Given how little opportunity there was to hear it on the radio in the 1950s and early 60s, it’s astonishing how much great American music found its way into the UK Top 40 at the time, via the few hours of needle time the BBC had at its disposal (which was largely devoted to UK artists anyway) and the in-and-out signal of Radio Luxembourg from the early evening through to the small hours of the morning.
But the limited exposure their records received did not prevent US favourites from becoming equally popular on this side of the Atlantic (if not more so, in some cases), particularly after the Musicians’ Union relaxed their rules about allowing American acts to tour here. Once artists started to appear here regularly, the amount of US records that breached the UK charts grew considerably and continued to grow until four young men from Liverpool came along in 1962 to forever change the face of pop. Those who did visit regularly found that UK tours kept the big hits coming, often extending careers that were in recession on their home turf.
With that in mind, it’s good to be able to hail the return of our popular “Radio Gold” series with a project that concentrates on memorable US singles from the UK Top 40 that didn’t do as well in the land of their origin. It beggars belief that some of the titles that were “Bigger In Britain” fared so modestly on the US Hot 100 and that a good many of them did not chart at all back home. Virtually all of the featured tracks are so much a part of our musical lives that anybody could be forgiven for thinking that each and every one of them was a global smash.
It’s pleasing to be able to note that 23 of our 24 featured tracks have never appeared on Ace CD in any form, The only one that has, Brenda Lee’s superb ‘Here Comes That Feelin’’, appears here in its mono single take rather than in the stereo version with an alternate vocal heard on her “Queen Of Rock’n’Roll” CD. The content may be varied but it amply reflects the way we bought our singles back then, when artists such as Perry Como and Eddie Cochran rubbing chart shoulders was not as anomalous as it might appear from a distance of more than 50 years.
If you’re looking to relive the days when Pick Of The Pops was the highlight of every young record buyer’s week, look no further than this collection of household hits by household names. “Bigger In Britain”? Not ‘arf, Pop Pickers!
By Tony Rounce