Johnny Remember Me

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"Johnny Remember Me"
Single by John Leyton
B-side "There Must Be" (Bob Duke)
Released July 1961 (UK)
Format 7"
Recorded RGM Sound: 1961
Genre Pop music
Label EMI Top Rank JAR577(UK)
Writer(s) Geoff Goddard
Producer(s) Joe Meek (R.G.M. Sound)
John Leyton singles chronology
"The Girl On The Floor Above"
(1960)
"Johnny Remember Me"
(1961)
"Wild Wind"
(1961)

"Johnny Remember Me" is a song which became a 1961 UK #1 hit single for John Leyton, backed by The Outlaws. It was producer Joe Meek's first #1 production. Recounting the haunting – real or imagined – of a young man by his dead lover, the song is one of the most noted of the 'death ditties' that populated the transatlantic pop charts in the early to mid-1960s. It is distinguished in particular by its eerie, echoing sound (a hallmark of the Joe Meek production style) and by the ghostly, foreboding female wails that form its backing vocal (by Lissa Gray). The recording was arranged by Charles Blackwell.

Creation and success[edit]

The song was written and composed by Geoff Goddard who awoke inspired and sang it straight into the tape recorder which he kept by his bedside.[1]

At the time of the recording, John Leyton played a rock star called "Johnny Saint-Cyr" in the TV series Harpers West One. In an episode of the show Saint-Cyr performs the song, surrounded by adoring female fans. The television exposure caused the song to become instantly well known. After it was released, it rapidly rose to the number one spot.[2][3]

Evaluations[edit]

On Juke Box Jury in 1961 Spike Milligan dismissed it as "son of 'Ghost Riders in the Sky'", predicting, along with the others on the panel, that it would not be a hit.[4]

In 2012 the journalist Tom Ewing described the song as "the weirdest and most gripping British record to hit the top yet", with Leyton's vocal "clutching at your sleeve, desperate to tell a story of loss and madness. Meek turns the drums into phantom horsemen and fills the record's dark spaces with melodrama – a keening female voice on the chorus rounds the effect off."[5]

Covers[edit]

The song was covered in 1983 by singer John Spencer in Dutch, titled Johnny, vergeet me niet.[6][7]

In 1985 Bronski Beat covered the song in a medley with I Feel Love and Love to Love You Baby in a collaboration with Marc Almond. Released as a single, it reached number 3 and earned Geoff Goddard a platinum disc with sales over 300,000.[8]

It was also covered by the Swedish rocker Little Gerhard and later by Showaddywaddy. In 1983 the British psychobilly band The Meteors released a version, followed a couple of years later by Dave Vanian and the Phantom Chords. It was the opening track on the 1993 album Seasons in the Sun by Spell (Rose McDowall and Boyd Rice).

The creation and success of the song plays a significant role in the 2009 film Telstar: The Joe Meek Story in which Goddard is portrayed by Tom Burke and Leyton by Callum Dixon.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gordon Thompson (2008), Please Please Me, p. 78, ISBN 978-0-19-533318-3 
  2. ^ Arena, The Strange Story of Joe Meek, BBC, 1991.
  3. ^ Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 60. ISBN 0-85112-250-7. 
  4. ^ Get Reading, "Sixties Blast from the past on air", Reading Post, 8 January 2008.
  5. ^ Tom Ewing, "The best No 1 records: John Leyton – Johnny, Remember Me1961: This Gothic romance tells a story of loss and madness", The Guardian, 31 May 2012
  6. ^ Discogs: John Spencer – Johnny, Vergeet Me Niet
  7. ^ TopPop performance of John Spencer's Johnny, vergeet me niet on YouTube
  8. ^ Obituary - Geoff Goddard, 25 May 2000, The Guardian. Retrieved on 16 June 2009.
Preceded by
"You Don't Know" by Helen Shapiro
UK number one single
"Johnny Remember Me"

31 August 1961 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Reach for the Stars"/"Climb Ev'ry Mountain"
by Shirley Bassey
Preceded by
"Reach For The Stars/Climb Every Mountain"
by Shirley Bassey
UK number one single
"Johnny Remember Me"

28 September 1961 (top again for 1 week)
Succeeded by
"Kon-Tiki" by The Shadows