Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Stand-In Star: Alvin Stardust: "My Coo Ca Choo"

As the year draws to a close, this is a good time to recall how split this year has been between the US and UK charts - there was only one common #1, the unremittingly awful "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" by Tony Orlando & Dawn.  The Glam Slam, outside of Bowie (and at one remove, Roxy Music) was not getting anywhere fast in the US, and even then was, I'd guess, something of a cult for the teenagers hanging out at Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco in Los Angeles, for instance.  For me Alvin Stardust is a purely UK-understood phenomena, someone whose whole persona is "rock 'n' roll" at a glance, all the odd signifiers of "danger" without any of said danger really there whatsoever.

He was born in London, was Bernard William Jewry, and grew up in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire (a town a few miles just north of Nottingham itself).  He was working as a roadie for Shane Fenton and the Fentones when Fenton got ill and died; Fenton's mom wanted the band to continue in his honor, and so they did, with Jewry taking Fenton's name and leading the band to some chart success in the early 60s.  The group broke up, leaving Jewry on his own, and by the early 70s he was given a new name by his label boss Michael Levy, and that was Alvin Stardust.  It's a bit more complicated than that, however; "My Coo Ca Choo" was written by Peter Shelley and recorded by him as well - but he didn't want to "be" Alvin Stardust, so Jewry once again stepped in and took on the task of looking moody, dressing in black leather, and generally being a rock star - a role I feel he acted as much as really was.  The song is pure glam stomp, seductive-style (though "Tom Cat! Y'know where it's at/Come on! Lets go to my flat/Lay down 'n' groove on the mat" is not exactly Bryan Ferry singing to his siren).  There is something reassuring about something so inherently safe and unthreatening appearing at this time (and how reassuring as well, that this public service ad featuring two girls can be viewed with a clear conscience even now, thank goodness.)  Perhaps the long years working in obscurity gave Jewry a sense of responsibility and perspective that others have sadly shown to have lacked; to take on someone else's part or role is in itself a situation that works best with some modesty and determination.  Stardust (and yes his name was a take on one Gary Glitter) remains one of those beacons in The Fog, a man who was pure showbusiness but somehow humble about it in a way that showed the Glam Slam to be the people's music.  How could it ever go?

Next up:  Every day?  Really?   

1 comment:

Mark G said...

I remember Alvin's first appearance was on Lift Off with Ayshea, wearing a purple afrowig, skin-tight purple jumpsuit and high boots. This was an image he must have thought "never again" immediately.

Also, I do believe the "Green Cross Code" song made a b-side to one of his later "not exactly a hit" singles..