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Sh-Boom (Life Could be a Dream)

(James Keyes/Claude Feaster/Carl Feaster/Floyd F. McRae/James Edwards)

Written and published by members of the Bronx group, The Chords, in 1954, this nonsense song is often referred to as the first Doo-Wop song that would become a popular success and has been said to be the first time that a white audience would experience a black R&B song.

According to James Keyes, who was a co-writer and member of The Chords, it began its life being written in the back of a Buick and the word “boom” was slang used regularly by the kids of the neighbourhood when they were talking to each other.  The “sh” was added to it to make it sound like the noise from a nuclear explosion, that was a fear paramount in the thoughts of Americans at the time, the “alangala alangala” emanated church bells, and the rest of the song was spent giving out the message that everything was OK and life could be good.

It was first recorded that year by The Chords as a B-Side to “Cover of the Cross” which had been a hit for Patti Page and it would become their only hit when it reached No. 2 in the pop charts and No.5 on the R&B chart.  This would be the only time the group would achieve chart status, but Rolling Stone have named it their No. 215 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Such was the popularity of the song that The Chords even added some new words to it and used it as a to promote Robert Wagner, who was running for the Mayor of New York City, in his first election campaign.  Following on the heels of The Chords, The Crew-Cuts also released a version of the song in 1954 and they went one better in the August when they soared to the No. 1 position on the Billboard charts and remained there for seven weeks.  They also made an appearance singing the song on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Remaining ever popular it was brought back to the fore again when the British group, Darts, slowed it down and took it to No. 48 in the UK chart as the flip side of their 1980 rendition of “White Christmas”.  The host of Juke Box Jury in the 1950s, Peter Potter, asked if anyone would remember the song “in five, let alone twenty years time and whether any record label would want to re-release it”, but the answer to that has proven itself to be “yes” many times over.

A regular in the movies, it can be heard in films that include Clue, Liberty Heights, Cry-Baby and Mona Lisa Smile.  It has also been heard on the small screen in the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon and Lipstick on Your Collar and as a featured piece of music in the computer game Destroy All Humans!  Often parodied it has been used by Stan Freberg, Ronnie Golden and featured in the Jack Benny Show.

Big Wheelie & The Hubcaps recordings
MCA-40951 (MC7914R) (US promo 45)


  1. British and American Hits Singles: 1947-1997 by Chris Davies (published by Batsford)