Here’s a pub quiz question guaranteed to baffle even the speediest of mobile phone Google cheats.
What have Sheffield, leather stage gear, cross dressing, the New Vaudeville Band, the Troubles and film director Neil Jordan got in common?
The answer, pop pickers, is The Crying Game. Written by Geoff Stephens, the song was first released by Dave Berry in July 1964 and reached number five on the UK Singles Chart.
The legendary late session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan played lead guitar on it and soon to be Led Zeppelin member Jimmy Page supported.
The song was then recorded by Brenda Lee in 1965 and was subsequently covered by the likes of The Associates, Chris Connor, Kylie Minogue, Percy Sledge, Barbara Dickson, Chris Spedding, Jimmy Scott and crooner Alex Moore.
But to a generation who maybe missed out on Berry’s original version it’s probably Boy George’s 1992 revival which is best remembered.
Both his and the original rendition were used as the themes to the 1992 Neil Jordan movie The Crying Game. Boy George’s version of the song was produced by the Pet Shop Boys and reached 22 on the UK Singles Chart, 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the USA and topped the charts in Canada the following year becoming his biggest solo hit across the Atlantic.
His version was also featured in the Jim Carrey comedy film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective as a joke reference to the Jordan film, with which it shared a plot point.
But it’s Berry’s original version which still stands out as a pop classic.
Born David Holgate Grundy, in February 1941, in Woodhouse, Sheffield he made his name performing a mix of familiar rock and r&b with untypical slower pop ballads which saw him a regular chart star in in Britain, and in Continental Europe – especially Belgium and the Netherlands – whilst pretty much missing out in the USA where he is best known for versions of Ray Davies’ This Strange Effect and Graham Gouldman’s I’m Going To Take You There.
Unusually in the era of Mop Tops and extrovert stage antics he preferred to appear on television completely hidden by a prop.
In his own words, to “not appear, to stay behind something and not come out”. He often hid behind the upturned collar of his leather jacket, or wrapped himself around, and effectively behind, the microphone lead. His stage presence was almost a slow motion performance.
His leather clad image drew on the early work of Elvis Presley and Gene Vincent and later provided an inspiration for Alvin Stardust.
Having borrowed his recording surname from rock/blues legend Chuck Berry he then had his first hit with that singer’s Memphis Tennessee – charting a month before the original in September 1963 and peaking at 19. Lesser hits My Baby Left Me and Baby It’s You slowed the tempo down in preparation for The Crying Game which like his two other biggest hits (a cover version of Bobby Goldsboro’s poppy American hit Little Things and BJ Thomas’s maudlin Mama) peaked at number 5.
This Strange Effect (UK number 37 in mid 1965), became a number one hit in the Netherlands and Belgium, countries where he still enjoys celebrity status.
It’s unlikely the modest performer ever anticipated the spotlight would shine again in 1992 with the cinema success of The Crying Game, a British thriller written and directed by Neil Jordan which explores themes of race, gender, nationality, and sexuality against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
A critical and commercial success, The Crying Game won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film as well as the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, alongside Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Film Editing. In 1999, the British Film Institute named it the 26th greatest British film of all time.
Whilst Dave Berry’s chart days in the UK lasted just three years, The Crying Game’s composer Geoff Stephens’ successes spanned several decades and even included forming The New Vaudeville Band whose song Winchester Cathedral won him the 1966 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary (R&R) Recording.
His songs were often collaborations with other British songwriters including Tony Macaulay, John Carter, Roger Greenaway, Peter Callander, Barry Mason, Ken Howard, Alan Blaikley, Don Black, Mitch Murray, and Les Reed.
He began his career in amateur theatricals, when he wrote songs and sketches for musical revues presented by his own company, the Four Arts Society, while working as a school teacher, air traffic controller and silk screen printer. This led to BBC Radio accepting some of his satirical sketches for their Monday Night at Home programme.
Subsequently, becoming involved with music early in 1964 he had his first hit Tell Me When, co-written with Les Reed, a Top 10 hit for The Applejacks.
That year, in addition to his chart success with Berry he and Peter Eden discovered and managed Donovan, producing his first hit single and debut album, What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid.
In 1966 he formed The New Vaudeville Band, writing and recording songs in a 1920s musical style. Their debut single Winchester Cathedral was a number 1 hit in the USA and number 4 in the UK Singles Chart and covered by others including Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Sinatra. It was followed by further hits for the band, Peek A Boo, Finchley Central and Green Street Green.
With John Carter, Stephens wrote Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James for Manfred Mann and, with Les Reed, There’s a Kind of Hush for The New Vaudeville Band. A year later, a cover version of the song was a hit for Herman’s Hermits, and it was also later a hit for The Carpenters. Over the next few years he wrote, or co-wrote, hits for The Hollies (Sorry Suzanne), Ken Dodd (Tears Won’t Wash Away These Heartaches), Cliff Richard (Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha), Tom Jones (Daughter of Darkness), Mary Hopkin (Knock, Knock Who’s There? – the 1970 UK entry in the Eurovision Song Contest), Scott Walker (Lights of Cincinnati), Dana (It’s Gonna Be a Cold Cold Christmas), The Drifters (Like Sister And Brother), Crystal Gayle (It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye), Hot Chocolate (I’ll Put You Together Again), Sue and Sunny and Carol Douglas (Doctor’s Orders) and, most successfully of all, UK number one hits for David Soul (Silver Lady) and The New Seekers (the Ivor Novello Award-winning, You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me).
In 1972, his joint composition with Peter Callander of Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast, was recorded by Wayne Newton. It sold over a million copies. In 1983, Stephens and Don Black composed the songs for the West End musical Dear Anyone, followed a year later by The Magic Castle with Les Reed. He has also been awarded the Gold Badge of Merit by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors in 1995, and the Jimmy Kennedy Ivor Novello Award for Services to British Songwriting in 2000.
More recently he wrote To All My Loved Ones, featured as a centrepiece of the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.
In 2005, Stephens worked with Peter Callander and David Cosgrove on the musical production of Bonnie & Clyde. Most recently Stephens has worked with Don Black on a planned stage revival of Dear Anyone.
|/ The Pet Shop Boys
|Dave Berry /Boy George