Sunday, 15 September 2013

Hurricane Smith - Don't Let It Die (1972)

Norman 'Hurricane' Smith was a bit of a late bloomer in the pop music business and was the ripe old age of 49 years old when his debut album "Don't Let It Die" came out in 1972 on EMI/Columbia records. He had, however, been behind the scenes for many years previously. Having lied about his age and being granted an apprenticeship by EMI, he worked his way up the ranks, from tea boy to engineer to producer, working on some big, BIG recordings in the process, including the first six Beatles albums,  the first four by Pink Floyd and the Pretty Things' "S.F. Sorrow". Smith also worked with Barclay James Harvest, The Swinging Blue Jeans, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Kevin Ayers, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas and Manfred Mann.

Being around such talent obviously rubbed off on Smith during the 1960's and it was then that he started to dabble with songwriting, possibly taking John Lennon seriously when he joked that the Beatles were short of songs during the Help! sessions, prompting him to write "Don't Let It Die". There's a clear Gilbert O'Sullivan influence in Smith's recordings, as well as the Beatles, mainly of the Paul McCartney Music Hall variety and if that's your bag, and you don't mind the heavily orchestrated arrangements, you'll love this album.

Hurricane wasn't hip and he never pretended to be so. Instead he stuck to what he was great at, writing and producing some real nice pop tunes that your gran would like, full of nostalgia and sentimentality. But in an odd way, it works and I find myself coming back to his first album for repeated listens.

In the liner notes for the album, Smith comes over as a pretty decent, humble kind of bloke, appreciative of the people in the business who have helped him and not afraid to poke fun at himself. The back of the LP sleeve also proudly states that Smith won a couple of Ivor Novello Awards (Best Song and Lyric) for "Don't Let It Die" in 1971-72...and there are pictures of them on there too, in case you don't believe him!

Smith died in 2008 aged 85. The previous year he released his memoir "John Lennon Called Me Normal" and attended Beatlefest in where he was interviewed, sharing stories about his time as an engineer for the Beatles. There's a clip of him talking about "She Loves You" taken from the Beatles Stories DVD here.

I'll leave the last words to Hurricane Smith with his explanation of "Auntie Vi's", my favourite track on the album...
"I got the idea for this song by looking back to my days as a young boy who hated being dressed up in a black velvet suit, to be taken out to Sunday tea. I don't infact have an Auntie Vi, but I think that Mother was probably a little too fat and furry! I hope you will forgive me making this point of philosophy in this song, but I never did agree with the upbringing of a child on the basis of a child being seen and not heard, because I think this could lead to an inhibited adult later on"

Hurricane Smith - Auntie Vi's

We all went round to Auntie Vi's for tea
Mum and Dad, Jimmy Lad and Me
And Mother had the usual things to say
That we should please be good today

She's all dressed up like a Persian Cat
When he's looking very fluffy but he's much too fat and furry
And dear old Dad in his best cravat
Couldn't go anywhere without his old brown hat, that derby
Bought in 1892

And after family greetings had begun
Couldn't miss the big wet kiss to come
And after jelly, cream and strawberry flan
We all just sat and grown up chat I couldn't understand

La da da da, La da da da
Da da da da da da da da
La da da da, La da da da
Da da da da da da da da

I know there's much to be grateful for
But going out to tea is such a great big bore on Sunday, boring Sunday
But I mustn't complain not a single word
Good little boys are only seen not heard on Sunday
Mothers' day of rest

The smoky open fire and old perfume
Special treat, once a week from ???
I couldn't wait 'til mother finally said
"Time for us to catch the bus
and home in time for bed!"

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