Saturday, November 6, 2010

Smokie, Alice and Angels




(Warning:  this item has risque language).

Getting ready to go to work a few days ago with Sunrise on in the background, I saw Smokie, who are currently touring Australia, perform Living Next Door to Alice. Funnily enough, although they sound like an American band, Smokie are actually from Bradford, Yorkshire.  They had a hit with Alice in 1976 and were originally called Smokey, but changed the spelling to Smokie when American soul singer Smokey Robinson threatened them with a law suit.

An early Smokie performance of Alice can be seen at:

The lyrics of the song are:
Sally called when she got the word,
And she said: "I suppose you've heard -
About Alice".
When I rushed to the window,
And I looked outside,
And I could hardly believe my eyes -
As a big limousine rolled up
Into Alice's drive...

Oh, I don't know why she's leaving,
Or where she's gonna go,
I guess she's got her reasons,
But I just don't want to know,
'Cos for twenty-four years
I've been living next door to Alice.
Twenty-four years just waiting for a chance,
To tell her how I feel, and maybe get a second glance,
Now I've got to get used to not living next door to Alice...

We grew up together,
Two kids in the park,
We carved our initials,
Deep in the bark,
Me and Alice.
Now she walks through the door,
With her head held high,
Just for a moment, I caught her eye,
As a big limousine pulled slowly
Out of Alice's drive.

Oh, I don't know why she's leaving,
Or where she's gonna go,
I guess she's got her reasons,
But I just don't want to know,
'Cos for twenty-four years
I've been living next door to Alice.
Twenty-four years just waiting for a chance,
To tell her how I feel, and maybe get a second glance,
Now I gotta get used to not living next door to Alice...

And Sally called back and asked how I felt,
And she said: "I know how to help -
Get over Alice".
She said: "Now Alice is gone,
But I'm still here,
You know I've been waiting
For twenty-four years..."
And a big limousine dissapeared...

I don't know why she's leaving,
Or where she's gonna go,
I guess she's got her reasons,
But I just don't want to know,
'Cos for twenty-four years
I've been living next door to Alice.
Twenty-four years just waiting for a chance,
To tell her how I feel, and maybe get a second glance,
But I'll never get used to not living next door to Alice...

Now I'll never get used to not living next door to Alice...
Following Alice, the band went into a period of decline, with poor sales and some lineup changes. Their comeback in 1995 was due to the success of a revised Alice. Whilst touring Ireland, they noticed that every time they sang the line "For 24 years/I've been living next door to Alice" the audience would shout "Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?" It turned out that a DJ in a Dutch club called Gompie had started this by turning down the volume and asking the question each time the line was played. From this it had developed into a local audience participation item which had been heard by a Dutch record producer. The producer recorded the song with revised lyrics using a Dutch group named, funnily enough, Gompie, and it hit Number 1 in various European countries, although only #17 in England.

See Gompie singing it, an sounding like Smokie with Dutch accents, at:

(One of the posted comments is that this was the reason that her daughter was not named Alice, even though she loved the name).

Smokie then did a cover of the Gompie cover of the Smokie song.

The lead singer on the new version was Alan Barton, who had been with the band since 1986. He had replaced Chris Norman, a founder of the group, whose distinctive raspy vocal style had been developed as a result of a throat infection that had affected his vocal chords. Barton had a vocal style similar to Norman’s.

The song was a hit once again for Smokie and went to #3. They also now hold the record as the first group to get a record in the British Top Ten with the word “fuck” in it.

See Smokie’s performance of it at:

But the God of Rock giveth and the God of Rock taketh away. After the song was recorded Smokie's tour bus went off the road in a hailstorm in Germany. Barton, badly injured, died after five days in intensive care. The band donated their royalties from the song to Barton's first wife.

One final item: The lyrics of Alice make reference to Sally, who tells the person singing who is hung up on Alice that she, Sally, has also been living next door for 24 years and that she is still there. Smokie has followed up on Alice with a song about Sally, released overseas but not yet in Oz. The song is called, funnily enough, Sally’s Song, but don’t expect a happy ending. Hear and see it, with the lead singer who replaced Barton, Mike Craft, at::

Bytes bonus:

Another great classic audience interaction occurs during performances of “Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?” by the Angels. When that line is sung, and it is sung many, many timea throughout the song, the audience responds “No way. Get fucked. Fuck off”

See and hear Doc Neeson sing the song, with audience participation, at:

Neeson has explained that this interaction developed some time ago when they were performing at a Blue Light Disco (that is, one organised by the local cops) in Mt Isa. It grew from there to having become a cult tradition.

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