When I was eleven or twelve years old, I wanted to be Billy Fury. He could sing, he was handsome, he made the girls scream.
It was a very competitive field, British male soloists back then. Let’s be honest, everyone wanted to be the British Elvis. There’s no doubt that the top dog was Cliff Richard of course: but your Nan liked Cliff (and he’d probably take her on holiday on a big red London bus – whether she liked it or not). Cliff was safe.
Billy, though, had the Elvis looks – including a matchless quiff that I could only eny – and the moves, which got him into trouble with TV producers sometimes. And he was from Liverpool – one of our own. He was already well-established before I became aware of him; I have a clear memory of seeing him on ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ – an early Saturday evening pop porogramme that went out on ITV in the in the early to mid-sixties. He was singing a song called ‘Bumble Bee’, which was an album track from 1963.
However, I think this song by Goffin and King gives a far better idea of what Billy was about. This version reached No 3 in the UK charts in 1961 and could reasonably be described as his ‘breakthrough’ release.
On a standalone basis it’s a great performance of a great song but it also has another, more personal, resonance for me. It was running through my head almost constantly during the period between my favourite epiphany and my actually becoming the future Madame’s chosen one.
Picture this: a Friday night in 1972 at the Rainbow Theatre in north London. The lights go down and then come up as a gang of scruffy ne’er-do-wells stumble onto the stage. One of them starts kicking footballs out into the audience. “Right”, he says, “No-one’s going to work tomorrer, so we can all ‘ave a good time tonight”. Welcome to the good times, pub-rock writ large, sound of Rod Stewart and The Faces. They were brilliant.
No Music Lexicon of mine would or could be complete without a more than honourable mention for Madame’s favourite, Rod Stewart. However, I have other plans for the letter S, so as my personal preference is for Rod during his time in the early seventies with The Faces I’ve chosen something from that era as an illustration.