London’s Ace Records has just released Love Hit Me: Decca Beat Girls 1962-1970. It’s filled with guilty pleasures, fascinating rhythms, pretty faces, sexy purrs, slurs, outrageous finds and unlistenable mistakes. Its 24 tracks unleashes “The Swinging Sixties” Carnaby Street style where mods and rockers chose girls for the height of their hair. Some of those girls made their own damn hits, thank you, and Decca was where they went. Welcome to this alternate universe.
Decca, in fact, went wild hunting down former child actresses, club kids, models, schoolgirls, rock star girlfriends, Merseybeat hangers-on, Americans on vacation and one Scot (Lulu). They were put in the capable hands of such ‘60s rock stalwarts as Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, Shel Talmy (the American producer of The Kinks and The Who) and Dick Rowe (who infamously turned down The Beatles).
Marianne Faithful (pictured on the cover) was still in a convent at 17 when discovered by Oldham who brought her right to the Stones and, thus, total debauchery. Before they themselves recorded one of their first co-written compositions “As Tears Go By,” they gave it to her and it became a hit on both sides of the pond. Here, though, are a couple of gems: the sassy, strutting “That’s Right, Baby” and, especially, the softly quivering and oh-so-vulnerable vocals she became famous for of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Hier Ou Demain,” from his made-for-TV musical Anna.
Meet Twinkle. Twinkle was a teenage bad-girl from the get-go. Her “Terry” debut was originally banned by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The staunch and elderly purveyor of morality, Lord Ted Willis, went so far as to call it “dangerous drivel.” (As a result, it sold over 250,000 copies.) Morrissey was a fan and in 1985 The Smiths covered her “Golden Lights.” She followed it up with “Poor Old Johnny” but left the business on top in 1966, came out of retirement in 1969 at the behest of Andrew Loog who by then had his own label but her only other spark was a mid-‘70s glam stab.
Lulu is best known for “To Sir With Love,” the title song of the movie she starred in with Sidney Poitier in 1967, which caused many a young American boy to fall in love with her (including my 16-year-old self). Stateside producer Bert Berns [1929-1967] wrote “I’ll Come Running Over” with his wife for Lulu. It features a young studio musician by the name of Jimmy Page on lead guitar.
The sexiest song has to be “Don’t Make Me” by a young fem with the unlikely name of Babbity Blue. In her signature breathy style that she perfected winning talent contests in her native North London, this plea of abstinence is left to the imagination when she purrs, “I’m such a young girl/Don’t make me/I don’t want to/So don’t make me/I’m not ready to give my love to you.” London boys went wild for this song. It proved to be her only hit. After recording a couple of flops, she retired as a bona-fide “One Hit Wonder.” The opposite stance is taken by Beryl Marsden, a fiery 15-year-old tomboy who couldn’t wait, thus the upbeat and anticipatory “Love Is Going To Happen To Me.” The younger sister of the frontman of Gerry & The Pacemakers, she, in actuality, was a balls-out rocker who preferred to front rockabilly bands and was once in such with a pre-fame Rod Stewart. Louise Cordet was another willing girl if you believe her “So Hard To Be Good.”
Elsewhere, Jean Martin covers The Drifters (“Save The Last Dance For Me”) and Elkie Brooks covers The Temptations (“The Way You Do The Things You Do”). Plus, there’s numerous other gems here waiting to be discovered and, yes, a few clinkers.