The following 12 tracks, selected by Chris Eley, form an introduction to the musical world of Billy Fury, arguably Britain's finest pop star of the early 1960s.
They have been saved as two files, each of six songs, in Real Audio format.
Whether or not you are not familiar with Billy's work, please read Chris's fascinating commentary while we take you back to the world of the artist voted Britain's No 2 male singer and No 1 live performer for three consecutive years during the early 60s.
|Chris is a leading light of the official Billy Fury fan club, the Sound Of Fury. For membership details, please click here.|
Track No 1. LIKE IíVE NEVER BEEN GONE
This classic No 3 hit from 1963 has been described as being the finest "deck" that Billy ever cut; certainly this was probably the case until IíM LOST WITHOUT YOU, and perhaps IN THOUGHTS OF YOU came along.
Certainly itís still my personal favourite of all time, by any artist.
A very fine version was released in the USA by Chase Webster (who also released the enjoyable HANDFUL OF FRIENDS), a number which is quite Fury-like in a way.
Track No 2. WONDROUS PLACE - VERSION 2 (There were five released versions in all)
This punchy, bluesy interpretation of the US original (which was by Jimmy "Handyman" Jones), may lack the breathy and classic appeal of the 1960 version by Billy which is so beloved by the UK 50s rockíníroll fraternity, but the powerhouse performance all round of this 1963 release makes it an essential recording.
Do check out the 1960 version as well; you will not be disappointed .
Track No 3. IN THOUGHTS OF YOU
Billyís final Top 10 hit, and deservedly so, right in the middle of Beatlemania.
A beautiful song, well performed and arranged it is justifiably well-regarded by the fans (and indeed is the personal favourite of Billyís Mum, Jean.)
The original flipside was the catchy hand clapper, AWAY FROM YOU,
At present not on CD but a stereo alternative (inferior but enjoyable) version may be found on the 40th Anniversary Anthology CD (Deram).
Billy almost always turned in a B side, which equalled, indeed often bettered the A side of the single (which is more than a lot of 60s artists managed to achieve).
Track No 4. TURN MY BACK ON YOU
Billy is rightly revered by many as being a great rockíníroll singer in the Elvis style and indeed, thatís how he started out before moving into the beat ballad field which brought him the more fame and chart success.
In 1958 Billy started his career with self-penned classics, both ballads such as MAYBE TOMORROW, (his first single), and rock numbers like DONíT KNOCK UPON MY DOOR (the flip of his second release.)
Heavily influenced by Elvis, (Johnnie Ray, Ray Charles and Hank Williams also) Billy developed his own unique brand of rockíníroll and rockabilly, which, although obviously derivative, was also uniquely his own; no mean feat.
The most Elvis sounding was the above, which is widely regarded as a classic to equal MOVE IT by Cliff Richard and SHAKINí ALL OVER by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates (these in turn are (arguably) up there with the best of the genre from the US).
Having enjoyed this great slice of rockabilly check out the whole classic Sound of Fury double CD on UK Decca-844 990. Many believe that the classic ten inch album, is, in the artistic sense, Billyís finest-ever moment
Track No 5 FORGET HIM
A hit in the USA and UK for Bobby Rydell (still performing in the States) this version gave Billy his final chart hit single (unfortunately posthumously in 1983).
It seems that Bobby Rydell likes this version and itís easy to see why.
The vocal track was actually laid down in 1970-1 and for some still unexplained reason, Billy left out a verse, something he also did with NOBODYíS CHILD back in 1963.
Written by Tony Hatch under the pseudonym of Mark Anthony, this is a beautiful and haunting performance and the title is the total antithesis of what fans have done since the untimely loss of their idol.
Available on the PARADISE CD-Spectrum Label 550 011-2 and forthcoming Love Songs CD.
Track No 6 LETTER FULL OF TEARS
The delectable Gladys Knight had a US hit with the original version in 196, curiously enough on the Fury label.
Billy didnít like his own version, later claiming that it was difficult for him to master.
You would never know it.
The UK record-buying public had yet to fall for the black sound of America and this excellent white UK interpretation of black ríníb only reached the number 32 position.
This was self-evidently an appalling indictment of UK musical taste at the time.
Itís a classic with Top 10 written all over it.
The Gladys Knight and the Pips version fared no better over here either.
A great song by Don Covay. I dare any tribute acts to attempt this one.
Track No 7. IíM LOST WITHOUT YOU
Beautifully arranged by the gentlemanly (and sadly deceased) Ivor Raymonde, this struck the then Fury fans as being the first number not to bear any trace of the transatlantic-style vocal inflections which had come to be known and loved by the Fury faithful; and recognised by everyone else.
In truth Billy had already been moving away a little from that vocal style with the beautiful I WILL (done in the USA by Vic Dana and Dean Martin), and other subsequent releases.
Despite being performed on Jack Goodís Shindig in 1965, by a tanned and well groomed Billy who outclassed every other act on the show, this superior track, probably Billyís finest, still failed to break his lack of hits in the USA.
He never was to make it over there, perhaps because of the unjustified and unflattering comparison to Elvis, but more likely because the ill health that dogged and ultimately claimed him would not allow him to really capitalise.
A special choral arrangement of this haunting number was arranged by Ivor Raymonde for Billyís memorial service in 1983.
Track No 8 JUST BECAUSE
One of Billyís greatest talents was his almost unequalled ability to whip his largely female (and teenage) audiences into a frenzy with his combination of classic rockíníroll good looks, sensuality, vulnerability and electrifying vocal intensity.
Regrettably there is little audio or visual record of this apart from, in particular, the live album We Want Billy from 1963.
By now Billy was largely tamed and the Tornados (of Telstar fame) fail to emulate the drive of the earlier Blue Flames or the later Gamblers.
They do however, provide a workmanlike and enjoyable backing and one spin of the "beat" side of this album is enough to convince the listener of Billyís live performance credentials during the height of his fame.
The above track, with its Elvis style ending is a perfect indicator of the live Fury effect.
Perhaps the finest performance is the (far too short) BABY COME ON.
All are exciting and without the live audience would have formed half of a great rockíníroll album - but that actually misses the point.
Available currently on CD BGOCD 358. Beat Goes On Records.
Track No 9 HALFWAY TO PARADISE
The number most popularly associated with Billy; his anthem.
This definitive cover of the very young Tony Orlandoís US original has a way of lifting the hairs on the back of the listener's neck every time itís heard.
This was the song that put Billy really on the map and earned him his first definite Top 10 placing.
Retrospectively, due to a change of reference, it has become fashionable to cite the self penned COLETTE as being the first Top 10 hit but this was the track that most remember as doing it - including Billy.
There was a good re-recording done about 1968 but this is currently not officially available - which is a scandal.
Also recorded in the USA by Johnny Nash (excellent) and Ben E King (enjoyable).
Track No. 10 BABY WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO
Blues and rhythm and blues were much loved by Billy; this much is evident from knowing who his major influences were, but in truth he was a fine exponent of that musical form.
Regrettably virtually all of his best such performances (except for TELL ME HOW DO YOU FEEL - available on the Anthology CD) are not currently available, but this superb 1964 cover of ace US bluesman Jimmy Reed's original is.
Worth a listen just for the superb harmonica break (ownership currently still not firmly established) this more than holds its own with the original artist and other covers by the likes of Dion (excellent), the Everly Brothers and even the Elvis late 60s live versions.
Billy had a natural feel for this musical genre (as can be heard from some live radio snippets from 1965-67 which have slipped out into the collectors' arena).
Track No 11 YOUR WORDS
Billy continued writing through the chart barren years, especially through the late 60s and early 70s when the majority of solo singers from the previous era were suffering lack of commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic.
This self-penned soulful gem is available in its original commercial format on Halfway to the Hits Ė Going for a Song CD GFS 307 and will be available with its more modern backing track on the forthcoming Love Songs CD on UK Decca.
The soul of Billy Fury may well be found by listening to the classic Sound Of Fury album - but the soul of Ronnie Wycherley, the shy, gentle, self effacing, multi-faceted human being and passionate animal lover is surely lurking in quite wonderful tracks like this.
A total contrast to the commercially successful output.
Track No 12. A KING FOR TONIGHT
A flipside from 1962 and one of the very best tracks by any artist worldwide that year, which, had it of been the top deck would have stormed the charts for sure. The US version,slower paced but also really excellent and dramatic was by Barry Darvell.
As it was, the A side, the quite wonderful LAST NIGHT WAS MADE FOR LOVE with its own also superb growling vocal, reached a pleasing No 4 anyway but it was this side that the juke box junkies favoured -and it's easy to see why.
All too many of Billyís, admittedly fine releases, were regrettably bereft of the much loved guitar work found backing the likes of the great Rick Nelson and highly professional Cliff Richard.
On stage with the Blue Flames during 1961 the guitar sound behind Billy was superb so it seems that Decca and/or Manager Larry Parnes were to blame for the general lack of prominence of recorded guitar sound.
When the group style backing did take place on a recording, as on the Billy Fury and the Tornados EP, it turned out to be a weak let down.
Conversely it seemed to work relatively well on the live album, We Want Billy.
Given the commercial success following the more general switch to orchestral pop sounds the approach is understandable.
It did make Billy a household name and no amount of backing could obscure that most distinctive of voices.
The above is a majestic tour-de-force - play it loud.
There you have it, a brief trawl through only some of the best work of the late, great and still much-missed Billy Fury.
All of the above selected tracks (unless otherwise indicated) may be found on the 1998 63 track double CD - The 40th Anniversary Anthology - Deram 844 874-29 (available through Universal and complied by Chris Eley (with Dorien Wathen and Jean Prosser).
To select just 12 tracks from a catalogue of 29 chart singles and four hit albums; and from a career spanning Billyís record debut in 1958 until his untimely death in 1983, was no easy task.
Everyone who knows the music of this immensely talented singer/songwriter has their own idea as to what is best so this choice has been made using the criteria of diversity, excellence and, of course, personal choice.
The US link has also prompted, or assisted with, the choice of some tracks.
All of the tracks listed are currently available on CD (for ease of access for those who will hopefully develop a strong taste for more of this all too often, underrated music).
Having checked out these great sounds, you will begin to understand that both before, and during, the success of the Beatles, Searchers etc, Liverpool produced great music, in the form of Ronnie Wycherley (better known as the legendary Billy Fury).
It may help the reader to know that the writer is a lover of late 50s and early to mid 60s music in general; that the likes of Elvis, Dion, Ricky Nelson, Roy Orbison, Cliff Richard, Johnny Kidd, P. J. Proby, Dee Clark, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Del Shannon, Bobby Vee (much maligned-without cause), the truly great and massively underrated Narvel Felts and a host of other artists of the era who are also highly rated and enjoyed.
This will hopefully give more balance and far less prejudice than might otherwise occur when a person gives voice regarding their favourite artist.