#880: Walkin’ Back To Happiness by Helen Shapiro
Peak Month: December 1961
7 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #8
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #100
CFUN Twin Pick November 25, 1961
YouTube.com: “Walkin’ Back To Happiness”
“Wakin’ Back To Happiness” lyrics
In 1946 Helen Kate Shapiro was born in East End, London. She is the granddaughter of Russian Jewish immigrants and her parents, who were piece-workers in the garment industry, attended Lea Bridge Road Synagogue. Although too poor to own a record player, Shapiro’s parents encouraged music in their home. Helen had to borrow a neighbor’s record player to hear her first hit single. Shapiro played banjolele as a child and sang occasionally with her brother, Ron, in his youth club skiffle group. Helen had a deep timbre to her voice, atypical in a girl who was still a child. Her elementary school friends gave her the nickname “Foghorn.” When she turned ten years old, Helen Shapiro became a member of Susie and the Hula Hoops, with her cousin, 60’s pop singer, Susan Singer. Shapiro also participated in a school band which included Marc Bolan (then using his real name of Mark Feld, and later founder of glam rock group T. Rex) as guitarist.
When she turned thirteen, Shapiro took singing lessons at The Maurice Burman School of Modern Pop Singing, based in London’s Baker Street. The school had earlier produced a young singing star in the 1950’s named Alma Cogan, who covered traditional pop hits by Teresa Brewer, Jo Stafford, Kitty Kalen, Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page and others. “I had always wanted to be a singer. I had no desire to slavishly follow Alma’s style, but chose the school merely because of Alma’s success,” Shapiro said in a 1962 interview in the Sunderland Echo. Burman’s connections eventually led Helen Shapiro to a young Columbia Records A&R man named John Schroeder. While still age fourteen in February, 1961, Helen Shapiro released “Don’t Treat Me Like a Child,” which became a #3 single on the UK singles chart. This debut was followed up with two #1 hits on the UK singles chart, “You Don’t Know” and “Walking Back to Happiness.”
“Walking Back To Happiness” is a song about discovering, after a break-up, that you’ve lost a good thing. Being single has only contributed to the feelings of missing the one you said goodbye to. Happily, the person who was dumped is happy to go steady again. While it is true that a couple can break up and get back together for keeps, it is important to know what caused the breakup in the first place. Unless those issues causing the breakup get addressed, they can lurk in the background and be a catalyst for a subsequent breakup down the road. From the songs’ lyrics, it seems the singer has learned from their mistakes and from saying things they now regret.
“Walking Back to Happiness” on this side of the Atlantic only made it to #100 on the Billboard charts. It peaked at #8 here in Vancouver, #12 in Springfield, Massachusetts, and #15 in Spokane, Washington. It was also a #1 hit in Ireland, Israel, South Africa and New Zealand, and made the top five in Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway and Austria. Shapiro had a #2 hit in 1962 with “Tell Me What He Said,” her fourth single release to make it into the top three positions on the UK Singles Chart. Most of her recording sessions were at EMI’s studios at Abbey Road in London.
In 1962 she appeared as herself in the teen rock ‘n roll movie, Play It Cool, featuring Billy Fury and Bobby Vee who perform in nightclub after nightclub. Shapiro also appeared in the UK film, It’s Trad, Dad! along with John Leyton, Gene Vincent, Craig Douglas, Chris Barber’s Jazz Band, Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen and Mr. Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band. The pop music comedy was released under a different name in North America as Ring-A-Ding Rhythm which co-starred Chubby Checker, Gene McDaniels, Gary U.S. Bonds and The Paris Sisters.
Before she was sixteen years old, Shapiro had been voted Britain’s Top Female Singer. The Beatles first national tour of Britain, in the late winter/early spring of 1963, was as her supporting act. Though she barely made the Top 40 in the UK in 1963, Helen had a #1 hit in Australia titled “No Trespassing.” By 1964 Helen Shapiro had her tenth and final Top 40 hit in the UK. Her career as a pop singer was on the wane. Her bee-hive and vocal sound seemed dated faced with a stable of new female pop stars making the charts like Dusty Springfield, Jackie Trent, Cilla Black and Lulu. Shapiro continued touring until 1972.
To celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, on December 31, 1976, Shapiro performed “Walkin’ Back To Happiness” on A Jubilee Of Music on BBC1. In 1977 she played was cast in the role of Nancy in a West London production of the musical Oliver! In all, Helen Shapiro released 35 singles between 1961 and 1989, the final one being a new recording of “Walking Back To Happiness.” Her autobiography, titled Walking Back To Happiness, was published in 1993. In her personal life, Shapiro converted from Judaism to Christianity in 1987, as reported in Haaretz.
November 13, 2017
Helen Shapiro, Electric Earl.com
It’s Trad, Dad!, Amicus Productions, Surrey, England, 1962.
David B. Green, This Day In Jewish History: Helen Shapiro is Born, Haaretz, September 28, 2012.
Helen Shapiro Biography, Jew Age.com
For more song reviews visit the Countdown.