Connie Francis Articles
by Guy Consterdine
Updated: 1-3-07

Editor’s note: Guy is a longtime fan of Connie Francis and a prolific writer who contributed many articles to the Connie Francis Yahoogroups mailing list. I’ve compiled some of his messages here.

Connie’s Christmas songs
December 13, 2006

Each December, when I first play Connie’s 1959 Christmas LP the songs come with a real freshness, after not hearing them for ten or eleven months. Connie’s crystal voice brings its special magic again. Yet by the second playing I am reminded that one of the album’s pleasures is the sheer familiarity of every note of every song. To me Connie’s Christmas music is as traditional and well-loved as Christmas trees, brightly wrapped gifts, mince pies and roast turkey. Her album is a treasured part of the wonderful family Christmasses that I adore.

From the moment that I hear the first few bars of track 1, the words that float through my head about that voice include: clarity, youthfulness, sharp, class. Connie recorded this LP at a time when her voice had evolved into a 20-year-old woman’s voice but had not yet developed into the deeper richer tones of a fully mature woman. I like this young voice as much as any of her later voices (together with the sparkling personality which it creates, to my mind), and that’s part of the treat of listening to this particular collection of songs.

Connie in The Times
December 12, 2006

Connie is mentioned in my newspaper, The Times, this morning. Every day The Times has a list of personalities who have their birthdays that day, and they feature one person with a whole paragraph. Recently the paper has always listed Connie’s birthday (I’ve written to The Times each year to remind them) but today the paper has made Connie the featured birthday girl. The paragraph says:

“The singer Connie Francis, whose hits in the Fifties and Sixties included Who’s Sorry Now?, Lipstick On Your Collar, and Stupid Cupid, still manages to wow the audiences of [BBC radio’s] Woman’s Hour, who voted her third in a poll of top female vocalists, behind Madonna and Britney Spears. Francis suffered badly from a fall this year but expects to be back touring in the new year. Her records remain in great demand and her ‘sobbing’ is greatly popular in China. Her autobiography Who’s Sorry Now?, which told of mental breakdown, is to be made into a film by the singer Gloria Estefan, who has cast herself in the title role. Connie Francis is 68 today.”

As we know, voting by members of this group contributed to Connie’s high Woman’s Hour poll rating. I didn’t know about her records selling well in China though. If she’s a big hit in the massive Chinese market she could sell as many songs there as in her heyday in the West. I wonder if she’s receiving the royalties that she should?

“Time After Time”
October 16, 2006

I have just enjoyed another live concert by Clare Teal, the young English jazz singer whom I wrote about earlier this year. One of Clare’s songs was something Connie has recorded: Time After Time. They were two very different presentations.

Connie’s version, on The Exciting Connie Francis album, is slow and thoughtful, a shade wistful, indeed almost melancholy. She doesn’t sound as though she feels “so lucky to be loving you.” Her reflective interpretation suggests to me that she may be lying back on her bed one night musing about recent events, how she had feared that her man had found another lover, but she’d been proved wrong, and all along “you’ve kept my love so young, so new.” Now she’s quietly recovering from the shock, followed by the relief. Her joy is muted by the memory of the mistaken anguish she suffered for a while, and so she sings softly, slowly, as she contemplates her good fortune.

Clare Teal’s interpretation, by contrast, was zippy, faster, exultant, and truly celebrating that she’s “so lucky to be loving you.” She was supported in lively manner by her accompanying jazz quartet. After each verse one of the instrumentalists performed a solo - a melodic blast on the clarinet, a fevered riff on the double bass, a jazzy development on the piano, a rattling show on the drums and cymbals. When, after each solo, Clare returned with the main tune it was a reminder of how supremely lovely the song’s melody is. Another time Clare and the two backing vocalists gave us some audacious scat singing, leaving the written melody but keeping sufficiently in touch with it for it to remain in our heads.

It’s wonderful how a single song can be given such different interpretations, and each is perfectly valid and enthralling.

Live At The Sahara
October 3, 2006

I’m just back from two weeks holiday in California, plus a trip across the Mojave Desert and over the state border to amazing Las Vegas. In Vegas, looking for a show to attend, we chose a wonderful evening of rock ‘n’ roll with three of the great r‘n’r groups live in concert - the Platters, the Drifters and the Coasters. And guess where the concert happened to take place? In the Sahara hotel/casino resort, in the Congo Room - the very theatre where Connie gave her shows during the 1960s.

I was pleased to see that there are two photographs of Connie on the walls of the Congo Bar, among various artists who have performed at the theatre.

We were seated right against the front of the stage, the ideal spot. We shared a table with a couple from San Francisco. They’d been coming to the Congo Room for many years, starting in 1964, and told us “the room and the stage are pretty much as they were in 1964” - Connie’s era.

All three acts performed their classic rock ‘n’ roll hits which we knew so well from ‘our era’: Poison Ivy, Yakety Yak, etc (Coasters), Only You, The Great Pretender, My Prayer, etc (Platters), Please Stay, Under The Boardwalk, etc (Drifters). All done with great humour and interaction with the audience. As we were right up against the stage, Margaret had her hand kissed by a Coaster, did a high fives with a Platter, and shook hands with a Drifter.

Of course the personnel in these groups are not the same individuals as in the 1950s/60s, but the continuity of the groups means they are more than just imitators.

I’ve dug out Connie’s Live At The Sahara album and will listen to it with new ears now that I can picture the very stage and intimate theatre where it was recorded in 1966.

P.S. One show in San Francisco which we did NOT go to was ‘Menopause: the musical!’

Free access to Universal’s music catalogue!
August 30, 2006

There’s been considerable coverage in the news in England today about Universal Music allowing any recording from its entire back catalogue of music to be downloaded for free, in exchange for the downloader watching some advertisements while the music is downloaded. Surely this means we can download all of Connie’s recordings which Universal holds? Will it include the unreleased tracks, I wonder?

The new service is to be offered by SpiralFrog, a New York-based downloading company (sorry, “online music destination”) which has licensed Universal’s catalogue for a year, and is convinced it can make money for itself and Universal through advertising revenue.

A Universal spokesman is quoted in The Times newspaper as saying “Every music company has to find new and compelling ways of offering music that they can be compensated for. Some consumers are hardcore iTunes junkies and will never change. Others like subscription services such as Napster, where they get access to a wider range. This is a third way, where people get music free in return for watching ads. The more ways in which we can provide access to our music in a legitimate way, the better.”

It sounds too good to be true. I wonder if it really includes the entire Universal catalogue, back to the 1950s and 1960s and our Connie?

The SpiralFrog website, which I’ve just Googled, says the new service will be introduced in “late 2006” in beta form.

Connie and Judy Garland; and If I Didn’t Care
August 31, 2006

Speaking of Connie and Judy Garland: back in 1959 journalists were already beginning to make comparisons between Connie and Judy. I have a cutting from Picturegoer magazine of April 11 1959 headlined ‘The girl in the shadow of Garland’, and below an attractive studio portrait of Connie was the caption ‘Connie Francis is in line for the Garland mantle in films, but it could be a heartbreak road.’

The article includes “This 20 year old ex college girl is one of the few disc sensations who are even better on stage than on their records. She mops up every teardrop of emotion in a song with the volume and assurance of a young Judy Garland. Like Garland, she is faintly desperate about her career.” [Lives and dies by where she is in the charts.]

“Like Garland, her energy is super-charged. If anyone is ready to wear the Garland mantle, this restless, eager, talented girl is well in line. [But no time for boyfriends.] I sincerely hoped she wouldn’t also inherit the heartbreak and bitterness that a legend could bring.”

[In response to this post, Richard M then wrote: “What an interesting (albeit somewhat depressing) read this is. I’m struggling with whether or not the author of this was painting a positive picture of her underlying the “GIRL IN THE SHADOW” introduction coupled with some rather depressing comments about the corelation between the two. This is not the first time I’ve read something that claims Connie was shadowing Judy’s career. It is the first time, however, when an article has cast such a sad reflection. Thanks, as always, for sharing yet another informative post.”]

Well Richard, if you found the tone of the Judy Garland comparison depressing, I can cheer you up. That article mentioned that “her current release, If I Didn’t Care, has already hit the jackpot in America”, and next to it is a review of If I Didn’t Care:

“I seem always to be writing about ‘our Connie’ and VERY pleasing it is too! A regular flow of great records come our way from her, and each one seems destined for the Hit Parade. They deserve it too, for the young lady has a tremendous style of her own, and a great sense of feeling. Her knack of finding `oldies’, attributed to her father I’m told, seems to be constantly paying off. Connie has done it again with one, perhaps not as old, but certainly of vintage years, called If I Didn’t Care. If you wonder where you may have heard it before, it was once a very big hit of the original Ink Spots. The Ray Ellis backing gives a tremendous lift to the song, and Connie handles it in modern style without detracting from its original appeal. Another good ballad from her is Towards The End Of The Day, but my own tip is for the other side.”

Next to this is another review: “Can Connie Francis do it yet again? Well, I think so! This remarkable young vocalist sticks to the formula which has brought her to the top. Her revival of If I Didn’t Care strikes me as an even better disc than My Happiness. Ray Ellis orchestra lays down the beat and there is a big chorus flying behind as Connie goes her sweet selling way. This one has the same feel about it as Who’s Sorry Now, and older fans will get the humour of introducing an Ink Spots deep male voice for interjections. For the second side Miss Francis gets a squawking sax for some variety in the thumping accompaniment. Another good ballad, which will also find customers of its own, Towards The End Of The Day, rounds off yet one more coupling by Connie which I must tip for the parade.”

Am. Band. 1959 - Mama and interview by D.C..wmv
August 22, 2006

I particularly enjoyed the interview at the end with Dick Clark. Connie was in perky mood, and I love to listen to her talking voice. I especially relish the way she pronounced her own name, when stating the title of her album. Of course, as an Englishman used to English accents, I ‘hear’ Connie’s speaking voice slightly differently from the way an American would; the nuances are not the same.

A little curiosity of the TV interview is that there was only one microphone for the two of them, and Dick Clark had to keep flicking it between him and Connie so it was close to the mouth of each speaker. At one comical point he even had to thrust the mike right round to the far side of Connie - when she turned her back to him to show him her hairdo (which I like very much). This microphone trick is even more of a time capsule than seeing in old films the actors carrying mobile phones the size of several bricks.

Seeing the children in the audience, and lip-reading them saying “I’m on television!” was amusing but it completely distracted from the music, so I’m glad it was only during the musical bridge in Mama.

Moments To Remember.wmv
August 22, 2006

‘Moments To Remember’ (Steve Allen Show 1961 - Skit - Tweedle Dee - Moments To Remember) is a lovely song, and is sung so delicately by Connie on this 1961 television show. After the opening three words, ‘January to December’, there’s the phrase ‘we’ll have moments to remember’. The pitch and tone of her voice on the soaring ‘to’ is very like her ‘new’ voice on Hawaii Connie. In fact much of the song puts me in mind of her Hawaii sound, but it’s especially that ‘to’. When I first heard the Hawaii Connie album (which was released in 1968) I thought “Here’s a subtly new Connie sound”, but in fact (unknown to me at the time) here it was as early as 1961 in this Steve Allen television show, a few notes providing a sneak preview of what we were to hear in full seven years later.

Re: Ballad of Bobby Dawn
August 15, 2006

Malcolm Lombard’s South African CD ‘Once To Every Heart,’ released in 1995, contains some wonderful songs, such as When The Heart That Used To Laugh Begins To Cry, and In The Ruins Of An Old Love Affair (as well as some of Connie’s worst - though interesting - material like Satan Place, Handy Andy and Reuben James), and I’ve been playing the CD a good deal recently.

One track that has particularly captured me is The Ballad of Bobby Dawn, recorded on 20 June 1963, about a woman planning to rescue her man from prison and the death sentence. It’s one of those songs which I recall not caring for much when I first heard it, but the more I’ve listened the more I’ve appreciated it. Now when I hear the opening bars, with a single guitar string accompanying crisp finger-clicking, I know there’s a treat coming up. I love the way the song forces itself along with an eccentric accompaniment of harmonica, cow bells, clicking fingers, a highly vibrating deep bass string (played to maximise the squeegy twang) and a posse of male voices. Connie’s lilting determined voice is a delight, as are the clarity of her words, the slight western drawl she adopts, and the breaks in her voice when she sings “prison” and “belongs.” I lose myself in admiration for the skillful way she uses her voice as a musical instrument, elongating certain words, tweaking others, and choosing cadences which seem so right.

The song proceeds with strong rhythmic emphases on certain notes. I especially enjoy the syncopating effect when the male voices sing a deep “baaa-ummm” or “baaaby dawn” in between Connie’s phrases while she takes a breath. Then there are the companiable moments at the end of each chorus when one of the men completes Connie’s words for her. And while Connie sings we can hear the horses’ hooves as she rides from her farmstead towards the prison, bearing the cake with the blue steel file buried in its centre.

Bobby Dawn always puts me in mind of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s great Fifties hit Sixteen Tons. While there are many differences between the two songs, Bobby Dawn has a similar chain-gang weariness-at-injustice feel to it.

It may not be one of Connie’s greatest recordings, but it sure makes me want to press the repeat button and listen to it again.

[In response to this post Will wrote: “Guy: Beautiful reviews of the songs from “Once To Every Heart” CD. I wrote to Malcolm Lombard about a month ago asking if any of those special CDs were available. He told me that Universal S.A. has deleted them as they were very limited (250 copies) editions for fans. Can you imagine (really) only 250 copies being done for a CD of unreleased C.F. songs? Anyway, those fans who bought one of the original copies own something very special and rare. Will”]

Thanks Will. ‘Bobby Dawn’ is one of many many examples of Connie’s craftsmanship in the skilful way she uses her voice as a musical instrument, elongating certain words, tweaking others, and choosing cadences which seem so right - features of ‘Bobby Dawn’ which I was reminded of when I read the remarks about Elisabeth Swartzkopf which Jean quoted recently: “she could color her vocal sound until it gained a nearly instrumental quality... she could reveal added layers of subtleties that other singers missed. And how she hung onto the words.” That could easily have been written about Connie.

Connie on the “Amateur Hour”
March 20, 2006

What a wonderful mp3, of Connie singing blues in 1949 only three days after her 11th birthday, and singing with a great feel for the music. Her timing and phrasing were superb, and there were already hints of her inventiveness - the beginning of building up those personal little characteristics that were later to become her signature touches which would mean she could make a song her own.

In 1958 when my friends and I heard Connie for the first few times singing Who’s Sorry Now, she seemed to us to have suddenly appeared out of nowhere. At that time we knew nothing of her past. Yet, unknown to us, eight years earlier she had been singing St Louis Blues like this, with such clear talent, feeling and promise.

This is a recording that escaped Bear Family Records, and is even earlier than the final five tracks on CD1 of ‘White Sox.’

Present-day Connie’s memories that make up most of this mp3 file are interesting too, especially her humorous story - new to me - about her sitting in front of a mirror practising pretending that she didn’t know she was going to be presented with her first Gold Disc.

It was also interesting to hear Connie describing the sequence of her early shows, each one leading to the next one: Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour, as a result of which she was invited onto the Paul Whiteman Show, then the Arthur Godfrey Show at Christmas 1950, then as a result of that she got onto The Startime Kids. That was on every Saturday night and she did it for four years. Although we’ve already read in various places about these events, it’s absorbing to hear Connie herself talk about them.

Article about Don Kirschner and Aldon Music
March 19, 2006

http://www.history-of-rock.com/kirshner.htm

While the basic story in this article is quite well known - about the Brill Building songwriters - I don’t recall hearing about the commercials which Connie recorded for shops and businesses:

“In the early years, 1956-58, Kirshner wrote some forgettable songs like “Go To School” and “Warm Up To Me Baby.” With Darin, the songs improved slightly, but failed to catch the public’s imagination. During this time Kirshner and Darin decided to go door to door, offering to write commercials for shops and businesses. On some of those commercials was one Concetta Franconero, a New Jersey friend of Kirshner’s. Later as Connie Francis, she would help Kirshner more than he could imagine at the time.”

No doubt it’s too much to hope that recordings of Connie singing these commercials have survived?

Several radio spots from the 60’s.mp3
January 27, 2006

This is another wonderful collection of radio commercials by Connie. What a wide variety of things she was promoting - though they are connected in being ‘public service’ announcements so I guess the advertiser client may have been the same for all of them. I was surprised that there was a Dress Right Week! I was a bit mystified about what the three commercials were about when Connie merely announced the temperatures, from cold to very warm. The commercial about keeping two weeks’ supply of food in the house in case of nuclear attack made me sit up; it reminded me how serious the Cold War was, and how real the fear of nuclear war between the West and the USSR; reminded me of the Kennedy-Khrushchev Cuban crisis and how close we came to mutual annihilation. From another commercial - I didn’t know the American National Guard (which I understand to be a force of part-time soldiers, rather than the full-time regular armed forces) was founded as far back as 1636. That’s very early - the Pilgrim Fathers only landed in 1620.

It was a fascinating 8 minutes 39 seconds! Thanks again, C2

“Together”
February 12, 2006

On a long rainy drive through the winding country lanes of Kent and Surrey counties, playing Connie’s music seemed to speed the journey. The two versions of ‘Together’ came up (on Bear Family’s ‘Kissin Twistin’ CD2). I enjoyed comparing the two, one with the recitation section re-recorded. I think they chose the right one to release, but it adds to my appreciation of the song to have both versions. This is one of the great things about the Bear Family collection, isn’t it - the inclusion of different takes of certain songs so that we can compare what we knew previously with what we might have had.

How I loved ‘Together’ when it was released in 1961. I used to play it over and over and never grew tired of it, and I specially enjoyed that recitation. I replayed it several times today too, among the Francis music which smoothed my drive among the bare wintry fields, leafless trees, village greens and hilltop churches of the English countryside.

WTBA Review
10 Feb 2006

I’ve just caught up with this review of WTBA, Sal. I found the comments about the social attitudes represented by the film very interesting, making this one of the most perceptive reviews of the film that I’ve read. I enjoyed, for example, the comment “Where the Boys Are’s social wisdom for single women probably fits 1950, for upper-middle class whitebread Americans. It was outdated in 1960 but was still a mother’s blueprint for behavior for the ‘nice’ girls I was dating seven and eight years later.”

Another comment that I liked (particularly the humour in the last sentence) was “the boys are expected to sprint for third base immediately. The girls have to find some way of proving they’re not pushovers, but keeping the boy around long enough for their real personalities to soak in. Then True Love is supposed to take over. As a system, I imagine this worked fine for one couple in twenty.”

Naturally, I agreed that “Connie Francis has a terrific voice and looks far too pretty to be saddled with the role of a girl who can’t get a date.” To me, this last point had always seemed a basic flaw in the film. So is the next point: “We aren’t supposed to consider her romantic problems as being important as her girlfriends’.”

I must get out the DVD and watch Connie’s docu featurette again.

Effect on charts of downloading
January 19, 2006

In the UK the official charts of music sales now incorporate a measure of downloaded music (from legitimate sites), as well as conventional sales in music shops. This started last year. Since regular downloaders include a high proportion of young men, they tend to like different music from the teenie girls who dominate record shop sales. This immediately affected the character of the songs which reach the Top 20 charts.

There are sometimes weird effects. At one point the charts were topped by a singing frog, which was downloadable ring-tone music for mobile phones. In fact I think I read that the frog outsold all other music during 2005 - purely from downloads.

Download plan for deleted European tracks
January 18, 2006

Here’s an interesting report (below) I saw on the BBC website this evening. It’s another move by the big copyright owners to recognise the power of downloading of music, and that they’d better join in. Although this particular news item applies only to certain European artists, maybe some of Connie’s back catalogue will be available ‘officially’ to download one day. I’m amused by music of her era being described as ‘digital archaeology’. Guy

“DOWNLOAD PLAN FOR DELETED TRACKS. More than 100,000 deleted recordings, including music from the likes of Jacques Brel and Marianne Faithfull, are to be available to download.

A batch of 3,000 back-catalogue tracks by European artists from the last 40 years will be online by mid-February, said record company Universal. It will be the first time in years that music-lovers will be able to buy the recordings. Universal (UMGI) said it aimed to reissue as many as 10,000 albums. Such a large volume of deleted recordings being made available online in a “concerted, extensive fashion” had not happened before, it said.

The first recordings available to download will be tracks by UK, German and French artists. They include Eddie & the Hot Rods, Fairport Convention, Chris DeBurgh, Jacques Brel, Nana Mouskouri and Brigitte Bardot.

“Over the next three to four years, we aim to reissue perhaps as many as 10,000 albums for downloading, which amounts to more than 100,000 tracks,” said Barney Wragg, senior vice president of UMGI’s eLabs division. “This programme will offer material that, in some cases, goes back to the early days of recorded music. This ‘digital archeology’ programme represents a serious commitment to go further into the past, and to begin to take advantage of the benefits for artists and for music fans of digital download technology.”

“It’s Not For Me To Say”
January 12, 2006

I’ve been listening to ‘It’s Not For Me To Say’ and, in the mood to be captivated by it, I played it again, and then once more. I love Connie’s tender and heart-felt delivery of this soft and languid love song. It’s her early voice, at 20 years old.

I’m also very appreciative of Cyril Ornadel’s musical arrangement, which seems to me to be perfectly judged - simple, with a light touch. I enjoy the prominent piano whose notes really do deserve the word ‘liquid’. I listen out for the subdued background drumwork just using brushes pattering over the taut skin. There’s an old-fashioned double-bass in there. Perhaps best of all of the accompaniment is the choral backing, which coos without words, swelling in volume and reducing again, a true musical ‘instrument’, which is like a strong breeze whisking across wide flat plains. Sometimes the vocal backing is replaced by a group of violins using the same notes; vocals and violins take it in turns like two singers who choose not to duet.

I was listening to this song (recorded at Abbey Road in London on 21 August 1959) on Bear Family’s “White Sox” CD5.

It’s lovely to play at any time, but to me it’s especially ravishing at night - for example while driving home in the dark through Surrey’s country lanes, as I did this evening after a day of meetings. The experience is well described by a line from the song: “As far as I can see, this is heaven.”

There’s something about vinyl
4 Jan 2006

My new Connie year got off to an excellent start yesterday when I entered a shop specialising in second-hand records, run by a man called Ben. Ben knew exactly where I should look for Connie LPs. I found no less than four albums which I didn’t have in vinyl, though I have all the music on CD and/or cassette:

  • Who’s Happy Now?, on United Artists, 1978 (beautiful soft focus cover photograph)
  • I’m Me Again: Silver Anniversary Album, MGM/Polydor, 1981
  • Connie Francis Sings Great Country Hits
  • The Best of Connie Francis (mono; 1966)

    At a mere 11 ($US 19) for the lot I bought all four LPs. I’ll be lucky to get a better bargain in 2006. I was lucky this time too, because three of the albums had only just been brought into the shop by the seller that same morning, and Connie Francis recordings don’t stay in Ben’s for long. They sell fast, as indeed I myself proved.

    There is something about vinyl. Examining the big sleeves and their generous-sized photographs in glorious colour. Removing the outer sleeves to reveal the delicate protective white inner sleeves. Handling the 12-inch black gleaming discs which reflect mobile bands of white light. Feeling the discs’ responsive flexibility as though they were almost alive. Taking care to hold them only by the platters’ edges, and prevent our fingers from touching the concentric rings which are really a single spiral. Marvelling at the miracle that those tiny grooves, so small as to be almost invisible individually, can store and release such golden music. The ritual of cleaning the discs from time to time by wiping the surfaces with an impregnated cleaning cloth, in a circular motion. The round labels in the middle contain their own emotional magic: the designs of the labels are imprinted in our minds from hundreds of previous playings of our favourite artists’ records.

    And then when listening to the LPs there’s a distinctive difference in the sound compared with tapes and CDs. The sound may be technically inferior and subject to hissing after many plays, but that sound and the physical characteristics of vinyl albums are bathed in nostalgic remembrance of the days when all we knew was vinyl.

    “Till We’re Together”
    December 5, 2005

    ‘Till We’re Together’ is classic Francis balladry. I love it! I had heard it before but hadn’t played it for a long time, and listening to it again today (several times!) I like it just as much as ever.

    It is a typical example of a much-loved type of Francis song, isn’t it. She has recorded many beautiful ballads with this kind of pop/country crossover sound.

    I find the lilting melody very appealing, with an attractive upward change of key towards the end. I like the way the song gently lopes along. Chunky piano chords (I always love these) impart much of the rhythm, with discreet drum-work assisting. Brass instruments come to the fore from time to time. There are gentle vocals from the backing group, all wordless. Surrounded by this well-judged accompaniment, Connie’s voice delivers the lyrics with a soft lightness, a few of her trademark catches in the voice, and her usual clarity of diction.

    I enjoy listening to the story told in the lyrics. It’s touching yet offers hope. Her lover has gone, so she’ll “try to live in the past” on the memories he left, and she’s “counting the hours till we’re together again.” And then “when this time is behind us we’ll love the same as before.” Yet the situation seems to me to be ambiguous because we can’t be sure if her confidence that he’ll be back is truly justified, or whether she’s just fooling herself. However she does seem to trust him - the words don’t speak of betrayal - and on balance I think he’s gone off to fight a war.

    Bear Family Records
    September 5, 2005

    By the way, Bear Family’s website lists, at http://www.bear-family.de/mailorder/suchen.php, about 50 (!) CDs and LPs by Connie (a few of which are out of stock).

    Don’t Tell Me Not To Cry
    September 5, 2005

    [On ‘A Lifetime of Love,’ the CD produced by Malcolm Lombard in South Africa to mark Connie’s 50 years as a professional singer.]

    Connie’s 1982/83 voice is just right for this sad tale of heartbreak: “Don’t tell me not to cry / You should have thought of that before / Just before you told me / you don’t want me any more... When you’re the one who broke my heart / Don’t tell me not to cry.”

    Connie’s opening notes are sung with a slight frailty in the voice, which we occasionally hear later in the song. My interpretation is that this is real weakness of her voice (not having quite the strength of her 1960s voice) rather than deliberate; it is one of the best clues to this song being recorded in the early 1980s and not earlier. In addition I detect in her pronunciation of several words a tone which is a 1980s tone, not exhibited in earlier decades. This tone and slight frailty conveys a hint of vulnerability in Connie. The vulnerability suits the song well, as though she really is close to tears while forbidding her ex-lover to tell her not to cry. She reaches the high notes with thrilling power and passion, fully sustains the long notes, controls her vibrato superbly, maintains exquisite clarity, and shows what a skillful artist she still is. It is a joy to listen to her. I must admit that I find the hint of the vulnerability in her very appealing!

    The tuneful melody is beautiful, and astutely conveys distress through the way that the notes slope down the scale at the end of some of the lines, like a downturned mouth.

    Nevertheless I appreciate the rather jaunty pace of the song which trots along and helps to alleviate some of the melancholy of the lyrics, and prevents me feeling too sad. If I was to be made really miserable about the singer’s fate the tempo would need to be slowed right down.

    I think the musical accompaniment is very well judged. To the fore for much of the time, a piano beats out firm distinct notes, with cymbals behind it. Then in places strings, whining electric guitars and other instruments enter, especially when Connie’s voice is raised in heightened passion. I feel that the effect is of softer passages of semi-controlled emotion and reflection, alternating with more violent phases when sorrow overwhelms her.

    The final chord of the song is magnificent.

    If someone asked me how good Connie’s voice was in the 1980s after her troubles of the 1970s, I think I would play this track.

    Country & Western
    October 5, 2005

    I’ve been playing several of Connie’s country & western recordings, and the plaintive Once A Day has been running non-stop through my head for a while. I love the bitter but witty irony of its sentiment: “Lucky me, I’m only crying once a day - once a day, all day long; once a night, from dusk to dawn.”

    I think the reason c&w has a hold on me at the moment is the c&w evening Margaret and I have just spent in the Rocky Mountains. Our long holiday in America, from which we’ve just returned, is the reason I haven’t posted for about three weeks.

    There were no Connie moments on the holiday, and the nearest was this c&w evening which had a Patsy Cline moment. On his ranch in the Rockies, singer Ted Newman has a barn with a stage at one end. Ted had a big hit in the 1950s and worked with Johnny Cash and Jimmie Rodgers among others, and appeared on Dick Clark. He’s also written about 400 songs. He can still sing very well indeed, accompanying himself on electric guitar. He sang one song that Connie has recorded, Singing The Blues.

    A helper of his, Lisa, a school teacher who overseas the meals that are part of the c&w evening, also sings. She gave a perfect imitation of Patsy Cline singing the great Cline hit Crazy. Lisa was so 100% Patsy Cline that if I’d closed my eyes I’d have thought it was Patsy herself. Why isn’t Lisa making recordings, I wondered. When I spoke to her afterwards I sensed it was that she doesn’t believe in herself enough.

    The holiday itself was wonderful. We were chiefly among the amazing canyons, mountains and deserts of Arizona and Utah. The wide open spaces are so vast, the mountains so high, the deserts so arid, the canyons so deep, the eroded forms so fantastic (incredible rock pinnacles in their millions in Bryce Canyon, for example) - that it will be hard to find a holiday to top this one. This was Wild West country like we’ve seen in the movies, and in Monument Valley we half expected to see John Wayne come riding across the sagebrush on a horse. A slow hovering helicopter flight through the Grand Canyon was awesome - almost a religious experience.

    And now back to normal life, and lots of lovely Connie posts to catch up with.

    ‘My Thanks To You’ vinyl LP - mid 60s release on World Sound label
    October 15, 2005

    In my local town Guildford this morning I walked up the ancient cobbled High Street and popped into the cave-like second hand record shop behind the Classical Revival town gate. The shop is called Ben’s Collector’s Records, and Ben always knows in his head exactly what Connie Francis stuff he has in stock. Today there was only one, not too surprising as Ben said “because she’s so popular that her records sell almost as soon as they arrive.” This one item was a vinyl LP of ‘My Thanks To You’. But this was not the original 1959 LP or the 1962 repackaged version from MGM. It was a mid-60s version on the World Sound label, published by The World Record Club Ltd of Richmond, Surrey in England, which seems to be a mail-order record club. The disc’s catalogue number is TP 618.

    At 4 (about $7) it was irresistible and I bought it. The tracks are not quite identical to the MGM album. ’Cruising Down the River’ is omitted and is replaced by ’Good Luck, Good Health, God Bless You’. The order of the tracks is rather different too. There is a delightful photograph of Connie on the cover - one which I much prefer to the pictures on either of the MGM releases.

    I’d never heard of the existence of this mid-60s LP. It’s something of a rarity these days, Ben suggested.

    Leaving the record shop, I strolled among the ruined walls of Guildford castle, which was founded soon after 1066. The tall Norman keep remains almost complete. The castle is unusual in that most of the walls were built of chalk, the local soft stone, and the walls still gleam white in the warm October sun. The castle and its grounds, including the deep grassed-over moat, are now public gardens and while I was enjoying their great beauty my feeling towards those who created them - from the Normans onwards - was ‘my thanks to you’.

    Liner notes - ‘My Thanks To You’ LP on World Sound label
    October 17, 2005

    As a supplement to my post on Saturday about the mid-60s LP ‘My Thanks To You’ on the World Sound label: now that I’ve had a chance to read the liner notes properly I found it made the following interesting comments:

    “In these middle 1960s British songs have pretty well scooped the world market, but this happy state of affairs did not exist until recently, with the advent of such writers as Lennon & McCartney, Bricusse & Newley, Lionel Bart and others whose songs have proved to possess the quality and durability necessary for success in America.” It goes on to say that Connie created this album of songs by British writers who date from the earlier days when most popular music was written in America. It admits that in a couple of cases it’s stretching things a bit to say the authors were British - such as ‘Now Is The Hour’ which is actually a Maori song from New Zealand (I didn’t know that).

    The liner notes continue “It might not be inappropriate to call Connie Francis ’The voice of the Sixties’, for she has overcome her origin as a rock and roll singer, adapted herself to and outlived the rapidly changing fashions in popular music and achieved general acceptance as her talent broadens and her style crystallises into a synthesis of accepted vocal conventions, rather than the limited single-track approach demanded by teenage record buyers.”

    Fan Club CD - “Songs of the Heart”
    October 14, 2005

    I’ve been listening to the two Connie songs, both previously unreleased, on the ‘Songs of the Heart’ CD produced by Pat Niglio last year exclusively for CF Fan Club members, as a fund-raiser. It’s been a year since I last listened to it and I never got to truly know these songs till now. I don’t recall them ever being discussed here, and I guess many members haven’t heard them at all as distribution was so restricted.

    As Pat’s liner notes describe, they were both recorded in May 1968 at the tail end of the Connie & Clyde sessions. They were demos recorded in one take, unrehearsed, with minimal accompaniment, and to some degree they were just done in a spirit of “fooling around.” All three tracks were digitally re-mastered in 1996 at the Audiophile Studio in New Orleans by engineer Parker Dinkens and Pat himself.

    I think ‘Show Me The World Of Wonder’ is attractive and melodic. Connie’s voice is thin, fragile and rather girlish, but pleasingly delicate. It’s not the full-voiced Connie I love best but nonetheless the effect is very appealing. This being a demo, she has a very light accompaniment - just Frank Owens on the piano (who she’s heard thanking at the end) and a drummer who keeps the song pattering along at a good pace.

    I enjoy the effective device whereby the smooth gentleness of the singing is interrupted at several points by placing heavy emphasis on four consecutive but separated notes - thus providing contrast within the song, and an extra touch of character. I smile during the song’s last few lines when Connie lightly daa-daa-dees her way instead of using words, producing a form of soft cooing.

    I reckon this could have been commercially successful if taken beyond demo stage.

    The other song, ‘The World I Threw Away’, is a different matter. The melody is unusually limited, with several consecutive bars centred on one repeated note with merely a very narrow range of notes around that central one, before the same pattern moves up the scale a little and is duplicated. To avoid complete monotony there is a change of key every so often. Yet, uncharacteristically, this uninspiring music is a composition of Sedaka and Greenfield. The well-written lyrics encapsulate a neat idea but they are no more cheerful than the downbeat melody. The girl has just met the lover she gave up years ago and realises she still loves him. But she can’t have him because she sees a wedding ring on his finger, and she rues ‘the world I threw away.’ Connie’s singing rescues it from being an utter dirge. Sedaka’s piano accompaniment and one-man background vocals hint at how much this composition needs a full orchestral treatment to warm it up.

    I found it takes a while to get into the mood for this song, by which time it is almost over. I enjoy it more when I press the repeat button and listen to it again straight away, since I then enter the song in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. By the end of the second hearing it becomes quite haunting, and this afternoon I found those few monotonic notes driving insistently through my head as I walked from my car to a meeting.

    The CD ends with a third track which is Connie speaking some words of appreciation to her fans for their support, and her pleasure that her favourite album Connie & Clyde was to be re-issued on CD. This was recorded in 1996 to go onto the CD itself, though of course in the end it wasn’t used - probably because it wasn’t good enough. She speaks most of the words fast, in quite a rush, but in places she hesitates, searching for the right words, which makes me think it was ad lib rather than reading out a script. It’s lovely to hear her 1996 spoken voice.

    It’s a shame Alex Cuoco chose such a poor photograph of Connie for the cover artwork, when there must be hundreds of really good unused pictures of her. But that’s just a very minor detail.

    Overall, this two-song CD is a little treasure, showing Connie in a relatively informal mood, singing songs she’s seeing for the first time, and expertly applying her craftsmanship while she sight-reads, unrehearsed.

    Why Each Night
    July 13, 2005

    I’ve just listened for the first time to Why Each Night, the recording by Penny Candy in 1959 which was originally billed as being by Connie. It’s clearly not Connie but it is her type of song: a ballad about frustrated young love and a two-timing boy. It has a late 1950s feel to it (in accordance with the idea that it was recorded in 1959), but it also sounds to me an unfinished product - without the full arrangement that a released disc of this type would have. My theory, therefore, is that it was originally intended as a demo disc by the unknown Penny Candy, and the aim of the disc was to persuade Connie to record it herself. Thus things had come full circle - Connie used to make demos in the style of other artists, now here’s Penny doing one in the style of Connie. That’s why it had Connie’s name attached to it: it was not by Connie but for Connie.

    I find it an appealing recording. Penny has a plaintive young voice, one that suggests an attractive personality, but the voice hasn’t the richness or power of Connie.

    Norman Newell and Connie
    April 23, 2005

    Gerritt wrote: “The second author of the song is Norman Newell. He wrote the English lyrics of the song... Norman Newell was Connie’s producer on several recording sessions at E. M. I. Studios Abbey Road, and among others he also wrote the English lyrics of More and Time alone will tell.”

    Gerrit reminded us that Norman Newell produced some of Connie’s songs in London, at Abbey Road, and wrote some songs she recorded. I remembered that Newell died a few months ago, and looked up his obituary in The Times Online. Some extracts are below. I read it at the time (last December), looking out for any mention of Connie, but there isn’t one. However the obituary gives a perspective on the British popular music scene of the 1950s and 1960s.

    Obituaries December 04, 2004 Norman Newell

    Pop music mover and shaker whose influence reached its height before the Beatles explosion

    Norman Newell, OBE, songwriter and record producer, was born on January 25, 1919. He died on December 1, 2004, aged 85.

    WHETHER as a lyricist, talent-spotter or record producer, Norman Newell was one of the most influential movers and shakers in the British pop industry, especially during the period before 1963, when the arrival of the Beatles changed everything. Newell’s songs included More, A Portrait of My Love and This is My Life, and the acts whose records he produced for EMI ranged from Russ Conway and Gladys Mills to Shirley Bassey and Noel Coward.

    He was responsible for discovering Petula Clark, the Beverley Sisters, and the double-act Peter and Gordon. As the hit parade moved increasingly away from his middle-of-the-road inclinations, Newell reinvented himself as the producer of original cast recordings from the musical theatre, from late 1950s classics such as Gypsy to Liza Minnelli’s 1984 Broadway vehicle The Rink. In the process he mastered every recording technology from 78 rpm shellac discs to digital stereo.

    Newell, as head of Artists and Repertoire at EMI, assembled a formidable collection of stars, who ensured the label’s profitable survival. Victor Sylvester, the Beverley Sisters, Gracie Fields, Noel Coward, Josef Locke and Paul Robeson represented the mainstream of popular taste, and Newell judiciously added new talent as the decade went on, apart from a brief period in 1952 when he tried his luck in America as a songwriter.

    Newell wrote the song Sailor for Petula Clark, Goodbye Lover, Hello Friend, Never, Never, Never and More for Bassey, and Say Wonderful Things for Ronnie Carroll. His greatest success at the time was A Portrait of My Love, which eventually won him a special British Music Industries Award when Matt Monro’s recording achieved more than two million plays on radio.

    Newell was not untouched by the sea change going on in British pop. Dining one evening at the Pickwick Club, he offered an audition to the resident singer-guitarists who played there, Peter Asher and Gordon Waller, and as a result, the duo Peter and Gordon was born. Asher’s sister Jane was Paul McCartney’s then girlfriend, so McCartney passed on his song World Without Love to Asher, and the duo’s subsequent recording topped the charts in Britain and America in 1964. They went on to have several further hits with songs written by Lennon and McCartney, but not recorded by the Beatles, including Nobody I Know and I Don’t Want To See You Again. Although Newell never produced discs by any of the fab four, Lennon, Harrison and McCartney were welcome guests at some of the lavish parties he held at his home.

    Newell left EMI in the late 1960s, but continued as a freelance producer for many years beyond that, and although his Banjo Party singalong albums are probably best forgotten, most of his later recordings had the same flair and popular appeal that had marked his best in-house work. With a less strenuous production load, he focussed more on songwriting, and was still collaborating with Les Reed on lyrics for a children’s television series as recently as three years ago.

    ‘No-one’: alternative versions
    April 10, 2005

    On a short drive this morning the tracks which came up on the car’s CD player were ‘No One’ - the false start and chat on track 3 of ‘Kissin Twistin’ CD 1, and track 4, an alternative version. I find it fascinating to hear snippets of studio chat and false starts. It gives us a brief insight into the recording process for the song in question; it enables us to create an impression of being there; and Connie’s speaking voice charms me. These ‘No One’ snippets show Connie in command, knowing her own mind about how she wants everything performed, and issuing instructions with supreme confidence - for instance, “Let the voices stay out there!”

    The second recording of ‘No One’ (track 4) is an interesting variation, but it lacks the power, impact and ethereal quality of the released version, which is one of my top 10 Connie favourites. Track 4 also contains what I read as a slight mistake by Connie. In one of the “no-one ever” phrases she pauses too long between “no-one” and “ever.” The indicator that this was not intended to be such a long pause is that at the end of “no-one” she half-articulates the first sound of the “e” of “ever” and then stifles it and comes to a stop, leaving the word held invisibly in mid-air. The gap of time is long enough for me listening to think “she’s started on ‘ever’, so why is she stopping, what’s gone wrong?” Then she comes in with “ever,” but it’s a moment too late. It’s another reason for not releasing this version. I also find the vocal backing on this track too weak, and don’t care for the way the female voices sing their few words. But these are tiny quibbles, and they’re only possible because I’ve heard an even better version of this emotional song. To have these additional versions is a true treasure.

    After You
    February 23, 2005

    A song that has been running insistently through my mind for the last day or so is After You, on Malcolm Lombard’s 50th Anniversary CD. That lilting melody simply won’t go away. Nor do I particularly want it to. If I had to show someone a superb example of a Francis ballad in ‘lush strings’ mode I might choose this one.

    The intelligent lyrics capture my interest. They present a love affair that has reached a crisis: will he walk out the door? It looks like it. If he does, ‘after you, where is tomorrow?’ a simple idea expressed poetically in five economical words. Even if he doesn’t go, can their love ever be the same? And then there’s the unfairness of it all: ‘After you, there’ll be nothing more for me’ but ‘after me, you’ll go on living, sharing love with someone new’.

    I enjoy the distinctiveness of the opening bars. I immediately know which song this is before Connie sings a note. Then the character of the piece becomes infused by the percussion and bass which bustle along with a regular beat that’s like the pumping of a heart throughout the song.

    I like the musical arrangement with its classic structure. Softly sung early passages, with the singer in control of her emotions, are followed by a rapid escalation up the scale of notes during a brief musical bridge, and the accompaniment then becomes richer. To me, the high violins represent the tears that will flow if he leaves. It ends with a crescendo of voice, strings, full orchestra and choir.

    As well as relishing the beauty of that crystal voice, I also listen for the lovely vibrato (so accurately held) in a number of places.

    When the song has concluded with its reprise of the key verse, I find the melodious tune still glides irresistibly through my head, phrase after phrase.

    Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You - differences in chart performance
    April 5, 2005

    I think the reason why the same song sometimes charts very differently in different countries is basically down to different cultures (especially back in the 1950s and 1960s when we weren’t such a global society as now), and chance (for instance, what other hit songs were around in a given country, or whether or not certain disc jockeys liked the song and thus played it a lot), and the vagaries of the best-seller list compilers.

    By ‘different cultures’ I mean a whole range of subtle differences in taste and experience, and especially the tastes that were current in the entertainment world. It’s easier to pick out extreme examples than subtle ones - for instance, a skiffle-influenced song in Britain might do well, pre-Beatles, whereas it would stand much less chance in the US. In Britain our local British singers had a strong following, which influenced how we reacted to American offerings. Often we could choose between an American original and a local cover version - though never in the case of a Connie song as far as I recall. I do remember that certain American hits didn’t do as well in the UK because they were too sugary for British tastes.

    These are generalisations, and don’t specifically explain why Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You did poorly in the UK. However getting into the top 40 is no disgrace.

    There were many small differences between the UK and US in the performance of Connie’s hits, starting with Stupid Cupid/Carolina Moon becoming a strong No. 1 for several weeks here but never quite reaching the top in America. I think these small differences are unexplainable with any confidence.

    In comparing best-seller charts it also depends which charts you are comparing. In the UK there were several, and they gave slightly different positionings for discs because they were using different samples of shops, and perhaps different definitions in various ways. Also a double-sided hit might sometimes have the two sides listed separately, as Stupid Cupid and Carolina Moon did on one chart, which of course affects their positions. When comparing charts from different countries, even more variables in the compilation are introduced.

    Sometimes there was a clear reason for a difference. You mentioned Mama. In the UK it was coupled with Robot Man, an exuberant rocker and great fun, which made the double-sided disc a great success. This alone was enough to ensure Mama got to No.2, whereas in the US it had a weaker backing, and Robot Man was never released there (a great missed opportunity).

    ‘Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You’

    Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You was written by Benny Davis, who’d composed a string of hits in the 1920s through to the 1940s, including several that Connie recorded such as Carolina Moon and Nobody’s Baby.

    When I listened to the 1982 ‘Music Makers’ radio programme which Will enabled us to download recently I learned something new about the circumstances of how he came to write fresh songs for Connie.

    In 1961/62 Davis was about 75 years old and had not written a hit song for about 25 years. He met Connie and asked “What can I write for you, Connie?” She replied “Write something like those standards you wrote in the 1920s and 1930s.” The result was Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You. Connie went on to say that this song revived the song-writing career of Davis, who subsequently wrote a number of other songs for her, including Follow The Boys, For Every Young Heart, On A Little Street In Venice and Waiting For Billy.

    ‘Should I tie a yellow ribbon?’
    January 31, 2005

    I was playing Malcolm Lombard’s new 50th anniversary CD yet again, as I was driving along contentedly after a meeting. One song in particular lifted my spirits to new heights and I replayed it a time or two. This was ‘Should I tie a yellow ribbon?’

    I’ve written about it before, and the recording always has the same effect on me: its gaiety and bounce capture me. The banjo’s syncopated beat, the pair of cymbals, the high violins skirting breezily around in the background, the chirpy vocal group, Connie’s brilliant dancing over the notes so jauntily - they all combine to elevate my mood and put a smile on my face.

    Even the sad fate of poor Frank in the lyrics - the kindest man she knows and so good to her children, but ditched in favour of another - can’t bring down my soaring spirits when I’m under the spell of this sparkling number.

    Bobby Darin story
    December 17, 2004

    It was an interesting article in that link which you posted, Cat - including a mention of Connie.

    It also refers to Darin being a driven, impossible, objectionable person in many ways, and it reported his second failed marriage as well as the better-known one with Sandra Dee. I read recently in a magazine article a journalist reporting Sandra describing his ruthless ambition and self-obsession, and how that added to her own deep psychological problems (arising from being abused as a girl by her step-father, with her mother’s connivance).

    What this implies is that if Connie had married Bobby - as she was so desperate to do at one time and still pines about - it is most likely that her own career would have taken second place to his and thus suffered, and that the marriage would have ended in disaster because she’d have found him impossible to live with.

    I was interested in the comment in the article that “extremely talented people are not regular people. People with that kind of talent are self-obsessed and filled with all kinds of neuroses and madnesses that drive them.”

    I enjoyed seeing the Darin film two or three weeks ago, as I wrote earlier. The US release was a few days ago I believe.

    Look out, ol’ Bobby is back
    31 years after his death, Bobby Darin’s career is in spotlight he adored
    By DAVE TIANEN Dec. 16, 2004, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
    [Extracts]

    On Dec. 20, 1973, singer Bobby Darin’s chronically weak heart gave out after an eight-hour operation proved futile. Infection had devoured what was left of a heart already irreparably damaged by childhood rheumatic fever. He was 37. There was no funeral or even a burial site. At his request, his body was donated to science.

    Now, 16 years after the writing of the initial script, Spacey’s movie is coming to theaters on Dec. 29 as “Beyond the Sea.” Kate Bosworth, who plays Darin’s wife, Sandra Dee, in the movie.

    Veteran producer Joel Dorn recently put together a new Darin CD and DVD anthology called Aces Back to Back. “Everybody saw that guy as cocky and abrasive,” Dorn said. “He was. I met him two times. The first time was bad. We got into an argument, and the second time started that way, but then I kind of defused him a little bit with a line that he liked and we had a great conversation... You know, extremely talented people are not regular people. People with that kind of talent are self-obsessed and filled with all kinds of neuroses and madnesses that drive them.”

    In Darin’s case, people who were initially repelled often became staunch fans.

    Connie Francis was the biggest female star of the early rock era and first met Darin and Kirshner when she was considering recording some of their songs at the onset of her own career. Darin’s cockiness turned her off.

    “I said, ‘What a truly offensive person’ to Donnie Kirshner,” she recalled in a phone interview. Distaste would later morph into something far more tender. Nearly 50 years later, she still considers Darin the lost love of her life. Yet her father, who also managed her, detested Darin and once threatened him at gunpoint. It was a hatred that never cooled.

    Darin also confided to Francis a secret that explained some of his single-mindedness. “I told him one day, ‘I’ve never seen anyone with the fierce determination you have, Bobby. What’s your hurry?’ “He said, ‘I have to be a legend by the time I’m 25.’ “I said, ‘Well, will the world come to an end if you’re not a legend by the time you’re 26?’ “He said, ‘No. My mother’s always driven that home. You see, I have a bad heart. Doctors say it will all be over by the time I’m 30.’ You would never know it from his endurance, but I know when he came off stage, he had to have breathing machines when he came back.”

    After the breakup with Francis, Darin embarked on a series of high-profile relationships that ended with a marriage to Sandra Dee, at the time the hottest young starlet in Hollywood.

    The last months were marked by depression, failing health and a sense of failure. Complicating Darin’s last months were a second failed marriage and the discovery that the woman he thought was his older sister was actually his mother; he had grown up believing a lie.

    CF Fan Club’s Winter newsletter
    December 2, 2004

    An interesting new issue of the CF Fan Club newsletter has arrived. It’s mainly devoted to the stories behind Connie’s recordings in French, and her visits to France. It includes a complete French-language discography.

    Among two or three photos of Connie in France which I hadn’t seen before, on page 2 there’s a portrait of her, backstage at the Olympia Theatre in Paris, which I find exceptionally appealing. A head and shoulders shot, full-faced but with her eyes looking to one side. Connie regards that performance at the Olympia as one of the greatest nights of her career.

    The French article mentions that the Italian singer Johnny Dorelli was once her boyfriend. It implies they first met in Paris. Does anyone know anything about the course of their relationship?

    The newsletter declares that a new collection of Connie’s French-language songs is being prepared right now, and is likely to include the French version of her club-style WTBA, which is only half-recorded at present. The English, Italian, Spanish, German and Japanese versions are fully completed, in July and October 2004.

    I recall mention by someone in this group of a future CD of Connie’s American concerts, called The American Tour. The Fan Club newsletter gives news that it will be released in January, with copies ready at the Las Vegas New Years Eve concert at the Sahara Hotel. The track listing gives 30 songs. One of these is the new English version of the club-style WTBA, alongside the original tour version which was in the familiar ballad style. Concetta Records is the label.

    The forthcoming Las Vegas concerts themselves are to be recorded, if the necessary agreements can be made.

    I also found it heart-warming to be reminded by the newsletter how much concert work Connie is still doing these days - besides the upcoming Las Vegas appearances, there are reviews of her three October concerts: Wyoming, Montreal and Buffalo.

    ‘Beyond The Sea’ - Darin biography film
    December 2, 2004

    I saw the Darin biopic last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a good film.

    Although it’s a disappointment that Connie was not featured, the dramatic integrity of the film remains complete, on its own terms. Kevin Spacey chose to tell Darin’s story in a certain way, and it made a satisfying entity (dramatically speaking).

    There was an apology at the end of the film which scrolled up the screen just before the final credits. It said that the tale we’d just seen was based on real life but a lot of Darin’s story had been missed out (you bet!), and certain details had been ‘fictionalised’ (invented!) to make the story more... I forget exactly what words were used, but it meant more the way Spacey wanted to tell it. The film was intended to operate partly at the level of fantasy - for instance, young Bobby and the older Bobby talking to each other.

    So it missed out his womanising as well as his first big love, Connie. It created a more sympathetic portrait than we might have formed ourselves if we’d spent a few years knowing the ambitious ego-centric Bobby. But in the end it was an inspiring film on account of the difficulties in life which he faced and overcame. It showed more than one traumatic experience which he had to go through. In a few places it was very moving. It was also full of great songs, and a variety of musical dance numbers.

    I thought Kevin Spacey made a believable Darin, even though he’s older than Bobby was when he died at 37. Spacey’s acting was excellent, and his singing is a revelation. He began his career as a singer-dancer, and it showed.

    The Sandra Dee actress, Kate Bosworth, was very pretty indeed, and much like the real Sandra Dee as I remember her in the late 50s and 1960s.

    So I’d recommend seeing the film, not because of associations with the non-appearing Connie, but because it’s an entertaining musical movie which can be accepted on its own terms.

    Connie’s Magdeburg TV show: miming
    November 12, 2004

    I raised the question: Connie mimed to her 22 year old voice at Magdeburg - was that best, or would singing live have been better?

    The posts by C1, Jan and Christine are absorbing. C1 and Jan describe the palpable excitement for those who were present in the studio. It is heart-warming to read C1 saying “the audience did not really applaud her act but rather the person Connie Francis. They honoured her.” Jan refers to “the overwhelming reception the Germans gave her.” Evidently the audience didn’t care too much whether she sang live or not.

    But for the TV audience the experience was different since they couldn’t share that excitement. I guess Christine hit it on the head when she said that the German general public would only recognise Connie from hearing the sound they previously heard from the late 1950s/early-mid 1960s. And it needed to be the hits, and in German, to maximise the TV audience’s recognition and memories. And being in German Connie probably needed to mime anyway as her German is probably too rusty now.

    By contrast, Connie’s occasional concerts these days, in 2004, are not mimed but are sung live. The audience is entirely made up of Connie’s own fans. These enthusiasts don’t expect Connie’s voice to be what it was in the 1960s and they mainly want to pay homage to her and be in her presence. Moreover her voice is still good at age 65 and they want to see and hear her as she is now.

    I understand why Connie mimed in the TV studio, but I must admit I did feel it was rather strange to hear a 22 year old (or so) voice appearing to emanate from a 65 year old woman. It created a ‘cognitive dissonance’ (to use social science jargon which expresses my meaning precisely). There seemed to be two people inhabiting one body. I felt a little uncomfortable about it. It’s partly because I was calmly sitting at home in daylight watching a video; perhaps if I had been in the audience I would not have felt that way because I’d have been swept up in the excitement of the live event. I wish I HAD been there.

    Of course I still felt it was great to see Connie perform, and to observe her rapturous reception.

    Christine wrote:

    First I’m ashamed to admit that I had no clue she was in Germany. Oh me ‘*%&!!! I wish I had realized that ealier. I will never forgive me that I have missed that chance to go there and maybe see her. Hmpf... But anyway... Since I was so stupid I just sat at home on my couch, fat and lazy, zapping through the programs, and actually I had already skipped that channel, but then again I found the moderator so funny because of his white suit and slimy grin, that I zapped back to see what kind of show that was like, and that was exactly when he started to announce Connie. I almost could’t believe it. Then, like I said before, she came out and I was so amazed by her appearance. I think she did great and she looked adorable. The way she came in with that young guys around was way too cute. I was surprised to see how well she did with the lyp-sync because I’d imagine that she’s probably not performing those old German songs very often. I think had they used one of her re-recordings for that occasions it would’ve been nice because it had fit her appearance. On the other hand (unfortunately) Connie hasn’t been very present on German stages in years and most people in Germany do only associate her with these songs (many of them honestly have no idea that she did “also” record in English...). So for the general public, the effect of recognizing who that singer was, was probably achieved best this way... What do you think about it??

    Jan wrote:

    We were there and it was a heartwarming, emotional experience. Although Connie did lipsync, she did it very well, despite the fact that usually she is not so good at that (I think).

    The most memorable thing for us was meeting her in person and being witness of the overwhelming reception the Germans gave her.

    Christian C1 wrote:

    I was there, and also then later saw the TV video. It was extremely interesting and apart from the fact that there was a little reception organized for a few “special” friends where Jan from this list and I were allowed to attend among others - an unforgettable memory to sit at one table with Connie and get to chat with her for a few moments. We also went to see the general rehearsal and the show then later in the evening. The most thrilling thing that almost brought me to tears was to sit there in the audience and after Connie did her act, see people get off their seats and applause like crazy, giving her an interminable ovation. You see that on the TV clip, but being there was so overwhelming. I thought to myself, well for what she did (just standing there and lipsync to her old hits), man do people still love her. The audience really did not applause her act but rather the person Connie Francis. They honoured her and stood there, the whole hundreds of spectators in the studio, giving a standing ovation like they didn’t for no other artist (and there were big stars on that show but they didn’t get an ovation like Connie). Well, to your question. I of course did not find it very appropriate to just lipsync to her old hits, but it was very clear from the start that Connie had been invited on that TV show, to do JUST THAT. That’s what they wanted her to do, aiming at that kind of public that loves her for this, and for nothing else. Pat N. who was there with Connie, said to us that he and Connie insisted on Connie doing ok, the little medley of her hits, but then as second number, Malaguena. The German version. But the Germans refused. It was the hits or nothing. BUT, what they did, was, slow the tapes down a little bit. Technically, they failed to do that for the “Schöner Fremder Mann-Jive” Medley. I think they even speeded it up instead of slow it down, so she sounded like a 13 year old. But, for Die Liebe ist ein Seltsames Spiel, they did, and also added new instruments behind it and something like an electronic chorus, slowed it down, so she sounds more adult. Still, it was the original 1960 tape.

    Subject: UK Hall of Fame - 1950s
    Date: November 8, 2004

    I watched the 1950s UK Hall of Fame programme last night. The omission of Connie meant that there was a gaping hole in the programme, IMO. Nevertheless it was an entertaining and absorbing programme, giving 10-minute musical biographies of ten great artists with whom I grew up ‘as the soundtrack to my school days’ (to adapt a phrase). The ten were chosen by a panel of ‘experts’ who were ‘steeped in music’ - musicians, music journalists, etc. The panel’s objective was to select 10 performers per decade, with the public then asked to vote for a single one per decade to go into the UK Hall of Fame. Elvis, the Beatles and two or three others were automatically in the HoF and so weren’t featured in the programmes.

    Why was Connie omitted? Judging by the reasons cited for choosing the ten artists that they did, the criteria seemed to be innovation - taking rock ‘n’ roll a stage further - and influence on other artists who followed. Connie could qualify under these terms IMO, but there we are; it’s all highly subjective. Apart from Connie, I find it quite extraordinary that Bill Haley was not among the ten, when I think of the explosive impact he had in England.

    Each 10-minute biography was lavishly illustrated by clips of film (usually black and white) of the artist performing, or in his/her personal life, with sound-bite snippets of comments from contemporary and modern musicians/commentators, and the artist in person unless dead. So Johnny Cash, for instance, was shown singing with and without June Carter, and Cash’s daughter reminisced about him.

    Cliff Richard was described as “pure sex,” and the clips of him gyrating showed exactly why. Someone referred to them as “naughty movements which were way out in those days.” His backing group said that at their concerts no-one in the audience could hear the music because of the teen girls’ screaming. Even the band members had to be grouped close to the drums in order to hear the beat and play to the same rhythm. Once they switched off their guitars and just mimed their playing - and no-one in the audience seemed to notice. Cliff’s first hit, Move It, was described as the first British real rock ‘n’ roll record. Cliff himself said “It was exactly what rock ‘n’ was: three chords, aggression, and a melody.”

    Of the ten, Little Richard was the only one I actively disliked at the time, though I came to appreciate him somewhat in later years. He was certainly one of the biggest names in the late 1950s. The panel selected him partly because he was so original in his music, and partly because he was regarded as highly influential on later singers. When Paul McCartney was once asked in the 1960s “Why are you copying Little Richard?” Paul replied “Tell me who isn’t copying Little Richard!”

    Prague and its Connie CDs
    October 15, 2004

    Connie Francis music is still selling in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Yesterday, in spare moments during a business trip, I was browsing in a shop specialising in classical and operatic music when I came across several copies of a CF 2-CD set called ‘Selections of Connie Francis’. The first CD contained foreign-language songs, especially Italian, and the second CD had some of her pop hits and other English language music. Later, in the city’s principal music superstore, I found two Connie CDs in the ‘Oldies’ section. They were ‘Connie Francis: The Collection’ and ‘Jive Connie: Party Power’, a CD of German tracks which I’ve often seen in London.

    I was mildly surprised to see any Connie CDs at all, since in Connie’s heyday Czechoslovakia (as it then was) was behind the Iron Curtain, and the Communist authorities prohibited decadent Western music, so it was hard to get hold of (though not impossible, I believe). Moreover English is not the mother tongue of the Czechs - they have their own unique language. But in recent years English has replaced German as the second language. I was told by my Czech hosts that more than half the population (in the big cities at least) are fluent in English. In a taxi with an interpreter (not all the people I went to see could speak English) I noticed that the taxi’s radio was playing a song with English words. I asked the interpreter what proportion of songs played on the radio were in English: she estimated about 80%. So this helps sales of Connie’s music.

    Another time I was reminded of Connie was on the dramatic medieval Charles Bridge across the very wide river Vltava that curves through the centre of the city. The bridge is now pedestrianised, and has the imposing castle on its hill at one end and on the other end a panorama of towers, spires and richly decorated buildings in the Old Town. Among the postcard-sellers, artists who’ll draw your portrait, and other touristic stalls on this bridge was a blind woman singing one of Connie’s songs, Ave Maria. She was no Connie but was worth a few koruna coins in her collecting box.

    This was my first visit to Prague, and was only a few days. I was enchanted by the lovely city, especially the Old Town. I loved the ancient narrow winding streets, the highly decorated old buildings, the ornate churches and towers, that magnificent Charles Bridge, and one or two fine modern restaurants. The main squares were lined with outdoor cafes and even the little piazzas had one or two. Trams rattled up and down the principal streets.

    Rocksides
    October 1, 2004

    Just back from a business trip to Vienna. I didn’t find it much fun to have to set the alarm clock for 4.45 a.m. to catch an early flight there, but the compensation was a Connie concert as I drove through the darkness to Heathrow airport - listening to Connie at a time when I’d normally still be asleep. When I reached the extensive roadworks on the M25 motorway I reflected that Connie is like a magic wand - she converts the drastic speed restrictions from being an annoyance into a bonus, because they force more time for the concert. The miles of traffic cones almost became friendly little things for slowing me down, while I listened to the tender Thanks A Lot For Everything, and played it two or three times while I thought about the song’s returning of an engagement ring with sorrow but no rancour. Leaving the motorway by the Junction 14 sliproad and heading onto the airport’s perimeter road, I was enjoying the classic Connie pop ballad treatment of Tommy.

    As you may have gathered, it was the Rocksides CD that was playing in the car. I think this is a fine CD with an interesting collection of songs, and it’s also a repository of unreleased earlier recordings or versions - which account for about half the tracks. I also like it that the compilation is very diverse. There are some ballads here which I love, such as Happy Days & Lonely Nights (which I know as the B side of My Happiness, not Fallin’ as in the US) and It Would Still Be Worth It (which my young self loved as the B side of Valentino). There are two of Connie’s best out-and-out rock ’n’ roll numbers, Robot Man (B side of Mama but a UK Top Ten hit in its own right) and Gonna Git That Man. I enjoy the novelty of the studio sounds before Connie starts singing take 6 of No One To Cry To. I’m pleased at the inclusion of a different version of one of my favourite songs, No One (though I don’t regard this as the best version). The diversity of the CD is emphasised for me by a sprinkling of songs which are, shall I say, not in my top 75% of her recordings - especially He’s Just A Scientist and Baby Roo - and to a lesser extent the tracks from her ‘girl band sound’ phase. In general, her work with Ellie Greenwich is not much to my taste, though the songs were apt for helping speed the car along the motorways as I headed for Heathrow in the dark. All in all, Rocksides is a CD I ought to play more often than I do.

    While in Vienna I had a few free hours in which to renew my acquaintance with this beautiful old city and its medieval street pattern in the centre. The most stimulating new thing I did was to visit the former home of one of the most significant people ever to live in Vienna, Sigmund Freud. He lived in this apartment from 1891 to 1938 when the arrival of the conquering Nazis made him flee to London. The apartment is now a museum of his life and work. The entrance hall and waiting room have been restored to how they were in the 1930s, including the original furniture. The consulting room and Freud’s study are bare except for exhibits on the walls about his work. It felt quite something to be standing in the very rooms where Freud spent decades developing his revolutionary theories about the way the mind worked and how to treat its illnesses; theories which have deeply influenced the way all of us perceive our own selves.

    I wonder if anyone said of him ‘He’s just a scientist’?! It would be more appropriate to say to him ‘Thanks a lot for everything.’

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