Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's A Boy!: Guy Mitchell: "Feet Up"

The beginning of any enterprise is due to be somewhat mysterious and yet also a cause for joy.  Mysterious because the reasons for anything happening are ultimately hard to know; songs, as much as has been documented, sometimes just come out of nowhere.  Charts, for that matter, also seem to come out of nowhere.  In the fall of 1952 (why then?) it was decided that there should be a way of seeing what songs were popular, in what order, and whether said songs were going up, going down or staying put.  They would be ranked and counted down on the radio, once or perhaps twice a week.  The compelling story of what would succeed and what wouldn't apparently worked, as the charts continue to this day to enthrall and sometimes more than befuddle anyone who pays attention to them.

It's the fall of 1952.  In London, a year after the huge Come On Britain Chin Up of the 1951 Exhibition, killer fogs (the word 'smog' was coined to describe them) are the latest plague to hit London.  The war, though over for years, is still very much felt, as rationing continues and people slowly recover from their own private wounds, whether physical, psychic or emotional.  It's a time of reconstruction and renewal, but it is still a raw time, the decade still new, the Cold War freshly minted, and no sooner does The Chart begin as we have our first number two song:  Guy Mitchell's "Feet Up."

"Feet Up" is like a splash of cold water in the face of a bedraggled and tired nation.  A man sings, with pride, of his new son, his darling wife, his previous life of drunkenness and wanton women - all that is gone, as he goes out to tell the world of his handsome son who will be a 'ladykiller' like his dad.  The song's title literally comes from seeing his son being born, feet-first, patted on his po-po (his behind) and then hearing him cry, as babies do...the music is as unselfconsciously buoyant and square and confident as you might expect, very much the song of many fathers of the time who perhaps lived fast lives in the 40s but were now content to settle down with their own Rosie and have lots more kids, as the first one is so good-looking.  (Lest we forget the baby boom is in full swing by this time.)  

I should add here that in 1952, rock as such did not exist in the UK, nor did teenagers.  Thus, while this song might apply to your average 30-year-old today, having survived his wild twenties to finally mature and settle down, in 1952 this song could well apply to anyone over 20, since by then you had presumably lived a riotous life and were ready for the altar and the crib, in more or less that order.  Considering the relief and joy  in Guy's voice as he veritably strides down the candy-colored street of this song, it is no wonder so many children were born - especially in the US, where Guy Mitchell was from!

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