A-side: Wonderful Land
B-Side: Stars Fell On Stockton
So this'll be the first of may posts featuring the Shadows as I've got more singles by them than by any other artist. they're the first band that I ever got into, so I feel a kind of brand loyalty to them. I'm just glad that this first single to come up is one of the good ones, so I don't have to start on my heroes by trashing one their records.
Wonderful Land was a number one for several weeks in 1962 - I think it even knocked Cliff off the top spot. It's a big sweeping record. Hanks guitar cries out proudly and strong - the name and he melody evokes the sound of standing on mountain top, on wild moorland or in forests in the summertime giving a sense of appreciation of all that surrounds us. The extra pizazz of genius on this record is supplied by Norrie Paramour, the producer, it was his suggestion that the horns and strings were added, not unheard of in rock music at the time, but still uncommon. If you've heard the version recorded before the orchestral parts were added it does sound naked, and not sexy naked, but stark and bare. that added strings provide that filigree of lingerie for added tantalisation, (and I'm stopping there before that metaphor gets too carried away.)
Whilst Wonderful Land does epic and majestic Stars Fell On Stockton is much more more whimsical, suggesting more of rummage through a village hall jumble sale, than the proud vistas of Wonderful Land. Whistling in rock music has been much maligned, and so when The Shadows whistle the main riff of Stars Fell On Stockton it's a surprising treat (or a moment of odd tweeness depending on your point of view). Adding to the eccentricity of this track is the percussion - much of which is played on a wooden clip-cloppy sounding thing (I think that's the technical name). The apparent quaintness of the track does much to disguise the rapid and deft musicianship that runs throughout this piece. That the two tracks are so different and yet so enjoyable in their own right is proof enough that The Shadows didn't just produce a load of stuff that sounded more or less the same.
Talking of not sounding the same for those of you who may be interested the name of this blog is taken from a Shadows single, however in a cruel stroke of irony it's one of the few of their singles that I don't have on vinyl - so I won't be featured later on! So as a bit of a bonus click here for The Rise And Fall Of Flingel Bunt
Next time A Little Night Music...