1964 was not a great year to be an American chart hopeful. After an indifferent start in ’63, the Beatles had finally come, seen and conquered the US Hot 100. If your chances of scoring a decent-sized hit weren’t already hindered by the Fab Four’s domination of the Top 20, there was the mighty rearguard of the Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, the Animals, Freddie and the Dreamers, Petula Clark and anyone else who sang with a British twang to contend with. If the majority of American singers and musicians started to feel like strangers in their homeland courtesy of post-Beatlemania pandemonium, you can hardly blame them.
Fortunately, despite the chart success of UK acts, there was still plenty of great American music being made, and a lot found its way into British ears courtesy of the London-American label. Not as much as in previous years – as London now had stiff competition for US product from Stateside and Pye International – but enough to make the 1964 entry in our “Year By Year” series as varied and enjoyable as the previous volumes.
1964 was a watershed year for London. They lost representation of several labels that had been vital components of their catalogue. Some, such as Atlantic, gained their own identity elsewhere within the Decca organisation. Others – Sun, Specialty, Cadence – more or less ceased to function. Dot Records, a major player in London’s past success, moved across town to Pye. But the London A&R division kept on with Monument, Philles, Kapp and other important US repertoire sources, and actually managed to rack up more UK hits than they had the previous year.
Our collection gives you the gist of how London faced up to the challenge of 1964. Early soul classics from Solomon Burke, Otis Redding and the Drifters; examples of Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound from the Crystals and the Ronettes; Buddy Holly clones Ray Ruff and David Box; Elvis soundalike Terry Stafford; boss instrumentals courtesy of Willie Mitchell, the Baja Marimba Band and Bill Black’s Combo; country hits from Jerry Wallace and Ned Miller; and even some American Merseybeat from Washington DC’s Chartmakers, All this and Jerry Lee and Satchmo too – what’s not to love?
As ever, the booklet is full of label illustrations, reviews, sheet music and copious track-by-track annotation. Wherever possible, London’s own original tape sources have been used to preserve authenticity. It’s taken longer to pull this volume together than any previous one, but we are sure the end product will justify the wait for London American collectors and all fans of mid-60s US pop.
By Tony Rounce