Monday, December 3, 2007


Since my book "Papa Do Run" has gone out into the world on it's own, a couple of people have commented on the lack of anything much about the British Invasion, in particular, The Beatles. That's quite true. Other than a short song list in Chapter 1, there really isn't much. It's not that I don't care for the Fab Four and all the other Brit artists who became so wildly popular four decades ago. Or that I don't appreciate the huge influence they had on rock and pop music. I've got quite a few of them represented on my shelf - lots of Beatles, Stones, Kinks (big Kinks fan here) Manfred Mann, The Searchers, Herman Hermits, The Who, a compilation or two. It's just that originally, I was going to make the Brit Invasion the cut-off point for the material I wanted to cover. I defined the era I called "vintage" rock and roll as roughly the late 50s to the mid-60s. but I quickly realized I'd have to exclude way too much juicy homegrown music. So I started extending my self-imposed upper and lower limit, song by song, until before I knew it, I had a manuscript that was starting to look like the sequel to War and Peace, even without the Beatles et al. Thus, I afraid the Brits got left on the cutting-room floor, so to speak. Now, if I was writing a serious academic historical study of these years, where such weighty tomes are standard procedure, such an omission would be unthinkable. But I figured, Hey, who wants a light-hearted read-on-the-fly type book that they have to drag around in a grocery buggy! Anyway, now that I have this blog, it's the perfect place to pay some tribute to great British musical talent. The following is a list of some of my faves (in addition to the big guns mentioned above). And, as is my usual, some of them tend towards the slightly more rare, obscure, and lesser-known. What can I say, I always root for the underdog. Ready luv?

The Rockin' Berries - A very under-appreciated (in N. America at least) group (who incidentally took their name as a tribute to Chuck Berry) with a great lead falsetto. While a lots of artists over here began imitating the British sounds (like the Beau Brummels), the Berries were doing their own kind of Four Seasons blends. Their biggest US hits were covers of "He's in Town" and "Poor Man's Son." I like 'em!

The Zombies - Much more well-known, Zombies stylings often leaned a little more towards jazz, which made them stand out. But for all their great tunes, it's mainly the same three songs you still hear today, "Tell Her No," "She's Not There," and "Time of the Season."

The Swinging Blue Jeans - While the name of this band aways made me picture a laundry line, I sure liked dancing to their music. I think "Hippy Hippy Shake" was the first Brit Invasion 45 I ever bought. And we can't forget their Merseybeat cover of "Good Golly Miss Molly."

The Ivy League - For a long time I thought these guys were American. I mean, Ivy League? But they're not; they're from the good old UK, just like that other famous British band, The Nashville Teens. Go figure. The League's two big hits you still hear today are "Funny How Love Can Be" and "Tossing and Turning" (not a Bobby Lewis cover, but a totally different song).

The Nashville Teens - I have one word to say about them: Tobacco Road. Okay, so it's two words. This is a really terrific band, and even if "Tobacco Road" was all they did, it would be enough to place them very high in the pop pantheon.

The Honeycombs - These guys, um, guys and a girl (the drummer) were way up there back in the day, with hits all over the globe. Today they are remembered solely for their #5 US hit, "Have I the Right."

The Yardbirds - This band is famous not only for great R&B/psych music, but for launching the careers of Clapton, Beck and Page. Back in the 60s, The Yardbirds kind of had a rep for being the thinking man's rockers. Big hits were "Shapes of Things," "For Your Love," "Heart Full of Soul," and "Over Under Sideways Down."

Cilla Black - All that testosterone in those groups! It's time to mention one of my fave numbers by Cilla Black, "You're My World." She pretty much got beat out by Dionne Warwick over here, but at one time Cilla was the number two act in the UK, behind the Beatles.

Sandie Shaw - A lot of singers have covered "Always Something There to Remind Me" but for my nickel, Sandie Shaw's version is THE ONE. Her rendition of "Girl Don't Come" is very fine, too.

So there you go, all you birds and blokes, that's my Brit-Hit Parade. Hope it brought back some groovy memories for you. Say, whatever happened to that Union Jack T-shirt you used to have...?

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