Late in 2015, Ace Records released the compilation Jon Savage's 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded to coincide with the publication of the author-historian's book of the same name. Now, Ace and Savage have followed that CD release with another volume - 1967: The Year Pop Divided. The 2-CD collection's mission statement is clearly set out: "MOR ballads were rife in the U.K. charts in 1967, but thankfully not on this dynamic collection of rock, soul, pop, and incipient funk and psych the teenage Jon Savage thrilled to on pirate radio this year." So while 1967 is in no way a full representation of both sides of that pop divide - don't go looking for Engelbert Humperdinck's chart-topping "Release Me" here, or any tunes from The Seekers, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, or even Petula Clark - the set is nonetheless a crackling good look, in Savage's words, of "the real news: the mix of West Coast, Motown, soul, brassy, soul-inflected white pop, ska and incipient psychedelia."
In his copious liner notes filling the colorful 24-page booklet, Savage notes that 1967 was the first year that albums outsold singles in the United Kingdom, as well as the year that the pirate radio stations almost all went off the air. But there was still a vivacity in many singles releases even as albums, and concept albums, rose in popularity, and rock-and-roll ceded to just plain rock. Many of the 48 songs here are American, even if the sensibility in compiling them is decidedly British, or that of a young British listener looking for sounds beyond Vince Hill, Long John Baldry, and Engelbert.
Both discs take in a variety of these inspirational sounds. Motown is represented by Diana Ross and the Supremes' epochal, psych-tinged "Reflections," Gladys Knight and the Pips' "Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me," and The Four Tops' dramatic "You Keep Running Away" - all showing how the changes in popular music had impacted the sounds of the Motor City and indeed, The Sound of Young America. In a similarly soulful vein, 1967 offers Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and "Chain of Fools," as well as Joe Tex's "Show Me," and a couple of Stax favorites: The Bar-Kays' Stax instrumental "Soul Finger" and Booker T. and the MG's "Slim Jenkins' Place." James Brown appears not once, but twice, to ladle on the funk with "Cold Sweat Pt. 1" and "I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)."
Psych-rock is plentiful here, with such standouts from both sides of the Atlantic as The Thirteenth Floor Elevators' "Levitation," The Soft Machine's Kim Fowley-produced "Feelin' Reelin' Squeelin'," The Move's "I Can Hear the Grass Grow," The Troggs' "Night of the Long Grass," The Mickey Finn's "Garden of My Mind," and Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band's avant opus "Yellow Brick Road." Even lesser-known nuggets like Rex Garvin and the Mighty Cravers' "Believe It or Not," The Blossom Toes' "Look at Me, I'm You," and The Third Bardo's punk-ish "I'm Five Years Ahead of My Time" (okay, maybe it was more than five years, but they were onto something...!) all stand tall.
Pure pop isn't completely absent from this set, either. Sonny and Cher are represented with "The Beat Goes On," adapted the following year into heavy psychedelia by Vanilla Fudge. The Young Rascals' "Groovin'" remains as infectiously breezy today as upon its initial release. The Searchers are heard with their faithful cover of The Five Americans' "Western Union." The Monkees rock out on Micky Dolenz's "Randy Scouse Git," a.k.a. "Alternate Title," and The Fortunes tell of the life of "The Idol" in their slice-of-life outing. Australia's Easybeats merged pop and psychedelia on their own "The Music Goes Round My Head."
The Byrds successfully merged pop and folk-rock throughout their career (also pioneering country-rock and psychedelia along the way), as heard on the withering "So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star." 1967 also makes room for Gene Clark's "So You Say You Lost Your Baby," produced like "Rock and Roll Star" by Brian Wilson pal Gary Usher. No less an eminence than future Sir George Martin helmed The Action's pop-psych "Never Ever" in the same year that he produced The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Kinks merged numerous sounds throughout the '60s, from music hall to R&B, helping the trajectory of punk and metal along the way. Dave Davies gets an airing here with his solo hit "Suzanah's Still Alive."
Aided and abetted by Savage's liner notes in the booklet well-designed by Neil Dell, 1967: The Year Pop Divided - remastered by Duncan Cowell - paints a full picture of the fresh, youthful and often edgy music reverberating throughout the world and beaming brightly on pirate radio. The creatively fertile, imaginative, and envelope-pushing music of 1967 is still a wonder to behold.
- So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star - The Byrds
- I'm a Man - The Spencer Davis Group
- The Beat Goes On - Sonny & Cher
- Try It - The Attack
- Levitation - The Thirteenth Floor Elevators
- The Behemoth - The Shadows of Knight
- Never Ever - The Action
- Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me - Gladys Knight and the Pips
- Believe It or Not - Rex Garvin and the Mighty Cravers
- Feelin' Reelin' Squeelin' - The Soft Machine
- I Can Hear the Grass Grow - The Move
- Show Me - Joe Tex
- Groovin' - The Young Rascals
- So You Say You Lost Your Baby - Gene Clark
- Western Union - The Searchers
- Soul Finger - The Bar-Kays
- Respect - Aretha Franklin
- The Hand Don't Fit the Glove - Terry Reid with Peter Jay's Jaywalkers
- Night of the Long Grass -The Troggs
- I'm Five Years Ahead of My Time - The Third Bardo
- So Sharp - Dyke and the Blazers
- Cold Sweat, Pt. 1 - James Brown and The Famous Flames
- Mr. Soul - The Buffalo Springfield
- Alternate Title (Randy Scouse Git) - The Monkees
- At the Third Stroke - The Picadilly Line
- Hold On - Sharon Tandy
- Lazy Life - William E
- Reflections - Diana Ross and The Supremes
- The Idol - The Fortunes
- Dream Magazine - Svensk
- I See the Rain - The Marmalade
- You Keep Running Away - The Four Tops
- Yellow Brick Road - Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
- Slim Jenkins' Place - Booker T. & The MG's
- Revolution - Tomorrow
- Stop and Listen - The Shag
- Psyche Rock - Les Yper Sound
- Look at Me I'm You - The Blossom Toes
- Love Power - The Sandpebbles
- The Wind Blows Your Hair - The Seeds
- Suzanah's Still Alive - Dave Davies
- The One I Love - Ken Boothe
- I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me) - James Brown & The Famous Flames
- Chain of Fools - Aretha Franklin
- Garden of My Mind - The Mickey Finn
- Vacuum Cleaner - Tintern Abbey
- It's Been a Long Time - Andy Ellison
- The Music Goes Round My Head - The Easybeats
All tracks c. 1967. All tracks mono.