Category: Single of the week

Louie Louie (The Kingsmen)

Three months ago, I was asked to write the story behind Chicory Tip’s 1972 chart-topper Son of my Father and I noted how hard it was to understand some of the lyrics well, this week there’s another one from nine years previous. It’s the Kingsmen’s cover of Louie Louie. The original seemed harmless enough even though it never saw the light of day in the UK, but the hard-to-understand lyrics maybe have been masking a song with filthy lyrics. The New Yorker newspaper’s headline asked ‘Is This the Dirtiest Song of the Sixties?’ It was deemed so offensive that the F.B.I. launched an 18-month investigation to prove the point. Blimey, they’d have a field day now. Anyway, were they really that bad? Let us find out.

The song began life in 1956 when the Louisiana-born African-American musician Richard Berry wrote the song. Berry was originally a doo-wop singer and had sung with many of the local doo-wop groups of the time including the Whips, the Chimes, the Crowns and more famously, the Penguins. Richard then formed his own group called The Pharaohs and, in 1957, recorded his song for the Flip record label. He once admitted that for the intro he had been heavy inspired by a song called El Loco Cha Cha as recorded by The Rhythm Rockers whom Berry had once also sang with. The song was made famous in the States by the band leader René Touzet. Touzet had recorded it on his album Broadway To Havana and, oddly, the composer credit is Rosendo Ruiz Jr.

Not all of Berry’s lyrics are his own either; according to the Flemish writer Arnold Reypens on his Originals website, Berry admits lyrical influence from One for My Baby (And One More for The Road) first recorded by Fred Astaire in 1943 for the film The Sky’s the Limit, the 1946 song Run Joe by Louis Jordan and also the 1956 song Havana Moon by Chuck Berry. All these combinations gave us Louie Louie.

Chuck Berry sings ‘Me all alone with jug of rum, me stand and wait for boat to come’ whilst Berry sings, ‘Fine little girl she wait for me, me catch the ship for cross the sea. Louie Jordan’s song starts with Loey, Loey which is what influenced the riff and title. Berry later sings, ‘Me see Jamaica moon above’ which, in its patois, was influenced by Nat King Cole in his 1949 song Calypso Blues.

Before the Kingsmen recorded it, there was a version by the Seattle rock group Rockin’ Robin Roberts & The Wailers in 1961 then two years later, The Surfaris and Paul Revere & The Raiders laid down their versions, but it was the Kingsmen who flew with it reaching number two in the States and very popular on Pirate radio suggesting it should have done better than its number 26 peak.

The Kingsmen hail from Portland, Oregon. They formed in 1957 when drummer Lynn Easton asked singer Jack Ely to join him at a gig. The pair performed at a few functions then decided to form a proper band where they added guitarist Mike Mitchell, bass player Bob Nordby and keyboard player Don Gallucci. After the initial success of Louie Louie, Easton took over as lead singer on all further songs.

The general story of the song from Berry’s clear vocals tells the story of a man who spends three days at sea journeying to Jamaica to see his girl. He sings, ‘It won’t be long, me see my love, me take her in my arms and then I tell her I-I never leave again’. But the Kingsmen’s version is far more indecipherable thus indicating something clandestine. When Ely was asked about this he denied that he’d sung anything untoward adding that he sung far away from the microphone, which caused the fuzzy sound, and that the notoriety was initiated by the record company. On a personal note, if I had been asked to comment at the time, I probably would have said he sounded like he’d had one pint too many, but that’s all. It transpired that the microphone used in the studio was one that hung from the ceiling and really was too high to pick up a clear sound. Also, the musicians were in close proximity and playing loudly which also obscured the vocal sound.

The F.B.I. were not convinced. It was the governor of Indiana, Matthew Welsh, who seemed to instigate the investigation by calling the song ‘pornographic’ and advised all official broadcasters across his state to ban it. The F.B.I. launched the investigation by asking numerous technically-minded people across many States to see what they could come up with. These people listened to song forward, backwards, sped up, slowed down, you name it but nothing was conclusive. The Federal Communications Commission of the United States of America got involved and eventually concluded the it was all a prank by a college student who had written or sung some obscene lyrics to the song but were never published. Their statement said; “For approximately two years her company (The F.B.I.) has been receiving unfounded complaints concerning the recording of Louie Louie. She advised that to the best of her knowledge, the trouble was started by an unidentified college student, who made up a series of obscene verses for Louie Louie and then sold them to fellow students. It is her opinion that a person can take any 45 RPM recording and reduce its speed to 33 RPM and imagine obscene words, depending upon the imagination of the listener.”

The song cost just $50 to record, but how much the F.B.I. spent on trying to find something that wasn’t there is unknown. After Ely left the band, Easton would mime to Ely’s lyrics. Ely, however, later tried to capitalise on his 15 minutes of fame by sticking to a winning formula and recording similar sounding songs like Louie Louie 66 and Louie Go Home, but that winning formula failed him this time.

Many have covered the song including the Rockin’ Berries, The Kinks, Toots & the Maytals, the Fat Boys, the Pretenders, Ike and Tina Turner and Otis Redding. There was version my Motorhead which scaled the heights of number 75 in 1978, but the biggest UK hit was in 1999 when The Three Amigos took a dance version to number 15.

Jack Ely, who turned to religion and also became a Christian Scientist, died in 2015 at the age of 71, the cause is not officially known, but his son, Sean Ely, said he believed his father suffered from skin cancer. Richard Berry died of heart failure in 1997 at the age of 61 and Mike Mitchell passed away on April 16 this year. If you’re wondering how rich he was with all manner of people recording his song, the answer is, he wasn’t. In 1959, he sold the rights to four of his songs, including Louie Louie, to the owner of Flip records for the measly sum of $750. His reason was that he wanted to buy an engagement ring for his future wife.

The Power (Snap!)

This week’s suggestion, which came from Marsha, began as a simple question about the song’s spoken foreign language intro and where it came from. After replying on email, Marsha came back with thank you and then a further couple of questions about samples, so I suggested making it into a Single of the Week, and she agreed, so, Marsha, here is the story behind Snap!’s The Power.

Just six months after Loleatta Holloway threatened Black Box with legal action for stealing her vocals for Ride on Time along came Snap! who tried to get away with the same trick. They were formed in Pennsylvania by two German producers, Michael Munzing and Luca Anzilotti who wrote and recorded under the pseudonyms Benito Benites and John ‘Virgo’ Garrett III. They recruited rapper Turbo B and his cousin, singer Jackie Arlissa Harris. Turbo was born Durron Butler, but his friends nicknamed him Turbo because of his resemblance to the character Turbo in his favourite film Break In. They moved back to Germany and assembled a 12-inch track for Germany’s Logic Records, called The Power.

Radio stations now very often cut out the spoken intro, but back when it was in the chart the track was played in full and opened with the Russian spoken word ‘Американская фирма Transceptor Technologies приступила к производству компьютеров «Персональный спутник»’ Now, if you don’t read or speak Russian, you will have trouble understanding that, so a slightly easier translation would be ‘Amerikanskaya firma Transceptor Technologies pristupila k proizvodstvu komp’yuterov Personal’ny sputnik’ – that, in proper English means, ‘American company Tranceptor Technology started producing personal companion computers’. If you’re thinking, surely sputnik is more akin to a satellite than computers you’re quite right; the computer company in question did, in 1990, launch a hand-held device which they actually called ‘Personal satellite’ and was made for visually impaired people to be able to effectively read a newspaper because it had the capability of downloading articles from the newspaper USA Today which was the first national daily in the States. The actual technology side of it was devised by a company called Transceptor Technologies who were based in Ann Arbor in Michigan.

The song’s most memorable bit was the song’s hook line, ‘I’ve Got the Power’ which wasn’t original either. That was lifted from Jocelyn Brown’s Love’s Gonna Get You which was a very minor UK hit in 1986. The title of that song and the following line, ‘I’m gonna get you yes I am’ became the basis for Bizarre Inc featuring Angie Brown’s 1992 hit I’m Gonna Get You. The repeated line that follow’s the title throughout the song is ‘He’s gonna break my heart’ which is another lift, this time from a track called Some Love which appeared on Chaka Khan’s 1978 album Chaka.

The song’s main electronic sound that runs throughout and first appeared after the first, ‘I’ve got the power’ line is an interpolation of King of the Beats by Mantronix which was released in 1988. The fourth and final sample is the rap which ‘borrows’ from a track called Let the Words Flow by Chill Rob G. What permissions were granted for each of these is unclear, but Rob G knew his song had potential and rather than instigate legal proceedings, he re-recorded his song under the pseudonym Power Jam featuring Chill Rob B and borrowed bits from Snap!’s version. Jocelyn was not best pleased and won her case in court to get the credit she deserved. “I respect the fact that folks appreciate what we do and want to use it to collaborate,” Brown stated in an interview with Billboard magazine, “I just think they need to do the right things first. I wouldn’t have minded if they’d asked first.”

Once all the samples had been decided on and recorded, they need a female vocal so they approached Chaka Khan who flatly refused but did suggest one of her backing singers, Penny Ford. Ford agreed to it and after arriving in Germany, spent a couple of days recording various vocals but not really knowing what the producers wanted. She recalled in an interview with Songfacts, “It was more or less them picking me up by the scruff of my neck like a pit bull and throwing me in the booth with a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of champagne and turning the mic on. That’s how it happened. I just sang the first thing that came off the top of my head, because I didn’t understand that music, and I didn’t think I’d ever have to hear it again.” Ford, who was also was also the lead singer for the girl group Klymaxx, also recorded solo under the amended name Pennye Ford and had one hit in 1985 with a cover of Aretha Franklin’s Daydreaming.

As is often the case with sampling, the subject of money is often a problem because everyone wants a slice of the cake. It transpires that Rob G, for all his efforts, didn’t get paid a penny and nor did Jocelyn Brown because she didn’t write the one line she sung. The track Love’s Gonna Get You was solely written by Antoinette Colandero but as to whether he received any money is also unclear. As for Penny Ford, she did ok because her family history helped; her father was Gene Redd was an executive producer at King Records who had signed James Brown in his early days and has produced some early Brown tracks. Her brother, Gene Redd Jr produced many of Kool & the Gang’s early 70s tracks and her half-sister was the singer Sharon Redd whose best remembered hit was the 1981 hit Can You Handle It and sadly died from pneumonia in January 1992. Besides all that, she was an attractive lady and Snap! needed someone to front the group for live appearances.

Snap! followed The Power with the Top 10 hits Ooops Up, Cult of Snap, Mary Had A Little Boy and a mega-mix of their first four hits. The album World Power also made the Top 10. The Power was re-recorded in 1996 under the title The Power ’96 and released as Snap! featuring Einstein but stalled at number 42. It did slightly better seven years later when it was re-mixed again, this time by Luca Moretti and Ricky Romanini under the credit Snap! Vs Motivo and carried the title The Power (of Bhangra).

To this day, Turbo B still insists that he did the first version of The Power and says, “I was talked out of it at first because it was ‘too hard’ and wouldn’t sell, and only softies like Milli Vanilli make it.” Indeed! And just look how well their careers turned out!

What A Fool Believes (Doobie Brothers)

This week’s suggestion is a song I bought at the time after hearing it on the Radio 1 breakfast show with Dave Lee Travis. I played it over and over again and still love it to this way, so when I found out some 20 years ago that it was a cover I was shocked. Did you know What a Fool Believes was a cover? Let’s find out more.

The Doobie Brothers formed in 1970 in San Jose, California and no one in the group was called Doobie. They weren’t even brothers. It all began when Virginia-born drummer John Hartman travelled to California in the hope of meeting Skip Spence of the group Moby Grape with Hartman hoping to join but the Grape had just split. Instead, Spence introduced Hartman to the guitarist and singer Tom Johnston, they got on well and decided to play music together. Within a few weeks they had recruited guitarist Patrick Simmons and bassist Dave Shogren. They began playing a few gigs locally in San Jose but had no name. They had trouble thinking of a moniker and it was only when a neighbour and musician Keith Rosen suggested the name; “Why don’t you call yourself the Doobie Brothers because you’re always smoking pot?” Tom Johnston recalled. Not all members were aware that a doobie was a slang term for a marijuana joint. None of the members were too keen on it but went with it thinking they would change it in due course, but that never happened. If you’ve heard the story that they got their name from a children’s TV show called Romper Room, which had a character called Do-Bee, that was a story they used when being interviewed on TV or radio in order to stop themselves getting thrown out.

The band got their first UK hit in 1974 when Listen to the Music peaked at number 29. The following year, a former member of Steely Dan’s touring band Michael McDonald joined as lead vocalist to temporarily replace Johnston who had been taken ill during a tour, but he remained until 1982. In the summer of 1975 their second hit, a cover of Kim Weston’s Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While), also reached number 29, then almost four years passed until they were back on the chart with What A Fool Believes which, unbelievably, stalled at number 31.

Michael McDonald had an idea for a song in which the story was going to be about a couple who had split up years previously and somehow, they meet up again. He wanted to rekindle the relationship but she didn’t and was too nice to say so, and he found that hard to take. He had written the first verse and then got stuck. He took what he had to their producer, Ted Templeman, who thought it was great and said it would be a definite hit so he needed to finish it. The group’s then bass player, Tiran Porter, suggested a songwriter friend from Seattle, Kenny Loggins who had wanted to write some songs for the group anyway.

Loggins, who had been one half of the duo Loggins and Messina, went to McDonald’s house and he claimed that, as he approached the house he could hear McDonald playing what bit of the song he had and immediately knew where to take it. They worked together all day on the song and even finished it off over the phone later that same night. Templeman knew exactly what sound he wanted from the Doobie’s version and said, “Just to get the feeling right I ended up playing drums alongside [drummer] Keith Knudsen. I just wanted a floppy feel and if you listen to it, it’s really kind of a floppy record. It flops around, the drums aren’t perfect, nothing’s perfect on it. A Rolling Stones record may not be perfect but it’s got a feel to it.” Templeman was a fan of McDonald’s and said, “When I hear him singing those high parts, it just kills me.”

They both realised when they were writing it that he had no chance of getting back with her and sympathised with his plight and so Loggins, who recorded the song first, sang it from the female perspective although the opening line, ‘He came from somewhere back in her long ago’ and concluding the first verse with, ‘once in her life’ before switching as the next line he sings, ‘He musters a smile for a nostalgic tale’.

Loggins’ version was never released as a single, only appearing on his album Nightwatch which was released some six months before the Doobie’s recorded their version for the Minute by Minute album. What a Fool Believes was the first single released from it.

The song reached number one on the Billboard single chart and the following year won a Grammy for Record of the Year as well as Song of the Year. They were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.

25 or 6 to 4 (Chicago)

Quite a number of songs are thought to be about drugs which the song writers have fiercely denied; Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is a good example as is The Shamen’s Ebeneezer Goode and the Stranglers’ Golden Brown. Now, surely if the writer says they’re not, then it must be true, no? No, probably not, but who are we to argue? This week’s suggestion is another, but what did the writer tell us 25 or 6 to 4 was really about?

Chicago formed way back in 1967 originally calling themselves Chicago Transit Authority and used the same name for their debut album. They shorten it just over 18 months later when the real Chicago Transit Authority objected. The band originally comprised vocalists Terry Kath and Robert Lamm, drummer Danny Seraphine and a brass section made up of Lee Loughnane, James Pankow and Walter Parazaider. Later the same year Peter Cetera joined as lead vocalist where he stayed until 1985. Their debut UK hit came in early January 1970 and was a cover of the Spencer Davis Group’s I’m A Man which reached number eight. A few months later came 25 or 6 To 4 which peaked one place higher.

Lamm, who wrote the song during the night explained, “When I wrote it I was sitting in a room up above the Whiskey a Go Go on Sunset Strip. I just kind of found that riff, I mean, waiting for the break of day searching for something to say. When I had nothing to say, I made this song about writing this song. 25 or 6 to 4 indicates the time in the morning, 25 minutes to 4 am. So, I was seeing all that, just really describing the whole setting. I usually mean exactly what I say, except when I don’t. In the morning when I looked at my watch – I was looking for a line to finish the chorus.” In reality it was more likely 03:34 and hence 25 (or 26) minutes to four.

“Most songs that were written, especially in the early days, whenever I got them to the band and we started rehearsing them,” Lamm told Songfacts. “That’s when the songs took shape – once these guys got hold of them. There was definitely a lot of raw material, I thought it was a song when I wrote the words down, I wrote the changes down and I brought the charts to rehearsal, but it wasn’t really a song until they all played it.”

If you’re wondering why there was a lot of rumours about it being about drugs, well that’s because…apparently, if you took LSD and did so at around 6pm before going out for the night and the effects wouldn’t wear off around 10 hours which would be around four in the morning hence that process became known as 6 to 4.

Chicago’s 60s and 70s material had their trademark brass sound and this song was no exception and was very often the song that closed their live shows. Terry Kath’s guitar sound was distinctive too. According to Songfacts, he played it through a modified Fender concert amp. The song’s producer, James Guercio, said in the same interview, “Terry was always playing with shit, he had this weird 1950s hi-fi preamp or something, like from a McIntosh, he would go through first. I don’t know what it was, but however he got that sound, it was a miracle. That’s what I wanted.” James Guercio knew what he wanted – as a producer should and he asked Peter Cetera, to use a pick when playing his bass, something Cetera never did – he used his fingers, but to compromise, the engineer, Tim Jessup, confirmed that Cetera used his fingernail.

Chicago’s biggest hit was the 1976 chart-topper If You Leave Me Now and, in the eighties, they had three further big hits with Hard to Say I’m Sorry, Hard Habit to Break and You’re the Inspiration. Cetera left the group in 1985 to concentrate on a solo career and scored one hit with Glory of Love – the theme to the film Karate Kid II which reached number three. As for Chicago, Lamm resumed lead vocal duties. In 1995, their music was back in the chart courtesy of a sample from their 1979 song Street Player of which the brass section was the main hook on The Bucketheads’ top five hit The Bomb (These Sounds Fall into My Mind).

The band are still active with four original members; Lamm, Loughnane, Pankow and Walter Parazaider the latter of which no longer tours with the band. Keith Howland, who joined in 1995 occasionally takes on lead vocals. Terry Kath, who had a history of alcohol and drug intake, died in 1978 after taking his own life by putting a gun to his head. His guitar playing was distinctive and in 2015, Guitar World compiled a list of all-time best wah-wah solos and they ranked 25 or 6 to 4 at number 22.

Lady (Kenny Rogers)

When one superstar asks another superstar to write them a song and the reply is, “I don’t think I have time” you would probably think to yourself, what a jerk! But in this case, it was sort of done in jest but the thought that there might be quite a bit of money in it convinced him and the deal was done. Who and what? Read on.

Kenny Rogers explains the story, “I was in Las Vegas and wanted a new song, so I called the king of the love songs, Lionel Richie and said to him, ‘Lionel, I’d love for you to come over and write a song for me’, and Lionel said, ‘I don’t think I have time’. I said it’s going to part of a Greatest Hits album and I think it will sell a minimum of four or five million copies and Lionel said, ‘Is seven o’clock tomorrow night ok?'”

Kenny continued the story, “So at seven o’clock the following night he turned up and we had this little upright rinky dink piano in the dressing room and just before he starts to play he said, ‘I have to tell you I pitched this song to the Commodores and they turned it down’ which I thought was an interesting approach to selling a song. Anyway, he started playing and singing, ‘Lady’ and then la-la’d the next line and stopped. He only had the one word. I asked him how the Commodores could have turned that one word down. So, we go into the studio six months later, we start recording, I finish the first verse and I’m sitting looking at the lyric sheets and there’s not a second verse. I said to the engineer, ‘Where’s Lionel?’ He replied, ‘He’s in the toilet writing the second verse.’ That song was a turning point in my career and one of the most identifiable songs I ever done.”

In a television interview, Lionel said, “I’m not used to pitching songs, but I had this song called, Baby. I land in Vegas and Kenny began talking to me about recently marrying his fourth wife, Marianne Gordon. He said, ‘Before you do your song, let me tell you, I married a lady, like a real lady.’ He said, ‘A country boy like me from Houston, Texas, what I am doing with a lady? He kept on going, she’s got such taste, such class, such style, and she’s such a lady. Oh, by the way, what’s the name of your song?’ I said, Lady,”, Richie says, laughing. “I’m no fool.”

Kenny, in his autobiography, Luck or Something Like It, says of Lionel, “He writes the most beautiful melodies, and his lyrics are like musical conversations. Not many people can do that. I’ve asked him time and time again for another song, but now that he is so successful, I think he feels that if they are good enough for me, they are good enough for him. Lionel happens to be the most unique songwriter I’ve ever encountered.”

So how come Lionel only had one verse and is that true? Lionel explained, “It is true. I was in the bathroom, on the counter, because I didn’t realise Kenny was going to get it so fast. So, he said, ‘let’s do Lady. Well, I hadn’t finished Lady. I didn’t have the second verse. He started sending toilet paper back and said, ‘Do you have the second verse.’ I said, ‘not, yet just hold on for a minute.’ Kenny Rogers does it to me every time.”

Lionel produced the song and it went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart where it stayed for six weeks. In the UK it reached number 12 spending the same number of weeks on the chart.

Lionel recorded his own version of the song which appeared on his 1998 album Time and in 2012, Richie and Rogers recorded a duet version for former’s album Tuskegee, which took its title from Lionel’s birth town. Lionel did ok out of it, he told Entertainment Weekly, “Lady is my profitable song. I have an estate that Lady bought.”

I’ve Never Been to Me (Charlene)

I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a vocation in life, give it go only to find it didn’t work out the way you planned and get so disillusioned that you give it up completely. Then, all of a sudden, by a stroke of luck you’re back in that same business. Well, that’s what happened to the singer who recorded this week’s suggested song. Her name is Charlene.

Charlene Marilynn D’Angelo was born in June 1950 in Los Angeles. She always knew she wanted to be a singer because when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones first came to America, she managed to get seem them and then realised stardom was attractive.

She got a lucky break when she was offered the chance to join Petula Clark’s backing singers at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. There she was spotted singing by Berry Gordy who signed her to his Motown label in 1973. Her first single All That Love Went to Waste did just that. The label billed her as Charlene Duncan which was her married name. In the autumn of 1976, Ken Hirsch and Ron Miller wrote a song called I’ve Never Been to Me and less than two months later she got to record it.

“I’d been signed to Motown for three or four years and I was doing demos for Michael Jackson and Diana Ross,” remember Charlene, “and a gentleman by the name of Ron Miller approached me and said to me, ‘Charlene, I’m Ron Miller and I want to introduce to you a song that I wrote.’ He said, ‘when I heard your voice I wrote the female version for you. He had written the male version after the captain in the movie Jaws. He pushed the button and on came, ‘Hey lady, you lady, cursing at your life, you’re a discontented mother and a regimented wife. I’ve no doubt you dream about the things you’ll never do but I wish someone had a talk to me like I wanna talk to you.’ I just put my head down and I just started to cry because, at the time, I was an abused wife, I was an abused woman who dreamed of being out of my situation. I felt that I would never get out of it.” She concurred to Ian Wishart, “I’d married at 16, had a child to my first husband, and Ron Miller’s song just spoke to me and I just cried and cried. He actually stopped the tape to give me space to cry. It was such a beautiful song. All the pain and the hitting that my husband did at the time, it just sounded like my life. I experienced an abortion with that husband and when that line, ‘Sometimes I’ve been to crying for unborn children, that might have made me complete’ came, it meant everything to me.”

Originally, that latter line caused some controversy because although it wasn’t anything to do with abortion people perceived it that way. It referred to a female who had wished she’d had children but never made the time. Charlene’s original version had a spoken part which said, ‘Hey, you know what paradise is? It’s a lie, a fantasy we created about people and places as we like them to be. But you know what truth is? It’s that little baby you’re holding, and it’s that man you fought with this morning, the same one you are gonna make love to tonight. That’s truth that’s love’ but some people at Motown deemed it to be too feminist and had it deleted from the initial release.

When Motown released the single it went to number 97 on the pop chart and, “I was so sad,” Charlene remembered. I thought to myself if this song isn’t a big hit, then nothing I’m ever going to do is ever going to be. So why waste my time? I was discouraged, I was broken, I was so sad. So, then I got away from the business.” She became a Christian and went on to work with autistic children. Then she moved to England with her new husband, a record producer named Larry Duncan.

In 1981, Scott Shannon, a DJ on a WRBQ-FM in Tampa, Florida, discovered the album and began spinning the track. Charlene continued, “I found out that Scott was good friends with Jay Lasker at Motown and he kept saying, ‘What’s happening with Charlene and I’ve Never Been to Me, I love that song?’ he then said, ‘You know what, I’m doing a contest on my show and I’m going to play two songs and get the listeners to vote for their favourite.'” He put Olivia Newton-John’s Physical up against I’ve Never Been to Me and Charlene explained what happened? “He said my song got thousands and thousands of votes and Olivia got about 150. It went mad and suddenly I was selling 66,000 copies a day. It went over a million in no time.

In the meantime, back in the UK, “I never knew this at the time, I was happy, I was working in a sweetshop in east London when I got a phone call from my mom who said, ‘Charlene, someone from Motown is looking for you, then about a month later I got a call from the president of Motown Records and he said, ‘your song is on the charts in America, you’ve got a double bullet, you’ve got a hit,’ and just like that, my world turned upside down, I was on Concord airlines flying back to America  and my life just turned around.”

The song was released in the UK, but it was the pressing with the spoken passage in and no one had realised until it made the chart. By then it certainly didn’t matter because it reached number one exactly one year after Motown had re-issued Michael Jackson’s One Day in Your Life, the song Charlene had done the demo of. Charlene also recorded a Spanish language version, which interestingly replaced the line ‘I’ve been to Nice, and the isle of Greece’ with ‘I’ve been to Acapulco and Buenos Aires’. By the time the song hit number one in the UK, she was now Charlene Oliver because she had divorced Larry and married an Englishman called Jeff Oliver. Both songs were six years old when they hit the top. In the wake of her new-found success, Motown teamed her up with Stevie Wonder for the duet Used to Be. It failed to make the Top 50 in the US and missed the chart altogether in Britain.

Although Charlene recorded it first, Randy Crawford’s version was released on her album Everything Must Change two months before Charlene’s. Other versions were by the jazz singer, Nancy Wilson the TV entertainer Marti Caine, Mary MacGregor, Motown acts Mary Wells and The Temptations did separate versions in 1982, Howard Keel, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin in 1992 and Jane McDonald in 2014.

The official video was shot at the 17th-century stately home, Blickling Hall near Aylsham in Norfolk and Charlene wore the same dress that she got married in, but we’re not sure which marriage it was.

In 1994, the song was used in the The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Charlene, who was now living in Santa Clarita in California, said, “I got a call from Ron Miller who told me about the movie, I couldn’t wait to see it. OMG, the movie was incredible. I loved it. When the musical opened up in Australia I was asked to come and perform I’ve Never Been to Me for the cast on opening night. It was amazing. I realised then that I was a gay Icon. I totally loved the amazing adventure I went on.”

In an interview with a Dutch Television programme, she was asked if she did ever find her ‘me’ she said, “No, I’m still searching.”