Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The One: Billy Fury: "Jealousy"

In the history of music there are a few figures here and there who are what I call Friendly Forebears - those who foreshadow, who inspire, who give hope - a possibility, a chance. Billy Fury is by definition one of these figures for New Pop (he was the original man in the gold lame suit, pace Martin Fry) and yet he also inspired his own peers as well - the Silver Beatles tried and failed to be his backup band on tour, a job the Tornados (yes, the "Telstar" band) got for a while instead.

It is singularly unfortunate, for the case of this blog, that the song here in question - his only number two (and inexplicably, he never got to number one) was not his best song (whole Oxford debates could be held on that topic), but as a performance it has all his hallmarks - his commitment to the song as a song, his believability - his charisma comes through loud and clear, despite all strings, backing singers and other 1961 necessities for 'all-round entertainment'. (These were the days, lest we forget, that 'rock 'n' roll was seen as a two-year 'event' in a performer's career - that difficult awkward stage - before they 'grew up' and 'matured' into actual respectable recording artists. This is just what Fury was doing at this time - proving he could make music for grown-ups, essentially.)

What Fury (rechristened by Larry Parnes - his real name was Ronald Wycherley) had at this time is what no other UK performer had - an ability to stun and amaze on record and in person, to appeal to girls (who wanted to be his baby and baby him - girls can tell when a man is vulnerable) and to guys as well - he didn't hold back in performance (indeed he had to tone his live act down; early on he would end up on the floor...just what he did to get there and what he did there, I don't know). In short he was everything Cliff Richard wasn't, and was the first signal here of impending Liverpool magic - that combination of shyness, dynamism and sheer ability (Fury wrote a lot of his songs, thus the added injustice of his only appearance in this blog being a cover of a Danish song from the 20s) that ease - not to mention what Smash Hits, had it existed at the time, would call his quiffstastic looks and general charm (in full effect here).

He was in the midst of a comeback when he died in 1983, having lived to see his figurative children conquer the charts as he once did; and he still stands as the genuine, real article, a man who loved animals as much as he loved people, a gentleman whose example proved to an almost-there generation that there was far more to singing a song than just singing a song.

(Gratuitous extra version of "Jealousy" for those who like a certain Italian tv host/singer - there is a certain amount of cheese in this song inherently, I believe, and the only ways to deal with it are either to be noble and compassionate, or to just dive into the mozzarella and let it rock.)


David Belbin said...

It's not that good a song, is it? I remember seeing him in Nottingham's Market Square in, I think 1982, a free lunchtime performance. He was in good form, but I was sad to see him reduced to playing to passing shoppers and blokes on the dole like me.

Lena said...

It is a shame he was doing that when really Melody Maker or the NME should have found and interviewed him to see what he made of New Pop! He did get to number three once, but I'd have to live a long time to get to that blog...