Winchester Cathedral (song)

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"Winchester Cathedral"
Single by the New Vaudeville Band
B-side"Wait For Me Baby"
ReleasedOctober 4, 1966
RecordedJuly 1966, Advision Studios, London.
GenreNovelty song[1]
Length2:20
LabelFontana Records
Songwriter(s)Geoff Stephens
Producer(s)Geoff Stephens

"Winchester Cathedral" is a song by the New Vaudeville Band, a British novelty group established by the song's composer, Geoff Stephens, and was released in late 1966 by Fontana Records.

It reached No.1 in Canada on the RPM 100 national singles charts co-charting with the Dana Rollin version,[2] and shortly thereafter in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Stephens was a big fan of tunes from the British music hall era (or what Americans would call "vaudeville"), so he wrote "Winchester Cathedral" in that vein, complete with a Rudy Vallée soundalike[3] (John Carter) singing through his hands to imitate a megaphone sound.[4] Although the song was recorded entirely by session musicians, when it became an international hit, an actual band had to be assembled, with Fontana trying unsuccessfully to recruit the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.[5] The recording is one of the few charting songs to feature a bassoon.[6] The band toured extensively under the tutelage of Peter Grant, who later went on to manage The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin.[4]

The song won the 1967 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary (R&R) Recording,[7] despite not being a rock and roll song. An initial long-playing album including the song was issued in late 1966 by Fontana Records, also titled Winchester Cathedral. Stephens received the 1966 Ivor Novello Award for "Best Song Musically and Lyrically".[8]

In 2016, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the song's release, a new version by Geoff Stephens was released on CD by Signum Classics, sung by members of the Winchester Cathedral Choir.[9] The premier performance of this version was to take place during a Gala Concert in Winchester Cathedral on March 12, 2016 to help raise funds for the Cathedral's Appeal.

Chart performance[edit]

The tune went to No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart.[10] It went all the way to the top in the U.S., displacing "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by the Supremes on December 3, 1966. After a one-week run at No. 1, "Winchester Cathedral" was knocked off the summit by the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations", only to rebound to the top spot the following week. After two additional weeks, it was knocked off the top for good by "I'm a Believer" by The Monkees."Winchester Cathedral" also topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart for four weeks.[11]

Global sales of the single were over three million, with the RIAA certification of gold disc status.[12]

All-time charts[edit]

Chart (1958-2018) Position
US Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary[13] 330

Cover versions[edit]

Later in 1966 The Palm Beach Band Boys recorded a cover which reached #149 on the Billboard 200 in January 1967;[14] the band also named their debut album Winchester Cathedral. Cover versions by Dana Rollin and The New Happiness reached no higher than No. 70. The Shadows recorded an instrumental version on their album, Jigsaw. Spike Milligan recorded a parody version for Parlophone entitled Tower Bridge. Singer Rudy Vallée, whose voice and style the original recording imitated, did his own cover of the song in 1967 when he was in his late 60s, but it did not chart. He performed the song on Season 3 Episode 12 of the television show Here's Lucy, November 30, 1970.[15] The Four Freshmen took their turn with it on their 1968 album In a Class by Themselves. Frank Sinatra also recorded it for his 1966 album That's Life. Fannie Flagg included it on her 1967 album Rally 'round the Flagg (RCA Victor, LSP-3856).[citation needed] Petula Clark recorded it in her album Color My World/Who Am I, in 1967. The song was covered under the same title by Popular French singer Claude François. Kiss frequently performed a version of the song in their live shows.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fleiner, Carey (2017). The Kinks: A Thoroughly English Phenomenon. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. chap. 7. ISBN 978-1-4422-3542-7.
  2. ^ "RPM Top 100 Singles - November 28, 1966" (PDF).
  3. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 38 – The Rubberization of Soul: The great pop music renaissance. [Part 4]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  4. ^ a b "Biography by Steve Huey". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 11 March 2009.
  5. ^ Unterberger, Richie (2000). Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 9781617744815.
  6. ^ "Best Songs with Bassoon". Democratic Underground. Retrieved 2016-09-30.
  7. ^ "Winchester Cathedral by New Vaudeville Band Songfacts". Songfacts.com. 1966-12-03. Retrieved 2012-12-31.
  8. ^ Lister, David, Pop ballads bite back in lyrical fashion, The Independent, 28 May 1994
  9. ^ "'Winchester Cathedral' re-released - Winchester Cathedral". 4 March 2016. Archived from the original on 2018-01-17. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  10. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 392. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Record Research. p. 178.
  12. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 209. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  13. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  14. ^ "The Palm Beach Band Boys". Billboard. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  15. ^ "LUCY AND RUDY VALLEE". papermoonloveslucy. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
  16. ^ Kiss - They Only Come Out At Night, retrieved 2022-09-22