Jul 06


Popular58 comments • 6,524 views

#237, 9th September 1967

EngelbertAfter the write-up of “Release Me” I got several comments and emails from Engelbert fans. They ran along familiar lines: Engelbert is a superb performer, he has a remarkable voice, his fame and renown will far outlast your puny blog.

The last of these I concede without a quibble (though perhaps with an eye-roll or two). As for the others: yes, Engelbert Humperdinck has a magnificent, rich, sumptuous voice. But “The Last Waltz” is evidence that he’s not any kind of a performer.

Each verse of “The Last Waltz” carries different weight: unexpected triumph in the first – unsought loss in the second. It’s a song of bittersweet regret and hard-gained experience, that Humperdinck takes in a well-greased monotone, swooping and booming and investing nothing of himself at all. There’s no inflected difference between the verses, no emotional hooks, the performance is just an unctious slick on a torpid pool.

At the end he bellows “It’s over!” (you might reach for Roy Orbison here, but let’s spare Engelbert the embarassment). But it isn’t over, there’s a chorus of “la la la”s to take us to the finish. Tricky things, “la la la”s – nothing specific to convey, which can make them the hardest part of a performance to get right, the moment where you know for sure whether the singer’s pulled it off and got inside the mood of a song. The “la”s in “The Last Waltz” are – sadly, expectedly – a cocoon of nothing.

But what a magnificent voice!



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  1. 1
    jeff w on 5 Jul 2006 #


    Nice new look. Also I anticipate much fun from the “related articles” feature (Spiritualized?).

  2. 2
    Admin on 5 Jul 2006 #


  3. 3
    markgamon on 6 Jul 2006 #

    1 point? That seems kind…

  4. 4
    Daniel_Rf on 6 Jul 2006 #

    I’m sort of amazed that there are rabid Engelbert roxx u r all gay fans on the modern interweb!

  5. 5
    rosie on 27 Jul 2006 #

    Good heavens, I turn my back for a week and Popular is not only in lively action again but I need my Ray-Bans!

    I likes the new look!

    I have to say that a 1 flatters this ditty. It’s not stupendously awful, it’s just boringly kitsch! Never mind.

  6. 6
    Doctor Mod on 31 Jul 2006 #

    Unbearable moldy CHEESE. Urgh!

  7. 7
    Waldo on 9 Apr 2007 #

    This was actually Number One the day Radio One began. History records that the first record played was The Move’s “Flowers in the Rain”, which was Number Two and got stuck there. I think the Radio One managers, depite being fusty old geezers who were to oversee many a cock-up in the future, at least got that one right.

  8. 8
    wichita lineman on 3 Sep 2011 #

    No.2 watch: along with a week for Flowers In The Rain…

    Two weeks for Tom Jones’ I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, a polar opposite performance of moans and squeaks over a Lonnie Donegan-penned ballad. Ploddy, lasts forever, maybe Tom and Eng should’ve swapped songs?

    Two weeks for Keith West’s Excerpt From a Teenage Opera, UK psych-pop in excelsis. Melancholy kids on the chorus, a dead grocer in the lyric, a wall-of-bouzoukis production… Gah! Denied by The Last freakin Waltz!!

  9. 9
    wichita lineman on 3 Sep 2011 #

    Was the first record played on Radio One not Theme One by George Martin? He wrote it especially for the launch after all. Tony Blackburn may have yacked all over it, but it was “a record”. Need confirmation… Punctum? Rosie?

  10. 10
    enitharmon on 3 Sep 2011 #

    Is that a trick question wichita? The canonical first record (as opposed to the R1 theme and Blackburn’s own theme) played on Radio 1 was Flowers in the Rain by the Move. I see no reason to doubt this and I almost certainly heard it though being at 7 am on a school morning I was probably deliberately trying not to be too wide awake.

  11. 11
    wichita lineman on 5 Sep 2011 #

    No, not a trick question. Theme One was written and recorded by George Martin for the launch of the station. I know Flowers In The Rain is always cited as the first record played but I’ve never heard a recording of the station’s launch ( I was two and a half, can’t remember ) and don’t trust received wisdom – eg Bo Rhap was “the first video” until everybody knew that wasn’t really the case.

  12. 12
    punctum on 5 Sep 2011 #

    Strictly speaking, the first “record” played on Radio One was “The Beefeaters” by John Dankworth, Arnold remix (i.e. Tony Blackburn’s theme tune), but the actual order of events went thusly:

    1. Robin Scott counting down to launch (“Radio 2, Radio 1, GO!”)
    2. Radio 1 jingle.
    3. Blackburn intro blether and “Beefeaters.”
    4. “Let’s away!” and straight into “Flowers In The Rain.”

  13. 13
    thefatgit on 5 Sep 2011 #

    So what was the first record played on Radio 2?

    A trivia sponge needs to know!

  14. 14
    punctum on 5 Sep 2011 #

    A surprisingly straightforward answer – it was Julie Andrews belting out “The Sound Of Music.”

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    wichita lineman on 5 Sep 2011 #

    Fantastic. Thanks P. Had no idea about the Beefeaters being TB’s theme.

    Poor George Martin got stiffed, then. Theme One is a fantastic piece of music, too, rendered here by Van Der Graaf Generator in one of their lighter moments:


    The drums, the drums!!

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    wichita lineman on 5 Sep 2011 #

    Back to The Last Waltz, co-composer Barry Mason played it at this year’s Vintage festival, accompanied by Laurie Holloway on piano, and it was really quite affecting.

    The flatlining vocal is what screws Engelbert’s version up. I love the intro and the huge compressed piano sound.

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    thefatgit on 5 Sep 2011 #

    Marvellous pub ammo! Many thanks!

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    Jimmy the Swede on 8 Sep 2011 #

    Punctum – Perhaps Theme One should have come on when “Sir” ripped the gorilla mask off only to reveal himself.

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    Billy Smart on 5 Dec 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: Englebert Humperdinck performed The Last Waltz on Top Of The Pops on four occasions;

    17 August 1967. Also in the studio that week were; The Amen Corner and Eric Burdon & The Animals. Alan Freeman was the host.

    31 August 1967. Also in the studio that week were; The Tremeloes, Manfred Mann and Georgie Fame. Jimmy Savile was the host.

    7 September 1967. Also in the studio that week were; The Move, The Flowerpot Men, Cliff Richard and The Small Faces. Jimmy Savile was the host.

    26 December 1967. Also in the studio that Boxing Day were; The Bee Gees, Long John Baldry, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch, Lulu, Cliff Richard and Procol Harum, plus The Go Jo’s interpretation of ‘Reflections Of My Life’. Jimmy Savile, Alan Freeman and Pete Murray were the hosts.

    Only the Christmas edition survives.

  20. 21
    Erithian on 2 Mar 2012 #

    Engelbert … Eurovision. Get used to it!

  21. 22
    lonepilgrim on 2 Mar 2012 #

    re 21: I think the UK organisers have just given up

  22. 23
    Lazarus on 2 Mar 2012 #

    The weird thing was how the news was broken to the British public. I don’t remember seeing anything about it on Thursday evening (although I was out for some of it), but it was one of the lead stories on the 5 o’clock news this morning, as if the Eurovision committee had been up all night debating their choice. I still can’t work out if this is madness or the work of genius. I know he still has a considerable fanbase, but in mainland Europe? Presumably he’ll be the oldest principal performer in the competition’s 55 year history.

  23. 24
    wichita lineman on 3 Mar 2012 #

    Enggelbert’s Euro chart history, picking up 3 random books:

    *6 Top 20 albums in Norway (incl. no.1 with A Man Without Love in ’68)

    *Usual suspects were hits in the 60s in Holland, but Eng also had minor hits in the 80s and 90s

    *No chart presence at all in Italy

    So, guaranteed midtable finish?

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    Jimmy the Swede on 3 Mar 2012 #

    I think Eng’s selection is blinding and totally consistent with the cheeseboard which is Eurovision. I wonder if Austria will wheel out Udo Jurgens, who must be about 120. I also tend to agree with Lino in predicting a midtable placing for the Leicester crooner. It would be quality if the old booby won it, though, and surely the sword across the shoulder from Brenda would swiftly follow. A must watch!

  25. 26
    Mutley on 3 Mar 2012 #

    I think both Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson are still alive (aged about 90) and have excellent Eurovision form as runners up in 1959.

  26. 27
    mintness on 8 Mar 2012 #

    And just when you (and he) thought the Hump was going to be the oldest performer at this year’s contest…


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    wichita lineman on 8 Mar 2012 #

    I wonder if the Greeks will boo them for not taking it seriously enough? They’ll have to bottle up their frustrations. Who could boo a cuddly baboushka?

    I’m reminded of this recent story. How to stop architecture lovers kicking up a fuss when a landmark makes way for a retail park:


  28. 29
    Mutley on 8 Mar 2012 #

    Not serious enough? For the first 20 seconds I thought it was House of the Rising Sun.

  29. 30
    Jimmy the Swede on 19 Mar 2012 #

    Ken Bruce played The Hump’s entry this morning. It’s a typical slow easy-to-follow Engelbert ballad and I personally think he has more than just a chance of bringing this thing home. But as Eng told Ken himself: “It’s all on the performance”. Only an old pro would say that. Best of luck to him.

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