surinenglish

The Seine old song

Demis Roussos came up in conversation down at The Shakespeare the other day so we put his biggest hit Forever And Ever on the jukebox (oh, alright, the computer) and I was immediately transported back to halcyon days of my childhood - Toast Toppers (yum, yum) and Hot Wheels (vroom, vroom). What an absolutely fantastic voice - Roussos, I mean, not me aged eight shouting 'Vroom, vroom'. It's that soulful, quivering timbre that sets the best singers apart from their peers and allows them to cross borders and, often, continents with their stirring renditions of carefully selected ballads.

As I'm sure you'll have seen in the news, Charles Aznavour died this week aged 94. He was also one of those international crooners that everybody liked, even people who said they didn't. Like Roussos and Julio Iglesias, his tone of voice touched many more hearts than just the housewives who were happy to admit it. I remember hearing She on the radio for the first time in the seventies and almost dropping my Weetabix biscuit with butter and jam onto my ten-year-old lap in amazement. Aznavour sings it quite magnificently and I'm sure Elvis Costello, who may or may not be a regular reader of this column, won't mind me saying that his version is quite risible in comparison. Or, actually, maybe he will mind, but then he should stop singing like a strangulated badger and perhaps people wouldn't be so harsh towards him.

Anyway, back to Aznavour and his none-too-shabby composing skills. Yesterday When I Was Young has to be one of the best three torch songs ever written and Dusty Springfield's version is, quite remarkably, even better than the original. That took some doing, Dusty. Hats off to you. The Aznavour original spent four weeks at number one in the UK charts in the summer of 1974, keeping Slade's Bangin' Man off the top spot into the bargain which, let's face it, can only have been a good thing.

Legend has it that recording sessions with the very likable French balladeer often involved rooftop Parisian cocktails as an integral part of the whole experience - now that's the kind of pop star you'd love to produce or engineer for.

Married three times, father to six children, over 180 million records sold, rooftop cocktails gazing over Paris in the late autumnal evening - it's as if the expression 'bon vivant' was invented for him.

I bet he never had a chicken and mushroom Toast Topper, though - you definitely missed a trick there, Charles.

Rest In Peace.