Jan 09

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – “Green Door”

FT + Popular46 comments • 5,121 views

#483, 1st August 1981

“I don’t know what they’re doing but they laugh a lot”. As a kid I had no great knowledge of speakeasies and after-hours clubs, so I projected a different – perhaps more glamorous – meaning onto the song, drawn from a childhood reading Tolkein, Nesbit and endless books of fairytales. The Green Door, quite clearly set into a hillside, or visible only on Beltane Eve, or found on an old street not marked on any map, led into the Otherworld, and the mocking laughter was obviously that of elves or boggarts. With this reading firm in my mind I could sympathise greatly with Shakey’s frustration – though I thought he was probably too old for this kind of adventure.

Some of the magic I projected into the record has clung to it, and it’s now my favourite of Shakin Steven’s big hits, which isn’t saying a great deal. As with “This Ole House”, “Green Door” is straight-down-the-middle rock’n’roll handled more with fondness than wildness. It’s a good song; it deserved revival; Shakey does no great harm to it. I don’t know the original versions: perhaps it was a record sung by and for people who were in on the joke, regulars on an illicit scene – a 50s equivalent of Kicks Like A Mule’s “The Bouncer”. But somehow you know Shakey’s singing it from a square’s point of view – as surely as if it had led to Elfland, he’s never getting in that door.



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  1. 31
    Conrad on 20 Jan 2009 #

    And isn’t Dave Gilmour supposed to be playing on Holly And The Ivys “Christmas On 45”? I’d love to hear that, but it never crops up on any compilation albums.

  2. 32
    Mark G on 20 Jan 2009 #

    That’s Nick Laird-Clowes, of “Dream Academy” fame.

    He’s certainly credited w/ the song on the b-side. “Have pity on the boy” or something like it.

  3. 33
    The Wolfmen on 20 Jan 2009 #

    Shakey? Harumph !

  4. 34
    Tom on 20 Jan 2009 #

    I don’t get a choice as to who to write about sadly :)

  5. 35
    tim davidge on 20 Jan 2009 #

    One of the most interesting years of the Fifties (1956) gave us this one, the true original (I think) being that of the singing American disc jockey Jim Lowe, who got to the lower reaches of the Ten with it. Frankie Vaughan then covered it and got it to No.2, while twenty-five years later Frankie sent Shaky a telegram of congratulations when Shaky got it to No.1.

    I’ve always liked this tune and so went to my pile of 78s and found Frankie’s take on it, together with 45s of Jim Lowe’s and Shaky’s, and played them in succession…and if anything I liked it even more. Jim Lowe’s version majors on piano, while Frankie Vaughan’s majors on just about everything – there’s a piano in there too, but also a big band (we’re at the extreme tail end of the big band era – and the beginnings of rock – in ’56) and a sax solo. It’s vigorous, it grabs the listener’s attention and makes them want to hear it again and check it all out a second time. Shaky’s version is as one might expect more modern but respectful and in the spirit of the song. But Frankie’s is still my favourite, so I must be careful not to break that 78. I think 4 is a bit low – a six from me, with maybe another six for Jim Lowe’s version and an eight for Frankie.

    In Who’s Who in Popular Music, the author credits Shaky (born Michael Barratt) with ‘an uncanny ability to make old hits his very own’ and I suppose that’s **almost** true. But this one **really** belongs to Frankie Vaughan

  6. 36
    crag on 20 Jan 2009 #

    Stars on 45 (along w/ curiosity caused by the events of 8 months previous)was what got me into the Beatles! it was many many years before i could hear the original version of Drive My Car without always expecting it to go into Do You Want ToKnow A Secret…

    Whats that 60s megamix that they ALWAYS play at weddings etc that lasts about 20 minutes that goes from Black is Black to Bend Me Shape Me to (i think) You Really Got Me? I have never heard Black is Black in any other context to this godawful medley….

  7. 37
    wichita lineman on 20 Jan 2009 #

    Have to agree, Tim, a rare instance of the UK version trumping the US original. Possibly because Frankie’s party sounds more rocking, and with better looking birds, than Jim’s. But Frankie always put much gusto into his semi-rock singles (see also My Boy Flat Top, Garden Of Eden).

    I have to say plenty of Shaky’s originals were stronger than his covers: You Drive Me Crazy, Give Me Your Heart Tonight (already flagged by Conrad), A Love Worth Waiting For. An NYE party 3 or 4 years back was greatly enlivened in the early hours by the ’84 Greatest Hits set.

    Was this the one where he semi-Anted in the video? Jumped into a party scene through a window or some such?

    PS A pedant adds, it’s Shaky, not Shakey isn’t it? Unless he’s the same bloke behind some of Neil Young’s more half-arsed work. Which is about as likely as him being the same Michael Barrett who presented Nationwide.

    On which note, before I evoke the spirit of Stuart Maconie too strongly, I’ll take my leave… only to add

    re 36: That’ll be Back To The Sixties by Tight Fit, before they morphed from faceless boom-clack medley pirates into a trio who once made a single better than anything on Led Zeppelin III.

    And, likewise, I didn’t know a bunch of the Beatles songs on the Stars On 45 45 when it came out (I was 16), which suggested that these Dutch interlopers were genuine fans passing on the information. So I tip my hat.

    Also love the suggestion of Stars On 45 Vol 2 that Abba were second in line to the throne.

  8. 38
    The Intl on 21 Jan 2009 #

    WOW! I can’t believe that Jacko totally ripped off Shakey’s pic sleeve for Thriller.

  9. 39
    Conrad on 21 Jan 2009 #

    #38, Yes – good spot! I’d like to have seen a dance-off between Shaky and MJ, Shaky’s wobbly knees would have been a good counterpoint to Michael’s moonwalking.

  10. 40
    lonepilgrim on 21 Jan 2009 #

    at the risk of seeming completely pretentious – the pose in both cases is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Adam from the Sistine chapel – but it also looks like the kind of cliched beefcake/cheesecake pose that Roxy Music used to pastiche on their sleeves

  11. 41
    and everybody elses Mark G on 21 Jan 2009 #

    “The Front Door!”

    A public information film telling all you housewives to put that security chain on when answering a knock in the afternoon, because who might it be? …

    “is it a smooth cool conman who will take you in outside the FRONT DOO-OOER!?”
    “Or a mad mad axeman with an evil grin outside the FRONT DOOERRR?”

    .. I’m sure this film had been used, probably since the mid sixties, until just before Shakey’s hit! Either way, this is the version I knew the song from.

  12. 42
    wichitalineman on 30 Apr 2009 #

    Meta Shaky: “When I said said Joe sent me someone laughed out loud.” Could be one of the Johnston Brothers cackling who, on how to gain entrance secret nite klub Hernando’s Hideaway, suggest “just knock three times and whisper low that you were sent by Joe.”

  13. 43
    MikeMCSG on 16 Jul 2009 #

    It’s purely subjective of course but for me the Golden Age of Pop began when Wuthering Heights got to number 1 and ended when this dethroned Ghost Town. Not that there hasn’t been anything good in subsequent years but I’ve never liked the majority of the records in the charts since.

    Does anyone else have a similar turning point ?

  14. 44
    punctum on 30 Apr 2013 #

    TPL on the parent album.

  15. 45
    Antonio Davies on 21 Apr 2021 #

    6/10. I rather like this and I think I prefer it to Frankie’s version. An amiable blast of rock ‘n’ roll fluff, delivered well by Shaky.

  16. 46
    Gareth Parker on 17 May 2021 #

    Again, 5/10 from me (the same score as I would give ‘This Ole House’). Another perfectly fine Shaky interpretation to my ears. Anything’s better than ‘Oh Julie’ though!

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