|Here’s to the footnotes!|
“Mod goddess, psychedelic priestess, blue-eyed queen of soul …”!! Well, with that sort of build-up it’s no wonder the Big Beat salvaged set of ‘60s
Sharon Tandy recordings is causing such a stir.
And yet the acclaim for this terrific set has not been universal. At least one of the adult music monthlies got a bit snooty, and said Sharon would never be more than a footnote in the story of pop. To which we say so what? Some of us happen to be very much in love with footnotes, and perhaps for all sorts of reasons love the ne’er-do-wells, the ones in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the frustratingly underachieving.
But Sharon’s story is a lovely one, and bears repeating one more time. Arriving in London from South Africa at the height of the mod uprising, this young Jewish girl links up with hard pop/mod noise/psyche-beat outfit the Fleur de Lys. They make a string of storming singles, she then shoots off to Memphis to record a session for Stax (tragically unreleased until now) before Dusty does, and generally gives Sandie and Julie Driscoll a run for their money. And for your money you are unlikely to get a more fabulous and unfamiliar collection if that opening phrase “mod goddess, psychedleic priestess, blue-eyed queen of soul” sets your pulses racing.
The notes accompanying this lovely package mention Kiki Dee in passing, which gives me an excuse to mention Dateline Diamonds, a ‘60s pop/crime caper which features Kiki performing 'Small Town' in a manner to make you melt. The film focuses more on the Small Faces, and when they get to perform they look impossibly young and awkward, but it’s explosive stuff.
The snooty review I mentioned refers to Sharon Tandy teaming up with the Fleur de Lys in an attempt to do a PP Arnold/Small Faces thing, which is where the jaded journalist lets himself down because it was famously The Nice that the great PP worked with. And again so what? There are people that treasure anything touched by the likes of the Fleurs as much as the more famous faces.
And I confess I do have a real weakness for that hard pop sound that seems to have become known as freakbeat. My current favourites are the Koobas, and they are typical of the sort of group that did the plain embarrassing (a cover of 'Sally' believe it or not) and the exceptional. The exceptional in this case is a stunning LP salvaged by Beat Goes On, which features 'Barricades' one of the most violent of hard pop ‘60s numbers, perfectly capturing that ’68 mood.
Then that way lies the likes of the Sorrows, Attack, and all sorts of footnotes, which are irresistible. Moving more towards the soul beat side of things another favourite is The Riot Squad collection which came out last year. For some the Riot Squad may be mod also-rans, and certainly no one would pretend they are up there with The Action and The Creation or even the Artwoods or The Eyes. Yet there are half a dozen or so absolute gems on this salvaged set, and the group has an intriguing pedigree which takes in Joe Meek, David Bowie, and Glenda Collins.
Ah yes, Glenda Collins. Now there again is a dangerous path to start going down. There really is a wealth of talent to explore in the field of British ‘60s girls, and it would be easy to become again obsessed with the likes of Samantha Jones and Tammy St John. And the RPM vaults are filled with all sorts of titles to tempt the sort of people that can get excited about phrases like mod goddess and blue eyed queen of soul. And while RPM has produced excellent sets from the likes of Timi Yuro and the Shangri Las they have been woefully negligent in failing to salvage the ‘60s recordings of Kiki Dee. Now it is your moral duty to petition people like RPM and urge them to make her wonderful performances available again. Don’t settle for anything less!
© 2004John Carney