Despite finding fame in the 1950s, it took another two decades for Shirley Bassey to be given her own series of shows on the BBC. Despite a well-received BBC Television 'Special' The Young Generation Meet Shirley Bassey, recorded in Sweden and shown on BBC1 in March 1970, there was a wait of another six years before a full series was made (six 45-minute-long episodes) in 1976, followed by another in 1979. Every fan of hers should watch them, again and again.
There was a fairly straightforward format to the series, not too different from that seen with Cliff Richard and Cilla Black. Each show would begin with an introduction by the star of the show and a mention of her dog, Emma (think the Dulux dog and you’re close). More about her later.
Then time for the opening credits and of course the theme tune had to be ‘Goldfinger.’ Location shoots were an important part of this show. It wasn’t just going to be Shirley and her guests singing in the studio. ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade,’ for example sees Bassey at sea on a lifeboat. We get to see her outside the Tower of London singing ‘If’ and looking as she was going to get blown away on a windy day.
Up next would be another classic song from Shirley, this time in the studio with some dancers. Over the top costumes were of course the order of the day. You couldn’t imagine Bassey in a T-shirt and jeans, could you?
There was a high level of talent chosen for the guest list on this show. The Three Degrees, Charles Aznavour, Neil Diamond and Dusty Springfield to name but four. No Shirley and Bassey duet though which is disappointing.
Emma gets everywhere on this show, even in the casino, definitely a time when a dog shouldn’t be on the table. Not exactly Schnorbitz but she’s a lovable companion, though jealous of the donkey her owner is riding. Emma also joins guest Rod McKuen and falls asleep as he reads a seemingly endless poem. She might not have been the only one.
Series two for some reason begins with the countdown to a rocket being launched, before the familiar ‘Goldfinger’ theme. ‘Moonraker’ would have been more appropriate perhaps. The final show finally sees her in a space suit while singing ‘Small World.’ It turns out the suit belongs to Apollo XII astronaut Pete Conrad who joins her for a chat. Conspiracy theorists are correct in saying Bassey did not actually go to the moon.
The budget must have gone up for series two with location filming in the Caribbean and the USA (time for more Bond music). No Emma though but still a good guest list including Demis Roussos, Dana, The Drifters, Tony Monopoly, Paul Daniels and Lulu. Of all the songs she could have sang with Lulu, we get ‘You’re the One that I Want’ from ‘Grease,’ followed by a fake argument.
There is a duet that isn’t that musical to be fair. Actually, what music there is to hear is rather out of tune. Yes, Les Dawson is at the piano and he has a great time with the host. Shirley is in pieces almost from the first line ‘I told you to stay in the truck.’ It’s the atheist joke that has her unable to continue for a while.
Her time with Paul Daniels explains why Debbie McGee has had such a long career. It’s probably the only time Shirley has been seen with an egg whisk on her head.
This is an enjoyable series with a formula that works. Her greatest songs are performed, some excellent guests and fantastic costumes, oh and Emma too in series one. Definitely worth watching with episodes on YouTube.
Review: Steve Ashfield
Steve was probably born watching television. Great fan of everything from comedy to Christmas shows. Loves writing about the great shows of the past.
Published on May 24th, 2021. Written by Steve Ashfield for Television Heaven.