Friday, June 8, 2018

Traitor or Devil? : Could Coventry Duo, Sue and Mary, Have Influenced the Presley Hit, Devil in Disguise?

 Traitor or Devil? : Could Coventry Duo, Sue and Mary, Have Influenced the Presley Hit, Devil in Disguise?

In 1962, weeks before the Beatles released Love Me Do and months before Elvis released Devil in Disguise, two Coventry schoolgirls, Sue and Mary, aged 13, wrote, recorded and released a single on Decca called 'Traitor in Disguise'. Could these girls have influenced the writing of the King's hit?

By Trev Teasdel

Traitor in Disguise - Sue and Mary Decca 1962

Sue and Mary - The Story

Pete Chambers, Coventry music historian and Director of the Coventry Music Museum, has documented the amazing story about Sue and Mary, in his books and Coventry Telegraph Backbeat column and has since located and interviewed them as part of the Coventry Music Museum's lottery funded Sounding Off sessions. 

(Links to Pete's Coventry Telegraph Backbeat articles on Sue and Mary can be found at the foot of this article).

Pete tells us "The story goes they (Sue McGowan / Greasly and Mary McGlynn) had written a song and were playfully singing it in the playground. A teacher (Mrs Broadbent) got to hear it and inquired about the catchy tune, believing it to be a song from the current hit parade. Once the teacher discovered it was a song the girls had written themselves, she set about finding someone to take it to the next level. The girls were signed to Decca and in 1962 the single Traitor In Disguise was released."

The girls who were pupils of Coventry's Catholic school - Cardinal Wiseman, were put in touch with Bert Weedon, the popular guitarist, who in the 60's had a second home in Allesley, Coventry. Bert suggested they send a tape of the song to KPM Keith-Prowse-Maurice, music publishers in Denmark street, London and Sue and Mary still have the letter from Bert!

The girls were signed to Decca and the single Traitor in Disguise b/w I Love You (Oh Yes I Do) was released on September 21st 1962, weeks before the release of the Beatles first single Love Me Do on October 5th. It was a catchy tune and as Pete Chambers says, it was the first 'beat' single to come out of Coventry! Frank Ifield was the first Coventry born artist to make a record (1960) and have a hit and Johnny B Great was the first Coventry band to make a single (1963) but Sue and Mary were the first non-solo act to make a record before the world went crazy for Merseybeat. Love Me Do entered the UK singles chart for one week only and the rest is history but Sue and Mary's worthy record didn't chart and the duo were more or less forgotten!

Sue & Mary - I Love You, Oh Yes I Do - 1962 B side

Plans to produce the follow up single Teenage Dreamer b/w Panda (A Christmas song) were soon dropped. 

Pete Chambers Interviews Sue and Mary 2015
Here are a couple of videos, that deserve to be seen by more people, of Pete Chambers interviewing Sue and Mary at one of the Sounding Off sessions at the Coventry music Museum in 2015.This was the first time the ladies had seen each other for a very long time and they tell the story in their own words.

Video One is Pete Chambers talking to Mary McGlynn at the Coventry Music Museum in 2015 before Sue turned up - You will have to click this link to view it as I was unable to embed the video here

Video Two is a continuation but with Sue on board..


The Wiki entry for the year 1962 below tells us that on September 21st 1962 Sue and Mary were one jump ahead of the Beatles at this stage and writing their own songs.

September 21 – "New Musical Express, the British music magazine, publishes a story about two 13-year-old schoolgirls, Sue and Mary, releasing a disc on Decca and adds "A Liverpool group, The Beatles, have recorded 'Love Me Do' for Parlophone Records, set for October 5 release."

Could 'Traitor in Disguise' have influenced writers of Presley's 'Devil in Disguise'?

It's lofty thought, but on hearing the story for the first time, many might presume the opposite, that the girls had heard the Presley song and been influenced by it instead! Not so, if you look at the dates, these girls were writing their songs in 1962 and the record was released on 21st September 1962, to radio and TV play and publicity articles in the music press.

Devil in Disguise was recorded by Presley 26th May 1963 at RCA Nashville while recording songs for an album (For the Asking) not released until the 1990's although the songs were released as singles or fillers for film soundtracks. 

Devil in Disguise was  released on 28th June reaching No 2 on NME charts and No1 according to the Official Charts. Even if the song was written long before, no one would have heard it until it's release in 1963.

It was penned by one of the song writing teams that regularly produced plot songs for Elvis's films, but also produced none-film material for his albums or singles, as is the case with Devil in Disguise.
The New York based songwriting team Giant, Baum and Kaye, ie Bill Giant, Bernie Baum and Florence Kaye were based in the Brill Building, Broadway, America's Tin Pan Alley. They wrote songs for many acts, together, alone or in other combinations. Florence Kaye, the lyricist, was credited on over 40 Elvis songs, mostly for films but including none film songs like Power of My Love and Devil in Disguise.

 They would take their cue from the Elvis script "The script might say "Elvis is attracted to two women and can't chose between them and so we wrote One Boy Two Little Girls"

Songwriter Bill Giant's demo for Devil in Disguise - from the King's Court

Traitor in Disguise on the other hand was published by KPM - Keith-Prowse-Maurice, music
publishers in Denmark street and the musical director was Charles Blackwell  (pictured here) who started working as an arranger with record producer Joe Meek at the age of eighteen, and became one of the most prolific studio arrangers and record producers of the 1960s and 1970s, with a string of hit records to his credit . His hits include Johnny Remember Me by John LeytonWhat’s New Pussycat, I'll Never Fall In Love Again by Tom Jones; and Release Me, A Man Without Love by Engelbert Humperdinck, Hold Me P.J. Proby.
Sue and Mary's title sounds quite original for the time.

It's hard to think that the New York songwriters would get to hear an obscure record from England that wasn't a hit, although the song was played on radio and TV, and you never know the interconnections and cross influences in the music business, but there's no evidence I've come across to suggest Giant, Baum and Kaye ever heard the Sue and Mary track.

It's certainly not a rip off - the titles are similarly framed figuratively but song titles aren't usually copyright (unless they are particularly distinctive or unique) (See here) and the lyric is different although both treat the same subject - the cheating lover "Blue eyes - you're a traitor (traitor, traitor)" as opposed to "You look like an angel, talk like an angel, but I got wise, you're the devil in disguise". It's an age old theme and the music is different of course.

So maybe it's just a case of 'great minds think alike'. 

'Devil in Disguise' sounds like it might have been a well worn phrase anyway and Sue and Mary possibly just substituted 'traitor' for 'devil' - it amounts to the same thing really - the 'traitor or 'cheat' can be viewed as a kind of devil. The phrase has certainly gained popular parlance since the Presley hit of 1963 but can that phrase be evidenced in that exact form before those two songs? 

I had several people searching for the exact phrase but nothing concrete came up on the web-searches or in The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable or the Dictionary of Catch Phrases, but  what we did find, and it makes sense, was that the concept is clearly a biblical one and the nearest (and it's pretty damn near) is from Corinthians - There are many quotes but these are the nearest -

"Even Satan can disguise himself to look like an angel of light! ... The devil makes himself look like an angel of light. ... 2 Corinthians 11:132 Corinthians 11:15."

and Corinthians 11:14, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

The concept of the devil in Christianity is of a fallen angel who rebelled against god and also as a serpent in the Garden of Eden but the common image of the devil as a horned being with a pitchfork or trident is a medieval image derived from pagan gods like Poseidon, Pan, Dionysus. None of these images seem to be based on biblical materials, as Satan's physical appearance is never described in the Bible or any other religious text. (see here)

Clearly though, the teachings of Christianity must be the source of the metaphor for both songs; Sue and Mary went to a Catholic school and Giant, Baum and Kaye would be exposed to biblical teachings too.

Many stock phrases come from or via Shakespeare and we searched here too -

The play Othello by William Shakespeare is based on an Italian story in Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatommithi (Groliers). "In this play we encounter Iago, one of Shakespeare's most evil characters. Iago is an ensign in Othello's army and is jealous of Cassio's promotion to Lieutenant. Through deception and appearance, we see unfolded a plethora of lies and clever schemes... Iago describes how Satan uses the appearance of something good to disguise the various temptations that we know are evil. He then tells how he will do the same..." Here

And in Hamlet Act 2 "Maybe the devil, and the devil hath power,
T'assume a pleasing shape.-"  here

but again the concept of a Devil in Disguise stems from the bible, through Shakespeare but still not the exact song title phrase.

My friend, Ann Wainwright interestingly drew my attention to a song written in 1940 that is more directly in the same form as the other  two songs and could have inspired the New York writers more directly, especially as the team were writing songs for movies, and it's possible the girls had seen the film from which the song came from too - 

The song is called Angel in Disguise. This is of course a much older and different song to the 1998 song by Brandy

"Angel In Disguise" was a 1940 pop hit from the Warner Bros. movie It All Came True with music by Paul Mann and Stefan Weiß and lyrics by Kim Gannon. It was sung in the movie by Ann Sheridan.

The tune became a staple of the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes shorts, including appearances in 1942's The Wabbit Who Came to Supper, 1943's Yankee Doodle Daffy, and 1948's Back Alley Oproar.

Angel in Disguise - Ann Sheridan – from movie It All Came True

There's also probably quite a genre of songs that pick up on angels and devils - Earth Angel by The Penguins 1955 comes to mind. The title is an oxymoron (a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction) that inspired Paul Simon's oxymoron title The Sound of Silence. Presley did a cover of this on a home recording in his army days while living in Bad Nauheim, GermanyThe song Angel from his film Follow that Dream 1962 by songwriters Roy C. Bennett, Sid Tepper seems to be based on the concept of Earth Angel but without the oxymoron title!

But even older, in American literature -
The title Angel in Disguise goes back to 1851 T.S. Arthur's 
An Angel in Disguise (1851) which was featured in his collection, After a Shadow and Other
Stories. Timothy Shay Arthur (June 6, 1809 – March 6, 1885) was a popular 19th-century American author, most famous for his temperance novel, Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There (1854). His novel, which demonized alcohol and the evils of over-consumption, held great sway over the American public and moved the temperance movement further ahead. He wrote a large number of short stories, which were printed in Godey's Lady's Book -- the most popular antebellum era magazine in America.

TS Arthur

Later on we had Judy in Disguise (with glasses) of course by John Fred and his Playboys, a kind of pastiche of Lucy in the Sky (with Diamonds), a devil of a song but that was later on!

But back to Sue and Mary -
It's quite possible, from a songwriting point of view, that Sue and Mary's title came via the search for a rhyme rather than starting out with that title or concept. The song could just as easily be called 'Blue eyes'. They may have just been looking for a rhyme for Blue Eyes and come up with disguise as a rhyme solution rather than a title concept and got the title from that!

"Hey there blue eyes (hey there blue eyes)
You're a traitor (traitor traitor)
In disguise (in disguise)."

Whatever the origin or method of the titles, Sue and Mary's song was a great lost single, and if they had had a Brian Epstein to buy crates of the single to get it into the charts for one week, as had been suggested about Love Me Do, Sue and Mary's story may have been very, very different! Give the song another listen- it deserves it!

Thanks to Pete Clemons, Ann Wainwright and Margaret Weir for feedback and searches.

And thanks to Pete Chambers for getting the story documented at the Coventry Music Museum. The story deserves a wider audience and I agree with whoever said the museum should get them back in the studio, especially as there is now a Coventry label - Alternative Sounds.

Check these Pete Chambers articles on Sue and Mary from the Coventry Telegraph -

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