Loads of people seem to be doing lists of their favourite/most played albums, and showing themselves to be pretty cool in the process. Looking at mine, I was obviously not that cool as a teenager. The first single I owned was Johnny Leyton singing Johnny Remember Me and the second was Doris Day singing Move Over Darling. Definitely not cool.
The first LP I ever owned was Dusty Springfield’s A Girl called Dusty(it cost 32/6 or around £1.65) but that was supplanted by some of her later albums, particularly Ev’rything’s Coming Up Dusty,
This was a real deluxe affair and came in a hard back cover with several pages of photos of Dusty inside. The track listing above is for a CD reissue. Side 1 of the original LP ended with Doodlin’. There isn’t a dud on the album, but favourites included the gently reflective I had a talk with my man and the rip-roaring account of the Gerry Goffin/Carole King classic I can’t hear you.
The Shangri- Las never quite made it in this country, but I was hooked from the first time I heard their debut single, Remember (walkin’ in the sand) and the following single Leader of the pack (banned by the BBC, believe it or not), I liked even more. It has since become a classic of course. Their debut album had on it both singles and their B sides, plus their next hit, Give him a great big kiss, on Side 1, and a live concert (with added audience noise) on Side 2. It was hardly ever off my turntable.
The Beatles were unavoidable back then. I’d love to say that the album I played most was The White Album or Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but truth to tell, it was much later that I learned to appreciate them. My favourite album, at least in my early teens was With the Beatles.
Should I be ashamed to admit I had a bit of a crush on Paul McCartney back then? In my defence, he was pretty cute when he was young. Favourite tracks were All my loving and Please Mister Postman.
The latter was covered by the Carpenters and their third album called simply Carpenters was another regular visitor to my turntable. The first time I ever heard Karen’s voice was on the radio singing Rainy days and Mondays and I was hooked from the outset. She had a voice of velvet, which she used with consummate skill, never seeming to breathe, with a vein of melancholy that tinged every song she sang. I still rate her as one of the greatest female singers of all time.
It was my brother who first became a fan of French chanteuse, Francoise Hardy. I think we first saw her on Ready Steady Go singing Et même. Pencil thin, with her long straight hair and fringe shading her eyes, she was the very epitome of sixties chic. I had loads of her albums, but the one that stood out for me was one she brought out in 1968, called Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux, which had on it what is still one of my favourite ever tracks, Il est trop loin. One of the great things about her, for a French student anyway, was that she had perfect diction. Even with my schoolboy French I could understand what she was singing about, and even used to write down the words. I remember one of our student teachers at school using her albums in class to get us more engaged with the language.
I think it was the summer of 1965 when Sonny and Cher made it big, with their seminal hit I got you babe. I’ve been a fan of Cher ever since, and one has to admit that the woman has had the most extraordinary career. I had most of Sonny and Cher’s early albums, as well as Cher’s solo efforts, my favourite of which was her third album, called simply Cher.
Aside from the opening track, Sunny, this included Cher’s rendition of the Bacharach/David penned Alfie, which was the theme song for the film that made Michael Caine a star. I also really liked her version of Buffy St Marie’s Until it’s time for you to go. That said, there is no doubt that Cher is a much better singer now than she was then.
The Mamas and the Papas swept to fame with their single California Dreamin’ and subsequently had a stream of hits including Monday Monday and Creeque Alley, which basically told the story of the group. I only ever owned one of their albums, but it is rather special, my one big favourite being the folk inspired Dancing Bear. Great vocals from, especially, Mama Cass and Denny Doherty, with fantastic renditions of Dancing in the street and Words of love, amongst others.
In the early 60s I had been a big fan of The Walker Brothers and had even seen them live in Stockton-on-Tees. Scott Walker’s rich baritone was at the centre of some major hits, including Make it easy on yourself, My ship is coming in and The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore, and it seemed inevitable that Scott would eventually leave the group to go solo. His first two albums mixed pop standards with more esoteric fare by Jacques Brel and Scott himself, but the third album was dedicated almost exclusively to material by Scott, apart from three Jacques Brel songs at the end of side 2. For me he reached his peak with Scott 4, which was the first album of songs only penned by Walker. Maybe not coincidentally it was the first of his albums not to chart and was soon deleted, though it has now achieved something like classic status. Walker was finding it harder and harder to balance the creative and the commercial. However I’ll go for Scott 3 as the album I listened to most in my teens, with its progression of vignettes of sad, lonely individuals. Stand out tracks for me were Big Louise and the opening It’s raining today, not to mention the best ever version of Jacques Brel’s If you go away.
Just creeping into my teenage years is Carole King’s Tapestry, which is surely an all time classic. I’d known Carole King mostly from the many hit songs she penned with her then husband Gerry Goffin during the 60s, many of them sung by Dusty Springfield. I was unaware of her as a singer until the release of the single It’s too late, which also appeared on the album Tapestry, which has since become one of the best selling albums of all time. Every track is a winner and most of them have been covered by artists as diverse as James Taylor and Barbra Streisand.
And finally there was Barbra Streisand herself. I was knocked out by her performance in Funny Girl, and subsequently bought every single one of her albums, but I think the one that first did it for me was My name is Barbra, which John Morton originally leant to me, then finally gave to me. I couldn’t get enough of that voice and I used to go around the house emulating her singing style. How on earth didn’t anyone, least of all I, know I was gay? The album has some of Barbra’s best vocal performances on it, I can see it, He touched me, Jenny Rebecca, Where is the wonder and of course My Man, which had ended the movie version of Funny Girl.