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Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

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  • Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

    Anybody remember him? He was a cute and charismatic lad who used to do ads for baked beans and sing in a choir back in the early 70's, before EMI Records spotted him, signed him up for an exorbitant amount of money to try and compete him with Jimmy Osmond and Ricki Wilde and overhyped his debut single "Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart" which virtually went nowhere (as did his subsequent singles) and then dropped him in mid 1974. He was initially promoted as a ballad singer and when that didn't work they tried to turn him into a glam rock icon.

    Throughout his high school years he was teased and bullied by his classmates who nicknamed him "Top of the Flops". He never got over the failure of his music career despite scoring some success as an EMI Records sound engineer in the 80's. After years of battling drugs and depression, he committed suicide in 1991 a couple of months after his 30th birthday.

    Here are his singles:

    Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart -

    True Love Ways (b-side) -

    Concrete & Clay -

    Teenage Lover -

    Summertime Time -

    Quick Joey Small (b-side of Summertime Time) -

  • #2
    Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

    I'm surprised nobody has replied to this. I'm too young to remember him myself but it seems like a really sad tale. I expect he was marketed to the hilt but I suppose if he never became popular then most people won't remember him. Just goes to show that having a dad who is a chief executive in the music business can't turn you into an overnight success!
    1976 Vintage


    • #3
      Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

      Originally posted by Trickyvee View Post
      I'm surprised nobody has replied to this. I'm too young to remember him myself but it seems like a really sad tale. I expect he was marketed to the hilt but I suppose if he never became popular then most people won't remember him. Just goes to show that having a dad who is a chief executive in the music business can't turn you into an overnight success!
      I certainly remember eleven years old ex-Christ Church, Southgate, senior chorister Darren Burn being launched on the record buying public in July, 1973 and I thought he was wonderful and that he could sing like an angel. He was never off the radio and television at the time and was in all the newspapers and music magazines. His father was an executive at EMI and, while they believed the boy could make a lot of money for them, the company treated him like royalty, attending posh receptions in chauffer driven limousines; having his first single played on Radio One by Tony Blackburn as his Record of the Week and even featuring in a BBC Television colour documentary in the Man Alive film series entitled Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, a fascinating programme that covered the launch of Darren’s debut single in July, 1973 and his personal appearance live on stage at the now long gone Sundown in Edmonton. Darren came across as a very intelligent; impeccably mannered; well spoken and charismatic young boy who wouldn’t have looked out of place having tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle. At the time, I really believed the hype in the papers that Darren was going to be the next British superstar of pop.

      But amazingly, his record career just never took off. The top brass at EMI were not pleased and, after his fourth single failed to make any impression on the charts, the by then 13 year old was called into the office of a senior executive in August, 1974 and told quite bluntly that his career was over and that he wasn’t wanted anymore. This led to a blazing row between Darren and the executive in which Darren was practically thrown out of the executive’s office. Darren, realising by now that these people at EMI had never been his friends and had callously used him and exploited him, began to go off the rails from there on, even to the extent of coming home from school drunk…yes, at his age!

      Looking at the Man Alive film now, nearly forty years later, it’s obvious that EMI are exploiting the boy and equally obvious that he can’t see what’s really going on. What happened to him was a terrible tragedy. In a 1988 television interview, Darren, then aged 26, blamed his parents, especially his mother, for the 1973 / 1974 disaster at EMI and his last words on camera were "I certainly wouldn’t allow one of my children to do that, should I ever have any." He died all alone, unmarried and with no children, three years later. Following his tragic suicide in 1991, he was cremated and his ashes were scattered at the base of a group of oak trees in Grovelands Park, Southgate, at the rear of his childhood home at 17, Queen Elizabeth’s Drive. This was done by his family because he had spent many happy hours in the park as a child and because he loved big trees. As an eleven year old in 1973, he can be seen riding his Chopper bike in the park in the Man Alive film.

      Here is a link to his second single, Is It Love, which was released in November, 1973, and which I consider was his best.
      Last edited by DavidRayner; 01-07-2012, 11:56.


      • #4
        Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

        remember those baked beans ads he was in.
        did not reply til now because i did not recognise the name.

        those songs sound good to me.

        terrible how his so called classmates teased him.
        kids can be so cruel.

        its no wonder with what he went through in school and being dropped that he sadly killed himself.

        id say it was more because of what he went through in school hat led to his suicide.


        • #5
          Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

          Yes, it all left him with a feeling of failure. He was a very proud boy and his pride was hurt terribly by it all. What he needed was people to reassure him, not put him down…to give him a hug or a pat on the back and be made to believe he still was somebody in spite of his failure at EMI.

          Darren was a very intelligent boy who, at the age of ten, passed with flying colours an entrance exam to the prestigious City of London School in Blackfriars and started there aged eleven in September, 1972. He could have stayed there until he was eighteen and then gone on to university, but all the trouble over what happened to him at EMI must have severely disheartened him and he just lost interest in his academic aspirations. He put on a brave face and stayed there as long as he could, but on a Friday afternoon in September, 1977, two weeks into his second year in the sixth form, he went home for the weekend as usual, but never returned to the school…in effect, abandoning his education and giving the school no reason as to why he did it. Perhaps he’d just had enough. It had all been very different four years earlier, when he told a reporter that his great ambition in life was to go through medical college and become a heart surgeon. "I’m very serious about it – I’m even going to go to Canada to complete my education because I can get a better medical training there." Alas, none of that ever came to pass.

          It’s interesting to ponder how things would have turned out for him if he had become a superstar. Would things have been very different or would he have been unable to cope with all the pressure? One thing that comes across in the 1973 Man Alive film is that his father Colin had a very responsible job; worked very hard and worked very long hours and had a tired look in his eyes and appeared to be living on his nerves. Perhaps because of all this, he hadn’t got much time for Darren as a father should have had except for being involved in promoting him at EMI. Certainly, he doesn’t appear to have even had the time to take his young son to one side and explain to him gently that EMI were dropping him now, instead of delegating that job to a very curt and insensitive fellow executive who hurt the boy terribly.


          • #6
            Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

            I wonder david rayner did his dad live to hear he committed suicide.
            how did he feel about it if he was alive then.
            what about his mum where was she.

            it really was a waste of a life which was not darrens fault.
            he never asked for that all to happen to him.

            he seemed he had no one to confide in which is sad.


            • #7
              Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

              Yes, his dad was still alive in 1991 and had by then become the general manager of EMI's music division...a sort of Vice President of the he knew about it, although I don't know what he thought of it. Likewise his mother. Apparently, they had a bad time with Darren in his adult years due to his drug addiction and it can't have helped his relationship with his family when he practically did a demolition job on his mother during an interview on national television in July, 1988. At the time and at the time of his death, he was living alone in flat 7, at 146 to 156, Grosvenor Terrace, Southwark, south London. He wrote a suicide note and took a deliberate overdose of his anti-depressant tablets. He must have been desperately depressed and unhappy to do a terrible thing like that, poor lad. The tablets made him very sick and he choked on his own vomit. His body was discovered on the floor of his bathroom on October 30th, 1991, but he may actually have been there for a while. A person in his state of mind should have had someone with them at all times. But he died all alone. His father died in October, 2009, but his mother and sister are still alive as far as I know and living in Dorset. His mother Johanna would be around 76 by now and his sister Deborah would by 49.


              • #8
                Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

                I remember the song 'Somethings Gotten Hold Of My Heart' ............a very sad story, a real shame.


                • #9
                  Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

                  Yes, as soon as I heard Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart on the radio, I went into town and bought it from my local record store. I recall that they were actually playing the record in the shop as I went in and they had a big poster of Darren exclaiming "Introducing Darren Burn". EMI initially spent 150,000 on promotion for Darren, which at today's prices, taking inflation into account, would be millions. For me, his was the face and the voice of 1973. Even Ricky Wilde was envious of him at the time, saying that he thought Darren had a fantastic voice.


                  • #10
                    Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

                    thats very sad what he did to his mum in the interview you mention.

                    but it seems his mum was not there for him when he needed her.
                    if his mum and dad had been perhaps he would not haveturned to drugs etc.

                    i just wonder what his sister and mum think of it all now.
                    FOR THE HONOUR OF GRAYSKULL


                    • #11
                      Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

                      Well, if I were his family, I’d feel terrible about it. I suppose they must feel the same way, even 21 years after they lost him. Of course, we’ll never know the complete full story of what happened. But in the past few years, I’ve been in contact with his maternal uncle; with two people who were at both the Franklin House (in Palmer’s Green) and City of London schools with him; the archivist at the City of London school; with his record producer at EMI, the late Eric Woolfson; with a former EMI employee who was there when Darren was fired and a colleague who worked with him when he was a tape operator at the Roundhouse recording studios in London. So I think I’ve built up a fairly accurate picture of what happened. Eric Woolfson had this to say: "Darren was a delightful; charming and talented young man who showed tremendous promise at a very early age".

                      His story and the way he was exploited by EMI brings to mind something that the late child star Bobby Driscoll, who also died in tragic circumstances aged 30, had to say about Hollywood: "I was carried along on a satin cushion and then dropped in the garbage can". It's the kind of remark that Darren could have made.


                      • #12
                        Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

                        its not just the fact they dropped him its more the way they did it.
                        they emi could have at least let him down gently.
                        they could have said we no longer need you and give him a FEW QUID and say thanks for working with us.
                        FOR THE HONOUR OF GRAYSKULL


                        • #13
                          Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

                          I agree. That insensitive executive must have got out of the wrong side of the bed that morning. By the way, Darren's debut single did sell enough copies for it to reach number 60 in the charts. Thousands of them were pressed, in anticipation of big sales that never happened. So there must be a lot of them still around. That's why it often turns up on eBay. Initial pressings were in a picture sleeve and I still have the picture sleeve pressing in my collection.


                          • #14
                            Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

                            An interesting magazine article about Darren (one of many at the time) from nearly forty years ago.

                            It’s Here! And Now! Magazine, Saturday, September 1st, 1973.

                            DARREN’S GOTTEN HOLD OF OUR HEARTS

                            By Billie

                            Darren Burn, whose first record, Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart, is zooming up into the charts, looks certain to become a fully paid-up superstar before he’s very much older. Not only is he a really gorgeous looking guy, but he has a really beautiful voice and loads of other talents, as Billie found out when she went to his home in North London to talk to him.

                            Chatting to Darren Burn at home can be quite a chaotic experience…at times the house resembles a small-scale menagerie with animals dashing about all the time. At the last count there were Dandy MacTavish (nicknamed Piglet ‘because of the funny noises he makes), who’s a West Highland Terrier; Spooky who’s Darren’s cat and the other cat, Casper, who belongs to Darren’s sister, Debbie. When I was there, a neighbour’s dog was adding to the general confusion. Also in the pet parade, but safely in his cage, was Gilbert the guinea pig. So, as you can see, it’s not a place to go if you want some peace and quiet. But it certainly was an interesting afternoon. By the way, while we’re on the subject of pets, Darren sometimes looks after another guinea pig called Snowy who belongs to Martin Chivers, the famous Spurs and England footballer. As you can imagine, all of Darren’s friends at school (The City of London School) are really envious that Darren knows a famous footballer and can get into matches for nothing – and meet all the stars. The only problem is that Darren doesn’t like football! He doesn’t like playing or watching it – he once went to see a match and was bored stiff. The only sports he’s interested in are cricket and baseball and, best of all, table tennis. Darren has a table tennis table in the back garden and though he says he isn’t very good, he beats his father when he plays with him! But his main interest in life, as you might guess, is music. And it always has been. "I started singing in the church choir when I was six", Darren told me. "Then when I was eleven I was made Senior Chorister, which I believe is very young to be made one. I’m grateful to my choirmaster – he’s taught me a great deal. As well as training my voice, he also taught me to read music which has been a great help to me. Unfortunately, I’ve had to unlearn a lot of the things I learned from him because choir singing and pop singing are two completely different styles and use totally different techniques." In his spare time, Darren likes listen to his amazing collection of LP’s. His favourite group is The Moody Blues and favourite record is Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moodies.

                            Apart from music, there’s very little else that really interests him. The most exciting moment in his life was when he went into a recording studio for the first time to record his single. And he reckons that out of all the things he’s done, he enjoys recording most and is really looking forward to going into the studios again to cut several tracks from which his new single will be chosen. But there is one thing that Darren reckons is much more important than music. Mind you, it’s the only thing – and it’s been with Darren for years and years now. "My great ambition is to become a heart surgeon. I’ve wanted to be one now for five or six years. It’s always been a subject that interests me from what I’ve read and from talking to people that I know. I mean, I want to be a pop star, obviously, but it’s not something that I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m quite happy to be a pop star for as long as it lasts, but I won’t be heart-broken when it all ends. No matter how big a success I became I would still give it all up eventually. I’m very serious about it – I’m even going to go to Canada to complete my education because I can get a better medical training there."

                            So you see, Darren knows exactly what he wants to do. He’s also very definite about what he likes and dislikes. He doesn’t like wearing shoes – and he hates wasps. (One came flying in when I was speaking to him – our conversation ended very quickly indeed!) He likes plain food: "I don’t like fancy things that take hours to make. I’d rather have something simple like beef. To drink, I like shandy and cider. And I drink gallons of milk, though it’s not my favourite drink." What about girls? "I thought it would have been reasonably obvious what I like in girls. But I do like them with long legs and I prefer brunettes." So you see, Darren is a guy who knows what he likes and what he wants – and you can be sure he’s going to get it and be a success, whether he becomes a pop star or a heart surgeon – or both!

                            THE FACTS OF DARREN

                            Full Name: Darren Colin Burn.

                            Birthdate: August 28th, 1961.
                            Birthplace: Victoria Nursing Home, Barnet, London.
                            Height: 5 feet, 3 inches.
                            Weight: 98 pounds.
                            Eyes: Hazel.
                            Hair: Light Brown.


                            Colour: Purple.
                            Food: Steak.
                            Drink: Cider.
                            School Subjects: Physics, Latin.
                            Place: Majorca.


                            • #15
                              Re: Darren Burn - Bubblegum kid of tragedy

                              Another interesting magazine interview from nearly forty years ago.

                              Record Mirror centre page spread, Saturday, August 25th, 1973.

                              DARREN – SUPERKID.
                              By Sue James.

                              Could Britain have at last found the answer to America’s Donny in the latest young singer to appear on the pop scene – twelve year old Darren Burn? His first record is Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart, the song that was a big hit for Gene Pitney a few years back. I went along to EMI records to have a chat with Darren to find out if he sees himself as another Donny and why that particular song was chosen to launch him into the pop world. Not very far away from where he gave the interview were Darren’s mother and father. His father works at EMI. Apparently, Darren wasn’t feeling too good and apologised if he might appear a bit slow as he didn’t get to bed until three thirty the morning before and woke up again at seven. Such are the hazards of the pop business.

                              On the day of the interview, Darren was dressed casually in a pair of maroon trousers and a green T-shirt and for someone who is not yet into his teens and a relative newcomer I found him very much in control of things and displaying a shrewdness beyond his twelve years. Was it a sudden decision for him to break into the pop business and how did it all happen? "I’ve wanted to make a record for some time. I was offered the opportunity about four years ago, but at that time I didn’t want to, so I turned it down." Darren used to sing for his church choir which he has just left and he has had some previous recording experience of doing backing on a couple of records. He’s no newcomer to television, either. You might remember him as one of the boys on those famous baked beans adverts.

                              Why was Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart chosen as his first single? Although it’s a very likeable song, it’s not one that is instantly commercial. "Well, I was going to record something like Venus In Blue Jeans, but my producer decided on something a bit more sophisticated. We recorded about four songs altogether in the studio, but Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart was the one that was chosen." One of the songs done in the studio was I Got You Babe, which he sang with his young sister, Deborah. I wondered how he felt about people looking on him as the British version of Donny Osmond. "Well, I’d rather be thought of as Darren Burn rather than another Donny Osmond, though it’s inevitable that I will be compared with him." Michael Jackson is the singer that Darren admires most, and he numbers Blue Mink, The Moody Blues and Barclay James Harvest among his other favourites. "and of course, The Beatles. I don’t like progressive music."

                              Does he find that the making of a pop record and all that goes with it, interfere with his school and personal life? "No, the record was planned to coincide with my summer holidays so that I would be free to promote it." Darren recorded his second single last week…this time, an upbeat dancing number and he may be doing an LP. So it looks like we’ll be hearing a lot more of him in the future, but he said: "I’d like to carry on as long as it lasts, but I wouldn’t like to take up singing as a living. I’d like to become a heart surgeon." Then he joked: "that’s why the record’s called Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart."
                              Last edited by DavidRayner; 04-07-2012, 16:47.