Tony Blackburn, Lee Marvin and Me

The following is an extract from my forthcoming book on seventies and eighties pop culture. I love a bit of nostalgia!

At 7:15pm on Thursday 19 March 1970, Tony Blackburn was the presenter of the latest edition of Top of the Pops on BBC1. The official UK Top 40 singles chart on this day was awash with legends from all areas of the musical spectrum. Old school crooners such as Jim Reeves, Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra were jostling for chart positions alongside new acts The Jackson Five and Brotherhood of Man. Elvis Presley was sitting inside the Top 10 with Don’t Cry Daddy while The Beatles were enjoying their swansong with Let It Be

Somewhat incongruously however, the coveted number one slot on the UK chart that day was not held by any of these greats of the music scene. Instead, that honour went to a grizzled Hollywood veteran who sang like he had just gargled with a handful of rusty nails and then smoothed over the resulting abrasions with sand paper. That man was Lee Marvin.

The musical western Paint Your Wagon, in which Marvin had co-starred with Clint Eastwood, had recently been a huge hit in cinemas on both sides of the Atlantic. Although the film’s musical score, first penned by Alan J Lerner and Frederick Loewe for the stage in 1951, included such gems as tough guy Clint warbling I Talk to the Trees, it was Lee Marvin’s melancholy rough-hewn vocal rendition of Wand’rin Star which really captured the public’s attention. 

Released as a single on February 7 1970, Wandr’in Star hit the top spot on March 7 and stayed there for 3 weeks, holding off the challenge of The Beatles, who had to be satisfied with a high of number 2 for their farewell single.

As Tony Blackburn on Top of the Pops introduced another dance routine from the divine Pan’s People, fond memories of whom still linger in the minds of all seventies dads, a young mum was attending to her newly born second child. That child was me. 

I love the fact that Lee Marvin was at number one on the day I first came into the world. As far as I am concerned, I truly was born under a wandr’in star. It’s a great song to have as the number one single on the day you were born. Certainly when you compare it to a long-time friend of mine anyway. He made his first appearance in life to the tuneful bellowing of the England World Cup Squad with Back Home.


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