Category: Single of the week

(How much Is) That Doggie I The Window (Lita Roza)

For the last few years, one really great show on Radio Two is Don Black on Sunday nights. He took over from David Jacobs when David passed away in 2013 and continues to play what David called, “Our kind of music” but is mainly crooners, show tunes and lush ballads. No better man for the job as Don had written many of them and has met virtually every songwriter in the business. One of his regular features is, ‘And they also wrote this’ which showcases two entirely different songs written by the same person. I don’t believe he has yet featured a pairing by Bob Merrill who wrote beautiful songs like People for Barbra Streisand and also this week’s suggestion, (How much Is) That Doggie I The Window.

The song starting life in 1953 when there were numerous novelty songs around. Merrill, a diverse and talented songwriter, offered the song originally to Mindy Carson, a singer who, in the 1940s, was often heard singing on the radio. She turned the song down so it was then offered to Patti Page who recorded it complete with barks which according to the label were credited to Joe and Mac, but was actually her arranger and violinist, Joe Reisman. It was released on the Mercury label and topped the Billboard singles chart. Her version reached a respectable number nine in the UK but it could have been higher if Mercury had better distribution over here.

Many American hits around that time, and into the early sixties, were covered by British artists and this was no exception, it was offered to the Liverpool-born singer Lita Roza. Lita had made her name after answering an advert in the paper for ‘young’ dancers – she applied and got the job at the age of 12. Three years later she was working with the comedian Ted Ray and later with the orchestra leaders Harry Roy and Edmundo Ros. At the age of 18, she retired, married an American man and moved to Miami, Florida. The marriage didn’t last and she returned to the UK just after the War had ended and picked up where she left off. In 1950, she became the resident singer with the Ted Heath Orchestra.

Now, in 1953, Dick Rowe at Decca records, the man who famously turned down the Beatles, saw the potential of (How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window, and offered it to his newly signed singer, Lita Roza. When I interviewed Lita at her home in Wandsworth in 2004, she told me, “Dick Rowe asked me to sing Doggie in the Window and I said, ‘I’m not recording that, it’s rubbish.’ He said, ‘It’ll be a big hit, please do it, Lita.’ I said that I would sing it once and once only, and I would never sing it again, and I haven’t. The only time you’ll hear it is on that record.”

She was true to her word and even in 1953 when the song made number one she never sang it, but then again there wasn’t any music shows like Top of the Pops and Ready, Steady Go as they came later. When she was number one various people in the media tried to persuade her to sing it, she refused and in doing so she retained her integrity and it seemed to work as she won polls in both the Melody Maker and NME as the UK’s Favourite Female Vocalist.

In 1955, Lita had hits with two songs she liked, Hey There and Jimmy Unknown and then contributed A Tear Fell to the All Star Hit Parade, a charity single for The Lord’s Taverners Association, which made number two. The following year she married Ronnie Hughes, a trumpet player from Heath’s band and although their marriage did not last, their friendship has endured. She retired in the early eighties saying, “I spent 30 years on the road, sleeping in strange beds and now I have a nice home and I want to live in it. I keep reading about people making comebacks, but I have never wanted to do that. I like my life the way it is.”

The song was kept alive on children’s shows like Hello Children Everywhere which was presented by Uncle Mac and also on Junior Choice where is was regularly requested.

Merrill wrote over 20 hits in the UK mostly during the fifties and 15 of those made the top 10 including the number ones She Wears Red Feathers and Look At That Girl for Guy Mitchell and Mambo Italiano for Rosemary Clooney. Sadly, Merrill committed suicide in 1998 at the age of 76 and Mark Steyn, a columnist with Slate magazine (who?) unkindly branded him the worst songwriter of all time.

In 2001, a Liverpool music Wall of Fame was unveiled in, guess where? Yep, Liverpool and every Liverpool-related number one act were credited with each of their songs, so the Beatles got 17 mentions. Liza, as the first female chart-topper from the city, was asked to unveil it saying at the time, “I think my voice can be attributed to a good pair of lungs and the Liverpool air.” She also admitted, “I didn’t want to do these songs. I saw myself as a torch singer and I wanted to sing nice, sentimental songs.”

Doggie had another chance for a lease of life in 1973, but it didn’t happen. Robert Stigwood had just launched his RSO label and had already signed The Bee Gees and Eric Clapton, but as it wasn’t a great start. The label’s president, David English recalled, “Eric wasn’t well and the Bee Gees had sibling rivalry; so we had a massive big office in Brook Street with chandeliers, secretaries and marketing managers, but no product! The first thing I did was to release How Much Is That Doggie in the Window as Window in the Doggie (That Is Much How), because Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber came into the office and we recorded it and put it out as Rover, it sold eight copies and we sent every producer a dog bowl.

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Who Knows Where the Time Goes (Sandy Denny)

Artist’s signature songs will be one that is forever associated with that act and usually one they will start and/or end their live shows with. Moon River was Andy Williams’, Give Me the Moonlight was Frankie Vaughan’s, Ring of Fire was Johnny Cash’s, Happiness was Ken Dodd’s and this week’s suggestion, Who Knows Where the Time Goes, was Sandy Denny’s.

When it comes to surveys of top female voices of the 1960s, Dusty Springfield and Judith Durham will always be up there, but so too is Sandy Denny with her unforgettable breathy huskiness.

Denny was born Alexandra Elene MacLean Denny and raised in Wimbledon and it was her grandmother, Mary Smith MacLean, who became one of her greatest inspirations and the lady who insisted she be called Sandy which was the Scottish shortening of Alexandra. Mary was a ballad singer in her day and it is what inspired Sandy to become a singer.

Denny originally recorded the song she’d written as a demo in 1967, its original title being Ballad of Time. Before she got to record a ‘finished’ version, somehow Judy Collins got to hear it and decided to record it as the title track of her album in 1968. Denny’s early version featured the opening line, ‘Across the purple sky all the birds are leaving which, on later version became, ‘Across the evening sky all the birds are leaving’. Later in 1968, she was performing solo in the cellar of the Troubadour coffeehouse in London’s Earls Court generally singing Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan songs, but occasionally throwing in something she’s penned herself when she was spotted by Dave Cousins of the folk group The Strawberry Hill Boys. He was so impressed with her performance that he asked her to join his group. They later became the Strawbs and within two weeks they were off to Copenhagen to record the album which contained 12 tracks and was called All Our Own Work and credited to Sandy Denny & the Strawbs. It also included a new version of Who Knows Where the Time Goes which as Dave later revealed, “Sandy played on her own on the Strawbs’ version because she was playing in this guitar tuning that I didn’t think I could play!” That album was finally released in 1973.

The song is Denny’s observation on life opening with the birds leaving, but then wondering ‘but how can they know it’s time for them to go’, the second verse observes the same with people, ‘Sad deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving’ realising in the next line ‘Ah, but then you know it’s time for them to go’ and then reflecting on herself in the third verse, ‘And I am not alone while my love is near me, I know it will be so until it’s time to go’ all the time recognising how quickly time passes. Who Knows Where the Time Goes is now 52 years old and for those who heard it first time round will be thinking much the same, where, indeed, has the time gone?

Later in 1968, she was invited to join the folk-rock band Fairport Convention after they fired original singer Judy Dyble. Yet again, she re-recorded the song on their second album Unhalfbricking that featured some beautiful guitar playing by Richard Thompson. Simon Nicol, Fairport’s rhythm guitarist, said of her, “She stood out like a clean glass in a sink full of dirty dishes.” The album sleeve showed Denny’s parents standing outside the gates of their house in Wimbledon and the band lounging around in the garden. In 2007, the version that appeared on the Unhalfbricking version was voted Favourite Folk Track of all time by Radio Two listeners at the folk awards that year which was presented by Mike Harding.

It is generally accepted that the classic version is the one that appeared on Unhalfbricking and the one that is present on most compilations. In September 1973, she performed a live version for a John Peel Sound of the Seventies session on Radio 1 which was eventually released on a triple CD in 1997.

After leaving Fairport Convention, Denny formed a new band, Fotheringay – named after a Fairport track. The guitarist in the band was Australian-born Trevor Lucas whom Denny married in 1973. She was desperate to become a mother and so they had a daughter, Georgia Rose but their marriage only lasted five years. Her later years were traumatic and she turned to alcohol. Not long after the split from Lucas, Denny went to visit her parents who had now moved to Cornwall where after an alleged drinking session she fell down some stairs and hit her head on some concrete. The parents failed to seek medical attention but did alert Lucas who came and rescued their daughter with the intention of heading back to Australia with her. Denny returned to London and went to stay with her friend Miranda Ward. One day Ward found Denny collapsed at the flat and called an ambulance who took her to Atkinson Morley Hospital in London where she died four days later having never regained consciousness; she was just 31 and is buried at Putney Vale Cemetery and Crematorium.

In 1971, Denny was voted Best British Female Singer in Melody Maker and later the same year was invited by Robert Plant to sing on the Led Zeppelin track The Battle of Evermore. She was the only guest singer for the band.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes had been covered by numerous singers, both male and female including, Eva Cassidy, Lonnie Donegan, Nina Simone, Barbara Dickson, Nana Mouskouri, Susanna Hoffs (from the Bangles) and the country singer Charles Louvin. Various versions have cropped up in film and according to IMDB, Simone’s version can be heard in the 2002 film The Dancer Upstairs, The Fairport Convention version was used over the closing credits of the 2009 film Don’t Worry About Me and Judy Collins’ cover can be heard in both the 1968 film The Subject Was Roses and the 1999 film A Walk on the Moon.

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The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel)

This week’s choice is a song that took over 110 hours to write in two different studios and contained a ‘holding lyric’, which remained in as the hook, yet the writer thought he had failed as a songwriter.

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, both from Queens, New York, met in school in 1953 and began their partnership in 1957 under the pseudonym Tom & Jerry where they tried to imitate their idols, the Everly Brothers on their debut song Hey Schoolgirl. In 1963, they signed a contract with Columbia records now as Simon and Garfunkel. Their debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. wasn’t well received and didn’t sell well so they called it a day.

Paul went to England, took up residence in Brentwood, Essex and embarked on a solo career. He was doing a show in the north of England one night and whilst waiting to catch a train back to Essex he began writing the opening line of Homeward Bound. For years, rumour had it that it was on Wigan railway station and then all of a sudden it was Widnes station, however, in an interview with Songtalk magazine in 1990 he said, “That was written in Liverpool when I was travelling. What I like about that is that it has a very clear memory of Liverpool station and the streets of Liverpool and the club I played at and me at age 22.” Either way, I always wonder if his ‘ticket for his destination’ was really Essex or New York.

In 1965, Paul revisited The Sound Of Silence, a track on the debut album and producer Tom Wilson added some drums and an electric guitar, submitted it to the record company and next thing he knew it was number one on Billboard in America. Paul returned to the States and reunited with Art and the pair continued their career.

In an interview with Playboy magazine, Paul said, “For the first few years, it was just pure praise. It took two or three years for people to realise that we weren’t strange creatures that emerged from England but just two guys from Queens who used to sing rock ‘n’ roll.” He responded to the critics who were writing quite harshly about his music with The Boxer. A seemingly autobiographical tale of someone struggling to pick themselves up. “I think the song was about me,” he revealed, “everybody’s beating me up, and I’m telling you now I’m going to go away if you don’t stop.”

When Paul was on the road and often staying in hotels he would occasionally read the Bible as there is one in every hotel! He found inspiration especially in the lines Workman’s wages and Seeking out the poorer quarters which came from Passages.

With the press constantly haranguing him and his music he wanted to fight back, in this case Paul is the boxer but it’s a metaphor as he claims to ‘remember every glove’ (critic) ‘that laid him down or cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame I am leaving, I am leaving but the fighter still remains.’ The last three words really saying he will not give up but will persevere.

The second verse, ‘When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy, in the company of strangers, in the quiet of the railway station’ – talking about leaving New York, heading to England and sitting on the platform at Liverpool Station or wherever it was.

Then comes the bit where Paul later thought he was a failure in writing. The hook, ‘Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie

Lie la lie’ was originally meant to be a ‘holding lyric’ as Paul couldn’t find the right words. Songwriters often use what is also known as a ‘placeholder’ until they find the right lyric. Another good example of this is the 26-times repeated ‘I know’ from Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine which was kept in because it worked. Paul explained how he felt in an interview with SongTalk magazine in 1990, “I thought that ‘lie la lie was a failure of song writing. I didn’t have any words! Then people said it was ‘lie’ but I didn’t really mean that. That it was a lie. But, it’s not a failure of song writing, because people like that and they put enough meaning into it, and the rest of the song has enough power and emotion, I guess, to make it go, so it’s all right. But for me, every time I sing that part, I’m a little embarrassed.” He did later relent and agree that it gave the song more of an international appeal, as it was universal.

The song was recorded at Columbia Records studios in both Nashville and New York City. The chorus part was recorded at St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University in New York which had a tiled roof that provided perfect acoustics. The drummer on the track was the legendary Hal Blaine who, on producer Roy Halee’s advice, set his drum kit up in front of the lift, or elevator as they call it, in the Columbia office. In the 2011 documentary, The Making of Bridge Over Troubled Water, Blaine said he would pound the drums at the end of the ‘Lie la lie’ vocals that were playing in his headphones, and at one point, an elderly security guard got a big surprise when he came out of the lift and was startled by Blaine’s thunderous drums. That’s the only drum bit on the track. Blaine recalled, “Roy had me come down on my snare drum as hard as I could. In that hallway, right next to this open elevator shaft, it sounded like a cannon shot! Which was just the kind of sound we were after.”

Roy also decided that the standard eight track recorder wasn’t enough to get the big sound he was looking for, so he called the boss, Clive Davis, to the studio and explained that to get the sound they needed a 16-track machine was required, so Davis immediately agreed.

The Boxer was released in 1969 and went to number seven in the US and one place higher in the UK. It’s become a classic and Art said of it, “We were tapping into something that went way back for us, I had a particular feel that I could do really well, and match Paul and make the whole thing ripple and articulate it just right.”

The song weighs in at just over five minutes and fortunately wasn’t edited, there was, however, an additional verse which Paul wrote but is not on the single nor the album version, but is included at the live shows, the lyrics being, ‘Now the years are rolling by me they are rocking evenly, I am older than I once was and younger than I’ll be. But that’s not unusual no, it isn’t strange, after changes upon changes we are more or less the same, after changes we are more or less the same.’

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Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me) (Reunion)

When it comes to ‘list’ songs there are not many that will readily spring to mind, We didn’t Start The Fire, My Favourite Things and Reasons To Be Cheerful (part 3) would be three and if you want a more specific list, like record labels, have a listen to I’m In Love With A Girl On A Certain Manchester Megastore Checkout Desk by The Freshies as it lists 35 different labels. This week’s suggestion lists over double that number and includes acts, producers, backing singers and record labels as well as dance crazes.

It has been suggested that given the machine gun delivery of the lyrics, it could be classed as the first ever rap record, this came out in 1974 but I would argue that Here Comes The Judge by Pigmeat Markham qualifies as the first and that came out in 1968.

Reunion was formed in New York by songwriters Norman Dolph and Paul DiFranco. The group also included Mark Bellack who co-produced their only hit. They released their first single in 1972 – a cover of Smile (Theme from Modern Times) which was credited with the misspelt Charles Chaplan but it went nowhere. Two years later, they recorded a demo of Life Is A Rock but it was a bit flat and lacking something. They called in a man who was big on the bubblegum scene having been the lead singer on Yummy Yummy Yummy by the Ohio Express as well as being a big jingle writer for television commercials, his name was Joey Levine. One of his best remember tracks in America was ‘Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut’ for Mounds and Almond Joy chocolate bars but he also provided musical accompaniment for various beverages; Pepsi – The Joy of Cola, Just For the Taste of It – Diet Coke and You Make the World Taste Better – Dr Pepper. “That’s how I got into the business I’m in now,” Levine explained, “because people told me the stuff I wrote sounded like commercials.”

When Joey Levine first heard the demo of Life Is A Rock he was keen, “I loved it, thought it was great,” he said, “But I told ’em that the record they cut was really missing the mark. I’d love to just spruce it up.” They went into the Hit Factory studio in New York and Levine took lead vocals to praise many artists, but a chorus is key too as it praises how great radio is (or was then) with the lines, ‘Life is a rock but the radio rolled me, gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me and FM, AM, hits are clickin’ while the clock is tock-a-tickin”. DiFranco said in an interview with Rolling Stone, “We’re in the business to make happy, funny records, and I think right now it’s important for music to stay happy.”  DiFranco told Billboard magazine, “The machine-gun vocal delivery is a result of no rehearsing whatsoever. The key was to read the lines rapidly and not to memorize them at all.”

Reunion were only meant to be a short-lived novelty act, but following the success of the single, which reached number eight in America but only number 33 in the UK, RCA records wanted them to record an album and tour, but Levine refused explaining that the costs involved would hinder any royalties from the single and said of it, “I figured it was just a novelty idea.”

Apart from the 45 acts and 30 songs namechecked, it mentioned the record labels Kama Sutra, CBS, Warner Brothers and RCA, the dance crazes the fish and the swim and the instruments slide guitar and Fender bass and the accessory, the wah-wah pedal.

Tracey Ullman covered the track on her 1984 album, You Broke My Heart in 17 Places and four years later, the burger chain McDonalds ‘borrowed’ the track for their newly launched menu where instead of listing people it listed menu items.

Levine currently owns Crushing Music which he co-founded back in the 80s and with their tag line ‘Through great talent, we write and produce great custom music.’ Norman Dolph, although still in the music business as a Writer Member of ASCAP, turned to painting in the early 90s published a book called Stations – Paintings and Poems of Spiritual Journey.

Since the early 2000s, DiFranco has also been a music supervisor for Universal Studios and Sony Pictures and has worked on films like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Highlander: The Final Dimension, two of the American Pie films and The Little Rascals. As a music supervisor and producer, he’s worked on more than 300 feature films and 200 television episodes.

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Sign Your Name (Terence Trent D’Arby)

It still amazes me how someone comes onto the music scene, releases a handful of fantastic well-received singles as well as a multi-million selling album and then within a few years seemingly completely disappears. That was the case with this week’s artist. He believed there just wasn’t enough room for another black superstar operating in the realm of poppy, soulful R&B, especially one as resistant to racial narrowcasting. He said, “It was a limited plinth and either me, Prince or Michael Jackson had to vacate. Ironically, the other two did vacate, far too early.

He was born Terence Trent Howard in New York in March 1962, he took his stepfather’s surname Darby and added the apostrophe for fashion purposes. He trained as a boxer in Orlando and won the Florida Golden Gloves lightweight championship but declined an invitation to join a boxing school in the US Army instead deciding to attend college. He did later enrol in the Army and, like Elvis, was posted to Germany. That is where he got his break in music when he joined a band called The Touch and released one album called Love On Time.

In 1987, he recorded the album Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby which was co-produced by Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware and his band mate Glenn Gregory contributed backing vocals. With the exception of a cover of the Miracles track, Who’s Lovin’ You, D’Arby wrote all the tracks. Four singles were lifted from it, If You Let Me Stay made number seven, Wishing Well fared better at number four, Dance Little Sister stalled at number 20 and then Sign your Name went to number two.

Sign your Name, has one thing in common with Yesterday, Purple Haze, Every Breath you Take and (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, among others and that is they all began in the songwriter’s dream. He explained to the Songwriting team how it came about, “While living in Frankfurt, I’d seen Live Aid on television and was absolutely captivated by Sade’s performance, but most especially by Is It a Crime. Being, like most sensible fools, in love with her, I dreamed the next night that she had asked me to write her a song. Within a few days, I woke up with the song that I then translated on my little Casio keyboard and my 808 drum machine. That song was Sign your Name and if you listen to it, it sound very much inspired by her music.”

Sheryl Crow made an interesting cover in 2010 and appeared on her album 100 Miles from Memphis album. Her version is even more soulful and features Justin Timberlake on backing vocals. She explained, in a Billboard magazine interview, “Justin happened to be at Henson Studios producing Jamie Foxx, and he was in the hallway. I’ve always liked him. I played the song for him, and when it got to the chorus he’s like, ‘Who’s doing the backgrounds?’ I said ‘We haven’t done them yet,’ and he said, ‘I got it.’ It was all very organic and, man, perfect. People have no idea how talented this guy is.”

Terence had five further top 20 hits between 1993 and 1995 including Do You Love Me Like You Say?, the beautiful with Des’ree called Delicate, which he also dreamed that Sade had asked him to write, She kissed Me and Let Her Down Easy. His last hit was the bizarrely titled Vibrator which stalled at number 57, and then he had a crisis.

He had a nervous breakdown that, in-turn, instigated an identity change and began living as a recluse. In 2001, he legally changed his name to Sananda Maitreya and has nothing to do with D’Arby. When talking about it he refers to Terence Trent D’Arby as ‘he’ rather than ‘I’. He said at the time, “Terence Trent D’Arby was dead… he watched his suffering as he died a noble death. After intense pain I meditated for a new spirit, a new will, a new identity.” In another interview he stated, “I was always Sananda Maitreya and he (D’Arby) was assigned the role of this other form, which he performed until they pulled the plug on him. People ask ‘Why did you change your name?’ When you have a psyche that’s no longer functional, you petition another psyche. You either die – you kill yourself – or you think: ‘No, I’ve got more to do.'”

He moved to Milan where he lived with his Italian wife, Francesca Francone, who is an architect and former television presenter, they also have two sons.

Years after his Army service, he still battles post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and explained his absence from the public eye, “I guess I stayed away because I didn’t want to face it. The PTSD can strike at any time and you have to deal with it. I can’t blame drugs, I can’t blame alcohol. The dude didn’t just change his name to be clever.

Since 2002, he had continued to make music as Sananda Maitreya and has continued to release albums every couple of years through his own website and various other digital platforms. He does give good value for money, his 2013 album, Return to Zooathalon had 22 tracks on it, the follow-up, The Rise Of The Zugebrian Time Lords had 27 and his last album, Prometheus & Pandora in 2017 was a three-CD set with a whopping 53 tracks.

He occasionally tours but mostly in Italy and he’s currently in the middle of his Fallen Angel 2019 tour.

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Charlton Heston (Stump)

Bananrama, The Gorillaz, Ash, Mika, Haysi Fantayzee and Sheryl Crow, to name a few all, did it. What? Had a hit single with an actor in the title. There are many more and some are better known than others. This week’s suggestion is one I don’t  ever remember hearing on the radio, but I have played it in my quizzes especially in a cricket connection as well as an actor’s theme. It’s Charlton Heston by Stump.

From The Stump Story, bass player Kev Hopper describes how the band got together, “In 1982 I met guitarist Chris Salmon in Whitstable during a summer holiday. He had a very distinctive style and I was fascinated with his playing – so we made a vague arrangement to get together in the future after we had finished our Art degrees at Coventry and Canterbury. I originally had in mind a band that would play a cross between Suction Prints by Captain Beefheart and DMZ by Brand X – splintered structures and dissonant harmonics – combined with a post-punk flavour a singer might bring. Anyway, as planned, Chris and I settled down to play together in London around ’84… and the music began to go its own way, quite naturally. We had no luck finding a singer after advertising in Melody Maker, but an Irish drummer, Rob McKahey turned up. He was an obvious first choice right from the start: his flamboyant, tumbling drum style was only matched by his astonishing facility for self-promotion and bullshit. He liked our music and tackled it with great confidence… and that gave us all confidence. As it happened, Rob had recently moved from Cork and knew a community of Irish musicians who had settled in London – including members of bands such as Five Go Down To The Sea and Microdisney. Among them was a Brixton squatter called Mick Lynch (another ex-member of Microdisney). Rob thought he might fit in and invited him down to our rehearsal basement on the Old Kent Road to see what would happen. Before he had sung a word, Chris and I were immediately taken with his appearance – tall and thin with a Tin Tin quiff.”

Mick’s frontman image became popular with the music press and they indeed graced the cover of both NME and Melody Maker. They were classed as an indie band because their riffs and lyrics had a pop element gained them exposure on Channel 4’s The Tube.

In my exclusive interview with Chris Salmon, he explained how Charlton Heston came about, “We wrote this out in Berlin in Hansa Studios during the protracted recording of (their only album) A Fierce Pancake. It was a spontaneous thing and a bit of a joke at the time. Initially just a one-verse song to be maybe added on the B-side of the album with some other little snippets in a similar vein to the flip side of Abbey Road which I think certainly would have worked if we’d gone with that concept.”

During the recording Kev had disappeared off on his own with his new toy, he gave me this as a tape and I disappeared off and very quickly wrote the guitar riff as a sort of country and western piss-take. Only took about half an hour I think. Then we forgot about it, just assuming it would be used as part of the album somehow. Sometime later we were coming down to breakfast in Hansa studios and Mick was pulling his t-shirt on over his head as he was sitting down and quipped ‘Charlton Heston put his vest on’ and everybody said ‘remember that!’ As far as I remember he wrote a verse at the time on that theme and it became a one-verse song to go with the instrumental and Boggy Home as the album’s outro.”

The making of the A Fierce Pancake album, a title named after a term meaning deep conundrum in a 1939/1940 novel called The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien, was difficult. Numerous people were involved, “It involved several producers,” Chris continued, “we ended up with John Robey trying to sort out the tapes in London. He said ‘that sounds like a hit to me’ when he heard Charlton Heston so he asked Mick to write a few more verses and we made it into a song. I think the bass was actually a keyboard and Rob added bodhran (an Irish drum). It was put out as a single and we did a video with Tim Pope involving 1000 frogs as extras.”

They toured extensively and as Hopper explained, “We began playing our first gigs and Mick emerged as a terrific front man – even people who didn’t like the music were entertained watching his performance and laughing at his Flann O’Brien- inspired patois between the songs. He would play-act and gyrate his gangly form in a comic manner. He extended the appeal of the band immensely: without him, we would have been doomed to art-band status – and that was something we were consciously trying to avoid at the time. A highly sociable, mainly Irish audience spread the word fast and it didn’t take long before we began packing out all the venues and becoming one of the hottest live acts on the London Indie scene.”

Charlton Heston peaked at number 72 on the UK chart, it didn’t help that, “John Peel hated it”, Chris admitted. The follow-up single, Buffalo failed to chart and thus, Stump’s fame was short-lived. “We split up because of boredom,” Chris explained, “The second album took nine months to record and strangely enough the record company didn’t tell us to stop. I went back to a nine to five job which was a shock to the system. I did a bit of paper collecting for Friends Of The Earth which was one of the worst jobs I ever had, I was a glorified dustman.” Since 1994, he has been a visual artist and is an Associate Member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) and the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers. His work can be seen at http://chrissalmonart.co.uk/

As for the other members, Kev Hopper continued making music and has recorded material as Spoombung and more recently as a member of the band Prescott alongside Rhodri Marsden, Keith Moline and Frank Byng. Rob McKahey moved back to Cork and is still a musician, but sadly, Mick died of cancer in December 2015, he was just 56. He wrote in both Irish and English for Cork’s Dowtcha Puppet theatre. “Mick was a star, an enigma, one in a million,” Rob McKahey said to the Irish Times. “He’d come in for rehearsals and read out the lyrics he’d written to one of our crazy tunes and we’d all just be in awe.”

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