Listen: I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman / Whistling Jack Smith WJSKaiser.mp3
I know exactly what you’re thinking. Why in the hell is he writing about Whistling Jack Smith? Do I really need to bother visiting this blog again?
Well Billy Moeller aka Whistling Jack Smith (brother of Tommy Moeller who’s band, Unit 4 +2, Billy sometimes roadied for) was on Deram. All things cool in ’67 were on Deram, even The Les Reed Orchestra and Chim Kothari were hip by association – not to mention of course The Syn, The Move, Timebox, The Eyes Of Blue, The Crocheted Doughnut Ring, Tintern Abbey, Warm Sounds, The 23rd Turnoff…you get the point. And I was only too pleased that it had become a hit (#20 Billboard) in the States. I wanted Deram to stay in business, so to me this was good. Plus it was downright fun to hear it on the radio. Harmless, laugh along, don’t be so fucking serious music – nothing like droning funeral parlour label mates Procol Harum.
So yes, I liked Whistling Jack Smith.
And they released an album as well. This was crazy fun now.
Listen: Hey There Little Miss Mary / Whistling Jack Smith WJSMary.mp3
Next, the followup. Well a growth in sound was clearly in line if the career was to build the way Decca chairman, and apparently iron clad ruler, Sir Edward Lewis must have decided it should, given an LP was approved in short order, when hitmakers The Move or hipsters The Syn were not so fortunate. Within months of the ‘I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman’s spring/summer UK/US run, seems the public was inexplicably not following WJS’s musical moves and ‘Hey There Little Miss Mary’ was ignored by radio, press as well as said consumers – this despite regrouping the original hit making team, writers Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway with arranger Ivor Raymonde and producer extraordinaire (and he seriously did a LOT of great records) Noel Walker (not to be confused with Scott Walker of course).
Listen: Ja-Da / Whistling Jack Smith WJSJada.mp3
No worries. There is proven truth to the ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ theory- hence back to a hysterically fun, basic re-write of ‘I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman’. ‘Ja-Da’ so ridiculously similar, I’m surprised Cook/Greenaway didn’t chase the publishing. I’m glad I own it though, cause it is both fun and funny to play on occasion.
Again, not a blip, bubble or hint toward potential success. Sir Edward was not about to let this talent just wither on the branch.
Listen: Only When I Larf / Whistling Jack Smith WJSLarf.mp3
Then along comes a big break, just what the label needed and was hoping for, a 60′s version of an iPod commercial: the theme to a movie. The potential box office melter ,’Only When I Larf’.
‘Goldfinger’, ‘To Sir With Love’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ move aside.
Instead trip, stumble, fall. A flop.
The writing was on the wall. Poor Billy should have never left the steady work of moving Unit 4 +2′s gear around. Now not only was he finished, they were between third base and home too, so no going back.
Can you imagine how awesome it would be if Whistling Jack Smith’s career had been allowed grow as it deserved to. He would have been at Live Aid, whistled on ‘We Are The World’, been remixed by Moby, collaborated with super talent MIA, not to mention help global leaders talk through their issues, met the Pope and gotten to put on well deserved weight. Yes he could have been Bono, and I don’t mean Sonny.
Except for one other small detail, he never whistled once on his records, instead The Mike Sammes Singers were brought in for the recordings.