In 1964, the Shirelles had all reached the age that would permit them to access royalties that had supposedly been accruing on their behalf. When they approached their record label, Scepter, for what they believed was owed to them, all they had coming was another think. Their big hits of the previous three years – including ‘Soldier Boy’, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ and ‘Mama Said’ – had seemingly amounted to very little in terms of folding money. They sued Scepter for non-payment and went on strike at what turned out to be a crucial time in respect of their future success.
Not everyone was as angry with Scepter as the Shirelles were. The fall out actually proved to be a blessing in disguise for fans as, with the girls refusing to record, label boss Florence Greenberg was forced to trawl the vaults for hitherto unreleased masters. Such great singles as ‘Sha-La-La’ were the result of the vault excavation, along with two original albums that make up Ace’s fourth Shirelles 2-On-1, “Swing The Most” and “Hear & Now”.
Both albums were originally released on Pricewise, a new budget subsidiary of Scepter. There’s little doubt that Mrs Greenberg saw them as potboilers, designed to keep the name of her flagship group out there while they were refusing to record. Shirelles fans saw them differently, and still do. To them – us! – these are every bit as potent as their best official releases and considerably better than some of them. “Swing The Most” in particular is full of sensational sides that might otherwise have sat on a shelf for decades, among them the original versions of ‘Oh No, Not My Baby’ and ‘Get Rid Of Him’, to name just two of its many delights.
The writer credits for the unissued material on both albums reads like a who’s who of New York’s finest tunesmiths of the day – Goffin & King, Van McCoy, Ed Townsend, Don Covay, Toni Wine, Luther Dixon and others of equally incomparable calibre. From a distance of 45 years, it’s almost inconceivable to think that their first rate submissions for the girls might not have been heard at the time, but for a fall out over money.
Although these albums were originally issued only in mono, many of the tracks were mixed into real stereo at the time. Wherever possible, we have gone for the stereo versions, in order to provide a fresh perspective on both familiar and unfamiliar repertoire. We have also reinstated ‘That Boy Is Messin’ Up My Mind’ into the running order of “Swing The Most” – it featured on the album cover, front and back, but never made it to the vinyl.
“Swing The Most” and “Hear & Now” rank as two of the best girl group albums of all time and it’s a privilege to have them on Ace at long last.
by TONY ROUNCE