Aug 04

SHIRLEY BASSEY – “I Reach For The Stars”

Popular24 comments • 2,307 views

#125, 23rd September 1961

John Barry obviously liked this – he lifted the twirling string intro for one Bond theme and the singer for several others. But after those first five seconds the song – another family-friendly export from the German hit factories – is dismally sedate. I’m hardly even able to comment on Bassey’s performance, there’s so little grip for her in the song: no tension, no climax, just a steady stupefying sway.



  1. 1
    rosie on 27 Jul 2008 #

    I thought there was something odd about this. I know it because one or other of my parents (probably my Dad) but I don’t recall it getting any radio play. Wikipedia has it as one half of a double A side with Climb Every Mountain, a big blockbuster from The Sound of Music and much more our Shirl’s kind of thing, and I’m pretty sure that’s what either parent would have bought it for. And I can’t begin to imagine why the sure-fire Climb Every Mountain would be relegated to the B side of this dirge.

  2. 2
    DJ Punctum on 28 Jul 2008 #

    Also listed as a double A in Guinness and my mum confirms that “Mountain” got virtually all the airplay.

  3. 3
    Tom on 28 Jul 2008 #

    Hmm, case for a rewrite then. I wonder why I picked this side – no recollection of writing it (or the song really!).

    I should put something about the missing double A sides in the FAQ.

  4. 4
    Matthew on 12 Jan 2009 #

    Another of the very rare #1’s that I can’t find any trace of on YouTube… neither it nor “Mountain”. Clearly it wasn’t anybody’s idea of very good.

  5. 5
    AndyPandy on 3 Jun 2010 #

    That’s now changed as with it being one of the few No1’s pre1990s I’d never heard I checked again and there’s now a particularly good clip of her roots in South Wales.
    Lots of atmospheric pictures of 1950’s Tiger Bay in Cardiff.

  6. 6
    wichitalineman on 4 Nov 2010 #

    Hell, yes. That shot of her around 0.45 is quite something. Bad girl Shirl.

    This was number one when my folks got married. I think they’d rather have had Blue Moon as their tune. The Baby Jump of the 60s?

  7. 7
    vinylscot on 4 Nov 2010 #

    Was Jackie Trent not the “Baby Jump” of the 60s?

  8. 8
    wichita lineman on 4 Nov 2010 #

    I had Where Are You Now on a big-selling Arcade comp, 20 Number Ones Of The 60s or some such, which kept its pop culture memory on life support for another generation. Baby Jump I knew from K-Tel’s 40 Number One Hits which came out in ’77 I think, and, in spite of this colourful ad, didn’t really sell. BJ was always the track to shock friends with – even at that early stage no one, but no one, remembered it.

    Like Andy, Reach For The Stars was a mystery to me til I discovered Popular, the only 60s no.1 I’d never heard. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it on the radio and I don’t remember it appearing on any various artists comps. The title always made me think of Douglas Bader, so I had it subconsciously down as a Lay Down Your Arms-alike. In that context it’s only dull, not gratingly chipper.

    By the way Tom, the title on the 45 and in the Guinness book is Reach For The Stars – there’s no first person.

  9. 9
    Erithian on 4 Nov 2010 #

    For some reason I’d assumed that the song “Reach For The Stars” had something to do with a biopic of Wernher von Braun. According to Wiki, the film was called simply “Wernher von Braun” in the UK; its original German title was “Ich greife nach den Sternen” (“I reach for the stars”), while in the USA it was titled “I Aim at the Stars” (satirist Mort Sahl suggested adding “But Sometimes I Hit London”!)

    Google doesn’t link the 1960 film (starring Curt Jurgens) with the 1961 song (co-written by Udo Jurgens), but maybe with the start of the space race, the title was just a phrase that was in vogue. Can anybody else link them?

  10. 10
    wichita lineman on 5 Nov 2010 #

    I can only confirm that Ich greife nach den Sternen was no kind of hit in Germany, so it’s unlikely that Reach For The Stars (co-written by Jurgens and ‘West’) was a cover cashing in on Euro success. And if it was connected to the film you’d have thought that would’ve made for a hit theme in Germany. Clear as mud. Anyway, these are the number one hits rocking West Germany in 1961:

    Ivo Robic – Mit 17 fangt das Lebenerst an
    Bill Ramsey – Pigalle
    Ralf Bendix – Baby Sitter Boogie
    Billy Vaughn – Wheels
    Freddy – La Paloma
    Gus Backus – Der Mann im Mond
    Nana Mouskouri – The White Rose Of Athens
    Gerhard Wendland – Tanze mit mir in den Morgen

    14 weeks at the top for Wheels (cha cha cha!) and 10 for lovely Nana.

  11. 11
    Mutley on 5 Nov 2010 #

    I lived in West Germany for a while in 1960-61 and it must have been the low point in German post-war pop music and cinema. Freddy (Quinn) was a massive star in Germany singing mainly sea shanty oriented music. Bill Ramsey was an American who settled in Germany. One of his hits “Souvenirs” is probably the only pop song to mention not only Stirling Moss, but also his driving licence. For full impact see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keP9PhRipQk

    At the same time as Bill and Freddy were topping the German charts, the Beatles were doing their apprenticeship in Hamburg. Readers of Popular are probably already aware that some early Beatles and Cliff Richard records were also recorded in German.

  12. 12
    rosie on 5 Nov 2010 #

    Indeed, Mutley – Komm gibt mir deine Hand, or was that seine Hand?

    Are we going to get a comment and score on the actual A side of this record?

    There was an item on the radio last week, on Today I think, about how French rock’n’rollers prefer to sing in English despite regulations to protect French language broadcasting content. Simply because rock’n’roll is built on the cadences of the English language with its short words and strong stresses. The same cadences in fact which inform that backbone of English poetry, unrhymed iambic pentameter. (Some uninformed people like to insist that ‘proper’ poetry ought to rhyme, but rhyme is distinctly un-English being a trope of Italian, a language rich in rhymes. These pesky Europeans!)

    And quite coincidentally there was a discussion in Another Place of Terry Jacks’s mawkish interpretation of a Jacques Brel song (qv) in which the view was aired that Chanson was a distinct form rooted in the cadences of French, and translations seldom work well.

  13. 13
    wichita lineman on 5 Nov 2010 #

    Hi Rosie, I’m intrigued to know your thoughts on the Ray Charles entry. It had NO COMMENTS at all until yesterday. Hopefully we can coerce Tom into writing about the missing double-A entries, but I think he’s wrapped up in his late-teen memories at the moment ; )

  14. 14
    rosie on 5 Nov 2010 #

    I saw that, Wichita, and I was going to pop over there.

  15. 15
    wichita lineman on 5 Nov 2010 #

    Thanks Mutley. The Sidney Youngblood of the fifties’ Souvenirs puts the UK no.1s of the era into perspective, though the dancers’ moves at the very beginning of the clip are quite astonishing.

  16. 16
    lonepilgrim on 18 Jun 2014 #

    it’s a committed performance from Shirley Bassey and a reasonable arrangement but the pace is plodding and the lyrics like a poor photocopy of ‘Climb every mountain’

  17. 17
    wichitalineman on 19 Jun 2014 #

    Re 3: The NME chart only lists Reach For The Stars, while Record Mirror and Record Retailer (Guinness) credit it as Reach For The Stars/Climb Every Mountain, so I can’t blame you! It only reached no.3 on NME and RM, by the way. A reverse ghost no.1, if that makes sense.

    I still can’t remember how it goes.

  18. 18
    punctum on 19 Jun 2014 #

    I listened to “RFTS” recently on my Shirley Bassey: A Life In Music 4CD Reader’s Digest collection – pretty definitive from a late eighties perspective, overcoming record label difficulties by including everything from “As I Love You” to “The Rhythm Divine” – and I forgot how it went while it was playing. Caught in a no-man’s land between early Eurovision and later John Barry. “Walk Away” by Matt Monro has a similar topline at its end.

  19. 19
    punctum on 19 Jun 2014 #

    Correction: it’s called This Is My Life, not A Life In Music.

  20. 20
    wichitalineman on 19 Jun 2014 #

    Walk Away would have made a much better number one – a noble Don Black lyric, with Monro sounding stoical but broken; “mmmmm… goodbye my love” gives me proper shivers.

    I’ve never heard the Eurovision original. It’s a shame he fell short of Popular-dom, because I’d very much like to read a Matt Monro thread somewhere beyond youtube comments.

  21. 21
    JLucas on 21 Dec 2014 #

    RIP Udo Jürgens, Austria’s only non-bearded Eurovision winner and the writer of this and many other hit songs of the era.

    Agreed that Matt Monro’s version of Walk Away is the better Jürgens-penned UK hit. His Eurovision winner Merci Cherie also charted for Vince Hill the year it won, and has been oft-covered since.

  22. 22
    Jimmy the Swede on 21 Dec 2014 #

    Yes, just picked up on the passing of Udo at 80, an icon in the German-speaking world. No doubt when Eurovision returns next year to the magnificence which is Vienna there will be a fitting tribute to him. The last time the contest was held in the city, of course, some shoe-less bird from Dagenham won. There’s cheesy!

    RIP Udo.

  23. 23
    wichitalineman on 9 May 2015 #

    “Reach for the stars
    Climb every mountain higher
    Reach for the stars
    Follow your hearts desire”

    S Club were fans of this double-A, even if no one here is too keen.

  24. 24
    Gareth Parker on 9 Jun 2021 #

    Don’t mind this from Shirl. 6/10 imo.

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