Forgotten 45: “Stay Awhile”

It’s the spring of 1971. I am 11 years old, and a student in Mrs. Barribeau’s fifth-grade class. Although I officially hold fast to the cultural conventions of the time regarding their general ickiness, I do not believe that girls are in fact icky. I have already pledged something like undying affection to one of them, although I do not recall at this late date whether I ever said anything out loud to her, or I merely pledged it in my head. So I have a few general ideas regarding what girls are for, but precisely how these purposes relate to me personally remains generally unclear, at least to my conscious mind. Unconsciously, however—perhaps on some molecular level—I am beginning to understand.

(It may have been around this time that all the girls in the fifth grade were taken into the gym one day for a mysterious lecture that the boys didn’t get. Speculation ran wild.)

In 1965, a woman from England and a man from Montreal met in a Canadian ski lodge. She was singing in a band, and he wanted to form one. Eventually, he got his wish and formed the Five Bells. Over the next few years, members came and went (necessitating a name change to just “the Bells”), but the group managed to score a couple of hits, including the thoroughly Canadian “Moody Manitoba Morning.” In 1970, a record-company publicity push started getting them on the radio in the States, and in the spring of 1971, their second American single, “Stay Awhile,” became their only major hit. After one more minor hit and two more unsuccessful albums, they broke up in 1973.

Meanwhile, back in the fifth grade, I cannot say precisely why I like “Stay Awhile,” but I do. The tune is simple enough to hum. The girl singer sounds kind of sweet; the guy sounds a little weird, but if he’s managed to get the attention of a sweet girl, he’s doing better than I am. Every time the song comes on, it gives me this odd, warm feeling inside, and I think that whatever they’re singing about sounds like it might be a pretty nice thing to do. All these years later, it still does, and I still do.

Bonus trivia nugget: The group went through two keyboard players before “Stay Awhile.” The second one scored a solo hit in 1972, but had to wait seven more years before becoming a household name in the States and elsewhere—Frank Mills, whose “Music Box Dancer” was approximately everywhere about this time in 1979.

(Polydor 15023; chart peak: #7, May 1, 1971)

“Stay Awhile”/The Bells (buy it here)

One More Thing: My next Forgotten 45 was going to be “What the World Needs Now/Abraham Martin and John” by Tom Clay—but the Bubblegum Machine beat me to it. It’s maudlin and manipulative and a couple of minutes too long, but in the summer of ’71, in a country weary of Vietnam and coming to grips with the lost promises of the 1960s, it was no surprise that the record made the Top 10.

6 responses

  1. Nicely done, Mr. DJ! The record is one of my fond memories, too, although it’s not linked to any one member of that mysterious other tribe. And isn’t it grand when we learn that music is one of the tools we can use to bridge the vast chasm that lies between our two tribes?

  2. Nice essay about “Stay Awhile” by The Bells and being eleven years old. A friend who writes the Bloggerythms blogsite sent me a link to your thumbprint article which is how I got here. Thanks also for the mp3 linkage, I enjoyed hearing the song as well (I’ve got to add that to my blog). Your lament about your next forgotten 45 reminded me of another that played similar cards from the same cultural/political deck. You may have already covered this in your blog, but if not, I’d suggest “The Americans” by Byron MacGregor, based on an editorial by Gordon Sinclair from 1973. Incidentally, there was a killer parody, “The Canadians” produced by the National Lampoon Radio Hour as part of their Canada show, which came from the same time period. I look forward to reading more of your stuff. Cheers.

  3. I was in the fifth grade too when this came out!
    That was 36 years ago…and I don’t think I’ve heard the song since…

    It’s fun and makes me nostalgic…and I’m glad you wrote this…But don’t you think this isn’t half the songs that came out in that year of our mutual youth?

    Class of 1978 too…
    Chris

  4. cheryl korotky | Reply

    I just recently got into downloading music off the internet (thanks to the help of my daugher) and was able to get almost every favorite song I remembered from my childhood to the present. Made me very happy. Anyway, to this very day I still remembered Stay with you awhile and had already downloaded it. I have been trying to find a picture of The Bells because they were around long before music videos, but I can’t seem to find any. Does anybody have a site?
    My friends and I were only 11 and we used to giggle because of the sexual inuendo of the song. The song sure makes me smile even to this day.

  5. Cheryl, here is The Bells lineup:

    Ann Ralph (lead vocals)
    Jacki Ralph (lead vocals)
    Cliff Edwards (guitar, vocals)
    Doug Gravelle (drums, vocals)
    Gordie McLeod (organ, vocals)
    Mickey Ottier (keyboards; replaced McLeod)
    Charlie Clark (guitar, vocals)
    Michael Waye (bass, vocals)
    Frank Mills (keyboards; replaced Ottier 1968-70)
    Dennis Will (keyboards; replaced Mills)
    Skip Layton (drums; replaced Gravelle)
    Will “Wayne” Cardinal (bass; replaced Waye)

    I looked for photos, but was unable to find any. This might be due to the ever-changing cast of characters.

    In case he sounds familiar, that is the same Frank Mills who took “Music Box Dancer” to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1979.

  6. I’m the keyboard player from the Bells — believe it or not, up until last year we were still performing occasionally, mostly for fund-raising events in Ontario. Cheryl, if you’re really looking for a Bells picture, e-mail my wife at diane6141@hotmail.com and she’ll send you a pic of the Bells “then” and another one of the group “now”. Thanks for your interest.

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