Helen Shapiro
May 17, 2010 12:29 PM   Subscribe

With a surprisingly low voice and the composure of an R&B singer many years older, Helen Shapiro toured with The Beatles in 1963; inspired Lennon and McCartney to compose for her the song “Misery” (which they intended for her vocal style); wrote her own B-sides; starred in ("A Hard Day's Night" director Richard Lester's) 1962 movie; and recorded an album of songs in Nashville with (Patsy Cline producer) Owen Bradley. All before her 17th birthday.

Shapiro's working-class Cockney upbringing, lacquered beehive, and Jewish heritage invite perhaps too easy comparison to Amy Winehouse. But were it not for a year of missed opportunities in the changed pop climate that followed Beatlemania, Amy Winehouse might be more commonly compared to Helen Shapiro. Today Helen performs only gospel.

[First paragraph: Video links; Second paragraph: Articles/photos]
posted by applemeat (25 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Her voice really is a surprise when she first starts to sing, but she's good. Amy Winehouse totally stole her look (or was inspired by her.) I'd never heard of her before, so thanks for the post!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:37 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

What a fabulous voice (singing and speaking). Thanks for this post.
posted by ms.codex at 12:41 PM on May 17, 2010

From Justin to Kelly has the stink of It's Trad, Dad! all over it.
posted by hermitosis at 12:53 PM on May 17, 2010

I like how she sings out of one side of her mouth with a sort of a smirk. Put her in black leather and throw some distortion on the instrumentation, she's punk rock.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:03 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the info! I wonder how many other stars and starlets were on their way up when Beatlemania changed the pop music game.

I didn't think the style of Amy Winehouse was anything more than a throwback to the 1960s, rather than a specific artist. Winehouse is the one who has been successful in making that older style of look and (some of) the music current (or at least popular in current times).

Derail: Firefox knows "Beatlemania" to be a word, but "Winehouse" is considered a real word - this makes me happy.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:05 PM on May 17, 2010

I wonder how many other stars and starlets were on their way up when Beatlemania changed the pop music game.

Lesley Gore, Gene Pitney, Roy Orbison, Dion, Fats Domino, Rick Nelson, Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, Brenda Lee, the Everlys, Chubby Checker, Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs (who will always have the ignominious distinction of having the final #1 rock-oriented hit before the first Beatles #1, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," landed) and on and on ad infinitum .....

Maybe not all of them were still on their way up, but even if they'd plateaued, Beatlemania (and Stones-mania, Herman's-Hermits-mania, etc.) sent them on the downward trajectory super-fast.
posted by blucevalo at 1:39 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

She sang in a school band with Marc Bolan as a 12-year old!
posted by wraplan at 1:57 PM on May 17, 2010

Through some lateral googling I learned about Michael Maniaci.
posted by joost de vries at 2:06 PM on May 17, 2010

Her voice is a little mannish for me. Compare her "Move Over Darlling" with Tracy Ullman's, or (sigh) Doris Day's. I think a girl should sound like a girl.
posted by Faze at 2:10 PM on May 17, 2010

Hell yes.

I do remember that girl.

Her voice knocked me out, folkie though I was then.
Then I found out she was something like 5 years younger than I was.
So I got knocked out again. In the way that young Stevie Winwood did for me years later.

Then somehow she didn't live up to her early promise, commercially speaking.
Or perhaps she just dropped off my radar-screen.

Thanks a bunch for posting this.

And by the way - who is Amy Winehouse?
(OK - I'm kidding.) I bought a CD of her for my wife last year
Back in the day I could never afford records.
We shared a 78 of Ken Colyers The Entertainer - us in the band.
posted by jan murray at 2:11 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Terrific post, thanks. I had been vaguely aware of her, but the links really give a rounded picture (and make me hate the music business even more). Hell of a singer!

Too bad the Jews for Jesus got her, though.
posted by languagehat at 2:34 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Entertainer SLYT from 1955 they tell me.

When Helen was playing with Marc Bolan - wraplan tells me.
posted by jan murray at 2:35 PM on May 17, 2010

Heh. There's a voice that shaped my childhood. My dad was in love with her; probably still is. She was doing jazz numbers in the late 80s when he got to meet her after a gig, and explain to her there was still a chance for them. Poor woman. I think my mum had to drag him away...
posted by Leon at 2:57 PM on May 17, 2010

Look Who It Is wonderful...I love the way she bobs and weaves when George takes a shot at her. She's clearly a kid who has seen a scuffle or two in her life. When George swings at her she moves back with a sweet economy of motion and just gives him a tender little sneer.

And, she oozes sexiness, no? It's alive in her confidence, her deep voice and her swagger. I happen to like a girl with a mannish voice, especially when she carries herself like that!
posted by salishsea at 3:18 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the fine post, applemeat!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:52 PM on May 17, 2010

I think a girl should sound like a girl.

Please. Everyone knows that altos are the awesomer than sopranos.

posted by rtha at 4:09 PM on May 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

We are bad at proofing before posting, though.
posted by rtha at 5:23 PM on May 17, 2010

Well, I first heard the name in Monty Python's Rock Notes sketch.

"After nearly ten days, they reformed again as Sole Meuniere, then Dead Sole, Rock Cod, Turbot, Haddock, Whitebait, the Places, Fish, Bream, Mackerel, Salmon, Poached Salmon, Poached Salmon In A White Wine Sauce, Salmonella, and Helen Shapiro. This last name, their favorite, had to be dropped following an injunction and they split up again. "

Nice to see she's real.
posted by Topkid at 6:17 PM on May 17, 2010

I think a girl should sound like a girl.

And egads, she sounds like a woman.

posted by desuetude at 7:04 PM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think a girl should sound like the grinding gears of a 1971 John Deer tractor and a boy should sound like a boot ripping through a paper bag soaked with fetid swamp water.

Nice post!
posted by serazin at 8:04 PM on May 17, 2010

We are bad at proofing before posting, though.

No, no. Altos are the awesomer indeed.
posted by Lexica at 8:54 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think she did some acting as well, taking the lead in Albion Market, ITV's doomed response to the success of Eastenders.
posted by johnny novak at 2:02 AM on May 18, 2010

She and Wayne Newton might have made a fine duo.
posted by Twang at 3:25 PM on May 18, 2010

This is amazing. Thank you!
posted by spec80 at 7:24 PM on May 18, 2010

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