Sunday, March 04, 2012

Engelbert Humperdinck: Les Bicyclettes de Belsize

What with the death of Davy Jones from the Monkees and the announcement that Engelbert Humperdinck is to sing the British Eurovision in May, this has been a Back to the Sixties week.

I did think of choosing a Monkees song as a tribute, but when I looked into I found that all the ones I liked seemed to have been sung by Mickey Dolenz rather than Jones. So let me just send you to the tribute to him that Andrew Hickey has written on Mindless Ones.

So Engelbert it is.

Les Bicyclettes de Belsize is the title song from a short 1969 film. The film is a little cheesy, a little whimsical but still fun - you can buy it on a disc with the wonderful The London That Nobody Knows. And the song is annoyingly catchy.

If my younger readers want to know who Englebert Humperdinck is, Wikipedia is their friend:
As Arnold Dorsey, Humperdinck was one of ten children born in Madras, India, to British Army officer Mervyn Dorsey and his wife Olive. Humperdinck is an Anglo-Indian, his mother being of Indian heritage. His family moved to Leicester, England, when he was 10. 
He soon showed an interest in music and began learning the saxophone. By the early 1950s he was playing saxophone in nightclubs, but he is believed not to have tried singing until he was 17, when friends coaxed him into entering a pub contest. His impression of Jerry Lewis prompted friends to begin calling him "Gerry Dorsey," a name he worked under for almost a decade.
His luck changed in 1965 when he changed his name to that of a 19th century German opera composer and signed with Tom Jones' manager.

Though he was hugely successful in America in the 1960s, there was perhaps he was always in Tom Jones's shadow, at least in Britain. Which makes it interesting that yesterday I heard someone say that there had been rumours that Jones was going to do Eurovision this year.

Whatever the truth of that, this video shows Engelbert in his pomp. And he has to be a better British entrant than the X-Factor third placers we have tried lately. He can sing, for one thing.

Let's end on a local note...

Engelbert has lived for many years on a large estate at Great Glen between Market Harborough and Leicester, but it seems success had not spoilt his family.

A local taxi-driver once told me that he was booked by Engelbert's son one evening. He had visions of an evening spent outside a Leicester nightspot with the meter running. But it turned out that the lad wanted nothing more than a trip to Kibworth working men's club for a drink with some old friends.

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