Friday, 4 April 2014

Mr Vance and Mr Jordan

Born in 1929, American songwriter and record producer Paul Vance has over 300 songwriting credits to his name: with Lee Pockriss he co-wrote Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, which was a US Number One for Brian Hyland in 1960 (and a UK Number One in 1990 for Bombalurina, aka Timmy Mallet), the Perry Como standard Catch a Falling Star, a couple of Top 10 hits for Johnny Mathis and the Cuff Links hit Tracy. Vance, still alive today although he retired from the entertainment industry in the 1980s, specialised in catchy, singalong songs and made a very successful career out of the game: 20 gold records, multiple Grammy nominations and a wall full of awards. Not bad for a man who, in his own words "lacking a formal education, rose from the depths of the gutters and escaped from the inevitable consequences of growing up on the tough streets of New York".

In 1972, Vance and Pockriss penned the sickly sweet Playground In My Mind, which was recorded by Bournemouth-born Las Vegas entertainer Clint Holmes - and became a Number Two hit in the US the following year. Clint Holmes is not, as other sites might try and claim, the brother of fellow WWR miscreant Rupert Holmes: Rupert was also born in Britain, but with the given name David Goldstein. Based around a kid’s nursery rhyme, Vance's son Philip – who sadly died aged just 44 in 2009 - sang on the chorus of the song: he was just seven at the time. Playground In My Mind would be the last success for the duo of Vance and Pockriss. Vance changed songwriting partners; life would never be the same again.

Paul Vance’s new songwriting buddy was Jack Perricone, usually credited as Perry Cone (not Perry Como!) The two of them wrote a series of singles characterised by overblown, melodramatic histrionics, including the huge hit Run Joey Run by David Geddes. Released in 1975, the song reached the Top Five on the Billboard charts that year. This time the chorus was sung by Vance’s 15 year-old daughter Paula.

Opening with a clearly underage girl pleading with her father...
Daddy, please don't, it wasn't his fault. He means so much to me!
Daddy, please don't, we're gonna get married; just you wait and see.

...Run Joey Run has got everything: teenage pregnancy, parental abuse and a violent death. It’s no wonder that this insane soap opera of a song would reach the Billboard Top Five and provide Geddes – who had recorded unsuccessfully with a number of labels and had at one point turned his back on music to study law - with his only major hit. His follow-up, produced but not written by Vance, was the peculiarly-monikered and revoltingly schmaltzy The Last Game of The Season (A Blind Man In The Bleachers), included here because it is so excruciatingly awful.

Later that same year Vance and Cone pulled out all the stops, issuing what must be one of the worst  Christmas singles of all time: An Old Fashioned Christmas (Daddy’s Home) by Linda Bennett. That horror has been featured on this blog before (and gets a brief mention in the book The World’s Worst Records Volume One): you can hear it here. I think we can safely assume that the Vance kids were once again roped in to flesh this particular horror out.

Then in 1976 came Without Your Love (Mr Jordan), a revolting song recorded by country singer Charlie Ross about a couple who on the surface appear to be deeply in love with each other but who in reality are both conducting illicit affairs. There was even a follow-up, Without Your Love (Mr Jordan Part Two), issued a year later which failed to chart.

Shortly after Paul Vance retired from the industry, his recent spate of three minute musical melodramas out of sync with an audience clamouring for disco and New Wave. Not that he should care: the man had amassed a catalogue of hits that would put many a more 'respected' songwriter to shame. All was quiet for a number of years, with just the sound of the royalty cheques falling through the letterbox to break the boredom when, in 2006, a widely circulated news story reported that he had died. Needless to say, Mr Vance was not happy. It transpires that an imposter had been claiming the authorship of Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie and the real writer only became aware of this when one of his grandchildren read his obituary and called up in a panic. The scare inspired Paul to begin writing his autobiography, Catch a Falling Star, which is due later this year.

Hats off to you, Mr Vance: I hope you continue to enjoy a long, and well-deserved, retirement.


1 comment:

  1. I'm somewhat more positive about "Run Joey Run" - it fits into an established genre of schmaltzy death songs. But I didn't realize that Vance was also responsible for the sickly sweet "Playground in My Mind," which makes David Geddes sound like Black Sabbath in comparison.


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