“The hills are alive with the sound of music…” Hah, no guessing what the big film was this month in ’65. But more of that later…
Sitting at the top of the chart this month were The Seekers with the Tom Springfield composition “I’ll Never Find Another You”. Tom and his sister Dusty had recently disbanded the successful Springfields trio and he was looking for another group to work with while Dusty pursued a solo career. So, this Australian folk group with the distinctive voice of Judith Durham on lead vocal was just what he was looking for. The bouncy, easy listener “I’ll Never Find Another You” was their first UK single and led the way for a bunch of further hits with “A World Of Our Own” and “The Carnival Is Over” among them. Meantime, their current chart topper was the second-best selling UK single of 1965: Ken Dodd’s “Tears” sat in the pole position with sales way over one and one half million.
Now hold on to your lingerie girls, here comes the mighty Welshman with the twinkle in his eye – Tom Jones. Sitting below The Seekers was “It’s Not Unusual”, written by Les Reed and Gordon Mills (Tom’s manager). The song was actually intended for Sandie Shaw, known for performing in her bare feet, but when she heard Tom’s demo of the song suggested he record it. The single would eventually hit the top spot and kick started a glorious career for him that spanned decades. Working his body while performing – steady girls! – Sir Tom quickly earned the reputation of being rather saucy on stage, and it was this that prompted the BBC to ban his music. Thankfully, our beloved (and I must add, much missed) pirate radio stations weren’t as naïve and helped push the single up the UK chart. Over the years, the song became his signature tune when he gyrated his hips to the upbeat as his powerful Welsh voice pumped out the lyrics. Not so much now, of course, but his spirit doubtless remains willing. Years ago I was one of the lucky gals to see one of his shows at the Brighton Centre. Pure delight from start to finish: hit after hit, some cheeky chat in between songs, so what wasn’t to love. Also, I kept my underwear to myself as felt slinging a pair of Bridget Jones through the air in his direction wouldn’t have been the done thing!
Glyn Geoffrey Ellis sat at number three with his Mindbenders, hoping to snatch the top spot from The Seekers. It didn’t happen but nonetheless Wayne Fontana held his own for several weeks in the chart with the mellow “The Game Of Love”. Born in Manchester, Wayne took his name from Elvis Presley’s drummer D.J. Fontana, then organised his backing group The Mindbenders. Together they signed a record deal with the Fontana label (no relation!) where following four poor selling singles, they enjoyed a top five single with “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um” , but it was “The Game Of Love” that became their lucrative money spinner. Wayne then left his group to pursue a solo career, where “Pamela, Pamela” was his only hit of note. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to sustain his career and hung up his microphone around 1970. Three years on, he tried again with no success. “I went into self-retirement, drank too much and didn’t know where I was half the time” he once said. In time though, he gave up the booze to join others on the emerging and hugely successful Solid Silver revival circuit which rejuvenated many a flagging sixties career. And what great shows these were too, having seen several over the years. However, life became incredibly complicated as during 2005 Wayne was bankrupt. When bailiffs visited his home, he poured petrol onto his car, set it alight with the bailiff still inside. Wayne was subsequently sentenced to eleven months for the offence but released as he’d already served the equivalent of the sentence, having been incarcerated under The Mental Health Act 1983. Happily, with that behind him, he continued to earn a living on the revival concert scene for some time. Wayne lost his battler against cancer in 2020 at the age of 74 years.
All together the top ten boasted eight home grown acts (yay!). Apart from Tom and Wayne, we had Herman’s Hermits with “Silhouettes”; The Animals’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”; Val Doonican and “The Special Years”, with The Kinks, Marianne Faithful and The Ivy League bringing up the rear. So, let’s move from vinyl to radio….
This month saw the debut of a hugely successful radio comedy show Round The Horne anchored by Kenneth Horne, playing the straight man. We tittered away every Sunday afternoon listening to an irreverent mixture of naughty innuendo, clever word play and camp comedy. Regular characters included Dame Celia Molestrangler and Binkie Huckaback played by Betty Marsden and Hugh Paddock, who characterised old-fashioned cinema idols Fiona and Charles, declaring their love for each other in stilted nonsensical dialogue. The show also offered parodies of popular British television entertainers of the age, including Eamonn Andrews (Seamus Android played by Bill Pertwee), and Fanny Cradock (Fanny Haddock played by Betty). Now I am getting carried away here but I won’t be long. Just have to give a name-check to the lovely Kenneth Williams who was responsible for some of the most memorable characters. And, I can assure you I’m not making any of this up. For instance, he portrayed J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock (try saying that with a glass of wine inside you!) considered to be the world’s dirtiest old man and self-appointed king of the East End slum area known as Peasemoldia. The other one that comes to mind was the old English folk singer called Rambling Syd Rumpo who introduced such tasteless ditties as “D’ye Ken Jim Pubes”, “Bind My Plooms With Silage” and “Green Grow Your Nadgers-O”. Rumpo was also responsible for the catchphrase – “Ullo me dearios.” Out of all Kenneth Williams dodgy characters one shone above the other, the limp-wristed Sandy who, alongside Julian played by Hugh Paddick, always introduced themselves by saying in a rather high pitched voice “Hello, I’m Julian and this is my friend Sandy.” When these two were introduced on the fourth programme, they helped elevate the listening audience to a massive fifteen thousand each Sunday. Now, that’s what I call entertainment.
From radio to feathers….a weak link I realise but hey. Feathers as on a majestic male golden eagle named Goldie who lived quite happily in London Zoo. Well, that is until he escaped while his cage was being cleaned, causing a nationwide sensation. After thirteen days of freedom he was recaptured but not before the British public followed his every move as he flew the skies above the city, resulting in far too many phone calls and letters to the zoo, and causing chaos in central London as crowds descended en mass and traffic stopped to watch as keepers attempted to catch the liberated bird having the time of his life. When his keepers failed, a television reporter on site attempted to catch Goldie by playing an Ethiopian bird pipe. It didn’t work. During his days of freedom, our feathered friend didn’t go hungry either as he despatched and enjoyed a meal of duck pinched from the garden of the official residence of The United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom, before spying a pair of terriers for desert in Regents Park. Goldie left empty beaked having been driven off by the dogs’ owner. Eventually though, the bird was recaptured when he couldn’t resist a dead rabbit being waved at him by his now desperate zoo keeper. None the worse for his adventure, Goldie was reunited with his partner, Regina. However, after a second taste of freedom during the following December, Goldie was re-homed in the Falconry Centre in Newent, where he died a year later.
Did anything historical happen this March I hear you whisper? Yes, particularly if you’re interested in space, that vast beyond above the sky. Aleksei Leonon became the first man to walk in space, while NASA launched Ranger 9, the last unmanned lunar space probe. Following this, the first American two-man spacecraft, Gemini 3, was launched on 23 March. The next day, transmission of television pictures from the moon were received as Ranger 9 impacted with the surface.
Drum roll coming up…. at last, the heart warming story of the Von Trapp family starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in the lead roles – The Sound Of Music. You probably don’t need me to tell you the film was adapted from the 1959 stage musical composed by Rodgers & Hammerstein, itself based on Maria Von Trapp’s autobiography The Story Of The Trapp Family Singers. Briefly, she wrote about a young Austrian girl studying to become a nun at a nearby convent in Saltzburg, who, in 1938 is sent to a villa of a retired naval officer and widower to be governess to his seven children. After bringing music and love into the lives of the family, the said young Austrian girl studying to be a nun, marries the officer and together with the children, finds a way to survive the loss of their homeland to the Nazis. It was a ‘marmite’ film: you loved it or hated it, with no in between. However, it was the ideal movie for family viewing.
I’m sure nobody could have foreseen how The Sound Of Music would grow legs to march triumphantly across the decades, with new generations lapping up the Von Trapp musical adventure – which had a happy ending by the way. It was at one time the highest grossing film of all time – surpassing Gone With The Wind. Even more staggering is, following its initial release and two successful re-releases, the film sold nearly 300 million cinema admissions worldwide, earning a mouth-watering total gross figure of around $286 million. Naturally, it won a whole bunch of industry awards including the American Library Of Congress selecting it for preservation in the National Film Registry because it was considered to be “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. When, in the more recent past, singalong films became an absolute cinema favourite, enabling members of the audience to join in by flexing their vocal chords, The Sound Of Music was the perfect vehicle with well known songs like “Edelweiss”, “Maria”, “Do-Re-Me”, So Long, Farewell” and “My Favourite Things”. Oh, and what about that fantastically outstanding “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” sung by Peggy Wood in her role as the Mother Abbess: by far the most powerful delivery in the entire film. Not only was The Sound Of Music a runaway hit as a singalong, but audiences took the adventure one step further by some dressing up as nuns, while others wore the obligatory lederhosen, Oktoberfest hats and wrapped up their bodies in brown wrapping paper (“brown paper packages tied up with string” from “My Favourite Things”) You get the idea.
The film’s soundtrack was one of the most successful ever, selling in excess of twenty million, although by now (2021) I’m guessing a few more copies will have been sold thanks to several re-issues including five anniversary editions on CD which, apparently, included music from the film which wouldn’t fit on the original 12″ vinyl disc. My curiosity got the better of me, so I’ve had a quick look at the figures for UK sales. Well, it really is quite mind-blowing as the album was the top selling item in 1965, 1966 and 1968; the second best selling title of the decade, spending a total seventy weeks at number one in the album chart. It passed platinum sales eight times, resulting in something like 2,400,000 units sold. Wow and double wow!
That’s it for now. As always thank you for joining me and hope to see you again next month. So, meantime, what better way to say goodbye than courtesy of the Von Trapp family – “So long. Farewell. Au ‘voire. Aufwiedersehen. I’d like to stay…..”