BILLY FURYBorn 17 April 1940 Liverpool, England
Died 28 January 1983 London
Bill was the greasiest, sexiest most angst-ridden Brit-rocker of them all and something of a hero/talisman to the founding members of this Shakin' All Over List
No self-respecting Brit (or admirer of the cream of British rock stars) allows more than a few months to pass without revisiting the hallowed recorded legacy of the singer/songwriter born Ronald Wycherley
His really successful period was from the early to mid-sixties and in terms of individual hit singles, scored higher than The Beatles in that half-decade. Admittedly, he did have a fair start on them but it emphasises the man's popularity in his homeland
There are many references to Billy's d.o.b. as 1941 and the name without the final 'e'
Shaun Mather wrote a BTBWY in April 2002 and this is intended as a little companion piece, inspired by a newspaper article which amused and intrigued me
Billy Fury & Corrie's Alma
What a carry on! Our Bill and actress Amanda Barrie. For the uninitiated, for years Amanda played Alma in Britain's favourite soap 'Coronation Street'
She didn't want to leave it but was eased out, as were several others in purges ordered by trendy (so they thought) new producers
But we shall concentrate on her episode with our very own Ron
Amanda really, is a lady who preferred ladies but let's look at her time with Billy. Before he came into her life, actor Richard Curnock (a married man) had been her lover for many years. Yes, it is a little complicated, isn't it?
The story will flow better if we proceed with Ms. Barrie narrating in the first person
"When he moved in with me, Billy brought along a suitcase stuffed with socks, a few stray animals, a gun and a shoebox full of marijuana
The two of us fallen for each other 1964 time on the set of the movie 'I've Gotta Horse' and although he was officially my lodger, it was not long before we became lovers
Billy was incredibly charismatic and good-looking, a truly beautiful creature. I was extremely relieved to have such strong sexual feelings about a man again after (..... previous encounter with a woman)
At first, Billy and I kept our relationship a secret. I knew vaguely that he had a girlfriend although I think he must have stopped seeing her during the time we were together. We simply never talked about it
The lifestyle I shared with Billy was one of utter recklessness. Our main source of sustenance was rum and coke. He and I used to rush back to my flat in London's Covent Garden as soon as we'd finished filming, put on identical denim caps and go straight out on a pub crawl. We ate virtually nothing and as a result we both looked like skeletons
This way of life was very bad for Billy, who had always suffered from ill-health. One day he collapsed at Shepperton Studios. A doctor was called and after examining Billy, he asked me, "Did you know that he smokes marijuana?"
I was nervous about replying because of the attitude to drugs back then, so gave a non-committal answer. Then the doctor told me that Billy was very ill. He had TB, kidney problems and a serious heart condition. which would ultimately lead to his death at the age of just 42
I was shocked and even more so by what the doctor said next "You must make sure he keeps on the marijuana" he instructed me, "It's probably what's keeping him alive"
I used to accompany Billy to Brixton in south London where we'd meet up with some wonderful West Indian musicians who were also drug dealers".
break in narrative: The two of them were together for almost a year and became so close (according to Barrie) that Billy proposed to her. Curiously she goes on to say she doesn't remember what she replied, although ......
"I know I didn't give him a proper answer. I couldn't. I adored him and I really did consider marrying him. But despite my attempts to forget it, what had happened in the South of France had changed everything for me"
(I understand this to be a lesbian dalliance, a trip to Cannes where she fell for Ginette, a beautiful Frenchwoman and had the first hint of her true nature, although her first passionate crush had been in her earlier years, on another schoolgirl)
"I wouldn't have dreamed of marrying Billy without telling him about the side of me that was attracted to women and he was one of those people I could just never confide in. He was like a child in many ways and I felt I couldn't burden him with my worries
Then something strange happened. One night as I was preparing a meal, Billy went out to buy cigarettes. He never came back.
At first I was worried. Had he been in an accident? I called the police and the hospitals. The next day I phoned his manager. He was not available but someone in the office said, "Just leave it Amanda. He's had to go back"
>From which I gleaned that Billy had returned to whoever he'd been with when we had got together
I had always suspected, partly because of the gun, that there might be another side to Billy and that he might have been involved in some kind of really heavy drug scene when he met me. I knew nothing about what was really going on but there was something about the way in which that message was relayed to me that made me do exactly what I was told. I just left it
It was rather as if I had been warned off. And I never saw, nor heard from, Billy Fury again"
I can't close the account without recounting a comment from the book which made me chortle ... whereas Richard Curnock was disgusted to learn about Amanda's true nature, making her feel like a freak, the later reaction of her future husband, another actor, Robin Hunter was markedly different
Learning of Amanda's gay leanings he said "Oh goody! I've been looking all my life for a small f**kable chap who drinks!"
The marriage proposal had come only minutes before as the pair watched the 1966 World Cup Final. AB succeeded in being named in both men's divorce cases on the same day, in the same court session!
Amanda's life continued with partners of both sexes .... perhaps someone will tell us more about how Ron went on, following his dramatic exit from 'Alma's' life
Details taken from a newspaper article extracted from AB's book (written with Hilary Bonner) called 'It's Not A Rehearsal'
Billy's death was from a heart attack after a recording session. Earlier in his life he'd had surgery for heart trouble caused by childhood rheumatic fever
He was in the midst of a comeback when the sad event happened
Nalle Westman & Chris Eley's page on the Web has a nice tail off ....... "Billy´s last single for Polydor was released in May 1983 and it charted the next month, placing at No. 59. The song was titled "Forget Him" - something that we´ll never do!!!"
In April 2003, a £40,000 7ft bronze statue of Billy (funds raised by the Sound Of Fury Fan Club) was sited outside the Museum Of Liverpool Life at Pier Head.
If there are any 'uninitiated' readers, give yourself a treat and seek out Billy's music .......... examples of the best are Maybe Tomorrow, That's Love, Wondrous Place, A Thousand Stars, Don't Worry, Halfway to Paradise and Jealousy
and do check out Billy in the movie "That'll Be The Day", performing among others 'That's All Right' and the aforementioned Stars classic
to restate Shaun's suggested sites: http://www.geocities.com/~uheep2/billyfury/index.htm http://www.fury.cool.am/
and his Recommended listening:
I'd add http://www.nic.fi/~nallew/fury.html
Colin Kilgour - January, 2004
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