Friday, 13 January 2012

Onions Onions

What a peculiar record. Recorded by the otherwise-unheard of Laurie and released in the UK by Decca records in June 1966 the original version of I Love Onions, by folk singer Susan Christie, barely scraped the US charts (peaking at 63) but somehow made number 6 in Canada. Laurie’s version – a carbon copy of the original - was featured heavily by Kenney Everett on pirate station Radio London, and made Big L’s Top 40 (just) although neither this nor Laurie’s other known disc troubled the main UK charts.

I can’t tell you much about Laurie, apart from the fact that she also released an earlier Decca 45, He Understands Me/Fools Will Never Learn, in March 1966 (F12347 – a number of test pressings as well as stock copies exist). Both were produced by Noel Walker, an extraordinary man responsible for a number of unusual hit records, including Whistling Jack Smith’s top 5 hit I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman, Amen Corner’s Bend Me, Shape Me and waxings by the Big Three, the Fortunes, Ron Grainer, Cat Stevens and countless others. The Kaiser Bill story is a complicated one: Walker is widely believed to be the performer, although Whistling Jack’s true identity is unknown - he could simply be one of the many members of the Mike Sammes Singers, the uncredited group who back up the lead whistler on the single. Coby Wells, aka Billy Moeller, was used by Deram, the Decca subsidiary that released the single, to ‘front’ later releases and TV appearances but he was recruited after the initial single was recorded and in his TV appearances simply lip-syncs (or whistle-syncs) to the track; John O'Neill, who whistled the main theme to the Spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, is also occasionally cited as the original performer.

The music director on I Love Onions was Ivor Raymonde, grabbing a credit here for doing absolutely bog all – he’s simply recreated the Susan Christie arrangement note for note, including the breathy vocals, the kazoo and the backing chorus. Ivor often worked together with Noel Walker, but today is best remembered as the co-author and arranger of several Dusty Springfield tracks, including her breakthrough solo hit I Only Want to Be with You. He has also worked with artists as diverse as Anne Shelton, Ian Dury, Frankie Vaughan, Julio Iglesias, and the late Edward Woodward. After working as a musical arranger at the BBC, Ivor became a producer at Philips, working with Marty Wilde and with folk trio the Springfields. When Dusty decided to go solo in 1963 Ivor offered her a tune he'd written with lyricist Mike Hawker: I Only Want to Be with You. Ivor continued to work with Dusty until the late '60s, when she moved toward a more American-style soul sound. His son is Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins.

I Love Onions is truly odd; the a-side is clearly meant to be humorous, yet the B-side, I Want Him, is a belter, an out-and-out stormer of a track which could easily have been a big floor filler and gone on to become a hit if it had been promoted as the plug side. I’ve included it here for you. Have a listen: doesn’t that backing sound EXACTLY like the Zombies?



  1. Wow- I forgot about this classic song! Growing up in Canada I remember a commercial for something that used the song for something involving the lyrics "I Love Turtles"


  3. you're right about the b-side, its great! what were they thinking!?

  4. I read somewhere the whistler on Kaiser Bill's Batman was Ivor Raymonde. Don't know if you've heard that one.

    1. You're right! He was (I'm his daughter). About 25 years ago, shortly before he died he 'came out!' On a Terry Wogan Show as a Terry was doing a feature on whistling and obviously someone got in touch; he performed (mimed!) to the record with military style jacket and Shadows style dance routine -

    2. Great to hear from you Linda! Thanks for confirming that. Your dad was responsible for some really great recordings: you must be very proud of him


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