One of the many attractive elements of the “Golden Age” series is how, aside from the great music, the booklets can lure you into some serious study of the 1954-1963 period. Compare for example the back cover of Volume 3 where the issuing labels in both the US and the UK are listed. Those that were issued in the UK emerged on just four labels: London American, Top Rank, HMV and Parlophone. In the USA they came out on two dozen different outlets. What does that tell us about the different markets? Size certainly, but also something about the relative business models in music. The USA was full of entrepreneurs who saw music as a way to get a quick business going, while the UK market was sewn up by a handful of major labels ruled by staid individuals. It was a model that was destined to change, but not for quite a while.
“Volume 3” maintains the standards of the earlier ones with a healthy mixture of big hits and some from lower chart positions. The collection leads off with three Top Three songs: Bill Parsons’ ‘All American Boy’, Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Kansas City’ and Jack Scott’s ‘My True Love’, one of the most authentic sounding US hits to make the UK Top 10 with its almost classical doo wop arrangement. Phil Spector’s first group, the Teddy Bears, almost topped our chart, as it had done in the States, with ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’. This trio of big British hits is completed with Ketty Lester’s sultry ‘Love Letters’ which reached #4 in 1962. Others here that were UK successes include Bill Parsons, the Olympics with the gimmicky ‘Western Movies’ and Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs with ‘Sugar Shack’.
Among the lesser-known tracks you’ll find some fine vocal group material from the Turbans with ‘When You Dance’, the Five Satins’ smooth ‘To The Aisle’ and the Tokens’ early hit ‘Tonight I Fell In Love’, all of which maintain a great pop edge to this day. Anyone with the first Four Seasons album will recognise ‘La Dee Dah’ from Billy & Lillie and ‘The Girl In My Dreams’ by the Cliques, who were Eugene Church and Jesse Belvin in disguise. A wonderful doo wop track that never got a UK issue at the time is ‘Lover's Island’ from the Blue Jays, now rated very highly along with the Mello-Kings’ ‘Tonite, Tonite’. There are hard-to-find instrumentals in ‘The Beat’ by the Rockin’ Rs and ‘Cha Hua Hua’ from the Pets, whose ranks included some of the best-known session players.