Each year specialist oldies label Fantastic Voyage releases a massive retrospective of the British hit parade as it stood fifty years ago. They do a fabulous job chronicling a Golden Age when singles really did matter. Half a century ago vinyl 45s retailed for around 6/8d (that’s less than 35p in the new-fangled money) and school kids and teenagers would save their pennies to buy their favourites while older generations could easily afford a record or two a week to play on their new fancy radiograms or simpler Dansette “multi-change” record players. Consequently (unlike today) the big chart hits did move millions of units and a place on the “Top 20” was hugely coveted – for obvious financial reasons and for the fame it brought with it. The week end charts were eagerly awaited by fans and music biz insiders alike and weekly papers (like NME, Melody Maker and Disc) that carried the charts and chart associated gossip sold in vast quantities.
This new Fantastic Voyage 2 volume résumé of the 1962 charts allows us to enter that long-disappeared magical world and what a great picture it paints. Across 10 CDs you get the real flavour of what pop was like before the British beat boom and the soul explosion ripped it all apart. In 1962 soul was there – but very much in its infancy. Remember, back in ’62 few soul records were released in the UK and those that did were usually on smaller labels like Oriole (one of the first licensers of Motown music) and subsidiaries of the majors (Pye International, London etc). The soul hits of 1962 included Ray Charles’ lovely ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’, The Shirelles’ ‘Soldier Boy’, Gene Chandler’s ‘Duke Of Earl’ and Sam Cooke’s ‘Twisting The Night Away’ –reflecting the popularity of that novelty dance. In fact in 1962, 9 chart hits were twist-related… even Frank Sinatra got in on the act! Yes, it was a short lived novelty but the charts were stuffed with loads of other novelty items like Bernard Cribbins’ ‘Hole In The Ground’. Another feature of the early 60s was the number of charting cover versions. Here for instance there are a number of versions of the two Drifters’ songs- ‘Up On The Roof’ and ‘When My Little Girls Is Smiling’.
The excellent sleeve notes provide all the details, though, as an Evertonian, I’m surprised that writer, Stuart Colman doesn’t mention that for the last 50 years the ‘Theme From Z Cars’ has been the tune to which Everton FC run out at Goodison Park. Yes, only a minor and partisan point which in no way devalues the panorama that the music provides. It’s all here – the great, the good, the one-hit wonders, the novelties, the covers… everything – even a little foot tapper called ‘Love Me Do’ from a group with a weird name, The Beatles… now I wonder what ever happened to them?