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Wednesday 17 July 2019

Retro top 10 - this week in 1975

Don Estelle and Windsor Davies in ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum'.
Don Estelle and Windsor Davies in ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum'.

It's easy to dismiss Windsor Davies and Don Estelle's version of 'Whispering Grass' as a novelty song unworthy of a place in pop history, but the single spent three weeks on top of the UK charts, eventually selling more than a million. Moreover, the duo's subsequent album, 'Sing Lofty', was a huge hit for EMI, selling over quarter of a million copies.

'Whispering Grass' was written by German-born US immigrant Fred Fisher and his daughter Doris. American vocal group The Ink Spots had a top ten hit with the song in 1940, and a number of top artists recorded cover versions (including Ringo Starr in 1970), but Davies and Estelle made it their own with their novel, comic take on the Ink Spots' version.

They were both appearing in TV sitcom 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum' at the time and performed the song in character: Estelle as Gunner 'Lofty' Sugden, and Windsor as Battery Sergeant Major Williams.

Estelle, a singer with a powerful tenor voice, was very proud of his chart success with 'Whispering Grass'. Though best known as an actor, his singing career saw several Top of the Pops appearances, and recordings that included 17 singles and as many albums.

Don Estelle died in 2003 at the age of 70; Windsor Davies passed away in January of this year at the age of 88.

• 10CC's classic 'I'm Not In Love' was on its way to number one when this chart was published in June 1975. Written by the group's Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, it was their breakthrough hit around the world, thanks largely to the backing track of multilayered vocals, painstakingly put together after suggestions from band members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme who had both been unhappy with the band's original recording of the song.

In an interview, Stewart recalled the moment that shaped a classic:

'We were about to scrap it and wipe the tape but, as I walked around the studio, I heard the secretary singing it and the window-cleaner whistling it. I knew we had a tune: we just hadn't captured it properly. Kevin suggested doing it again, but with banks of voices. I thought that meant hiring a choir, but Lol Creme, our keyboard player, said we could do it using tape loops.' The rest is history.

1 Whispering Grass Windsor Davies and Don Estelle

2 I'm Not In Love 10CC

3 Three Steps To Heaven Showaddywaddy

4 The Hustle Van McCoy

5 The Proud One The Osmonds

6 Listen To What The Man Said Wings

7 Stand By Your Man Tammy Wynette

8 Sing Baby Sing The Stylistics

9 The Way We Were Gladys Knight and the Pips

10 Disco Stomp Hamilton Bohannon

Wexford People

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