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First British rock star,
This review is from: Tommy Steele The Decca Years 1956-1963 (Audio CD)
Tommy’s place in British rock history has been largely ignored, possibly because he was always more interested in being an all-round family entertainer, something at which he became hugely successful in the sixties and beyond. As a singer-actor, he appeared in several successful West end plays and also appeared in several movies, including Finian’s rainbow alongside Fred Astaire and Petula Clark.
Nevertheless, Tommy’s earliest successes were as a singer – he was Britain’s first indigenous rock’n’roll star. Although some of his hits were covers of American songs (the prevailing fashion in fifties Britain), he did not rely entirely on those. Indeed, he wrote some of his own songs.
His first British chart success was with Rock with the caveman, a typical slice of rock’n’roll. His biggest success (and only number one hit) was with a cover of Singing the blues. Curiously, Tommy’s version and Guy Mitchell’s version both reached number one in Britain – they swapped places at the top of the charts. Many people think that Guy’s version was the original, but actually both were covers – Marty Robbins recorded the original version. Both Guy and Tommy also covered another Marty original, Knee deep in the blues.
As time went by, Tommy’s desire to be an all-round entertainer was reflected in the diversity of material that he recorded. Among his other British hits were Butterfly (but it was Andy Williams who topped the charts with it), Handful of songs, Water water, Shiralee, Nairobi, Happy guitar and the children’s song Little white bull.
This compilation shows the full range of Tommy’s talents as a singer, including covers of folk songs (Where have all the flowers gone, Lonesome traveller), country songs (Kaw-liga) as well as more rock’n’roll songs, stage and screen songs and the Christmas song Must be Santa.
It is difficult to assess the true significance of Tommy’s contribution to British rock history, but it is certainly far greater than he is given credit for.
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Initial post: 9 Jul 2012 11:30:23 BDT
As with "Singing the Blues" and "Knee Deep in the Blues", neither Tommy nor Andy Williams did the original "Butterfly" ... that was Charlie Gracie.
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