Today’s song is ‘What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?’ This song was written by Joseph McCarthy, Howard Johnson and James V. Monaco in 1916. It was released in 1917.
It became a hit in the UK in 1959 when a doo-wop version, produced by Michael Barclay, became a Number 1 hit for ‘Emile Forde and the Checkmates’ over the Christmas and New Year of 1959/60. Its stay in the ‘UK Singles Chart’ began on 31 October 1959 and lasted 17 weeks. The last chart-topper of the 1950s, it retained the Number 1 position for the first three weeks of 1960.
In 1960, Danish rock singer Otto Brandenburg recorded a cover of the song that gave him his breakthrough on the Danish music scene. The song was also successfully covered by Shakin’ Stevens in 1987. This version first entered the charts on 28 November 1987. It spent eight weeks there and peaked at Number 5.
Today’s song was written over one century ago in 1917. That is what I call ‘standing the test of time’. Like all things that endure, the underlying secret of its longevity is its capacity to change. This song changed its tempo, its beat, its original style and became a completely new genre when it assumed a doo-wop classification in 1959.
When one thinks about it, the endurance and good life of everything of worth in this world, whether it be the healthy development of one’s character, the meaningful maturation of one’s relationships or one’s ability to always remain positive and forward-looking whatever the road that lies before one holds for them; all these things can only be successfully achieved if one has 'the capacity to change'.
Just because one was brought up in a certain way, doesn’t necessarily mean that one ought to remain in that same mould all one’s life. Just as it has always been more natural to be socialistic or liberal in one’s youthful thinking, attitudes and politics, most of us will finish up more conservative in our old age, whether in our political views, practice, attitude or taste. Just because our parents brought us up to attend one religious’ denomination as a child doesn’t mean that the tenets of a different religion are not more suitable to us for use as an adult. Someone who was black in skin colour back in 1959, and who contemplated courting and marrying a white person then would have been socially frowned upon and outcast by both black and white communities for breeding outside their own race; whereas today (sixty years later), nobody would bat an eyelid or give a tinker’s cuss who one loves, marries and has a family with.
Society and its values have witnessed significant change over the past century and we have moved on (for better or worse, whatever your value range happens to be). The imprisonment for homosexuality between consenting adults has been decriminalised over the years and gay marriages occur without the raising of an eyebrow today. State execution by hanging has been removed from the statute book as being an available penalty of the courts, and the hunting of foxes with hounds has been considered barbaric and is now banned by the law of the land. Women have equal rights with men, disabled people have equal rights with the able-bodied person, abortions have become legal (even to the point of social demand), and it will not be too long before parents will be able to select the sexual preference at the pre-pregnancy stage for the child the mother will carry in her womb. Indeed, who knows? Women’s wombs may no longer prove necessary to house a growing embryo and nine months of a couple’s inconvenience may be negated by the discovery of a new kind of incubating vessel to nurture and nourish the developing embryo outside the womb. I also suspect that euthanasia will be legally available to all without needing to travel to another country to end one’s life legally at a timing of one’s choice.
None of these things could have/would have been able to come about without ‘one’s capacity to change and adapt to changing circumstances'. This finding was the most important discovery of the life work of Charles Darwin. Such a capacity has been mainly positive for the human species in most ways of life, but not in all, and what truly represents ‘progress’ or ‘regression’ remains a matter of individual opinion
I dedicate my song today to my friend, Maureen May who lives in Wyke with her husband, Ralph. It is Maureen’s birthday today. When Sheila and I first met and started to attend a rock and roll club in Batley, my sister Mary and her partner, Richard, were best friends with Maureen and Ralph May, and Barbara and Lewis Howcroft. Just as many members of a church congregation appear to (over time) acquire their own regular pew by an unspoken general consensus(which all other church attenders politely observe), so do rock and rollers tend to have their own tables positioned around the dance floor. The first evening, Sheila and I turned up at the ‘Batley Rock and Roll Club’, we were immediately enrolled as the newest members to Mary and Richard's, Lewis and Barbara’s, and Maureen and Ralph’s table, which became 'our place' we sat at weekly until we stopped attending.
Have a super birthday, today, Maureen and thank you for being our friend. Bill and Sheila xx
Love and peace Bill xxx