Hand-picked 60s she-pop from UK Philips, Fontana and Mercury, including many titles new to CD.
Ever since Brit Girls became a recognised collecting genre and compilations started appearing in the 1990s, the young women who recorded for Decca, EMI and Pye in the 60s have been well-represented; the Philips ladies less so. With “Live It Up! Bayswater Beat Girls 1964-1967”, Ace restores the balance by focusing on neglected female pop gems that originated from Stanhope House in Stanhope Place, Bayswater, London W2: the address of the UK arm of Philips Records and its associated labels, Fontana and Mercury.
When it came to female talent… well, Philips had a head start with Dusty Springfield, incontestably de facto HRH of the Philips girls, who over the course of her time with the company metamorphosed from 50s Lana Sister to 60s mod queen, via folk-singing Springfield. Once Dusty became a chart regular, Philips, in common with all the other companies of the period, readily climbed aboard the beat girl bandwagon, signing up more local female talent, hungry to discover the next Cilla, Sandie, Lulu or Marianne.
And they came from near and far. In terms of geography, the collection splits the talent fairly equally between lasses from London and the South-East, and young misses from the Midlands and the North: and just to variegate the mix even further, there are inclusions from relocated American, Jamaican, South African and Irish-born gals. It was at Philips that regional diversity unified beautifully when Dusty, Kiki Dee, Madeline Bell and Lesley Duncan pooled their resources to produce a vocal backing blend that would regularly enhance each other’s records.
Philips’ recording studios (like Pye’s, just around the corner) were bang in the centre of the swinging London scene. For the Smoke-based songbirds presented here – such as Angelina, Marilyn Powell, Ayshea and Clare Torry – it was a mere taxi-hop to the basement of Stanhope House. Situated just around the corner from Marble Arch, it was but a 20-minute stroll from Dusty’s flat in Westbourne Terrace. For others, the journey to Stanhope Place was a more distant and awe-inspiring prospect. Imagine 16 year-old Kiki Dee, travelling with her dad down the A1 from Bradford to audition, having been working at Boots the Chemist the week before. Not only a newcomer to a recording studio, but suddenly transplanted into the burgeoning Carnaby Street-era London with its edgy, free-spirited vibe.
The rest of the girls showcased here run the gamut from the hopeful novice to the seasoned performer, covering beat, soul and out-and-out pop. The selections centre around the mid-60s, by which time many of Philips’ earlier hitmakers were keeping up with the changing times and cutting loose on contemporary rock and pop material. There’s also a good helping of home-grown songwriting talent on offer here. While American-sourced compositions are included, around two-thirds of the selections come from the pens of British composers, including a few written by the singers themselves.