Apr 04

EMILE FORD AND THE CHECKMATES – “What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For?”

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#94, 18th December 1959

Pop music owes several debts to Caribbean emigrants who built their own sound systems out of frustration or fun. This is one of the smaller ones: Emile Ford’s vocation was sound engineering, the music was a lucrative side project. He didn’t think he had the voice, but he had the home-brewed system, louder than anything else on the circuit, and it kept him going until the never-expected hits dried up and he got on with his intended job. Along the way he’d landed this No.1, with the help of fellow backroom boy Joe Meek.

What’s it like? Pretty good. For one thing Emile could sing, or at least could bring a saucy tang to his voice that more than made up for a lack of range. The production sounds pretty big too, at least by the standards of ’59’s milksop pop: the Sixties start with a swagger, alright. The bells behind the second verse are a neat, unexpected touch; the single sharp drumbeats that herald each verse are a lot cornier but very effective. And an arch, rather generic rocker gets by finally on a massive helping of good humour.



  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 13 Jul 2009 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: None of the handful of listed UK TV appearances of Emile Ford have survived for posterity;

    BOY MEETS GIRLS: with The Browns, Emile Ford (1959)

    OH BOY!: with Tony Hall, The Vernons Girls, Red Price, Cherry Wainer, John Barry, Peter Elliott, Neville Taylor and the Cutters, Lord Rockingham’s XI, ‘Cuddly’ Dudley, Emile Ford (1958)

    SIX-FIVE SPECIAL: with Charlie Drake, Dennis Lotis, Andy and the Bey Sisters, Don Rennie, The Glyn Thomas Trio, Emile Ford & George, Claudio Venturelli, Don Reynolds, Shirley Long, Johnny Dankworth and his Band (1958)

    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 Billy Fury, Emile Ford, Bob Wallis and his Storyville Jazzmen, Alan Fielding, Jimmy Crawford, The Kaye Sisters, Sam Costa (1961)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Emile Ford, The Karl Denver Trio, Acker Bilk, Alvin Stardust, The Countrymen, Buddy Britten, Billy Daniels, Sam Costa (1962)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Helen Shapiro, Joe Brown, Mark Wynter, Emile Ford, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Group X, Dee Dee Sharp, Sir Jimmy Savile (1963)

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 7 Nov 2010 #

    Emile deserves some credit for making the lyric, which seems to be saying ‘she was asking for it’, sound so genial and unthreatening – it’s still a little unsettling

  3. 3
    wichita lineman on 8 Nov 2010 #

    The original was a duet between Ada Jones and Billy Murray and a no.3 hit the States – in 1916! It was then revived by Betty ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ Hutton in 1945 (which is on Spotify). LP, does it lose its unsettling quality when you know it was previously sung by women? Flirting with Betty was, by most accounts, “messin’ with dynamite”.

    Emile followed WDYWTMTEAMF with a similar sounding revival of a Kay Kyser oldie: On A Slow Boat To China reached no.3, and had been a UK sheet music no.1 in 1948.

  4. 4
    Mark G on 9 Nov 2010 #

    My copy has this as the b-side to “Don’t tell me your troubles”

    I assume they were all like this originally.

  5. 5
    Paulito on 10 Nov 2010 #

    Useless trivia time: of all #1s, this proudly possesses the longest title not to have any parenthesised words in it. (Or at least, it did when I first noted this fact about 20 years ago – can anyone correct me?)

    More importantly, this is a cracking tune. Excepting “Shakin’ All Over” and Joe Meek’s incomparable pair of #1s from 1961 and 1962, WDYWTMTEAMF is arguably the best homegrown chart-topper of the pre-Beatles era (Tom would probably disagree, what with his slightly surprising penchant for the Shads). Simple but instantly memorable, brimming with great pop hooks, it boasts a playful confidence reminiscent of early Elvis – the “I’ll get you alone some night…you’re messing with dynamite” lines are surely meant as humorous bravado rather than anything more sinister. The swaggering mid-tempo and Ford’s slurred, almost lairy enunication combine for a nicely insouciant feel (aided too by the Checkmates’ laid-back doo-wopping), and the doubling of the beat during the bridges gives it a fanatastic kick. For its time, this is sexy stuff.

  6. 6
    Paulito on 11 Nov 2010 #

    Oh, and Emile’s “Yeah…” at the end is great too. He was one cool cat!

  7. 7
    Tony Rea on 2 Dec 2010 #

    Emile is still alive & well & now resides in Southport, & can be seen quite frequently around & about the town. He will stop & speak with anyone who acknowledges him, a perfect gentleman.

  8. 8
    RAYE DU-VAL on 29 Dec 2012 #



  9. 9
    june giovannoli on 3 Nov 2013 #

    I am in contact with emile, and send him emails, he is now blind and his friend chris sends an email back to me and lets me know how he is doing. Also if you go to you tube you will see Emile live on his guitar singing, well worth watching, still my no. one

  10. 10
    MARY on 5 Jan 2014 #


  11. 11
    Lazarus on 24 Apr 2016 #

    Here’s one that slipped under the radar in the Year of Death – tbh I thought he’d been dead for years (possibly getting him mixed up with Tennessee Ernie Ford) but it appears that old Emile may have slipped off the perch a couple of weeks ago. Although Wiki is giving a date of death as 11 April it’s proving hard to verify.

  12. 12
    weej on 24 Apr 2016 #

    Very interesting article about him here – https://lasentinel.net/emile-ford-legendary-st-lucian-artiste-dies-in-london.html – no idea he had such an interesting career after the hit.

  13. 13
    Paulito on 13 Mar 2017 #

    @12: Hits, plural. Emile had five top 40 entries after this one, including “Slow Boat to China” which was another massive hit and is still sometimes heard on oldies radio.

  14. 14
    Gareth Parker on 9 Jun 2021 #

    Not too bad from Emile here. 6/10.

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