Today a video of Dame Shirley Bassey on a Britsh TV program from 2002 Room 101.
Room 101 is a BBC comedy television series based on the radio series of the same name, in which celebrities are invited to discuss their pet hates and persuade the host to consign them to oblivion in Room 101, a name inspired by the torture room in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four which reputedly contained “the worst thing in the world”. George Orwell himself named it after a meeting room in Broadcasting House where he would sit through tedious meetings. It is produced independently for the BBC by Hat Trick Productions. More……..
Shirley Bassey’s First Audition
The full-blown Bassey, bejewelled and bombastic, the one that sets Grade’s teeth on edge, was just a scrap of a girl, growing up in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay docks when Billy Eckstine played at the city’s New Theatre at the turn of the fifties, Shirley was there, and has credited that night as being the moment she decided to become a professional singer. Though it’s hard to believe, she first sang for friends and family while hiding under the kitchen table as she was too shy to appear in front of them. By the time she was twelve, she had got the confidence together to sing in pubs around the Splott area of Cardiff, mostly ballads, songs like Autumn Leaves and Stormy Weather. Her biggest influence was Eartha Kitt and while Shirley by all accounts had little idea of how to dress or even apply make-up, she was already well aware of her sex appeal.
Just looking at the girl made me half decide to send her away and find someone else…– Manager Mike Sullivan
Her first manager was Mike Sullivan who recalled his first meeting with Shirley in John L Williams’ excellent biography, Miss Shirley Bassey: “I climbed two flights of bare wooden stairs to rehearsal rooms in Great Newport Street. She was sitting on the dusty floor. Old crumpled jeans were rolled to her knees and a pale tan face with a short-cropped fuzz of black hair topped a dirty yellow sweater. Just looking at the girl made me half decide to send her away and find someone else. But everybody deserves a chance. and I had paid her train fare…”
To his surprise, Sullivan was blown away by her voice, and bought Shirley £100 worth of new frocks. He then decided to send her out on the Hippodrome theatre circuit – her very first show was at the Hippodrome, Keighley (now a car park), on a Monday night in 1953. Even though the crowd was mostly pensioners getting in for free, Sullivan recalled how well Shirley went down: “These are the very last people her act is aimed at, and yet she’s got them. I thought, the girl really has something.” Sullivan decided that singing Stormy Weather would only take her so far – Shirley’s sauciness needed some unique material. Bizarrely, he turned to a Denmark Street writer called Ross Parker who had written We’ll Meet Again and There’ll Always Be An England; given the brief of something with “bite”, Parker came up with Burn My Candle (At Both Ends).
It became her first single, released on Philips in 1956 when she was just 19-years old. Astonishingly, she had got to sing it on Jack Hylton Presents, an ITV show (the BBC banned it for being salacious) the previous autumn, before she even had a record deal. Shirley never looked back. And Michael Grade’s nightmare had just begun.