We recently filled you in on the ninth volume of Ace Records’ long-running series, Where the Girls Are. Today, we spotlight two companion volumes dedicated to Beat Girls of the 1960s!
Pye Records, home of Petula Clark and The Kinks, practically defined the British “big beat” sound of girl-pop with its urbane, sophisticated productions. Scratch My Back! Pye Beat Girls 1963-1968 offers a cross section of the label’s brashest sounds with 24 well-selected nuggets from artists both familiar and lesser-known. The collection takes its title from a snarling, fuzz guitar-laden song by Jan Panter, arranged by Mark Wirtz of A Teenage Opera fame.
Petula Clark, whose newest album arrives in stores in September, is the marquee name here, and compiler Mick Patrick has chosen “Heart,” written by Petula, Georges Aber, and producer Tony Hatch for inclusion. It’s one of the most swaggering rockers ever recorded by Clark, and showcases just how versatile she was (and is!) as an artist and songwriter. Hatch helmed a number of other tracks on this set, as well. Sandra Barry’s “We Were Lovers (When The Party Began)” was written by Abe Fisher and Ellie Greenwich’s early songwriting partner Tony Powers; Barry displays some of the attitude that would serve her well later in her career as Alice Spring of pub-rock band Slack Alice and leader of power pop group Darling. Hatch wrote and produced The Baker Twins’ swooning “He’s No Good” (“But I love him so…”) and helmed “I Only Care About You” for one of Pye’s most underrated voices, Julie Grant.
Featured on numerous Tony Hatch productions were The Breakaways, Great Britain’s answer to The Blossoms or The Sweet Inspirations. The trio recorded a number of sides on their own including Mike Hawker and Ivor Raymonde’s driving “He Doesn’t Love Me,” proving that they could hold their own with any of New York’s sassiest girl groups.
Another A-lister here is Sandie Shaw (“Always Something There to Remind Me,” “Puppet on a String”) with “Run,” one of the darkest compositions by her frequent collaborator Chris Andrews. Producer-songwriter Joe Meek pulled out the stops with swirling strings and sound effects for Glenda Collins’ “It’s Hard to Believe It,” a sadly still-relevant look at the world (“How can they spend a million on a rocket head/When there’s millions on Earth in need of bread?”) with some typically spacey, idiosyncratic Meek lyrics.
Billie Davis is known for her winsome covers such as Bert Berns’ “Tell Him” (a U.K. Top 10 hit) and Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s dramatic “The Last One to Be Loved,” but she’s heard here with a groovy, self-penned original. “Ev’ry Day” finds Davis at her most soulfully rocking over a groove driven by tight guitars and organ. Val McKenna also wrote her own material including the tough, confident “Now That You’ve Made Up Your Mind,” and Barbara Ruskin is represented with her own “Well How Does It Feel” with a strong Johnny Harris arrangement. Sharon Tandy, subject of an Ace collection of her own, gets the spotlight on the ebullient “I’m in Love.”
Certainly Carole King and Gerry Goffin contributed to defining the American girl group sound, so it’s appropriate that they’re represented on this U.K. set, too. Glo Macari is youthful on the duo’s “He Knows I Love Him Too Much,” previously recorded by both Arlene Smith and The Paris Sisters under the supervision of producer Phil Spector.
Big beat encompassed numerous sounds and styles, as evidenced by the fine folk-pop of Dana Gillespie. The future David Bowie collaborator and girlfriend is heard with her strong rendition of The Hollies’ “Pay You Back with Interest.” There are also R&B covers a-plenty. Tawny Reed does a more than credible job on a brassy version of Baby Washington’s “I Got a Feeling,” and the single-named Antoinette tears through Bert Berns’ “Why Don’t I Run Away from You,” originally recorded in the U.S. by Tami Lynn. Perhaps the biggest oddity on Scratch My Back! is “Incense,” a rock-meets-gospel raver sung by Sheila Carter with backing by Episode Six. The band featured keyboardist Carter alongside Ian Gillan and Roger Glover who would go on to form Deep Purple, making this lost gem a treat for fans of pop and Purple.
Scratch My Back! Pye Beat Girls 1963-1968 boasts a bright and copiously-illustrated 24-page booklet with Mick Patrick’s detailed annotations broken down by artist. Nick Robbins has remastered.
An equally bright crop of beat girls could be found in the annals of Decca Records. Ace has handily compiled 24 tracks from that label, as well, with Love Hit Me! Decca Beat Girls 1962-1970. There’s some overlap between this volume and the Pye volume, thanks to Billie Davis, Dana Gillespie, The Satin Bells and Sandra Barry. The collection’s title comes from The Orchids’ 1963 single, drenched in a Wall of Sound helmed by producer Shel Talmy (The Who, The Kinks).
Our gal Billie appears twice on Love Hit Me, once with a surprisingly urgent take on Joey Levine and Kris Resnick’s bubblegum tune “I’m in Love with You,” and then with Jon Hendricks’ sublime “I Want You to Be My Baby.” The latter has a Spencer Davis Group-esque riff and backing vocals from The Moody Blues, Doris Troy, Madeline Bell and Kiki Dee, making for an all-star chorus! The Satin Bells’ contribution is the boisterously breakneck “I Stand Accused of Loving You,” from 1969.
A rock “Who’s Who” backs up returning Pye girl Dana Gillespie on her 1968 folk-rocker-with-strings “No! No! No!” including Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page, and Manfred Mann’s Mike Vickers, who arranged the session. Another Mike, Leander, wrote and arranged Marianne Faithfull’s slinky “That’s Right Baby,” while composer Michel Colombier produced Marianne’s fragile yet swinging version of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Hier du Demain.”
Ace has plucked the single-named singer-songwriter Beverley’s high-octane “Where the Good Times Are” from Decca’s hip Deram imprint. Jones and Page, along with Nicky Hopkins, make their mark here, too, but Beverley is the star with her distinctive, pinched sound. One name was also sufficient for Twinkle, best-remembered for her banned-by-the-BBC single “Terry.” She’s represented here with the tale of “Poor Old Johnny” and the softer “Golden Lights” which still showcased her unique lyrical perspective, addressing the toll of a showbiz relationship.
Most impressive is Truly Smith’s 1967 take on Chris Clark’s Motown stomper “I Wanna Go Back There Again.” Smith’s vocal and Noel Walker’s production, arranged by Les Reed, might not best the Motor City original, but it certainly gives it a run for its money. There’s more Motown here, too. Future rocker Elkie Brooks’ straightforward pop take on The Temptations’ “The Way You Do the Things You Do” is good fun, while Goldie and the Gingerbreads’ pensive, moody take on Mary Wells’ “Little Boy” is one of the most offbeat items here. (On the other end of the spectrum is The Vernons Girls’ kooky, irreverent versions of “Dat’s Love” from Oscar Hammerstein’s musical Carmen Jones based on Bizet’s opera Carmen!)
The Brill Building was a reliable source of material throughout the 1960s, hence Adrienne Poster’s infectious “Something Beautiful” from the team of Helen Miller and Roger Atkins, Jean Martin’s husky (and Helen Shapiro-esque) reading of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman’s “Save the Last Dance for Me,” and Barry St. John’s “Hey Boy” from Carole King and Gerry Goffin. For the latter, arranger David Whittaker and producer Andrew Loog Oldham crafted a dramatic backdrop on which the soul-baring St. John soars. Brill scene veteran Bert Berns wrote the powerful “I’ll Come Running Over” especially for the young Lulu, whose throat-shredding vocals are supported by another terrific Mike Leander arrangement.
Like the Pye volume, Love Hit Me! Decca Beat Girls 1962-1970 has been remastered by Nick Robbins. It features a vivid 20-page booklet with liner notes from author Sheila Burgel. (A 12-track version of Love Hit Me! is also available on vinyl.) Both of these collections from Ace Records are available now at the links below!
- I’m In Love With You – Billie Davis
- No! No! No! – Dana Gillespie
- That’s Right Baby – Marianne Faithfull
- Where The Good Times Are – Beverley
- Poor Old Johnny – Twinkle
- Love Hit Me – The Orchids
- I Stand Accused (Of Loving You) – The Satin Bells
- I Wanna Go Back There Again – Truly Smith
- Something Beautiful – Adrienne Poster
- I’ll Come Running Over – Lulu
- Hey Boy – Barry St John
- Little Boy – Goldie & The Gingerbreads
- What More Do You Want – The Exceptions
- So Hard To Be Good – Louise Cordet
- Really Gonna Shake – Sandra Barry & The Boys
- The Way You Do The Things You Do – Elkie Brooks
- I Want You To Be My Baby – Billie Davis
- Save The Last Dance For Me – Jean Martin
- Love Is Going To Happen To Me – Beryl Marsden
- Don’t Make Me Mad – The Orchids
- Dat’s Love – The Vernons Girls
- Don’t Make Me (Fall In Love With You) – Babbity Blue
- Golden Lights – Twinkle
- Hier Ou Demain – Marianne Faithfull
- Scratch My Back – Jan Panter
- Ev’ry Day – Billie Davis
- Come On Baby – Kim D
- Now That You’ve Made Up Your Mind – Val McKenna
- He Doesn’t Love Me – The Breakaways
- Heart – Petula Clark
- It’s Hard To Believe It – Glenda Collins
- Run – Sandie Shaw
- Something To Give – Nita Rossi
- Da-Di-Da-Da – The Satin Bells
- We Were Lovers (When The Party Began) – Sandra Barry
- I Got A Feeling – Tawny Reed
- Why Don’t I Run Away From You – Antoinette
- Nobody Knows What’s Goin’ On (In My Mind But Me) – Tammy St John
- Incense – Sheila Carter & Episode Six
- Pay You Back With Interest – Dana Gillespie
- Well How Does It Feel – Barbara Ruskin
- I’ve Found Love – Sharon Tandy
- It’s So Fine – Dee King
- He Knows I Love Him Too Much – Glo Macari
- He’s No Good – The Baker Twins
- Don’t Lie To Me – Jeannie & The Big Guys
- I Only Care About You – Julie Grant
- Hippy, Hippy Shake – Pat Harris & The Blackjacks