Whenever I’ve asked you what your favourite (or, more likely, least favourite) bad record is, one title rears its ugly head again and again and again, and it is that record I bring to you today, complete with its seldom-heard B-side.
An appalling ditty with nonsense lyrics, this particular monstrosity - Little Arrows by Leapy Lee - was a huge hit: Number 2 in the UK and Australia, Number 11 in America, Top 10 in Canada and a Number One smash in several European countries. It’s still horrible though, and it’s no surprise that it regularly turns up on bad record lists. Luckily this was denied the top spot by the first two releases from the Beatles’ Apple records - Hey Jude and Those Were the Days.
Little Arrows was co-written by Albert Hammond, whose song writing credits include The Air That I Breathe, Don’t Turn Around, When I Need You, One Moment in Time, Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now – and Gimmie Dat Ding. Hammond – who knew Lee through their mutual friendship with Dave Davis of the Kinks – gave him the song “because,” he told DJ and writer Jon Kutner, “He said he was a singer and I couldn’t get anyone else to record it.” Lee, Hammond states, “was a jack of all trades; he’d been a comedian, an antique dealer, a fruit seller and even a bingo caller in Shepherd’s Bush!” Perhaps what is surprising is that this was not Lee’s first recording: three years earlier he released the self-penned It’s All Happening on Pye. Nor, unfortunately, would it be his last. It would, though, be his only major hit. Later covered by Little Jimmy Osmond, Leapy Lee re-recorded and re-issued the song in 2010.
Lee is a funny old character. Still performing today at the grand old age of (almost) 75 – mostly around Mallorca, where he has lived since the early 1980s – he’s perhaps better known locally as a rather reactionary columnist for the ex-pat English-language newspaper the Euro Weekly News...although I suspect the irony of his being rabidly against immigration whilst being an immigrant himself is no doubt lost on him. Born Graham Pulleybank in 1939 (he would later change his name to Lee Graham); he’s also very down on criminals – odd when you consider his own brush with the law. His chart career was nobbled shortly after his second US hit when, in July 1970, Leapy found himself in the Chequers Pub in London's West End with actor Alan Lake (who, at that time, was married to WWR alumnus Diana Dors). A fight broke out and the pub’s relief manager was stabbed - allegedly by Lee, who was sentenced to three years in prison. Lake got 18 months.
Little Arrows is bad enough, but you’ve yet to hear the dreadful B-side, Time Will Tell. Co-written and produced by Gordon Mills, the legendary manager of Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck and Gilbert O'Sullivan, it’s an absolute shocker. Mills, who also wrote or co-wrote hits for Cliff Richard, the Searchers and others, really dropped the ball with this piece of rubbish, but even if the song had been world class it would have been ruined by Lee’s ridiculous performance. I quite like the Joe Meek-esque compression, but the song itself is totally unsuited to his mediocre voice, and Lee’s constant straining to hit the right notes (and failing miserably) makes for rather uncomfortable listening. You’d have to hope that he was aiming for something comedic - but it doesn’t make me laugh.