Saturday, 6 August 2011

Green Door – What’s That Secret You’re Keeping?

Thirty years ago this week, Shakin' Stevens had a Number One UK hit with a song from the '50s. But there's more to the Green Door than may, at first, appear. I wrote an article about it a few years ago on the previous version of The 80s Empire Blog. I thought it might be worth repeating. So here it is...

The Green Door was more than just an invented song lyric – the door really did exist. The song is an extended tease, constantly asking what is behind it but never quite answering the question:
“Midnight, one more night without sleepin'
Watchin' till the mornin' comes creepin'
Green door, what's that secret you're keepin'”
 The song tells us there’s a piano playing behind the door and people laughing; but knock as much as he might, they just won’t let ol’ Shaky join the fun… 
“Saw an eyeball peepin'
Through a smoky cloud behind the green door
When I said Joe sent me
Someone laughed out loud behind the green door
All I want to do is join the happy crowd behind the green door
Wish they'd let me in
So I could find out what's behind the green door” 

It’s really not surprising that they laughed when he said Joe sent him. Joe Meek was the record producer who worked on the original recording of Green Door which was first a hit (Number 2 in the charts) for Frankie Vaughan way back in November of 1956. Joe is best known for his 1962 hit, Telstar (under the name, The Tornados). I’m not certain if the Joe in the song was meant to refer to Joe Meek. If it was then it was done with a certain irony as Joe was gay. Which brings me back to that Green Door…

In real life, the door belonged to The Gateways Club in the Kings Road, Chelsea. This, it turns out, was one of the most famous lesbian meeting places in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. I don’t think either Frankie Vaughan or Shaky would quite have blended in, somehow. The club itself featured in the 1968 film, The Killing Of Sister George, which was one of the first British mainstream films to feature lesbian characters in central roles. The Gateways finally shut its Green Door in 1985. And thus closed a little slice of pop trivia history…

There is even a book all about the club :: From the Closet to the Screen

And here, by way of comparison is the recording by Frankie Vaughan which got to Number Two in the UK charts in 1956...

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