Popular

16
Feb 04

JANE MORGAN – ‘The Day The Rains Came’

Popular15 comments • 4,639 views

#79, 23rd January 1959

And because the pop charts aren’t a nice smooth story what happened next was this! A stern and hearty pop ballad which starts off on a nature tip – ‘The day that the rains came down / Mother Earth smiled again’. This is a good thing not for feed-the-world reasons but because it allows Jane to connect plants growing with her love. Which is also growing. Jane and beau then walk Adam-and-Evely through a new (and probably damp) Eden of lilies, willows and meadows. The serpent in paradise? A hip-twitching trumpet line that seems to have wandered in from a Connie Francis record.

(POP FACT! Why did this song get to No.1? Well, who knows, but apparently January 1959 was the sunniest since records began, and February that year one of the driest on record. That’s ‘sunny’ and ‘dry’ by English standards, of course.)

Popular ’58

FT + Popular/14 comments • 1,093 views

Every track on popular gets a mark out of 10. Here’s your opportunity to give ticks to any track from 1958 you would have given more than 6 to.

Number Ones Of 1958: Which would you have given 6 or more to?

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Poll closes: No Expiry

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Use the comments box to reflect on the overall hits of the year, if you like!

15
Feb 04

CONWAY TWITTY – ‘It’s Only Make Believe’

Popular21 comments • 2,588 views

#78, 19th December 1958

‘It’s Only Make Believe’ takes a male pop archetype ‘ booming, stirring, strident ‘ and flips it, so that each verse builds up not to a confident declaration but to a shattered, lonely howl. Twitty was a country singer by background and it’s as such he’s remembered, but this isn’t just a country song. It’s a synthesis of country, rock and roll, shoo-be-doo beat balladry and older pop crooning. The rolling piano rhythms might have coaxed lovers into one another’s arms in a different song ‘ here they give Twitty the momentum that allows him to confess, to shout out the lie he’s been living. (His hesitancy in the first lines, that fumbling for the word ‘everywhere’, is desperately effective.).

This is also the last No.1 of 1958. What it has in common with most of the others is a) quality, b) modernity. Which is to say that (Vic Damone aside), everything that topped the charts in ’58 seems clearly in debt to rock and roll ‘ in arrangement, in attitude, in risk-taking or playfulness or starkness. Eddie Fisher and the Dreamweavers had got to No.1 with records as lonely as ‘It’s Only Make Believe’ ‘ good records, too ‘ but compared to them Twitty sounds like he’s had a layer of skin peeled off. Their sorrow was something crafted and well-formed ‘ no less real, no less moving, but more carefully and delicately expressed. Twitty’s is immediate. Rock and roll wasn’t the first style to tap that immediacy, but for British listeners I’m guessing it might as well have been. What had gone before was portrait painting: rock and roll was a camera.

4
Feb 04

LORD ROCKINGHAM’S XI – ‘Hoots Mon’

Popular10 comments • 5,826 views

#77, 28th November 1958

‘POP ROT! CALL A HALT NOW!’ screamed the Melody Maker on November 8th. Of course it was too late. It had probably been too late for years, but by June 1958 the game was absolutely up ‘ ITV launched its music show Oh Boy! and pop in Britain went multimedia. By the end of ’59 British teen stars, handsome boys whose take on rock was just as pretty, were hitting #1 regularly. Before them came Lord Rockingham.

Oh Boy! was not the start of British music TV. That was 6-5 Special on the BBC, launched in 1957 and off the air within six months of its rival’s first broadcast. Its remit took in skiffle and the Melody Maker-approved trad jazz, and the sole notable thing about its house band seems to be that Jon Pertwee played in it. But Oh Boy! focussed on the new pop thing and its house band were Lord Rockingham’s XI, a mixed-race, mixed-gender eleven-piece which included jazzman Benny Green on sax ‘ he wore shades on the show because he was embarrassed to be playing rock and roll. Which was perhaps a mistake, since if ‘Hoots Mon’ was anything to go his new band were white hot.

Let’s rewind three years to ‘Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White’, the last big band instrumental to top the charts and a useful point of comparison to ‘Hoots Mon’. That record kicks off with a thrilling horn line but then sidesteps into a polite dance workout. ‘Hoots Mon’ has a superficially similar structure. But what the newer record twigs is that you don’t have to stay polite ‘ you can keep raising the energy levels, thickening the mix, adding more and more elements until the record is jumping off the player. You also ‘ and it’s no surprise that a band of cynical jazzbos worked this one out ‘ don’t have to be sophisticated either. If your audience are going mad on the floor they don’t necessarily want complexity or suavity: they might just want to go madder.

The first 5 seconds of ‘Hoots Mon’ are gobsmackingly dumb and wonderful ‘ the horns blaring, the organ sounding like it’s been stabbed, the rest of the band setting up a kind of snarling hum like a gang of lairy Buddhists. And once the main riff’s got going all these things recur – plus handclaps, shout-outs and the ‘Hoots Mon!’ chant that gives the record its title-cum-gimmick. It’s proper musicians having a laugh who sound for a moment like cavemen having a go. It’s a calculated, compressed party. It’s a great record.

(In his 100 Un-Guilty Pleasures, which every Popular reader should enjoy, Marcello pegs the XI as the 6-5 Special band, not the Oh Boy! one. Every other source I’ve found suggests this is wrong, plus Oh Boy! fits my narrative better! But Marcello knows his historical stuff, and the same man ‘ Jack Good ‘ was behind both shows, so it may well be that some musicians went over to ITV with him. Not, sadly, Jon Pertwee.)

3
Feb 04

TOMMY EDWARDS – ‘All In The Game’

Popular8 comments • 1,979 views

#76, 7th November 1958

When your heart is breaking, wise words are the last thing you want to hear and false hopes the first. In this ballad Tommy Edwards offers a bit of both ‘ a knowing shake of the head that turns into a sly nod, just as the music stops and the backing chorus flurries up like startled birds, ‘Soon he’ll be there at your side!’. Well, maybe. Edwards’ lacquered voice is telling you it’ll be Okay, after all, and for a minute or two at least you could believe it.

2
Feb 04

CONNIE FRANCIS – “Carolina Moon”/”Stupid Cupid”

Popular4 comments • 2,373 views

#75, 26th September 1958

“Stupid Cupid” on the other hand deploys its gimmicks with confidence and humour. That –tzoinng!– guitar sound; the sassy handclaps; the cute voicebreaks – but these things wouldn’t work if the song itself wasn’t so fun. “Stupid Cupid” is a song I recognise at once as my pop, modern pop – self-aware, as sexy as it can get away with, built on the most up-to-date chassis in the shop, immediately adorable. The song stops after a couple of seconds for Connie to sashay in: it’s a great, calculated moment and also a fine example of how ably pop producers were exploiting the sound and excitement of rock and roll, adding craft and money to play little symphonies on its audience’s hormones and hopes.

(The lead track, “Carolina Moon”, is less arresting but awfully dreamy, a country lullaby which lets Francis shimmy and swoon up and down her vocal range as she wonders if a boy’s wondering too.)