Connie Francis Articles, Vol. 2
by Guy Consterdine
Updated: 5-19-10

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.

Note: This is a rush upload, not fully checked for typos and some of the material is out of order. I did this to have it available for view before May 2010 Las Vegas concert (and to give Connie a print of Guy’s articles).

Connie deflects airport frustration
March 20, 2008

Yesterday Connie did an excellent job of preventing me getting stressed by the hassle at the end of a flight home from a business trip to Budapest, Hungary. After the little shuttle-bus to the car park became stuck in dense queues of traffic inside Heathrow airport (traffic from three terminals was trying to filter into one bottleneck tunnel under a runway), I found the car park exit machine wouldn’t accept my pre-paid ticket. It meant I had to reverse the car out of the lane (first making cars that had come in behind me reverse), and negotiate across four busy lanes to the human being sitting in a distant kiosk. But latent frustration never surfaced because Connie was singing. When the barrier pole finally lifted to let me out and I set off along the airport perimeter road, the music began to relax me. I set the cruise control to just under the speed limit and settled back to enjoy the concert.

How appropriate (since I was returning home to Margaret) that it was “I Miss You.” I was listening to. A little later, the vocal harmonic chords which introduce “Heartache” filled the interior of the car and reminded me, as those bars always do, of a certain friend who bought the EP on which I first heard this song in 1958.

Heartache” was not released as a single in the UK; it was only on this EP. EPs were too expensive for me to buy at that stage of my schooldays. I could only just rake up the money to buy an occasional single, so it was this fellow Connie fan who introduced me to the song. I loved it the moment I first heard it. Ever since then those distinctive opening bars have reminded me of that friend and where I was when I first heard that track. That’s one of the features of listening to music, isn’t it: It has the power to attach mental associations to itself. Later on, every time you hear certain harmonies, phrases, or inflections of the voice, it triggers a sensation recalling the relevant moment from the past.

Moving through the motorway traffic, through the speed-restricted road works at the junction of the M25 and M3 motorways, and across Surrey heathland to my own village and lane, I was absorbed in the crystal tones of the 19 year old singer. She had fully relaxed me at the end of a long day. This is what Connie can do to me.

The Neil Sedaka Story on stage: “Laughter In The Rain”
April 8, 2010

You’re right Sal - it’s great to read or hear about it but there’s nothing quite like seeing 19 year old Connie standing and singing in front of you again, only a few feet away, just like 51 years ago except that you know it’s really another attractive young woman who looks and sounds like her. The ‘live’ experience exemplifies why we go to the theatre very frequently (for instance, we went to an outstanding play in London’s West End only yesterday).

On the other hand, if you can’t get to see Connie live, it’s marvellous to learn about it from those who did get to go, which is why I love reading about Connie’s recent shows from group members lucky enough to see her. By the way, I’m six days late responding to your post Sal because we’ve only just returned from spending Easter in Paris, France, with our daughter and her family - had a wonderful time.

The Neil Sedaka Story on stage: “Laughter In The Rain”
April 2, 2010

Last evening I saw the Neil Sedaka story on stage, in a packed theatre - a nostalgic harking back to the lost era of my youth. I remembered all his hit songs of the late 1950s and early 1960s, among the style of rock ‘n’ roll that was so exciting at the time and which ended quite suddenly with the Beatles and their imitators. The stage show told Sedaka’s story in chronological order and kept bursting into his songs. Wayne Smith was very talented as Sedaka, sounded exactly like him, and was much better looking. The backing six-piece band used huge amplifiers which sometimes made our 9th row seats vibrate. We saw Sedaka meet Howard Greenfield through their mothers knowing each other; the start of the great song-writing partnership; their arrival at the Brill Building, and working with Don Kirshner. I was waiting to see how the show covered their big breakthrough moment - getting to meet Connie Francis and demonstrating Stupid Cupid for her. It was pretty much as Connie described it in her autobiography.

Before my eyes, Connie wandered onto the stage and stood by the piano. It was a breathtaking moment for me because the actress looked so much like her. A wig of dark hair just like Connie’s style, a pretty face that was very similar, and a 1950s frock precisely like the ones Connie wore. This truly looked like the 19 year old Connie made flesh again.

The script for this scene was taken right out of Connie’s book. Sedaka and Greenfield played a series of songs she didn’t think were right for her, and only when they were about to leave did they dare play Stupid Cupid which they thought was too wild for her. She immediately knew it was going to be her next big hit. Neil Sedaka sang the first verse, then Connie took British invasion’ arrived, and his being swindled of much of his fortune by his naivety and his mother’s lover; his emigration to London for a few years, his return to America determined to have one more big hit, and his success with Laughter In The Rain which made Billboard’s No. 1 (and gave this show its name). There was a thread of sadness in Sedaka’s story too, for he was very driven and never satisfied. Whatever he achieved, he wanted more. Psychologically he simply needed more.

His memorable songs, the over, moving to the front of the stage singing the rest of the song straight to the audience, sounding almost like the real Connie, with a supporting group of male singers chanting the “Stupid Cupid” refrain. It transported me right back to February 1959 and my first Connie Francis concert, when she stood at the front of the Palace Theatre stage and sang this very song looking very much like the young be-frocked singer in front of me now, 51 years (!) later. It was mesmerising. Not in the way that it would be if the real Connie was on stage, but in another way: the successful creation as faithfully as is possible of what can never happen again - Connie Francis aged 19.

Next, to my delight, and out of chronological sequence, ‘Connie’ sang Where The Boys Are right through. Later I identified among the cast of seven talented young women singer-dancers the one who had played Connie, and noted with satisfaction that she was by far the prettiest of the seven.

The show went on to tell the rest of Sedaka’s story - his marriage, the collapse of the market for his songs when the Beatles and ‘the genuine rock ‘n’ roll of the backing sextet, the sparkling appearance of Connie Francis, and finally the audience clapping and dancing in the aisles and at their seats at the end, made it a great evening out.

In The summer Of His Years
May 10, 2010

An interesting article, Sal. I well remember the TV show ‘That Was The Week That Was (TW3) and the time Millicent Martin sang ‘In The Summer Of His Years’. TW3 was a satirical weekly programme which mercilessly satirised the British ‘Establishment’ - politicians, royalty, the legal system, the BBC, etc - and it broke many taboos in doing so. It changed Britain, particularly in reducing the traditional deference to those in authority. It helped make the Sixties ‘swinging’. Half the country loved the irreverent programme, half hated it. It was especially loved by young people, such as Margaret and I who were students.

The day after President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, TW3 had to broadcast its weekly show as usual, but when they ran through the material they’d been preparing all week it was obvious that none of it was appropriate for the appalled mood of the moment. They had to create an hour-long programme within a few hours, starting from nothing - and they did it brilliantly.

One of the highlights of each week’s show was a song whose lyrics made comments about and poked fun at things that had happened during the week. Millicent Martin, the resident singer and dancer, always sang this. The show’s resident song-writers were Herb Kretzmer and David Lee who had to work under immense time-pressure. They started at 1 p.m. with nothing decided except that it had to be about Kennedy and match the day’s mood. It needed to be completed by the end of the afternoon so Millicent could learn it and then sing it live that evening (TW3 was always a live show). What they came up with was ‘In The Summer Of His Years’.

Millicent Martin normally sang the week’s song under full studio lights, with every expression on her face visible, even the twinkle in her eyes, put there by the amusing witty lyrics which punctured pomposity and satirised various ridiculous things that had happened in the past seven days. This time was very different. She insisted she sing the Kennedy song standing still, lit only from above and behind so that her face was mostly in shadow “so that if I cried as I sang it the audience couldn’t see my tears”.

I have clear memories of watching it on the original night. You may imagine its impact, sung only 27 hours after Kennedy died, while we were all still in a state of unbelieving shock (truly comparable to the shock after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and Washington).

Connie’s ‘Souvenirs’ 3-CD set explains that Ron Roberts in England saw Millicent’s performance himself and contacted Connie, and “she decided to record it as her own personal tribute to the fallen leader. The single was packaged in a conservative gold sleeve with no photos, and proceeds were donated to the family of J D Tippit, a policeman who’d also been slain that day in Dallas.”

I can still recall where I was when I first heard that Kennedy had been shot. I was in The Globe pub in Baker Street, London where Margaret and I had called in for a drink. The barman turned the radio up so the whole hushed crowd in the pub could hear the incredible story on the 7 p.m (British time) news. At that time JFK was thought to be still alive, and all was confusion, but when Margaret and I reached her digs (apartment) just in time to hear the 7.30 news bulletin it was announced that he had died.

Connie interview by Deardra Shuler April 30, 2010

I thought it a fascinating wide-ranging interview, hosted intelligently and sympathetically by Deardra Shuler. As Sal remarked, it was interesting to hear her say that her having bipolar disorder was a mis-diagnosis. I was glad to hear that she’s now only a few months from completing her new written biography, to be called ‘Among My Souvenirs’, which will be more frank than her original ‘WSN’ book. I was intrigued to hear her account of the reason that the proposed film of her life is dead: Connie insisting on Robert Freedman being involved as writer, and Gloria and her people refusing to work with him. A stand-off like this is a disappointing reason for a disappointing outcome. Perhaps it’s not the whole story. About her visit to Vietnam, I was struck by her statement “I went out a hawk and came back a dove;” a far cry from her support of Richard Nixon and her “Nixon’s The One” recording. And now Obama is her hero. I liked her delicious sense of humour showing up when she said she’d had a dream in which she married Obama but had a lot of trouble in getting rid of Michelle! I thought her description of Sarah Palin as “a category 5 moron” was very funny, regardless of one’s politics.

In view of the promotional piece around her diva show with Dionne Warwick which said Dionne had pushed Connie into a locker when they were both schoolchildren, I was interested to hear Connie say she’s never met Dionne apart from one passing moment at some showbiz event. It’s doesn’t surprise me that the locker story was invented for publicity. Connie confirmed though that they did both go to the same school - presumably not exact contemporaries.

Thanks Michael Dardenelle and Alie Smit for alerting us to this interview.

Connie in the car
April 24, 2010

We have three of our grandchildren (aged 9-12) staying with us for a week, and when we’ve gone out in the car we’ve been singing to some Connie rock music. I’ve written about this before during previous visits of theirs, but it’s still very amusing to hear the three voices lustily singing along with Connie and I, and me looking in the interior rear-view mirror and seeing their upturned faces as they sing in unison. They know the entire lyrics of their favourites, such as Lipstick, WTBA, Lovin Man and the ballad Bobby Dawn. It’s also fun when they’re in the house, when there’s often one or other of the children singing to themselves snatches of the songs. We’ll hear “They just don’t understand; they’ve got the wrong man” or “Bet your bottom dollar you and I are through” or various other lines. It’s a sign that Connie has really got into their system!

Lyrics which date a song
Feb 26, 2010

I was playing Too Many Rules and one section reminded me how things can change so much that years later they date a song to a long-gone era:

“When you call me on the telephone / it’s not my own. / They’ve made it known. / So you must call me only / now and then. / There go those rules again!”

A single household phone which the teens can’t use without permission! So very different from modern kids who all have their own personal mobiles, use them all the time including during meals and conversations etc, and many users are truly addicted to them.

Jodie Sands and Connie
Feb 22, 2008

I’ve just caught up with listening to the “mystery’ singer of “We Had Words” which Will uploaded for us the singer who by now I’d read was Jodie Sands. I agree, it is so very 1958 Connie that it is easy to think it might be her. The arrangement is pure 1958 Francis and is almost certainly a deliberate copy of Connie’s type of arrangements, which at that time were sensationally successful. I think Jodie was probably also deliberately emulating Connie, introducing a few of her little characteristics. However Jodie’s voice has a slightly harder edge to it, a more steel-like timbre, and there are a few words or phrases which are treated in a way Connie never did - such as the early “hurt.” In places Jodie also allows longer pauses between words than Connie does, making it a shade broken up; Connie would have given a slightly smoother performance.

Jodie Sands’ “Someday’ was one of the first records I ever bought, back in 1958. I loved that recording and Jodie’s strong vibrant voice. I still have the original 45 rpm disc. In England it was published on the pale blue “His Master’s Voice label” a subsidiary of EMI. The disc is in its red and white HMV paper sleeve, depicting a dance floor with couples jiving “ a real period piece now. The flip side is “Always In My Heart’, a charming ballad. “Someday” reached No. 16 in the UK charts in November 1958 but was competing against Ricky Nelson’s simultaneous version which reached No. 11, each version hitting the other’s sales hard.

Thanks Will, for providing me with an entertaining spell listening and re-listening to this attractive recording, while indulging in some nostalgia!

Connie can be such a tonic
Feb 23, 2010

I’ve been in France for a few days, and yesterday evening caught the Eurostar train home from Paris. On the journey, the train ground to a halt outside Calais, just before entering the tunnel under the English Channel. There was an opaque announcement that “the train has had an Accident.” The uncertainty of not knowing how long we’d be stuck there, immobile, was the worst of it. Eventually we moved after an hour, the passengers feeling relieved yet annoyed.

However this annoyance was soon soothed away when I slipped into my car for the drive home and began playing a Connie CD. That sublime voice in some of my 1960 favourites, half a century old now, such as Teddy and It Would Be Worth It, had me purring with pleasure. I rocked down the motorway in the blackness of the night as I heard Robot Man and Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool. In the quieter country lanes nearer home the more wistful I Think Of You seemed nicely appropriate to the gentler surroundings. Driving through dark tunnels formed by trees arching over from each side of the narrow road, I was listening to one of those songs so deeply loved through the familiarity of thousands of plays, My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own. Soon the car headlights were illuminating the brown ferns and oaks on the edge of my lane and I had reached my house, in good spirits. Connie can be such a tonic.

Evolution of Connie’s voice
March 24, 2010

Hi Sal, I’m catching up with your post of 12 days ago (having been out of the country for several days organising the programme for an international conference for magazine publishers, with mountains of preparation work beforehand). I agree that thinking about the evolution of Connie’s voice is one of the rewarding aspects of listening to her music. Her vocal development was really quite remarkable in its speed, and means it is possible to place most of her recordings pretty accurately in time even if we didn’t already know when they were recorded.

I consider that there are at least half a dozen (depending on definitions) different phases of her voice during her career up to and into the 1970s, and it is fascinating to contemplate the differences and muse about the reasons.

Driving with Connie
Feb 26, 2010

Yesterday, early evening, Connie turned what could have been a tiresome 60 mile drive on my own into a pleasure. With Connie CDs playing, my journey began in the busy rush-hour traffic of the M25, one of the busiest motorways in the world. But I was soothed by the nostalgic memories associated in my mind with Among My Souvenirs and You Always Hurt The One You Love, and I was cheered by the happy voices and sandblown tones of Blue Hawaii.

Soon the motorway was out among the fields of Kent county. The daylight was beginning to fade, and by sheer coincidence Connie was singing “the purple dust of twilight time steals across the meadows” as I listened to her delicate refined interpretation of Stardust. I reached the foot of the wooded ridges of the North Downs chalk hills, now seen only in silhouette. I thought of the times I have stood on the crest of these hills, looking southwards across 30 miles of sandstone ridges to the matching chalk escarpment of the soft green South Downs, a region where I grew up. This sublime view (visible only in my mind on this darkening evening) was matched by the sublime treatment of the next song, Like Someone In Love, with Connie showing how she’s feeling by listing the simple but indicative little things she is doing, such as gazing at stars, hearing guitars, walking as though she had wings, bumping into things.

By the time I’d left the motorway and reached the quiet country roads of rural Surrey it was fully dark, and my elevated mood was reinforced by the laughing positive spirit of Young At Heart. I entered a long section of road where the branches of the trees on either side of the narrow lane meet at the top to form a skeletal leafless tunnel. The headlights caught two reflective points of light. The eyes of a fox. Foxes are often seen round here at night. This fox led me to me recall that in my recent holiday in Australia the wildlife most commonly seen by the roadside was dead kangaroo. They come out at night and if caught in a vehicle’s headlights they freeze and get knocked over. On one day alone, as I drove down rural roads we passed the bodies of nine dead kangaroo lying on the roadside.

I had almost reached home when I became lost in Love Me Tender ‚Äì the appealing vulnerability in Connie’s voice, the touch of huskiness, the softness and beauty of the uncomplicated melody, and the affection in the lyrics. As I turned into my own unsurfaced lane and the headlights picked out the mature oaks which line the verge, the next and final song kept me in contemplative mood - the gentle beautiful Vaya Con Dios, with its elegantly simple accompaniment including acoustic guitar, and Connie’s delectable voice so thoughtful and tranquil.

This is how Connie’s music makes me feel during a drive. By turns soothing, nostalgic, cheerful, sublime, elevated, positive, gently contemplative, and lost in the beauty of a song - my mood reflecting the mood of the music. Sometimes I feel almost sorry to have reached my destination because my entertaining private concert has to come to an end.

Carols on the move
December 21, 2009

We’re in the grip of a very cold spell here in England, with snow, ice, frost, and chaos on some of the train and plane services - though not as bad as the eastern side of the USA (if our news media reports are to be believed). Fortunately when I had to drive a long way to the West Country a few days ago it was the day before the great snowfall. During the drive the CD player was playing carols and Christmas songs, and when Elvis Presley sang “Here comes Santa Claus” it was quite true, for we were delivering Christmas gifts from three households in our area and collecting ours from three households down West. During the ride we heard three versions of White Christmas, by Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Connie.

Amid the pleasures of seeing family members, and dining out and eating in, a big topic of conversation was a murder in our relatives’ village. The murdered man, who looked a real villain in his photo in the local paper, had deliberately burned down the house of somebody. In retaliation a posse of men kidnapped him, took him to a remote field, beat him to death, stripped him naked, and dumped his body and a burned out car on a grassy track beside a field belonging to my nephew. Five men have been arrested for the murder.

On a more uplifting topic, our journey home on empty roads through the dark night was enlivened and warmed by more Christmas music, and on the last part of the drive - from the hills of Salisbury Plain onwards - Connie carolled us home, just reaching the last track on her CD as we came down our final country lane and home, a sublime ending to our travels.

‘You Were Only Fooling’
December, 22 2009

I’ve been playing the Ink Spots’ version of You Were Only Fooling, the song Connie used as the B side for Who’s Sorry Now. I came across it some years ago when I bought an Ink Spots CD. The reason for buying the CD was that I knew that Connie’s If I Didn’t Care had copied the deep deep voice used by the Ink Spots in their version in the 1930s or 1940s, and I wanted to hear the original. I found my Ink Spots CD included not only If I Didn’t Care but also four other songs which Connie recorded, namely You Were Only Fooling, I’ll Get By, The Gypsy, and I’m Beginning To See The Light.

The Ink Spots’ version of You Were Only Fooling is very different from Connie’s. Not rock, not country, but a quiet simple ballad. The lead singer takes it at a gentle pace with the other three singers softly crooning wordlessly in the background, accompanied only by guitar and double bass. There’s a notable spoken bridge two thirds of the way through - intoning several lines of the lyrics while the crooners provide an impression of the melody. In all, it’s a charming and sweetly old-fashioned interpretation of the song.

However it doesn’t reflect the meaning of the words as accurately as Connie’s later version did. Connie sounds as though she’s feeling the pain, whereas the Ink Spots’ total lack of emotional angst makes it sound as though they could be singing about boating down a river on a summer’s afternoon.

I wonder if the Ink Spots were one of the influences on Connie which encouraged her to use a spoken bridge in many of her songs? The Ink Spots did it a lot.

‘Happy New Year Baby’
January 1, 2010

Happy New Year to all my friends here! I hope you had a great time seeing in 2010, and played Connie’s ‘Happy New Year Baby’.

I’m very fond of this recording. The sentiment expressed by the words is a very attractive one - looking back on the events of the past year when the singer fell in love: “It’s been a year I won’t forget. / So many things I recall.” And the song looks optimistically forward to the glowing prospects of the new year, and “I pray one year from today / We’ll be embracing in the same old way.”

However the main reason I like this track so much is the perfection of Connie’s voice. It’s one of the many songs where I simply marvel that Connie can just open her mouth and a liquid stream of crystal notes effortlessly comes forth, pure and clear. It sometimes reminds me of the song thrush which used to sit high up on the pinnacle of a tall columnar green cypress tree in my garden, and I’d stand near the tree amazed at the river of delicious notes cascading from the bird’s opened mouth. It too sang with the same uncontrived ease and perfection as Connie. Robert Browning described the thrush’s song as a “fine careless rapture”, and “rapture” well describes the state in which Connie’s best singing leaves me.

Have a wonderful 2010, and lots of discussions about our Connie!

A fabulous evening of rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia
March 3, 2010

Last night we experienced a fabulous evening of rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia, a few hours of hedonistic joy and affection for our lost youth. We were at the theatre seeing the show ‘Dreamboats and Petticoats’, full of great songs from the late 1950s and early 1960s which were weaved around a simple storyline. 95% of the audience were in their sixties or thereabouts - in other words, we were there when the originals of these songs came out. Songs like The Great Pretender, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Poetry In Motion, It’s Only Make Believe, Let It Be Me, Only Sixteen, To Know Him Is To Love Him, and Dream Lover among many others.

The performers were a cast of about 20, including seven musicians, while the rest were talented young dancers and singers. The band created great rock ‘n’ roll rhythms and volume with immense brio and energy. The singers were excellent, and better singers than some of the 1950s/60s original artists they were copying, namely the successful but not quite top-flight performers, people like Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, and Adam Faith (all were better singers than Faith).

The slim storyline was this: gauche 17 year old Bobby meets plain 16 year old Laura, she falls in love with him but he doesn’t ‘see’ her in that way; flirtations and romances with others go wrong; plain Laura unplaits her hair and takes off her glasses to reveal a stunning beauty, Bobby at last falls in love with her, and they jive and twist happily ever after. It was a plot told with lashings of wit and exquisite period touches.

The show was so packed with songs that the characters rarely said more than a few lines before the dialogue or the situation fed straight into a new song. Even the characters’ names led directly into songs. Early on, Laura sang Susan Maughan’s I Want To Be Bobby’s Girl. Bobby eventually sang Tell Laura I Love Her. A flirtatious young tramp was called Sue (cue Dion’s Runaround Sue), and Sue’s best friend was Donna (cue Marty Wilde’s Donna).

In one scene during a youth club outing Bobby is dating flirtatious Sue (cue Del Shannon’s Little Town Flirt), then Sue dumps him for the Billy Fury character (a British Elvis lookalike). Chastened Bobby laments by singing Del Shannon’s Runaway. The unrequited Laura observes all this, and tastes some bitter-sweet revenge by singing to Bobby - guess what - Who’s Sorry Now! How I applauded!

Connie Francis featured in the show in another way. But I must stop. Must dash. Dinner. More later.

‘Dreamboats and Petticoats’ continued
March 4, 2010

At the ‘Dreamboats and Petticoats” show there was a lovely blown-up photo of Connie with her flip hairstyle. It was part of the stage backdrop, which was a series of montages of giant photographs, LPs, advertisements and other images of the late 1950s/early 1960s.

It was a sublime show in which I was permanently smiling or laughing or clapping my hands in joy or joining in the singing. The performers were singing the songs which the whole audience grew up with, and in my case many were songs I myself performed on stage in my group/band at school. We were rapturously re-entering our youth through the music and fashions of the day.

Throughout, some of us joined in singing snatches of some of the songs. When it came to the grand finale, the band and singers blasted forth Let’s Twist Again, and a few of us stood up at our seats and began dancing the twist, me among them, then a few more did so, until quite a significant proportion of us were twisting again. I saw that many of us in our sixties can still twist and shout with real fervour! In the end almost the entire audience in the large theatre were on their feet, clapping and jigging and singing. The band on-stage switched to Eddie Cochran’s C’mon Everybody, and at the beginning of every chorus we all shouted out at the tops of our voices “C’mon, everybody!” and each time we did this there was a thrill of emotion that two thousand complete strangers had fused into a single entity. Finally the band played At The Hop, another song I performed so often in my school group, and what a groovy song that still is!

Phew! After the final curtain went down many of us in the bubbling audience, in our elation, began talking about the show to unknown people in the rows behind and in front of us. I was moved to tell a party of people I’d never seen before that “Let’s Twist Again was the song being played when I first met my wife [tapping Margaret on the shoulder] and the first song we ever danced to, all those years ago.”

“To Connie. Love, Jenna”
November 29, 2009

A few days ago Jean mentioned Jenna Esposito’s new CD of her tribute cabaret of Connie songs. I agree with Jean: treat yourself to it. I’ve been playing it and have really enjoyed the bright fun of the recorded live concert, and Jenna’s company.

I found it very stimulating to hear for the first time a whole CD of Connie songs sung by someone else, giving me Jenna and Connie, Connie and Jenna, both at the same time. So deeply ingrained in me are Connie’s versions of all the songs that, as Jenna sang, I could hear Connie too, in the background of my mind, as I noted with keen interest the similarities and differences in the two singers’ interpretations. Of course their voices are different, and one thing that struck me was Jenna’s originality as she found new ways of delivering the lyrics and the emotions while staying within the spirit of Connie Francis.

Another thing that impresssed me was the power of Jenna’s voice. While I wouldn’t say it quite compared with Connie’s exceptional power, I relished the vocal strength displayed in Are You Satisfied (especially after the musical bridge), the controlled potency of the finale of Mama, the sustained force in Send For My Baby, and in many other places. What about the high final note of Fallin’, held for several bars!

By contrast there was the soft wistfulness of My First Real Love, the delicacy of Roundabout, the tenderness of the opening lines of Mama, the final long dulcet note of Among My Souvenirs, and so on. I think Jenna’s voice is at its richest in her slower-paced softer passages. Roundabout is the principal example.

A feature which charms me is Jenna’s frequent vibrato, an undulating pitch on the same note which seems to come so naturally to her, as though she’s exulting in the sheer joy of singing.

I was interested to hear Jenna’s speaking voice as she introduced some of the songs. I liked the humour in the way she did it too, and the truly comic touches. For instance, recreating the scene when Connie’s father insisted Connie record WSN, Jenna’s own father (who plays guitar in the band behind Jenna) intoned “Here’s your hit, dummy!” and Jenna responded “Gee, thanks Dad!” Another light moment which made me laugh was during the instrumental bridge in Stupid Cupid when Jenna exclaimed “This is the Connie wiggle!” and I could mentally see her doing it.

I thought the band and backing vocalists performed an enthusiastic and very good job, both on the rock numbers (for example the strong chunky rhythm of Send For My Baby) and on the more contemplative songs too, such as the light arrangements for Roundabout. In general I liked the tendency to recreate the feel of the fifties and sixties style of musical accompaniment. The only thing I would change is the “Naa naa naa naa naaaa naaaa” vocal on Lipstick On Your Collar, which is even more inane than the equivalent sounds on Connie’s original. OK, perhaps it was meant to be a fun deliberate overstatement of the original sub-teen squawks but I never liked the original noise and I like the Esposito version less.

I thought the choice of songs on the CD was admirable. Plenty of well-known hits (as is necessary for commercial success) but also no less than three of Connie’s pre-WSN recordings which no-one but the most devout of fans would ever have heard.

In view of Jenna’s versatility and craftsmanship I would love to hear a Jenna interpretation of two of my favourite Connie masterpieces which are not on this CD, which are very different from each other: the mystic Eighteen, and the elegiac Am I Blue. Meanwhile Jenna has created, in her live concert and its recording, a fine tribute to Connie while remaining true to herself.

I first listened to the CD during a long drive home at night, and was almost sorry to reach my house for it meant the end of my enchanting musical gig. Above all, I felt the CD painted a most attractive personality for Jenna - vivacious, talented and fun, someone whom it would be a delight to meet. I’d love this cabaret show to come to London, England!

Lovin’ Man / Oh PrettyWoman
October 3, 2009

As a supplement to my message about Lovin’ Man, you can play Roy Orbison’s original version Oh Pretty Woman online at

That page also has a version by the rapper group 2 Live Crew, a satirical take-off of the Orbison version. The rapper track has such lines as “Big hairy woman, you need to shave that stuff. Bald headed woman, you got a teeny weeny afro.. Big hairy woman, come on in, and don’t forget your bald headed friend. Two-timin’ woman, you’s out with my boy last night” !

I must say, I laughed out very loud when I heard the line “Big hairy woman, come on in, and don’t forget your bald headed friend” !

Lovin’ Man
October 3, 2009

Alerted by another Connie fan, I have been watching a YouTube video of Connie singing Lovin’ Man:

Connie looks fabulous and I particularly like the close-up shots. The way the mobile camera sometimes glides back and forth behind a pair of other cameramen whose bodies block out Connie is a little odd though, which makes me suppose the end result was to be a video with unimpeded shots from the mobile camera being intercut with shots from the close-up camera. I’d say Connie was lip-syncing.

Lovin’ Man is arguably Connie’s best rock ‘n’ roll recording. It has tremendous strength and vitality, comparable to the disco version of WTBA, but recorded much earlier before disco beat became as prominent as it did. If I play Lipstick On Your Collar straight after Lovin’ Man, Lipstick seems quite anaemic by comparison. And the Lovin’ Man song itself is a superb rock ballad.

I first knew and danced to this song as Oh Pretty Woman sung by Roy Orbison, which reached No. 1 in the UK in October 1964, and was 12 weeks in the Top Twenty. There were some intelligent alterations to the lyrics to make them appropriate for a woman to sing, and to suit Connie’s style. I like the way the story in the song - a gorgeous man walking down the street, ignoring the girl at first but eventually turning round to approach her - is told through a string of enjoyable rhyming couplets, such as “You look as handsome as can be. Are you lonely just like me?” The section I like best is the revelation towards the end: “Oh if you have to walk away / If it must be that way, OK / I guess I’ll go back home, it’s late / There’ll be tomorrow night - but wait! / What do I seeeeee? / The man is walking back to me!” Hooray!

Connie sings with power and verve, but there is more ‘acting’ in Orbison’s version. For example, his growling at that girl’s good looks. And after “but wait - what do I see?” Orbison has a long pause with just the rhythm instruments thumping like heartbeats, the boy’s heartbeats, and during this pause I can envisage the boy watching while the girl hesitates, looks back him, and then finally decides as Orbison crashes back with “Is she walking back to me? Yeah, she’s walking back to me!” That’s great artistry.

Nevertheless if Connie’s version had been released before Orbison’s (hardly possible, since Orbison co-wrote it) I’m sure Connie would have had another UK No. 1.

Although one of her best rockers, I don’t think Lovin’ Man is Connie’s most significant r’n’r recording. That’s Stupid Cupid.

Holiday magic
August 29, 2009

I’m recently back from a three-generation family seaside holiday in the southern England resort of Bournemouth, and on the drives there and back I entertained three of my grandchildren (aged 9-11) with Connie Francis, while the rest of the family travelled behind in another car. I’ve previously played Connie to the kids and they love to sing the words they know and they clap to the beat. The difference this time was that I’d typed out the lyrics of all the songs on my special CD of mp3s, and given copies labelled ‘Connie Francis Song Book’ to each grandchild. So while we sped down the motorways the children and I lustily sang the words right through, laughing in delight. Can you imagine the relish with which we, on our way to our much-anticipated seaside holiday, shouted out “V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N in the summer sun”!

In Bournemouth itself I was amused to hear the children singing snatches of the songs from time to time, whether on the sandy beach, in our hotel rooms, while strolling through the beautiful public gardens, etc. Thus out of a bedroom would drift “Bobby Dawn, I’m comin’ for to get ya”, or while they were digging out a sand castle on the beach I’d find someone singing “I’m standing in the ruins of our old love affair”, or I’d hear “Lovin’ Man walking down the street” as we worked round the crazy golf’s 18 holes.

On one occasion the children were asking us riddles, and I said “I’ve got a riddle. What told a tale on you?” Two of the three grandchildren got the answer straight away: “Lipstick on your collar!”

Connie added a touch of magic fun to our lovely holiday!

Pirate radio
August 15, 2009

As a postscript about the British pirate ships: Radio Caroline (along with some of the others) was more or less legal and had official offices in London. It was considered a legitimate advertising medium for respectable advertisers. The ‘piracy’ bit was that only the BBC (which did not take advertising because it is funded by a special tax) was allowed by law to run a radio station based in Britain. However as the ships were anchored just outside territorial waters they were not breaking the law by broadcasting to Britain. It was this restrictive law which was eventually changed as a result of the pirates’ action, especially in proving that there was a real and significant audience for popular music stations funded by advertising.

Hi Donna, for Britain it was a fascinating episode in expanding the availability of popular music, in which the little guys eventually prevailed over the vested interests of The Establishment, and forced the Government to bend to consumers’ demands. A truly buccaneering triumph!

Hi Jan. Yes, Radio Veronica started earlier than the British pirates – in 1960 when Connie was still high in the charts. The first British ship-board pirate radio was Radio Caroline which didn’t start until 1964, quickly followed by Radio Atlanta and Radio London, and others in later years. They continued till the late 1960s.

I remember the pirate ships not only as a listener but because in the late 1960s my first job was in a London advertising agency, and I had to investigate the value of the pirates as an advertising medium for some of our clients who wanted to use radio.

A British movie was released this year about these pirate radio stations – a fictional comedy tale based on the sort of things that happened. The film is called The Ship That Rocked. When the film is released in the USA in a few months’ time it will be re-titled Pirate Radio. I missed the film when it was in the cinema but I will get the DVD in due course.

Viewers comments about Connie’s Lipstick video
November 1, 2009

Enjoyed seeing this video, and the viewers’ comments underneath were interesting too. I’d been struck by how many of the audience in the video were chewing gum, then read the comment “sorry to say this but the gum took the place of all the sexual frustration that went on back then (more for us girls). You were a BAD GIRL if you did IT and if you got pregnant you were ruined.” That last sentence was so true in England too at that time. ‘Good girls’ never had sex until they were married (though there were plenty of ‘bad girls’ around). The Swinging Sixties didn’t start until well into the 60s, bringing a relaxation of the mainstream moral codes.

I then read another comment beneath the video and saw the real explanation of all the gum chewing: “This film is from the Dick Clark Saturday night show broadcast live from the Little Theater in New York City. The show was sponsored by Beechnut Chewing Gum hence everyone was chewing gum. They all had “IFIC” buttons on as Dick Clark said that the gum was “Flavor-IFIC”. He also said that it was the Fun Gum Chum. This show aired live May 2, 1959.” Interesting.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hi Gerrit, I’m sure your Grandfather will be looking down smiling from his cloud - and will be proud of you!

TV, radio and other media are killing off local dialects as they train conformity of speaking, or rather, a narrower range of speaking dialects. I think of my wife’s family in rural Somerset in the West, where one of her uncles, now 87, has managed to retain his Somerset country dialect. When I first met him decades ago I could hardly understand him, though I’ve learned the dialect since. From time to time he is interviewed by radio and TV crews who want to record his speech before the dialect disappears - for nearly everyone else in his area now speaks some form of BBC or Estuary English with only mild hints of Somerset accent.

That’s why I was delighted to see you use (and correctly use) the running together of many words in the term “Whassissupposedter mean”, which is the sort of thing not often heard now but was quite common at the time Connie’s career was at its peak. I was even more delighted to discover how much you appreciated my comment, and to read your fascinating story.

Holiday magic
August 29, 2009

I’m recently back from a three-generation family seaside holiday in the southern England resort of Bournemouth, and on the drives there and back I entertained three of my grandchildren (aged 9-11) with Connie Francis, while the rest of the family travelled behind in another car. I’ve previously played Connie to the kids and they love to sing the words they know and they clap to the beat. The difference this time was that I’d typed out the lyrics of all the songs on my special CD of mp3s, and given copies labelled ‘Connie Francis Song Book’ to each grandchild. So while we sped down the motorways the children and I lustily sang the words right through, laughing in delight. Can you imagine the relish with which we, on our way to our much-anticipated seaside holiday, shouted out “V-A-C-A-T-I- O-N in the summer sun”!

In Bournemouth itself I was amused to hear the children singing snatches of the songs from time to time, whether on the sandy beach, in our hotel rooms, while strolling through the beautiful public gardens, etc. Thus out of a bedroom would drift “Bobby Dawn, I’m comin’ for to get ya”, or while they were digging out a sand castle on the beach I’d find someone singing “I’m standing in the ruins of our old love affair”, or I’d hear “Lovin’ Man walking down the street” as we worked round the crazy golf’s 18 holes.

On one occasion the children were asking us riddles, and I said “I’ve got a riddle. What told a tale on you?” Two of the three grandchildren got the answer straight away: “Lipstick on your collar!”

Connie added a touch of magic fun to our lovely holiday!

Connie concert in London, 30 October 1960
August 1, 2009

I’ve come across my copy of a long letter of 1960 in which I described one of the Connie concerts I attended in London. It brings the memories back! And some details I’d forgotten. I’ll quote some of it.

The concert was on 30 October 1960 when I was in my teens, at the Astoria, a large cinema in north London which was occasionally used as a theatre. Connie was in touch with Mildred MacLening who ran the official British CF fan club (to which I belonged), and Mildred had told me she’d try to get me in to the theatre via the stage door to meet Connie. As arranged, before the show I met Mildred at the stage door where she was waiting for Connie to arrive by car from the Mayfair Hotel. We discussed the fan club, Connie’s visits, and her TV shows, but Connie was late, and eventually we realised she’d have no time to entertain fans before the show, and I had to go into the theatre before the doors were closed.

The theatre was quite fancy, with a fountain and goldfish in the foyer, and the auditorium walls were decorated with low-relief castles and villas. In the 12/6 seats I had a very good view of the stage, and the curtain rose to Cyril Stapleton’s Show Band. They and their singer Ray Merrell were very good, and they continued till the interval. In the second half we had George Meaton, who did incredible impressions of things like a train, a submarine hooter, a storm. They were unbelievably life-like, and I’ve never heard anything like it before. He was fun, too.

And then Connie Francis came on for the last 40 minutes of the show. She wore a bright pink dress which looked most effective when the back of the stage was floodlit in blue. The hand mike failed, so Connie had to use the fixed mike all the time. She began with ‘Old Man Mose Is Dead’, then we had a medley of her hit songs, including a few that were sung right through. After half an hour she left the stage to great applause, and came back on again for an obviously well-rehearsed encore. This was a medley of Al Jolson’s songs, and the switch from song to song and tempo to tempo was most effective. Throughout, the audience had been wildly enthusiastic, and I was enthralled.

After the excellent show was over, I went back to the stage door, along with about 25 other people - in pouring rain! Mildred came out to say that unfortunately Connie wasn’t being allowed to see anyone after all. That was a big disappointment. Everyone drifted away except four of us, who hoped such a small number might be allowed in after all. One of the four was called Freddy and he was quite a character. Small, going bald, he worked on the London Underground train system. He told us some amusing anecdotes of how he burgled a tobacconist’s shop, how we wangled some pay for no work, and so on. He claimed to know Connie personally, and said he’d joined her and her agents, managers etc. for dinner in some restaurant, that George Scheck had given him a ride to London Airport to see Connie depart on her last visit, that he’d been up to her suite in her hotel twice, and so on. He was a very good storyteller though I doubt how much of it was actually true! Unfortunately we never did meet Connie personally that night. The doorman gave us each a photograph (one that I’d already got) and told us for the umpteenth time that we were out of luck, and eventually we four left. I unlocked my bicycle, and as it was still pouring with rain my shoes, socks and the bottoms of my trousers were soaked - but it had been a memorable and entertaining evening.

As a postscript, a few days after the Astoria concert Connie was the star of her own TV show, in the regular Saturday Spectacular slot. It was billed as ‘The Connie Francis Show’, on 5 November 1960. The show was in four parts, divided by advertisement commercial breaks, and Connie sang one song in each of the first three parts, and had the last quarter to herself. My letter didn’t mention what songs she sang, but it said the supporting artists weren’t bad, except for Pedro de Cordora whose tap dancing was ridiculous and his finger-nail flicking (!) was nauseating. The pre-recorded show had an intriguing background design of huge blow-ups of the covers of most or all of Connie’s LP’s, and Freddy had told me after the concert the previous Sunday that he bought the lot for £8! Another tall story?

My letter also remarked that Mack Sennet had died that day, 5 November, and somewhat illogically added “I didn’t realise that Sennet was still alive till I heard that he’d just died”. Ward Bond of Wagon Train died that day too.

CFFC’s Fall Newsletter
August 8, 2009

I enjoyed the CFFC’s Fall Newsletter which arrived yesterday, focusing on Connie’s visit to Australia and New Zealand in 1961. Although the newsletter is only four pages long, there were photographs I’d never seen before and some short interesting pieces. Barbara Clarke in Melbourne couldn’t listen to Connie on the radio until she was given a crystal set at Christmas 1960. That brought back memories to me! At school in the 1950s my friends and I had a crystal set craze, rigging up these delicate receivers from kits, and listening to variable quality broadcasts, made all the more exciting by the fact we’d built the dinky machines ourselves.

‘My Diary & Me’
July 3, 2009

Another interesting snippet in C2’s 1961 article ‘My Diary and Me’ was Connie’s reference to a film she was hoping to make - which in the end never materialised. She (or her journalist ghost) wrote “Another film written for me [after WTBA] is a story about a big star ñ a girl who’s completely surrounded by an entourage, who can’t lead her own life, and life is very empty because she has all this glamour and yet she hasn’t found anybody she loves. All of a sudden, she meets a prince visiting from another country. Her manager is pulling his hair, but in the end they get married.” Does anyone know any more about this prospective film, and why it was never made? The plot, obviously based somewhat on Connie’s own situation, also seems to borrow from the 1957 film ‘The Prince & The Showgirl’ in which Laurence Olivier was a foreign prince who fell in love with showgirl Marilyn Monroe.

Some mp3s
May 13, 2009

I’ve been listening with great pleasure to some mp3s I haven’t played for a while, including some of Joe’s masterly tweakings. One was the ‘WSN mini-medley’, running together clips of songs which complement each other so well in their style (I’ll Get By, YAHTOYL, I Cried For You, and WSN) and adding some echo which makes an appealing distinction from the tracks published by MGM.

Best of all though was You Bring Out The Best Of The Woman In Me – two takes which Joe overlaid on top of one another. I wrote about this when I first heard it last year, and coming back to it I felt the same as I did then. One take comes out of the left speakers, the other take out of the right speakers. Sometimes the left-hand voice is a fraction ahead of the right, sometimes the right is marginally ahead of the left. Once again I felt that the effect is ethereal, eerie. It’s a bit like a duet, but it’s not quite that. It’s more that there’s a sense of time being fractured. Two parallel worlds are slightly out of sync.

It’s a different experience from listening to this song in the normal way, i.e. just one take. As a single take, it’s one of Connie’s most beautiful recordings. As two takes heard simultaneously, it’s transformed and elevated into something higher, something cubist. I was reminded again of the way time and dimensions are fractured in a cubist painting of an object, where you see several sides of the object all at once, whereas in real life you’d have to spend a few seconds walking round the object in order to see its front, sides and rear. Similarly, instead of the listener having to spend time listening to one take and afterwards more time listening to the other take, the mp3 presents the same person singing the same song slightly differently but at the same moment. Multiple viewpoints in a single painting; multiple performances in a single song. I still find it appealingly other-worldly. Thanks again Joe.

Sneak “pre-listenings”: What if...?
June 24, 2009

Gerrit, you raise an interesting point. Product testing where different variations are compared is very widespread in most areas of industry, from the packaging of grocery products to the design of front covers of magazines. Technically, it is perfectly possible to invite a sample of buyers of the relevant kind of music to listen to previews of several versions of a song and give their reasoned verdicts. I wouldn’t choose just members of a fan club, because they are going to buy the song anyway; instead I would select a more representative sample of potential buyers, including those for whom Connie is not a must-buy but a might-buy. The responses would probably be a good indication of the relative success of the different versions if launched.

But there are also reasons why pre-testing is not routinely done. For instance I suspect that in many cases the artists have their own idea of how they want the song to sound, and for creative satisfaction will not hand over to others the decision on which version to go with. There may be fears about confidentiality, with rivals able to steal a march after learning what song is coming next. Problems of timing with short time-schedules. And so on.

Intoxicated by ‘Don’t Tell Me Not To Cry’
June 12, 2009

En route to London yesterday to see an Ibsen play at my favourite theatre, I was driving through Surrey country lanes to our nearest town to pick up my wife after she attended a lecture on 17th century Dutch painters. In my car ‘Don’t Tell Me Not To Cry’ came up on the CD. Connie reaches high notes with thrilling verve and passion, and when played loud through eight speakers in the closed cabin of the car this song is exhilarating! I revelled in the way Connie sustains the long notes, controls her vibrato superbly, and maintains exquisite clarity of diction. Though the lyrics tell a heartbreaking story, the rather jaunty pace of the musical arrangement helps to alleviate the melancholy, and Connie’s sheer power and vivacity blew any sadness away. It was simply a joy to listen to it. And alongside this emotion I felt another set of emotions. I was driving between high hedges, where trees arched overhead and from each side their canopies met in the middle to form a long green tunnel, and in the short lengths of road between a sequence of such tunnels the sun shone brilliantly and the meadows on either side looked lovely. The sheer beauty and delight of this enchanting countryside was inspirational. As I drove I replayed the song, and repeated it again. The two parallel sets of emotion - the lift from Connie’s high-octane performance and the joy from the beauty of nature - blended together to buoy me up and intoxicate me. How quickly the journey sped by. After being in Connie’s company like this, I felt chirpy, upbeat and full of bounce when I left the car and walked eagerly towards the pre-arranged coffee house to meet my wife, with the prospect of an entertaining trip to London together.

P.S. for Roger’s attention: in the theatre one of the principal actors we saw on stage was the former Dr Who - Christopher Eccleston. Another was Gillian Anderson of X-Factor fame.

A Connie moment in Broadstairs
June 17, 2009

I’m just back from a short 3-day holiday in Broadstairs, a charming little seaside town in the county of Kent. There was one enjoyable Connie moment. In a bandstand on a low white cliff overlooking the beach a busker of about my age was giving a one-man concert of 1950s and 1960s songs. On his iPod he had the musical accompaniment and vocal backing for hundreds of songs, which he played through amplifiers and a battery of loudspeakers while he sang the lead vocals into a microphone. He was surprisingly good, and was singing the Everlys’ Bye Bye Love and Elvis’s All Shook Up as we arrived. Interrupting his pre-planned programme, I went up to him and asked “Have you any Connie Francis?” “I’ll have a look” he replied (correctly sensing that I would put some coins into his collecting box), and tapped into his iPod. “You have a choice: Who’s Sorry Now or Among My Souvenirs.” As it’s my favourite Connie song I replied “Who’s Sorry Now”. His recorded music and vocal backing were very good replicas of Connie’s recording, and he sang Connie’s part well and remembered all the words faultlessly. With the wind in the right direction, “Who’s Sorry Now” drifted from the low cliff and across the little sandy beach, the diminutive harbour, the centuries-old fishermen’s cottages and the house where Charles Dickens used to live, and all the many folk there who were of my generation were reminded of Connie Francis.

‘My Diary & Me’
July 2, 2009

“My Diary And Me” is a most interesting article. Thanks for scanning and posting it, C2. I’ve pasted the scan into Word and printed it A4 size, making it easily readable. The article is an informative insight into some of Connie’s attitudes in her early 20s, and there are many things on which one might comment. For example, she says she’s using her diaries as a source for the book she’s writing for teenagers, which would be For Every Young Heart, published in 1962. This made me look at the book for the first time for a long while, and remind myself of the delightful photographs in it, including the charming one facing page 32 and the large one facing page 128, both of which I’d forgotten about. However I recall that Connie said many years later that most of the book was ghost-written because she herself knew so little about the solutions to teenage problems, having been so naïve and unsuccessful in love herself, and that she was really the last person to have been writing such a book.

I’d be interested to know in which magazine the article appeared, Christian, and the date (some time in 1961 I should think).

Popularity of the name ‘Connie’
December 31, 2009

This sentence in my newspaper had me reading it twice to make sure I’d read it correctly: “A survey of babies born in 2008 [in the UK] finds that names such as Connie and Ruby have sprung into popularity.” In fact Connie was the fastest-rising of any girls name, moving up 90 places in the rankings (though only to 86th). This was attributed to parents naming their girls after a famous singer called Connie.

Not ours unfortunately, but Connie Fisher who won a TV talent contest to star as Maria in the stage show The Sound of Music. She’s now moved on to acting too.

The general theme of the article was the influence of celebrities in the naming of new babies. Ruby is the name given to the baby of Charlotte Church, a popular young British singer, and Ruby was the second most popular girls name given in 2008 (top was Olivia). Besides British celebrities, the article said that in addition “parents are influenced by American culture, celebrity trends and film and sports stars”. Will the name Connie rise further in 2009?

Happy New Year to all my lovely friends in this lovely Connie group.

My Sailor Boy - Eighteen
December 21, 2008

Roger, it’s interesting that My Sailor Boy became a hit in New Zealand when it was released after WSN – proving the ability of one smash hit to sell anything else by the same artist for a short time afterwards. I recognise that My Sailor Boy is your favourite pre-WSN song, but in my view a far stronger recording is Eighteen, which I rate as Connie’s first masterpiece. Now if that had been re-released worldwide straight after WSN, I reckon it would have been a big hit, helped by the post-smash-hit factor but also because it is such a strong and distinctive song in its own right. I suspect it would have sold better than I’m Sorry I Made You Cry, which I absolutely loved but for many pop buyers may have been too similar to WSN. Or just imagine Eighteen and ISIMYC as a double-sided hit, headed for No. 1 in the UK I’d say, a combination of two very different styles as worked so successfully a little later for Carolina Moon c/w Stupid Cupid. Not that I’d have wanted to lose Lock Up Your Heart, the B side of ISIMYC; I loved that one too.

50 years
February 27, 2009

Today is a personal 50th anniversary for me. On 27 February 1959 I saw Connie Francis on stage for the first time, at the Palace Theatre in London, England. As a schoolboy I could only afford one of the cheap seats, but I was captivated by the 20 year old singer, who was as enchanting in the flesh as the image of her I had created in my mind from her recordings and photographs. Although I’m a life-long regular theatre-goer, that first Connie concert is still one of the most memorable theatrical events of my life. I could hardly believe that the real Connie Francis was there in front of me, just a few yards away. (I wrote about this concert as a contribution to our Connie book ‘Among Our Souvenirs’ on .

It is difficult to credit that 50 years have slipped by since that breathtaking day!

50 years ago
March 1, 2009

Thanks Andy. A special thing about those days when I saw Connie on London stages in 1959 and the 1960s which can’t be recaptured today is that we knew Connie had many more years of active recording career before her, and potentially decades. There was the excited prospect of what her next single release might be, what fresh album we’d soon be able to buy, what TV show she’d appear on, how her voice and her style might evolve. There were only two, three or four years of recordings to look backwards on (we didn’t know anything about the pre-WSN songs at that time), but there was the high expectation of great new things in the coming years. As with any relationship that is relatively young, there was a delicious sense of anticipation of what the future will hold for many years to come.

Today, of course, we have a different pleasure which we couldn’t experience 50 years ago: a vast library of wonderful recordings to look back on and enjoy, an astonishing career to review, additional personal memories ? and still perhaps the occasional new thing to come: a book, a film, a concert, who knows.

You’re right Larry. And a special thing about those days when I saw Connie on London stages in 1959 and the 1960s which can’t be recaptured today is that we knew Connie had many more years of active recording career before her, and potentially decades. There was the excited prospect of what her next single release might be, what fresh album we’d soon be able to buy, what TV show she’d appear on, how her voice and her style might evolve. There were only two, three or four years of recordings to look backwards on (we didn’t know anything about the pre-WSN songs at that time), but there was the high expectation of great new things in the coming years. As with any relationship that is relatively young, there was a delicious sense of anticipation of what the future will hold for many years to come.

Today, of course, we have a different pleasure which we couldn’t experience 50 years ago: a vast library of wonderful recordings to look back on and enjoy, an astonishing career to review, additional personal memories – and still perhaps the occasional new thing to come: a book, a film, a concert, who knows.

CFFC Spring newsletter
April 9, 2009

I thought the Spring newsletter of the CF Fan Club was a particularly interesting read, describing Connie’s 50 year post-WSN career in year-by-year detail. Moreover the youthful photo on the cover is one of my all-time favourites of Connie, and I remember being thrilled by it when I first saw it in 1958. Among the accompanying photographic prints I particularly liked the 10”x 8” C-129 portrait, with stylish cropped hair leading the eye down to an angled view of a face of classical beauty.

‘A Garden In The Rain’
February 27, 2009

While driving to a meeting this morning I was immersed in the My Thanks To You album, for the sentimental reason that it is exactly the Connie voice which I heard during that concert which I attended 50 years ago today. As well as having a ten-day season in a variety show at the Palace Theatre, Connie also recorded the MTTY LP at Abbey Road Studios, London, a few days later during March 4-6.

Playing the album today, when it came to ‘A Garden In The Rain’ I recalled with pleasure the associations this song holds for me. I’ve described them before, in a piece I composed a while ago for the Connie Francis Rocks website. I wrote “In a sense the My Thanks To You album, and A Garden In The Rain in particular, is a souvenir of the concert, because at a time when her voice was still evolving and becoming more mature, A Garden In The Rain captured exactly the voice I heard on stage that afternoon in February 1959. A second association the song holds for me is that the musical bridge takes the form of the backing group reprising some of the song’s lyrics in a style of cooing which seems very old-fashioned indeed, reminding me of mid-1950s radio shows before rock ‘n’ roll really took over. This gives the musical bridge a strong period charm. Another association stems from the theme of the song’s lyrics: the garden becomes a magical place and “Surely here was charm beyond compare to view”, not just because of the rainy garden’s own wet merits but also because “it was just that I was there with you.” These words make my mind skip to places which were transformed for me because of someone I was with. One place I think of is La Roca, a long-disappeared underground coffee bar and lounge with a dance floor, in London’s Soho Square, where as a student I took a girlfriend very soon after we first met. The experience of being with her, and dancing with her, imbued the cavernous place with a lasting enchantment that still lingers in my mind. And so, in addition to the musical delights intentionally put into A Garden In The Rain by Connie and her colleagues, the specific tone of her youthful voice makes me think of the Palace Theatre, the quaint choral bridge takes me back to boyhood radio shows, and the lyrics remind me of a dance floor in Soho Square.”

And that’s what I recalled today too.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
December 24, 2008

This morning I was driving early, before it was fully light, in order to collect the large turkey we’d ordered for Christmas Day for our big family lunch, and the first track that came up on Connie’s Christmas CD in the car (resuming from where it had left off yesterday) happened to be The Twelve Days of Christmas. I know many people don’t like this song, and although I disagree with that I do agree that it is too long. As I listened to it while navigating narrow country lanes lined by tall hedges I thought I’d finish it after the ninth day of Christmas and move on to the next track. However when it reached the ninth day I was enjoying it too much to do that. In any case, this cheerful song as sung by Connie is one of those decades-old traditions of Christmas which have worn deep grooves in my brain and should not be curtailed. Anyway, how could I skip past this captivating voice? So I let it play through to the end, and I enjoyed it even more than usual. I think the reason is that I was listening to the song in a more judgemental, assessing, way than normal, wanting to understand why anyone would dislike it. But instead of finding such reasons (other than length and repetitiveness), this close attentive listening simply underlined the pleasures inherent for me in the recording, and especially the enchanting personality of young Connie that comes through.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Reading aloud
December 4, 2008

I’ve been listening to the latest album by one of my favourite singers, the delectable Katherine Jenkins, a mezzo-soprano, and the version of the album I have contains two CDs packaged in a box the size of a paperback book, with pages of photos of Katherine. The second CD consists of Katherine reading aloud some extracts from her newly published autobiography, and all the time that I’m listening to her lilting Welsh voice I’m thinking “If only Connie would do the same and issue a CD of herself reading aloud from her autobiography!” Or reading anything aloud, really.

Connie Francis: Lock Up Your Heart
December 23, 2008

I’m pleased to see Lock Up Your Heart mentioned, Larry. In 1958 I used my precious but limited pocket money to buy I’m Sorry I Made You Cry and thus acquired Lock Up Your Heart on the B side. It was one of the first two or three records I ever bought.

I used to play Lock Up Your Heart endlessly, mentally focusing on Connie’s crystal voice and the attractive personality that it projected in my mind. It was a vicarious way of being in this bewitching 19 year old’s company.

It’s a lovely song, not one of the greats but very pleasant. The words express a charming idea, and the melody is simple but appealing. I liked the distinctive electric guitar chords, played in discrete bunches, usually as sextuplets. The vocal backing complements Connie’s voice very well. The song progresses at a languid relaxed pace, as though it was a gentle warm summer’s breeze lazily rippling the tops of a barley field.

I was surprised to discover four decades later, through the Bear Family collection that Gerrit just mentioned, that a slower version of Lock Up Your Heart had been recorded. But it is too slow for my taste. If the version released in 1958 worked at a gentle pace, the slow version was so relaxed it was almost asleep. Moreover the twanging guitar chords had gone, changing and reducing the character and feel of the song.

I agree with you Larry that this is the young Connie’s voice at its best.

Silver Bells
December 21, 2008

I’ve listened to Doris Day’s ‘Silver Bells’ with pleasure, Gerrit. I’ve always liked Doris, and this is a particularly sensitive well- judged performance. As you said, the song would have suited Connie very well too, and Connie would probably have given us a spine- tingling interpretation. Unlike you, though, I wouldn’t place Doris’s Silver Bells above the best of Connie’s Christmas songs, such as Winter Wonderland. Of course, one’s response to a song depends partly on the associations it has for the individual. In my case Winter Wonderland conjures up images of boyhood days trampling through snow over the rolling white fields of the Hampshire chalk country or the undulating snowy landscape of the Sussex Weald, with the clarity and crispness of the cold air reminding me of Connie’s crystal-clear voice as she sings Winter Wonderland.

Carolina Moon - ISIMYC - WSN
December 22, 2008

Yes Sal, Carolina Moon coupled with Stupid Cupid was at No. 1 in the UK for several weeks. The platter entered the New Musical Express Top Twenty in August 1958, reached No. 1 in September, was still there in late October, remained in the Top Ten till the end of November, and was still in the Top Twenty in mid December. August to December - that’s a fabulous run in the Top Twenty! (though WSN did even better.) It wasn’t just Carolina Moon that accounted for this. Stupid Cupid was at least as strong a seller, and in my view was a more significant breakthrough for Connie, showing she wasn’t just a one- trick singer of oldies. (As Eighteen would also have shown if re- released straight after WSN.)

As for WSN and ISIMYC, I do see strong similarities: - in the singing style, in the structure of the performance (climaxing in the great crescendo at the end), in the voice, the emotion, the sorrow.

“Will you please greet Miss Connie Francis!”
October 18, 2008

One of the mp3s I’ve been listening to made me join in the applause. It was from a stage appearance, in the 1970s or 1980s I’d guess from the quality of Connie’s voice. A compere announces “Will you please greet Miss Connie Francis!” and she launches into a medley of some of her hits. As the audience recognises each song during the first few bars they burst out in applause, which is repeated at the end of the shortened song, and rises to a new crescendo as the next song is recognised, and I find I’m joining in and laughing and thinking “Yes, I’d be standing up and shouting rapturous appreciation like them if I’d been there”. Starting off with a modified version of Among My Souvenirs, she reels off hit after hit: Stupid Cupid, Lipstick On Your Collar, Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, Who’s Sorry Now, and I’m thinking and I’m sure the audience was thinking “Wow, hasn’t she had some great smashes!”, and still they come: Where The Boys Are, and back to Among My Souvenirs, and the audience is going mad. This is a real feel-good recording!

Origins of Love Me Tender
October 25, 2008

It was good to see a reference to Connie in the British national newspaper the Daily Telegraph the other day, even if it was only her name. It was in an interesting article about the song Love Me Tender and its origins.

To cut a half page article to 200 words: the song was written by George Paulson, who emigrated from England to New York in 1835. It was the days of minstrel shows and he wanted to write a song which would contrast with the typical jaunty upbeat minstrel material, so chose a gentle sentimental ballad: Aura Lee, about a beautiful young woman with shining hair. It was copyrighted in 1861. It became popular with trainee soldiers at West Point, who adopted it and wrote new words, calling it Army Blue. It also became a favourite of troops on both sides of the Civil War. It was mentioned in the lyrics of another war song, The Yellow Rose of Texas: “Talk about your Clementine / Or sing of Aura Lee”. Aura Lee was used in several early movies. Then Elvis Presley was hastily cast into a movie that was already filming, called Love Me Tender. A title song was needed, and Ken Darby the movie’s director chose the 95 year old Aura Lee, keeping the melody but writing new lyrics - but credited his wife Vera Matson and Elvis himself with the lyrics. Elvis recorded it in 1956.

The Daily Telegraph went on to say “After Presley, other artists stepped up to the recording mic with Love Me Tender: Connie Francis, the Platters, Tony Bennett.” (etc etc). The article could have added that Connie also recorded Aura Lee itself.

O.T: Edith Piaf
August 28, 2008

I’d seen Elaine Paige in this role almost 30 years ago, and she was superb, but if anything Rogers was even better.

One of the musical highlights was Rogers’ performance of the French song The Three Bells / Little Jimmy Brown. I remember the song well as recorded by The Browns and the British group The Batchelors. The song made the UK Top Twenty in September 1959, when Connie‚Äôs Lipstick On Your Collar was also in the Top Twenty.

When we returned home we went onto YouTube and watched fuzzy black and white videos of the real Edith Piaf singing these very songs. Isn’t the internet wonderful!?

‘It Takes More’
November 18, 2008

To make it more agreeable to be filling in tax forms this evening, I have been playing the 1965 For Mama album. A certain characteristic made me play one song a number of times: It Takes More.

It’s not one of Connie’s more outstanding ballads but it goes pattering along very pleasantly. It flows with a gentle lilt, most of the lines swooping in three loops, much as a swingboat rocks forward and back, forward and back, forward and back. For instance, “It takes more than just / a single rose / to make a sweet bouquet”.

But the characteristic which I particularly liked wasn’t that. It was the very pronounced way in which Connie replaces “Oh” by “Ho” with a strong H: “Ho my darling say / you’ll prove your love / for me in every way”. It occurs in the final line, which is then repeated.

That duplicated “Ho” has a saxophone-like deep resonance and is quite different from her usual lightly aspirated “hoh”. This is a full-on bold H stuck onto the front of the word, and I loved it.

‘An evening with Connie’ and ‘From Connie With Love’
September 26, 2008

I’ve just received an invitation to “An evening with Connie,” coinciding with a new CD release ?From Connie With Love?. The invitation says “Connie will delight you with songs from the shows and popular Classics” after the guests have dined in formal “black tie” dress.

It’s not our Connie, of course, but it brought a smile to my lips to imagine that it might have been. It’s Connie Fisher, who was chosen in a television competition to play Maria in the London revival of The Sound of Music, and she proved a real star, very personable and with a lovely singing voice. The invitation was quite tempting until I read the cost of £200 ($370) per person! For that money it would have to be the *real* Connie.

To Bournemouth with Connie
August 23, 2008

I’m just back from a week’s family holiday in the English seaside resort of Bournemouth, on the sunny south coast. Driving down there, ahead of another car, I had three of my grandchildren (aged 8-10) in the back. A good opportunity to continue the kids’ Connie Francis education, and it made for a marvellous journey. I had burned a selection of Connie’s rock ‘n’ roll and beaty ballads onto a CD, and labelled the CD ‘Songs to clap to’. And clap the children did, with gusto.

After the children’s previous favourite from an earlier drive (In The Ruins Of Our Old Love Affair), we continued with The Ballad of Bobby Dawn. As we sped down the motorway (freeway) through the woods and green fields of Hampshire’s chalk country, the children asked for a repeat of Bobby Dawn, and then another repeat. Each time they learned more of the lyrics which they then sang lustily. “Bobby Dawn, I’m comin for to get ya / Don’t you worry gonna set you free. / Bobby Dawn don’t belong in no prison / Bobby Dawn belongs with me.” We aped each deep-voiced “Bobby Dawn”, and loved it each time we reached “They just don’t understand. / They got the wrong man.”

From the motorway I glimpsed in the distance, beyond the golden harvest fields, Winchester cathedral. It is situated low down at the foot of the city centre just above the water meadows of the River Itchen. The building’s weathered stones are a thousand years old. Winchester cathedral reminds me of the Connie song of the same name, and novelist Jane Austen who is buried there.

The one good thing about the disco version of Where The Boys Are (compared with the original version) is that its hard thumping beat is ideal for the kids in the back of the car to clap to, and sway from side to side. They participated in singing “Where the boys are, someone waits for me” and “Till he holds me I’ll wait impatiently / where the boys are / where the boys are / where the boys are.”

By now we’d left behind the Iron Age hillfort of St Catherine’s Hill. A set of circular ditches and earthen ramparts which ring the summit of the hill can still be seen, three thousand years after the ancient Britons built them, and two thousand years since the Romans invaded and drove the occupants from their hilltop settlements.

Talk Back Trembling Lips is not one of my favourites, but its brisk pace breezes along and it set the children’s feet tapping and my fingers beating on the steering wheel. Everyone joyfully accompanied Connie singing “Talk back, trembling lips / shaking legs, don’t just stand there” and “Talk back, trembling lips / Burning eyes, don’t start crying.”

Soon we were crossing the sandy heathland of the New Forest, a vast open heather-clad area which used to be a medieval hunting ground reserved for the Norman kings. I saw that the heather has now turned a rich purple, an impressive sight under a bright sun.

Lovin Man was a wow with the grandchildren. It’s a powerhouse of a song, with a disco-like beat to clap to, and a wonderful refrain that everyone immediately learns and belts out: “Lovin Man, walking down the street. / Lovin man, the kind I’d like to meet.” It’s such fun chorusing this that we almost couldn’t do it for laughing out loud with happiness. This song, too, had to be repeated several times, and each time the kids remembered and sang more of the words: “Oh Lovin Man, I don’t believe you / you can’t be true / no-one could look as good as you”!

Following the energy and high temperature of Lovin Man, Lipstick On Your Collar sounds rather thin and anaemic when played straight afterwards - even though it’s one of Connie’s two best-known rock ‘n’ roll hits. However the chorus was soon learned by eager children, who joined in enthusiastically when the song was repeated.

To the sound of I Wish I Had A Wooden Heart (in Spanish) we finally arrived at our hotel. It was perched on a low cliff top overlooking a long strand of beautiful beach, stretching either side for miles, with views across the blue bay to white chalk cliffs which terminate in eroded stacks standing in the sea, a cluster of dramatic pinnacles. This beach of Bournemouth has been voted the best beach in England, and its sand is perfect for making sand castles. Our family group of six had a wonderful week here, and Connie had given four of us some great fun to start the holiday.

Little Miss Lucky
March 2, 2007

I don’t remember ever hearing this song before. I must have missed it if you sent it many months ago, Will.

The guitar chords in the first bar make me think of Fallin’. But then the weak introductory bars with the chorus inanely chanting ‘Lucky, lucky...’ prepares me for a children’s song, and what a delight it is when Connie comes in with a love ballad sung with exceptional clarity and crispness of voice. The lightness of the instrumental accompaniment through most of the song is just right for this voice.

I like the bridge section where Connie speaks instead of sings. I’ve always liked this feature in her songs, going right back to Together and even earlier.

Immediately she resumes singing the way she articulates “pretending” with that dip and rise in her voice sends a shiver down my spine.

Perhaps the lyrics’ theme of famous pop star with no love of her own, holding back the tears as she signs autographs, were written with Connie in mind?

Thanks for sharing, Will. What do you know about this song and its recording?

Connie Francis returns to where the boys are - and her film career
March 1, 2007

This was an interesting interview -- particularly the section where she’s talking about her movie career and said “I hated it. I had an incredible contract with MGM. I could choose my scripts, co-stars, directors, whatever I wanted. But it was a drag for me. I found it very boring. I was an energetic type. I wanted to sing, I wanted to travel and perform for foreign audiences. I just didn’t care [about movies]. I would read my script on the first day of shooting” -- and then she added “I look back and think what a fool I was. It was a golden opportunity that I missed out on.”

This is what we’ve sometimes debated in the past. While she was never going to be a great dramatic actress, she had real talent for light comedy and could have made much better films than she did. I think, for instance, of what Doris Day accomplished in her film career.

Connie Francis returns to where the boys are - and her film career
March 1, 2007

This was an interesting interview -- particularly the section where she’s talking about her movie career and said “I hated it. I had an incredible contract with MGM. I could choose my scripts, co-stars, directors, whatever I wanted. But it was a drag for me. I found it very boring. I was an energetic type. I wanted to sing, I wanted to travel and perform for foreign audiences. I just didn’t care [about movies]. I would read my script on the first day of shooting” -- and then she added “I look back and think what a fool I was. It was a golden opportunity that I missed out on.”

This is what we’ve sometimes debated in the past. While she was never going to be a great dramatic actress, she had real talent for light comedy and could have made much better films than she did. I think, for instance, of what Doris Day accomplished in her film career.

Redevelopment of Sahara where Connie performed
March 7, 2007

How interesting that the Sahara hotel/casino is to be redeveloped. It certainly needs it. When I was in Las Vegas last September I could look out from my room on a high floor of the Stratosphere hotel and see down the length of the Strip. In the foreground were a few blocks of low-rise buildings or empty lots – among them the Sahara. It looked so small compared with the exotic glittering very-high-rise blocks further up the Strip. The Sahara was clearly ripe for development. The two Connie photographs that I saw on the walls of the bar of the Congo Room will go – I wonder if the new development will retain them as a piece of the site’s history? Somehow I doubt it. Well, at least the press report about the sale of the Sahara mentioned Connie (see below).

Carol Adams wrote: This is a bit of History. One of her best albums was recorded here.

Our Connie book
March 10, 2008

I must repeat my congratulations and thanks to Gerrit for conceiving and organising our Connie book. I have just re-read it – having initially read it on January 1st, the day the ebook was published, the 50th anniversary of Connie’s breakthrough on American Bandstand. I waited to order the printed editions until I returned from my month in Australia, in February, hence reading the book again.

The stories by members of this group are absorbing and in places truly emotional. Learning more about the Connie background of some of our Connie ‘family’ makes us even closer as a group.

I was struck by some of the similarities of our experiences, such as the ability of Connie’s voice to transfix and capture us in an instant during that memorable first time we heard it. Several people mentioned the fallow period when little or no new Connie music was being released in the decades after her MGM contract ended; we continued playing her music from time to time but had no-one to discuss it with. And then in the 1990s came the big reissues of her back catalogue, such as the Souvenirs set and Bear Family, which meant fresh never-heard songs became available, and then suddenly and miraculously the internet was creating a means of discovering fellow Connie fans at last.

I thoroughly recommend the book to those who have not yet bought it. It’s all by and about people you know. Just go to and type ‘Connie Francis’ in the search box.

I agree with you Gerrit, the sooner we have an ISBN number so that the book becomes more accessible to all Connie fans worldwide, the better.

“100 Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Records”

Looking through a pile of neglected old books and magazines today, I came across a book I’d bought three years ago, published by Record Collector magazine and called “100 Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Records”. Two pages were devoted to each record. One of the 100 was Connie’s Stupid Cupid.

Part of the write-up said “Connie Francis lingered in teenage dreams during the 1950s and 1960s like the songs she sang, tunes that got into your head and refused to quit. The truth is no-one wanted her to leave. She was glamorous and accessible at the same time, with a unique voice that could charge a ballad with mature emotion or inject youthful energy into a simple rock ‘n’ roll message.” Stupid Cupid itself was described as “one of the brightest teenage sounds of the decade”. How true.

“I’m Standing In The Ruins Of Our Old Love Affair”

Driving my 8-year-old twin grandchildren home after ten pin bowling this afternoon, I put a Francis CD on, thinking the twins need to become familiar with our Connie. They loved “I’m Standing In The Ruins Of Our Old Love Affair”, largely because the beat is so lovely to clap to. “Again!” they called out when it finished, and for half an hour I had to keep the same track blasting out of the car’s eight speakers so the twins could chortle and clap to the beat, rocking from side to side. When we stopped at traffic lights I too clapped in rhythm. My daughter, wife and another grandchild were in the car behind and said our car was visibly rocking as we bounced and clapped to the song while we stood at the lights. When we were almost home the twins insisted I play Connie Francis again next time we’re in the car. I’ll soon be signing them up for this Connie discussion group!

Radio Luxembourg: 75 years

It was on Radio Luxembourg that I first heard Connie, her voice fluctuating over the airwaves as she sang her mesmerising new recording Who’s Sorry Now. This week it’s 75 years since Radio Luxembourg was founded (and it’s 16 years since it closed). Among my memories of Lux, and its DJs, is the interference to the signal which made listening to the station a challenge. We were often fiddling with the dial to get a slightly better reception across the English Channel from the transmitter in the tiny state of Luxembourg. A journalist in my newspaper The Times (of London) has just written “in the early evening the medium-wave signal would swim in and out of Norwegian news bulletins, Danish shipping forecasts and giant tides of Russian static, lending pop music an exotic remoteness that it would never know again after the dawn of the crystal-clear FM era.”

How true. Lux was the main station we listened to for pop music in England, because there were no British commercial radio stations then, and the BBC ‘wireless’ stations didn’t play much pop. Among the best things on Lux were the hour-long weekly Top 20 programmes which would take us from no. 20 to no. 1, playing each record in turn, while we waited with keen anticipation to hear who was top this week, and where our favourite artists ranked. Best of all, though, were the series of ‘Connie Francis Sings’ programmes, once a week for 15 minutes, in which Connie would introduce each record, selecting from among her album tracks and her singles, and sometimes this was when I first heard her new single. Ah, magic days!

‘Let Me Go Lover’ - a little piece of musical perfection
December 5, 2007

I’ve been playing ‘Let Me Go Lover’ several times, it has captivated me so. It is a little piece of musical perfection. Not particularly well known, and rarely mentioned on this group, yet it is one of a number of jewels of this kind which Connie created in 1959.

There are many things I like about the recording. The melody is attractive but simple. The lyrics tell a sympathetic story - her lover has turned his attention to another but she, the singer, can’t let go of him emotionally, and beseeches him to do something to end his spell over her. The pace of the song is appropriately gentle and reflective. The accompaniment is light, restrained, and just right for the way Connie interprets the mood. I enjoy the way the solo guitar sometimes echoes Connie’s notes, as she and the guitar answer each other in a duet. The vocal accompaniment is well arranged, and sometimes eddies around Connie like a soothing breeze. But above all, it is the enchantment of Connie’s 20-year-old voice, and how she uses it, which makes this recording outstanding for me.

There are many little touches which I particularly relish and listen out for. For example, the delicate anguish with which Connie sings the first “cut me deep”. The way she sometimes takes a single syllable, begins it softly and makes it swell out before she moves to the next syllable. Or begins it strongly and makes it fade before the syllable is completed. The way, on other single syllables, her voice dips down and soars up again. The two-note delivery of the word “let” which we are frequently treated to. Those notes magically floating from Connie’s mouth which are drops of liquid purity and clarity. The youthful tone in the first and second “lover”, sometimes in “me”, and in the “go” in the final “go, lover”. Some of these are sounds which were lost in her later, more mature, voices. Very few lines are simply sung through without adornment; nearly all are enhanced by little touches like these, or other appealing inflections.

I look out for the vulnerability that is made evident by the quavering in her voice as she sings, after the key change, “How I pray that / you’ll say that / we’re through.” Vulnerability is attractive, it tears at one’s heart, evokes sympathy, makes one feel protective. Connie’s voice of Let Me Go Lover is the same young voice which bewitched me as a boy (though it was that voice singing Who’s Sorry Now which created the original impact). Underlying the appeal of Connie’s crystal singing was the personality of Connie the 19 year old, as I imagined it from that early voice. In 1958, listening to Who’s Sorry Now, I’m Sorry I Made You Cry, Lock Up Your Heart, I Miss You So, If I Had You, Carolina Moon, and so on, I conjured up in my mind an impression of this young woman’s personality. This impression of what Connie was like as a person was my own creation, based on that young voice. It was with that Connie, the Connie of my imagination, that I originally fell in love. When I later saw her in the flesh on the stage in front of me, in London in February 1959, the sparkling humorous and simply adorable personality which she displayed amply confirmed my youthful pre-conceptions.

We all do this, don’t we - hearing singers or actors we are never going to meet and talk to in person, we take cues from the performer’s public persona and internalise them to form our own image.

After 1959 Connie’s voice evolved and matured, through many stages, and I love all these subtly new voices. But it is the early era of the WSN and Let Me Go Lover voice that still holds me most tightly.

‘Old Records’

Several times this morning I played Connie’s unreleased song ‘Old Records’ which Mike Newmyer has just put onto his site at (you need to have joined Multiply and have Mike as a ‘contact’ to be able to hear to it). Listening to ‘Old Records’ was like meeting a friend you haven’t seen for a long time – I used to have an mp3 of it till it accidentally got deleted. I wrote about this song three years ago or more, and (forgiving the scratchy quality) I still enjoy this recording.

I like the country flavour, and I’m moved by the lyrics. The first line is so true. And the whole first verse is full of intriguing pathos: “Old records bring back memories / Pictures bring back tears / Do you ever think of me / after all these years?” That’s an evocative piece of four-line poetry, and typical Francis tearjerker material.

The pathos of the lyrics is then deepened, especially in the final phrase: “I found a stack of old records we used to listen to / and there [tied with ribbon?] were pictures of me and you / So I dusted off the records and played them one more time / I listened and looked at the pictures and I almost lost my mind.”

The recitation in the bridge is effective, though I can’t make out all words.

I think the recording plays a little too fast. A slight slow-down would be a good thing, adding some richness of tone to Connie’s voice. In particular the first line she sings is high-pitched in a manner that is not much like her; it reminds me somewhat of Bessie Smith on a high note!

Old Records was recorded on 10 January 1969 during The Wedding Cake sessions. I’m puzzled why MGM didn’t release it. But then there was a lot of fine material which they never released, wasn’t there.

‘Old Records’ – Kay Starr and Connie
November 13, 2007

I’ve just been listening to Kay Starr’s version of Old Records and comparing it with Connie’s. Most obviously, it’s good to hear the song clearly on Kay’s track, contrasting with the foggy reproduction of Connie’s which is evidently a copy of a copy of a copy….. The stretching of the tapes during copying, or whatever caused the sound distortions, increased the pitch of Connie’s voice till it hardly sounds like her, and is not natural to her, so I find I prefer Kay Starr’s strong throaty voice. But Connie’s voice as originally recorded would be better still, if only we could hear it.

I prefer Kay’s simple country & western backing accompanied by violins too.

Through Kay, I now can hear all the words in the spoken bridge, which on Connie’s mp3 is indistinct: “Like the song on the records / We were a big hit of yesterday / And when you held me in those pictures / I didn’t know you’d fade away.”

Old Records has such a catchy simple melody that I know it’s going to haunt my mind for the rest of the day – it always does.

Recent songs?

Interesting comments, Gerrit, but I’ve never perceived this clutch of songs as “leftovers” or “little ditties”. I’m more in accord with your description of them as “beautiful masterpieces of Connie’s art”. They are good examples of a much-loved kind of Francis song, emotional ballads of love in pop/country crossover style - usually tales of deceit and loss in love.

Till We’re Together Again is an exception in this group of songs, in being about hope, and the return of the loved one (though I think it’s possible she’s fooling herself). I enjoy the loping pace of the song, the lilting melody, the piano-led rhythm (I love chunky piano chords), and the gentle backing vocals. The musical arrangement of this song shows skill and imagination – as one would expect from Joe Mazzu.

Surrounded by this accompaniment, Connie’s voice delivers the lyrics with a soft lightness, a few of her trademark catches in the voice, and the clarity of diction we associate with her. Her subtle and apparantly effortless interpretation demonstrates that she’s at the utmost height of her craft, in 1967.

I could be equally appreciative of the other songs you mention: Someone Took The Sweetness Out Of Sweetheart, In The Ruins Of An Old Love Affair, Don’t Hide Behind A Heartache, and When The Heart That Used To Laugh Begins To Cry. As you concluded, “you can’t help but love them”.

‘My Treasure’ on YouTube
December 11, 2007

One of the most precious video clips on YouTube, I think, is Connie singing My Treasure on the Gordon Macrae Show in 1955. It’s not merelythat it’s rare to have any video at all of the pre-WSN Connie. She skips on as fresh as a daisy, looking like the young 16 year old that she is.We get a good look at her because much of the clip is a delightful full-face close-up of her standing at a fixed mike. Intriguingly, during the close-ups she seems to me to have the face of the adult Connie inher 20s, looking more mature than her real years. There are some lovelyfacial expressions which are real Connie-esque. And one girlyexpression. There are also examples of some of the hand movements whichwe later came to recognise as typical of her singing poses. I enjoy,with the benefit of hindsight, spotting signs in her early work ofcharacteristics which we later came to know as signature Connie traits.

The song itself is gently beautiful, and sung in a captivating liltingvoice. I’m a little curious as to whether or not Connie knew the lyricsby heart. Just as Macrae, when introducing Connie, was obviously readingfrom an autocue just below the camera (left of centre), so Connie wasdirecting her gaze to just below the camera, right of centre, as thoughanother autocue was there. This is more evident when the clip is viewedfull-screen instead of via the screen embedded in the web page. I like Connie’s elegantly simple dress. And that charming smile as shefinishes the song and backs away from the mike, ready to flee.

The clip is also interesting as an illustration of the very basicstaging and camerawork that was common in the mid 1950s. While Conniesings, only one camera is used, stationary, and directly in front of andlevel with her. All the cameraman does is slowly zoom in when Conniestarts singing, and he holds the close-up for the rest of the song,until slowly zooming out again during the closing bars. The microphoneis fixed on a stand and remains immobile, and Connie stands withoutmoving her feet. It’s simple, but it did give us an excellent view ofConnie!

Another thing intrigues me about the My Treasure clip. When the songwas finished, was Connie supposed to skip off the stage as quicklyas she did? Normally a singer would remain near the mike and take alingering bow and then walk off, but Connie fled at speed. Mysuspicion is that the 16 year old was rather overcome by themomentous fact of being on the Gordon Macrae Show and just wanted toescape. This is reinforced by the fact that the moment shedisappeared behind the stage curtain someone instantly shoved herback on stage to take another bow during the sustained applause. Yetall Connie then did was a hasty curtsey before fleeing again to thesanctuary of backstage. I think it’s sweet and charming.

July 14, 2007

I’d like to add my tuppenceworth to the recent posts about Eighteen.

In my opinion it’s Connie’s earliest masterpiece. For the first time it fully reveals her as an exceptionally talented artist performing idiosyncratic material in an amazingly creative way. When I first heard this song it took my breath away. It’s performed in an imaginative haunting style, making it a quirky mystical piece of brilliance which I find enthralling. Her interpretation (though not the vocal backing) could be considered jazz.

I wrote once before that I’m lost in admiration at Connie’s skill in delivering the lyrics throughout the song. Some examples that particularly captivate me: the way “where” in the second line begins with gentle force then immediately fades back, and contrasts with the delivery of “where” in the eighth line, and a different-again “where” in the tenth line. The touch of vibrato at the end of “eighteen” in line 3. The way “mmmooove” in the fourth line is elongated and the note slides up and down a little as it is held. And so on.

I see a hint of Marilyn Monroe in Eighteen – the voice’s tone and/or delivery is rather Marilyn in some words (“strangeness” for instance) or phrases (“try that”). That once led me to wonder if Eighteen and My Sister’s Clothes (a deliberate Marilyn pastiche) were recorded in the same session, and when I checked, yes they were. May 6 1957. So Connie was in a bit of a Marilyn mood that day. There’s also a touch of Peggy Lee in there: whenever I listen to ‘Eighteen’ I also think of Peggy’s ‘Fever’.

Another thing that appeals to me about Eighteen is a slight ambiguity in what the mystical lyrics actually mean:

“Oooh got a funny feelin’ / Oooh don’t know where to go / Oooh when you’ve just turned 18 / Things move so slow.

Oooh it’s a kind of strangeness / Oooh hard to understand / Oooh when you’ve just turned 18 / Where do you stand?

Oooh 18 seems so fun-ny / Oooh don’t know where I’m at / Oooh, everybody tells me / Try this, try that.

Who 18? I’m 18!”

Clearly these words are expressing teen angst and confusion, but they are doing so in an intriguing way and they suggest there’s something more. It’s spiritual, transcendental. Hearing this song for the first time was a bit like watching a Harold Pinter play for the first time: after being totally engrossed in the play throughout, at the end you ask yourself ‘What was that *really* all about?’ And you realise the playwright intends you to apply your own interpretation of what you’ve seen. And I suspect that’s what writers Bradford Boobis and Neil Nephew intended with Eighteen.

A journey with the young Connie
August 6, 2007

Yesterday I had a moderately long drive to do through three English counties, and took the Souvenirs 4-CD set with me. I drove through some of my favourite countryside, especially the South Downs range of hills in Sussex. The combination of Connie’s music and the beauty of the sunny countryside made for a perfect drive.

I never got beyond the first CD of the Souvenirs set, because I was enjoying it so much that I simply replayed it a few times - especially Connie’s pre-Whos Sorry Now tracks.

I’m very fond of these 1955-1957 recordings, and I enjoy observing Connie’s development from record to record, the subtle variations in tone and timbre, the real artistry that she was developing before her first great hit, and her gradually maturing voice until it flowered fully with WSN. I like looking out for early instances of characteristics that would later form part of her signature. For instance, the catches in her voice (such as in Forgetting), double-tracked harmony (as in My Treasure), the sheer clarity of her voice in every song, and the exuberant squeaks in Freddie which would become such a joyful feature of Stupid Cupid and Robot Man.

As I drove among hills, fields and woods which looked at their best, I felt a definite charm in Connie’s not-quite-mature voice - for example, as in Sailor Boy (which as a song is quite poor), I Never Had A Sweetheart (a fine song) and the gentle No Other One.

I remember that at one point as I was driving slowly through an ancient Kent village lined with black and white timber-framed houses, hundreds of years old, the youthful verve of Goody Goodbye was making me think of Connie’s later energy in Lipstick On Your Collar.

Eighteen is a standout for several reasons.

I arrived at my destination feeling quite elated by the pleasure of the drive - all due to the inspiring loveliness of the English countryside and Connie’s captivating early recordings.

The Majesty of Love
August 8, 2007

That’s an interesting comparison, Gerrit - the mistake of a young unknown Connie pairing with a well-established seasoned singer being repeated the other way round when Connie teamed with Hank Williams Jr.

As I think we both agree, the main factor in Majesty of Love being so poor is not so much Connie’s comparative youth (she had already recorded Eighteen and Faded Orchid, both featuring a mature enough voice, and it was only one month later that she recorded WSN) but her voice being forced out of its ‘comfort zone’ in order to harmonise with Rainwater.

Aug 7, 2007 As a postscript to my note yesterday about my drive with Connie’s early music, pre-WSN:- the one track where I don’t like Connie’s voice is The Majesty of Love. The requirement for her to harmonise with Marvin Rainwater forced her into a pitch that didn’t suit her, and in places her contribution became a screeching caterwauling. I know it eventually became a million-seller (partly due to Rainwater) but I usually press the Skip button when this comes on. Does anyone else feel the same?

The Majesty of Love
August 8, 2007

Sal, do listen to all the pre-WSN tracks sometime - I mean the complete collection on Bear Family rather than the selected ones on Souvenirs. Think of them as stages in the development of the artistry and voice that culminated in WSN, as well as these songs having a certain amount of merit in their own right. Faded Orchid, for instance, is nearly there, i.e. nearly reached the perfection of WSN.

I am fascinated by the process of development which brings something outstanding to its peak - including the growth revealed in the procession of Connie’s first recordings.

I’ve always disagreed with Connie when she denigrates her hit recordings, including the pre-WSN ones.

I agree with you about WSN. It is my favourite of all - I mean not just of her hits but of all her recordings.

That’s an interesting perspective, Jean! I wonder if the notion in the lyrics that Valentino has a soft centre and can be “sort of quiet” is another female delusion? One that it is necessary to fantasise in order to feed the hope that the ‘bad boy’ can be reformed by love?

September 1, 2007

While I was playing a Connie CD today ‘Valentino’ came on. It’s a long time since I listened to this track.

I have mixed feelings about it. On the positive side it’s beautifully sung, with much artistry and character - for instance, Connie’s pronunciation of ‘terror’. The musical arrangement is imaginative, including the manner in which some of the instruments are played. The melody is good, and the pacing of the song adds so much - such as the cliff-like sudden stops.

The problem is that the focal point of the song, Valentino himself, is a vicious delinquent. Leather-jacketed and “never one to run or hide from any fight”, this barbarian might well be a leader of one of the warring tribes in West Side Story, “tough as nails in a rumble or a showdown”. I can’t empathise with an Atilla who “with his gang [is] a terror in the night”. Even though underneath his outward behaviour Valentino has a soft centre, devoting the lyrics to such a brute takes the edge off the song for me.

Too Many Rules
September 10, 2007

I enjoy the little lyrical quirks that crop up from time to time where the words are so dated that no songwriter could write them today. It’s inevitable that a body of work which is 40-50 years old will have some examples. The instance I was reminded of this morning was when Too Many Rules came up on the CD:

“When you call me on the telephone / It’s not my own / They’ve made it known / So you must call me only now and then / There go those rules again”

What teenager today would be without her own mobile phone, and dependent on a parental landline?

Translations of French Titles
November 4, 2004

Roger, as you requested, here below is a translation into English of the eleven French song titles. It’s my translation, checked and in one or two places corrected by my daughter who has lived and worked in France for the last ten years or so. These are literal translations and not necessarily the most poetic. There are a few minor differences from one or two of the translations Gerrit offered. It’s a little reminder that translation is not an exact science but an art.

1/ EN SUIVANT MON COEUR [Follow The Boys] Following My Heart

2/ PARADISO Paradise (translated from the Italian)

3/ POURQUOI PARTIR? Why leave ? / Why go ?

4/ C’EST BON QUAND ON S’AIME It’s good when we love one another (literal translation), It’s good to be in love (Gerrit’s more poetic rendering).

5/L’AMOUR EST UN CADEAU DU CIEL[I’m Gonna Be Warm This Winter] Love is a gift from Heaven

6/ TOUTES LES ETOILES [Gondola De Amore] All the stars

7/QUAND JE TE REGARDE When I look at you / When I see you

8/ OH OUI! JE’EN AI REVE [If My Pillow Could Talk] Oh yes ! I’ve dreamt about it

9/ UN AUTRE AMOUR [Your Other Love] Another love

10/ DANKE SCHOEN [Is this the right way to spell it in FRENCH?] Thank you very much. (The French is Merci. It may be better to leave this in German, since it is quite a well-known phrase, and the song itself is known here by the German name. It is one of thousands of examples of a foreign phrase becoming part of the English language, so translating it into English could still leave it as Danke Schoen.)

11/ DECIDEMENT [Tonight’s My Night] Decidedly / Definitely

-----Original Message-----

As I said, I’m not sure of all the song titles, but perhaps C1 or somebody else can help you with the other ones.

Interesting Website
January 24, 2005

Interesting set of pictures and momentoes Gerrit. Thanks for alerting us to this.

Among many other intriguing and nostalgic things, I was pleased to see my favourite record cover featured in the Album Covers section (CF’s WSN). There were several other Connie album covers too. It’s interesting to observe how album cover design evolves and becomes more innovative as the 1950s turns into the 1960s, and the Sixties progresses to its end. This display is like being at an art exhibition.

I wonder if Mike Wright saw the gorgeous photo of Gina Lollobrigida in a curvaceous swimsuit? (in the Portfolio in Colour section). Or the photo from her role in Trapeze in the Portfolio in Black & White section?

-----Original Message-----
From: gerrit.jan.appel
Subject: Interesting Website
22 January 2005

Hi, everyone!

I just found an interesting website. It features rare photos, record covers and movie posters from the cozy world of the 1950s to the beginning of the sexual revolution in the late 1960’s/early 1970s. You’ll find Connie there as well as Bobby Darin, Anette Funicello, Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Duane Eddy, The Beatles, Cilla Black, Elvis, Twiggy, the 1950s number one of Pin up, Betty Page, and even Mae West!

Check out this link:

Norman Newell Writes About ....My Weekend
June 24, 2005

Very interesting. Thanks Chris and Mike. Norman Newell died last December, aged 85. I posted his obituary from The Times Online.

-----Original Message-----
Record Mirror w/e July 7th 1962

I went to the Mayfair to meet with Connie Francis and her manager, George Scheck, to go to the studios for a recording session for her new film Follow The Boys.

Geoff Love and I have worked for Connie many times before, and we always have a great time. She knows exactly what she wants and I thank heaven that she is not a recording manager……. for she would give us far too much competition.

This session lasted from 2 pm to 11.30 am and we all enjoyed it. I even went shopping between takes, as Connie wanted some fruit salad…..all she would eat because she is dieting. I can’t understand why, for she looks just great to me!

The film Follow the Boys has some great commercial numbers, and Connie certainly has some more hits on the way from the score. There is also a fine instrumental in the film that I predict, here and now, will be another ‘Never on Sunday’.

Geoff did some great arrangements. But then…doesn’t he always?

I thought there was something significant about the fact that Connie was recording with Geoff and Shirley (Bassey) and Nelson Riddle. Should keep Anglo American relations, musically speaking, happy.

After nearly ten hours recording, Arnold Maxin, Geoff, Ron Goodwin (who is M.D. for Follow The Boys) and I went to an Italian restaurant for dinner, and kept the staff there until almost 2.30 a.m.

To Connie I say this: may her film be a success and I want to thank you for liking our work here so much that you return to our studios and to Geoff Love, your arranger here, as often as you can.

I wouldn’t have changed places with anyone.

CF and Denmark
June 11, 2005

What a fascinating review of the Scandinavian music scene, past and present! Thanks Gerritt, and it does explain why I found only one Connie CD in four big record stores.

-----Original Message-----

Connie material does not seem to be very accessible in Denmark. During three days in Copenhagen this week on business, I passed four big record stores and popped in to look at their stock generally and CF in particular. Three of the four stores had no CF CDs at all. The other had just one CD, ‘The Very Best of Connie Francis: Connie’s 21 biggest hits’ (Polydor 827 569-2).

That’s very different from London, where the last time I looked in a big record store it had 16 different CF CDs.

A factor for any non-English-language country is of course that less than half the shelf space is devoted to English-language recordings, since their own language comes first. Nevertheless I wondered if Connie in her prime was not as ‘big’ in Denmark as she was in neighbouring Germany or Holland. Perhaps Jan, Alie, Gerritt or others have a view on this?

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