Swinging London in the spring of 1967 was a feverish hot house of British big beat, the very latest mod fashions and a burgeoning psychedelic culture. Music was ruled by the Rolling Stones and Beatles, yet in the Ides of March saw a version of the 20-year-old country & western standard "Please Release Me" roar to the top of the UK charts and remain there for six weeks. The singer was, of course, Engelbert Humperdinck and the record ignited one of the most extraordinary careers in pop music.
Humperdinck, who appears at Burbank's Starlight Bowl on Sunday, August 4, had been working British clubs as both a saxophonist and singer for several years prior to "Please Release Me," but nothing had made significant impact.
"In my early days I sang rock stuff, but the career didn't kick until '67," Humperdinck said in a recent telephone conversation. "My first manager was Gordon Mills, who I'd met right at the beginning, we shared a flat in London and traveled with rock bands doing one-nighters. Later he became a songwriter and manager whose stable was Tom Jones, Gilbert O'Sullivan and myself. Gordon gave me the stage name and stamped my style as being a ballad singer and it was not a bad choice, because after he took me on: bingo!"