One spring day, bored with secretarial life, Sylvan read a horoscope that advised her to ‘follow every golden opportunity’ that month. As you could only do in those magically innocent and exciting days of no qualifications whatsoever, she applied for jobs at Annabelle’s night club as a disc jockey, and Moyses Stephens as a florist.
She also sent off a demo disc of her singing and playing her guitar, to the Radio Luxembourg Talent Search, and, to everyone’s surprise, got to the top 6 in the London finals. Dana having taken top place. Cyril Stapleton encouraged her to take voice coaching lessons with tutor Freddie Winrose in Denmark Street with a view to a recording contract when she had had more experience.
Three weeks later, having been discovered and plucked from obscurity from Tin Pan Alley’s Gioconda Coffee bar, she had written and recorded her first record We Don’t Belong and appearances followed that summer on ITV in such shows as Thank Your Lucky Stars and Granada’s Scene at 6.30.
She also spent a weekend marooned on the famous Mi Amigo: Radio Caroline’s pioneer pirate ship with Tony Blackburn, Roger Gale (now an MP) & Dave Lee Travis. Source: sylvanmason.com
Excerpt from Pop Went The Pirates by Keith Skues
The next girl ever to stay on Radio Caroline South was a young Yorkshire-born singer named Sylvan Whittingham. Sylvan, came out for the day on 19 September 1965 with the intention of promoting her record We Don’t Belong, and saying hello to the disc jockeys. But she became storm bound as high winds sprang up and the tender which took her out from Harwich was forced to return to land urgently, just as Sylvan was appearing on the radio.
She spent the weekend of 18-20 September 1965 on board with the captain, crew and broadcasting personnel. As far a I know she is the only singer to have stayed over on board in those early days. Sylvan was the daughter of Jack Whittingham who wrote the screen play of the James Bond film Thunderball.
She said later
‘It was very rough when I set out but after lunch, when I should have gone back, it grew worse and the tender was rising up and down beside Caroline. I knew I would be sick, so I locked myself in the lavatory and just refused to leave. The tender hooted at me for half-an-hour but eventually left without me.” As there was no tender on the Sunday, Sylvan had to wait until the Monday, and a quiet sea, before returning to Harwich.’ Source: sylvanmason.com:
Banned by the BBC
Recorded in 1965 with the backing of a full 70-piece orchestra and airplayed constantly by Radio Caroline throughout the autumn of 1965, We Don’t Belong seemed destined for huge sales until the BBC intervened.
Someone at Auntie (as the overly interfering BBC was often dubbed) had listened carefully to the lyrics of the song and had correctly understood them to tell the tale of misunderstood young lovers signing a suicide pact.
Despite the massive chart success of Twinkle’s Terry ‘death disc’ the previous year someone somewhere decided the story of a planned double suicide, however sweetly sung, was taking things a little to far and the single was banned.
Later on of course being banned by the BBC was a tried, trusted and sure-fire route to securing hundreds of column inches and huge sales but sadly for Sylvan, this was 1965. The all-powerful BBC doorway to greater exposure was quietly closed on We Don’t Belong and the single disappeared.
It’s unsurprising then that this single marked both the beginning and the end of Sylvan’s solo recordings but every cloud has a silver lining and its minor success launched a new career for her as a lyricist with her songwriter husband Barry Mason.
Amongst many other hit songs she penned the lyrics for Tom Jones’ Delilah and Petula Clark’s Kiss Me Goodbye.