35. “DREAMBOAT” – ALMA COGAN

Weeks at number one: 2 (15th – 29th July 1955) / Length: 1m48s / Label:HMV

Notable for…being the shortest number one so far. Youngest act so far also (23).

MELODY & HARMONY ~ 5 : I’m back at Uni now. You can’t expect me to write as much. That’s just a warning. I’ll also be thinking harder in non-blog time, so you can’t expect me to be as cogent. I’m just saying.

WORDS ~ 4 : ‘Dreamboat’ is a beautiful word. What imagery does it conjure for you? For me, it is a beautiful kayak made of clouds, lined on the inside with wicker, and smelling of bread candles. (I’ve never smelt a bread candle, but Roz frequently tells me they are wonderful things, and so they have acquired a mystical power to me now.) The rest of the words in this song are not so hot, and sticking in the same semantic field (seas, canoe, shore) just edges it close to the murky waters of Novelty Ocean.

VOICE ~ 1 : Even before the first syllable has left her mouth, been recorded onto tape, been mastered and digitised, been distrubuted to CD shops across the globe, been bought by a middle-aged Lancastrian, been uploaded onto YouTube, been recieved by your computer, and been emitted through a speaker or pair of headphones, and reached your outer, middle and finally inner ear, and been converted to an electrical signal and transmitted to your brain and percieved as sound, it’s clear that Alma Cogan’s voice is something most people will either love or hate. People who love it are probably idiots who have done too much drama and think things are funny if you say them in a Scottish accent. no offense.

STRUCTURE ~ 3 : ABAB, but practically AAAA. Technically maybe something more like ABACABAC…..maybe.

PRODUCTION & ARRANGEMENT ~ 6 : My undoubted favourite bit is the “do-do-doo-dup” riff. It’s warm and cosy, and full of love. I have a little theory that certain emotions are best expressed in music by not words, but just vocals….just the sound of singing. I will tell you a little more about it some day, but not now. Not now. The other best bit is the oriental (???) syncopated piano (???) stabs from 0:20 – 0:30. The other other best bit is the “boop-de-wha-wha!” backing vox at 0:55.

COOLNESS/STYLE ~ 3 : There’s something my Dad says to me sometimes, when I go around singing ABC, or ABBA, or anything from more than twenty years ago. He says, “why do you sing music from my generation? I never sang music from my parents’ generation: I thought their music was sad”. I think the difference is that these songs are practically pre-pop, and that the gap between my dad and his just happened to contain probably the fastest, most brutal era of pop development so far.

ORIGINALITY/NEWNESS ~ 2 : The Beatles called her “Auntie Alma”, which is in one way amazing, and in another way slightly sad: she was only eight years older than Ringo. McCartney has said of Cogan: “”We’d known Alma as the big singing star. We never interacted musically, she was a little too old for our generation, not much probably, but it seemed like an eternity, so I never took her seriously musically. She was old-school showbiz.” Alma Cogan died in 1966, aged 34.

CATCHYNESS ~ 5 : Has that cutesy singalong factor also found in songs like “I’ve I’d Known You Where Coming I’ve Baked A Cake”, and other such mulchy ad-fodder.

CONNECTION/EMOTIONAL HOLD ~ 4 : Although I don’t like her voice, I am glad she’s happy. Because I’m not mean like that.

MORALITY/INTENT ~ 3 : “I would sail the seven seas with you / Even if you told me to go and paddle my own canoe” – my diagnosis? bad babysitting!! either: dangerously low self-worth, or: dangerously clingy.

OVERALL ~ 36/100

Spotify here, lyrics here, or buy it: CD or mp3

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