In 1961 the East Germans started to erect the Berlin Wall, heralding what was to become The Cold War. Worldwide, however, teenagers weren’t that bothered. They were obsessed trying to master the new dance craze that was the Twist – a dance American teens had long since jettisoned in favour of the more exotic Shimmy, Monkey Time and Continental Walk. In the UK, the cult TV show ‘The Avengers’ had its first screening while a youthful foursome called The Beatles made their debut at a Liverpool club, the Cavern. In the USA Frank Sinatra set up Reprise Records, the Everly Brothers were drafted into the Marine Corps, Ray Charles was busted for drugs and the soul music he’d helped to create was just starting to impact.
Great memories – which all come alive in these two quite superb new box sets that comprehensively span the whole of 1961. Each box contains 6 CDs crammed with every hit single that debuted on the (British) Record Retailer pop chart in that seminal year. The first set focuses on the January – June period while the second box covers the six months from June to December. Embryonic soul highlights include Sam Cooke’s ‘Cupid’, Ray Charles’ ‘Hit The Road Jack’, the Drifters’ ‘I Count The Tears’, Ernie K Doe’s ‘Mother In Law’ and Ben E King’s ‘Stand By Me’.
Naturally there’s plenty of classic pop – Elvis Presley, Del Shannon, Dion, Connie Francis, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Bobby Darin, Buddy Holly are all included. You also get lots of one-hit wonders and an “impressive” number of novelty items so beloved of early-sixties record buyers. Enjoy, if you dare, Benny Hill’s ‘Pepys Diary’ or Tommy Cooper’s ‘Don’t Jump Off The Roof Dad’!
Interestingly, the collections are also a good illustration of a 60s trend that bedevilled many US stars – the spectre of the cover version. Poor old Gene McDaniels seems to have been particularly badly treated with his ‘Tower Of Strength’ and ‘100 Lbs Of Clay’ both getting the dreaded “cover treatment”.
Both box sets come complete with an extensive booklet in which record producer and music historian Stuart Colman guides us through all the hits and the headlines…. though some photographs might have helped. Still, it’s a great memory jerking project and you can find out more @ www.fantasticvoyage.com