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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Billy Fury: Billy Fury


1) Maybe Tomorrow; 2) Gonna Type A Letter; 3) Margo; 4) Don't Knock Upon My Door; 5) Time Has Come; 6) Collette; 7) Baby How I Cried; 8) Angel Face; 9) Last Kiss; 10) Wondrous Place.

Billy's second LP seems to have been mainly a «recent singles scoop-up», which is why, unlike most of his early 1960s records, it never got a CD release, and I had to do a little reconstruction from a variety of sources (including some extremely poor quality recordings). It is relatively im­portant, though, since it contains both the A- and B-sides to his first two singles from 1959, the stuff that made him a star in the first place.

Interestingly, both of the A-sides are sweet ballads, with the rocking material relegated to the B-sides: apparently, British marketeers were not willing to take chances and counted on Billy's po­tential lady fans to be a more stable source of income than the masculine, rowdy rock'n'roll riff-raff rabble. The ballads are syrupy enough, but not hopeless: ʽMaybe Tomorrowʼ is an attempt to write something in the Everleys' style, with a vocal part that finds a good balance between pathos and humility (it also helps that no strings are involved), and the somewhat denser ʽMargoʼ, re­plete with echoey female backups and woodwind flourishes, is more in the Roy Orbison vein (it also features the wonderful lyrical line "Oh please be mine / Most of the time" — I'm sure the author never noticed the ambiguity, but I wonder what the BBC radio services must have thought of it). Anyway, could have been worse.

Of the rockers, ʽDon't Knock Upon My Doorʼ is the more important one — one of Billy's fastest and raunchiest tunes, a straightforward Elvis homage in the spirit of ʽHard Headed Womanʼ, but a little less «dangerous»-sounding due to all the have-a-good-time cheerleader harmonies (you'll be getting those sexy visions of early 1960's girls in tights in a jiffy) and the lack of any sharp lead guitar work (even the solo is handed over to the bass edge of the piano). Still, it's as fun as any second-tier rockabilly number, and so is ʽGonna Type A Letterʼ, although the latter is, unfortu­nately, marred by a rather inept brass backing (whatever these wind blowers were doing in the studio on that day, they surely weren't prepared for a rock'n'roll number).

Most of the other tracks are ballads, ballads, ballads, ranging from the easily tolerable (the bluesy waltz ʽBaby How I Criedʼ) to the questionable (ʽColletteʼ, way too hard trying to become the Everleys here, even double-tracking the vocals so as to sound like Phil and Don at the same time) to the awful (an overtly-sickeningly sweet attitude on ʽAngel Faceʼ, sadly, presaging many of the disappointments to come). But the album does get a modestly-excellent conclusion with ʽWond­rous Placeʼ, a moody Latin/Western hybrid with a melancholic flair that Billy pulls off real well, even if, once again, it is just one of several of Elvis' incarnations that he is modelling here.

Overall, the album does sound significantly different from The Sound Of Fury — more echo, more atmosphere, less rockabilly, more balladry — which is curious, considering that most of this stuff was recorded at approximately the same time. Recommending it is beyond my abilities (not to mention that this would require setting up an Ebay search), but putting it down due to cheesiness is not something I'd like to do, either: most of the ballads are well within the adequacy limits, and some even have original hooks. It is pathetic, though, just how few rockers they let him place on the LP, despite his obvious attraction to the bawdy side of the business.


  1. Don't knock upon my Door also fails in the kick-ass department. Just compare with Jerry Lee Lewis' Whole lotta shakin' going on and the difference is revealing. On YouTube there is a version of Don't knock upon my Door and it's hardly better.

  2. I understood Billy, like a number of good looking guys with stage names like Vince Eager, Georgie Fame, Johnny Gentle and um, Dickie Pride were part of a stable of entertainers employed by Larry Parnes who wanted his charges to appear on stage, in film, anywhere as light entertainers which probably gave musio of the late fifties/early sixties, its bad reputation by squashing any originality out of the performances to appeal to widest variety of audiences.

  3. Does the site creator really expect to make major rubles on click throughs to Amazon for Billy Fury records? If he's going for a major SEO payday, I understand it. An artist with a large catalog equals massive click through potential. I just don't see why else he'd want to bore himself and his readers with endlessly repetitive reviews of tenth rate no names like Billy Fury. If you need a face for pre-Beatles British rock, Johnny Kidd is your man. "Shakin' All Over!"

  4. One of the advantages of GS' format is that it allows us to bring up all kinds of similar artists. Johnny Kidd is better indeed - for one thing Shakin' all over has a nice grumbling bass, like in that Bo Diddley song.
    But also Johnny Kidd and co pale compare to the Tielman Brothers

    Nobody played like that in 1960 and several years after.

    1. George's reviews of acts like Billy Fury are actually very helpful to understand and appreciate the sometimes forgotten music of the very early 60s. Personally, I haven't heard of Fury before (I was to be born more than 30 years after this album was released), and though it's clear the guy isn't a musical genius, or a really innovative performer, some of his stuff can be very enjoyable and GS helps to find what's worth listening to.

      Mnb: I had never heard of the Tielman Brothers. What an amazing, original and fun act! Thank you for introducing them!