Aug 04

HELEN SHAPIRO – “You Don’t Know”

Popular9 comments • 3,437 views

#123, 12th August 1961

Polished as a pebble in a pocket, but there’s something about this I can’t warm to, a pall of drabness around it. Maybe it’s the arrangement, stately with prissy chirrups of strings. Maybe it’s Helen’s mopey sultriness: unrequited love songs can be heartbreaking, but they can also be unpleasantly inert and passive. Shapiro’s prematurely smoky voice is quality, but her delivery is distanced and distracted – where’s the motivation for the mystery boy to notice her? Love isn’t a right.



  1. 1
    harry morrison on 4 Jun 2007 #

    Helen Shapiro’s ‘You Don’t Know’ is the perfect teenage angst song, and beautifully delivered by a deceptively young new singer. The lyrics are poignant (so a secret it must stay . . .) All teenagers have sad secrets, and Helen expresses this sadness eloquently. Beautifully, yet unobtrusively orchestrated by Martin Slavin, this deservedly reached no one in the uk.

  2. 2
    Russell Bailey on 2 Sep 2010 #

    I have to say, I’m a little surprised this wasn’t deemed to invite an enriching “gay reading”, as Doris Day – Secret Love was, earlier in the list!

  3. 3
    wichita lineman on 2 Sep 2010 #

    Intriguing, I’d never thought of it that way. Helen’s baritone (or “truly foghorn voice” as Nik Cohn described it) certainly adds to the adolescent sexual confusion. Heck, she was all of 14.

    Trying to locate early gay records is a Jon Savage parlour game; a 1957 British single on Melodisc called Queer Things by Rosita Rosano is the earliest UK one I’ve heard. Melodisc was 90% calypso and mento, but this is very after hours 50s Soho, you can imagine Lita Roza singing it. I’m not sure if it’s well known or not.

  4. 4
    Chelovek na lune on 5 May 2013 #

    This is gorgeously melancholic, with Shapiro’s husky voice complimenting the violins perfectly.

  5. 5
    Mark G on 7 May 2013 #

    re #3, Wichita, did you ever track down that “Gay Love” by Bing Crosby? Was it for real?

  6. 6
    punctum on 7 May 2013 #

    It was: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlI9B4QMjas

  7. 7
    Mark G on 7 May 2013 #


  8. 8
    lonepilgrim on 17 Jun 2014 #

    there’s a brass instrument (possibly a tuba?) trumping away as the bass line for this tune that creates a rather plodding pace which Helen Shapiro’s voice can’t quite overcome. It all adds to a mood of repressed energy that may have reflected the times but is difficult to respond to positively now.

  9. 9
    Gareth Parker on 9 Jun 2021 #

    Prefer her 2nd #1, but would still go to a 7/10 for Helen.

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