Friday, 26 February 2016

Floral Dunce

2016 hasn’t been a good year so far, has it? Far too many great entertainers have gone, and the world is a much poorer place without them. One of those - the late, great Terry Wogan - left us on January 31, but he also left us with a musical legacy that we’re celebrating here today.

Former bank employee Sir Michael Terence ‘Terry’ Wogan will be forever remembered as the charming, avuncular and slyly subversive radio presenter, game- and chat-show show host, and the front man of such annual televisual events as the Eurovision Song Contest and Children In Need. And, of course, you can’t be a star as big as Our Tel without occasionally being coerced into making a record – one of which narrowly escaped being a top 20 hit in 1977.

The Floral Dance is a popular song written in 1911 by Katie Moss, inspired by a visit to Heston in Cornwall where she took part in the age-old traditional Furry Dance – part of the Flora Day Festival. The annual Flora Day is a traditional festival to welcome the coming of spring and sees couples, dressed in their finery, dancing around the village and actually through many houses, to the accompaniment of the town band playing their traditional tune. Katie Moss’s song was based upon this tune and over the years gained wide popularity across the country.

Everyone who is interested in bad music will remember Terry’s awful ‘sing-speak’ version of The Floral Dance. What you may not know – or perhaps had forgotten - is that famed brass band the Brighouse and Rastrick Band had already recorded the song, had copies pressed up and were selling them at concerts before Terry decided to ‘do his thing all over it’. The B&R version was already gaining some airplay and was on the way to becoming a modest hit before Terry started to champion it on his Radio Two show. By the time he finished, two versions of the tune were competing for chart position.

The B&R version – arranged by the band’s conductor Derek Broadbent - was released on Transatlantic in 1976 and produced by serial offender Ivor Raymonde (father of Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins). Wogan’s was issued by Philips the next year, with the credits ‘arranged by Andrew Pryce Jackman’ (the keyboard player and musical arranger who worked with Yes) and ‘produced by Mike Redway’ (a busy session singer and former member of the Mike Sammes Singers, who recorded over 80 sides for budget label Embassy). That ‘arranged by’ credit is iffy, to say the least: outside of the addition of a cheesy drum machine, the arrangement is absolutely identical to Derek Broadbent’s version.

1977, don’t forget, was the year that punk exploded. The B&R’s version of the Floral Dance stalled at number two in the UK charts, kept off the top position not by the Sex Pistols or the Damned, but by Wings with Mull of Kintyre! Sir Terry, backed by the Hanwell Band (uncredited on the record) reached a lowly 21. Not bad for a man whose only previous single had been a flexidisc given away free ‘when you try on any bra, girdle or corselette’ from the Playtex 18 hour range. 

Every single needs a B-side, of course, and Terry’s Floral Dance was backed by the atrocious, sub-Skellern drivel Old Rockin’ Chair. Philips, with a minor hit on their hands, pushed Terry back in to the studio to record an album of similarly awful nonsense, featuring covers of the Bee Gees’ Words, Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness and today’s third track, Me and the Elephant, which another national treasure, Cilla Black, would cover the following year.

Rest in Peace, Sir Terry: this world is a poorer place without you.

Enjoy!


4 comments:

  1. A contentious choice. Some people love Wogan's Floral dance, it is a very catchy tune, though the record is also memorable for all the wrong reasons...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Me and the elephant aint a bad cover version of gene cotton original

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  3. So much better than the Beatles, though.

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  4. Did you know you can create short urls with AdFly and receive cash for every click on your shortened urls.

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