Whistling Jack Smith

Deram 85005, 1967
Billboard: #20

Forget stately Wayne Manor. The real question here is why Kaiser Wilhelm II, emperor of Germany and king of Prussia, would have needed a small-b batman (a British soldier assigned duty as servant to an officer) in the first place. And when that's settled, we can work on the question of "Who was Whistling Jack Smith?" The name is a send-up of singer Whispering Jack Smith, soft-spoken because of an injury sustained in World War I; many of the noises are made by the Mike Sammes Singers, well-known in Britain but in the USA perhaps best-known for being the parents of the kids chanting on John Lennon's "I Am The Walrus", and the leader of all the whistlers was recording producer Noel Walker. The tune was orignally titled "Too Much Birdseed" (!) and was concocted by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, previously of the Kestrels; their song "You've Got Your Troubles" (also produced by Walker) became a major hit for the Fortunes, and as "David and Jonathan" they did a successful remake of the Beatles' "Michelle" in 1966. Everyone at Decca, owner of the Deram label, seemed surprised that this little ditty became a hit, and in an effort to keep the hype going, the label designated singer Coby Wells, real name Billy Moeller (brother of Tommy Moeller of Unit Four Plus Two), already signed to Decca, as the "official" Whistling Jack Smith for touring purposes; the chap who did the whistling on the actual record was John O'Neil, a session musician who had worked previously with the Sammes singers. Greenaway and Cook would go on to write many other songs; perhaps their biggest hit was "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress", the Hollies' crunchy Creedence pastiche. Billed as an instrumental, "...Batman" actually contains one word, uttered by Noel Walker: curiously, it's "Hey!" on the 45 and "Oy!" in the stereo mix.

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Where can I get this on CD?
Perhaps the easiest compilation to find is Instrumental Gems of the '60s, a two-CD set issued by, and occasionally available from, Collector's Choice Music (CCM 003/4). It's in the original stereo LP mix. You can hear four Whistling Jack Smith singles, including this one, at So Many Records, So Little Time, along with more Jack history than you might have thought possible.

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