Oct 03

ALMA COGAN – “Dreamboat”

Popular14 comments • 2,716 views

#35, 15th July 1955

“Yew dreem-boat! Yew luv-abble dreem-boat!” – it’s like Alma is reaching out of the record to pinch all of our cheeks individually. The Girl With A Laugh In Her Voice as her box set calls her – a laugh, yes, and a hop and a skip and a bubble and squeak too, the very dream of enthusiasm. “Dreamboat” is very short – under two minutes – but a little exhausting nonetheless, a pacy swing number jollied up by piano trills and perky backing.

Alma Cogan is a name I knew only from Gordon Burn’s novel Alma Cogan, which I’ve never read but whose cover I became annoyingly familiar with during my time working in a second-hand bookshop. The book takes its cue from a macabre bit of coincidental gossip – Cogan’s music is playing in the background of the tapes Ian Brady and Myra Hindley made of their victims dying. A writer who was taking the obvious route would use that fact to excavate all sorts of symbolic and supposed lurking horrors below the starchy, innocent surfaces of the 1950s. I have no idea, of course, if Gordon Burn is that writer. The coincidence seems to me just that, but the idea that squeaky-clean pop must have a ‘dark side’ recurs endlessly in rock lit, and the idea that buttoned-down respectability hides a morass of wickedness is another perennial. Neither idea has much relevance to 50s pop, I think, whose chirpiness is often enjoyably one-dimensional. Of course by mentioning the Cogan story here I may have spoiled her breeziness for all of you, too: my apologies.



  1. 1
    wichita lineman on 20 Dec 2008 #

    The book is more of an early example of ‘faction’, largely based on Alma’s life with the obvious fiction being that in the book she was still alive and in her sixties. I read it early this year, mentally replacing Alma with her contemporary Lita Rosa shortly before she too passed away. As a novel on a pre-rock British pop star – Soho, Krays, cameo from Sammy Davis Jr, make-do-and-mend music – it’s very good.

    Rather oddly, Dreamboat wasn’t issued as a 45, even though almost every other Alma C single preceding and following it was. So it made it all the way to the top on 78 sales, which says something about how many copies pre-rock 7s sold.

    A quick plug for a fascinating doc called Fan Fever from ’56 which features Alma, Dickie Valentine and Dennis Lotis, and focuses on an odd new fad for screaming at stars on stage. Lotis even has a shoe removed by one enflamed gal, to his obvious displeasure. Alma comes across as lovely and older-sisterish, as you’d expect from Dreamboat; Valentine is fidgety and definitely charismatic. I love the dark ages obscurity of this era.

  2. 2
    Billy Smart on 22 Mar 2009 #

    Light entertainment watch: A lot of missing performances from poor Alma;

    COMEDY BANDBOX: with David Nixon, Hylda Baker, Alma Cogan, The Raindrops (1965)

    THE GRAHAM STARK SHOW: with Betty McDowall, William Kendall, Arthur Mullard, Edwin Apps, Alma Cogan (1964)

    OH BOY!: with Tony Hall, Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard and the Drifters, Alma Cogan, The Dallas Boys, Mike Preston, Cherry Wainer, Red Price, The Vernons Girls, Lord Rockingham’s XI (1959)

    SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW: with Alma Cogan (1961)

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT BLACKPOOL–MEET THE STARS: with Charlie Gracie, Alma Cogan, Arthur Worsley (1957)

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM (VAL PARNELL’S …..): with The London Palladium Girls, Bruce Forsyth, The London Palladium Orchestra, Ruby Murray, Jewel & Warriss, Terry Thomas, Alma Cogan, Leslie Mitchell, Howard Jones and Reg Arnold (1955)

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM (VAL PARNELL’S …..): with The London Palladium Girls, The London Palladium Orchestra, Bruce Forsyth, The Daily Mirror Disc Festival, Max Bygraves, Eddie Calvert, Alma Cogan, Ted Heath and his Music, Ruby Murray, Joan Regan (1955)

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM (VAL PARNELL’S …..): with Bruce Forsyth, The Daily Mirror Disc Festival, Winifred Atwell, Eddie Calvert, Alma Cogan, Lonnie Donegan With His Skiffle Group, Ted Heath, Ronnie Hilton, Ruby Murray, Anne Shelton (1956)

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM (VAL PARNELL’S …..): with Bruce Forsyth, The London Palladium Girls, Jack Parnell and his Orchestra, Dave Allen, The Beatles, Alma Cogan (1964)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Alma Cogan, Emile Ford, Ian Menzies, Patti Brooks, Jimmy Justice, Gary Marshal, Gene Vincent (1961)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Petula Clark, Alma Cogan, Tommy Cooper, Freddie Earlle, Michael Holliday, The Kaye Sisters, The Mudlarks, The Temperance Seven, Jeannie Lambe, Helen Shapiro (1961)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Alma Cogan, Billy J. Kramer, The Searchers, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Brian Matthews (1963)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Frank Ifield, Alma Cogan, Denny Piercey (Guest Dick Jockey), The Bachelors, The Swinging Blue Jeans, Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, The Merseybeats, Millie, Janice Nicholls (1964)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, The Beatles, Alma Cogan, Freddie and the Dreamers (1964)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, The Dave Clark Five, Alma Cogan, Jim Reeves, P. J. Proby, The Beatmen (1964)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Frank Ifield, Rockin’ Berries, The Byrds, Alma Cogan (1965)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Freddie and the Dreamers, Alma Cogan, Kenny Ball, Vince Hill (1965)

    However, a few things do survive;

    THE ARTHUR HAYNES SHOW: with Alma Cogan (1963)

    THE BENNY HILL SHOW: with Alma Cogan (1958)

    READY STEADY GO!: with The Beatles, Dusty Springfield, Keith Fordyce, Bobby Vee, Cathy McGowan, Michael Aldred, Millicent Martin, The Animals, Alma Cogan (1964)

    VAL PARNELL’S SPECTACULAR: The Alma Cogan Show (1960)

    VAL PARNELL’S SPECTACULAR: The Alma Cogan Show (1961)

  3. 3
    Roopsycoktror on 1 Apr 2009 #

    Ну на на премию не претендует, но читабеьно

  4. 4
    Eli on 23 Dec 2010 #

    I need to see that docu, WL…

    Alma’s life didn’t really have a dark undercurrent, apart from the fact she almost became a nobody in the 1960s, and died of stomach cancer aged 34 in 1967. I read that novel too; the most disturbing bit was the crazed fan’s collection! And she does still have fanclubs. Consequently, there’s a lot more of her work available on CD and DVD than her contemporaries. Have to admit, I’m quite a fan myself; to me, she epitomises Britain in the 1950s.

    As is the case for so many chart-topping acts, this isn’t her best record (though it captures what she did perfectly), or my own favourite. But like most of her stuff, harmless fun.

  5. 5
    Mark G on 23 Dec 2010 #

    Did she become a nobody? She seemed to get photographed with John Lennon a heckofalot…

  6. 6
    Eli on 23 Dec 2010 #

    Ah yes – she was very well known for her parties, attended by stars like Cary Grant, Tommy Steele and yes, the Beatles.

    As a pop star, you could say she was a nobody. Her last hit was in 1961, despite the fact her mid-60s ‘beat’ records are really good. I think her name stopped them selling. She ‘concentrated on the international market’ – she was very big in Japan and Sweden…

  7. 7
    wichita lineman on 23 Dec 2010 #

    Alma’s sales fell away in the sixties but as you say she was the hostess with the mostest, the Beatles were also regulars at her A-list parties. And she had some great men queuing up to work with her: George Martin produced her slo-mo version of Eight Days A Week, the Searchers’ Chris Curtis was responsible for the frantic and fantastic, girl group-y Snakes And Snails, and Andrew Loog Oldham produced one of her last recordings (I forget the title) which was rejected by EMI.

    Intriguing goss here:


  8. 8
    Eli on 23 Dec 2010 #

    Snap, wichita…!

    With all those great names working with her, quite amazing nothing she did troubled the charts.

  9. 9
    enitharmon on 23 Dec 2010 #

    Alma may not have had many big hits in the early-to-mid 60s but she certainly wasn’t a nobody. She was, for one thing, a regular panellist on Juke Box Jury. She was well-enough known, just as somebody whose golden days were somewhat behind her.

  10. 10
    wichita lineman on 24 Dec 2010 #

    Like Tony Hatch on New Faces in the mid 70s, who meant nothing to me. He rarely smiled, or gave a thumbs aloft, which was hardly surprising given the sub-X Factor tat on offer. Alma, conversely, I imagine smiled through everything, be it Peter & Gordon or the Syndicats.

  11. 11
    Eli on 24 Dec 2010 #

    Thanks, enitharmon, for confirming Alma was still well-known; just that no one was buying her records!

    There’s more on her 60s work here

  12. 12
    crag on 13 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISC WATCH (Up to 11/04/11)

    Maureen Lipman, Actress (1986).

  13. 13
    Chelovek na lune on 4 May 2013 #

    This is more than a 5 in my book – the enthusiasm, and cheery energy of the singer, combined with the pacy, lively, and fitting instrumentation put it a class above most of the entries up to this point…. It is actually fun to listen to (some of these have been a bit of a chore…), and the girly cheeriness is all to be encouraged.

  14. 14
    Gareth Parker on 9 Jun 2021 #

    Slight, but short, sweet and swinging; I’d agree with Tom’s 5/10.

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