I had a birthday this week and it got me thinking about those birthday cards and “gift ideas” that feature the song that was at the top of the charts on the day you were born. It turns out, that for me, it would have been the Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown” which I do know but have no emotional attachment to at all. Although it is quite interesting to have a newspaper from the year of your birth (gives a good snapshot of what life was like back then), a record is a bit pointless. Although you will have heard it on the radio over the years, it won’t be one of the “tracks of your years” as you were just far too busy being a baby, all your energy going into crying for most of the night and putting on a few pounds a week. As for your parents, it probably won’t even be one of the tracks of their years as suddenly all their time, money and energy is going into the welfare of aforementioned baby – you!
Looking back at the charts of 1960 therefore is a bit of a historical exercise as apposed to a trip down memory lane but one which I have put a bit of effort into this week. I have written about this before, but it turns out that women, on the whole, were not very well represented in terms of record sales until much later. In the sample charts I looked at, we just had Connie Francis, Brenda Lee and Shirley Bassey (only British female in there so well done her). As for male solo artists there were loads of them, namely – Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochrane, Cliff Richard, Billy Fury, Adam Faith, Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison, Johnny Preston, Rolf Harris, Max Bygraves, Anthony Newley, Lonnie Donegan and many more. As for groups, the era of The Beatles hadn’t really got started yet so we only had duos such as The Everly Brothers and backing groups turned frontmen (performing mainly instrumentals) such as The Shadows.
I have deliberately included the pictures above in black and white because that is how most of these artists would have been viewed if watched on television at the time. It always seems such a shame, that when looking back to those days, the world (or certainly the UK which didn’t have Hollywood) seemed a much greyer place. Of course it wasn’t, it’s simply that most of it was recorded in black and white, but difficult for those of us not born until later to see how exciting life must have been. The 1950s had started with rationing and the continued deprivations of the war years but by 1960 things were a whole lot better. There was pretty much full-employment and the consumer society had begun in earnest with young people buying clothes, records and hanging out in Coffee Bars.
The artist I’m going to write about started out playing in the The 2i’s Coffee Bar. Liverpool had The Cavern Club but London’s Soho had the 2i’s. Many artists from that rock’n’roll/skifle/rockabilly era started out there, including Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele but the one I’m going to feature is Adam Faith as he continued to pop up in other guises throughout my life.
In 1960 Adam Faith reached No. 1 in the charts with Someone Else’s Baby. He was the first artist to have his first seven singles reach the Top 5 and had I been born in the late ’40s he would certainly have been my teenage crush. He didn’t have the strongest singing voice and he had the malnourished look of someone born during the era of rationing but those short snappy songs, inspired by the pizzicato arrangements (no, I hadn’t heard of that term before either) made popular by Buddy Holly, made him one of Britain’s first “pop stars”. He was known for his hiccupping glottal stops and his pronunciation of the word ‘baby’ as ‘bay-beh’. My dad’s boss at the time (a bit of a father figure to many of the young lads in his employ) blamed him single-handedly for the sloppy way of speaking they had started to adopt in those days. He used Adam as an example of everything that was wrong with society – Harsh really, but my dad always reminisced about these rants when he appeared on television over the years.
Adam himself had actually started out as an actor and during the early 60s appeared in several films. In the long school summer holidays of the early 70s, these old black and white movies starring the “pop stars” of the day were often shown. I clearly remember watching the comedy What a Whopper with my cousins one rainy summer morning, when going outside to play was not an option. As well as Adam, the cast included all the usual stalwarts of British comedy – Wilfrid Brambell, Sid James, Charles Hawtrey and Terry Scott. I must have enjoyed it as I went on to watch the rest of the films in the season starring Billy Fury, Cliff Richard and others.
At around this time, in 1971, Adam himself had left the music industry behind and was starring as the eponymous hero in the ITV drama Budgie. I would be lying if I said I remember watching this show at the time as for some reason our television set was permanently tuned to the BBC but it was also on quite late so I was probably deemed too young to watch it anyway. It definitely was a popular show however and I have since watched reruns showcasing the hairbrained schemes Budgie got into with his boss Charlie Endall.
Later on the 70s, when I was having a full-blown teenage crush on the all-round star of stage, screen and pop music that was David Essex, I went into the big city with my friends to watch the film Stardust. It starred David Essex as Jim MacLaine who with the help of his manager Mike (played by Adam Faith), soon becomes a massive star. The film documents the detrimental effects of success on MacLaine and how his relationship with manager Mike becomes soured by money and success. Adam was actually nominated for a BAFTA for his performance in the film although I was probably too preoccupied with watching David Essex at the time to notice how well he executed his craft.
Somewhat bizarrely, in the 1980s Adam became a bit of a financial guru and had a column in the national press. This was the era of the yuppy and tales of obscene money-making (and spending) by London’s young stockbrokers, but all good things come to an end, and Adam ended up being declared bankrupt in later life so I’m glad now I didn’t take too much heed of his money advice back then.
His last foray into the world of popular television entertainment was when he starred with Zoë Wanamaker in the BBC comedy-drama, Love Hurts. It came about in 1992 just after I’d got married and had moved into a new house. With hefty mortgage repayments a new reality, Fridays nights were no longer spent out on the town, so instead, we settled down to watch the sparring between Frank and Tessa in Love Hurts – Our favourite show of the week. Adam was now 52 but still a very good-looking man so although I had been too young to appreciate him at the height of pop-idol success in the early ’60s, I clearly remember appreciating him as one of the most attractive actors around in the early ’90s.
Sadly Adam died young of a heart attack in 2003 aged only 62 but what a career he’d had. I will leave you with another song of his from 1960 – An era that forms a gap in the annals of my musical memories but worth revisiting every now and again just to remind ourselves what our parents were missing when they were busy “bringing up baby”.
Someone Else’s Baby Lyrics
(Song by Perry Ford/Les Vandyke)
Someone else’s baby
Someone else’s eyes are blue
Someone else’s baby
Someone else’s five-foot-two
Oh, who’s got a hold up
Nine carat gold love
I wonder who’s in the loveseat
Who’s got a heartbeat, like thunder
If I acted bad
I could steal his fairy queen
I know he’ll be mad
But I can’t resist the thought of being kissed
By someone else’s baby
Someone else’s special date
Someone else’s baby
Someone else is kinda late
He’d better mind out
She’s gonna find out I love her
This little fellah is gonna tell her
That someone else is me
I was in two minds about sharing this clip as much of it seems shockingly sexist to our 21st century sensibilities but it shows the scene with the title track to the film What a Whopper sung by Adam Faith. Glad these films are still available however as no better way of looking back at the social history of a nation, than by going through their movie archives. Enjoy.