    It must be so, surely – of the others I see on the list of early chart-toppers only Jimmy Young (95), Frankie Laine (93) and Jo Stafford (90) entered their tenth decade to my knowledge. And Doris Day who it seems may be either 94 or 92.

    Thinking of other entertainers who did reach three figures, George Burns featured (as Mr Kite!) on the ill-fated Sgt Pepper movie, while Bob Hope never enjoyed a hit single here. Not that he was known for his singing, but neither for that matter was Mr Burns.

    I’ve read elsewhere on the Interweb that Vera’s older brother Roger Welch is still going, at 102! Could that be true? Information about him is hard to come by, though it seems he had a double act with Max Bygraves at one time.

  20. 20
    Lazarus on 22 Mar 2017 #

    Incidentally with Jimmy’s mention of rhyming slang, I’m immediately reminded of the line “has anybody got any Veras? Luuuuuvely” on ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ but I suspect I’m way off the mark there!

  21. 21
    Turn on 23 Mar 2017 #

    #20 – I think, and Wikipedia confirms, that that’s “skins”, so yes, Vera Lynn is gin and Rizlas.

  22. 22
    enitharmon on 23 Mar 2017 #

    We’ve already established elsewhere, have we not, that Sally Sweetland, co-credited on Eddie Fisher’s I’m Walking Behind You, completed a fine ton before holing out at long on trying to hit over the pavilion clock.

    I do hate that term ‘hitmaker’. It’s almost as bad as that pervasive neologism ‘showrunner’ for what we used to call a producer. But Sally was, as voice-coach and vocal filler-in, a genuine maker of hits for others.

  23. 23
    Professor Hackenbush on 24 Mar 2017 #

    #22 ‘Showrunner’ may be a neologism but when you consider the number of producer credits on most US TV shows it is a pretty handy term. Since at least the eighties, a showrunner would likely have the title ‘executive producer’; but most shows have a few of those. So it’s useful to have a word that defines the actual job, even if guild rules mean it would never appear on the screen.

  24. 24
    slideyfoot on 17 May 2020 #

    A little harsh on the marking, although perhaps I’m not harsh enough. But I’d happily give this and the previous two songs all a 5. I’ve only really dipped below a 5 when a song has actively annoyed me, as I’m treating 5 as average, so something that’s competent, but nothing special.

    I’m very curious what is going to warrant 10s. I guess in my case, for the 50s that will be if there is anything from The Drifters, along with some of the other 50s big guns that even I’ve heard of (like Elvis, Sinatra, Dean Martin etc). Unless jazz ever made it onto the singles chart? I’m assuming not, but obviously loads of top notch jazz at the time.

  25. 25
    Erithian on 18 Jun 2020 #

    And now RIP Dame Vera after a magnificent innings. Hearing songs like “When The Lights Go On Again” this morning still stirs the emotions, to hear the longing in her voice and imagine the effect on a wartime listenership. So now if I’m not mistaken the title of earliest number one by a surviving performer passes to “Stranger in Paradise”?

  26. 26
    AMZ1981 on 22 Jun 2020 #

    That appears to be the case. Perhaps even more notably Tony Bennett is the last surviving pre Rock Around The Clock chart topper and also the last of his particular `class` – all the other surviving chart topping artists of the 1950s; Pat Boone, Tommy Steele, Paul Anka, Jerry Lee Lewis, Connie Francis, Don Everly, Shirley Bassey, Cliff Richard, Jerry Keller all appear to belong to the next wave, even those who can’t really be classed as rock and roll.

    Before I get pounced on the list above does possibly contain a few omissions; one or both of the Dreamweavers could still be alive and there are a few members of credited backing bands (notably the Shadows) who are still around.

  27. 27
    Gareth Parker on 9 Jun 2021 #

    Perfectly OK from Vera imho. 5/10.

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