Cilla Black had an army of fans in the early 1960s – but it’s fair to say American singer Dionne Warwick wasn’t one of them.
She was less than happy about a new wave of British female artists – Black, Dusty Springfield and Sandie Shaw among them – recording her songs.
What annoyed her most was Black topping the UK charts in February 1964 with her version of Anyone Who Had a Heart, written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach.
Warwick had released the single in November 1963 and it was still being marketed internationally on her behalf. It reached the Top Ten in a number of countries, but was eclipsed by Black’s version.
Anyone Who Had a Heart saw Black stay at Number One in Britain for three weeks and became the fourth best-selling single of 1964 with sales of 950,000 copies.
Warwick felt insulted that UK record executives wanted her songs recorded by other artists – and even made the point to Black herself. The two singers met while Warwick was on tour in Britain.
We may have a picture of the very occasion, or at least close to it, dating from May 25th 1964. Black is standing arms folded in a polka-dot dress while Warwick casually holds a cigarette and looks straight into the Liverpool singer’s eyes.
Warwick later recalled she told Black that You’re My World would be her next single in the States. We don’t know how Black reacted.
Warwick also reckoned that if she’d sneezed on her next record, Black would have sneezed on her version too – such was her lack of imagination!
Whatever passed between the two artists, it had little effect on their careers. Warwick went on to become one of most prolific hit-makers of all time with 56 of her singles making the US Hot 100 from 1962 to 1998.
Black hit the big time too with 11 Top Ten hits in the UK singles chart from 1963 to 1971 – and eight further songs in the Top 40.
The paths of Warwick and Black crossed again in 1966 when Burt Bacharach suggested his song Alfie, the theme tune to the Michael Caine movie, should be sung by Warwick.
Film-makers Paramount felt Alfie should be recorded by a British singer as the film was set in London and recommended Sandie Shaw. When Shaw declined, Black stepped in!
Warwick had the last laugh though. She actually did record the Black hit You’re My World in 1968 on the album Dionne Warwick in Valley of the Dolls.
Cilla Black wasn’t the only Merseyside artist to produce famous cover versions in the 1960s. The Searchers, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, the Swinging Blue Jeans and even the Beatles got in on the act.
One of the Searchers’ biggest hits, Sweets for My Sweet, was originally recorded by American band the Drifters. It went to Number One for the Liverpool group in 1963.
They followed it up with Number One versions of Jackie DeShannon’s Needles and Pins in the same year and Don’t Throw Your Love Away, originally by the Orlons, in 1964.
Bootle-born singer Billy J. Kramer and his backing band the Dakotas enjoyed success in 1965 with their version of the Bacharach song Trains and Boats and Planes.
It went to No. 12 in the UK charts, but couldn’t compete with the American version recorded by who else but Dionne Warwick!
Merseyside band the Swinging Blue Jeans released their version of Don’t Make Me Over, again by Bacharach and David, in 1966. It peaked at No. 32 in the UK and the group never charted again.
Believe it or not, Don’t Make Me Over was actually Warwick’s debut single in August 1962! She did much better with it, reaching No. 5 in the US R&B singles chart.
The biggest hit for the Swinging Blue Jeans was their cover version of the Chan Romero song Hippy Hippy Shake, which went to No. 2 in the UK in December 1963.
Even the Beatles, who wrote songs for Black and Billy J. Kramer, had one cover version which they loved to play – particularly at their concerts.
It was the timeless rock classic Roll Over Beethoven by American legend Chuck Berry. He recorded the single way back on April 16th 1956 in Chicago, Illinois.
*Fascinating wartime images of Merseyside feature in Clive Hardy’s latest hardback book, The Home Front – Britain 1939-45.
It’s now on the sale at the special price of £14.99 plus UK postage and packing.
Just go to inostalgia.co.uk/shop to order your book or call the order hotline on 01928 503777.