Sunday, January 6, 2013

Let's Talk About Girls

Avoiding the usual (Dusty, Cilla, Petula, Marianne, Jools, Sandie and Lulu) U.K. 60's female vocalists I decided it was time to write about something from Britian in the 60's that was not so male-centric.  It was tough just narrowing it down to ten, but I managed, somehow. All tracks are U.K. 45 releases.  Enjoy.

1. TAMMY ST. JOHN-"Dark Shadows And Empty Hallways" Pye 7N 15948 1965
F*ck this is the stuff!  Powerful.  Hands down the best "loss of love" tune EVER written. Tammy St. John's got pipes!  And the arrangement and lyrics will make the hairs on your neck stand on end, especially when it all slows down Spectoresque style with just bass drums and piano and she croons "and if you see my baby just tell him there ain't no rainbows for me, and if you talk to my baby just tell him I'm as blue as can I be. How can I make tomorrow when I can't bear to live through today....".  Woah, and dig this, she was only 14 when she cut this monster! The band Saint Etienne later resurrected it for their  various artists CD comp "Songs For Mario's Cafe", or so I read on another blog.

Hear it on:
"Here Come The Girls: British Girl Singers Of The Sixties" (Sequel) and "Songs For Mario's Cafe" (Sanctuary).

2. TONI DALY-"Like The Big Man Said" Columbia DB 8043 1966
Toni Daly was born Marie Antoinette Dally and like many other U.K. female 60's vocalists bounced around a lot of labels cutting one for Decca and five for Piccadilly as "Antoinette". Long before Rhoda Dakar and The Special AKA's chilling "The Boiler" came this equally creepy number (minus the blood curdling screams thank god) about a girl who goes to the big city, gets pulled by a guy claiming to make him a star and who thankfully escapes the casting couch by the skin of her teeth, dignity intact.  Quite gritty for 1966.

Hear it on:
"Take My Tip: 25 British Mod Artefacts From The EMI Vaults" (Zonophone)

3. ANITA HARRIS-"Something Must Be Done" Pye 7N 17069 1966
One of my fave 60's British female vocalists, Anita Harris is fairly schmaltzy but given a decent track can pull off some amazing results.  "Something Must Be Done" is soulful, brassy and powerful.  Harris voice is strong and the production is stellar (as is the arragement by David Whitaker). Sadly like most soulful U.K. 60's sides it's been picked up by the "Northern" scene which has made this one quite rare.

Hear it on:
"Here Come The Girls: British Girl Singers Of The Sixties" (Sequel)

4. MALLY PAGE-"The Life And Soul Of The Party" Pye 7N 17105 1966
I actually prefer Petula Clark's version of this (released just one month later) but the track itself is such an amazing tune (written and produced by Tony Hatch) with some great hooks and slick production.  This version by Mally Page was, as far as I can tell, her one and only release and sadly sank without a trace!

Hear it on:
"Here Come the Girls Six" (Sequel)

Dana Gillespie

5. DANA GILLESPIE-"You Just Gotta Know My Mind" Decca F 12847 1968
It's hard to believe this rocking  number was from 1968 AND written by Donovan, it easily could've been from '64 or '65 (which was what I'd thought the first time I'd heard it)! Dana Gillespie had a  few of 45's for Pye and been a cohort of  David Bowie in '64-'65 before this one off for Decca (who also released two LP's by her in '67 and '68 respectively) which needs investigating if you like a jolting girl sung 60's number. She later went on the become one of the many Bowie associated acts on the short lived Mainman roster in the 70's run by the Dame's then manager Tony DeFries.

Hear it on:
"Decca Originals:The Girl's Scene" (Deram) and as a bonus cut on the CD reissue of her LP "Foolish Seasons" (Rev-ola).

6. BEVERLEY-"Happy New Year" Deram DM 101 1966
Beverley has had an interesting run.  She'd already cut "Babe I'm Leaving You" with the Levee Breakers for Parlophone in '65 before going solo with this number by the yet unknown songwriter Randy Newman, which was also the very first release of our favorite label, Deram. It's cynical sounding and defies the genre stereotype! Allegedly she had dated Donovan and was wooed away by Paul Simon during his brief U.K. visit in '65 when Simon and Garfunkel were "broken up" (that's her saying "Good morning Mr. Leitch have you had a busy day" on the duo's later track "Fakin' It"). She later married John Martyn and cut a slew of records with him. Her cynical but powerful "Happy New Year" has the distinction of being one of the earliest British takes on a Randy Newman composition and the very first record released by Deram on September 30, 1966.

Hear it on:
"On Vine Street The Early Songs Of Randy Newman" (Ace)

7. ALMA COOGAN-"Snakes And Snails" Columbia DB 7652 1965
Aka "Snakes, Snails And Puppydog Tails" (on demo copies anyway) old school "establishment" vocalist Coogan got "with it" and cut this rocking 45 written and produced by Searchers wild man Chris Curtis (you can suss his story by clicking here).  The tune shakes off any notion of the late Ms. Coogan being a chicken in the basket style entertainer as she really lets loose helped in no small part by the team of crack session men assembled by Curtis to cut the record. Whether braggadocio or a flight of fancy Curtis claimed in an interview with "Record Collector" that he assembled Bobby Ore (drums), John Paul Jones (bass), Jimmy Page, Joe Moretti and Vic Flick (guitars) and Dusty Springfield, Doris Troy and Rosetta Hightower (backing vocals) for the session.  I've listened to this number a hundred times after reading that and I'm still no closer to hearing three different guitars or Dusty or Doris! A little over a year later (October 26, 1966 to be precise) she sadly was dead from ovarian cancer at the age of just 34 year old.

Hear it on:
"New Rubble Volume Five: Scratch My Back" (Past And Present)

8. VASHTI-"Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind" Decca F 12157 1965
Still smarting from the "loss" of Marianne Faithful to serious A&R man Mike Leander (whom Decca felt would give them more bang for her buck and possibly her unwillingness to play his wet dream fantasy) Andrew Loog Oldhman set about to find himself a new lump of clay. The strangely named Vashti Bunyan was next in the line of Oldham protegees who recorded Jagger/Richards tracks. Her ethereal voice is ideally suited for this number (with stellar arrangement by David Whittaker) though as usual A.L.O. gets "production" credits. But we know what that's worth. She later established a career of her own without A.L.O. and after disappearing for several decades is back on the folk scene.

Hear it on:
"Decca Originals:The Girl's Scene" (Deram)

Louise Cordet

9. LOUISE CORDET-"Two Lovers" Decca F 11857 1964
Daughter of a WW II Free French air force pilot and a Greek actress and Prince Phillip's goddaughter bilingual Cordet scored a Top Twenty (#13) hit in '62 with her Tony Meehan written and produced number "I'm Just A Baby". She released a slew of Decca 45's, the best being this one (and her last one), a cover of the Mary Wells track with some tasty guitar licks sounding much like the style of session man Jimmy Page found on the flip of a version of "Don't Make Me Over". Previously she also had the distinction of having a custom written tune drafted for her by Gerry Marsden called "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying" (Decca F11824).  Of course Gerry and Co. had second thoughts about sharing it exclusively and the version by Louise came and went, like her career after this record.

Hear it on:
"Decca Originals:The Girl's Scene" (Deram)

Janie (left) and sister Valerie Mitchell take the girls out for some air. 1964 "London In The Raw" film premiere
10. JANIE JONES-"Witches Brew" HMV POP 1495 1965
Most of you know this ladies name, if only because the Clash wrote a song with it in the title (they actually backed her in '83 as "The Lash" for a 45 on Big Beat, Joe Strummer wrote the A-side and produced both sides). Janie Jones would've been a Twitter sensation if the technology existed in the 60's/70's. In '64 she and her sister showed up with their racks out at a film premiere (see above) that got their collars felt for an indecency charge (later dropped) and two years later she beat the rap on a blackmail charge. 1967 saw her get shopped for running a brothel (not guilty your honor, acquitted). In 1974 she got busted for being a madame again (guilty!) and later spilled the beans on a Radio One payola scandal (AND crossing paths with Moors murderess Myra Hydley while doing time for the former). Yes she had quite the life, but what about the music?  She cut two singles for HMV (this being her first), then one a piece for Columbia, Major Minor and Pye in the 60's  before one last ditch in 1970 on President. This tune would've been perfect for a Joe Meek production. The person who uploaded this tune to YouTube aptly described it as "One of those tracks that is so bad, it's actually quite brilliant". I agree.

Hear it on:
"We're In Love With The World Of Janie Jones!:The Sex, The Scandals, The Singles Collection!" (RPM)

I am gratefully indebted to the 90's girl group/singer fanzine "That Will Never Happen Again" for information that assisted me in preparing this post.

1 comment:

diskojoe said...

You managed to find a Vashti Bunyan video! There is a 2-CD set of her early stuff (singles & demos) that came out 6-7 years ago which is named after her 1st single. She's a descendant of John Bunyan of Pilgrim's Progress fame & her first name was a Biblical queen's name that her mother was called in jest!