But all was not lost. Perhaps the Mafia played a part, who knows? But no sooner had Sinatra picked up an Oscar for his supporting role in the WW2 epic From Here To Eternity, than Capitol Records risked putting him into the studio one last time. They teamed him with an up-and-coming arranger named Nelson Riddle and the rest is history.
One of the first tracks to emerge was Young At Heart, which sold over a million copies, was named Billboard magazine’s Song Of The Year for 1953 – and marked the beginning of one of the most prestigious partnerships in popular music history.
Young At Heart is the crooning classic which Cancer Research UK has used in a playful film celebrating their success in treating children with leukemia.
Written by Stan Kenton’s arranger Johnny Richards and Broadway librettist Carolyn Leigh, it not only sounds as fresh today as it did 60 years ago but points up how much the advertising industry continues to draw inspiration from the pre-rock’n’roll era - even when you’d expect the products they are promoting to be targeted at much younger audiences. Take Apple ’s new Mini iPad spot, for example. It features two late greats – nightclub singer Bobby ‘Mack The Knife’ Darin and songwriter Johnny ‘Moon River’ Mercer – dueting on Two Of A Kind, the title track from a 1960 Atco album which was one of the first to consciously revisit the Great American Songbook of the 1920s and 1930s.Except that this hugely talented pair composed Two Of A Kind specially for the project. Of course it aped the kind of material that Bing Crosby and Bob Hope turned out for their famous series of Road movies. But, complete with an updated brassy arrangement by Billy May, it ended up being the sort of song you’d expect Morecombe and Wise to have included in their act. And, would you believe, there’s You Tube footage from 1962 of Eric and Ernie…but we digress.
Nevertheless Two Of A Kind does lead us into that MOR territory where no dyed-in-the-wool rock or R’n’B fan would have been seen dead before the Easy Listening/Chill Out boom of the 1990s. But we can’t ignore the fact that some of the Sixties’ most successful solo artists, ranging from Jack Jones to Englebert Humperdinck, cut their teeth in supperclubs on both sides of the Atlantic – and ended up selling more records than many of the decade’s top pop groups.
One who was never seen without a tuxedo was the erstwhile singing bus conductor Matt Monro. He got an early break in 1956 as a featured vocalist on the BBC’s Light Programme but it wasn’t until 1960 that he scored the first of 13 UK hits with Portrait Of My Love, a smooth ballad penned by Norman Newell and produced by George Martin for Parlophone. Other successful singles included Softly As I Leave You, Walk Away and a version of Paul McCartney’s Yesterday.
But Monro’s true métier was music for the movies – and the diminutive West Londoner will be forever remembered as the voice behind the credits on the second James Bond film From Russia With Love (1963) as well as the wildlife weepie Born Free for which he won an Oscar in 1966.
Not so well-known, however, is On Days Like These, which you can hear behind Land Rover’s Next Generation Range Rover clip.
It was written by Hollywood heavyweight Quincy Jones and Monro’s manager Don Black for the opening sequence of The Italian Job. This iconic British caper starred Michael Caine and Noel Coward playing support to a clutch of original British Leyland Minis. In retrospect On Days… wasn’t a song to blow the bloody doors off. A couple of years earlier it might have made the charts. But this was 1969 and the UK hit parade now looked and sounded very different. So it failed to make the Top 40.The final track this month was recorded in Soviet Russia in 1976, 13 years before the Iron Curtain was lifted. We don’t know whether it made any charts but it did prove to be a viral hit on You Tube when it was first uploaded in 2010. We’re talking about I’m Glad Because I’m Going Home (The Trololo Song), which is the novelty number underpinning Butlins’ latest cartoon campaign.
The singer is Eduard Khil, who was a big favourite with the Politburo bosses and was awarded the Order of Merit (Fourth Class) by President Putin in 2009 before his death two years ago. If you haven’t seen this before then check it out the first chance you get. This is the kind of pop you get when vodka is the drug of choice!