Year of Release: 1968
In the sixties and seventies it seemed almost compulsory for comedians and light entertainers to put out 45s (and this was by no means a uniquely British phenomenon, either, as any American with a Bill Cosby record will tell you). Most of their efforts weren't hits, but it would seem that a record contract and a vinyl record with their name on it gave them a certain kudos, either acting as a signal that they had truly arrived within the broader world of showbiz, or perhaps proving to potential variety show bookers that they could croon a bit besides keeping ladies and gentlemen amused.
Bob Monkhouse - who, for the benefit of overseas readers, was a smooth, long-serving comedian and host of quiz shows in the UK from 1956 right up until his death in 2003 - delivers few surprises here with the A-side. "I Remember Natalie" is a saccharine ballad, and whilst he doesn't have a terrible voice, it's unlikely CBS would have touched him if he'd been an unknown turning up at their offices demanding attention. What's more interesting is the fact that this record was produced by "Teenage Opera" man Mark Wirtz, and the flip "In My Dream World" was just about enough on the right side of popsike to turn up on the "Circus Days" compilation series as a mystery track. While numerous nineties comedy critics probably used the phrase "Bob Monkhouse on acid" to describe some kerr-azy young kid on the circuit, it has to be said that he doesn't seem remotely under the influence here, being fully in command of the material (if sounding a little like Vic Reeves in places). It's essentially a well-produced piece of Willy Wonka-esque fantasy, and nothing that would have given Pink Floyd a run for their money. This has more in common with the style Mike Flowers and Richard Cheese parodied in the nineties than anything else.
As for the top side, apparently Bob Monkhouse would regularly reference an ugly girl called Natalie in his routines, and loved the idea of singing a song about a girl with that name. Why she has suddenly morphed into an attractive woman for the purposes of this record is a mystery, but to be fair a ballad about a hideous person would have been a harder sell (and made this smoochy little number a less appropriate upload on Valentine's Day). No matter - this completely failed to chart, and so did his follow-up "Another Time, Another Place, Another World". After that, it would seem that Bob gave up on the idea of being a pop star, which is more than can be said for Jimmy Tarbuck, Ken Dodd, Bruce Forsyth, Bernard Manning, et al. Here's to a man who knew his limits.