And now we return to the NME number twos for a song that was written by Barry Mason and Michael Carr, and performed by all-round entertainer (comedian, singer, tv chat show host) Des O'Connor. That something so utterly and completely sedate could jostle its way to the top amongst The Scaffold, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Love Sculpture just shows how fragmented the pop audience was, and how well a song like this could do.
It is a quiet song, a song about innocence and first love, harpsichord-led and gently going down memory lane, and it has nothing to do with liberation or freedom and everything to do with recalling a different time; a time when they were both young but also when the "wildwood" was theirs and everything seemed magical*.
To some this might seem a bit soppy, and O'Connor himself didn't think much of his singing, but pure, 100% proof nostalgia like this always does well in the holiday season, when thoughts turn to loved ones, and Mary here clearly is loved, even if it is so long ago that the narrator (if pressed - he isn't, here) doesn't know where she is now. Now is just a vantage point to then, and then is what is fixed in the narrator's mind. This song could appeal to anyone, I guess, but it is the generation just before the Housewives of Valium Court that it hits directly - those who remember life before & during WWII, those who suffered through it and take refuge in utterly peaceful and genteel music and find most rock too ugly and loud. (The harpsichord is what makes this a 'modern' sounding song, as baroque meets old guard pop.) As songs about love from this year go, this is thankfully free of death; an oasis of calm, even if it is a cul-de-sac.
From the rock vantage point O'Connor seems out of place; however, I should mention a much more 'hip' song that O'Connor did that he himself could stand: "Dick-A-Dum-Dum" is total London silliness as interpreted by Jim Dale, but shows more signs of life from O'Connor because of its humor. (And yes, whenever I hear 'the Buckingham beat' I think of Fleetwood Mac. I'm predictable that way.)
As '68 closes, we have more girl trouble ahead; beyond that, 1969 looms, the final year, as the 60s turns to look at itself.
*The game played in question is fully described here.