This Alvin aint no Chipmunk!

After a long discussion between myself, Bridey and our thousands of loyal minions, we’ve decided to stay with our ode to Roter käse for a little while longer. That’s not really too much of a surprise as with all the time that’s wasted just trying to assemble all our loyal minions getting them into one place, there’s not much time to do anything else.

You’ve got to get them fed, make sure the bar is large enough and well staffed, (minions tend to be a drinking crowd,) and then get them all to shut up long enough to get anything done. It’s quite the challenge. But we here at WMMCM endeavor to persevere. So, off we go for another round of Roter käse and this one’s a doozy.

Since at least the late 1950′s there have been rock and pop stars that are just huge in their native England that never quite make it in the US. Having that hit record in the United States became so important that even bands such as Queen have made major career choices depending on how they perform on the US charts. After the lukewarm reception to Queen’s 1982 effort, Hot Space, and the accompanying tour, the band decided that they would not return to the US until they had another number one single. That of course never happened. So, even while Queen remained one of the biggest concert draws in Europe and South America, they declined any offers to return to America prior to Freddy Mercury’s untimely death in 1991.

When Cliff Richard released his debut album in 1959 Richard became one of the most beloved and influential rock stars in England. He’s 71 years old now and still going. Cliff Richard has had over 130 singles reach at least the top 20 as well as 13 number one hits. Along the way he’s sold over 250 million copies of his astonishing 46 studio albums as well as numerous soundtrack and stage-show albums. On top of that Richards has released another 28 albums outside of the UK.

Somehow Richards never caught on with American audiences in the way he did with the European audiences. The closest Cliff Richard came to success in the United States were his two, (actually quite good songs,) 1976′s “Devil Woman” and 1979′s “We Don’t Talk Anymore” with “Devil Woman” reaching a respectable number six spot but, before that, and after that, Cliff Richard is a non-entity on the US charts. (The duet with Olivia Newton John doesn’t count. In 1980 it was “Olivia Newton John and who?” And, it only reached the 20th spot.)

And so it would be with the subject of today’s Roter käse. Although in this case I think that it’s a bit more understandable how this guy missed the charts.

E-Mail to the Stardust!

Alvin Stardust actually had a pretty decent career even outlasting his Glam period. Born as Bernard William Jewry in North London, Jewry had some early if minor success as a member of Shane Fenton and the Fentones. After sending a demo tape to the BBC the young men were surprised when the BBC asked them to audition live. “Shane Fenton,” 17 years old John Theakstone, passed on suddenly and Jewry who had been a roadie for the band was put in service as the new “Shane Fenton.”

Shane Fenton and the Fentones had several hits on the UK charts and were strongly influenced by Cliff Richard and his band The Shadows but as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones started their long influence and domination of the English music scene it became time to move on. So, Jewry went behind the console for many years as a music manager as well as performing with his wife in smaller venues around London.

In 1972, Bernard William Jewry was renamed Alvin Stardust by Magnet Records label owner Michael Levy and Stardust once again became a hit maker. This time as a cool, leather wrapped, Elvis haired, Glam Rock God.

Stardust’s first single “My Coo Ca Choo” hit number two in the UK and spent an impressive seven full weeks at the top of the Australian charts and Stardust followed this with “Jealous Mind” which hit the all important number one spot on the UK charts.

Stardust kept them coming for several years as the cool Elvis Glam guy before venturing away from that persona while still remaining a presence on the charts that lasted over twenty-five years. And yet, in the United States, Alvin Stardust is all but unknown.

In 1985 Alvin Stardust was chosen to perform in the Eurovision Song Contest coming in third with the single “The Clock on the Wall.” Since the mid-70′s Stardust has also had a successful career as a stage actor having played Uriah Heep in the musical version of David Copperfield as well as the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He even starred as the lead in a UK tour of Godspell.

All in all Bernard William Jewry as Alvin Stardust has had quite an impressive career that has lasted over fifty years and yet in all that time he was never able to make an impression outside of his home country. I hope it doesn’t bother him much, if at all. He’s in great company with Sir Cliff Richard.

About Pete

Pete is a professional-musician-with-a-day-job based in California's Inland Empire, as well as a veteran sound engineer in the studio and for live shows. He's been a lover of classic rock since back when it was known as "rock" and has in more recent years developed a country habit as well.
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