Oct 03

JIMMY YOUNG – “Unchained Melody”

Popular38 comments • 5,502 views

#34, 24th June 1955

Some pub debate as to whether Jimmy was the only BBC Radio DJ to hit the top of the charts (“The Floral Dance”, heavens be thanked, did not.). It makes for a curious listen because this is a song that everyone knows, and we know it with a completely different arrangement and approach to this recording, which is porridgey at best. Jimmy Young’s singing on this is horribly British, all studious strain and variety show bellow: his “lonely rivers flow'” is particularly stiff-backed and embarrassing.* The arrangement meanwhile is just odd: a patchwork of acoustic guitar, Spanish guitar, and big whomps of strings which never really fits together.

*At the end he audibly sings “God speed your lub”, though, which makes up for a lot.



  1. 1
    Marcello Carlin on 5 Feb 2007 #

    I have to say that JY wasn’t the only BBC radio DJ to make number one. DLT and Stewpot both appeared on the Crowd’s heart-rending “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in 1985.

  2. 2
    John Snell on 25 Apr 2007 #

    In 1955 Jimmy Young’s Unchained Melody was a song that a lot of British servicemen who were abroad listened to as it reminded them that their girl friends were thinging of them. A lot of them they didn’t wait (mine was one of them) but it still gave them hope. The singers of that era were a lot different to todays singers.

  3. 3
    Marcello Carlin on 25 Apr 2007 #

    The Goons’ version was far and away the best.

  4. 4
    Marcello Carlin on 24 Sep 2007 #

    “To the open arms of the sea, you see…”

  5. 5
    rosie on 26 May 2008 #

    Considering that at its core it’s a pretty damned good song it’s fascinating trying to decide which version I loathe the most. (The winner is generally the one featuring the chap who was quite good playing a minor role in early Casualty and should have stayed there.)

    The best version is of course by the Righteous Brothers and I’ll scratch out the eyes of anybody who says different.

  6. 6
    wichita lineman on 21 Jul 2008 #

    When it was standard practise to rush out copycat versions of the Hit Song of the day, it’s odd that Unchained Melody was handled quite differently on each single to chart in the UK. Jimmy’s, as noted by Tom, is starchy, like a stockbroker in cowboy gear at a fancy dress party held by his boss (I’m thinking specifically of Terry Scott’s boss in Terry And June); Liberace’s slower take is a touching, surprisingly non-florid piano instrumental; Les Baxter’s starts with the odd “unchain me” bv’s nicked by Young Jimmy Young, and works well as a panoramic instrumental that gently gains momentum when the choral vocal comes in, suggesting long roads trodden on horseback (this single got to no.1 in the US); and finally Al Hibbler’s great version that would have made no.1 here if not for Jim, which is closest to the arrangement we’re all familiar with, and riddled with odd proto-soul inflections (subtle, though, so don’t expect Wilson Pickett).

  7. 7
    DJ Punctum on 21 Jul 2008 #

    Whereas the Goons play it like elderly (or impossibly youthful apropos Bluebottle) Shoreditch High Street buskers and their version repeatedly caves in on itself. “Ineedyourloveineedyourlove/Godspeedyourlovegodspeedyourlove/Ying tong ying tong iddle I po/I played me ukelele ’til the ship went down.” Eventually the drumkit collapses (“Play them traps!”) and they don’t know how to finish the song (Bluebottle’s disgruntled “I’m goin’ home…”).

  8. 8
    Mark G on 21 Jul 2008 #

    When it got re-released on CD, I played it to a friend who remarked “Do you buy, like, just everything?”

    Which is not even slightly true. It was just that it was time for that song to get an almighty kicking.

  9. 9
    DJ Punctum on 21 Jul 2008 #

    I have this on CD – it’s on one of the EMI Memories Are Made Of This V/A compilation 2CD sets, but it’s not the reason I bought it (if you must know, “Ma He’s Making Eyes At Me” by the Johnny Otis Show which is otherwise evasive to find on CD).

  10. 10
    wichita lineman on 21 Jul 2008 #

    I’d like to think I don’t buy everything, but that doesn’t account for how I know what Liberace’s Unchained Melody sounds like. Rats. Hope that doesn’t make me a ‘consumer’ (just saw Wall-E over the weekend).

  11. 11
    DJ Punctum on 21 Jul 2008 #

    My mum’s got the Liberace version!

    Wall-E? It’s OK but not as good as Dark Side Of The Moon-E

    (cymbal crash)

  12. 12
    wichita lineman on 21 Jul 2008 #

    Ouch. In my bid to recycle as much as possible, I’m in great need of a 45 or EP with Liberace’s version!

    I know I’ve plugged them before, DJP, but Acrobat’s British Hit Parade series include every UK hit single that is now in public domain (yes, even the Singing Dogs), and are a fabulous for recreating the JS Old Record Club on your hi-fi.

    And they’ll remain the most concise way of getting the lot on cd until Macca dons his Dickensian rags once more and the European Court of Human Rights decides he’s a more deserving case than, errm, everybody else. I’m laying money on ’62 being the first year that evades the 50 year rule. Any takers?

  13. 13
    DJ Punctum on 21 Jul 2008 #

    It’ll be ’58 if Sir Cliff has his way, which legally he may well do; apparently the European Court has said yes, the rights should be extended.

    Another recent Acrobat issue well worth getting: Pig Iron, Washboards, Freight Trains And Kazoos – The UK Skiffle Boom 1954-7 (note the copyright subtext in that title), four CDs and 120 fascinating tracks from everyone who was anyone in the skiffle game, with the Vipers, Johnny Duncan, young Alexis Korner, Bob Cort, Dickie Bishop etc. all getting as much space as Lonnie. Sleevenote’s a bit biased though (histories tend to take the Donegan/Barber side or the Colyer side and this one comes down on the latter).

  14. 14
    wichita lineman on 21 Jul 2008 #

    Yes, it makes for a fascinating read (Ken Colyer being jailed in New Orleans for playing with black musicians!), even if some of the stuff is ropy. But I guess a 4cd of British post-punk DIY would sound pretty ropy too, and that’s the closest analogy I can think of to skiffle. My fave tracks all have Joe Meek fingering the controls to some extent – Last Train To San Fernando, Cumberland Gap, and the quite deranged Sizzlin’ Hot.

    As Tom has wisely noted, the rarely mentioned shift towards country (Rose Marie, Man From Laramie) and away from Neapolitan popera in ’55 surely did some groundwork for Lonnie and co.

  15. 15
    wichita lineman on 21 Jul 2008 #

    DJP, do you know how far down the line Cliff is? I’m guessing if he’s trying to keep 1958 under private ownership it’s pretty much settled. I’d really like to know.

    And, back to the matter in hand, I assume Sir Jimmy is too dignified to tamper with the law in the name of avarice.

  16. 16
    DJ Punctum on 21 Jul 2008 #

    At the moment, it’s still at the plans/pins hopes stage.

  17. 17
    Billy Smart on 22 Mar 2009 #

    Light enetertainment watch: A lot of appearances now missing;

    DES O’CONNOR ON STAGE: with Jimmy Young, Tony Blackburn, Kenny Ball And His Jazzmen (1969)

    THE GOLDEN SHOT: with Bob Monkhouse, Jimmy Young, Bob Monkhouse, The Mixtures, Yutte Stensgaard, Anne Aston (1971)

    SIX-FIVE SPECIAL: with Bill Maynard, Jimmy Young, Cy Laurie, Boscoe Holder & Sheila Clarke, Ricky James, Larry Adler and the Teenagers (1957)

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT BLACKPOOL–MEET THE STARS: with Alfred Marks, The Deep River Boys, Jimmy Young (1957)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with The Temperance Seven, Ronnie Hilton, Danny Williams, Michael Hill, Chas McDevitt & Shirley Douglas, The Vernons Girls, The Springfields, Jimmy Young (1961)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Billy Fury, Joe ‘Mr Piano’ Henderson, Terry Lightfoot’s New Orleans Jazzmen, The Viscounts, Jim Dale, Julie Grant, Jonny Burnette, Jimmy Young (1962)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Cliff Richard, Mark Wynter, Joyce Blair, Terry Scott, The Tornados, Neil Christian, The Monty Sunshine Band, Lionel Blair, Jimmy Young (1962)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Russ Conway, The Shadows, Danny Williams, Bob Wallis and his Storyville Jazzmen, Russ Hamilton, Susan Singer, Terry Young, Jimmy Young (1962)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Brenda Lee, Ronnie Carroll, Mike Sarne, Julie Grant, Sounds Incorporated, Gerry And The Pacemakers, Tony Holland, Jimmy Young (1963)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Shirley Bassey, Gerry And The Pacemakers, The Kaye Sisters, Jimmy Young, Philip Lowrie, The Dakotas, Keith Powell and the Valets, Dave Berry, Janice Nicholls (1963)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, The Beatles, Petula Clark, The Countrymen, Al Saxon, Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, Heinz Briihl, The Guv’nors, Jimmy Young (1963)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, The Beatles, Terry Lightfoot and his New Orleans Jazzmen, The Bruisers, Beryl Marsden, The Jeridales, Rey Anton, Ben Richmond, Jimmy Young (1963)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Millicent Martin, Kenny Lynch, Jimmy Young (Guest Disc Jockey), Manfred Mann, Al Saxon, Patsy Ann Noble, The Viscounts, Tommy Bruce And The Bruisers, Dave Berry (1964)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Sandie Shaw, Brian Poole, Unit Four Plus Two, Jimmy Young, Barry Mason (1966)

    The surviving apperances are later;

    2 G’S AND THE POP PEOPLE: with Lulu, Jimmy Young, The Bee Gees, Larry Grayson (1972)

    GIVE US A CLUE: with Michael Aspel, Una Stubbs (Team Captain), Barbara Windsor, Jenny Hanley, Joan Higton, Jimmy Young, George Layton, Barry Townsend (1979)

    LOOKS FAMILIAR: with Jimmy Young, Pearl Hackney, Reg Varney, Robert Muller (1974)

    THE MORECAMBE AND WISE SHOW: with Trevor Eve, Wayne Sleep, Jimmy Young (1982)

    RUSSELL HARTY PLUS: with Asha Puthli, Sybil Thorndike, Jimmy Young (1973)

    SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MILL: with Jimmy Young, Michel Legrand (1979)

    WOGAN: with Johnny Dumfries, Gorden Kaye, Carmen Silvera, Andrew Ridgeley, The Style Council, Googie Withers, Jimmy Young (1986)

  18. 18
    Sam on 10 Sep 2010 #

    ‘Unchained Melody’ is one of the most inappropriate song titles ever – it is thoroughly and dispiritingly chained.

    Great project, this.

  19. 19
    Eli on 23 Dec 2010 #

    But did Sir Jim ever SING on TV in later years? Mind you, he was making records quite regularly until 1967.

    He was quite a good singer really, and very popular – but unlike, say, David Whitfield, doesn’t seem to have any *fans* these days. As wichita would tell us, JY shifted a lot of records in the pre-chart days of 1951, with “Too Young” (a probable #1).

    All the 50s versions of “Unchained Melody” are fairly disappointing. JY’s is ok really… especially since he was due to have his appendix out hours after the recording (and in terrific pain, apparently).

    (And the copyright law thing: I agree with wichitalineman – they won’t let the Fabs go PD.)

  20. 20
    punctum on 23 Dec 2010 #



  21. 21
    Mark G on 23 Dec 2010 #

    Yes the goons give the song a good good kicking,… (it’s as if they knew)

    (I bought this when it came out as a CD single, it’s credited to Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers if you want to find it)

  22. 22
    Eli on 23 Dec 2010 #

    I’m afraid I never really ‘got’ The Goons. But hey, you’re in good company, Prince Charles is a fan.

  23. 23
    wichita lineman on 28 Dec 2010 #

    Re 19: Roy Hamilton! Not disappointing! The Righteous Brothers followed their hit version in 1965 with Ebb Tide because, said Phil Spector, that’s what Roy Hamilton had done. Roy gets a big thumbs up as a forerunner of modern pop in my forthcoming book. It’s called The Bumper Book Of Pop until I can think of a better title.

  24. 24
    punctum on 21 Sep 2011 #

    Happy 90th birthday to Sir Jim, the unacknowledged inventor of glam rock: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vb6PJmXjuxI

  25. 25
    AndyPandy on 21 Sep 2011 #

    re19: I see that the David Whitfield Society have raised the £40,000 they need for their statue of him in Hull which is to be erected shortly. Can’t really see the same happening in Jimmy Young’s hometown – at least not for his singing.

  26. 26
    Paulito on 23 Sep 2011 #

    @12 I see your prediction was spot on!

  27. 27
    MarkG on 23 Sep 2011 #

    So, how many of those box sets exist?

  28. 28
    punctum on 23 Sep 2011 #

    A quick glance at Amazon reveals that the 1952 and 1953 sets appear to be currently out of print, and everything from 1954 onwards is still available at varying prices. Only box sets for ’60 and ’61 (two 6CD jobs apiece), multiple-CD sets beforehand, increasingly in separate volumes covering half or quarter of the year in question.

    The ideal solution would be for a job lot suddenly to appear in The Charity Shop at £2.99 each but you never see them.

    On Vol. 1 of the ’56 edition “Chain Gang” is sandwiched between Dick Hyman’s version of “Theme From Threepenny Opera” and “The Trouble With Harry” by Alfi and Harry.

  29. 29
    Mutley on 23 Sep 2011 #

    I take it that Elvis’ RCA Victor recordings weren’t included in the box sets? e.g. According to the Amazon listing 1956 includes Hound Dog but not Heartbreak Hotel – apart from the Stan Freberg version. I note that Stan is still with us, but presumably not covering bunny-embargoed current material.

  30. 30
    MarkG on 23 Sep 2011 #

    When RCA made their 10″ re-release box of Elvis’ number ones, I did see that HMV records also issued a 10″ of “My Baby Left Me”, presumably because the copyright of the performance was now in the public domain.

  31. 31
    punctum on 23 Sep 2011 #

    “Heartbreak Hotel” is on there; disc 3, track 15.

  32. 32
    Jenkins Wood on 14 Oct 2015 #

    I think the above critique of Jimmy Youngs Uncahined Melody is a bit silly
    when you think back to the time it was recorded
    It was a big hit and has been a Big Hit for many others in recent years Young sings it well and that why he sold records Since that time musicians have got better and producers have the advantage of whats gone on over the years at that time of Youngs number one ,The Guitar was a background instrument, it had not become a lead instrument in those days Every thing works for the knowledge and technical no how of the period Vinyl is still far superior than digital in actual recording natural sound but I appreciate 78 recordings were on a form of shellac not diss similar to Vinyl

  33. 33
    enitharmon on 7 Nov 2016 #

    And orf we jolly well go, says Jimmy.

  34. 34
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Nov 2016 #

    Yes, it’s TTFN for Jimmy, surely one of the most pleasant people ever to go into broadcasting. Not a bad word to say about anyone. RIP.

    Also, a bit of a shame to hear of the passing of the Old Woman from Steve Wright in the Afternoon. A typically quirky Wrighty sidekick. RIP.

  35. 35
    Ed on 11 Nov 2016 #

    I had the pleasure of working with JY a few times back in the dim distant, and I can confirm what a delightful guy he was IRL, as well as on air.

    He was the grand old man, and I was one of a succession of gormless youths passing through his studio, but he was invariably charming and engaged, and always sympathetic to my many cock-ups.

    He was also razor sharp on current events. He wore his intelligence lightly, but he was probably the most perceptive and thoughtful radio or TV presenter I have ever met.


  36. 36
    Lazarus on 11 Nov 2016 #

    #34 – that’s a shocker for me. Just seen the message on Facebook. RIP Joyce.

  37. 37
    Nixon on 14 Sep 2020 #

    I only found out today that there are two versions of this – apparently Jimmy re-recorded the song in the early Sixties, and it’s that version that’s spread like mislabelled pondweed across YouTube and (presumably) Napster or whatever early-Noughties file sharing service Tom used to compile these prehistoric entries, which makes me wonder if the right version was reviewed here – I only heard the other one today and it sounds quite different (though still duff).

  38. 38
    Gareth Parker on 8 Jun 2021 #

    Still a great song. I’ll be extremely generous to JY and give him a 6/10 here.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page