5 June 2022

Mark Roman - Cuddly Toy/ Gonna Get Along Without You Now

Radio London superstar tackles Nilsson track

Label: Columbia
Year of Release: 1968

What was it with offshore pirate radio DJs and Harry Nilsson? Kenny Everett took on "Without Her" in 1968, and in the very same year ex-Radio London jock Mark Roman - real name Grahame Wallace - tackled "Cuddly Toy". To the best of my knowledge, Nilsson had no real connection with the off-shore pirates to speak of beyond occasional airplay, but perhaps he occupied a sweet spot between underground credibility and hummable family-friendly tunes, enough to make him a bankable source; there again, it's possible I'm reading far too much into things.

Whatever the facts behind the situation, Mark Roman makes a reasonable fist of things here. While his voice has some weaknesses, the tune is carried carefully and only the occasional bit of wobbly scansion gives the game away that this really isn't his day job. He was hosting a series of afternoon shows on Radio One by the time this was released, meaning his profile was by now truly national; as such, he stood a fair chance of getting in to the Top 40, but this single sold appallingly badly and there were no follow-ups.

His career in general was something of an oddity. The stage name Mark Roman, along with the show theme of "The Roman Empire", had been created by Radio London's programme director before a DJ had even emerged to fill the pseudonym. While some presenters were reluctant to potentially lose their household name recognition by adopting a pre-arranged stage name, Wallace stepped into the breach happily and promptly became one of the biggest stars on the ship, successfully balancing the fine line between chirpy and irritating in a way few others of the era (or indeed following eras) managed. 

Before the end of 1968 he ranted about the "state" of British radio to a Disc and Music Echo journalist which apparently damaged his relationship with the BBC, and he moved to Sydney to work in radio there, eventually returning to the UK to begin a fresh career as a freelance voiceover artist. His stint on Radio London was that winning combination of charming, cheeky, quickfire and warm, and it's surprising he didn't go on to become one of radio's biggest stars in the UK as a result. 

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john111257 said...

The 'ROMAN 'Empire

bekirk said...

A carbon copy of the Monkees' hit version arrangement.