Someone should write a book about the London American label. Oh, hang on, someone has –David M McKee. In fact, he’s written two: The London American Legend – A History Of The Label, Volumes 1 and 2 (Athena Press in 2004). Check them out, do. Meanwhile, some background.
The USA was the first country in which a London label appeared. It was the flagship of British Decca’s American operations as far back as 1934. In 1949 the first batch of these American records was made available in the UK on the new London American imprint. In 2009 Ace launched its “London American Label Year By Year” series, which with this volume devoted to 1963, stands at five volumes.
1963 was a very good year for Phil Spector, the releases on whose Philles label appeared on London American in the UK. Until very recently, Philles recordings were out of bounds for compilations such as this one, but with the record producer presently out of circulation, his catalogue has very recently become available for license. Every cloud, eh? Let’s face it, this particular edition would not have been an accurate representation of 1963 without the Ronettes, the Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans, all of whom are present and correct. Yay!
The inclusion of Darlene Love’s ‘A Fine Fine Boy’ here marks the first time the original 45 version has been legally available on CD. (All other digital issues contain a re-edit that is the result of irreparable damage to the original master.) Spector owed a lot of his success to Ellie Greenwich and her husband Jeff Barry, with whom he collaborated almost exclusively throughout 1963. The threesome co-wrote ‘A Fine Fine Boy’, ‘Then He Kissed Me’, ‘Be My Baby’ that year, and many more besides. Greenwich and Barry also penned bathos specialist Ray Peterson’s death-disc ‘Give Us Your Blessing’ and the Raindrops’ ‘What A Guy’, included here too. (Ellie and Jeff were the Raindrops, but you knew that.)
1963 was also a prime year for girl groups and female singers in general, a fact reflected here via the Sherrys, Little Eva, Marcie Blane, Robin Ward, Shirley Ellis and Ruby & the Romantics, not forgetting 50s R&B star LaVern Baker and South African ex-pat Miriam Makeba.
There’s a lot more to this CD than Phil Spector, girl groups and Brill Building songwriters, but hey, that’s me for you. In all, this collection contains the A-sides of 28 of the 178 singles released on the London American label in 1963. As the series is expanding in two directions, we’re unsure if the next volume will focus on 1964 or 1958, both of which were very good years for American music. Watch this space to find out. Either way, it’ll be a winner.
By Mick Patrick