ROCK OF AGES – 1955-1963 – FRANK IFIELD

frank ifield1

Wayward Wind (S Labowsky/H Newman) and Confessin’ (That I Love You) (A J Neiburg/D Daugherty/E Reynolds) 1963 and Don’t Blame Me (D Fields/J McHugh) and Please (L Robin/R Rainger) – Frank Ifield 1964

Frank Ifield was aiming for his third consecutive UK #1 with Wayward Wind and was being chased up the charts by the Beatles Please Please Me, but he did make it to #1 UK as well as #16 locally. Wayward Wind confirmed Ifield as the first artist to have three consecutive #1 hits in Britain, and he was awarded three gold discs in 1963.

Frank had created a unique falsetto pop/country niche market and his covers of songs that were at least 30 years old, proved to be very successful, Norrie Paramor’s arrangements and production were only surpassed by George Martin later in the decade, when he collaborated with the Fab Four, Wayward Wind held down the #1 position in the UK for three weeks.

Wayward Wind was written by Stanley Labowsky, and Herb Newman, Labowsky specialized in writing show tunes for such Broadway productions as All That Jazz, Elmer Gantry, and Fosse, while Newman also wrote Birds and the Bees for Jewel Akens and (Her Name Is) Scarlet which was recorded by the De Kroo Brothers in Australia. Gogi Grant took Wayward Wind to #1 in the US, and #2 in Australia in 1956, but sales for the song in the UK were split between Gogi Grant, Tex Ritter, and Jimmy Young at the time.

frank ifield11

The Beatles and Ifield were both briefly with Vee-Jay Records for distribution in the USA, but once the Fab Four had moved on to Parlophone, Vee-Jay sought to exploit their new celebrity by issuing a compilation of Ifield and Beatles hits in 1964 under the clunky title Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage. This was a hastily-compiled, opportunistic, and poorly presented record, none of the tracks were recorded live despite the title, and the sleeve notes notoriously trumpeted “It is with great pride and pleasure that this copulation has been presented.”

This was Ifield’s fourth UK #1 in a year, it held down the #1 spot for 2 weeks.

After scoring three #1 UK hits in a row for the first time ever, Ifield had to settle for a UK #4 with Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine, but he was back in chart-topping form with I’m Confessin’ That I Love You in the UK (#24 in Australia), written in 1930 and originally recorded by Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians and subsequently covered by Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, and Les Paul and Mary Ford.

Confessin’ was a return to the unique sound of I Remember You but the times were a’changin’, it had been preceded on the UK charts by #1 hits from Gerry and the Pacemakers (How Do You Do It and I Like It), and the Beatles (From Me to You), as the Mersey Sound took hold and the old guard were virtually swept away overnight.   The B side to this one was a popular up-tempo version of Waltzin’ Matilda, Frank also had two hit albums in 1963, I’ll Remember You and Born Free, which both climbed to #3 in the UK and he followed up with no less than eight more top forty hits in the UK in the period 1964-66.

Essentially I Remember You revisited.

Frank’s last top ten hit in the UK was the Dorothy Field/Jimmy McHugh composition Don’t Blame Me which featured in the score of the 1932 show Clowns in Clover and was originally recorded by Ethel Waters, a cover version by Nat King Cole climbed to #21 in the US 1948 and Frank took his version to #8 on the UK charts in 1964. Plaintive harmonica intros the song, which lopes into a country and western tempo, and the refrain is very similar to I Remember You with Ifield’s trademark yodeling-style falsetto augmented by Norrie Paramor’s orchestral arrangement including strings and brass, this was business as usual for Frank on this song.

This was Ifield’s last top ten hit single in Australia, and as musical tastes changed, Frank moved onto cabaret and country.

His last major hit in Australia was a cover of Please, a song featured in the movie From Hell to Heaven in 1932 and originally recorded by Bing Crosby in that year. Frank again went into the recording studios with Norrie Paramor and produced one of his best late career recordings, the orchestral arrangement of the Leo Robin/Ralph Rainger song featured a grand intro with brass and harmony backing vocalists, strings and a harp contributing to a beguiling melody with a typically challenging chord progression by Rainger; Ifield took this one to #5 for his last top ten hit in Australia. He rounded off the year by taking the albums Blue Skies and Frank Ifield’s Greatest Hits into the UK top ten in March and September respectively while his Australian-release album Portrait in Song was also a top ten hit here in 1965. In that year Frank would marry former dancer Gillian Bowden and they would have two children, Mark (1965) and Sarah (1973), but divorce in 1988. Below L-R – Frank in the 60’s, Frank and Gillian wed, husband and wife with son Mark.

 Frank Ifield was the biggest-selling Australian artist in the UK in the 1960’s until the emergence of the Seekers and the Bee Gees who both hit the top of the UK charts twice in that decade while Frank Ifield held the record for UK #1 hits with four in the same period. He was “toppermost of the poppermost” in the UK by 1964 and starred in his own movie “Up Jumped A Swagman” with Suzie Kendall, a musical comedy inspired by the narrative of the song Waltzing Matilda, which had few claims to cinematic immortality.

frank ifield23

But Frank was at the peak of his stardom and an influential and respected performer in Britain in an era that just overlapped with the rise of Beatlemania, as he battled on the charts with the early hits of the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, and Gerry and the Pacemakers. Below- L-R Frank and Tommy Steele, Thank Your Lucky Stars lineup- L-R – Craig Douglas, Syd James, Brian Matthews, Helen Shapiro, Ronnie Carroll, Frank Ifield, Kenny Ball, final shot Frank with Acker Bilk.

Frank continued to perform in pantomime and on variety shows internationally, segueing to country music later in his career with his backing band Barbary Coast. He realized his dream of performing at the London Palladium at a Royal Command Performance no less, and was a regular at that venue in pantomimes, summer seasons, variety shows and numerous TV specials, in 1964 he was a guest performer at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee and wowed the locals. Below – L-R Frank in pantomime costume, Royal Variety Special at the Palladium in 1965 as Frank greets HRH Elizabeth 2 with Peter, Paul and Mary to Frank’s right, and Frank with Johnny Ray.

Frank was unfortunately denied the opportunity to work on the heritage circuit later in life as he contracted pneumonia in 1986 and an operation removed part of one lung and damaged his larynx, effectively ending his singing career.

At the ARIA Music Awards in 2007 Frank Ifield was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with the Hoodoo Gurus, Marcia Hines, Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, Brian Cadd, Radio Birdman and Nick Cave, he currently resides in Sydney with his second wife Carole Wood whom he married in 1992. (below)

frank ifield22

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s