Billy Fury – We Want Billy/ Billy
CD Compilation, 1995
Beat Goes On (BGO)
Like all good titles, the name 'Billy Fury' stayed with me ever since I first read that name. Totally unknown in America, especially in the 1960's, I must have read about him as a teenager in an article about Swinging London, but as someone from the past. At the time not that interesting but I love the combination of Billy with Fury. Many years later The Smiths put Billy Fury on the cover of one of their 12” singles, and something about his face caught my imagination. In fact I became totally fascinated by U.K. Pop culture right before The Beatles made the big time. Like millions of others, I was lead to believe that nothing was happening music wise in England before The Beatles, but alas, I was deeply wrong. In two words what was happening was Billy. Fury.
I had to search the internet for this CD release of two Fury albums on one disk. What really interested me is the live album We Want Billy because he was backed by The Tornados, the Joe Meek fueled instrumental band. I have this one image I think I got from Mojo, where Fury is on stage and wearing a gold suit, and clearly you can see he is wearing heavy eye make-up, and he's rockin' with The Tornados' bass player Heinz looking on. For me it is one of those classic moments that freezes a specific time in a very specific place.
Musically the live album is very so-so. Fury, at heart, was a white RnB singer, who was forced to sing pop, even though at the very beginning of his career he was one of the first pop figures to actually write his own songs – but alas, over time he had to cover other songs due to the recording pop world at the time. There is tension between the early songs in his set, which was mostly rock n' roll, but eventually he does a melody of his 'pop' hits. Done without passion, there is clearly a wall between the two styles of music for him, at least on stage.
Now one would think I would prefer the rockin' songs, but I actually love his pop side more. For one the songs he sang were excellent, and two he was a great British ballad singer. What makes him special is you can clearly hear his Liverpool accent when he sang, which of course gives it an instinctive stamp of individuality, as it becomes his song. Billy is a very straight forward pop, but tinge with tragedy of romance and heartbreak.