Ireland’s first top 10

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Feb 2019 Ireland’s first top 10

Top 10 in Dublin in 1959 was actually 11

By Pat Murphy

THIS YEAR marks the 60th anniversary of the first Irish Top 10.

On February 12, 1959, Dub­lin’s Evening Herald newspaper launched a chart compiled on its behalf by music columnist Rick O’Shea. To quote: “They tell you what’s top in London and New York. But who tells you what’s top in Dublin?”

I can’t say the Herald’s chart replaced Radio Luxembourg or the BBC’s listings in our teenage imaginations. It did, however, provide a unique window into the ways in which Irish record buyers differed from those in the UK. For instance, American records were even more domi­nant in Ireland. While the likes of Cliff, Russ Conway and Lonnie Donegan made a major impact as 1959 progressed, the first Top 10 includes only one British record. And that was from the decidedly unhip Cyril Stapleton!

Here’s the inaugural listing.

  1. One Night/I Got Stung by Elvis Presley

Given his perpetual Irish popu­larity, it’s fitting that a double-sid­ed Elvis hit would have been the first chart-topper, albeit for just a single week. Although Elvis was unavailable for recording due to military service in Germany, RCA had sufficient material in the can to maintain new releas­es through the summer of 1959, thus sustaining his chart profile.

Elvis, in fact, recorded One Night twice, first with the “one night of sin” lyric used on the Smiley Lewis original and sub­sequently with the “cleaned up” formulation deemed suitable for release.

It was – and still is – a great record.

  1. A Pub with No Beer by Slim Dusty

This was one of the few late 50s pop hits my father liked. An Aus­tralian country song based on a poem by an early 20th century Irish immigrant, A Pub with No Beer was hugely popular. It replaced Elvis at No.1 the fol­lowing week and spent six weeks at the Irish summit.

  1. By the Light of the Silvery Moon by Little Richard

This was one of several entries that fared much better in Ireland than in either the UK or the US. It didn’t register at all on Bill­board’s American Top 100 and peaked at No. 17 in the NME’s UK listing.

The song itself dated back to 1909 and Little Richard’s rip roaring revival was done in the same vein as his treatment of Baby Face. Initially exhilarating, it was an approach that tended to wear thin with repetition.

  1. To Know Him is to Love Him by The Teddy Bears

An early Phil Spector classic, this is one of the most durable ballads from the early rock ‘n’ roll era. Spector wrote the song himself and featured as one of the performing group members. It’s a long way from his later Wall of Sound oeuvre.

  1. I’ll Remember Tonight by Pat Boone

With three Top 10 hits, Pat had a much better 1959 in Ireland than in either the US or the UK. And this one – which eventually went as high as No. 3 in Ireland – was a perfect example.

Written by the noted duo of Paul Francis Webster and Sammy Fain, I’ll Remember Tonight was the showcase

ballad from Boone’s third movie, Mardi Gras. Although a pleasant piece in the dreamily romantic groove, it didn’t quite have the listening impact of earlier smashes. The formula was start­ing to lose its zing.

  1. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by The Platters

The song dates back to 1933, when it was featured in the stage musical Roberta. Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach did the writing honours and Harbach is said to have approved of The Platters’ revival version.

It was a major hit, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. In Ireland, it peaked at No.3 during a 12-week Top 10 run.

  1. Gigi by Vic Damone

Billy Eckstine scooped the UK chart honours, but Vic Damone got a look-in in Ireland. While Eckstine also won the battle there, the Damone rendering was first into the Top 10, where it stayed for two weeks.

Taken from the Hollywood movie of the same name, the song itself got lots of attention en route to winning an Academy Award. No fewer than 11 ver­sions were released in the UK and the sheet music spent 36 weeks in the corresponding Top 20. Even Bing Crosby stuck his oar in.

  1. Children’s Marching Song (This Old Man) by The Cyril Stapleton Orchestra

Adapted from a traditional nurs­ery rhyme, this was another movie song. It came from The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, an Ingrid Bergman-starring vehicle with location scenes shot in North Wales. The movie was very big at the UK box office. It also pro­vided the only British record in Ireland’s inaugural Top 10.

  1. Pussy Cat by The Ames Brothers

Pussy Cat was the kind of song that Guy Mitchell could easily have done in his early 50s hey­day. Robust and catchy, it had a singalong toe-tapping feel.

But it was The Ames Brothers who recorded it, scoring well enough to climb into Billboard’s US Top 20, although UK suc­cess was elusive. Still, Ireland was sufficiently impressed to give it a week in the Top 10.

  1. High School Confidential by Jerry Lee Lewis

A minor rock ‘n’ roll classic from the teen movie of the same name, co-written by Jerry and Ron Hargrave, a number of Brit­ish artistes did versions of it, including Adam Faith as a B-side and Marty Wilde as an album track.

Jerry Lee’s original was the best, though. With his “pumping piano” barrelling away, it had a frenetic energy. And as for the tied position, it was a sometime feature of the early Irish charts. At one point, there were no fewer than 13 records listed in the Top 10.

  1. Mandolins in the Moon­light/Love Makes the World Go Round by Perry Como

Perry was in a sweet spot in the late 50s. Starting on January 1, 1958, his popular American TV show was carried by the BBC, which also reached into those Irish homes with a television receiver. Almost alone among singers of his generation, he’d managed to incorporate a con­temporary sound into his record­ings. It wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll, but it was sufficiently teen-friendly to make him a regular presence on the singles hit parade.

This was a perfect example of how he did it. Like the Elvis entry that topped the inaugural Irish chart, it was a genuine double-sided hit.

All in all, from the vantage point of 60 years, I’ll say this: It was a pretty decent chart, one that I’d be happy to listen to today.

A native of Ireland, Pat Murphy now lives in Toronto, Canada.