Paddy sent me a great email yesterday in which he suggested that for me, “Paul McCartney occupies a place slightly more elevated than the Dalai Llama, Albert Einstein and Nelson Mandela combined“. Fair comment and I’ve been obsessing too much about The Beatles recently. It was a relief to write about Quicksilver Messenger Service yesterday and today, I thought I’d write about the first single I ever owned, “You Don’t Know” by Helen Shapiro. It will be chance to ignore The Beatles, for once.
Helen Shapiro started singing lessons, at the age of 13, at the Maurice Berman School Of Modern Pop Singing which is based in Baker Street. (By the way, 231/233 Baker Street is the address of The Official Beatles Merchandising Store). Anyway, was the Maurice Berman School well known because it was where Alma Cogan had been taught to sing. In the mid Sixties, Alma Cogan lived at Flat 44 Stafford Court, Kensington High Street where The Beatles would often visit. Cynthia Lennon once said that she hadn’t lost John Lennon to Yoko Ono, she lost him to Alma Cogan.
In 1961, Helen Shapiro was 14 years old and she had two Number One hits in “You Don’t Know” and “Walkin’ Back To Happiness”, both of which I owned and played to death. Although subsequent singles were not as successful, she maintained her musical career for another ten years. As part of the promotion for “Look Who It Is”, in early 1963, she embarked on a U.K. tour with an up and coming supporting act, The Beatles. Backstage at Stoke-On-Trent, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote a song for Helen Shapiro called “Misery”. However, Norrie Paramour, who was Helen Shapiro’s producer, did not think that the song was suitable and so they offered it to Kenny Lynch (who appears on the cover of Wings’ “Band On The Run”), – he was also on tour with them. Norrie Paramour was a producer at EMI and had numerous Number One hits with Cliff Richard. One of George Martin’s main driving motivations with The Beatles was to become more successful than Norrie Paramour. When Helen Shapiro appeared on “Ready Steady Go” to promote “Look Who It Is”, she had three well known friends to support her.
“You Don’t Know” and “Walkin’ Back To Happiness” both sold over a million copies and earned Helen Shapiro two gold discs. They were written by John Schroeder and Mike Hawker. Sounds Orchestral was an instrumental group formed by John Schroeder in 1964 and was intended to be a rival to Sounds Incorporated (who were the opening act for The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965 and played the horns on “Good Morning Good Morning”). Other members of Sounds Orchestral were Johnny Pearson, Kenny Clare, and Tony Reeves. Johnny Pearson went on to become the musical director for Top Of The Pops and he also played a big part in launching the career of Cilla Black when his arrangements of “Anyone Who Had A Heart” and “You’re My World” saw her achieve her first big hits. (Cilla Black was managed by Brian Epstein and had worked as a cloakroom attendant at The Cavern when The Beatles were playing there).
Sounds Orchestral’s big hit was “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” which was written by Vince Guaraldi, who also wrote a song called “Christmas Time Is Here” for the 1965 TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. (As it happens, The Beatles’ fan club record of 1967 was titled “Christmas Time Is Here Again”). In 1967 he recorded an album called Vince Guaraldi with the San Francisco Boys Choir and a single, “Eleanor Rigby” was released from it, although it failed to chart. “The Wolf Of Wall Street” is a 2013 film directed by Martin Scorsese (who made a wonderful film about George Harrison called “Living In The Material World”) and the music that plays over the end of the film is a cover of “Cast Your Fate To The Wind”, by Allen Toussaint. In 2007, an album called “Goin’ Home – A Tribute To Fats Domino” was released which featured a duet between Allen Toussaint and Paul McCartney of a Fats Domino song called “I Want To Walk You Home”. (The first track on the album is “Ain’t That A Shame”, taken from John Lennon’s “Rock’n’Roll” album, a song that also appeared on Paul McCartney’s first live album “Tripping The Live Fantastic”). (The Beatles had met Fats Domino in 1964 and he later took a cover of “Lady Madonna” (a song that Paul McCartney had deliberately written in a Fats Domino style), into the U.S. Charts).
Oh dear. I’ve failed. Every road leads to The Beatles. Suffice to say that “You Don’t Know” and “Walkin’ Back To Happiness” are still great.