Song of the day: Jeff Phillips – "Everything I Touch Turns To Tears"

November 23, 2009

Here’s Jeff Phillips with “Everything I Touch Turns To Tears” (1969):


With regard to the lyrics, I don’t know that everything Jeff touched turned to tears. If it did, he would have had an awkward time with all sorts of activities, even mundane ones like having a meal (he’d end up drinking it), or reading a book (can you read liquid?). But I guess that Jeff meant matters of the heart (i.e., with women). Poor Jeff. Can you imagine Jeff dating a girl, and the unfortunate consequences due to his affliction? (“Here, darling, let me get that for you. Oops, sorry…”)

Apart from the physiological difficulties associated with the concept, I find “Everything I Touch Turns To Tears” intriguing. To me, this sounds like a song that’s supposed to be sung by a woman, not a man. It sounds like one of those classic torch songs from the Swingin’ Sixties that were written for someone like Dusty Springfield or Cilla Black or Petula Clark to sing so those performers could vocally lament over their lack of success in love. (The songs were usually written by men, which I find more than a little disturbing.) I like to call those kind of songs “Big Songs” because of the epic emotions involved, or possibly “Big Songs for Women.” Unfortunately, the disadvantage of calling them “Big Songs for Women” is the potential for the phrase to be misread as “Songs for Big Women” which is something entirely different (i.e., an opera aria back in the day when sopranos were encouraged to be large’n’loud). I guess it makes sense to leave it called a “Torch Song” – it saves confusion (unless somebody is thinking of the kind of torches that need batteries).

Anyway, I listen to Jeff warbling away and I think to myself: “Shouldn’t a woman be singing this song?”

But I’m glad Jeff is singing it. He sings in a nice, gentle, non-Tom Jones way. (I can imagine Tom Jones in front of an audience, belting out this song and pushing back the first few rows of listeners with the power of his voice). Although Jeff’s singing is admirably gently, that gentleness doesn’t always help. For example, there’s a rather unusual attempt at falsetto at 2:47.

If you’re looking for a woman to sing this song (and I certainly was), I discovered that Cilla Black gave it the Torch Song treatment that I was hoping for. Take it away, Cilla…

Cilla Black – “Everything I Touch Turns To Tears” (1966)


That’s more like it.

I also discovered that plenty of other artists have tackled this song, although for the life of me I can’t understand why. I don’t think it’s a terribly spectacular – or even memorable – song, but singers just can’t seem to stay away from it.

(And here I am, becoming more and more fascinated by it. Oh, the irony!)

Here’s another girl version of “Everything I Touch Turns To Tears.” This time it’s by Scottish singer Barry St. John (girl singer, boy name), who sings it Torch-style, à la Cilla, but with a great soul backing (think Motown):

Barry St. John – “Everything I Touch Turns To Tears” (1966)


I found plenty of other versions, too, but they’re pretty unremarkable so I’ll spare you them.

However, of all the vocal performances I did find, the strangest one of all – male or female – comes from Irish showband singer Brendan Bowyer with backing from The Royal Showband, Waterford:

Brendan Bowyer and The Royal Showband, Waterford – “Everything I Touch Turns To Tears” (1966)


After trawling through a mountain of different recordings of this song, it seems like every version was recorded in 1966*. It may not have been a golden year in the history of recorded music, but 1966 certainly was a golden year for “Everything I Touch Turns To Tears.”

(*Except for today’s Song of the day artist Jeff Phillips, the only Australian to record it. Everyone else: 1966.)

(Thanks to Col for suggesting the song. Look what you started…)