My song today is ‘Pretty Little Angel Eyes’. This is a 1961 song by American singer, Curtis Lee. It was released on Dunes Records. Phil Spector served as producer, and also produced Lee's follow-up hit ‘Under the Moon of Love’.
The track is in the doo-wop style, with backing vocals by the Halos. The ‘Halos’ were a doo-wop group composed of Harold Johnson, Al Cleveland, Phil Johnson, and Arthur Crier (bass).
The song spent 11 weeks on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart, peaking at Number 7 while reaching Number 6 on the ‘Cash Box Top 100’. Outside the US, the song reached Number 5 on New Zealand's ‘Lover Hit Parade’, Number 15 on Canada's ‘Chum Hit Parade’, and Number 47 on the UK's ‘Record Retailer’s Chart’. The song was also ranked Number 77 on Billboard’s end of year ‘Hot 100 for 1961 Top Sides of the Year’. It was also ranked Number 56 on Cash Box’s ‘Top 100 Chart Hits of 1961’.
This song was released when I was 18-coming-on-19-years of age. At this age, I saw the world as my oyster, just waiting for me to come along, prise it open and gain the beautiful pearl at its heart. I was a romantic young man who was forever falling in love with every beautiful young woman I dated. I was a young man of bold and daring nature. I was fearless, adventurous, opinionated, and highly confident in everything I undertook. I was positive in thought and outlook, popular in demeanour, and highly successful when it came to dating, dancing, singing, and fighting.
Once I had started work and became financially independent, I became a snazzy dresser, and fashion and appearance took top priority in my wardrobe of significance. I always wore the best of suits, white cotton shirts, silk tie, and black leather shoes of the highest quality, often Italian in make. Having always had to make do with cheap shoes and sometimes second-hand clothes as a young lad at school, once I started work, I swore never to be poorly dressed or shod again. I did not care in the slightest whether I had sufficient coin in my pockets to spend. My pockets could have been empty as long the linings of my clothes were intact and without holes! Good clothes on my back and quality shoes on my feet made me feel as rich as a king.
I had always wanted to travel, and although I was proving very successful in the textile firm of ‘Harrison Gardeners Dyeworks’ where I worked, I had more ambitious plans for when I reached the age of 21 years. I had incurred a serious accident at the age of 11 years that nearly killed me and left me unable to walk for three years. Consequently, the court awarded me a significant amount of financial compensation, which would be paid to me at the age of 21 years. Hence, this money would provide me with the financial means to travel and to live abroad for a few years before I decided to marry, parent children, and settle down to a life of domesticity back in England.
I had always been a well-read and clever young man with a good brain and a persuasive tongue. Just after my 18th birthday (and within the same month), I was to achieve a double accolade. Our Youth Leader of ‘St Barnabas Youth Club’ in Hightown fell ill and was scheduled to be off work for three months. He was called Harry Field and he recommended to his employers that I could hold the fort until he returned. For the next three months, I became the youngest paid part-time Youth Leader in the British Isles. Then, the post of Shop Steward became vacant at my workplace of ‘Harrison Gardeners’ and my name was put forward as the new ‘Shop Steward’. Becoming a Shop Steward at my age of 18 years over a workforce of a few hundred men and women was so unusual that my appointment as ‘Great Britain’s Youngest Shop Steward’ received national press coverage, just as the details of my horrific accident at the age of 11 years also had.
My Canadian plans were almost thrown off course when the textile union for whom I was a shop steward representative wanted to ‘fast track’ me by providing me with a sponsored degree course at ‘Ruskin College’. Ruskin College, originally known as Ruskin Hall, Oxford, is an independent educational institution in Oxford, England. It is named after the essayist and social critic, John Ruskin, and specialises in providing educational opportunities for adults with few or no qualifications. It has been used over many years to further the educational status of some shop stewards who the trade unions wanted to ‘fast track’ in their organisation.
This offer equally surprised and gratified me, but my plans to travel abroad had been part of my dreams since the age of 12 years, and so I declined the opportunity of a sponsored degree course at ‘Ruskin College’. To keep my plans of travel on course, I needed to avoid the traditional course of becoming a father and husband in my early twenties. During the early 1960s, it was common for young men and women to have married by the age of 21 years. Neither was it unusual to have parented two snotty-nosed children before one’s 23rd birthday! If I were to keep my travel dreams intact, I needed to remain single by 21 years of age. To achieve this, given my romantic inclinations to fall in love with every beautiful young woman I dated, I needed to remain emotionally unattached. Thus, I would never have more than a couple of dates with the same girl and would change partners every month whether I liked them/ loved them or not.
Between the ages of 18 and 21 years, before I went to Canada for a few years, I worked and played hard in all respects. I may have played hard and fast but was never loose with the young women I dated. It became apparent to me that I was a young man who constantly preferred to be ‘in love’ than ‘out of love’. However, better still than ‘being in love’, I found, was ‘falling in love’!
My dear mother always had lovely long black hair in her youth and throughout the early years of her marriage. I grew up loving my mother dearly. Consequently, it wasn’t surprising to discover in my teens that only long black hair on the head of any young woman I ever dated, was a prerequisite to my being instantly attracted to them. I realise that it must have been some Freudian influence at work in the process of my subconscious selection of the perfect young woman, and while the many beautiful females I was to date may have included a few who had different hair colour, every woman I ever loved had long black hair and brown or hazel eyes.
I will never forget one young woman I knew briefly who reminds me of today’s song I sing. She was aged 20 when I was 18 years old and we met at a dance hall in Halifax where the gang from Windybank Estate would go bopping weekly. It was a dance hall that essentially practised a form of self-selecting colour-segregation between its weekly patrons. The shape of the dance hall was circular, and the floor was wooden, which would bounce at its centre with the weight of the boppers on it. At one side of the dance floor would be the Jamaicans who made up around half of the dancers, and at the other side of the dance floor were the white-skinned native dancers, making up the other half. The circular dance floor was divided into two notional half-moon segments. The black and white dancers each kept to their own side, and apart from a few white female dancers who dated Jamaicans and danced with them, black and white boppers danced with their own kind in their own half-moon segment of the wooden dance floor.
Every now and then, a skirmish would break out between a group of white-skinned dancers and some Jamaican dancers, and whenever this happened, it did not take long before the entire dance hall was fighting in lumps. The police would naturally be called by the dance hall owners to break up the disturbance, but the Halifax Bobby had too much Yorkshire common sense to tread in a tin of treacle with his big feet. The cops had no intention of getting stuck in the middle of a race rumble and tumble during a traditionally quiet mid-week evening when they’d normally be sitting in a country lane in their police cars scoffing a bag of chips. The police would arrive at the dance hall in large numbers but did not immediately enter. Instead, the police would deliberately wait outside for fifteen minutes as the brawlers inside knocked seven bells out of each other.
Some young men came to the Halifax dance hall to bop on the bouncy wooden floor, some came for the opportunity of hooking up with a good-looking woman, some came for a good fight to round off the evening, and some came for all three experiences.
One Wednesday night at the Halifax dance hall I saw my pair of ‘Pretty Little Angel Eyes’ looking in my direction (as a couple is prone to do as they weigh up their chances of ‘getting off’ with each other). The young woman who was ‘giving me the eye’ was petite in build, with a beautiful figure and long natural blonde hair. I could not help but be taken aback by the sensuality of her invitation as she looked across at me. It was as though she was providing me with a romantic invitation that I could not refuse. Her visual invitation appeared to offer me the possibility of everything I ever dreamed of wanting out of a wet Wednesday night out in Halifax, without the certain promise of getting anything to write home about.
We stayed together for most of that evening and when we danced together, I immediately realised that it had been ‘her eyes’ which had mesmerised me initially and not ‘her look’. She had the bluest eyes I had ever seen in my life. Her eyes were strikingly blue and appeared translucent enough to place the admirer in an immediate trance. Her eyes instantly attracted, and like a love magnet, they drew one compellingly closer and closer until the two romantic forces touched into lockdown motion. Her eyes held the strong suggestion that it would only take one deep gaze into them to result in ‘the looker’ being enticed to dive all the way down into their blue-ocean seabed, and remain lost in them forever. Warning sirens started to ring, telling me that was I to dive deeply into such mesmerising eyes meant that there would be no coming back from the experience and that I’d might as well tear up and throw my sailing ticket to Canada into the sea.
She told me the name of what produced her distinctive blue eyes, but I needed to look it up again recently for this morning’s post. The young woman had a condition what I believe to be known as ‘Waardenburg Syndrome’. This results in the carrier of the condition possessing strikingly blue eyes. Sometimes the person may have two different coloured eyes or have two different colours present in each eye.
I have known many different types of women during my life who had wildly different temperaments. There were women who possessed opposite character traits, different hair colouring and shade of eyes. But only once have I witnessed what I now believe to be ‘Waardenburg Syndrome’, and that was in Halifax during the year 1960, where I found my young dancing partner with the ‘Pretty Little Angel Eyes’.
Love and peace Bill xxx