Mr. Bump, your song selection with the clarinet made me think of a song I remember fondly as a child that was written for clarinet. My aural memory must be good because I was only a toddler when it came out!
“Stranger on the Shore” is a piece for clarinet written by Acker Bilk for his young daughter and originally named “Jenny” after her. The tune was written on a single scrap of paper by Bilk and handed over to Leon Young (1916-1991) who crafted the string arrangement, including the characteristic harmonic shifts at the very end.
The recording was subsequently used as the theme tune of a BBC TV drama serial for young people, Stranger on the Shore. It was first released in 1961 in the UK, and then in the US, and reached number 1 in the US and number 2 in the UK.
In May 1969, the crew of Apollo 10 took “Stranger on the Shore” on their mission to the moon. Gene Cernan, a member of the crew, included the tune on a cassette tape used in the command module of the Apollo spacecraft.
The track, performed by Bilk (as “Mr. Acker Bilk”) with backing by the Leon Young String Chorale, and produced by Denis Preston, was released as a single on EMI’s Columbia Records, catalogue number DB 4750, in October 1961; the label text states “Theme from the BBC T.V. Series”. The UK B-side was “Take My Lips” whereas the US flipside was “Cielito Lindo”. The single became a phenomenal success, topping the NME singles chart and spending nearly a year on the Record Retailer Top 50. It was the UK’s biggest-selling single of 1962, the biggest-selling instrumental single of all time, and appears fifty-eighth in the official UK list of best-selling singles issued in 2002. It had sold 1.16 million copies as of November 2012.
One of songwriter and music publisher Robert Mellin’s major songwriting successes came in 1962, when he wrote lyrics for this song, allowing it to be covered by vocal acts including Andy Williams and the Drifters.
On 26 May 1962, “Stranger on the Shore” became the first British recording to reach number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 where it was issued by Atlantic Records on the Atco label, but it was quickly followed, on 22 December, by British band The Tornados’ “Telstar“, another instrumental. In the pre-rock era, Vera Lynn’s “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” had reached #1 in 1952, on the shorter “Best Sellers In Stores” survey. After “Telstar”, the next British performers to top the U.S. charts were the Beatles, with their first Capitol Records single “I Want to Hold Your Hand“. “Stranger on the Shore” was Billboard’s #1 single of 1962, and it spent seven weeks atop the “Easy Listening” chart, which later became known as the Adult Contemporary chart.
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