Despite being one of the most successful British lyricists of the 1960s, most people don’t recognise Jackie Trent’s name. But pretty much every Brit instantly recognises one particular song she wrote the words to.
And I mean every Brit…not just music fans and Mastermind contestants. Every single Brit, without exception.
I bet the Queen could sing it to you, it’s so well-known to those of us who live on this rainy piece of rock which separates the Atlantic Ocean from the North Sea.
It’s a song which, although it was written 30 years ago, to this day cuts across class divides, geographies and political affiliations. In fact, it’s about the only thing that does around here any more…
Sadly that song isn’t “Where Are You Now (My Love)”, even though Jackie Trent co-wrote and performed that song and took it to the top of the charts in 1965, knocking “Ticket To Ride” by the Beatles off the top spot in the process.
There was plenty of stiff competition for the top spot in the charts of 1965. Jackie Trent got to Number One by co-writing and performing a great song.
Now, I’d be the first to admit that “Where Are You Now (My Love)” was very much of it’s time. A song like this probably wouldn’t have been recorded…much less reached Number One in the singles charts…at any other time in popular music history.
It’s very evocative of the stylishly cool London music scene of the early to mid-1960s, when singers performed in evening dress with perfectly coiffed hair. Ladies wore long gloves that went up past their elbows and gentlemen wouldn’t dream of performing without a neatly knotted bow-tie.
Although “Where Are You Now (My Love)” is very evocative of a particular time and place, that doesn’t detract from it being a delightful, and rather charming, song…in fact, it might even be what makes it charming and delightful in the first place…
When shadows of evening gently fall
The memory of you I soon recall
We walked in the rain
You kissed me, whispered my name
Where are you now, my love
Yes, “Where Are You Now (My Love)” takes us down one of the lyric-writer’s most well-trodden paths…the love that two people used to have has somehow fizzled away since those shadows of evening gently fell and two sets of lips softly brushed against one another for the first time.
The title of “Where Are You Now (My Love)” probably telegraphs where we go next well enough that I don’t need to give you a spoiler alert before telling you that the early promise of the first few lines of the lyrics doesn’t last for long.
We’ve got some heartbreak to attend to before the three-minute mark…
While I’m sitting here, I’m wondering what went wrong
You’ll find your empty arms will tell you
You belong to me, you’ll come to me
And see how I’ve been waiting every day
Just hoping that you’ll come back to stay
But I don’t know when I’ll ever see you again
Where are you now, my love
Love gone wrong may be a well-trodden path for lyric writers, but Jackie Trent makes a great job of treading it.
In no small part, that’s because Jackie Trent’s lyrics are paired with the musical composition talents of Tony Hatch.
The couple would convert their songwriting partnership into a romantic partnership before too long…although the story of “Where Are You Now (My Love)” sadly turned out to be an early premonition of what would eventually happen to Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent’s own romantic relationship.
While love was young, though, Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent wrote some of the biggest hits of the 1960s.
“Where Are You Now (My Love)” was the high-water mark for Jackie Trent’s performing career. She wouldn’t trouble the upper reaches of the charts as a performer again, although she wrote and recorded extensively through to the early 1990s.
But there were plenty of other artists for whom a Tony Hatch/Jackie Trent songwriting credit was the harbinger of a hit record. Their songwriting hits included “Don’t Sleep In The Subway” and “The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener” for Petula Clark, as well as “Joanna” for Scott Walker.
And Tony Hatch/Jackie Trent songs were covered by the likes of Shirley Bassey, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. They were very much songwriters at the top of their game.
The songs I’ve mentioned so far are all good songs, of course, but probably none of them is jumping out at you as the one that every Brit, regardless of age and class, would be likely to recognise in an instant.
That’s because the most famous song Jackie Trent wrote the lyrics for was none of those big hit records. It was the theme tune for a TV programme.
It’s fair to say Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent had some previous form for that particular songwriting genre.
Tony Hatch’s first big success as a composer was the theme tune for the long-running British daytime soap opera “Crossroads”…part of British culture admittedly, but routinely mocked for its rickety sets and hammy acting.
However the theme to “Crossroads” was an instrumental, so Jackie Trent wasn’t involved in that. And it pre-dated Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent getting together anyway. So, relatively well-known tune though that is for Brits over the age of 40, that’s not Jackie Trent’s most famous record.
But we’re getting warmer…
After their successes in the 1960s had run their course, Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent…by now Mr and Mrs (ironically, the title of another long-running British TV show with a Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent theme tune)…moved to the warmer climate of Australia, far away from cold and rainy London.
Whilst there, Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent wrote the theme tune for the long-running Aussie soap opera “Neighbours”.
We Brits went crazy for that sun-drenched Aussie daytime drama when it launched in the UK in 1988. It quickly became one of the most-watched programmes on British TV and started the careers of a number of future stars in the world of music including Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Natalie Imbruglia.
In the years since 1988 every Brit has heard the “Neighbours” theme tune so often, we’ve ended up internalising it whether or not we’ve ever consciously watched an episode of the programme. 30 years after its initial release here, “Neighbours” is still going strong as a staple of tea-time TV, which is quite something.
Sing “Neighbours” to a Brit…and they’re very likely to sing “Everybody needs good neighbours” back to you.
And there aren’t many songs you can guarantee that sort of reaction to just by singing the first word of the lyrics.
While the theme song for “Neighbours” is an incredibly well-known song here, very few people know Jackie Trent wrote the lyrics for it.
Even fewer know Jackie Trent started her musical career in 1965 by co-writing and performing a really a lovely, charming song which was good enough to knock the Beatles off the Number One spot in the singles charts.
Sadly, Jackie Trent passed away in 2015.
Although I understand all the reasons why the theme tune for “Neighbours” is her best-known song…and one every Brit can recognise in an instant…Jackie Trent was a wonderful lyricist and a great performer.
So, rather than remembering her via the theme tune for “Neighbours”, popular though that is, I much prefer to remember Jackie Trent for her own Number One hit record, “Where Are You Now (My Love)”.
It’s no exaggeration to say that’s a classic in it’s own right and, in my view, a very fitting tribute to Jackie Trent’s talents…
If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/0kpmJjOBJoXwHh7SqFGOSF