Thursday, 14 February 2019

The Kensington Playlist Track 6: Alma Cogan & Dreamboat

DC Editor Adam writes…

Another musical-themed post to follow-on from yesterday's Leonard Cohen map. Today I'm updating my Kensington Playlist – music, composers, acts and lyricists associated with the London Borough of Kensington – ahead of my Kensington tour this afternoon.

Singer Alma Cogan joins Hubert Parry, Arthur Bliss, Queen and Flanders & Swann on the playlist today. Her plaque can be found on High Street, Kensington…

The brightest British star of the pre-Beatles era, Alma Cogan enjoyed chart success with her breezy, traditional pop tunes from 1954 to 1960.

Her cheerful style (she was billed as “The Girl with the Laugh in her Voice”) took her to Number 1 with Dreamboat in 1955 and an appearance on the fabled Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.

Her Blue Plaque is on the apartment block where she lived and staged her legendary showbiz parties. On any given night at 44 Stafford Court, High Street Kensington one could run into Lionel Bart, Cary Grant, Michael Caine or Noel Coward.

Lennon and McCartney were no strangers to Alma's famous parties – Alma and The Beatles first met at rehearsals for TV's Sunday Night At the London Palladium in January 1964. Lennon nicknamed her Sarah Sequin. Rumours persist that the two had an affair.

Alma was one of the first ports of call for McCartney when he composed what would become Yesterday. Beatle legend tells us that the song arrived to McCartney in a dream, and he wasn't completely sure if the song was perhaps a "borrowed" melody from another, older tune. In checking it with Cogan – an expert in the field of showtunes and American Songbook – the singing star seems to have assumed that the Beatle was offering her exclusive recording rights to the song. While she did go on to record the number (along with Ticket to Ride and Eight Days A Week) she was just one of many. It's often said that Yesterday is the most recorded pop song of all time.

The number I've added to the Kensington Playlist is Alma's only UK No.1 from 1955 Dreamboat – being representative of her breezy style.

 A Londoner through-and-through, she was born in Whitechapel as Alma Angela Cohen to Russian Jewish immigrant parents and lived in Kensington for fifteen years until her death, at the age of 36 from ovarian cancer, in 1966.

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