Someone once said, “if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there!” Well, I was there and I can remember an awful lot of that wonderful decade. I can remember seeing the Beatles at Cavern lunchtime sessions (yes, I’m that old!); I can remember being part of the original mod scene; I can remember the early soul sounds of great labels like Motown, Chess and Stax and those labels’ live revues that occasionally toured over here; I can remember the pirate radio stations like Caroline; I can remember growing up with a proper socialist government; I can remember England winning the World Cup: Yes, I can remember an awful lot – but if my memory needed jogging I could go straight to a wonderful new 3 CD, 93 track Cherry Red/Grapefruit compilation, ‘You Can Walk Across It On The Grass’.
The album purports to offer a snapshot of the British music scene in the mid-sixties – the era when London was supposedly “swinging”. That idea was originally floated in 1966 by the American magazine Time that ran a front-page feature, captioned ‘You Can Walk Across It On The Grass’, which proclaimed London to be the most “swinging city” in the world and leader of contemporary pop culture. Thus you can understand the box set’s title.
The Cherry Red/ Grapefruit PR describes ‘You Can Walk Across It On The Grass’ as “a cornucopia of club-friendly mod R&B/soul, era-defining pop hits and cult TV/film themes” – add to all that a generous dose of whimsy and what we’ll call “music biz cash ins” and you have a fairly comprehensive picture of mid 60s British pop culture.
OK, so let’s take a look at some of the tracks on this nostalgia fest; first those club friendly mod cuts. What you need to remember is that even in the mid-60s soul was something of an underground scene in the UK – few US records won release here and visits from US soul stars were rare too. Thus there was a coterie of home grown soul acts who aped the sound emanating from across the pond. Here you can enjoy music from the brand leader, Georgie Fame and people like Zoot Money. Graham Bond and Geno Washington (Geno, of course, was an American who made his home here after his stint in the military). Then there’s dear Dusty Springfield, Kiki Dee (a great cover of ‘Why Don’t I Walk Awat From You’) and the vastly underrated The Action (pictured ) with their splendid cover of the Vandellas’s ‘In My Lonely Room’.
Classic pop? Well here there’s Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich’s ‘Hold Tight’, Manfred Mann’s ‘22.214.171.124.1’ (which of course was one of the theme tunes to the iconic TV show, ‘Ready, Steady, go!) the Merseys’ ‘Sorrow’, the Fortunes’ ‘Caroline’ (which the Pirate Radio station of that name adopted as their theme tune) and a lot more – some rather obscure but the better for that. Then there’s the classic TV and film themes like ‘The Avengers’ and was there ever a more “60s defining” instrumental than Mood Mosaic’s ‘A Touch Of Velvet A Sting Of Brass’?
Also era-defining are the whimsy and the cash ins – like super model Twiggy’s ‘When I Think Of You’ which shows she was much better in front of a camera than in front of a mic. Then there’s ‘Christine’ from “Miss X” – an attempt to get musical milage from the Profumo scandal that gripped the nation; one of that affair’s protagonists, Mandy Rice Davies, also got to make a record, a cover of ‘You Got What It Takes’ (included here!) There are plenty of references to London too – the Spectrum’s ‘Portobello Road’ and the Hi Fi’s ‘London Look’ amongst them. And while we’re talking cash ins, the album also delivers what is now a rarity – The London Studio Group’s ‘Viva La Tamla Motown’.
Expect plenty more rarities across the set’s 93 tracks; thus artists like The Electric Banana and Des Jones stand cheek by jowl with the Kinks and the Who! Why… you even get a track from a young and ambitious David Bowie! It all makes for an intriguing and varied album. Nostalgia! Who said there’s no future in it?