Heartbreaking

Elvis Presley’s breakthrough, Heartbreak Hotel¸ was issued by HMV in Britain in early 1956. The single became Elvis’s debut UK hit, reaching Number Two and staying on the charts for 22 weeks. Sadly, it was prevented from reaching the top spot by serial WWR miscreant Pat Boone.  Reissued in 1971, the single once again hit the British Top Ten: a 40th anniversary reissue, in 1996, also entered the Top Fifty.

The success of Heartbreak Hotel inspired several artists to issue cover versions, most of which were poor, and a few which were downright awful. You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you?

First up is US outfit the Goofers, a quintet of Italian-American musical comedians who issued several discs in the States between 1954 and 1960. All former members of Louis Prima's band, The Goofers played the London Palladium in 1957 and 1958, the same year that they starred in the movie Bop Girl. The group was known for their crazy antics, including playing their instruments while hanging upside down on a trapeze. In 1956 they gave us Teardrop Motel and made fun of Elvis’s own delivery by making most of the words intentionally unintelligible. Issued by Vogue-Coral in the UK (an imprint of Decca), the B-side of the single was Tennessee Rock and Roll.

The same week (in the UK at least) the Pye-Nixa label had a bash at Presley, with a Mae West-inspired cover of Heartbreak Hotel, performed by Gale Warning and the Weathermen (although, confusingly, the disc credits read Gale Warning and Her Boys). Playing on the name of the Weathermen, the flip - Met Rock - saw Gale reading the shipping forecast over a big band beat. The disc was not well received and, like the Goofers, failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic.

In real life Gale was the formerly famous actress Frances Day, who I featured briefly on this here blog three years ago. Born Frances Victoria Schenk in New Jersey in 1907, the bisexual Day – lover to both Edward VIII and Eleanor Roosevelt - was reputed to be the illegitimate daughter of automobile pioneer Horace Dodge. Spotted in a New York Speakeasy she was taken to London in 1924 by Australian impresario Beaumont Alexander, who dyed her hair platinum blonde and launched her in the West End where she was known for performing in nothing but a G-string and feather boa. Day married Beaumont in 1927, but after living apart for many years, they divorced a decade or so later.

She went on to appear in countless shows and films during the 1930s but had pretty much vanished from the public consciousness when, in the late 1950s, she reappeared as a regular panellist on the TVG show What’s My Line. She died in 1984: her will stated that “there be no notice or information of any kind of my death, except for and if a death certificate is obligatory. Any persons, private or Press, you shall simply say that I am no longer at this address. ‘Gone away. Destination unknown’, and that is the truth.” Class!

Just as an aside, American humourist Stan Freberg also issued a version, backed with a parody of Lonnie Donegan’s Rock Island Line, which was credited to Stan Freberg And His Sniffle Group. Freberg was well known in the States as a voice actor, appearing in many cartoons in a long and varied career – although, despite what you may read elsewhere, he did not voice Rocky or Bullwinkle.

Enjoy!

Download Heartbreak HERE


Download Met Rock HERE



Download Teardrop HERE


Download Tennessee HERE

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