Listen: This Sporting Life / Ian Whitcomb & BluevilleIanWhitcombSporting.mp3
I knew Ian Whitcomb was English, he had a huge hit as part of the British Invasion. It seems he relocated to the US quite quickly during that period. His first recordings, with Bluesville, despite being good attempts at the damp, Soho, St. James Infirmary sound, somehow lacked that final ‘something’, I’m guessing because of his vocal style. ‘This Sporting Life’, also recorded and released by Mickey Finn in ’65, finds him beautifully out of place with the music, actually becoming part of the appeal.
This one crawled slowing upward under Billboard’s Top 100, then placed for one week at #100, before returning to the ‘Bubbling Under The Hot 100′ section for a few more. It’s chart progression was as follows: 134, 122, 101, 101, 100, 104, 104, 124.
Ah the good old days of the Billboard charts, but talk about keeping an artist at the edge of their seat.
Listen: You Turn Me On / Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville IanWhitcombTurn.mp3
The balance between voice and music found the perfect match in ‘You Turn Me On’. The suggestive gasping surprisingly didn’t manage to keep it off the airwaves, and it scaled to #8 in Billboard’s Top 100 during that summer.
Listen: What Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday On Saturday Night? / Ian Whitcomb & His Seaside Syncopators IanWhitcombRobinson.mp3
Where Ian Whitcomb really found his footing, and a comfortable vocal home, was with the above single. More suited to the era of vaudeville and silent films, his voice worked perfectly on a remake of Al Jolson’s 1916 hit, and almost became a smash here in the US. Indeed, during the week of November 14, 1966 it was playlisted at both my local Top 40 stations (see their charts below) and sounded fantastic coming out of my transistor. If you told anyone this was a classic version by the deservedly credible Bonzo Dog Band, you wouldn’t be challenged.