A woman compere … I think not!!

Going to a Bassey concert is indeed an occasion but when it’s your very first one it really is something special.  Something you will always remember and cherish.

I was 16 years old and had not been working very long.  I came home from work one evening and my father was sat reading the local evening paper.  He looked at me and said he thought there was something he’d just been reading that might interest me.  He passed me the paper and pointed to an advertisement for the Odeon cinema in Nottingham.  There in bold lettering it said ‘For One Night Only Shirley Bassey with John Barry and his Orchestra’.  There was to be two performances and the top price tickets were 16 shillings (80p).  He said that he and my mother had decided they would pay for me to go and see her as part of my birthday present.  I had to go to Nottingham the next evening straight from work and book seats as that was the first day for booking.  I had to book 6 seats in all for the first performance.  I managed to get tickets for the second row and I was so excited.

The concert was on a Friday evening and I’d managed to leave work early in order to get to Nottingham on time.  The seats were great and I was impatient for the show to start.  John Barry and his Orchestra opened the show and must have been on stage for around 45 minutes.  I have to be honest and say I was really interested in them but they were really very good.  There was the interval then.  As it was a cinema the safety curtain was lowered during the interval.  They tended to do that in those days.

Suddenly the lights darkened and everyone went quiet.  The safety curtain rose and the orchestra were already seated.  There was the microphone at the very front of the stage.  I got ‘goose bumps’!!  Without any fanfare or announcement this small petite figure walked on from the side of the stage and the audience began to applaud.  I didn’t as I thought it was a woman compere!  Stupid me!!  It was only as she turned to face the audience when she stood in front of the microphone and sang the words ‘Just once in a lifetime…’ did I realise it was Shirley.  My heart started to pound and so began the feeling that I would always get whenever I saw her live after that night.  I was in heaven.  That voice!  I couldn’t believe how powerful it was and I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was.  I expected a tall woman.  She looked tall on television and I’d never spoken to anyone who had ever seen her live.  I didn’t know any other fans back in 1964.  To me she looked so small and dainty.  How the heck could a voice that powerful come from such a tiny woman?

Her hair was short and she wore the diamond gown in it’s original state.  I often use the word stunning but what other word can describe a gown that is so dazzling with every move she made as it caught the lights?

The Diamond Gown
The Diamond Gown

Above is a vintage photo of Shirley wearing the ‘Diamond Gown’ in it’s original design.

She was the ultimate professional even then.  There was very little interaction with the audience though unlike today.  She was there to sing and that’s what she did.  Although the audience did not whistle and cheer and shout as they do these days she soon had them eating out of her hands.  The applause was loud and there were shouts for more.  ‘As Long As He Needs Me’, ‘Typically English’, ‘In Other Words’ and one of the highlights of the evening ‘No Regrets’.  It hadn’t been released on record then and I’d never heard her sing it before although I knew the song.  I loved it.  Every single second of that performance was sheer magic to me.  I didn’t want the evening to end but as always it came all too soon.  I was on a high and I didn’t want to come back down!

I can relive that evening by listening to ‘Live At Carnegie Hall 1964’ as the songs are practically the same.  Maybe you can share some of that magic too by listening to one song from the ’64 Carnegie Hall.  It has to be:-

No Regrets…